Status

What is this thing called status? Why is it so important, who made up the rules, and why are we following them?

It seriously baffles me. My dad couldn’t have cared less about social or economic status. He just wanted people to love his stories and think he was wonderful! I guess I really am “cut from the same cloth,” and that’s one of the reasons I’m so fulfilled in my job as a K-5 music teacher. I love to be entertaining and kids love being entertained!😆 Just listen to my stories and songs, enjoy them and sing with me and you’re my best friend for life! But status? Humph!

I find status driven people are always getting offended. “I wasn’t treated the way I should have been,” or “I wasn’t recognized in the appropriate fashion.” One important lesson I’ve learned in therapy is if you’re feeling offended, you’re the one with the issue. Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements spells this out clearly.

1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
(Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.)
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always try your best.

Walking around this world expecting superior treatment is definitely going to lead to disappointment and offense. How about changing our perspective to “How can I be a blessing to whomever I encounter?” Jesus washed his disciples filthy feet, even as they protested, and He preached, “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” and “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Why then do I constantly think I deserve to be seated at the head table and feel offended if I’m not?

I will say I struggle with feeling invisible to others. Sometimes I can feel I’m offended, but it’s really a deep childhood wound that occasionally flairs. Growing up in the shadow of an emotionally volatile person, I became very skilled at invisibility. Too skilled. With my outgoing personality and stage abilities I often have felt like Michigan J Frog from Bugs Bunny cartoons. I was a phenom in front of a couple, but once the crowds were there, I merely croaked. I have always had conflicting feelings, polarizing….”LISTEN TO ME WORLD!!! Never mind…please don’t EVEN see me!” And when the world complies with the latter, that old wound sears with pain. Maybe that’s where ‘feeling offended’ originates. Old wounds of feeling insignificant and unimportant, invisible.

All I know is status shouldn’t determine where I sit at the table. Jesus stated it beautifully in the Matthew 22 wedding parable, “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
‭‭

Advertisements

Eyeglasses

I think I was in the third grade when I got my first pair of eyeglasses. I was so excited! I’d been diagnosed as nearsighted and my mom let me pick out a beautiful pair of stylish silver teardrop frames. I absolutely loved them until someone called me “four eyes,” probably within the first 24 hours of wearing them. I then began keeping them on the corner of my desk and only putting them on to read the chalkboard. I’ve worn many different frames since then, and though I had Lazik surgery in 2012, I now regularly use reading glasses!

An interesting thought came to my mind this morning. I believe we all wear many different emotional/mental glasses depending upon our moods, experiences, or circumstances. Often I tend to have those much talked about rose colored glasses which make everything look rosy and happy, better than things actually are. During my depressive moments I wear dark shades that make life look much worse than actuality. Sometimes they’re so dark I feel panicky and can’t hardly make out the shape of my circumstances. Other times I have my easy going pair that keep the bright light out of my eyes but have a golden tint, helping me feel content. I have my music teaching glasses which keep me focused on terms, beats, patterns, and melodies and how I can use them in the classroom, and I have my spiritual specs that see hidden deep meaning in almost anything I focus on.

We all wear many different lenses, sometimes completely unaware of which pair is over our eyes. I have to remind myself to analyze what I’m “seeing” and determining if it’s reality or a distortion from my own specs. I’ve recently been around a few people looking through jaded lenses of suspicion and mistrust. They’ve been burned too many times to take them off and see the beauty around them. They judge every person through their own jaded vision. I’m reminded of the dwarves in CS Lewis’s The Last Battle. They are seated around a feast of delicious extravagant foods in a beautiful meadow, but they have their eyes shut and have convinced themselves they’re in a dark barn with nothing but moldy bread to eat. No one can get them to open their eyes, so they are left to live out their days in a dismal delusion of their own making.

It’s easy to get comfortable in a certain pair of glasses, but I challenge us to first of all, recognize we wear them, and then take them off and look around. Sometimes we might be surprised by what we see with our own two eyes, even if we’ve been wearing specs as stylish as my 70’s teardrops!

Be Kind

My mom and I went the the east Warren yesterday to see the movie Victoria and Abdul. It was a delightful story with Judi Dench in the lead role, but that’s not what inspired this post.

Before we even sat down in the theater, Mom and I ordered a BLT and fries to share. While I was waiting for the food, the next customer began to order. “I want a cappuccino!”
The young girl at the register said, “Our machine is broken. I’m sorry. Can I get you something else?”
The crotchety old woman began to groan and complain, “What? When’s it going to be fixed? Ridiculous when I want a cappuccino and I come here and you say that! Do you have any coffee??”

