2016

Courtesy of Ralph Häusler, Pixabey

A brand new year!!

It’s like cracking the cover on a delicious new book.

This time last year I was barely beginning to recover from the life wreck that 2014 had become. I’m not fully recovered even now, but it’s nice to have the year look bright ahead of me again!

After several weeks of writing, revising, googling technical help and trying to make room in my non-techie brain for the critical techie info required to make a blog live, I think I’m finally ready to start this baby up.

Its going to be a huge learning experience, and undoubtedly a character building one as well, but I’m excited about it.

Here’s to a shiny new year, full of promise, full of hope.

Be well.

What is an abundant life?

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What is an abundant life?

(That’s a question.)

I do have my own answer, or at least part of my answer, but I will share that another time because this day is for hearing from others what an abundant life looks for them.

For some people, an abundant life is a big home in the suburbs with granite counter tops and two SUVs in the driveway. For someone else, a tiny apartment is just fine, because their abundance is the ability to travel the world. For others it may be the ability for one or both parents to stay home with the kids.

Some of us find abundance in sunny beaches stretching for miles along the blue of the ocean. For others, me included, make that a nice shady forest trail, thank you.

It’s helpful to take a moment every now and then to fully recall what an abundant life looks like. How else can you tell if you’re living it?

Whether yours is a champagne brunch abundance, a lemonade on the porch swing abundance, or a tea with scones before the fire abundance, take a few moments to dwell on it. Even if you don’t want to comment, just capture it for yourself.

Although I’m not yet to the fullness of an abundant life for ME, I appreciate the chance for course correction offered by periodically taking time to savour what it is I’m seeking.

So, this informal survey is just that: whether you want to share or not, consider taking 5 minutes to remember (or maybe realise for the first time) :

1)   What does ‘an abundant life’ mean to you?

2)   Are you living it?

3)   If so, what brought you to it?

4)   If not, what is the next thing that will inch you closer to it?

Be well.

For the LOVE of Valentine’s Day

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THIS WEEKEND IS VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!!

I just can’t wait.

Valentine’s day is my absolute, hands down, FAVOURITE holiday!

I wish it was a public holiday, with the whole glorious day off to just enjoy. Or the whole week. We need more week long celebrations in this country.

I’ve written previously about some of the big shocks of my early adulthood. Another was the realisation that many people hate Valentine’s Day. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!?

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love! What on earth is offensive in  that?!?!

Even if you have some curious distaste for love, Valentine’s Day also involves chocolate, for goodness’ sake! [note] Now, if you are allergic to chocolate, I admit you have a legitimate gripe. But Valentines Day is a day for creativity. I have faith in you. [/note]

Okay, so you don’t happen to have a boyfriend / girlfriend / spouse this weekend.

SO WHAT?!?!?

Is that really the ONLY class of person that has ever loved you?? The only class of person you can love?

Don’t you have a mother? Or maybe your mother makes Joan Crawford look like Mother of the Year. It happens. But I know there is at least one person, somewhere, whom you can celebrate, and who can celebrate you.

Everybody capable of love has at least one colleague, friend, family member, teacher, student, or associate somewhere who loves them or whom they love. At least a little. I refuse to believe differently [note] And if you have a serious personality disorder rendering you incapable of love, then I refuse to believe you’d be bitter about not being paired on Valentine’s day! Bring a seasonal thank you note to your shrink and enjoy the day. [/note].

So go out there and wish them a HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Send a frilly pink card to your Great Aunt Matilda. If you’re really brave, call her up and ask her to tell you about her first crush.

Take everyone in the office a piece of dark chocolate. One of the very few things I miss about working in a real office is being able to bring in cookies or cupcakes or flowers for everyone on Valentines’ Day. Sure Valentine’s Day is on Sunday this year; no one will mind an extra day of love.

Or bake some festive cupcakes for the neighbours. Afraid the hot new guy in 11B will get the wrong idea? Then give cupcakes to only the little old ladies in the complex. WANT the hot to guy in 11B to get some ideas? Start up a conversion as you include him in the cupcake celebration!

Still feeling contrary? Then just give cupcakes to crabby old Mrs. Macgruder who is always in a bad mood. Big fluffy ones with lots of pink frosting. Go guerrilla if you need to, and drop them off anonymously – it’s not like she’s going to admit to appreciating them anyway.

Can’t bake? That’s what flowers are for! Or a short handwritten note.

Simply a smile and a Happy Valentines Day! can go a remarkably long way.

Even if you hate the world just now, you ought to at least love yourself, so prepare some simple yet decadent treat just for YOU. Take yourself out to your favourite Thai restaurant, have a long hot bath, go for a run in the really nice park across town – whatever YOU love to do FOR YOU.

And if you happen to be a Christian, well then seriously – where you gonna top THAT kind of love? Share some cupcakes or a fancy coffee with God and enjoy the day.

Worst case scenario, bring some seed to the birds in the park or hand out a few single carnations to strangers on the street, grocery baggers, or your Barista, smiling and saying “Have a happy Valentine’s Day!”. You’ll be amazed how much joy it brings.

Whatever you do, CELEBRATE!! Valentine’s Day is NOT a time for bitterness.

And have a happy Valentine’s day.

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Be well. 

 

 

 

MY Abundant Life

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In a prior post  I asked about YOUR version of an abundant life.

Thank you so much to those who chose to share some of your thoughts with me! I am honoured that you would share your abundance, and your struggles toward it, with me, and pleased that my questions were of some use.

I figure that anyone who was going to take time to ponder their own version of abundance will have done so by now, so I’ll add some of my own thoughts on abundance. (If you are coming into this post cold, check out THIS ONE first, to avoid cluttering up your abundance with mine.)

I tend to be a little odd (those who know me are currently rolling on the floor laughing at the understatement there), but for me an abundant life has never been about the big house, the new car,  granite counter tops, career advancement. By far the most important elements of an abundant life for me have always been TIME and PEACE.

Time has always been far more valuable to me than money, or things, or status. The richest I could ever be would be having no obligations on my time except those I choose. Time to linger over coffee and deep conversation, time to walk in the woods, time to read, to lend a hand; that is wealth beyond measure.

PEACE is the other critical ingredient in MY abundant life. I like for life to be low stress, quiet, calm. I love to move slowly through the days, finishing what I start and enjoying the process.

Aren’t I boring? I am. I know. I would be even more boring if I could afford it, trust me.

I was enormously gratified though, when I first noticed 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and 1 Timothy 2:2. Mine is certainly not an ‘ambition’ I’d heard encouraged here in the US of A, but God, at least, seems to be cool with it. Who knew?!?

So, then:

1)   What does ‘an abundant life’ mean to me?

  • Having an abundance of time! (Big shock there, right?) Not living for work, not filling my free time with a host of activities morning to night, but using it on the things I truly value.
  • Living fairly frugally and simply, in a way that does as little harm as possible to the world around me, and preferably even improves the world a bit.
  • Taking great pleasure in the decadence of simplicity – eating simple, delicious meals, walking in the woods, growing a garden, savouring a perfect cappuccino, talking far into the night with dear friends.
  • Not being in pain every day. (If you’ve not lived it, that may sound like a given, but trust me, it’s a luxury of enormous value.)
  • It’s not important to me to make a lot of money, but I do feel that handling it well, and making enough so that I am not stressing over how to pay the bills every month, are requisite to abundance.
  • I want to buy a house again once I get settled somewhere. I miss feeling that my home is truly mine.
  • Maintaining strong friendships, and contributing to community. I will never be a social butterfly, but I love that I have a strong group of friends (some of whom are family) from many different parts of my life, and I want to be part of building the kind of society I want to live in.
  • Having a broad margin in all the critical areas of life, so that I am able to invest myself in what I value rather than wishing I could have, but being too broke, too busy, too ill, or whatever.

2)   Am I living it?

Some pieces of it, yes, but I am far from the whole picture right now.

I hit a significant road block on the path toward my idea abundance and it’s taking me far more time to dig my way out of that than I’d have preferred. I imagine it will ultimately set me back 3-5 years. I am slowly getting back on track now though, and once again looking forward (mostly) hopefully toward buying a house in a place I truly enjoy, realigning my time to my values, hiking more, contributing to like minded community, and enjoying FAR more quiet than I do where I am at right now.

3)   If so, what brought me to it?

SOMEDAY I’ll be able to fill this in! Hopefully soon!

4)   If not, what is the next thing that will inch me closer to it?

Well, this blog is one thing. I hope that if I keep at it I’ll eventually stumble across like minded community here, maybe some mentors, maybe I’ll even help someone else reach whatever step I’ve gotten to on this path.

I’m getting ready to vote in my state’s primary.

And I am currently planning a trip of exploration to the area I really want to live. I don’t know if I can afford to live there, I fear that I simply can’t, but I’m going to at least go see.  🙂

Why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders

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Ah, election time… The circus-like atmosphere! The lies! The intrigue!

Had I mentioned that my native cynicism and pessimism reach their peak when it comes to politics?

Choosing a candidate to support is inevitably stressful, and usually depressing. I mainly try to identify the one whose record indicates he or she is least likely to sabotage those things I most highly prioritise.

Not exactly an exercise in enthusiastic citizenship.

This year though, I find myself in an interesting position: There is a person running for President who actually has a record of standing by his convictions. Unheard of! And what’s more, many of his convictions echo my own! So:

Why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders in 10,000 words or less.

(Assuming he doesn’t do anything really stupid or reprehensible before then.)

In brief –

I want some important transformation, and I think that Bernie Sanders is the presidential candidate most likely to help achieve that transformation.

More specifically, I believe that Senator Sanders is the only choice who is going to fight meaningfully for what I feel is most important right now:

I want more people to be able to own small businesses. 

There are a number of practical reasons for this, my favourites being:

  1. Small businesses create most of the jobs in this country.
  2. Small local businesses tend to contribute to their communities in different ways than large non-local employers – more cash in the system, more taxes staying nearby, stronger commitment to the community, more loyalty to employees … the list goes on.
  3. Also, if you have 1000 small businesses employing most of the people in your town and one of them fails, that is a problem, and it hurts people, but it hurts a few people. If you have one giant corporation employing most of the people in your town, and it fails, or just decides it can get a better deal in China, that is a problem that hurts just about everyone.

Communities as a whole benefit from having more people realistically believe that they can succeed with a business. Right now the deck is stacked against them, but it doesn’t have to be.

And I’d like Americans to be well educated. 

And let me say that this doesn’t happen to be an altruistic desire! This is about wanting, dare I say needing, the people who come after me in the workforce having the capacity to keep America prosperous.

I want the workforce of the future to be intelligent and creative, have the ability to think critically, and have a reasonable base of knowledge and skill. Especially when I’m on Social Security! And it’s about my interest in the United States being able to compete in in the global economy.

This is not going to happen if we consistently underfund primary, elementary, and secondary education, and make college education unreachably expensive.

I REALLY want us to have less expensive, more effective, more preventative, health care. 

I have degrees in biology and public health, so you can imagine I have some interest in health. I also work in an international organisation, so I’ve had a little opportunity to look at health, and health care, in a number of different places and systems.

Our system compares poorly to those of most of the rest of the developed countries, and frighteningly, even some undeveloped countries! Now, if it was just that we don’t care about health, and don’t invest in it, maybe that would be less disturbing, but our healthcare system is the most expensive by far! That’s just bad math, friends.

More importantly, I see fixing our health care system as critical to other very important goals like entrepreneurs creating more small businesses, and parents staying home with their kids.

Creating an American single-payer system would give Americans a freedom we can’t have if our ability to pay medical bills is tied to a specific job. I want that freedom for us.

And I do believe more parents should have the option to stay home with their kids. 

Note that I did not say mothers. If mom has a great job that supports the family well, and dad is home with the kids – more power to you.

But more American families need to have the option to live decently on one person’s income so that they can devote more time to raising and shaping their children.

And that is going to be available to a far larger pool of people if

  1. jobs are available here in the United States,
  2. they pay a living wage,and
  3. decent health care is affordable regardless of where you work.

A more useful prison system is loooong overdue.

Currently, I pay taxes to support more and more prisoners each year, and most prisons do nothing effective to return prisoners to being productive – dare I say, tax paying – members of society.

Does this make sense to someone else? Because it’s not computing for me. So, I want prisons, which are DARN expensive, to be providing a bit more benefit for that money. Benefit calculated as reduced recidivism works very well for me.

And the right kind of support for military is critical. 

Another thing that is not computing here is that while our government spends appalling amounts of money on the hardware of military, we do not support our soldiers, or our veterans, at anything like the levels they deserve after putting their lives on the line to defend us.

That we have both veterans and active duty service men and women needing food stamps and other services to survive, or feed their families, is shameful. That veterans do not have adequate healthcare, and many are sleeping on the streets, is appalling.

