The Little Things

I have a problem enjoying life.  My tendency leads me to be highly anxious, and people often confuse my frustrations with anger, which it rarely is.  I’m usually so focused on what I need to be doing next that my joy of the moment tends to be pushed to the side.  Realizing these flaws in myself, naturally, I’d like to improve…

In years past, I’ve discovered a few tricks that can help put my focus in the right places.  The first thing I must remind myself is: Don’t Panic!  My anxieties about getting tasks completed can make me an unbearable person to be around, I get edgy.  While my high anxiety lends me to be driven and accomplish tasks, I tend to get hyper focused on the task at hand and block everything else out.  This makes relating to people a challenge because people may feel ignored or pushed to the side.  So, it becomes important, in such moments, to realize I can accomplish whatever task that’s at hand in good time.  If I allow myself to get too rushed, it may lead me to making foolish mistakes.  In addition, whatever it is we achieve in life, it is rarely worth harming others for, or breaking relationships over.  I say rarely because of situations like abuse relationships, for example, may get in the way of preventing us from reaching our goals and becoming the best version of ourselves.  As Matthew Kelly might put it…So, I think the situations may be rare that will excuse us from breaking a relationship in order to achieve success, but possible.

Secondly, I need to make sure I have adequate time for myself.  I think this is a really important concept, so you’ll see me reference it often.  Time for myself is how I keep my head clear, and remember what is most important in life.  I can refresh myself, and see the value in life again, and more importantly, the value of those around me.  When I stay hyper focused on tasking for too long, I develop a sort of mental tunnel vision and the task at hand tends to be “all there is”, this can obviously be a destructive force to one’s own psyche because self can get lost.  Lose sight of self, and you’ll most likely lose sight of what you value.  This can be your own health and extend to family and friends.  I have the tendency to disconnect from my family emotionally when under high financial strain.  While getting bills paid on time, and groceries bought to feed the kids are important, losing touch with any one person in the house can lead to a broken home, the pattern for divorce sets in before paperwork ever gets filled.  I don’t want to get to that place.  Noticing tendencies can let us see patterns, the ability to see patterns can prevent us from making the same mistakes that we have already made, or that others have.  And it’s far easier to reverse a tendency or pattern we are in while it is still easily managed, “early detection” so to speak.  I’ve seen and heard many stories of divorce in my life, and that is not a path I am willing to take my family down.  So, I take the time I need to keep my priorities straight.  The point is to not lose sight of what holds the most value in life.  I need to take the time to shift gears so I can better focus on those things.  Are your paychecks or bills the most important things to you?

Third, I was just reminded of this last night, is a Greek term-Kairos.   This means a point in time and space where change can take place, and likely will take place.  The trick is to be ready and willing to receive the change in many circumstances.  The examples of this concept are pretty bold throughout history: the coming of Jesus as messiah; the liberation of slaves in America, and the much needed liberty for African Americans that followed; the Women’s Liberation movement, just to name a few.  The difficult thing to remember is that these events happen to us personally too, in our own lives.  In difficult times, remembering Kairos is important to keep my sanity.  Much needed change is coming, and it will turn out for the best.

The fourth is enjoying the little things.  I realize how worn this concept may seem, but it requires attention here, so let’s breath some life back into it.  If you can’t love the little parts of life, you probably won’t enjoy the big things, either.  My nature tendency is to respond to such an idea with “It’s worth a try; I haven’t had anything to test this theory out on yet”.  This is just a sad excuse though; there are always things in life to take joy from.  So, instead I say, enjoy the sunset, or sunrise (which is the tougher of the two for me).  Smell flowers, even if you have allergies!  Watch a bee fly, or a squirrel play.  If you happen to be in a really cynical place, you may have to start with watching someone trip, and hopefully fall.  If that doesn’t crack a smile I don’t know what will…tripping someone perhaps?  Don’t trip people.

Life has its ups and downs, we all know this.  Let us work on not losing hope of a better day tomorrow.  Just to be clear, no one was harmed while writing this blog.  I’m going to listen to Queen’s “Under Pressure” now, and I suggest you do the same.

Steve, still in a black tee

Advertisements

What’s with the Black Tee?

So, you may be wondering what the deal is with the black tee shirt.  There are simple aspects, and complex ideals, too.  I like the black tee because:  unparalleled ability to hide stains, black is classy, and it makes getting dressed quicker when few choices are available.  My favorite thing in regards to the fashion ability of a black tee is, even when paired with a pair of jeans, all you need is a sports coat and you are set for a board meeting.  Brilliant!

As for the complex aspects…yes, the black tee represents my rebellious tenancies.  I’m neither Republican nor Democrat.  I’ll pass on those options.  I still believe in the founding principles America was built from.  The bickering of career politicians is not what I want, and neither did our Founding Fathers.  Here is a fun fact for you though…did you know that Thomas Jefferson was referred to as a terrorist on the same day of his Inauguration to Presidency?  That was a short seven years after penning the Declaration of Independence.  Jefferson kept pushing for change, change that was still needed.  I find it sad that people get so uptight about one political party compared to another party.  Shouldn’t our constitution be held up to the light when comparing politicians?  I guess that people would still need to see the importance of such a document in relation to our liberties.  Neither our politicians nor Supreme Court seem to care what it says anymore.

