What Is the Prize Anyway?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Jordan came down and joined me on the couch this morning before school. Fortunately I'd had the first good night's sleep I've had in weeks and his too long "bed hair" struck me as funny, so I was in the mood to chat with him. (Not a common morning disposition for me...it normally takes me until around 10 to be ready to face my world. Always has.)

"Mom," he said. "I'm having a problem. I can't figure out a way to settle this argument I'm having with brother." By now, brother was sitting on the chair across from us, arms crossed, a scowl on his face. Jordan cracks me up. He is so incredibly intuitive. Just yesterday he was complaining to me about not having anyone to play with on the playground and he listed off a number of reasons why not. I went back and forth with him about it for a little bit (which never works) and finally just sighed and said, "Self imposed limitations, Jordan. Just Self imposed limitations." Jordan is 7. And he got it...with a little bit of explaining. That cracks me up. A couple of minutes later there was a story about how a friend said another class shouldn't copy their game because it's not nice to copy. (This is a grade school thing, I guess...) I said, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Jordan."
"I know Mom. That's what I tried to tell Kohl. It just means they really like what you did, right?" He cracks me up. 7 years old.

Needless to say, I learn a lot from that one. Fast forward back to this morning's couch conversation. Apparently the argument was something along the lines of, "my teacher says that our class already won that contest, " and "Nuh-uh. They didn't announce who won yet." Parents hate these "my teacher said" oriented arguments. About the time you say, "your teacher wouldn't say that", she does. Usually I duck out of them, but Jordan asked for my help so politely with that hilarious sticky up hair that I decided to take a shot at it. A quick assessment of the opposing viewpoints and Caleb's posture quickly told me that there wasn't a win here so I better try something different.

"Well Jordan," I said, without inviting Caleb into the conversation, "what do you gain if you win this argument?"
"If you win the argument and it turns out that you're right, do you win a prize or something?"
"What would you get?"
"Well, I'd be right."
"Would being right help you get along with your brother better?"
As these things are coming out of my mouth, the higher truth is crashing in, perhaps for the first time, on my senses.
"So there is no prize for being right, and it won't help you get along with brother better. Maybe the best way to solve your problem is to just decide the argument isn't worth having. Just tell brother you don't want to have the argument anymore and that he can think what he wants."
"Brother, I don't want to argue about it anymore."
"Ok." said Caleb, shrugging and off they both went to find their library books leaving me sitting there in one of those "God chooses the simple things to shame the wise" moments that leave you shaking your head wondering what just happened.

The idea has been tumbling through my head and heart all day. I've understood some things about the principle before, but never has it been so stunningly simple.

There are no prizes in this world for being right. Doing right...maybe...but I can't think of a single reward that we can gain for "being" right. In fact, isn't the opposite usually true? My personality is one that insists that I make sure I'm right before I do or say something and consequently I am very often "right"...technically "right". Honestly, all it's ever gotten me is hated. There are no prizes for being right...especially being right at the expense of another, but there can be negative consequences. Doesn't really make much sense anymore to make sure everyone knows I'm right.

There is a definite right and wrong, and I don't think I'm saying that we shouldn't try to be and do what's right. It will turn out in Caleb and Jordan's little argument that one of them is right. One of them will be wrong. Sure I would prefer that they would both have had accurate info and been right and in agreement. Here's the thing I know about my boys. When one of them is finally proved wrong, he'll just say, "I never said that...I don't know what you're talking about!" or my personal favorite, "I'm not the one who said that, you are. You are the one who was wrong. You don't remember it right!" Oh brother!

But there is a much higher principle here than right and wrong...higher...what? Yeah. When the crowds asked Jesus what the greatest command was, Jesus didn't say..."What do you mean greatest? All of God's commands are to be obeyed equally!" Nope. He said, "Love God," and with barely a breath between, "and love your neighbor as yourself."

"Above all, dear boys, Love one another deeply...for love covers a multitude of sins." Love covers so darn many wrongs.
That's the prize.
Step back. Re-evaluate. Ask myself, "what am I trying to gain anyway and will winning this argument get me that?"
I want to gain love, favor, honor, respect, deep trusting relationships.

Today I plan to begin losing arguments.

Instead of defending and sparring, I'll laugh at myself and in so doing endear myself to you. I'll consider instead your point of view. If I can't accept it, I'll find another topic on which we both can agree. That's not so hard. And I'll love you. I'll love, honor and respect you. Even on the day when we finally both find out you were wrong...I'll let you say it was me...because I love you, and that's the prize I want. I want to be allowed to love you.

Never Underestimate My Jesus

Thursday, December 07, 2006

-Reliant K-

Am I at the point of no improvement?
What of the death I still dwell in?
I try to excel but I feel no movement
Can I be free of this unreleasable sin?