I also appreciate that Senator Sanders sees military intervention as a last, not a first, resort in international affairs. Military action involves American men and woman dying. Being permanently disabled. The loss of parents, husbands, and wives. That isn’t something to be taken lightly from a distant position of authority.

And military intervention is expensive – not for the President or the multinational corporation, or the lobbyist, but for methe tax payer. When war is necessary, I am happy to pay my share, but I want a commander in chief who makes responsible decisions about how and when it’s needed.

Finally, I want to be part of a thoughtful, functioning democracy within this democratic republic. 

I would not vote for Senator Sanders if I did not agree with a great many of his goals, but the thing I am most hopeful about is his position on HOW he will accomplish his goals.

I saw an interviewer ask him how he planned to get 90 senators to vote for his proposals. Senator Sanders’ response was that HE wasn’t going to do that.

He would take the issues to the people who elected all of them, and work with us to hold our elected representatives responsible for doing what the people who elected them want done.

That was the first time that Senator Sanders’ campaign seemed revolutionary to me.

 

Now, the above are the biggies. My soap box issues. There are a scattering of other things:

  1. He is a crabby old man. (I have a dreadful weakness for crabby old men.)
  2. Despite that, he has been courteous in all the interactions I’ve seen him have. He has pointedly sidestepped some beautiful opportunities to take low blows against his opponents, electing to focus on the issues instead. This may not be the best choice politically, but it makes him someone I can respect. And I don’t get to say that about many politicians.
  3. He sticks to his guns. Despite being courteous, Senator Sanders doesn’t give in to special interests or change his stand every time the wind shifts.
  4. And speaking of guns, he has the most sensible position on guns and gun control I’ve ever heard issue from the mouth of a high-level politician.
  5. He is a Jew, who lost family in the Holocaust, who even did his youthful pilgrimage to work on a Kibutz in Israel, who is completely rational and sensible about Islam and Israel-Palestine.
  6. He agrees that GMOs should be labelled and Corporations are not people. (These actually are two of my big soap box issues, but the post is already long enough.)
  7. It’s a small thing, but I also like that although Senator Sanders appears to be life-long pro-choice, when he and his own girlfriend found themselves with a presumably unexpected pregnancy, they not only did not choose abortion, but Senator Sanders appears to have raised the child as a single parent. And done a done a darn good job of it at that.

Q&A 

Will a President Sanders accomplish all that, in 4, or 8 years? 

No. The President is one cog in the governing wheel of our country and change takes time. But he will take us closer to it, rather than farther away, which is the only direction that helps.

AND the process he claims he intends to use will go a long way toward bringing us back to life as an electorate, so that after his time in office maybe WE will make more of the changes that we want in our country.

Would a President Sanders perfectly represent my every interest and goal? 

Goodness, no. He, like any other government official, should represent the people of the United States, of which I am only one. But he is more likely to represent me than he is to represent the corporations and insanely wealthy families and individuals that pay for the campaigns of most politicians at his level, and that’s a good start.

Do I think Senator Sanders is right on everything?

Are you kidding? I still struggle to think GOD is right on everything! A mere human being? NEVER.

Will a President Sanders save us all from sin and error and present us faultless before God?

No again. Like any other Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders is applying for the job of President, not Messiah. There is a distinction between the two. It is an important distinction.

Wouldn’t Hillary Clinton do just as well?

I don’t believe so. Secretary Clinton, like most politicians right or left, is too tied to the established norms and big money to effect real change. She supports more of the things I support than, say, Donald Trump, but in the end I feel she is going to be business as usual. Some tougher than President Obama, perhaps, but no real change.

So then if Bernie Sanders isn’t an option will I take my football and go home?

A final no. I’m voting for the issues that matter most to me. And to refuse to vote for the next best candidate on those issues is, effectively, to vote for the candidate I consider worst.

So, I will do everything within my power to see the candidate I prefer win, then if that option isn’t available, I’ll do the best I can to vet the remaining options and pick the next best choice.

 

Some Related Reading:

Bernie Sanders’ plan to pay for his proposals

Sanders’ on how to work with congress for change

Capitalism or Socialism? There’s an Even Better Option  – Dave Korten says everything better than I ever will, and I think his article here does a good job of describing the concerns I hope to see addressed by this election.

A nice example of political discourse can look like

Why do we pay so much for healthcare and get such poor results? I’ll do a whole post on healthcare some day, but in the meantime, this is a good discussion on why it’s such a key concern for me.

 

Resources / Further Reading: Boundaries

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I was born with a Default No.

I do say yes to lots of things, of course.  But if I’m tired, or overwhelmed, or don’t feel I have enough information to make a good decision, then if you need an answer RIGHT NOW, I can pretty much guarantee my answer will be ‘No.’ 

Doesn’t matter if it’s helping you move bodies, or spending a week at your Hawaiian beach house: when the pressure’s on, my default is NO.

I didn’t think much about this until I started meeting  people with a Default Yes. These folks, when pushed, will almost without fail say ‘Yes’ to whatever it is you’re trying to rope them into.

Either default has its benefits and liabilities, of course, but I’ve come to think that I got the better deal on this one.

Because my Default Yes friends and colleagues find themselves perpetually drowning in activities and obligations. And in resentment.

Which brings me to one of my favourite books – Boundaries.

Written by two brilliant Christian psychologists, Henry Cloud and John Townsend, whom I have come to adore, Boundaries’ subtitle is When to say YES, When to say NO to take control of your life, and that pretty well sums it up.

Drs. Cloud and Townsend do a great job of explaining why we need boundaries in our lives, [note]  Hint: Boundaries define our responsibilities vs  other peoples’ responsibilities, help us to keep our legitimate commitments as well as our sanity, make relationships work better, reduce  stress, and allow us to stop running the world and everything in it so we can get a decent night’s sleep. (Among other things).[/note] and include helpful examples from their years of counselling and coaching. They have a fun and accessible writing style that makes the book enjoyable to read.

For those who struggle with a Default Yes, Boundaries demonstrates why saying yes to everything isn’t actually the best way to live life, and (more importantly for a lot of folks) why it isn’t required to be a good, or loving, or  worthwhile human being.

For Christians – in particular those who have been taught that being a ‘good Christian’ means doing everything anyone asks of you all the time – Boundaries makes the important case that this is not a correct view of God’s design for us, nor will it allow us to live godly lives.

Boundaries are critical to an authentic life, and to an abundant one.

Drs. Cloud and Townsend define the topics of being real, being honest, speaking truth in love, from the perspective of our responsibilities as followers of Christ. For many of my Default Yes friends, this has been quite the revelation.

Boundaries clarified things that had always kind of peripherally confused me. I finally ‘got it’ that saying ‘No’ is as completely abnormal to some folks as running naked through the mall would be to me.

And, since I come by strong boundaries naturally and had never realised that not everyone does, I was prone to bulldoze right over people.

While bulldozing is efficient, it is probably not the best way to be. Boundaries didn’t immediately transform me into a model friend, but it has definitely smoothed off some rough edges, and Drs. Cloud and Townsend continue to shape my perspective.

Now, if you’re not a Christian, the clear Christian perspective of this book might be distracting, or even disturbing.

But for now it’s the best I’ve got, by far, so if you find your life hampered by saying yes to too much, or to things you really want to say ‘no’ to, or basically anything related to people pleasing, give Boundaries a shot.  Get it from the library to start, then if the Christian thing is too much you’re not out anything but a little time!

Drs. Cloud and Townsend, both together and separately, have written quite a few books, some more of which I’ll profile when I get a chance. You really can’t go wrong with any of their books! They also have pod casts, videos, and a host of helpful material on their website: http://www.cloudtownsend.com/resources/

 

 

Why I am not an ist. 

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I saw a headline recently to the effect of “Can you vote for someone other than Hilary Clinton and still be a feminist?”

I was completely appalled.

I’m not even a feminist and the very existence of this question offended me for every woman alive.

Sure, I think it would be great to have a woman president, for many reasons,  but to vote for a presidential candidate simply because of her sex negates the whole principle of equality!

I should vote for a female presidential candidate ONLY because I feel she will do the most good (or the least harm; I’ve mentioned my views on politics tend toward a slight cynicism) in the role. I should think this would be all the more true for a feminist.

(Just for the record, if you’re new here, I do not think Ms. Clinton is the best candidate for this role. I would vote for her if I found myself with no more viable option, but at the time of writing I’m doing all I can to ensure the one candidate who I actually feel merits the role becomes our next president.)

The absurdity of the question though, brings up my problem with ists, and isms.

I have a lot of strong opinions, and I work to support progress on many issues that I feel are important, but I am not an ist.  I also avoid isms to the best of my ability.

Let me explain.

There is a difference between being a strong and independent woman, and being a feminist. I certainly believe that women deserve rights equal to men, I believe that women are just as capable as men, I know many women more capable than many men, but I am not a feminist.

The reason for that is simply that to me, being a feminist obligates me to make too many decisions not on merit, but on gender.

It shifts the focus from what I value – equality, merit, truth, objectivity –  to a narrow, and easily exploited paradigm I don’t necessarily value.

This is the essence of ism, and why am not an ist.

‘Ist’ Defined

Added to words to form nouns denoting:

  1. a person with a particular creative or academic role (eg artist, one who makes art, violinist, one who plays a violin, botanist, one who studies plants)
  2. one who subscribes to a particular theological doctrine or religious denomination; (eg Calvinist, Baptist, deist. Note, these are related to -isms: Calvinism, deism)
  3. one who owns or manages something (eg capitalist; industrialist. Note, these are related to -isms: capitalism; industrialism)
  4. one who has a certain political tendency (eg Marxist, fascist, pacifist, activist, environmentalist. Note, these are related to -isms: Marxism, fascism, pacifism)
  5. a person who holds bigoted, partial views. (Eg Sexist, Racist) [note] Abridged slightly from https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/-ist [/note]

It’s those last four that tend to get us into trouble. And any of the first four combined with number 5 is a recipe for disaster.

Because, just as there’s a difference between supporting the equality and value of women and being a feminist, there’s a difference between being Muslim and being an Islamist.  Or between being black, or white, or Hispanic, or Asian, or gay, or straight, or pro-life, or pro choice, or having family values, and being an activist in one of these themes.There is obviously a difference between belonging to a race and being a racist.

Men and women, just folks, we primarily focus on living our lives: our day-to-day activities, our families, our friends, our work, our hobbies, our concerns.

Ists focus on The Issue. Whatever The Issue is for them.

And dedication to an issue, while certainly valuable and often even commendable, necessarily involves a difference from simply living one’s life and interacting with The Issue as it happens along.

Once you become an ist, you run a great risk of losing freedom, and objectivity –

Can you vote for what your family really needs if it happens to come in a different package than your ism supports?

Can you wear the clothes you really feel comfortable in, if they don’t fit the ist image?

What about sharing a lunch table with that kid from the other ism? Or, God, forbid, falling in love with a Capulet!

I feel very strongly about many issues, but I value freedom and objectivity too highly to be an ist.

Ists get a lot more attention than just folks, however, which creates some confusion. It’s easy to assume that the most vocal ists speak for the whole ism.

It’s easy to assume that the well publicised views of ists, represent the real people for whom the ists claim to speak.

And that risks our no longer seeing those real people as fellow beings, valued neighbours, image bearers of God.

It’s easy to hate a vast and dangerous ism; to forget that isms are built up of a great variety of INDIVIDUAL human beings.

And that the declared stance of the ism, declared usually by Activ-ists, or Someone With Something To Gain, doesn’t necessarily represent the heart of those individual people.

Sure, just folks can get caught up in their ism.

I’ve been there. I’ve tried to bend what my heart knew was right to an ism that should have been about right, but wasn’t. I’ve gotten too caught up in an Issue and become an ist, instead of a person. I’ve caved in to the ism against my values and understanding.

And of course that happens to other people too.  And people in dire circumstances with nothing but their ism to hold onto – whether that ism is a religion, a culture, a gang, a political view or a government – may not even know that the ists represent only one small, and perhaps even incorrect, option in the world.

But most of us, most of them, most of the time, are just folks, trying to figure it out, trying to do it right, trying to get by.

So, I for one, reject istism.

Some people should be ists. Not me, because I’m too naturally suited to autocratic dictatorship, but we do need people out there standing up for the rights of those unable to stand up for themselves.

It’s just important to remember People first; THEN ism.

Truth first; then ism.

To remember that the views of the ists are not necessarily the views of the neighbours.

Or the strangers.

And it’s super important to not confuse those views with the voice of God.

 

 

 

Economic Parasites

cat-1074657_640      STOP!

If you read nothing else today, please read Nick Hanauer’s extremely helpful article Confronting the Parasite Economy!!

