Wednesday, July 23, 2008

P4E.082 Two Hands

I heard a story on the radio this morning that touched my heart and made my eyes well with tears. I thought I'd share it with you.

Today is the 80th birthday of classical pianist Leon Fleisher. Born in San Francisco, Fleisher began playing piano at age 4 and made his debut at 8 years of age. By 16 he played with the New York Philharmonic. In 1952 Fleisher won the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition of Belgium.

At the height of his meteoric career, Fleisher's right hand was stricken with focal dystonia, a condition in which the muscles of the hand contract or twist, causing the fingers to either curl up into the palm or extend uncontrollably. Undaunted, Fleisher continued his music career by conducting and teaching, particularly at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. He also became an advocate for young musicians and their physical well-being. He describes them as "professional athletes who use their small muscles." Fleisher kept playing piano and making recordings, focusing on left-handed compositions.

Fleisher never gave up seeking a cure for his condition. In the early 2000's combining massage therapy and botox injections he was able to regain the use of his right hand. In 2004, Fleisher released his first "two-handed" recording in over 40 years, called "Two Hands" to critical acclaim. For the first piece of the Two Hands recording, Fleisher chose Johann Sebastian Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." (The radio program played the piece from Two Hands. My wife and I had chosen this music to be played in our wedding ceremony over 30 years ago. That's when my eyes welled with tears.) Part of the lyrics of that composition go like this:

"Jesus all my joy remaineth,
My heart's solace and my stay,
All my wounds to heal he deigneth,
On him all my need I lay

Peace and Joy, Kim

Thursday, July 17, 2008

P4E.081 What I've Learned Driving Cars

Gwen and I have found it very common for wives that we counsel to be upset with the way their husbands drive.

My driving habits have offered me an opportunity to learn some important lessons. My wife, Gwen, has felt very endangered by the way I drive. How many times have I heard: "You're going too fast!" "You're following too close!" "Brake!" Gwen often applies the imaginary passenger side brake or braces herself for oncoming destruction. When I see or hear these things my natural (fleshly) response is to get defensive. Since one of my goals is to become more sensitive to my spirit and Gwen's spirit I need to explore what a spiritual response would be.

If Gwen feels unsafe when I'm driving it's because she perceives (feels) a real threat to her safety. My flesh wants to convince her of my superior driving skills and tell her to 'get over it' (thereby discounting her emotions...and her). My spirit reminds me that I am responsible for the care of her spirit. Driving offers me an opportunity to care for Gwen's spiritual state by valuing her opinions/ attitudes/ feelings, honoring them by putting them ahead of my own and responding by CHANGING what I'm doing.

Gwen's asked me: "Do you know where you're going? Why don't you stop and get directions?" In driving, as in relationships, 'safe' is a state of mind, a feeling, as much or more than it is a status. Feeling 'safe' includes the peace of mind of knowing where we are going and that we're in agreement on how we're going to get there.

My driving habits shed light on how callous I am to perceiving a threat. The fact is that Gwen is a better judge than I am for how 'safe' I drive. It is a grave danger to be passive, callous and insensitive to physical and spiritual threats. I need help in assessing and perceiving physical and spiritual threats. And Gwen is great help.

Driving is one of the places where the 'rubber meets the road' as far as my Christianity goes. Driving is the most common activity where I make the conscious decision: "I AM FIRST." That is to say, 'My destination is more important than yours,' 'My time is more important than yours,' 'My driving skills are superior to yours,' 'My car is more prestigious than yours,' 'I am faster than you are,' 'I have more power than you have,' 'Outta my way, man!'

The 'I am first' attitude is so plainly contrary to Christ's teaching that I must take some time to stop and evaluate how I do what I do and why I do it. Scripture describes a war going on between my flesh and my spirit. For me, more battles have been won by the flesh than the spirit. That is because my ways are not naturally God's ways. I must exert my spirit to strengthen it and make it fit for battle. Then I might be able to shed the 'I am first' attitude, plan my time better, start a little earlier and drive with more self-control so that my drive could be more peaceful.

A group of men were discussing how angry and frustrated they would become when cut off on the freeway. But, one of the men said, "I've never been cut off on the freeway." As the others cynically expressed their disbelief, he explained,

"I've never been cut off because I always let them go first...."

What a concept!

Guard your heart, Kim

Middle Zone Musings - What I Learned From Transportation

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

P4E.080 Ashes, Ashes We All Fall Down

California is on fire. Fire and smoke and ash are everywhere. Even though the southern part of the state (where I'm at) has escaped thus far, the news is still dominated by fire.

