All posts by naridox

Why I Won't Hang Out Alone with Married Female Friends

I have many female friends, and of them many have been among my best friends I’ve ever had. I’m grateful to name them friends and enjoy speaking with them. As time has passed, many have married and moved on to their marriages and to start families.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion — one I could have come to a long time ago — that hanging out alone with them is no longer acceptable.

Now, I should note that I’m a nice guy. I’m pretty proud of that fact, too. I’m not a player, I don’t date to get laid, and cheating on/with someone is about the most abhorrent thing I could ever imagine. It’s that whole golden rule thing — do unto others … and I would never have this done unto me.

And yet, I’ve heard more female friends tell me that there is only one guy that their boyfriend or husband is ever jealous of: me.

Why? I haven’t the faintest. I don’t call up married women late into the night, text them constantly or even regularly, to be honest. I once lived with my best friend and her husband, as a roommate, for a few months and I gave them plenty of space. That still didn’t help.

But I’m the only one who makes them jealous. And I’m done with it. I’m done creating any kind of rift in my friends’ relationships just so I can continue a friendship with them.

Ladies, I honor your marriage more than our friendship, and so I’m willing to let our friendship dwindle to acquaintance or even release entirely.

But further than that, there is a matter of my own honor. For any man to believe potential ill of me because of a preventable behavior is unacceptable. I would rather go without niceties like friendships with married women and maintain the appearance of my name than to fume that someone doesn’t want me associating with this or that.

While you may protest that a married woman should be allowed to have any friend she wants, I’m not arguing against you. Her friendships (as her husband’s) are a matter for both of them to manage for the betterment of their relationship, but folks marriage is above friendship. Even best-friendship.

When I hear people complain that so-and-so disappeared after she started dating/married this-or-that guy, I don’t see the issue. Marriage is about cleaving from 50% relationships around you to have a 100% relationship with your spouse. There should be nothing so intimate and valuable in this world as the relationship you build with the one person you decide to share the rest of your life with.

If you’re fighting your spouse over this or that relationship outside your marriage, you need to reassess your understanding of marriage. You OWN each other. A man owns his wife as much as a wife owns her husband. That is a two-way street, without reservation. Protecting the integrity of your relationship is more important than your friends on the outside. And if it isn’t, then you either don’t understand marriage, or you married the wrong person.

Get your head in the game. Marriage is a serious undertaking with serious costs, but those investments, tended well, produce incredible return.

The sacrifice of old friendships for a good marriage is well worth the loss.

Like Most People, My Opinion Doesn't Really Matter

I’m not a fan of beauty pageants. You have these statuesque women giving politically correct answers to softball questions, parading in bikinis and formal gown and all hoping to wear a crown with no authority and only the responsibility to “act like a lady.”

To be sure, I value women that people would be considered lady-like. I find that a woman with class is far more attractive than a woman without it. And many people would contend that beauty pageants create great role models for young women.

We’d probably both be right and wrong, each in our own way based on individual experiences.

Had I the absolute authority to do away with it, I would definitely consider it. I just think it’s outdated for today’s society, and as traditional as I am, I still think it’s silly.

However.

Thinking about all this reminds me that this country enjoys a cornucopia of cultures. We’re all very different from each other, with different needs and different likes. We have different value sets and criteria for judgement. We believe differently, love differently, live differently.

I can think beauty pageants are very silly. (It’ll be my luck I’ll end up marrying a former beauty queen, and that IS me being sardonic.) However, what I think … doesn’t matter. Short of abuse occurring in beauty pageants (which has and does occur, and which occurs in EVERY industry, community and culture on the planet, so that doesn’t really make it special), no one has any right to say diddly squat about it in any meaningful way.

We’re all free to enjoy our opinions, off course, and share them till the cows come home to Motel 6, we live in a free country.

What in your life do you often say: “There shouldn’t be ____.” or “No one should be allowed to ____.” ? I know there are some people out there who believe sports like football and rugby should be outlawed because they “promote violence.” People like Al Gore would have the world get rid of automobiles. Everyone has their own idea — and usually their own justification — for why we should/should not allow something to occur in these United States.

And they’re all opinions. Which means, they don’t matter. Even this post is ironic in that I’m expressing my opinion about how my opinion doesn’t really matter.

The second however.

Opinions, exercised well, can help you think about your own. While there is certainly a deficit of well-written opinions in this world, those you can find can help you question your own viewpoints. Even if you decide to stand firm on your original beliefs, it should be because you understand them and can defend them to yourself, as well as to other people.

So when you do gain an opinion on something, please think twice before saying some activity or hobby or even industry shouldn’t exist simply because you think it’s silly. Even if you call it damaging, unless it’s directly oppressing people who have no ability to leave it (such as the sex trade), temper how you approach other people’s passions.

