Differences

Dr, Gary, Davis, Clueless, Christians, Christianity, NEEDinc, cow, differences, different No, really, sometimes it really does feel like this. People are just…, different. Maybe you’ve experienced differences in your marriage, with your teenagers (duh), or with those who say they are related to you. Certainly you’ve felt some people at work were “different.” You thought they were like this, and they turned out to be like that. Or…, something!

We are all different from other people. Sure, we may have the same character traits, financial status, eye color, body types, etc. But people are different; that is what makes our human lives so intriguing. We are never quite exactly the same. Different.

When people are different individually they can be stronger together, as a group. Their differences can bond them to support one another in a team relationship. More can be accomplished the moredifferent people, and their skills, come together to make our world a better place. Differences— joining together. Unless, of course, you believe that people who are different should all stay together in their own little group, sealed off from those who are different from them. Hummm.

Personally, I enjoy people who are different from me. I learn from them. I learn a lot. I do not have all the answers; it is through others who are different from me that I come up with new and differentquestions. And that’s a good thing. It leads to new perspectives, new answers.

That being said, I must admit that I enjoy the comradery of those who think in terms of cross-cultural communication, paradigm shifts, regional colloquialisms, and international blending. So I’m weird. What kind of people do you like to be around? Are they all the same…, or different?

My friends are a little of both. A weird bunch, to be sure. But still, I enjoy them.

So when you are deciding which crowd you want to hang with, don’t pick just one. Join different kinds of groups. Join up with people who are much older than you, and with those who are quite younger than you. In doing so you will learn from the wise, and remember how to play again from those who come after you.

I know I keep going back to the Bible, but it’s my heritage. Christians were first named Christians because no one knew what to call this hodgepodge, diverse, seemingly incompatible group of strangers who loved each other. The name stuck.

There probably isn’t a designation for the kinds of groups I associate with:  maybe wackos.

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

 

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Why my heart aches

There have been too many times in life where my heart has been crushed by the suffering of others. Their experiences and anguish were hard to hear. I can’t imagine how they lived through those times. Some had gathered the fortitude and faith to persevere; others, not so much.

What the human spirit, heart, and body can endure always amazes me. I remember a woman, a teacher, once came to me with grey hair. The day before her hair had been auburn. The beating she had endured the previous night had been so terrifying that it turned her hair grey in a matter of minutes. Her husband is now in jail. How did she endure such terror?

Another person I know has almost lost her mind and any will to live because of a brutal rape. Another woman came to me after her 6th abortion. Sixth! She wasn’t sure who she was anymore; she wasn’t sure she could ever have children.

Other friends have lived through “less” traumatic experiences— the suicide of a husband, the loss of a job, living on the grace of others after months of unemployment, the loss of their child. My heart aches for these people.

Over the years, I have been able to move from sympathetic to empathetic, allowing me some distance to garner wisdom and perspective on their horror. It is hard to help another when we are in the thick of it with them. When there, we can offer comfort; but little else. We have not the strength.

On a grander scale, my heart aches for this world— the natural catastrophes, the fires, floods, and earthquakes; but also the human devastations— genocides, regional wars, terrorists attacks, the manipulation of the balance of trade, the prices of oil and grains, and forced poverty and human sex trafficking. The injustices I read online every hour. All of this weighs on me heavily.

How should I, should we, respond to this mess?

My first thought is to become a part of the solution. To make a difference! To be one-of-many who count the cost and throw themselves into the fracas. Who, instead of protecting our own interests, look to the needs and well-being of those truly in need.

Sure, my heart still aches. But at least I am doing something. How about you?

‘Nough said,

Gary

Dimmer Switch

Why are we ON so much of the time? Too many of us just never STOP. We fill our lives with important things to do; then we keep filling them to overflowing. Something has to give, or break, or wear down. Usually, it’s us. We can run at 110% for a long time, but not forever.

Johnny Carson (1925-2005) former host of the TONIGHT SHOW once said, “Death is Mother Nature’s way of telling us it’s time to slow down.” He had a point. We simply never stop, or come to rest until we die. Hard work builds character, stamina, and commitment; and it is good for the soul. But does it have to take hold of us so unrelentingly that we cannot NOT work? Seriously, when do you stop, just sit, or read a book on Kindle? When was the last time you chucked a football into the hands of a friend; or beat the pants off of someone in HORSE (1on1 basketball)? There are beaches to walk, mountains to climb, and paths to be trodden all around us. Leave the office, your Lazyboy, your FB, iPhone, & SKYPE behind.

