August 3, 2008

Sorting Life

Posted in reflection, spirituality at 6:56 pm by jimazing

On Peace

corn.jpgThe men’s group where I am a member was discussing Romans chapter 8 this morning.  We were talking about what it means to have God’s peace.  Several in our group are going through tough times; some family issues and others business problems.  They were asking why they aren’t experiencing God’s peace.  It is easy in the middle of a problem to point to someone who is not having the same problem and attribute God’s peace to them.  If I am experiencing a problem that is causing turmoil in my life, and I see someone who is not experiencing the same problem, it is easy to assume that she must have God’s peace unlike me.  Sounds silly when you say it like that, but it is an easy leap to make when you feel life crashing down around you… at least it is for me.  That leap is not fair for many reasons.  The reason I want to focus on now is that life happens; whether as a result of our own actions and decisions or things that are completely out of our control.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of measuring our spiritual status by our physical status.  Are we prospering?  We must be “right with God”.  Are we failing in life?  We must be out of God’s will.  I don’t believe that our physical circumstances and our spiritual circumstances are that easily related…  I’ll try my hand at an un-parable.  Jesus might have introduced it like this, “The Kingdom of God is not like this…”

A farmer planted corn and the corn did well.  Later others can come by and saw acres of corn.  They knew merely by virtue of the plants they saw that the farmer planted corn.

Not so spiritually speaking.  It would be judgemental and wrong for me to look at my friend whose business is not doing well and say that he’s not right with God.  And it would be just as presumptuous to look at my friend whose business is prospering and conclude that he must be close to God. It just doesn’t work like that.  Yes, there is a sowing and reaping, but it’s dangerous to look at the physical and make spiritual judgements.

In my own journey, when I relate the peace of God with my own prosperity, I tend to want to fix the physical in order to address the spiritual.  I create “places of peace” that are really nothing about following God.  They are merely my own “happy places”.  I create peace in my life when I plan, work and succeed.  Am I saying this is wrong?  Please hear me on this:  This post is not about good and bad, nor is it about right and wrong.  I am merely doing a bit of sorting.  What is spiritual and what is physical?  What is peace and what is God’s spiritual peace?  Nothing wrong with creating happy places in my life, but I don’t want to confuse them with the Peace of God that is present even when I’m not in a happy place… In John 9, the disciples asked Jesus why a man had been born blind… well, not quite.  What they asked was whose sin caused him to be blind.  They were connecting his physical condition to his spiritual condition.   Jesus rightly called foul on their presumption. Just because I do A and then get B does not mean my doing A causes B.  In fact, that line of thinking leads to superstition and superstition merely confuses the situation.

On Grattitude

Continuing the sorting process… Later today, a podcast of Speaking of Faith on prayer got me thinking of multiple levels of thankfulness and grattitude.  A little girl read this poem by Mary Oliver (emphasis is mine)

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

erin-grass.jpgHow wonderful to stroll through the fields, to play in the grass all day.  I could be thankful for that.  But the grass must be tended to.  What about mowing the grass?  Can I be thankful for that too?  What about the daily work and grind that saps all my energy and seems to be for nothing.  Can I be thankful for that? There must be multiple levels of grattitude.  For instance, there’s a “childish” grattitude for simple things (generally selfish) and a deeper “adult” grattitude for what’s behind those simple things.  I say “adult”, but it doesn’t come automatically at any age.

I have such fond memories of Christmas meals with my dad’s family in West Virginia.  So much family in one room that you could hardly move.  The aroma of more wonderful dishes than you could imagine.  So many that you could hardly taste taste them all in just one sitting.  I was thankful for that even then… and I am thankful for the memory of those gatherings now.  But I had no thought for (and hence no grattitude for) those who did the work to cook those meals and plan the evening and clean the house and… It’s only as an adult that I can see that side of it.  Only as an adult, do I realize that the events like these that set the stage for great memories take great planning and execution.  They do not merely happen.  That doesn’t lessen my childish grattitude.  In fact it enhances it and in a sense, completes it.  I can only be thankful for what I have some understanding of.

