Thursday, December 12, 2013

Believing in Your Vision

You can always tell who believes in his vision and who merely hopes it may take place one day by the nature of the risks the individual is willing to take.  It should be no shock to discover that when Bill Gates (the founder of Microsoft and one of the wealthiest people in the world) was a young boy, his favorite game was “Risk.”  Whether it is the risk of political stature and cachet in speaking the truth as you see it (Churchill) or the financial risk of leaving your cushy, prestigious career as a University professor, buying up a trunk load of your recently published book (the one that the publisher told you would only sell a few thousand copies) and going to scores of interviews in small town radio stations across the USA—and at the end of the year having a best seller and making more money in one year than you had in the previous thirty-six years (Wayne Dyer, Your Erroneous Zones), the belief in the vision is verified by the risks you are willing to take.

Visions are not realized by playing it safe.  Camelot would never have been built if Arthur was not willing to risk his life in battle.  Furthermore, he would never have engaged in those battles, if he did not believe in himself and his vision.

Abraham would never have arrived in the Promised Land if he had refused to leave his family and country for a far off destination, even though he did not know, at first, where he was going.  Without believing in his vision and his ability to attain that vision, of course, he would never have even considered the risks involved.

Joseph would never have become second-in-command of all Egypt had he not risked “being wrong” regarding the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream.  He took the risk because he had a vision years earlier that had set him upon his quest.  His faith in the God of that vision gave him the courage to take the risk.

We not only see the legends’ beliefs born out in the leaps of faith that they take in pursuing the fulfillment of their vision, we also see it demonstrated in their laser-like focus on the vision.  Everything about their lives declares, This One Thing I Do.

Management guru Peter Drucker said, “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.”  A monomaniac is someone with a single idea.  In this context, the single idea is your vision.  Of course, this does not mean that you won’t have a multiplicity of concerns and avenues for fulfilling your vision, only that there is a unifying principle at the heart of most all of what you are doing.

You won’t find Legendary Leaders often reacting to circumstances or being led around by some Focus Group.  They also don’t waste a lot of time and energy on fighting and arguing with those who disagree with their vision.  I am not saying that they do not seek to persuade others, only that when they do, it is part of a proactive strategy rather than a mere distraction.

Early on, one of the major errors I made as I went on my quest was to spend so much time seeking to show others how “wrong” their quests were.  As I look back on this, it all looks so silly and childish. Part of this was youthful arrogance and another part of it was insecurity, as I foolishly believed that for my quest to be True, everyone else needed to agree with and adopt the path I had chosen. What a huge distraction and waste of energy that was, and it was all caused by the weakness of my belief in my vision and myself.

The vision consumes the legend-in-the-making.  Living on the razor’s edge between disaster and miracle—which is where most visionaries reside--the visionary cannot afford to take his eyes off of the moment in which he is living.  Believing as he does provides him with blinders to anything and anyone who would distract from his quest.

An excerpt from my book, Legendary Leadership

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sometimes Healing is Not For Our Best

Captain Kirk: Dammit, Bones, you're a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They're things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are ... If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain. (Can’t you just hear Shatner saying this in his famous, over the top, staccato style?)  -- From, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Like most of you, I have had my share of titanic spiritual and psychological struggles. Some of these battles left scars, and some of them left me with open wounds that I feel to this day. I have begged God for healing, pleaded, and even tried bargaining, but I never had anything He needed. (Go figure.) Add my unwanted personality quirk/weakness of being extremely sensitive, say, to living with melancholy or depression, and … O my. “What’s up with this, Lord? Can I get a little relief, here?”

God: No.

Monte: Can you at least give me a, ‘Not yet’?

Along the way I have learned some things about living with internal battles, weaknesses, and wounds.

To start with, I discovered that many of my weaknesses and unwanted personality traits were part and parcel with my strengths so that if I seek to rid myself of them, I would end up restricting what I do best. Subsequently, I no longer see, say, melancholy as an enemy that must be defeated but, rather, as a sparing partner who is forcing me deeper into my soul, as well as to rely more completely upon the God of grace and love. And this led me to another realization.

Sometimes, healing is not for our best. Sometimes Jacob is going to live out his days with a limp and Paul is going to keep whatever that “thorn” was in his side. Sometimes the malady is our chief source of wisdom, humility, and many of our most valued strengths. Kirk was right. In some cases, if we lose the pain, we lose part of our selves.

