Everything Beautiful

The other day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook this quotation by the father of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, and for some reason, I felt compelled to reply – the post and reply follow:

The Post;

jung

The reply;

Sally Mitschke Then feed your soul, love yourself and forgive yourself as you would do for all of these, for we are all imperfect beings striving to grow into the best versions of ourselves.

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This is not to say, go ahead and make excuses for yourself, but to understand that even though we make mistakes, take a wrong turn, or do things that, in retrospect, we’re not too proud of, we still need to nourish our souls, to feed them with wisdom and truth, with compassion and faith, with “good vibes” and friendship. We need, also, to give ourselves the gift of forgiveness, to recognize that we all have value, and that what we must do is “love” (as in accept) ourselves, everything about ourselves, the great and the not so great.

I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:11, which states,   “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  We are each a beautiful work of art; an abstract painting that changes with distance and light, a piece of clay being molded by the loving hands of a master potter, a woven cloth of individual threads, our strengths and weaknesses, embroidered together in such a way as to produce an exquisite tapestry of life, of kindness, of fallibility, and of love.

~SLM

Be Kind…, tenderhearted, forgiving…, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

forgiveness1

The Key to Contentment

​Sometimes it’s really hard to keep your focus where it belongs, especially when there are so many ways to be distracted. It’s hard to have confidence that things will work out, which they inevitably do, and often times better than we could have planned. We get so mired down in our anxious “what ifs” that we forget about trust, about faith, about believing the promises that we’ve been given.  
We let the things that happen in our lives, become the center of our universe. We let the countless crises of daily living overwhelm us, define us,  pulling us downward into a spiraling black hole of both the serious and the petty, until we are rife with bitterness and anger.

In times like these, when I’m worried about what seems to me to be a dead end, a hopeless situation, or when I don’t think I have the strength or courage to carry on, I try to remember what Paul says to the Philippians in chapter 4 verses 11-13. “I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and how to live when I have plenty. I’ve learned the secret of being happy at any time and in everything that happens…I can do all things though Christ, because he gives me strength.” It helps me to refocus on the tasks at hand, to concentrate on doing my very best, this day, right now, no matter the circumstances, in spite of the “shit storm” that surrounds me, to find solace in the day to day activities of life.

The point is in this: We must learn contentment, happiness. Life is filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, celebrations and disappointments, it’s the nature of the beast. These things are just weigh stations along the way, meant to hone us, temper us, points on the map of our journey, not the journey itself. They sculpt us, mold us, not define us. Satisfaction, comes from knowing that we are more than the points on our maps, and that no matter where those points take us, if we lean not on our own understanding, but God’s, we’ll get through it all.

~SLM

Do as I Say…

Funny how this seeking for a higher meaning works, just when you think you’ve got something figured out, your turn your perspective a fraction of a degree, and suddenly it’s a whole new landscape.  There are certain verses that seem to return again and again, to show you that what you thought you knew was, in reality, only a small sampling of a greater truth, a greater equation, and that’s why I’ve landed back on Isaiah 29:13, which states, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,”  It’s not just about being estranged from God, but also about duplicity; about our persistent habit of commingling words and actions, our false logic of substitution in which we assume our words and actions are interchangeable, and our expectation that others do what we cannot ourselves do.

We can say all the right things in flowery prose and elegant verse. We can talk our fool heads off about what is right, what is fair, what we think others should do, or be willing to do. We can be as socially acceptable and politically correct as the best little soldier out there, but the true test of where we live is in the heart, and while we can say anything, and oft times we actually do, our actions are the reflection of our thoughts and beliefs. The heart is where action resides. If we say we are against bullying, but bully others in order to prove they are bullies, then we become what we call, we use our lips to prove our “rightness” while showing what lives in our hearts: a bully. We can talk of peace and cooperation, we can take others to task for what they say or don’t say, but if our actions don’t back up our lips, we are nothing but liars, hypocrites.  We can talk a big game, but when it comes right down to it, our hearts reveal our true intent, our true thoughts and feelings, our true core beliefs, and how we act speaks to what is in our hearts.

