Wednesday, September 19, 2007
This personal power comes from integrity. Integrity creates inner strength, which manifests itself in strong character. This 'character' increasingly produces unmitigated power in the life of the person possessing it-- and such a person is fueled by nothing other than pure conviction.
Inner integrity manifests itself as a type of unstoppable force.
Put another way-- the inner realization of a pure conscience leads to boundless personal power. So, BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT OUR HEARTS DO NOT CONDEMN US, we come to possess an absolute sense of internal integrity. This sense of personal "cleanness" instills an inner witness inside of us that creates utter liberation.
As a result of this liberation, the believer can truly (and finally) live with abandon-- fearlessly, in fact.
Ironically, instead of this liberated abandon (which SPENDS OUR ENERGY) leading to the loss of vitality and strength (the type of thing that would leave the average person burned out and burnt up), because of the power of God that is able to flow through such a person, the totally spirit-empowered believer finds himself surprisingly refurbished... moment by moment. And this experience (really... it's more of an encounter than an experience) makes us the recipient of an ever-renewing and "just-made" or, may I say, fresh-squeezed brand of genuine Holy Spirit power.
Moreover, because of the integrity of the Spirit and the genuine honesty in the conscience of a person with a pure life, the power begotten by that pure life simply cannot be manufactured. And since few believers exhibit this type of consistent Christian living, this type of pure power is seldom seen. That's by virtue of the fact that it cannot be produced apart from the life of Christ.
But if we will consciously and consistently submit ourselves to Him-- we will be fueled by that clear conscience just mentioned... and that's when we'll begin to experience this unremitting surge of Supernatural Pneumatic vitality moment by amazing moment, viz., The Power of a Pure Life.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Now, that isn't to say I haven't ever practiced those vices. But I really do hate them.
Envy is, of course, inward turmoil stimulated by another's good fortune. It involves wanting what another has. Jealousy, envy's evil twin and hellacious handmaiden, involves personal resentment toward the one in question. Whereas an envious person wants what another has, jealousy [at least] simply doesn't want the other person to have it.
Clearly, both usually go together: The envious person sometimes, if not usually, becomes jealous. The results of envy-jealousy includes the dropping of one's countenance toward the fortunate (or blessed) person, then self-justifying (and sometimes-irrational) frustration which often deteriorates into further ungodly manifestations.
If I can take a bunny trail here-- let me share a word about those ungodly manifestations. It seems to me that jealousy-envy often contaminates and/or wounds both the perpetrator and its victim(s). What I mean is that, once envy erodes into jealousy, it is not unusual for the jealous person to be contaminated by seething anger, internal rage, and finally contempt. Sometimes these emotions are accompanied by abuse and violence-- verbal, physical, or both. As a result, the jealous person often ends up suffering a sense of guilt, personal condemnation, self-loathing, and, at worse, despair.
And if that were not enough, the victim of jealous envy also suffers, wittingly or not.
But this post is not only about envy; it's also about entitlement. But I mentioned both because envy is often accompanied by entitlement. But entitlement can also be an "independent vice." So entitlement doesn't require the presence of envy though, like women who go to public restrooms in groups, they often appear together.
So, what of "entitlement?"
Entitlement is a perspective... a mentality. It usually manifests itself as an assumption that one DESERVES something-- an expectation of a perceived (or moral) right. Now keep in mind that there ARE legitimate entitlements. But those are not my concern, nor are they the topic of this post. Rather, I am concerned about the general and pervasive "entitlement mentality" that hangs like a dark cloud over many people, including certain sections of the American populous. And just as "groups" of people develop entitlement mentalities, individuals do it as well. Those who do so consider it an outrage that they sometimes must "do without" or otherwise should actually "do something"-- rather than doing nothing but having an expectation of receiving something nevertheless.
All this serves as a long introduction to the title of this post: The Elimination of Envy and Entitlement.
In the past, I assumed several things... Things like:
- BLESSINGS SPOIL PEOPLE
- MATERIAL NICETIES STIMULATE THE BASE INSTINCTS OF OUR HUMANITY AND DRIVE ENVY INTO PEOPLE
- THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN GIVEN MUCH ALWAYS DEVELOP AN ENTITLTEMENT MENTALITY THAT SPOILS THEM, AND FINALLY...
