On Becoming A Safe Person

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Here in LA, moreso than any other place I’ve lived, I have very different roles.

I’m one person but my day job demands that I be on, analytical, and accurate down to the semi-colon that is required for SQL script to execute. I yank apart Java script over and over and over until it runs. I love what I do. And yet there’s an entirely different side of me that is wildly creative, a side that has been completely overlooked and is vital to my life. It needs expression too.

In order to transition from one role to the other, I need to know that I can. I am unaccustomed to the freedom to operate in that wildly creative, let it all go, rest, let someone else open the door, color outside the lines, fluid personna. But it’s in me and, wow, do I ever want to nurture that. A person doesn’t shift from a high control role into a flimsy, whimsy, walk among the daisies mindset easily. It takes work to dial down and, here in LA, everybody’s doing it. Everybody has their money-making gig, and their creative gigs. We’re all shifting from one to the next on a day-by-day, or even hourly basis.

I’ve talked about the bird who circles and circles until she can find a place to land. Without revisiting that allegory, it’s important to know that there are people in life with whom we can land. Who are those people and why are we so drawn to them?

Safe people have been broken and tested. They have walked through the dismantling of their ego, and had it handed to them in a baggie. They have found their space in the heart of the Father. It’s not that they lack motivation or drive. On the contrary, they’ve little need to prove their identity to you.

Safe people have learned the hard way. They’ve walked around the mountain a few times more than they care to let on.

Safe people like to pay the bills and appreciate financial security, even tremendous wealth, but have no illusions in regard to image or a certain salary solving their problems. They can be trusted with a little or a lot.

Safe people are free.

Safe people have been strengthened by their life’s lessons and they know how to stand. And, honestly, they just stand there. With nothing to prove, and at home in their skin they just stand beside you.

Be a safe person.


Juxtaposition: Science versus Art

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A few years back I was working at a large corporation and, for those of you who care to guess, the company had the largest payroll in the world, outside of General Motors. We were a tightly knit software development team; some were from Canada, another from Rochester, and I was from Detroit. Colleagues and friends prior to the project, we had all been shuttled in to do a pretty sizable re-engineering project. We had been working with some vendors to put in a high availability system with RAID 5, I think. I’ll omit the actual date to preserve my youth, but at the time the combination was complex bordering on impossible. I’ll never forget a conversation with the Sun and Oracle guys who were on site. We had been working through the configuration of the new system for several days when one of the boys chimed in and said, “You know, this isn’t science anymore, it’s art.”

Well, I’m no genius but I often get the opportunity to work with folks who are. And the jist of that comment was this: There is a funky, invisible line where science — with all of its binary zeros and ones: 01010011100 ceases to be strictly science and it flows into something that is quite exotic and beautiful. Remember how beauty is in the eye of the beholder? When disparate pieces of technology ~ code, configuration, hardware, some fiber, a few firewall settings ~ can be thrown together and a system somewhere down the line begins to chug, chug, chug! Sweetheart, there ain’t nothin’ more purty than that. Smile.

There are many concepts in my world, which pose a juxtaposition:

– work versus rest

– hope versus presumption

– opportunity versus impossibility

– spiritual versus religious

How about you?

Beauty Demands Engagement

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Have you ever wondered about the subjects in a painting or a photograph? Truly great artists have developed the ability to capture their audience’s attention beyond a single, cursory glance. So aptly will they have portrayed their subject’s expression, the activity of the moment or even the stillness that we, as their audience are compelled to lapse into storytelling. No matter where we are, time seems to stand still for a moment and like small sailboats we bobble away from the shore for just a moment and we wonder…

How is it that I can feel the community in this painting?Edward Henry (1857-1927), A July Day Edward Henry Potthast was particularly gifted at capturing the simple connections between people. The women have their arms around one another and you can almost feel the intimacy of their chatter. The children are splashing and giggling together, entranced with the kersploosh! they can make by tromping in the water.

