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Stepping Into Life!

Recently, I had an opportunity to take  week-long sabbatical. In case you do not know, a sabbatical is “A sabbatical year is a prolonged hiatus, typically one year, in the career of an otherwise successful individual taken in order to fulfill some dream.” In my case it was not a year, nor was it necessarily to fulfill my dream. It was however to gain perspective, and a vantage point about my life. Everyone needs that type of time to consider how and where one is going. I was grateful to have the time to engage & reflect, listen & hear, step & pause. One of the exciting events that I chose while on sabbatical was to climb what is called a 14′er (or fourteener) known as Quandary Peak. In case you have not connected the dots, I was out-of-town visiting the state of Colorado. Colorado has breathtaking views, clean air, and space to “take it all in.” Colorado has over 50 14′ers and all have views that extend beyond the horizon. Quandary is one of many and is a beginners 14′er with a gradual but intense incline.

As I seem to do with most events in my life, I experience them to the fullest measure, meanwhile I extract the symbolic meaning of them as I am engaging and participating in the adventure. Quandary Peak is a 14,265 foot Peak southwest of Breckenridge that begins in the trees and ends up above the treeline. The trail is relatively easy to follow until crossing the treeline and traveling onto the rocky path towards the summit.

As I was venturing upwards, I was remembering when I ran my first marathon in the year 2000. One of the key learnings then was, “anyone can run a marathon, one must simply learn what their pace is to complete the race.” Then, that was a good learning. Knowing what your pace is enables you to complete your race. Life is a race and you are competing with yourself. Knowing what your personal pace is enables you to complete it with the time that is commensurate with your own abilities and commitment. It is so easy to look around and observe the other competitors and compare yourself with what is perceived about “the other.” What an illusion! It goes to show, life is filled with illusions. Back to the climb.

What I learned while climbing was, “the ascent to the top takes place by “stepping into life” one step at a time! Rarely does any progress, achievement, or goal get accomplished while watching or sitting. Though there is a time and place for observation, there is also a time for stepping into the unknown “one step at a time” in order to gradually move into a more full life. I am reminded if the passage in Isaiah 25: 6-9

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine, the best of meats and the finest of wines.

On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever.

The sovereign Lord will wipe away tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say, Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

Step into Life, your life. Go to the summit, your summit. See the peak, the view, the majesty of His glory from your perspective One Step at a TIme! You will receive as you trust each step along the way!

Photos courtesy of Google & 14ers.com, Flickr, tab2space.

 


The Leprosy of Our Day

Oh what an awful title to start this entry for the day. But, have you ever00011506-SPP-leprosyportraits-005 by natalia_tumasian. thought about it? Jesus confronted, held and touched, and healed one of the most debilitating and damaging illnesses of His day-leprosy. All lepers (due to the contagion of the illness) were automatically removed from society, held with disregard, treated as if substandard, and lastly, left to die within their little community of lepers. How tragic and utterly baneful this must have been for those who contracted the disease. Why did Jesus go out of his way to make a difference, to relate, engage, heal, and love these people?

1month - 1700g - Pneumonia by u.wili.As in many of the Lord’s parables where he touches the very heart of broken, sinful, and lost humanity, He does so with these people. Jesus most often elevates the truthful, and compassionate response to humanity while ensuring that the point is not to expose humanity and how bad it is. “Our tragedy is that most often, we focus on what people are not rather than what they are and what they can become.“ 

So…what is the leprosy of our day? As mentioned earlier in one of my first entries, I am a therapist and a consultant. I spend many hours listening intently to the circumstances, stories, and relational exchanges that seem to create stuckness in the mire of life. I am convinced that the Leprosy of Our Day has less to do with physical illness and more to do with our response towards our overriding  ”fear of not belonging.” What do I mean? Let me explain.

Because we were all made for meaningful connection, our proclivity for perspective is to belong. We all arrange our grid for viewing life each day with an emotional focus to insure belonging. When we stumble upon a person who is “different” or perhaps going through something that we would dread going through, our immediate grid becomes jaded with our fear and asks, “If I engage would I belong?” If we are afraid, our belonging meter begins to show alarm. As a means of self-protection, we then become suspect, possibly even judgemental towards the person, or group therefore insuring our own cleansing from the system while protecting what we have already set up as our “criteria and system of belonging.”

