Archives for the month of: January, 2012

So, when’s the last time you did the laundry of your life?  I know, you’re probably thinking that I meant to say, “When’s the last time you did the laundry?”  Nope, I meant to say the “laundry of your life?” It’s occurred to me recently that the simple chore of household laundry represents for me yet another takeaway from my time in Africa; a time which was in many ways akin to doing the “laundry of my life” or perhaps better said, having my life turned inside out.

Just consider for a minute the instructions given to us on many of the garments we wear.  “Hand wash in lukewarm water.”  “Be careful…do not mix with colors.”   Or how about this one, “Wash garment on gentle cycle.” All of these tend to get at cleaning the “surface dirt” from our clothes. However if we want to get the deepest cleaning aren’t we better served to turn our clothes inside out? As I think more about this, doesn’t it seem that it’s much the same way in life?  I mean aren’t we typically more interested in having just the “surface layer” cleaned?  After all isn’t that the best way to insure that we “look good on the outside?” Come to think of it, isn’t it just the surface layer that most of us allow others to see anyhow?  So, we asked ourselves, “Why go deeper?”  Or just how often do we find ourselves not mixing our lives with “other colors?”  Think on that for a moment.  Yikes! Or how often do we wake up and realize that our passion for living has become lukewarm because we’ve become too intent on keeping ourselves at the, “it’s all good,” gentle cycle of life?  Could it be that in our quest to live our lives on the surface we have lost the value of being taken through the “agitation cycles” necessary for deep cleaning? 

Well, it seems there’s something to this notion of periodically having our lives turned inside out.  The good news is we don’t have to go to Africa to have this happen.  It might look a bit different but we can achieve the same “ deep cleansing” right where we are.  Maybe we just simply need to exchange the lies we’ve built our life upon with Truth like we talked about last time.  Or maybe we simply need to step from the shallow waters of the façade and into the deeper waters of becoming fully known.  Certainly, it seems that if we continue to settle for a surface cleaning in our lives we, much like our garments, are vulnerable to just fading away. Perhaps we need to clothe ourselves with the pursuit of the deeper purpose for our lives.  My sense is that in doing so we’ll be less likely to fade away and more likely to reflect radiance.  Peace. 

So, do you have an “ace” up your sleeve?  I’m not much of a poker player or any type of card game aficionado for that matter but I understand enough to know the pivotal value of having an “ace” up your sleeve; that critical card that can be the differentiator between losing the game or winning BIG.  Perhaps another way to think about this “ace factor” is to consider that much of the spoils from the game of life seem to always go to the one who has an “ace” in the hole.  Just thinking a bit more on this reminds me this strategy of making a decisive difference at just the right moment seems to require us to keep our cards “close to the vest.” In other words, one has to live in a constant state of waiting to insure playing the right card at just the right time in order to gain this decisive advantage.  In the world of gaming this decisive card is frequently known as the “trump” card.  Interestingly to me is that this word is also found in the term “trumped up” which means to concoct with intent to deceive or to give false testimony.  Said in other more explicit terms…to lie.

If you’ve read my last few posts you’ve seen first-hand where much of my life has been “trumped up” by the lies of the enemy; in this case, my irrational fear of abandonment.  You’ve read as well me telling you that by my listening to the irrational lies I lost the critical and necessary element of “perspective” for many years of my life.  I had adopted a narrow-minded and irrational view of the numerous surgical experiences from my childhood in particular as it related to the formation of some foundational, irrational fears. In short this caused me to enter into agreement with the lies (the fears) that had been written on my heart as a child thereby causing me to believe the lies to be true.  By this point much of my life then whether consciously thought out or not began to be shaped by these false truths (the lies).  How is it with you?  Have you made agreement with the lies that have been written on your heart by the Enemy? Have these agreements over time come to define your life sucking the joy, spontaneity and adventure right out from under you?  Well, I’ve got some good news…truth trumps lies just as courage trumps fear.  Now, I’ve got some even better news…there is no lie in Truth.  Let that sink in for a few minutes.  It’s impossible for the ingredients of Truth to contain a lie. That’s right, not possible.  Now you need to know the only way I can possibly make that claim is that I have an “Ace” up my sleeve.  And He holds all the cards; not close to the vest but close to His heart. With Him your life can indeed take on a decisive advantage, in particular over the lies of the Enemy. He is the dealer of all Truth and you can win BIG with him. I wonder if you know Him.  If not, don’t wait. Play the card of Truth today. Peace.          

