Totally Bent

One step closer,

nothing to prove,

one step closer,

to you, Lord.

One step farther,

away from this world,

one step further,

towards you, Lord.

I’ve done what they wanted,

and what they required,

from all that I’m totally through.

Now Lord, I’m coming to you.

Oh, your night smells so sweet,

though my days were well spent,

but its time now to put up my feet—

towards heaven I’m totally bent.

I’m happy to shed all the things I have gathered,

so happy to give them all up,

the duties and all of the ways I have labored,

all fade as You gather me up.

Gather me up Lord, yes please, gather me up,

I’ve nothing to prove here, its true.

Everything vanishes from view,

Each step, I take closer to You.

~FS

Peace So Elusive

Spinning, spinning,

round and round,

a dog chasing his tail,

is no way to be,

no way to find it.

Hiding, hiding,

its all around,

a blind man wails,

no light to see,

no light to find it.

Falling, falling,

down and down,

a nature so frail,

no hope in us,

God help us find it!

Stopping, stopping,

slowing down,

a corrupt mind assailed,

no thought is free,

no thought can find it.

Breathing, breathing,

turning round,

a world to bewail,

no longer to agree,

unwillingness to find it.

Praying, praying,

bowing down,

a Savior to hail,

in Him is peace,

The Way to find it—

Peace so elusive.

~FS

Keep Seeking

It is better to seek,

even if we do not find,

than to never seek at all.

It is better to keep seeking,

even though we do not find,

than to give up the search entirely.

It is better to wait upon the Truth,

than to grow impatient and then,

to populate our mind with illusions.

It is better to keep waiting,

and to exercise our hope,

than to grow indolent upon deceptions.

Even if our soul were to indulge a thousand years upon the fat of this land—

Still, it would languish and fall faint, for lack of spiritual nourishment.

Though our seeking may appear fruitless, and our waiting unfulfilled—

Seeking and waiting reveal their inner mysteries, and by these we are continually renewed.

~FS

Mantlepiece Theater Episode 2: The Isle of Virtue

In this episode we will explore the exquisite gift of enduring love. This is the story of an elderly couple who have lived and loved, their entire existence within a remote area of Southeast Alaska. Within this harsh environment they built a life together, they raised a family, and now, in their golden years, together they share intimate and simple joys in the midst of their stark yet majestic surroundings. Here, we are invited to join them, for a brief time, in their warm and easy relationship together, as we are given a window into their daily routines; of fishing, felling trees, cultivating vegetables and sharing meals together. However, there are still some surprises in store for the old couple, and for us as well!  What is it that they suddenly discover after all those years of living in that one location? And how is it that they have never been aware of it before? If you are curious to find out, then sit back and enjoy the story, as we take you now on a journey of love in the wildest of places…

Treasure Worth Praying

God gives everything to those who pray,

To them who pray in spirit and in truth,

Who ask for Him, before all other things,

He gives to them everything they ask.

He gives them eyes to see what they couldn’t see,

And ears to hear the things they couldn’t hear,

He shows freedom to the one who yearns for progress,

And He speaks stability for those who value tradition.

He is all things, for all people, in all times,

He satisfies every need in the midst of needs,

And at the end of times, He is the source of all,

God is the peace that eludes the world.

~FS

‘No’ is a Key to Independence

I can like a parade; if I must. If someone else’s enjoyment requires me to go along, and they need, or want me to co-sign on that experience with them; I can do it. But I don’t like parades. Crowds make me uncomfortable. Loud noises annoy me. So much stimulation gives me a headache.

But we put up with these things, for others. Life teaches us to sacrifice, and we learn to think of others in addition to, or more than we think of ourselves. We grow up, we become adults, and we gain maturity. Sacrificing for others is one of the hallmarks of maturity. At first we may not like it. As children, our parents may make us consider a sibling’s feelings over our own; or as young adults we may be called upon to consider those less fortunate than us and to give of our surplus. We start off sacrificing through clenched teeth, grimacing; and we begin giving with clenched fists. Our conscience slowly prying our fingers open, as we continue to give and become mature.

Eventually, hopefully, we learn to give graciously, and we learn to enjoy it. We give joyfully. For instance, I can smile at a parade now; and most of the time I’m not even faking it. I’ve learned to overlook all of my discomforts and find joy in the things I like: focusing upon the happy children all about, the cute pets at my feet, the classic sports cars all in line, the silly costumes, and the candy. I can be pleasant at a parade; if I must.

Learning this kind of maturity is good. It helps us ‘play well with others’. But it isn’t without its dangers. I’ve met plenty of people who can get along and be a good neighbor, but who haven’t the foggiest idea what they really think, or what they really like. They know what they’re supposed to like, and they can say all the things they believe they should think. But the critical internal processes that lead a person to character traits like integrity and courage have become lost along the way. For many of us, this path to maturity has led us also into a befuddled confusion. We know how to get along with others, but we can’t get along with ourselves.

Knowing how to live with others takes maturity. Knowing how to live with ourselves takes wisdom.

I suspect we all know on some level, that in this process of ‘growing up’ we’ve lost something vital. Perhaps this is at the root of the widespread narcissism we see in our world today. Folks are desperately trying to find ‘their truth’, and live ‘their best lives’ although we haven’t the faintest idea what makes for truth, or a quality life. Furthermore, folks attempt to make others bend to their own desires, in hopes of living a good life.

