Life is Change

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A thought occurred to me today as I was chatting with a friend online. Life is all about change. Sometimes change is a good thing and sometimes it is not. The changes come whether we like it or not and we must adapt to the change in order to keep moving forward in life. I don’t like change. Change is venturing into the unknown and unfamiliar. I’d really love it if I could go back to past times when things were much simpler and life seemed more stable. The truth is, though, that life was never that simple and it was never as stable as I wanted to believe it was.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve spent a lot of time learning to be content with what I have. Contentment is a good thing, but it can lead to stagnation if I don’t do anything to accept change when it comes. I think I should learn to be content with the fact that change happens and I should change my attitude from one of fear to one of promise because the unknown things may turn out to be good things. Even if change brings on negative things, there is usually a blessing hidden somewhere in the process.

I’ve seen a lot of change in my life. I’ve been bitter that my life hasn’t turned out the way I thought it should. I’ve been glad that my life took the twists and turns that it has. Learning how to let go and let God take care of things as change is happening is not easy, but it is something I’ve had to learn to do the hard way. I find that the times I seem to struggle the most with anxiety toward change is when I’m holding on to a vision of how I think things should be instead of letting God take control and trusting that things will turn out okay in the end, no matter what happens.

Overcoming Obstacles and Learning to Trust

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I had a good devotional time this morning. I’m reading “My Utmost for His Highest” this year before my meditation sessions each day. I will admit that I’ve not meditated much nor spent time on my devotionals much of this month because I was angry with God and at life. Something inside me said to get back into it yesterday and the message to my heart was that sometimes we need to take a break from the rituals of our day. While the devotional reading was a build up to today’s message, what God spoke to my heart was revealing.

I had ensured that I spent time in prayer and meditation each and every day. It was something I HAD to do. Whenever we spend time with someone each and every day, their presence becomes routine. When we do the same things with them every day, it becomes a chore. There are times we need to take a sabbatical from our daily routine and not worry about the rituals of the day. It is only in taking a break and coming back to devotional time that I we are able to refocus ourselves and rediscover the reasons we began in the first place. With that being said and things put into proper perspective, I can talk about what has been put on my heart.

In church and Bible study, we are constantly told to completely submit to the will of God. We are to surrender our lives completely to Him. I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating what this means and the practicality of it all. The human mind wants to dissect things so we can see the intricacies of simple truths. This is a mistake because to understand God, you can’t look at things as a human does. You must look at things from a different perspective. When God says to rely completely on Him, he’s not saying we have to give up every single thing that we are. He’s not commanding us to make radical shifts in our lives all at once. Instead, He is telling us how to be at peace.

Matthew 6 is a perfect place to illustrate what God’s command to us is. If you look around, the birds of the air don’t worry where their next meal is coming from or how or where to build their nests. They find food and build their next by instinct. We, as humans, know how to feed ourselves and make our shelter. God provides the job, money, and other resources to obtain these things. He does this by allowing us to just be ourselves and use the talents He gave to us. Yes, there may be difficult times, but that is no excuse to falter in trusting God to provide for these needs. When you can let go of worrying about how to take care of yourself and allow God to take care of you, your heart rests. When you stop worrying about your own plans for the future and let tomorrow take care of itself, you allow God to apply His plan to your life. Submitting to God’s will is as simple as letting go of troubles and just letting God take care of the details.

It’s such a simple concept and yet, it is one of the hardest things we can do. It’s scary to give up control of our own lives. It’s scary to accept each day as it comes and not worry so much about the far future. It’s uncomfortable to quit looking in the rear view mirror of life and comparing where you are now to where you were then. Accepting that you are where you are supposed to be at this moment provides its own comfort. When you quit trying to assign blame for hardships and just go with it, you let go of worry and despair. When you start to see the bad things in life as being possible benefits to yourself or others down the road, you open the door to peace and acceptance. Every time we resist God’s way and plan, we create a storm around us. When we submit, the storm subsides and we no longer have to worry about how to survive.

