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Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

Recently, I had an opportunity to take  week-long sabbatical. In case you do not know, a sabbatical is “A sabbatical year is a prolonged hiatus, typically one year, in the career of an otherwise successful individual taken in order to fulfill some dream.” In my case it was not a year, nor was it necessarily to fulfill my dream. It was however to gain perspective, and a vantage point about my life. Everyone needs that type of time to consider how and where one is going. I was grateful to have the time to engage & reflect, listen & hear, step & pause. One of the exciting events that I chose while on sabbatical was to climb what is called a 14’er (or fourteener) known as Quandary Peak. In case you have not connected the dots, I was out-of-town visiting the state of Colorado. Colorado has breathtaking views, clean air, and space to “take it all in.” Colorado has over 50 14’ers and all have views that extend beyond the horizon. Quandary is one of many and is a beginners 14’er with a gradual but intense incline.

As I seem to do with most events in my life, I experience them to the fullest measure, meanwhile I extract the symbolic meaning of them as I am engaging and participating in the adventure. Quandary Peak is a 14,265 foot Peak southwest of Breckenridge that begins in the trees and ends up above the treeline. The trail is relatively easy to follow until crossing the treeline and traveling onto the rocky path towards the summit.

As I was venturing upwards, I was remembering when I ran my first marathon in the year 2000. One of the key learnings then was, “anyone can run a marathon, one must simply learn what their pace is to complete the race.” Then, that was a good learning. Knowing what your pace is enables you to complete your race. Life is a race and you are competing with yourself. Knowing what your personal pace is enables you to complete it with the time that is commensurate with your own abilities and commitment. It is so easy to look around and observe the other competitors and compare yourself with what is perceived about “the other.” What an illusion! It goes to show, life is filled with illusions. Back to the climb.

What I learned while climbing was, “the ascent to the top takes place by “stepping into life” one step at a time! Rarely does any progress, achievement, or goal get accomplished while watching or sitting. Though there is a time and place for observation, there is also a time for stepping into the unknown “one step at a time” in order to gradually move into a more full life. I am reminded if the passage in Isaiah 25: 6-9

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine, the best of meats and the finest of wines.

On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever.

The sovereign Lord will wipe away tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say, Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

Step into Life, your life. Go to the summit, your summit. See the peak, the view, the majesty of His glory from your perspective One Step at a TIme! You will receive as you trust each step along the way!

Photos courtesy of Google & 14ers.com, Flickr, tab2space.

 

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Oh what an awful title to start this entry for the day. But, have you ever00011506-SPP-leprosyportraits-005 by natalia_tumasian. thought about it? Jesus confronted, held and touched, and healed one of the most debilitating and damaging illnesses of His day-leprosy. All lepers (due to the contagion of the illness) were automatically removed from society, held with disregard, treated as if substandard, and lastly, left to die within their little community of lepers. How tragic and utterly baneful this must have been for those who contracted the disease. Why did Jesus go out of his way to make a difference, to relate, engage, heal, and love these people?

1month - 1700g - Pneumonia by u.wili.As in many of the Lord’s parables where he touches the very heart of broken, sinful, and lost humanity, He does so with these people. Jesus most often elevates the truthful, and compassionate response to humanity while ensuring that the point is not to expose humanity and how bad it is. “Our tragedy is that most often, we focus on what people are not rather than what they are and what they can become.” 

So…what is the leprosy of our day? As mentioned earlier in one of my first entries, I am a therapist and a consultant. I spend many hours listening intently to the circumstances, stories, and relational exchanges that seem to create stuckness in the mire of life. I am convinced that the Leprosy of Our Day has less to do with physical illness and more to do with our response towards our overriding  “fear of not belonging.” What do I mean? Let me explain.

Because we were all made for meaningful connection, our proclivity for perspective is to belong. We all arrange our grid for viewing life each day with an emotional focus to insure belonging. When we stumble upon a person who is “different” or perhaps going through something that we would dread going through, our immediate grid becomes jaded with our fear and asks, “If I engage would I belong?” If we are afraid, our belonging meter begins to show alarm. As a means of self-protection, we then become suspect, possibly even judgemental towards the person, or group therefore insuring our own cleansing from the system while protecting what we have already set up as our “criteria and system of belonging.”

Lepers are created by our own perceptions of what is “not acceptable” and reinforced by our engrained response of judgements and rationalizations of why another is truly an outcast. So..the leprosy is not necessarily a certain issue as much as it is a response to the issues with an already preconceived grid of insuring self-protection and deemed purity.

