The Poor, the Widow and the Orphan Vs. Guns, Gays, and Abortion: What then, HAS God prioritised?

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Okay, did anybody peek?

In my last post I talked about how the American Church is known for very strongly prioritising things that, frankly, don’t come across that heavily in Bibilical prioritisation, but I didn’t make it to the things God DOES prioritise.

So what does God prioritise?

The Poor and the Vulnerable

God makes a big deal out of these folks.

In fact, God prioritises the poor and vulnerable – specifically, making sure they have justice and meeting their needs –  more than any other specific group that I can find. I get the impression they are more important to him than pretty  much anything else except our relationship with HIM.

And actually, I suspect one reason they get so much Biblical air time is because of what our treatment of them says about our relationship with him.

How we treat those  who can’t certainly repay us, or enforce any demand upon us, says a lot about who we are, don’t you think?

God also mentions the rich a fair amount, but in not one single place does he say ‘You, my disciples, should do everything you can to be rich, or to make sure the rich get richer.’

In fact, he’s got some fairly disturbing things to say about Christians focusing our energies on the rich.

And what he says TO the rich is frequently a warning to be very, very careful because wealth and godliness are a tough combination to get right. *

Justice and Mercy

This is another focus to which he gives pretty solid weight.

Interestingly, from the wisdom of the Proverbs, through to the specific and very clear instruction in Isaiah, and on to pretty much every word Jesus ever said on earth, God, who is both completely just and completely merciful, reserves most of the justice work for his end of the deal and focuses our work largely on the mercy end of things.

I suspect this is because he is perfect, trustworthy, and objective in all things, and we are not.

When God does discuss justice in reference to our work, I generally find that he’s on our case about the fact that we are preventing others from getting that justice – usually, you guessed it:  the poor, the vulnerable (widows, orphans, aliens in our homelands), and such.

So where does that leave me?

In a philisophitheologicadocrinal show down between Guns Gays and Abortion Vs the Poor, the Widow and the Orphan, what’s a poorly trained Christian girl to do?

In my case, the answer so far is go with what you know. 

And what I know, so far, is that it makes sense to prioritise the most important parts of your message, so it probably makes sense to devote my greatest energy to those things God emphasised most.

And what I see God emphasising, old testament and new, is:

These things not only don’t reinforce a Guns, Gays and Abortion stance as the right priority for a girl seeking to live as a Christian, they are painfully opposed to much that has resulted from that view.

And my policy, when caught between God and Man, is go with God every time. (I’ve read the end of the story; God wins.)

SO, I after a couple years of reading the real Bible, and using my real God-given brains on what I found there, I came to the conclusion that I had to change some of the views and beliefs I had picked up from my Christian culture, just as I had had to do with my larger societal culture.

  • I started looking at policies, personal choices, values in light of what I saw there. And I changed what I put my energy into.
  • I changed how I pray.
  • I eventually changed how I vote –  started choosing political candidates based on the whole of their platform, and on the BIG PICTURE impacts of it, not just their rhetoric about THE BIG THREE.

It’s yet another opportunity to not fit in ANYWHERE!

But then I’ve gotten used to that over the years.

And it makes it possible for me to vote, and live, and think, in ways that reflect what I really believe, which takes a remarkable amount of stress out of the Christian life.

Every once in a while I even remember that God is omniscient and omnipotent and could probably run the whole thing without my input!

 

 

* Just a smattering of those verses:

Proverbs 22:16

Proverbs 23:4

Proverbs 28:8

Proverbs 28:20

Matthew 19:23

Luke 12:15-21

James 1:9-11

James 5

Revelation 3:17

 

We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.

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We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.  TobyMac

 

This quote came through my Facebook feed back when I was first trying to figure out how to shape this blog. I knew a lot of what I wanted to write about was this really high controversy stuff, and the last thing I had the energy for was devoting a large chunk of my very precious free time to inciting contentious brawls. 

Mr. McKeehan’s comment reminded me that tough topics have to be talked about, but how you talk about them can make all the difference.

We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.

Splendid! I had, thankfully, grown into this concept prior to Mr. McKeehan’s note, but I’ve got to tell you, it didn’t come naturally.

I was pretty familiar with the ‘Do Anything, Agree With Everything, Rather Than Face Any Conflict’ camp.

And I had always been more of a fight than flight kind of girl, so while I didn’t view disagreement as necessarily scratching and pulling hair, brittle civility was a much closer image than kindness.

I did eventually meet people who somehow had the gift of standing their ground but still being lovely, and loving, people. I’m not quite one of them yet, but by my 90s I may have it down. 

At just this point in writing this post, I found myself in a Facebook comments conversation on this very topic.

Most of the commenters were in agreement with a meme about being kind whether we agree or not, but one woman, who had been terribly hurt by really appalling racism was adamant that she could not be kind to people on ‘the other side’. From the comments that she related, I could certainly understand why; I was embarrassed just to share skin colour with the people who had said these things to her.

This conversation gave me a lot of food for thought. Belabouring the point with a complete stranger in serious pain just for the sake of my research didn’t seem quite, well, kind, but I thought I’d ask everyone here: 

What does it look like to be kind when we, perhaps vehemently, disagree?

