Finding the Safe Space

I’m not a big believer in the concept of “safe spaces,” at least not as it’s being advanced by those (mostly but not exclusively young) people who seem endlessly offended by thoughts, ideas and words which conflict with their thoughts, ideas and visions for the world. On the other hand, full intellectual engagement with the media, social media, friends and associates on the topics of the day is certainly draining. So it’s reasonable to seek to protect oneself, to create one’s own “safe space” for rest, recovery and renewal. That’s what I’m trying to do.

I’ve been withdrawing a bit from the media and social media, skipping newspaper articles and Facebook posts that I would ordinarily read. Too stressful to engage. And really, what’s the point? Does anyone care what I think? What concrete actions would I take in response? Why inflame or depress myself if there is nothing for me to do about things?

At the same time, I feel the need to work on my character and draw closer to God. Wouldn’t it be great to have more peace and equanimity regardless of the actions of others and the stories of the day? Sure it would. And God promises that, but we have to do the work. To that end, I’ll be participating in a new men’s discipleship program on the spiritual disciples (source text here) beginning next week. I’m pretty excited. It’s just what I need! I wonder, did my church leaders create it just for me? Seems like it. Maybe they did. Who knows how God is working in this?

Praise God! Although he’s mysterious, we do know that he is working in all things for the good of those who love him. All things. Each of us will experience at least some very distressing things in our lives. This world can be a cruel place, and no amount of social engineering is going to cure oppression, poverty, sickness and death. Shit happens, and it happens to the weak and the powerful alike. Yet, God is here and he is good.

Hence Jesus. Has not Jesus reconciled us to God and overcome the world? Is not Jesus the safe space? I think he is. Find him. Follow him. And, as always, let me know if I can help.

Stay safe,

Pete

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.

But take heart! I have overcome the world.

– Jesus (John 16:33 NIV)

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…And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose…

…If God is for us, who can be against us?…

…For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– The Apostle Paul (Romans 8:28;31;38-39 NIV)

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A Vacation Reset

Sharon, the kids (adult kids) and I just returned from a weeklong vacation in northern California, Santa Rosa and San Francisco to be specific. We spent time connecting and reconnecting with various branches of our extended family and seeing the sights. It was a relaxing and restful time. Now that we’re home, I’m reflecting on my experience, and here are some of my takeaways.

I worry too much. The trip took my attention away from all of my usual responsibilities. No thinking about home or work issues, just staying “in the now” as they say. I enjoyed visiting people and places, and he most critical daily issue usually was “what are we doing for lunch?” Life got simple and immediate. It was nice. How can I bring this simplicity and immediacy back home with me? I’m resolving to be more attuned to the present and spend less mental energy on the future.

My family is worth my time. Not just my immediate family but also the extended family. People are relational creatures,designed to be in community with one another, and that starts with our families. If all we do is “see the family” that alone is worth the trip. Seeing the sights is not as important as seeing the people. I’ve got to remember that.

Disconnecting from the media is a good idea. While gone, I didn’t read the morning newspapers and didn’t miss them. I didn’t watch the news, and I didn’t engage in much social media. Although, we remained aware of breaking news and current events through the internet, we didn’t put much energy into analysis or discussion of the latest “crisis.” That was refreshing.

I was still thinking about our media-driven, feverish culture on the way home. During a three-hour layover in DFW, watching many hundreds of people (of all shapes, sizes and colors) go by, I got to thinking about them. About how each one of them, like me, had a life to live, and perhaps a family to care for. And about how each of them needed to think about getting home, eating lunch, and also the larger issues in their lives. And finally, about how little that most of the “crisis news” has to do with that.

The well-lived life is mostly an internal affair. I need to keep working on myself. And, with God’s help, I shall.

Pete

 

More Compassion, Less Piling On

compassionnoun
sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

Sharon was out of town last weekend, and I thought I’d relax and watch a late night movie. Perusing our small DVD collection I ran across MASH, a film I’ve preciously enjoyed, and thought “that’ll do.” Sometimes it’s nice to just go mindless for a while with a movie that I know already. So I hit the play button and settled in for the evening.

Twenty minutes later I was unsettled. The film wasn’t sitting well with me. The lead characters are arrogant and mean, and their meanness bothered me. I’ve seen MASH before, many times, but this time was different. I was uncomfortable trying to enjoy it. It didn’t seem like something that I should enjoy. Eventually I hit eject and went to bed.

Although this seems to mark some sort of internal shift for me, I have been thinking about meanness versus compassion for the last few months. My social media feeds have way too many mean spirited posts and comments about people suffering the consequences of drug addiction, criminal behavior, or just plain bad judgment. Some comments are shocking in their nastiness. Do the posters truly think that the foolish young man deserved to die (probably after torture) at the hands of North Korean officials? God help them.

In healthcare, and in life, we all see a lot of undeserved suffering. Disease and misfortune befall people for no reason other than “bad luck.” Knowing that we too are vulnerable, we can be moved to compassion. But just as often, or maybe more, people create their own mess. Smokers get lung cancer. The texting driver crashes and dies. Shall we be indifferent to their suffering, or even cruel, piling on with hurtful commentary? Apparently a lot of people believe we should.

I don’t think Jesus would agree with that. We are to be compassionate, and we should be able to see that “there, but for the grace of God go I.” That doesn’t mean endorsing bad or foolish behavior. Some things are simply wrong. Nor are we compelled to fix everything (even if we could) for those suffering harsh consequences of their behavior.  But we can be compassionate.

I don’t know if  anyone can summon compassion in every circumstance; some behavior is truly heinous, but ending the piling on in social media seems like a good place to start. God help all of us.