Because the moment you use the community to force out someone’s culture, you give it the same ability to force out your own.

Snipers and Cinema: Chris Kyle is no hero, no villain

american_sniper2People are quick to want to take sides about former Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle.

They want either to demonize him for killing of potentially hundreds of Iraqi’s and his view on being glad for having killed them, or they want to deify him for his American patriotism and self sacrifice for our service members.

Truth is? Chris Kyle is just a guy who’s really good at shooting moving targets, who believes in his country, has a bit of a lying problem, and found salvation from war by helping others whom war had destroyed.

Too busy trying to argue against someone who’s too busy trying to argue against you? Take a step back and stop thinking Chris Kyle has to be a reflection of anything but Chris Kyle.

The right-wingers want to praise him for “defending his country” in a war we never should have waged, while the left-wingers want to vilify him for “cowardly killing dozens of innocent freedom fighters.”

And all of them want to make him a reflection of a culture they either want to love or hate.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, Chris Kyle is just one man.

I saw American Sniper last weekend and, as a movie, I thought it was excellent. Bradley Cooper gave a fantastic performance. The movie didn’t glorify war, as some have claimed. Nor did it really glorify Kyle. If anything, the film was more about how war destroyed Kyle than any other message. It was about how our veterans often come home broken people in need of the same brotherhood that kept them alive while in the field. It was about overcoming those demons to return to their families as whole people.

In the real world, Kyle told some tall tales about sniping looters in New Orleans, killing two men at a gas station and a physical altercation with Jesse Ventura. People who vilify Kyle for these lies often gloss over the lies of their own heroes. They justify their heroes for the same vice they hate in others, and this is a universal shortcoming of those on the left and right.

Kyle was a man, with good and bad qualities. His military record is confirmed, and the movie focuses on what was confirmed, which, regardless of his other tales, is still impressive.

I encourage you only to avoid the “us vs them” take on Kyle. He isn’t a hero. He wasn’t a perfect man. Nor was he a villain. Just take him as he is, both from the accurately reported news and the military reports on him.

Anything else is just a fictional account you’ve built in your mind based on your own political biases — no better than the people you argue with about the true story of Chris Kyle.

 

 

A Shortcoming in Most Americans' Political Theory

10404289_911019228931134_156184292904777356_nI like Julie Borowski. Not the biggest fan, but she and I agree on many things, one of which is freedom to choose your own path within the frames of the lowest form of government. Someone made this meme about her which I thought rather clearly illustrated one of the shortcomings of most people’s politics — the idea that if you believe something, you should fight tooth and nail to make everyone else live by it, as well.

As Libertarians, we recognize that we all believe rather differently from each other, and that’s actually OKAY. I agree with the concept that abortion is murder, but I also believe that I’m not the authority to which a young man or woman will face when judgement comes to call. That will be their government or their god or themselves — whomever they hold highest in their lives.

We believe in legalizing things like drugs and abortion, not because we agree with them, but because we believe having more freedom to follow your own future actually leaves you more open to hearing other people’s encouragement to choose a higher path. i.e. If I fight to make drugs illegal, ramping up the police state and making it difficult for you to climb out of poverty, you’re going to cling to your drug use. Whereas, if I legalize it and spend more of my energy trying to actually help you through your problems, you might be less inclined to want to use drugs as an escape.

We’ve seen it happen in South America and Europe — when we stop criminalizing vices, people are more inclined to find help.

This principle extends to things like abortion, drug use, unhealthy lifestyles … it’s the power of positive thinking enacted through a culture of freedom. Instead of controlling “everyone else’s problems,” we recognize that they have them and spend more time exercising our freedom positively to help them overcoming negative use of their own. It’s not easy and requires a great deal more personal investment, but we think it’s worth it.

If you’d like to learn more about libertarianism, visit www.lp.org.

Atheism Does Not Equal One Morality

art,society,theater,trenchcoat-4e6a5e710b9d77acf213811aaee0d452_hMany atheists argue against freedom of religion, calling it a fabricated belief and, therefore, unworthy of respect. Most recently debated by anti-and-pro-religionsts is the notable decision that businesses can deny paying for certain benefits to workers on religious grounds.

The argument oft repeated by many of these atheists is that the religion in question is getting in the way of “doing what’s right.” That religious nuts living on “fabricated” beliefs are evil because their chosen belief system is attempting to block getting real help to others.

For all atheists pride themselves on their logic, there is a severe lack of it in this approach to moral behavior. Foremost is the concept that if you reject religion,  you automatically share the same morality with all others who have rejected religion. Problem is, it’s a massive and illogical assumption, and is the foundation of other misconceptions, such as the idea that because atheistic morality is free of religious overtones, that it’s somehow less fabricated than a religious one.

