The value of wisdom, the strength of character

I’ve been writing in an online context for about 6 years now. I found my passion for writing after a break up with an incredible friend and my fiancé at the time. I decided to give online dating a try and came across a singles forum which hosted what seemed an endless array of topics on which to share your heart, mind and soul. I learned a great deal through reading the posts on that site, but I also learned a great deal about myself. I found that I had a great deal of wisdom and common sense in me that I wasn’t aware of. I suppose it was an accumulation of my life experience, but because I’d never consciously tapped into it, I just wasn’t aware of it. Responding to some of the posts I read or simply writing out my thoughts helped me to do two things: I learned that I knew more than I was aware of and it helped me to solidify my personal philosophy. I became very aware of what I believed in nearly all aspects of my life. I continue to learn each day through this same kind of interaction. I learn from being challenged by people and original thought. I’m constantly taught by others because I try to remain open, humble and I try to do reflective listening. I’m not saying that I get it right all of the time, but I am willing to take time to sit quietly and reflect upon my experience and contrast it against the experience of others through interaction with them.

I’m also an early riser and I’m one of those people who, once they wake is immediately ready to go. I don’t need a stretch, a morning coffee or whatever time it takes to wake the mind from sleep. I’m good to go when my eyes open. The thing is though, I love to lay in my bed and read. Why not… I have this little cocoon of warmth surrounding me and it feels great to just lay and read. It’s also the time when I like to write down my thoughts. I’m grateful for blogging, forums or just the ability to easily reach out to a group of friends through written word.

You might be wondering… YAWN… where the heck is he going with this? That’s a good question and maybe I should get to the point! This morning while enjoying my coffee in bed (I only said I didn’t need coffee, not that I don’t love it), I was looking at my newsfeed on Facebook. My friends usually find little pearls of wisdom and post them to their “walls”. This morning was no different, but it was the article I found that caught my attention and which inspired this response. It was an article on the paradox of life and was attributed to George Carlin. Good old George… he nearly always cracked me up and I thought a great deal of his work was brilliant. Reading through the article though, I found inconsistencies between the expressions I was reading and the man I understood George to be. It seemed out of character for him to be making some of the statements I was reading! He actually talked about God and faith in a somewhat reverent way which was not at all the irreverent George I’d come to know over the years. The prefacing article indicated that George’s words were written after the death of his wife, but prior to his own (it claimed that they both died in the same year… they did not). I thought that maybe it was possible George had found a relationship with God just prior to his death, but that also seemed in contrast to much of what I’d read about his interment. Nope… this just didn’t seem right… “Something seemed very wrong here” as he would often say.

This article was only shared or reposted on my friend’s wall and was a link to the original Facebook article. I decided to read through the comments on the original post rather than racing to Google or Snopes to see what was up. I quickly found my answer. It seemed that others felt similarly to me and after reading through all of the debate, I discovered the truth. George had not written the article at all. It was in fact, written by Dr. Bob Moorehead who is the retired pastor of a Church in Seattle, WA. While I was sad to discover that George had not found relationship with God in the few remaining days of his life, I was also disappointed in something else. Why is it that something profound and valuable is thought to be less valuable just because someone famous didn’t author it? Why is it that people feel the need to take valuable thought and attribute it to someone else?

I decided to further check the article on Snopes and found that Dr. Moorehead’s words were attributed to more than just George. The authorship of the article had also been attributed to others like the Dalai Lama and an unnamed student at Columbine High School. Why? My point is, no matter who wrote the article, I personally liked what it had to say! I felt it had value, contributed positively to our society and it was thought provoking. Why do people feel it will receive greater credibility if it is attributed to someone famous? Ever heard of viral posts? How about the little girls on Facebook who in 2013 wanted a puppy and whose Dad said “If you can get a million likes by tomorrow, we’ll get a puppy”. Well… they now have a puppy! You don’t need to be famous to have something good or valuable to say. You just have to be willing to say what you feel and believe, have integrity in your words and be willing to back them up!

I’m a man of deep Christian faith, but I loved and respected Carlin and his work! He was a man who was deeply reconciled to what he believed and he stood by it! I may not have always agreed with him, but I respected him and his choice!

