Thinking Out Loud

April 30, 2021

Change: Resisting vs. Embracing

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:25 am

A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend…

Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 – The Voice Bible (selected)

A time to scatter stones, a time to pile them up;
a time for a warm embrace, a time for keeping your distance;
A time to search, a time to give up as lost;
a time to keep, a time to throw out;
A time to tear apart, a time to bind together

Ecclesiastes 3:2-9 – The Message (selected)

I am creating something new.
There it is! Do you see it?
I have put roads in deserts,
streams in thirsty lands.

Isaiah 43:19 – CEV

I think it was Skye Jethani who I first heard use the phrase, “The Myth of Continuity.” The meanings I just looked up are above my pay grade, but I believe he was referring to the more common state of believing that things will always continue just as they are. This can be true in both a micro and macro sense.

In my lifetime, I’ve known people who seem to thrive on change. Perhaps you know them also. People who have had several quite different careers. People who have lived in very distant cities. People who can re-invent themselves at the drop of a hat to adapt to new challenges and new situations.

Then there are those who are happy for each day to be somewhat the same; somewhat predictable. They take the line in the poem attributed to James Francis Allen, “One Solitary Life” which says that Jesus “never traveled more than 200 miles from the place he was born” as prescriptive, as a model for life.

In Greek culture there were four different concepts of love. Growing up in the church I heard many sermons that helped me remember philia (the love we have for a brother and maybe the hobby or activity about which we are most passionate); eros (the sexual love that the kids in the youth group were told to save for marriage); and agape (the unselfish love which when lived out places others above ourselves.) But I heard rather varied definitions of storge.

Storge (stor•gee) is described in the things I’m reading as I type this as a love between parents and children, but although the usage isn’t common, I was taught it can also mean the love of things familiar. And we all see that. The familiar, the routines, the rituals, the personal traditions. It’s that feeling you get when you attend the family reunion each year, or that particular sequence of events on Christmas Eve that start with the eggnog — that’s strange, I seem to have set my glass down somewhere and now I can’t remember where — to the reading of Christ’s birth narrative and the opening of gifts.

The enemy of storge when used in that sense would seem to be change and disruption. The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory takes the events one might encounter in a lifetime and gives them a stress rating from 11 (receiving a minor traffic ticket) to 100 (the death of one’s spouse.) Even seemingly positive events like an outstanding personal achievement (25 points) or taking out a loan to purchase a new car (17 points) or the birth or adoption of a new family member (39 points); each of these can be stressful in their own way.

Personally, while (for example) I love to travel, I don’t think that overall I relate to change well. Especially the unexpected kind. Or the changes that bring with it an entry into the unknown. I want to be in control.

My first roller coaster ride in my life was Space Mountain at Disney on a day that they were doing a fuller “lights out” ride through the darkness than what they provide today. (I should also add that nobody told me ahead that it was a roller coaster.) I don’t care if the coaster jerks or drops but I want to be sitting so I can see the track or see the car ahead. I want a road map. I want a copy of the program for the play.

Changes are inevitable, however. Heraclitus (you remember him, right?) said that “The only constant in life is change;” and commenting on this Plato added, “Heraclitus, I believe, says that all things pass and nothing stays, and comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says you could not step twice into the same river.”

On our trips to Cuba, the tour guides will often remind the Canadians and the Europeans that Cuba doesn’t have the seasons we know: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Rather they have the “regular” season interrupted by the “rainy” season and “hurricane” season. When I was in California the first time, it was strange to see the Christmas decorations being placed without the atmospheric and meteorological markers I associated with them.

But at least Cuba has some variance. I do suspect there are parts of equatorial Africa where every day is truly the same. Still, people who have moved to these type of climates will tell you that after a certain number of years, they began to miss winter; they began to yearn for some snow, not in the storge sense, but in terms of needing the escape from the sameness; from the too easily predictable.

Sometimes we need things that get our adrenaline going, and while the stimulus may not be positive at the outset, much depends how we challenge that energy; how we choose to dissipate the stress.

Which brings us back to the concept of seasons. In the Evangelical milieu in which I find myself, seasons of life is a phrase often repeated. Something ends, and the conclusion is that “it was for a season.”