I definitely do not believe in placing oneself, or remaining, in a situation where someone demeans or abuses you. I don’t believe in pretending to have no opinions just to avoid conflict. I do not respect people who do not, by their character and actions merit respect. But I think I do have an obligation to TREAT them with respect – which I define as being decent and kind to them.

To me this looks like arguing the issue rather than attacking the person. Like not insulting or belittling the person I disagree with, or trashing them to others. It looks like treating them with human decency throughout, and despite, the argument. Listening in an effort to understand. Speaking quietly and calmly, if I can; apologising and regrouping if I can’t.

For Christians, I also see it as praying for them – and NO, not just that  prayer for God whack them upside the head! I mean truly seeking God’s best for them.

Sometimes it means agreeing to disagree; sometimes it means agreeing to not touch on that topic to preserve the relationship.

And for those who truly are abusive and uninterested in civil discussion, I see it as walking away from them, the argument, without having to attack them as human beings, without having to hurt or humiliate them, simply doing what is necessary to avoid them harming you or others. (*see footnote though!!)

But my brief conversation with this lady on Facebook reminded me that it doesn’t look the same to other people.

So how about it?  

What does it look like to you to be kind to one another even if we disagree?

Is it even possible?

Do you think it has merit?

 

 

 Let me be clear, I am talking here about normal disagreements between people who have the same degree of power, which have turned nasty in the heat of the argument; not about  actual physical, sexual, or verbal/emotional abuse. True abuse does not necessarily obligate you to be cruel to the abuser, but PLEASE do whatever is necessary, physically, and legally, to stop the abuse and prevent it from happening again. And seek support to recover from it, and whatever made you vulnerable to it.

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.  🙂

LENT

If you come from a liturgical background you might want to stop reading right here.

I’ve no idea how much of what I’m about to write may be actually sacrilegious if you are passionately liturgical, but I strongly suspect some of it might.

If it is, I sincerely apologise, that is not my intention at all; but as might be obvious I did not come from a liturgical background.

So, I arrived at adulthood with no intuitive understanding of, and precious little knowledge about, the Liturgical calendar or its observances. Lent had to do with fasting, and somehow with Mardi Gras, which seemed a VERY strange combination. That was about the extent of my relationship with it.

Sounded cool, though. And I tried to fast things a couple times, but I’m sort an out-of-sight, out-of-mind, kind of girl, so I can’t say the fasting did much for my focus on God.

This year as Lent approached yet again, I thought … yet again… “Should I do the Lent thing? What should I fast?”.

Since I’m in the middle of redesigning my life, Lent observance seemed especially timely. But still, I felt no specific connection to Lent.

Then I happened to see an article on what Christians get wrong about Lent, which included the statement

“It’s also important to remember in times of fasting, such as Lent, that we’re not just “giving something up,” but we’re “giving something over…””

and though this was not the author’s point, his statement sparked the thought:

Lent is not just about what we GIVE UP, but about what we ADD in its place.

 

Just as someone might fast food for a day and use the hunger pangs as a reminder to stop and pray for something important, I could do the Lenten fast and use that 40 whole days to remind me to pray first; stress / panic / freak out about how to fix it on my own, second.

I have absolutely no idea if that is the intention of Lent, but, having spent most of my early Christian walk making it up as I went along, little things like precise definitions when it comes to man-made traditions seldom deter me.

Three things DID stand in my way though.

  1. I still had no idea what to give up,
  2. I am still struggling the effects of the Great Life Wreck and while I’m progressing well, I still have deep dips in the faith EKG, so I wasn’t even sure what prayer focus to ADD,
  3. and, I had all these thoughts several days into the Lent season.

Then it occurred to me: I could simply give up the fear, the doubt, the faithlessness, for Lent, and specifically focus on the opposite of it for 40 days!

PERFECT!!!

This did not, alas, provide a time machine back to the start of Lent.

Should I just jump in for the time left?

Do a 40 day fast unrelated to Lent?

Somehow I hated to give up doing my experiment for Lent, now that I had something REAL to devote Lent to.

One of the interesting effects of my day job, which is in a multi-national, multi-denominational, Christian organisation, is that I have to regularly determine not just when ‘regular’ Easter is, but also Orthodox Easter.

They rarely coincide exactly, and one must take that into consideration when planning meetings. It therefore occurred to me that Orthodox Easter was probably preceded by Orthodox LENT.

It was! And Orthodox Lent hadn’t started yet. 

So, that is the long story of how a strictly non-denominational Irish American girl ended up observing Orthodox Lent.

 

When I went through the recent Great Life Wreck, my faith took a solid hit.

This really shocked me, because faith has always be the strongest thing about me, and I’d weathered a dozen storms FAR worse than the Great Life Wreck without a faith related qualm. To now suddenly be doubting and confused over something relatively trivial… this did not sit well!

Not that I ever doubted who God is, or what he’s capable of – I am blessed that those seem to be unshakable in me.

But my sense that he would lead me, that I’d get the message right, that he even CARED where or how I wandered; those got shaken in ways I never would have dreamed possible.

And while I’ve gotten largely back on track, I still have my days. One day I found myself, for all intents and purposes, wondering if thinking well of God was a sinful attitude! THAT is a point where you know you have officially lost it.

So, for Lent this year I am giving up doubting, and negative views of God.

Odd? Almost certainly, though I do not actually know. But odd suits me.