A good friend recently went to the Holy Land on a tour. His instructor Giant Clouds Invade Idaho! Close Encounters of the Cumulonimbus Kind by moonjazz.Ray Vander Laan  said it well, “Jesus came to bring order in the midst of disorder, he came to enter into the chaos and not skirt it to appear more righteous.” Oh, how difficult this is. What is certain is we cannot do it alone, we need each other, our perspectives need to be refined and transformed into the image of true love, and we need to be having conversations with the Lord and each other about our struggle in the midst of it.

Photos Courtesy of  Natalie Tumasian,U.Wili,, MoonJazz 

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The title says it all! I am finding myself perplexed by the degree of complexity that surrounds conversations and relationships. I ask myself, “How on earth did we get here and where do we go from this point on?”

If you have ever been in the position of helping a conversation move forward, you know exactly what I am talking about. Conversation gets bogged down, consequently the relationship gets stuck in this murky, unclear emotional soup that limits freedom of speech, freedom of sensing (other than anger and frustration), and ultimately, freedom “to be” in relationship. I wish to propose that the greatest saboteur is confusion. So, what causes confusion and how does one name it, move out of it, and use it to gain momentum for improving conversation and relationship? Certainly, this could be a book, however, I wish to suggest a few thoughts.

Margaret Wheatley suggests that “Growth is in the roots of all things.” I really appreciate that phrase. Growth truly is the genesis of all organic matter. When life endeavors to grow, it sends its tender roots down to absorb the life and nutrients that are available in the soil.

Conversation is similar. We send our tendrils out into the void not knowing how the other person will respond, yet we hope that there will be something to gently “connect” to in relationship with the sense of “other” in the conversation. In an earlier post, I suggested that the quality of change in a person’s life must come  out of their view of reality. I am certain that if we do not boost the importance of conversation we will continue to experience the consistent limitations of what we are currently experiencing. I believe that conversation is sabotaged by four primary qualities:

  1. Poor listening
  2. Closed attitudes and heart condition
  3. Fear of being wrong with a greater emphasis on being right
  4. Prior conversations that have already tainted reality and perceptions

300-365 by sicliff3. When we begin to notice the emotional stickiness of a conversation, be aware that something is happening. The flow is absorbed by added mental processing to overcome and guarantee refuge in the event that there is not receptivity or connection. Flight, fight, or freeze, typically is our dominant response.

Improving the conversation will need the opposite of the already mentioned saboteurs. Improvement begins with a few pointers:

  1. Willingness to listen.
  2. Being open  and curious not so much about what another has to say, rather what meaning is conveyed while conversation is taking place.
  3. Posturing oneself in a position of not knowing until learning from another has taken place.
  4. Possessing boldness to be honest.

Certainly this is my most lengthy blog. How do I say what needs to be said.? What do you have to say?

Photos Courtesy of Flickr, Tsmyther, Tina Manthorp, Siclif3

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I am becoming more aware of the degree to which people feel isolated from one another. Loneliness, emptiness, despair, and turning one’s affections from what fulfills and creates life to indulging in parts of life that offer nothing more than the slimy consolation prize which in turn certainly communicates: “you’re not a winner.” Sometimes I simply have had enough of the paltry and squalid side of life. I long for and desire so much more for relationships, people, and the daily experience that is created from our human efforts.

“Every change in the quality of a person’s life must grow out of a change in his or her vision of reality.”  This quote comes from a book that  I am reading. You can check out the links for yourself. The book suggests that there is a wisdom of tenderness that coincides with the Words of Jesus as the master vision of reality. Essentially, our picture of God creates our understanding of reality with all the mental, emotional, and relational paradigms that go along with it. Understanding and identifying with our picture of God is an honest beginning for knowing where to commence defining the world we live in.

Where is the place that we begin or continue to turn for our own personal consolation when the world does not make sense? If we turn to God and we receive nothing more than silence, often in our own spiritual immaturity we conclude with, “God must not care.” If in turning to others we are told religious blather God merely is reduced to the trivial understanding of our own ignorance. If we turn to one another, what do we turn to one another for? Are we merely temporary sources of comfort amidst the discomforts of life. What place do we (our relationships) hold with each other?

I witness and listen to a variety of relational experiences where people are disillusioned and confused with their relationships and the purpose they have in their life. I am certain that conversations must turn to God but also to one another. The quality of these conversations, in my estimation, outweighs the quantity of conversation.

I have been a witness to conversations that seem to spin around the maypole amassing quantity yet the end result is anemic with mutual understanding and connection. Conversations that listen at a depth that is commensurate with what is being said appears to be central to arriving with a level of connection that satisfies. My next entry will discuss conversations that listen.