The question is, do we embrace such changes of season or do we resist? I think our personality types (God-given personality types, I should add) determine that outcome. 

From Christianity 201:

If God uses seasons to prepare us, then I believe that you can be fruitful no matter what the season is in your life. You can glean from each season of your life things that will grow you and produce fruit for the future. You may be looking at your life right now and see a desert wasteland, but Isaiah 43:19 says that God is about to do something new. He’ll make rivers in the desert so that you can produce fruit and grow. No matter how dark life gets or how abundant your blessings are, God has a design and a purpose to grow you through this season.
– Chris Hendrix

From an older article here:

You can’t go back and re-live seasons gone but you can learn from them. You really don’t want to fast forward to future seasons because when the ones you are in are gone, like flowers when they have flourished, they are gone for good. The key for us all today is to carpe (seize) the one you’re in! So choose today to learn from seasons gone, love the one you’re in and, with faith and expectancy, have excitement concerning the ones yet to come that are promised by your God. Every season has something for you so make sure you harvest it out!
– Andy Elmes

If we really believe that God is moving us on to the next stage of life, we’ll thrive on the challenge, even with its short-term pain. If we’re really trusting Him, we’ll see where the next chapter takes us.

Today’s blog post is dedicated to … well, you know who you are.

January 29, 2019

I Broke the Enneagram

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:58 am

I’ve never felt compelled to do personality tests. For the past two decades, the Christian blogosphere — and now also the Twitterverse — have been filled with people noting what “type” they are, but I’ve always looked at these things from a distance.

But a week ago Sunday it was assigned homework; part of a series we’re doing on discovering how we’re wired and I decided it was time to take the plunge.

The first one I did was Myers-Briggs. I’d have to say that I concur with the results and found the test to be both helpful and accurate.

But then I tried the Enneagram.

Then I did something called the DISC test.

Then I did the colors test. I didn’t even screenshot the results of that one.

I know these tests are highly endorsed by Evangelicals and Mainline Protestants alike. I think it’s InterVarsity Press (IVP) that has done a few books related to interpreting the Enneagram.

I do know that would recommend the Myers-Briggs test. (I can probably get another blog post out of my result at some point in the future. For the record, my wife and I did these tests together and on Myers-Briggs we were polar opposites on everything; not entirely news to us!)

What I also know is that there are people in our church who left when the pastors started talking about ‘spiritual practices,’ ‘contemplative theology,’ ‘Lectio Divina,’ and other things which were, for lack of a better term, foreign to their prior church experience.

To them, this probably seems just a little bit short of palm reading or Tarot card reading. After all, there’s no mention of the Enneagram in scripture.

I disagree. If James Dobson — has he been canonized yet? — taught us nothing else, if that’s we can learn beneficial things from secular Psychology. Or was that Larry Crabb? These things need not be seen as in conflict with, or a threat to, our core beliefs.

…This week we were referred to the Holland/RIASEC test which has six “strengths.” I haven’t done the online test yet, but in the discussion part of Sunday, where you were supposed to choose the one you felt which best represented you, I realized that there are two which don’t, but the other four were locked in a tie.

Perhaps I’m the exception which proves that the tests are indeed helpful. For everyone else.


Free versions of the tests which we were referred to:

Myers Briggs
www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp
www.123test.com/personality-test [This link also leads to the Holland/RIASEC test]
www.16personalities.com [This is the one we did.]

DISC
www.123test.com/disc-personality-test

Enneagram Test
www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test-2

Test color
www.testcolor.com/personalitytest/personalitytest.php

 

December 10, 2018

Thoughts on the Popularity of DNA Testing

This weekend we were discussing the popularity of DNA testing sites like Ancestry.com (or Ancestry.ca in Canada) and 23andMe.com (the latter’s name referring to the 23 pairs of chromosomes in normal cells) which, along with a handful of other similar companies can provide a profile based on the DNA sample you send. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it involves mailing your spit — the preferred term is saliva — to a testing site where you are then supplied with fairly specific information about your ethnic roots. A broader term to describe the services of such companies would be genealogy testing.