And since my approach here is that it’s not just what you give up, but what you put in its place, I’m using any moments of uncertainty I run into, to remember his promises about what he thinks of me and wants for me, and focusing on the rational truths of my dreams and goals and desires – not the least being that HE designed them into me.

I’m meditating on various verses that I find encouraging and praying for light, and help, with the most sincere trust that is within my current capacity.

And I am expecting transformation and restoration … which is what Easter is all about anyway.

 

Sick and pathetic, thanks, how are you?

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Good day!

This will be a short post, because I have been sick in bed for two days and they include two of my three ‘writing’ nights. A truly dedicated blogger would undoubtedly have written through the chills and fatigue, but I’m more of a wimpy slacker blogger.

It’s not that I’m not at all dedicated, just that I am much more dedicated to getting well quickly than I am to trying to create or edit text with a throbbing head and chattering teeth.

I think I am on the mend now, but I haven’t time to complete the post I intended to finish this week, and I certainly haven’t the energy yet to be pushing my writing time into the wee hours.

So, since I am too pathetic to write, I thought I’d ask some questions, and if you want to, YOU can write. I’d love to know:

  • What is important to you in your life right now?

  • What is the one thing for which you would most like to be remembered after your death?

  • What do you consider your greatest achievement?

  • What is your motto in life?

Be well. 

How is everyone?

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Howdy folks! How is everyone??

Me,  I  am   a   MESS.

Last week I was sick most of the week, then a bit better on Friday and Saturday, then Sunday …  back through the wringer!

NOT how I prefer to spend my sabbath.

SO, this week, I am on TWO, count ’em TWO antibiotics. UGH.

(I secretly wonder if my doctor figures I’m a lost cause so she might as well use me in experiments to see how much abuse the human stomach can take before it just falls out.)

It is not without benefits though: The past two days have been insanely hot for supposed ‘spring’ – nearly 90 degrees, which is just immoral; but I’ve had my own portable winter! I’m typing this in sweats, and sweatshirt, a sweater, and two blankets and I am pretty much comfortable!

SO, all of this to say that while I did get some good writing done on ‘this week’s’ (AKA ‘last week’s‘) post on Saturday, I definitely didn’t get it done, and I’m definitely not going to.

But I hope everyone is well! At least more well than I am! 🙂

All the best from your friendly neighbourhood germ bearing slacker!

BE WELL

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.

 

Faith

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Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

 

Sound familiar? (If not, that’s Hebrews 11:1.) It has an inspirational feel to it, don’t you think?

But what exactly does it mean?!?

What IS faith? Believing that God exists? The Bible says that the demons accomplish that much, and that they are a good deal more impressed by it than we are. As with many important things, it’s easier to know what faith is than to define it.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. But from time to time it becomes important to me to really understand it. In other words, to actually be able to define it.

For my own use, for myself. I’m not about settling eternal questions for all of humanity. But for my own understanding, when the storms come and hell in a hand-basket doesn’t sound so amusingly distant, what does it mean to have faith?

It does, of course, mean that I genuinely believe in God. So I know I’m at least up with the demons in the faith department.

And beyond believing IN God, I found that it meant to BELIEVE God, which is a different thing: to take him at his word.

I was always really good at faith. That’s not a point of pride; absolutely not an accomplishment for which I put forth heroic effort. It was just a fact. As a result of my upbringing, my personality, my understanding of God, faith was simply an inborn talent.  A gift. Something I just did well, with little effort.

Then it wasn’t.

For most of my life, when the storms came, my faith buffered them and saw me through them, so I assumed that I had all the pieces I needed.

And maybe I did. I think faith can be built incorrectly, not having all the pieces to start, but now I also wonder if faith can be damaged in the storms. In the swirl of all the hell, with the hand-basket long since splintered and scattered to the wind.

I’m still not sure if faith can be injured or if injury just points up the areas where my foundation was weak, but I know that two storms in my life – by no means the biggest, or the longest, or the hardest, ironically –  left me with some water intrusion and a handful of shingles missing on my previously rock solid faith. Clearly I needed a better understanding than I had.

I’ve had to really go back through my thoughts and views on God, my relationship to him, my understanding of him, my views on how he leads me – the whole shebang.

In the midst of that I happened upon a definition of faith in the Amplified Bible that really struck a cord. Ye old Amplified defined faith as “an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God.”

Hmmm….

The power of God was never a question for me.

And wisdom? When you are omniscient, I’m content to throw in wisdom as a given.

But according to the Amplified, faith also, inherently, included the goodness of God. Not the greatness. Not the righteousness, or the justice, or the perfection. But the goodness. Did I think God was GOOD?

Well of course I did! How could I not!?! What kind of Christian would not think God is GOOD?!??! 

One of the big inconveniences of being a scientist is that you feel compelled to look for some evidence behind your assertions.

And the evidence showed a girl who, somewhere along the way, had gotten a bit shaky on the goodness of God. Talk about a blow to my pride! Now I had broken faith AND broken pride! There’s a mess for you.

I did actually still accept that God WAS good, intellectually. But to do so I had to transform my definition of good so profoundly that it ignored all the ways God defines good. Could God be good and cruel? Of course! God is God, so if he’s cruel that must be ‘good’. Could God be good and compassionless? Of course! God is God, so if he’s compassionless that must be ‘good’.

