Ebb and Flow

How does it go, the ebb and flow? How does it go, we stop and go.  We go forward, we pause, we fall back a bit, all the while mindful of motion, mindful of purpose, the reason we go, how do we know?

Do we know why we do what we do? Motivated by inspiration, compensation, some other dispensation, what occasion for celebration? Sometimes it’s clear, other times not so much. Murky resolve, clear intention, or it was once, now not so much.

Habits and training and preparations, ready for any situation, so we think, so we hope; we hope we think clear when the moment comes, come what may, maybe we’ll be ready.

Worry, anxiety, uncertainty, uncertain of what’s next, what could be, what if I’m not enough, what if I fall short? Shortly we’ll know, no one knows before. It’s the wavering sense, sense of foreboding, foreshadow of failure, of crashing, crash out, time to crash, silence the voice inside, rest inside, rest assured, you’re ready, to do, go, good to go; now, ebb to flow, don’t you know, you’re ready to go.

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work – as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for – the things for which I was brought into this world to do?” – attributed to Marcus Aurelius with some narrative license.

Put another way, it might go something like this:

Let’s get after it. NOW.”

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Darkness and Light

WOW. I last posted here over a month ago, on Good Friday. I had every intention of posting again the following week, after Easter, to share boost of positivism. It didn’t happen.

Over the last few weeks it’s been harder to find any writing time, or much free time period, it feels like. I’ve been working maybe a more hours at the day job, maybe…and certainly been prioritizing sleep, trying to stay healthy.

That luck ran out this week. I started having flu-like symptoms on Monday afternoon, and it’s gotten progressively worse. Achy muscles, runny nose, hacking cough, shakes and shivers, all bundled up to keep me home to work right up to present.

I’m fortunate that my company and manager both have the attitude that working from home from time to time is ok, and of course, taking sick time when you need to is the thing to do. So I’m home taking care of me, trying to heal up, work as I can, and get better.

Weird thing is, I’ve felt further out of sorts being out of the normal routine. All the “other” things I have on my master to-do list seem to swell up and cause anxiety, spin me out further. Weird indeed.

Then this morning I took the time to read a short post by a blogger I enjoy, Fred Wilson. He’s home sick today too. The small effort of reading his blog did two things for me.

1/ It reminded me how easy it is to post something in a blog, if you’re willing to make a little effort. And as I’ve shared before, I want to be more like Fred in that regard; he posts every day.

2/ It also reminded me that I’m not alone being sick and feeling crappy. Of course I know that intellectually, but I’d lost track of that emotionally and have been feeling a little isolated [funny to feel “isolated” when you life with four other people].

And so for whatever reason that simple read lead to this little write and I’m turning the corner on the darkness. This darkness wasn’t external evil, it had been within, the enemy within, the doubt and struggle and anxiousness and ill-feeling that compound to grind us down.

I’ve been here before, I’m sure I’ll be here again. Maybe we get better at this sort of process too, like other things we’ve had a lot of practice with. Realizing why you’re in a funk, re-setting, and taking steps to make it better.

Go toward the light, create more light, believe it can get better, then take steps to make it be better.

That’s the essence of this blog, that’s my essence, that’s my core life mission…and, I’m back. GOOD.

Darkness

We’ve all been there in one way or another. The darkness. Unsure, A little afraid. Or maybe it was worse; we had a sense of dread, maybe evil just around the corner, through the trees.

Maybe you’re somewhere in between; you can see the light off in the distance, but you’re not sure you can cross through the darkness.

By some measure it’s relative; each of us knows the doubt and pain and struggle of our own reality and experience.
The old adage, “…there’s always someone worse off than you…” might be a good way to approach this commonality of humanity.
Consider the homeless.  Consider the abused.  Consider those that don’t have enough to eat; maybe nothing at all to eat.
Consider those displaced by war, terrorized by violence otherwise.  Consider the children, and old people, who can’t get away from the shelling, the bombs, the murderous mobs.
Imagine living in the open, in the cold, in the wet, with no real shelter from the elements.
Consider the suffering. Maybe from mental illness, or disease, or strife otherwise in your life, hounding you, not letting up.
And then consider being nailed to a cross and hung there to die.

