Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Blond woman lying in fieldOut beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and right doing,  there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi

I have always liked poetry, but I am particular about the types I read. I am not a fan of Sylvia Plath, but I do like Robert Frost. I also have recently discovered Rumi – a poet from ancient Persia, and the above quote caught and captured my attention.  The more I pondered it, the more meaning it seems to hold.

I may not be interpreting it correctly, but it seems to me to offer a sense of freedom, a freedom to be who you are, to believe what you believe and to allow others to be themselves as well.  It made me wonder what the world would be like if we could set aside our thoughts about what was right and what was wrong, and just accept people as they are.  If we weren’t so set on insisting that others view the world in the same way that we see it, would the world be a more peaceful place? Would religious wars cease when we quit enforcing our particular worldviews onto others?  Would we finally be able to accept others as they really are?

This does not mean that I believe that right and wrong are relative. It does not mean that I do not hold concrete beliefs in absolute values of the nature of good and evil. It does not mean that I do not firmly believe that there are some things that are simply wrong and some things that are simply right. It also does not mean I can be swayed from these positions on wrongdoing and right doing. Quite the opposite! I have a solid foundation in my faith of what is good and what is evil. However, what it does mean is that I will not judge others by my standards. And this is what Rumi’s poem means to me.

Whether you consider Jesus as the Son of God and humanity’s Savior, or you consider Him just to be a good teacher, or maybe you don’t consider Him at all, He did make an excellent point. He said: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged“  Luke 6:37 KJV.  It seems to me to be the same point that Rumi is making in this poem. Don’t judge right and wrong and it will set you free from having your own actions as being judged right or wrong.  In that freedom, you can accept others as they are even as they accept you as you are. You can meet them in a field of love, joy, peace and freedom.

It doesn’t mean that you are free to do as you please. You still need to adhere to your own standards and morals. It just means that you allow others to hold to their personal morals and standards without judging them. Jesus also said, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matt 7:2 KJV;   meaning that if you judge someone by your standards then those same standards will be applied to your own behavior.  I don’t know about you, but I frequently fail to live up to my own moral goals and aspirations, and I would hate to be judged for these failures. However, it does seem only fair that if I hold others to these standards, then I should also be held accountable to them.

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”  – Lao Tzu

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The Storms of Life

Photo By;
Andi Chewning – Norway 2012

“We are all drifting reefwards now, and faith is our only anchor.”
―  Bram Stoker, Dracula

I am not really sure where I am going with this today, my anchor has been lifted and while I am not adrift, I have not really navigated this course before. I want to write what is in my heart without censoring it the way I usually do. I censor my thoughts in an attempt to please others, to impress others and/or to avoid offending someone. Today, I just want to write what is on my heart.

I saw a picture on the news in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy of a seven ton cargo ship that had been tossed on shore a mile inland. The ship was huge, and it was beyond my ability to imagine what kind of force it must have taken to move it a mile away from the shore. I knew its anchor must have been tremendous yet it was not sufficient to save it, and I got to wondering about anchors and their purposes.

Storms come in many shapes and sizes from super storms  like Sandy to a cooling shower on a hot, humid day. They can cause great physical damage or emotional upheavals. They frequently bring death, destruction and pain.  And, anchors, those things which we use to negate some of that damage are not always sufficient.  That tanker’s anchor certainly didn’t protect it very well, and while a storm shelter may provide protection from a tornado what happens in its aftermath? How do you survive, cope and rebuild? How are all those people on the East Coast of the United States making it through the long, dark, cold days and nights without food, lights and heat? What keeps them going? What keeps any of us going when we lose someone we love, when we get divorced, when our friends betray us, when “life happens?” For me it is faith. Faith is my anchor and without it I just drift through life without purpose or direction at the mercy of the whims of fate.

I have raised five children and not all of them had he benefit of a strong faith, but I have noticed that the ones that I raised with a belief in a power greater than themselves had less traumatic teenage years than those that did not. They had an anchor that steadied them against the floods of peer pressure, drugs, low self-esteem and the Hollywood stereotypes of success.  Their faith, I believe, steadied them, and provided them with a secure knowledge of a power greater than themselves and their peers, and a larger worldview than their narrow, short lifespans provided them. This empowered them to stand firm and fight against the storms of life.

So too, in my own life, as I have battled depression, anxiety and stress, my faith – storm mangled as it is – has seen me through, provided me with an anchor and kept me safe to journey on toward new horizons in my life. It is my hope that all of you find a faith with which to anchor your lives and souls, a faith that will lead you to new adventures, larger horizons and more glorious manifestations of the Creator’s love in your lives.

