Monthly Archives: September 2011

A Thought on Meditation

A Thought on Meditation

 

     What comes to mind when you think of the word meditation? In my mind I see this person sitting cross legged on the floor, eyes closed, humming and trying desperately not to think of anything. The idea I guess is to empty one’s mind in order to find peace.  I suppose that’s good in theory, but difficult to do in reality. In my reality anyway.

     For one thing, I’ve never been very good at not thinking, and that bothers me because I see so many around me who don’t think, and they seem to get along quite well without it. Now, I will admit to having stumbled into the “not thinking” zone on occasion, but what frustrates me is I can’t seem to stay there with any kind of regularity. Perhaps it’s a lack of focus or something, but “emptying the thought well” for me is a lot like bailing water out of a boat with a hole in it.

     Fortunately, for me, mediation isn’t so much an emptying of my mind, as it is a filling.  It’s not a random filling of just anything that makes an impression on me throughout the day. Rather, it’s an intentional filling in which I fill my mind with only one thing, and then pour all my concentration into it, until it becomes the only thing I think about. Now there are many people who meditate, and are highly successful, but their success didn’t come solely from their ability to meditate, but rather from what they meditated on.

     You’ve heard the saying that goes, “you are what you eat?”

     Well, truth is, you are what you think about.  Now I don’t imagine that’s a very comforting thought for a lot of people, but I wonder how we would view people if we could see their inner thought life as if they were captions floating above their heads. Maybe a better question would be how would we really view ourselves if we could see our own thought life in the same way.

     I don’t know about you, but knowing my thoughts would be open to others would certainly make me pause and consider them more carefully.

     This may come as a surprise, but we’re all a product of our thought life.  We like to think we can hide our thoughts from others, but the truth is we hide very little.  Our speech, our actions, our possessions, are all a reflection of our thoughts, and chart the direction our lives will take, and that leads me back to where I began with: meditation.

     Meditation in and of itself is no guarantor of success or happiness, but it’s what we meditate on that gives our lives meaning.. The Bible says that, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Now that’s something to meditate on.

 

 

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A Thought on the Debt of Love

A Debt of Love

      A while back, I had the honor to give back to a woman who had given to me.  To truly repay her for what she gave me in the way of time and attention and sacrifice, wasn’t possible, but I had to try. I’ve always felt that those of us who have been fortunate enough to receive the love of others have a debt to be paid. A debt of love.

     Now there are those who don’t think they owe anybody anything; that there’s no debt to repay. Perhaps that’s true, but I can’t seem to accept it.  To my parents, I certainly feel indebted, though they’d tell me I’m not, but when I think of all they’ve given I can’t help but feel that there’s a debt there.

     Then there are the myriad of others who in one way or another gave of themselves, and in the process, gave me a piece of the puzzle that was to eventually become the person I am today. Now, I’m far from perfect-anyone who knows me can attest to that-but I’m far better than I would have been had I not been given those gifts I received down through the years.

     I think of my country. This land of freedom that has given it’s men and women an opportunity to go as far as their dedication, determination and talent would take them.  I know in my heart, no other country on earth is as great. I think of those brave men and women who came so long ago in search of a new life; a life in which they could be free to worship God as they chose, and who could prosper from their own hard work. This freedom means everything, and it saddens me so many take it for granted, and fail to realize and appreciate the people who have paid for it.  How can I not feel that I owe a debt to this country, and the men and women who have served it?

     Without shame or apology, I say to everyone reading this that, I believe, we all have a debt to repay.  The sad truth is too many of us don’t feel like we owe anyone anything.  Too many of us have forgotten the things that make this country great, and the people who helped to make us what we are. To those of us who have been fortunate enough to experience the love of a parent, grandparent, or teacher, I tell you that I believe you owe a debt that must be repaid.

     It’s ironic that we live in a country so mired in debt that even our grandchildren’s children won’t be free of it, and where the majority of it’s citizens live by it’s example, and yet the most important debt we have is the one we think the least about and that’s simply to love.