If you came to me today and told me that you could make it so that all my wounds would be healed, cause my melancholy and depression to vanish forever, and free me from my unwanted personality traits, but that, in return for my deliverance, I had to give up all the good and all the graces that have come to me through these struggles, I would choose to retain these weaknesses and maladies. Through my struggles, my soul has grown with a greater awareness of and empathy for the pain and struggle of others, a keener understanding of my strengths and limitations, the value of sharing souls with a cherished friend, and the joy of serving and caring for others. So. No deal. No thank-you.

I am not advocating masochism. I am simply suggesting there are sometimes larger issues at stake, so I need to be careful about wanting to be delivered where God wants me to be transformed.

John Adams and Abraham Lincoln suffered with melancholy and depression, as did Winston Churchill: would they have been the men they were, achieved the heights of successes that they did, had they been “healed”? Would Psalm 42, or CS Lewis’ “A Grief Observed,” or the homilies and poetry of John Donne been written had these men not wrestled with despair? The great American Industrialist John D. Rockefeller suffered with depression: what about his accomplishments without the soul created by his suffering? My experience says, no, they would not have had the successes they achieved without having the internal battles they waged.

Something else I have learned about living with such battles:

Everybody has been shot.
Do you remember this scene from the movie Black Hawk Down, the story of the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 (the locals call it the Day of the Rangers), when our troops were ambushed while seeking to capture a Somali warlord? This exchange takes place in the middle of a firefight.

McKnight (Tom Sizemore): You, get up there and drive!
Othic (Kent Linville): But I’m shot Colonel!
McKnight: Everybody’s shot!

Most people have been shot at least once or twice. Wounds, issues, and struggles can easily make us self-centered. You’re not the only one dealing with such things, so watch out for the attitude my-pain-sets-me-apart as someone who warrants a pass on caring for others or treating people with dignity, grace, and love, or ceasing to be and do all that God has called you to.

While I am mindful of the reality that some people’s wounds require them to get off the firing line and into a hospital, most of us need to saddle up and do what is required. After all, that never ending internal battle, those wounds, and your “weaknesses” have actually given you strengths, wisdom, and graces that your fellow-knights desperately need for waging their battles. Anyway, it is amazing how much the pain often subsides when you are serving others and fighting for a cause greater than yourself.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Feeling gratitude and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

--William Arthur Ward

For God, Family and Friends …
I am grateful for God’s love, goodness, grace, and mercy

I am grateful for parents who always believed in me

I am grateful for my five children whose love has kept me going more times than they will ever know

I am grateful for my sister and two brothers and the zillions of memories I have of them that always puts a smile on my face

I am grateful for my close friends with whom we share our lives and souls, and, for how they each have always made our relationships a priority

For This Great Nation …
I am grateful to our Forefathers for their wisdom, genius, and bravery, and for their having crafted the Constitution that make this a most exceptional nation

I am grateful for and in awe of the men and women of our military who are willing to lay down their lives for our freedoms

For God’s Beauty Reflected in Creation and Art …
I am grateful for having been able to travel around God’s magnificent world, multiple times

I am grateful for Michelangelo, Bach, and Beethoven; for Arthurian Legends, Shakespeare, and Arthur Conan Doyle; and for Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and the Beatles

For All That I So Easily and Regrettably Take For Granted …
I am grateful for electricity, air-conditioning, modern medicine, and hot showers

I am grateful for all the men and women who provide the food I eat each day

I am grateful for computers and reading tablets, and for smart-phones and iPods

For Quests and For Knights of God …
I am grateful for “impossible” quests and battles

I am grateful for each of my victorious quests, as well as for all that I have learned from my failures

I am grateful for Fellow Knights of God who stand tall when it matters most, who get back into the fray after being singed by a dragon, and who will stare down a Morgan Le Fey knowing that, without God’s favor and protection, she will flash-freeze their souls

I am grateful for heroes who show us we can be and do more

For Simple Yet Profound Blessings …
I am grateful for Single Malt Scotch and great cigars, for plump turkeys and mashed potatoes with “way too much” butter, and for being able to enjoy these blessings with people I love and cherish

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Warrior's Code

A perfect description of chivalrous behavior is found in Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur where Sir Ector describes Lancelot, who has just died, as “a man meek in the hall with women and as the sternest of knights in battle.”  He was both humble and fierce—and he knew when to be which.  Blending and integrating strength and honor, a warrior’s spirit with humility, was the Code that governed the Knight’s behavior on the battlefield and “in the hall with women.”