But that isn’t what God calls good.¹

Conundrum. A conundrum, it turned out, of faithlessness.  A conundrum that therefore had to be resolved.

Because Hebrews has other things to say about faith too, like, without it, it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. That one is a little less nebulous than ’substance of things hoped for’. And a little more intimidating, when you come to really think about it.

So, I’ve been pondering faith, and me, and God, for a while now, trying to dig myself out of the mess that got me here, as well as the mess that ‘here’ is. And I found that searching more deeply into who God is, regaining a perspective on what ‘goodness’ is from God’s commentary on it, is bringing some clarity.

Make no mistake, I don’t think that God being good means that everything that he allows or does in my life is going to be an unremitting delight. I understand that pain, hardship, distress are natural parts of life, and that God is not a genie in a bottle whisking it all away. But knowing that God permits, and uses painful and difficult circumstances is very, very different from coming to think that God is not trustworthy, and that harm and trouble are his will and intention for me.

So I’ve been studying how he says he treats and thinks of us. The promises he makes. The attitudes he displays, and the attitudes he requires of us. And this little amplification on faith has come to be a real help in my journey.

Faith is an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God.

That sure fits with the end of Hebrews 11:6 “…for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

So try these babies out with that perspective on faith:

Hebrews 11:6  “And without an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom, and goodness of God it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Or

Hebrews 11:1 “Now an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom, and goodness of God, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Or how about this little gem: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom, and goodness of God…”

It adds a little richness, don’t you think?

I like it anyway. I find it challenging, but also clarifying. Faith seems a little less nebulous, a little more defined.

One of the things that always used to confuse me was times Jesus praises people’s ‘faith’. The examples range from dogged persistence to down right insolence, but they were never what I thought of as faith. They begin to make more sense if I define faith this way.

If I have an inherent trust, and enduring confidence in the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of God, I’m going to be pretty darn persistent about getting to him with my need. I’m going to be pretty bold about seeking his help and direction.

And while I’ll always be cautious, not wanting to treat the God of the universe like a cosmic gum-ball machine, I think that as long as I define faith this way I’ll stay more real about what good is, and I’ll look a lot more closely, when I start doubting God’s goodness, to find what is really going on.

Now, when I hear the frightened, confused ‘Well, God must be good, even if he doesn’t act like it’, I have a little alarm telling me that my faith might need some attention. And it points me in the direction of what faith really is, so that I can more clearly see where that attention is needed.

It’s a new path for me, but it seems to be healing so far, and I hope to be able to make the big important changes I’m seeking a lot more effectively through it.

 

If you happen to celebrate Passover, which begins this evening, or Earth Day which will be in full swing at the time this posts, may they be blessed. 

 

 

Be well. 

 

¹Mostly. I’m still working my way through some Bible stories that I wish weren’t there, but for now I’m going with the most prevalent expressions of God and of ‘good’ as defined by him throughout the whole cannon.

 

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/

 

 

The whores all seem to love him

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There’s rumors He even thinks Himself a king, of a kingdom of paupers, simpletons and rogues; the whores all seem to love Him, and the drunks propose a toast. And they say, “Surely God is with us. Well, surely God is with us.” Rich Mullins, Surely God is With Us, The Jesus Record.

 

It’s easy to rewrite Jesus. At least, it seems to be easier to rewrite Jesus than to live with the reality of him.

I’m fascinated by the ways Jesus gets rewritten. 

Some of us tidy him up, making him much more respectable than he apparently chose to be during his time here, while others water him down, making him far less passionate and real than the Jesus his contemporaries would recognise.

I am not sure why blowing up part of the image of Jesus and minimising or blurring the rest works for so many people. I suppose it provides a more comfortable fit, if you don’t look too closely at what you’ve done. But to me, it robs the story of a lot of truth, and a lot of opportunity.

A cozy, manageable Jesus who accepts all beliefs, all choices, all actions as equally true or correct, who doesn’t mind much of anything and doesn’t want to offend anyone, doesn’t fit the Jesus of the Bible.

That Jesus would have had little reason to endure excruciating torture and execution to reconcile a fallen world to a perfect God.

That Jesus wouldn’t have said such uncomfortable things as ‘No one can come to the Father except through me’. Or even ‘then neither do I condemn you‘ – I mean, what would there be to condemn?

Unfortunately,  a proper, respectable Jesus doesn’t quite align with the record either.

Jesus didn’t generally associate with ‘the best people’. In fact, when he did happen to run into the best people, he usually so deeply offended them that they promptly set about considering how hard it would be to  bump him off.

I know I’m not the only one who cheers when Jesus rubs the noses of the Bible Story Pharisees in their arrogance and legalism.

But far from being an example of wrong in their day, the REAL Pharisees were the best and brightest of the religious Jews of their time.

Rich, successful, educated, and deeply religious, these were the folks you’d only dream of being if you were a good dedicated believer of their time. The megachurch pastors, the celebrity Christian writers, the Bible scholars of their day.

And the people Jesus hung out with?  The poor, the illiterate, the uncouth. The town whore. Brawlers and thieves. The homeless guys panhandling at Judea’s intersections.

Our stated goal as Christians is to be like Jesus.