     Of all the tragic things that have happened to our country, the most tragic is that we’ve failed to uphold and perpetuate the traditions and core values that have made our country the bastion of freedom it’s supposed to be.   We’ve become a nation of people who love themselves far more than they ever loved the God who guided them to it’s shores.

     Sadly, we’ve become a nation only too willing to embrace every form of wickedness.  We’ve perverted every honorable and decent thing we’ve ever done. We pay lip service to our country’s motto, “In God We Trust” but in our minds and hearts we are far from Him.  We’ve shown how willing we are to remove any and every vestige of Him, not only from our hallowed institutions, but from the very fiber of our beings as well.  We, as a country and a people, are failing to pay our debt of love by failing to honor the God we supposedly pay homage to, and by our failure to live by the example of His Son.

     I wonder how long we can afford to do so.

The Best Decision I Ever Made

        Hands down, marrying Tracey was the absolute best decision I ever made, but during that first few days after proposing to her over the internet I thought I’d made the worst mistake of my life.  The range of my thoughts went from, “Are you completely out of your _____ mind,” to “What woman in her right mind is going to accept a proposal of marrrige to somebody she’s never even met.”   It was enough to make me question my sobriety, not to mention other things.

     If that weren’t enough to make me have some sleepless nights, add to the previously mentioned, these two thoughts: 1  Any man, with a half-a brain-cell more than yours truly, knows that it takes a serious lack of intellect not to make a proposal to the one he loves face to face.  2. Said man, making such a proposal smacks of desperation, low self-esteem, and too many other adjectives to mention. 

     As I said there were many thoughts that passed through my mind, but the overriding one among them all was wondering what Tracey looked like.  I know fine time to be wondering what the woman you’ve just proposed to looks like, but that was how it was.  Anybody who has read back over my past posts knows that I’m a little slow in coming to things, and as this post proves a little backward, too.  It didn’t help that my grandma, a very onery and not what you’d call politically correct, sort of woman who had a habit of saying exactly what was on her mind ( and you never knew what was on it) blurted out, “I hope Denny’s finance isn’t black” during her and my grandpa’s 50th anniversary party!   To this day, I don’t know how she found out, although I have a feeling my mother let it out (she swears she didn’t).

     The only thing I can say is you can choose your friends, but not your relatives.  My grandma was a fiesty, firey, spit-in-your-eye, sometimes bigoted, over-the-top kind of person, but she was who she was, and I never heard her apologize for it.  I loved her undoubtedly, but agreed with her rarely, and through the grace of God failed to inherit her uncharitable views toward others.  It’s my hope that I haven’t offended anyone in writing about this most embarrassing thing that happened, but that’s what happened. 

     If I hadn’t already been spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about Tracey, I was really thinking about it now.  What if she was a different race?  One after another “What if’s ” went through my mind.  Even as I’m writing this I can see how it might look and sound to those reading this, but I can’t deny that’s how it was.  I came to each of those questions, and through prayer, and time, and determination to follow what I felt in my heart I kept going forward. 

     The following Monday morning at 11:00 a.m. I went to the bus station to meet my finance, and was it a meeting I’ll never forget?  You’ll have to read the next one to find out.

Are You Living A Christ Centered Life?

     Are you living a Christ centered life?  Before you answer that question, you may want to think about it.  This isn’t one of those kinds of questions you should answer quickly.  This is one of those questions you need time to examine and reflect upon because your answer defines your relationship with Jesus Christ.

     I’ll bet that “Christ Centered Life” part made you sit up and take notice, didn’t it?  It might help you to know what I mean by “centered,” and it’s what your life revolves around.  If someone were to look at your life under a microscope what would be at its’ center?  Would it be something you would want others to see?  Would you be proud or embarrassed by it?  Can you answer that question without cringing?

     What would a life centered on Christ entail?  What kinds of things would you be doing ?  I imagine you’d acknowledge Jesus as your savior, and understand the basic tenets of the Christian doctrine.  You would understand the law, repentance, the cross, salvation, and grace.  But, if your life were truly centered on Christ, wouldn’t there be more than just an acknowledgement of Jesus as savior, more than just an understanding of those things already mentioned.  You can have all those things, and still not have a life that is centered on Christ.