God put a picture in my head this morning. He said to imagine the whole world as a huge storm with blowing winds, rain, lightning. Imagine a hurricane covering the whole of the world around you. It’s a pretty scary image, right? Now, imagine that you’ve submitted to the will of God and all of the sudden you are in the eye of the storm. The eye is calm and peaceful. Yes, you see the damage and destruction all around you, but you’re not worried about how to survive. You have time to pick up the pieces, clean up the debris, care for the wounded, and rest your weary body. Just like a real hurricane, the eye of the storm moves, but it moves with the will of God. When you submit and follow where God leads, you are able to stay in the perfect eye of that storm. There are others in the world who have submitted and they are also in their own eye of the storm.

None of this is to say that bad things won’t happen because we all know that debris can be blown from the storm into the eye. It is also not to say that difficulty will never come to your life if you follow the will of God. God is not a fairy godmother who fixes everything that is broken and grants all of our wishes. God is the master and ruler of the universe! When we are in His will, we can handle the obstacles easier because we are not dealing with the storm. Yes, we may have trouble getting through it and edge into the storm, but we have the opportunity to take our time to deal with things properly.

Perhaps my son’s legal troubles are to serve as a reminder for me to submit to God’s will. Perhaps it’s God getting Chuy’s attention to make some changes in his life. Maybe it’s a lesson to Val about why revenge is best left to God. Perhaps it’s a lesson for us all about the power and strength of family- even families that are forged in fire instead of through blood. We like to get bogged down in the minutia of life; we try to control every little thing. It is only through letting God handle the small things that they add up into really big things. No single snowflake becomes an avalanche. No single raindrop causes the flood. It is all of the tiny snowflakes and raindrops together that create these things. If I let God take control of the little things in my life by not worrying about them, I let God take them and create massive change according to His plan.

Haven’t posted much lately

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I haven’t posted much lately because I’ve just , been trying to keep a low profile. Needless to say I have a lot of drama going on in my life and there is no sign that it will settle down any time soon. My son is in jail awaiting trial for something I’m just not going to get into. We can’t afford to bail him out and his family isn’t really putting in any effort to visit him. I’m basically the only one he gets to talk to and get mail from right now. It just bothers me how people can be that way toward their own family, but I know Chuy and he’s like the black sheep of his family. I’m very grateful that I get to love on that kid with all my heart and never let go in spite of any circumstance that may come our way.

That’s all I’m going to say about such things right now. It’s late and I have work tomorrow. I might summon the courage to post more details later, but for now, I’m keeping things close to my chest and praying constantly.

2016 you are not impressing me so far.

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This year is starting to be a real shit show so far. We’ve lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman so far. My son is in jail and I can’t fix it. This last week has been an emotional rollercoaster for me and we’re not out of January yet! We always have such high hopes for a new year, but this year is just not good. I’m almost afraid to ask what is going to come next. No, this is not a dare or challenge for you to work harder and making life suck!

Change is in the air

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It looks like I’m in for another season of growth and building trust in God. My son is in some legal trouble and we don’t know much details as of yet. I’m not going into details, but it doesn’t look good. The past several days have been a rollercoaster because of the uncertainty, fear of losing family, and wondering how things could possibly turn okay. Thankfully, I do have plenty of friends and family who love me through anything and are helping me make it through this initial phase of the situation. As I told my son on many occasions, there is nothing he can do to lose me as his dad. Nothing.

I will admit it’s been a rough week. The waiting for answers, not having the money to accept his calls, and the feeling of being helpless in the situation. Through it all, I do feel that God is in control and He has promised me that he will not tear my family apart.

Today’s Meditation

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Keeping up with my meditation while traveling is very tough. I’ve been out of my routine for over a week and it has really affected my mood. Well, lack of meditation, not eating like I normally do, and my sleep schedule being out of whack. I had a nice and long meditation today.