Not all that surprising is that Ancestry website’s roots lie in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a quasi-Christian religion which has specialized in genealogical research owing to a belief in something called “baptism for the dead;” a form of proxy baptism for departed relatives carried out in the Church’s temples on behalf of people who did not have the opportunity to receive the rite (or ordinance) in life. The more detailed version of their belief is that the departed can then accept or reject the rite carried out on their behalf, as in, ‘I know you drove 300 miles to the nearest temple so I could get into the Kingdom of God, but I think I’ll continue to try my odds as an atheist.’

Without getting into details about the nature of the reports people received, I wanted to share here three reasons why I think the tests resonate with people outside of the CofJCofLDS.

Identity

I think that people today want to know who they are.

It’s interesting to consider as we approach the Christmas season that the genealogies at the beginning of The Gospels often create many yawns as the text are read, not to mention the dread of being chosen to do such a reading and having to navigate the pronunciation of all those names. But the people in Biblical times knew their family history just as sure as you know several dozen user names and passwords today. They would even recognize areas where we’re told the texts we have contain shortcuts or deviations from the standard form; as well as the scandal of inclusions like Rahab. Seriously, Rahab? Not in my family tree, please.

If you have a child who has memorized the Periodic Table of Elements; it’s the same type of crowning achievement to be able to go back generation after generation without mistakes. (‘Morris was the son of Franklin, who was the son of Percival, who was the son of Ira, who was the son of August…’)

Today, we have so many children who were adopted. Children of divorce. Children who were supplied false information. Many people aren’t entirely sure who their fathers and mothers are, let alone any history dating prior to those parents.

So DNA testing is a step down that path. Which brings us to…

Community

Ethnicity is only one component of identity. A love for a certain branch of the arts or a certain sport would be another. There are those who identify in terms of their political leanings or their faith. There are yet others whose primary identification is in terms of where they reside now.

But knowing ethnic roots gives one identification in terms of a nation or tribe. Being Navajo, or Italian, or Norse gives one a potential community with which to connect. (The websites also potentially provide means of making those connections more specific, including connecting people with lost siblings.)

Of course, knowing such things also has a certain caché, which brings us to…

Trendiness

This Christmas, many people will find a DNA testing kit gift-wrapped under the tree. At a list price of $99 (though frequently on sale) this type of gift is a luxurious, First World indulgence.

The same people who need to know their DNA are the same ones who also need to know their Myers-Briggs type (mine is ASAP) or their Enneagram number. In a previous century the Astrological Sign would suffice for some people. (I don’t believe in Astrology, but then again, we Geminis are naturally skeptical.)

DNA testing is the latest rage. Some will see it as a diversion, but others are heavily invested in the results. If those findings differ from anything you ever believed about yourself up until that point in time, I can imagine the results could go as far as to be life-altering.


Health

Update: I decided not to discuss the health factor for the reason outlined in a reply to a comment, but I do encourage you to read the response from @George whose story says it better than I would have.


Appendix 1 – Who Am I by Petula Clark.

Appendix 2 – Who Am I by Casting Crowns

Appendix 3 – The I Am Poster

August 12, 2018

I’m Proof That IQ Tests Alone are Not a Descriptor of Intelligence

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:57 am

I’m one of those kids who skipped a grade in elementary school. Well, I effectively skipped, doing grades 3, 4 and 5 in two years. To use the term in use at the time, I was accelerated.

As early as High School I found myself questioning that process. It wasn’t just that I was surrounded by students a year older, but I was beginning to realize that IQ testing alone doesn’t prove overall intelligence. A gifted student is one thing and one thing only: Gifted at test-writing. And a certain type of test-writing at that.

As I get older, there are times I feel downright stupid, for lack of a better word. For example:

  • Organization: I can back-time things so that I get places in a timely manner, but putting the actual schedule together necessary to create those time deadlines is another matter entirely.
  • Adaptation: I am realizing that I have a tremendous capacity to be overwhelmed. Especially in unfamiliar situations.
  • Mechanics: You’ve heard of people who can take things apart, but can’t put them back together again? Well, I can’t take them apart. My made up word for my condition (which uses the 2nd word incorrectly) is “mechanical derisions.”
  • Spatial Perception: If we’re going on a long trip, it’s a given that my wife will pack the trunk of the car. I’m not avoiding work; I will do all the unpacking and carrying-in of everything; I just find placing the puzzle pieces together daunting.
  • General Perception: I can stare right at something and not see it. Maybe it’s because I was working next door to a pet food store, but the word I came up with for this was “visual dysplasia.”
  • Communication: This one, I know will astound you, given that I am writer, but perhaps in my penchant for making up words as in the two examples above, it becomes clear that at times, I have a bit of a contempt for language instead of utilizing it properly.
  • Memorization: This is an age thing, but my ability to commit things to memory is definitely on the decline. Especially peoples’ names.