It seems to me that asking questions has become a lost art form.  The most important question to me is: why?  It’s not just a question toddlers should ask, it shouldn’t be anyway.  Not when it seems like the world and America are falling apart.  How else will we find a solution if we don’t take the time to properly ask…why?  Then, we can move on to what, where, and how?  As far as when is concerned…now works for me.  Part of what the black tee represents for me is a call to action, justice, and reformation.

So, I hope this has brought some clarity to at least some of your questions about my black tee shirt.  It serves as my flag, how I separate myself out from mediocrity, and it enhances my ability to get dressed quickly.  If ever you run across someone else in a black tee, ask if they sport it well!

Steve, still in a black tee

Roots

Roots have been on my mind lately…

Eighteen months ago we transplanted our family from Goshen, IN to Colorado Springs, CO, and have been facing what it really means to re-establish ourselves in new soil.  The challenge of starting new jobs, churches, and homeschool groups has been more than what was expected at the start.  I suppose what sent me down this path of deeper musings on this topic was clearing a spot in our garden of the house we recently moved into, so our daughter could grow some flowers.  Shortly after this, we decided to have our kids spend some time back in Indiana, the soil that they first grew in–where their roots started.

The connections most of us have, with family are very important for proper cultivation of the soul.  See, people and plants have many similarities when it comes to growing to become our best.  One of the things we have in common is the need for shared ground, both with those like us, and those that differ from us.  Plants of the same kind help each other to grow and produce more than they would on their own.  However, a garden isn’t quite as beautiful if only one type of plant is there.  Neither do people look quite as bright if we share life only with those who think exactly like we do…there becomes nothing to challenge us to grow.  But, it is commonalities that can help us not feel so alone in life, it helps us to feel stable and like we belong to something more, something bigger than just ourselves.

The parallel holds true for transplanting as well.  If proper care and consideration is not taken while uprooting a plant, it may die or not grow well after it is planted again.  The window is generally narrow, to get a plant back into soil, and usually it will need watered heavily.  Similarly, people need to develop a support system in their new location promptly.  What we have gained from our old soil-our previous support group-no doubt stays with us, but can only do so much to help us with new growth when miles now separate.

So, the question here is: do you have good gardeners in your life?  People to help prune away imperfections?  Those who can help you become better, the best version of yourself?  This should be our goal…to grow as people.  We benefit the most from having people around to help us see where we need to improve the most.  Just having some people around may be fun, but it might not be helpful.  Companionship requires more of us than just our presence.  We need to share of ourselves, and receive from others the gift of themselves.

There are plenty of grand resources on the topic of growth that I encourage you to look into.  A few favorites are: pretty much anything from Joyce Meyer, Matthew Kelly, John Eldredge, or Brennan Manning.  Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution is a good one too.  There are many more to be sure, but you can do some research and find something that will do you some good.  So feel free to dig into a good book for yourself.

Garden well,

Steve, the gardener in the black tee

Can I See Some Credentials?

I find myself quite stunned, and have been for some time now that people tend to be “expert” chasers…it’s to the point now that you need a degree if you plan to support your family.  Sadly, this is even true in the Church.  Hard work, intelligence, integrity, and care seem to mean nothing as the world has grown past the Industrial Revolution into the Media Age.  What has caused such a change?  What causes us to look to someone else for answers?

This topic saddens me exponentially so in regard to the Church (as a whole) more than anywhere else due to the evidence of Highlighter Theology, and running church as if it were a business.  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3: 1-6 (New American Bible) “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again?  Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all, shown to be a letter of Christ administered by us, written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.  Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.  Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualifications come from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit brings life.”

In light of this, why is the Church so hung up on degrees these days rather than the character and heart of the person?  Granted…a degree implies knowledge, and dedication to a specific area of study.  A degree does not grant you a good employee, nor does it guarantee a good pastor.  I’ll go further and say, God has often used people without degrees-those who were not qualified, in bigger ways than those with proper credentials.  For proper balance, well educated people have been known to do grand things.  People with proper education have fallen quite hard as well.  I realize I’ve made some bold statements…do they hold up?

Most of the people in the Bible were nobodies.  Rejects, outcasts, ill-equipped.  Those who were “qualified” usually were the one’s causing problems for the advancement of God’s kingdom.  Of Jesus’ disciples, Judas was the only with the credentials for the job…and he is known throughout history as the Betrayer of Jesus, granted all part of the plan.  Paul did great things for the early church and was qualified; he started out as Saul and was on a mission to kill all Christians.  Luke was well qualified to write his gospel…Matthew, Mark, and John were not.  Paul writes later in 2 Corinthians (4:7 New American Bible) “But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.”  It is God working through us than can make us “qualified.”  The traits I’ve listed, hard work, intelligence, integrity, are all honorable characteristics that some of us have developed in one area, more so than another.  Character development is a lifelong process that we all have room to grow.  It is God’s working in us that will grant us to be more than we would be on our own.  More class time rarely strengthens one’s character traits enough to make them a better leader than one who has not had that opportunity.