So, yes, I can be thankful for a walk and a tumble in the grass… and I can be thankful for the ability and the tools that I need to mow that grass.  I can be thankful for the family times and thankful that someone has put the energy and planning into creating these times.  The more I know, the more I can be thankful for.   As I write those words, I hear the dryer tumbling freshly washed clothes and I realize that if my sweetie hadn’t taken care of that, I would be doing laundry instead of blogging.  Thanks Honey… Happy Monthiversary… thirty years and 2 months!

February 14, 2008

My Spiritual Journey – Part 3

Posted in memories, reflection, spirituality at 10:32 pm by jimazing

This is literally the first day I have felt good in February. Thanks to those who prayed for me. It feels kinda selfish to ask for prayer from God for a cold when there are so many big problems out there; war, famine, big ugly dreadful diseases, broken relationships… In any case, I’m grateful to be feeling better. On to my journey…

jim-bible-school.jpg As far back as I can remember, my family went to church every Sunday. Our home church was Deer Park Baptist. I “gave my heart to Jesus” at Vacation Bible School there. I must have been about 7 or 8 years old. The associate pastor called me into his office, which was quite intimidating… it felt sort of like going to the principal’s office. I had raised my hand when the teacher asked if anyone wanted to give their heart to Jesus and the next step in the process was a trip to his office. He asked me a few questions about sin and who Jesus was and what He did for me. I answered all the questions correctly and we prayed together. He told me that I was now a Christian.

I have some reservations today about the one size fits all formula in which we answer a few questions and we are “in”. Seems more like joining a club than a crucial life decision. In any case I took my decision seriously. I believed what my teacher taught me and I wanted to go to heaven when I died. As I wrote those words, I just remembered something my dad told me the day I was baptized. He said that he noticed that I was more serious than the other kids. I’m glad I remembered that. Thanks for saying so, Dad. I knew writing this would be good for me.

As the years went on and I learned more about God at church, I grew more serious about wanting to follow Jesus. At some point, the repetitious Sunday School lessons weren’t doing it for me anymore. If I had been smart, I would have talked to someone about my journey, but I was a loner and I was pretty sure I could figure it out. In my mind, everyone needed to go through the same steps of learning and growth in series; 1, 2, 3…. Because of that, it was important for me to get them in order so I wouldn’t mess up or miss anything. I knew that they had these racks in the vestibule of the church filled with tracts and I reasoned that this was where I would find out the next steps to take. What I found in the tract rack were pamphlets on how to become a Christian in three easy steps and why the Mormans or Jehovah’s Witnesses were wrong and what to say to them when they came to your door. I didn’t find anything like what i was really looking for; the next steps after giving your heart to God. How to grow closer to God.

4-laws.gif The church that I grew up in emphasized evangelism. Nothing mattered more than “The Great Commision” from Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” It was our job to share Jesus. For a painfully shy little fellow, this was like asking me to walk on hot coals. I reasoned that the main thing was getting the message out. So, I took the tracts that told about how to become a Christian and distributed them liberally. Once on vacation, we stopped for gas and I went to the restroom. While I was in there, I unrolled the toilet paper and re-rolled it with tracts so they would fall out when the next person used the toilet. As we drove away, Dad had something to say about it. It seems that he was the next person to use the toilet. I was so embarrased!

When I was a young teenager, I had a Sunday School teacher, whose name is gone from my memory. He was a short blond firecracker of a man. He really loved Jesus and was full of excitement. He was as anti-speaking in tongues as he was on fire for Jesus. I don’t know why that was such a hot button for him. His teaching was my only knowlege about speaking in tongues and my only perspective about the matter. Whatever speaking in tongues was, he was worried that we’d get involved with it. I took his teaching as gospel and learned chapter and verse why “speaking in tongues was of the devil.” There was no way I was going to get involved with that! In his class we also studied a popular book called “The Late Great Planet Earth”. This was the first popular book I had ever read about what to expect at the end of time. Mostly what I remember about it was that Jesus was coming back in 1988! Whoops.