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“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” – Jesus, (Matthew 7:12 NLT)

One Day You’re an Expert

I’ve been experiencing a great deal of change recently, and another big one is right around the corner. In two weeks I’ll be leaving my current employer to become an independent consultant in the healthcare industry. It’s pretty exciting. I guess it could also be scary, but I’m trusting God and I’m ready for this particular change.

Having dinner with a younger colleague last week, and discussing my plans, the more general topic of career progression came up. After I explained my career journey, he had a couple of questions. “So, how does one get to be ‘an expert,’ to arrive in a position where others seek you as a consultant? Any advice to pass along?”

I don’t know that I had too much smart to say. Most of my thoughts on the topic are pretty basic, and my answer was something like this: Do your best at your current job. Keep learning. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Research what others are doing. Go to conferences and meetings. Read. Talk with colleagues. Eventually one day, perhaps after many years, something will happen to cause you to recognize your own knowledge and ability and you’ll realize that you’re an expert. At least that’s what happened to me.

Something similar seems to have happened with my emotional wellbeing. I’ve thought about this kind of career move before, but it seemed too scary, too distant. Now it seems at hand. I’m finding myself to be calm and at peace with this major change. Also as you’d expect, I’m trusting God. It feels good, surprisingly good. It’s surprising enough for me to ask myself, “Wait a minute! Why am I not more worried about this? How and when did I become a calm, peaceful person? When did I get this faith?”

I think the answers are a lot like those involving my career. Do the best you can at following Jesus. Pray. Listen. Talk with others of like mind. Pay attention to your emotions. Have whatever faith you can muster. Read the Bible. Work through your emotions as best you can. Eventually one day, perhaps after many years, something will happen to cause you to recognize your own inner state and you’ll realize that you’re a calm and peaceful person of faith. At least that’s what happened to me.

Praise God.

Peace,

Pete

Things Can Happen Fast – For Better or for Worse

For some reason, perhaps that I don’t share enough, Facebook has been serving up a variety of pictures from one year ago for me to share. (I haven’t shared any.) Each time I see one I think, Was that really a year ago? It seems like just the other day. Wow, a lot’s happened since then. It’s caused me to focus a little more on the passage of time and all of the recent changes I’ve been through. Most are positive.

I discussed this with two of my buddies the other day, and we all had a similar view. Each of us has faced significant and stressful issues in his personal life over the last few years – both within the family and on the job. It’s been a struggle, but each of us has made it through these hard times with a pretty positive outcome. We’ve trusted God and helped each other. (Thank you, guys.)

It’s highly encouraging to look back and see how much progress has happened in many areas of my life. I need to remember this when I face whatever crisis appears next – Things can get better. God has a plan. I’m resolving to live “in the now” more, not fearing horrible future outcomes from current crises, but rather trusting God and doing today’s tasks today. Seems to have worked in the past.

The other reason to live in the now, is that the future is uncertain. Everything may not be better next year. There might not even be a next year. None of us can even count on tomorrow. I was reminded of that a week ago as a colleague at work died suddenly of a cardiac arrest. Aged 47 and having no heart disease, he was literally completely well right up until his heart stopped for no apparent reason. It’s been shocking, sad and sobering for the many who knew him. Fortunately he placed his hope in Jesus, as does his family, and Jesus has overcome death.

The juxtaposition of these recent events, and Easter too, has made me realize how much mental energy I devote to an uncertain future (way too much) and how little I rest in God’s grace (way too little). Time to revisit my priorities. This seems like a good list: Trust God. Live life. Don’t worry. Be happy. Regard each day as a gift. Cherish my family. God, help me do that.

Pete

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I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
– Jesus (John 16:33 NLT)

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On the happy side, here’s a nice two-year development.  The Amaryllis I started from seed have done great!

May 2015

Same plant, April 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drama or Peace?

I’m weary of drama. Nationally it seems we’re all on edge, looking for the slightest provocation at which to take offense. Personal opinions on lifestyle and culture are seen as political positions to be argued to the death (or to the Supreme Court whichever comes first), and plenty of folks are just waiting for the opportunity. They’re quick to advance the faults of their opponent’s position, or even of their opponent himself. The country is on hair trigger, and worse, this seems to be our new normal.

Drama doesn’t stop at the DC beltway. State and local politics can be as vicious as the national action. “Office politics” may affect us much more personally. Our reputations and career trajectories may be at stake in workplace intrigue. The entertainment industry thrives on drama, and not just in the product.   And then there’s rumor, innuendo, gossip and the usual relationship drama in among families, friends, and the various social groups to which we belong.

The world produces endless drama. Why so much tension? We like it! People thrive on drama; we seek it out; if things are too calm, we stir the pot!  We claim to want peace, but we lie to ourselves. Conflict gives us a chance to be right, to win, to be superior to our fellow humans. Unfortunately, winning brings no relief. We must manufacture more conflict. Even when we’ve lost the battle, we nurse a grudge in our hearts and minds and the drama continues. “Never surrender” is the way of the world.

I was like that once, but the way of the world is no longer the way for me. God has changed my heart. I want peace, real peace, the peace that comes from God. I’m asking him for it of course, and like a lot of gifts from God, sometimes peace is bestowed immediately, but mostly it’s a process. So I’m trying to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, detaching from worldly matters, avoiding needless conflict, and keeping my focus on the gospel. Sure I backslide a bit sometimes (okay, pretty often), but God’s not done with me yet. The peace is growing.

What will it be for you? Drama or peace? Choose wisely.

Peace be with you,

Pete

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Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  – Jesus  (John 14:27 NIV)

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