In Pursuit of the Truth

img_0435I read an article last week entitled “2016: The Year Truth was Irrelevant” by Avery Foley.  Immediately my mind jumped on a thought I had after watching the Snowden movie.  Here’s a guy (whether you agree with what he did or not, don’t miss my point) risked everything, and when I say everything I mean everything, to reveal to the world a truth that they were not aware of.  That the government was collecting troves of data on them without their knowledge or consent and that the ideas of privacy and cybersecurity were just comforting words to tuck us in at night.  He pulled the curtain back to reveal something that should’ve shocked us awake.  He gave up his liberty, his career, his future and quite possibly still, his life to reveal a life-altering, history-making truth and our collective response was:  “Meh….”  Wow! It gave me pause to wonder if anyone is hungry for truth, or are we all just protecting the turf of our preconceived ideas.

I went on to read the above article by Avery Foley (you can find it at answersingenesis.org) to see she cited that the Oxford Dictionary chose the word post-truth as it’s word of the year.  Post, as in no longer relevant, belonging to a bygone period… not post as in after, such as postwar.  Anyone who casually followed the political race leading up to the presidential elections this last year witnessed just how irrelevant truth was to the process.  We also were indoctrinated in the idea that you can ‘hold’ your truth and I’ll ‘hold’ my truth and if we just each hold our truth and let others do the same there will be peace on earth.  This is absurd on so many levels because truth is an absolute.  If something is not absolutely true, then it is not true.  If we tweak that thought just a little, we do however, have something useful.  Now, notice if we were to ‘hold’ our perspective and allow others to ‘hold’ theirs we could achieve civility and we could potentially broaden what we know as the truth.

I contend that truth, like God, is something we can approach, not something we can ever completely grasp or something we can fully know this side of eternity. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says it better than I can: “Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  As we seek truth and seek to integrate truth through our humanness what comes out of us is not all truth, but something called honesty.  Honesty is our interpretation of truth.  And that interpretation is fed by many, many biases and experiences.  To deny this is to deny we are human.  We can honestly believe something that is not true.  We can honestly be mistaken.  And, we can honestly be absolutely right.  But we can’t ‘hold’ all truth any more than we can ‘hold’ all the universe.  Here’s why:  Truth contains all perspectives simultaneously in complete congruence.  In my mind, that describes God, not me.  We can pursue truth and it will be revealed to us, but there is always a cost.  To learn what is true we must lose what is false.  This rubs our humanity wrong.  Human nature clearly displays that we will consistently choose to believe what serves our needs the best, not what is true.  Being human is in many ways to be a walking contradiction.  We are full of variance, and shadow and motive.  What we are not naturally full of is Truth.

So, let’s get honest!  Honestly in pursuit of truth.  We are as honest as our egos allow us to be.  To unravel our egos and to pursue truth is a worthy endeavor.  God loves to reveal His truth to us.  He is faithful to give us as much truth as we can know and seek after.  If we do our job, as author CJ Mahaney describes in his book Humility:  True Greatness, by putting to death our greatest enemy (pride) and lifting up our greatest friend (humility), we will create an internal climate open to truth.  This can reap tremendous rewards for us because it can open us up to troves of truth that do not need to come to our ear by a gentle revelation in the solitude of our minds (though I love those ones!), but can come to us even by the harsh observations of a friend.  Jesus came that we might have life and life abundant.  Abundant truth!  One day, we will answer for what we choose to believe.  We will answer for what we  choose to believe of God, of His son Jesus, of ourselves and of each other.  On that day, I hope I can look back on my life and see I have chosen to pursue the truth relentlessly and with humility.  How about you?

Narratives and the Stories We Tell Ourselves

I’ve written and spoken on this topic before, but it begs repeating and even expanding in the wake of such an unusual election and the state of shock our country finds itself in now.  You’ve heard the adage:  It’s not what happens to you it’s how you respond that counts, right?  So true!  That is such good advice.  It is the story we tell about the events of our lives that shape our lives more than the events themselves.  The story we tell ourselves will either empower us or dis-empower us and we must work that out or we will get stuck by our own thinking.  Having mentors in your life who can point out the world beyond the forest and the trees when we can no longer see the forest for the trees is an essential component of every successful person’s strategy for living.

That said, and that being all well in good, it comes up a bit short when it creates an internal climate that dismisses any reasonable voice that challenges the narrative.  We can become ripe for self-deception and vulnerable to manipulation when we block messages simply because we do not like who is sending them.  Paul Simon captured this human truth perfectly when he sang ‘Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest’.

