“Your Mother is Deranged!”

The healthiest, most functional families have two parents fully engaged in the lives and well-being of each individual and the family as a whole. One parent usually keeps track of the home…how organized and clean it is kept…and the health and well-being of the family:  feeding them; keeping them suitably clothed; making sure they are doing well in life, work, and school. The other parent often keeps track of the finances…brings money into the family, invests it, and makes plans for the future…and keeps watch that the home is safely protected. Both parents pass along to the children the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed.

What would happen if the father told the kids, “Your mother is deranged; she sleeps around and gives away your food to strangers. I’m not giving her any more money for groceries. She’s crazy. She’s not like the rest of us. You are not safe with her. We would be better off without her.”

What if the mother said behind their father’s back, “Your father is only in it for himself.  You watch; as soon as he saves up enough, he’s going to leave us. He doesn’t love you; he despises children and says you’re a drain…a weight around his neck. He’s probably got some woman on the side because he doesn’t love me, either.”

When the children hear this enough, they don’t know who to trust; they go inward and feel bad about themselves. They act out or get involved in things that provide some sense of control or predictability in their lives like a clandestine group, a street gang, drugs, alcohol, guns, or suicide.

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America has a two-parent, legislative government which allows for our Congress to act like the two parents of a healthy, functional country. One ‘parent,’ or party tends to keep track of the health, education, and well-being of the American people and the health of the home they live in; the other keeps track of the growth, safety, and financial health of the country and how well it is getting along with its neighbors.

Both governing parents…both entities are necessary. For one parent to tear down the other is damaging to their relationship as well as their dependents; it is a waste of time and energy and a distraction from the real challenges the family faces from outside the home. Tearing down each other Makes No Sense.

I am grateful for our 2-party system of government. I want to be able to count on one side to keep a watch on our future and our financial growth…to keep our economy strong. I look to them to keep a watchful eye on our neighbors and to keep us safe. I look to the other side to keep watch on how well the American people, especially the children, are cared for, taught, and prepared for the future. I depend on this side to keep watch on the health of our land, air, and water. I expect one side to keep their fingers on the pulse of business; the other to keep a tending eye on the disadvantaged and the weak. Both are necessary. All of it matters.

There is no reason…and no room…for the two parents of any family to discredit or attempt to destroy each other; that’s stupid. Any single parent will tell you:  no one person can do it well, alone. The whole family suffers if one parent dies, leaves, or does not contribute. The scope of life is too big; the responsibilities must be shared.

So, you two, stop tearing each other down, come to the table, and talk; there’s work to be done.

(I borrowed the photo at the top from the Rand Corporation; I hope they will allow me to use it.  It was the best depiction of what I am trying to convey available.)

 

Spring Practice

It’s Spring!….at least around here, it is.

Around here ‘Spring’ means Spring Practice for the Clemson football team. Coaches intentionally set up situation plays that will challenge the player’s beliefs…their expectations…and draw out their weaknesses.  The players themselves will try moves that have worked before but don’t anymore….and be open to learning a new thing. That’s what spring is all about.

It is Springtime for all of mankind.

God’s gifts are often described in springtime terms of lush green meadows, gentle grazing sheep, still waters, and sweet lilies of the field. The bright bird song sounds like gratitude to God. But Spring, particularly now, is a time to be alert and conscious of what life is about. Those bird songs are battle cries…fierce warnings to protect and defend. Birth of the young is fraught with dangers; one animal’s young devouring another animal’s young. Spring rains can wash out a lifetime of work. Green shoots are amazingly strong and can move rocks, pull down trees, and tumble earth. Those pretty flowers are the plant’s one shot at continuity; fail to compete for the attention of the insect and you lose…No fruit; no future.

Survival is of the alert.

Spring reminds us that there is always change going on, growth, and adaptation. Walls heave and crumble from frost. Dams and levees break and wash away. Those who make it through these changes are not so much ‘survivors’ as they are the riders at the crest of the waves of change.