The kind girl answered, “Yes we have coffee!”
“Do you have cream?”
“Yes we do!”
“Flavored cream?”
“No just cream.”
The old woman scrunched up her face and exclaimed, “Humph! Course you don’t! Ridiculous!”
The girl began to say she was sorry and the woman rudely cut her off, “Stop saying you’re sorry and get your machine fixed. When I come here I want my cappuccino! I’ll take the coffee!” She grumbled and muttered under her breath.

I was appalled. It took everything in me not to correct her as I would one of my students. We don’t allow our children to respond to others like that, so why can she? I meant to encourage the girl at the counter but she went into the kitchen and didn’t come out again. I bet she went back for a cry. Another girl brought me my sandwich so I left the shop to find my mom in the theater.

Kindness is such a treasure and yet it costs us nothing! I love the following quote by author Og Mandino:

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”

If we make a conscious decision to treat people with respect and understanding no matter how frustrated or cantankerous we feel, we can have an effect for good no matter where we are or who we’re around. Oddly enough our own kindness displayed to others can actually put us in a better mood as well!

I questioned myself if I should have said something to the old lady. I wanted to say, “Whoa! Hold on here! Do you have to be so rude to this poor girl who’s done nothing but tell you the truth with a smile?? Chill out lady!” But that wouldn’t have been kind. Maybe not saying anything was the best thing I could do at the moment. I do wish I had stayed around to give encouragement to the young girl. Unfortunately she’s probably accustomed to such treatment since she’s in customer service. No wonder it’s so difficult to keep good people in these positions.

I share this to remind all of us what a little kindness can do. Kindness is a mindset. It is a decision and is not based on how we feel or on circumstance. As the great author Henry James wisely wrote, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

Class Act

One thing I’ve come to realize as I’ve continued to learn and grow is how many people, no matter their faith, are status driven.

My dad made his fortune when I was still in grade school.  Growing up wealthy and raised in the church, I observed my parents consistently modeling Christ’s example from ‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:43-45‬, “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” I remember them always talking about how money itself isn’t evil but the love of it is, and what we have today could be wiped out in a moment, but as long as we have God and each other we’ll be okay. I remember them treating everyone with respect regardless of job, status, or education. They took Jesus’s words seriously, and I took their example seriously. I did not choose friends for their status or financial health. I chose friends based on how comfortable they were with themselves, whether they had a good sense of humor, and how they treated others.

At the time, I never thought people might choose me as a friend because of my family’s wealth or status. Now I realize how naive I was. I am no longer wealthy. My dad’s fortune went to dinosaur fossils and amazing artifacts that have been donated to a not-for-profit museum and
I’m glad! It was his money and he shared it with many people and organizations through the years. The more he made, the more he gave. For decades he was giving up to 50% of his income to organizations, family, and friends. His heart was overflowing with generosity!

What has amazed me is how many people treat me differently now that I’m working as a school teacher. At first I felt puzzled…not understanding why people who had always treated me with a certain amount of respect now were somewhat cold and uninviting. It took me years to realize other people’s behavior changed toward me because, according to our society, my status has changed. At first I felt sad and disappointed, and then I began to feel especially thankful for the dear trustworthy people who are still my best friends regardless of my finances. My husband Mike and I still believe in being servants and try to always live with this mentality. My dad was never too good for another. He never saw wealth as an end-all or pedestal that elevated him above others. In fact, he was the opposite. He loved to have fun, wasn’t afraid to work hard, and loved to laugh as well as make others laugh, whether with him or AT him! He wasn’t classy in any way, but he was a class act. I’m thankful for his example…being classy has never been my forte!

Control Freaks

It never ceases to amaze me how many of us are allowing our fear to control us. I was going to use the word hate instead of fear but hate is often the product of fear and pain. I will hear a person talk about someone that has consistently hurt them over years, decades, and every time they say the same thing. “I am never going to be like that!” “I will never treat people the way he treated me!” “I will never behave like her!” Yet in the next breath that same person will spew out such anger and hate towards someone else that I feel as if I am looking at a reflection of the person they just swore never to be. They also will triangulate and bully, attempting to manipulate others, exactly in the same fashion as the person they love to hate. Why are we so blind to our patterns? Why is denial such a trusted companion? Why is it so much easier to point out someone else’s faults than to focus on our own? Why are we such control freaks?

What disturbs me the most is the people who seem hellbent on creating more chaos and pain in this world instead of accepting their personal amount and dealing with it appropriately. I consistently see this pattern in kindergarteners. They quickly want to blame another for any discomfort they may have. We’re supposed to grow out of that mentality and recognize we can only control ourselves, not others, and in turn we must take responsibility for our own behavior. Ask yourself this question. “Who or what is driving me absolutely crazy and why am I allowing this to control my life?” Then determine how much time and energy you waste trying to control all of the people and things that drive you bonkers.