     You’re wondering what more there could be, aren’t you?    Say we substitute your family for Christ.  Isn’t there far more to it than just acknowledging and understanding that these people are your family?  What makes them worthy of being the center of your life?  I’ll bet the reason they’re the center of your life is because they are your life.  They’re the motivating factor behind everything you do. How many of you could live without your families?

     Let’s take it a step further.  You fill in the blank.  I’m living a _______ centered life.  This thing is the sole motivation for everything I do; it’s my reason for living.  As long as I have this I can live without anything else and I’ll be okay.  What did you put in the blank?   What does it give you?  Does it give you all the satisfaction, security, and comfort you want and need in your life?  Does it fulfill you completely?  The reality is you can’t hide what your life revolves around.  It’s there for everyone to see, like a giant billboard; there’s no way for anyone to miss it.  Just as you know what your life revolves around, so does everyone else.

     In the Bible, Matthew 6:21 states, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Now, let’s get back to that Christ centered life we were talking about a bit ago.  A life that is centered on Christ is more than just an acknowledgement of Him as Savior, and an understanding of basic doctrine.  It’s a living, breathing, life-giving thing.  It’s the very source of our lives.  It’s where we get all those fruits of the spirit the Bible talks about, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  These are the results of living a life centered on Christ.  One that you can experience and benefit from, and one that others can see.

Moving Around in the Alternate Universe

     It’s a fact in life that if you move around you’re going to bump into things, bump into people, stumble upon things you might never encounter otherwise, and it’s no less so in the alternate universe.  The biggest struggle in the alternate universe is the one to survive, and anything or anyone you find to help you do that is what you look for, so there’s very few things out-of-bounds.  Stealing certainly wasn’t, but stealing isn’t as easy as you’d think when you live in the alternate universe, and you look like you’ve just stepped out of a dumpster.  Trying to move around without drawing suspicion was like trying to walk on water.  It couldn’t be done.  Ever wonder why the worst of things happen at night?  Simply because the odds of success go up under cover of darkness. 

     There were other ways to survive and less risky.  Most times, if you hit the dumpster behind any McDonald’s or any restaurant you could find something.  Shelters more often than not offered something, and sometimes churches had outreach programs for the homeless.  Life is anything but easy on the streets, and moment by moment is what it is.  Still, as in anyplace, live there long enough and you get to know your surroundings, and the people who live there.  There’s a certain communication that exists between the animal and human kingdoms no matter what level it’s members may be on, and its no different among societies lowest members.  Word gets around, and people of like circumstance tend to congregate, and even on the streets there’s a hierarchy among it’s members .  As I said word gets around when anything that can be of benefit is found, and that’s how I found out about a place run by a kind-hearted woman who distributed coats to the homeless for free.

     It’s not often you hear about people that are almost universally loved among any group of people but Judy was.  She lived in a dilapidated 2 story house that had seen it’s beginning at the turn of the century, and had since lost much of its’ old world charm and elegance, but was still impressive in it’s own way.    Judy had turned the first floor into a thrift store, and she and her son, David, lived above.  It was well known that Judy had a heart for the less fortunate, and would help anyone who asked for it, but it was also known and understood that anyone who messed with her wouldn’t do so again.  

     I found out why when I entered her place for the first time.  If there was more than an inch of unoccupied space in the store I don’t know where it was, but a big chunk of it was taken up by about as big a man as I’ve ever seen.  Maybe Andre the Giant’s twin brother, if he were colored.  He sat on the stairs near the top with a full view of all that went on below, and he had a way of looking at you that made your innards curl.  It was then I understood why nobody messed with this woman, but it turned out that he was only a part of it.

     When I entered that store for the first time, I didn’t know it, but I was about to find the key to getting out of the alternate universe, and it came in the form of an eight year old boy named David.

 Are You A Good Person

 

Are you a good person?
Bet you’ve got this one figured out.
and you believe it.

 

Easy question you think,
the answer comes no naturally.
I’ve never hurt anyone,
never done anything really wrong.

 

I’ve never killed anyone,
or cheated on my loved one.
Never taken anything
that didn’t belong to me.