Lepers are created by our own perceptions of what is “not acceptable” and reinforced by our engrained response of judgements and rationalizations of why another is truly an outcast. So..the leprosy is not necessarily a certain issue as much as it is a response to the issues with an already preconceived grid of insuring self-protection and deemed purity.

A good friend recently went to the Holy Land on a tour. His instructor Giant Clouds Invade Idaho! Close Encounters of the Cumulonimbus Kind by moonjazz.Ray Vander Laan  said it well, “Jesus came to bring order in the midst of disorder, he came to enter into the chaos and not skirt it to appear more righteous.” Oh, how difficult this is. What is certain is we cannot do it alone, we need each other, our perspectives need to be refined and transformed into the image of true love, and we need to be having conversations with the Lord and each other about our struggle in the midst of it.

Photos Courtesy of  Natalie Tumasian,U.Wili,, MoonJazz 


Confusion: The Ultimate Saboteur of Conversation & Relationship

The title says it all! I am finding myself perplexed by the degree of complexity that surrounds conversations and relationships. I ask myself, “How on earth did we get here and where do we go from this point on?”

If you have ever been in the position of helping a conversation move forward, you know exactly what I am talking about. Conversation gets bogged down, consequently the relationship gets stuck in this murky, unclear emotional soup that limits freedom of speech, freedom of sensing (other than anger and frustration), and ultimately, freedom ”to be” in relationship. I wish to propose that the greatest saboteur is confusion. So, what causes confusion and how does one name it, move out of it, and use it to gain momentum for improving conversation and relationship? Certainly, this could be a book, however, I wish to suggest a few thoughts.

Margaret Wheatley suggests that “Growth is in the roots of all things.” I really appreciate that phrase. Growth truly is the genesis of all organic matter. When life endeavors to grow, it sends its tender roots down to absorb the life and nutrients that are available in the soil.

Conversation is similar. We send our tendrils out into the void not knowing how the other person will respond, yet we hope that there will be something to gently “connect” to in relationship with the sense of “other” in the conversation. In an earlier post, I suggested that the quality of change in a person’s life must come  out of their view of reality. I am certain that if we do not boost the importance of conversation we will continue to experience the consistent limitations of what we are currently experiencing. I believe that conversation is sabotaged by four primary qualities:

  1. Poor listening
  2. Closed attitudes and heart condition
  3. Fear of being wrong with a greater emphasis on being right
  4. Prior conversations that have already tainted reality and perceptions

300-365 by sicliff3. When we begin to notice the emotional stickiness of a conversation, be aware that something is happening. The flow is absorbed by added mental processing to overcome and guarantee refuge in the event that there is not receptivity or connection. Flight, fight, or freeze, typically is our dominant response.

Improving the conversation will need the opposite of the already mentioned saboteurs. Improvement begins with a few pointers:

  1. Willingness to listen.
  2. Being open  and curious not so much about what another has to say, rather what meaning is conveyed while conversation is taking place.
  3. Posturing oneself in a position of not knowing until learning from another has taken place.
  4. Possessing boldness to be honest.

Certainly this is my most lengthy blog. How do I say what needs to be said.? What do you have to say?

Photos Courtesy of Flickr, Tsmyther, Tina Manthorp, Siclif3


Connection That Gives Life!

This past week was certainly filled with appointments where relationships were filled with pain, frustration, and loss. There was a variety of difficulties that create the negativity resulting in a “going away or a going against” style of relationship.

What gives life in our relationships? What types of connection offer more than our shallow placating efforts to “make someone happy?” I find that the real trap is when we feel responsible for someone elses happiness. This automatically is a set up for someone else to control whether you are happy.

Central to our challenge to experience relationship connections that give life is our boundary layer confusion about “what is yours, what is mine, and what is ours.” I find that there are three distinct entities in a dyadic relationship: me, you, and us. The difficulty is that we are confused about the relational, emotional lines between the three. Consequently, we are either overperforming, underperforming, or not performing.