--From my book, Legendary Leadership

When I was in Junior High school, if two boys got into a fight, they’d be sent to Coach Reams who would lay down a mat, put 16 oz gloves on them and tell them to have at it. After around 3 minutes, the boys found it difficult to even raise their hands above their waists. And, wouldn’t you know it, after knocking each other around for a few minutes, they always became fast friends. This was how we handled “conflict resolution,” back in the day. Today, such boys would be force fed Adderall.

My dad, a Baptist minister, told me if some asinine imbecile (one of his favorite phrases) started bullying and taunting me, I was to wait for him after school, walk up to him and demand he back off. If he chose to keep at it, I was to hit him as hard as I could in the solar plexus, then a forearm to the nose—and he would stand with me, if I got into trouble. “Even if you get your butt kicked, you will keep your self-respect and earn the respect of others. If you start a fight, you’ll answer to me. If some guy starts a fight with you and you don’t fight back, you will also answer to me.” The second, “you’ll answer to me,” sounded more ominous than the prospect of being whacked upside the head in a fight. Dad was true to his word and always backed me up.  

Most of the guys I grew up with were budding young warriors who needed to be taught how to be “meek in the Hall.” Today, however, it seems to me that many “boys” need to learn how to be warriors. Even their “meekness” or “humility” is actually a mask hiding a plethora of fears: fear of inadequacy, fear of the politically-correct police and the opinion of others in general, fear of getting their noses bloodied, fear of failure, and fear of taking a stand, alone. I find myself constantly wanting to grab these “boys” by the shoulders and yell at them: MAN UP!  

Our nation is engaged in life-and-death battles over cultural issues that are evidences of deeper spiritual conflicts. Our enemies are fighting to win—that’s what true warriors do. These battles in the Arena of Ideas and Ideals are not going to be won by men and women who think meekness requires that they compromise their beliefs, principles, values, and honor, and surrender the Arena to the enemy. The US Marine motto “Semper Fidelis,” (Always Faithful) is the mindset that leads to victory, not “Please, like me.”

Meekness is a warrior’s spirit governed and informed by love for God and humility before Him. Moses was referred to as the meekest man on earth. Do you think an invertebrate could have led over one million Israelites (600,000 men) across the desert to the Promise Land, a 40-year journey? And never forget that “meek and mild” Jesus took up a whip and chased the moneychangers out of the Temple who were taking advantage of foreigners who had come to worship and, thereby, desecrating his Father’s house.   

CS Lewis wrote about the need for integrating a warrior’s spirit with meekness in his essay, The Necessity of Chivalry:

(The Arthurian Knight’s Code of Chivalry) It taught humility and forbearance to the great warrior because everyone knew by experience how much he usually needed that lesson. It demanded valor of the urbane and modest man because everyone knew that he was likely to be a milksop.

If we cannot produce Lancelots, humanity falls into two sections—those who can deal in blood and iron but cannot be “meek in hall,” and those who are “meek in hall” but useless in battle…. The man who combines both characters—the knight—is a work not of nature but of art; of that art which has human beings, instead of canvas or marble, for its medium.

“Warrior” is to be part of your life’s work of art. Evil in every form is to be resisted and engaged in battle, with victory, no matter how long it takes, the only acceptable outcome. Cruelty is not to be treated as a trifle. People in distress are to be defended and comforted. Bullies are to be confronted. Liberty, Justice, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are to be defended and honored. And none of this is to be done with a view to self-aggrandizement. This is the Code of Chivalry of any God honoring and self-respecting person worthy of sitting at the King of the Universe’s Round Table. 

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tell Me a Story

When I was in my late teens, I wanted answers and I wanted them now. Who is God? How do I know that I know? Why am I here? Does history have a point, a purpose? What does it mean to be fully human? What is the nature of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty? Why is there so much evil and tragedy in the world? What’s it all about, Alfie?