If you have decided to install an ON/OFF Switch in your life, where you come to a conscious point when you voluntarily shut down, keep in mind that your ability to truly shut OFF will be nigh to impossible. If you are like me, you will find it too tempting to do just one more thing. It is the way we are wired.

The solution is obvious— install a Dimmer Switch alongside. It might be one which is set on automatic, where specified triggers shut you down whether you want to or not. [Kids come to mind.] It could be one that is self-monitored; but too many things can go wrong with a Self-Monitored-Dimmer-Switch. It is best to give the control of the switch to someone else. (Ask me how I know.) You may not like it when they dim you down; but eventually, you’ll thank them for doing it.

There are times in my life when I need to heed that old adage “Be still, and know that I AM God.” (Psalm 46:10, Bible) I need to reconsider its corollary as well— “Be still…, and remember who I am.”

I need a Dimmer Switch. How about you? Actually, I’m stopping now. Click!

‘Nough said,

Gary

perspicuous


perspicuous 
per-SPIK-yoo-uhs, adjective:

  1. Clearly expressed or presented; lucid.
  2. Perspicacious.

Perspicuous stems from the Latin perspicere meaning “to look or see through.”

[http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perspicuous]

One of the primary barriers to clear communication is our own inability to be clear, to express our thoughts and ideas clearly, to be precise & lucid, when describing or defining something. Our culture has grown lazy with words; thus the constant query, you know what I mean? Or, the abbreviated— um. The average high school vocabulary level is between 6,000 – 45,000 words. College graduates up that to 50,000 – 75,000 words. Post-grads use between 75,000 – 120,000 words.

[http://atkinsbookshelf.wordpress.com/tag/how-many-words-in-the-average-persons-vocabulary/] [http://www.adlit.org/adlit_101/improving_literacy_instruction_in_your_school/vocabulary/]

[note:  William Shakespeare (1564-1616) used approximately 30,000 words; he invented 600 words in Hamlet alone, and introduced over 20,000 words into the English common vocabulary.]

Our inability to explain or describe things accurately has numerous effects on our society. For one, we are unable to convey the most important experiences in our lives due to our limited vocabulary. Another effect is our decreasing ability to simply say what we mean, or to write what we mean. Don’t believe it? Check t he norml email and tri to fil in th blanks. And do not try to blame it on spel checkr. We are in the era of LOL, TMI and acronyms for everything. C?

But a more serious problem arises out of our seeming lack of skill with clear communication; that being—  our inability to 1) clearly define what we see in another person’s life, and 2) to accurately see into our own lives. A paucity of precise words naturally leads to difficulty in defining our perceptions.  We must resign ourselves to a mere sense about another, rather than a rich comprehension of who they truly are. Inversely, a lack of words to define what we want to say limits us from knowing and describing our deeper selves. In critical moments, this produces an aggravating frustration within us. We simply cannot put our finger on who we are, or where we are in life, or what describes us in our deeper, core level.

Let’s go back to the Latin roots of our word— perspicere; “to look or see through.” If we remain lazy about delving deeply into ourselves, how will we ever see through the walls of protection erected by those around us? Maybe if we started being deeply honest with ourselves, possibly bouncing our insights off of a trusted friend, we would be granted the gift of being able to see more clearly into the lives of others.

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

A Severe Mercy

 
A Severe Mercy
 (Harper & Row, 1977) chronicles the autobiographical-journey of Sheldon Vanauken and his wife Jean “Davy” Davis from their first meeting at Wabash College through their 17 years of marriage, much of which they kept secret from their parents. In Severe Mercy, “Van” describes his love for Davy as quite pagan; that is, they made a commitment to share everything with one another, to the exclusion of having children, since childbirth was something they could not share together.

They constructed what they described as the “Shining Barrier” that would protect their love and devotion from all external influences. But that Barrier was “invaded” (Van’s word) by Christ when they became involved with a small group of Christians at Oxford University. Davy was the first to “cross the room” to shift her primary alliance and become a committed Christian. Van crossed over later, albeit somewhat begrudgingly.

Then tragedy struck. Davy contracted a virus in the summer of 1954 that quickly took her life on January 17, 1955. She was 40 years old.

