Thursday, February 26, 2015

Born To Be Wildly Discontent

How stuck in a funk are you? Really stuck? Partially stuck? Are your shoes making that sucking noise at each step?

Here's my idea of a lifeline. It's this month's blog over at LightQuest Media. Just a snippet to see if you'd like to read the rest:

"...I was quizzing him about identity, like what happens when we lose ours.  What about those moments we are lost for direction, lost for purpose?  What about those moments we wake up and no longer recognize ourselves?  Our lives?  Our dreams?  I asked him if he had ever experienced that and, after a solid minute of silence where I assumed he was remembering the name of that great shrink he met once at a dinner party, who, as luck would have it, had a patient slot open, (he) answered with a definitive 'every time I’m about to make a big change.'
...(D)ripping wisdom with the same rhythm his glass dripped condensation, (he) laid out the problem."

Let me know if it worked. If not, I suggest we open a bottle of wine, get comfortable in the mud, and pretend this is a spa day. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Silent as the Grave: why life is better than death, even when it's not

It's been over 20 years since the day I should have died. I don't have it marked on a calendar or anything. I don't even commemorate the day with a fresh bouquet of dead roses, my way of playing a twisted joke on myself.

Instead, when it rolls around, I just remember. Like magic.

The story is long and far too complex to describe. Let's just say I was alive, then I was seconds away from being not. I was dying from pneumonia, drowning from the inside out. And when my last breath decided not to come, my stubborn mother chose to stubbornly refuse. She yanked my body, literally, back into life.

And there you have it.

I'm alive.

It's a funny thought - this living past your due date thing - that creeps in ever so often, usually when life isn't all that swell. In all honestly, had I expired that day at the fresh-faced age of 15, I would have been spared lots of heartache and disappointments, like $4 gasoline and watching all six seasons of Lost only to still be confused at the end.

Then there's the whole 2008 elections I wouldn't have minded missing. The Janet Jackson Super Bowl snafu. One Indiana Jones movie too many. Celebrities on Twitter. Kanye West on stage. Bruce Jenner on estrogen.

You get it.

Life is often beautiful. But that doesn't mean it can't also be grotesque. Light with dark chocolate swirled in. Blissful but traumatic. Stunning but repulsive. It contains serious, unrelenting, often unbearable black holes. And, like it or not, we're often required to leap into those holes with a perfectly executed forward dive in the pike position.

That's life. The beautifully mundane and desperately disturbing. 

Years ago, I read a book by Jerry Sittser about his life after a drunk driver killed his mother, wife, and daughter. He and his other three children survived. Afterward, people would tell him that God had a plan, God knew, God still answered prayer. But God hadn't answered Jerry's. And now Jerry needed to know why.

The book, When God Doesn't Answer Prayer, delved into unanswered prayer with an honesty I needed at that moment. This moment, too. He was confused, hurt, battling with trust, and he didn't sugarcoat it because he's a Christian. God hadn't fulfilled His part of the contract and Jerry needed answers.

The "go to" Christian responses weren't cutting it.

I got that. I really did. They don't do anything for me, either.

It's possible there are Christians out there who really don't struggle with trust and faith. In each situation, no matter the circumstances, they face it with courage and peace. They never waver, never throw things, never get angry with God.

I want to meet these people. But not here. On earth, they'll only annoy me. Find me once we're in heaven, though, and let's chat.

That perfectly coiffed, perfectly taciturn martyr isn't me. I question. I seek. I investigate. Add to that the fact I'm a passionate person, God help me, and many times He doesn't. In fact, God may allow unanswered prayer and repetitive struggles in my life just to see me wind myself up so He can watch me go.

I've wondered if He'd stop if I started breaking stuff. But, geez, I hate cleaning up the mess after.

Living with unanswered prayer - those times of treading water in the black holes - has no easy answers. None. Jerry didn't really find any either, although he also wrote A Grace Disguised: How The Soul Grows Through Loss, which eludes to some kind of resolution.

He explained that the answers weren't easy. Or quick. Or even all that clear, other than to believe God was still sovereign and still trustworthy even when silent. 

What Jerry did find - I'm not convinced but not yet ruling it out either - is that all pain, loss, disappointment, sorrow, God can and will redeem. Somehow. Even the black hole we're swimming in, God will redeem that, too, like making it into an indoor, lighted pool with a bubbling hot tub.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not that Christian with the sunshine disposition no matter the circumstances. I'm a yeller. I'm a fighter. I'm Jacob, with the broken hip and all. So don't think I've figured it out with a few simple keystrokes. This is a life journey, my friends. One I never really win. I only have cycles with longer spells of wearing dry clothes than others.

