Well Meaning But Misunderstood

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If you are wondering what’s wrong with teenagers, adults, society or the world in general, you are not alone.  There are hundreds out there who ask those same questions and hundreds more who claim to know the reasons why.  Do some research and you can find all kinds of opinions, statistics and psychological reasons on the internet, tv, newspapers and books.  The problem is, the ones who claim to know the reasons why the world is a mess are also a part of …well, the same world.  Often when these questions are being asked, there is an added word at the end.  The word is ‘today’.  So you hear questions like,

“What’s wrong with the youth today?”

“What’s wrong with society today?”

“What’s wrong with the world today?”

Have you noticed the peculiarity?  These same questions, with the added word ‘today’, have been asked over and over again over scores of years.  Yet, the world has changed.  Society has changed in many ways and in many countries as well.  This begs the question, ‘What hasn’t changed?’

While there may be several answers to that question, there was one answer in particular that came to me this morning during my quiet time.  It is something that is one of the major causes of contention in any given relationship.  It is that human beings are not always good givers, receivers or conduits when it comes to communicating.  We are all constantly misinterpreting, miscommunicating and misrepresenting one another and what follows is sometimes the laughable statement we sometimes make such as,

“You don’t make any sense!” or “You’re talking in riddles.”

which is often answered in denial.

Jesus is probably one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted individual in history.  His words were misunderstood then and they are misunderstood now.  I can’t help thinking that perhaps when Jesus spoke plainly, his words led to confusion.  Maybe that is why he chose to speak in parables, not to confuse, but to help people to understand the deeper meaning of things.  This makes arguing about religion ridiculous.  None of us can say we know what Jesus was trying to say about everything.  The only clear thing for sure was his love.

I believe that most relationships can be transformed into peaceful, respectful relationships when we truly work hard and patiently at understanding each other.  Yes, there are things which can get in the way and reasons why you need to keep your distance from some individuals. However, there are some relationships which are unavoidable such as family members or those you work with.  There are other relationships which are worth salvaging because it normally works but something went temporarily awry during a conversation one day.  Then there are some relationships which are so great, they are worth nurturing.

In order to improve your relationship with someone, you need to keep the channels of communication open by relinquishing the belief that someone has to be right within a discussion.  The truth is, sometimes it is not possible to work out who is right and other times it’s just we’re not clearly understanding what the other person is saying.  It is better to honor their beliefs, listen with empathy and to have an open mind (you never know, you might learn something).  If it is a case that it is important to get your point across, due so with clarity and respect.  Don’t talk over them and give them the chance to respond.

After you have had ample time to practice respectful, open-minded communication, you might find that you have an all new appreciation for people’s uniqueness. You might even find that ‘loving your neighbour’ has become effortless.

 

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Communicating in Beauty

“Art is communication.”  ― Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

“Art is communication.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

There are many people who bless our lives because they have allowed their own spirits freedom to express their inner most self via creativity and the arts. Their messages, born out of love, are shared for those who find delight in their crafts and often like me who see the beauty and find inspiration there as well.  Please permit me to share with you some artists I have found who in my opinion epitomizes inner light shining through.  It is by no means an exhaustive list, that would have taken a separate and never ending series of its own.  These are just a few of my favourites.  I believe their art are examples of communication in beauty and need no other words of explanation from me.

The first person which always comes to mind is Canadian Singer/Songwriter/Musician Loreena Mckennitt. I don’t think I have ever seen a talent to equal hers.  Before composing, Loreena researches and/or travels to various countries around the globe thus her music is often described as celtic or world music.  She has also set some well known poems to music such as The Highwayman and Lady of Shalott and has done it brilliantly!  Another thing I love about her music is the variations in instruments that her band uses.  Loreena herself plays the piano, accordion and harp. Some songs are Moroccan or Celtic in flavour, some slow paced, some fast.  If you go to www.quinlanroad.com, you will find some tasters of her songs to listen to.  Below is the first song I heard by Loreena when it was used as a theme song for a short-lived television series.

If the video doesn’t work here, you can find it on youtube: http://youtu.be/qxTpvA-pUG0

The next one is Lady Of Shalott based on the poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson.

or find it at: http://youtu.be/ttv0ljOiPSs

The next person I would like to mention is Madeline L’engle pictured at the top.  She was a author of fiction for young adults most notably her Wrinkle In Time series. I have read these books to my children and they to themselves when they were a bit older.  My youngest is now reading them. The Wrinkle In Time series are for a timeless age.  They never grow old and they’re what makes children’s books great as they can be enjoyed by adults as well.  The books are extraordinary in that their themes are science based but also combine with spirituality/religion, poetry and fantasy.

