Friday, April 26, 2013

Being the change.

When I was a kid, probably grade school age, maybe ten or so, I loved playing outside. Every chance I got was like a little vacation from anything inside and I used to wait, sometimes not so patiently, anticipating the moment I would be released to get out there. It was almost as if I was a prisoner of sorts to the indoors and going out was my freedom. And that freedom was viewed the same whether it was snowing, raining, sunny, windy or anything. My friends and I quite literally lived to be outside.

Looking back, I think the number one reason why playing outside was so epic was the lack of rules, regulations and encumbrances placed upon us by our parents and teachers. We were responsible for making the rules for the games we played at recess or after school in the neighborhood. Nary was there a time when an authority figure came around and told us we were climbing trees all wrong, or that our game of man-hunt needed more players or our basketball games should have had a referee. We figured it out, on our own, every time. Sure, there were moments of intensity when one of us didn’t agree with something and it usually boiled down to some yelling but in the end, we all came back to play the next day.

Most of us can place a dot on the time line of our lives when we stopped living for the sheer joy of playing outside every day. Few people make a living out of playing outdoors and most of those positions still involve some level of responsibility. This is not meant to be a moment to look back in regret, however. It should be a fond moment of recollection where upon we evoke powerful memories, ones filled with laughter and care free smiles. More importantly, this could be your opportunity to assess your current place in life and make a change or two.

I’ve talked about change before on a few levels and have noted the power that change can have when it means more than just some trite slogan. This is not meant to be slanderous but the truth is that very few people change their every day routines without a major shake up. Modifying behavior is serious business but a quick check of the material found in the check out line at the grocery store would suggest that anyone can do it. And while it is true that anyone can do it, statistically very few people actually commit what is necessary to make a noticeable change in their lives.

Look at it this way; we have all committed to some sort of change in our lives at some point. Whether as a New Year’s resolution, or because of a commitment to a loved one or friend, or possibly because of a dare or a bet, we have lots of good reasons to make a change in our lives. For example, when you commit to lose weight, your diet has to change. This means all the food in the refrigerator and freezer has to change too. The way you cook, the way you shop, the places you eat out and so on. How many people do you know who have literally turned their lives upside down for their diet? And yet somehow we expect some miraculous change to come?

And how about when you commit your life to Jesus? Have you read the Bible? It says that when you say yes to Jesus, your old life has to go and you begin a new life. This means that all the old habits have to be thrown out. Things like cussing, lying, cheating, your driving habits (you know who you are) and so on. How many born again Christians do you know who have literally turned their lives upside down for their faith? Is it OK to live as a Christian just on Sunday morning? Are we somehow changed from the inside out just because we say so?

Here’s what I think: change comes at a price. What price are you willing to pay? For a lot of people, change is expensive and it’s not worth the eventual cost, so therefore most people only talk about it, they don’t actually follow through. Seeing change through to fruition requires accountability and cannot be achieved without it and most of us don’t want anyone to see us fail, so we bail out and make up excuses. Personally, I’m tired of excuses. Like the line in the song goes, “I am the king of excuses. I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do.”

Getting out from under the scepter of excuses takes bravery; and a really big shovel. I think it also takes getting outside of our current situation and assessing where we are in the world, where we are in our community and where we are in our family dynamics. We tend to place these restrictions on ourselves because it’s what we’ve become accustomed to. Old habits die hard, it’s true, but it is indeed possible to bury them where they belong. If you’re struggling with an old habit, maybe it’s time to ask someone close to you to hold you accountable to the change you wish to see in yourself.

When we were kids, if there was something we didn’t like we were told to change it, provided we had the power to do so. Usually it was an attitude. Funny how these things come around again.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Questions without answers

I need to vent.

Sometimes all I need is a platform from which to air my thoughts, my frustrations, my anger, my ideas...all the little things that rattle around in my head. This blog has served to fill that for a long time but I don't contribute often enough. As a consequence, I am constantly feeling like I have something on my chest. This weight of words is very heavy at times but ultimately I am the only one responsible for relieving that weight. All it takes is putting pen to paper, or more aptly, fingers to keys, and the weight lifts immediately. I love that about writing.

Currently, there are a few things that need to get out of my head.

