Saturday, October 18, 2014

Little Feathers: Making it Matter

Little Feathers: Making it Matter: When Bob and I were teenagers, we met at a place called Holden Village. The year we spent there made a very deep impression. In fact, I'...

Making it Matter

When Bob and I were teenagers, we met at a place called Holden Village. The year we spent there made a very deep impression. In fact, I've been looking for Holden ever since. Just this morning, I realized I never lost it.
While students at the village, we heard professors and theologians, artists and cooks and construction workers talk about living a life of meaning. For months we watched adults wrestle with the big questions. The ones Shakespeare addressed in nearly every play.  We read Bonhoeffer and Tillich, C.S. Lewis and Barth, T.S. Elliot and St Augustine, Tolkien and Kierkegaard. And more. I still have the books on my shelf. They have followed me around from house to house, and it was when I looked at them this morning, in their familiar places, that it struck me. I never lost Holden because the pieces are still in my mind. The snatches of conversation, some which have become slogans for Bob and I, the voices of the seekers are still in there, though some are buried deep.
We were told from the beginning that we couldn't stay at Holden forever. It is a place apart, literally and spiritually a mountain top, and we must live in the real world. But, we could take some of it with us. What's kind of funny to me now is that I wanted more. I wanted my church to be Holden. I wanted my college to be Holden. I got disgruntled with both, wanting them to serve me. Didn't those professors and pastors want to ask the big questions? I seemed to have missed the conversations on humility and servant-hood that I know were going on the village. I seem to have expected others to be my Holden. Instead of myself.
Balance is a tricky trick. Taking life seriously without taking myself too seriously. Working hard without expecting to control outcomes. Letting everyone else make their own way while being true to myself. Being honest without being judgmental. And forgiving myself for not figuring everything out already.
Here is the funniest thing of all: I don't really make life matter. It matters all by itself. I don't make the meaning, I just learn to see it. There is a huge difference between surrendering the demands I have on life, and giving up. In fact, I think the road to humility and enlightenment is much more work than the way of blindly accepting someone else's dogma. So...I make it matter by letting go? I make it matter by understanding that I can't make life in my own image? Maybe after 42 years, some Holden conversations are just coming clear. Hmmm. Maybe Letting it Matter would be a better title.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Little Feathers: For the Love of a Dog

Little Feathers: For the Love of a Dog: It can happen slowly, like the dogs who wiggle and sneak their way into our families, the ones who we only tolerate at first. The ones who m...

For the Love of a Dog

It can happen slowly, like the dogs who wiggle and sneak their way into our families, the ones who we only tolerate at first. The ones who make us wonder about their intelligence, the ones we can't believe shed so much, the ones who just can't seem to leave the trash can alone.  And, the connection does not always happen. Many of us have owned dogs we kind of like, but we could give them away without a backward glance if someone wants them. We've had several of those. Like the Cocker Spaniel Randy Luther (five year old Josh named him) who was born without a brain. Or, with a very, very small one, in-detectible to the human experience. Or the jumpy, licky, barky, untrainable Abbie. She was a little white something-or-other who happily went to live with a family member when she wouldn't quit jumping over/ barking at/ waking up newborn Katie. We would never abandon a dog, we were just tickled pink when they went to new homes.
Then there are the dogs who take one look at us and decide that we are their people, their tribe. They have earnest love and acceptance written all over them. Those dogs give us something no human being can give. They never criticize or second guess us, something even our most loved loved-ones sometimes do (not to mention, something we ourselves to do). Eager to comfort us, dogs 'do love' the old fashioned way. They show it. No words needed.
Sometimes just putting my hand on our boxer girl Lucy's head changes my mood. Lucy is goofy and just plain thrilled with life. Her enjoyment of the moment flows right into my hand and up to my heart. I want to be like Lucy when I grow up.
Several people who are dear to me have recently lost dogs who loved them so well. Some are bracing themselves for the loss that is coming soon, though we know we can never really prepay what grief costs us. The silent space left in our lives can't really be filled by another dog, not completely. And that is the yin and the yang of loving. In spite of the pain, I would not give up the love of my dog to save myself.
I've heard that dog is God spelled backwards. At first that seemed silly to me, and I couldn't quite grasp it. Now, I've decided it makes perfect sense. Unconditional love. Dogs can't save us from making fools of ourselves, but God doesn't do that either. Dogs can't keep us from the inevitable, they are subject to the laws of nature themselves. But they truly are gifts. For me, all that is good in life comes from God. My own best self included. I won't press my theology on anyone, and I surely don't have a corner on truth. What I do have is the glory of nature that lifts me up. And the love of an animal perfectly suited to be my friend. I'm sure dogs were one God's very best ideas. He looked at man and woman (who were not always using their words for each other's edification) and said, "Let's give them a break. Let's give them solace in a fur coat." And he put a puppy in their arms. They all lived happily ever after.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Little Feathers: Know When to Hold 'Em...

Little Feathers: Know When to Hold 'Em...: Kenny Rogers had it right. It's just that it can be really tricky to decide when to fold 'em and walk away. Maybe all those no's...

Know When to Hold 'Em...

Kenny Rogers had it right. It's just that it can be really tricky to decide when to fold 'em and walk away. Maybe all those no's and obstacles are there to be overcome. Maybe keeping on in spite of it all is the definition of perseverance. Nobody likes a quitter, right? Right?
Or...maybe closed doors are the very thing that lead to a new path, a new perspective, a different goal. I recently have been working really hard on a particular project. The thing just wouldn't cooperate. I tried muscling it. And I'm pretty strong, so muscling a project in the direction I want it to go very often works. Now, a big signpost that I have been going in the wrong direction is hard to accept. If I quit this road, does it mean I've failed? does if I decide to look at it that way. It does if I didn't learn anything. Even if the lesson is that I can't always get what I want (oh, Rolling Stones, if you only knew how that song would hit home time and time again for so many people!).
There are other little phrases that have become part of my decision process through the years. I love one my husband, Bob, often uses: faith is saying it so, when it is not so, in order that it will be so. Well, I've been very loud about my goal for this project, telling everyone who will listen that it will happen. I have done this mostly to muscle myself into believing it and working hard enough to make it happen. So, there is the element of embarrassment that makes me reluctant to admit a change in course. Being motivated by fear of failure is a punitive way to go through life.
Keeping my mind open, keeping my heart open to input can't be done well when I'm shoving things around by brute force. Oh, Balance! What a tricky tool you are. Work and play, humility and self respect, goals and the willingness to change them, desire for success and willingness to re-define what that is...balance, balance, balance.
In the long run, knowing when to fold 'em keeps me at the table.