Living Water . . . broken cisterns . . .

Sometimes it scares me to “turn it over to God” . . .
I mean, it sounds good to ask for “living water,”
but the next thing I know,
I am trying to “fix” my world and
all the things I see that are wrong
with those around me—
of course, I know that doesn’t really work,
but I find myself doing that over and over again
and becoming frustrated and more scared
as I see the limits and failures of my efforts!

Somewhere inside,
I know only God can “fix” this world He created and
only God can put in place those adjustments
that need to be made to bring human nature
back into the right path . . .
so I guess my only choice is to Trust God,
the ALL-Mighty,
the ALL-Knowing,
the ALL-Loving, or
arrogantly depend on my own puny efforts
that have been proven to fail in things
that are obviously beyond my ability to understand
(even though I think I’ve got it figured out)—
that sounds like a no-brainer,
but I am sure I will be standing at this point
many times as I get pulled into
seeing MY world as MY responsibility
until the darkness overwhelms me
and I reach for the Everlasting Arms
that I know will never leave or forsake me . . . and
He lovingly consoles me as I cry out to Him and fall,
into the rest that comes when I hear
the still, small voice whisper to me “but God . . .”

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Allegiance – Beliefs – Choices (A-B-Cs)

CHOICES – why do I make the choices I make? why do people I know make choices which I would not expect them to make? why does a seemingly rational person all of a sudden become irrational (in my estimation)?

It is important to understand where choices come from, that a choice is not always a decision made in a moment or a recent timeframe, but is often the result of unconscious beliefs based in an allegiance that is a foundation we rarely consider or are even aware of in our decision-making process.

ALLEGIANCE . . . devotion to some person, group, cause or the like is the general dictionary definition—
IT IS the foundation of my existence from the very beginning.
IT IS step one with my first breath before I can speak, before my first conscious thought.

ALLEGIANCE to ME is the foundation of all my first “communications” and expressions of my demands as I attempt to conform the world around me to ME and force it to meet my needs. “I” am at the center of-a l e g “I” a n c e-from my birth onward.

BELIEFS are based in that allegiance. My belief that I am the center of the world and my demand that everyone around me serve my needs demonstrates where my allegiance lies from the start. “I” am at the center of -b e l “I” e f s.

CHOICES are obvious when you realize “I” am at the center of -c h o “I” c e s-
based on my beliefs
founded in my allegiance.

These “steps” never change as we “develop” through the years. Problems that arise usually come from a crack in our “foundation,” our allegiance. Many teens experience this when they decide parents are no longer deserving of their allegiance and move on to “peer pressure” forming their beliefs and dictating their choices.

As we enter adulthood, our allegiance changes, sometimes due to disappointment with our allegiance and sometimes slowly with no obvious “reason.” The old “my family has always . . .” is heard often as the reason.

When someone does something “out of character” to those around them, it is often because a crack or a major change occurred in their allegiance which totally disrupted the “security” of their beliefs to that point and, in that unsettled state of beliefs in flux, their choices were no longer predictable.

If we never stop reacting and repeating without examining what we believe and why, we might never understand how we came to be who we are or where we are.

One of our strong needs seems to be the need to be understood and accepted. Others cannot do that if we do not dig deep enough to understand ourselves.

Introspection—observation or examination of one’s own mental and emotional state, mental processes, etc; the act of looking within oneself—can be helpful and sometimes a person trained in this field can assist in the process, friends who care can also bring helpful insights, and carefully “filtered” exchanges on social media can help us look at ourselves without getting bogged down in the process or getting darkness instead of the light that can come from exposing ourselves to ourselves without condemnation.

Digging deep into what allegiance drives us, forms our beliefs, and ultimately guides our choices is vital to taking back the responsibility for and the privilege of making choices. Knowing we have choices can empower us IF we understand what beliefs our choices are based on.

Allegiance is a foundational choice and should be made first, consciously, slowly, with an awareness of its far-reaching “governing” impacts on us and those around us and should always be exposed to the test of those we trust.

Inner peace can come from exploring the A-B-Cs, the steps can lead to knowing ourselves and can enrich our lives by shining light into the dark corners—walking in the light is indescribable freedom.