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) - The Girl With The Pearl Earring (1665)

I can’t help but wonder at the way in which Johannes Vermeer, the 17th-Century Dutch Painter who created Girl With a Pearl Earring captured his subject’s expression. Was it really as Tracy Chevallier described in her magnificent novel by the same name? Tracy’s story is so well written that you step back into time with her and perceive how a young girl might have come to be a model for a renowned artist in the city where she lived, and all of the ensuing conflict that occurred. R.Z. Sheppard reviewed Chevallier’s book, Girl With a Pearl Earring, and offered the following review for Time Magazine:

“Chevalier is especially adept at character studies: imperious burghers, butchers, biddies and crones. It’s as if, after scrutinizing Vermeer’s masterworks (and doing the required reading), she began to think and feel like a 17th century Delfter.”

Tracy most certainly did her research of Vermeer’s art. But even she gives evidence of the way in which Vermeer’s art compelled her to see the paintings in person, and to understand more about why he painted the subjects he did.

Our culture demands detachment and isolation. Beauty demands connection and engagement, no matter how tragic the underlying story. Enter into a moment this week. Really see something beautiful. Ask questions. It’s analytical, to be sure, but it’s restful as well.

There are a couple of exhibits occurring at the Joslyn Art Musuem presently through the mid-part of September. Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism and Beyond Impressionism

Falling into True Love

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I’ve reached point of undertow, that unenviable point where it’s necessary to kick it into high gear if I want to sell my house. And I do!

Have you ever been that way, where every cell in your body is geared to accomplish one thing?

Perhaps you heard me howling over the airwaves early in June. You probably thought it was the bloodhounds in my neighborhood, but no, that was me. I learned that, for five months, the listing for my home on the Multiple Listing Service made my home appear as though I lived in a one-horse town about 20 miles north of where I actually live. The listing was corrected and re-started, thankfully.

It is for this reason that I find myself in early-July’s steamy heat, power-washing my entire house, garage (ick), and patio. Attractive, flicky chips of grey paint flew off my porch at the speed of …well, fast water … and attached themselves nearly permanently to me or the house. Words. Words just don’t describe the fun I had! The festivities culminated this morning as I chased a thunderstorm with my mower, and mowed my front lawn WET. Anyway, it’s done…the prep and the first open house.

This afternoon, as I sat in my local Starbucks with very large latte, I tuned into a song on my iPod. I’ve written about this song in the past but the artist, Jonathan David Helser, is gifted and the song I’ve Seen I AM completely unhinges me.

I looked into the eyes of The Lion
Felt the courage of His gaze
I heard Him roar my name with passion
As I buried my tears in His mane
Looked into the eyes of a Lamb
I saw Love face to face
I felt grace destroy my sin
As mercy flowed from those veins
I’ve seen I AM
Now I am LOVED
I’ve seen I AM
Now I know who I am.

As I listened I felt all my drivenness and striving drain away from me.

You see, when we allow ourselves to be loved … truly loved by One who will never fail us, and we also permit ourselves to comprehend what that means, it has the ability to redefine everything. Some days we let our responsibilities pile up on one another, and create walls that we try to lean on for support. We attempt to find identity in the things we do. And we’re severely disappointed when our efforts fail to supply what we really crave.

Love. True love. Not the romantic kind. Not the familial kind. But that in-spite-of me and even-though-you-don’t-understand-Me kind of love … it doesn’t come from a person. We’re not capable. Only Father God can love us in that deep, wrenching kind of love. It spins you off your dime because you and I can’t even define it, let alone generate it.

I can tell you this, though. You haven’t lived until you’ve felt love like this. You see, the Lamb and the Lion of the Tribe of Judah are both Old Testament name for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In each we see pictures of who the Son of God is to us. He’s fearsome and powerful. He’s incredible gentle and fragile beyond words. We have the opportunity to lean into this powerful Lion, and also be tenderly loved by this Lamb. Somehow, when we let Him He comes close. It’s unnerving. But it’s beautiful. It’s fearsome because it threatens our whole plan. The process is, for me, is like a free-fall…releasing my hold on everything and simply letting Him encompass my world.

And then somehow chippy paint sticking to my legs doesn’t mean beans to me anymore.

I’ve seen I AM. Now I know that I am Loved.

Special thanks to Singer-Songwriter Jonathan David Helser for the reference to his song.