The problem I kept running into on my quest-ioning was that every time I worked out a proposition or syllogism that would explain the Truth of my answers to any of these questions, I was always left with the awareness that there were mysteries that were still unanswered and unfathomable. Now that I am, let’s just say, no longer in my teens, I see that Truth – like God -- cannot be placed in a box, all tied off with a pretty ribbon. To put it another way, we may increase in understanding, but we will never fully understand, as there is always more to know and to see. Which is why I am now quite distrustful of pat answers, pretty boxes, and propositions masquerading as Final Answers.  

Garrison Keillor wrote that, when you get old, you realize there are no answers, just stories.  Think about that for a moment. Now, think about the Bible. Is it filled with propositions and syllogisms … or with stories? God’s stories give us a framework within which we know the Truth is over here, not over there. Goodness acts like this person; evil acts like that person. God’s love and grace is not so much explained as it is demonstrated in the person of Jesus Christ and God's involvement in the stories of the people in the Bible. And the thing about a great story is that, as we grow and mature, we come back to them and see even more than we did when we read them the last time.

I wonder sometimes if this is why so many Christians are such poor communicators, when it comes to sharing their faith. When people are struggling or in pain or wondering where God is while their lives are in chaos, they don’t want a doctrine thrown in their face, a ready made “answer” for all that ails them: they need to hear a story – His story and yours. 

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Happiness: Life With A Happy Face or A Life Well Lived

One of the things that separate us humans from animals is the pursuit of a meaningful life. All too often, however, we choose to be like animals in solely pursuing pleasure and happiness, and avoiding pain at all costs, with no thought of adding more meaning to our existence. We have a choice to make and it is an either/or equation: we can choose a life of happiness, as most people define that word, of we can choose to pursue a meaningful life, but we can’t have both. 

By pursuing a meaningful life, I am referring to seeking to become all that God created you to become, to living a life in service to others and contribution to the world around you. I am not suggesting that such people never experience happiness, only that it is less frequent. Or so it seems to me.

People who pursue the Happy Life don’t give a lot of thought to the transcendent and so aren’t all that into sacrifice, service, and contribution. Life is all about me: my needs and my desires. The idea of a Transcendent God with claims upon the people He created is NOT a happy idea. “You want me to what? Uh, I don’t think so.”  

Happy People don’t spend much time thinking of the past or the future: only this moment in time. For people seeking a meaningful life, however, their pasts are always being mined for wisdom, their present is the anvil upon which they are hammering out the self they are to become, and their futures are filled with possibilities for more sacrifice and service. This is fulfilling and meaningful, for sure, but not always all that much fun.

There are days when I wish I could forget about meaningfulness, about quests to becoming all God intended and to giving my life in service to a cause that transcends my existence. Some days a life lived on the surface is appealing: just turn the brain off and hang a sign on the closed door to my soul that says, Gone Fishing. When I try to do this, however, I find that merely existing is far less interesting than truly living. As I have a very low threshold for boredom, and an abiding awareness that I am going to stand before my Creator and have to answer the question, “What did you do with all that I gave you, for my sake and for love’s sake?” before I know it, I am off on a new quest.

Happiness as a Life Well Lived
When our nation’s Founding Fathers pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to securing our unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, they were not thinking about our right to party-down. For these men, “happiness” referred to the good life, to a life well lived.  Most people today don’t think in such terms, but, rather, only think of “happiness” as surviving and finding as many opportunities as possible to put on a happy face. Of course, they have a “right” to do this. However, when you are at the end of your days, is this the life you want to look back on? Is this a life that when presented to God you will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

You are not an accident. You are here on purpose, for a purpose. You have a mission, a divine assignment that you were given to accomplish. In order to pursue this unique mission you will need to become the individual who is fit for this task. This is the focus of the person who is intent upon having a meaningful life. For this person, the greatest happiness he can achieve in life is toward the end of his journey when he will look back and see how all the hard work and sacrifice that went into becoming and doing all God intended was used for his good and the well-being of others.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Shame, Shame, Shame!

Shame shuts us off from life and shuts us down from others. “I am so evil, wrong, ugly, and unworthy of love and life … I am sorry for existing.” Welcome to the cast of The Walking Dead.

Shame is a powerful tool for leveraging people to do what the dispenser of shame wants them to do. Shamers own the shamed as slaves, turning them into people-pleasers rather than God-pleasers.