So what do I get right?

People who find themselves weak in certain areas will often go out of their way to compensate. I feel that what I bring to the table are:

  • Connectivity: The ability to network people, resources and organizations, to create instant analogies which help people understand.
  • Humor: A good sense of humor will save you in all types of situations.
  • Compassion: I was advised not to go into pastoral ministry because I’m “not thick-skinned enough.” I took that as a bit of a compliment.
  • Creativity: Not everyone you meet will write a book (or start a blog), or compose a song, or paint an abstract landscape, or prepare an amazing meal.
  • Quick Thinking: The ability of think on your feet will also save you in various circumstances.
  • Faithfulness: I see this as a spiritual value above all, but sticking it out will earn you the respect of people.
  • Faith: Distinct from the above, even misplaced faith is at the very least a recognition that there are powers and forces which are transcendent, which I would argue leads to…
  • Humility: I think a humble spirit will get you further in life than arrogance.

The point is…

…we’re all not the same. Even so-called smart people can be smart in different areas, hence the idea of multiple intelligences, which I can’t mention without sharing the graphic below. But because this is long already, and it’s the weekend, we’ll leave it there!

Image: Source

March 15, 2018

“What Are You Like?”

A girl once asked me the question, “What are you like?”

I had basically forgotten this, until I watched something last night where the main characters were updating online dating profiles which basically answered the same question, “What are you like?” Or if you prefer, “Describe yourself.”

It occurred to me that the order of things is now reversed. Back in the day, there was some context in which you got to meet someone: Work, school, church, neighborhood, etc. There had already been superficial contact and visual recognition.

Then you decided to deepen the relationship by probing deeper — getting to know each other one-on-one — by asking questions like the one above.

But today, couples share their self-description of their personality, guiding principles, experiences, aspirations, preferences, etc.; long before they ever come into physical proximity.

Another way of putting this: Instead of the kid you met at camp who agrees to become a pen pal (a dated notion if there ever was one), it’s the pen pal who agrees to meet up (which admittedly did happen from time to time; hence the ‘Pen Pal Wanted’ ads in the back of magazines). Intimacy (in terms of personality and mental insights) precedes contact.

There is a lot riding on your writing ability, and no, I’m not offering to help you draft your profile description. If you can say what you want to say, the way you want to say it, that’s great; but the chances of misinterpretation are many, and with some people, spelling counts as does grammar. It’s the ultimate creative writing assignment.

It’s the same with a picture. Without a budget allocation, your best bet is to at least have someone take the picture for you, and in good lighting. But no picture tells it all. I was once set up on a blind date by a friend with a girl who happened to have 8 x 10 head-shot glossy pictures. (Not sure what you call them in Europe, but the size of an A4 sheet.) I found that rather strange, but she did look good in those poses. So I said yes. She was indeed the same as her picture, but Barry, my friend at the time, had held the picture out to me at the same height as he was standing, whereas the picture should have been held somewhere around his stomach. She was short. Very short. Can’t-get-past-it short. She deserved a guy who was more on her level.

Given an hour of angst to sweat it out writing a description, with thesaurus nearby, you can probably come up with something rather appealing. But asked live and in the moment, “What are you like?” you’re probably going to be more authentic, once you get past the shock of the question itself. And better to do this sooner, than later; better to not like other things — like the physical attraction part — get ahead of really knowing the person.

My answer? I honestly can’t remember what I said in the moments that followed.

November 19, 2017

Emotional Inventory: A Sunday Confessional

A few years ago at church service we attended, a well known couple in the church — the pastor called them a “power couple” — shared a little of their journey through marriage counseling earlier in the year. It sounds like they were facing some rough challenges, and it would be easy for someone to be smug and say, “Boy, I’m glad our marriage never got to that.”