In the group of four boys that were my age at Deer Park Church, three of them went into fulltime ministry. I alone pursued a secular vocation. Many times I have asked myself what happened to me. For some reason, even then it was important to me that I should be able to be serious about following Jesus without earning a living as a minister. That is not a criticism of anyone in ministry. It is a value I hold dear, not just with regards to ministry, but also taking leadership in groups without being given a formal leadership role. To me, that’s the way the world ought to be. So many people wait to be told what to do instead of using the gifts and talents that God has built into them. There’s a reason we are all different. We need each other.

February 10, 2008

My Spiritual Journey – Part 2

Posted in memories, reflection, spirituality at 5:41 pm by jimazing


naomi-lewis-1964.jpg The next logical part of my journey is my relationship to those who came before me. I was blessed to know all of my grandparents and three of my great granparents. I was pretty young when my great-grandparents died. My dad’s mother’s father (M. C. Lewis) died before I was born. I barely remember her mother, (Naomi) but I called her Gran Great (my grandmother was “Gran”). Mostly, I remember an old lady who I would “perform” for. At Christmas, we had a gathering of my grandmother’s family (the Lewis’s) at which all the kids were expected to say a piece for Gran-Great. My parents tell me that one of the pieces I recited for her went like this… “The chimney’s small. Old Santa’s fat, but he get’s down in spite of that.” I guess for a little guy that was pretty good.

Great Grandpa & Grandma Anderson

rom-bertha-anderson-1967.jpg I knew both of my dad’s, dad’s parents (Rom & Bertha Pearl Anderson). We visited them many times and I remember my dad telling me each time that this might be the last time we would ever see them alive. The fact that I remember hearing this more than once testifies to their longevity. It also tells me that the sadness I felt cut pretty deep. Many of our memories that stick do so because they are attached to strong emotion. This photo is just how I remember them. I even remember being that wallpaper, which struck me because of its “oldness”. Everything in their house seemed so old. It even smelled old. My great-grandfather liked to put me on his knee and tell me bear (pronounced “bar”) stories. His voice was airy and soft and he had a gentle laugh that I liked.


My great grandmother was impressed with my singing hymns when we visited. I do not remember this, but my mom tells me it is so. My mom sang hymns a lot when I was little and, being the little musician that I was, I picked them up and sang them too. I still remember most of the standard hymns very well. I suppose it is because of hearing them so much when I was growing up.

Interestingly to me, I do not “treasure” the hymns the way I hear from so many people who grew up in the church. So many times I hear people my age and older wish we sang more of the the old hymns in church today. To my mind, they seem distant and old fashioned. It seems as if I should cherish them and hold them dear since they were clearly such a huge part of my childhood, but they do not. The reason, at least partly is because my musical taste and my love of variety are not met in the old hymns (you don’t get much new and avant-garde with hymns). It could also be that I unconsciously associate hymns with a “by the rules” religion that I attach to my grandparents’ generation… a religious attitude that I find repellant. For whatever reason, the fact is that I loved hymns when I was a youngster but today, I do not prefer them.

I was sharing this dicotomy with a friend the other day and he reminded me of some of the “remakes” of old hymns to a more modern sound. I like very few of them. The ones I like are the ones in which they make interesting harmonic changes instead of merely “changing the beat”. Most of these remake productions lack depth musically speaking. They are merely rock and roll facades on old hymns. It isn’t that I consider what they are doing sacreligious. It is hard for me to imagine that any musical style in and of itself is unpleasing to God. I believe to my core that God is mostly concerned with our hearts.

The Attitude of the Heart

Samuel, in the Bible, says when choosing the next king for Israel, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7. This is a principle that I hold very dear. God is more concerned with my heart than my actions. I once knew a man who loved to perform gospel music ( good-ole hillbilly, bluegrass gospel music). He didn’t love Jesus, but he surely loved gospel music. Something about that bothered me. To sing for Jesus when you don’t love Him, just doesn’t make sense to me. I believe that as a musician, I can perform secular music with an attitude of worship to God that is pleasing to him. Likewise, I could sing a hymn with a poor attitude and I do not believe it would be pleasing to God.