But let’s be real: if asked to select our dinner companions from a lineup of wealthy Christian celebrity, renown Bible scholar, town whore, a couple of homeless guys, and an unscrupulous IRS agent, who would we REALLY pick?

I’m not suggesting that Christians ditch all our current friends and realign our social calendar to look like Jesus’, but it does kind of make me wonder if my view of ‘acceptable’ or ‘valuable’ is more narrow than is safe under that pesky ‘judge not’ clause.

Much as I prefer to look at my own sin and think “Well at least I’m not as bad as… the town whore … the drug dealer… the politician …”  according to everything the Bible says, I am.

Compared to the perfection of God, there’s no difference between me and any of them.

Or any difference there is, seems to be much less important than my similarities to the Pharisee!

 

(By the way, if you aren’t familiar with Rich Mullins’ music, the rest of that song quoted above is even more delightfully, irreverently thought provoking. As is ALL of his music.)

Teeny tiny post. Sleeping now….

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Good day all, I hope you are very well!

I am well, but I am also BEAT. My goodness it’s been an intense couple weeks.

Inflexible work deadline + too few people + the need for close critical inspection of large documents = not a peaceful, reflective girl.

Not that I’ve been working 24 hours days; it’s just that when my day is done I better resemble jello, or the dawning of the zombie apocalypse, than I do a sentient being.

All this to say, I am NOT brimming over with abundance this week! 

And while I do have a great deal of authenticity, especially as the week wears on and I lose sleep, I think we’d best consider that too much of a good thing just at the moment.

So, rather than continuing to peck away at a post that has become  grim and aimless – common characteristics of the author on weeks like this – I’ll share some of my current  favourite articles by people who DO still have the capacity to string words together sensibly.

I hope you’ll find something interesting or thought provoking in them.

And I wish you a splendid, delicious, delightful weekend and week!! I hope to be back to full function next week…

After sleeping for the next two days!

Declutter Your Fantasy Self

The title intrigued me, then the article cracked me up! How much stuff are you storing for your Fantasy Selves?? Just last weekend I was flipping through my  Fantasy Artist’s collection of drawing books. (They’re small… they fit with the other books anyway… when I retire…) My Fantasy Card Maker on the other hand, has her own rubbermaid bin! That I’ve moved TWICE!

What Is An Enough List And How it Helped Me Enjoy Everyday

I had read this one a while ago, then came across it again in Joshua Becker’s post on the 3-Item To-Do-List. I was glad of the reminder. While I HAVE pared down my To-Do lists, I sometimes forget the ‘Why’ behind that, and that risks dreaded List Creep.

Isolation is the dream-killer, not your attitude

I’ve read some of Barbara Sher’s books and although she makes this point clearly, somehow I never fully got it. This is a 20 minute TED Talk, so I know that isn’t handy for everyone in a busy day, but it’s pretty cool, and very funny, if you have the time.

I think it’s also a good reminder of why ‘community’ is worth preserving, or even restoring.

REST

Okay, okay, I know I’ve already shared this baby, but I’ve got to tell you, this song got me through this week. And I admit that the concept of rest has developed an almost hypnotic appeal….ZZZzzzz..

 

Be well. 

 

 

GONE FISHIN’

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Okay, I haven’t really gone fishing.

But I do need to back off my self-imposed deadline of one post every Friday. Just not happening this week.

It’s been a couple really busy weeks at work, which leaves with me much less energy to spend on the various other obligations of life, including (but alas, not limited to) writing.

So, I’m going to take a week off and work on regaining some energy and some ideas that are more fun than what I conjure up out of bleary eyed fatigue!

Let me therefore take this opportunity to wish you all a LOVELY week, and Memorial Day weekend!!

 

And by all means, if YOU feel like posting, leave a comment! I think I do have enough creativity and brain power left to reply to comments and emails.

Be well. 

Wide eyed terror, er, I mean exciting new adventure

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In March, 2014, I sold my house, packed up my life, said goodbye to a beloved community, and followed a long sought dream.

And that went very, very, badly.

I’ve failed at many things in the course of my life, but none so spectacularly as that.

I had worked hard to prepare well, but had clearly missed some key ingredients in the happily-ever-after mix. In the end, I ditched the dream and ran for cover, and have spent the last year-plus trying to just get recovered enough to move forward with any semblance of hope.

Finally, in the last few months, I have begun to inch very slowly forward. SLOWLY being the operative word here.

Because anything but SLOWLY was far beyond my capacity.

So SLOWLY I’ve been getting up the courage to face the prospect of another long-haul move, without simply dropping dead from negatively and cowardice.

And after SLOWLY getting enough of a grip back to start looking forward again, I SLOWLY planned a trip for this coming August to visit several areas in Washington state  to see if they are viable options for living a frugal, abundant life, rather than fodder for another ghastly Lifewreck.

SLOWLY I’ve been doing research, SLOWLY deciding the best place to stay on my exploration trip …

And SLOWLY I’ve been preparing my skittish mind and tattered stomach for that adventure. VERY slowly.

SLOWLY trying to do every. little. thing. possible. to ensure absolutely, positively that this holiday will be peaceful, productive, and panic free.

Then my landlords phoned to inform me that they need to sell my house.

Now, this was by no means a 30-day eviction notice; they were very kindly giving me the earliest heads up they could on a process that usually takes a while.

