What Does It Mean to Be Strong?

27 04 2013

Strength.  Is it easly defined?  I mean sure, you can go to a gym, crank up the music, and start lifting weights or something, and there’s a number, the limit to what you can and cannot do.  Being physically strong prepares the body to deal with the defenses that is needed to make sure that the body doesn’t wear out in physical activity.  It helps boost the immune system.  Adrenaline gets rushing through you, and lots of feel-good hormones are released.  Some of my bodybuilding friends tell me time and time again that it’s just such a rush when you’re busting through your goals, and you keep going.  It’s like an addition.  You can tell when someone is physically strong, their biceps, triceps and all of the other ‘ceps are toned, and even.  And you can tell when someone doesn’t work out on a daily or regular basis.  If you need an example of what that looks like, just take a look at me. 

But is physical strength the same as being strong?  Is it the same thing as being sturdy and steady in a storm?  What happens when the world is just blasting you away with such terrible circumstances?  The seasoned weatherer can emerge one of two ways:  Either being closed off, or sensitive yet steady.

You can close yourself off.  You sure can.  The heart dies, the soul withers, and the joy and happiness as well as the pain and the sorrow goes away.  To close yourself off means that you love at a distance, and you may not even experience the best parts of being in love totally.  You’re untrusting, and you don’t allow things to get you.  You run away when things get rough, and you get scared before even trying to stay.  To close your heart off reduces your personality to that of a stone wall.  But the benefit is that the heart is never hurt. The storms mean nothing to the heart of stone. 

There’s the determined one when the storm hits.  This is the person that has just decided that whatever storm there is, the storm will not change things, unless it reveals something that forces it to.  The storm proves that this person is steady beyond all obstacles and is dependable no matter what happens.  This person is fiercely committed to things, but above all, is fiercely committed to themselves, refusing to allow some storm to change them and their personality.  But the big thing is, the storms still hurt.  The hail that comes down still makes dents, but the heart is kept.  The personality is still steady and consistent.  The person behind the conflict is retained beyond all else. 

I think strength relies and resides in the second.  Because it allows you to be true to yourself, but maybe strength in this form is not always possible.  Maybe there’s a mix.  Maybe there’s an exception.  I’m not sure.  I don’t know what strength is.  What does it mean to be strong? 

I still don’t know.  I am okay with that.  Maybe I’ll figure it out one day.


A Response to the Boston Marathon

23 04 2013

Our country has seen some very dark days lately.  We’ve had a lot of things happen to us within the past week, more than we’ve ever had on our domestic soil in a long time.  My thoughts are with those affected in all of the events of the past week, and I do not gloss over the terrible tragedies and the incredible loss of life.  I do not gloss over the profound impact these events will have upon our country in the next few days.  That is not my point.  My thoughts are with all of those who have been impacted by these events.

So if I’m not going to talk about how horrible this event was, what is there else to talk about then?

Ha ha.  I’ve been in discourses lately with my students, I’ve been working with my colleagues, and I’ve taken in some of their remarks and responses, and I’ve really tried to bring all of these different perspectives to heart.  

Then, I got really angry yesterday.  Because the only thing that separates me and those two young men, are the actions I have done in my life.  Other than that, there is flesh, there is blood, and we are both loved by someone somewhere.  Other than that, there’s nothing that separates us, other than the actions we made.

I live by a higher standard.  That higher standard involves me getting rid of anger and rid of my frustration with other people.  I have this standard that says, if I even get a little bit mad at someone, it’s just as bad as committing murder.  Because for a moment, I’ve cast out all of the love I have in my heart for that person, and I’m just focused on being angry.  

The bombers of the Boston Marathon need my thoughts, my good vibes, more than anything right now.  Call me unpatriotic, call me too merciful…whatever you want to call me, but I cannot, in good conscience, condemn these two men for what they did.  In effect, it would be like condemning myself.  

We need grace in our society.  In our society, we’ve focus on the violence, and we focus on justification, and this idea of justice.  The idea that so many years of prision is equivalent to the murder of a person.  But I don’t know if that’s really going to teach us anything.  I’m not saying we need to get rid of our system of justice…but let’s take the notion of justice on a personal level.  Say I create a new friend.  This is your best friend in the whole world, and I strike up a friendship.  Suddenly, your best friend is dividing their time yet some more, when they create a friendship with me.  If you’re possessive and jealous…I’ve suddenly “stolen” your friend from me.  What’s your response?  If you’re human, your response is probably going to be not to find friends with me, the stealer of your friend…but you’re going to start to try to wrestle your will into our friends’ life.  You’re probably going to start saying nasty things about me.  You might even hate me.  Be jealous of me.