My devotional was over surrendering to the will of God and not resisting change he tries to bring into my life. I’ve lived through this, but it’s a good reminded to relax and just trust. I’m not going through any major changes right now, but it is often good to reflect on those times when change was happening so that I can recognize it and get my attitude in line where it needs to be when it happens. During my first meditation, I had the urge to take a close look at 3 prayers. “Hail Mary”, “Glory Be”, and “The Lord’s Prayer.”

As a protestant, I’ve not been taught to ask saints to pray for my or my loved ones. It seems odd to me that people would do this until I realized that many people say they will pray for someone or something and then forget to do it. People ask saints to pray because they’re in heaven and had earned the reputation of being a model Christian while they were on earth. If you were to have asked one of them to pray for you while they were alive, it is no doubt they would have done so without hesitation. Although they are not here now, it is plausible to ask them to pray for us. The more important take away is that I ought to try to be more like a saint when it comes to praying for people when I’m asked to do so. I mean, take a moment and write the person’s name down. Look at it before I start my quiet time and refresh my memory about the problem before going to God with prayer requests.

The Glory be prayer reminds me that I should always take time to acknowledge the wondrous power of God. It’s easy to look past the small wonders that go on all around us each day. Sometimes, His wonders become mundane and we fail to recognize what is being done right under our noses. If I consciously take a moment to recognize these things and understand that God has been doing them since the beginning of time, now, and forever into the future, it helps me maintain my place in the Kingdom. I understand that He is in control and not me. It is His will that is done and not mine. It is me who needs to adjust to His works and not the other way around.

The Lord’s prayer puts all of this together and reminds me that I should pray for myself as much as I pray for others. Recognizing God’s majesty and power, His wisdom and grace, and understanding that I must trust in what He is doing. I must trust every day that He will provide for my every need. I need to ask Him to forgive me of my sins and transgressions just as I need to go ahead and forgive those who wrong me. I need to ask that God give me strength in the face of temptation and to keep me safe just as much as I ask that for others.

This has all helped me find my center again. I’ve let go of anger and resentment. I’ve let go of disappointment. I’ve regained my contentment that I have what I need. Really awesome thing to happen today.

Stop The Insanity

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There are a lot of things that are on my mind these days. Sadly, most of it has to do with the silliness I see playing out on the news and on social media about politics. It’s as if the entire country has lost its collective mind and people are blind to the truth. It is extremely unsettling to hear remarks being made by presidential candidates and people who claim to be patriotic. My brother and sister Christians are not displaying the Christ like love toward others that we have been commanded to do. It is very difficult for me to not judge them because judgment is not my place.

 

So, Donald Trump has suggested we require all Muslim people to register. There has not been rhetoric like this since WWII when German, Japanese, and Italian citizens were rounded up and put in internment camps. The true irony lies in the similarities between what people are saying in the land of the free as was said in Nazi Germany during the rise of the Nazi party. The only difference is that instead of Jews, we are condemning all of Islam.

 

Our Governor in Texas, Greg Abbott, wants to close the state to refugees from Syria. We claim to be a Christian state, but we would rather shut ourselves off from helping others. In a way, not much has changed because it used to be the illegal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries coming here for a better life. It would seem that we don’t really care about the safety and welfare of others as much as we care for our on comfort and peace of mind. No, I don’t think we should open the floodgates and let just everyone in, but this extremist rhetoric is just wrong on so many levels.

 

Don’t think I’m only dogging on the Republicans; the Democrats are just as guilty. Yes, we have a problem with gun violence in our country. The problem is that it is much more than gun violence; there is a problem with violence and intolerance in general. We have a problem with a lack of proper support for education and mental health in our country. The answer isn’t more gun laws or more guns. The answer is that we all need to get out of our own personal comfort zones and pay attention to one another. We pretend to care around the holidays, but it’s just an empty platitude because nobody really ever follows through.