But it put a decided crimp in my SLOWLY!

Since my house could conceivably be in escrow by mid-August, starting my research in mid-August became somewhat less practical.

I really don’t want to move to someplace else here, THEN go do research for a possible move out of here, and THEN have to move all over again. I did two moves in 6 months as a result of the Lifewreck, and that was enough to last me. So, by the time this posts, I’ll be half way to my home-away-from-home for the next few weeks in Washington.

Being ‘almost’ ready for the next adventure, though, instead of fully prepared, is a very scary place from which to leap.

That is part of what went wrong in the Lifewreck, and while there are many skills I’ve not mastered, I’ve got ‘once bitten twice shy’ perfected.

I have friends who love the excitement  of a move. NOT ME!

My dream is to buy a quiet, peaceful little house that suits me and stay there until I die. I get plenty of adventure just living life, I’ve never felt the need to artificially inject more.

And I HATE moving. 

If you multiply that by about 10,000 and add fire, brimstone, and gnashing of teeth, you get my attitude toward long haul moves.

However, after a tiny, well ordered panic, I determined that I must try to see this little wrench tossed into my SLOW, as an opportunity, not a calamity.

And, when better to experiment than when you’ve relatively little choice?

So, I reluctantly embrace this ‘exciting new opportunity’ to learn now, a bit earlier than I had hoped, the final things I need to learn about Washington as an option.

Who knows, maybe by the time my vacation rolls around I’ll already know all I need to know?

Maybe that will mean that Washington is off the table. But even that is helpful information. ANY variable eliminated will surely help.

And maybe it will mean that Washington is completely possible and why did I wait so long??

With enough miracles I might even be MOVED by my holiday, and get to enjoy it rather than spending it trying to learn make-it-or-break-it data!

That would be a blessing of incalculable value.

But regardless of the outcome, I am trying to be more positive than comes naturally, and be grateful for this opportunity.

So, want to come on an adventure with me?!?

My writing time is likely to be more limited during these next few weeks, both with the turmoil, and with having to make this time really count, so I don’t know what this will look like in terms of any sort of sensible posts.

But as best I can I’ll try to share some of this … adventure… in the most positive ways I’m able.

 

Be well. 

Adventures in Optimism Episode 1

 

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Well, here I am in the delightful Pacific North West!

Even though this is the worst time of year for my vampiric little soul, it has still been a blessing: temperatures in the 70s and low 80s instead of 90’s and100’s for my first week, and even a couple days of rain!

As I had feared, road trip + acclimating + catching up with old friends + just dealing with everything has resulted in Not Much Writing Time.

A few tidbits, though, from the journey so far:

The road trip here was just LOVELY! It was cloudy from a mile outside my town until I was nearly here, and it rained a good deal of the way. So much nicer than the glaring sun, A/C all the way trip I had feared. One of the highlights of the trip was a hawk sitting in the median right beside me, just surveying the land. I also drove by a little farm with an enormous, gorgeous pig in the front pasture. It is a rare joy these days to see a pig able to live like a pig.

And one of the special joys since I arrived has been catching up with a dear friend who I hadn’t seen in YEARS. That alone would be worth the trip.

Rather less sleep than needed for my ideal disposition, but so far no major crimes committed. 

I arrived at my temporary home in good time (such good time, in fact, that I hit Portland, Oregon at rush hour – NOT something I’d recommend) and have found it to be fairly tolerable.

I am not at all well suited to hotel / mass people storage living, so definitely not unmitigated delight, but it’s liveable. My room even looks out onto a little wooded area. Complete with bunnies!

In fact, the only real flaw in the home-away-from-home (except that it’s AWAY and I’m a homebody) is that the soundproofing is Just. Not. Adequate.

Any time I have next door neighbours it sounds like someone is herding elephants through the bedroom.

And I am absolutely the Princess and the Pea when it comes to sleep:  noise, light, heat, cold – doesn’t matter, it will keep me awake! Sigh.

The hotel staff have been great, but there is only so much that can be done. It’s only a month,  it’s only a month…

My actual home life aside, the surrounding area is LOVELY.

Despite recent housing booms, there are still many little forested areas, and a fifteen minute drive in nealry any direction brings me past at least one lake or river!

(If you grew up in any remotely normal environment go ahead and laugh, but I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, so having random forests, lakes, and rivers show up inside a five mile commute is a HUGE novelty.)

Curious detail of the week: I’ve read for ages that this Northwestern area is among the least Christian in the country; now, maybe I just happened into the Christian Ghetto,  but I’ve not seen so many Churches in one place since my last trip through the Bible Belt!

So, that’s my week in a nutshell.

This weekend the ‘Could I live a frugal life here?’ research begins in earnest.

I still swing between nearly calm and nearly hysterical when contemplating that, but am working to keep up the positive perspective!

 

Be well. 

 

 

How would you vote if you weren’t afraid?

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I know, I know, if you aren’t afraid, you probably aren’t paying attention. But let’s be hypothetical for a moment; everybody needs a break now and then.

Would you do anything differently if you could just vote your honest-to-goodness-conscience with no fear of the consequences? It’s something I’ve been pondering a good deal recently, for obvious reasons if you follow American politics.