The danger in becoming more sensitive to and aware of one's spirit is that you FEEL. Everything. Whether it's fire in California or flooding in the Midwest, earthquakes in China or typhoons in Myanmar, your heart begins to be affected. Couple natural disasters with man-made disasters like the downward spiralling economy, the mortgage meltdown, the price of gas, the war in the Iraq, and the slumping construction industry and I'm actually experiencing what might be called "disaster fatigue."

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

Is it that there are more disasters now or is it just that we have more access to information? Because the media focus on sex, scandal and disaster, I found my spirit getting calloused. Years ago I made the decision to cut off the satellite TV. Now I'm making the decision to restrict my radio and Internet news time to limit the disaster fatigue. My priorities need to stay focused on home. My wife and my son Ben who is my last son at home. It may seem selfish to you, but it's where I feel I can have the greatest positive impact.

In the past, I would let this disaster fatigue affect my temper in such a way that I'd create my own disaster at home. I still have to be very careful and aware not to let it happen now. This is where a deep Faith in an all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere present God is critical. A Faith that withstands bad things happening to good people. A Faith that is especially soothing and helpful when things are going wrong all around me. Helpful in the sense that it provides a template for character traits into which I can mold myself (and be molded by God). Molded in such a way that I come through trials strengthened, not damaged, or having damaged those close to me. Reading and acting out Scripture is an especially helpful way to acquire this Faith.

Guard your heart, Kim

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

P4E.079 Princess

"I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're still princesses. All of us. Didn't your father ever tell you that? Didn't he?"

Movie: A Little Princess, 1995
Character: Sara Crewe

My wife and I recently suggested to a friend that he send some flowers and a card to his wife on a special occasion (not her birthday or a holiday). He thanked us and said that he appreciated the suggestion because he never would have thought of it himself. It got me thinking...

Princesses are princesses, in large part, because of the way that others treat them. Princesses are inherently special and they deserve special treatment. In the movie, The Princess Bride, the prince responds to the princess' every desire with "As you wish." She understood him to mean "I love you" every time he said it.

When we're young we see our girlfriends or wives as princesses. We think of them as pretty, special, fragile, needing to be handled with care. We see ourselves as protecting them from harm, caring for them, getting jealous of them should others try to get their attention.

The princess guards herself from believing that there will be a "knight in shining armor riding up on a white horse," but something inside her still sings "someday my prince will come." Eventually, she settles for one of us. We're not exactly the prince she had in mind, but she sees potential and hopes she can make something of us.

Inevitably, something happens along the way. They say "familiarity breeds contempt." We start to take our princess for granted. She loses her specialness in our eyes. She loses her bloom. Pretty soon, we wouldn't even think of sending flowers or a card.

But, in her spirit, our princess still believes she IS a princess! Even if she isn't pretty or smart or young. She wants to believe that she's special and deserves special treatment, but that stands in stark contrast to what she's experiencing.

What our princess needs is a prince. Someone who will awaken her with an innocent kiss of true love. Someone who will handle her with care. Who will treat her special. Open doors for her. Provide for her. Fight windmills for her. Lay down his life for her sake.

Any volunteers?

Peace, Kim

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

P4E.078 Abigail Adams

My wife, Gwen, and I experience and observe what we call "Life Partners" moments ( These are moments that we recognize as relevant to marriage relationships. It might be that we are in a restaurant and observe how a couple ignore each other while they eat or how friends resolve a conflict in front of us.

One such moment happened for me recently. I was watching the PBS documentary "Liberty! The American Revolution." (BTW, Happy 4th of July!) The documentary highlights the relationship and written correspondence between John Adams, founding father and second President of the United States, and his wife, Abigail. Abigail wrote to John in this way:

"Dearest Friend,

In the new laws which you will be writing, please remember the ladies. Don't put unlimited power in the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if you give them a chance. If you don't pay attention to the ladies then you can't expect us to obey any laws in which we don't have a voice or representation."

And later she wrote:

"I'm sorry, but I still find it odd that while you are proclaiming peace and good will to men and emancipating the nation, you still insist on retaining the absolute power of husbands over their wives. Remember, John, arbitrary power like everything else that's hard and brittle is easily broken. In spite of all your wise laws, we too have it in our power to free ourselves."

These lines were written by a woman back around the year 1775. In a way, it's a sad reminder that in over 230 years we haven't come very far. Am I a tyrant? Do I lay down laws in my home in which Gwen has no voice or representation? Do I exercise arbitrary power? God help me to change if any of these are true.

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim