Coincidence

balloon_wall

Today is my dad’s 64th birthday and would have been my mother’s 60th birthday.

It’s kind of cool and probably would of made for some killer parties had she not passed.

Now it might seem like a fun fact, randomness, or coincidence that they shared a birthday but it’s not.  Well it is that they did, but not the fact that my brother and I share parents that share a birthday…

We were hanging with my always wonderful aunt Marla over Christmas and she was sharing teenager stories of her older (“cooler”) sister.  My mom.  There was a calendar that my small town put out that showed everyone’s birthday, and before there was interest in my father, my mom thought it was “cool” that they shared a birthday.

A small seed of intrigue that grew into watching

…then interest

…then romance

…then a marriage

…then a family.

 

It’s  coincidence somewhat, but it’s also deeper than just that.

 

We are seeing and not seeing a lot at the same time.  There are prompts and nudges all the time under the surface of who we are and what we’re thinking.  Coincidence happens to all of us.  Running into people somewhere random, sitting next to a stranger on both legs of a roundtrip flight, or sharing a very specific similar interest with someone we are around and then becoming aware of it.

Coincidences are when we experience something in reality that seems connected but unconscious.  It seems random and unique, but I’d suggest that it isn’t.  The surprise (or shock if it’s something negative) is us just now becoming aware.

 

The more awareness I strive for, the more coincidences I notice and the more coincidences I notice, the more awareness I have.   I’m looking for more coincidences now instead of waiting to be shocked by them.  (Although the “SURPRISE!!!” is still a fun moment).  Connecting the dots is enjoyable because it connects my experience with yours and others.

 

I am a product of a coincidence, but that coincidence is a product of something eternal.

Regression to the mean.

new-year

It’s that time of year again.

…Turning over new leaves.

…Learning something different.

…Losing 15lbs.

…Writing more.

…Running a marathon.

And on and on.

I love them all.  I want to do them all (no marathons).  I’ll plan to change so many things in the positive direction this year.

 

But alas….I’ll arrive later this year with a lot of broken promises.

 

I’ll have good reasons and bad excuses for not getting where I hoped to be… and both are okay.  Changing things is hard work, takes time and takes times.  I’ll regress back to the mean (or the average) over time.  It’s not sad or tragic.  It’s logical, scientific, and the reality for most things.  It’s hard to change the habits and wiring of the brain (and those brains around me that impact my life).

 

But I have unlocked two ways to improve things in my experimenting.

 

The first way is incredibly effective, but hard to predict and structure.  It’s the “shit” happened and I HAVE TO RESPOND moments.  Now the “shit” doesn’t have to be negative.  Stress can be eustress or distress.  These moments are not daily, weekly, and rarely yearly, but when they arise they give us clear forks in the road to change.  I did 61 hours of college in 2006 because of a moment (Kai being born).  It took me 6 years to struggle to get through the previous 70ish.  I don’t constantly want moments like these (mom dying, jaw breaking, lung issues, collapsing of 30 year old thought, getting married, having 3 children, getting a promotion).  But what I do see is that they are opportunities to shift my thinking and actions abruptly.  It’s easier to change in these moments because there is support by those around me, and more importantly, support internally and personally.

A lot of resolutions just don’t pan out because the support systems (external and internal) are not pushing for it.

It’s much easier to stop eating gluten if it makes you sick and have headaches…

It’s much easier to quit drinking after you get a DWI…

It’s much easier to look for God when you’ve been living in a hellish situation….

And, honestly, it’s just easier to change if those around you are changing in the same direction.

 

The second way is less abrupt but is a little more controllable and less chaotic.  It’s simply the “+1 thinking”.  It works in the gym but works in the other disciplines as well.  If regression to the mean (average) is likely to happen to us, then altering the average of who we are over the long term will provide the change.

I will be transparent and let you know that I try to change 20-40 things a year. I fail to achieve most, but I do achieve some, and that’s enough.  The meaning is to shift the mean.

The truth is: most people that I admire (or can’t stand) made big choices on how they responded when the big moments happened, but they also made a lot of “+1 moments” over long periods of time.

 

It’s okay to set a ton of goals and then break them.

FOMO

fomo

…or the Fear Of Missing Out.

It’s a real thing… sadly.

And a lot of us struggle with it to some degree.

Basically it’s the inability to commit to something because we’re worried that something “better” might be an option that we forgot or haven’t been offered yet.