How is this different from the Boston bombing?  In some cases, it’s even worse.  The bombing wasn’t a personal thing…the people just happened to be there at the wrong time.  But you, in this situation, am intentionally picking someone out to hate, to despise.  You are picking one person, and this one person, you know them a little bit, so that’s even worse.

Oh!  How the events of society often mirror the ugly truths we think hidden inside our hearts! 

So what?  Our response to the tragedy at Boston should be one of mercy, and compassion and understanding, because they only represented in the world, the very same battle we have within our hearts.  The battle between love and hate.  

Who wins?  We will know by the way that we respond to these events which just shed light on the status of human hearts everywhere.  There’s not enough room in the world for both love and hate to exist.  One will eventually overpower the other.  Which one would you like to see overpower the other?  How will you manifest that in your daily life and interactions?

What a daunting challenge.


5 04 2013

I’ve been journaling a lot lately, just because I feel like there’s a lot of things all going on in my life and they’re sorta overwhelming me at the moment.  There is soo much good that is going on, but there’s also so many things that are not so good and that have my worries.  But, the point is, I’m tired of writing things.  My hand is cramped up and sore from all that writing.  (I know, first world problems!) But I thought I would be really vague, but still journal about some things, and release it into the great unknown, so that maybe someone else has a new perspective on things.  Or, this could be simply entertaining you.  Whatever the purpose or response, I didn’t know how to title this, so there ya have it.

I really miss my kids.  I really miss teaching.  But I haven’t really done the associated work with preparing for Monday.  I am okay with that.  I have to force myself to be okay with that, because I need to take a break.  I am desperately hoping that I can find some way to balance it all out.  Because right now, I suck as a friend, because there is no balance, and I don’t really know how to find that balance.  But as it is right now, If I don’t find a way to balance it out, my career will consume me.  Completely and totally.  I cannot have this.  I need to find that balance between friends and family, the community activities that I like to do, and the hobbies I have, and work.  Besides that worry, I really enjoy teaching.  I am making a difference in the lives of the kids that I am working with, and I’m very excited about what kind of change I’m making.  That makes me sound like I am  just changing lives left to right, bippity-boppity-boo, and that’s not true, in reality.  In reality, I am just touching one or two lives, not a million.  But my work is very rewarding because I am having such a great impact on the lives of my students.

Other than teaching, my life is insane.  Like I said, I don’t have time to maintain the friendships and the relationships like I would ideally like to do.  I may go many weeks without talking to anyone but my sister (who grades my papers for me) and my coworkers.  This is not a delightful balance, but i suppose that is the life of the first year teacher.  I hope next year will be better.  

There seems to be a common theme throughout many of my conversations lately.  And I would like to share that with you.  Now, I will do my best to remain as vague as possible.  Recently, I’ve been having some conversations about situations in which someone else makes a decision for an individual, and that individual is just supposed to follow that decision like it is the gospel truth.  And when the individual fights back against that dicatorshiptorial decision (I know that’s not a word, but who cares?), the other person has the gall to be angry and upset about it.  This is completely wrong.  I am of the type of person that fully believes that individuals are capable of determining for themselves, the situations that they can and cannot handle or endure…that individual has the ability to get others to help them out, and not be forced to bail out of those responsibilities.  There are times that I get overwhelmed with the way that my life is going.  I am on top of the world right now.  I have so many great and wonderful things that are in my life, and I would fight you to the death if I had to lose one of those great things.  I am in a dream job, working with a group of wonderful and supportive individuals, who have done nothing but to encourage and support me throughout this entire journey.  I am working with an incredibly capable group of kids, who, at their worst, just need someone to guide them into a successful high school journey.  They need to know that I care about them.  I am in several wonderful, beautiful friendships, that seem to understand when I can’t be as committed to them as I have been in the past.  They understand and are very supportive, regardless of my situation.  I have a family that is right next door, and if I need food after a long day, they are ready with something good.  My parents frequently ask if I need anything, to try to make sure that the burden of life isn’t so heavy upon my shoulders.  My sister is almost my best friend, which is an incredible feat.  If you knew us when we were kids….you’d be surprised that we actually hang out now!  And I have encountered a beautiful soul who challenges me, loves me, and wants the best for me.  I am so incredibly thankful.  

