Gracious Gratitude
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Gracious Gratitude

Day 196

Fair warning. Some may take offense at today’s commentary. It’s about God.

There. I’ve done it. Tossed a gauntlet. I’ll give you a second to decide whether you wish to proceed.

Go ahead. Take your time.

Still here? Okay. So now that I’ve thrown out the “G” word, I’ll step back a bit. Truth is, this isn’t really about that. I mean, it is, but isn’t. This is about the concept of a higher power. By that I mean the fundamental understanding that there is some sort of greater energy in the universe that guides overall purpose and direction. It’s a belief that there is something — call it what you will — that drives the bus. A bigger, more expansive something and tapping into it is what binds us all together. And whatever it is, it ain’t you.

Here’s where it gets complicated. People seem to have this insatiable need to put things in boxes, categories, slap labels on and define things. So it is with this higher power thing. So let me set the record straight — or at least clarify where I’m coming from.

I don’t give a shit what you call it. I don’t care what religion you are. I don’t care in what language you pray, at what time, at what place, in what language, to whom or to what. In fact, I don’t care whether you even pray at all. It doesn’t matter.

The point is recognizing that there is something greater that binds us. In seeking and finding that, each of us gets to find our greater purpose.

Okay. Baseline set, let’s move on.

When I began on the journey that led me to where I am today, it was after having made a decision that I was going to do my best to explore what it was like to move forward in the world without a concrete plan. Ideas, sure. Hopes and intentions, absolutely. But not setting a specific course to get me there.

So when Tony Hsieh (Zappos’ CEO) invited me to come to Las Vegas and suggested that while I was in town “…Serendipity will be the guide …” I can’t lie. It felt a little woo-woo out there. Even for me.

That’s when I looked up the word, and being more than a bit of a word nerd, found myself transfixed by the definition

serendipity
[ser-uh n-dip-i-tee]
1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

Of course, then I needed to look up aptitude.

aptitude
[ap-ti-tood, -tyood]
1. capability; ability; innate or acquired capacity for something; talent:

2. readiness or quickness in learning; intelligence:

Well, there you have it.

There was nothing woo-woo about this. It was entirely about intelligence — apparently the intelligence to release oneself from being wed to a specific outcome or a specific path, and being open to falling over an opportunity.

And this is where faith began to creep in for me. When I flip a light switch, I have faith the light will come on. I don’t know how it works. I just know that it does. I mean, sure. I could read some books and get the data on how it works, but the point is that I don’t have to. I just have faith.

I bring all this up today because I’ve come to realize there’s a catch.

First, the journey of serendipity requires that I have some sort of higher power to which I’m surrendering my path. (Surrender is another word fraught with hackle raising for me, so I’ll tackle that another time.) So let’s say I do that. I find this higher power. I establish a connection. I surrender. Then there’s another part.

Faith and surrender aren’t enough. After those, I’m the one who must take action when that higher power puts opportunity in my path or puts me on the path towards it. It’s not enough to surrender and then sit on my sofa binge watching <insert favorite TV addiction here>. I’ve gotta get busy.

By way of example …

There once was a man who was said to be a man of great faith. He lived in a home on a quiet street. He wasgood to his neighbors. He was kind.

One day there was a report that a great storm was coming, massive flooding was anticipated and the authorities were warning people to evacuate. The man merely smiled. “I’ll be fine,” he said to himself. “God will protect me.”

The storm came and with it torrential rains. The flood began to rise. As the streets around him began to fill, a massive SUV rolled down the street, floodwaters half way up its sides. It stopped by his door and a man leaned from the window, beckoning to him. “Come on buddy. We’ve got you! Jump in and we’ll take you to dry land.”

The man waved them on. “That’s okay. God will protect me.”

Waters continued to rise, and the man retreated to the second floor of his home as the rest submerged under the floods. He heard a motor and looking out the window saw a boat navigating its way by his house. A man stood in the bow and shouted to him: “Hey! Hang on, we’ll pull up to your window and take you to dry land.”

The man smiled again and waved them on. “That’s okay. God will protect me.”