This was extremely prevalent when I worked for the church.  A chunk of people would say “I don’t know” or “maybe” because they were afraid that if they said yes, then they might miss out of something that was still imaginary.  AND.  10 minutes before the event, we would be flooded with people wanting to go because that “thing” never happened.

That just a micro example of this happening all the time.

It also is why social media depresses some people.  We see the highlights of others and feel that we are missing out, thus multiplying the FOMO and the inability to commit.

will-you-go-out-with-me

It’s like the “Maybe” box of the letters we wrote each other as kids to ask each other to “go out”.  Today’s examples are the “maybe’s” on Facebook event pages or the “it’s complicated” relationship status.

(… FYI every serious relationship is complicated.)

We all have FOMO in different areas.  Some may not have it at all (kudos).

I don’t have it relationally, but I do have it vocationally.

I guess to fix this (for me) is to redirect the FOMO to what is in front of me.  I shouldn’t be worried about “missing out” on something that is, to some degree, an illusion or a fabrication.  I should however be worried about “missing out” on what is in front of me right now and focus more on being present.

No Bumper Stickers

bumper-sticker-car

I have been in traffic a lot over the last few months (being back at the Houston office).  I get the best and worst of the bumper-to-bumper experience in the 4th largest metro area in the country (#1 and #3 have public transportation systems so Houston might be more of struggle to get around than NYC and Chicago).

 

I see thousands of cars daily, and millions yearly, and I’ve noticed something.

 

Most cars don’t have bumper stickers.  And I mean the vast majority of them don’t.  I also was surprised by this for some reason.  Maybe I thought more cars had them.  Maybe it’s because the ones that do really stand out and are more memorable because they are witty, ridiculous, hateful, hilarious, or because they are “peppered” everywhere on one vehicle.

 

The take away is some of my options are false because some of the few are “loud” and “clever”, and this makes me think it’s more prevalent.

 

I worry that people eat the BS that is cable news (Fox, CNN and MSNBC) but the numbers are actually very small.  If you add up all their numbers, less than 1% of the population actually watches/listens to them.  That means that it’s even a smaller number that “buy” into a completely biased narrative on just one side of things because they are collectively dividing up the 1%.

 

I use to believe that there was a battle around Christmas, until I realized most people don’t care either way.  I’ve said “Merry Christmas” to those I know don’t believe, and “Happy Holidays” to those that I know believe, and the vast majority realize that I’m just being polite and friendly.  *Plus people that actually believe realize that Christ is in everything, not just a season….so what’s to get angry about?*  The “war” is simply fought by the few and ignored by the rest.

 

And lastly, I’ve always kind of known that all __________  (insert gender, race, religion, generation, orientation, wealth/status) are not ____________ (insert something positive or negative).  Something I picked up from my dad.  I know that there are generalizations that people think that are true… but are less true the closer you get.   Like a bad science experiment, the only way to make these generalizations true is to use a small sample size and ignore vast amounts of data.

 

As a species of 7+ billion, we should accept** our extremes/outliers but not expect them in most people.  Most people aren’t getting their guns taken away and most people aren’t trying to take them.  Most people aren’t political (see voting numbers).   Most people aren’t “dying on their crosses” and most people don’t care if you pray for them.  And on and on… Most people are just trying to pay their bills, get over their colds, go see the Star Wars movie, watch their kids in plays or performances, and visit their families this time of year.

 

I am not these extremes and from my experiences, neither are you.

 

With Peace and coffee,

R.

 

**Accept doesn’t mean approve of, but rather we should accept that in a population sample of that many people, there are naturally going be those extremes.

neglection resolution

mic

The easiest way to get ignored.

  • Be calm.
  • Be neutral.
  • Be honest about your own shortcomings.

If you want to be ignored in the cultural environment we are living in, just look at who gets attention, analyze it, and then do the opposite.

Being loud, angry, completely one-sided, and believing you are more intelligent than the “opposition” will get you all kinds of “likes” and comments these days.

This still seems to be an effective method because it is taking more and more to get our attention.  (HERE is a great analysis of the Economy of Attention)

Now, I may be wrong, but I have a fairly good intuition about causality.

As the media, your friends, and everyone else are fighting for this harder-to-grasp-attention, they’re going to have to present things in a more exaggerated fashion.  There is a breaking point when they attempt this.  They’ve already hit it for me, my bride, and many of my friends.

I guess there are others that have either a higher threshold, love the “high of feeling right”, or they don’t like the “gray” and nuanced.

