It’s a Puzzle

Really, it is a puzzle, without an answer at the back of the book. Why is it that people – men, women, you and I – proclaim a love for freedom, and yet retreat so quickly to rules and regulations, the “oughts and shoulds” of religious thinking? This applies to much more than religion as it is popularly defined; it also operates in other areas of community. Even Calvin and Hobbes in their tree house have a club with officers, titles, rules – and the exclusion of slimy girls!

The Bible does not say that it was for religion that Christ set us free. It is for freedom!

To answer my own question, there are several factors I can see operating in people. One is man-pleasing with its Janus face of the fear of man. To defy the norm is risky business, often leading to ostracism and rejection. To be cut off from friendship or even the lesser position of acceptance by the community is too great a price for many to pay. We all want the cozy feeling of being included and if that requires doing or being like everyone else, so be it. You measure up to my standards, we’re buds. The moment you genuflect when I don’t, or hold a differing opinion about celebrating Christmas, we’re done. How you regard our relationship then drives your behavior, even if it removes some freedom to be who you are.

Is there anyone who can truthfully say he has never accommodated (read: altered) his natural instincts or actions in order to remain on good terms with people in his sphere of influence? Polite society does require a certain level of accommodation to those around us, of course.  We all learn there are certain no-go areas with friends or co-workers, subjecting and controlling our own selves or opinions in order to maintain relationship. Yet continually submerging who we are makes us become a man-pleaser with no identity of our own. Ultimately, we are what we think. If what we think is kept suppressed while reflecting only that which we think will please others, we become a mirror to them, and invisible to the world.

Sad, isn’t it, when following the rules, the “oughts” of society in order to be accepted, we lose the very thing we are seeking: acceptance for our person-hood. Desiring to be known and liked, we hide so that no one truly knows who we are.

Another reason people flee from freedom to rules and regulations is that it is easier to learn and follow the rules than it is to work out the challenges of life and relationships that freedom carries. Just tell me what to do and we are good. That way I don’t have to think. I don’t have to make tough decisions. I’ll just follow the group and I will be “in.” Someone else can take the blame for a bad decision. Those who stick their necks out get hurt. Not me. I don’t want to get shot at.

The desire for safety drives the engine right into obscurity and mediocrity. Control. Loss of freedom to be as we have been created to be. Herein lies tension: The freedom to be me, as in “Watch out, world, here I come!” or “The world is a scary, rejecting place so I will stuff myself, hiding behind my well-crafted facade.” Therefore, I am not true to myself. Shakespeare said it well, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, that thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Freedom is work. It is not license which leads to anarchy, but is truly earned by maturing in responsibility to self, family and community. Freedom willingly subjects itself to rules of order and process – “No Parking,” “The line forms here,” “Turn off all phones during the performance.” Yet Freedom does not get pushed into non-being because of fear. It is truly revealed by the man or woman who understands his or her true identity and is good with that.

Indeed, watch out, world, if people begin to get free. The spirit of control, the spirit of religion keep people in bondage through fear. Fear of being cast into outer darkness, ostracized by the community. Fear of condemnation. Isolation. When confronted with Freedom, those spirits react strongly, “Crucify Him!” “Off with their heads!” As every politician’s first job is to get re-elected, so the controlling powers’ main job is keep in control. The rise of Freedom in a person is thus highly threatening to them. They will exert every effort to squash that outburst of freedom that springs up. But Freedom, by its very nature, cannot be subservient to powers of control, and must therefore resist to the uttermost.

Human beings have been granted free will. You can choose to become who you truly are, resisting control of ungodly constraints, or you can choose to go along with the masses, in lock step with those around you, losing your identity and your freedom.

It’s your choice. Choose wrongly, and it may be the last free thing you do.


o thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.
o thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.