In the midst of each of these situations, although they are all incredibly good, there are struggles in the middle of it.  I struggle with one of my classes, because they completely challenge and push against me.  They constantly battle me.  But I have to get through that class, and I have to continue to press on.  I am extremely happy about some developing friendships, because they are of great benefit to me.  I feel like I am growing tremendously, like I am becoming more and more responsible.  Yet, my responsibilities are falling by the wayside.  For the OCD part of me, I am really stressing about this, because I need certain things to be clean.  I have got to clean my bathroom.  It’s worrying me.  

But I’ve learned something really powerful through this all.  Whatever it is, or whomever it is that you love, it comes with a certain set of conditions.  You can’t help the things your heart loves sometimes, but you’ve got to go ahead and decide that the conditions that these loves have, you have to decide that they’re worth it.  For example, I love teaching.  I do not love grading, and I do not love the preparation for teaching, but I do love teaching.  I have to accept that these unattractive things about teaching are worth the joy of making a difference in these kids’ lives.  Whenever you realize that you love something, you have to go ahead and accept the reality.  Because life is not a fairy tale, there is no one out there who will be the perfect situation and conditions.  You can’t hold out for the perfect match and circumstances, because the imperfections are the beautiful spots of life.  When my kids mess up, that makes me want to fight all the more to keep them in my classroom.  When I encounter a situation in which one of my fellow teachers messes up, that makes me want to step in and support them all the more.  

I have been in this area for quite some time now, and recently, it seems like I am delving deeper into understanding more and more this part of my journey.  A few years ago, my faith in all of my beliefs was completely torn apart.  I believed, but I only believed because that’s what my family has done all my life, and that’s what I expected.  And I started on this journey of realizing my passion that I have for individuals to know what they believe, and believe it because they have individually chosen to make that part of their life an intentional relationship that they maintain.  I have this passion, and I don’t know what to do with it.  Many church believers, I fear, will kick me out of their congregations if I pursue this or challenge them beyond the Sunday morning encounter with God.  What if our relationship with God was individual, and it was one that we cultivated, like we would cultivate a best friendship or an intimate relationship?  How would that change our lives?  I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.  But recently (Like in the last year or so), I have been encountered constantly with the thought, of what if God is bigger than the restrictions we place on him within the facet of Christianity?  So many times, we place the restriction on God in Christianity that wide is the gate that leads to hell, but narrow is the one that leads to heaven.  I’m giving you MB translation,but I’m sure you can follow.  What if we applied that narrow gate to Christianity itself?  When I read the gospels, when I read the words of Jesus himself, I don’t feel that within the context of the scriptures, the wide gate cannot also apply with Christianity.  How many people go to church on Sunday morning, but that is the only time they even think about their spirituality?  How many people simply read a devotion every morning, but don’t have an actual relationship with God except to ask for something? I call that type of relationship, a vending machine relationship.  If we just talk to God when we need something, it’s like God is a vending machine.  And no one has a real genuine relationship with God, except to thank when the sugar daddies pop out of the slot.  

What if our relationship with God permeated our very existance and our souls?  What if that relationship had life-changing potential?  The problem with many believers is that they see themselves as “not as bad” as other people, and therefore, they don’t need to constantly “check-in” with God.  Meaning, that most people are not so bad when they become Christians, they’re not drug users, or alcoholics, or wife-beaters or anything of the sort.  They’re just ordinary people.  Because they committed no major crime prior to conversion, there’s no real reason that they have to feel so compelled to pursue a relationship with God.  They’re good enough, right?  They’ll say all the right things, play the right part, “try” to repent, but in the end, God does not matter enough to make a difference in the day-to-day life.

If I am honest, this applies to me sometimes, particularly when I’m really busy.  If I am honest, then I can freely say that in the past few months, I have not actively maintained my relationship with God as I would normally have liked.  But, I can and will strive to change this about my life, starting first with my desire to make things better and more intimate with us.  

I do believe this is about the most random entry I’ve ever made.