Your Purpose – Explained By Downton Abbey

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Imagine if he’d lived.

I’ve recently become addicted to Downton Abbey. Yes, I know I’m late to the party. I usually avoid shows like that because I am weak. I am drawn to my couch, popcorn and tv shows, like an alcoholic to vodka, and like the alcoholics say, one is too many and two is not enough.

Approximately four episodes in yesterday, (it might have been five, don’t judge) I had the following thoughts:

  1. My house would look a lot better if I had servants.
  2. Every member of Downton Abbey dreads the same thing:

Redundancy. Lack of purpose and meaningful work.

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Poor Mosley.

Their concern is not just economic – though it is that. It’s a deeper and perhaps more familiar issue than we care to admit.

Mosely the valet is bubbly at the chance to serve Lord Grantham, then crushed to find Mr. Bates back on scene. Lord Grantham is thrilled at being sent to lead troops on the front lines, then humiliated to find his role was titular only. The women scheme constantly for a husband and a house, so they might have something more to do than dress for dinner.

It’s interesting because despite the social stratification, the human condition runs through every vein in the grand Abbey.

Put another way: We’re built for purpose and lacking one, we cobble and scrap for it; by helping a grown man get dressed or relentlessly meddling in the affairs of the grandchildren.

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Go on – practice making the Dowager Countess face.

But as Captain Matthew, the on-again off-again heir to Downton said, it’s all shifting sand. That’s why the characters plot and maneuver all the time. Don’t even get me started on these two.

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Got to have a villain.

Misery and self-promotion are rarely far from each other, and I think we’re loath to admit how we often we engage both. It’s not just that we fear the economic ruin of getting sacked, it’s that many of us completely lack identity outside the one provided by our work.

So when the sand shifts, we panic, secretly thinking:

“If I’m not this, who am I?”

Are you miserable in your job, but terrified to leave? Retiring soon? In possession of a “good job” that feels to you like eating a whole sleeve of saltine crackers?

If so, perhaps wrestling the question, “Without this, who am I?” is a useful, if terrifying, first step.

I was forced into answering it myself seven years ago. Standing on the back porch of the historic, if crumbling, farm house Sam and I bought on a windy West Texas ranch. I got everything I said I wanted and discovered it wasn’t enough.

I stood there howling into wind. “What am I doing with my life?”

When you’re that loud about it, I believe someone is bound to answer, and someone did. It still pains me to think of that time, but I don’t even recognize that girl now.

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I’ve recently begun a new venture that I hope to roll out next week. It’s a tool really to help you answer three questions:

  1. Who created me?
  2. What for?
  3. And how do I do that?

I’ve learned the hard way, I cannot be the center of my own life. There too many days I wake up depressed or fearful and lack the fuel to drive myself in any other direction. On those days, self-help is, by definition, a mobius strip.

I now have a supremely reliable external power source, a fire burning in me that someone else lit. I believe all of us have that fire, it may just need a little stoking.

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They’re catching fire.

If you are lost, feeling useless or done, or like the ladder you’ve been climbing leans against the wrong building altogether, I invite you to subscribe, so you can come along as we grow and figure out together what it means to catch fire.

I promise, I hardly have it all figured out, but I’m hot on the trail and I don’t want to travel alone. As the African proverb says:

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Things I Think But Don’t Say

I was in a meeting the other day, where the speaker made an oblique and gentle reference to the upcoming US presidential election.

And seriously, you could feel the room stiffen.

It was like everyone drew a sharp breath and thought “Oh please don’t go there…This only works if we don’t talk about it.”

Well friends, I think we need to talk about it.

I think we owe it to our Republic to talk about it regularly, in civil and courageous ways. Unfollow me if you want, but nowhere in the history of ever has polite avoidance of a difficult topic lead to understanding and cooperation. Never!

So here’s me going first:

I am a blue state native living in blood red Texas. I’ve been a registered Democrat since I was 18 because the values of the Democratic party better (not completely, but better) reflect my values than those of the Republican party. I am also an ardent follower of Jesus Christ. I work in an evangelical community in the Bible belt where the electoral college will make little note of my preferences. And I’m surrounded by people of the opposite political persuasion whom I love and respect.

This picture of me and Ronald Reagan is for them. (It’s a long story, ask me sometime).

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1989.