Keeping Trista

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The Oxford Dictionary defines the word tryst as “a private, romantic rendezvous between lovers.” It further states that ‘tryst’ comes from the Latin word trista, ‘an appointed place in hunting’.

An appointed place in hunting…I like that.

So much of life’s journey has been filled with uncertainty, survival, longing, searching for, and choosing the narrow gate of life.

There have been a few occasions when my life has spiraled out of control, in terms of the demands it made on me.  During those times I would say that I had lost sight of who I was, and what was really important. I would find that I had not kept tryst with myself. Perhaps I kept the same routine and relationships, but I know that I had lost my footing. My ability to be at rest.

It seems like my best work, whether through employment or in the home, is directly rooted in a place that might be called a tryst, or even a sabbath. There must be a time and place where my creative energies are renewed, and I am allowed to simply be. I could venture into the spiritual aspects of this place but its deeper than just a quiet time alone with God. God is absolutely in the midst of a sabbath. He created it. But abiding in this place is more about my willingness to release all of the demands on my time and attention….my willingness to lose my identity in all of the externals, and retreat to that quiet place within.

As a follower of Christ, at times I have leapt to the erroneous conclusion that if I spent too much time in that place with self, I would become self-centered, or (gasp) “New Age-y”, and depart from the ways of God. The truth is that if I pause there, I might discover that my religious veneer is pulled away, and the gritty substance of my self glaringly evident. What if my networking and e-connecting has resulted in poverty of self? Avoidance prevents disappointment. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we’ll never lose our way if only we maintain a religious routine of prayer with God, and reading Scripture. It’s really our religious answer for the problem of substance. 

C.S. Lewis, in his book,  Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer, says

“What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling. For these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.”

A deeper level than feeling…God seems to enjoy the “off guard” me. This comes through when I push away the veil of life’s superficial demands, and simply sit. In this window of time I can come to terms with who I am, my circumstances, and the possibilities. The cry for intimacy that God has placed within me is stirred, if I let it. I naturally cry out to Him in the stillness, renewed in the knowledge that nothing else fulfills me and no one else knows me like He does. It’s here that I exchange ashes for beauty, and poverty for joy. I become a wellspring of life for those around me.

There is no substitute for keeping tryst…

For now…

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Remember your mother’s distracted promises, “We’ll see…” or “Well, we can’t now but perhaps later…” And then you wondered exactly when ‘later’ would come to pass?

Seems like I haven’t changed much from when I was a kid. “Later” means this afternoon possibly, yet still today. Certainly not into next week or, God forbid, next year. There’s no time with God, don’t ‘cha know? He created everything! Time is like a play-thing to Him. So when we stand around stamping our feet, and I know I do, He smiles at me. One of those long blinking smiles, in the way that you know that He’s got a totally different grid on this thing than you do…always. And, to be fair, He has a delightful way of making you forget the long weeks, months, and years of waiting and growing into the shoe size He’s got in mind.

There’s something to this idea about resting in my Father’s purposes. I remember when I was a child I used to walk with my Dad, standing on the toes of his steel-toed boots. Hand in hand, I’d ride while he’d stride. Yup. It worked. It took effort from both of us to pull this off. I had the tricky part of balancing. He had the difficult part of essentially carrying me. Hmm. My heavenly Father is much the same way. I have to keep my eyes on Him, and not try to pull my own weight. To rest is tricky. It’s not unlike waiting.

One of my favorite authors, Bob Sorge, said of waiting,

“How to wait: Run after Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Waiting is aggressive repose. Waiting is stationary pursuit. Waiting is intense stillness. Waiting is vigilant listening.” [italics mine] — The Fire of Delayed Answers

Stationary pursuit.

Intense stillness.

How does one stand still and still pursue? And how did stillness become intense? This reminds me of how things become upside down in the economy of God. The last shall be first. The weak become strong. It’s here in the Kingdom of God that pursuit is stationary and stillness is intense. May we pursue Him with all that we have, all that we are, and He’ll meet us more than halfway.

“May the beloved of the Lord dwell in security by Him who shields him all the day, and he dwells between His shoulders.” — Deut. 33:12

May you dwell this night between the shoulders of God.