So, just how narrow is your “field of vision?”  In my last post, I recounted a particular instance where I was able to provide assistance during the surgery of a young Massai Indian boy.  My job was to simply hold his arm steady for the surgeon.  Well, as I’ve thought some more on this particular episode I’ve come to realize that in addition to the healing provided me through the experience there was another takeaway to be gleaned.  One that I believe provides a life lesson worthy of consideration by each of us. 

So, here was the scene. Just before I was to grab this young mans arm the surgeon (my brother) let me know that he would be unable to see my hands because of his restricted field of vision.  This significantly reduced field of vision was brought about by wearing special lens designed to assist him in seeing the microscopic details of this young mans arms.  All of this resulted in me being emphatically warned to keep a watchful eye on the scalpel so as not to end up being wounded myself. 

As I’ve reflected on this I realize that in much the same way there are potential dangers we impose on ourselves when we have a narrow-minded view of the people around us?  Just consider a couple of thoughts for a moment in light of yourself and the relationships in motion around you.  A narrow-minded view might result in one becoming that proverbial “island unto oneself” with no room for the much-needed presence of lets say, accountability. That sacred place between authentic friends where, “iron sharpens iron.”  Or just like a person with ocular tunnel vision suffers from a degradation in their peripheral vision, a narrow-minded view of relationships will over time cause one in fact to lose sight of the relational opportunities that exist just beyond the peripheral edges of ones own routine.  And then before we know it this “tunnel vision” seeps its way into other areas of our life and we’re rendered to be one who “no longer sees the forest for the trees.” Come to think of it, this may be the very place where the seeds of isolation are sewn and life begins to feel as if it is closing in around us.

So, we need be on the lookout for the signposts ahead; signposts that might, for instance herald the beginnings of a new, life long friendship. Signposts that warn us as well of the wounds we can inflict by becoming too unwilling to consider the viewpoint of another. So, here’s something for us to think on.  Do we see “Caution: Narrow Road Ahead” or do we see “Scenic Vista Overlook Ahead” when we consider the immeasurable value of the relationships that have been brought into our life? Peace.

So, when’s the last time you had front row seating to a new perspective?  Well, my recent trip to Africa offered me such a seat!  So good was my “seating” that the change that occurred in me represented a foundational shift to a new perspective…one that brought yet again more healing.  You see for the first time I was able to see the surgical experience from the fully-orbed view of a participant versus the singular perspective of a patient.  As noted in my last post, on far too many occasions growing up I had found myself being the one lying on the operating room table as opposed to being that of the designated caregiver.  Being a participant enabled me to see first-hand the care and concern that is extended to the patients.  It enabled me to see the “human side” of the surgical transaction.  For example on one such occasion I was given the opportunity to “assist” in a surgery on a young man’s arm.  Now mind you my “assisting” in this case was one small step removed from being the “blanket guy” but it gave me a “front row” seat at the table nonetheless.  Just picture this.  Here I am sitting across the table from the surgeon (in this case my brother) being instructed on the “what to do’s and what not to do’s.”  The instructions for me were simple…hold the young man’s arm. So, I did as I was told and gently grabbed on to the arm to steady it in place.  As I did however it was as though my breath had been taken away with this exclamation, “Holy smokes!!! His arm is warm.”  It’s important for you to know that from the memory of my mind’s eye the only perspective I had to this point was more of an abstract, antiseptic, fear-laced view of the experience.  BUT when I felt the arm of this young man I experienced the “touch” of humanity.  Ah, that was a beautiful thing! 

