What is Truth? (Frederick Buechner Excerpt)

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I was having a dialogue on Facebook recently with a friend who holds different beliefs from mine. We have a love and respect for one another that transcends any differences between us and we entered into a short exchange of thoughts about the Bible. She genuinely asked me how I can believe it with all its contradictions and questionable translations. I told her how I see it and we had a civil conversation about it that, I hope, left us both better people for having had it.

Not long after, I opened my email inbox which held my daily reading excerpt from Frederick Buechner. I’ve pasted it below and it’s pretty much what I was trying/hoping to say in that Facebook conversation. Hours before this, in another book, I came across another passage mentioning the particular silence written about below.

Since Buechner is a much greater master of words than I could ever hope to be, I wanted to share this because he puts into words what I can only struggle to say…

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“Somebody should write a book someday about the silences in Scripture. Maybe somebody already has. “For God alone my soul waits in silence,” the psalmist says (62:1), which is the silence of waiting. Or “Be not silent, O God of my praise,” which is the silence of the God we wait for (109:1). “And when the Lamb opened the seventh seal,” says the book of Revelation, “there was silence in heaven” (8: I)—the silence of creation itself coming to an end and of a new creation about to begin. But the silence that has always most haunted me is the silence of Jesus before Pilate. Pilate asks his famous question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), and Jesus answers him with a silence that is overwhelming in its eloquence. In case there should be any question as to what that silence meant, on another occasion Jesus put it into words for his disciple Thomas. “I,” he said, “I am the truth” (14:6).

Jesus did not say that religion was the truth, or that his own teachings were the truth, or that what people taught about him was the truth, or that the Bible was the truth, or the church, or any system of ethics or theological doctrine. There are individual truths in all of them, we hope and believe, but individual truths were not what Pilate was after, or what you and I are after either, unless I miss my guess. Truths about this or that are a dime a dozen, including religious truths. THE truth is what Pilate is after: the truth about who we are and who God is if there is a God, the truth about life, the truth about death, the truth about truth itself. That is the truth we are all of us after.

It is a truth that can never be put into words because no words can contain it. It is a truth that can never be caught in any doctrine or creed including our own because it will never stay still long enough but is always moving and shifting like air. It is a truth that is always beckoning us in different ways and coming at us from different directions. And I think that is precisely why whenever Jesus tries to put that ultimate and inexpressible truth into words (instead of into silence as he did with Pilate), the form of words he uses is a form that itself moves and shifts and beckons us in different ways and comes at us from different directions. That is to say he tells stories.

Frederick Buechner 
from The Clown in the Belfry & Secrets in the Dark

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5 COUNTER-INTUITIVE NOTIONS THAT CAN IMPROVE YOUR LIFE

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** image credit: Victoria Yore and Terrence Drysdale

Hi friends…

So what might those notions be?

These came to mind…

  1. Being still when you have a thousand things to do. Seems like the last thing you should do when you’re swamped with a busy schedule. There are people to see, places to go, fires to put out, calls to make, emails to send. But then, things aren’t always what they seem, are they? Here’s what St. Francis de Sales and Martin Luther had to say about it…

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2. Giving when you’re low on money. What? Really? That just doesn’t seem like good accounting. It seems like the last thing you should do when you’re low on cash, and wondering how you’re going to pay your bills is give some (or all) away. But for some reason, the law of the universe is “give and you shall receive.” Perhaps because it takes faith to give. It takes trust to give. And that faith and trust are never more tested than when we give even though it looks like utter foolishness. You can trace some of the greatest (and sometimes wealthiest) people to their generosity. If you were to examine some of their lives, you’d find that they gave when it hurt to give and when it seemed they had nothing.

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3. Doing less, not more. Striving: it seems like a good word and a good idea, but is it? Sure, we should strive to love more deeply, create more authentically, trust more fully, work more heartily, but striving is something different. Striving is doing something in our own strength and forgetting why we’re doing what we’re doing, and for whom. Striving can be exhausting. When there is much to do, and so many depending on us, to step away requires faith, it takes strength, and that first takes willingness.

 

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4. Loving and being kind to someone who has hurt or offended you. Whenever I’ve heard of people sort of mocking the idea of following Christ, as if it’s for simpletons and weaklings, I wonder if they know about this thing he said: love your enemies. This is where the rubber meets the road. Whether someone stepped on your toe, or destroyed your life (or the lives of people you love), we are called to love… which is the absolute last thing we feel like doing in that moment or season.