Ignore my blog, ignore Pokemon GO, whatever that is, but read Nick Hanauer!

This article does SUCH a great job of explaining exactly how our economy went from GREAT to dismal – and how to make America Great Again.

There are so many important points it’s hard to choose a selection to summarise it, but these stand out for me:

“all of us who live and work in the real economy should be royally pissed at the way the parasite economy is sucking us dry.”

“It is the real economy that drives both production and demand, and that fills our tax coffers with the money needed to educate our children, maintain our infrastructure, invest in research and development, fund our social safety net, and provide for the national defense.”

“The real economy delivers on the promise of capitalism. The parasite economy relentlessly undermines it.”

“So why should we subsidize a low-wage parasite economy when the high-wage real economy offers so much more? “

But honestly, those don’t begin to cover this awesome (and pretty funny!) article. So just read it! 😉

I have long respected Nick Hanauer because he understands business reality but he doesn’t look at it through snively ‘But this is how we’ve ALWAYS done it’ glasses; he looks at it with the eyes of someone who wants his businesses to KEEP growing.

I’d kinda like that for the American economy too.

And I’d kinda like that to be relevant for ALL OF US in the American economy, you know?

 

 

Be well. 

 

In case the link doesn’t work above, you can cut and paste it from here:

http://prospect.org/article/confronting-parasite-economy#.V0IGuQt2t4M.twitter 

Resources / Further Reading: The Gifts of Imperfection

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I first encountered Brene Brown three or four years ago, in her TED talk, and thought ‘That chick is cool, I’ve got to read her book’.

So I put it on my towering list of Books To Get To.

And it stayed there. For ages.

By the time I finally got to it, after discovering that her books are so wildly popular that even the older ones have a several month wait time at my library, I just ordered everything of hers that my library had, figuring I’d read them as they came in.

I’m not through all of them yet, but so far my conclusion is: you can’t go wrong reading Brene Brown.

I love her funny, matter of fact style; her books are like my favourite conversations with good intelligent friends. She’s also a talented and dedicated researcher whose work is my favourite kind: practical and useful for direct improvement of lives. And she writes about freedom, and living abundantly, some of my favourite topics.

She calls it Wholehearted Living.

The book I really fell in love with is a fairly small thing called The Gifts of Imperfection, which deals with the main things that free people to live abundantly.

The necessary ingredients she found, across all walks of life and situations, were courage, compassion, and connection.

Now, if those sound too out there to make a real difference, or too unattainable to make any difference for you, never fear: she discusses that in the book. I won’t detail it here, but I’ll mention she’s convincing.

The Gifts of Imperfection is organised into tiny chapters most of which are the Guideposts. The first few chapters explain how she came to the conclusions she has about how to live wholeheartedly and the things that get in the way …  essentially why each of the Guideposts she’s going to talk about are irrelevant to the process of living Whole.

And she has a section in the back about the deep dark research process just in case you happen to be really hipped on qualitative research and need to know for sure where she got her facts.

The Guideposts are:

  1. Cultivating Authenticity:  letting go of what people think.
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: letting go of perfection.
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness.
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: letting go of the need for certainty.
  6. Cultivating Creativity: letting go of comparison.
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”.
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: letting go of being cool and “always in control”.

If those things sound exciting, or just ‘right’  and logical to you, you’ll love this book.

And even if those things strike terror into your heart you might still like the book. She’s really good about recognising that this stuff doesn’t always come naturally. She uses a lot of examples from her own life and from her work to show how you can get past the terror and actually succeed.

In fact, when she first came to the conclusions detailed in this book, rather than setting out to transform her life, she abandonded the work and went into a tailspin.

This is one of those areas of her being very real that I just adore.  I love the way she writes about her little personal life crisis: “the 2008 Breakdown Spiritual Awakening”That isn’t a correction, or a formatting error, that’s how she writes it throughout the whole book!

Gives me some hope that one day I’ll look back on the Lifewreck of 2014 and see strikethrough and breakthrough instead of chaos! 🙂

And she eventually got back on course and wrote this book, so it all worked out.

Each Guidepost also has a little DIGging deeper section at the end that provides practical activities for testing out the concept.

Dr. Brown has written a great deal about her struggles with worthiness, and that is a big part of this book too.

By the grace of God and some splendid parents I haven’t struggled a lot with the problem of worthiness, so I wondered whether this would be at all useful for me. I feared yet another ‘stop hating yourself’ book.

But no. Wholehearted living, not surprisingly, is holistic. So while the shame threads run clearly throughout the book, there are many, many, threads involved in a life of courage, compassion, and connection, and I found more than enough useful lessons to cover my own interests, concerns, and struggles too!

 

BE WELL. 

 

 

You can find out about ALL of Brene Brown’s work at http://brenebrown.com 

Joy and Gratitude in the Storm?

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Countless researchers doing countless studies have shown the very strong links between joy, gratitude, and all manner of really desirable outcomes, like physical and mental health, success, prosperity.

But few have expressed their findings as sensibly and usefully  as Brene Brown:

“We think that not being grateful and not feeling joy will make it hurt less. We think if we can beat vulnerability to the punch by imagining loss, we’ll suffer less.

We’re wrong.

There is one guarantee: If we are not practicing gratitude and allowing ourselves to know joy, we are missing out on the two things that will actually sustain us during the inevitable hard times.” ¹

I’ve never struggled with avoiding gratitude in trying to ‘beat vulnerability to the punch’ but I have to admit that, especially if we think of joy as including hope and faith FOR THE FUTURE, I’m quite guilty there!

I’m the ultimate “Well, it’s all worked out RIGHT NOW, and thank God, that is AWESOME! … but let’s not get too comfortable” girl. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so it’s entirely too risky to hope for the positive in it!

Anybody else been there?

 

After reading enough studies that I ought to have gotten an honorary PhD out of the deal, I KNEW that wasn’t the most healthy– or,  specifically, health producing – viewpoint.

But I couldn’t quite pinpoint the key facts well enough to apply them until I read Brene Brown’s work on the topic.

It is the joy, and the positive hopes, that build up a healthy enough brain and body to make surviving the tough moments possible!

 

All of a sudden it made sense!

I already knew that thoughts, emotions, etc, basically travel through our bodies in little packages of chemistry.

And I knew that the ‘negative’ emotions, even negative thoughts, travel in chemistry that does ghastly things to our immune systems, nervous systems, digestive systems… pretty much you name it.

I certainly have lots of personal experience with those effects!

And I knew that most of our positive emotions, thoughts, even imaginings, travel in chemistry that tends to repair and nourish our cells.

CLEARLY a critical piece of the ‘Abundance’ puzzle!

Perhaps most important, I had learned that our mind treats negative expectations pretty much exactly like negative experiences. Egad!

I’ve experimented over the last couple years, and dabbled more intentionally over the last few months, and generally found that yes,  cultivating gratitude and joy (even if by arduous act of the will some days) does seem to make me more resilient to the occasional AWFUL!

And wallowing ‘safely’ in the pessimistic (which, alas, is still pretty much effortless) actually DOESN’T seem to protect me!

What it does instead is take the occasional AWFUL and stretch it out for hours, days, weeks, before it even happens!

Even more embarrassing, frequently the AWFUL doesn’t happen at all, but by the time I find that out I’ve ALREADY  suffered all the way through it in my mind!

Example: 

When I learned that my job would be disappearing I immediately thought of never finding as good a job again.

Of having to work in the absolute worst of all possible environments for me FOREVER.

Or sleep under bridges and search for vegetarian scraps…

Not the most positive chemical soup!

Then I got a three month contract for what is effectively a dream job! Even more ideal, really, than I could have dreamed!

And I was truly grateful!

Then I thought, “But what happens after Jaaaanuuaaary?!?! I’ll never find another ….” you get the gist.

Time for a REAL experiment. 

If practicing and cultivating gratitude and joy are critical to resilience in the inevitable hard times – which they are…

And if they also reduce the toxic chemicals coursing through my blood stream day in and day out – which they do…

Then it’s about time to develop a healthier default!

So.

How to change my ways?

How to build UP the healthy defences instead of regularly etching them away with toxic chemical spills?

Starting here, my ‘Retrenchment’ focus is on:

  • gratitude for the blessings I have, including this wonderful three month opportunity,
  • and an attitude of joy in my expectations for the future.

If I can progress on this during a retrenchment, I figure I’ll be in pretty good shape for the normal crises!

It’s not going to be easy. I have YEARS of practice anticipating the worst as a way of ‘protecting’ myself!

But I also have years of experience being sick, stressed out, mental, and frankly, of the AWFUL things still pretty much being AWFUL when they did come … so clearly the ‘protection’ hasn’t been all that effective!

Let’s see what doing it differently will yield …

 

Be well. 

 

¹ Quote is from Dr. Brene Brown’s excellent book The Gifts of Imperfection, in the chapter Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.

Simple Tips for Prosperity

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While the US elections are not quite over, the time for having any impact on them beyond voting is over, and it’s past time to return to more pleasant, more ABUNDANT topics!

Some time ago I saw a charming old video (for which, alas, I have no direct link; I wasn’t planning to blog when I saw the thing) of Ron Blue describing 6 principles for financial health.

They pretty much summed up the decisions that end in abundance, so I noted them down to review periodically for inspiration:

  1. Spend less than you earn
  2. Avoid the use of debt
  3. Save to build liquidity and margin into your finances
  4. Set long term goals so you can prioritise your spending between your short term and your long term goals
  5. Give generously
  6. Understand that God owns it all

From the Bible to  Saturday Night Live, the foundational principles  don’t change much! And they continue to work!

I don’t know about you, but as the end of the year approaches, and a new year begins to appear, I always like to revisit ‘The Important Things‘ in my life, to see if they need any fine tuning.

Money, and managing it well, are among my Important Things.

Not the most important things, but since I don’t want to  be living pay check to pay check in my 90s, important enough to merit a winter look-see and possibly even some new year revisions.

And what better time than right before the holiday season?

If that also appeals to you too, but you wonder where on earth to start, I can suggest from my own experience:

Debt-Free Living: Eliminating Debt in a New Economy

The Total Money Makeover

Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money: The Handbook of Financial Peace University 

You can get most of these from the library to see if they will be of value, and each author also has quality websites with lots of material for free.

Another site that has great material on getting, and staying, financially free is SeedTime.

And if you’d like some intel on the useful principles, but aren’t up for the links to Christianity, Mr. Money Mustache has got you covered! Check out his greeting for new readers on the front page and you can get a pretty solid finance education in a few hours’ reading.

And a very special ‘holiday’ resource, that isn’t really about how to achieve financial health, but rather about a way to enjoy it while making Christmas less stressful and more delightful, is The Advent Conspiracy. I’ve not yet found myself in a place to live it fully in my community, but I like to inch a bit closer each year!

I can say from my own experience – which now includes being laid off from my job at the end of September – that having savings, paying off debt, and having control of your budget changes your life.

When things are going well, you enjoy them more because financial stress isn’t weighing you down.

And even the tough times are at least not terrifying when your finances are healthy.

I may never be rich, and I am certainly not without concerns, but having some real peace, even in this storm, is invaluable.

Be well.

Privilege.

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I had a different post planned for today.

But after seeing a note by a lovely friend of mine who is Hispanic, about her concerns as an American in an America that feels that Trump is our best representative, I decided that post should wait.

My friend is by no means an alarmist.

Let me be clear on that. She has always been one of the most positive, optimistic, grounded people I’ve known.

And she is definitely no whiner.

This woman has endured degrees of hardship I hope I make it through my whole life without facing. But instead of letting it make her bitter, or hopeless, she has simply worked harder to bear the image of Christ.

And she bears that image better than most people I know.

So, seeing her comment in a public forum about feeling real fear due to the colour of her hair and skin … that impressed me.

Also this week I had also seen an article that impressed me, and saved it to post sometime, because I thought it was exactly the right perspective.

I’m going to move that up to post now, but I want to talk a little about it first.

I want to talk about it first because it deals with a very touchy phrase: ‘White Privilege’.

I’ve seen lots of comments on this phrase in recent years.

Sometimes it’s an insult : “You with your White Privilege, think you can……”

Sometimes it’s a statement of shame: “Me with my White Privilege, how can I …”

Sometimes it’s just a statement of fact: “White Privilege is… or does… or gives .. or takes….”

I didn’t hear this phrase growing up.

But my parents taught me that I WAS privileged, very, and that part of that privilege came from being white in this country.

They taught me that because I was an American, because I came from a family wealthy by comparison with most of the world (though we were normal middle class here), and yes, because I was white, I had many things easier than other people did.

They taught me about the difficulties that people dealt with simply because their skin colour was darker than mine and their history in America was different from mine.

My parents never taught me to be ashamed of being white. Or to be proud of it. They simply taught me the facts and taught me responsibility.