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”
―  Paulo Coelho, Brida

Knock, and It Shall Be Opened Unto You

 

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.”
Mother Teresa
 

Sometimes when we are in the middle of wanting something, struggling to achieve it, and seeing no results, we give up. We think, “I’ve done all I could. It just wasn’t meant to be. I’m not good enough.” Etc. So much nonsense, so many excuses, so many reasons to fail, and to give up our dreams. But, I don’t really think that this is what is supposed to happen. I think we are given dreams and goals to make life more interesting, and to help us change and grow into the people God meant for us to be.

The caterpillar starts out as a nasty little thing, sluggish, slow and sometimes very ugly. It then goes through a long dormant period where little seems to happen but where major unseen changes occur. What emerges is usually something very beautiful, something God had planned all along, and something to which the butterfly never agreed to but never resisted. It simply went along with God’s plans for its life. Humans, however, are given a choice, and with that choice comes responsibility for our actions.

Scripture says, “…knock, and it shall be opened to you.” Matt 7:7 KJV.  In related verses the Holy Scriptures talk about asking and receiving, and seeking and finding. What is key here is that we are required to initiate some kind of action, first. Then, God responds to what we have initiated. Unlike the butterfly, whose transformation is part of its genetic code, if we want to transform ourselves, change our lives, accomplish our goals and see our dreams become reality, we must undertake some type of proactive measures to set things in motion.

 Henry David Thoreau knew this. He wrote, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”  Action! Accomplishing your goals, making your dreams come true, requires action on your part. The butterfly does nothing but let nature take its course and becomes what God has planned for it. God has different plans for humans, it seems, because He requires us to take action, to break open our cocoons and fly into our destinies.  Some of us never fulfill that destiny, but those that want to succeed must take the first step. They must ask, seek and knock.

As William Shakespeare said,  “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”  And, God has promised us success if we but simply take the first steps and reach for our goals. He has given us our destiny, planted the dreams, and provided us with the tools to accomplish them.  The caterpillar doesn’t dream of becoming a butterfly. It doesn’t have any goals beyond the next sip of nectar or the next mating call. We, however, can be inspired, motivated and dream.  We have the genetic code built into us that helps us build, create and succeed. All we have to do is set it free.

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”

Richard Bach

 

 

There and Back Again

 “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.”  – Confucius
 
There have been many roads that I have taken in my life. Some have been dead ends, some have been wrong turns, and some few might have been in the right direction but my ignorance and/or wrong-headedness led me astray. However, as I look back on the roads I have traveled, I do not so much regret that I strayed from the “straight and narrow” as much as I am grateful for what I have learned.
 
In my youth, I made decisions that led me on a difficulty journey. It was a rocky path that led to the desert where I wandered for many years. However, this desert helped to create my character and mold me in ways my early training could not do.  I often felt lost and alone, and wanted to escape the desert that I had created. Yet, it was not my time.
 
J.R.R. Tolkien said,  “Not all those who wander are lost.”  In one of the great paradoxes of  my life, I was indeed lost, wandering, searching after goals that I had set for myself. I was supremely confident and convinced that my path  was clear, straight and narrow. Like the Hebrew children who wandered the desert for forty years, they had a destination but they simply did not know how to get there. I also wandered for many years, and  like the followers of Moses,  I was certain I knew how to get to where I wanted to go. If I only worked hard enough, studied enough, learned enough, prayed enough, worshiped enough, always urging myself to do more and work  harder, then I would get to where I wanted to go. However, after many years of struggling down the wrong path, I finally realized that not only was I on the wrong path but I also had the wrong destination in mind. My goals were not only inaccurate and misguided, they were flat-out wrong. 
 
I have been blessed with family, friends, talents and other gifts, which I have not always appreciated and/or put to good use.  I cannot say that I am doing so now, but I am trying to do better by setting better goals, exercising self-discipline and trying to control the OCD part of me that seems to take over at times.  Jesus said, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt 7:14 KJV  He always seemed to talk in paradoxes or teach in parables which lend themselves to various interpretations and frequently more questions than answers. Like what is this gate and narrow path and how am I to find it? How do I avoid making wrong turns and choosing the wrong road?
 
For me, what I have discovered, is that there is one simple commandment, one road to take that will lead you in the right direction without fail, and that is to, ” ….Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matt 22:37-39 KJV If this is my goal and my destination then there is no stress, no striving after more, no confusion, no wrong turns. However, even good intentions can become twisted, and if in serving others and in loving God, I place more emphasis on results and programs and progress and less on love, then I am once again striving after things instead of serving and loving others. I am once again headed down the wrong path, and now that I am writing again, I pray that I can enter by the right gate and stay on the narrow path.
 
So, it seems, I have come full circle, down many wrong paths and then back to one that I knew in my heart was right all along.  I focused my thoughts and actions on the destination and missed the joys of the journey set before me. I have learned from this wilderness experience, learned from my mistakes. I have learned to pace myself, to have fun, to put people first and these are the lessons that I am taking with me. I want to do it right this time, and am packing my bags for a joyful experience.
 
