Monday, May 22, 2017

Life of the beloved


This third post is just a brief and general overview of Henri Nouwen's great little book 'Life of the Beloved.' It is around 150 pages, and includes a reflection guide at the end. Basically the entire book is Henri's writings to a new friend who wants to understand how to live a spiritual life in a secular world (and he is not a Christian). It doesn't contain any church-y language and is perhaps better explained in the sermons Henri preached on the topic. You can find them in a link on the first post HERE.

There are three sections:
  1. Being the Beloved.
  2. Becoming the Beloved.
  3. Living as the Beloved.
The middle section is the focal point. We already ARE the beloved, so Nouwen asserts that becoming the beloved is the process of letting that truth become enfleshed in everything we think, say, and do. He identifies four movements of the Spirit in our lives that allow this to happen:
  • Taken
  • Blessed
  • Broken
  • Given
You may recognize this pattern if you have participated in Communion in a church service. Nouwen says these words also describe our lives each and every day. THAT is what the book is about.

For those who know me you understand my hesitance to make recommendations. I love Nouwen's writing, and this book did not disappoint. I think I might actually buy another copy and give to an atheist friend of mine. I don't know why, but it just feels like a good book to do that with.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Broken


In this second post on Henri Nouwen's incredible little book 'Life of the Beloved' I just have a couple quotes I pulled from the chapter on being "broken."

As I said before, this book is basically just writings from Henri to a friend. I was struck on p. 85 when Henri said:
"I told you about my writing as a means of dealing with my loneliness, my sense of isolation, my many fears, and my general sense of insecurity."
I've read loads of books by and about Henri, but this is the first I recall hearing anything like that. I think it resonated with me so because that is probably why I write, even though I'd never thought of it like that. I've always been a journaler, but I'd never considered it how I dealt with - or processed - the way I am. Even though it seems obvious now. I was actually somewhat encouraged to find that I have this in common with someone like this.

Speaking of writing, I do have to admit that it makes me feel better. When I am able to get in a flow and write something halfway decent - that's when I perhaps feel most alive. Unfortunately I don't do it much. It's also interesting that a friend of mine - who I don't think has ever read anything I've written - has suggested several times that I should consider writing a book. I don't know why he thinks that, or says that, but I also must admit that lately I've been thinking about it. I can't imagine it will ever happen because it would take up so much time, but I don't think I've ever noticed the impact writing has on me. So, who knows.

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The other quote from this chapter deals with suffering. I like how he points out that everyone's suffering is unique. There may be similarities, but no one can tell another person how to suffer.

Then on pp. 89-90 he shares this:
"In the Western world, the suffering that seems to be the most painful is that of feeling rejected, ignored, despised and left alone. In my own community, with many severely handicapped men and women, the greatest source of suffering is not the handicap itself, but the accompanying feelings of being useless, worthless, unappreciated, and unloved. It is much easier to accept the inability to speak, walk, or feed oneself than it is to accept the inability to be of special value to another person. We human beings can suffer immense deprivations with great steadfastness, but when we sense that we no longer have anything to offer to anyone, we quickly lose our grip on life. Instinctively we know that the joy of life comes from the ways in which we live together and that the pain of life comes from the many ways we fail to do that well."

This is something I have always felt personally, but I didn't realize it was that common. Nouwen certainly has the experience to know, so, again, I find some comfort in the fact that it's not just me.

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So, what do we make from these two tidbits? I don't know. It makes me want to slow down. Have slower conversations, a slower lifestyle, take my time in taking in what I see, hear, feel and sense. I guess, basically, it's to try to be more aware. Respond to people and situations slower and with less judgment, rather than thinking so much and forming opinions on-the-go.

I don't know... Yeah... I don't know. But I don't think being broken is all that bad. I don't think it lasts forever. It's not so much that we get repaired... but made new. That's my hope anyway.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The greatest trap in our life


I believe I mentioned awhile back that I am reading Henri Nouwen's 'Life of the Beloved.' It is a splendid book, and I very much like reading Nouwen. This book in particular actually comes from some writings he sent to a friend who was searching for meaning in life. I remember from back in my seminary days seeing Henri preach on this subject on the old 'Hour of Power' Robert Schuller telecast. 

Anyway, in this first post on the book I want to include a lengthy section from the chapter "Being the Beloved." It starts on p. 31 and runs through 33.
"Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can, indeed, present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection.  
When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. I am constantly surprised at how quickly I give in to this temptation. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking: "Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody." Instead of taking a critical look at the circumstances or trying to understand my own and others' limitations, I tend to blame myself -- not just for what I did, but for who I am. My dark side says, "I am no good... I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned." 
Maybe you think that you are more tempted by arrogance than by self-rejection. But isn't arrogance, in fact, the other side of self-rejection? Isn't arrogance putting yourself on a pedestal to avoid being seen as you see yourself? Isn't arrogance, in the final analysis, just another way of dealing with the feelings of worthlessness? Both self-rejection and arrogance pull us out of the common reality of existence and make a gentle community of people extremely difficult, if not impossible, to attain. 
I know too well that beneath my arrogance there lies much self-doubt, just as there is a great amount of pride hidden in my self-rejection. Whether I am inflated or deflated, I lose touch with my truth and distort my vision of reality. 
I hope you can somehow identify in yourself the temptation to self-rejection, whether it manifests itself in arrogance or in low self-esteem. Not seldom, self-rejection is simply seen as the neurotic expression of an insecure person. But neurosis is often the psychic manifestation of a much deeper human darkness: the darkness of not feeling truly welcome in human existence. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the "Beloved." Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence..."

