Fear seeks safety. Love seeks Truth. Please read and enjoy. Productive, truthful feedback welcome.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Growth Spurts - We Can Still Have Them

To grow we must learn.
To learn it helps to be curious.
To be actively curious we must be vulnerable.
To be vulnerable we must be brave.
To be brave requires optimism.
To live optimistically is to expect outcomes lined with silver.
To anticipate silver linings is to accept the chance to learn. 
To accept learning is to invite growth.

Here's to lifelong learning. 
May we grow old and wise.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Faith: Is it Blind, Dead, or Merely Unpracticed?

It's winter in the northern hemisphere.

And if you live anywhere in the northern United States and don't know it's been an unusual winter, I'd say you'd have to be blind.

This year, 2019, has been a prolific year. Snowcover up to 40 inches or more stretches from coast to coast courtesy of one February snowfall after another.  Schools have been closed, workplaces start late or, in some cases, take the entire day off.

Like I said earlier, you'd have to be blind to miss it.

Or maybe not. Not, maybe not blind. But, maybe not miss it if you are blind.

You see, in the midst of one of the messy snow systems—people staying indoors, streets marginally plowed, sidewalks deeply blanketed with the wintery white stuff—on two different occasions, I drove past a pedestrian who was blind. Two different days. Two different pedestrians. Each of them was effectively navigating an unshoveled sidewalk. And each of them, on that day, were the only pedestrians along the entire stretch of a normally well-trafficked pathway.

On the first occasion the pedestrian was a 20s-something female traversing the difficult conditions with the aid of a guide dog. Her progress was a moderate pace, with an occasional pause to ensure her footing. But always it was forward, fluid to match the terrain, and comfortably determined.

Two days later, I twice observed from the comfort of my car a 50s-something man utilizing a white cane as his guide. (We crossed paths, apparently on both legs of our respective errand.) And though the snow was less deep on this day, he barely slowed his pace.

As I marveled at how well these two amazing humans navigated their respective paths, I became curious. Could I, a fully sighted person, walk around my neighborhood with my eyes closed with only the aid of a dog or that of a white cane walking stick?

And it just so happens, I have both—a dog, and a white cane. So I gave it a try.

We have a daily walk, Wrigley and I. This time I closed my eyes and let Wrigley lead me. He had no idea what I was doing, and I had even less idea how to do it. First I closed my eyes from a standstill. Next I closed them after I got my bearing while walking. It made no difference. My unsighted steps were few and uncertain. On every attempt, I took about a half dozen steps before I began to peek and wonder whether Wrigley was angling toward a squirrel or about to let me walk into a car. After a few such forays, I bypassed peeking and went straight to eyes-wide-open, and headed home, with Wrigley none the wiser. I'd hoped the same was not true of me.

The next night I grabbed the white cane—which I acquired when a neighbor sold their house and dragged a bunch of unwanted stuff to the curb for garbage pick up. There it was. I couldn't resist. Hey, don't judge me—and proceeded to walk, not around the block, but to our mailbox and back. (My first thought was, I want to do this before it gets dark, which makes zero sense because that's precisely what I was testing—not seeing.) Anyway, our cleared sidewalk was bordered by two feet of snow on either side which is where I'd end up if I misstepped. Thanks to years of muscle memory and an embedded mental picture of the short route, I avoided the whitewash and made it safely to the mailbox and back with my eyes securely close. However, my trip with the cane took me just this side of forever. I can only imagine what it would have been like for me to so travel either of the aforementioned sidewalks.

Again, my curiosity was piqued.

How was she able to follow her dog, comfortably and determined, for blocks when I could only go a few steps? And how was he able to go from point A to point B and back again with a steady pace when I took an excruciating long time to do a simple task I have done for years?

Well, for one, she had an actual seeing-eye-dog. Mine was eager to for me to take him on a walk, but totally untrained and unaware of how to take me for a walk. And for the gentleman walker, I had the official cane, as did he. What I did not have was his practice. and without the assurance that comes with practice, I trusted neither my dog nor was I confident in my ability with the cane.

Was that it? TRUST? I think, yes. But there is more to it than that.

True trust requires action. Trust without action is rhetoric. Trust in action demonstrates faith. Faith in the unseen.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seenHebrews 11

Our two travelers trusted what they could not see, and by taking action based on this trust, successfully navigated a stretch of uncleared sidewalk. Had they been able to see, they would not have moved in faith, but in certainty. We cannot have faith in what we know: That is knowledge. We cannot know what we do not see: That is reserved for faith.

Furthermore, we are told that faith without works (action) is dead. James 2.

She had the dog. He had the cane. They may or may not have voiced faith in their respective guides, but by their action—their works, if you will—their faith lived, not blindly, but over pathways navigated by evidence of the things not seen.

I had the dog but I did not trust the unseen. I opened my eyes and did not walk in faith. It can be rightfully argued that Wrigley is not a trained service animal, and that I was right not to trust him in this capacity. Agreed. However, I believe had the woman invited me to let her dog guide me around my block, I would have still opened my eyes. I could not confidently sustain my action. My faith in this instance, though not dead, was unpracticed.

With the cane, and by my experience, I was able to walk in faith—in the unseen. I was able to put my faith into action. I had more practice. My faith was nurtured and more fully developed.

I tried one more thing. Days after I observed the two blind travelers, my wife Marcella and I donned our snowshoes and took a winter hike through some wooded hills. I became curious again. What if I asked her to guide me on the trail? Would I be able to trust her? Not, was she trustworthy. I am 100 percent certain she is. But, could I take the action to demonstrate my trust? I knew I could say it, "I trust you", but could I do it? Would my words be rhetoric, or would action turn them into faith?

We can say we have faith, but without requisite action, our words become hollow. Real faith takes place in real time, real life; it is scary, at times dangerous, and whether it exists in us is always revealed by our actions. And faith navigates the unseen, not the known.

Where is your faith? Can it grow? Is it blind? Dead? Unpracticed? Flourishing?

Where do you place your faith? In things? People? Infinite Spirit? God?

When I placed it on Wrigley, it was misplaced and unpracticed. It was not faith.

When I placed it on Marcella, I walked, not by sight, but by faith. It was one of the most beautiful stretches of the woods I did not see.

I can only imagine the beauty that would result in a more intentionally practiced faith in God. 

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

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