Shame lives in the shadows and hides in secrecy. “If people really knew who I am and what I have done and left undone.” So we go through life apologetically rather than courageously.  And the thing here is that many of these people aren’t feeling shame over some horrid immoral act they have committed or that was inflicted upon them, but because they are living quiet, ordinary lives in a world that judges us by whether or not we have attained our 15 minutes of fame or possess the body-type that is in vogue this season.

Shame keeps us invulnerable so that intimacy to any degree and in any kind of relationship is impossible. Shame closes and locks the door to our souls, damning us to perpetual loneliness. But that’s okay, because better a bitter loneliness than the pain of disappointing others by allowing them to see we aren’t all that, eh? However, it is not only a case where we are invulnerable to giving and receiving love and care with others, but are also then closed to the joy of life itself.

Turning On The Light
Whatever lies at the root of your shame, the consequences of hiding it are far worse than the actual event(s)—spiritually, psychologically, and physically. For the shamed, walking in the light is the only hope for forgiveness (if there is need for this) and healing.

Walking in the light, primarily, refers to walking openly before the God who is Light. He sees and knows of your shame and the reasons for it. Your greatest efforts to keep this hidden are useless before His Great Light. Anyway, it’s not like you are going to take something to Him and He is going to be shocked by the revelation.  Helloooooo? He is GOD. The only way for His love to work in you and heal you, however, is to turn the light on by taking your shame to Him.

Turning on the light also means sharing our shame with others: not just anyone mind you, but with trusted friends. If this isn’t a possibility for you, if there is no one in your life that you trust here, then find a good and wise counselor and lay it all out. All of it. Believe me, light will cure what ails you.

The shaming event is part of the truth of you, a chapter in your life’s story. It’s done. You can’t change this. But it doesn’t have to be the title of your book. This is your choice and the only way to get on with the next chapter is to close this one. This is done by your choosing to drain the power of the event by turning on the lights. “This is what happened, what I did or was done to me. This is how I feel about it.” If some people want this to be the title of your life story that is their decision. All you can do here is acknowledge their choice and see to it they aren’t central characters in future chapters.

Jesus said that that the thief—a.k.a. The Accuser—seeks to rob, steal, and destroy. This is what shame does: it robs you of health, steals your joy, and destroys the faith you need for becoming and doing all God intended, when, on the day of your conception, He said, “Let There Be … You!”

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Becoming Your Name

In Stephen R Lawhead’s Merlin, when Merlin gave the infant boy to Tewdrig, asking him to be his stepfather, Tewdrig asks what the boy was to be called.

Shameful to tell, I had not thought to call the infant anything. Neither Uther nor Ygerna had bestowed a name, and I had been too preoccupied with its safety to give it any consideration.  But the babe must have a name …

A word is given when a word is required.  And this time, like so many others, the name came unbidden to my tongue: “Arthur.”

Tewdrig tried the name.  “Arthur … Very well.  An unusual name, though.  What does it mean?”

“I believe he will have to make the meaning for himself.” 

As Merlin had said about his own name: “Every man has two names: the one he is given, and the one he wins for himself.”  While they bear the name given them at birth, others name Legendary Leaders “Visionary,” “Wise,” “Just,” “Compassionate,” “Courageous,” or “Prophetic.”  What is the name your life and work is “winning” for you?

There is a beautiful picture of our journey that reads like something written by J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald or C.S. Lewis.  In St. John’s book Revelation, he writes that when we arrive in heaven, we will be given a white stone with our name written on it: a name no one knows but God.  This is a central aspect of your Quest, part of what it means to be “whole.”  You are becoming that name.  Your life is a living letter, an evolving story.  You are the central character in your story: the hero or heroine.

Imagine: As the story begins, your counselor has suggested that you are experiencing severe angst.  You constantly speak of needing to go somewhere you have never been, of seeing faraway places in your mind’s eye, of feeling out of place, and of not fitting in your surroundings.  It’s not a physical place you are looking for, however, but a metaphysical place, a spiritual place.

You are constantly being overwhelmed with the feeling that there is another “you” struggling within to reveal his or her self.  What makes the story particularly intriguing is the fact that you have amnesia.  Hearing that there is a psychologist who can help you, you have come to this person for counsel.