Case in point:  The Facebook Bubble.  Our feeds begin to mirror our preferences and in time most things we do not like are weeded out of our little Facebook garden.  Every link we click on, every search we instigate, even things in some cases we say that our microphones pick up become part of the feedback loop that populates the ads, the news stories and the narrative of our FB page.  Can you see how dangerous and myopic this becomes?  And when the media surrenders it’s authority to bring truth to power we find ourselves in quite a predicament.  I believe this is why there is so much shock and anger among the people whose candidate did not win and who now feel the only rational thing to do is to riot.  It is important that we recognize our role in this.  This isn’t ‘happening to us’.  We are manufacturing this crisis by not listening to other opinions, by shutting someone out instead of hearing what they are saying.  We have a generation of people who freak out and shut down if someone doesn’t see the world the way they see it.  This does not bode well for the future of our country or the world.

There is a strong human tendency to view those we like in their best light and those we dislike in their worst light.  This has reached such a frenzy on Facebook that in one person’s feed you would see manipulated photos of HRC to make her look like a she-devil ready to rip your fetus out of your body limb by limb.  That is no exaggeration of the vitriol that was and is served up daily.  And, in another’s feed you see every stupid thing Trump ever said taken out of context and used to bridge a narrative that is a constant effort at fear-mongering to convince women, blacks and minorities if he gets elected the KKK will be back in power.  Both are ridiculous caricatures, far removed from truth and unfortunately now are living personifications in the minds and hearts of people.

So remember this, a person is neither their worse version of themselves nor their best.  Trump is neither who the rioters say he is nor is he the Savior of modern man.  They, like us live on a continuum between the two.  Hopefully, as we grow in wisdom and years we are moving up the continuum towards the better version of ourselves.  Be conscientious in your social media interactions.  Friend (or re-friend) those that do not share your world view.  Avoid direct dialogue across the public board.  Instead, pick up the phone or better yet buy that person a cup of coffee.  Don’t just repost something without checking the sources and the inherent bias of your sources.  And ask yourself, does this need to be said?  Does this need to be said this way? Bias is unavoidable and it needs to constantly be policed if you want to build trust, relatability and real community.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

STAY HUNGRY

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled – Matthew 5:6

Hunger is our friend.  We’ve learned to approach it as a problem to solve instead of a highway to travel.  The state of hunger flushes our bodies of impurities, produces in us clarity, discipline, lightness and energy… yes energy.  Our hunger is a powerful catalyst for change in our life.  We all wake up each morning with a hunger to connect, to be informed and to hear from God.  A life hid in Christ is not just a neat turn of phrase; it’s a reality available to all of us.  When Jesus speaks of a food you know not of He’s speaking of that very same blessing, that very same sustenance He talks about in Matthew 5:6.  To hunger and to thirst is to endure what feels like emptiness while God works in us His transforming process.  It is up to us to create the space in our crowded lives for the Divine presence of the Holy Spirit, to prioritize His presence in our day above all else.

I’ve heard it said that there are people who eat to live and there are people who live to eat.  I clearly live in the latter group when it comes to my food.  I’ve never forgotten to eat.  When I hear people say something like ‘I haven’t eaten a thing today’ and its ten at night, I remain puzzled at how that is even possible!  For too many years I hated myself for not being like the person who forgets to eat.  How thin could I be if I could just ‘forget’ to eat?  I forget everything else it seems without much difficulty, why not food?  Well in my spiritual walk it’s just the opposite.  I can easily forget about the banquet breakfast God has waiting for me in my quiet time while I sit there mindlessly snacking on the never ending drivel of information and entertainment resting in the palm of my hand! Of course the phone is a utility in our modern world, I get that, but it also has the power to usurp human connection and become a surrogate to real meaningful interaction with God, our families and with others.  When I’m particularly attached to that device in the palm of my hand, I try to remember what I would see if I were looking in the palm of my Savior’s hand.  And when I do that, it’s pretty easy to see if I’m honoring God or self in that moment.

It is a paradox.  That is, to stay hungry to be filled.  I desperately want all that Christ has for me and the hungrier I am for it the more blessed I am in it.  Protect your hunger and the energy it contains in all areas of your life.  Remember, your hunger serves a unique and transforming purpose that helps us, as the proverb goes, ‘wind ever upwards’.  (Prov 15:24)

పుట్టినరోజు శుభాకాంక్షలు

  

My heart swells with such gratitude to God who gave me such an amazing husband and on his 50th birthday indulge me as I lay praise on him for the man of God he is. 