And I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I believe she is a stable, proven, tenacious, experienced public servant who is more than qualified to lead us. Read a list of her accomplishments here.

The Dallas Morning News agrees, in its first endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate in 75 years.

“Resume vs resume, judgement vs. judgement this election is no contest.”

– Dallas Morning News.

And no, I don’t believe the rhetoric surrounding her integrity.

It troubles me, particularly as a follower of Jesus, how regularly and casually people use the word “criminal” to describe Hillary Clinton. If the definition of criminal is having been charged and convicted of a crime before a jury of your peers, then the descriptor is not only inaccurate but slanderous.

Relentlessly investigated – Yes.

Tried in the court of public opinion – Yes.

Charged and convicted of any crime – No.

I wonder what would people say about me if, for the last 30 years, my life was the subject of endless media scrutiny and unrestrained commentary from my enemies? Yikes.

What if every day at work, I had to publicly defend myself against a guilty-until-proven innocent narrative?

I’d probably quit and go live by the sea somewhere.

I certainly wouldn’t run for Senate twice and win. I wouldn’t serve on five Senate committees and nine subcommittees and travel to 112 nations as US Secretary of State. I wouldn’t sponsor legislation to provide for sick 9-11 first responders. I wouldn’t negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

But Hillary Clinton did.

I often use FactCheck.org which describes itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” It’s funded largely by The Annenberg Foundation (think public broadcasting).

Are you unsure if your favorite 24-hour news channel or Facebook meme is correct in repeating say, Trump’s claim that Clinton has no child care plan and never will? FactCheck.org is a good place to look. Politifact.com run by the Tampa Bay Times is also fun. These are journalists – not internet trolls – evaluating what exists in the public record.

Here’s a quick, measured read from FactCheck.org on the Benghazi reports, which former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a leaked email, called a stupid witch hunt.

Here’s a guide to Clinton’s emails.

Here’s FactCheck’s take on Trump saying Obama was actually born in America, but Clinton started the birther rumor. 

And stuff like that.

The Dallas Morning News Editorial continues:

Clinton has remained dogged by questions about her honesty, her willingness to shade the truth. Her use of a private email server while secretary of state is a clear example of poor judgment. She should take additional steps to divorce allegations of influence peddling from the Clinton Foundation. And she must be more forthright with the public by holding news conferences, as opposed to relying on a shield of carefully scripted appearances and speeches. These are real shortcomings. But they pale in comparison to the litany of evils some opponents accuse her of. Treason? Murder? Her being cleared of crimes by investigation after investigation has no effect on these political hyenas; they refuse to see anything but conspiracies and cover-ups.

I agree. If Clinton had things to do over again, would she do some things differently? Wouldn’t most of us?

But here’s the thing:

If you support Trump because you don’t like the Democratic Party and you love seeing people like me apoplectic over the repulsive things Trump says, I get that. If you support Trump because he’s disrupting a political system that isn’t working very well for middle class people, I get that too. If you support Trump because he’s kind of pro life-ish these days, I see how that’s an alternative to voting for a strongly pro-choice candidate.

But in the end, do you believe Trump really wants to show up every day and work for your interests all the way through 2020? Why?

Will he work to overturn Pro-Choice legislation? Will he and his third wife restore family values? Does he really know more about ISIS than US Military Generals? Will he expand the middle class? What in his record indicates he gives a damn about the middle class?

I welcome your answers in the comment section. Really. Do your research. Be polite. I moderate trolls.

Did you know middle class incomes had their fastest growth on record last year? That’s big progress since the 2009 recession. Did you see Senator Elizabeth Warren eating the Chairman of Well’s Fargo’s lunch over the millions of fake bank accounts the company created since 2011. Also good news. ICYMI:

But you squeezed your employees to the breaking point, so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket. And when it all blew up, you kept your job, you kept your multimillion-dollar bonuses, and you went on television to blame thousands of $12-an-hour employees who were just trying to meet cross-sell quotas that made you rich. This is about accountability. You should resign. You should give back the money that you took while this scam was going on. And you should be criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

– Senator Elizabeth Warren D-Massachusetts

Trump supporting friends – Has your kid has ever gone to the doctor free or at a sharp discount courtesy of the CHIP Program? You have a couple of people to thank for that, Senator Edward Kennedy, D – Massachusetts, Senator Orrin Hatch R -Utah and Hillary Clinton, who pushed for the legislation as First Lady. 