There is a point to this besides ranting in agreement with Frost “Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.”  Our minds need to be opened more than what they tend to be, when left to our own nature.  Secondly, we cannot hold as truth what anyone person says without holding it up to questioning or study… not even me.  Third, to the Church specifically, it is past time to wake up.  What we are doing isn’t working.  Drop the highlighters, and apply all of God’s wisdom to what we are doing.  The essence of the Church’s mission is to apply God’s love to the world.  This is done with the heart…not a degree.  More heart, less paper.

Steve, the man in a black tee

Open Spaces-Taking the time to enjoy ourselves, get out of “the city”, and grow.

In Colorado, we have many Open Spaces…these are defined as either: Green space (covered in vegetation) which includes parks, community gardens, and cemeteries; school yards; playgrounds; public seating areas; public plazas; or vacant lots.  The main idea behind open spaces is to “provide recreation areas for residents and helps to enhance the beauty and environmental quality of neighborhoods”. (www.epa.gov/region1/vep/openspace.html) For discussion purposes, in this blog I shall be referring to Green Space, in particular, when using the term “open space”.

For me, open spaces serve their intended purpose very well.  I love hiking, trail running and disk golf.  Playgrounds are a huge score when you have kids, as well.  Much of our time as a family is spent out-of-doors, doing such activities as hiking together.  Taking the time to remove ourselves from daily routines is something that refreshes the soul, and allows us to get in touch with our inner soul.  Getting out in nature and away from civilization is critical to finding ourselves in life.  Robert Frost points out that the road less traveled made all the difference for him, surely the less traveled road, warrants a try then.  Granted, I have the benefit of living within walking distance of a park full of walking trails.

However, location need not stop us from exploring.  The advantages are innumerable, really.  Exercise strengthens our body, which gives us better health.  Overcoming physical obstacles strengthens our will, and helps connect our mind and body more fully.  A change in scenery opens our senses, and opens our minds to think more creatively.  Removing ourselves from daily routines and pressures gives us the spiritual freedom to evaluate ourselves and our lives, as well as the world around us.  All these help lead us to personal growth.  The question becomes:  do we value these things enough to utilize the resources around us?  The amount of resources we have exposure to matters little if we can’t motivate ourselves to embrace the things that will have a positive impact on our lives.

If we want changes, we have to be willing to change ourselves.  Change can be difficult, possibly scary at times.  Being human, we are very adaptable by nature, and become better for facing challenges in life.  Also, to have the maximum benefit from changes in life, it is better to act sooner than later.  Making advances towards good health, for example, helps reduce risk of health problems later in life.  So, will you rise to this challenge?  Are you willing to make a difference, change yourself and the world around you?

I know many of you are already on this path to better life, and want to encourage you.  The things you do are making a difference.  Don’t tire of what you are doing.  The spirit of this blog is to inspire change, to challenge everyone to deepen our appreciation for what we have available to us, and improve ourselves.  Don’t let life rob you of who you are capable of being.  Trust me, knowing I have written something like this to send out into the world, I will keep working in these areas.  There is much more to life than the latest season of TV shows, or blogs to read, for that matter.  Don’t waste the day.  Find out what’s in store for you in an open space.

Happy treading,

Steve, the man in the black tee

The Media Age

To the wandering blog reader,

I’ve decided, this day, to bring my writing to the internet world.  This wasn’t quite an easy decision for me, due to the fact I tend to be reluctant of technology.  I prefer holding printed word in my hands, and to do my writing with pencil and note pad.  However, I look forward to blogging endeavors.  Even though I move towards change at a snails pace, surely, I can embrace a new idea.  WordPress is my new note pad, as I hurl myself forward into this modern Media Age.

This is the next step into my writing career, and one must be absolutely modern, as Rimbaud put it.  So, let us see what the modern age holds for one with a traditionalist’s ideals.  Perhaps a new path will provide new opportunities and ideas for us all!  This is a journey we can be taking together, dear readers, as we explore the world around us.  I shall be sharing my thoughts and findings on life at large right here on WordPress.  Join me, as I share earth shattering perspectives, things to open the mind, and challenge world views.

As you look at the world around you, are there things that may not add up?  Are there questions lurking in the back of your mind left unasked?  Do you wonder “what this world is coming to”?  I do.  I’ve been tallying the things that don’t add up, and asking the questions that have been left unspoken for too long.  In my blogs, the opportunity revelation.  Let us explore…

Happy reading,

Steve, the man in the black tee