Friday, June 23, 2017

Lessons at the Dining Room Table

Many people meditate easily.  But I don't.  My thoughts flutter around like bats in a cave, and I can't quiet them.  Took me a long while to realize that this is not a failing; it's just how I am and that's fine.....

I praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
marvellous are thy works;
and that my soul knoweth right well. 
Psalms 139:14

I have to do things in ways that work for me.  Long before anyone ever imagined fidget spinners, I learned to focus by distracting myself.  That's why I keep a deck of cards in the dining room; Solitaire is an excellent distraction.  I play quickly and by rote.  It takes no thought, so my mind can go where it needs to go.  My focus becomes clear, and I am able to listen to the still voice within.  I love Solitaire for the peace that it can help me find.

The dining room table really is the best place for a Good Think.  I love that old table--an English antique that I bought sort-of-by-accident.  There's something else I keep there always:  Mensch Argere Dich Nicht (the game that my friend taught me; read  Leaping Into the Pool of Grace).  While I'm waiting for the tea kettle to boil, I'll play the game against myself.  This morning I had things to think about, so I sat to play the game.

Sometimes stuff is hard.  Too hard.  I'm working through a whole lot of Real Life Issues right now.  But too often my best seems lower than dust.  Never good enough.  It's frustrating to persist while failing spectacularly anyway  And I have to wonder when to quit or whether to keep knocking my head against brick walls.  I was thinking about that sort of stuff this morning.

I was also thinking about an interview I saw online this morning.  An entertainer I admire was the focus of a press conference seeking his response to the cancer death of a friend.  This guy has been in front of cameras for 22 years; he is well-known for his composure and for his ability to articulate clearly.  But today he could not speak; could not control himself.  He wept.  That made me cry, too--for someone else's pain and for my own.  I admired the fact that he was willing to be so real.

And I was also thinking about another story I've been following online.  People I've watched for years have been under some fire for giving information about a situation they experienced.  They tempered their words, and they spoke carefully.  But no matter what folks say, it seems there's always someone to shout them down these days.  Believe me, these good people don't deserve unkindness.  I've been worried for them.  Their response has been graciously quiet; that's a rare quality.  I admire their restraint under pressure of the opinions of others.

I have lots of "also" thoughts--more bats in the cave (okay, belfry.....yeah, I know the old phrase, and you could say it applies clearly to me).  But one very important thing I've learned is that I have these whirling swarm of thoughts because there's somehow a tenuous link between them that won't come into clear view until and unless I focus.  I have to take the time to listen to the Still Small Voice so I can understand the lessons that have been given to me to learn.

So I sat at the table.  And I opened the 1950's vintage handmade Mensch Argere Dich Nicht game box--a treasure I found on eBay.  Someone once loved this game enough to replace the original cardboard box with one they carefully hand-crafted.  So, when I got it,  I had the notion to renovate it a bit further.  I added dice to match the colors for each player but then I couldn't make myself remove the very old dice that came with the game.  I was gonna replace the board which has gotten quite tatty and chipped with time and use but I just couldn't do that either; instead, I placed a thick velvet ribbon under it to use as a "lifter" so that the board wouldn't suffer further damage when it was taken out of the box.  Finally I realized that it's so much better simply to preserve the charm that is already there.  Things don't need to be perfect, and they shouldn't be.  Life is kinda like that, too, isn't it?

I always play the yellow pieces for myself.  It's my favorite color after all.  My friend has always played red, and that is the opposite on the board so it make sense to keep that as the competing side.  And I played.  This is how the game stood when the tea kettle finally whistled:

Impossible for yellow, right?  Even if you don't know the game, it's obvious that the situation is dire.  It sure looks like there's no way to recover.  Red has three men home and the fourth only two steps away.  Yellow has two men still left at the base that haven't even been able to enter the field of play. 

Kinda seems like anyone playing yellow would concede defeat, don't you think?  Well, I had to wait for the tea to steep and I was still trying to calm those flying thought-bats so I kept playing.  Believe it or not, by the end of the game, yellow had soundly defeated red.

While I was playing, I was thinking there are plusses and minuses everywhere.  Sometimes we get so caught up in painful moments that we cannot help weeping no matter that our experience has trained us to do otherwise; it's necessary to release those feelings.  Sometimes we have to speak out and quietly accept that others may react negatively to something we know to be true; we have that right, too.  And we must always remember that even when things seem hopeless, just one more move may win the day but we will never know what the outcome will be unless we finish the game.

.....let us lay aside every weight
and the sin which doth so easily beset us,
and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. 
Hebrews 12:1

It isn't necessary to win; we only have to keep running to the finish line.  It is only when reach the tape that we will fully understand the accumulation of the lessons we have learned along the course.  

But we need to take care not to blindly accept all the information that comes our way.  We should take time to process and to meditate (in so far as we are able) because there is much to learn.  All people can be our teachers if only we will be good students who listen to everything and then sift to sort, keeping only what is golden.

Of course I am aware that I am unable to get from Point A to Point B without a whole lot of detours along the way.  If you read what I write, you will know this for a fact.  I believe that I am made this way for God's purpose.  Somehow I get where I'm going.  I continue to run the race.  And I am so grateful for the folks who show me the way--both by having the heart to cry and by having the composure not to shout.  They have no idea that they are my teachers but they are. 

Life is good.


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