 

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5. Keep going when you feel like giving up. You’ve been planting seeds and watering them continuously. You’ve been hoping, praying, trusting for a situation to change or improve. You’ve done your part. What gives? What’s taking so long? Where’s that harvest you were promised? Sorry, I don’t have an answer on that one. I wonder myself sometimes.

What I do know is that even though everything in you wants to call it quits and forget about it… even though you’re frustrated, tired, exhausted and want to throw in the towel, something inside you refuses to give up. Even though it would be easier, you can’t. You won’t. You’ll get up one more day and keep going. You’ll trust one more day and anticipate something good, even though you have every reason to say, “Hey, after all this time, it ain’t happening.” Even though the outward reality looks completely opposite. Again, things aren’t always what they seem. Just like in the best plays, there’s always something going on behind the scenes to make the story one worth telling.

It’s what the best stories are about, the best movies: tenacity, overcoming, resilience… moxie. It doesn’t even seem possible to keep going, but you do and you will.

 

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In all five of these things, what stands out is that none of them “feel” good, or make sense. They’re completely contrary to how we normally operate. So they must require a strength outside of ourselves in order to pull it off.

Exactly.

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* * Image credit: Christian Schloe 

 

If you’d like to have a courageous conversation, click here to book an appointment with me (no charge). I’d be happy to talk with you and explore how you can move your life forward.

Blessings,

Monique

http://www.artoflifecoachmonique.com/

 

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THE ANTIDOTE TO CYNICISM

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With the invention of social media, we have been given the opportunity (or burden) of seeing people’s internal lives become outward ones in a way we probably never would have dreamed as each expression, each post reveals something about the poster. Be it a video, an article, a picture—each one is unwittingly a snapshot of the interior of a person’s heart, life and inner landscape.

One thing that has become clearer than ever as I’ve observed this over the years is that it really is not possible to be a cynical person and a happy, peaceful or joyful person at the same time. They cancel each other out. Cynicism and joy are like oil and water: they don’t mix.

Loving people project outwardly a loving world. That doesn’t mean they don’t see the evil and darkness; they may see it more than anyone else. They just don’t believe that forever dwelling on it or pointing it out is the best way to extinguish it. Sitting in a dark room and talking about how dark the darkness is will never make it light. Only turning on a lamp or lighting a candle will do that.

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Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.” And he ought to have known. He was on his feet, on the street, being love in a way that few people have ever been. Ironically, that’s why he was killed. To draw a movement of that size around the force of non-violent love is scary to those who are in opposition to it. Jesus knew that too.

The cynic, on the other hand, has a problem for every solution, a sarcastic comment for every positive one, a suspicious thought for every good you have the audacity to point out.

It will suck the energy out of you to attempt to reason with a cynic.

Yes, we need to question things, speak out against injustice, expose evil, but it needs to be tempered with grace and loving intention, otherwise no one will listen no matter how loud someone yells. A bit of skepticism is necessary so that we don’t fall for every trick. For example, I don’t trust governments, any government (except maybe the former president of Uruguay, “Jose’ Mujica–the world’s most humble president“)…with good reason. But if we’re spiritually tuned in, we won’t fall for anything and everything. Well, hopefully.

The problem happens when cynicism and skepticism are chronic, as in non-stop. At that point, it’s more of an illness of bitterness and suspicion than just a tick.

So, I put forth a suggestion, an antidote: instead of railing against cynics for how cynical they are, I would bid us to pray for them instead. Or if you’re not prone to praying, send loving thoughts in their direction, no matter how difficult or impossible that may seem.

Think: how unhappy must a person be to constantly dwell on awful things? How powerless must one feel to feel powerful only when sharing their (often volatile) opinions? How unheard must one feel? How alone? How hopeless? How afraid? No matter what show of bravado is there, it’s a pretty good bet that each cynic is inwardly afraid of something that even they can’t name.

It is heart-breaking…and infuriating.

And that’s why they need our prayers. Because we, who arm ourselves with love and light, have been given more power than we allow ourselves to believe.

We have the power to speak words of hope, to speak words of beauty, to create, to do all those things St. Francis talked about in his prayer to be an instrument of peace.

I, for one, will continue to believe that love can drive out hate and darkness. And I will continue to believe it can even heal and free people’s bound-up hearts that are shackled in chains of fear and gloom. Will you join me?

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If you’d like to talk to me, please click here to make an appointment.

