God with a Spatula

spankingWhen I was in under my parent’s care, I was hit with a spatula among other things, in what my parents called discipline with “the rod”. This was picked over “time outs,” or being grounded, and my back side broke many a spanking implement–wooden rulers and cooking spoons, frosting spatulas, pancake spatulas, and probably other stuff I’ve blocked out psychologically. (I won’t even go into the things that didn’t or couldn’t brake on my backside!)

I guess you could say it sort of got pounded into my mind that God must operate the same way. To me, it seemed he would get peeved, and then, lower the boom. So, when bad things would happen, it was probably because of some kind of Divine spatula. I thought God was like a human, and most likely like a human parent who spanks.

Well, nope. God is “Other.” How we’ve interpreted Scripture has often reflected how we’ve been parented. In other words, we figure that God gets ticked off, and gets out the belt, and begins whipping his kids, until they “get it,” or have been punished sufficiently. Actually he usually lets them get away with murder, if you want to know the truth. But I won’t digress on that right here, and now.

Some years ago I heard a visiting pastor in my church say, “God will sometimes need to give you a whipping. You probably need it, and deserve it.” I maced him. Okay, I didn’t, but I thought if I hadn’t already known God through the character of the Incarnation (Jesus), and fully accepted the fleshly God/man, as the same God, I would have decided then and there to become Buddhist, or something other than whatever this guy was. What a crappy religion if this is the God he describes! This way, God sounds like a craptastic, unloving parent who needs medication. I thought this preacher guy was probably trying to manipulate the audience, and I wasn’t going to fall for his weirdness. I had already encountered God deeply, and I wasn’t going to throw it all away because this preacher pictured God as punitive, and wielding a spatula, or perhaps a thick belt, as I bent over to get my beating. God doesn’t have a spatula. He’s gracious.

Challenge: To not make haste

Chapter 5 of John Ortberg‘s book, “The Life You Always Wanted”, is called, “The Practice of ‘Slowing’.” He details a discipline, or spiritual way, of living an unhurried life. As a way to challenge the typical tendency to rush, Ortberg challenges his readers to look for the longest checkout line, and wait in that one. Sounds frustrating, right? The idea is to challenge how one views time, actions, and life as a whole.

John’s experiment gives a person a jump start strategy to begin to enjoy all of life, even the little things that get rushy. No part of living is wasted. Something that was once frustrating can actually turn into a positive. Instead of an urgent hardship, the experience is controlled by the person, rather than happening to them.  It is also experienced for it’s own benefit, not just as a means to something else.  

Regarding time and busyness: The practice moves the practitioner away from being a habitual slave to urgency, and a indentured servant to the clock. As it turns out, an unhurried life will create more opportunities than one ever thought possible. Creating cushions of time is even likely to save one time, and establish invaluable connections, not possible for a routinely rushed individual.

Boiling it down, “being unhurried” is to say one is, “moving, acting, and existing without urgency or haste.” In an emergency, this way must be abandoned for a time. But, in normal circumstances, why spend life so quickly, since we can’t get it back?

Things once unnoticeable, become things such as pleasant surprises, little awakenings, newfound interactions, joys, plus experiences and insights aplenty. When we plan to give ourselves extra time to experience an unhurried life, or at least, far larger chunks of it unhurried compared to before, we enjoy more peace of mind, and well-being.

I’ve personally found it’s also a wonderful surprise to hear more Divine “whispers,” and see more Divine “appointments” placed in our path, once we sideline our hurried manner, and ease into a more organic way of living.

Try John’s checkout line experiment, at least once. If you do, please leave a reply about it. (Did it make you insane, or was it valuable?) And-if you do it more than 3 times, in two weeks, I’d really like to hear if it’s changed anything for you. I have a new contact page if you’d prefer that method, or just leave a comment below.

Thanks.

Have a slower day :)

Disassociation…

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In considering asocial, antisocial, or any dissociative actions–be they criminal, unhealthy, or merely not optimal for human growth and well being–I track onto a pattern of three things: A break with community, check and balances, and loss of empathy for others, seemingly inversely proportionate to one’s increase in self-preoccupation.