 

Be hard for anyone to
really pin anything on me.
Do my job honestly,
sure love my family.

 

Told a lie?
Sure, I have.
Everyone tells lies,
one time or another.

 

Ever looked at someone
with lust in your heart?
A fleeting sexual thought
toward that cute person walking by?

 

Ever wanted what a friend has;
be it house, car, or wife?
Wamted to switch out-
live someone else’s life?

 

Sure, I have;
done all of that,
but just because I think it,
feel it, doesn’t mean I do it.

 

Ever tried to be in control?
Have things your own way?
Worked hard to have things,
made someone or thing go your way?

 

Are you a good person?

 

Ever read God’s holy word?
As a man thinks in his heart
so is he.

 

Know the ten commandments?
Bible teaches break one,
and before Him we’ll stand
guilty of all.

 

Standing before the Holy God,
you’re not good in yourself, not at all.

 

@Wayne Augden

My Marriage

     There was a time when I used to wonder what it took to make a good marriage, and while I was wondering about that, I was also giving some thought as to whether I had what it took to be half of that twosome that’s required for it.  I hadn’t had much success with the first one, and the second was a disaster, so as you can imagine I had absolutely no confidence in any ability on my part to make another one work, much less last forever.   If you knew anything about my life  you’d understand why, but that’s another subject.

     By the time, I met Tracey, I’d had a number of years in which I’d been alone, and surprisingly living life with a modest degree of success, so when I met her I was feeling a little better about myself.  At least, I was holding down a job, meeting my responsibilities, and even had a few friends, so life by my standards was pretty good.  I was fragile though, keeping it together, but it wouldn’t have taken much to break me.  Still, I was lonely, and no matter how much I’d tried to kill it, that dream of wanting a wife and family still lurked around my heart like a ghost staying at home.

     I didn’t meet Tracey in the usual way, at least not usual for me.  I met her online in a christian chatroom.  She had an early picture of Barbara Mandrell as her avatar, and stupid me at the time didn’t even realize it.  She even said it wasn’t her in her tagline, and I still didn’t get it until later.  Much later.:)  Feel free to think whatever thought you want to about that.  I’ve probably thought the same thing about myself.  It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that I proved most women right in their opinions toward men and their intelligence, but there it is.  The only thing I can say in my defense is that I was so smitten with that picture of Barbara, and the very funny and sarcastic things this woman behind the picture was saying that I never thought of anything else.

     It turned out that meeting Tracey that way was about as perfect a way to meet the woman who would become my wife as could be.  For one thing she lived in North Carolina, and I lived in Oklahoma, so at least I couldn’t screw up our relationship in person.  When I think of all the hours we talked in that chatroom it blows my mind.  For at least 3 months (and probably much longer) I think all I did was work, sleep, eat, and live in that chatroom.  Finally, I had the perfect relationship.  I could share my life with a great woman, and for once I wouldn’t be close enough to her to mess it up.

     I don’t know how long we went on like that (never could keep track of time), but she was all I thought about.  Such an amazing personality, fantastic wit, great looking (I was seeing Barbara 🙂 and just so wonderful to me that I couldn’t stand not to see her, and spend as much time with her as possible.  That ghost lurking around in my heart was clanging so loud in there all I could seem to hear were bells.  We were talking one night as we usually did laughing and cutting up, and I was just typing away.  Suddenly, it was on the screen; I can’t give you any of the details because (honestly) I can’t remember, and 12 years later I’m still trying to figure out how it happened, but the words, “Will You Marry Me?” were on the screen, and so was the answer!  Talk about shock and awe, part of the shock for me was that I knew I meant it, but just couldn’t believe I’d done it.  Like a tornado ripping through an Oklahoma wheat field, I was suddenly back on the same kind of  path that had perviously ripped through my life before and left everything around me flat.  To put it bluntly, I was scared out of my mind.