An hour or so passed, and by now the flood waters had risen to the eaves of his home, forcing the man up and on to his roof. As the water raged past, a helicopter flew into view and hovered above his home. From the window a man leaned out with a bullhorn: “Don’t worry! We’ll lower down a rope. Grab it and we’ll pull you up and take you to safety.”

The man, grasping the chimney with one hand, waved them off with the other. “No. I’m okay. God will protect me.”

At last the waters overtook his home, sweeping the man away in roiling floodwaters. He drowned. Next thing, he found himself at the Pearly Gates. He found himself standing in front of the Almighty who told him that he may ask any questions about anything, any of the great mysteries of the world, and he will get the answers.

The man paused and said: “I don’t understand. I was observant my entire life. I did my best to follow your scriptures, to be good to my fellow man, to be of service; and yet when I was in need and called out for you, you left me. Why?”

God didn’t even miss a beat.

“I sent you an SUV, a boat and a helicopter. What else did you expect me to do?”

This story isn’t of my creation. It’s been around a good long time. Chances are you’ve heard it yourself in one form or another. The point of it, of course, being that we may surrender but then we must be the ones to take action.

Lest you think this another day’s divergence from the topic of convenience, relationships and all that, think about the topic I raised today.

God.

Think about the hackles that may have been raised at the very start when I began talking about higher power, spirituality and all this “woo woo” stuff. No doubt some folks were put off. Some of those folks, in fact many of them, may no longer be reading this. For that, I am sorry, because the fact they were turned off or tuned out, therein lies the problem.

At some point in time we have lost our ability to be different, to have different beliefs and still be civil. It’s that convenience. The convenience of being comfortable. It is neither convenient nor comfortable to be with people with whom we are diametrically opposed on any topic especially of that of something like religion.

It has gotten so that it is common practice to avoid discussing politics and religion at a party — especially anywhere with people you don’t know). But if we don’t discuss, how do we resolve issues? How do we find middle ground? If we do not discuss, we stay stuck. There are many with the incentive to maintain that stuckness, to maintain that divide between people — divides of race, religion and the like. They continue to fan the flames of divisiveness, making it so that people who are different are “other”.

How are we supposed to be people who are good to our fellow man if we’re hunkered down behind bunkers, our fears fueled by blustering bombastic leaders whose entire identity is based on our being afraid of someone/something? If, when we gather behind those bunkers, the only people around us are those with whom we share a fear or hatred of another, what happens when that “enemy” is eradicated? Then what? You look around and it’s more than likely the only thing you had in common with those folks? That hatred. That doesn’t scale. It doesn’t have longevity — not unless those same bombasts find another enemy to target. And they do.

If we are to mend the tears in the political and social fabric of our nation and our world, we need to have conversations. We need to have those conversations with the very people with whom we are at odds.

Krista Tippett’s “On Being” episode with Brene Brown that I’ve referenced several times this week (and that I have on repeat on my playlist) unravels this gnarled topic so beautifully. She talks about how, when we find these moments of friction, these divides and disagreements, we need to hold steady and then we need to lean in, be curious and engage. Here’s the important part — we need to do so with civility.

Civility is where I’ll pick up next time … I hope you’ll join me.

And then there were two. Merely two Floral Family members left — one Cousin and Junior, and their days, probably numbered at best.

Today’s Gracious Gratitude. Today I am grateful for:

  • A magical moment that led to another magical moment that reminded me that when I pause, some really remarkable things happen
  • Getting to spend the evening with a dear friend, crossing paths with several others
  • Having the opportunity to enjoy yet another Vegas Golden Knights game (we lost but that’s okay, was still fun)
  • Chocolate Vanilla swirl ice cream in a waffle cone
  • Rolling Smoke Barbecue’s corn nuggets and waffle fries
  • Moseying through a jam-packed casino at a pace decidedly slower than everyone else and enjoying the sensation of being a calm in the storm
  • The smell of rain

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There are studies that show a simple practice of gratitude awareness can be a real game changer for productivity.

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Cathy Brooks

Cathy Brooks

Raconteur and Silicon Valley expat who’s gone to the dogs … literally. Read more here https://www.linkedin.com/public-profile/in/cathybrooks

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