Friday, July 29, 2011

Irritable Scowl Syndrome

Some Blogs I post are for my children’s benefit as well as my own.  This one is a warning for them.

“False happiness is like false money; it passes for a long time as well as the true, and serves some ordinary occasions; but when it is brought to the touch, we find the lightness and alloy, and feel the loss.” – Alexander Pope

     False Happiness is usually symptoms of a greater issue.  A person who exudes this type of character trait has a great knack of also being a false friend.  Underneath what they try and portray as a super mega friendly attitude is the same heart that beats in the rest of us mere mortals. 

     I recently have run into what would consider an obstacle of disappointing proportions.  Someone who I once considered a friend has gone small lengths to be a backbiting selfish mouthy comment making individual.  The problem is, and I am sure most of you have some experience in this, is the public persona of this person is so accepted as a happy supportive person.  In fact, everyone tells them how great they are with being so happy.  Like a set of groupies who enjoy telling them how happy they are all the time.

     This personality type must find an outlet to show its true colors.  Most of the time it is overly dismissive of individuals they think are so opposite of them.  When in reality they never had an opportunity to examine themselves.  To discover that the personality traits of people they say they despise are actually their own.
     Sometimes, it’s good to have your self image shattered once in a while.
     When I was a kid, a scene from The Never Ending Story stuck with me.  I mean, aside from the super cool flying Dragon Falkor.  The hero Atreju of the story had to pass trials and gates to carry on with his quest.  A discussion was had about a second gate that Atreju would cross:

Scientist - The worst one is coming up. Next is the magic mirror gate. Atreju has to face his true self.
Falkor - So what, that won't be too hard for him.
Scientist - Ohhh!!! That's what everyone thinks. Kind people find that they are cruel, brave men discover that they are really cowards. Confronted with their true selves, most men run away screaming!

     Sometimes these individuals never figure out that their comments or facial expressions give them away.  The façade falls when they tire of keeping up appearances.

You might think “Hey, what do you have against happy people?!”
Nothing, I applaud people who can enjoy happy events.  I myself have had many happy events.  From my children being born, to phone calls from old friends and children giving hugs.  Good stuff like that.

The problem is happy events are not sustainable.  Joy is, we will address that later, but happy isn’t.

Recently my wife and I had the chance to work with 2nd and 3rd graders for almost a week and three days into it, a small girl who has had an already rough life looked up to my wife and said “What if you were my mommy?”  My wife turned to her and said “Well, then you would be coming home with me.” 

The little girl smiled.

I recalled this event on the way to work the next day and cried for half an hour.

Now that isn’t cynical or sarcastic.  That’s reality.  And for the fake happy person they can carry on with the existence they set for themselves and never give that child another thought.

She is in my prayers every night now.  I am 2 days away from getting her address and I will be burned alive if I am going to let that little girl think we have forgotten her.

How can you tell if you are one of these people?  That’s easy.  If your reality of happiness is the 2 feet around you then you may want to look in the mirror.

I have met people who have been given a position of influence over others, a “look Up to” position, and when another opportunity presented itself they abandoned scores of individuals.  If you brought this up to them you are labeled critical.

Moving forward to what should be the focus is actually joy in life.  To a Christian joy is a shared, confidant and ever increasing trait.  It’s given to us at the conception of our belief and grows the more we grow in our understanding of Christ and what he has done for us.

But, since we deal in reality, Christians are people too.  We always don’t get things right.  The ability to slip back into out old ways or to confuse a fake happiness for joy can occur at any moment.  The caution is to make sure we are being truthful with ourselves whether we are sharing a true joy with others, or if the façade is just hiding the scowl of what really remains underneath.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just Dirt

When I travel out of town I often make sure if there is a period of time that I am going to be away I make sure that I attend a church in that area so I can stay…well…. You know…spiritual or something.

It was one of these journeys where I found myself in Dubuque Iowa.  I am pretty sure Dubuque was a city that was founded by the French.  I have nothing to back that up other than the spelling of the name of the city, that and the fact that it rests on the Mississippi River

A totally French River.

It was a Wednesday night and for us Baptists that means it’s a bible study night.  How different is that from a church service you ask?  Well – not much, except you include a 20-30 minute prayer time which is the best time to find out about people because they ask you to pray for them and their broken washing machines or in this case of the Iowa church – tractors and farm animals.

In Iowa, it appears they still give nicknames assigned to you per your occupation.  So in this church, almost everyone had the nickname “farmer”.  They only had to learn my 1 name when they greeted me, and I had about a 95% chance that I would get their name right.  Unless there was a Tiller…or a CatBeater.

 After the bible study was underway the Pastor began to relay about a man he knew that worked at a crematorium.  I know what you’re thinking “Craig if I hear you tell one more crematorium story I am going to punch you in the mouth!”  I know, but hear me out – this one doesn’t end with dead Chinese.

The story goes like this: The Pastor knew this man who owned this business and in the back of the crematorium was the most beautiful garden.  The man also kept the garden and people from all over would travel to see the beautiful flourishing plants and flowers.  Finally – the Pastor asked “How do you keep this garden so beautiful and healthy?”  The man answered that when you incinerate the human body and give it over to the people asking for the cremation, they don’t get all of the …well…stuff.  They get what they can – but there is left over …um stuff.  The man said it’s basically dirt.  The best dirt you can ever find.

Now I get this.  Basically we are carbon after you remove all the moisture. 

And the Pastor said something on that evening that stuck with me.  He said “You know what I don’t understand?  After hearing the man tell me about his garden.  Why as human beings we think of ourselves as better pieces of dirt than another piece of dirt.”

Wow.  No one is any different than the next, especially when incinerated. 

It was a humbling view of what as human beings we really are physically. 

But that isn’t all we are.  C.S. Lewis gives the complimentary viewpoint that adds to what the very base of our existence is of just Dirt.

"It is a serious thing," says Lewis, "to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no 'ordinary' people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations -- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whome we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit -- immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously -- no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner -- no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment."

So yes, as I understand myself to be dirt, and no better dirt that you as we both would make plants grow well; we are eternal to our very core.

I could give scripture to back that up, but most everyone knows that to be true already.  Those who deny that part of their existence have been marred in a way I feel pity for.

I left that night with an altered perspective for the people I would continue to come in contact with in life.  At our very base, we are a good fertilizer. 

But charged with what Lewis wrote “our charity must be a real and costly love”.

While you know what you are, and what others are, just humbly love.  It was one of the last commands Christians were given...