The sooner we realize that we have absolutely no authority over other adults, the better our lives will be. I’m not always cognizant of how much I am trying to manipulate and influence others to bend to my will, which is exactly the behavior I have HATED in the most difficult people I’ve been around. If I feel hatred for another person it’s time to look at my own reflection, as the great novelist and painter Herman Hesse said, “If you hate a person you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”

So, as I reminded my students today, “You are in charge of yourself, not your friends, not your neighbors, or anyone else! Now go on with the rest of your day and please, make good choices. You are the one who has to live with yourself and the consequences of every decision you make!”

Magic

Some people don’t believe in magic. They think that everything can be explained by science and logic. As they spend their lives seeking out every answer to every mystery, a boredom begins to stalk their very existence. To explain every marvel with a detailed description of its make up and probability takes away its mystique which completely extinguishes its marvelousness. HL Mencken said, “The problem with life is not that it’s a tragedy but that it is a bore.” A person who is filled with wonder is filled with the mystical, with hope, significance and meaning. Where wonder ceases, emptiness and boredom reign.

I have lost much of the wonder I had as a child, and it saddens me. That’s one reason I love teaching elementary music. I get to spend my days with people who still believe, hope, dream, and wonder at all of creation and their belief and creativity is inspiring. Every day my spirit is somehow encouraged to trust and hope in something bigger than my own understanding. I am also beginning to see that explanation and definition don’t always negate wonder, but arrogance does. When a humble heart seeks truth, the answers still lead to amazement and fascination. Boredom is the product of cynicism and haughtiness.

GK Chesterton said, “”The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” He insisted in much of his writing that the path to logic alone actually leads to insanity and chaos.

I personally still believe in the mystical. I have seen and known a terminally ill child with the odds overwhelmingly stacked against her somehow beat both cancer and chemo, completely baffling her own doctors who had predicted her demise on numerous occasions. She and I just spent some beautiful moments twirling outside in the crisp autumn air, giggling and making the most out of our time together. In a world where most people spend their time regretfully mulling over the past or worrying about the future, she and I lived in the present…enjoying the moment as the precious and priceless gift that it is, and that can only be defined as magic in my book!

Marked

I grew up hearing the scripture verse from Deuteronomy that says we should not “mark” ourselves. There are a lot of shouldn’ts in Deuteronomy. If you’re living by that book alone, good luck to you. I’ll save you some pain and let you know how it ends…you fail miserably at trying to follow all those laws and you finally let God save you as you are, tattooed or not.

As for me, I’m inked. I got my first tat around my 30th birthday. It’s an orange leaf being blown about by the wind, and it reminds me of a line in a song I wrote titled the same as this blog account, Seasons of the Soul. “Faith rides the wind like falling leaves…” means my faith is moving and active, sometimes troublesome to me as it doesn’t sit stagnant or stay in one place, it’s always being driven by life…by the Spirit…the wind…which means I usually feel unsettled with a lot of uncertainty and doubt. Funny how faith needs doubt to even exist.

That tattoo faded over the past 19 years, so last summer I had it embellished. An artist added the other seasons, sun for summer, holly sprig for winter, and tulip for spring, since my mama always called me tulip as a little girl. The orange leaf is in the center as it is representative of my favorite season as well as my faith. I love it! Not only do I love the seasons it represents, but I love that it is a permanent visible reminder that I am flawed. I am marked as imperfect and no amount of hoop jumping will fix it. I can’t delude myself into attempting perfection. I can let go, accept myself as is, and allow God to love me scars and all, tats and all. And as I finally accept God’s grace and love myself, I can finally truly love others as they are, unconditionally.

SING!

Teaching children how to sing is such an exciting opportunity! I love unlocking their potential by helping them understand they already have the ability inside of them, they just need to push past the fear and let go!

As I was growing up, my family was always singing. Uncle Stan sang all the time…even when he answered the doorbell, my dad sang the bass part of every hymn he could think of and expected everyone to join in, my granddaddy played the piano while we all sang, Gramps sang in a traveling quartet…the list goes on and on. I don’t remember not singing. My first solo at church was The Lord is Counting on Me when I was three. I grew up not realizing our family was unique. I thought everyone sang.