Thinking about God’s looking on the heart also reminds me of Jeanie’s and my philosophy of raising children. When our daughters were little, it was very important to us to try to discern the reason they did something wrong. Did they have an attitude of defiance, or was it a childish mistake? Were they truly sorry, or just embarrased that they got caught? Once I was so exasperated with Danae that I shouted at her. I said, “Why don’t you stop acting like a three year old?” This broke the spell for me long enough to laugh at myself… because she was three years old at the time.

Way over here at the other end of the parenting continuum, I have also asked my daughters many times to judge me by my motives more than my actions. As a parent there are many times that I have just not known what to do or say. I know what I want, but I don’t know how to get it. I have made some real hum-dingers of mistakes with my words. Hurt feelings, miscommunications. I am blessed that my family is so forgiving.

A Prayer Request

I have had a cold for the last week and a half that has wiped me out. Just sitting up and writing for a while is draining all my energy. Please pray that I will recover quickly. I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired… if you know what I mean.

February 4, 2008

My Spiritual Journey – Part 1

Posted in memories, reflection, spirituality at 11:19 pm by jimazing


ps145-4.pngEverything is spiritual… so how can one write about their spiritual journey without writing about everything? My purpose in this series is to explore what I believe about God and why I believe it to be true. It will be a very personal journey. My purpose is not to say that I am right and why, but to say, “This is who I am.” Like everything I write on this blog, my purpose ultimately is for my friends and family, to know me better. The unexpected gem for me is how much I learn about myself in the process. If it is encouraging to others, so much the better.

I expect it will be mostly chronological, but not completely. As I get into some particular thread of thought, I may chase it through time. You will undoubtedly meet a few people who helped to shape my spiritual thought from Mom and Dad to my own children, from my Sunday School teachers and Youth Leader to a few very influential pastors and friends. Much of my journey has been shaped by trying to please others. A desire to please others is good, but it is also flawed. The simple fact is that I cannot make anyone happy. I can do acts of kindness, but whether the recipient truly receives them is not my choice. Whether it is enough to make a difference is not my choice. I hope that in the process of exposing the unhealthy addiction to making others happy, I can be freed to explore my own heart deeper… and continue doing acts of kindness, but with no expectations.

Before the Beginning

At least, before my beginning… It occurs to me that as a chronological journey, I should tell what I know about the spiritual journeys of my ancestors. It isn’t much…

Gathering at Pine Grove ChurchI know that my Dad’s family was from West Virginia. He was born and raised in an area on the Kanawha River nine miles from its intersection with the Ohio. The area was called “Nine Mile”. His father’s family (Anderson) had bounced all around West Virginia and even into Kentuky and Tennessee having children as they went. They made a living by building or fixing up a house then living in it a while, selling it and moving on. When they arrived at Nine Mile, they stayed to have several children. My guess is that the nomadic lifestyle was a bit much with a lot of children. No matter why they chose to stay, they took up farming and became part of the Nine Mile community. They attended church at Pine Grove Church, which is now gone. There is still a cemetery there where many of my ancestors are buried (none of them are Andersons though). Pine Grove Church was a Methodist church, I believe.

Another family in the Nine Mile area who also attended Pine Grove Church were the Lewises. Bernice Lewis was my grandmother. Her father, Miles Clement Lewis, was a school teacher and a devout Christian. He spoke in church on at least one occasion, for which I have published his notes here. Bernice Lewis and Preston Anderson met at Pine Grove Church where both of their families attended services. They told me about going to social events there for dates. Anyway, that’s not the point of this entry. The ancestors I spoke of were from the Lewis side of my grandmother’s family.

