Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Art of Living

We’re finally here after months of waiting: The Art Gallery of Living. J What took so long? I first had to learn what it means to live before I could share a couple of lines on the “art of living”. So what have I been doing all these years? To be honest, I really don’t know. I was living so fast a lot of it is a blur. LOL! I’ve been living in the future mostly with my mind and focus on what I want to have but did not, what I wanted to do but just could not seem to do in the now. But that doesn’t mean I did nothing to make the future happen in the now, for that’s exactly what I did. I was busy.

Yet I did not believe I was living because my present did not look like the gifts I was giving myself in my imagination and dreams. Nothing seemed to come together; at least not for very long. Why or why not? Because one cannot live in the present with their mind in the future for the future becomes the present and passes you by and you wonder “when did I get here”?

So during this season in my life I have decided to slow down my thought processes to run, I mean walk in sync with the speed, sorry pace, that my body and circumstances have decided is best for me. I have decided to pay attention to each moment of each day so I may not miss anything, positive or negative because there is a lesson, a gold nugget in everything. We just have to be open enough and objective enough, hungry enough to learn, then we will be able to see what is sitting, or standing right in front of us, and that it is exactly what we needed after-all-along. Sometimes at first glance it is not/was not what we desired because when we were on fast-forward we couldn’t see what we were missing anyway. J Zoom-a-zoom zoom.

Slowing down the pace of living has been the best thing for me in every way. Life is like walking through an art gallery or the Louvre in Paris: you cannot run through and expect to come away inspired, blessed, awed, filled with information you did not have before, all in one day. You may run into other tourists, or a security guard, or worse yet, a wall. And usually we don’t start to really live until we have hit a wall and come face-to-face with our mortality. Then maybe we want to learn to carpe diem – seize the day. The art of living takes time.

I am learning to appreciate each day as it comes no matter what is or is not happening. I am learning to be nicer to myself and less judgmental of me, for this allows me to be merciful and non-judgmental towards others. I am learning to give myself long foot soaks and massages, slow manicures and pedicures just because I am who I am, and they make me feel more human. J And I like them. I’m learning to allow myself those extra minutes or hours in bed after I have worked hard singing, writing, teaching, preaching and traveling. Most of all I’m learning to focus on God more and me less because He has a bigger head than I do, and He is filled with great thoughts about me, and wonderful plans for my life.

The art of living for me now means putting God first in everything so I can see what I have been missing all these years as I was speed-racing through life, ‘cause I thought that’s how you really live before you die. But since God is the Creator of all life, Who best to listen to and dwell with than the One Who understands how you are wired and put together? Like I said, I am learning. This is an on-going lesson at every grade in life. We never graduate from this class for we are born with the propensity to do things on our own. (Remember the terrible two’s?) But the art of living (and the steadfast love and forgiveness of God) says if you make a mistake on the canvas you can paint over it and do it again, or you can reshape the clay, etc. That’s what He does. Yep, that pounding you felt, that was God squashing your clay for another try. Ouch!

I am learning to forgive myself for not being perfect or as perfect as others have expected me to be. After all, no matter what my calling is in life, I am human first too. I’ve gotten off the merry-go-round and hopped on a roller coaster because it is more exciting. Going around in circles gets you nowhere and just makes you dizzy. Keeps you moving, but . . . boring and bored. Life is meant to be more like a roller coaster with ups and downs. The art of living says to “ask the right questions” when life is an uphill climb and then a downhill drop: “What can I learn from this current event in my life? What is God, the universe, my body, etc. saying to me through this situation?” There are positives and negatives, pros and cons in every challenge. The art of living says that we take them all and deal with them, not allowing any of them to leave center-stage of our lives until we have milked the cow dry. I know, maybe I should have said “until the fat lady sings” but most of us are trying to become healthy so eventually the singing fat lady will no longer be fat.

I am learning that my feelings are valid but I don’t have to let my emotions control me or decide what I will, or will not do. I’ve given myself permission to listen to my opinions too and dissect them, but then to place them beside what God says so I may end up with the best life’s scenario for me. I am learning that no one can love me better than I can love myself, and I learn how to love myself by basking in, and embracing God’s love for me. One of the Ten Commandments says, “Thou shalt love your neighbor AS you love yourself.” [Emphasis mine.] (Please, if you don’t love yourself, don’t practice on me.)

For me the art of living means that I no longer subject myself to painful situations and dangerous-for-me people who don’t have a clue of who I am, or why I’m on this earth. The art of living is realizing that life is one continuous line. Sure there is a past, a present and a future, but it is all the same to God, and since I am made in His image, then it is all the same to me too. I am who and what I am today because of what I did yesterday many days, months, and years ago. When did the line of life stop and start again? It never did; it has always been.