As I personally researched and considered police chaplaincy, I first presumed I would be working with anyone in need at the police station, be it law enforcement personnel, victims and their families, or perpetrators. In a conversation lasting multiple hours with an officer, and the head of a top chaplaincy program in the country, I was told that this program was actually only for law enforcement officers, related staff, and their families. This was fine, I’d love to help who ever I can, I thought. But, was there a crisis going on? Did these pillars of the community need spiritual help so badly?

For starters, I was told that the problem of alcohol abuse rates was severe. At least 33% had serious problems. So, if I’m pulled over, 1 of 3 of those people self-medicates with booze? I thought. Ugh! Also, officers learned quickly not to trust anyone-not citizens, not co-workers, and not family members. Gaining their trust would be slow. I was told that they kept all their problems to themselves, and were loners. This was all very sad news. It did not bode well for the health, spiritual or otherwise for this group. Maybe I should try working with drug addicts, I thought. Would there be much progress or rewarding experience in this perspective ministerial pursuit? Should I bother? What a sorry situation, I mused. 

He told me the great majority die within 3 years of retiring, if they retire at age 65. The need for caring, spiritual guidance was urgent. Most police, even in major cities, have nothing in place at all to help them cope with the stresses of life and career. At least this fairly recent program saw the need. I told him I didn’t have the credentials of ordination, but after he heard some of my educational qualifications, and our lengthy conversation on spiritual matters, we solidified a common bond as spiritual siblings desiring to truly be of service. A chaplain application came in the mail in the days following our conversation.

After beginning their careers, these law enforcers soon disassociate from the world, and have no one to confide in. This way, they are undone–soon eaten up alive, from the inside. In reality, they are the worst kinds of people to have in powerful positions, once that begins. This is why the chaplaincy program is so needed, so their spirits (entire selves) can be fully alive, and at their healthiest. In this way, they get all the life-giving benefits of community. It’s no different for civilians, and, in fact, it’s needed for criminals behind bars, too. (Many prisons have chaplains.)

The stress of the job might not flesh out precisely the same way for civilians as it does for police personnel, but the stakes can be just as high, ultimately–life or death.

These law enforcers who started out hoping to help the public, must not seclude themselves, and handle their own problems. If they do, they hurt the public, their families, and obviously, themselves. The same goes for the average Joe or Jane. The misguided loner uses the same coping tactic as the criminal, and begins to posses the same psychological makeup of the criminal, once isolation is chosen. Criminals are classic antisocial personalities, with an inflated ego, and little or no regard for others. Talk about an ironic twist!

This isn’t just a psychological problem, or circumstantial situation, but, of course, it is a whole person issue–a spiritual issue, [or you could say, an issue of one’s spirit (entire self.)]

A great many people can get sucked into handling their problems alone. Some personalities are bent in the direction of thwarting companionship more readily, or shying away from community “styled” resolutions. And, sometimes these choices break down on gender lines, cultural lines, or generational lines.

As the healing power of communing and community salves the wound of isolation, the culpability is renewed in that needy person. A sense of self-respect based on respectability, and accountability is cemented. The honor, regard, and bonding that occurs invigorates individual and communal purpose, and forges new pathways for empathy, specifically and generally, pulling that person away from the vortex of selfishness, self-loathing, or self-absorption.

Joel asks… "Is coffee spiritual?"

Joel wrote… “You talk about everything being seen as spiritual, what about ordinary things like my walk at lunch break, or my habits I really enjoy, like my morning coffee?”

Joel, when we can look at the world with “spiritual eyes” our existence will awaken as we view the whole world like Brother Lawrence described as, “God’s book with messages for us.” In this way, many things become beautiful that may have been ordinary or common before. A walk can be a time of gratitude for health, nature’s beauties, or God’s goodness. In fact, monks are notorious for thoroughly enjoying coffee, and being spiritually present in the moment of doing so. Some monastic traditions have purposefully crafted coffee mugs with no handles, and made vessels too large to be gripped with one hand.

That way one can cradle the mug, sip the warm aromatic brew slowly, and relish the whole experience. God may be welcomed into even the morning coffee experience, Joel. Fill it to the rim, and enjoy! I’ll drink to that. Mmm.

Now-on to another big question! Any coffee brand suggestions out there?