Wednesday, December 4, 2013
By Micky Wolf
It all appeared innocent enough. Preparing the Thanksgiving feast, oven filled with assorted dishes, all stove-top burners on the gas range fired up, including one with a very large stockpot two-thirds full of a delicious mixture of turkey broth and seasonings, awaiting the perfect moment to add the packages of special Kluski-style noodles.
I slit open one end of the first bag with no more than a dozen noodles dropping into the liquid when, without warning, the entire contents exploded, a three-inch high flash of foam erupting over and down the sides of the pan, cascading into the recesses of two burners, instantly quenching the flames.
Momentarily stunned, I looked around at everyone standing near the stove. Thankfully, not a drop of frothing stock had touched a single person. Springing into action, we had everything cleaned within a few minutes and the pot refilled with broth and noodles, gently bubbling away.
This was the first time [hopefully the last] this kind of almost-cooking-catastrophe had ever occurred. The best we could determine was that a light film had formed on top of the broth, beneath which the temperature was boiling, so that when the few noodles penetrated the surface breaking the tension, everything was released, full-force.
As things settled down, I couldn’t help but see the incident as a metaphor for some of our human actions and reactions.
It wasn’t about the noodles…
The noodles were never the problem. It was everything going on beneath the surface of the broth that was the issue. A similar reality can apply to you and me. At any given moment we may be carrying around some ‘hot stuff’ that resides just out of sight in our thoughts, feelings, or emotions.
And then along comes a few noodles—or in relationship parlance the innocent person—who makes a comment or says something that pierces our outer defenses and boom, we erupt. The more unresolved stuff we have buried, the greater the potential for ugly and messy consequences.
The perfect fuel…
The fire necessary to heat the stock is not unlike the anger or fear which fuels our personal explosions. Think about the last time you were afraid or angry. Until we learn to work through the issues that trigger or engage these emotions in a healthy and productive manner they build, layer upon layer, the perfect medium for an unpleasant and unloving outburst, often without seeming reason or explanation.
Anger and fear share similar roots—a perceived need to control or manage the most finite details of one’s life, usually based on past experiences of being in unpredictable or hurtful, or even potentially dangerous situations. It may only take a single word or gesture to ignite and release the pent up pressure beneath them.
When things are not be going the way we would like them to, or when we feel threatened or challenged by another person, anger and fear are at the ready. The only problem is the noodle—or in this case the other person—never knows which button is the one that will set off our reaction. Push the right one and our stuff slams into everything in the vicinity.
The stirring solution…
After the fact, we realized that a simple stirring of the broth in the stockpot would most likely have prevented the eruption. The film would not have been able to form a thin, albeit effective barrier over the boiling action.
And so it goes with our anger and fear. We try and convince ourselves we have everything under control. Because we are able to present a reasonably peaceful exterior, it is easy to believe that whatever is buried underneath isn’t going to be an issue for either us or those we encounter. If this were really true, none of us would ever raise our voices, spit out a few choice words, or yell at the ones who are nearest and dearest to us. Sadly, the space between the outward calm and the inward turmoil is often a hair’s breadth from being blown wide open.
Messes God manages…
The solution? Making a commitment to pay attention to the movements within our soul that alert us to the presence of anger or fear [or any of the darker emotions such as sadness or despair] before they reach a point of deadly volatility.
When we allow God to use these stirrings to help us discover what troubles and concerns us, He is more than willing and able to heal our broken places, transforming us into more whole and holy people. What better promise could we lean on as we persevere and stay the course to being and becoming more Christ-like?
Have I developed a ‘film’ over the emotions of anger and fear? Why?
Can I cooperate with God’s grace as He stirs my emotional being?
What are some of the darker emotions I struggle with?
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
By Micky Wolf
[Note: Taking some time to savor and appreciate being with my beloved and our family for Thanksgiving. The following are some thoughts from a previously published holiday post.]