The art of living teaches that life is precious and life is short, and family and true friends are more important than acquiring money and material things. The art of living may advise from time to time and in certain situations to “don’t sweat the small stuff”, but we cannot live that way concerning all things. The Bible says “it’s the little foxes that spoil the vine.” So yes, pay attention to the small stuff, but just don’t let them ruin your life. They don’t have to have the last say and they don’t have to dictate the rest of our lives. But the art of living says to respect life and respect everything that life sends your way just for what it is, because it is in your life for a reason; whether expected or unexpected, on purpose or “by accident”. Nothing surprises God.

The art of living is teaching me to not allow the negative memories to have more weight in my life than the positive ones. And when I find myself ruminating and experiencing negative emotions and physical and mental Vietnam flashback-epileptic fits because of them, to spend time with the Lover of my soul for healing. Life cannot be spent riding down memory lane no matter what kind of vehicle you’re in, who’s driving, or how fast or slow you’re cruising. Is that your gps talking? She said take the next exit tout de suite.

I am getting on with living now in this art gallery called “life”, stopping to look at each piece for as long as I need and desire, taking away from each moment what I want to enhance who I am and the me I am becoming, so I can help somebody else. Because that’s why we are here: to help somebody become all they can be as we too are becoming all we can be. The art of living is succeeding in helping someone no matter how small the deed may seem to you, or to them. (And you don’t have to brag and boast about it either to the entire world. The art of living says to do it in secret, maintain their dignity, and let God reward you.) If they are empowered to advance towards their purpose and life’s destiny, YOU have then become a success! Period. The art of living is learning to see the bigger picture (and there is a bigger picture), to see our lives through the eyes of God and not our economic situation or status, not our physical beauty or physique, and not by how many Facebook, Twitter and Myspace friends we have.

The art of living is realizing that we are more than the eyes can see, the ears can hear, and the hands can touch and hold. There is a “me” I have never seen or met and I am looking forward to seeing her with every passing day. Oh heck, wait. I am seeing her everyday. LOL! Anyhoooo, I love what Morgan Freeman’s character says in the movie The Shawshenk Redemption, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” I’ve chosen door #1 Monty Hall. And so what about you? What are the lessons you are learning and can teach others about the art of living? Write them down because one day you’re going to meet someone who needs to hear from you, even if it’s yourself. That’s why I wrote this blog, as a reminder to myself, and for all those who may want to read it, to LIVE. “And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by.” (Habakkuk 2:2) [Amplified Bible] Hi ho whoa Sally Silver! Tonto? Peace.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Packaging Is Everything?

Bam! She’s got a body like an hourglass, but is that sand coming out of her ears and mouth? She is gorgeous with and without makeup and can sang! But my oh my she gossips like nobody’s business. She’s so charming and walks and moves as smoothly as a cobra sways. Oh, and she bites like one too. Can you say “venom”?

Oh my goodness look at the ceps on that bi. What a marvelous hunk of flesh he is. But he can’t read or tell time. Bummer. Look at that Italian Black Stallion walking by like Denzel Washington. My bad, he’s a dog? But why do all the girls (and guys) still want to ride him?

Packaging is everything?

He wears thick glasses and plaid shirts, white socks with black shoes. He’s the top of his class? And a first class gentleman, opens doors for ladies no matter who they are? Maybe I should give him my number. J She’s chunky around the midsection and a little dark and her hair is kinda nappy. Wow, she’s a writer and a counselor who loves people? But you would never know by looking at her. As Gomer Pyle would say “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” Hmmmm.

Packaging is everything?

He has no ears, but he can sing? He has no arms or legs yet he’s a minister, counselor and motivational speaker? They’re African American and have no rhythm? You have three degrees and have no job? What gives? Or doesn’t give?

Packaging is everything?

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been disclosed? For [the Servant of God] grew up before Him like a tender plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He has no form or comeliness [royal, kingly pomp], that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.

He was despised and rejected and forsaken by men, a Man of sorrows and pains, and acquainted with grief and sickness; and like One from Whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or have any esteem for Him.

This guy doesn’t fit “The 100 Most Handsome Men of the 21st Century”. But Packaging is Everything?

Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy].

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.

Can’t judge a book by its cover or a wine by its bottle. But packaging is everything?

All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his (and her) own way: and the Lord has made to light upon Him the guilt and iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, [yet when] He was afflicted, He was submissive and opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.

Sounds like a patient in a mental ward. Hmmm. But packaging is everything?

By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who among them considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living [stricken to His death] for the transgression of my [Isaiah’s] people, to whom the stroke was due?

And they assigned Him a grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth.

But packaging is everything?

He came into the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him [did not know Him].

He came to that which belonged to Him [to His own-His domain, creation, things, world], and they who were His own did not receive Him and did not welcome Him.