They married and made a life for themselves very close by that area. For their whole life, they were members of the United Methodist Church. They believed in God and raised their two sons in the church. Their younger son, my uncle, is a Christian pastor and a great mentor to me. He comments frequently on my blog. Their older son is my father and also a great influence in my life. He has occasionally left his mark here too.

My mother’s family came from Alabama. I believe they were Baptists, but I don’t know much about that. Her parents moved to Charleston, SC when she was a young teenager. Her father became a machinist in the Charleston Naval Ship Yard. They attended Charleston Heights Baptist Church, which was very near the Naval Base (that little fact will become important soon).

My dad joined the Navy when he graduated high-school. He had high hopes of attending the Navy School of Music. He had passed the entrance audition and was well on his way when life took a different turn for him. In his physical exam, they determined that he didn’t have enough teeth to be a navy musician. I can only imagine how dissapointing that must have been. The Navy sent dad (of course he wasn’t my dad yet) to Charleston. While there, he went to Charleston Heights Baptist Church to worship. Guess who he met there… yep. He and my mom were married about a year later.

Mom and Dad took my brother, Ken, and me to church in the Baptist church as long back as I can remember. Some of my very early memories were of my dad directing the music at Highland Creek Baptist Church in Hanahan, SC. I remember singing from the hymnals and feeling embarrased when one of the ladies would look at me and smile with that “isn’t he cute” smile. When my mom was recovering from having my brother, she tells me that I would go to church with my dad and I would sit on the front pew very still and good while he directed the singing. Then he would come sit down with me for the rest of the service. People would just rave about how good I was. I liked that attention and I’m sure it had a big impact on my being “good”.

So there you have it. It’s a beginning… not an earth shaking beginning, but it is the one I have. Next time, I’ll talk a little more about my childhood experience in church, what I remember of it and move into the teen years. Until then…

January 21, 2008


Posted in hope, reflection at 6:47 pm by jimazing

mlk.png Thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr. Day…

  • I was ten years old when Martin was assasinated. I do not remember ever having heard of him, which was not unusual given the fact that we didn’t talk about world events in my home. It wasn’t that world events were taboo, my parents just didn’t discuss it. I feel sad that he met such a tragic end.
  • Being a white guy from the south, I grew up immersed in a paradigm that thought of people like King as trouble-makers. He was a trouble maker. Sometimes we need trouble-makers to stir us out of our complacency or worse, our bigotry. It disturbs me that we need to be shaken up because we ought to be able to examine ourselves and make the changes that result from that examination. Alas, people aren’t very good at self-examination. I am thankful for the courage of Martin and others who risked everything to make things better.
  • Our garbage pickup is delayed one day this week because of the holiday. Jeanie already heard one person make a smart-assed comment about how “they” have to have this day off, don’t they? Will we ever get past having an us and a them? I feel angry and sad that a whole group of people is marginalized because of the color of their skin.
  • This morning, I was reading a newspaper article on King’s legacy and I was thinking about my African-American friend, Chris. (Chris is not my token black friend. He is my friend because we relate to one another well. We used to work on the same team at Wachovia. We no longer get to work side by side because of corporate reorganization decisions. I picked up the phone and called Chris.  I told him how I had been thinking about how much of an impact King’s dream and work had on our ability to be friends at all. If it were 40 or 50 years earlier, there is no way we would be working side by side in an office. I celebrate our friendship today!

There you have it. Joy, because I am living Martin’s dream and sadness because it is so far from a complete reality. Hope that we will be able to one day truly judge one another by our character and not by our skin color or any of the other differences that divide us. Call me crazy, but I believe that is what Jesus wants.  I believe that only when we truly embrace Him and follow His teaching can we have any hope of true reconciliation. Only when we learn to embrace one another, only when we see the “fingerprint of God” in everone can we experience Martin’s dream. Only when we learn to disagree well can we celebrate our differences as we together celebrate the One who made us all so different! We have so far to go, but I see movement. Movement in my life and the lives of some of my friends.

God help us to embrace You, embrace Your ways, see the world the way You see it. Help us to see Your fingerprint in every person and love them the way You do… the way Jesus showed us.

