Tuesday, August 29, 2006

why are you angry all the time?

This question came from a friend of mine this week and I thought it was a tongue-in-cheek, ridiculous observation designed to annoy and provoke me and therefore, merited nothing more than a laugh. So I went ahead and laughed and then, not wanting to be rude, asked them…are you serious? Well, yes, they were. So I stopped and thought for a moment. Truly, I don’t see myself as an angry person, and was feeling no animosity towards anyone at the moment so I wondered where this comment was coming from? What signals was I giving off that made it appear that I was angry? I have made it a point to be open with my emotions (too much so at times, but I am working on that) and often react spontaneously to situations instead of thinking things through and as a result sometimes inappropriately blurt out the first thing that comes to mind (working on that as well) and tend to be reactionary instead of initiating and deliberate and visionary (yes, yes, I know…I need to work on that too).

Sigh. In the long run, I do suppose I am often annoyed (however briefly) and show some displeasure (at whatever situation) to those around me whom I feel free to be spontaneous and unguarded with (yes, I KNOW, never end a sentence with a preposition…argh…adding that to my list of things to work on!). And that’s not fair. The people whom I hang around with on a regular basis should not always be the ones experiencing the majority of the frustration I feel in my life. I am thankful that they are generally so forgiving, but not thankful enough, I know. I was quite convicted of the lack of overall thankfulness in my life a few weeks ago, and I guess this question reminded me that I must make a conscious effort to change the negative patterns and reactions in my life. This negativity is a path I choose to go down, and I know I can just as readily choose another, more positive way. Habits can be changed with a little bit of effort and lots of practise.

On a recent road trip with friends, we played an interesting game in the car. We were talking about telling the truth in love and I came up with the idea of practising on each other. What was I thinking??? So each person picked someone in the car and told them one thing they admired about them, and one thing they thought could use a little improvement. Sounds harmless enough between good friends, but it was challenging as we all suddenly felt very vulnerable. Not to worry, as everyone was kind and gentle, yet truthful, and that made it all the more poignant and profound. An off-hand remark or insult can easily be brushed aside, but a trusted friend graciously telling you that you take things too personally – well, that just cut deep into me because it was true, and because it was done in a loving way. Yes, I too often take offense where none is intended. I assume things are directed at me or about me when they are not. I let things affect me out of proportion to what the situation merits. And right about now as I write this I am starting to feel a bit of despair at my incredible immaturity and self-absorption.

Well, isn’t that the way it always is. Just when you feel you have things under control in your life and stuff is going well and you know you are a pretty fine and decent and wise person and people love you for it…well, the truth comes and slaps you in the face and the best thing you can do is hit the floor and repent and cry out to God for grace and mercy and ask your friends for more of the same because truly, I am only able to produce filthy rags that like to parade as righteousness.

I must stop trying to find excuses for those idiosyncrasies that really are at odds with the way Jesus does things and let him be those things I cannot. His life, not mine.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you merci merci merci merci merci merci merci merci merci thank you thank you...just practising my new habit.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

l-u-x-u-r-y

What is luxury? I had an email from a British friend who, after heightened security measures came into effect in England recently, considered it a luxury to be allowed to bring a book onto a plane. It is strange how the idea of luxury changes with ones circumstances. When I was growing up, a television and a dishwasher were luxury items. Now I have more tv’s than residents in my house and a dishwasher is not a negotiable item if you talk to my husband (insert smiley face).

Three meals a day are considered luxury in many parts of the world, yet to many of us in countries like Canada, a day without a chocolate bar or a trip to Tim Hortons or Starbucks is cause for feeling deprived. Over time, the commonness of things seems to make them less of a luxury item and the inverse is true as well: handwritten letters have become more of a luxury and email a necessity. Cars are a vital part of our lives and a long walk is luxury. Hand-made items are more valuable than mass-produced goods (it used to be that hand-made goods meant you could not afford store-bought items). Sleeping in a tent and cooking over a fire are considered leisure activities while a master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom virtually mandatory for a middle class family.

So this made me start thinking about what I consider luxury in my life and what its place is. Is extravagance ever a good thing in my life? The short answer is yes, I believe we all need extravagance in our lives – love is the best extravagance of all, and no one can have too much of that. The problem is, we have often confused luxury with material possessions. Extravagant living is not at all about what you have – it is about how much enjoyment you get out of things. Here is a little list I made. Perhaps you want to make your own.

Matte’s luxuries (things that make me feel rich, but I can do without if I have to)
1. an ice cream cone from Dairy Queen
2. handmade kettle corn from a street vendor
3. reading a book in the sunshine
4. a phone call from faraway friends
5. a walk in the woods
6. going out for a meal with people I like
7. people praying for me and not stopping after 5 minutes
8. Kate’s popcorn with real butter
9. my mom’s little blueberry pastries
10. someone telling me they love me every day
11. having someone to whom I can say “I love you” every day
12. seeing the ocean
13. driving through mountains
14. sleeping till I am not tired anymore
15. learning something new
16. photographs of good memories
17. playing music
18. the touch of someone dear to me
19. being generous
20. being healthy

Have a luxurious day…

Thursday, August 10, 2006

precisely

I occasionally participate in a discussion forum online and one of the threads I frequent is the one on religion. I have noticed a trend among many of the participants that is rather disturbing to me: they base their assumptions on the viewpoint that science as we know it today is the ultimate gauge of truth and precision is its essence.

While I agree that science and precision are definitely included within the spectrum of truth, I do believe it is a rather small worldview to parade facts as equal to truth. Truth is so much larger than accuracy. While you can freely discuss music and movies and relationships and art and even politics on this forum with emotion and a certain amount of ambiguity (i.e. admitting you only know a part), once you enter the realm of religion, it seems that to a majority of participants, everything must be scientifically proven and free from any hint of wonder or uncertainty or mystery and even reliable ancient Hebrew and Greek texts are not sufficient to substantiate anything since they are not scientific documents and therefore, obviously biased.

I just want to know…when did religion become a science? A course of study you take alongside calculus and chemistry? Why can there be only one answer for every question? What happened to the exploration of ideas, the mystery of profundity, the beauty of words and images, and the fluid development of relationship?

These well-read and informed and intelligent people that offer their opinions online often accuse religious people of being ignorant and intolerant, yet they are some of the most closed-minded and biased people I have ever encountered. I want to have a meaningful discussion with them, but most of the time our worlds and values seem too far apart to even find a common language and all too often, anger and degrading words enter into the picture and then I am truly sad that I have not been able to understand and be understood.

This past week we were at a gathering of Vineyard Churches in the East Coast and what struck me in many of the meetings and talks and encounters was a conviction that how I deal with those “other” than me, those I do not easily identify with, is an important test of how strong and healthy and loving and real my faith is. And I am not sure I pass this test at all. My compassion seems low for those who treat me with disdain. Understanding is something I would admittedly rather not bother with when I encounter a person who repeatedly does things to make myself and others cringe. Love is easier when I don’t have to work side by side with an abrasive personality. Faith is safer in an anonymous setting.

The challenge for me has always been to be a real Christian in a real world – not a religious caricature, but a living, breathing, human being with strengths and weaknesses, thoughts and emotions, good days and bad, struggling to get my motivations right more than wrong and my compassion larger instead of smaller. I do not hope to live my life with precision, but with love. I do not aspire to answer every life-question correctly and completely but in the process of life-long learning, to always enjoy the mystery and wonder of the gift of living. My desire is to be a great friend and lover, not a noted scientist.

And how does all of this apply to online forums? I guess that is what i have to learn.