Welcome Home . . .!!! Packaging is Everything?

But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in , and rely on) His name –

Who owe their birth neither to bloods nor to the will of the flesh [that of physical impulse] nor to the will of man [that of a natural father], but to God. [They are born of God!]

Now we can say it with feeling: Welcome Home Jesus!! Packaging is everything?

And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son received from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth.

Sometimes we miss our blessings because of the packaging they come in. We’re expecting it to look one way and thus we don’t recognize it when it arrives and so we reject it (or him, or her, or HIM). (But it’s because of what’s inside of us, not the one in the package.) Hmmmm. So yes in a way packaging is everything in this culture and society in which we live. Yes we should put our best foot forward in all we do and say and in how we present ourselves, but we must make sure it’s our “true” foot and not just a social prosthesis, mirage, i.e. a lie. For guess what? All boxes get opened. The wrappings and bows get removed and what’s inside gets revealed.

Then on the other hand, in our society we concentrate so much on the packaging that we pay little attention to the contents, and believe because we’re “beautiful” in some way that people can experience with their five senses, that we will be desirable to the world. But this is a lie. Chocolate melts. Ice does too and what gets left behind? Well, with too much chocolate probably an abundance of sugar calories on ones thighs and behind, and with ice, well, just possibly your thirst gets quenched. But truly what gets left behind? (No pun intended, but this is a good place to chuckle.) Anyhoooo . . .

Many of us lie to ourselves when we look in the mirror because we’re only looking at the outside. We dress well at all times and make sure our hairs are on straight, and we tell ourselves we’re okay. But this is how we will know how, and what we feel and think about ourselves: When we hit the pavement and come in contact with others, what do we say about THEM? Herein is the clue to what you believe about you-yourself, for we only give what we have in our soup bowl, our cup, on our plate. What we feed to others is what we’re eating ourselves. So, if you’re with someone who is constantly making fun of others, revealing secrets, gossiping, always have to be the bell or belle of the ball, etc. (can you say “noise maker?”) then you need to make a decision. You either need to ask that person “why do you feel so negatively about yourself?” OR you need to distance yourself from that person because you don’t want to share what he or she is eating. It is not good for you.

True dat, you met him or her in a good looking or sounding or smelling or tasting or feeling box (situation) – maybe at a concert, or a party, or a church gathering, or the post office, or at work, but now you realize that all the goodness was only in the packaging. Sometimes you have to discard the whole kit and caboodle.

Now I’m not saying that we “throw people away”, but what I am saying is . . . hmmmm we need to pay attention to how much attention we put into big things in small packages or small things in large packages. Some things/investments cannot be recuperated once they are lost like time, emotions and other valuable resources.

What about good, better and the best things which come in packages we would not envision? What do we do with them? The verses above from Isaiah and John's Gospel [Amplified Bible] describe a man who was misunderstood, judged and rejected because of the package He came in. He was born into a family, to what our culture would call a “single mother” since the earthly father was not His biological father. He was not handsome. His hair was wooly, not long and straight and blond, neither did he have blue eyes. His skin was not white and creamy but brown and ruddy. Even though He was a King, He did not live and act like a king. He worked a nine-to-five job with his dad as a carpenter so his hands were ruddy and he was often covered with dust. He knew more about the law and the prophets than the law and the prophets, yet he had no earthly proof of his education, so just who did He think He was, having the audacity to read from the Torah in the synagogue and then teach others older and more educated than Himself? What right did He have in giving so much love to others, being moved with compassion to the depth that they could touch His clothing and be healed with just a tiny mustard-seed size faith? Who gave Him the right to forgive sins when only God could do that? Who “died” and made Him God? And let’s not talk about raising more than one person from the dead. Please give us a break! God doesn’t look like this man, yet He does what only God can do (and desires to do).

You don’t look like what people want you to look like either do you? Have you ever been rejected because your skin is too dark or too light? Your hair is too long or not straight enough? You’re American and not another nationality, or another nationality and not another nationality? J You’re male and not female or you’re female and not male? You’re tall or short, wealthy or a hard-worker who can’t make ends meet, have a car or not? Over qualified or under qualified? What is your packaging? How are you wrapped? Are you wrapped too tight(LY) or not at all? What are you made of inside? What’s inside your cup? Are you worth the packaging you’re in? Would it be worth someone’s while to unwrap you and see you for what you really are? If yes, then kudos to you. But if no, what can you do to make yourself a better wrapped package, a gift worth God’s giving and worth receiving? What will make you a gift worth having and not just a pretty package?

Jesus came and gave His life in every way. He placed something valuable in each of us, but in order for us to manifest that gift truthfully, we must not reject Him for it is only He Who can bring us to our full potential as the gifts we are meant to be in, and to this world, for the glory of God. The real gift is inside the package.