The same way they taught me that because I am a woman, I would have difficulties that I would not have if I had been born male. 

Not an excuse, not something to be ashamed of, just a fact.

So, when I’ve seen white people either defensive about ‘White Privilege’, or overwhelmed with shame because of it, I’ve struggled  to understand.

But I can understand that neither response is helping any of us. 

And that is why I loved this article I found. One of my favourite lines in it is

“Guilt is not helpful. Shame is not helpful. Action is.”

There is no shame in being white. It’s not like we can help it.

And there is not even any inherent shame in being privileged for something we can’t do anything about.

These are simply facts.

The only shame that would make sense to me is having a privilege I did nothing to earn, which costs me nothing to use, and failing to see that as a gift that must surely be useful for creating some sort of general benefit.

How that plays out is different for different people. Not everyone is  Corrie ten Boom, but not everyone needs to be.

One of us might take on the whole legal or political system. Another might simply stand up for one person we know. Millions of us will do something somewhere in between.

And that’s perfect. That’s how all the needs in the world get met – by our glorious diversity! No one could do it all. 

My other favourite quote from the article is

“Because of your privilege, you have tremendous power”

And that, to me, is the key point.

We don’t all feel like we have much power right now. And just because I’m white sure doesn’t mean I have the kind of power, or as much power, as I might need to feel safe and okay. 

But I have enough power to choose to stand with people who are different from me, instead of letting ‘The Powers That Be‘ turn me against them.

(And let’s face it: most black, or hispanic, or Muslim, Americans have far more in common with ME than most wealthy, powerful politicians ever will! Neither Trump nor Clinton are at all worried about paying their bills or saving for retirement.)

It might be threatening to think of helping others when we don’t feel powerful enough ourselves in this scary world. But it IS NOT true that helping others succeed takes away our opportunities.

So, my recommended reading for today is the encouraging article:

This teacher is showing her students how to use white privilege for good.

 

And my hope for today is that we can all see any privilege we have –

whether white privilege,

American privilege,

or any other privilege;

whether it’s the privilege we wish we had, or not,

as one thing we have to offer in this big scary world.

 

Be well. 

People amaze me.

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People amaze me.

Now frankly, when I say that  I often do NOT mean it as a complement!

But sometimes I do.

Sometimes I am simply stunned by the creativity and … just… the awesomeness of ordinary people.

I’m unusually blessed that in my work for the past decade I’ve gotten to travel in developing countries and see how shockingly innovative and brilliant people are when they can’t fall back on buying their way out of every need.

But even in my own country, even during the last glimmers of this dreadful election, I’ve been impressed again and again.

I read an article this week about a girl in New York who worked through her depression by writing letters of encouragement and love and leaving them around NYC for complete strangers to find.

How do people come up with this stuff?!?

I’m as mental as I ever hope to be, and thank God at least I don’t have depression to get through, and I can’t even imagine thinking up such a cool response to this crisis!

I’m happy to get through the day with my work done, clean laundry, and the meals cooked, and here’s this chick transforming lives during her darkest moments! 

I found this incredibly inspiring. Not the least because I’ve been looking for ways to give back a little, bring a little hope, with the very limited energy I have. Even I can write letters, for goodness’ sake!

Then I ran across an article about this family who bought a desk on Craigslist, and when they moved it into their home found nearly $100,000 CASH in it – and called the seller to return the money.

People like that give me hope for my species.

 

Closer to home, I recently received a LinkedIn connection request from a colleague I hadn’t seen in four or five years. I was excited to reconnect with her, so I sent her a note to say hello.

And her immediate reply was ‘I noticed your update, I’m so sorry about your job; I’ve been there. Could we get together for coffee or something and see how I can help you?’

I want to be like this woman when I grow up.

 

Even in this election itself, which causes me real concern about how the future will look for ordinary Americans, I find cause for hope.

Four states voted to raise, some nearly double, their minimum wage. And at least one was a staunch Republican state!!

Other states and cities passed laws to improve health in various ways – not the huge reforms we need, but hope to carry on, at least.

And on the lighter side, I was DELIGHTED when I saw a notice on Election Day about donating pizza for those standing in line to vote!

It’s a small thing, but it still proclaims: love wins.

 

So, from a fairly rocky beginning, I end this week with a bit more calm, a bit more hope, and far more respect for my fellow human beings.

SOOO many people are opening their hearts to fight the negativity and stand up for those who are at increased risk. I’ve seen people reexamining their own cultures and beliefs and reaching out make changes. I think we’ll make it. 

 

Be well. 

 

Thankful.

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I love the fact that we have a Thanksgiving Day Holiday.

I realise that for many it may be more a celebration of turkey than of gratitude, but I really appreciate the concept of a day set aside.

Set aside to remember.

Set aside to savour.

Set aside for stillness in our busy lives.

Set aside for gratitude.

That is richness to me.

I love all the festivals and Sabbaths in the Bible, how devoted the nation of Israel was to remembrance.

I used to focus more on the BIG things to celebrate, commemorate … be grateful for.

And, certainly I appreciate the bigger blessings! But I find that the little blessings are usually the richer ones, in the long run.

I was certainly grateful for my job. But now that that is gone the parts of it I remember the most, the memories that mean the most, the pieces that continue to enrich my life today, are the details.

The JOB didn’t enrich my life like the friends I made in it who I will email, Facebook, and Skype with today. Or the experiences I had because of it, that I can’t imagine having had otherwise.

And it’s the same for every other job I’ve held.

Even University, life shaping as that is, when I look back on it from this (rather significant!) distance, resolves into

my friend Larry, with whom I’m still in touch…

a group of us drinking ghastly coffee in the lobby of the science building, laughing at nothing but fatigue and shared finals misery…

the stunning poem written by a Kenyan classmate and read in his rich, resonant voice …

As this Thanksgiving Day has been approaching, I’ve had a running stream of Things I Am Thankful For playing across my mind.

  • The rain that has crept in every week or so lately.
  • How intense all the colours get when it’s cloudy out.
  • And that it’s nice and cool here now.
  • The support of my friends and family during both the 2014 LifeWreck and my job becoming redundant this year.
  • The blessing of working on this project I’m doing right now.
  • The squirrels that galumph across my roof and skitter up the Asian pear tree in my courtyard. (Slightly less thankful for them when they dig out my bulbs, but one can’t have everything.)
  • My fierce little pink Geranium, that blooms away in all weather.
  • Friends from all across the world writing to say they were praying for our elections, and our country.
  • That my Dad is grilling the annual turkey, with scientific precision, probably wearing his chef’s hat.
  • That technology connects me to loved ones across the world.

The list goes on, and on. Big things, and lots of little things. Far more than I could fit into only one day of remembrance!

But that’s okay.

It’s handy to carry a little gratitude into the rest of the days. 

 

Be well. 

 

Then Standing Rock happened.

I gotta tell ya, I’ve been struggling to figure out what the path to abundance looks like in this post election reality.

Having a billionaire nutcase, who wants to destroy darn near everything I see as critical to abundance, become my elected representative to the world, and fill a Cabinet with people like him…. well it’s not been the strongest few weeks on my optimism front!

Not to say I was giving up hope; by the grace of God I just don’t have that capacity most of the time. (Been there once; hoping never to be there again!) And, I’ve definitely seen many pinpoints of good shining through the turmoil.

But let’s just say the hope muscle’s been working overtime with less than stellar results.

Then Standing Rock happened.

Now, no, I am not naïve enough to think that the recent events at Standing Rock change everything. We’re still in a time of great risk.

But they give me a much needed shot of hope.

To have the protestors at Standing Rock go from being dangerously abused in the middle of winter for a peaceful demonstration, to being victorious is a remarkable answer to prayer in itself.

But for me, the pipeline victory, which I realise that Donald Trump’s administration can, and almost certainly will, wipe away as soon as he takes office, is not what renews my hope for my nation.

My hope has grown from the changes these past couple weeks of Standing Rock are working in the people participating in and watching it.

That, effectively, an honour guard of American veterans would kneel before Native American leaders at the Standing Rock protest, repent, to ask for forgiveness for our government’s historical treatment of native people is astounding.

The kind of reconciliation and repentance that symbolizes can’t help but to change the individual hearts of these veterans and the people with whom they served in the Standing Rock effort.

Those involved in the Standing Rock victory can’t possibly go into the rest of their lives seeing each other only as other, as the enemy.

And many of us watching from a distance are changed too.

And our transformed hearts will create people whose lives transform many others with whom we interact.

I’ve also noticed that this action has forced people not only to view the Water Protectors as victors, or those veterans who went to support them as heroes, but to view prayer, and reconciliation, as valuable.

Now obviously a lot of us already saw these as enormous values!

But since the Standing Rock Victory, that has grown. I’ve seen calls for further prayer in one of the most liberal magazines I ever read, and in posts I never would have expected to ponder prayer at all.

Prayer, repentance, reconciliation, these concepts are bigger, more alive, more REAL for people in the United States than they were three weeks ago.

And if you happen to believe in their power, as I do, that is HUGE.

We’re going to go through a lot of damage if, as seems probable, this Trump presidency goes through.

But the interaction of prayer, victory, repentance, and forgiveness played out between two very different sets of warriors transformed into one group of warriors at Standing Rock …

Now THAT gives me hope for us all! 

 

 

Be well. 

Abundance in these United? States

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First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.*

I had the opportunity to visit  Dachau at a rather impressionable age. And it made a profound impression on me.

I encountered the above quote much later, but because of Dachau, it too left an impression. It is my icon of the truth that we are either all in this life together – or we are ALL alone.

I’d rather err on the side of together. 

I’ve never doubted that my abundance depended on and required others’ abundance as well. But it was one of those vague, impersonal concepts.

Now it is a very clear and specific one!  (And here I thought I’d  derive no benefit from a Trump Presidency.)

Millions of people are now at risk, in my own country, of atrocities I prefer to think could never happen here, and want to think can no longer happen anywhere. It still inspires a moment of deer-in-headlights incredulity from time to time. 

So, I’ve had more than a little struggle, these past weeks, pondering:

“How do we build lives of peace, joy, and abundance in this current reality?’

 

While a Trump presidency will make that more difficult for most  Americans, that doesn’t mean we can’t do it!

Which brought me to another favourite quote:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. **

 

So, I’m thinking I’ll need to commit what energy I have to being part of the revolution my country needs.

First, of course, I need to have that energy! The main value of abundance is that you can’t really contribute out of anything else  … not for very long anyway. Or you burn out.

And that doesn’t help anyone.

What, then, do I need to build into my life, to be able to contribute well? 

Getting further past the illness and stress that saps my energy is foundational.

Getting settled in a more healthy environment, seems necessary.

And CERTAINLY finishing my current work project well, then finding a new job or set of projects that not only pay the bills, but also allow me to live an abundant life, makes sense.

But then, in what areas can I contribute BEST?

Because let’s face it, there are far too many needs in the world, and now in these United States, for any one person to invest meaningfully in more than a handful!

So, what inspires my very best effort?

Not letting the future look like this past year. More than anything this election has shown me that I need to contribute to the efforts of normal people just like me to wrench back our country from the control of the powerful and wealthy.

And standing with my fellow Americans, who, like so many before them, find themselves targeted because of nationalistic politics. (That one may not be my best area of contribution, but it just has to be a moral imperative.)

Working toward the systems and structures that support living an abundant life.

Beyond those I’m still working on it.

What about you?

Are there concerns, realisations, musings, or decisions that this last year(ish) has inspired in you?

Are there fears or concerns you have because of it?

Has it affected your views of what abundance looks like? Or how we achieve it?

Are there any changes you see yourself making as a result of it?

 

Be well.

 

* First They Came written by Pastor Martin Niemoller, who spent several years in Nazi Concentration Camps, including Dachau.

** Most commonly attributed to anthropologist Margaret Mead, though original source is not certain.

 

 

 

 

 

Make New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

New Year’s Resolution time!

Don’t you just love the fresh-slate feeling of a new year?

It’s like the first page of a delicious new book! I love slowing down a bit in the final days of the year to reflect on the months just past, and ponder those just coming.

And I LOVE New Year’s Resolutions!!

As with many things in my just-not-like-the-other-kids life, I was shocked to learn that many people don’t share The Delight of the RESOLUTION! 

I finally traced at least part of this startling revelation to one curious fact: People set resolutions for things they don’t want to do.

What an awful way to start a year!

Oh sure, maybe they want to look the way they think they’ll look 10 pounds lighter. But they don’t want to eat differently, or go to the gym 8 days a week, or run ten miles before breakfast each day.

So they don’t. At least, not after February 19th.

Yet another Resolution FAIL. And they feel guilty about that.

And worse about themselves. And this does not help at all with the extra 10 pounds!