But then I got thinking about the whole idea of counseling. Some very high profile pastors go to counselors on a regular basis and are very public about it. I’ve never been mostly because I can’t afford it; it would be an expensive luxury given our budget.

What would a counselor find?

As I thought about this I realized that my emotional life is characterized by a number of negative things. I mentally listed seven yesterday, but can only recall five today. I’m going to be very honest with this confession, and this on a blog that tends not to get personal. For simplicity, these are alphabetical:

  • anxiety, apprehension, fear, worry — about health, finances, the children, the health of extended family members, business, etc. (This one concerns me the most, as worry and trusting God are spiritually incompatible.)
  • indecision — not that I can’t make decisions, but I feel like I don’t have a good track record, and therefore I don’t trust myself to make good ones (This one makes it hard to move forward; I tend not to plan things.)
  • isolation — for most of my life I’ve been flying solo in business and ministry projects; it would be nice to play on a large team sometime (This one flares up at the oddest times.)
  • regret — not that I spend a lot of time looking back, but as the song says, “Regrets, I have a few…” (This one probably brings out the greatest sadness, reminding me of another song, “If I Could Turn Back Time.”)
  • rejection — with a common thread to the isolation mentioned above, a lot of projects I’ve tried to start just haven’t clicked with the Christian community (This one just makes me angry, I feel like it’s other peoples’ loss.)

I could flesh these out in greater detail, but basically, these are some things I have been dealing with over the years, and it’s not a very happy list.

But I think it’s a very accurate picture of what lurks beyond the superficial, and while I don’t expect to resolve all these today, by sharing them here, you just saved me a few of the initial counseling sessions! I should also add that my days are not spent focusing inward; I don’t see myself as a candidate for depression, rather, these are themes that are lurking in the background. 

Furthermore, I am a great believer in transparency. I would never want my readers to think that I am something more than I am, or that I have everything together spiritually. James 3:2a notes that “Indeed, we all make many mistakes.” Proverbs 24:16a reminds us that “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” The conceit of appearing spiritually superior is much more dangerous than confessing one’s inadequacies. I’d much rather write a blog post which says, “These are my spiritual weaknesses;” than write one boasting that “These are my spiritual strengths.”

So now that I’ve left myself emotionally naked and vulnerable today — can’t wait to see what the search engines do with that phrase — does this resonate with any of you? You guys don’t leave a lot of comments, but this would be a good day…

Scripture quotations NLT at BibleHub.com

June 23, 2013

Backstage

Filed under: character, writing — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:11 am

Awhile ago, my oldest son wrote a piece that continues to be one of this blog’s top ten posts for traffic; so it seemed only fair to have you meet my youngest son…

the part nobody sees

Backstage

by Aaron Wilkinson

Every now and then I have a dream that changes the way I see myself. It’s like when I fall asleep and stop trying to overthink the world my subconscious mind gets a chance to offer a new interpretation or understanding of something I’ve been entirely blind to. Recently, there has been one in particular that I keep remembering.

I’m on stage. In a play. The audience is every friend, every acquaintance, every person I have ever met or interacted with at all. Being my egotistical self, I was playing the main character. The audience ‘ooh’ed and ‘aah’ed and gasped and laughed as I recited my lines and went through the motions with precision and artistry. The performance ended. Standing ovation. Myself and the other faceless actor’s bowed. After the curtain closed I stepped through the curtain and invited my friends backstage.

Suddenly the expressions of awe and admiration were replaced with confusion and disappointment. Some went backstage. Others just left. The ones that did inspected the scene and the props. They spoke with the other actors. Then I approached a group of them that were my closest friends. They introduced themselves. They had no idea who I was and no interest in finding out. Then I woke up in tears.

I think the moral of the story if fairly obvious. I don’t actually believe that no one knows who I really am but I believe that I often make that knowledge hard to achieve. I get scared of what people will think of me when I’m not ‘performing’. When there’s no objective, no expectation, and no script what’s left of me? How much of what people know of me is a character I play or an imposter I’m unaware of?