Not sure, but I do see more and more people turning off the news and “blocking” things on social media.  I think after a while, your body gets wore out from the cortisol that the fear mongering produces.   Plus, people that go into the world and interact with people start to call “bullshit” on the idea that everyone is attacking you, trying to harm you, or take your stuff.  When something bad does happen, it captivates us because it’s so rare, not because it’s so normal.   Normal isn’t interesting.  It’s also interesting when people do amazing things too, but our brains process awesome differently.   I don’t look at JJ Watt or Ronda Rousey and think “I bet everyone is doing this”, but a violent thing happens, and my brain wants to project this onto other people.  (Bad analogy due to violent but incredible feats of Watt/Rousey)

“Be careful using exceptions to the prove a point”

Now I agree with this wisdom, but I’d add “…unless you’re wanting attention quickly”.

I do believe you will be listened to by trying to be calm, unbiased, and honest about yourself. (it’s not easy to do those 3 things).  It will, in due time, be attention worthy (even if that’s not your intention).  As the world seems to get worse (which it’s not), people are going to be exhausted by the fear, anxiety, and fighting.  Some will end up angry and bitter, however, some will end up looking for “salt, light and water” to bring them back to a life that they once knew.

Maturation of the Spirit does not produce cynicism, bitterness, and malice.

Our job (the few, the trying-not-to-be-proud) is to stay calm, resist the need to get a message across, sow seeds, and work the fields.  As the chaos engulfs someone we love, they may just need a person that is weathering the storm, not creating waves.

privilege

PV2012SSTWL_101

A buddy of mine shared a video the other day on Facebook (HERE) talking about “white privilege”.

It’s was different than what I thought it was going to be.  Context. Who shared it. Coming from a black woman.

It liked it and it got me thinking more.

We are all privileged in different ways.

  • For some it’s race. (and it’s not always white… )
  • For others it’s gender. (and it’s not always being a man)
  • For a few is monetarily.
  • Or physically. (even being attractive is a privilege to some degree)
  • Or intellectually. (and ignorant people tend to be happy so…)
  • Even growing up poor(-er than some), can give you a privileged wisdom.
  • Or growing up in a stable home.
  • Or growing up in chaos.

The Truth is depending on the situation, you’re either in a privileged position or not.  It’s very natural to focus on other’s being privileged and acting like you/I are not.  It’s the classic “it’s not fair” reaction to what is actually NOT FAIR.

I’ve been enough situations where I’ve had an unfair advantage and I’ve also seen where I’ve been treated unfairly because I didn’t have the advantage.

In some theoretical sense, we all love to believe that we are all created equal.  What I’ve found through experimental conversations is two truths that prevail the majority of the time (there are always outliers).

  1. People tend to believe that everyone is created with the same opportunities when they are discussing aspects of their own lives that they are privileged. This is a clever way to hide our privilege from others (and ourselves).  If we are smart and educated (privileged), we tend to frame intelligence and education as a trait with uniformity.
  2. People tend to NOT believe we are created equal when we are faced with situations that highlight how others are privileged over us. This is also a clever way to hide our privilege because if we can expose the Truth that in some aspect of our lives we are the “victim” then no one will believe that I am somehow privileged elsewhere.  This usually works better with convincing ourselves than others.  Most “victims” that I’ve met are using it to mask other things to get what they really want.
  3. **And like I said before, there are outliers…. there are people that this does not apply to… but they’re not common.** I feel like I have to repeat this because I get the “what about ______”.

So we all have advantages and disadvantages.  There’s not a lot we can do with our disadvantages because… well… we’re at a disadvantage.  We aren’t really in control or have any power in those moments.  We can get mad and fight (common response), but it is the reality.  And sometimes we can work really hard (fortitude/perseverance/strong willed are also privileges) to make those disadvantages into advantages.  Kudos to you if you can, or have done this.  That is incredibly difficult.

But to what end?

What do you do with your advantages?

Whether you were born with them or obtained them.

We were all given privileges/advantages/talents.   Yes, some may have more and some are easier to point out (race/gender/money), but that’s not the concern.  You and I still have some and what we do with them is what matters.

From a scriptural stand point, those with more, more is expected.  So there is an advantage to having less in some aspect.  We aren’t privileged for a means to our own end, but rather to other’s and ultimately God’s.