Next I of course have to mention 19th century Scottish author George MacDonald (please don’t confuse with George MacDonald Fraser).  He has been my favourite author since I was 8 and read The Princess and The Goblin followed by its sequel The Princess and Curdie.   I then re-discovered him in my 20’s when I found out that he had also written adult fiction; some period real life type fiction and some fantasy.  He was actually a pioneer in fantasy writing and inspired future writers such as Madeleine L’engle, G.K. Chesterton who said, The Princess and the Goblin “…made a difference to my whole existence” and C.S. Lewis who considered GM his master and said, “I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.”  He was also Lewis Carroll’s mentor. It was because of GM’s encouragement and that of his children which prompted Lewis Carroll to write Alice. The character of Alice is said to have been characterized after one of GM’s children. George Macdonald was a Christian with a huge heart who rejected the doctrine of penal substitutionary but believed rather that Christ came to save people from their sins and not from punishment of their sins.  You will see elements of this belief in his fantasy books Phantastes and Lilith.  His books are beautifully written that take you so far away it is often difficult to find your way back to the mundane of our ordinary existence.  I recommend The Princess and The Goblin for children and then his book Wise Woman and Other Short Stories, The Light Princess and for the real meat of his fantasy works, Phantastes and Lillith.

I would also like to mention a quite remarkable artist/poet by the name of Akiane Kramarik.  When she was three years old she heard God speak to her encouraging her to draw and paint her visions.  She began drawing at the age of four and then painting at the age of six. She began writing poetry at the age of seven; sometimes writing poems to match her paintings. She felt God speak to her many times, inspiring her what to paint.  For instance she tells this story of when she was ten years old: One morning I woke up earlier than usual, and right away I decided to paint, but I could not find any canvas in my studio. My family was still asleep, so quietly, still in my pajamas, I searched my art closets and found one small canvas that I’d worked on a few years ago, but later gessoed it in black.
After my prayer I began painting a young woman’s portrait. next to a branch of fruit. Suddenly I felt God say, blend all the races, because this is Eve, the mother of all mankind.
Right then and there, I understood the meaning: The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is full of forbidden fruit: red for the knowledge of evil, the green for the knowledge of good. It was created to be tempting, fragrant and easy to be picked. Although the fruit resembles the grapes, it was not.
At first, Eve thinks that she will gain wisdom by biting into the fruit of knowledge, but unexpectedly she finds the deception as the red blood of suffering drips from the green fruit. The knowledge of good and evil is simply too much to understand and experience for a human, and now Eve is looking up to God for forgiveness and help…

forbidden-fruit-akiane
 Yes, she painted this when she was ten years old!  Her parents were atheists but through their daughter have now come to believe.  You can find a gallery of her art work by age beginning with age four to present here: http://www.akiane.com/store/. It is really worth looking at.
It has been wonderful being a blogger on wordpress.  I had no idea when I joined that I was also joining a community.  I have come to ‘meet’ some really gifted bloggers with beautiful spirits.  They have allowed themselves to be open and for their light to shine through.  They have made me laugh, cry, pray and gape in awe.  I can’t mention all of you and I am sure I will meet more gifted people but here are three of my favourites.
First is a lady who has made me fall in love with poetry like I have never before.  I haven’t been a huge fan of poetry in the past.  I like some but most make me yawn.  Sonya (Cubby’s) poems are all unique.  Some are sad, some funny (and downright hilarious), some spiritual, some naughty, some deep and some tell a story.  An awesomely cool bonus—all her poems rhyme!  Here’s an example of one of my favourites:

The Hermit

Somewhere beyond

The rolling seas,

Above the highest

Timber trees,

Upon a mountain

Capped with snow,

The Hermit sat

And gazed below.

He saw each creature,

All around,

He heard each heartbeat,

Every sound,

And what he saw

Just made him sad,

And what he heard

Just made him mad.

“Why is the earth

So full of hate?

Why do the tears

Never abate?

Where is the joy

To be alive?

Where is the hope

They need to thrive?”

The Hermit turned

Away dismayed,

Back to his cave

He would have strayed,

But as he got

Up to his feet,

His ears tuned in

To something sweet;

Faint peals of laughter,

Pure and bold,

With waves of giggling

Uncontrolled,

The sound of playing

In the rain

And silly songs

Untouched by pain.