According to basic humanist systems, morality isn’t universal. It’s variable to people, places, times and culture. While certain philosophical orders will argue that many moralities are inborn, the fact that it is in debate disproves the idea. By atheistic standards, morality is subjective, and for the few moral concepts which science may prove to be common to the average human being, their variations are as numbered as the stars in the sky.

cheaney20Ergo, each man must select a morality for himself, be it pro or anti-“god.” That leaves morality completely subject to the reason each man exercises in his own mind whether to reject or embrace moralities presented to him through his upbringing and the society in which he persists.

You could live in a society where God is never even hinted at, and you still could possess a different morality than your neighbor. While many atheists ascribe to pragmatism and other “functional” moralities, it is not a universal characteristic of atheism, and cannot be universally applied to anyone.

Therefore, when one man with a subjective morality (ie Atheism) complains that another man with subjective morality (Christian, Muslim, Jew) is wrong, it is little more than one opinion against another.

It’s the pot calling the kettle.

If we assume  the morality of pragmatic atheists and the morality of traditional religious believers are both equally subjective, which is worth arguing, then it can be worth arguing that neither should be considered superior in our government.

Which means those who claim others should keep religion out of government are equally as bound from attempting to enforce their own morality for the exact same reasons they claim religion should be banned — it’s a personal choice, not an objective viewpoint.

08242005robertsonAnd I would agree with this idea. Our government shouldn’t be used as a moral strong arm for religions or pragmatists. It should remain a neutral party, protecting people’s liberty to choose and live by their own morality, and  letting the people, otherwise, do for themselves.

When we attempt to raise one moral belief system upon a platform — for or against religion, for or against anti-religion — we then must assume all others are invalid or substandard, regardless of whether they have violated the natural rights of fellow citizens. This runs counter to the freedom our nation was built to represent, and the ageless truth that all men are created equal — equally fallible, and untrustworthy to enforce their personal moral systems on others, for however good an intention.

Always remember the road to hell is paved in such brick.

Because public money is the purview of all citizens from which it is taxed, it means all citizens — religious and non-religious — bear a say in its use. NonReligious cannot advocate the taking of taxes from the Religious and then claim, by Constitutional right, that because  Government is to be a separation of Church and State, that the Religious from whence the tax is pulled have no say in its conduct. This government is not to be an atheistic government any more than it’s supposed to be a religious government. It’s supposed to be neutral in these conducts and play no moral favorites.

fight-1The only morality our government should enforce is the morality of liberty, known as the non-aggression principle, which holds that all men may exercise their freedom however they wish, and in no way forfeit that freedom until they directly infringe on the rights of others.

Fighting to prevent tax money from violating a particular moral code does not infringe on the rights of others. Fighting to take money from others to spend on your moral code might be.

So, keep that in mind as we debate birth control, abortion, prayer in schools, war, healthcare, homeland defense, immigration … morality is everywhere but anything but uniform. Religion was an attempt to unify a group of people’s morality under one code. Whether you believe God exists or not, it makes the choice to exercise it no less personal, any more than it takes every atheist and agnostic the same variable choice in their own morality.

It’s because of this massive disparity that government should not enforce “good” upon citizens, as everyone’s definition of good is different, and due to its subjectivity, inarguable for superiority. To believe otherwise is a conceit, one dangerous to the long term health of a free society, and, like so many other uses of power by some to control others, only precipitates the slippery slope toward tyranny.

Eye Surgery Gives Unexpected Sight

13skin600.1aIt was an interesting decision — to have my eyes lasered with the small, but real possibility, that I could suffer no change or suffer worse for the rest of my life. There was a small risk, and I’ve heard the stories of those who didn’t fare well. A friend of mine’s attempt at the surgery didn’t work and he now has permanent dry eye.

But I wanted to try, and so I paid my money, took the pill, lay down on the strange bed and let them work on me.

Now, a little more than a week later, I’m finding really great success, thus far, with my results.

But I found something unexpected in the midst of a seemingly physical procedure — I found insight on the heart of change by faith.

We the blind know so little about what is out there. We do everything we can to improve that sight, the sight of things internal, things of the heart, things of wisdom and morality. We try all sorts of different things, and at the apex of all our efforts stands the church/government in all its holy attempt to lead humanity to some kind of utopian world.

And, at best, it becomes a pair of powerful spectacles that allow us to see well, but only so long as we wear them.

Religion/statism are men’s attempts to control the future and improve the world. It’s their way of viewing reality. Religion by pretending to change everyone through cultural rules on behavior, and statism by pretending to change everyone through cultural rules on behavior.

That’s all either accomplishes — spectacles, easily removed and broken. We must remember put pull them on every morning so we can see as the glasses are designed to see, and then we take them off every night. And, at the first sign of trouble in the night, we may not always be able to pull them on. When trouble comes, religion and statism can’t always save us they way they promise, and are often upset by tiny changes in the world around us — easily fogged, scratched and shattered on the ground.

