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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Wonder…

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“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”
– E.B. White

 

 

 

** Image credit: Christian Schloe, The Quest

10 EMPOWERING TIPS FOR ADDICTIVE PERSONALITIES

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Some weeks ago, I posted a piece called Hope for Addictive Personalities here. 

Following are some tips to help you get started if you struggle with any type of addiction—from serious ones to ones that are not necessarily life threatening. Whether it’s an eating disorder, a drug addiction, a relationship addiction, a worry addiction, an internet addiction, a shopping addiction, or a nagging addiction, these apply…

1. Admission. Acknowledge and admit that you can’t go on like you have. The first step of surrendering and putting your hands up to say, “I can’t do it on my own” can bring a flood of relief. Especially combined with turning to a power greater than yourself, whether that is the God you believe in, or a supportive community, or both. (I realize not everyone believes in God. A loving, supportive community is God with skin on though.) It’s not about trying harder. It’s about laying down arms and admitting you’re powerless over this thing. It’s humbling to admit we don’t have something under control, but it’s a lot less exhausting than trying repeatedly to overcome something that we’re obviously not overcoming.

2. Change your thinking by replacing disempowering thoughts with empowering thoughts. It all starts in our minds. Once we get that sorted out, our actions begin to fall into place much more easily. Where you focus your mind, your energy follows. Instead of allowing your mind to automatically fall into old ways of thinking (which can lead into old ways of behaving), find ways of thinking that fill you up with energy, hope and confidence. This doesn’t happen overnight usually. It takes some discipline, but be encouraged! Your brain wants to help you. As you form new patterns of thinking and acting, your brain creates new neuropathways that will eventually make the new thoughts and actions the norm for you. Identify disempowering thoughts and intentionally replace them with thoughts that edify you, rather than bring you down. This step alone can lead to amazing results.

3. Become aware of the words that are coming out of your mouth. Know that, as it says in Proverbs, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Or as the poet Hafiz said, “The words you speak become the house you live in.” Think of each word you speak as being the brick and mortar of the life you want to be living. Which leads us to the next two…

4. Stop saying mean things to yourself. Life is hard enough without chanting about all that you don’t like about yourself and all you’ve done wrong. If you mess up, admit it, and press on. If you’re working on improving, then give yourself some credit for your willingness and tenacity.

5. Start saying kind things to yourself. Talk to yourself as you would to a good friend or someone you really care about, someone you want to encourage. It’s not egotistical to care about yourself. You could say it’s egotistical not to because when we care for ourselves and treat ourselves with love and respect, it’s easier to treat others the same way. Also known as “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Speak kindly both to yourself and to others.

6. Be intentional about your actions. This will flow more easily if you’re already thinking differently. Decide what you want to change, and take small steps towards changing it. At first it may be difficult, but difficult isn’t the same as impossible.

7. Tell someone. Talk to someone you know won’t judge you or try to rush your process, someone you know will come alongside and cheer you on as you take on the brave challenge of change. Not only will it give you accountability, it will give you momentum and courage.

8. Notice. Start noticing how, little by little, what once seemed impossible to change is becoming easier. You’ll see how you and your brain are working together to form new habits to replace the old ones.

9. Be gentle with yourself. If you have a day when you fall down, get back up. If no one else is around to do so, remind yourself that just starting on this new road is a huge hurdle you’ve overcome. Brush yourself off and try again.

10. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. Any great work takes time and effort and a lot of faith to keep going. Remind yourself how far you’ve come. Remind yourself that your life is a great work. Think of all the possibilities that may lie ahead for you if you simply keep going. Michelangelo didn’t paint the Sistine Chapel in one day, or in one go. Abraham Lincoln had a nervous breakdown and many setbacks before he became president.

You may not be running for any elections or looking to paint famous ceilings in Rome, but whatever it is you are trying to overcome, you can if you simply do not give up.

And I hope one day these hurdles that you face will only have paved the way on your personal road to greatness.

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

p.s. Here is the version of this post that was published on Elephant Journal.

 

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