Never underestimate my Jesus
You're telling me that there's no hope
I'm telling you, you're wrong
Never underestimate my Jesus
When the world around you crumbles He will be strong

I throw up my hands "Oh, the impossibilties"
Frustrated and tired, where do I go from here?
Now I'm searching for the confidence I've lost so willingly
Overcoming these obstacles is overcoming my fears

I think I can't, I think I can't But, I think you can, I think you can
I think I can't, I think I can't But, I think you can, I think you can

Gather my insufficiencies and place them in Your hands
Place them in Your hands
Place them in Your hands

Never underestimate my Jesus
You're telling me that there's no hope
I'm telling you you're wrong
Never underestimate my Jesus
When the world around me crumbles
He will be strong...He will be strong!

He will be strong.

What Remains...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Faith, Hope, Love...but the greatest of these is love.

Zihuatenejo could be wiped off the map the same way my beloved Aceh was or all those little towns in Mississippi. It's funny, because just the other day I told Steve, "God could take my picture of Zihuatenejo and rip it into a million tiny pieces and throw them to the wind or burn them to ashes and I'd have to go on trusting my Jesus anyway."

Zihuatenejo is something I was given by God just this last summer. It's the little coast town in Mexico that Andy Dufresne dreams of retiring to when he leaves the hellish Shawshank prison. It represents for me the hope I have in the dreams that are in my heart...dreams that are as reachable to me from my personal prison as Mexico was to Andy. I wrote them down in August. I read them often. Those pictures and dreams have bolstered my hope and my will to keep going... to keep loving and living on so many days when the tears won't dry up no matter how much courage I employ.

Today God ripped up my dreams and sent them to the fire. I can't explain it anymore than I could explain a 90 foot tsunami wave and the destruction that comes with it. Zihuatenejo is gone.

Hope is not.

I find that interesting. It was Zihuatenejo that taught me to hope. A tutor, I suppose. I learned at some point that the only thing that can ever take hope from me is my own hand, my own willful pushing it away. No one else has the ability to reach where it lives. Only me. I think... my crazy heart wants to hope, so why not let it...just to see what happens?

Things could be worse...not too much worse, but they could be worse...and even then, I'd have to choose to push hope away from me if I wanted it gone. It always comes beckoning, silly old thing, so why not give it a chance? Gee, if it wants to live in this cold darkness with me...I suppose I could use the company. Despair is not a good bunkmate, that's for sure.

I think probably the hardest thing for Abraham to get his heart and mind around on the day he climbed the mountain to sacrifice Isaac was the walk back down the mountain with Isaac at his side. If you read the accounts carefully, you can see that the sacrifice was already made for Abraham, the slaughter was already done as he headed up Moriah. He expected a miracle, for sure, but I think he expected it to come some other way, perhaps on a different day. He didn't expect God to let him off the hook (I think he served the same hard God I serve)...we know he wasn't gazing up waiting for a voice from heaven to stay his hand, because the angel had to say his name twice before he paused...and I think angels must have pretty strong voices!

I think I'm still gazing upward, waiting for the angel to stay my hand...and so I suppose that means I love my dream more than my God and that I will indeed have to go through with the slaying of it to prove my devotion. I feel like it has been slayed so many times, and yet here I still am on this wretched mountain waiting for my ram. Instead I should be looking for ways to kill a dream, to die to my will so His can live. Lose my life so it can be found.

Found another new, unpleasant way to die today...submitting to my husband's will. What a horrible thing to have to admit that that's a death for me instead of a joy, but it is. The command is not to submit to him if I think he's right. Quite the opposite. He knows my heart and trusts it, but he is determined to go this direction and so I follow. He knows it means the burning of my God given dreams...yep...I said that. Submitting to my husband this time around means slaughtering dreams that God not only called good and right...precious even, but dreams that He gave me in the first place. No different than Isaac, I suppose.

So I climb...not knowing how to reach the top with the lead that my heart contains. But I'm determined. I suppose it's a mercy that I don't have to find some explanation for my dear "Isaac" the way Abraham had to answer his son's questions...still I wish I could have at least made this one last climb by his side. Wish I could have laughed with him at something silly and unimportant just once more and actually have said goodbye. (That's strange...Isaac means laughter. It was what I treasured too, good ol' Abe! hmm.) I wonder if there is any chance he'll comprehend the depth of the sacrifice and love that this knife must now represent...kinda hard to read love in the steely gleam of a knife blade. Although, I think he knew this was where we were headed when we started the climb months ago. Jesus, will I ever get up the nerve to raise this knife against him?

I must. All will die away. Deeper darkness than I thought possible is bound to fall. But these three will remain. Faith, Hope, and Love...and the greatest...someday I'll see it finish it's work...the greatest is the Love.

Faith Becomes Sight.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Can something become "real" merely because someone believed in it?

A mountain stream only becomes a "great fishing spot" when someone believes in it enough to throw in a line. Was it really a great fishing spot before then...No. Not until someone started fishing it, right? Before that it was a pretty mountain stream.

A sailboat only becomes seaworthy when the Captain believes in it enough to take it to the sea, right? It may have had the qualifications of a seaworthy vessel before then, but until it's tested in the wild open, "Seaworthy" is only a description of what is hoped for, not what is real. It becomes real only when the Captain believes in it and sets sail.