Sadly, I see this kind of thing more and more frequently and I find it really disappointing… even appalling! If something is worth reading, it will be read. Simple as that. Who the author is matters little to me. I’m interested in expanding my knowledge and understanding and the only way I’m going to do that is to expose myself to different thoughts and perspectives. I don’t have to agree with Carlin to like him! I’ve never read Dr. Moorehead’s stuff until this morning but I can tell you that I now like him too! I had some questions about his thoughts, but that’s another matter. What I find paradoxical though is that an article on life and faith was attributed to an outright atheist who chose to debunk “faith” whenever the subject arose. George Carlin actually commented on the article, “A Paradox of Our Time” and called the article “a load of shit” which was definitely in keeping with his character.

Folks… wisdom is wisdom. I’ve read stuff from six year olds that I thought was profound and thought provoking! Taking an original thought and then attributing it to someone famous or outspoken does not make it any more real, correct or valid. If anything, it takes away from the power of the words because it shows that people aren’t convicted in their understanding, philosophy or faith. While he was on earth, Jesus shared a lot of knowledge and wisdom… it didn’t catch on immediately, but look where we are today! You might even draw an ironic parallel between George and Jesus. They both deeply believed in what they said and had the courage to stand behind it!


What is marriage? Who is the right partner… “the One”

I recently read this short article written by Lysa TerKeurst and felt compelled to write a response, so please bear with my ramblings.

“One day, I shared with my unmarried friend that when I was single I thought marriage was all about finding the right partner. I thought if you find “the one,” you’ll be happy, secure, and fulfilled. I do think it’s good to have a list of standards that you look for in a spouse. However, it can never be with the expectation that if you find that special someone, he’ll (she’ll) right all your wrongs and fill up all your insecurities. The problem with this thinking is the pressure it will eventually put on your spouse.

To expect another person to make you feel happy, secure, and fulfilled will leave you disappointed at best and disillusioned at worst. Even a great husband makes a very poor God.

Only God can settle those deep heart-needs. A man (or woman) can never do this. If a husband could meet every need his wife had (and vice versa), we’d have no need for God. Therefore, instead of just focusing on finding the right partner, let God work on your heart to help you become the right partner.”

I have to say that while I agree with the essence of what this article is saying, it does gloss over some pretty important stuff.  First though… I want to agree with one very important point.  It’s wiser to learn how to become “the one” than it is to seek that out in someone else.  Knowing who you are, what you like, dislike, value, hope to achieve and being comfortable in your life with those things will help to create a foundation for a healthy and lasting relationship, or at least, your part of it.   What that means though is that we have some work to do before we even think about getting into a new relationship.  Spending time with yourself and with God to learn how to accept both your strengths and weaknesses is a wise thing to do.  This is where you can let God can help you become a better friend and a better life mate.  Acceptance of ourselves is just as important as acceptance of the person you may eventually spend your life with and it all begins with one very important thing.  Honesty.  Learning how to be honest with God and ourselves about who we are will put us on a path to becoming a lot more comfortable in our own skin.  I’m not talking about being narcissistic but instead, being really willing to honestly look at ourselves in a mirror and to learn to accept ourselves for who we are. This is how we can begin to learn to love ourselves in a healthy way.  It’s also a great way to become aware of the not so nice stuff about us.  When we become aware of our “stuff”, it’s a lot easier to know what to bring to God for help.  It’s also easier to know what NOT to put on our partner to be and to know when we are doing just that!

It is very dangerous to live in the belief that if you find “the one”, all of your hopes, dreams and desires will be met.  What’s even worse, if you carry an unfulfilled need or want into a relationship and place that expectation on your new partner, you’re piling a huge amount of pressure on them that will likely result in anger and regret if and when they don’t meet your expectation.  You also stand a pretty good chance that they’ll become defensive, disillusioned or even betrayed in your relationship with them.

I also agree with what I believe the author was trying to say with regard to having a list of standards, but I would choose to describe it differently.  Finding someone will not remove insecurities from you.  It will not make life go easier and it certainly will not undo the past!  It will do two things however.   It will make life a much less lonely place and it will expose the very things you seek to fulfill (or avoid) through seeking “the one”.  Knowing yourself intimately, your values and goals is so very important.  Understanding your hopes and dreams in a healthy way is also essential and it’s very important that you are able to share them openly and honestly… with God and your new love interest!  The one thing I consistently see in many relationships is a lack of acceptance.  I know that may seem strange to read, but it is my factual observation.  Accepting someone for who they are and have represented themselves to be is a major key to a long lasting and loving relationship.  It’s also a great way to know who NOT to be with.  You can’t make an apple be a potato, nor can you make yourself become something you’re not.