There are so many of us, with so many different wants, goals, needs, dreams: how many of us really vote for someone we truly, fully believe in, without fear of what will happen if we don’t vote against something or someone?

Just hypothetically, how would you vote if you could vote without fear?

Would you vote for Bernie Sanders, or the Green Party candidate, or the Libertarian candidate, or your Uncle Jim? Is there even a Tea Party Candidate?

I was reading the other day that Norway has four parties, and they govern together, based on percentage of votes. I don’t suppose that is a perfect system, it still involves people, but it certainly seemed interesting. I DO know that Norwegians statistically have a better quality of life than those of us in the US, so who knows?

And what about the ISSUES?

Would we vote for the obscenely rich – especially corporations – to pay their fair share in taxes if we didn’t have to be afraid of abortion getting tacked onto the platform?

Would we vote for our families to have better quality, more affordable health care if weren’t afraid the government would take all our money,  or the death panels would come for grandma?

Maybe I’m naive, but I can’t shake the thought that if we could all freely vote our conscience, education would be so well funded that teachers’ salaries would put doctors’ salaries to shame!

If you could create a platform built on your own values, what would it look like? 

For me:

Fair taxes!  I don’t mind paying taxes. Really. It is a right and a responsibility of citizenship, and I’m a citizen. I LIKE having good roads, reliable electricity, and a functional police force. But two things I DO mind: corporations and billionaires not having to pay anything like a fair share of taxes, and my tax money being used predominantly for things that don’t have a substantial positive impact on the quality of my daily life. Or at least the lives of those I care about more than I care about big corporations’ profits and needless foreign wars.

Political Campaign Reform (i.e. separation of Corporation and State)!  We used to have to fear the all powerful King or Dictator. Now we have to fear the huge, wealthy corporations that own our government. This isn’t better. Especially since you can assassinate the King or Dictator, in a pinch, but corporations can’t be dispatched in so simple, complete a manner.

Education and children’s services!  I don’t have kids myself, but even if I were completely selfish, having the US workforce of the future be the best in the world just makes good sense to me. Especially in that part of the future when I’m old and need social security and well educated doctors! As it is, I am also just unselfish enough to think kids deserve better too.

Single Payer Healthcare!   We are SOOO far behind all developed nations on this that it’s embarrassing, and worse, it’s dangerous. And freaking expensive. Also, it irks me that healthcare is a big reason people stay in jobs that steal their lives.

There are definitely others, but let us start there, hit those with all our might, then tackle the next thing.

Now, your list is probably very different from mine.

What are your top dreams for the future of our nation, and your family’s lives?

In this season, of course, I’m pondering  whether I’ll need to vote for a woman I neither respect or trust, out of fear of having Donald Trump become president of my nation – a concept that I still struggle to imagine as anything but a bad Saturday Night Live skit – or whether voting for people I actually respect and even approach trusting is a viable option.

At the same time, I know that some of my fellow travellers have to decide whether to vote for a man they neither respect nor trust, out of fear of having Hilary Clinton become President of the their nation, or whether voting for someone they actually respect and perhaps even approach trusting is a viable option.

I don’t know, yet, what I’m going to choose. A lot of it depends on my man Bernie, but he, too, has these fears to grapple with.

In one respect, it’s only four years, and I do acknowledge that so much in life is SO MUCH more significant than one election. On the other hand, there are ripple effects from such an election and they matter.

It is almost certainly going to be painful for a lot of us to make our decisions about voting this year. And certainly it’s scary. Maybe we can at least support each other, and give each other a little extra grace to make things easier in the mean times.

If anyone has suggestions, thoughts, prayer requests, or prayers to offer, please do leave a note.

We ARE all in this together. Even if we are on polar opposite sides. Because we all live with the outcomes.

 

Be well. 

Adventures in Optimism Episode 2

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This is a strange, strange place.

The children here… they act … like children. I see them riding bikes and walking to the corner store and playing what appear to be completely unorganized sports with groups of their friends. They even mostly dress like children, rather than like miniature supermodels.

I remember this from my own childhood, I’ve seen it in other countries, and I’ve read about it even in modern media, but it’s my first real experience of it in many, many years.

Maybe it’s just that kids can go outside here without bursting into flame, unlike in the southern desert regions I’ve mostly inhabited, but it is kind of heartwarming to see children out of doors, and even frequently looking at and talking to EACH OTHER rather than staring at cell phones. It is especially odd because this is a fairly good sized city and I’m in a fairly affluent part of it – the last two places I’d expect kids to be kids!

Then there is the fact you CAN go outside in June without bursting into flames!

I know I’ll get used to it, but it’s a work in progress.  A friend mentioned yesterday that it was 7pm and 97 degrees at his home. MUCH more what I’m used to. Here it is cloudy many mornings EVEN in June, and on the weekend I’m headed for an area that is still regularly in the mid 60s for temperature! IN JUNE! Now JULY!!

Of course that’s why I’m here testing this place to begin with, but it still astounds me. My native friends are appalled at the recent heat, since even here climate change is visible and the current US heat wave is shoving its nose in, but from my desert perspective this is pretty darn good!

Tidbits from the Journey So Far

For sale by owner.  I have never seen so many houses for sale by owner before. I don’t know if they have odd realty laws here, or a dearth of realtors, or what, but I’m not just talking tin-and-cardboard shacks – there is a neighbourhood near my hotel with $600,000 homes in it and two of those babies are For Sale By Owner too!