That's what I think. I can't remember why Pinochio became a real boy, but was it something along the lines of having Gapetto believe in him? Oh right...there was that part about wishing on stars...well, I do that too, so I guess I've got my bases covered. :-)

Why do I ask what makes something real? Because I've got a few things in my life that seem almost impossible, and I'm wondering if my belief in their possibility can in fact make them real. I was reading an old journal this morning. I had a friend who was really two very different people depending upon whom he was with. In one of my journal entries I wrote something to the effect of the "other" person being the real one...(the one that wasn't my friend). It's discouraging because the one who was my friend was a really, really fantastic individual. But in many ways, I was the only person who knew that other side of him, and so it seemed as if I was believing in an illusion. But I don't want to think that he was an illusion. I want him to be real.
I suppose if I was looking at the Sahara and saying, "I think that if I believe hard enough, this will make a really great fishing hole one day," then you would have to say, No. Simple belief does not make a thing what it is not. ...but then again...

I haven't talked yet about the issue of investment. The fishing hole is a simple example, but even in that, my belief takes something of an investment. Time and money. I've gotta go buy a rod. And reel. And some lessons if we're talking about me fishing :-) The sailboat takes a significant monetary investment to make it seaworthy...something about ballasts and stuff. And now we're getting somewhere...Even the Sahara...if I want to believe it is a great spot to fish...and I want to make a massive investment...can't the Sahara even become what it was never intended to be based on my belief? That's what venture cap is for...right?! Sheesh...look at the Old Mill District! :-) Grandpa never imagined his mill as an REI and Martini bar...but Bill Smith saw it and believed in it...and there we have it.

Belief is what makes something real! Plus the investment. But I could also say that the investment is the belief, because how much do you really believe in something if you're not willing to make the investment? But the belief does have to come first... and with true belief comes real investment.

So my decision is made. My friend is very much not the person I once believed him to be...not today. But I can choose to believe that person was in fact real. And by my belief, one day he will be actually. Faith become sight. And so must come the investment. Might as well be the Sahara project for all the resources I have on that front, but I have a few. I have faith. Perseverance and hope. And those are the things love is made of. I have love, and it's said that love conquers fear. That's good, because I have that too.

Sometimes Life is a Sewer Pipe...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

...and you have to crawl through it...if you ever intend to see Zihuatenejo, that is. I know, because I'm still in my personal sewer pipe. It seems to be getting more spacious these days though...less vile. So that's encouraging. I always wondered though. What if Andy Dufresne (Shawshank) had gotten to the end of that sewer pipe and there had been some kind of steel grate blocking him in so that he had to turn back? I realize now that you wouldn't turn back. You would chew through the grate with your teeth or die. Who knew life would be a sewer pipe? Who knew it would be Shawshank prison...or a damp little jail cell in ancient Egypt? I'm being cryptic on purpose now. Kind of fun. Heck, it's a Blog. I don't know a single soul who will ever actually read this. Maybe my HS kids will eventually. Although I'm told that I am too old to be Blogging. Kinda freaks them out when we 30 somethings do it, because they know that there was no such thing when we were cool enough to do it, so why would we be trying to be cool with technology now. Something along those lines.

And yet, here I am. And at half past 3am, no less. Tomorrow morning should suck. I guess it's this morning now.

Ryan was telling us about basketball practice tonight. 2 1/2 hours every day of the week except for Sundays. I asked if he was sore. He paused for a minute and then said..."Yeah. I'm sore. But I guess it's suffering, you know, suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." I was impressed. He's a freshman. You don't often hear freshman boys quoting scripture, much less ones on the value of suffering. It's taken me 34 years to begin to see the beauty in suffering. I finished it for him, "And hope does not disappoint." I have to believe that...I'm still in my sewer pipe, believing in a Zihuatenejo I've never actually seen.

It really is my grip on the scriptures that keeps me going these days...That and Steve's broad shoulders. Things like, "Love always protects, always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres."
That one stays on my mirror. This week I added, "Faith is the substance of what you hope for, the evidence of what you don't yet see." They get me through. I'm often surprised by the truth there...often surprised when I come across something that I've heard all my life and never realized how important it was for it to be true. Like "hope does not disappoint." What else is there to hold on to out there? Reminds me of Peter, "Where else would we go Sweet Jesus? You have the words of life!"

We would go to bed...that's where else. And I really must now.

And I close with two thoughts.
One from:
Robert Fulghum:
" I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge -- myth is more potent than history -- dreams are more powerful than facts -- hope always triumphs over experience -- laughter is the cure for grief -- love is stronger than death."

and another from:
Friedrich Nietzsche:
Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man.

And I guess I'm becoming the optimist you always wished I was, Tim. I'm definitely going to go with Fulghum on hope and reject Nietzsche this time!

...And this one (I love a good quote)...ought to be discussed in my next blog:
Antoine de Saint-Exupery:
If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.