 

 

 

My Story of Healing from Eating Disorders (Podcast)

This will be part 1 of my story because there has been healing in so many areas of my life that each would require a separate talk. So I’m sure there will be more parts that I share on this topic in the future. But for now, I wanted to post the story I shared at church here in Berlin recently and my hope, as always, is that something I said might give hope and encouragement to someone listening.

There were moments of technical difficulty during my sharing…and a bit of nervousness…and a bit of crying. Our stories can be messy, so it’s no surprise that the telling of them can be too.

Click here to hear it.

It tells a bit about how I went from this:

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To this:

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I hope that if you, or someone you know, struggles with an eating disorder, or any kind of self-destructive behavior, that hearing my story will help you to not give up and to keep praying, keep hoping and keep knowing that God loves you no matter what’s going on and that healing and good things are possible.

Your life matters and you are needed here on this planet.

Blessings & peace,

Monique

p.s. If you need coaching and/or spiritual guidance, please click here to schedule an appointment for an introductory call with me.

 

 

Being Turned into Gentleness

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I’ve been reading Streams in the Desert for over 20 years and still, the readings are as fresh each time as if it was the first time. I’ve met others through the years that have attested to a similar experience.

Here’s the reading from today. I’m sure some will identify.

“So few are willing to undergo the suffering out of which thorough gentleness comes. We must die before we are turned into gentleness, and crucifixion involves suffering; it is a real breaking and crushing of self, which wrings the heart and conquers the mind.

There is a good deal of mere mental and logical sanctification nowadays, which is only a religious fiction…and such an one goes forth with a gay, flippant, theological prattle about the deep things of God.

But the natural heartstrings have not been snapped, and the Adamic flint has not been ground to powder, and the bosom has not throbbed with the lonely, surging sighs of Gethsemane; and not having the real death marks of Calvary, there cannot be that soft, sweet, gentle, floating, victorious, overflowing, triumphant life that flows like a spring morning from an empty tomb.”                       —G. D. W.

 

If you desire to deepen your spiritual and/or creative life, please feel free to schedule a 30 minute discovery coaching call by clicking here.

Blessings,

Monique

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A BEAUTIFUL QUOTE BY FLAUBERT

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Hi friends…

Today I just wanted to share with you a beautiful passage I re-read today when I pulled my copy of Gustave Flaubert’s novella A Simple Heart off the shelf for no particular reason, except to see how many pages his novella has. I was struck again by the beauty of these words. I hope it will bless you too…

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“…Then she wept at the story of the Passion. Why had they crucified Him when He loved the children, fed the multitudes, healed the blind, and had willed, in His meekness, to be born among the poor, on the dungheap of a stable? The sowings, harvests, wine-presses, all the familiar things the Gospel speaks of, were a part of her life. They had been made holy by God’s passing; and she loved the lambs more tenderly for her love of the Lamb, and the doves because of the Holy Ghost.

She found it hard to imagine Him in person for He was not merely a bird, but a flame as well, and a breath at other times. It may be His light she thought, which flits at night about the edge of the marshes, His breathing which drives on the clouds, His voice which gives harmony to the bells; and she would sit rapt in adoration, enjoying the cool walls and quiet of the church.”

…Gustave Flaubert

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** Image credits: all artwork by Christian Schloe

 

 

 

ON BEING BRANDED

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This past weekend I went to an interview and Q&A that was part of a book release for a new book called Brandpsycho: Four Essays on De:Branding. It’s written by a man who is a Jungian psychoanalyst in training and is part of a project he co-founded in Switzerland called the Zurich Lab. I started devouring the book waiting for the talk to begin and I’m now fully engrossed. It’s a small, but deep book. 94 pages.

The author spent many years of his life working as a brand director which possibly led to this new part of his journey in analyzing the very world he formerly inhabited. The questions the book poses and the ideas it presents relate to the culture of branding that has developed in the last couple hundred years, but especially during the last 30-40 years of the internet age. This is a topic I’m really interested in because more and more we hear this word “branding” as if it’s so much par for the course in marketing. It’s become an accepted term in business and entrepreneurship. And it makes me uneasy.

My concern is that, like I said to the author, “I find the word ‘branding’ disturbing because, correct me if I’m wrong, it’s related to how cows and animals have been ‘branded’ for hundreds of years by having their fur and skin singed with a scorching hot torch to burn a name or brand into them. That way they could be quickly and easily identified as to who they belonged to and where they were going.”

