“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.

Spreading Love…

Clemson’s head football coach, Dabo Swinney, spoke to reporters recently about Clemson’s new 5-star wide receiver signee from California, saying, “He’s got an amazing mind and leadership abilities. I mean, he is an incredibly well-rounded young person that I think will impact our community and impact a lot of people’s lives through the platform of college football.

Dabo, most beloved inspirational speaker, leads his coaching staff not to teach football as much as to teach young men to be fully human, through the platform of college football:  to recognize that Christ resides within each one of them, that there are certain ways of living that nurture and align with that Christ presence, and that every moment in life involves a choice. Every decision, every play in every game, every interaction with teammates, family, coaches, agents, fans, cafeteria workers, and grieving parents, will either reveal more of that Christ presence to the world…or it will cover it over with confusion and obscuring crust. Dabo is plugged in to Christ…and so are his coaches and staff. So are the student athletes. The athletic director gets it. The fan base gets it. The community gets it. The code name sometimes used for it is “Clemson Culture.” Now, others want it, too.

Nick Saban sometimes uses the words Dabo uses and wants what Dabo’s got. When Saban figures out how to get plugged in so that those words have meaning, he may make the rights choices and then…look out, because there are other coaches and programs out there who also get it. Clemson Football is currently at the top, so the time and energy are perfect for this awareness to spread like…well…Spirit.

Dabo is not alone in his awareness of Christ. But his awareness of how college athletics is a perfect “platform” for revealing Christ is brilliant. Also, Dabo seems to have dedicated his life to this. He has a dream. He sees where this could lead. Clemson Culture is not about spreading a religion; it’s about recognizing that Christ is the manifestation of God that resides in every human whether they realize it or not. The first step is accepting it…being open to the truth of it. The second step is seeing it…recognizing Christ within yourself and others. Then you build on what you find through the choices you make. Dabo and his team (and everyone else in the world) call this “Love.”

So, when Dabo and Dexter and Christian and Deshaun and DeAndre and Trevor and Hunter and Travis and Tee and Lyn J and all of them talk about “Love,” they are talking about the deepest, strongest, most everlasting POWER there is. Clemson is revealing Christ through the mechanism of college football and this is an ingenious way for Christ to be revealed and grow in the world.

Why football?  Why not?  It has everything in place to help it happen: close coaching; fanbase support; struggle; challenge; and competition. Student athleticism offers opportunities to perfect skills and to wrestle with the temptation to get lost in pride and resentment. There are myriad opportunities to practice making the right choices…and to feel the resulting power of love…to recognize the presence of Christ in themselves and how it connects them to others.

Sound crazy? Any crazier than having the One who taught us all about this, be born in a cow shed while his parents were on a road trip?

Will Clemson win? They already have. Go TIGERS.

(The image at the top belongs to the New York Times.  I’ll return it if they need it back.)

 

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.

“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.

The Embassy and Best Practices

Followers of Jesus were instructed to be ambassadors for Christ. (That’s in Corinthians.) A gathering of such followers, therefore, could be considered an embassy.  I’d like to think of it as the most important of all embassies, therefore, I would call it The Embassy.

If I were to open a branch of this Embassy, I would make things simple and just ‘borrow’ the best practices of other similar entities, for example:

  1. Kneeling – It is a good posture to get used to and well familiar with; it is difficult to cop an attitude while on your knees.  Children pray on their knees.  Surrender, its value and purpose, is revealed when one prays on one’s knees.  I have found that spiritual meditation is quite potent when done on my knees.
  2. Silence and meditation – I have heard centering prayer or spiritual meditation  likened to sitting on the porch with a loved one…just being present; no talking necessary.  To be honest, I cannot hear Christ if I am always talking or thinking.  By the way, mindfullness meditation has a different purpose and is not the same thing as spiritual meditation.  Both are good for you.  Do both.
  3. Confession and repentance – I sometimes forget that Christ is always present in me; I tend to pile stuff on top of Christ…stuff like hurt feelings, fear, anger, wants, obsessions and thinking that I am ‘all that.’  Listing all that stuff and choosing to let go of it, works.  Plus, it’s realizing that God is not ‘out there’ or ‘up there’ somewhere but in and throughout me.  Repentance is getting back to that right thinking.

These are just some of the best practices.

This Following Jesus Business

Jesus came into the world without the generational issues that we have to deal with.  Therefore, He was aware of… and showed… full Christ presence from the very beginning of His ministry.  He did not have traumas, neuroses, and complexes that got in the way of His knowing His Father’s will at all times. Nothing hid His being Christ.  We, however, need to do the hard work of stripping away the issues and distractions to reach that clarity.

I have known people who have died without reaching a clear awareness of Christ.  I have known people who never even tried to address their issues at all, unaware that working out their own salvation is theirs to do.   I have also known people who have reached that clarity and were able to live the last years of their lives in full Christ presence and in full service of the Father.

We have been given the means to do the hard work of shedding all of the interfering stuff.  The Holy Spirit has blessed us with knowledge of dealing with addictions, resentments and hate, illness and diseases.  We have psychology, spiritual healing, prayer, AA groups, solid advice on what to eat, how much exercise to get, the importance of spending time in nature, deep breathing, and good sleep.  All of that knowledge and help has been provided to assist us in shedding our issues.

While working out our salvation, we can spend precious and protected moments in silent prayer and meditation…becoming familiar with that clarity.  With enough consistent practice, we can carry that grounded Christ presence out into relationships, crisis moments, and the world.

But we must still do the work.

Jesus spent His life psychologically whole, unattached to possessions, and undistracted.  He spent time in prayerful meditation to maintain His clear awareness of God.  All other times, He was open to the people around Him and present, in the truest sense.  He was attentive, aware, and conscious.  Follow Jesus’ example.

It is not necessary for us to be crucified on a tree in order to die to our distractions and issues.  But what Jesus demonstrated was that once we choose to, after a time of grief, darkness, and confusion, we awaken full of Christ and ready to serve.

Follow Jesus.