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The Light in the Wall . . .

Like most families,
we have those family members who are very strong-willed, stubborn individuals and they are more than willing to strongly express their opinions as facts about whatever topic they are on at the moment—often not allowing anyone to disagree or to not accept their viewpoint as the only “right” one (no, I will not name names of our “self-proclaimed experts,” but we all have them in our groups and we know who they are).

HOWEVER, this recent highly emotionally-charged season dominated by ever-widening divisions is something I have never seen before even after living through the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, ERA, Watts Riots, and 9-11 all of which were filled with differing opinions, but did not seem to elicit the widespread venomous hate-filled speech among friends and family members that we see almost everywhere these days.

WHAT stripped away those unwritten rules:

• that kept us from being spiteful to one another,

• that kept us from considering some “cause” to be more
important than relationships,

• that kept us from reaching a point of arrogance in our belief that we must fight against “them” with our “perfect understanding” of things happening to people we do not even know,

• that would have refuted the new definitions of “truth,”
“alternative facts,” and “acceptable” according to
group allegiance rather than
individual beliefs,

• that would NOT have made political party affiliation a
determining factor in the right/wrong decisions or have made “facts” true only if they supported your group or a member of your group (what you condemned in someone previously, you now accept/endorse if it is one who belongs to your political party)

• that made common respect
common for everyone and NOT only to those agreeing with you or your group,

• that refused to make excuses
for coarse language and insults based on ethnicity, gender, or a belief system,

• that would never sell selfishness as the right way to think and act, putting ME first touted as a “right” and justifying mistreatment of anyone not like ME and would never have defended a lack of compassion,

• that taught us that working together is best for everyone, that “united we stand, divided
we fall” has been shown true throughout history and alliances are vital to survival in an
ever-changing world

SO, I know the questions . . . BUT, what is the answer? Where do I begin to find HOPE in this?

The first thought that comes to my mind is CHAOS (dictionary definition: a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order)—chaos seems to dominate our existence and that leaves us unsettled with our foundations undermined and it makes sense that we would look for a “voice” to direct us, give us a feeling of security because we have a goal, a purpose, a fight to protect us from whatever that “voice” identifies as our “common enemy” and anyone not following that “voice” is a part of the “common enemy” because of the horribly dark pictures painted by that “voice.”

BUT, how does CHAOS unsettle our foundations that have seemed to be in place forever leaving us vulnerable to a “voice” instilling deep fears?

Perhaps, it is because we do not have an understanding of our foundations – what we believe or why or WHO we believe controls the world, the nature of the one we call “GOD” . . . IF GOD created ALL that exists, then GOD has control and we should be seeking GOD’s guidance, not man’s interpretation of GOD’s Word, and we must listen for GOD’s voice in ALL things and prayerfully submit to GOD. DO I KNOW GOD? IS GOD made in my image with human characteristics or is GOD beyond my understanding which requires simply accepting GOD as ALL, undefined, and watching for GOD’s guidance?

BECAUSE there are many beliefs (all with flaws, all with some truth), we must come together and share our thoughts and opinions to help each of us gain fuller insights into the Creator. Major spiritual leaders have found coming together and sharing to be beneficial in each of their journeys by finding common areas in the midst of widely-differing belief systems.

WHAT WE HAVE IN COMMON is our humanity, with our tendencies to be fear-filled, our inclination to elevate “self,” and our basic needs for continued existence . . .
SO what is the LIGHT? WHERE is the HOPE?

TO ME, the Light in the Wall is made up of each person who listens to the inner guide that speaks to our shared humanity and in any small way tries to improve a moment for another . . . we are the Light in the Wall that can grow as we stay true to our inner spirit and refuse to be drawn to respond to the Wall with the same mean-spirited, emotionally-charged rhetoric that we see, hear, and receive, even from friends and family.

Do you know the voice of the shepherd? WHO are you following?
But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and
the sheep follow him
because they know his voice.
(John 10:2-4)

What “voice” am I following? Each of us looks like our “teacher,” the one we listen to and follow. WHO do I look like, sound like, act like? Am I a part of the Light, even if I flicker sometimes?

Light dispels darkness . . .
but, not if the light starts to become “like” the darkness.

