Sometimes going back is the quickest way to go on!

My mind is on simplicity.  The beach and reading about Charles A. Lindberg’s explanation of what it means to live in the core versus living on the periphery of life will do that to you. 

In his autobiography, Autobiography of Values, he says, “the tempo of modern civilization has a centrifugal force that carries us outward from the core of life toward ever-expanding peripheries. We should return frequently to the core, and to basic values … to natural surroundings, to simplicity and to contemplation.  Long ago, I resolved to so arrange my life that I could move back and forth between periphery and core.”

Lindberg developed the ability to sense immediately when he was living on the periphery or in the core. “I knew when I felt the sense of ‘core,’ when the balance of body, mind and sense was reached, when there was no element of pressure, hurry or distraction.  I was related to my surroundings yet independent of them in an extraordinary way.  The simple was always present; I found it was only through simplicity that I could immerse myself in time until I realized that time offers a release from tempo.”

I write this on my first full day of “living on the periphery so I can get back to my core!”  No wonder I sought some words on simplicity.  Leadership guru, John C. Maxwell identifies two myths about simplicity. 

First, he says, we often associate simplicity with a lack of depth or shortage of intelligence.  Conversely, we ascribe intelligence to people who communicate using big words or hard-to-grasp concepts.  The issues we face in life can be complex, with all sorts of intricacies, but as leaders and communicators, our job is to bring clarity to a subject, reducing rather than adding to its complexity.  Simplicity is a skill, and it is a necessary one if you want to connect with people when you communicate.

A second myth about simplicity, Maxwell says, is that simplicity is easy.  He writes, “To us, simplicity means taking shortcuts and denying the complex reality of life.  However, in a society flooded with information, simplicity has never been more difficult to achieve.  Nor has it ever been as important.”

All this sounds like something I wrote in my journal a long time ago:  “Sometimes going back is the quickest way to go on.”  If we go back to “the core,” a place to gain perspective, life simplifies and we face “the periphery” with clarity and strength.  Simple never sounded so good!

I love them back into being!

Mother’s Day is always a sentimental time for me.  I was fortunate to have a mother who tried her best to love me “extra” since Dad died when I was six.  I think she did a good job. 

I thought of my mother’s sacrifice and commitment when I read a story in the book, The Wisdom of the Psyche, by Professor Ann Belford.  She tells the story of the Harlem woman discovered by the press who for forty years has been taking into her home the infants of drug-addicted prostitutes and raising them as her own.  She is now in her eighties and very well known in Harlem. 

Incredible to the mind, women come and leave their babies on her doorstep.  The babies they bring are addicted.  She does not treat them with drugs, which is the usual medical way with children.  She said in one interview: “I love them back into being.”

That means holding the infants and walking up and down with them, singing and talking to them as they suffer withdrawal from the drugs.  If the babies recover, and the mothers have kicked their own habits, she gives the babies back to their mothers. 

As if that wasn’t enough, she has added to her family babies afflicted with AIDS. Love loves and that is what Mom’s do best.  

Thanks be to God and the mothers he inspires.

The Monster of Radical Doubt

The modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born on this date (May 2) when sightings make local news, although accounts of an aquatic beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness date back to 1,500 years.  The newspaper Inverness Courier told the account of a local couple who claimed to have seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.”  The newspaper editor used the word “monster” in the story and it immediately became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending correspondents to Scotland and a circus offering a 20,000-pound sterling reward for capture of the beast. 

As I read about this story I found myself looking for an “interest angle” and discovered it along with other facts.  Loch Ness, located in Scottish Highland, has the largest volume of water in Great Britain; the body of water reaches a depth of nearly 800 feet and a length of about 23 miles.  Scholars of the Loch Ness Monster find a dozen references to “Nessie” in Scottish history, dating back to around A.D. 500, when local Picts (the name given to mysterious race of people who occupied the northern regions of Scotland as early as the fourth century A.D.)  carved a strange aquatic creature into standing stones near Loch Ness. 

The earliest written reference to a monster in Loch Ness is a 7th-century biography of Saint Columba, the Irish missionary who introduced Christianity to Scotland.  In 565, according to the biographer, Columba was on his way to visit the king of the northern Picts near Inverness when he stopped at Loch Ness to confront a beast about to attack another man, Columba intervened, invoking the name of God and commanding the creature to “go back with all speed.”  The monster retreated and never killed another person.

Legends aside, Saint Columba, like all of us, had to face his doubts and fears and in this case, found the best possible results.  Simple, right?  Hardly.  Doubts and fears in legend and life tests even the strongest. 

My conversation this week with a friend whose faith I always considered strong startled me.  We had met about a “non-faith” issue, but when faith surfaced he honestly stated he was in a “radical doubt” phase of his life.   As we talked, I began to see the puzzle pieces of his doubt.  Seminary trained, he had left the “professional” ministry decades ago, but had remained faithful and committed to the local church.  Life, however, etched shadows of suspicion and before he realized, his doubt shifted from marginal to major. 

As we parted, agreeing to meet again to talk about faith issues, I found myself remembering another doubter by the name of Thomas.  Personally, I have always admired Thomas’ honesty both in his journey as well as his destination. 

Dorothy Sayers, in her book, The Man Born to Be King, said it best:  “It is unexpected, but extraordinarily convincing, that the one absolutely unequivocal statement in the whole gospel of the Divinity of Jesus should come from Doubting Thomas.  It is the only place where the word God is used … without qualification of any kind, and in the most unambiguous form of words …. And this must be said — not ecstatically, or with a cry of astonishment — but with flat conviction, as of one acknowledging irrefragable evidence: ‘2 + 2 = 4,’ ‘That is the sun in the sky,’ ‘You are my Lord and my God!’”

No, I don’t believe in Loch Ness monsters, but I do believe in the honest, confession of seekers with radical doubt.  Every day I live I wrestle with some level of doubt and certainty.  Certainty wins more often than not, but I believe it is my honest journey with doubt that allows me to face the faithless monsters of my life with that determined declaration:  “go back with all speed.”