Especially if they drown their guilt in Ben & Jerry’s.

So here is my patented, nearly fool-proof, indispensable method for making New Year’s resolutions that you can actually keep:

Make resolutions you actually want to keep.

Really.

If you want to lose weight, but you HATE the gym, and you definitely have no interest in changing your diet, don’t set those as your resolutions!

Instead, make resolutions to increase things you DO love.

Things that add to your life, but perhaps get pushed aside in the hurry of the day, the stress of the week.

Or things you think you shouldn’t get to do until you meet some imaginary goal or conquer some arbitrary quantity of shoulds.

Devote your New Year’s Resolutions to things that build your soul, not things that are already crushing it two weeks before the year officially starts!

What do you not make time for that you delight in when you get to do it?

THAT is the thing that sustainable Resolutions are made of!

So resolve to make time to drink coffee at a proper coffee shop.

Or walk in the park.

Or watch chick-flicks or action-adventures once a week.

Whatever your thing is.

Maybe you’ll resolve to talk on the phone more. If that is what feeds your soul, GO FOR IT!

Maybe you’ll resolve to train for a powerlifting competition. And if THAT, really, and truly, is what feeds your soul, GO FOR IT!

Or what is something you have been longing to try?

Not an “I know I should starting doing that.” but a “Man, how I wish I had time for that.” ?

THAT is the thing sustainable Resolutions are made of!

But don’t stack the deck against it! If you’ve never tried painting, or horseback riding, or origami, don’t resolve to master it by February, or do it three times a week for the rest of your life. And definitely do not buy a horse!

No.

Resolve to try painting.

or get an origami book from the library and see if you like it.

or schedule a trail ride at the local stable, or ask a horsey friend to show you what it’s all about.

Resolve to set aside a little time each week just to inch closer to trying it, if you need to! 

Then, even if your new passion turns out to be not your cup of tea, you’ve kept your resolution perfectly! GREAT JOB!!

CAUTION! Be sure you are adding things that you really delight in!

Things that really feed your soul; NOT just the things you usually do to compensate for your poor soul’s hunger-induced fatigue!

So, if surfing channels or scanning Facebook all evening REALLY is what feeds your soul, resolve to devote one or more evenings to that GUILT FREE! Write it in your calendar! DO IT!

BUT.

If that is just a filler because your soul needs downtime and isn’t getting what it REALLY loves, then resolution time is about TAKING BACK YOUR DOWNTIME!

Sure, we’ll all still do the mindless surfing from time to time, but make your RESOLUTIONS about the really good stuff.

Sacrifices will need to be made from time to time, but make those after you’ve built up a reserve of delight by succeeding with resolutions you WANT to keep!

 

Okay, but what if you really, really, do have to make a change even though you really don’t want to? And RIGHT NOW, for whatever reason, is the time you have to make it? I’ll cover that next week.

I wish you a safe, blessed, and happy Christmas, Hanukkah, and Holiday Season.

 

Be well. 

New Year’s Resolutions you can keep: The least you can do.

Last week we talked about making New Year’s Resolutions you can keep, by focusing on things you actually WANT to achieve rather than beginning the year with a laundry list of drudgery.

But what if you really have to make a change, even though you don’t especially want to?

And you need to take advantage of the momentum of the new year to do it?

Maybe finding some way to work out is your last hope of avoiding an especially icky medical procedure that you really don’t want.

Or it’s only a matter of time before your spouse leaves, or a judge removes any choice YOU have about dealing with that drug or alcohol problem.

 

Alas, Big Hairy Intimidating Changes won’t always wait until you’ve built up a cushion of wellbeing to carry you through them, will they?

But, Big Hairy Intimidating Changes, by their very nature, are overwhelming to attack. If they weren’t we’d have vanquished them 5 years ago, the FIRST time we resolved to change, right?

So here is my slightly-less fool-proof, but still pretty darn practical method for making tough resolutions stick:

1)  RESOLVE to do the least you can do

Why?

It makes change less overwhelming. It practically ensures successful resolutions instead of yet-more-failure.

AND if you work it right, it starts a little snowball effect that can lead you to big-deal changes.

And that beats yet another staggering defeat at the hands of a HUGE, GRIM RESOLUTION.

Let’s say you really do have to find some way to exercise.

But you hate working out. And you’ve tried this 100 times before. And it never works.

Heck, maybe at this point you hardly can work out!

So, what CAN you do?

Start there. Can you walk? Resolve to walk around the house for 1 minute each day. Or the yard, if you prefer it. The office, if need be.

Or to do arm curls with whatever weight you CAN lift. Only one pound? All good. Two pounds? Splendid. You can only curl the weight of your arm? Do one minute of that!

You can handle one minute, even if that’s all you possibly can handle. 

Resolve that if that goes well, you’ll up it to 1 minute a couple times a day. Or to 2 minutes. Keep going from there: keeping it manageable, but keeping at it. 

Now, clearly this isn’t going to drop you three dress sizes by Valentine’s Day. Probably won’t get you a beach body by summer. 

But it WILL get you moving in the right direction.

It will prevent Resolution Failure.

It will start to make a difference.

If you can do more, DO! But starting is better than not starting, and succeeding at some is better than failing at  lots

And you can up the progress with a NEW (but small and manageable) resolution ANY month of the year!

Or maybe you need to deal with that alcohol problem.

You COULD resolve RIGHT NOW to NEVER. DRINK. AGAIN!

But if you’ve made that resolution several times before (whether at new year’s or not) you know the success rate on this one.

That’s a huge, overwhelming resolution and it probably drives around with a lot of bright red baggage that screams FAILURE! every time you see it.

Instead, maybe your resolution is that on 3rd January from 11am to 1pm you will research recovery and treatment options to find out which are successful.

Or that by the 15th you will have spoken to your doctor about some options. Or talked to a friend who’s been sober for 12 years, about what worked for him or her.

2) Revolve to do it the easiest, most successful way    

When facing something you don’t really want to face, do it the easiest, most successful way you can. Torture yourself some other time, right now spend your energy on effectiveness. 

For example, back to losing that weight: say you passionately hate going to a gym, but you LOVE dancing.

Then don’t resolve to hit the gym 3 times a week!  Resolve to go dancing once a week! 

If the mere thought of salad makes you cringe don’t resolve to eat salads 2 meals a day! Eat blueberries, or watermelon, or carrots. 

Focus on what you CAN do, instead of what you have proven you can’t.

Or maybe you’ve GOT to get help for that eating disorder, or gambling problem, but you KNOW your family is going to go through the roof at any hint of imperfection.

Seek help from someone who ISN’T going to make it harder! 

Maybe your Doctor.

A helpline.

A colleague who has been there, but gotten help.

A friend who you know is truly concerned and won’t let you stay stuck – but won’t condemn you either.

What is the least intimidating way you can get the information or help you need to get? Resolve to learn that.

Then resolve to take the first step. Maybe to attend one AA meeting. Or schedule a doctor’s appointment. Or search online for successful programmes for whatever your need is.

Whatever the next, bite-sized step may be for you.

3)  Don’t do it alone.

Hiding problems, trying to pretend you have it all together, muddling through something that’s way beyond you –  just drains your energy.

It makes more sense to find someone who has already been there and gotten through, or whose job it is to help people get through.

If you’re not a mechanic, or plumber, or electrician, you probably call one when you need one. Or at least call your brother-in-law who IS one. Same thing here.

If you want to get this resolved with the least pain and hassle, resolve to decide who you need to ask for information, help, or advise. Then resolve to do it.

4)  Try to have two resolutions you really want to keep for every one you MUST make.

This one is pretty simple. Don’t ONLY tackle the tough stuff. Build at least a few minutes into your week, EVERY week, where you build yourself up so you can tackle the draining things.

And don’t make too many resolutions! We can have different resolutions next year (even next month!) but having a laundry list of resolutions is a full-time job, not an inspiration to succeed.

 

Be well.  

2017. New Life Resolutions

HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13th!!!!

One of my very favourite days of the year (yet another day that should be a national holiday) and this year we are blessed with TWO!

 

Well, this year is starting rather chaotically, which has definitely helped shape my New Year’s resolutions.

With quite a few changes and much chaos behind me, and several big-deal life changes ahead of me, the New Year calls for some serious commitment to building abundance!

Into each life a certain amount of unhappy and unsettled is bound to fall, but I am not willing for that to be my whole life, you know?

Regroup? CHECK.

Recover? CHECK(ish).

It’s time to move forward again.

So, I’m thinking this year’s focus looks a bit like this:

1. Focus FIRST on getting more of the kind of work that I really want to keep doing.

It’s a tough world, and I know this one may not work out. That’s okay – I’m perfectly capable of doing whatever work I have to to pay the bills. But unless I prioritise FIRST seeking work that I find truly positive and life-giving, and give that the best of my energy, I’ll never know what blessings I might have found.

2. Expect hope instead of horror with this next move.

Moving: not my favourite thing. At all.

But I’ve had nearly an extra year of preparation for this, I’m healthier than when I last faced it, and I’ve learned A LOT about moving (involuntarily, true, but knowledge nonetheless).

Granted, having to find work AND move ups the concern a bit, but I’m going to actively trust that just as there was a viable solution for me here, there is a positive and even healthier solution at the next step.

3. GAIN health in the coming transitions.

Okay, that’s a tough one. Transitions are not me at my best. But I’ve worked hard to get healthier and I’m not giving it up without a fight!

So, with chaos coming in the next few months, the things that keep me healthy have to be a higher priority than the Evil Urgencies I know will appear to claim my time and energy. That means planning a life in which healthy activities get slots before the rest of life even sees the schedule. And it means banking all the health I can right now.

4. Shape my life so that one year from today my own life is more abundant and I’m more of a catalyst for others’ abundance too.

This must be the end goal of any choices sparked by the above. I want to live a good, whole, useful life, and I want to encourage all the like-minded community I can.  If these really are my values, then that’s where my energy’s got to be going!

 

It’s doable. Intimidating, yes, but the next 6 months can’t much help being intimidating, so I might as well be facing into some BIG SCARY HOPE rather than just lots of ongoing BIG AND SCARY.

 

Be well. 

 

 

Monday Delight: Well Watered

 

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places… You’ll be like a well watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew…

 

Doesn’t that sound NICE?

I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty much everything I desire in a nutshell.

That’s Isaiah 58, most of verses 10, 11, and 12, from The Message.

The really cool thing is, most of the rest of the chapter explains how to get that!  It isn’t even really hard stuff!

I’m thinkin’  it’s worth looking into.

 

Be well. 

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!

It’s here again!!! My favourite holiday of the year!!!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!! 

 

I hope your day is filled with joy, laughter, and many, many expressions of love!

I hope you take cupcakes to your coworkers, smile at strangers, wish your barista a happy day, call your Great-Aunt Marie, and shamelessly enjoy a decadent, romantic treat – with or without a specific romantic interest. LIFE is romance, not the other way around!

I hope you pick flowers or eat a perfect piece of dark chocolate, or, if you are so blessed, sit in front of a roaring fire with hot cocoa and one or more beloved friends talking ’til the wee hours.

I hope you find reason to sing, and maybe even dance, and, if you are so minded, to praise God for a day to celebrate love.

I wish you a splendid Valentine’s Day!!

Be well. 

A love affair with Lent.

Lent 2017.

Despite my rather curious and belated beginning of Lent last year, I have fallen in love!

Orthodox Lent, having come through for me when I really needed it, now holds a special place in my heart. So I struggled this year: stick with Orthodox Lent, or move to the one most suited to my own cultural calendar?

Fortunately, Orthodox and Western Lent overlap so well for 2017 that I can transition with no separation anxiety. 

Last year I gave up up doubting and negative views of God for Lent.

I tried to think of it as a fast, and to fill any little space I emptied of doubt with meditation on encouraging verses of scripture, and prayer for light, for help.  

And you know what? It helped!     A lot.

 

I’m still not  the poster child for unshakable faith, and I still struggle with whether some good thing is ‘too much to ask’.

But I know a lot more now about how to work with God, and how to keep believing through the struggles, than I did a year ago. And I’m getting better at expecting the best and not the worst in my dealings with God.

Thinking well of God, if you will.

And spending 40 days focusing on something I value …  heck, just spending 40 days FOCUSING … was such a gift.

 

So, I’m going on with my own little Lent observance! One day maybe I’ll get to where I do it ‘right’, but if not, I’m okay with that: doing it at all has changed me, in very positive ways.

For this next Lent, I’m going to just keep on this path toward fully trusting God: progress good, but much yet to be done.

I also want invite in anyone who could use a chance to step back and focus!

If you, like me, haven’t really ever had the blessing of Lent, take a chance on it!

