Sunday, February 27, 2011

Taking My Own Medicine…

How many times have I talked to students, parishioners and even strangers about “the will of God” and how to know it?  I certainly don’t recall, but I do know what I say to people who seek to know God’s will.

First of all, I point out that if God really is anything like a “heavenly Father,” God is not going to hide His will for us from us.  What parent would call his or her child close and say, “I have great plans for you, a really amazing design for your life…and I hope you figure it out!”  That would worse than absurd—it’d be cruel!  So, first of all, rest assured that God’s will is not somehow “hidden” for us to hopefully stumble upon.  In fact, it’s right out in the open, clear for all to see!  Just read the Book…and there it is:  rejoice always, pray without ceasing, do unto others as you’d have them do unto you, etc.  But, of course, what people really want to find is that “specific” task, that unique place they are to fill.  That, while not as obvious as what is written, also is easy to find.  We need only look inside ourselves.

In one of the Psalms, we find written, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of you heart.”  Some have taken this to mean that if we delight in God we’ll have whatever our hearts desire.  However, I read it differently—if we delight in God, if we pursue God, if we take an interest in what interests God, God will put in our hearts divine and delightful desires…God will actually put in our inner-most being a desire to be and live a certain way.  So, to find God’s specific will for our lives, we should examine those deep, internal drives and desires.  Of course, we have two natures…so all we need to do is see what it is that we really want to do that is NOT contrary to God’s will as expressed in the Book—directly or indirectly.  For example, we can be pretty safe in guessing that God would not put in us a desire to be a pimp, casino owner, drug dealer, gun runner and the like.  God wants us to be a people of grace and goodness, a people who helps others, not hurts others.

So, here I am.  I’ve taught this in so many places, to so many people…and now it’s time to take my own medicine!  We face a cross-roads of sorts, and we wonder what to do.  We ask, “What does God want us to do?”  Of course, we’re often as egotistical as the next person, thinking that if we make a “false move” that God’s great plan will irreparably damaged, or at the very least, knocked off track so has to delay the parousia hundreds of years.  Ha!  We’re just not that important to the grand scheme.  All God really wants of any of us is to live the faith and to live with joy, impacting the lives around us in positive ways, life-changing ways that bring God’s grace to those around us.

Therefore, I must go forward confidently, knowing that I am a teacher, and that I can use my position as teacher to enter lives of others to positively affect them.  So, I go forward, confident in my vocation, sure in the path that lies before me…living life with joy and helping others to find joy as well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What if… vs. What is.

Well, it happened again.  We had just met with some folks who are on the inside of the goings-on in the socio-political world around us, folks with all the stats of deaths, murders, abductions and the like.  And, well…it affected me.  I or “it” allowed that old “friend” of mine to creep in once again—that friend named “fear.” 

For a few nights, I did not sleep really well.  My mind was too busy spinning and whirling around the possible scenarios of life.  I began plotting and planning how to escape this city and this life.  I began to see the city as dark, grey, cold.  I imagined myself the primary target of every narco…the expendable foreigner who could be easily taken advantage of by any sold-out cop.

Indeed, the stats are somewhat unsettling at first glance.  In Monterrey reside some 80,000 US citizens.  Statistics indicate that two (2) Americans a week suffer some sort of crime—murder, abduction, robbery, extortion, etc.  Yikes…two a week?  At first, this set me thinking that ‘tomorrow’ could be my day!  But, then, this morning, I did a little math in my head:

2 hits a week…means 104 hits a year…and with 80,000 Americans, it’ll take 769 years to go through everyone!  Since my last name begins with “H”, I figure I’m safe for probably 150-200 years!  Of course, the criminals aren’t taking things alphabetically, but, still, I guess it’s just not that likely (probable) that I’ll be targeted and hit.  That is something to be happy about!

The other thing that happened came about today as I was walking from the Seminary to the bus-stop.  I realized that I have been focusing on the “what if…” a whole lot more than I’ve been focusing on the “what is.”  What if…?  What if…?  Oh, anyone with half an active imagination can arrive anywhere on the “what if” train.  What if I’m caught in a shoot-out?  What if some group does target me for crime?  What if….  And the list of “what ifs” can go on and on and on….

What is?  I live in a large, metropolitan, international city of some 5,000,000+ inhabitants.  I have a wife who loves me and so graciously puts up with me!  I have work--I teach English and Theology to folks who are generally interested in learning what I have to say.  Our city has a good mass-transit system that allows me to get around the city without a car.  I have friends here—Juan, Adil, and others.  My family is happy here…my children are happy here.  I have a faith that strengthens me and even guides me.  We have a roof, we have food, we have all we need.  We have dreams and possibilities before us.  We have plans and hopes.  What is…is good.

I think I’ll shelve the “what if” file for a while and keep that “what is” folder open before me….

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who Am I? Who Are You?