Imagine a darkness so deep, unending, leaving your heart black with dispare, nothing to hold you back from the abyss but your pain.

And then consider the love it took to walk toward the cross, accept it. A commitment so complete that it bears witness to God’s love for us, to speak truth to the very end, until the spirit departs.
In the end, I think that’s why they call Good Friday good.
INRI_Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum

The Greatest Lesson – What’s Love Got to Do with It?

“Love one another as I have loved you.”
It’s a simple instruction, really.   And yet so profound.
I remember as a kid listening to the liturgy in church, and part of the opening prayer the pastors used most frequently included this recollection.
The prayer referenced the very clear and direct guidance Jesus provided,
“Love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is like unto it.  Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In New Testament scripture, it describes further the context of this instruction.  Jesus at one point during his ministry, probably more than once, specified that he had new insight to share with respect to God and our relationship with God.
The Jews had the ten commandments of course, and additional laws that had developed over time.
There were hundreds of religious laws, actually.  Jesus essentially said, put those aside.  You need to do two things if you want to be good with God.
Love God.
Love each other.
As he approached his Passion, knowing that suffering and death would soon be visited upon him, he reminded his closest friends what he wanted for them:  that they love each other in the same way that he loved them.
Simple instruction.   And why profound?
My take is that Jesus brought this up one last time to his friends because it was so fundamental to what he believed, what he knew, about the nature of God.  This mandate above all else was what he wanted them to follow, to be closer to each other, and to God.
Jesus’s words still ring true 2,000 years later.  Love God and love each other.  Love as Jesus did.  Love and serve each other.    Everything else follows properly if we do these two fundamental things.
There’s something else too.  Maybe by focusing on this message, re-enforcing these words to his friends, it helped him cope with the difficult road he would soon face, the final passage to his end.
I can imagine an urgency in his voice, insisting they listen, beseeching them to follow this simple instruction.
It’s not easy sometimes, but I’m going to try to listen too, try harder to follow this instruction.
AMEN.
jesuswashesthe12maudythursday
References —
The Greatest Commandments:  Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27;  John 13:14–17 (NKJV)

Believe, and Persevere

“The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together.” -Isaiah 50.

The fundamental mindset of mental health survival might be summarized thus: PERSEVERE. You are not alone. BELIEVE. Never give up.

Easier said than done often times, that’s for sure.

What do we do when we feel the slow angst of uncertainty, sense approaching calamity, or suffer chronic misery?

I humbly offer: Faith helps. It fundamentally helps. This approach is the basic tenet I believe Jesus taught us; it’s the approach we can still hear spoken through his lessons from 2,000 years ago, to today.

You are not alone. Believe. Never give up. God is with you. Maybe it’s that last phrase that catches you up. “How do I know God is with me?! How can I be sure? I’m not even sure I believe in God”, you might think to yourself.

There are at least a couple of ways I invite you to think about it.

First, consider God in those people around you, those who love you. It can be a relative, a partner, a spouse, your child, a co-worker (true!), an old friend, a new friend, maybe even a stranger. When you experience a gesture or
expression of love, that is God with you.

Take solace in that experience. Allow it it energize you, fortify you, fill you up. Lean on those people that are closest to you. That’s what we are supposed to do. Be open, be honest, confide, and rely on that connection in the
moments you need it most.

Second, consider God in the quiet of your soul, in your inner-most self. Listen carefully, truly, and take your time. Deep within, you know when you are being honest with yourself, when you are being completely true, and experiencing
truth. I would suggest that prayer — or mediation, or reflection, call it as you wish — this process is the channel we should use to come to this place within ourselves.

Listen carefully, and you will know the truth. And that is where you will find God with you too.

You will realize that you are in fact not alone. That you have the will, and the fortitude, and the strength of spirit to press on, to never give up. PERSEVERE.