MY HOPE is in staying focused on the LIGHT and
letting the Light shine through me,
around me, and
in me and
finding others who are also focused on the Light.
Together we can become a beacon of HOPE for ALL of GOD’s creation, even in our imperfection, we can allow the perfect LIGHT to shine . . .
I can choose to be a part of the LIGHT in the Wall!

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Am I a Pharisee?

Most people would agree that today we are in “choppy waters”—lots of waves of unrest and insecurity, lots of chaos, lots of loud sounds of conflicting ideas, harsh voices shouting fears, deep divisions . . .
definitely, choppy waters.

I keep wondering why some others I see are acting in ways I don’t understand,
responding with over-the-top anger,
insults, judgements . . .
and I kept wondering til I came to,
who am I in all of this?

Since my background is heavily Judeo-Christian, my thoughts jump to the Bible and the well-worn slogan “what would Jesus do?” I wore as a bracelet for years. Jesus lived during a time of chaos and some then were rebelling against the current situations they perceived as
“evil” and oppressive.

The government was the Roman Empire with “figurehead” local leaders put in place to maintain pax Romana at all costs and the Jews had Herod, an Edomite, who was not considered a Jew but could be touted as one strictly speaking by the Romans.

The “governing body” to a certain degree was the priestly class who ruled on a limited basis with very little real power but could push the Romans to act with threats of disruption of peace among the Jews and, in some cases, it worked to get them what they wanted—the arrest of Jesus.

In my studies, I found no real criticism by Jesus of the Romans, but I did find a good amount of words he spoke against the scribes and Pharisees—religious leaders.

So, that seemed like a good place to start to review what I would NOT want to find within myself. I wanted to ask me the hard questions and find out if Jesus were here today, would HE say I was a Pharisee?

JESUS in Matthew 23 calls attention to the Pharisees
(1) holding positions of religious authority in the community,
do I think I KNOW all God has said?
that I have THE truth infallibly? that I
understand and can explain God and
His actions? that I speak for God?

(2) concern for outward recognition and honor,
do I want to be recognized and
appreciated for my contributions,
maybe even enjoying an occasional honor—do I feel slighted when I am
not recognized?

(3) enthusiasm for making converts,
do I have an outward focus – believing
I have to make others adhere to
THE truth as a way of “converting” them
without intense SELF examination?

(4) emphasis on observing the legalistic minutia of the law.
have I come to identify those who do
not agree with me on THE truth as “lost” and, therefore, my enemies? do I
believe my interpretations or those of someone I follow are THE truth—
NO exceptions?

Do I lack the compassion Jesus seemed to indicate the Pharisees lacked because, like them, I focus on a legalistic approach to THE truth . . . MY truth, MY way?

Am I a Pharisee?
Perhaps I need to think about these
questions a little more before I answer.

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Seeds – Life Cycle of Plants . . .

Seeds . . . small and, yet
each reproduces after its kind . . .
the seed contains the full-grown replica of its producer . . .

Seeds . . .
small . . . like a moment of anger
and it calls forth anger from another . . .
how can I expect anything other than anger in return?

Small . . . harsh words spoken to another
who answers back with harsh words . . .
how can I expect a kind response, words spoken softly?

Small . . . a judgement made about someone
who has made some mistake . . .
how can I expect compassion when I make a mistake?

Seeds planted by me . . .
Anger — Harsh Words — Judgement
Seeds reproduce after their kind . . .
Why do I deserve a different response to those seeds
when I plant them?

Do I expect a rose bush if I plant seeds from an apple?
Do I expect an apple tree from watermelon seeds?
Seeds reproduce after their kind . . .

Why do I seem surprised
when I plant the seeds of unkind words
and someone is rude in response to me?

Why, when I am rude and
demanding of others,
do I complain about the fact that others will not “be nice” to me.

Why, when I judge someone who did something
I say is wrong,
should I be judged about a mistake i make?

Seeds . . . small and yet . . .

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the Swirling Chaos . . . a spiral . . .

