Be Still

Be Still

Building Bridges #2

“Be still, and know…”

I have been blessed to have seen some of the most stunningly beautiful vistas on earth:  The Grand Canyon, The Red Rock area of Arizona, the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean & Caribbean Oceans from the tip of Cape Cod to St. Lucia, the Gulf of Mexico from Naples, FL all the way around to Pensacola and beyond to Galveston, TX, a great deal of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, The Great Lakes, and many, many others.  Millions of us seek out these & numerous other sweeping vistas every year while on vacation.  We search for peace and quiet, away from the innumerable distractions we so willingly invite into our lives on a daily basis.

I was suddenly moved to silence by the awe of the Grand Canyon, at the edge, staring a mile deep to the Colorado River below,  14 miles & a thousand feet up across to the northern rim.  Later, hiking down an unmaintained trail 800 feet just below the rim, the silence stilled my spirit again as the noise of the crowd on the platform above me quickly disappeared into the immensity of the Canyon.  Finally later, once again, at the end of an unmaintained trail sitting quietly on the edge of the abyss, far from the noisy crowds, the silence and grandeur of the Grand Canyon moved me to humble stillness.

In each of these moments, while savoring the peaceful hush, moved to silent prayer, reflection & thankfulness, the quiet reveries evaporated quickly.  In seeking the quiet of Nature, the peacefulness around me was suddenly displaced, jarring my senses and spirit.

Whether the moments were broken by a cheerful ‘What are you doing?’, or a harried mother’s loud, scathing rebuke of ‘I’ve got a bad back, bad knees, am overweight & tired!  You don’t hear me complaining do you?’ to her sunburned, twinkie-munching children as she marched angrily on the paved Canyon Rim Trail with her husband, I was, in turn, surprised, annoyed, amused, humbled, then finally inspired. I remain inspired.

In trying to get away from everything, everything still manages to find us.  The simple act of being still, observing, looking, and above all, listening, quickly shifts our perspective.  No matter where we may find ourselves, whether it’s at work, home, play, vacation, alone, in a crowd, perhaps alone in a crowd, or, in silence, in pain, in joy, in mourning, in celebration, or in a disagreement, we already have ‘the peace that passes understanding’ by knowing Love.  All it takes is for us to be still.

In the midst of the chaos of life clamoring for our attention, everything from cell phones, children, customers, clients, the latest political/financial crises with ever-present televisions, to the boss’s insistent demands for the latest numbers, we have a choice:  To Be Still. Be Still. Rest, breathing deeply, listen to that still small voice – telling us:  ‘Be Still, and know...’  Puts a lot of things in perspective for us, doesn’t it?

Each day, for the next week, let’s challenge ourselves.  Before we check our email, turn on the television, check the news, weather, facebook, twitter or text messages: Be Still. Be aware of how much time we spend in thoughtful, reflective study and contemplation. Think about love.  Listen to and practice love.  This can be done silently throughout each day as we live our lives.  Watch for the difference it makes in our focus.

 

How much time will it take to be still and know?  I don’t know – haven’t got a clue.  It seems different every time.  When we don’t take time, it manages to get our attention and finds the time for us.  Do we really know love?  Are we still?  Do we feel its peace?  It already knows us.  Take the challenge for this week:  Let’s find out!

Bridging Generational Conflict

Bridging Generational Conflict

Building Bridges #3

A past article from  Relevant, has finally motivated me to write about what has affected me from time to time in my life, more so recently:  Angry rejection by some, but not all, of a fearful older generation.  (Originally written a week ago)  My thoughts are derived directly from my comments on that article.  Please read first if more context is sought.  Although it refers to generational conflict in many churches today, I believe this affects all facets of life in society and culture today and is directly relevant to many other issues facing us today, secular and otherwise.  Once again, these are just thoughts, journalling, almost, coming into sharper focus.  Deeper understanding and meaning are worth reaching for.

I agree with the premise about fear driving the control response by some of the older generations. I have long been disturbed by the open generational conflict that at times has become quite ugly. To be honest, I am one of those in-between representatives, who at 46, finds himself sandwiched in between the cautious, fearful older generation and the vigorous, enthusiastic younger generations who are accomplishing so much.

