Friday, March 25, 2011

Christ is Died. Christ is Risen. Christ is coming again, and again...

SUBTITLE: Death, Destruction, Demise: Hooray!

Unlike Calvinism, and the Puritan ethic that pervades much of modern Christian America;
I believe that bright, shiny, outward 'success' is not the only sign of an inward grace.

Don't get me wrong, it's great when we are on 'top'.
But when we find ourselves on 'the bottom',
it doesn't mean there is SOMETHING WRONG here.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens...

Jacob met Divinity face-to-face, in struggle,
and henceforth walked with a limp.
My thoughts below are primarily meant to encourage those of us who are in struggle, limping:

- If you feel crappy
- If you think you are a square peg in a round hole
- If the folks around you judge you, and you are tending to agree

- If you are wishing for some 'do-overs' and hoping for a miracle
- If you are tempted to believe you are on the WRONG track, a FAILURE,
- If you are experiencing Death, Destruction, Demise...

Perhaps your spiritual reality is just the opposite of your outward experience:
perhaps it is time to validate YOUR unique PATH,
keep your eyes on God (and not on 'the world, the flesh or the devil') and KEEP GOING!

as Paul said:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I just listened to an hour interview with Matthew Fox.
From my perspective, I found this interview covered a lot of ground in Christian life:
sweeping through some of our ancient and modern experience. 

I came away excited about the changes that we and God are bringing about in structures as well as cultures, and of course, as always, members (individuals) in particular.
I was encouraged in my faith and in my personal journey, which is currently challenging (about par for the course ; )

I find that I am more inspired to send Easter greetings, than I have been for a very long time; so here we go...

My favorite Christian Teacher, Dr Bruce Morgan, used to say this often:
Our God is a consuming fire,
who burns up everything that is not God

It isn't always comfortable, or easy...
WAIT A MINUTE: what am I saying?!

Let's be honest:
This process is almost Never comfortable or easy.
Because we Will Not let it be so!

My resistance, and judgment, and invalidation, and habits, and emotions, and stories...
make changing Very Painful and Hard!
But, the changes come.

Regardless of our complaining and foot-dragging,
we can trust God in the Long Run to bring us into conformity with Christ.
In this relationship, experiencing this BE-ingness, lies comfort and ease: the meeting of all our need.

Us as souls, and us together as the body of Christ:
we die and we are born again:
again and again...

Into more alignment with our true selves:
God with us, God in us, God through us, God as us:
this is the Good News. Hallelujah!

Meanwhile, DEATH comes before Resurrection.
I appreciate how Leonard Cohen put it:
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah...

In this transformative journey we often look bad, and feel worse. 
AND then WE 'add insult to injury' by making up discouraging stories about ourselves and our choices...
But really, so what?
  • Is looking bad, really SO bad? Who do we really Have to impress?
  • Is falling down really the end of the world? Can't we just get up, now!
  • If we go play in the mud, a shower works just fine to send us off, to play, again...

It is in this time of increasing pressure and cold, dark endings, that the gift of FAITH and HOPE carries us through:
  • In some way, we have seen, heard or known with our spiritual senses the Still, Small Voice that guides on our unique journey...... God is HERE still, even as we cry: 'My God, my God, why didst Thou forsake me?'
  • We have seen, heard and known with our physical senses: Morning follows Evening, since the first day...... The Sun will rise tomorrow, as well: count on it!
  • We have received the gift of example and forerunner: our friend Jesus seemed to come to a messy, inglorious end; then transformed into a beautiful, glorious shining of the Way, the Truth, and the Light...... We have the honor to follow in his footsteps.
We have the honor to follow in Jesus' footsteps, therefore:
  • Let us walk, and keep walking.  
  • Let us trust God through all our ups and downs; and ask God to open us to Faith, Hope and Love: to keep going through whatever Death, Destruction, Demise we may find ourselves experiencing. 
  • Let us Always remember: the end of the story is already written (Spoiler Alert: we all go to the seashore ; )
this is one of the many ways Paul said this:
The Spirit himself doth testify with our spirit, that we are children of God; and if children, also heirs, heirs, indeed, of God, and heirs together of Christ -- if, indeed, we suffer together, that we may also be glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory about to be revealed in us...