Total stillness now, interrupted only by the cawing of crows in the sycamore down the way. In that stillness there is space and time for reflection, for listening to inner dialog. To think, to ponder, to get in touch with the self within has become a rare thing, a luxury enjoyed by too few. I become aware that I am playing with phrases, constructing and deconstructing sentences, describing even the air around me. People come to mind–family members who are struggling, friends not seen in years, those talked with just yesterday. This brings me to reflection on my own attitudes and emotions. The change, I realize, has been deep and wide. I am not now the person I was 20 years ago, 5 years ago, last month. And I like the person I am becoming. Notice the continuing present. Life is a process. When we stop growing and changing, we start dying.

I hear other birds as well. Some newcomers to the neighborhood add their unrecognized song to the surroundings. My pondering continues, now observing creative thoughts, deeper thoughts are stirring. I am struck by the great treasure that is available to everyone, the ability to process and create, bringing forth a new aspect of reality unique to them. However, a world of unceasing noise and distraction removes the stillness, that space and time of quiet in which the individual’s thoughts can take shape, to the blessing of us all. We are therefore all losers in a noisy environment. The unrealized potential creative idea that each person could bring is lost to the din of the day. Our culture has trained us to be restless unless there is a steady stream of noise — the background store and elevator music, the ubiquitous TV. Headphones, iTunes, Pandora. We fear to be left alone with our thoughts; the very idea is foreign to us. In the process, we lose our true selves.

What is that fear of stillness, of silence? What drives us to turn on the TV or radio the minute we walk in the door? What within in us do we fear? Or is it possible that our “surround sound” is all that tells us we have being, are alive? A primal fear is that of non-being; for many, silence is equivalent to that state of non-existence.

Yet God says, “Be still and know…”  Elijah didn’t hear God in the storm, but in the still small voice. It is when we know, from that stillness, that we then know who we are and are to become. In that becoming, treasures are discovered and shared with the world. For the benefit of our world, then, we should begin by quieting down to listen. Time to use your mind to explore, invent, create. Shhh. A mind is working here. This is a quiet zone. Shhh.



11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

12 If you say, But we knew nothing about this, does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

Word of the day, word of the week.  This is a direct command found in Proverbs 24. It is a NOW word for the times we are in. Who is being led to death? Who are those being led to slaughter? Who are the ones who are saying “we did not know anything – nobody told us?”

Well, for starters, Christians around the globe are dying wherever they are near more than a few adherents of Islam.  Appeals for help are largely ignored by our government as well as most churches.  Some times the inaction is based on not knowing what to do,  Helplessness in the face of evil, fear for one’s own life, keeps people busy following their own  pursuits, head down, ears closed.

Keep quiet.  Don’t rock the boat. We don’t want to become targets. Maybe it will all go away.

Islam is not the only source of suffering and slaughter.  Tyrants of all and no religions continue to arise around the world, snuffing out life ruthlessly in their pursuit of power and control. Average citizens who want to live out their lives in peace get run over and run through with cruel disregard.

We don’t do that – yet – in the United States.  We just kill young life, that which does not yet have a name or Social Security number. This is done with governmental approval and financial support. The policy now is so broad that those individuals and institutions which refuse to participate in causing death are penalized and threatened with imprisonment. At the other end of the time line, laws are now in place which deny persons over age 70 the right to corrective intervention in case of brain bleed or stroke.  That which could be done to heal and restore is no longer allowed; the written mandate is “comfort care only.”

NOW is the time to speak up. NOW is the time to do something, anything to resist this culture of death.  As a nation we are careening downhill to chaos. I have been too long silent.  First, it is time to repent for all our whistling past the graveyard. We have looked with horror at the Holocaust of the 1940’s, ignoring the 21st century holocaust around us. We have judged those who did not speak up while Jews were being led away to slaughter, yet we are no different in our failure to speak up against the abortion business and some of the odious parts of the new “health care” act. Perhaps it is not too late to find mercy and forgiveness for our inaction. Perhaps it is not too late.

How many voices are needed to convince a congress person we are serious?  What does it take to stop a juggernaut in its tracks? It is a huge challenge, yet we are told in this passage of scripture we MUST do what we can to stop the evil we DO know about.

Now, not tomorrow. Writing this is for me a beginning step. I can keep silent no longer. We must turn back the tide that is close to sweeping us away. Now.