Words and actions are not the same; they do not bear the same weight. While words can be illuminating, clarifying, and insightful, they can also be deceiving, misguided and false. Actions on the other hand, are like a mirror; they merely reveal and reflect who we are in our heart of hearts.

“Do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.” (Matthew 6:5)

~SLM

Sticks and Stones: The Wisdom of Minding Your Mouth

Sticks and stones may break my bones…but do we really believe names can’t hurt us? Our words, the things we say, can affect our lives in ways we can never imagine. Regardless of what the old adage claims, broken bones, though they be painful, eventually heal. But, careless or misplaced words, whether single syllabled or compound, are another story altogether. They can leave deep and life-long wounds, and as we are reminded in James 3:5-6 (MSG), “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything – or destroy it. It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire.” Once the [word] genie is out, there’s no going back, you can’t recall it like a bad tweet, once it hits the air, the damage is done. Words are powerful tools that can open doors or lock them, unite nations or divide them, build up and encourage or tear down and destroy. “By our speech, we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke, and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell,” James continues.

Minding your mouth is a pretty big thing, when it comes to living a wisdom-filled life. In fact, shooting off our mouths is one of the biggest failings of humanity. We’re in love with idle talk and especially our own opinions. We prattle on and on without much thought about what we say, as if our words have no real meaning, and are only background noise that is easily dismissed.  We fail to see that the freeness with which we spew our every random thought, with which we are so righteous about having the “right” to say, is not always right. Instead, we throw it out there without consideration, getting so caught up in our “right to free speech” that we forget our words are alive, they have impact, force.

The unguarded tongue is more dangerous than any suicide bomber could ever be. While he may cause us physical pain, loss and suffering, an explosion of words can do far worse damage, it can break our spirit, can set us on a downward spiral of degradation and despair that only God can help and heal. “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips,” says the Psalmist in Psalm 141:3, and rightly so, since it’s what we say that saves or convicts us, that matters most. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37

~SLM

The Meek

In my quest to find wisdom through scripture, I come back again and again to certain passages. Today I’m stuck on the Sermon on the Mount and the meek. In Matthew 5:5, we are taught, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and I’m preoccupied with how we apply this teaching to ourselves, so we can live wiser, more peace-filled lives. Perhaps it would be better understood, if it read, “Blessed are the gentle, the humbly patient, for they will reap the rich reward of their calm endurance.”

This goes hand-in-glove with being “poor” in spirit. It has everything to do with humility, and it means; don’t think you’re all that, because generally, you’re not.  In fact, when we’re full of ourselves, it’s nearly impossible to be humble, let alone be patient. In truth, when the ego is inflated, all else shrinks back, all else  becomes secondary, and we’re easily offended, easily angered, easily whipped up into a frenzy of self-righteous indignation over the tiniest of perceived slights – real or imagined. We convince ourselves that others think about us above all else, plotting, acting in a certain way, or doing something to us on purpose, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. When we’re “filled with the yeast of the Pharisees,” we leave little room for meekness.

When we’re meek, we understand and accept our own limitations. We are yielding and unassuming, filled with fortitude. It takes great strength and courage to admit to ourselves (and to God) that we don’t have it all together, don’t have any clue what to do next, don’t have all the answers. But meekness also suggests that we know and understand our strengths as well. If one is quiet and gentle, unassuming and calm, it’s an indication of conviction, of certainty. Understanding our strengths and weaknesses is what gives us the poise to remain calm in the face of controversy, to intentionally accept disagreeable circumstances which are beyond our control, to be still and wait for His direction, before charging forth into questionable actions and circumstances. 

There’s a profound connection between gentleness and not thinking you’re all that, and there’s also a connection between the “fear” (as in awe) of the Lord and meekness. The “fear” of the Lord is the cause of gentleness, of humble patience. Because, respecting God and being certain of His hand gives us the quiet confidence we need to press on, to endure with gentle patience the long tunnel, keeping our eyes fixed on the light, however dim it may seem at times, confident of the tunnel’s end, and the rich reward awaiting there. 