“Yes, yes,” he said. “Branding comes from the Norse term for burning.”

It dawned on me: like the German word “brand” which means fire.

How apropos that people are, like cattle, allowing themselves every day to be branded by their stuff. But perhaps not just by their stuff, but with their ideas, their images, and the very longings that they claim to have.

The author mentions Starbucks and Apple and addresses the power and control they, and other big names like them, have over people and yet how there is room to take the very narratives that have been used to manipulate society and turn them to help people tune in to their spirits and to who they actually are underneath all the façade.

So what would help humanity stop giving in to making purchases they don’t need or eating food that makes them sick only to line the pockets of billion dollar corporations? What would help people to stop being subliminally coerced by their appetites and wants and desires, most of which have been put on them from outside, and help them realign with what they would desire if they hadn’t been programmed with what to desire?

Well, from my point of view, the place to start is always the same. It has to do with a word I was happy to come across in the first pages of Brandpsycho. The word is imago. As in Imago Dei. Image of God.

What if, instead of people identifying themselves with a pair of jeans, or a handbag, or the latest iPhone gadget, or their bank account, or advertising’s images of happiness and love, they identified themselves with the image of God within them? How would it direct humanity’s purchases, needs, wants, desires, cravings? I think it would not only lessen them, but it would redirect humanity to an entirely contrary way of thinking about life. After all, Jesus was not on the up and up.

People can give all the arguments they want against why they don’t believe in God, Jesus, religion or whatever word they have for what they think it’s about. But in the end, doesn’t it really come down to the aversion to the primary example of dying to self that Jesus lived out? I mean, you can pontificate all day long as to the scientific reasons for why you don’t believe or how suffering proves there’s no God or how the church wounded you, but can we be honest here? It’s just too hard. What’s hard? Believing? Well, that too. But the daily believing. The daily dying to self. The daily command to love your enemy. The daily admonition to forgive an offense. The daily self-denial in holding your tongue when you’d like to tell someone off. The daily observations of people’s cognitive dissonance while you are called to love them anyway. The daily keeping a good attitude and sloshing on when you’re tired as hell. The daily commitment to stay true to something you cannot prove to anyone, but that you know is true. That’s the stuff that wears you down. Unless you’re being powered from something outside of yourself that has taken up residence within you.

G.K. Chesterton was onto something with these 2 statements:

  • “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
  • “Dear Sir, Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton.”

But we don’t want to admit there’s anything wrong with us. We’d rather spend hours going on about the evils of society or government or the annoying person we have to deal with than go within and go, “Hmmm, something ain’t right in here.” It’s not a comfortable place to be, especially not when you have to sort through shame and all the baggage since childhood that aren’t really your issues to begin with, but were somehow made your issues due to someone else’s unhealed issues. Regardless of why, the work needs to be done, so it’s best to get started with it sooner rather than later.

As uncomfortable as all that may be, it’s also not comfortable to live your whole life latching onto false images and icons when really, they’re nothing but idols. And idols aren’t there to be worshipped. They are there to be destroyed. Like Gandalf said in The Lord of the Rings, “There is only one Lord and he does not share power.”

Whenever humans try to put on some other image, I imagine it to be like putting on a cheap party store costume to cover up the fact that you were originally “branded” with the image of God. And when you put on your costume or the mask of your idols, instead of becoming more of yourself, you are actually becoming less of who you are. If Christ would allow himself to be seen in utter nakedness, vulnerability and humility, stripped of everything but love in order to reveal to us not only the face of God, but the face of the ideal human, then why would we think we can pile on layers of idols that bear images which try to rob from us our true identity?

The image of God is branded into the soul of every human being. But it isn’t there to coerce and manipulate you. The crazy part is that you actually get to choose what to do with it. That’s a huge responsibility and a massive call. And because it’s so massive, it might seem easier to cover it up, to try and ignore it, to find other things to focus on instead. But it will never stop whispering to you. It will whisper beneath your pain and struggles as much as in your joys and victories. It will be with you every breath of every day. And every day your life will tell, as much by your purchases as by your actions, whether you are choosing to reveal that image or whether you are choosing to cover up and hide that image.

One of Jesus’ most famous rhetorical questions is “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world yet lose his own soul?” Each day, every one of us gets to decide how we will answer that question.

If you’d like to work through questions like the ones posed here or would like to talk to me as your coach, you can always schedule a free discovery call with me by following this link to my calendar.

Blessings,

Monique

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