I’m an incredibly privileged person, but that is a weight at times, but I’ve also been privileged with some shitty moments in my life to “work me out” to have some strength. I don’t find it useful to concern myself with situations where I’m disadvantaged.  I know, from experience, it’s not always an advantage being white, a dude, smart, or a Christian.  So what?!  It’s not like there aren’t situations where the complete opposite isn’t true. (you figure out what to do with that triple negative sentence….syntax is not a privilege for me)

The Point (if you even got this far…kudos)

May we be more aware of our own advantages.  May we use them to protect and lift up the disadvantaged because we know what it feels like.  Raising awareness of our disadvantages isn’t bad if it’s used like a flare to call the “advantaged”.  We just have to remember to be constantly looking for the “flares” ourselves so that we are using our advantages correctly.

“The privilege of being privileged is to serve the unprivileged”

Daddy why don’t we go to church?

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Give it up to my son (the middle one… the one that mirrors me more than anyone I know) to ask the question that I ask a lot… to myself.

It wasn’t hard in the moment because I have good answers but it’s hard sometimes because I also have some bad answers.  I have the Bible/prayer/fasting to support my decision, but I also have experiences that taste like bile that aided the decision.

I know that Lindsay and I are part of a larger movement that the church pollsters and analysts classify as “dones”.  We weren’t recruited to leave, and honestly we didn’t know of anyone that we would model that were “done”.  There wasn’t a “coolness” factor to the decision.  Really the only factor was “fear”.  I quit two jobs at two different churches in one year.  It wasn’t too difficult to do that because of where things were heading, but it was difficult to say “I’m done”.  It felt like Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire and luckily my bride had a little Renee Zellweger in her.

The problem is not the church.  She has her issues but they aren’t any different than other institutions or the problems a family has.

The issue is me.

I remember preaching on what “woo’s” you to God and what draws you farther from God.  I also remember a time when I was discerning some stuff with fasting and reading that I realized that the institution wasn’t drawing me to God but farther away.  I initially projected this onto other people as well (and still sometimes do…because sometimes it’s True for others as well).

The fact is I’m wired to hate bureaucracy and rules that are in place to control things (and people).  Bureaucracy and rules aren’t inherently bad (so I’m told).

The Truth is some of us need rules… some of the time… for a time.

  • Some people need speed limits all the time.
  • Some people need speed limits when they are young (but not when they’re old)
  • …or when they’re alone (and not with their kids in the backseat)
  • …or when they drive a Corvette (because I didn’t when I had a Ford Escort).
  • Some people (like my dad) never need speed limits.  (He could use those “minimum” limits some times.)

My point is more than what we gave our 7 year old the other day (and maybe one day he’ll read this).

It’s simply we didn’t need the rules anymore to be in community, to give, to read Scripture, to listen to God, to pray with others, and to be ready.  And we were both leading (and are called to lead).  We weren’t going to be helpful to the institution by telling people that “it’s okay to not be here”, and “giving to God is more important than giving to an organization”(which sometimes is two different things), and “you can completely disagree with my sermon”.

So son, if you ever read this, it’s like a break-up.

You’ll be nice and say “It’s not you, it’s me” while thinking “it’s really you”.  Then you later realize that it really is “me”.  You’ll have forgiveness towards “them”, more awareness and repentance in “you”, and have the opportunity for Life going forward.

Thanks, but no thanks.

appreciation-and-gratitude

Gratitude is hard to maintain sometimes.  It’s like herding cats or raking water uphill.  It takes a lot of work to maintain that posture of the heart.

It’s fleeting.

It’s not hardwired in naturally and takes renovation of the heart/mind to make it “natural”.

It’s also very difficult because we live in a time that projects “awesomeness” of others and their stuff.

We use to be rarely exposed to how awesome “it” (that thing or experience) would be.  You might occasionally hear about a king or lord.  You might annually go to a festival and be exposed to “the more than” experience.  But honestly, your life would have been meek.

Then came industry.  Then came business.  Then came capitalism with the need to sell you stuff.  Then came the advertisers.  This was still manageable to some degree because if you weren’t in the market for a car, car advertisements could be ignored.  And I’ve never had desire after a tampon commercial (honestly, those advertisements produced gratitude).

Now we live in a new time where we are all advertising to each other all the time.  Marketers can now rely of the individual to show off their products to all their “friends/followers”.   Disney knows that if you go to their parks, every friend you have online will be getting the brochure with your pictures in their feed.