~SLM

When in Rome Part 1: According to His Purpose

Sometimes it’s hard to see the purpose in the world around us. We aren’t able to understand how all the pieces fit together, and what we can comprehend, doesn’t make any sense to us, yet in Romans 8:28 Paul says this: “And we know in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Who is to say that the trials we face cannot be for the betterment of ourselves or someone else. We learn so much more about whom we are and the nature of life through our difficulties, our struggles. We cannot know how our burdens and triumphs may influence others, and likewise, we cannot know how our words or actions affect those with whom we interact.  If we know not sorrow, how can we know what true joy looks like? How can we be grateful for all that we are given, our mental and spiritual gifts as well as the physical, if we have not known hunger? And, if we are certain that God’s plan is good, we can go down that road, the one that’s uncertain and unsettling, where dangers may lurk and sorrow may live, facing incredible odds. We can walk through the fiery furnace with peace in our hearts, and praise on our lips, knowing that:

“Lord is our keeper, we have everything we need. He lets us rest in fertile fields of green and leads us to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives us new strength, and guides us to the right paths, as he has promised. Even if we go through the deepest darkness, we need not be afraid, for the Lord is with us, His shepherd’s rod and staff protect us.” (Psalm 23)

No matter what happens in life, what joys or sorrows besot us, we can rest assured that what we face is what God has intended so that He may accomplish His good purpose.

~SLM

 

Transitions

Letting go and letting God is much easier said than done. When our lives are unsettled, then transitions occur, our troubled minds find no rest. This is when we must resolve to trust the most, but is usually when we are the least willing to follow. We stand frozen, like Lot’s wife, mournful for what we are leaving behind, unwilling to fathom that what lies ahead could well be what we’ve always dreamed of. Instead, we allow ourselves to be convinced that the difficulties and strife we’ve just come through is far better than what may come into. We make many small transitions every day, a new boss, a road closure, an unexpected delay, without letting them stop us in our tracks, yet the larger ones paralyze us. How are they different? We have no trust that what we are being delivered into will be better than what we are delivered from. God’s timing is hardly ever our timing, and if it were, we’d probably never follow His plan. Matthew 6:34 tells us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I guess it’s human nature that we are more willing to “stay with the devil we know” rather than take the leap toward something more. It’s sure, it’s safe and trusting means we admit we are not in control, we admit we haven’t made very good choices.

But what about the God we know? Have we no trust in his ability to keep us? Why is it so difficult to cling to His promises? Psalm 23 begins with this line: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing – NOTHING! Even when it looks like there is no road, we must trust that God will provide. We see only a small portion of the puzzle, and when we reflect upon our journey, don’t we always see just how lovingly we’ve been cared for?  

It occurs to me that it’s our attitude toward our life’s events that needs adjusting. How different, more calm and blissful would our lives be if we stopped lamenting what we perceive as misfortunes and embraced God’s plan? What if we were to relish the twists and turns of this roller-coaster ride we call life, and face each day with this thought: These are exciting times that God has provided for me, I can’t wait to go down this road, to see how this will all shake-out, and to see who I will become as a result of it all!

~SLM

Unsettled Waters

Sometimes it’s remarkable to me how certain snippets of scripture in moments of synchronicity stand out in our daily lives, asking us to ponder them, to go deeper, and to consider what they can teach us. Lately Matthew 14:25-31 has had such a place in my life, and specifically verses 28-31 where Peter says to Christ, “if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water, and Jesus says, “come.”
It occurs to me that whenever we move through anxious times, through rough spots in our lives, where everything seems upside down, and we aren’t sure how it will all turn out, this is the time when we have our best opportunity for spiritual growth. It’s the time to be single-minded in our attention, having the strength of faith to keep moving forward, trusting God’s promises to us. This passage is about stepping out in confidence, leaving the safety of the boat to move across the unsettled waters with our eyes fixed on the goal, trusting that we will be held safe in the journey. It’s about letting the storms, no matter what they are, or how they present themselves in our lives, rage about us as they may, without losing our devotion, and coming into the embrace of our future selves, our new selves in Christ.
What I get out of it is this: If we trust in God, we have to trust in His promises, completely, without dropping our focus. It’s when we lose focus, letting the raging wind and churning seas fill our sight, that we fail, that doubt creeps in and we lose faith; our faith in our ability to follow, and more importantly, our faith in the fact that it’s the loving arms of Christ which supports and sustains us, which gives us a “bridge” for troubled waters, and allows us to carry on in miraculous grace.
And so to end, a prayer…
Thank you Lord for your loving care, for your wisdom and guidance. You know just what I need, and you fill my life with peace and love, each breath I take with the wonder of your graciousness. Let me know the meaning of faith with every fiber of my being, know that no matter how it appears, I am fully taken care of, and know that all of my needs are met at every moment. Amen
~SLM