A Severe Mercy describes the agonizing struggle Van experienced after the death of his deepest love, partner, and wife. Through correspondence with Oxford Don C.S. Lewis, Van came to grips with this terrible loss, and learned that genuine Christian faith does not guarantee life-long happiness; rather, it offers the resident presence of the true God throughout all life’s twists & turns.

Throughout our own journeys it is true that all of us will find ourselves in places we never expected. We can prepare for some of them: but others will hit us like a bolt out of hell. Life will seem a flowing stream of pain, recovery, and rebirth. Some of us can pass through this progression better than others. Some of us never quite enter the recovery stage. Rather, we languish and fade in our own anguish.

We may believe, like Van and Davy, that we can erect a “Shining Barrier” of love, or isolation, or stoicism, and insulate ourselves from others, from the outside world, from being hurt. If you’ve been on this earth any length of time you know that does not work. But what does work? What can keep us from being hurt? What can protect us.

The simple answer is—nothing. The hurt, the betrayal, the pain, will all come. But the nurturing of personal identity and integrity, establishing a deep faith in God and growing deep friendships, goes a long way toward providing both genuine safety and security in those times of uncertainty. Remember, “… I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

For what it’s worth,

Gary

periphal faith

Peripheral– def. adjective.

  1. of, relating to, or situated on the edge or periphery of something.
  2. of secondary or of minor importance; marginal.

Peripheral vision is something we all desire to attain, whether consciously or unconsciously. Those conscious of their search enjoy a normative 160  of vision. They take in more than those who just stick to the straight & narrow.

When it comes to our faith, being able to see a more expansive picture is of great benefit. It provides the believer with greater perception into the depths of faith, and a clearer comprehension of how to face the uncertainties of the future. Studying Scripture, our world, cultures, and history conjoins our faith with those around us and with those who have gone before. It gives us a clear eye-on-the-world while establishing a rich safety in the heart of God.

Sadly, this is not true for every Christian. For most have merely a peripheral faith; that is, a faith that resides at the outer edges of their lives, which they only recall when reminded. Their faith is not central to their lives; it is far from their core, absent from the warp ‘n woof of their daily meanderings. They chose to be ‘Christian’ by designation, not so much by determination.

They may attend Church every week, or just at Christmas and/or Easter, or for the occasional funeral or wedding. When they exit the church, they discard their faith at the door, reentering their world of reality with little thought of their faith or the life-principles granted them in the Bible.

Consider this, if you embrace the name of Christ in any way, what self-evidence do you have which confirms that faith? Do you hunger to learn more about your faith? Are your prayers perfunctory or passionate? How does your faith spur you on to make a difference in our society, especially among the poor?

If you are a genuine follower of Christ, your faith will not fall on the periphery of your life: it will seethe with energy and power at your core. It will make a great difference in your life: and you will make a great difference in our world.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

A Lion Shorn

Facing a new year always brings hope for new beginnings, fresh starts, and a revived spirit. We make resolutions to change things, to do the right thing, to gain in character and lose in poundage. This is right and good. The real test comes at the first setback, the first impediment to our efforts; that alarm clock, the snow storm, the pain that doesn’t seem to work its magic on the gain (weight, that is).

We start off as a great lion, ready to defend our pride, ready to battle the aggressor, ready to provide and persevere. We roar; ready to take on all who might thwart us in our dreams. Though the hunters be many, we will avoid their assaults and elude their snares. Our hearts are steeled on what lies ahead!

Nonetheless, within the next 12 months something will come upon you that will crush your strength, undermine your resolve, and quench your spirit. Your roar will be quelled to a pathetic meow and you will cower in a corner somewhere, trying to escape or slink into anonymity. You will be tempted to give up and call it quits.

But that is not what you were designed for.

Remember Aslan of the C.S. Lewis NARNIA books. A lion, shorn of his mane, emptied of his strength, bound and lying powerless on the ancient table of sacrifice. Then…, slain. But he did not stay there. He rose up, greater than before. Ready to do battle. Ready to protect his own. Full of power and might. THIS is what we are made for! Not whimpering, nor cowering. Rather, for overcoming and conquering, in strength and with great graciousness.

So, this year, when the conflicts come, when the confusion overwhelms, and entering a cloister seems the only sensible thing to do, remember Aslan, who eschewed retreat, and reentered the fray. You may despair and believe you are a lion shorn of his mane and strength. But you can arise from the ancient alter and once again rise to greatness. You may need a little help doing it; but that is true for all of us.

For what it’s worth,

Gary