Such a time of dark swirling whirlpools of chaos . . .

it is impossible to hold on to
in the midst of
constant “info” dumps . . .

there are new/old interpretations
of words and
no more easily identifiable
for behavior . . .

redefining societal acceptable
rudeness, disrespect, and
belittling of those who hold differing OPINIONS instead of
respectful discussions and
exchanges of ideas . . .

so many endorse or at least
do not object to VIOLENCE
as the ANSWER
to any disagreements . . .

lumping others
who do not agree with me
in the category of “enemy”—
mentality that
ultimately leads to
DEFEAT for everyone . . .

selfishness . . .
hatred . . .
intolerance . . .
divisiveness . . .
closed minds . . .
disregard for truth . . .
rationalizing untruths . . .
spreading fear . . .

Love . . . Tolerance . . . Unity . . . Open minds . . . Integrity . . . SELF examination . . . sharing Life . . . can bring us back to a world where ALL can Live and Peace can be shared

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Life Cycles . . . seeds . . . stages

Life cycles start with seeds and continue through stages
that we can see in plants . . . interesting

As I have walked my path through varying shades of dark and light, I have always felt it was the small things (seeds) that can make a major difference in the direction of my life.

Algebra brought the idea to me early in my life.
Algebra, I loved that subject for four years in high school – I know, it sounds crazy, but the part of algebra that intrigued me was that there was logic that could be observed and
formulae that could help identify unknowns—
but it also taught me that a small mistake at the beginning of trying
to find an answer could take me way off into a place nowhere
near where I needed to be . . . and so it was in my life.

Plant life cycles recently called me back to the idea that
small things in the cycles of the life of plants could give me
insights for my path . . . look at the plant life cycle—
it starts with SEEDS and
the last step in the cycle is spreading SEEDS . . . WOW!
SEEDS . . . small things . . .
a process in plant life . . . a process in my life

Perhaps I will reflect on this a little more, see what “seeds” it plants in my thoughts and check out the process of Life . . . SEEDS . . . I may want to look deeper at the meaning for me in the process . . . what kind of ground does my seed fall on, what is the source of warmth and water, light or other “food” for my seeds. Since the cycle is repetitive, what stage am I in right now and does that change how I look at my past if I consider what stage I was in and what moved me on to the next stage in the process? How do I define each stage and what it means to me? Seeds . . . . life path seeds . . .

Plant Life Cycle:
seed stage—>germination—>growth—>reproduction—>pollination—>spreading seeds

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My Bubble World

I guess I have mostly lived in a bubble of my own making for most of my life . . . bubbles can exist side by side without ever interacting except to bump into each other and not even be aware that there are many bubbles around or different size bubbles, etc.

73 years is a lot of years to just be coming to the conclusion that I created and accepted unquestioningly my own filtered view of everything that went on around me and that helped me put labels on people and events and make it all fit comfortably into my own “reality show,” my bubble defining right and wrong through my own tiny, unseen filters.

Born in 1946, I lived
• before television was common,
• before personal computers,
• before cellphones,
• before many common appliances that exist today . . .
BUT I did not live
• racism,
• sexism, or
• hatred that could lead to men committing unimaginable horrors against their fellowman

AND NOW I live in the year 2019 and remember a history (1960s) reflecting hearts that some of my generation recognized as “not good” and there were protests and cries for changes and protections we put in place for all after many battles, even recognizing the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” by those we did not agree with or whose lifestyle was different than ours.

silence in the midst of
• racism,
• sexism, or
• hatred that leads to men committing unimaginable horrors against their fellowman or endorsing others who do violence
• harsh words for those who point out the “not good” parts of our society
• acceptance and justification of acts and thoughts previously condemned as unacceptable, especially distressing when supported by our religious organizations or their leaders

There are very few
• beating a drum called “Truth” (chaos often drowns them out),
• riding a horse called “Courage” (ridiculed by many), and
• shouting a message called “Common Good” (“answered” with new or made up words and definitions to avoid living it out)

We live in a society making many attempts to somehow convince us that
• dark is light,
• right is wrong,
• winning through intimidation, and
• looking out for number one should be our path . . . so sad, so very sad.

Our world can only survive if I realize my responsibility to examine myself, my thoughts, my words, my motives, my heart and accept my part in making or breaking our world. Do I know what I believe and why, what standards I demand of myself and others or do I demand any standards any more?