 

Update:  Songs on the theme that presented themselves over and over…

  1.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy9nwe9_xzw

 

What We Own

Lately, I’ve been pondering Mark 10:17-25, and just what it means to give up what we own and follow. It’s a tall order to walk away from all that we possess, to give up all that we hold. In fact, it’s an extremely difficult proposition for most of us, because we give our possessions a place of prominence in our lives, finding comfort in them, using them as a crutch to our self-esteem, and defining ourselves by them.  We feel we are giving something up, sacrificing, when we “down size” our homes from 4000 to 2000 square feet, when we don’t get a new car every other year, or when we skip the latest generation of smart phone.  Our idea of what is true, of what really matters, becomes distorted, hijacked by delusions and rationalizations that put us, and what we own, front and center in our lives.

When you think about it, giving up what we own is about more than just our physical possessions, because we also own our thoughts, our ideas, and our beliefs. It means giving up what we hold most dear. So, when Christ asks us to “sell what you own and give to the poor,” before we may follow him, he’s asking us to transform how we see things, to change our minds, and to rethink our lives. Being able to give up what we own shows a willingness to put things into perspective, to disown our preconceived notions, and to sort out what holds real importance, real meaning.

We cannot go into it with predetermined philosophies; we cannot follow in this way. As we think, so shall we be, therefore we have to look at it with new eyes, to hear it with new ears, to realize that it takes a special mind-set to look beyond the apparent, past all that we think we know and silently wait on God.

~SLM

The Whole Truth

Any quest for wisdom, sooner or later, has to address truth, a concept which seems rather elusive in our modern society. It seems funny to me how we think about truth in the “information” age.  Our pop culture sends us many mixed messages, messages that mutate with every new “cool” thing or errant thought, giving us the impression that truth is mutable, a relative notion, an ever changing moving target, evolving over time into what we want it to be.

What is truth and how do we come to it? The Merriam-Webster’s defines truth as: the real facts about something: the things that are true. The noun form of the word true, it means agreeing with the facts, not false, real or genuine. In actuality, truth is the real facts, and as such, the whole truth is all the facts, while half-truths are just certain facts.

When we say things like “that might be true for you, but it’s not true for me,” we are really saying that the facts aren’t realities for us. The facts are the facts, and if we say they aren’t valid for us, we are simply saying that we cannot accept the truth, we are deceiving ourselves. Likewise when someone says, “the truth lies somewhere in the middle, ” it presupposes that neither party is in possession of all the facts, therefore all parties are lying, and it occurs to me that only a liar would presume  everyone is lying as a way to muddy the waters, to deflect guilt, to convince others to share in their lie. And, when we say “there are many paths up the mountain” in an effort to accept all ideologies as equal, we delude ourselves with a half-truth. For while it is, indeed, true that there are many paths which can taken, not all paths lead in the same direction, nor do they all lead to the summit, and most are frankly dead-ends.

The X-Files had it right – the truth is out there, and it is our job to seek it out diligently, consciously, setting our delusional and corrupt egos aside so that we may hear the voice of Truth, recognize it, and as difficult as it may be, accept it, willingly, fully and without adulteration. The whole truth is easy to find, but hard to come by. It’s not relative or variable, it isn’t good for some, but not for others, it doesn’t lead down wayward paths, and it does not change – it is what it is. We are what changes, not the truth; we change in regards to how we see it, how we react to it, how we understand and accept it.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”    John 8:32

~SLM