How often do I invite people backstage? How often do you? The tagline for this blog is ‘a library of unfinished works’. Some of my friends will know that I love the idea of what I call ‘thoughts without conclusions’. Just bouncing ideas and asking questions for the purpose of figuring out what we don’t know. Seeing what we still need to see. Recognizing what is still unfamiliar. With that in mind I’m still trying to figure out the answer to the questions: what is backstage and how can I let people in there more often.

December 21, 2012

God Made You Special and He Loves You Very Much

Filed under: personal — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:32 am

I can’t remember which famous statesman said what forms today’s headline.  Was it Larry the Cucumber or Bob The Tomato?

I said yesterday that I’d skip the story of changing the headlight on our car. It’s very self-deprecating. And actually, my wife did most of the work. The last time we did a headlight we both ended up cut and bleeding. We really should leave these things to the experts, but as Orison said in the original 22 Words blog, “That costs dollars. I don’t have any dollars.”

There was a video online explaining how to change the headlight on a car of the same make and model. I clicked on it only to discover it was over 32 minutes long. Definitely not encouraging.

The scene of the crime

The scene of the crime

Other challenges that defeat me include changing the fluorescent light bulbs in the ceiling of the place where I work, and adjusting the shelving in the same location.

“God, why did you make me so stupid?”

I’ve actually prayed that.

More than once.

I tell everyone I have “mechanical derisons;” even though it’s not the correct usage for ‘derision.’ Maybe I have grammatical and syntactical derisons as well.  I have a flight-response that makes me want to run from the battle.

Actually, I’m not stupid. I skipped a grade in elementary school; a history I share with my wife. They don’t let anyone do that. I was accepted into the Julliard School of Dentistry. (Okay, not the last one, but I do have a BA from a prestigious university, which, as the Apostle Paul would say, “I count as rubbish.”)

I’m just not good at everything.

Surprise!  Who is?

Here’s Romans 12:6:

NIV: We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us

Weymouth: We have different gifts because God has blessed us in different ways

NLT: In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.

MSG (5b): …let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

AMP: Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them.

…You know what? Everybody has something that humbles them. Everyone has something about which they are hypersensitive. Everybody experiences what it’s like to covet someone else’s gifts and abilities.

Maybe you can’t cook anything beyond making toast.
Maybe you can’t do your own tax returns.
Maybe you can’t land a basket when shooting hoops to save your life.
Maybe you’re short.
Maybe you’re short on cash all the time.
Maybe you are tone deaf and church services serve as a constant reminder.
Maybe you suck at open heart surgery.

The point is we all have things that remind us that we are meant to live in community.

But I’ll bet you have a gift or talent that God can use to serve someone this weekend.

So do that thing.

 

November 12, 2012

Taking Emotional Inventory: Revelations and Confessions

Filed under: personal — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:39 am

I have no idea what the post title implies. It just looked good. Then again, I have a fairly good idea.

Yesterday I attended two different morning services at two churches. In the second one, a well known couple in the church — the pastor called them a “power couple” — shared a little of their journey through marriage counseling earlier in the year. It sounds like they were facing some rough challenges, and it would be easy for someone to be smug and say, “Boy, I’m glad our marriage never got to that.”

But then I got thinking about the whole idea of counseling. Some very high profile pastors go to counselors on a regular basis and are very public about it. I’ve never been mostly because I can’t afford it; it would be an expensive luxury given our budget.

What would a counselor find?

As I thought about this I realized that my emotional life is characterized by a number of negative things. I mentally listed seven yesterday, but can only recall five today. I’m going to be very honest with this confession, and this on a blog that tends not to get personal.  For simplicity, these are alphabetical:

  • anxiety, apprehension, fear, worry — about health, finances, the children, my mom’s health, business, etc. (This one concerns me the most, as worry and trusting God are spiritually incompatible.)
  • indecision — not that I can’t make decisions, but I feel like I don’t have a good track record, and therefore I don’t trust myself to make good ones (This one makes it hard to move forward; I tend not to plan things.)
  • isolation — for most of my life I’ve been flying solo in business and ministry projects; it would be nice to play on a large team sometime (This one flares up at the oddest times.)
  • regret — not that I spend a lot of time looking back, but as the song says, “Regrets, I have a few…” (This one probably brings out the greatest sadness, reminding me of another song, “If I Could Turn Back Time.”)
  • rejection — with a common thread to the isolation mentioned above, a lot of projects I’ve tried to start just haven’t clicked with the Christian community (This one just makes me angry, I feel like it’s other peoples’ loss.)