Truth: the world was created out of Love that reflects itself in diversity and is made stronger by that diversity through cooperative efforts and confronting selfishness

Courage: confronting myself and accepting responsibility for my actions and my words, speaking out against harm to any, and demanding change of what is SELF serving to pursue the common good

Common Good: the best answer to all challenges we face after respectfully sharing insights, thoughts, and opinions from all impacted by the answer—always remembering “united we stand, divided we fall” and a multi-strand cord is stronger than a single thread

TODAY I NO LONGER live in a bubble of my own making — I pay attention moment by moment in an attempt to avoid falling back into that fantasy mentality that says I know everything and I can judge others without any real information . . .
I REMEMBER when some young people refused to accept the mistreatment of other human beings just because of their skin color and, after much hard struggle, I saw laws passed to protect those human beings who were judged unacceptable by many loud voices and, just as today, the abusers of that time were also supported by many claiming religion as a justification . . . and that gives me some hope for today as I pray that the eyes of my heart will be opened to myself and I will be drawn back to the “higher way” . . . out of my bubble to walk the challenging path of Life by the “golden rule,” the path of Hope, the path of Love!

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ISM – I Sell Myself

-ISMs . . . we most often identify an “-ism” as something negative, harmful, or downright evil to ME!

Over the years, I have heard “communism,” “socialism,” “terrorism,” “paganism,” and many other fear-filled “-isms” to identify what I must fight against to protect myself, my family, my country, my very existence. The fear drives me to ignore the simple fact that I only know what I have been told about these “BAD -isms”—I don’t really know what they are, I only know what I have been told they will do to harm me or that they will take something away from me!

And these, and many other “-isms” have been used to:
• “sell” me on political candidates (ignoring the politician’s flaws in exchange for protection from one of these “-isms”),
• “selling” me on supporting laws to “protect me” while giving a huge power increase to some others (ignoring the potential for abuse by them), and
• “selling” me on the idea that I must focus ONLY on protecting myself and that others will have to do the same for themselves (others are not MY problem, I only have to look out for me or my group).

It is SO easy to buy into this fear-filled rhetoric, to be so totally focused on protecting myself that I don’t see anything else, to find myself crossing a line that I can’t even see . . . my own standards, values held dear by my parents or grandparents or others that I respected in the past.

It seems simple to identify those older beliefs as “outdated” and “it was a different world” or “they didn’t really understand,” but that is just an attempt to defend what I want to believe, a human nature response.

Do I know what I believe and why or what my values are, or what I consider important enough to die for? Or do I just ride along on the wave of fear and bow to the latest “-ism” being put out as my “enemy”?

I remember when John Kennedy ran for President of the United States of America and the loudest talk was how electing a Catholic would bring the Pope to power in our country and our “Christian” nation would all become Catholics . . . we elected him and none of the feared things came about.

Today I am still “selling myself” when I listen to and repeat fear about some group that I really don’t even know and I give power over my life to those selling that fear in some false idea that it will bring me what I want . . . protection, promotion of my beliefs (shutting down those who don’t agree with me), or something else I see as a gain for me—I sell myself. Like Esau I trade for a bowl of porridge because I am hungry and that bowl gives me what I want. I never really stop to think about what I am trading . . . ME!

Values seem to be unpopular today and voicing a need to live by standards draws ridicule and often harsh, defensive remarks. The idea that “the ends justify the means” seems acceptable today and, I believe, has served to draw many away from the need to walk the “higher road” when others choose to wallow in the mud to get their way.

My hope is that
• each of us will examine ourselves to determine what we believe and why, that
• we will realize not one of us possesses the ONLY or all of the truth, that
• we will try to inform ourselves about other groups and what they believe not just accept the fear-filled misconceptions spread about them—did you know early Christians were accused of cannibalism (see the -ism?) because of the Lord’s Supper? that
• we will view an “-ism” as a call to do objective research not accepting “exposes” or “conspiracy theories” without checking multiple valid sources (not just copiers), that
• we will come to see that working together we can create a world united in pursuit of the “common good” for ALL without identifying “-isms” as a way to get me to “sell myself” to a fear-filled cause . . . do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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Perspective . . . a beginning

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