Taking part at this level essentially took even more of the energy out of the lies that have haunted me or been repressed into my subconscious for so many years.  For the first time, I was able to separate fact from fiction and see the surgical process for what it was and for what it wasn’t.  I was able to imagine that even during those dark of yesterday when I felt abandoned in the hospital my caregivers were able to “feel the touch” and the warmth of my body while they attended to me. Through this reconnection with my childhood fears my mind was in effect being renewed and the foundation of healing was begun. 

So, with all that said what might be the larger implications on our lives to this story? Could it be as simple as asking ourselves how often we listen to the lies that cause us to stand at more of an abstract distance from life?  That very point where we consider ourselves unworthy as opposed to allowing ourselves to experience (and feel) the weight and beauty of our own humanness?  Or could it be we need to consider just how often we allow ourselves to get close enough to experience (and feel) the touch of humanity given off from the authentic encounter with another? Perhaps we need to come up with ways to be more of a participant in the life that is in motion around us. Or just maybe we simply need more “Holy smokes!” moments where the lifeless effect of the mundane becomes the amazing touch of the Magnificent. Peace.

So, just how clearly do you see the past?  Conventional wisdom seems to suggest the highly regarded and often repeated cliché, “Hindsight is 20/20” as our guidepost.  In other words once we get beyond something and have the ability to look in the rearview mirror of our life experiences and circumstances life just seems to make more sense to us.  I would suspect the contrarian cliché, “things are as clear as mud” is the more prevalent thought for many of us most of the time.  It would be an understatement for me to tell you that many of the memories from my past, in particular my childhood, are muddy.   In fact, the truth is many of them seem almost non-existent because of either a conscious or sub-conscious effort on my part to repress them, especially the fears and emotional wounds.  Well, it seems I had to go half way around the world to have some things cleared up and curiously enough to be freed up as a result of having the mud removed from my memories.

About fifty-five years ago life seemed to deal me a defining blow when I was born with a genetic defect in my left hand.  This reality, which I wouldn’t trade for the world by the way, resulted in my having to endure numerous surgeries during my formative, childhood years aimed at stemming an abnormal growth pattern as well as providing some cosmetic relief during my adolescent and teenage years.  Well, the inward manifestation of this outward reality was this; the lingering fear of abandonment. Though an unfounded and irrational fear it became a constant companion growing up and ultimately played a part in shaping my life in the years to come. What I learned to be true over the years was that even an irrational fear is very real to the person experiencing it and has a way of encroaching into many areas of one’s life.  Left unchecked these fears can in extreme cases cause one to shut down on life or at least begin to live a life shackled by the pursuit of risk-free living.

Well, enter into the picture the young Massai girl with cloudy eyes…a young girl who by the way lives in a mud hut.  Her eyes were unable to close as a result of her eyelids being severely burned from a childhood accident.  Suffice it to say this was a gut-wrenching sight!  On the day my eyes found hers this precious young girl was coming in for surgery to have new eyelids formed so she could find life-changing relief from the simple act of closing her eyes.   As with all of the kids that came in for surgery this young girl valiantly walked to the operating room suite and willingly placed herself on the operating room table.  As my daughter and I did our best to keep her warm she waited patiently, her eyes darting about as she anticipated what might be next.  As I looked into her cloudy eyes I saw something eerily familiar…my childhood fears; those same fears that had captivated my mind so many times when I too found myself anticipating the impending surgeon’s knife.  Yet in the blink of my own mind’s eye I saw something else in those cloudy but beautiful eyes, something I had never seen before in myself…my courage.  Through the cloudy lens of a young African child some half way around the world I realized for the first time that I too must have had courage as a child.  In that split second the past became clear to me and that part of my life seemed to all make sense.  All of a sudden those lingering irrational fears were overtaken and overshadowed by the reality of courage.  All along the fears had been lying to me and clouding me from the truth of my own courage.  Do you find yourself at times living a life clouded by the lies that are so often written on our heart and our minds?  The truth is you too possess courage; the courage to see through the clouds to a life where you’ve been set free never again to be captured by the past.  Peace.