And the real God of heaven has little use for either belief system. Religion is prayer in the streets while hypocrisy in bed. Statism is crying out for the little guy while owning him for power. Both are cheap, superficial attempts to change how we see the world, without ever truly changing who we are on the inside.

This is where God truly stands.

broken-glasses1God doesn’t want to issue you new glasses each time you break the old one, because he knows that no matter how many times he gives you glasses, or how strong he makes them with the flimsy materials of this world (control, moral manipulation, threats), you will break them and go off wandering blind again.

Instead, God wants to perform a complete surgery on your eye, itself. That means, he wants to get intimately close with you and change how you see from the inside out, not merely set another system of control upon you. By changing your eye, the change is inside, and it’s as permanent as anything can be in this temporary world.

You realize you don’t need the glasses of someone else’s all-powerful state or religion to see the world for what it truly is, or for you to make a real difference.

Your eyes become open and the limitations of those spectacles disappear. The shape, the color, the refraction … all gone. It’s just you and the world, now, in all its naked ingloriousness.

new-heartThe God of the Bible loves you and wants to see real change in your heart. He doesn’t want to wrap you in trappings and rules and laws, which are designed to point you to God — he wants to change the very fabric of your soul and your center so that from out that change you can see the thin reality this world really is and begin to embrace Him for who He is, and He is great!

Everything about you can be changed at the deepest level, so that you actually become the change, not merely wear it. So that, in the middle of the night, when trouble comes, you don’t fumble for what can only help you so much. So that you’re never fogged by the heavy spit of others’ prattling. So that your worldview cannot be plucked from you and broken underfoot, because that change will be a part of who you are!

Wherever you are in your faith, begin to pray that God would not merely bring change to your life, which is like asking for new glasses, but would begin to change you from the inside out, so that the circumstances and drama and problems begin to melt away. Not because God changes them, but because he changes YOU. You are the root and anchor for all the things you deal with in life.

Until you are ready to let God perform the surgery directly into you, you will always have to keep asking for a new pair of spectacles.

 

Gun Nuts Miss Point as Much as Anti-Gun Nuts

The-Second-Amendment-…-Where’s-the-LineBeing a peruser of American and international internet, I see a great deal of material from liberty-minded groups, and for the most part, I whole-heartedly support their fight to maintain their 2nd Amendment rights. I believe we have the right to arm ourselves, and yes, even to military-grade standards. After the Revolution, while our founding fathers were penning our Constitution and Bill of Rights, citizens and soldiers had the exact same kind of weapons.

Our 2nd Amendment was drawn up to allow citizens to protect themselves from government, not as permission to hunt.

To imagine that it was only to hunt is as silly as those same men drawing up an amendment to protect our right to milk cows — hunting was such a common form of the culture that there was no question as to whether they could hunt. It was a matter of survival — you don’t kill, you don’t eat. The 2nd Amendment wasn’t about protecting something so easily taken for granted — it was to protect our right to throw off our government when it became abusive, and only allowing us hunting rifles while they arm themselves with M-4s, M-16s and the like is just about as bad as disarming us entirely.

So, needless to say, I support our 2nd Amendment.

However.

When I see men in bathtubs filled with rounds and an automatic rifle suspended over their heads, or poorly clad women humping a sniper rifle like a dancing pole, or people otherwise just reveling in weaponry, I think the gun nuts are missing the point as much as anti-gun nuts.

Battle is not to be worshipped. Killing men is not something into which we should rush. Death is to a last outcome, not a first option.

iraq-isis-062214Iraq is a glorious example: We just wasted how many thousands of lives only for the country to implode on itself?

I respect and honor our wounded and dead. Regardless of the politics, they were willing to toe the line for what their people wanted. But I believe that line was drawn by the flawed logic of busybody politicians and the mob mentality of an angry populace, easily manipulated by the media into sending our children to war for no real return.

Our 2nd Amendment is not an excuse to start a bloody revolution in this country. It’s not supposed to glorify war or death. It’s supposed to allow Americans, a people born of liberty, to preserve that liberty when the cost of endurance grows higher than the necessary sacrifice of violently throwing off our government.

It should be protected, but not worshipped. Fought for, but not an excuse to kill.

If you want 10, guns, 100 guns, 1,000 guns … go ahead. Perhaps you’re thinking of stockpiling for others who aren’t stockpiling, who might join your cause should our own government begin the serious efforts of culling the population of dissidents and disagreers. But being smart, or even ultra-prepared, is not the same as worshipping guns. Wearing guns into McDonald’s just to spite anti-gun nuts doesn’t make your point, and only proves you can be just as childish as the soccer mom who thinks having a gun nearby will automatically kill their child, rape their husband and arm wild grizzly bears.