Quick tip though: Since I’m still almost completely ignorant of ‘proper’ Lenten practice, if you’re the perfectionist type, definitely find a church that practices Lent and seek ‘learned’ input!

But, I found a neat little resource that I’m going to post from throughout the Lenten season, so if you want a simple, casual Lenten intro, come along.

The resource is the Revised Common Lectionary from Vanderbilt University.

“Revised Common Lectionary” – don’t liturgical churches have the BEST words?

And here’s what REALLY got me: I still don’t have a firm grasp of this whole Liturgical Calendar thing, but according to this Lectionary, the Bible readings for  Lent start with Isaiah 58!

I am a complete sucker for Isaiah 58.

(The Lectionary also gives parts of Joel 2, and it’s great, so I don’t want to bias anyone, but … ISAIAH 58!) You could always read both. But if you’re only reading one… you know…. 😀

Isaiah 58 is like a super-condensed version of the entire Christian life. DEFINITLY in love with Isaiah 58.

But I digress.

So, throughout Lent I’ll be posting the verses, and the prayers for that day from the Lectionary, and maybe a question or a thought or something from my own reading or contemplation.

I’ll start that up next Wednesday, though I admit I’ve given away some of that one.

There aren’t verses for every day, but mainly for Sundays (which interestingly enough, appear to be holidays from Lent; curious folks these liturgicals) and the important milestones of Lent.

If you’re interested, come along! And no worries if you’re not. 

Another digression

I don’t understand how all this liturgical calendar stuff works, but I thought it  was super cool that the one for Lent, for THIS TIME, focuses on things like Isaiah 58, and verses from the the New Testament that are so timely for this point at least in my life, and the life of my country that they seem hand picked for this year.

Very cool stuff indeed.

 

Be well. 

Lent 2017: Ash Wednesday, The Beginning.

Welcome to Lent!!

If you’re coming into this brand new, you might want to check out my first post in this series, so you know better than to view this as any sort of ‘proper’ Lenten observance!

This is simply the invitation of one who has fallen in love with the barest outline of Lent, to anyone else who would like to give it a try in a no-pressure way.

Here there is no right or wrong way to practice Lent. .

This is just 40 set-aside days in which we have the luxury of pausing a little, and focusing on some aspect of our relationships with God, in a way that draws us nearer rather than pressing us down.

For each of the days in the Lectionary I’ll post that day’s verses and prayers.

You can pick one to ponder, or go through all, or just focus on what speaks to you in this Lenten season.

SO: Welcome to Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent 2017.

According to my new-found friend the Revised Common Lectionary, the official scriptures for today are:

First Reading Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12

Why is there an ‘OR’?  I have NO IDEA.

I do know, however, that Isaiah 58 is just about the coolest reference source for Christian living, so if in doubt, I’d go with that one.

But then, it’s not as if you can really go wrong, you know? And I’m pretty sure no one will complain if we decide to read both.

BUT THEN!!! There is ALSO a Psalm of the day as well!!

Today’s is  Psalm 51:1-17.

Now, the link up at Joel and Isaiah is from the lectionary itself, and it has the whole text of all of these, for your easy reference; I’m just adding additional versions to the rest of these to mix it up a bit.

I can also highly recommend Psalm 51. 🙂

Lest you worry that the New Testament has been neglected in this crucial Lenten season, the Second Reading for today is: 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10.

I’m theorising that it’s okay to read the whole of verse 20, so that’s what I’ve linked above.

Why are there a First, and a Second reading (especially when there are are actually 5 passages on offer)?

No idea on that either. But they definitely ought to be enough to get us through a day!

As if that were not enough, in addition to the NT Second Reading, there is a Gospel Reading! These liturgical folks have things covered.

The Gospel Reading, very much in theme with the rest, is Matthew 6 : 1-6 and 16-21

 

The Lectionary also includes a set of Prayers, and a selection of Art for each day. 

Now, the ART   for this one doesn’t happen to be my thing, but I know that everyone is different, so I’m including the link so you have the option to peruse as you like. I hope it really speaks to some of you.

The  PRAYERS though, I really like. So, with the kind permission of Vanderbilt University’s Revised Common Lectionary** I’ll post those here. 

Thematic

Righteous God,
in humility and repentance
we bring our failures in caring, helping, and loving,
we bring the pain we have caused other,
we bring the injustice in society of which we are a part,
to the transforming power of your grace.
Grant us the courage to accept the healing you offer
and to turn again toward the sunrise of your reign,
that we may walk with you in the promise of peace
you have willed for all the children of the earth,
and have made known to us in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Intercessory

Gracious and merciful God,
you see into the secret places of our hearts,
where we mourn our sins.
As we turn again to your grace, receive our prayers.

Prayers of the People, concluding with:

Look with mercy on our contrite hearts,
wash from us the stain of iniquity,
and create a new and right spirit in us,
that we may declare your praise
and offer an acceptable sacrifice in these Lenten days;
through Christ Jesus, who bore our sins on the cross. Amen.

Scripture

O God, you delight not in pomp and show,
but in a humble and contrite heart.
Overturn our love of worldly possessions
and fix our hearts more firmly on you,
that, having nothing,
we may yet possess everything,
a treasure stored up for us in heaven. Amen.

Thanks for coming along!

The next Lent Post will be on Sunday, 5 March.

If you’d like some daily thoughts for your walk through Lent, BibleGateway has some interesting sounding Lent Devotionals. They will send you one email a day throughout Lent. I’ m going to check out the Bonhoeffer one, myself. Seems timely.

 

 

Be well. 

 

** Reprinted from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts

A Retrenchment Observed – You don’t have to know it all!

Okay, is this just me?

Somehow, I was born with the perspective that I am 100% responsible, in every way, for knowing EVERYTHING on earth. Any knowledge I wasn’t born with, I have to spontaneously generate, or I am hopelessly lost.

Is anyone else weird like that? Since my family is both supportive, and big on education, I have no idea where that came from.

But there is an astonishing amount of information you aren’t born knowing that becomes necessary over the course of a life! Imagine the pressure!

Perhaps the most important lesson I’m learning through this whole retrenchment chaos is how much HELP there is out there in the world.

And the resources I’m finding have been available all along, I just never imagined them, so I never thought to look for them.

One of my long-held dreams has been to transition into a full-time freelance or consulting career.

My work over the last decade has focused more and more on editing and writing, and the whole project management process of getting documents created to help people do their work better.

And I have fallen in love with it.

So way back in the darkest corners of my mind I started saying “What if I could do this as MY WHOLE JOB?!?!”

And I love working with a variety of people and teams, doing different types of documents, which sparked thoughts like “What if I had my OWN BUSINESS doing this stuff?!?!”

I even made a five-year plan for transitioning to a business like that.

A casual plan, since I had no idea if it was even possible – but then part of a five-year plan involves figuring that stuff out.

Unfortunately, I got laid off about 11 months into that 5 year plan – which was all kinds of not far enough.

But you know what?

There is a whole non-profit service corps where retired business executives volunteer their time to help folks like me figure out how to run businesses!

Who knew?

And there is a great government  resource on starting and running small businesses too. They even have free web classes! Now yeah, that is one of many important services that could go away as our new administration cuts ‘frivoulous’ government programs, but hey, it exists NOW.

And just this week a friend sent me a notice from my local Better Business Bureau about a workshop BBB is offering on the legal issues small businesses need to understand.

This is all free, and it’s RIGHT THERE!

And it’s been there. I just didn’t know it.

 

Now, does this mean I’ll definitely be able to start from where I am and create and run a successful business? NO. 

There was a lot more to my 5 year plan than information, and things like the future of rent and running water remain critical, but unaccounted for. My current government is not a supportive environment for venturing out. And I am only a few months into what really did need to be a five-year process.

But it DOES mean that when I make a final decision, I’ll feel confident about it.

Whether I decide   I can’t start this business now, but I know what I need to do to get there… 

or

Yeah, it’s going to be tough, but I can make this work…

or even

No, the small business thing isn’t for me after all.

I’ll be SURE.

And that means SO MUCH.

So I want to encourage anyone who needs more information, or even help, than they have, that it’s out there.

It is AMAZING the resources we have available, if we just know to look.

Google, a reference librarian, a friend of a friend – take some time to look around, and ask around, because the resource is there.

 

Be well. 

First Sunday in Lent

Happy First Sunday of Lent!!

(If you’re coming into this brand new, you might want to check out my first post in this series, so you know better than to view this as any sort of ‘proper’ Lenten observance.)

So, how did the first ‘week’ of Lent go?

Did you add anything to your life?

Subtract something?

Did someone with far more class than I have find a way to make use of the first week of Lenten Art?

I hope that you are finding, or will find, a moment or two, or even a season of grace in experimenting with Lent!!

My first week was FAR less focused than I’d wished.

But, just remembering  that it is a season for focusing, slowing down, helped me feel at least a little more focused.

Like having a an anchor I could turn back to from time to time.

I really liked having the ‘set apart’ verses for Lent from this Lectionary. And I found the themes for this first week thought provoking. The Joel was the grimmest of the batch, but even it has that hopeful feel of ‘Yeah, it’s a mess and has to be fixed, BUT we’ll work it out.’ (I mean, we could have gotten Amos’ take on the thing instead.)

All the readings sound like the heart of God to me, which was a nice way to start the season.

I like this next week’s crop too! I like the theme that seems to be developing in this.

Here is the WHOLE CABOODLE from the Lectionary site

Or if you’d rather stroll through them a bit more casually: 

Genesis 2:15-17  and 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-29
Matthew 4:1-11

 

(A little heavy on The Message, I admit, but where else do you get God saying “Beat it, Satan!” ? )

There is quite a selection in this week’s PRAYERS, and of course I can’t forget my more civilised, or at least visual, brethren, with this week’s Lenten ART.

 

The next Lent Post will be Sunday, 12 March.

 

 

Be well.

 

A Retrenchment Observed: Memories

 

 

How will I ever catch up on movies??

This is the least important question ever, related to my job loss. But as I drove past a theatre marquee the other day it is the thought that arrived for processing.

Lately, I think of my former  job primarily in terms of skills, projects, and experience. Not the most romantic view, but critical to formatting resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and business plans.

Every once in a while though, sundry memories that have NOTHING to do with a resume sneak in.

Absurd, trivial things, most of them.

 

Like catching up on movies.

You see, I’m not very good at movies. I blame it on staring into a screen for a living, but whatever the cause, staring at a screen during my precious free time fires up every last molecule of ADHD I’ve got.

But my job included these LOOOONG haul flights – 36, 46, hours start to finish, with most of that time on one plane or another.

And after 10 or 20 hours in transit, even I can’t focus too well on the written word. (I can’t sleep on planes, so my IQ decreases steadily after the first 8 hours or so.)

But, thanks to my eternal work flights, I could catch up on all the current films. Including many I never would have considered seeing in the theatre, and indeed, quite a few I had never even heard of!

I saw nearly the entire Harry Potter series of films due to flights. I discovered I Capture the Castle on one of these flights. A gorgeous film. And a splendid book, I later learned.

Without exaggeration, I think I’ve seen about 100 films only because of work travel. I even made my one and only attempt at a Twilight film somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. (Alas, neither 30 hours in flight, nor Robert Pattison was enough to override Kristen Stewart, so this one failed.)

So now, perhaps I am at the end of an era. Never again will I, the dork with the book in her back pocket, be able to tell my much more trendy and techie roomie about the latest blockbuster before she has seen it.

 

And the wealth of amazing names in our world.

Last week, on a job search webinar, I saw on the little Webex pop-up that so-and-so ‘Shabalala’ had joined the meeting.

It reminded me of all the many, many, fabulous NAMES that I got to experience in my former job.

I worked with people named Precious and Loveness. Goodson. Akililu.

How many people get that? In a whole lifetime?!?!

I had Mongolian colleagues with 5 or 6 vowels in their first names (mostly Us and As, if you can imagine), and twice that in their surnames! With little more than an L or a T thrown in to create form.

It was fantastic!

Unexpected expertise.

These job search webinars also remind me of how curious my last 10 years have been: for every technical problem we’ve encountered on the webinars, I am used to it, and I know the most likely solution.

And rest assured, this is not due to ANY natural tech-geek gifting on my part. I have none. 

Rather, this results from having spent a decade trying to run web meetings across half a dozen or so countries with varying degrees of internet connectivity.

My Dad uses an expression sometimes: ‘Busy as a one armed paper-hanger’; running web meetings made that expression very real for me.

But boy can I troubleshoot now!!   😀

But also unexpected traditions.

Not having grown up going to church, and having rarely ever set foot in a liturgical church, I began my former job with no idea what Ash Wednesday was about.

But, being a Christian organisation, one of the things my former employer did was host an Ash Wednesday Chapel.