- BLESSINGS PRODUCE ENTITLEMENT IN THE PERSON WHO RECEIVES THEM AND ENVY IN THOSE WHO DO NOT.
Oh, sure, we've SEEN EXAMPLES of those ideas-- but I have come to believe that no cause-effect relationship exists between blessing and entitlement or envy.
Today was an example. My elder son, Dakota, turned 11. For his birthday he got this insanely great gift that virtually no child his age has. To boot, Dakota enjoys a life foreign to my own early years. He (and his brother Christian) is, in many ways, a child of plenty. He has never known "need." He would hardly even understand the concept of "want." And yet, the enormous blessings he enjoys are (a) not "expected" by him, nor (b) have these opportunities and experiences soiled or spoiled him. Dakota is genuinely thankful and grateful. And though all the results aren't in-- his life and demeanor has shown me that envy, entitlement, and blessing CAN BE mutually exclusive.
So what makes the difference?
I believe that envy and entitlement are eliminated from blessed people when those people possess character.
Character (or its absence) is, I believe, the single arbiter of envy and entitlement mentalities. With character, those bad character qualities are not present. Without character, those vices breed, mutate, and multiply.
So now, instead of withholding "good" from my child/children, I feel the freedom to bless them liberally. And rather than spending all my energies regretting my generosity and battling their growing envy and entitlement, I work on ensuring that they are developing character. I think that's the way God intended it to be, and it helps me enjoy being a generous father-- just as my Heavenly Father is.
Monday, September 3, 2007
If you're like me, from time to time an unusual washing need or some other Murphy's Law-type situation precipitates the need to patronize this, should I say, iconic phenomenon that is the washeteria. Now THAT is life in STEREO-- unattended, screaming toddlers... the Jerry Springer Show in the background, and the droning sounds of 40 dissonant dryers.
That Laundromat Ethos-- one of the few remaining outposts of genuine American society, is a case study for rugged individualism and a "come-as-you-are" culture.
Meanwhile, outside the laundromat-induced ethos, most other places in society spend disproportionate amounts of time in a shrewd form of image management. You know-- instead of the Washeteria WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Mentality, most people in our society work overtime manipulating and veiling the reality of who they are-- and what their lives are actually like. That's true even (if not especially) in American Churchianity (which, itself, is another post for another day).
Meaning [in everyday society] instead of people knowing one another at near-face value, it's as if the average person's Public Image is more of a construct-- a facade that has been carefully built by pushing perceptions of perfection, as we possibly sought to delude ourselves and others about the reality of our human brokenness... or the fact that we live in a fractured world whose brokenness affects us with all-too frequent regularity.
But like I said, not so at your local washeteria. It's a wild and wooly experience everytime one has occasion to go (second only to Wal-Mart). People are there from all walks of life: the almost homeless guy; the co-habitation crowd; the bachelor-stag dude; the college crowd; the single mom; the middle-class-middle-aged divorcee; extras from the set of 'Deliverance', and left-over relics of the goth and grunge eras.
But the cool thing is that-- it's weirdness notwithstanding-- at least there's no pretension there. After all, it's impossible to bust a pose when you're toting around a broken, pink-plastic laundry-basket full of soiled clothing, bent metal hangers, and a formerly-wet-now-dried-but-still-clumpy generic brand of detergent.
Now, one could suggest that laundr-o-mats (it's fun to hyphenate it) are statistically-disproportionate with dysfuntional people, but I may counter-argue that their populous represents a legitimate sample or cross-section of society, only with its unveiled and unretouched idiosyncrasies.
Truth be told, I feel "at home" and "uncomfortable" in both places: The real world and your average laundromat. But the laundromat is at least a nice break from society's fishbowl of expectations and scrutiny if, for no other reason, than the fact that nobody "looks for you" or expects to see you there. I guess that's why I don't mind going every now and then. Like today, of all times, on Labor Day. (Don't ask).
The moral of the story? Well, this is probably more freelance rambling than anything-- my "bored-while-waiting-for-my-stuff-to-dry" observation of the sociological nature of a particular place that I seldom frequent-- but I guess there is a take away to chew on: It's that there's something precious about going to a place where we see others and they see us as we really are-- unshaven, unguarded, unpretentious, and unashamed: viz., "Just as I am."