Be responsible. Teach others how to handle weapons and that people, more than the weapons they use, are the real danger, and are also, simultaneously, our best solution.

Pour yourself into your neighbors, love them, help them, lift them when they are down, feed them when they are hungry, befriend them when they are isolated, be a shoulder they can vent by voice versus opening fire on innocent people because they feel “no one loves or understands them.”

why-are-we-violent-2Truth is, the greatest danger in this world is each other. We killed each other for thousands of years using sharp, pointy metal and wooden objects. Guns make it easier, but banning guns won’t solve the problem. Worshipping them won’t, either.

Showing love, kindness, gentleness, support, mercy, forgiveness, understanding … these are our greatest recourse against the acts of evil and broken men. Please, don’t mistake the root of a problem for its symptom (ie shootings), but address the root first and learn to bring people out of their fear and doubt and hatred by being what they are being fearful and doubtful and hateful about — being alone and unloved.

So, make a difference with those around you. Arm yourselves to protect yourselves against those you cannot change. And behave responsibly so that we never forget that death is an unfavorable outcome, no matter who stands at the wrong end of that barrel.

God Allows Evil for Good Reason

EvilMany of my friends do not believe in God as I do. And they are perfectly free to believe as they like.

One of the more common objections to believing in God as a being who wants to interact personally with humanity is that, if he were so involved, he would not allow evil to persist. “How could God allow ____ to happen? If He’s so ‘good,’ how can there be evil in this world?”

It seems like a fair question, but it doesn’t look past their own frustration, and remains as short-sighted as our naturally mortal lives can be.

God is a God of the tiny, as well as the grand, and the grand requires a scope of vision far beyond the short-sighted question of “why can’t God do exactly as I expect him to do in order to classify him in my own personal definition of ‘good?'”

The truth is, God’s good is greater than your good. He created good. He is so powerful that he knows exactly what good is and what good isn’t.

The hard part for humanity to swallow is that humanity doesn’t inherently know what is good or evil. We require a strong vision of both in order to differentiate which is which. That means in order for us to know what good is, there MUST be evil in this world.

“What? How the hell can that be true? That’s one of the stupidest statements I’ve ever heard.”

If you did not know what salty was, could you ever truly know what was sweet? If you did not know what darkness was, could you truly know what was light? If you had never seen the day, could you know the night?

Our world, as well as our understanding of it, is all about comparisons. Without comparison, we can ill understand definition. Even if you understand the technical term for something by written delineation, understanding requires comparison.

What is tall if you do not know what short is in which to compare it? What is fat if you do not know skinny?

Comparison allows humanity to truly begin to grasp the full meaning of a concept. Otherwise we flounder with a very shallow perception of what something is and never truly grasp it as a whole.

Why is this important?

Because God is good. Period. He is never not good. He is completely, wholly, without fail, good. If we cannot see evil in our lives and in the lives of people around us, we will never understand God.

“But evil is evil!”

castles-artwork-good-vs-evil-little-girlYes. And nothing about our present reality ever promised you respite from it. Not under our limited earthly circumstances. So long as our eyes remained fixed on the here and now, ignoring the eternity of God and his goodness, then evil is the end of all good things.

A new perspective, then, is required.

God allows evil for us to compare him against, and to understand better who He is and what He is supposed to represent to us. But it’s not only for that reason that evil exists in this world.

Something underlying all of this is the value of our decisions. As independent beings, we must have as much freedom to experience the good of our decisions as we are the bad of our decisions. As interdependent beings, we have as much freedom to experience the good of others’ decisions as we are the bad of others’ decisions.

Both independence and interdependence exist in this world, and both exist as catalysts for growth as living beings. We learn to take care of ourselves, be responsible, follow our dreams, all the while taking care of others, building relationships and starting families. Both are important for us as human beings.

Were our bad decisions to be countered by a God who did not respect our independence as living beings, then our good decisions would be equally as invalid.

Either we can make bad decisions and face their consequences, or we have no independence as intelligent beings, and our free will means absolutely nothing.

That doesn’t sound very nice to the woman who lost her child, the man who lost his wife, the girl who lost her purity to the ravages of violent men … but for all the evil we face in this world, the good is equally validated by our freedom to choose, enjoy and spread it among others.

Without the persistence of evil, our decisions are meaningless. If God rescued us from every bad decision, we would never understand our decisions or learn to improve them. “How could God allow bad things to happen?”

That’s not the right question. The real question we don’t really want to face is “How can humanity continue to choose evil, despite our free opportunity to do good?”

Further, without the persistence of evil, love has no value.

If my bads have no value, and my goods have no value, then my love has no value.

And the whole God-blessed point of our entire existence is rooted in love. Everything about our growth and development as intelligent beings, as beings God hopes to build relationship with, is all surrounded by the concept of love.