As you know, he wasn’t always. I remember when he began asserting spiritual leadership in our home. It was hard and scary. Eventually we came to the realization that it all comes down to trust. Trusting his good intention for us, trusting in the grace of God when we misstep and knowing regardless of the outcome, to walk in obedience to what God was showing us was really to TRUST GOD. Earlier this year, Venkat had to make a huge decision.  One that I knew was his alone to make. It hasn’t been easy, but I must say that it’s been a testimony to his commitment to follow Christ and the call on his life. I’m just so proud of this man for putting one foot in front of the other and leading our family in the direction God has called us to serve. I look forward to our future together and give thanks to God for YOU every day.

So here’s to you Venkat Varada AKA Chinna Babai on your 50th! I couldn’t be more proud to be your wife and continue this journey with you. Thank you for leading us. Thank you for making this picture and so many more like it a regular part of my life. Thank you for showing me so much love in sickness and in health and for richer or for poorer. I know I’m in good hands with you and I thank God for you. 

As the apostle Paul describes his heart here, it reminds me of you and the beauty of your faith in Christ.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Phil. 3:12

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! 

The Power of Discouragement

Discouragement

It comes upon all of us.   Recently I was having a conversation with my daughter and I needed to remind her of the fact that, like an ocean wave, these huge negative emotions that threaten to engulf us, are relegated to the laws of nature.  Like that wave, that huge emotion has no choice but to creep back into the ocean from whence it came.  Though this sage advice is not much help when you are in the midst of it, it is curious to note how one day you can be overwhelmed and the next day not, when no hard circumstance has changed, but you’ve changed.  I have experienced that too many times to count.

Many people think that depression and discouragement are weapons of the enemy…and they are, I believe that too.  I also think, though, God allows these experiences to sharpen our focus, to address wrong thinking…it’s as if God wants us to see where our broken thinking leads without actually physically letting us go there.  Perhaps its mercy?  All I know is that no one is immune to it.  We all go through periods of sadness, periods of deep discouragement.  If  God permits this then what can we learn from it?  Yes,  discouragement is a powerful force, but it is only a mighty gust at best, incapable of sustaining itself.  Our thoughts, our thinking, the beliefs we cling to either perpetuate the discouragement or vanquishe it.  This is why our thinking is our most powerful ally and our most effective enemy.  In the midst of it we can feel blown apart, all the work we’ve done seems to add up to nothing.  However, if God purposed this, what could be the purpose?  When we are blown apart perhaps if we are fortunate, it may blow the lid off of something in our hearts, and if we examine our hearts, taking the pain into prayer, trusting in Truth and not in emotions, we may find that all along His intention was to reveal our unacknowledged sin.

Just the other day I received a daily devotional from David Wilkerson Ministries and the topic was the root of fear.  Here it is, it’s not long, but I want you to read it in its entirety and see if you see the correlation to discouragement:

David Wilkerson TodayTUESDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2011THE ROOT OF FEAR

by David Wilkerson
[May 19, 1931 – April 27, 2011]

“If iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away,
And would not let wickedness dwell in your tents;
Then surely you could lift up your face without spot;
Yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear” (Job 11:14-15).

All fear can be traced
To a spot
Of sin and secret iniquity
Harbored in a man’s heart.
He has the power in his hand
To put it away.
Despising the riches of God’s grace,
His . . . forbearance and longsuffering,
He continues in his evil way,
Allowing in his own life
What he condemns in others,
Becoming a law unto himself.
He seeks to be God’s favored exception
To escape wrath and tribulation.
But God is no respecter of persons,
Judging all alike,
Promising glory, honor and peace
To those who put evil away.
And then he shall lift up his face without spot.
He shall be steadfast
And shall not fear,
For only where sin lies at the door
Is man afraid.

Wow!  Nothing is easy in this, especially if it reveals sin in our heart, but be blessed because revealed sin is the precursor to true repentance.  If  ‘to repent’ means to turn away from, how can we turn away from something we neither see nor believe is at work in us?  Enlightenment comes with a cost.  Through humility (what we bring) and through grace (what God brings) we can experience an exchange rate that is unparalleled anywhere else on the face of the earth.  As the prophet Isaiah tells us in 61:3 he gives us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.