     While my fingers were hovering over the keyboard, she’d already put together a plan to come out to Oklahoma, and she’d be there the following Monday (I think it was Monday).  I have to tell you I had about a thousand things go through my mind as I sat in front of the computer seeing all her excitement spill out across the screen.  I’d like to say that the thought of telling her not to come didn’t cross my mind, but I’d be lying.  Still, as I sat there, fingers hovering over the keys,  my mind flooded with thoughts of past failures, and all the harm I’d caused in past relationships; I just couldn’t tell her not to come.  Ever wondered what the best decision is that you’ve ever made?  I can put my finger right on it.  You’ll have to read the next one to find out more.:)

Stuck in an alternate Universe

     I left off with being stuck in an alternate universe in my last post, and that’s exactly how it was.  Stuck.  There I was looking in the windows of storefront panes, dirty, scraggly, a caricature of someone vaguely familiar.  Sleeping wherever I could find a place I wouldn’t be hasseled by the cops when it was warm enough to sleep out, and fighting for space in a shelter that contained double bunks for maybe a couple hundred men when it wasn’t.  When you’re standing in the midst of a sea of men the odds of catching a bunk aren’t very good, and when you’re unlucky, which I was; you don’t catch many.  On the rare occasions when I actually got one, it was better than being outside, but not by much.  I may have gotten a bunk on occasion, but I was never lucky enough to get the top bunk.  Try sleeping underneath someone who weighs a hundred pounds more than the bunk’s capacity, snores with the reverberation of thunder clapping, and tries to use your head as a footstool.  It’s like’s trying to sleep underneath an elephant.  You wouldn’t think I’d have run into that very much, but you’d be surprised.  I told you I was unlucky.:)

     If I didn’t get that, I got the guy sleeping across from me that looked like Charles Manson; who’d look at me with insentient eyes, and make chirping noises at me all night.  More than once I caught people rifling through the little bit of stuff I may have managed to scrape together, and if you made a problem out of it the shelter would promptly kick you out, and it didn’t matter who started it.  I spent the majority of nights outside, and the cold ones were spent cowering anyplace I could find that would break the wind shivering uncontrollably.  There’s no such place as comfortable or safe in the alternate universe.

     Have you ever been hurt so bad that you couldn’t lay still.  I was like that.  I couldn’t change the reality I lived in, but I moved around a lot.   I didn’t know it at the time but it was moving around in the alternate universe that opened a door within it.

From There to Here. . . .

     I left off with my best description of what it feels like to live without hope.  I stated that I feel like it’s worse than death, and to me it was.  What do you do when you have no hope.  The short answer is anything and everything you want. When you have nothing to look forward to, care about nothing and no one, and live in a constant state of anger, the door is pretty much wide open for anything.  All the restraints were pretty much off, and though that may sound appealing to some who would even say “where’s the party?”  I promise you it wasn’t.  Not unless, putting your life in a bottle, losing everything in your life, and sleeping in places that even cockroaches wouldn’t go is your sort of thing. 

     People who’ve been there, hopefully not you, know you get into a cycle.  You drink because you’re depressed, and you’re depressed because your life sucks, and because your life sucks you’re angry, and because you’re angry at yourself, and everyone else, you drive off anyone who could be helpful, and because you can’t get any help and can’t help yourself and on it goes. . . .  I felt like a lab rat looking through the glass window of it’s cage.  I could see people who had their lives together, or at least appeared to; who were certainly in a better position than I was, who looked as if they ate regularly, and who wore clothing that didn’t scrape along their skin because it was cardboard stiff with dirt, and there I was in an alternate universe looking in.

     You don’t believe in alternate universes?  You don’t believe they exist, you say.  Then you’ve never been one of the thousands of homeless people who are absolutely and completely invisible in this country.  I saw the other side.  I saw the look of horrified drivers as they looked straight ahead pretending not to see you in your dirty coat with your greasy hair.  The people who hurriedly walked by you scared to death you might ask them for money, and who would shield their children from you thinking you would attack them at any second.  Who in total fear would throw money at you from three feet away just so you’d go away before they had to take a closer look at you.  Believe me when I tell you it doesn’t take long to find out just how cruel, insensitive, and apathetic people can be.