Isaiah said, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Bernadette Roberts said:
“The way it goes is that God takes something from us and then waits for our reaction.  Usually He takes something we never even knew we had to give and this is because God works at the unconscious level, while we can only work at the conscious level or with what we know about ourselves. So God’s work is really undercover, for which reason we need absolute faith and trust in what we do not know or cannot see – ourselves or God.

God is Creator:  a parent who takes the responsibility of growing us up…and He does this with fierce love, honesty, and tender grace.

Spring practice lasts only so long and it appears it is getting shorter. It is time we took it upon ourselves to grow ourselves up, be the alert scouts for the best future, be the leaders among our peers, and take the love we know out into the world.

Springtime is about waking up and growing up.

#AllIn,

#AllLove,

and to God be the Glory.

Our Hope is Built on Nothing Less…

…than being Fully Human.

  • Fully cognizant of God’s ever-presence
  • Fully connected to each other and all of life…in love
  • Fully engaged in the battles and brawls that strengthen us and teach us everyday, but . . .
  • Especially in these focused, dedicated events to demonstrate our resolve and our purity of heart.

Go TIGERS!

Moving along the path …

I am now posting primarily to HolySmokeOnTheWater.com because its structure is better suited to my rambling interests: theology, Christianity, my opinions, snippets of what I am reading and hearing,…  NotesFromTheMargins.wordpress.com is where I put the dialogues I have with people.  I will continue to post items addressing Teachable Moments here.  Please join me on these other sites.  I miss you.

Thank you.  Catherine (Kitsy) Stratton.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Blind Spot

Last night during Clemson’s heartbreaking loss to Alabama, Jesus reminded me that His followers are not the winners of the world.  I railed against that and then was convinced to own the truth of it.  My need for Clemson to be victorious has been my one blind spot in my personal crusade to rid myself of attachments and identifications and to complete my journey as a follower of Jesus…the kenotic path to union with God.

Last year, I boldly blogged about my fervent prayers during the National Championship because I felt the world needed to see a football program of coaches and players, who openly give credit for their lives and performance to God, be victorious.  My prayers were not for God to favor Clemson but were toward the quarterback Deshaun Watson who seemed cowed by the physical hostility he was receiving from the Alabama defense; I prayed for God’s presence to get through to him…for Deshaun to remember Whose he is and to feel that power.  I was not alone in my prayers and Deshaun rallied.  Clemson won that game.

Last night, when Alabama was once again making it personal, I tried everything I could think of to influence a win…everything short of making a deal with the devil.  But Jesus, in His gentle, tender way, reminded me, “My followers are not the winners of this world.”  Dammit.

I was reminded of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane where one of the disciples took a sword to fight back the guards who had come to take Jesus to His crucifiction.  Jesus corrected the disciple then and He corrected me last night.  I argued, “But Jesus, don’t you want the world to see us victorious?  Don’t You want to win?”  Well, of course He does..just not in that way; that’s not how it works.  I need to go back and read the Sermon on the Mount.

I worry about Dabo, too.  I knew we (he and I) were in trouble when I saw the video clip of him dribbling grass from his fingers onto the playing field.  I recalled how he picked Tulane for his practice field, and why, and the same hotel in New Orleans that he stayed in 25 years ago, and why.  Those moves of superstition are no better than my daughter and myself donning every item of Clemson clothing and paraphernalia that we own to “set the mood,” a bit of juju, as one commentator put it.

Dabo is in a very difficult position…one of teaching these young men how to live a Christ-filled, Christ-guided life in a segment of the world where the goal is always to win…regardless.  The biggest lesson Dabo has to teach is how to lose…and not just losing gracefully and the lessons to be learned from it, but also why losing self identity and self importance is key to having given your life to following Jesus.  For a football coach whose job it is to teach them to win games, that’s tricky.  You have to fight to win in order to learn from the loss.  Jesus showed us this over and over.  Even the Apostle Paul danced the tricky dance of “to lose oneself is Christ” but also to not only run the race but to finish it.

It’s a paradox.  You must give your all to attain the goal but go through the ultimate loss at the pinacle to achieve the prize of salvation.  It’s twisted but it works.  If coached properly, this loss will be a huge gain for those young men…and the coaches.  My prayers are with them now.