It saddens me that, in 2016, it requires a fair measure of courage to write a blog post about the presidential election. In America, of all places, that should not be true.

So I’m inviting you, without fear of censure, to disagree with me, to tell me where I’ve missed it, but I’m asking that you do so in a well-researched and measured fashion – something this election desperately needs more of. We owe it to our Republic to be lively, informed and engaged. Any less is an insult to the gift of democracy, which people in many places have died to attain.

Courage is one of my core values and I don’t want to look back on this season and wish I’d had enough of it to speak up.

The above thoughts are, as ever, entirely my own. Please help me understand yours below.

Christmas Crying – A List of Probable Causes.

I drove home from a friend’s last night in tears, which is not a big a deal except I can’t identify exactly why. It started when I was praying, which happens, so ok, but I don’t really do basket case – except at Christmas and sometimes Mother’s Day – so I thought I’d make a list of probable causes.

And since I’m reading Brene Brown on vulnerability, I thought I’d write it here, in public. Lovely.

Photo Credit: Hebi65

Photo Credit: Hebi65

Probable Cause #1 – I could use more safe space to write the crazy shit in my head. Even writing that exposes “safe” for the illusion it is because that isn’t the problem. Caring what everybody thinks is the problem. In some of my circles it’s a little sketchy to admit I still say shit from time to time. I work daily on not conforming to the patterns of this world but sometimes, in certain circumstances, my word demons insist that shit is absolutely the correct word. Refusing to use it or just muttering it because I’m trying to look holy, is disingenuous. So I think I’d rather be a Jesus-following, recovering potty mouth than a churchy sweetie pie who says shit only when people who don’t care are around.

Ultimately, I am working to erase the line between my secular and sacred lives so you can expect the same person no matter where I show up – an objective, I think, worthy of suffering occasional profanity. However, if it offends you let me say, I am very sorry and wow, you should have met me five years ago.

Photo Credit: Hans

Photo Credit: Hans

Probable Cause #2 – I can’t find my wooly socks and my feet are cold, which is a distraction I don’t need. Also, because I am a woman of a certain age, I seem to be growing a beard and developing weird ailments in my feet, which cause me to perform yoga poses incorrectly while I’m teaching, so my feet don’t cramp. My hippie friends say my fear of stepping forward into my best life is manifesting in my metatarsals, and if that’s true, it scares me. My friends who aren’t doctors but watch a lot of Grey’s Anatomy think it’s tendonitis. If that’s true, it sounds expensive.

Probable Cause #3 – I used to read three newspapers a day. In the past four years, I haven’t read three newspapers in a month. It’s a totally selfish, defensive measure prompted by my disgust for corporate media and the mouthy outrage it provokes in me. To this day, if you want to talk immigration, please please only use the word “illegal” as the adjective it is – not the pejorative noun or personal pronoun favored by certain Americans. Plus, as I was learning to follow Jesus I couldn’t handle the behavior of some of his followers, so I shut everybody out. But since there have been 100 school shootings in the two years since Sandy Hook and each week a new unarmed black man is killed by police, sequestering myself so I don’t have to be outraged and discouraged, seems like a cop out. So, if you need me I’ll be reading and praying.

Photo Credit: Hans

Photo Credit: Hans

Probable Cause #4 – I love Jesus but Christmas wears me out. The solstice, however, resonates. December 21st is the shortest, darkest day of the year and, as it happens, the anniversary of the worst day of my life. I realize I’ve only written about that in kind of oblique ways, and maybe someday I’ll write it because if it helps you it’s worth it. But for now, if you’re trudging through the season, dutifully stringing garland on your mantle (yes it’s pretty when it’s done) and shoving a nine-foot tree into a room with eight-foot ceilings, I say, notice the trend. Maybe it’s time to consider different traditions. Some churches host solstice services where you can light a candle, acknowledge the darkness and anticipate the lengthening of days.

Photo Credit: Geralt

Photo Credit: Geralt

It’s clear to me now, this is all Christmas’ fault, but if you love the season, ok. I’m happy to to come sit on your couch, with my socks on, in front of your fire, to admire your mantle and drink eggnog, but I might cry on the way home too.

And maybe that’s just the way of things.