December 31, 2007

Reflecting and Thinking Ahead

Posted in hope, reflection, spirituality at 8:40 pm by jimazing

streamer-3.gif Looking at my post on January 1, 2007 , I expressed hope that during 2007 I would be come more of myself and more Christlike at the same time. I believe I have experienced some of that transformation. Now that I understand it better, I want to continue to live it on purpose. Jesus said that the most important thing is for me to love God and love my neighbor as myself. With God’s help, I plan to do that.

I went for a walk today and stopped on a little footbridge over a stream. The water was running hard from the recent rains and there were rocks in the stream that the water had to get through on it’s journey. The stream was bubbling and churning and the sound caused me to stop for a moment. The moment became two moments and three as I thought about all the great things that happened this year. I had some really fun times, but the great things that happened weren’t all pleasant… in fact the very best ones were downright unpleasant. These were best because, as my uncle recently reminded me, those unpleasant conflicts are where the real growth happens.

Thinking forward to this year, I was thinking about the futility of planning. I don’t have control of my life. There are so many things that happen to me that I have no choice over. My choice comes in how I respond or react to the things that happen. But reacting and responding is not planning. I know that I can plan. I can set goals that are worthy and yet unattainable. That seems futile… (read don’t want to go there). I can set goals that I know I can do because I will do them anyway. That is cheating for no reason. So with all that in mind what I want to do is set a few SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. These characteristics are pretty much self explanatory, but the last one is worth a comment. Timely, to me, means that the goals are not just for the sake of getting things done, but they are to help keep me headed in the direction I want to go. With that in mind, here are a few “cheaters”. They are already on the calendar, or very close to it.

  • streamer-1.gifHelp out at the Brian McLaren event at Area 15 (I gotta blog about Area 15 sometime)
  • Trip to Montreal with LaClef in February
  • Personal Coaching Training in February
  • Pass my 10 year anniversary with Wachovia
  • Turn 50
  • Celebrate 30 wonderful years with my sweetie.

And here are a few wishes that I want to turn into SMART goals. They aren’t completely there yet, but they express my desire for the next year.

  • Move my spiritual journey from one of “learning about” to intentionally expressing God’s love in a tangible way to people who are in need. (hurting (everyone), poor, hungry, homeless…)
  • Invest the time that Wachovia allows for community service work around Area15. (They actually allow me to invest an hour a week-on the clock-in community service work. Isn’t that cool?)
  • Become more involved with Area 15. (Outside of the community service time. Just hang out there and see where I fit in)
  • Blog about my spiritual journey. (Kinda like my Work Experience Series)

streamer-2.gif These are wishes and not goals because they don’t have a deadline (beyond saying that I want to do them within the next year. Anyway, it is a start and that’s all I’ve got right now.

A wish, a hope and a prayer.  I wish I could spend quality time with each of you every day to know you better and to love and encourage you the way God does. I hope your new year takes each of you further in the direction that you want to go, and I pray that each of you feels the Love of God in your life in a special way today and the next day and the one after that…

December 30, 2007

Going Back

Posted in family, reflection at 7:37 pm by jimazing

mels-flight.gif Kat is home. Danae is home. Erin is home. I am watching Melody’s flight home on According to them she is passing over I-64 between Lexington, KY and Huntington, WV. The house is quiet. It feels surreal.

Now I know what it feels like to have all of the family come home for the holidays. I understand just a bit better why it is so stressful. Don’t misunderstand. I loved it! But at the same time I saw and experienced the stress of the girls coming home. We are their family of origin now. Until very recently, we were just their family. They are building lives of their own that will resemble ours, but be different as well. That’s the way it is supposed to be.

I desire to create an environment where our family feels welcome and loved; where they feel valued for who they are, not for anything they do.  A place they look forward to coming. I do so love my family!