Relationships were created to offer an authentic source of generative life. Our confusion due to emotional, developmental, historical, and spiritual forces misconstrue the perception and therefore the delivery of relationship giving. The end result: confusion, hurt, frustration, differences that do not reconcile, emotional tissue that does not get restored, spiritual birthing that does not get a chance to develop.

Certainly, a 250 word blog is not enough to address this difficulty in full. However, mentioning the challenge and attempting to distill out of the confusion a central understanding of part of the challenge can begin the conversation that creates an interest to delve deeper into discovering for yourself Connections That Give Life! How do you relate to this conversation?

Photos courtesy of  Microsoft Clip Organizer


Conversations about Meaning

A while ago, I wrote a post that described the necessity to Keep the Conversation Going. Similarly, the post that you are reading  points towards the need for keeping the inner conversation with yourself  fresh and alive.

Yesterday, I was discussing with an individual particular circumstances that were engulfing her ability to maintain buoyancy and personal perspective in her life. She described her situation as a dark shadow that was overcoming her ability to see any light in her situation. Our conversation together continued to hover around the particulars of her situation but more so her “ability to see” herself in her situation and to see more than what she now was experiencing. What resulted was a Conversation about Meaning.

We are forced, sometimes , as we face difficulties, to ask questions that we do not have immediate answers. Events happen, our lives rearranged, and peril begins to enter our emotions and thoughts. Dread begins to set in similar to water that solidifies concrete when it sets up. A clear direction is not in sight and stagnation or resignation seems like the only alternative. Where do we search for and answer?

A dear friend of mine recently wrote a blog that addresses decision-making in the context of the confusing swirl of the journey of  life at a crossroad. In addition to asking, “What is the right thing to do?”, is there a place to understand and address the question, “Where does my meaning come from in this given situation?” 

Each circumstance in life that we experience compels us to check whether we will end with despair and emptiness or meaning, purpose, and value. As I began to process with this women her “sense of purpose” in the midst of her circumstance, what resulted was a lengthy conversation about her needs, longings, desires, hopes, and dreams.

Despite the tragedy at hand, her soul possessed the deep well of life as represented in needs, longings. desires, hopes, and dreams. One author put it this way, When we pay attention to our longing and allow questions about our longing to strip away the outer layers of self-definition, we are tapping into the deepest dynamic of the spiritual life. The stirring of spiritual desire indicates that God is already at work within us, drawing us to himself.”  It is difficult at times to see God in the midst of our difficulties and ‘yet it is in our difficulties that we often most clearly see God and therefore ourselves.’ I am grateful for the well within that contains the  life and residency of God. This grants permission for new perspectives and new beginnings despite hardship. What do you think?

Photos courtesy of Microsoft Clip Organizer & BrandonRhodes Photo Stream


Conversations about Why? (Part 1)

Often, when I am listening to a client share about their life, they are typically elaborating on some monstrosity that has created such pain and difficulty. They are in anguish,  confusion, and disorientation. What I find  true is that the most common question that surfaces is Why?  Why did this or that happen? What did I do to deserve this? Why am I the one to go through this difficulty? Whether it is loss, divorce, physical, illness, an accident, or even near death, the universal question that follows is: Why did this happen?

How do you answer  this question? What do you say to yourself when bad things happen and seemingly you have done nothing to cause the event? Or maybe you have contributed somehow, but certainly not to  the degree of consequences that you are experiencing. We struggle for a rationale. We struggle for answers. Sometimes we just simply want the dots to connect.

Why won’t the dots connect? What is it about life that allows for these times of hurt, or such disorientation? All of us have heard or perhaps said, “just gotta pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Is that what we need to do or is that what we are conditioning ourselves to do? Sometimes life is just perplexing. It does not make sense nor does it remedy our current circumstances. The “so what” question then is, so…what does this mean? Does it have to mean something at all? Maybe life simply does not make sense. If that is true then at times we are living senseless lives. Or are we?

This indeed is a conversation of life that warrants a great deal of reflection and understanding because how we answer this question decides two very divergent paths that will follow. Either life is fatalistic and remains periodically senseless or everything possesses a reference point that can create something that contains ingredients of life.  How do you see it? How do you have conversations about why?

 

Photos courtesy of  Flickr Caitlin Marie & WorshipHim 24 7