At first I was kind of freaked out about the whole ash thing. (Which, I should be clear, was entirely optional.) It was COOL, but I just didn’t know enough about it to participate.

The next year, though, I thought I’d give it a try.

And it was surprisingly meaningful.

That first year, just having the ashes on my skin was incredibly distracting.

I could feel the ashes ALL DAY, in that way you ‘feel’ something because it’s so odd and out of place, even if it’s not really that tangible.

And that was valuable.

I had certainly never been so fully focused on Ash Wednesday, or Lent, or even EASTER, until a pastor placed a tiny smudge of ash on my forehead, and that ash concentrated all my attention.

And while this didn’t occur to me then, or in the years after, I realise now how interesting and even profound it is that I regularly had meetings with  colleagues whose foreheads were also smudged with ash – and nothing about that was distracting.

I was in a job search class recently where the facilitator was admonishing us not to speak bitterly about our former employers during future interviews.

Good policy on many levels, but pretty well lost on me – I simply have no bitterness about my former job.

Or even the loss of it.

Disappointment, sure. And moments of sadness and loss (not to mention panic) because it’s gone. But I can’t think of anything to be bitter about, with the richness of experiences that it brought me.

What blessings have you been able to carry with you from even those bits of the past that didn’t end quite how you would have preferred?

Be well. 

Second Sunday in Lent

Welcome to Lent!!

(If you’re coming into this brand new, you might want to check out my first post in this series, so you know better than to view this as any sort of ‘proper’ Lenten observance.)

How was your week?

Did you find any opportunities to slow down and focus on what you have decided to prioritise for Lent?

My week was a little more focused than last.

Partly out of that intentional ‘Lent deserves better!’ mindset; and, yes, partly because I was starting to lose my mind with so many things so UNfocussed.

I really enjoyed the ‘theme’ of this past week’s verses.

That interplay of sin entering the situation and God having it covered. Over and over. It’s a good reminder, I think, for those days when we are tempted to see it as

‘Yeah, God saved us, but now YOU’VE gone and messed it all up!’.

Or perhaps, ‘Yeah, God saved us, but then I went and messed it all up .’

I’m not an advocate of testing God, but most of us do have far too narrow an image of his grace.

I like the verses for this week too.

They feel gentler … more … about the solutions God makes than the problems we make.

If you’re interested in those, here is the whole shebang  all together from the Lectionary.

Or, the individual readings are:

 

Genesis 12:1-4(a)   But hey, go wild: read verse 4 all the way to the end!

Psalm 121

Romans 4:1-5 and 13-17 

John 3:1-17  OR  Matt 17:1-9    (I have it on good authority that you can also read both of these, if you really want to!)  😉 

And the Lectionary would never leave us without PRAYERS and ART!

To my mind, the second prayer itself is art:

Artist of souls,
you sculpted a people for yourself
out of the rocks of wilderness and fasting.
Help us as we take up your invitation to prayer and simplicity,
that the discipline of these forty days
may sharpen our hunger for the feast of your holy friendship,
and whet our thirst for the living water you offer
through Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Isn’t that an evocative perspective?

 

The next Lent Post will be Sunday, 19 March.

 

 

Be well.

 

Third Sunday in Lent

Welcome to Lent!!

(If you’re coming into this brand new, you might want to check out my first post in this series, so you don’t mistake this for any sort of ‘proper’ Lenten observance.)

The THIRD Sunday in Lent. Half of Lent is gone and I’m only just catching up!!

If one is generous enough to look upon me as catching up even yet. Oy! But, it’s been a pretty good week. I’ve worked a good deal on trusting God this week, and really discussing each of my many options and next steps with him instead of (at least before!) freaking out.

How was your third week of Lent?

Is anyone else using some of the Lectionary verses or prayers? (or even ART ?!)

How’s that going?

 

This next set is interesting.

I don’t exactly get the connection between the first and the last, and I have to admit that the bit from Exodus has never been in my Top Ten Beloved Bible Passages.

For the longest time I read sections like this and wondered why on Earth God put up with the Israelites, and what possible value we could be getting out of their story –  mostly of whining, snivelling, freaking out, and turning their backs on God. Despite the AMAZING things he had JUST DONE FOR THEM!!

Then I got older, and did a lot of time whining, snivelling, and freaking out.

I got a lot more grateful for these examples of what God will do despite our merit. I still don’t understand why he puts up with us, but I’m grateful.

If there is a theme to this week’s selections, it seems to go

  • Israelites whining and snivelling, God being shockingly gracious about that.
  • Joyful Psalm of Praise to God; with admonition not to be like the Israelites when they were whining and snivelling.
  • Notes on how even when we were whiners and snivelers, our faith in what God does was all that really mattered.
  • And … I guess the section from John is perhaps an in vivo example? The woman at the well doesn’t seem overly snivelly to me, but she, too is an example of restoration being more about God’s doings than about ours. Best I’ve got on that one…

If you’re making use of some of the week’s verses, here they are all in one place.

OR, you can check out those pieces that most appeal to you:

Exodus 17: 1-7

Psalm 95

Romans 5: 1-11

John 4: 5-42

If you checked out the prayers last week, this week’s thematic PRAYERS will hold a remarkable familiarity – presumably indicating that there IS a theme, though I am refraining from looking up any further intel on Lent until it is over!

And last but not least, Lenten ART. I’m still a little Philistine in this area, though I do like the one from Jesus Mafa. It reminds me of many real-village-life scenes I’ve been part of, or seen, so it feels authentic.

 

 

The next Lent Post will be Saturday, 25 March.

 

Be well.

 

 

Lent 2017 – The Annunciation of the Lord

Welcome to Lent!!

(If you’re coming into this brand new, you might want to check out my first post in this series, so you don’t mistake this for any sort of ‘proper’ Lenten observance.)

 

The Annunciation of the Lord.

 

Full disclosure: I have no idea why the Annunciation of the Lord is dropped smack into the middle of Lent.

No argument that this is a critical piece of the plan of salvation … but it happened some 33 years before the events that Lent and Easter commemorate.

……  ?

Nonetheless, it’s well worth commemorating. Perhaps that is reason enough!

I do really like the selections for today – how the Gospel selection circles back all the way to the Isaiah, while the Psalm and the selection from Hebrews explain why the announcements in Isaiah are so important.

And I LOVE the prayers for today!

 

LOVE the names used in the intercessory prayer, like

‘Ever Surprising One’

and ‘God of Impossibilities’!

 

Still not all that big on the ART, but once again the image from JESUS MAFA has captured my heart!

The Annunciation – Gabriel and Mary ¹

 Now, I realise it’s probably not all that much more accurate a depiction of Mary than the weird European depictions of Jesus as a white guy, and maybe not even an accurate depiction of Gabriel (who knows??) but it just has a much more realistic feel about it.

Mary wasn’t exactly your Cathedral dwelling kind of girl, after all. She was MUCH more likely stirring something on the cook fire, or gathering wood, when Gabriel dropped in, and it’s neat to see the reminder of that.

 
 

If you are making use of the week‘s Lectionary verses, here they are all in one place.

And if you want check them out on their own: 

Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 45   OR   Psalm 40:5-10

Hebrews 10:4-10

Luke 1:26-38

 

The next Lent Post will be… TOMORROW! Sunday, 26 March.

 

 

 

Be well.

 

 

 

¹ JESUS MAFA. The Annunciation – Gabriel and Mary, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.  http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48278 [retrieved March 20, 2017].

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Welcome to Lent!!

(If you’re coming into this brand new, you might want to check out my first post in this series, so you don’t mistake this for any sort of ‘proper’ Lenten observance.)

Can you believe we are nearing the end of Lent 2017!?

 

This has been a tougher Lent for me in some ways than last year. I feel pulled in many directions right now, so my best ‘focus’ intentions haven’t resulted in as much focus action as I’d like.

Having the intention, however, helps me to refocus periodically throughout the day, the week. It reminds me that this is an observance, a practice, not an achievement.

And I suppose it ought to be reminding me that Lent, Easter, ETERNITY, aren’t about MY achievement or effort anyway!

How about you?

Have you found any interesting lessons in this latest week of Lent?

 

I am intrigued by the verses for today. They don’t have quite the obvious application to Lent as some of the other weeks.

And some of them kind of surprised me!

In the passage from Samuel I never noticed how God pretty much tells Samuel, “No worries, give this as your excuse…” !! Now, Samuel, of course, makes the excuse truthful, by making the sacrifice, but that isn’t the plan when God gives the order!

Sometimes God doesn’t seem nearly as uptight about rules as we are.

Another thing that caught my eye in this passage is how it begins with God’s saying ‘Don’t grieve over Saul anymore, I’ve got completely different plans.’

I find it interesting that that was a problem for Samuel.

It’s a problem for me.

Frequently.

But Samuel is this famous, hot-shot Prophet! Surely he wouldn’t get lost in clinging to plans without considering that God has better ones, right?

Yet he does.

Gives me some degree of comfort. Maybe God’s okay with me needing that little nudge here and there.

If you are using the Lectionary material as part of your celebration of Lent, here are all today’s verses in one place.

 

Or, if you prefer the a la carte option:

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Psalm 23    ← This is the most famous version, and it’s very popular, so I want to make sure to include it. But since some folks find the older translations too complicated here is a more modern version too. 

Ephesians 5:8-14

John 9:1-41

And of course we have ART  and  PRAYERS as well!

We are back to a set of thematic prayers that should feel pretty familiar by now. But the intercessory prayer is definitely new, and I love this one! 

My brothers and sisters:
reconciled to God by the mercy of Christ,
we pray with confidence for the needs of the church and the world.

(Prayers of the People, concluding with:)

Through Christ you make us a new creation, O God,
for with him we pass from sin to the new life of grace.
Accept our prayers in the warm embrace of your compassion,
and welcome all people to the festive banquet of your table,
where we may rejoice in your love
and celebrate the inheritance you have given to us.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen¹.

I think that is the most personal one so far.

 

The next Lent Post will be Sunday, 2 April. 

 

 

Be well.

 

¹ Reprinted from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts

 

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Welcome to Lent!!

(If you’re coming into this brand new, you might want to check out my first post in this series, so you don’t mistake this for any sort of ‘proper’ Lenten observance.)

How was your fourth week of Lent?

 

Mine was calmer, more … hopeful, I guess, though not without plenty of ‘excitement’ that I’d really rather bypass!

I think that is my lesson from this Lent: I can once again find calm in the midst of the storms.

That was never a problem for me until a few years ago, then it became a 100%, all the time, everywhere, problem. NOT a transformation I was cheerful about!

Last year I learned that I could trust God again. This year (at least a little) that I can find calm again. It certainly gives me hope for future years, within Lent and without!

 

Now, at the opposite end of the ‘peace’ spectrum, check out this week’s ‘First Reading’ from the Lectionary!

I have always found this passage from Ezekiel kind of disturbing.  It’s intriguing sometimes, when I’m feeling like all of my bones are dried and scattered, but a lot more of the time it’s just creepy. Can’t complain about that last verse though:

“I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I the Lord have spoken and will act.”

That’s all kinds of okay with me!

 

If you are making use of the week Lenten verses, here they are all in one place.

Or, if you prefer to pick one or two at a time:

 

Ezekiel 37:1-14  (Yes, if you’re wondering, I used The Message on this one because the passage itself doesn’t make a bit of sense to me, so at least with The Message I have the comfort of the WORDS feeling familiar and comprehensible!)

Psalm 130

Romans 8:6-11

John 11:1-45

 

This week’s  PRAYERS are a perfect complement to a bit more peaceful week too. The thematic prayers seem like old friends by now, and the scriptural prayer just seems to say everything that Lent, and Easter, need to say.

And, of course, we have Lenten ART ! I have to admit that for Ezekiel, the dark, grim feel that that ‘high’ art generally inspires in me seems fitting. I can’t see myself ever wanting it hanging on the wall, but the Vision of Ezekiel has a certain appeal.

 

 

The next, Lent Post will be…. Sunday, 9 April. 

 

Be well.

 

 

I have nothing

I got nothin’ man.

This was my analysis as I contemplated a post for today. I’m tired, and multi-tasking in too many directions, and my brain seems to have gone on holiday without me. (No loyalty.)

I have wrestled at length with two drafts, but neither has the slightest interest in shaping up into a full post.

I was wondering if the Gone Fishin’ sign might have to come out. But that baby is certain to get a workout while I’m in the midst of moving, so one doesn’t like to overuse.

Then to most interesting thing happened.

 

The words I got nothin’ fired up that one brain cell that seems still to have some juice, bringing back to me a favourite song, and wrapping it around the latest chaos in the most intriguing way!

I loved Plumb‘s I Have Nothing from the moment I first heard it.

 

 

It represented everything I valued.