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. [Melody Beattie]
While the official day of Thanksgiving celebrated in the United States has special significance for us as a nation, it is certainly a time to broaden our focus by counting all our blessings, expressing our thanks, and giving of ourselves through sharing our resources.
Maybe this time of year is one of personal bounty; maybe it is the hardest year of your life to date. Either way, we can be assured that most of us will experience both of these seasons, whether yesterday, today, or tomorrow.
Our family has had our years of plenty as well as those of barely scraping by. There is no doubt it is harder to recognize blessings when the bank account is nearly empty, income is nominal at best, or a dear loved one is confined to the sick bed. All the more reason why giving—whether a donation to the local food bank, a sturdy arm to the unsteady senior citizen, or a smile to the weary checkout person—is the currency that brings the greatest sense of peace to the thankful heart.
Blessings come in a multitude of sizes and shapes, as do the occasions to share them. In the midst of the day itself, let us call to mind and pray for those who are alone, those who have little in the way of physical comforts, those who are ill or dying, or any other intentions you may hold in the quiet of your heart. Let us savor each breath we have been given as precious opportunities to be living epistles of God’s love.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name; good indeed is the LORD,
His mercy endures forever, his faithfulness lasts through every generation.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
By Micky Wolf
For sure, life is full these days. In a good way. Nonetheless, I am only too aware, at times, of the need to take a deep breath and just ‘be’. And as someone who espouses the importance of this lifestyle perspective, how could there ever be any hope—or for that matter, authenticity in what I share—if my choices and actions were not grounded in a truth applied, first and foremost, to my own life.
Most of us tend to believe “be-ing” means sitting in a corner somewhere “doing nothing” — nothing meaning there will be no visible or concrete evidence of value when we decide to get up and get moving again. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.
God’s idea of “be-ing” is to be immersed in the present moment. Soaking up the now. Savoring and noticing the little things that too often get past us. And that includes the pleasant and the unpleasant, the painful and the pleasurable. How unfortunate that we tend to believe the consequences of making the choice ‘to be’ eliminates the possibility of having anything to show for our efforts.
A personal momentary reality—I am breathing deeply, being bathed in the muted gold rays of a sun that has been playing hide and seek behind streaks of gray, fluffy clouds most of the day. Nary has a sound interrupted the quiet in my study, except the occasional tapping of my fingers on the keyboard. The welcome aroma of a cup of hot, freshly brewed coffee rises above the mug, a gift from my beloved, which makes me smile every time I take it from the cupboard and fill it to the brim.
Productive? Maybe not. Unless you consider the peace that indwells my heart; the random phrases of prayerful gratitude and thanks that pass through my thoughts; the joy that I feel in knowing that no matter how difficult the challenges we face, the poor choices or mistakes we make, God is still on the Throne and loves each one of us.
At the same time, it does not escape my notice in these precious moments of peace-filled be-ing, that many people near and far are suffering, in the midst of what may seem insurmountable odds to provide even the most basic of necessities for their own needs, or those of their families. And so, I pray for them, that God will provide as He knows best, for their health and wholeness, of spirit, mind, emotions, and body. This might not have happened had I not allowed myself to be enveloped by the moment.
All of which causes me ponder. What if the most significant measurable outcome of be-ing is to experience the greatness and goodness of God—in all things? What if we begin to see that embracing the moment is really more about being intimate with Him, above and beyond anything we could ever imagine possible while living our life here on Earth? What if these moments are pure gift to more fully immerse ourselves in the Great Mystery, simply because that alone is more than enough?
If this kind of momentary “be-ing” results in nothing other than helping us live more Christ-like lives—being and becoming more considerate, patient, kind, and loving persons—then there seems little doubt the difference we can make will far transcend any manner or description of what we thought it meant to produce something in first place.
How do I feel about ‘soaking up the now’? A waste of time?
Am I open to embracing moments of ‘be-ing’?
‘Be-ing’ –as transcendent moments of gift and giving—with God, others and self?