Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Aftermath of a Deceit

How often do you find yourself at a crossroads? At a place where you must choose between two seemingly inviting paths just veering away into the distance. I for one find myself there quite frequently. But never so frequently as when I find myself deceived.

Along the walk that is my life, I find, like so many do, that walking with partners and friends makes the journey. . . well, more . . . livable. And as is the nature of people, from time to time, it is those partners that lead me astray. In reality, it is more often that I am the one leading myself right over a cliff all of my own accord, but from time to time it is another who holds my hand.

It is at those times of companionship that I've felt the more betrayed, even though the more serious and intentional missteps were surely of my own doing. Why the intensity I feel? Perhaps because of the deception involved. Now self-deception I'm no stranger to and forgiveness for it gets easier every day. After all forgiving myself seems to be an activity I practice daily. ;-)

But still it is when I've been led that troubles me most. When someone has held my hand and whispered words to soothe my soul and keep me walking, traipsing along the path they've laid out with their lie. As down the road we go, I lose my way. I lean more and more on the deception and wonder more and more where my way went.

Only the soft stillness of self-reflection orients me again. Finding time to delve the Word and find the Way again in what is Written. Because of one thing I am certain. Whenever I am lost, He is looking for me. Crook in hand, calling my name, tirelessly searching and longing for my return. If I simply stop and listen, allow the Father to find me, my path will be straightened. As it is written:

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.
-- Psalm 40: 1-3

This is the only way I know to handle the destruction from a deception. Or most anything really.

Just goes to show you that I'm a pretty simple guy really.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

When Is A Priority Not A Priority?

Have you ever felt you weren't a priority in the life of a friend? Have they ever told you they feel that way about you?

Figuring out where your real priorities lie is something you can only do indirectly. Like many things we might want to know about ourselves or others, we need to sort of sneak up on it. You can't very well just ask someone what is important to them. They might very well tell you what they believe, but that doesn't make them right. You can ask yourself these same types of questions and be assured you'll find a way to fool yourself often enough.

When it comes to understanding what is really driving us, motivating us, important to us, we can only look at our behaviors and actions to learn the truth. When we look at the choices we make, how we spend our energy, time, and resources, we are able to take the true measure of what we value.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
-- Matthew 6:21

When it comes to understanding if your choices are upholding your core values, it is worth it to first understand the impact of those choices. Are you impacting those around you in the way you want? Do you find yourself apologizing a lot? Do you find yourself on questionable moral ground?

When it comes down to it, we care about things we put ourselves into. Anything that isn't important enough to warrant changes in our behavior, isn't important. Those things that are not a priority enough to alter the choices we make with our time or attention, are simply not priorities.

Are you worried about making your faith a priority? Look for how much of your time is concerned with matters of faith? How many of your conversations come back to your faith? When you are making decisions, how often are the reasons for your choices based on faith?

The important things in your life, are the things that are so prevalent you don't have to think about them. When there is enough time and attention that they are constantly in your thoughts. The first way you think to spend free time is among the things that are most important to you. The first person you want to call with good news is among the people most important to you. The same with the person you would call in an emergency. When you find a twenty in a jacket pocket you'd forgotten about, the first thing you think to do with the money is among the things most important to you.

For me this is a struggle because I want my priority on my Savior and my Faith. Which is where "Pray Without Ceasing" becomes a reality. If I spend all my thoughts on someone (or something) else, I can't very well say my faith is the most important thing to me. By disciplining myself to pray, I make a lame attempt to ensure my heart follows my treasure.

Or at least a close enough approximation that I can say I did my best.

When I want someone to feel they are priority, I make them the priority. I call them first. I pass up other people and activities to spend time with them. I work my schedule around being able to talk and be with them. If I can do this for others, how much more should I do for my Lord?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Fatalism of Cheating

One of the best parts of knowing so many people smarter than myself is that I get the chance to try out my thinking and have it corrected or validated quickly. This post has nothing to do with that. But I did learn something interesting by reading someone who is "book smart" and I wanted to share it.

I was reading a back issue of Psychological Science (from last January), specifically an article by Drs. Kathleen Vohs and Jonathan Schooler. In the article they discussed two experiments in which they observed the impact of determinism on morality. That sounds pretty heady but it's just big words.

In the first experiment, they had two groups read a two separate texts. One text encouraged people to believe they were the result of environment and genetics. The other was neutral. Both groups then took a math test that was rigged to allow passive cheating. The group that was told they were the product of their environment and genes cheated more.

In the second experiment, the texts had one deterministic and one endorsing free will. The group that read the deterministic statements actively cheated, the group reading about free will did not.

Now when I consider these results as applied to my personal world view it comes clear why I choose a doctrine of dual-responsibility instead of a the more Calvinistic extreme. Don't get me wrong, for practical purposes I usually align with the Calvinists. But like most aspects of my world view, I don't agree with the extremes they tend towards. Here's why:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. -- John 15:1-17

There are lots of other passages that speak to either grace or free-will. This for me is the clearest example of how they are to be reconciled in my world view. We are chosen, and we choose to accept and live with what is offered to us.

The notion of dual-responsibility is outside any of our social norms and you see how far outside we've fallen when you read about experiments like these. Just the suggestion that our free-will is gone, removes the guilt block and allows our true depravity to surface easily. Contrarily, suggesting we are responsible for our own choices increases the block and allows our better nature to come clean.

What was my take-away? Regardless of how I got here, spending time in the Word helps me stay clean and bearing fruit.