 

I think the real problem in our country is greed. It is unfortunate that we can’t really legislate against greed. You can’t legislate morality or force people to do the right thing. From corporations to government to private citizens, we live in a culture of greed. I wish more people would take the time to to the right thing, take care of others the best we can, and try to leave the world a little better place than we found it.
I don’t know what the answer to it all is. I’m dumbfounded as to what needs to change and how it should be changed. All I do know is that it is going to have to start with individual people doing everyday things to affect change in our world. I’m doing my part by talking to people who need a friend. Encouraging those who are down. Loving people who feel unloved. None of it costs my anything, but a little time. It makes me feel good about myself and I think it makes a small difference in the world I live in. I, personally, may not make enough difference to stop a terrorist attack, but if everyone did similar things I do, chances are very high that nobody would want to hurt others. It’s a nice thought and a goal to work toward even if it doesn’t pan out that day.

Political views and current issues

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It’s been quite a while since I felt the urge to write something and when I write, I want it to be meaningful. I see a lot of political terms tossed around such as liberal and conservative as we continue the seemingly never ending election cycle in our country. I feel we are getting so divided and so caught up in extremes that people are losing touch with what the real issues are. I want to take a few minutes, mostly for myself to work it out, to understand just what the terms liberal and conservative mean and whether or not we should all take a different perspective on them.

I was raised in a conservative family. To me, conservative means that I cherish the traditional ways we have done things and that we should keep doing the things we know that work. There’s a common sense approach to things and most problems shouldn’t require too much thought before deciding what to do. It’s a great way to look at things and provides a sense of security in the world. The attitude is that change may be necessary, but we need to hold on to our roots and what has always worked. Conservatives love things such as family values, patriotism, rule of law, treating your neighbor with respect and expecting the same in return, and taking care of the home front before worrying about others. These are all great values and sentiments for people to follow.

Since I was raised conservative, it’s taken me a long time to understand what the term liberal means to people in the US. Liberals are not simply against all that conservatism stands for. Liberal philosophy yearns for everyone to be equal and sees flaws with the way things currently are. Liberalism seeks to make our country better through recognizing the differences in the way people think and that different people need different things. Liberals are not the antithesis of all things conservative because liberals, too, understand that our heritage and values are fundamentally important, but that those values can, and do, change over time. Liberals seek to push the envelope of our society not through blind change to accommodate the wishes of the minority, but to embrace the spirit of the values that have helped us arrive at where our society is today.

Within both groups, liberal and conservative, differences of ideology can be found and I’m only speaking in terms of broad generality for the sake of brevity. There are always people with extreme views in both circles who will never seek to understand anyone else but themselves. I think this is where we have the greatest opportunity in our current political climate. I think there are assets in each political philosophy we can and should draw from. I think we should demand the same from our politicians instead of tolerating the extremism and hostility toward the other party we see in the news today.

The current hot button political issue concerns terrorism and the refugees from Syria and whether or not we should welcome them into our country. Conservatism tells us that we should take care of our own first and we need to protect ourselves from the possible terrorists masquerading as refugees in order to avoid more terror attacks on our home soil. Liberalism tells us we should welcome these refugees into our country because they are poor and down trodden people who need help we can provide. We’re told the government will vet these refugees to help protect us, but that’s not good enough for some politicians. The question is what should happen with these people? The answer isn’t as straight forward as it would seem, but I think we can look to both conservatism and liberalism to find the correct course of answer.

I find it interesting that many conservatives identify as Christian in their religious belief. As Christians, we know that Christ is the example for how we should approach situations and how we should make decisions. Christ demonstrated that we are to help the poor, and turn the other cheek when we are wronged. We have been wronged through terrorist attacks, but there is a lack of willingness to turn the other cheek; conservatives seek to close off the borders, hunker down, and ride out the storm. I don’t think this is what Christ had in mind so I respectfully disagree with that course of action.

