Hard of Hearing

There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.           ~ G.K. Chesterton

Listening is hard. Hearing is even harder.

Years ago, I was the Counseling Supervisor at very busy Crisis Intervention Center in a mid-sized city. We had a 24 hour crisis line along with a steady stream of walk-in clients.

I was the only one in the center late one Saturday afternoon when a 36-year-old client I’d met with often, walked in, clearly agitated. He picked up a bottle of glue off a desk, squirted it in his Coke, shook it and sprayed it all over the walls.

As I began to try to gently talk to him, he grabbed me and held a knife to my throat for the next 45 minutes. He was strong and I was at a loss. Regardless of what I said, he heard something entirely different. Stan was a paranoid schizophrenic who rarely took his meds and often heard voices. On this particular Saturday he thought he’d heard my voice making fun of him.

Stan couldn’t hear what I was really saying. He only heard what he was afraid people said about him. His deteriorating mental health made hearing impossible.

Stan’s focus was entirely on himself. And in that way, he and I aren’t so different. A memory or my opinion or reaction to a remark can shift my focus in a conversation off of the person I’m with and back onto me. When I’m listening to you but thinking about me, I don’t hear what you’re saying.

We all have mental chatter to tune out. We may listen to voices from our childhood or school or church. They may even be tapes we’ve made ourselves – voices that distort the sound-waves so that we add our own spin to another’s words. There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.

It’s the same with God. Sometimes I talk and talk and then I’m done..  

I skip over the listening all together. When I’m praying and I do all the talking, I become hard of hearing.

With God, and with others, playing my own tapes too loudly can lead to hearing loss.

New Year’s Resolutions

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet and a new backbone, new ears and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things he will certainly do nothing effective. ~ G.K. Chesterton

Today we begin another new year.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t not make them because I don’t have areas of my life I need to change. I don’t make them but because I can’t afford to.

I’m pulled toward procrastination. I don’t think I procrastinate because I’m lazy. Usually, when I procrastinate, it’s because I don’t want to make a mistake.

If I’m not certain how to approach something, how to do or undo something, I can easily fall into doing nothing. I admire those bold people who don’t mind stepping right in it, knowing they can clean up afterwards. But I’m not one of them. I want to wait until the right moment, when I have just the right words or know the right way to go about something.

That’s why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I know myself well enough to know that I have to take care of things as soon as I’m aware of them, before I have time to work out just the right approach. It doesn’t matter if I want to be a kinder person or become healthier or just coral my thoughts – there’s no magic on January 1st for me.

I have to begin each day before I start each day with a prayer to learn the lessons of grace: to give without expectation, to love without condition, to be gentle when harmed and hopeful when hurt.

In this new year, I’m not making resolutions, I’m praying for a make-over: a new soul and a new nose; new feet and a new backbone, new ears and new eyes – a new heart, today and every day.

Travelers

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.  ~ G.K. Chesterton

I’ve love the concept of being a traveler.

I used to sing This World Is Not My Home with my Dad. And for him, the angels beckoned several years ago.

This world is not my home,
I’m just a passing through,
My treasures are laid up
somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me
from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home
in this world anymore.

My Savior pardoned me
from guilt and shame I know,
I’ll trust His saving grace
while trav’ling here below;
I know He’ll welcome me
at heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home
in this world anymore.

While I live here, in this temporary tent, I hope to live as a traveler, not a tourist. I pray to learn to see what I see and not just what I expect to see.

I’m going to take a bit of a break for a few weeks. While I’m gone, keep your eyes open and I’ll try to do the same and when I come back, let’s share what all we’ve seen!

Love and grace to you all,

Why?

Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?  ~ G.K. Chesterton

I’m content to live without an overarching WHY. It isn’t a virtue or a fault. I may simply be missing the why gene. I’ve had an interesting life so far. It hasn’t been tragic, but it hasn’t been all tea and toast, either.

Many that I know and love dwell in the realm of WHY. It’s a very difficult place to live. Why this, why now, why me?

Why? For some reason this question always makes me think of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which is pretty funny, since there’s rarely anything that makes me think of physics.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.            ~ Sir Issac Newton

For every negative why: why pain, loss, grief, suffering… isn’t there, then, an equal but opposite positive why: why health, blessing, comfort, joy?

There’s a saying in some circles: Don’t ask God why me? Ask why not me? This is more clever than comforting to me. It paints a picture of a small god that’s too narrowly defined by my questions and punitive by implication.

I vote for Chesterton’s why, which is really an expression of gratitude, the complete opposite of asking God to give an account.

Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?

That’s the why of wonderment and grace. It’s a very good place to dwell.

Keep Your Eye On The Alpha

“I always like a dog so long as he isn’t spelled backward.”                        ~ G.K. Chesterton

I’m not sure if Chesterton originated the idea that dog spelled backwards equals god? It’s certainly become a popular metaphor. I recently read a piece interpreting this coincidence as a kind of encrypted code for the unconditional way God loves us.

I have a Schoodle named Henry VIII. He gained his unfortunate moniker by virtue of being my 8th dog. Unlike his famous namesake, he’s sweet and guileless.

Watching him chewing on his paw, I knew something was wrong. The embedded sticker was needle thin, nearly piercing all the way through. His eyes never left mine as I rolled him on his back, holding him in my arms. Taking it out was a slow, painful process. He held perfectly still. His trust never wavered.

Although there’s very little Alpha in my nature, Henry willingly yields that role to me. I’m his Alpha. On occasion, something unhappy happens to him, either as a course of nature or at my hand. He’s a dog. He doesn’t understand why I’m prying the thorn out of his paw or giving his muddy self a shower, but he never pulls away.

Unlike Henry, I’m a wary creature. I’ve trusted and had that trust betrayed. And, if I’m truly candid, I haven’t been 100% trustworthy, either. Knowing my nature and weighing my experiences, I can unwittingly slip a degree of caution into my relationship with God, becoming my own Alpha.

The lesson of dog and god isn’t that God loves me like Henry loves me.  The lesson is for me is to learn to love God like Henry loves me.

Mercy calls me to lean into His arms and keep my eyes on the One who calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega. Grace whispers that I don’t have to understand everything to trust that He always seeks my good, and that in the pain, there’s a place I can rest.

It just requires keeping my eye on the Alpha.

Do It Again!

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.    ~ G.K. Chesterton

~

I love this quote because it makes me laugh and I love it because it reminds me that growing up isn’t a race toward the next event, the next holiday, the next achievement. It’s not a test of sophistication or talent or endurance or excellence. Growing up is slowing down to taking in every grace filled moment.

Tonight I’m missing the moon. I fell in love with the moon in the great green room many years ago. Night after night after night, my Mom would read Good Night Moon and night after night I’d say: Do it again! Do it again!

I still love the moon. I’m enchanted by its predictable cycle of waxing and waning. Just days ago it was stunningly huge and orange as it overwhelmed the eastern sky. Tonight it’s waned entirely, deferring to the stars. In a day or two, the moon will begin its shy return. My heart smiles as I say to God: Do it again! Do it again!