We have gained maturity by learning to say ‘No’ to our selfishness, in favor of what others want (our parents would be proud). Now, I suspect we can gain wisdom by the same process.  By saying ‘No’ to the selfishness that is all around us, by saying ‘No’ to everything that would reduce us down to a means of fulfilling the desires of someone else, we find freedom. In this way, we can extricate ourselves from the web of confusion all around us, and we can discover truths that dwell deep within us. We grow independent of this greedy and manipulative world.   

We must say ‘No’ to simply being consumers, or becoming ‘brands’, for we are humans not corporations. We must say ‘No’ to having our spiritual humanity reduced to material commodities and economic units. We should say ‘No’ even to our friends and family members when they want to manipulate us, simply to satisfy their own desires, which may not be in our best interest.

At the root, maturity and wisdom both require discernment. ‘No’ is the excellent path to knowing. Saying ‘No’ builds inner strength and courage. Witnessing the external results which follow from saying ‘No’, helps us to gain discernment and attain wisdom. It is good to be mature, but it is excellent to be wise. Freedom and independence depend upon a healthy, discerning ability to say ‘No’!

~FS

If Software Engineers Ran The World

I recently ran updates on my computer. I knew I shouldn’t do it. Years of past experience told me that it was a dangerous and foolish thing to do. I’ve resisted their reminders for weeks now, maybe months, possibly even years. But in a moment of weakness I clicked on ‘update and then shut down’ when I turned off my computer the other day. I thought to myself: maybe this update is important, perhaps it was for my benefit—and I worried that if I kept ignoring it, then something bad might happen to me. I forgot, in a moment of dementia, that every other time I’ve ever updated my software in the past, it invariably has caused me untold angst, frustration, and despair as it surprisingly changes all the settings I’ve come to rely upon, or it adds new unexpected annoyances that pop-up and never go away. 

Computers can be useful tools. We can do lots of cool stuff with them. But the people who design the software that runs them should not be allowed to get near them again, once they finish their first version. Assuming their initial effort works satisfyingly well, software engineers should be locked out henceforth, and denied all further access to our machines. If they must ‘improve’ something, let them turn their efforts to improving their own relationships (don’t their kids need their moms or dads to toss a ball with them, or help them with their homework?), or they should be unleashed on some other aspect of life to ‘improve’, but not our computers. If the computer ain’t broke, please don’t ‘fix’ it.

At first this seems a good idea, but then, can you imagine what might happen if software engineers were unleashed upon other spheres of our lives? Let’s say you’re a carpenter and you build decks. You own a hammer that you enjoy using. Then all of a sudden the engineers come along and take your hammer and give you the new version. This one has a built-in fan that helps cool your hands in hot weather. But the damn thing breaks every time you try to hit a nail with it. The fan blades can’t take the impact. So a month later they’ve come up with a fix. It is a soft rubber cover that fits over the hammer-head so the fan blades won’t be jarred as you hammer. It works, the fan blades no longer break. But now the hammer isn’t hard, and it can’t set nails anymore, and the nail-heads tear through the rubber cover, shredding it, making it unusable. You try to find the first version of the hammer; the one you really liked that worked, but nobody sells it anymore and it isn’t supported.

Thankfully, hammer 3.0 just came out, so you buy that one. It sets nails again, and the fan seems to work without too much effort, though the batteries keep falling out the end of the hammer, but you fix that with duct tape. Everything is good, until your subscription expires. Who knew you had to have a subscription to use your hammer now! You think you can get away with it, so you keep hammering with it, but they have your credit card, and at the end of the month you get dinged for $278.50. It turns out they snuck a microchip into this version of your hammer that tabulates every use; so that every time you hit something with it, they charge you twenty-five cents, since you are using an unlicensed version. You really just want to build decks, but now you are spending all your time trying to figure out how to work with your hammer. You hire someone to hack the chip inside it, at the cost of $150. Now you’re back in business, until your saw breaks.

You have to buy a new one, nobody fixes the one you’ve been using. It was a good saw. But you get a new one and it cuts wood very nicely. The folks at the store show you how it works and its very efficient and you are glad you upgraded, though you still miss your old saw. But you’re about to make decks again, and that’s what you love to do. You unpack the saw but can’t make it work. It turns out there are two hidden buttons up inside the case that nobody told you about. They designed it that way because it looks cool and keeps the buttons from getting wet. But after several calls and a few hours of discussion, you and your buddies figure it out. You locate the buttons and you get the saw going. But the next day you can’t get the saw to work again, even after pressing the hidden buttons. You make a few more calls, but nobody can help you. They ask you to bring the saw into the store. After a few hours at the store, and several calls to the manufacturer, you discover that the day before you didn’t turn the saw off in the correct way; you just unplugged it, stupid. Of course it won’t work again if you do that! First—You have to press the button on the inner left side of the case when turning the saw off. Secondly—that other hidden button, you need to depress that while simultaneously unplugging the saw; this is a safety feature that is designed to help keep the software engineers employed.

On the way back to your jobsite you wonder if you are really a carpenter any longer, or are you becoming a tool technician instead? You’re learning a lot more about your tools than you ever wanted to know. You think, maybe you should give up building decks and just get into tool repair instead. Maybe if you just knuckle down and learn everything there is to know about your new hammer, and your new saw, then you can keep them working long enough to get back to building decks. But you’d really rather just be building decks and not spending all your time learning about the latest version of your tools. Sigh.

And then you think, what if these clowns designed everything?! We wouldn’t get anything done.

~FS