     Feel a digression coming on?  Feel free to skip the next paragraph. 🙂  Each of those invisible people I walked the streets with has a story.  Each of them started out as an innocent child and at some point, because of circumstance or bad decision making, lost their way.  Many of them are tortured souls, lost somewhere in the dark recesses of their minds.  Then there are those who through drugs or alcohol simply came to a stop sign and couldn’t stop.  Now there are people who are entering that alternate universe, and didn’t do anything other than lose their job.  There’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing whole families living in a homeless shelter.  Want to know what’s wrong with our country go visit people in a homeless shelter, or those people making trips to the food bank every week.

     There I was living in an alternate universe, and stuck.  If you want to know how I got out you’ll have to come back and see my next blog. 🙂

Finding my Motivation

     I left off with saying I’ll try not to make the next post so long, so here goes, but remember, you’ve already experienced one digression.  Anyway, I left off saying I’d lived the first half of my life pretty much for myself, but that I wanted to spend the second half trying to do something good with it.  Sharing my experiences on a blog may be a small thing to a lot of people, but when I said it’s a beginning, it is.  A new beginning, one in which I do have a direction, a purpose, and a strong and sincere desire to make my life mean something to somebody besides myself.

     How does that translate to writing a blog?  It does so in the hope that what I write here might make a difference in somebody’s life. A poem by the poet Emily Dickinson entitled  Not In Vain may seem a little hokey, but I like it’s sentiment.  I know what it is to live for oneself, to think only of oneself, to want only what brings me enjoyment, and makes me feel good.  What I don’t have as much experience with is putting myself last instead of first.  That’s not to say I don’t have any, but I certainly feel like the balance scale in my life is weighed down more by the weight of me instead of others.  I’d like at the conclusion of my life for it to be more balanced.

     So now you know what the motivation is.  The desire to maybe help someone.  I’m sure for a lot of people the desire to help people is nothing new, and even expected, but for a majority of the years I’ve lived, I’ve known a greater number of people who looked out for themselves rather than others.  Over the last 12 years I’ve changed a great deal; consequently, that’s the same amout of time I’ve been married to my wife.  It’s possible there’s some revelance in that, and I’ll let you determine for yourself just how much you think there is.  I can tell you that marriage and children, and growing older does tend to change one’s perspective, and one’s priorities. 

     I’ll tell you something else, too.  My beliefs have changed over the years.  It’s funny, and sometimes not so funny, how much life can change not only how one thinks, but in what one thinks about.   Something else that has affected my view is the world around me, and I don’t like what I see.  I can’t deny that I was part of what I see now as a problem, but those days are over.  Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  I can see some truth in that, but I think there’s more to it.   I know I don’t have the power to change other people, and to be honest, I don’t really think that people are truly capable of changing everything in their lives by themselves. 

      For years I tried to change the way I lived; notice the word years.  To go into all that I did and was into is just more than I want to go into right now.  Remember, I said I’d make this blog shorter than the first one.  Just suffice it to say I knew more about vice than virtue, and so did a lot of my friends.  Most of those people are long gone, and yet I’m still here.  I tried to change, tried to quit, and I did, over and over again.  It was like putting on a different set of clothes everyday, my appearance changed, but what was on the inside didn’t.  My life was like a kid trying to set a record for the most times riding the same roller-coaster; I’d be on top every once in awhile, but never for very long. 

     I guess you could say I was trying to save myself.  When that didn’t work I looked for someone else to save me.  Twice I married people that I thought could save me.  I’m twice divorced.  You don’t have to work for NASA to figure it out.   Simply put, even the best people, get tired of lies, manipulation, and being used.  Don’t expect to stay in a relationship long if you do this to people because you won’t.  In short, I did everything I could, and the people around me did everything they could, and it wasn’t enough.  I knew I wanted to change, had to change,  if I wanted to live. 

      Ever been in a place that’s totally dark, pitch black, and you’re alone?  You don’t know where to go, or which way is out, and screaming doesn’t help?  That’s as close as I can come to what it feels like to live without hope.  You think there’s anything worse than death?  Try living without hope.  You’ve seen the title for my blog.  You’ll have to keep reading to find out how I got from there to here, and I believe that’s what fiction writer’s call a tease.