Wowzers!!! That is some powerful stuff right there. He looked me straight in the eye and called my name out loud. This is so much my struggle, and somewhat always has been. I can trace this back through my life to my earliest memories as a child.

I also think this is the reason I spend so much time in the spiritual disciplines. I need to constantly be guarding against the negative voices I hear, and doing everything I can to get in touch with the "still small voice" that whispers my real name.

It is a battle, but it just might be the most important one in all the world.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

More mission statements


Okay, so I know I said I was done with this whole 'mission statement' thing. But I was bored and just wanted to check out a few from non-storage places. A restaurant we ate at the other night had a really good one. Unfortunately they apparently don't have it online. Here are a few from other places though.

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FORT WAYNE PARKS
Our mission is to enhance the quality of life in Fort Wayne by providing positive opportunities for leisure time and by being stewards of our park lands, facilities, public trees, and other resources entrusted to our care.

PARKVIEW HOSPITAL
Our mission is to improve your health and inspire you to take steps to improve your well-being.

MEMORIAL COLISEUM
Mission Statement: The Mission of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum was first defined in 1946, by a vote of the countys taxpayers, authorizing the construction of a living memorial to the Nations war veterans. Implicit in that authorization was the necessity for ongoing maintenance of the building, plus the management of all business affairs relating to the facility.To that end, the Coliseum Board of Trustees entrusts a professional management staff to: oversee a clean, safe, well-maintained physical environment and provide responsible fiscal management, aimed at maintaining the Memorial Coliseum complex as a self-supporting entity. Thus our Mission extends to the responsibility for the production of maximum income, through the promotion of a diversity of entertainment, athletic, educational, and business-related events and activities. This lively mix of building usage ensures that the countys tribute to those who served their country is truly a Living Memorial.

FW RESCUE MISSION
OUR MISSION
To provide, through the power of Jesus Christ, a home for the homeless, food for the hungry,
and hope for their future.
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So, as you can see, they can be long or short, general or specific, and all points in between. But... yes... they are just words. For some people words do matter though. Words develop ideologies, establish foundations, and give guidance and definition to patterns for living. I think they are important. An important starting point.

Hopefully this will now end my fixation on the subject of mission statements. Or whatever it was.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Self storage mission statements


I did a quick google search for some random self storage mission statements - for some ideas to offer (or not) at my place of employment. Man, some of these are not so good. Here are the first half dozen that popped up:

  • StorPlaceSelfStorage -The StorPlace mission is to provide an excellent storage solution to our customers in need by incorporating Christian values of integrity, honesty, respect for each other, hard work, service, conscientiousness, cheerfulness, and friendliness. By treating each other, our neighbors, and our customers this way, we expect to provide a satisfactory financial reward for ourselves and partners. (this was seriously the first one that came up)
  • Pouch Self Storage - To deliver exemplary customer service that builds trust. Offering well maintained, secure facilities, along with amenities and services that make us stand out as specialists in our industry. Ensuring our customers receive excellent value, and enjoy an experience that lives up to the high standards we have established over our long history in business.
  • American Self Storage - It is our mission at American Self Storage to offer the communities we serve facilities that are clean, well maintained, secure, and well-lit, which are staffed with team members who are always willing to go the extra mile to provide our customers the right size unit, at the right price, at the right time.
  • Geist Self Storage - To guide you, our customer, through a positive storage experience by providing a clean, convenient, state-of-the-art facility with customer service that goes above and beyond in the most professional and friendly manner.
  • Smart Mini Self Storage - To provide secure storage facilities to the residents of Cuenca, Ecuador.
  • Midlothian Self Storage - Here at Midlothian Self Storage we pride ourselves in providing a safe and secure facility for storing your valuable possessions. State of the art computerized security gates and 24 hour recorded video surveillance combine to offer you peace of mind. We are conveniently located on _________ and are easily accessible from any direction.

Oddly enough, or maybe I should say 'ironically,' I discovered that I actually have written a mission statement for our company. A couple years ago we changed our lease agreement and I added a 'lease summary' for each facility. It was intended as something we could give to customers that includes just the basic facts (minus all the small print). I think I may be the only one that uses it, but at the bottom is this promise (which I'm sure I stole from somewhere on our website or something):
Our mission is to offer a convenient, clean and safe environment for our customers. We have installed numerous security features to make Dupont Self-Storage one of the safest places in town! If you ever have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact one of our self-storage consultants. Thank you for choosing Dupont Self-Storage!

So, now I feel kind of stupid, because it turns out I've been utilizing the very thing I've been asking for all along. Although... since I'm probably the only one aware of it, and the GM has no idea... Meh, never mind. It's hard to convince people who are already rolling in dough that they could do something to help their employees that won't necessarily increase said dough (even though it wouldn't cost anything either).

So I guess I'm done now. Carry on, folks.