During one of your sessions, your counselor mentions this fabulous, unbelievable tale.  She is not certain that it is literally true but thinks it might be a helpful metaphor.  It appears that there is a king who lives on top of a mountain who knows you and knows your name.  The challenge is going to be to get to the top of the mountain.

At the bottom of the mountain is a raging fire.  It is a very strange fire.  At the beginning of the path is an external fire that is, at times, excruciatingly painful and difficult to get through.  However, once you do, the fire is absorbed into your soul, where it will then empower you for the rest of your journey.  The fire at the bottom of the mountain purges away all that is not the individual you are to become.  The fire that flames within gives you the power to take charge of your journey and to do whatever it takes to meet the king on top of the mountain.

(From my book, Legendary Leadership

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Quest for the Holy Grail: Falling Down a Rabbit Hole

The Quest for the Holy Grail, the mythical cup that Jesus was to have used during his last supper with his twelve disciples.  There are many legends in the Arthurian tradition surrounding this chalice.  Most of them tell of the Grail’s powers to give light, healing, and wisdom to whoever drinks from the cup.

This Grail is in but not of this world.  It represents the power of the Rescuing and Healing God who is both here with us and infinitely beyond us.  The Holy Grail’s value is so immeasurable and our needs are so unfathomable that we instinctively know that it is only in discovering the Holy Grail—encountering and knowing this God—that our hearts will be healed and our souls will be satisfied.
-- From my book, Legendary Leadership

I have spent much of my life coaching and mentoring people who have set out upon this quest. One of the first misconceptions that is usually encountered along the way is that, once you take a sip from the Grail and the God of Light explodes in your soul, this doesn’t mean all your doubts and troubles are going to disappear. The idea was that as my faith and trust in the God of the Grail deepen there would be a corresponding decrease of doubts and trials. The reality is that they often grow in direct proportion to each other.

The more I know, the less I know. The more I see, the more I see there is infinitely more to see. The more I see of the Great Light, the more clearly I see my own darkness. While drinking from the Grail does strengthen my faith, this does not translate into seeing all and knowing all. And it most certainly does not place me on a path where all dragons are chained, all witches behind bars, and all the treasures I seek are lying on the ground where I can easily retrieve them.

A man in search of God or for more of God has fallen down a rabbit hole and never knows exactly where he is or where he is going, other than toward God. He is holding on to the promise that those who truly are seeking God, will find Him. Sometimes the only hope he has left is that even if he has taken a wrong turn in his quest, God sees and is pleased with his desire to find and please Him.

The increase of faith we experience when drinking from the Grail does not do away with doubts. The truth is, the deeper our faith the more aware we are of our doubts. Faith is never “certain,” that is why it is called “faith.” A man of faith is assailed by doubts, because he knows there is a difference between faith and acquiescing to conventional wisdom. “Is this Truth, or is it truth?” “What if…?” “Maybe this is fool’s gold and not the real thing?” “If I can only see one foot in front of myself on this path, maybe I am going the wrong way?” The quest is filled with quest-ioning.

Drinking from the Grail is not the same thing as drinking an elixir. Faith is not something we use to rub on the belly of a Genie and all our wishes come true. Faith is not a pain-killer. Faith does not inoculate us from the vicissitudes of life. Faith rarely makes the storms we are experiencing on our quests, cease: it does, however, keep us on the quest, while the lightening and thunder makes the ground under our feet tremble.

The metaphor of drinking from the Holy Grail is about drinking in the God of light, healing, and wisdom. It is not about finding the cup and only taking a sip, but about continually drinking. In other words, it is about a relationship with God, who is also your Father.  As with any good father, He will not carry you down the path. He demands, rather, that you learn to toddle along, then walk upright and straight, and then to run. The obstacles you are facing are not meant to deter you, but to mature you.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Thursday, October 10, 2013

You Are You: Not Him, Her, or Them

It seems to me that, for the majority of people, self-knowledge is constrained to the persona. When speaking of being self-aware, if they ever do, what people usually mean is that they are conscious … of their conscious self! The subconscious self with all of its issues, motives, intentions and such, is unknown, and, so, unexplored and unexamined.

Being unaware of my inner self, having not one clue as to who I am to become or to what lies within me that is at war with this person, I am yanked around and prodded into mindless action. If anyone ever asks me “why” I did something, I reply, “’Dunno. I just did.” I don’t know why I do what I do or why I feel or believe as I do. I just do. For the unaware, life is something that happens to him, not something he creates.