 I could flesh these out in greater detail, but basically, these are some things I deal with, and it’s not a very happy list.

But I think it’s a very accurate picture of what lurks beyond the superficial, and while I don’t expect to resolve all these today, by sharing them here, you just saved me a few of the initial counseling sessions!   I should also add that my days are not spent focusing inward; I don’t see myself as a candidate for depression, rather, these are themes that are lurking in the background.

So now that I’ve left myself emotionally naked and vulnerable today — can’t wait to see what the search engines do with that phrase — does this resonate with any of you? You guys don’t leave a lot of comments, but this would be a good day…

October 30, 2011

I am a Bigot

But hopefully I am a bigot in recovery.

When I was 15 I got my first job at a discount department store in Toronto.  When I say, “discount department store,” it was actually a two-level enterprise with multiple locations across the city.  Because my job allowed me to roam the store somewhat freely, I got to meet people in different departments on different floors.

One of them was a girl I was trying to describe to another staff member who needed to contact her regarding some kind of inter-departmental business.  “She’s about 5’6″;” I said; “And skinny, and dark hair which is frizzy, and she usually wears round glasses with dark rims.”

He still couldn’t place her.

“She always works the cash registers by the north exit; or the ones at the mall exit;”  I continued.

Nothing. 

Then I remembered, “Oh yeah, she’s black.”

I think I said “black.”  Or “African American.”  Or whatever the currently appropriate adjectives were needed.

Either way, I was somewhat proud of the fact that in describing her height, her hair, or her glasses; the nature of her race hadn’t quite occurred to me as significant.  Clearly, there was not a racist bone in my body.

Archie Bunker; but sometimes bigotry isn't so overt

But later in my teenage years, I discovered I had a strong aversion to people with red hair.  This was several generations before the animated-sitcom-inspired “Kick a Ginger” campaign; I had simply had a few run-ins with people of the carrot-top persuasion and had formed some generalizations.

Around the same time, I began to have issues with left-handed people.  There was nothing particular sinister about this — sorry, couldn’t resist — I had just had some conflicts with some left-handed people and had started to form some prejudices and biases.

The problem — as if there wasn’t a problem already — was that I actually knew a handful of people who were both red-haired and left-handed.  God help them.

However, I outgrew all this, and today I am glad to report that some of my best friends… well, you get the idea.

The problem is, I’m still a bigot.

For the past decade or so, my bigotry has been directed against people who drive black pickup trucks.  In the area where I live, they are legion, and it doesn’t help that many of them, for the same reason they wanted a black pickup truck in the first place, drive like idiots. Or people fleeing a crime scene. Or both.

To me, the mark of what makes a person, what writes their inner programming, what motivates their actions; the mark of these things is the way a person drives a motorized vehicle.  Forget having a resumé or a CV or a page on LinkedIn.  If I am the HR person considering hiring you, all I would need to do is spend 30 minutes as a passenger in your car, van or truck.  (Or whatever class of vehicle a Hummer is, though at this point, I can tell you that you’re not getting the job.)

A guy in our church had a black pickup truck.  That was a difficult one for me to wrap my brain around.  But he got rid of it, solving the problem.  I’m not sure if it changed my relationship with him; rather, I think he’s become a kinder, gentler person for not having it.  But I digress; plus, I think his wife reads this blog.

These people shouldn’t drive the way they do.  The epitomize the selfishness that is at the core of sin. They need deliverance.  And they need to sell the truck.  If it’s absolutely necessary to their work or hobbies, then they at least need to paint it beige, or green or light blue.

But of course, the problem is me.  I am pre-judging people before I’ve even met them; and while my generalizations have statistical backup, I’m not operating according to Rule of Love.

I have triumphed in many ways.  I never got into racial bias.  But I traded my feelings toward the redheads and the backhand-writers for feelings about people who have a thing for having a certain type of machine parked in their driveways.

So, what about you?  Are there some hidden biases and prejudices you find present over things strange or trivial?  Is this an area that you feel God would have you change?

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.