My prayers are also with me because I see that I have been holding out this need for Clemson to be victorious….holding it separate from everything else in my life that has been damaged or destroyed.  I had a friend years ago who gave everything to God, except one area of his life.  He lead several AA groups, coached children and adults in TaeKwonDo, but kept his multiple sexual relationships out of his commitment to God. That did not go well for him…or others.

Not only did I realize I was fiercely attached to and idetified with the need for Clemson to win, I found myself deeply hating Alabama’s head coach.  Everything about his motives, values, and demeanor has been offensive to me…but I have no buseness hating on anyone !!!   (God, forgive me.)  Following the guidance of AA, I will pray for Nick Saban to be victorious and also for him to learn of the love of Christ…the love which motivates Dabo Swinney and the Clemson players.

Thankfully, much good came about last night: my daughter dug deep into her own well of wisdom to help me see all of the aspects of my blind spot and to lovingly help me deal with it.  She pointed out how the unpalatable tenor of Saban does not necessarily extend to the team; we watched the small interview of the ‘Big Guy’ on the Alabama team who made the unexpected touchdown; his demeanor was just the opposite of Saban’s. Da’Ron Payne was modest, humble, and grateful for having been given the opportunity.  Bless him.  Perhaps he will be the spark in Saban’s camp that turns Saban’s influence from a cancer to something healing.  Maybe.  I will pray for that.

Go TIGERS !

paw-1

You Can’t Fake the Real Thing

I’m torn…not between Clemson and anyone else winning the championship games, but between Clemson remaining special (if not unique) in its culture and other schools incorporating into their own programs what Clemson has had for a long time.  Granted, it will take a while for these other schools to completely reform; it starts with recruiting the right sorts: players and coaches.  But some schools are at least giving lip service to the change.  Nick Saban of Alabama has begun saying the kinds of things Dabo Swinney says all the time; Saban just doesn’t know what he’s saying, yet.  By that I mean Saban is intentionally using the same words but there is no deep knowing at the heart level, and you can’t fake the real thing.  When Saban gets around to understanding what he is saying, then he needs time to cycle through the seasons to process out the players who were recruited for all the reasons Alabama has been recruiting players.  Alabama’s criteria have not been the same as Clemson’s.

I don’t know the whole story, but a Clemson player recently transfered out of the program.  I noticed that the story gave some statistics and then enumerated the accomplishments of the player’s father.  I suspect this player came into the Clemson program for the wrong reasons.  It occurs to me now that most Clemson recruits emphasize the attraction of the strong family feeling among the Clemson coaches, players, and staff.  I have also noticed how often the opinion of the player’s mother is key.  I suspect that one major criteria in whether Clemson wants a specific recruit or not has to do with how open the young man is to a new strong fatherly influence…which he will definitly be under once working with Dabo Swinney and the other coaches.  You will be coached, taught, nurtured, encouraged, but also tested and held accountable.  When you emerge from the other end of this journey…this education and training tunnel…you will be a man your mother will be proud of and the world will look up to.

I believe that as long as Clemson is special in this mind-set of selecting those open to the program; training, nurturing, and proving them inside then outside; and encasing the whole thing in love; Clemson will continue to be second to none and victorious to the end.  This is business.  This is the business that Dabo Swinney is in.  This is the business of life and all institutions in the business of preparing young people for life would be wise to line their programs up with what Swinney has built.  That includes schools, churches, youth programs, and the military.  Commanders in chief, headmasters, scoutmasters, and head coaches should start with the heart and then work with the mind and body, instilling a culture of fierce love and tenacious grit, that does not tolerate indulgences of poor conduct born of fear (racism, abuse, disrespect, hatred,…)

Some aren’t called to such programs…but all could be.  All should aspire to be.

So, I’m torn.  Part of me wants Clemson to keep its culture unique like a secret..and to always win.  The other part of me wants this culture to spread throughout collegiate sports into professional sports and out into the fandoms, neighborhoods, public schools, military, and beyond; all of them will benefit.  In many cases, it isn’t possible to be selective in who you bring into a program but it is always possible to be selective in the leadership, instructors, and coaches.  And it must always start with the heart.