OK… that’s some of the healthy relationship stuff addressed, but what about the heart part?  The part where we feel lonely?  We already know that putting our stuff on someone is not only unfair, it’s also unwise.  So… isn’t our expectation of being delivered from loneliness a part of that too?  Why are we lonely?  What does that look like?  This is the part where singles and people in relationships (especially those in long term relationships) are very disconnected in their understanding of the state of being single.  What we singles need to do however is very important.  We need to learn HOW to accept our singleness and our loneliness and to bring both of those to God.  God made us to be in relationship.  Adam and Eve are absolute proof of that.  God created the first romance between two people with Adam and Eve and so designed what would have been a perfect relationship (until they became fixated on fruit).  Learning to accept that there are times where we are just going to be lonely and there ain’t nothing you can do about it will help to make things a little less frustrating.  Being in relationship is how we were wired by God.  Learning to accept loneliness is just as important as learning how to accept the rest of our stuff.  I’m not talking about learning how to fill those voids (loneliness) with activities because that’s not acceptance… that’s avoidance and there’s a big difference.  Learning how to accept being lonely is very different from trying to figure out what to do when you are.  If the latter is your coping mechanism… well… maybe give what you’re doing another think.  Filling our time with things that bring us pleasure is a good thing, but our motivation is what’s important here.  I love photography, but I never do it when I’m feeling lonely!  My work suffers for it!  When I’m lonely, that’s when I choose to become contemplative and share with God (and sometimes friends if they’re willing) why I’m feeling lonely.  First, I learn what the root of my loneliness is and I try to learn how to accept my loneliness.  That’s not saying I’m becoming defeated, but rather that I’m learning to accept where I am at.

One very important point that this short article overlooks though is this…  Our married friends!  Our married friends have a hope that we’ll meet someone just as we hope to, but they see it a little bit differently.  They have the wise hope that we’ll find someone who will share our values and goals, but they also expect us to be ready to wait for the right person to come along… and then they cozy up to their partner that evening on the couch while they watch their favourite show on TV (or whatever stuff they do as a couple) because that is their reality.  It’s reasonable to think that they’ve become disconnected with singleness.  Well folks… there are two things to consider here and both are about perspective.  It’s always easier to see life from your own perspective and you’ll never fully know what the other person’s perspective truly is.    It’s easy to say “be patient and wait on God… he’ll fill that void”.  Well… how they make or mean that statement can be the difference between being and feeling completely misunderstood or… understanding that you need to spend some more time with God because of what I was talking about earlier.  I’m going to focus on the last sentence of Lysa’s article for a moment “Therefore, instead of just focusing on finding the right partner, let God work on your heart to help you become the right partner.”  If this is what your friends are saying to you, then they’re good and wise friends.  If not, then they need to reconsider their perspective and think about this sentence themselves!  Loneliness to me seems an unnatural thing considering how God created us.  We’re going to be lonely, but here’s the kicker… that can also happen inside a relationship.  That’s why it is important to learn how to be lonely in a healthy way before we get into a relationship.  It will help us to learn how to sort through “stuff” and to better understand our place in any relationship.  That just part of how WE can become “the one” for someone else.

If we do much of this work and self-evaluation, we may just get to meet that one very important person that God wants us to meet (other than Jesus). We may get to meet and truly know ourselves. If we’re going to be in a healthy relationship and get to know someone else… how will they get to know us if we don’t even know who we truly are.

Oh… one last thing… “The One”… what is the definition for the one?  Well, for me it’s a two part answer.  Finding “the one” means finding someone who’ll love and accept me for me, just as I am.  They’ll accept me for me and I too will be willing to do likewise for them.  The second part though I will leave to the words of a man far wiser than I…

“Love is a commitment to the development of the full potential of the other person; to help them become the very best person they are capable of becoming.” – Brian Tracy

You see… relationship is about service and sacrifice.  It’s not about you at all, you’re only one part of it.  It’s mostly about the other person, valuing them and respecting the incredible gift they have chosen to give you.  It’s about respecting the gift of ‘them’!  Your partner will be making a choice to share their life with you and as I see it, there is no greater earthly thing we as people can do!  This choice can at the same time be the most and least selfish thing we’ll ever do.  Knowing the difference between the two will help us to know the right choice to make when we at last find someone that makes our heart skip a beat.