Many people who identify as Liberal are Christian as well. They seek to open up our country to these refugees to help them in their time of need. We have a country of vast resources so why not use them for good? Perhaps showing that we are a people who love and take care of one another will help promote good will thus disarming extremists who seek to harm us because they don’t understand who we are. I can get on-board with this idea just like I can get on-board with the idea that we need to protect ourselves, too. Both answers are, in and of themselves, correct, but which one is more right than the other?

Ultimately, I have to say that, while we do need to protect ourselves, it is more important to help those in need. I think terrorists are going to find a way into our country no matter what lengths we go to in order to harm us and carry out attacks. I think we have the intelligence mechanism in place, as abhorrent as it is to our freedom and privacy, to mitigate these attacks and lessen their effect on society. When I look at the fact that we have extremists and sick people who carry out atrocities who are here already, I don’t think we’re opening ourselves up to any more risk than we already have. I like to think I have the spirit of conservatism and liberalism in my thought and decision making process. I’m not riding the fence, but I feel I am taking a pragmatic approach to the issue and weighing the benefits and risks.

The only other aspect of the conversation that bothers me is that whether or not someone is classified as a refugee depends on whether their story or origin fits in with the current political narrative. We LOVE to switch the topic to illegal immigration when speaking of people who come here from Mexico and other Latin American countries, but we conveniently forget they, too, are probably refugees fleeing the corruption and violence of the drug cartels in their own countries. It’s not a stretch to say that there are many similarities in both peoples except one group belongs to a religious faith that is foreign to our own and the others are more like us. We tend to downplay their status and relegate them into obscurity simply because it’s easier to blame them for our own problems than accept the situation for what it is.

At the end of the day, I think our immigration system is broken, misguided, and antiquated. It shouldn’t take years of vetting for someone in dire need to come to our country for help. If we, as Americans, truly cared about freedom and peace, we’d be doing just as much south of our border to combat political corruption and extremism as we do on the other side of the world. I think if we worked closer with the Mexican government and its people, we could have already broken the backs of the drug cartels and stabilized the economy of Latin America so that we wouldn’t see the seemingly uncontrolled immigration from these places.

It wasn’t my intention to bring that topic up, but, as I was writing, I felt the issue seemed to fit in with what I wanted to explore with these two political ideologies. I like to think I borrow the best from both to make a balanced decision. Hopefully, I’m right and other people feel the same way I do. If that is the case, why are we all sitting quietly in the background instead of demanding these issues be addressed in an intelligent and compassionate way. Instead, we’re content to let Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush play buzz word bingo and make their short sighted and pandering political platforms gain traction. At the same time, we’ve got Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton playing the other side of the fence pandering to their base. Both sides are avoiding the true issues and telling people what they want to hear and making a political conversation an emotional debate.

Jay Has A Think

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I was shopping for groceries when I started to think about life in general. One of the thoughts that crossed my mind concerned the premise behind secular humanism and whether or not we need God to be good people. The secular humanists say that people can be good without God and I think that’s probably true. The more I turned it over, I realized I knew people who had faith who might not be considered good and people without faith who are considered good. I then started to think about what it is that makes a person good or bad.

Understanding that good and bad can be subjective, there are some absolutes in this world that are good and some that are bad. Helping others is good. Murder is evil. Sometimes we kill in the name of what is good and help others in the name of what is bad. Context is key and the motive behind the action is also a contributing factor in whether an action is good or bad.

I think that doing for others when you have no gain or ulterior motive is a good thing. Seeing a need and filling it because you want to is also good. I think this comes from empathy. The question is whether empathy comes from altruism or does altruism come from empathy. Does empathy come from God or is it something that man has come up with on his own? In the end, I don’t think it matters where it comes from. I think doing the right thing for the right reason in the right situation is at the heart of what it means to be good.