UnExpected

These words resonate:
“Sometimes you can see God moving, even when everything is falling apart.” -Jen Fulwiler.
 A comedian and talk show host, Fulwiler made this observation recently; I don’t know her, but her words resonate for me.
I think about betrayal, about one of Jesus’ closest followers deciding to turn him over to his enemies.  Could Jesus have known? If you believe he was divine, he had at least some sense that this is how it play out.
But what does that mean?   What did he feel, knowing…?
I think maybe he had at least a sort of “Spider Sense” (like the Web-Slinger himself), he sensed it was coming, but maybe he didn’t know the exact details.  Jesus predicted as much while eating with his friends.  “One of you will betray me.”
It’s the unexpected part that’s more nuanced.
What comfort did Jesus draw from knowing his suffering and death were imminent?
When was it going to happen?  Who would come?  What would they say?  How would it play out?   I doubt he knew all the details, but Jesus had a sense.
That’s why he went to the garden to pray.  To fortify himself, to prepare, to set his resolve for what lay ahead.
And for us, what can we learn?
How do we deal with the unexpected?    When things end up going sideways, and you find yourself in the middle of a shit storm, then what?
Maybe even a better question is,
“How can we anticipate, how can we be better prepared for the inevitable trials we will face in our lives?”
W.W.J.D.?  “What Would Jesus Do?”
Maybe the common refrain is something we can particularly consider during this Holy Week.  Even better, carry the practice forward throughout the year.
How did he deal with the unexpected?  And where is God in those moments?
More so, where is God RIGHT NOW, and what is he quietly whispering to us?   How is he trying to prepare us for the unexpected?
spidersense
[Gentle Disclaimer:  I mention Spiderman in this piece as a real-world, popular image and reference, not supposing that Spiderman is divine, or that Jesus is comparable to a comic book character.]

Uncertainty

Did he know?
When he was in the garden, on his hands and knees, his forehead against the cool dirt, and tears ran down his face, and sweat oozed like blood from his pores, did he know?
I’m not sure what the answer is. I don’t know what Church doctrine says. I can’t know fur sure, I suppose. None of us can.
I know what I believe. I believe Jesus himself wasn’t sure. That was his humanity. And yet he accepted the cup, his prayer fortified his resolve, and he entered into his Passion.
Hours later he would be tortured, ridiculed, mocked, scorned, and finally nailed to a cross, hung naked to die, for all to see.
Uncertainty.
How do we cope with it? How did Jesus cope with it?
By one account, as Jesus hung there, he cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?”
Even near the end, he might have been unsure.
I — we! — as believers, we can only hope that what fortified him earlier that day in the garden, that it also helped him in his final hours, hanging on a tree, waiting to die.
FAITH.    Of the many things we can learn from Jesus (Christian or otherwise, really), one of the most powerful lessons he offers is his faith.
How do we deal with uncertainty?  FAITH.
How many times in the familiar stories we read about Jesus does the account convey, “he went off to pray…”, “he spent the night in prayer…”, “…he prayed together with his friends (disciples), etc.
I’d say that lesson applies to a lot of things in life.  Pause, reflect / pray, have faith.
Severe illness, life-threatening heart condition, struggling marriage, children having difficulties in their development, work life getting you down, coping with end-of-life issues with your parents, and on and on and on…?  FAITH.  Faith helps.
To be clear, I don’t mean that we should casually toss aside taking action; I don’t mean to over-simplify, saying “just have faith” and everything is better.
What I am saying for sure though, is that faith and reflection are a twin elements that are critical to coping and persevering through difficulty.  Don’t expect mana from Heaven to come down to feed you if you’re hungry;  don’t expect an angel to sweep in and rescue you from your hardship.  But there is a way to fortify yourself to press on, to not give up.
Often times in life we are uncertain as to how to proceed.  Often times we are faced with difficulties we cannot easily overcome, struggles that continue over time.  We don’t know what do to do.  We face uncertainty as to how things will play out.
“Give us this day, our daily bread…”
Do have faith.  Do pray.  You will thus persevere through your uncertainty.
NEVER GIVE UP.