Life would great if we had a balance of those two: The Laundromat Ethos of Authenticity and a Prudent Posturing of the Populist Public. Then we'd have just the right amount of appropriate discretion and of honest self-disclosure.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
For a nation as scandalized as ours, and for a public as cynical as the United States generally is, most of us had our guard down. We'd seen it all-- or so we thought.
But then came the illicit actions of the Senator from Idaho, Larry Craig. Craig was recently charged with a misdemeanor related to illegal cruising which is, in this case, a euphemism for "a married man and US Senator seeking gay sex with a complete stranger in a 5' x 3 foot public restroom stall." Am I the only one who feels nauseous?
Note that Craig wasn't thought to be involved in such behavior; he wasn't merely accused. The man ADMITTED GUILT. So this isn't a case of "alleged" or "apparent" or "supposed." It's a case of "Yes, I did it. And because I did it, I am signing my name to this legal document, flatly admitting guilt on a plea-bargained lesser charge."
Then it became public.
Now none of us gleefully celebrate any man's demise, but one at least feels a solemn consolation when this type of behavior is brought to reckoning. That's because if, for no other reason, these acts threaten public health and seriously challenge even bare-bone brands of minimalist ethics. Even many gays who lobby for near boundless sexual freedom would be turned off by the anonymous nature of these types of trysts. That's saying something.
Ironically, there is at least one thing that is worse than Craig's original action: his reaction. While the nation reels in disbelief, the Idaho Senator shows what can be described as nothing other than shameless and brazen disregard for his admitted actions. Craig's arrogant retorts were irresponsible-- the penultimate example of Washington Entitlement Mentality and shirking of even a shred of personal responsibility for actions that he alone perpetrated.
Whereas the average person would have settled into a fetal position in a shell of shame, not so with Senator Craig. Instead, he angrily and self-righteously acted as if HE had been wronged. Even though Craig has said he will resign, that is not due to humble contrition-- it is so he can do a full court press to prove his innocence and have his guilty plea reversed.
Shameless Senators like Idaho's Craig are a good example of what is wrong with America. God help us.
Regarding violence, anyone who has ever been victimized and that has suffered the resultant trauma knows its resonant results. It is like the proverbial pebble which causes a disproportionate effect-- rows of ripples that circumnavigate far from the point of impact, long after the rock has settled in the silt below.
In this sense, violence forever affects those it touches. It should not be confused with a momentary, punctiliar event... violence is the initiation of an altered and completely re-arranged reality for all those it touches, be it directly or indirectly. Violence changes people's lives. Some of that change is painful... and some of it, ultimately, can bring redemptive meaning and hope.
Now back to the central idea-- truth.
Truth-telling is also violent. I'll never forget the words of a physican to me in the winter of 2006 when my mother was ailing in a Knoxville, Tennessee hospital. "Freddy, your mother is dead." No mastery of language could ever help me communicate the thoughts and emotions I experienced in that moment. The statement, however true, was horribly blunt. Cold. Hurtful. Awful. That shows what is meant by the violence of truth. That statement forever affected my life and the lives of so many others.
The death of my mother caused profound hurt, but as the gaping wound has slowly begun to heal, God has used it to bring ephiphanies and moments of meaning that, apparently, I would have been unable to perceive otherwise. Does that mean that mom's passing was 'for the best?' I don't know if I could ever utter such a thing-- it seems inconceivable. But since death is an irrevocable and necessary evil since the Fall (Genesis 3), the meaning and insights I've received are at least a modest consolation. And, at least for my mom, this discussion is academic. She wouldn't return even if given the chance. If that's good enough for her, it's good enough for me.
With these broad and sketchy ideas strewn about, I return to my original concept. The Violence of Truth.
Jesus said, "I came to bring a sword" (Matthew 10:34). The truth of God, like violence, affects everything. It impacts people to different degrees, depending on their proximity to it. The effects of truth continue on and on. Truth alters and dictates reality. And though it can be painful, once it does its important work, truth brings intuitive insights and meaning. For those reasons, however painful truth sometimes is, knowing it is better than ignorance-- because only the truth can set us free.