Mindlessness is easy. Not wanting to exert the effort to become who God called them to be, people adopt generalizations about how all people think and feel, and then airily announce, “I have come to the conclusion that this is how I think and feel.” This requires no soul work: no sweating of the brain, no digging down into the heart, no self-examination. But just as this leaves me a victim of unknown internal forces, it also leaves me vulnerable to those external forces that are at war with even the notion of individuality. I am referring to those people determined to define me as a sociological statistic, to place me in a large box that can be easily managed and controlled.

The individual, however, is not a statistic. We cannot generalize about “this” man or “that” woman. We do, of course. We encounter a unique human being, a once in all eternity and inimitable soul, and we place him in a category, along with all the others who are just-the-same.

Governments do this with gusto, crafting policies for Man in General, planning economies for the mass designated, “Humankind” or “Citizens.” This is why, historically, government social planning always fails, because, when it comes to human beings, there is no such thing as The Norm.

Of course, people who see themselves as a statistic do not chafe at being treated like one. Group Think is only possible when each person in The Group sees his or her self as being undifferentiated from the whole. There really isn’t a singular self: only an “us.” This is the road to serfdom, the mindset of a slave. And wouldn’t you know it: there is always somebody around that will see this as an opportunity to exert his will over The Group. “My will be done in the US, as it is in DC.” -- The mindset of a slave-owner. 

Breaking Away
Breaking away from the herd, from Group Think, from slavery, is a scary prospect. Refusing to allow others to think their thoughts through your brain and choosing to live your own life rather than allowing others to direct your life as they deem best are no small hurdles when, up until now, you have always gone-along-to-get-along. This is especially so if the individual doesn’t have the psychological and spiritual resources to combat the hell that The Group will seek to put him through when he chooses to say, I exist. I think my own thoughts, not yours or theirs.

Do you remember the scene from The Matrix where Neo (Keanu Reaves) takes the Red Pill and almost dies? This is a very apt metaphor for what happens to us when we first break away from the fantasy and its accompanying delusions created by Group Think (The Blue Pill) and, instead, embrace reality (The Red Pill). Surviving this existential breakdown until it becomes a breakthrough, takes extraordinary commitment and faith.  However--

Surviving this breakdown also helps prepare you for maintaining your individuality. With each victory—and sometimes just surviving is a victory—your personhood is strengthened. Each time you choose to be true to your self and take responsibility for your own life (a moral imperative), you add more definition and depth to your soul.

You count. You matter. God brought you to the party for a reason, and it wasn’t so that you could pretend to be like everyone else. Shed the persona, get comfortable in your own skin with your own soul, and seek to be who God created you to become. Sure, soul-work can be arduous, but slavery is far more costly; especially if you believe in eternity.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Life in the Valley: Turning Humiliation Into Humility

He that is down needs fear no fall,
   He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
   Have God to be his guide.

--From John Bunyan’s, The Valley of Humiliation

One of the more necessary attributes for those who intend to quest for God and for the realization of their visions, is humility. And living and working in The Valley is juuuust the right place for developing this quality of soul.

It is the humble man that knows that he can’t accomplish anything of worth without God’s grace. It is humility that allows us to seek the help and wisdom of others: help that we will definitely need for getting the job done. It is the humble heart and mind that never gives in to doubt, skepticism, and cynicism. It is humility that keeps us grounded in the reality that our life, our vision, and our calling, is ultimately not about making us look good in the eyes of the world or to feel good about ourselves, but about making our small part of The Valley a more God honoring place.

Down here in The Valley, I am constantly made aware of how far I have to go to become the man God has called me to become and accomplish what I have been called to do. Seeing the discrepancies here can keep me humble. I say, “can,” because seeing the discrepancies in the wrong light may also rob me of the faith I need to continue my quest.

Humility has nothing to do with self-hatred and self-condemnation: these are soul-killers. They are not virtues. These attitudes don’t lift you up to God: they pull you away from Him. Self-hatred and condemnation are acts of the self, bashing the self, for not being God. Herein lies one of the great battles of your quests. As soon as you set out on the path dictated by your vision, as soon as you profess your quest to seek the Holy Grail, you begin encountering the Great Dragon, The Destroyer, The Accuser of God’s people.