So, do you live life on your heels or on your toes?  As I’ve reflected back on my trip to Africa there’s one thing that has leapt off the pages of my mind that seems to speak to this as well as answering the question of why so many past life experiences have seemed so “surreal” to me.  For example, I wonder if you’ve experienced those times when, in the ensuing days following a trip you’ve found yourself wondering, “Was I just there?”  Well, I believe I’ve found the key that unlocks the doorway to this phenomenon, at least as it relates to me and perhaps, something for you to consider as well.  Interestingly we even talked about this topic before (see the Archives – January 18, 2011) but not in this context or application.  It’s the issue of our posture. 

Looking back on this recent trip and other significant life experiences I’ve noted that my posture so often times could best be characterized as a “posture of prevention.”  Reflecting back however on this most recent time away I’ve realized that my posture going in would best be described as a, “posture of preparation.” Consider with me some of the contrasts between the two.  As noted above one has us on our heels seemingly railing against life rather than on our toes leaning into all of what life might have in store for us.  One has us asking the life-draining questions of “what might happen or what if?” versus other, more offensively-minded, life-giving questions such as, “what could be or what’s next?” I mean doesn’t it seem the latter question puts us into a more expectant mode looking at all of the possibilities life might have to offer? 

Well, the one contrast that has pointed me directly to the “why” of those past surreal feelings was this; my posture of preparation yielded a true, moment by moment living into the fullness of my time in Africa.  This is in direct opposition to what I now see as a distracted, “always getting ahead of myself” frame of mind as I would futility try to anticipate and build contingencies to “prevent” (a.k.a “control”) all the possibilities of what could go wrong.  Said another way it now is so clear to me that those surreal feelings were born out of being physically present but somewhat mentally or emotionally absent during so many of the grand experiences life has sent my way.  Now to be sure there are certainly times in life where prudence and good judgment would point us to take a “preventative” stance on things but even then prevention simply should be seen as a necessary component of good preparation.  So, the question for me now is how can this posture of preparation become my default setting?  How can I live in such a way that what was once surreal becomes real to me both day in and day out?  To live a life where I’m “checked in” rather than “checked out.” Perhaps the answer can be found in remaining mindful of which part of my foot I’m standing on.  More importantly however I probably need to remain ever vigilant as to what constitutes the foundation on which I stand.  How is it with you?  Are you prepared for life or just trying to prevent it?  Might I suggest you consider standing on the Solid Rock?  Peace. 

So, what are you hoping to accomplish by putting off today what you can do tomorrow?  If you’re like me this question often looms large in your life when you come, most notably, face to face with the frequent struggles of procrastination.  Just thinking about it, even the question itself can lure us into believing that we can actually “accomplish” something by putting things off to a later date.  In many respects this condition of “putting off” simply serves to validate the art of procrastination in our lives.  I mean haven’t we even come up with our own clever marketing spin to put on it?  Just think about this often used quip of rationalization and justification…”better late than never.”  While I would rarely advocate putting off today’s things for tomorrow I have recently experienced a time when it has proven to be beneficial to institute a time of, let’s call it, “purposeful procrastination.” 

As many of you know (and have reminded me) I have taken a bit of a hiatus from my writing.  From the outside looking in it might appear as though I’ve been the latest victim of a self-inflicted procrastination wound the truth is my time away from the keyboard hasn’t been without a purpose.  In fact my time away was nothing about sitting idle but rather was all about an intentional effort to prepare.  Specifically, to prepare for a trip to Africa…or so I thought.  Now that I am on the other side of this trip I am heading back to keyboard.  While I look forward to our on-going consideration of thoughts on life’s peculiarities and perspectives, I hope in the coming weeks to invite you in to some of the specific life takeaways from my time away.  In essence, lessons learned from the journey.  Perhaps some of these will speak to you in transformative ways as they have for me.

Thanks for your patience with me and for giving me the freedom to “step aside” for a bit to walk a path that was necessary for me to take.  You need to know that in giving me the freedom to do so your gift has had an exponential return in my life…a newfound freedom of my own.  So here’s to giving yourself a break from time to time and choosing to be a purposeful procrastinator. The rewards can be life changing! I look forward to sharing more with you in the weeks ahead. Peace.

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