September 21, 2007

Growing From the Edges

Posted in personal, reflection, stories at 8:34 pm by jimazing

broken-jim.jpgIn my last post, The San Francisco Trip , I wrote…

We had a great time and a few adventures ; some planned and some not so planned. I am learning that the unplanned adventures are where growth occurs… or not. These are the places where it is possible to get un-stuck.

This is about the unplanned adventure…

The Adventure

The night of the Alcatraz tour, Jeanie and I drove into San Francisco in the car while Justin and Erin came from Berkely on the BART (subway). We parked in a garage and they walked from the BART to Pier 33 where the Alcatraz tour meets. The tour was awesome and afterwards, we had dinner. We offered to drive Erin and Justin to the station because it would save them a mile long walk and also because it was getting close to the last BART run for the night. When we arrived at our garage, the doors were locked and the garage was closed for the night! We couldn’t believe it. In a big city like San Francisco, the garages close? We were without a car.

My feelings were running strong right then. I felt very tired; I was ready to stop walking and go to bed. I felt foolish for having parked in a garage that closed while we were out. I felt confused because I was tired and forced to make a decision that I had never been faced with before. I didn’t know what to do. We quickly discussed what to do next and came to the decision that we were all going on the BART to Berkeley for the night. We quickly realized that we no longer had the luxery of a drive to the BART, we had to walk… FAST to get there AND buy tickets for Jeanie and me before the last train.

We walked and walked and walked some more. Finally arrived at the station and there was a line to get tickets! ARGH! While I waited in line, Erin tried to buy them on the other side of the gates, but that didn’t work. I finally got to the ticket machine and called Justin over to me. I said, “Tell me what to do.” I didn’t have the luxury of time to figure out what to buy or how to tell the machine. He told me which buttons to push and everything was going just fine until the machine rejected my ATM card. I froze momentarily then decided to use the credit card. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t using the card I thought I was. I thought I was using my debit card, but it was a credit card. I said, “Oh, I used the wrong card,” as I put the right one in and typed my PIN. While I was doing that, Jeanie asked me, “Which card did you use?” I’m afraid, my response was not what I wished it had been. In the moment I snapped at her, I don’t remember the words, but the message I sent very strongly was, “It doesn’t matter which card I used, just leave me alone and let me do this!”

I got the tickets and we hurried down the escalator. Just as we stepped off the escalator, the train came to a stop in front of us. It was literally that close of a call. Had we missed the train, I am not sure what we would have done next. I am grateful that we didn’t have to make that decision. After we settled in for the ride, I apologized for snapping at her, but it was clearly not the right time to resolve the issue. We were both just too tired to think clearly. It was a very quiet ride to Berkeley.

When we got to their apartment, Erin was so wonderful. She got on the computer and printed out the instructions for us to ride the BART back the next morning and what bus to catch to avoid the long walk on the other side too. It was just what we needed and I was too sleepy to understand it the night before. We got back, got the car, complained to the garage attendent (who was sorry for us, but charged us the overnight fee regardless). We drove back to the hotel and begged for a little extra time to check out, which they were very gracious to allow us. (Thank you, Holiday Inn Express in Redwood City). Lastly, we checked out of the hotel and drove back to Berkeley to really visit with the newlyweds.

What I Learned

I was not happy with my behavior that night. I was feeling emotions very strongly for good reason and I couldn’t seem to control myself. The next day I was better able to articulate what I learned. On the way to the hotel, I asked Jeanie if I could tell her what I learned about myself. She listened as I shared my heart. I shared with her how I have a tendency (maybe even a need) to focus on a single thing at a time. When I am concentrating on a task, nothing else matters. If someone interrupts me when I am focused, I feel irritable because the thing I am focused on is all that matters to me. That ability to focus is a strength, but if I am not careful, I can run roughshod over people I care about all for the sake of a task. I feel like I want to be left alone and yet, I recognize my need for community.