I’ve had one of those afternoons wherein I find myself in need of a good “write,” in need of centering—of returning again to the source of being.  Every time—it seems—that I come close to grasping at the reality of who I am, I find myself far-flung, miles away from who I think I am or who I long to be.

Yet, still I ask, who am I?  In a sense, I am a sum of my experiences—that is, I am either a product (to a certain extent) of my experiences or I have been shaped by my experiences.  Every journey, every mundane day or night, every adventure, every dry lecture or sermon, every expression of love…or rejection—these have all had a hand in making me who I am.  Every book I’ve read—fiction or non, every character I’ve met…or whose life I’ve lived in each novel—these personalities have had their imprint on my life.  Every friend, family member, student, co-worker, even the man who sweeps the grocery store parking lot near our apartment—all of these have molded me towards being me.

Still, not just experiences and people past affect who I am.  Who I dream of being, who I wish to emulate, where I want to be, the kind of person I desire to be—all of these also give birth to who I am.  One has said, “We become what we think about all day long.”  In truth, I am discovering that we do become what we hope to be, what we long for.  Not the empty pining, mind you…the serious, thought-out, willing-to-live-differently kind of hope.

Who am I?  I am a person…a person in process of becoming who I am not.  I am who I was…and I am who I will be.  And the journey to becoming is exciting, frustrating, exhilarating, depressing…and all of those experiences and the people they involve all have a hand in making me who I am.  Now, have you got that…and isn’t everything clear now?? ha, ha….  At the very least, I learn yet again that “I” is not a static concept but a process…and can enjoy the journey rather than look for some eluding destination that will probably never materialize.  Chao.

The Best Foods We Can Eat!

I don’t fear growing old.  In fact, I don’t even mind growing old.  It seems to be the way of things:  we’re born, we grow, we die.  However, what I do fear and hope to avoid is growing old…badly.  That is, I want to keep my health.  I try to exercise (I’ll write on that later!)…and I try to eat well.  I strive to eat foods that are high in fiber, high in antioxidants, low in bad fats. 

So, here’s my latest list of good eating.  May we all make these foods our primary foods…and may we live long and live well.

The Foods:

Veggies: bell peppers, carrots, spinach/kale, broccoli, asparagus, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), leeks and cauliflower; onions, ginger and garlic - in everything! Potatoes (french fries don't count!) and sweet potatoes....

Fresh Fruit: tomatoes, bananas, berries (blue, black and rasp!), apples, grapes (red!), avocados, cantaloupe, papaya, red grapefruit, oranges, lemons/limes (how easy is a glass of lemonade??)

Dried Fruit: apricots, raisins, figs

Legumes-- peanuts...and beans, garbanzos, peas, lentils...and the darker the bean the better!

Cold water, ocean salmon - can't get enough!

Yogurt, skim milk and soy - anything soy

Whole grains - oats, wheat, rice, quinoa

Dark chocolate - not a meal of it, mind you.

Walnuts - a few servings a week

Friday, February 4, 2011

On the Other Side…and Enjoying It!

I’m on the other-side of “middle age”…at least literally.  This past year, I enjoyed my 45th birthday…and, according to pop thought, that puts me in the category of “middle age.”  However, if you do the math, and if you note that average life span of an American male is 76 years (see: CIA Factbook), then I hit middle age when I was 38-years-old…some SEVEN years ago!

But!  Not to worry!  I’m 45 and I’m loving it!  In fact, I am finally beginning to feel like I’m growing up.  Oh, I’ve 21 years of marriage behind me…one “child” in college and two more on the way to college.  I’ve been working for some 28 years.  Still, it hasn’t been until the last two or three years that I have really begun to feel that I am becoming who I want to be, who I should be, who I’m “wired” to be.

Yes, the physical strength is beginning to ebb a bit.  I awaken stiff sometimes in the mornings.  I see more wrinkles here and there…and the hair is both leaving and changing color (“back to blonde,” I like to say!)  I had to get bifocals last year.  But, I’m learning that there is a whole lot more to life than the physical.  In fact, I’ve long believed that there is more to life than the physical…but now I KNOW there is a WHOLE lot more to life.

I grew up as an MK—missionary kid—in Guyana, South American and Grenada, West Indies (and recently discovered that I’m an “Adult TCK”—adult, third culture kid).  Went to school for a BA and three Masters degrees (yes, too much.)  I’ve been a bicycle mechanic, English professor, youth worker, Methodist minister, cross-cultural worker—all of those things trying to find my place in this great world.  I may not be finished as yet with my explorations, but for now I’m very contented to be a teacher and a writer.

In the days to come, I will be sharing my thoughts on a plethora of topics—education, spirituality, healthy living, technology, family, interpersonal relations, life in Mexico, my childhood in the Caribbean…everything!  I’m hardly an expert in anything (my degrees certify me in English Lit., Education and Theology…but my experience it like that of the Greek philosopher in that the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know!), but I will enjoy sharing my experiences and thoughts…and hope you respond to my thoughts so we might grow simultaneously in our wanderings….

On to the day….