The Secret of the Bluff: Fooling Yourself

Tick tock – I have 30 minutes to compose this post. Pressure’s on. Do. Act. Decide. Now.

Ever felt that way? Ever been in a high-stakes, cut-to-the-chase ‘death’ match? (Hint: every living breathing soon-to-die one of you should be answering yes.)

I say “answering” because it’s a process we are going through – not yet has the bell completed ringing. And I can assure you, I’m going back and forth, back and forth, on how I will play it out. BUT, I’m pretty damned sure the game is REAL.

I want to present four movie scenes – looks on characters’ faces as they realize they were fooling only themselves:

The Hunt For Red October – the Russian Alpha sub’s captain just before his own torpedo hits

Independence Day – Will Smith’s pilot friend giving up (having just taken off his mask)

Lethal Weapon – both Glover’s and Gibson’s faces inside the store after Mel jumps with the would-be suicide guy

Indiana Jones Last Crusade – Indy’s face as he stands there at the Lion’s head with his foot out, waiting to choose to take that step onto that “invisible” walkway

Classic movie lines. “You’re not trying to draw a psycho-pension. You really ARE crazy!”
“I’m HUNGRY.” “It’s time to ask yourself what you really believe.” “You arrogant ass. You just killed us.”

20 minutes.

Turns out, all these characters were bluffing. Or rather, they’d been fooling themselves –about what they themselves really believed. I sometimes – quite often these days – feel just like that. Except it’s what my senses are telling me is real that is the false belief.

The bluff works because the bluffer has to act or convince himself or be seen as believing that his or her hand is a winner. Despite the “on paper” “face value” “actual” value of the cards. In sports they say “That’s why they play the games.” How many epic come backs (or, from another point of view, collapses) can you think of? What were the players on each side thinking? What were they believing or (as the game progressed) convincing themselves of? I’ve never met a million-dollar lottery winner, but if I did, I’d ask them, “Did you really think or believe you could or would win? Or were you bluffing – just hoping with some kind of reckless faith?” (Should we spell that wreckless?)

Because that’s the thing about bluffing. You have to believe the bluff is going to work – despite the face value of the cards. Despite all this collective experience that says it’s not possible. It can’t succeed. You have to be willing to risk it all on a single play.

Because that’s what you’re actually playing with (or against?) The bluffee’s response. That your opponent will believe that you believe. What you believe. That’s the whole thing about the message of the cross being foolishness to others. To those who don’t believe. I believe. I know somehow that God’s going to make it possible to make that leap from the Lion’s head, but my senses are lying to me, distracting me with a concern about how. The bluff is my experience of “this world’s” reality  vs what I’ve experienced by faith. So I’m not even really sure I’m bluffing or really believing. (And if you’re as confused as I am by that very statement, I assure you, you understand what I’m talking about. Fully.)

10 minutes… Clock’s ticking. What’s your play?

Is God bluffing? After all, we can’t “prove” what we know to be true and real. Think about those epic sports collapses. There’s an’art’ to failing, just like there’s something sacred about hanging onto that belief, keeping that faith that somehow, some crazy incredible, unbelievable way – despite spite all sense – the victory is already complete. Against all the odds.

“Every part of me cries out to be with the Living God.” Psalm 84:2b

“Lord All-Powerful, great blessings belong to those who trust in you!” :12

2 minutes.

“Overcome My enemy. Frustrate his anticipated victories by keeping a steadfast heart with prayers of faith. Yet do not expect Me to overcome through mysterious power… through hidden works as if by magic. I work with power through My Spirit, and My Spirit is within you. I will work in your heart and in your hands. My power is yours to tear down the strongholds of the devil through My Gospel.” – Houge, Refreshed in Christ, Day 30

1 minute.

“And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” 1 John 3:19

I’m out of

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I believe I don’t know what this post is going to be about…

I believe I don’t know what this post is going to be about…

I believe I don’t know what this post is going to be about. I can tell you how it all started, and the track my train of thought rode upon – but, as I depart from the station on this morning’s journey, I don’t know where I’m – or it’s – going. And that’s wonderful!

Note: I believe the featured image of today’s journal entry is worth a look, but I don’t know how to rotate it in WordPress. Apologies.

If you, Dear Reader, are at all Savvy (as Captain Jack likes to say), you may be getting an inkling about today’s topic.

It all started when I woke up. (That’s a good figurative and literal first sentence!) But literally, I woke up to a text from my daughter, “How do I know I made the right decision?” Parents, is there a better time for a teaching moment? Ya, to show how little we really know, sure! Like someone once said, “There are known knowns…”

And then, the first verse I read today:

And this is eternal life:
That people can know you, the only true God, and that they can know Jesus Christ, the one you sent.

So, I began with the question, “Exactly what can we know, really, truly know, now? My first thoughts were song titles: The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow Somewhere Over The Rainbow and then we’ll party like it’s 1999. (There’s my Prince reference.)