The Valley of Humiliation
Once you leave the mountaintop where you experience God and see something of the vision of why you are here on earth, you wake up realizing you are living in what John Bunyan called, The Valley of Humiliation. To exacerbate your own awareness of and hatred for your failings, the Dragon is going to come around and rub your face in all the messes you have made of your life. He’s going to accuse you with the intention of destroying you. That’s the plan anyway.

You are nothing but caca. You have failed so many times in the past to live up to your code, to honor God in thought, word, and deed … all you are good at is failure. Let’s go back over every foul thing you have ever thought of doing and have done. People don’t love you because you are not worthy of love. In fact, you are unworthy of the quest.

The humiliation is crippling. And what do you say? It’s the truth!

The way through this battle may sound counter-intuitive at first, but it is the only way. You must turn humiliation into humility.

In Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, when Apollyon (The Destroyer) tics off the accusations against Christian, he replies, “All this is true, and much more which thou hast left out.” Or, in St Paul’s words, “Yep, I am not just any sinner, I am the chief of sinners.” Do you see the spiritual jujitsu here? You are taking the force of the enemy’s accusation and using it against him and for yourself. What you are saying to The Accuser is that, if walking with God and pursuing my calling depended on my perfection or worthiness, than I am undone. But it doesn’t. It all hangs on God’s grace in Christ.

The next time Apollyon starts mouthing off, hit him with, “Crikey, you don’t know the half of it. The stories I could tell you about my epic failures ... Gratefully, however, this isn’t about me. It’s about God’s love and grace for me. Scurry along now. I have work to do.” And the spell is broken.

Those who embrace the humiliations of their lives, owning these failures as truly and honestly theirs, and then turn and humbly offer all up to the God of Grace for His mercy and forgiveness, these are the ones God has promised to take by the hand and lead. When you are on a mountaintop you don’t sense any desperate need for God’s help in every facet of your life. When confronted with the realities of life and our very human nature while living down in The Valley, we know that we are road-kill without His grace and guiding hand. That’s a good place to be.  

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

Life in the Valley

He that is down needs fear no fall,
   He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
   Have God to be his guide.

--From John Bunyan’s, The Valley of Humiliation

You see the vision. You hear the call. Like Christ’s disciples, you’re up on the mountaintop, seeing Him in all of His transcendent glory and power. “This is it. It’s show time. Raise the banners and blow the trumpets!” And the next thing you know, you are down in what Bunyan called the Valley of Humiliation, singing with BB King, “The Thrill is Gone.” What’s up with that?

“What’s up” is reality. Mountaintop experiences give us a boost, the fuel we need for living down in The Valley where real people are living real lives. The mountain is where we see the vision and hear the call.  The Valley is where we discover the true meaning of the vision and the path to its fulfillment.

It’s easy to live for God’s honor up on the mountain. Well, I say “for God” but come on, it’s partially The Thrill isn’t it: the adrenalin rush that comes with finally seeing and hearing what we have been questing for? The question, however, is this: can we take this “for God” down the mountain and into our daily lives where work needs to get done and where people are not interested in hearing how things are up on the mountain but in what we can do for them, today?

On the mountain you saw that God was God, and that all power in heaven and on earth was His. You saw it. You breathed it. It flooded over you with such a sense of certainty that you knew you would never doubt Him again. As for the vision, you knew-that-you-knew, “This is what I am here for. This is my reason for being in the world. I am going to move mountains with my faith!” But before you can even say, Eureka, you are in The Valley of Humiliation wondering where in the world is God.

Where is the power and glory I experienced?
Where’s the thrill, the nuclear powered faith?

And then comes the temptation to doubt, then to become a skeptic, and then a cynic.

Did I really see and hear God or was it a figment of my imagination?
Does He even care about what’s going on in The Valley?

The Valley is where the true nature of my faith in God and commitment to my vision is tested. How much am I willing to sacrifice for God’s sake, for the sake of realizing my vision, for the sake of loving others as I love myself? How long do I hold on to the promises of God while it feels like He is nowhere to be found?

The Valley is also where I meet two of the greatest enemies I will ever face in this lifetime: The Accuser and Myself.

Next Post: Turning Humiliation Into Humility

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013