May God assist each of us us to:
allow God to bless us and keep us,
enjoy God's countenance shining upon us,
and bring us the experience of peace, as well as all the TLC we can stand.

Comfort and Joy to you in whatever phase of Life, Death and/or Metamorphosis you may be experiencing.
You are in very good company.

Blessed Eastertide, Wendy

So if any one be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new
(rinse and repeat ; )


Monday, March 7, 2011

The Power of Uncertainty

Conditional vs. Absolute Learning: The Power of Uncertainty
I recommend this whole webpage by Richard Powers - some very useful information about social dancing and life ; )
Here are four long excerpts from the article linked above:

New research shows that when we're presented with any facts as absolute truths, even math and science, we tend to use them thoughtlessly, often making bad, inappropriate or limited decisions. But when we're presented with the same information in a conditional way ("Maybe it's so, but maybe it's also this other way."), we process the information, and we use the information, in smarter, more effective, and more creative ways.

Someone may reasonably argue, "Sure I can be flexible later, after I learn the basics of a dance. But in that first learning, I want to do it the one correct way, with all of the precise details."

And this is where Langer and others most strongly disagree. Optionality in that first exposure is especially important.

This is Ellen J. Langer of the Harvard University Department of Psychology. She specializes in the science and psychology of learning. Here are some paraphrased excerpts from her work (quoted with her permission).

Whenever we attempt to learn something, we rely on ways of learning that typically work to our detriment and virtually prevent the very goals we are trying to accomplish. The mind-sets we hold regarding learning more often than not encourage mindlessness, although learning requires mindful engagement with the material in question.

Mindfulness, as we use the term, is a flexible state of mind in which we are actively engaged in the present, noticing new things and sensitive to context. When we are in a state of mindlessness, we act like automatons who have been programmed to act according to the sense our behavior made in the past, rather than the present. Instead of actively drawing new distinctions, noticing new things, as we do when we are mindful, when we are mindless we are stuck in a single, fixed perspective, and we are often oblivious to alternative ways of knowing. When we are mindless, our behavior is rule and routine governed.

Experimental research, conducted over 25 years, reveals that the costs of mindlessness, and the benefits of mindfulness, are vast and often profound. Mindfulness results in an increase in competence; a decrease in accidents; an increase in memory, creativity, a decrease in stress; and an increase in health and longevity, to name a few of the benefits. And as will become clear, there is power in uncertainty, yet most of us mistakenly seek certainty.

I've always presented social dance as, "This can work, but another way can also work," because that's the essential truth. The lesson I give my students in their very first week is, "If it doesn't work out one way, it will work out some other way." It's only recently that I've come across Langer's research that shows that conditional teaching also helps people learn better, use information more effectively, and creatively, with fewer mistakes, and enjoy it more. opposed to what they want...

Langer points out that many people don't like not knowing with certainty. All of their school-learning has trained them to expect certainty, and to be told what the facts mean. So people are often affronted if they don't get the pre-digested form they expect.

It's not hard to retrain ourselves to welcome chance intrusions into our expectations. It also makes us more creative, and much happier.

And beyond dancing, wanting life to go exactly as you wish it, and wanting people to behave just as you want them to, is violating a basic tenet of life. If you have that response, you will find yourself fighting losing battles all of your life. People are going to be the way they are. Do you want to spend your life fighting that? Or you can find ways to appreciate and enjoy the great varieties that people present to you.


Use It or Lose It

Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter.
I recommend this whole webpage by Richard Powers - some very useful information about social dancing and life ; )
Here are some excerpts from the article linked above:

"Randomly dying brain cells are like stepping stones being removed one by one. Those who had only one well-worn path of stones are completely blocked when some are removed. But those who spent their lives trying different mental routes each time, creating a myriad of possible paths, still have several paths left."

"The essence of intelligence is making decisions. And the concluding advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style."

"Dancing integrates several brain functions at once, increasing connectivity. Dancing simultaneously involves kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional processes."

"Jean Piaget suggested that intelligence is what we use when we don't already know what to do."

"freestyle social dancing isn't that simple! It requires a lot of split-second decision-making, in both the lead and follow roles."