Someone once wrote: “Love is the least random act in the universe.”

forgivenGod loves us. He loves us so much that he wants our love in return, and he wants us to freely choose to love him. That means he must respect our decisions, even if they’re evil. Even if they hurt others. Because if he only respects the decisions he likes and removes the consequences of decisions he doesn’t like, then our decisions are meaningless, and our love is meaningless.

But the good part? God is willing to heal those hurt by evil. He never leaves nor forsakes the victims. Nor does he forsake those committing the evil, for they are in even more need of his redemption as the people who cannot see beyond their own pain that the system God has designed has a greater purpose than making our lives easy.

It’s making our lives have value.

Do you want your life to have value? Or do you want only to live an easy life in which God only allows you to choose as he wants you to choose? That’s a slave’s life, and your love will have no value, which means your life has no value.

Evil persists in this world for good reason. Not because evil is good, but because it helps you see how truly good good can be.

Learning to Journey

journey-game-screenshot-7It took a long time for Wendy to realize there was a door in the room. She had been running in circles round about the small space before she realized there was a way to get out, a way to actually get to a place worth going.

She paused at the door, hesitant, and other people in the room didn’t seem to notice it either, and even when she pointed it, they could only see the tapestry painted across it, and missed the outline of the door.

Wendy finally opened the door and gasped. It was beautiful, a world waiting for her beyond. And still, no one could see her leave, because no one could see the door, even when it was open.

Stepping through, the door shut behind her, and she knew that no matter what happened on this journey, there was no going back to what was.

She walked for awhile in the quiet and the breeze of the early morning dew still hanging low, as if the day of this journey did not even begin until the moment she opened the door.

In her path shortly after leaving the door stood a large, heavy book on a small column. Opening it, it said only this: “Follow the path up the hill to the landing, and there you will find the gardener.”

Following the book’s instructions, she walked up the hill and came to a landing which, at first, seemed to be the end of the path.

She did not hear the footsteps behind her, but she felt the hand on her arm. Turning, she saw a handsome man with kind eyes standing next to her.

There was no need to speak. She knew who he was. He was the one who carved the path. His hands were weathered and his skin darkened with the sun, and she knew this path was his. He was the gardener.

“Is this the end of the path?” she asked.

“No,” he shook his head. “This is only the beginning.” He motioned with his hand through the thin trees and pointed out a tall mountain, a long river and thick forests.

“Where am I to go?” she asked. “Where does this journey lead?”

“You can try and find your own way, if you like. Or you can follow me.”

“I will try my own way,” she said, and so she tried. She left him on the landing and began following the path, turning this way and that, and soon she was lost. Determined to do it herself, she said nothing as she wound deeper and deeper into the forest. When finally she grew frustrated, alone and afraid, she cried out for the gardener, and his voice was surprisingly close.

“Come to me!” he yelled and continued to yell.

She followed the voice only to see, with great startle, that she was only steps away from the landing on the hill from which she’d first stepped.

Hugging him and grateful he was still there, she asked where he would have her go.

“Do you see that mountain?” he asked.

She turned to see a great mountain in the distance.

“Go toward that mountain,” he said. She nodded and, again, started off. She wound her way through the paths and, this time, chose more wisely. She kept her eye on the mountain as the land descended and, reaching the river, prepared to cross, when she heard his voice again. He was already across the river, but he was pointing down stream to her right. “Follow the river!”

“But the mountain is there!” she cried back.

“I know!” he replied. “Follow the river that way!”

“But …” she began to say, but then thought better of it. Perhaps he wanted to help her cross at a better point? So she turned and started walking, ever keeping her eye upon the mountain, ever calculating time and effort and distance, expending her resources and her focus on reaching it.

Many times she paused to cross, but each time the water was too fast and she had to scramble ashore, and so kept moving.

After a time, he appeared again to her. “Here is where you will cross.”

“Finally!” she clapped her hands and turned to pause in fear. The water looked dark and deep. “But I cannot make that!”

“Not alone, but if you trust me, you can,” he said.

rushing-waterShe frowned and turned, and leaped in. In moments, she was dragged deep into the frigid water. A large calloused hand reached in and hauled her out upon the shore where she coughed and hacked.

“I thought you said it was safe!”

“You did not keep your eyes on me, or you would not have fallen in,” he said. “Now it’s time to continue. Continue to follow the river downstream.”

She frowned. “But the mountain is that way,” she pointed.

“Go that way,” he pointed opposite her hand.

“But how am I supposed to get to the mountain?” she asked.

He just smiled and waited.

She frowned again and continued to walk, her eyes only on the rocky road ahead, focused on its coarse dirt and grit, head down and feet quick.

After some time he reappeared to her. “Head away from the river.”