Now, as I teach K-5 music, I know many people never sing to their children. I hear kindergarteners who don’t know the difference between speaking voices and singing voices, and I get to teach them! It’s exciting! John Feierabend advocates using spontaneous arioso singing…using a singing voice to share information. I daily use this technique in my classroom and it truly gets the shyest child to sing! I will begin music class singing about my favorite holiday or food and ask in arioso form who wants to share…eventually, every student raises their hands to participate! They simply can’t resist the opportunity to share about something they love, even if they have to sing it! I also have NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER with being a little goofy myself, which puts them at ease. If students are already laughing at Mrs. Noller, why worry?

The first day of school was August 15, and today, October 5th, just eight weeks later, every kindergartner in my classes knows the difference between singing and speaking voices and can demonstrate them. Some may never sing well, just as some of us have never played basketball well, but they KNOW how to sing just as I know how to dribble and shoot a basketball! I absolutely love seeing their faces light up when they realize they’re singing! I can’t imagine any job being more rewarding. To help a student find their voice, in both singing and self confidence, makes my own heart sing with great fulfillment and joy, because finding your voice in this world is the first step to being listened to and respected.

As the old 70’s song says, “Sing! Sing a song! Make it simple to last your whole life long! Don’t worry that it’s not good enough, for anyone else to hear! Just SING! Sing a song!”

Sweet Dreams

Since it’s October, in the spirit of Halloween I bring you this terrifying blog. You’ve experienced nightmares and heard of night terrors, and I’m sure you’ve comforted one or more of your children through some. But have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? It’s inspired horror films such as Nightmare on Elm Street, the Entity, and Insidious, and most psychologists believe it’s responsible for alien abduction stories.

About 50% of people have experienced sleep paralysis at least once. It comes when you’re overtired, usually after you’ve been asleep for awhile and are beginning to wake, or have wakened and are trying to drift back to sleep. Suddenly, you’ll feel a buzzing, tingling sensation… mine starts in the back of my neck and head, and it quickly envelops everything. Your whole body will feel like your foot does when it falls asleep. You’ll want to move but find you’re completely paralyzed, and panic sets in. That’s right about the time the hallucinations start…and they’re usually extremely scary, the stuff of horror films. Some people hear someone whispering things in their ear like, “Don’t open your eyes…” Some hear evil laughter, and almost all have a deep sense of dread. It feels as though something is bearing down on your chest, trying to suffocate you, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Some see demons, some ghosts, some aliens, and some see shadows of a dark presence.

Science explains it as the brain struggling between being asleep and awake, an aborted REM episode when the body stays paralyzed to protect the person from acting out their dreams. The scary hallucinations occur because of the innate human response to danger. Paralysis while somewhat awake feels dangerous and our brains respond with frightening conclusions.

All I know is, if I can concentrate all my strength into wiggling one finger or shaking my head back and forth at the beginning of an episode, I can usually ward it off completely. I also begin to pray fervently and sometimes this lessens the severity of the nightmare.

Sleep paralysis hallucinations feel real. Often your eyes are open and you’re seeing the room around you, but in an altered state of consciousness so dreams mix with reality. It’s no wonder people experiencing them feel like they’re being attacked by evil spirits or abducted by aliens. It’s truly a more horrifying event than any scary movie I’ve ever seen.

With that having been said, now I will say Happy October, goodnight, and please have nothing but sweet dreams…

Yes and No

Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. We are plagued with indecision in this day and age. Our culture saturates us with too much information from all sides and then expects us to make a stand. It’s no wonder we feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! We’re confused about what we believe in, what we think we want, and who we are.

Unplug. Get rid of all of the extra sensory feedback that is completely inundating you with conflicting data. Get in touch with what you want, who you want to be, what makes you feel at peace, and leave the rest behind.

Ask yourself, “What do I truly need?”
Ask yourself , “What do I have that I take for granted?”
Ask yourself, “What do I truly want?”

What are the innermost desires in your heart? Once you determine that you can decide what is necessary to accomplish it. I think the biggest obstacle in today’s society is confusion. Too much information is hitting us from every angle and we lose sight of what we’re looking for. I’ve talked with many Christians who are trying so hard to be good enough they completely miss the blessing of salvation. You are good enough. Rest in that. If you are motivated to help others, help them. But if you’re looking for God’s approval He’s already given it on the cross so quit doing just to do and let go.

So many of us try to do the right thing because it’s expected of us. That’s cheating. That’s crap. Do the right thing because your heart will accept nothing less. Quit looking for approval and recognize your actions are seen by God and He already knows your intentions. And if you need some time to unplug and figure things out, by all means do it! Please make a decision to be honest, no matter what the cost…honest with yourself and others.

So many people are lying about what they want and what they believe, trying to control what others think of them. Make a choice to be consistent in a constantly shifting world.

Let your yes be yes and your no be no.