So Hermit searched

And found the source,

He twitched a smile

And said, “Of course,

Where children live

Hope will survive,

And for as long

As they’re alive,

The earth is not

Completely lost

When children can

Redeem the cost.”

You can find her blog on http://reowr.wordpress.com/

Another light-filled blog poster is Colleen Briggs and her blog Fragments of Light. http://colleenbriggs.com/

Colleen’s blog comprises of beautiful, poignant stories of her past travels as “…an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff-worker (1995-2002), and then as Hope’s Promise’s Director of Orphan Care (2006-2012)…”, during which she adopted two children.  Her writing style is pure, from the heart and eloquent.  Not something you want to read in a rush. Fragments of Light is a blog you want to read slowly and savour.  You will also see find on there Colleen’s beautiful art work of mixed media depicting spiritual truths and her moving photography.  Below are two of my favourites:

The final blogger I want to share is an amazing fiction writer.  Elizabeth Yon’s writing style reminds me often of writing from the 18-19th century.  The stories are fantasy with a mixture of mysterious eeriness. Not for the very young but not too scary that a 12 year old couldn’t handle.  Her stories lend themselves to reading aloud because the words are so beautifully crafted.  These are stories full of magic, dark but beautiful.  Here is an excerpt from her story The House Of Sleep which you can find on her blog: http://elizabethyon.wordpress.com/

Outside, the luminous depths of the woods spoke with a thousand voices –tree frogs chanting their paean to the drizzle and chill as the light trembled toward gloaming. From her position on the bed, she could see the tops of the trees, their black bones aflame with tender leaves, their verdure magnified and made radiant by the rain.

Elizabeth has also published a book entitled, Wilderness: A Collection of Dark Tales available on Amazon both UK and US.  You can read my review here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wilderness-A-Collection-Dark-Tales/dp/1470191857/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

So now I want to say a big Thank You to all of you: my community, my friends.  Thanks to my followers who must find it strange to read postings on Interiors one day and on spirituality or health another. Thank you Sonya, Colleen, and Elizabeth for giving me permission to write about you on my blog.  Know that it is an honour for me and that I see your beauty. Namaste everyone!

Communicating In Love

red rose

Last Sunday I got dressed for church in my Joe Brown multi-coloured crinkle dress and matched it with teal tights and black patent chunky heel multi-strapped shoes. I then being inspired by my 13 year old daughter’s fashion sense grabbed a dark teal pashmina to wear on top. I looked at myself in the full-length mirror in my bedroom (the one that makes me look slimmer than I actually am) and thought I look a bit too dressy for church but there was no time to change. I came downstairs and declared to my husband (tongue-in-cheek) that I looked too good for church and should be taken out for dinner instead! When we got home that afternoon, my husband said to me that he was taking the whole family out to dinner tonight as long as, “… you wear that dress because you look great!” Money is tight in our household. This was a loving sacrifice. Still feeling the love……
This is a difficult blog to write as the message is one that is close to my heart these days. I thought I understood love and what love is and how to show, give love but I find myself being taught in recent days that love is even deeper than I knew. Madeline L’engle who was an amazing author of children’s books (most notably A Wrinkle In Time) said, ‘In the evening of life we shall be judged on love, and not one of us is going to come off very well, and were it not for my absolute faith in the loving forgiveness of my Lord, I could not call on Him to come.’ I like to think we all love. We love our family or some of them; we love our friends, our spouse, and our children but do we really love? I mean love unconditionally and in a way that is supernatural rather than natural?
1 John 4:16 says: ‘And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.’ And in 1 John 4:8 we read: ‘Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love.’ By these verses we understand that God is love and that love comes from God. We also know that our spirits come from God and we are made in His image. So where does love exist? It exists in us. At our core, we are also love. Galatians 5:22 says: ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love…’ When we love, we are acting in spirit; our spirit which is of God who is love. In this way, we are one. 1 John 4:12 reads: ‘No one has ever seen God, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.’ I read that as a promise…our human love…our ordinary but nice sort of love can be BIGGER. It can be perfected in us!’
I bet you have had moments like this: you are having a quiet time with God, praying, meditating or whatever spiritual practice you follow and you FEEL so uplifted, so filled up and you go out into your world and the first person you meet, you reach out to them in love even though they may be a complete stranger. That is spirit. That is love. They are the same. Spirit is love. Living spiritually is living in love. You have just communicated in spirit. However, as the day progresses that love you have been feeling may start to wane. That is why spiritual practice needs to be continuous. We need to be in that loving mode always. Wayne Dyer (I know I have been quoting him a lot lately but isn’t he just great?) says, “Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.” Barack Obama said, “It’s important to make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

