Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rambling thoughts on self-centeredness

Today as I left home on my walk, I had to step over a gift left right in my driveway by the dog of someone else. This started my mind on some rambling thoughts as I walked and contemplated that either this "gift" had been left by a dog not properly restrained by its owner, or by the owner walking the dog and not giving a single thought to the fact that it was my property being used as a waste disposal area. Either way, that dog owner was only thinking of himself.

I have the same issue with cats roaming wild around the neighborhood.  I am not an animal hater, but I choose not to have cats in my backyard because I love my flower beds and I love the birds and butterflies that come with the flowers.  But wandering cats insist on rolling in my flower beds, and acting as predators for the birds and butterflies, discouraging them from coming.  Those cat owners are not giving my choices a second thought.

I am not saying we are always self-conscious of our self-centeredness.  Someone else had to point out to me that when I empty a grocery cart and leave it between the cars in the parking lot because I am too lazy and thoughtless to return it to the cart coral or the store, I am giving hardly a thought to the poor people trying to park after me, and that is self-centered.  Now that I see it, I try not to do it.  But our hearts, as Calvin put it (the theologian, not the cartoon) are idol factories, and our biggest idol is us.

From the small to the large, I see this problem.  We don't think in terms of other-centeredness in art (art for its own sake) or music (I know what I like, so there can be no discussion of objective quality) or service to others (What can I do to make myself feel good about what I have done for others? Where can I send my money to relieve my guilt?).  But those are topics for another blog post. 

Let me end with this.  What are areas where you were unintentionally self-centered until someone else pointed them out to you?  I would love to learn to be more other-centered from you, Gentle Reader.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lovely Florida

For those of you wondering about the lovely photos that include non-Southwestern things like water and water fowl, I should perhaps say that I traveled with Dave to Florida the week before last.  While he attended to business, I played and relaxed on the beach (Cocoa Beach).  We hiked a few wildlife refuges in the evenings, and visited with wonderful friends on the weekend.  It was a charming, relaxing, and good time with my best friend.

And below is a few very bad video I took of a Great Blue heron. I am having trouble uploading these, or I would also have uploaded one of a couple of dolphins in a bay near out hotel.  But this lovely bird stands taller than I am-- so well over 5 feet!  We found him on a wildlife refuge north of Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island.  Isn't he (or she) lovely?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Three rules

I have a friend who serves others by being a sounding-board and councellor.  In his professional life, this meant serving in the capacity of an ombudsman, and now in retirement, he coaches folks who need encouragement in their marriages and families.  And he is very good at it.

He recently spoke to my Worldviews class about approaching the "helping" professions from a Christian viewpoint, and he shared his "3 rules of life", which he said help him to place many things in perspective and keep his expectations realistic.  He did an excellent job of showing us a biblical basis for these rules, and I can't tell you the number of times, Gentle Reader, that these and their implications have been obvious to me since he shared them.  So, here they are, in my own paraphrasing:

1.  Men are selfish.
2. Women are controlling.
3. In the end, people do exactly what they want to do.

This has made several things clear to me in my own life.  When I battle the temptation to think badly of others, it often has to do less with them and more with the fact that I would like to control them and can't. Then I know what to repent of. And all those things I always say I want to do and don't, I need to own up to the fact that I really don't want to do them or I would. Again, excellent fodder for repentance. And as I look at others, this is a helpful matrix in knowing where to begin to speak with them in love.

Today, for instance, as I "say" I want to work out, but keep not going, I am forced to re-evaluate my decision and double-check my priorities.  So, with a heavy sigh, I am off to Curves.  I will drag my sorry, old self around the circuit and exercise, because even if I don't feel like it, it is what I want to do. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Taking flight

Taking flight is not always easy.  Sometimes there is a stiff sea breeze that turns you, or gusts that push against you.  Sometimes you have too much drag and not enough lift due to the burdens you carry.  So the question I have been asking myself lately is, given my burdens, how do I soar as Christ would have me to do-- with wingsa like eagles, without growing faint or weary? After all, is says in Isaiah 40:31:
...but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

But how am I to accomplish this?  As I ruminate on my own failures to fly, and come to grips with the fact that I am weary and tired, I keep ending up with the same thought.  I soar because He carries me (Exodus 19:4).  He tells me not to grow weary (Gal. 6:9; 2 Thess. 3:13) because He did not grow weary:

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

~Hebrews 12:3-11

I was recently reminded as I taught my local worldviews class that suffering is sometimes a calling we have from God-- a holy vocation.  We all have those seasons of suffering, all with different details and to differing degrees, but all "painful rather than pleasant".  But if this is a holy calling, and something that will produce the fruit of holiness in me, I had better get about taking off.  It does not matter how heavy my wings feel, nor if I can only fly half as far today as I did last year.  I need to strive to go forward, and trust God to redeem my feeble efforts.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
~Hebrews 12:12-13
I am praying that the Lord will stregthen my drooping hands and weak knees despite how they feel, or how I feel about it, and make me to fly with eagles' wings today. I am waiting expectantly for Him to do so.  May He be gracious to do the same for you, Gentle Reader.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Meeting old friends for the first time

 Today I met a couple of ladies who have been online friends for many years, but we met face-to-face for the first time. I am on travel with my dh, and in Cocoa Beach, Florida. (I know it is tough, but someone has to do it...)  I am on the left below, with these two beautiful women: Denise Smith in the center and Mary Craig on the right.  I knew we would have a lovely time, and we did!  They drove all the way to the coast from their Orland-area homes to meet me, and we discussed writing, classical education, raising boys, our families, and much more.  These are smart, talented women, and it was a joy to have brunch and then wander around Manatee Park. 
We did not see any manatee, but we did see some fun things, and enjoyed the lovely Florida breeze off the water.  Below is Mary in her natural habitat:
 We DID see a pair of dolphins playing (you can make out one fin below if you look closely), and a Great Blue Heron- wonderful sights for this girl from the desert Southwest!.  I'm sure Mary's photos are much better than mine...

It was a really enjoyable time.  Thank you, Mary and Denise, for making the effort to make it happen!