One of the fundamental tenets of what it means to be a Christian is the belief that faith is a choice. We were created in God’s image so He could fellowship with us. We have the freewill to choose whether or not we want to have that fellowship with Him. The salvation we were offered through Christ is also a choice we are empowered to make. The choice we make isn’t motivated from the fear of punishment, but the desire to fellowship with God. That fellowship produces within us an unconditional love for others. That love is something that has always been there inside of us, but most people choose to ignore it because they love themselves more.

I think man’s desire to survive produces a small amount of greed. The greed isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. It’s born of the desire to have enough of what we need in reserve to survive times when what we need is in short supply. This is so deeply ingrained in us and it takes a conscious choice to ignore it. It’s not ignored out of malice, but perhaps because some people just don’t know how to recognize it for what it is.

Does any of this mean that faith is futile? In short, no. I think faith is important because it gives us hope in something larger than what we are. I choose to fellowship with God because I enjoy the time we spend together when I’m in prayer or meditation. I get a lot of satisfaction through spending time with God and getting to see bits and pieces of His grand plan. I don’t pretend to know anything special or that I’m any better than anyone else; it’s a deeply personal experience.

So, I’ve had this discussion in my mind and I still don’t know the answers. I do think that goodness comes from empathy. I think we describe the effects of empathy as altruism. While I don’t think we need God to be good people, but His influence on our lives isn’t usually negative. Yes, the influence of faith and religion is another debate, but I will save that for another time.

Project Semicolon

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Why a semicolon?In English, the semicolon is an important, yet very misunderstood punctuation mark. It is a very powerful tool for a writer to use; it gives him the choice to either end the thought or keep going. The important thing is that it is a symbol that the thought isn’t over yet. It’s very simple to end a thought with a period and start another one. The semicolon says that what follows is an extension of the previous thought. In life, it symbolizes that I choose not to end my story, but to keep going no matter how bad depression or anxiety gets.

Project Semicolon is a faith based depression, anxiety, and other mental health awareness group. I love this project and I’m happy to say I am participating in it. I have been contemplating this for several months and praying about it; everything seemed right so I made the commitment and got a semicolon tattoo on my wrist. It’s not a status symbol or anything kitschy, but it’s a symbol of hope. It’s a symbol to me that my story isn’t over yet. It’s a visible symbol to others that they’re not alone in their struggles with mental illness and a sign that I am someone they can talk to about their experiences and to know I will understand.

Their website is undergoing a major overhaul at the moment so it doesn’t look like much. I still think it’s a place to check out if you have any questions about it. I’ve done extensive reading about it and it just makes sense. I see it as an opportunity to find new people to be nice to and who I might be able to make a difference for.

Before anybody loses their mind over this, no, I did not use money given to me in order to purchase new orthotics. I’ve been saving money here and there to put toward it and it was only $60 at the place I went to. It’s something I’ve been contemplating for many months and I finally made the decision to commit to it. I chose Times New Roman bold type at 120 pts. It’s not so small someone can’t notice it, but it’s not obnoxiously big either. As far as I have planned, this is the first and last tattoo I will consider getting. For the first time, I can wear the fact that I struggle with depression like a badge of honor instead of hiding in the shadows.

I’m confident that I picked the right studio to get it done. It was very, very clean. I watched the artist take the equipment out of sealed, sterile packaging. I was given very clear after care instructions and I’m following them to the letter. The artist had also heard of project semicolon and was happy to be able to tag someone who was supportive in it. The whole process was not horrible. The pain was tolerable, but not enough to make me wince. It just felt like I was being touched with something very hot. Some ibuprofen controlled the pain afterward and I haven’t had any issues yet.

This was a very big decision for me. I fully understand that it can’t be removed and I’m okay with this. It’s not the kind of design that will look dumb decades later. In fact, I think it will be just as relevant in the future as it is now. Even if the organization fades into nothing, at least I will have something with me to foster a conversation when people ask “why a semicolon?”. At this point, I guess I had better plan out a basic conversation I can use and start memorizing it.