It’s becoming harder to be thankful when everyone else’s life is so “awesome”

Now we all know this isn’t really true, but we forget just long enough to desire more.

This is happening to a lot of us one small paper cut at a time.  It’s a slow burn that seems silly to complain about.   But it’s toxic.

It turns everything into a binary of awesome or not, and if it’s not awesome, something is wrong.

So my hope is to start enjoying (being thankful) for the “not awesome”.

  • …enjoying a book that only means something to me
  • …enjoying an 8-4 TAMU and 4-8 Cowboys season
  • …enjoying playing board games with my kids (sometimes awesome….but not all the time…ie UNO last night)
  • …enjoying times with family even if there isn’t a lot to talk about
  • …conversations with my dad
  • …running
  • …watching TV with Lindsay

I love social media and see the good that it can bring. I hope this season it will become less of “look at what _______ got or did”, “they are so awesome?” OR “look at what I got or did”, “how awesome am I?”.

Maybe it could become something else.   Not sure.  Maybe a bunch of posting the “not awesome” or just being more honest about whom we really are.

Maybe that could happen.

Or maybe we could just be thankful for who we are and what we have (good and bad), and have that reflected in what we “share”.

I don’t know.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  There is no fluff.  Just “let share a meal and give thanks”.  It is short lived but it is still awesome without having to be awesome.  Nothing great has to happen.

Gratitude is the bedrock for so many good things and has no downside.  In investment terms, it has a great ROI.

  • If you’re grateful, there is no war on Christmas.
  • If you’re grateful, there is no pressure to give or receive.
  • If you’re grateful, there is no rush.
  • If you’re grateful, you are present.

Here is the key takeaway for myself:  I can be grateful in a sea of ingratitude.  It’s my Life preserver.

“In everything, give thanks”

-Paul of Tarsus

Trapped by Choice

rockandahardplace

There is a weird gravity I’ve experienced personally and still see unfolding continually.  It happens at different ages for different people but the pressure is usually felt by all.

It’s choice.

Now I’m talking about a specific type of choice that is related to stances/values.  Most people will call this your political views… your own politics.

I watch young people feeling the pressure to be this or that and I see older people applying the pressure.  I guess it’s their way of identifying recruits or targets.  The young are the impressionable… this isn’t a new phenomenon.  I watch young people blindly re-post false liberal/conservative platitudes because they’re desiring to fit in.

But misery loves company.

Sure you get to be in a “party” but once you’re in it, you’ll realize that the party has become more about fighting those not in the room.

If you resist this gravity, you’ll feel isolated more and realize that thinking about things becomes more of internal dialogue as opposed to an external argument.  You’ll be called flaky.  Interestingly, you’ll also be called something you’re not because others might mistake for their opposition.

But….

You’re not their opposition.

You’ll be able to say “maybe” to a lot more.

You won’t have to turn a blind eye of somethings to keep a fictional narrative alive

And eventually, you’ll find others that see that the choice is not “this or that”, but rather it’s a choice of fitting in or not.

*1Peter2v11-25

Lotus Eaters

Plate5

In Greek mythology (Homer’s Odyssey), there is a story of the “lotus-eaters”.

In short, this is a group of people that were eating fruits/flowers that sedated them into apathy and losing track of time (thus keeping them from doing what they set out to do).

When I think about this, I begin to wonder what “lotus” exist in our times….

….screens of any kind

….medication

….news/politics

….Netflix/Hulu/Prime

….fantasy football

….Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, BuzzFeed, Reddit, Etc.

….porn

….cat videos (personally addiction confession)

…..______________

Now these aren’t inherently bad but these (and others) can trick the mind into believing that something is being accomplished when really not much is, or even worse they are for escaping reality.   In small doses, there can be benefits, but now it’s all unlimited… and that’s dangerous.

They can end up being a drug.

Example:  There will be people that watch the debate tonight, then the commentary, and then get on the internet to “fight”, then show up the class or work tomorrow “hungover”.  And zero things were accomplished (although that person will feel defeated or victorious).  It’s like a person strung out on chemicals and everyone around them thinking they aren’t getting anything done, but the person that is addicted doesn’t care (or see it).

We all can become “lotus-eaters”.  The vice may vary, but the inclination exists.

Luckily, God gives us the gifts/wisdoms of Sabbath and fasting to offset this.  The best way to know if you have an issue is to rest from it and see how bad the “cold sweats” are.   Sometimes you’ll see that “thing” was keeping you from the “thing” you really need.

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