Thursday, October 20, 2016

Day 2: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Here I sit, day 2 of my therapy. . . just 12 hours after the last (thank goodness!!) Presidential debate.  Of course, I did not watch it, as I have given up watching the news these days.  I was, unfortunately, lambasted with information in just the few moments I spent checking email and Facebook notifications.  As I suspected would be the case, most of this information was negative in nature--from both sides.

Aaaaaannnnd that brings me to Chapter 2 of The Screwtape Letters. . . . (If you missed Chapter 1, I addressed it here.).

. . . "My dear Wormwood, I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian.  Do not indulge the hope that you will escaped the usual penalties; . . . In the meantime, we must make the best of the situation." . . . .

. . . . " One of our great allies at present is the Church itself.  Do not misunderstand me.  I do not mean the Church as we see her, spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.  That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. . . . All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate.  When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face, bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print.  When he gets to his pew and looks round him, he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided.  You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours.  Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like "the body of Christ" and the actual faces in the next pew.". . .

. . . "I have been writing hitherto on the assumption that the people in the next pew afford no rational ground for disappointment. Of course, if they do--if the patient knows that the woman with the absurd hat is a fanatical bridge player, or the man with squeaky boots is a miser and an extortioner--then your task is so much the easier.  All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question 'If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?'  You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind.  It is, Wormwood, it is!  Handle him properly and it simply won't come into his head.  He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy to have any real humility yet.  What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk.. . . . and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these 'smug', commonplace neighbours at all.  Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can."

My modern day interpretation?

1.  Our enemy has a lot to lose, so he's going to play dirty.  I need to be prepared for the unexpected distractions.

2.  Sometimes the enemy uses my bad attitude and negative body language to further his cause.

About a year ago, I was driving to church with my kids.  In Amarillo, if you are out and about on a Sunday morning, there is a very real probability that you are headed to a church.  My son decided he was going to start waving wildly (with a large smile on his face) at every car that we passed.  When I asked him what he was doing, he replied, "Mom, these people are going to church.  They need to tell their face.  They all look like they need a hug.  If I can make someone smile, I'm gonna try."  Wow!  Out of the mouth of babes. . . Now THAT is conviction!

I know, sometimes life is hard.  Sometimes we are going through tough stuff.  I get it.  However, one thing I have learned is: having a sour attitude NEVER fixes the problem.  Although, if I'm being honest, sarcasm helps me a lot. . . It generally ends with a smile, though.  So, I consider that a win!

3.  It's important to share with my fellow Christians my failures.

I feel, very often, like the enemy uses the rationale of "I need to have it all together in order to follow Christ".  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Romans 3:23 addresses this pretty simply: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  The biggest reason to be a part of a larger group of believers is to, indeed, share life--the good, the bad, and the ugly. . . (insert whistle here. . . )

"Go ahead. . . Make. My. Day. . . "

But. . . you might consider doing it with a smile. . . :)

And now, a few corny quotes to brighten your day

 “You haven’t lost your smile at all, it’s right under your nose. You just forgot it was there.” 

“Use your smile to change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.” » Chinese Proverb

“If you see a friend without a smile; give him one of yours.” 

"Every time you smile at someone it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing" Mother Teresa

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Day 1 Of My Election Stress Disorder Therapy

I recently read a report in Psychology Today about something known as "Election Stress Disorder".  Look it up.  Apparently, it's a real thing. . . (insert eye roll here).  Personally, I refer to this as spiritual warfare, but . . . . whatever. . .

That being said, I have found myself unusually on edge and apprehensive about the future of my country.  Hmmm. . . . maybe election stress disorder IS a real thing. . .

Like most of you, (I suspect) I am finding myself in a quandary these days.  I have made the conscious decision to no longer watch the news.  I try to limit my time on social media platforms.  I am trying examine my heart.  I am looking toward the future.  I am doing my best to love on people daily.  I am talking to God.

In fact, . . . .

 I am talking to God . . A LOT!

Fed up with the state of affairs in our country, I recently dusted off one of my copies (I have more than one) of C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters".  You see, it is one of my very favorite books, . . .  ever.  It was originally published in 1942.  However, on more than one occasion in my life, I have found it just as pertinent today as it was back then.

For those of you unfamiliar with "The Screwtape Letters", it is an allegory about the human condition and spiritual warfare.  It is a series of letters from Uncle Screwtape (one of Satan's demons) to his apprentice, Wormwood.  Wormwood is a "demon-in-training".  The chapters (or "letters") are short, and the book, in total, is not very long.  However,  if you read it with your brain engaged, it will take you some time to get through.  That said, I have decided to read it over again, during this exhausting election cycle.

Being the type of person that processes information better when I am able to write about it, I have decided to put my thoughts down in blog-format.  Read them. Don't read them. Whatever.  Basically, these will be my thoughts, as I re-read this wonderful work of art.

I would, however, welcome some company, as I read through the book.  So, please, comment below if you have something to add.  I will be curious to hear how these amazing words, by a brilliant man, impact you, personally.  Of note: I am only going to blog portions of the chapters.  I would highly recommend getting a copy to read in it's totality.

Chapter 1:

"My dear Wormwood, I note what you say about guiding your patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend.  But are you not being a trifle naif?  It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches.  That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier.  At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connect thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning.  But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that." . . . . .

. . . . . "The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy's own ground.  He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below.  By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient's reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?  Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to the universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences.  Your business is to fix his attention on the stream.  Teach him to call it "real life" and don't let him ask what he means by "real". . . . . .

. . . . ."I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum.  One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way.  The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment.  Before I knew where I was, I saw my twenty years' work beginning to totter.  If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defense by argument, I should have been undone.  But I was not such a fool.  I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control, and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch.". . . .

. . . . "Once he was in the street the battle was won.  I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man's head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of 'real life' (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all 'that sort of thing' just couldn't be true.  He knew he'd had a narrow escape, and in later years was fond of talking about 'that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic.'  He is now safe in Our Father's house.". . . .

. . . . "Do remember you are there to fuddle him.". . . .

My modern day interpretation?

1.  The media is here to distract me.  They are doing a great job.

2.  "Real life" is also a distraction.  My parents used to say, over and over again: "Don't sweat the small stuff, and there ain't nothin' big.  Hmmm. . . seems much more profound now that I am older. . .

3.  Sometimes I need to be quiet, so I can hear the still, small voice of my Creator.  This world is noisy.  The enemy does that on purpose.

4.  The best way for me to see in the dark is to turn on the light.  My enemy is a great deceiver.  Calling him out on his antics merely turns on the light.  It exposes him for what he is: a manipulator that is intent on stirring up hatred and strife.

5.  I will continue to say this over, and over.  There is more that unites us, than divides us.  I would like to start my conversations there.  Finding common ground and common goals is the trail head for my journey.

6.  When all else fails, remember The Golden Rule:

Luke 6:31  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

7.  If the commandment to love is hard, try empathy:

"The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost" G.K. Chesterton