Photos courtesy of Microsoft Picture Organizer

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This past week was certainly filled with appointments where relationships were filled with pain, frustration, and loss. There was a variety of difficulties that create the negativity resulting in a “going away or a going against” style of relationship.

What gives life in our relationships? What types of connection offer more than our shallow placating efforts to “make someone happy?” I find that the real trap is when we feel responsible for someone elses happiness. This automatically is a set up for someone else to control whether you are happy.

Central to our challenge to experience relationship connections that give life is our boundary layer confusion about “what is yours, what is mine, and what is ours.” I find that there are three distinct entities in a dyadic relationship: me, you, and us. The difficulty is that we are confused about the relational, emotional lines between the three. Consequently, we are either overperforming, underperforming, or not performing.

Relationships were created to offer an authentic source of generative life. Our confusion due to emotional, developmental, historical, and spiritual forces misconstrue the perception and therefore the delivery of relationship giving. The end result: confusion, hurt, frustration, differences that do not reconcile, emotional tissue that does not get restored, spiritual birthing that does not get a chance to develop.

Certainly, a 250 word blog is not enough to address this difficulty in full. However, mentioning the challenge and attempting to distill out of the confusion a central understanding of part of the challenge can begin the conversation that creates an interest to delve deeper into discovering for yourself Connections That Give Life! How do you relate to this conversation?

Photos courtesy of  Microsoft Clip Organizer

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In amazement, I find myself moved by the conversations that I am privileged to share with people who are attempting to “connect the dots” of past and present experiences in their lives. Not only are these conversations earnestly seeking for truth, they are conversations that draw upon courage. I classify these interactions as Conversations of Courage.”

These are not average conversations where common rhetoric or talk are merely exchanged to convey information back and forth. I am talking about the type of conversations that require vulnerability in the “guts” of a person and on a profound level make a decision to no longer hide from the truth of an experience.

I suppose a story or example would help illustrate what I am trying to convey. Perhaps in future blogs I will submit one for your perusal. For now, I wish to explain what I am trying to say first.

A choice must be made for “life” to continue. Courage is revealed when the vulnerability of a person’s situation evokes transparency and decision-making. Another way of saying this comes from author Gerald May, “A person must learn to become willing rather than wilful.”  Willingness actually leads to a more open space available for transformation. Wilfulness has within its make-up the attitude of being closed to secure a more immediate and self-focused aspect of interest. Willingness creates an attitude open to learning and growing. Wilfulness postures control and possible dominance where inwardly there is insecurity and fear.

For a time, the late Joe Batten from Des Moines, Iowa was my mentor and friend. He gave me an illustration that spoke to this point of willingness versus wilfulness. He would say, “Matthew what material is stronger,  leather or granite?” Naturally, like many who answered this question, I would say, “granite.” He would go on to state, “If you were to take a hammer and hit a piece of granite it would shatter. If you do the same with leather it dimples and still holds its shape.” The point: leather is actually a stronger material because it is flexible and open to change. In the scheme of life, leather is better.

Courageous conversations, I have found are: open and flexible. They require something of us, include vulnerability, and promote the refreshment of an other’s impact to develop and change who we are capable of becoming.”

I challenge you; be willing to have a conversation of courage. Take note whether you grow and develop as a result of your conversation.

Photos courtesy WordPress, Flickr, stephenK1977 & maxcady808

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Once again, I was blessed to have another engaging conversation of depth and discovery. I was traveling with a friend to meet with a consultant who shared some mutual interests. Of course, as we drove to our destination, we conversed. What I realized was the incredible enjoyment of our interaction and the manner in which it helps each of us create something new.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, What is Your Conversation With Life, we were not simply talking. We were actually creating as the conversation was happening. I found that our conversation included these qualities:

  • conversation is creative
  • conversation is life-giving
  • conversation grants permission for uniqueness and expression
  • conversation promotes authenticity
  • conversation helps us to understand and move towards wholeness
  • conversations teach us how to listen
  • conversation lends itself to discovering “the other as a true other”
  • conversation deepens intimacy (knowing of self and another)
  • conversation invites God to be involved

In future blogs, I am sure that I will be elaborating on these qualities that lifted from my conversation with a special friend. This was my conversation with life and I was sensitized to the beauty of giving consent to the conversation. What are your conversations creating today? Have you reflected much on the qualities that seem to emerge from your conversations? I encourage you to continue to deepen your Conversation with Life!

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