Know when to say no, how to say no or when to just walk away.

Wow… at the beginning of the Christmas season, if you’d asked me what I would be up to over the break, the last thing that would have sprung to mind would have been writing. Yet, here I am pounding away on my keyboard.  I’m grateful for a comfortable laptop, a great cup of coffee, willing family and friends who challenge me in a good way, my fantastic and patient new dog and to God!  I’m truly blessed.
I just finished writing an article about singleness, loneliness and choosing the right partner and because of some of the comments and emails I’ve received, I thought a follow up might be in order.
So… where to start?  Well, I will start by sharing something with you.  Anything you read by me is not fiction.  It’s definitely from my perspective and understanding, but it’s truthful and factual as I understood it at the time.  It’s about my personal experience and what I’ve learned as a result.  I guess that statement is what I want to focus on in this article…. Growth.
Growth.  What is it in the context of human development?  Well… physically, we change shape.  We’re dynamic structures (beings) that continually change throughout the course of our lifetime.  There is a very interesting paradox in human development and that’s a separation between physical, mental and emotional development.  Physically, we continue to grow until we’re roughly 24 years old when at that point, our cells begin to die off faster than our body produces them.  Our skin becomes less elastic and we start the very slow process of decay.  What’s still cool though is that we continue to grow, though eventually, it all comes to an end.
Mentally, if we’re lucky, that’s not necessarily the case.  We can continue to grow in knowledge and ability to learn, but sadly in many of us, that too goes into a state of decline.  This is not a paper on geriatric cognitive progression so I’ll shut up now.  The point here is that our ability to think or learn is not necessarily tied to our physical growth cycle.  I suppose another illustration of this is people who suffer from the various palsy afflictions.  Their physical bodies do not function in a way where they have full mobility or control, but the mind of the individual is fully developed, capable and continues to grow in what we might call a “normal” manner.
It’s the emotional part I want to focus on.  This part seems to somehow be separated from any sort of linear growth pattern.  In the two former examples, growth is somewhat progressive and predictable, however, emotional growth seems to take on a life cycle and pattern of its own.  That has certainly been the case in my experience.  There have been many times in my life where I knew (intellectually) that a choice I was making was wrong, and yet, I still chose to engage in doing what I knew was wrong!  That’s just bizarre… or it certainly occurs to me that way now!
Why didn’t I say no at the time?  What compelled me to choose the wrong thing especially when I knew better?  I will be honest and admit to you that I have the answer to that question now… or at least as it applies to me in my current understanding.  My answer is that I wasn’t broken.  I wasn’t open to learning that in order to make a choice, I had to understand where I stood in that choice and my motivations were selfish!  I just wanted to make me feel good or better.  In my circumstance, my motivation was the need for acceptance and validation.  I just wanted to be accepted or wanted.  I wanted people to like me.  I needed validation in the form of praise and acceptance and that overrode my intelligence or ability to discern truth in the decision making process.  My self-esteem and self-worth were completely skewed.  I really didn’t value myself and so I sought that validation in the eyes and actions of others.  The sad part though is that I became something of a door mat.  I didn’t respect myself so why should anyone else respect me?  I’m certain that a portion of what I received was out of sympathy.  I can honestly tell you that when I actually received genuine acceptance and love from people, I became an endless emotional vacuum and sucked the validation out of that person to a point where they began to feel used, disrespected and disgusted by me.  The best relationships I was able to engage in at that time were ones where people were just as emotionally screwed up as I was.  
Now… before you think that I’m on a self-righteous high horse here, let me say this… I walk humbly in my life right now.  I walk humbly because I’m broken in and from my life.   You see, in order for me to recognize this behaviour in myself, I had to first acknowledge that what happened, happened.  Then I had to learn to look at the truth in the situation and then to accept full responsibility for making the choice or choices that I did.  I can’t blame God or anyone else in my life for the choices I made… I MADE THEM!  I chose to ignore the truth and turn a blind eye to things that I saw but not to acknowledge.  I have chosen to add God into this discussion because He plays an important… no, an essential role in this process.  At least, He does in my value system.  I guess the thing I needed to do was to finally be ready to listen to the truth that so many people had been subliminally trying to tell me for years.  Once I did finally realize and accept the truth and recognize that what I do or how I do it isn’t nearly as important as what’s in my heart when I do changed the person I am today.  That’s what’s changed who I am as a person, as a Son, a Brother, a Friend, as a potential Husband and as a Child of God.  What I needed to know but didn’t was that what I choose do or say and what I base that choice on is what’s important.  If I choose to make a decision, it needs to be based on some foundational principles that I can rely on.  Here are a few:
Is it the truth?
Is it consistent with my values and goals (do I know them well)?
Is it consistent with my character?
Is it what God would want me to do?
Is it consistent with his character?
These are just 5 quick questions that you can ask yourself that may save you years of heartache and grief.  Again, I mentioned God in my reflection set and why did I?  God is my Heavenly Father and I know He absolutely has my best interest at heart and His character is absolutely consistent.  To know that, I needed to have a relationship with God and the best way to do that was to read the Bible, to learn to pray to Him and to listen.  It’s about being humble and that’s a very good thing.  It took me years to figure that one out, but boy I’m glad I finally did.  God fearing does not mean you need to be afraid of Him, but rather to respect Him for who He is.  He is our Father who can see everything and who only wants the very best for us.  That’s a topic for another day however.  When I finally realized that in those 5 questions I could answer nearly any life question with a very high degree of confidence.  I realized that I might not like some of the answers, but if I didn’t, that made me recognize that I needed to give the situation a much closer look!  When I looked honestly at the answers to those questions, I very quickly knew if I needed to be cautious or if I had a green light in the situation.  I don’t ignore the answers to those questions anymore and what’s more… I always ask the questions now.  I didn’t before and I’ve paid some pretty serious consequences as a result.
I don’t usually make snap decisions, but I always try to challenge myself to do a quick situation review first and I always try to see the truth in every situation.  Even if I don’t like the answer, especially if I don’t like the answer!  The hardest part about living life is living in truth.  It can also become the easiest!  I’m not just talking about being honest, but really seeking to look at a situation and accept it for what it truly is.  When you learn do that, you may not like the choices that remain for you, but in the long run, you’ll probably find yourself in a better and healthier situation.  I lived in or believed in ignorance, half-truth or outright lies for many years and that’s why I find myself living the consequences of those choices now.  I don’t mind so much though because of one very important thing.  I now know the difference and I can’t blame anyone else for it and I’ve forgiven myself.  I realized that I am just as in need of grace, forgiveness and understanding as anyone.  We all need to learn and that’s just a part of life.  
Don’t be afraid of the truth!  It’s inescapable anyway.  It will always catch up with you, so it’s better that we learn to live in it sooner rather than later.  We can make all kinds of excuses, but if we’re honest, we always know the truth deep down.  That’s where God comes in once again.  He knows me inside and out.  I can’t hide anything from Him because there is no place I can hide from Him.  He sees everything and that’s become comforting to me.  I know I can bring anything to Him and He’ll help me see the truth and what’s awesome is even better… He’ll love me no matter what!  No condemnation, no berating, just love!
If any part of what I’ve written here is what you have experienced or are currently experiencing, please ask for help.  Unless you’re an exceptionally strong person, it’s so hard to do on your own.  If you don’t know anyone or have anyone to turn to, than ask me.  I probably can’t help you directly, but I will try to help you to find some resources that may be able to.  If nothing else, I can help you to know that you’re not alone and you’re not the only person going through what you are!  
These are just some of the ways you can learn when or how to say no to a situation or when to just walk away.  It’s not always easy, but it will probably wind up being the most loving thing you’ll do.  Not just for yourself, but for the other person or people involved too.
Hang in there!  Believe me, there’s freedom in life and it comes with living in truth.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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If someone were to ask me to describe myself in one sentence, I would be at a loss to say a single word. I am just not built that way. My life has been too complex and unbelievable even to myself. I am the "miracle child" my grandfather toasted on my wedding day. I am the example that God has decided to use to show His love and power. I am the creation spoken about in Psalm 139:13 - 16 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (NIV)

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