What’s the difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘believing’? Google that, literally, and you’ll have hours of study available to you. Here’s the best thoughts I found:

Belief is intellectual, knowledge is experiential (Jung, paraphrased)

Believing vs knowing is like
virtual vs actual reality
copies vs originals
fiction vs fact
e-communication methods vs in-person, face-to-face (George Cappannelli)

Belief goes with doubt, it’s a choice, and is pre-experience.
Knowledge is post-experience. (for example, today we can believe or doubt that the Capitals may take the Stanley Cup; but we know the Celtics will not win the basketball championship.)
Belief is second-hand, ‘hearsay’; reading or hearing a piece of news. Knowing is first-hand, actually seeing it happen. (Valerie Mackenzie)

“An element of doubt should be put in between ‘believing’ and ‘knowing’, but doubt with shrewdness or intelligence. … useful information … turns into knowledge, and is then converted into a belief.”
Knowledge is informal experience;  we know useful information and convert it into beliefs; from our beliefs we derive our values; beliefs are convictions we generally hold to be true, usually without actual proof or evidence. Values are concepts we deem important; ideas, or ideals.
Knowing something reduces your fears.” (differencebetween.net)

“[I couldn’t] believe in something that I could not see or touch … [but] momentary experiences of grace … encouraged me to keep searching for a way to have a direcet and personal experience of God.” (Dr Margaret Paul)

Then, I read today’s Utmost.org entry. “Gracious Uncertainty”

1 John 3:2 …It has not yet been revealed what we shall be.

“Our natural inclination is to be so precise [dealing in knowns]… that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing… We think that we must reach some predetermined goal… But the nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty… To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow will bring (with breathless expectation). … We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.

Matthew 18:3 …unless you … become as little children
“We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. [BUT] full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectation.”

Sometimes, other people have already said it best.

But what can we know? Well, what I know is the peace that passes all understanding. I don’t have the peace all the time, though. I do doubt – a lot – from time to time. But doubting doesn’t change what I know, because I’ve experienced that peace. And I surely do know what I am like without Him; when I’m in a period of not knowing Him; when I don’t believe.

“Only believe that I do all things out of love, and the eyes of your faith will see My provision een before it is visible on the horizon.” (Houge, Refreshed in Christ, Day 29)

Then, I googled “define semantics”: “the study of meaning in language, for example, ‘destination’ and ‘last stop’ technically mean the same thing but there are shades of differences. And this is where I’m getting off today.

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Name The (-Tune-) Excuse

Name That Tune- Excuse.

There used to be a TV game show where contestants would ‘name that tune’ in as few notes as possible. Now that I think of it, there was another one where they would ‘fill in the blank’ with a song’s next words. Or how about turning it around and stumping the late night TV show band?

Games shows are one of the biggest ‘genre’ in television. We make a game out of anything: Trivia – what is backwards and forwards. Filling in the letters of cliches and the names of people, places, and things. Savvy product-pricing awareness. Heck, even simply picking the number on a shiny metal case. And, if that’s not enough, we can make a movie about a character trying to get on a game show. (I’m going to insert a link here to my contest for you all to enter the names of the game shows and the movie I just hinted at.)

Today, let’s play “Name That Post Subject in 1 Bible Chapter.” Ready? The answer is Romans 7. If you guessed verse 19 “I don’t do the good that I want to do. I do the evil that I don’t want to do.” Ding, ding, ding! Honorable mention if you were too busy watching a game show or soap opera to respond in the time allowed.

Yes, a game out of anything. Everything. A game out of knowing or not knowing. A game out of doing or not doing. Ah, that last one is my favorite! Not doing what I know I should. What I know is good. When I know I should. When I know I could. Playing “Instead.” AKA Name That Excuse: It’s boring. It’s not fun. I don’t feel well. I don’t wanna get up even. I just don’t feel like it. It doesn’t really matter. It’s “their” fault. I’m stressed out. I’m staying in. I’m hurt, angry, lonely, tired. The devil made me do it. It’s not real – doesn’t really matter. I’m scared it WILL turn out the way God promised.

Ever play that last one? It’s where you intently squeeze those eyelids shut tight, and ignore God’s signs and Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” I’m really good at it. I always seems to start by playing – again – that seemingly-harmless “Let’s see if my life is truly unmanageable and I’m still powerless over my addictions and compulsive behaviors. (Step 1 of the 12 Steps.)” AKA It’s not that I can’t start but that I don’t stop. Playing games. Doing the evil (or the idle) that I don’t want to do. Reading fiction all day. Sleeping. Watching TV (sports games, for me). Busy work. Analysis paralysis. Even being so heavenly minded that I’m of no earthly use. Playing a pointless, meaningless video game for an entire day.

How about James 1? If you answered verse 8 “double-minded and unstable in all his ways”, ding again! This one is where “It’s not real – it doesn’t really matter” creeps into my thinking. We can make a game out of everything and we can make light of everything. Just not taking life seriously. Missing opportunities to be God’s hands, feet, and voice. Or worse, the sick game of “I don’t deserve God’s good stuff” or “Because I can (Cheap Grace)”.

But.

Perhaps I’m being too negative. I do, after all, have one sort-of game that is positive: how soon can I dig into the word today? The answer is usually “just as soon as the coffee is made.” Another name for it is “Name that Child of God, and watch God pick him/her up AGAIN.” The Bible chapter for this game? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, it is not selfish and it cannot be made angry easily. Love does not remember the wrongs done against it. Love is never happy when others do wrong,but it is always happy with the truth. Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits. Love will never end…  (ERV)

I could write more, but now it’s time to play “Mission Impossible (aka Your mission for today, if you decide to accept it, is this to do list…)”

PS I deleted the shortcut to the game off the desktop. Maybe I’ll forget it’s there?