“But I cannot even see the mountain any longer!” she exclaimed. “How am I to find it!?”

He smiled. “I never told you the journey would take you to the mountain. I said only for you to go toward the mountain. It was a landmark, not your destination.”

She frowned, and huffed, and followed him, but her mind was awash with frustration and anger and feelings of betrayal and embarrassment. She followed him through several more turns until she reached a fork and, where he had said to go right, she went left.

Wendy continued choosing her path until, after a long time of frustration and anger, she finally stopped and cried out. “Gardener! Gardener! Where are you! I have got myself lost, again!”

“Come to me!” his voice was so close. She turned and followed it when, with much surprise, she found herself once more at the clearing with the book.

“What!? How am I here again! I thought we were going somewhere!”

“Did you not see the blue flowers and the cypress trees? Did you not pause to drink the crystal water and play with the young fauns? Were you so focused on getting somewhere that you missed being somewhere? I will tell you, young lady, that those who read the book and then take this journey upon themselves, deciding where they are going, when they are getting there and how they will complete this journey miss the journey entire! I did not carve these paths for you so that you might get from here to there, but that you would live at each turn of the path ahead.”

He smiled.

“I wrote this book so that you might know that I, also, made these paths and grew these trees. But this book is not a roadmap. It’s a guide, but I am the destination. Let us start this journey again, but this time, I want you to walk with me.”

“What do you mean? I didn’t walk with you this time?” she frowned.

“When you started to the mountain, you were always walking two steps ahead of me, always focused on the mountain. This time, stay here, hold my hand, and we’ll walk together.”

She swallowed and, taking a longing look at the mountain, took his big hand and began the journey again.

At first, she asked many questions and wondered at each turn which way they would go, but as she began letting go of “getting there,” she began to see how beautiful the trees were in the sunlight, the fireflies danced in the moonlight, the fauns would come and dance with her, the flowers were truly beautiful, the breeze was gentle and sweet, the water was delicious and cool.

“When did you put all these things in?” she asked.

“They were always here,” he smiled. “But you were caught in the getting and going instead of the being.”

They continued to walk, and soon, she no longer needed to walk which way they should turn. She had grown so accustomed to his pace and his mannerisms that she merely followed his turns.

Then, as she continued watching him, and watching only him, she began to realize that she was no longer watching the road at all. The gardener was not so old as she once supposed. He was handsome and lithe and strong and young and warm and delightful.

Black-and-white-ballroom-2And to her shock, she realized she had long ceased walking beside him, and instead was clasped hand in and hand and arm and arm, and they were dancing down the path. She was ever facing him, and he would spin her and pull and push and guide and lead. She needed to know the path no longer, because she had grown to so trust her partner that she only needed to feel his prompts, to see the signals from his hands and his hips, and then the journey was unimportant, because he would take her wherever he wished.

The point became him and the dance, and the more they danced the more she saw in his eyes and his heart, and the less she needed the world around her.

Finally the dance came to an end and they paused and she laughed and pressed her head to his chest. Opening her eyes, she looked around and gasped.

They now stood on the very tip of the tall and imposing mountain.

“How are we here!?” she laughed. “I thought you said this wasn’t the destination? It was so easy! I didn’t realize we were climbing!”

He smiled. “The mountain is still not your destination. It is merely the stepping stone of the next part of your journey.” He smiled and extended his hand to reveal a path extending from the top of the mountain upward toward the stars. “Your time in this garden is at an end.”

“How did I not see all the miles we traveled? I don’t feel them in my heels or my hands!”

“Because you kept your eyes upon me, and that’s why this ceased to be a trek and began to be a joy. If only others still wandering in these woods could see what you have embraced. Walk with me, dance with me, focus on me. It is my garden, therefore it is my responsibility to walk you through it. If you trust me, surrender your walk to me, then the journey becomes less about the going, and more about the being. Being with me.” He smiled. “Understand?”

She looked up at him with tears in her eyes and smiled, nodding. “What now?”

“We continue our dance,” he slipped his arms around her. “Come. There is more life to live …

“This was only the beginning.”

____________________________

The room Wendy begins within is a life of the physical, limited to only the five senses while ignoring the spiritual element of our lives.

Opening that door is recognizing there is more to this world than can be seen.

Walking that first path is opening yourself to God.

Finding the book is opening the Bible and looking for meaning and learning that all of it is about seeking and finding God, the gardener and sculptor of this journey.

Reaching the landing is the culmination of religion — finding God is all that religion can promise.

Leaving the landing is seeking purpose and peace.

Doing it alone is trying to figure it out, yourself.

Asking God where to go and then trying to do it yourself is religion’s attempt to understand God — it’s all about trying to do it, yourself, boxing God inside limitations and still trying to own your own life, which will inevitably get you lost, alone and afraid.

Walking with God is about building a relationship with God, and letting him direct not only your path, but your very steps.

Dancing with God is the whole point. We keep our attention focused on him so entirely and trusting his prompts so thoroughly that we stop caring if what he’s guiding us to looks easy or difficult. Instead, we just surrender to his lead and let him move us down those paths, over rivers and up unclimbable mountains.

Where are you on this journey? And do you want to do it yourself, or do you want to surrender? Do you want to dance with God? Let me assure you, you won’t be the one leading. Learn to follow, and it will become something wholly wonderful and different. Let go. Let ownership go. Stop trying to figure it all out. Use the Bible to find God, but then let God lead you in life. Surrender yourself to Him, and you’ll find that life can be as like you never imagined it.

Be, Where You Are, Right Now

exo-mama-sehun-sitting-on-a-chair-in-the-middle-of-no-where-in-a-desertLive in the present.

As a believer, we can often get caught up in what we’re trying to do or where we’re trying to get to. We get caught up in the daily trappings of our religion and forgetting that relationships aren’t built by following lists and rules, but by living in tandem with the living God.

Along with that comes a sharper appreciation for what life has brought us in this moment, be it wonderful and fun or uncomfortable and undesirable.

I’ve spoken with several friends in recent days who are on rocky ground in their faith and they struggle to understand why they don’t connect with God in a way they used to, or would like to. Their heart is willing, but they cannot see or feel God.

That could be because of them, it could be because of God. Ultimately, we can’t always tell why we hit dry spells, and that uncertainty often leads us to look at the situation and judge immediately that it’s a broken situation. That our relationship with God must be on unstable ground if I can’t feel him the “way we used to.”

Truth is, however, that God may have left you standing there on purpose, and I don’t want you to confuse that with abandonment, because God does not abandon us.

We as human beings — even believers — quickly take credit for where we are in life. We think that if something is B, it is because we did A.

I would challenge you, however, to pause your self recrimination and remove yourself from responsibility over your situation. Even if you have something you feel you can clearly point to and say: “This is why God is giving me the silent treatment!”

Instead, I want you to take what you may or may not have done, and how you feel, and what you think, and what you fear, and what you doubt, and all other questions rolling around in your head, and take them to God and surrender them to Him. Give them to him to worry about, and then let them go.

“How do I do that? How do I surrender things?”

Surrendering to God should not be confused with giving up. Surrender and Giving Up are two very different activities.

6a00e5504cb9c88833011168c5f9ec970c-400wiSurrender is all about assigning ownership. When you surrender to God, you assign ownership of your problems to Him. But it can’t stop there. You are not a partitional being. You might have many layers, but they are all intrinsically part of you, so surrendering one part of your life but still attempting to steer other parts of your life doesn’t work very well.

It will require assigning ownership of your problems AND your hopes and dreams to God. It will require saying: Not just the bad, but also the good of me.

“Dear God, I give you my addiction to alcohol and my short temper. I cannot control them or me, before or after their consumption. I surrender them and my attempt to fix them to you. And not just that, but I also surrender my hopes to start and run a successful Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Company, or to become a singer, or to work in medicine …”

God calls us to do many things in the Bible, none of which include taking ownership of our lives. This also isn’t to be confused with not taking responsibility in life. Take that responsibility for your mistakes, for your choices, for your behavior and actions. The difference is that after you hold yourself accountable, you still surrender yourself and your life to God.

This is where being who you are, right where you are, at this moment, is so very, very important.

If you aren’t honest with yourself about where you are in life, can you truly begin an honest surrender? It’s like being the general of a massive force and promising that all of your forces are surrendering without having communicated with a few of your outer units? At least when you surrender, knowing you can’t control certain of your own forces, you can be honest to the power you’re surrendering to.

surrender-swordThe funny thing to that illustration, which works very well, is that as “generals,” we can’t actually control all the conflicting forces in our lives. Often times we can’t control our enemy’s forces, and many times we can’t even control our own. The act of surrender isn’t about taking control of all the forces and THEN surrendering. It’s surrendering everything you DO have control over, and then offering up in name all you have no actual power to give up, and letting that higher power take care of it.

Being honest about who you are and where you are in life is your first step toward complete surrender.

So, if you’re caught in a struggle of emptiness, of a dry spiritual life because the church-going and Bible-reading and Christian-ing just don’t seem enough, stop stressing over it. All of those are vehicles, they aren’t the destination.

God is the destination, and he will walk WITH you. Surrender to him and stop worrying about the how and the when, because in surrender, every place you have in life has meaning. Dry spell? It’s a time of waiting. Time of Blessing? Time to pour out on others. Something in between? Encounter someone in need? Overcoming some of your own shortcomings? It all has purpose when we stop trying to GET somewhere and just start learning to BE where we are.

Trust me. It changes everything.