Not everything I lived, mind you, but what I aspired to and felt comfortable with. When I bought my first house I intended to paint the chorus of this song around the front doorway, to remind me of how I want to live!

But I never did.
And you know why?

 

Not because I changed my mind, or changed my values …

Because I lost the plot.

Wanting so badly to hold everything loosely, to live serenely, to not get wrapped up in ‘things I’ll leave behind’, I never even had the time to paint a few words around my doorframe.

My house was 84 years old (very much my preference) with romantic plaster walls and built-ins.

And I could afford it only because it was victim of the housing crisis, and a DIY dream. But I wanted, truly wanted, to do as much of it myself as I was capable of.

And that house consumed me.

I worked most nights and weekends for over a year. And you know how a house is never ‘finished’?

Never more true than when it’s an 84 year old house!

And it turns out that my degree of DIY dreaming was more dream than DIY.

I was exhausted. ALL. THE. TIME.

And tense, and overwhelmed.

So I never got around to the little details.

And I sure didn’t hold that house loosely! That baby sat squarely in the middle of my chest every day. By the time I got to a place where I could even enjoy the house, I was nearly out of joy. And only a relatively short time later, I was moving!

THAT sure didn’t go right!

And since then? Well, it’s a funny thing.

Letting go of that house was hard. I had put so much effort into it, and I HAD made some neat little changes that I really treasured.

But I also felt some relief.

When the move that prompted me to leave my little house went horribly, horribly wrong, that made the mourning far more painful.

Yet I still didn’t want to go back.

And I still didn’t remember that I Have Nothing (song, not literal state) was the goal I was aiming for.

Then I learned that my job was going to end.

Then it DID end.

And I realised that if I still had my house I’d be desperately seeking a job in the area where my house was. An area I didn’t want to return to. And I was grateful that that one weight was off my chest.

Now I’m trying to build a business instead of going back to a job.

I know that success is not guaranteed to me in that. But I also know that having that house to maintain would have kept me from even exploring something this risky.

And I’m hoping I will get to leave California, finally, in just a few weeks.

That certainly would not be in my mind if I had a few hundred square feet of real estate firmly anchored here.

Interestingly, I have remarkably less than I did when I found I Have Nothing.

And I feel a little bit more free.

And I am beginning to really feel that lyrics like

‘Cause yesterday is gone now
And tomorrow isn’t sure,
Today is all I’m given
And what I have is yours.

are a teeny, tiny bit less aspirational, and infinitesimally more TRUE of me.

And that is the right direction.

I’m going to have to rent awhile now, what with building a business, and leaving behind the area I’ve worked in for a decade, and so on.

But I’m here to tell you, when I buy my next house, the chorus of I Have Nothing goes up on the door frame as soon as I have keys!

 

And if I have to, I’ll paint it in red, at least until it sticks!

 

Be well. 

Lent 2017: Sixth Sunday in Lent. Liturgy of the Passion. The End.

Here we are!  Forty days of Lent: GONE!!

 

I dont know about you, but time has sped up for me.

Oy.

How very different my life is even from just the first day of Lent. I can’t complain too much, but seriously, a little time to step out of this whirlwind would be welcome!

It will be interesting to see what the next 40 days bring…..

(Hopefully a good dose of strength and energy are part of that package!)

 

For this day the Lectionary provides us with two separate liturgies.

(Perhaps so we won’t take the end of Lent too hard?)

The Liturgy of the Palms and the Liturgy of the Passion.

I have no idea why they’re separate but I’ll go ahead and post them separately all the same. We have the usual number of prayers, but this one is special:

 

Merciful God,
your strength and courage pour forth
to sustain the witness of your faithful people.
Awaken in us the humility to serve
wherever creation is broken and in need,
that we may follow in the way of our brother, Jesus,
die as he did to all that separates us from you,
and with him be raised to new life. Amen.¹

AMEN. 

 

 

If you are interested in this week’s verses, here they are all in one place.

And here they are for your singular perusing:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:5-11

Matthew 26:14-27:66  or  Matthew 27: 11-54  (Nope, not a clue as to why our ‘OR’ versions are the same text. Presumably go with the one you have time for??)

 

The next Lent Post will be … in 4 seconds.

 

Be well.

 

¹ Reprinted from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts

Lent 2017: Liturgy of the Palms

 

Artist of souls,
you sculpted a people for yourself
out of the rocks of wilderness and fasting.
Help us as we take up your invitation to prayer and simplicity,
that the discipline of these forty days
may sharpen our hunger for the feast of your holy friendship,
and whet our thirst for the living water you offer
through Jesus Christ. Amen.¹

 

And what more, really, is there to say?

 

If you are interested in today’s Lectionary readings here they are all in one place. And here they are on their own:

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Matthew 21:1-11

ART 

 PRAYER

 

 

The next Lent Post will be … Next Lent! (God willing.)

In the mean time, may the JOY of Lent stay with you! 😉

 

And a very blessed Palm Sunday to you!

Be well.

¹ Reprinted from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts

 

 

Abundance of less reality check

 

Photo of a large tree on the bank of a still lake or pond

I have moved!!!

So far, however, this is NOT true of most of my possessions. Sigh.

The latest estimate is that they will begin travel today.

This is very similar to the estimate yesterday. And the day before. And … you get the picture.

This has entailed a handful of difficulties, not the least being that my diet revolves around items largely boxed away somewhere in California, and I am currently sleeping on a twin sized (ish) inflatable mattress.

BUT it has also given me the opportunity to appreciate the situation I am in!

Because, mild inconveniences aside,

  • I do have everything I need to do my work.
  • I have a working fridge and oven!
  • I have quality indoor plumbing, so can have my nightly bath before hitting the hay… er… balloon bed.
  • And hey, I HAVE the balloon bed, so I’m not in a sleeping bag on the linoleum!
  • I even a decent smattering of furniture that my Landlords have not yet moved, so at least what possessions II brought with me are semi-organised.

Therefore, as I began to stress about yet another delay of THE STUFF, I decided to PAUSE.

Take a step back.

Reevaluate ye old perspective.

And you know what? I found some real blessings!

The joy of enforced unbusyness.

I have been sick since a few days before I got here, which has just CRUSHED my energy. (Finally getting functional these last 2 days.)

Had my things been delivered on time, I would have felt enormous urgency about getting them unloaded and unpacked.

But they weren’t here. Not a dang thing I could do about that.

So you know what I did instead? I got to REST. Which is probably why I’m getting better already.

I’ve also taken some pauses to just appreciate being here. I know I would have done that some – appreciating unloading in 60 degree, rather than 100 degree weather, at least! – but I would not have paused and savoured this first period the same way if another huge project had arrived a day or two after I did.

Light at the end of the tunnel preview.

Getting this first small wave of stuff I brought with me completely organised before the tsunami hits, was an unexpected blessing

If you’ve ever spent weeks wading through the never-ending deluge of BOXES YET TO GET TO you’ll understand how nice it is just to be DONE for a brief while!

Much LIGHTER plan changes!

I have changed some of my plans for how to use this space as I’ve spent time in it. Making those changes before said space is loaded up with heavy boxes or tables that need to be moved is a big benefit!

Perspective in practice.

Moving ALWAYS makes me more passionate about simplifying and downsizing, and this has provided an opportunity to see what I really miss!

Putting some walk into that talk, baby.

Of course the biggest blessing is probably the simple fact that instead of getting more and more stressed out each day, I am (most days) able to calmly go on with the life I have in this moment. 

After three years of trying to be more mindful, live more intentionally, it’s encouraging to see I’ve learned SOMETHING!

 

And I THANK GOD I didn’t cave into space-crunch-panic and put any of the plants into the moving boxes!

The temptation was there! I have small car and entirely too many plants. But thankfully all are here with me, a bit rumpled and indignant, but not gasping out their last breaths in a 96 degree warehouse somewhere in CA!

Be well. 

Life Connoisseur

It is pretty clear that I’ll never be a minimalist.

Yet I am hopelessly drawn to articles about it.

Not too long ago I saw the headline Minimalist Connoisseurs and was immediately intrigued. The article was not at all what I was expected, but it really set my mind whirring.

First, there was the title Minimalist ConnoisseursThe author talks about how if you’re going to be a minimalist you should be a connoisseur of life.

And I thought, if you’re going to be ALIVE you should be a connoisseur of life! I don’t know about you, but just watching life filter away isn’t my idea of LIVING.

Then he brings in the idea of being a curator of your life. He quotes the authors of Rework, a book that has been on my ‘to get to’ list for ages:

“Be a curator. You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That’s a warehouse…”

Definite WOW moment. (Yeah, yeah, also a ‘Duh!’ moment; but that’s how my life tends to run.)

These two ideas smashed together in one article made me all giddy inside.

According to ye old Merriam-Webster’s,  a connoisseur is an

“expert; especially: one who understands the details, technique, or principles of an art and is competent to act as a critical judge.

One who enjoys with discrimination and an appreciation of subtleties.”

While a curator is

“one who has the care and superintendence of something; esp: one who is in charge of a museum, zoo, or other place of exhibit.”

Think about that in the context of building an abundant life.

What could be more appropriate, or more necessary?

And if you want to build a life like that, live life like that, you have to really understand what’s important – either in life generally, if you’re up for that,  or at least in your own values. What is it that really makes you tick?

And you have to weed out all the chaff: Pursuing something that isn’t right for YOUR life, or pursuing 100 different directions at once, simply isn’t going to make sense for a Connoisseur of Life.

That made so much sense to me!

It took me several stabs at achieving the American dream, and a ‘normal American life’, to clue in to the fact that those are just not me. And while my life definitely isn’t where I want it to be, I’ve been a lot less frustrated since I hit that realisation!

And I can’t think of a better approach to life than to enjoy it ‘with discrimination and an appreciation of subtleties’.

Just think about that!

First of all, I wonder how many of us are enjoying life at all? Between stress, busyness, and loss of hope, we’ve got frightening numbers of people dying from suicide, and a vastly larger number looking our days as just something to survive.

But how much richer is experiencing ilife so fully and intentionally as to enjoy it with discrimination and appreciate the subtleties?

Imagine a lift to savour. A life to breathe in deeply and experience with every one of your senses.

So, then, how do I get to this connoisseur life?

I think that’s where the curator bit comes in.

I firmly believe we’re supposed to be stewards of our lives: To manage and direct our lives is a critical job.

And it only makes sense to me, thinking about this quote from Rework, that  my life is either going to be a museum or warehouse.

There’s a big big difference between a museum, and a warehouse. A museum expands us and draws us in. There aren’t many people standing in line to hand over their hard-earned cash for the opportunity wander through warehouses.

For all I know, there may be warehouses that hold exquisite paintings–maybe even finer and more expensive than the paintings in the Louvre. But those painting aren’t doing me any good. I’ll never even KNOW about those paintings. If I do ever seem them, packed in their warehouse, I won’t be able to distinguish them from the rolls of extra toilet paper, or gardening tools, because they are all just items stored away.

Not quite the way I want to treat priceless works of art, and therefore not a way I can afford to treat my one and only wild and precious life, you know?

 

So. It’s made me think about what kind of care I’m taking of my life! Of where my life needs some firmer direction, and of what I need to pull down off the walls of my life in order to appropriately steward the things that are most important to most valuable.

That’s going to take some thought!

 

It’s kind of an exciting little adventure!

 

 

Be well. 

Slow Living: Baby Steps

 Pixabay image of snail on a camera lens housing

I opened the blinds this weekend and the most gorgeous butterfly (or moth?) I have ever seen was perched on my window frame.

It was clearly designed to look like dried leaves, and I know that sounds drab, but let me tell you, this thing was exquisite. I’ve never seen a stained glass window or painting this intricate and amazing. The Mighty Monarch doesn’t hold a candle to whatever this anonymous beauty was.

And my first thought was to scurry off and get my tablet to try to take a picture of it.

Fortunately, before I got too far scurried, two thoughts collided in my head:

First, I remembered that I’m trying to be more intentional about savouring moments of beauty rather than missing big chunks of them in my efforts to hold onto them.

Second, I remembered the myriad pictures of the fawns out in the yard, or other beautiful things I’ve tried to take through these (roughly second story) windows, and I thought “You know the picture’s not going to do this justice; you could just stay here and enjoy the beauty instead of running around the house looking for a camera.”

So that’s what I did.

 

And thank God, because in just seconds, the butterfly decided that my window screen wasn’t comfortable, or remembered an appointment, or whatever it is that prompts art to meander on its way.

I could have missed most of this tiny miracle while searching for my tablet, or taking countless frustratingly bad photos.

Obviously this is an itty-bitty-baby-step in the grand scheme of living a slower, more present, more abundant life, but it’s a step, so I wanted to celebrate it.

I wish you a small, beautiful moment of awe this week!

Be well.