Mostly what I took away from this experience is a feeling that I am in a bubble with a very thick skin. I try to keep my heart and emotions well within this skin where I have control over them. I imagine others living in similar bubbles. When we move close together, our skins rub agains one another and wear thin. It feels like the emotion escapes as I begin to lose control. It is in the connections, the places where the bubbles touch and rub agains one another that we have the ability to understand ourselves better and to grow. When I feel, and I know I am feeling, I can examine the emotion and ask what belief or desire is causing me to feel that emotion. In this way, I learn what my heart of hearts truly believes and what I really desire from my core being. Let me try to explain…

My friend, Curt used to say, “We say what we think, but we live what we believe.” I think that is true. The heart-belief I am talking about is from the core of our being rather than an intellectual belief that we talk about. It is the belief that is so much a part of us that it controls our behavior. shakerchair.jpgIt is the difference between saying, “I believe that chair will hold me up,” (intellectual belief) and sitting in the chair (heart belief).

What will happen on an emotional level if I sit in the chair and it works just like I expected it to? Nothing. What happens if the chair breaks beneath me as I sit on it? I will feel strongly. I may feel angry or embarrassed. Whatever the emotion, it is easy at that point to blame the chair, but the feelings don’t come from the chair. They come from my core belief that chairs are supposed to hold people when they sit on them.

My friend, John has taught me that if I can stop myself (while I am feeling strongly) and ask, “What am I feeling?” Then I can follow it with the next question, “What do I believe or desire that causes that feeling?” The belief may be true or not. The desire is probably good on some level although it may be expressed in an unhealthy way.

The cool thing is what I can learn from my emotions. When I feel, I can learn what my own desires and beliefs are! I can know myself better and as I know better who I am, I know better who God made me to be.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. –Psalm 139:23-24

The night of the adventure this is what I learned that I believed and desired…

  • I felt irritated because I believed I was the cause of our stressful situation — A false belief. I didn’t cause the situation.
  • I had a desire to fix the ticket problem and get to the train — A good desire.
  • I felt frustrated because I believed I should be able to answer Jeanie’s question and finish buying the ticket too — A good desire, but based on a false belief. I was unable to do that. I need to know my limitations.
  • I felt frustrated and pressured because of a fear that we were going to miss the train — A very likely possibility that fortunately did not come to pass.

I am thankful that I have a sweetheart who loves me in spite of myself and who is willing to listen to me and truly hear my heart. I am also thankful for a God who pursues me as if He really loves me. What a concept!

January 15, 2007


Posted in family, personal, reflection at 10:40 am by jimazing

Jeanie’s and my philosophy on disciplining our young children was to consider their motive when they did something that needed to be corrected. For instance, if one of them broke a dish because they were being willfully defiant, we would have handled it much differently than if they had accidentally knocked it off the table. The former would have required a lesson in who is in charge. The latter possibly a reminder that we don’t run in the house. Hopefully that makes sense.

I believe it is important to recognize that we can do the same behavior for a myriad of reasons. Those reasons are important… maybe even more important than the actions. This is true of little children and adults.

We are way past the little children stage. Our former little girls are now adults, and I find myself asking them to judge me by my motive, rather than my behavior. You see, I don’t always behave in ways that make sense for what I want to achieve, and often, my behavior sends the wrong message. I have desires for them to have great lives because they are all great women. (I am amazed at how different they are). I love them and everything I do is ultimately motivated by that love.

but sometimes…

Read the rest of this entry »

January 9, 2007

Earliest Memory

Posted in reflection, stories at 6:01 am by jimazing

What better way to start telling my story than to tell you my earliest memory.  My family lived in Charleston, SC very close to where the I-526 Mark Clark Expressway is now.  My mom and dad had purchased a little house that had a screened porch on the back, a fenced in backyard and a huge oak tree that I liked to play around.

There were several children on the street that played together.  We probably did this a lot, but one day we were in the front yard of my home running and playing ring-around-a-rosie and I wondered if I would remember that.  I must have overheard some adults talking about their early memories and I wondered if I would be old enough to remember that.  I decided that I was old enough and that this would be my first memory.  That probably says a lot about the way I think.

What was your earliest memory?

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