“Like the miracle of Hanukkah, all over again”

Two years ago, in January of 2016, I dictated the following into my cell phone.  I was in the process of moving from North Carolina, where I had lost my job and was having to vacate my house, walking away from the mortgage, to South Carolina where my brother was letting me move into a vacant 60-year-old house trailer of his:

I’m driving through Travelers Rest, closely watching my gas gauge because I am just about out of gas…the orange empty-tank light is on.  I have about a dollar seventy five to my name and I’m making plans.  There’s a gas station at the Green River exit on 25 and I’m thinking of offering to clean the bathroom in exchange for two gallons of gas.  I’m recording this because I’m thinking about what it’s like to live like this…for the people who live like this every day of their lives, and can’t get out of the downward spiral.

All of my life, when I have come across people who live this way, hand to mouth, I have been skeptical; I have thought that they somehow had a choice and chose to live this way,  either because they were lazy, wasteful, and stupid or because they had an entitlement mentality…used to someone bailing them out…so used to social programs that they knew no other way to live. They didn’t seem to know how to take care of themselves.

God was I wrong. I find no satisfaction in this.  Yes, I have been wasteful and at times, stupid.  But, lately I have exhausted myself in trying to survive, wrestled with ways of working things around to make it through the month, the day, the next hour.  And I almost made it.  But now I need just a little bit of help.  And that is so hard.  I believe it takes more strength to hold my head up and survive this…and to ask for help…than it did to work my 9-to-5 government job for 22 years.

I will make it through this. I know I will. I’m having to convince my daughter that she, too, will survive this because she, too, is overdrawn and facing rent day. But I’m also having to teach her that this is a God lesson in humility. This whole scenario is destroying my pride. And that is a good thing…a God thing.  To live on the same level with the people who live on the streets or in their cars or in 60 year old house trailers with the floors falling in… it’s a good place to be.

God, forgive me for all those times when I have felt superior to people who have nothing. Forgive me for making them feel bad by looking the other way or not smiling, for not looking them in the eyes, and not offering to help.  And for all those empty-headed idiots who say people who live on the street do so because they want to…it makes me…well, it makes me mad enough to cry.

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Well, I did it.  I stopped at the Green River exit and asked the attendant if I could clean the bathrooms for two gallons of gas.  He deferred to the manager.  First, she takes her calculator out to figure how much two gallons is going to cost her, asks me where I’m going (Weaverville, NC, is 61 miles from Travelers Rest), and how many miles I get to a gallon (Honda Fit, 34 mpg.).  She looks up and tells me she’s already cleaned up and they close in 10 minutes, so, “no.”    I wait.     She waits back.       So I leave, with no gas.

I drove 61 miles on an empty tank, like the miracle of Hanukkah, all over again.

I’m now at my daughter’s apartment in Weaverville where it’s warm.  But, outside, it is 19 degrees and I’m thinking about the people broken down by the side of the road, or ‘sleeping’ under bridges, or in their cars, or even in shelters.  I beg God to bless them, if not in this life then in the next one.  And, please, God, if they sleep, let them know in their dreams that someone is sorry–very sorry–that someone cares for them even if there is nothing she can do to help, and that she loves them.

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That was two years ago.  My life still hovers quite close to the ground but, thanks to my brother, my home is warm and snug…even snuggier than before becasue my daughter now lives with me in this 60-year-old house trailer.  Try as I might, it remains a constant battle to stay afloat financially.  But we are fine; we are doing okay…okay enough to pay a small token forward.  I have put a small amount of money…enough to buy two gallons of gas…in a red envelope with instructions for the gas station attendant to hold onto this envelope until someone comes in, needing just a little bit of gas to get home.

God bless them.

Get It Done

 

Forgive everyone for everything…including yourself.

Detach from of all of your issues.*

Reacquaint yourself with God.

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*What I find helpful is to envision Jesus with a wicker hamper at his feet. As issues come up, I put them in the hamper, say Thank You, and back away. If I find I’m carrying that same issue around with me again, I put it back in the hamper and back away…again. I do it as often as it comes up…seventy times seven times…plus 1, if necessary.

When I find myself carrying on an argument in my head with my boss from 15 years ago, it goes in the hamper and I back away.

If you are being bullied, put it in the hamper and back away.

If you are fearful of tomorrow, put it in the hamper and back away.

If your obsession is to be an actress, put it in the hamper and back away.

If you hate Trump, put it in the hamper and back away.

Tired of being ‘Politically Correct?’ Put it in the hamper and back away.

Seeing a white man with a black woman together makes you angry? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Sick of hearing about billionaires and their tax cuts? Put it in the hamper and back away.

You are Bipolar? Put it in the hamper and back away.

You fear your boss has Bipolar Disorder? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Ashamed that your daughter is pregnant? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Feeling guilty that you are spending money you really don’t have? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Feeling good about meeting your budget and giving to the church? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Want to kill your father for groping you? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Grateful you’re not fat? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Wish you were skinny? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Always thinking about consciousness? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Love that your house is so beautiful? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Hate Coach K? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Afraid you are pregnant and you don’t know whether to be happy or scared? Put it in the hamper and back away.

In constant pain? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Hate the Jews?  Put it in the hamper and back away.

In need of forgiveness?  Put it in the hamper and back away.

Can’t tell fake news from real news? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Counting on them getting theirs on Judgement Day? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Afraid for your children? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Proud of your accomplishments? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Lost your faith?  Put it in the hamper and back away.

Your wife is leaving you?  Put it in the hamper and back away.

Dying of cancer? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Wish you had said then what you have been practicing and rehearsing in your mind for the past 10 years? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Obsessed with posting memes that insult Liberals? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Wishing you had a laser to blow the tires out on that damned truck that just cut you off in traffic while the driver flipped you the bird and all you can do is glare because you’re driving a Gremlin and the horn doesn’t work……put it in the hamper and back away.

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This does not mean you do not work toward your dreams, stop someone from abusing you, be an activist for the disabled, build your business, or save money for the future.  You do the work but you release the anger, the fear, the regret, the urgency, the resentment, the pride, the arrogance,…    You detach from the need, the desire, the obsession.

All these emotional attachments are covering over the God Part of you that wants to breathe and have expression in the world.  We all have identities we cling to:  I am a single mom. I am bipolar.  She is clairvoyant.  He is a Republican.  They are Hispanic.  You are wealthy.  He is a Trump supporter.  I am a Christian.  I am a recovering racist.  You are a Humanist.  I am old.  She is smarter than you.  I am an adultress.  She is crippled.  He is a Yankee.  She is a cocaine addict.  They are Holocaust survivors.   He is a Vietnam Veteran.  I am a Tiger Fan.   If we can lay our identities to one side just a bit and let our God Part be what we present to the world, peace will come.

Let it go

You will let go of your attachments. You will…sooner or later. Why wait until your body wears out and you take your last breath to do it? It is only with the release our attachments that all the benefits of having an infinite existence are revealed and made available. Why would you put it off? It’s like the difference between retiring with infinite wealth at 40 and dying with infinite wealth. Your choice.

By the way, you don’t have to sell all you have, renounce all your beliefs, leave all your loved ones, or stop pursuing your dreams. (The rich young ruler would not have understood this.) It is the attachment to those things you must release…the importance of them…your focus on them…your obsessions with and addictions to them that you must release.

Personally, just like the rich young ruler, I did not understand that. I wanted the end result but was afraid to let go of my identities, aspirations, labels, and agendas. Fine. However, my want of the end result won out and all those things were taken from me without my being prepared for it. Oh, I had given my consent but had no idea that it was going to be done in that way…ready or not. I don’t recommend this approach; I suggest you do it willingly in a sensible manner.* There’s much less blood and mess that way.

But whether you give your consent or not, it will happen. It is God’s will. God’s will is that you get your shit out of the way. You are a manifestation of God on this earth and God wants your ‘God Part’ to be what functions here. You don’t want that? You’d rather it be Your agenda and not God’s agenda? How’s that working for you?

*An excellent and sensible way to release your attachments is through the practice of Centering Prayer.