I'm not a conqueror. I'm a sojourner. And I keep freakin' sojourning in the same spot.

Jerry is still working it out and so am I. His newest book, released in 2012, is called A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life. I ordered it today. And, funny little fact or not, when I went to purchase the book, Amazon asked me if I wanted to "redeem" my award points to get the book for free.

Why, yes. Thank you. I'll take that redemption. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

10 Ways to Fix 50 Shades

Don't talk problems. Talk solutions.

What a nifty little piece of business advice I keep hearing. So I'm applying it to 50 Shades of Grey.

The truth is, there are too many problems with this story for me to succinctly blog about it. Besides, researching this topic is bad for my complexion. A girl should really only loathe one thing at a time and currently my loathing is completely involved with ISIS.

So, let's talk solutions.

For 50 Shades, I've diagnosed more problems with and/or caused by this story than I have time to address. So I've narrowed down the solutions to the most loathsome 10:

1. Have the two main characters pick up trash along the highway. Not only is it far more productive than their current pastime, it still offers chances for them to incur the physical harm they so love.

2. Get E L James and her husband into couples' counseling. They can afford it now.

3. Replace all references of "inner goddess" in the book with "imaginary smurf."

4. Have Anastasia Steele ride in an elevator with a woman sporting a black eye, busted lip, and broken nose from her abusive husband.

5. Instead of being rich and physically attractive, make Christian Grey a working class mechanic with acne and a creepy back bedroom.

6.  Sell every copy of 50 Shades of Grey with a free copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy so they can tell a talented writer from a bored woman having a mid-life crisis.

7. Invite E L James to a support group for abused and battered women before she writes one more book.

8. Since sex can apparently sell anything, even bad sex, put the 50 Shade franchise to work funding the burdensome welfare system and save the taxpayer billions.

9. Give Anastasia more self worth. And a strong right cross.

10. Write a love story the polar opposite of this one and make a movie that inspires, loves, respects, and protects. (That one has already been done. Old-Fashioned opens on Valentine's Day.)

There are other areas of concern to pursue in this story, but I've simply got to get back to ISIS.

Friday, February 6, 2015

If truth is relative...

...then fried Snickers bars won't make you fat. Bernie Madoff faithfully invested $50 billion dollars. Milli Vanilli sang every word of "Blame It On The Rain." If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. Lance Armstrong always says "no" to drugs. There is no waste in government spending. Bill Clinton has always been faithful. Ditto Tiger Woods. Ditto again John Edwards. Smoking never causes cancer. Pinto beans are easily digestible. And Brian Williams has no reason to apologize.

If truth is relative.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Do. Then know. It's not a chicken or egg thing.

© | Dreamstime Stock Photos

You learn how to wash dried egg yoke off a plate by washing dried egg yoke off a plate.

So I'm no Plato. But Plato was no Socrates. Wrap your mind around that one.

It's difficult to grasp, this concept of "doing," until there's a dirty dish in your hand. Then, as if having an out of body experience because you're too bored to be in your body, you realize you've devised a well run system of washing dishes without a single executed strategy. Or survey. Or flow chart.

You wash dishes like a gangsta. And there isn't a single milk ring at the bottom of a glass to tell you otherwise.

If given the option, most of us would skip the stuck on grease and go straight to the streamlined system. Who wouldn't opt to start with greatness instead of evolve there? Who doesn't want to arrive at Park Place without passing Go?

That isn't always the option, however. In fact, it rarely is. Maybe even never. All greatness takes work, takes doing that thing, practicing that thing, revising, reconfiguring, restructuring that thing, all while doing whatever that thing is some more. Winston Churchill once said, "Difficulties mastered are opportunities won." I wonder how many times he rewrote that? I wonder how many times I'll rewrite this? At present, we're hitting around nine.

In the world of marketing, the term "expert in your field" is tossed around like bangs in need of a trim. Every marketer wants to make you an expert and every you wants to be one.

But are you sure?

Years ago, while attending a national dance competition (as a spectator only), a fellow dancer from my class leaned over during a professional couple's spotlight performance and irritably remarked, "Why can't I do that? I want to dance like him!"

I asked him, "Are you sure? Because he's been dancing since grade school. Dancing is his job. He practices everyday with his partner. You can dance like him eventually, but you'll have to live like him to do it."  

He opted for no.

Knowledge may come by studying. But expertise comes by doing. Like my dish washing skills.

Every morning, I face down that drying egg yoke. And every day, I know exactly how to handle it. It took a few years, a few discoveries, like the miracle of presoak. There were dark days when I switched from over easy to scrambled. But I came back. I fried again. I faced the gall of that grip on my china, and I picked up my scrub brush.

I did the dishes. And now I know how.