First of all, the tragedy in Boston has really chapped my behind. Before diving too far, please know that my heart goes out to the families affected by the loss of 3 people, to the families affected by the injuries to more than 170 people, including life altering injuries like the loss of a limb and to the thousands of runners who were there for nothing more than running a truly epic race. This was indeed a tragedy.

Beyond that, let me say how disgusted I am by the immediate and vehement rhetoric that followed this tragedy. It is difficult for me to fathom how any sensible human being could be so filled with so much hatred, that the first thought that pops into one's mind is to believe this tragedy was caused by a Muslim. Quite literally, there is no proof whatsoever to suggest such an accusation. No group or individual has come forward claiming responsibility for these acts. There are no suspects who have been made public that would suggest these claims. And yet, within mere minutes of the events of Monday the 15th of April, hundreds of very public individuals took to the airwaves to condemn someone or some group without even the faintest piece of proof.

My friends, you should be offended. You should be sickened by the sheer ugliness that has become commonplace. As a society, I would hope and pray that each of us wished for some sort of unity for our country and for our world. This is not to suggest that peace is some big Kumbaya moment, but we each should understand that in order for any sort of unity to have a chance, we have to work together, we all have to accept some level of responsibility. The idea that an eye for an eye only leads to more blindness is a concept that seems to have been lost on a lot of very angry people. The fact that they themselves have already become blind, so to speak, is ironic, but there may be no saving some people.

What probably bothers me most is the fact that there are thousands of people who hear the vitriolic statements and agree with them. I know very sensible people who jumped on the bandwagon and replied to those same hate filled statements with assent. Do you really think that by eradicating one group of people, all the hate will be gone from the world? My dear friends, the hate will live on in your hearts, to be propagated in the future by the next thing you come to hate. Boston is simply the latest in a deluge of tragedies that we learn about on an almost daily basis. I pray it becomes something we can learn from, not something that pushes us further away from each other.

Another thing on my mind lately are marriages. I have been burdened, in a good way, by the deterioration of marriages and families and relationships. My heart aches when I hear of another family that is being torn apart by a plethora of factors. This burden really has nothing to do with gay marriage or which kind of family dynamic is struggling, I may tackle that later, but instead I grieve every time I hear about another couple that chooses to walk away. I have been so blessed by an amazing wife and the two of us have built a fantastic life together. Recently we watched a video that prompted us to discover that we are equally burdened by the same thing. That epiphany is leading us to look into how we can help.

Ultimately, I am convinced that people simply do not talk to each other enough. The lack of good communication is what is tearing this world apart and it's happening one family at a time. Couples come together because of a mutual attraction. But when that fades, a lot of times there is nothing of substance to sustain a relationship. It's almost as if couples need to be taught how to talk, how to effectively communicate what is on the inside, in order to grow and learn to love the person right next to you. I read something recently that suggested true love is simply a fairy tale. The idea is that real love takes a tremendous amount of work and that every relationship has the potential to stand the test of time if both people are willing to work at it. It's an interesting theory, and while it fails to address the issue of compatibility, it does correctly note that every relationship requires a great amount of work from both sides.

Lastly, I am about to make a rather serious change in my life and have been writing lately on the subject of change. I will make a point to post some of those writings to this blog very soon. In the mean time, I am grappling with some unnerving thoughts relating to managing this upcoming change. There is the issue of relating this major change to the world, so to speak. It is a good thing for me and naturally I want to shout it out but there are a lot of affected parties. I have kept it a secret until now and plan to continue to do so until everyone that needs to know has been told, but it has been hard not to blurt it out. I think the one thing that digs at me most is knowing that every time we make a change in life, the impact is felt far beyond what we can immediately see. I have written about the ripple effect before and this time is no different. Being sensitive to who these changes will impact is important to me and so I travel this road lightly for now so my ripple will hopefully be navigable by all.

Soon enough, a few thousand people will know and will be affected by this upcoming news. My immediate prayer is for knowing the right words to say and the right steps to take so as to be as honorable as possible in this time of change. For those who read this, stay tuned, that news is coming soon.

As I reread this tonight, I am seeing a very common theme in all of this and it is the word communication. It seems to me that much good could be had if we would simply be willing to talk to each more from an insightful perspective, and not an incite-ful one. I guarantee we have would wind up with more answers than questions.