I would disagree with the ‘arrogance of youth’ which the author mentions. Some, perhaps are.  Most, in my experience, were not.  I have seen highly motivated, well-prepared, inspired, humble youth often crushed by the proud arrogance of the older generation, repeatedly. Yes, that proud, cultural arrogance may perhaps mask the older generation’s fear as a root cause.  It is more often than not expressed as proud, dismissive arrogance. Everything brought as a strength by anyone not part of the oldest generation is often needlessly rejected out of hand.  What is viewed as the ‘arrogance of youth’, is perhaps better labeled as ‘rejection’. Treat someone badly enough, rejecting their input often enough, and they won’t return.  Having been silenced, devalued, and shutdown repeatedly, why would they honestly be expected to return to those who have repeatedly treated them so poorly?  They have ‘shaken the dust from their feet’ and left, or worse, shown the door.  To our shame, this is seen daily in all facets of our society in a public, visceral way.  Even worse, it is encouraged and seen as a good thing by those doing it.

Teachers, mentors, students, and disciples all learn from each other through the process of teaching and learning. Those teaching & mentoring learn just as much from their students and source material as the students learn from them. It is an inspiring and challenging exchange based on trust that works both ways – from teacher to student and student to teacher. The direct analogy being from the older generations to the younger generations, and the younger generations to the older generations.

Respect and trust are two way streets. I do respect, honor, and trust the older generations and what they can teach. However, I see precious little in the way of love, respect, honor, or trust from the angry, fearful, arrogant older generations to the younger generations. Honestly admitting error and learning from it is part of maturity and leadership. Stubborn, angry, intolerant, arrogant refusal to admit any mistake from both the older and younger generations compounds the error, reinforcing rejection, disrespect, and distrust.

As I begin to move, in my personal life, from the position of an adult child to what may turn into becoming a caretaker of my parents, I still respect, honor, and trust them. They also, respect, honor, and trust my judgment in seeking my counsel as I answer their questions, sharing my knowledge and experience with them as they still seek to learn.  We usually manage to understand each other.  It is something that in some ways surprises me, but in others ways does not.  Love and respect tend to engender love and respect in reciprocation.  It also motivates me to work even harder to get whatever I am working on right.  Will I make mistakes?  Yes.  Have I made mistakes?  Yes.  Will I continue to do so?  Yes – but so will those both older and younger than I.  Gracious respect from all living generations to all living generations is required.

I pray and wish that others would learn from my own parents’ example.  We have & continue to admit our mistakes as we realize them, sometimes with a little loving prodding.  We try to learn from our mistakes through forgiveness looking forward, not back.  We don’t reject each other out of hand.  We enjoy a richer, deeper, more honest and rewarding relationship today because of it.  By definition, we are different.  We will not be the same, nor will we always make the same choices.  Our differences are what makes us stronger together.  Even though they may not make the same decisions or choices we have and continue to make, they trust we are as grounded in our daily walk as they are. We do so, boldly, walking as strangers through this strange land, in strange days, in a place no longer recognized by the generation that just might be leaving us all too quickly. It is no longer a familiar place for my parents. It is neither a better nor worse moment or place we find ourselves in today, as we strive to avoid romanticizing or idealizing a past that never existed.  We have not been given a spirit of Fear.

This is in essence a problem that is defined by differences, and fear of those differences.  Any attempts to cast one over another in this discussion as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ forces, by definition, an adversarial approach.  This will breed division with resentment.  Mediation, understanding, respect, and humility by all living generationsfor all living generations can begin to bridge this gap.  Many other communities, countries and cultures do this extremely well.  Why can’t we?

Understanding, respect, and acknowledgment of each generations’ unique contributions will begin to allow the breach to be closed.  Civility and humility can be disarming.  The question is: will all affected be willing to seal the breach and work together?  Perhaps not.  If not, then refraining from denigration and condemnation would seem to be in order, replaced with blessing and honor if paths diverge.

I pray for more bridges to be built by all generations to each other, not angrily burned in fear or rejection by the generations before me or after me.  We need more bridge builders to each other, not bridge burners, or as my Grandmothers would say: ‘Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater’.