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” 
– Ralph Waldon Emerson

There and Back Again

 “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.”  – Confucius
 
There have been many roads that I have taken in my life. Some have been dead ends, some have been wrong turns, and some few might have been in the right direction but my ignorance and/or wrong-headedness led me astray. However, as I look back on the roads I have traveled, I do not so much regret that I strayed from the “straight and narrow” as much as I am grateful for what I have learned.
 
In my youth, I made decisions that led me on a difficulty journey. It was a rocky path that led to the desert where I wandered for many years. However, this desert helped to create my character and mold me in ways my early training could not do.  I often felt lost and alone, and wanted to escape the desert that I had created. Yet, it was not my time.
 
J.R.R. Tolkien said,  “Not all those who wander are lost.”  In one of the great paradoxes of  my life, I was indeed lost, wandering, searching after goals that I had set for myself. I was supremely confident and convinced that my path  was clear, straight and narrow. Like the Hebrew children who wandered the desert for forty years, they had a destination but they simply did not know how to get there. I also wandered for many years, and  like the followers of Moses,  I was certain I knew how to get to where I wanted to go. If I only worked hard enough, studied enough, learned enough, prayed enough, worshiped enough, always urging myself to do more and work  harder, then I would get to where I wanted to go. However, after many years of struggling down the wrong path, I finally realized that not only was I on the wrong path but I also had the wrong destination in mind. My goals were not only inaccurate and misguided, they were flat-out wrong. 
 
I have been blessed with family, friends, talents and other gifts, which I have not always appreciated and/or put to good use.  I cannot say that I am doing so now, but I am trying to do better by setting better goals, exercising self-discipline and trying to control the OCD part of me that seems to take over at times.  Jesus said, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt 7:14 KJV  He always seemed to talk in paradoxes or teach in parables which lend themselves to various interpretations and frequently more questions than answers. Like what is this gate and narrow path and how am I to find it? How do I avoid making wrong turns and choosing the wrong road?
 
For me, what I have discovered, is that there is one simple commandment, one road to take that will lead you in the right direction without fail, and that is to, ” ….Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matt 22:37-39 KJV If this is my goal and my destination then there is no stress, no striving after more, no confusion, no wrong turns. However, even good intentions can become twisted, and if in serving others and in loving God, I place more emphasis on results and programs and progress and less on love, then I am once again striving after things instead of serving and loving others. I am once again headed down the wrong path, and now that I am writing again, I pray that I can enter by the right gate and stay on the narrow path.
 
So, it seems, I have come full circle, down many wrong paths and then back to one that I knew in my heart was right all along.  I focused my thoughts and actions on the destination and missed the joys of the journey set before me. I have learned from this wilderness experience, learned from my mistakes. I have learned to pace myself, to have fun, to put people first and these are the lessons that I am taking with me. I want to do it right this time, and am packing my bags for a joyful experience.
 
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” 
– Ralph Waldon Emerson

The Chair Without A Back

“Young people don’t always do what they’re told, but if they can pull it off and do something wonderful, sometimes they escape punishment. ”
―  Rick Riordan

All of us have stories from our childhoods; stories that contributed to the development of our characters or were simply an expression of that character as it developed. One of my most memorable stories involves a chair without a back.  It began with an ordindary dinner at the kitchen table and ended with a permanent memento of my desire to explore life from all angles.

I don’t recall what led me to stick my head through the horizontal rungs of my kitchen chair. I don’t know if I was simply trying to see what was on the other side, or if I was simply bored.  Neither can I remember actually sticking my head through the slats. However, I can clearly remember not being able to remove it.  Unable to free myself, I began to wiggle and scream. It wasn’t long before my dad came to the rescue. I CAN clearly remember the sound of the saw as it ate through the wooden slats just inches away from my neck.  That chair remained my personal “seat of honor” at the family dinner table, a testimony to the follies of childhood.

An assortment adventures which run from a series of  bee stings from constantly running barefoot in the clover, to a wasp sting from spitting at a wasp nest,  to getting bit on the nose by a snapping turtle that I tried to rub noses are topped of with being chased by an entire herd of dairy cows one Christmas season. An experience that left one shoe in the quicksand, and a slamming door flapping behind me while I cowered under my bed.  I am not certain whether these misadventures shaped me or were fashioned by me as a result of my insatiable curiosity, inability to follow rules and sheer stubbornness. Regardless, they are part of who I am today.

I would love to hear from you about the stories that have shaped your life, or which are an expression of who you are. Feel free to add to this discussion and let’s get to know each other.

 

“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”
―  John Connolly, “The Book of Lost Things”