If we are all living and moving from our spirit; if we are all communicating in love think what the world would be like. What kind of love are really talking about? What does it look like? Here’s a beautiful example: In John 21:15-17 we read: When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
Spiritual love is tangible. It is operational. It doesn’t stop at empathy or sympathy. It propels. When we love in spirit, we communicate in spirit (love). We feed the hungry; we reach out to those we are led to reach out to; we pray for those who need prayer; we give gifts; we give affection; we give affirmation; we serve in any way we can.
This is the part that I am labouring to communicate. We can serve and give love from our bodies; that is to say from the surface of our beings. We can give love from our spirit, true love, which God is perfecting in us. The love that acts, even when it is not convenient for us, the love that moves us to give when money is tight or serve when time is not abundant; the love that causes us to hug someone when they smell; the love that propels us to drive out of our way in order to help someone. The love that changes us into joyful, loving beings. The love that gifts us with the gift of exhortation when our previous nature was one that criticized. That is supernatural love. That is real love. That is spirituality.

Communicating In Peace

 

technology

There are many ways in which we communicate with each other.  In fact because of technological advances, we now spend more time conversing with one another via email and texting than letter writing, phone and face to face. When we use these modern devices to communicate, we often do it in short hand or text speak.  As a relatively shy person, this at first seems great. It also seems great when you are a very busy person.  You can always choose the time to respond to a text message or email that is more convenient to you such as when you are riding the bus or train.  On the other hand, it can all get a bit out of control. For instance, my teenage daughter tells me that boys who are fearful of rejection will ask a girl out by sending a facebook message or texting.  That same boy will also break up with the poor girl the same way.  Texting gives power to people who wish to harm but are too cowardly to do it face to face.  We often hear of stories where someone falls victim to the cruel actions of a malicious person when they receive a hurtful text or message.  Of course, it isn’t the only way hurtful words are communicated.  Some abusive people have no problem being verbally abusive in person or over the phone.  Still others may not have meant to be abusive but allowed their anger to get the better of them.

James 3:9-12 says: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

If we are really wanting peace and harmony in the world; if we are truly wanting to grow spiritually, we really need to reign in our anger and take a hard look at how we communicate.  How do we react when someone says something that touches a nerve within us?  Do we retaliate by saying something which we know touches a nerve within them? Try taking a step back within yourself and release any negative emotions that come up.

Wayne Dyer said, “How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”

The world is a reflection of ourselves. What we give out so we will attract back. If we want to attract harmonious relationships, we need to be harmonious ourselves.  One of the first steps we need to all take is to begin practicing non-judgementalism.  We need to stop criticizing all those who are or think differently to who we are and how we think.  There are many cultures, traditions, orientations, religions and beliefs in this world. Many people consciously and unconsciously divide themselves from other people for millions of reasons.  The first step we can take as an individual is to stop mentally dividing ourselves from others.  Matthew 7:3 says “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Peacefulness exists when we stop judging others for the mistakes they make and that includes ourselves.  If we make a mistake, then let’s recognize it, learn from it and rectify it if we can and then release it.  When we do it, we are practicing non-judgmentalism towards ourselves which will then make it easier to practice it towards others.  Wayne Dyer also said, “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

Another way we hurt others is by slanderous remarks. I have known Christians to even give the reason that they are ‘…telling you so you can pray for them better.’  Maybe they have good intentions but most likely they just love to gossip and use prayer as an excuse to do so.  They probably have convinced themselves that they mean well.  Ephesians 4:29-32 says.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  If we can remember with gratitude how much God has forgiven us for and how unworthy we are then forgiving others should be easy.  In fact, it is a gift of love and compassion which we should be giving freely.

 I love Ephesians 4:2 which says:Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.’ So when someone slanders you—bear with them in love.  When someone viciously attacks you verbally—bear with them in love.  When someone misunderstands your motives—set them straight but bear with them in love. When your toddler or teenager throws a tantrum—bear with her in love.  And when your mother in law looks you straight in the eye and says she rubs the statue’s belly to get a parking space—bear with her in love.

Last thing I want to say about communicating in peace is that sometimes what comes out of someone isn’t what is really being said.  If they are being surly or malicious or slanderous, they are coming from a hurt place themselves—bear with them in love.  Send them a prayer.  Gift them with a kind word when the moment is right.
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