UL campus. Okay, I am a dork, I know it. That is the only excuse I have. I am staying about 5 miles from the UnderWriters Laboratories campus and I just think that is SO COOL. It’s also quite a campus. Looks like a very high end park from the street. They have signs up all over that it’s private property, but no fences and it’s hard for me to believe that all the people I’ve seen using it as a lush walking space are UL employees.

The not-100s. This has probably already come through, but I just have to give it its own space. While I’d rather it were fall or winter or spring, to be outdoors in SUMMER and not miserable from the heat is SO EXCITING !!

Quiet. Not in my hotel at 5am, alas, but on the streets it’s QUIET here. People hardly ever blast their stereos in their cars, they seem to mostly keep their dogs in line, they even sort of speak quietly.  After years of sensory overload in Ca, I’ve really enjoyed the quiet.

Distance. I have lived the last ten years in California. Most of them in a county that is larger than several states and a number of countries. Washington is so … small. Now, to be clear, when I say ‘Washington’ I mean only land from the Cascades to the ocean, so we’re not talking the state’s longest diagonal, but the simple fact that I could drive from the Oregon border to the Canadian border in a very, very, reasonable day’s trip is amazing to me.  You can spend more time in traffic on a southern Ca commute than that trip takes!

Sense and reason. Because I’m in this extended stay place the housekeeping folks only tend to my room once per week. Last Friday was to be my first ‘housekeeping’ day, and I waited, and waited, and waited. Finally they knocked on my door, long after I had assumed they forgot me, and said that they had been completely slammed so they couldn’t get to me that day, and could we reschedule? I work in an organisation where people apologise for taking an hour to get to your email on a Sunday while sitting at their father’s deathbed, so I found it completely heartwarming that someone would say ‘We simply can’t get everything done, I’m sorry.’ And it wasn’t even as if they were neglecting me! They STILL took my trash and my used bath linens and offered me any other things I needed.

But not from Google Maps. Google Maps is NOT sensible here. I started off thinking maybe they had a lot of one way streets or construction blocks or something. No. Google Maps just has a twitch here. It will happily take me half a mile out of my way to avoid a simple left hand turn at a minor traffic light. Thankfully I am getting a feel for the area and starting to note probable ‘more sensible routes’ on the map before I start out.

Grit. I met a girl who lives – with her nine-year-old son – in a studio apartment she is pretty sure is smaller than the hotel studio I’m in right now. (And she cleans the hotel studios such as I’m in for a living, so she has a pretty good feel for their size.) Her kitchen she is certain is smaller than my hotel kitchen (and trust me, I’m not staying in a penthouse palace here) and only fits a mini fridge with one of those semi-freezers that doesn’t really freeze enough to be safe. “But at least we can’t keep ice cream around” she said happily, “so that is good for us. If we want ice cream we have to walk to the corner store to get it!”.  This girl is tougher than I’ll ever be, and she has a much better disposition!
Now of course grit is not unique to here; I just like to celebrate it whenever I find it.

All in all it’s been a good week.

The poor sleep is taking a toll, but it’s still manageable, the abject terror is fading, thank God, and so far none of my research has revealed hopeless failure.

This weekend I’ll take a trip to the most distant areas I am contemplating, and then I shall be ready to start making some decisions and narrowing my focus – God willing.

 

 

Be well. 

Adventures in Optimism Episode 3

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Well, this week has been more adventure than I planned!

Have I mentioned that at ye old day job we have been going through a strategy process and planning a restructure of my team? This has meant about 6 months of living in limbo, which is always somewhat stressful, but we’ve gotten through it pretty well and were very much looking forward to it being OVER.

Then came the note that all of my team’s jobs will end on 30 September. Including, of course, MINE!

There will be some new positions created, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be a good fit for those.

It has certainly created the opportunity for a reflective pause.

Or, I should say the vital need for a reflective pause, since my days now involve trying to get my urgent work tasks done, and commiserating with co-workers who are scared and confused, and trying to process all the information about what my future looks like now. Completed most of the urgent stuff today, so I HOPE to have some open space tomorrow and Friday to be more attentive to my co-workers and to the reams of information on What Next?

Since my possible move to the great Pacific North West is largely dependent on both HAVING A JOB, and also on having a job that I can do from home, my trip is now effectively complete. I simply can’t make decisions about a long haul move until things are settled at work.

On the upside, I got to all the places that I think are realistic options for a future move, and I was very much encouraged that it might be possible to live here within my limits for a reasonably frugal life.

It will be very hard leave here, where we are currently heading into low 70s / high 60s and rain, for my hot and sunny home, but even in that I feel more ‘ready’ and okay about it than I would have anticipated. And goodness knows HOME is always my favourite destination, even when that home is not in my favourite location.

Tidbits from the Journey:

Once of the great joys of this last weekend was getting to see another dear friend from Grad school! I had warned her when we started to set up a date that I was a still bit mental these days, then when we got to the day of meeting I had just gotten the news about my work, so I was REALLY a mess. Sarah, as always, was like a cool drink of water in a parched land.

GORGEOUS countryside. WOW. I spent a significant part of the holiday weekend driving all over western Washington, and it was SO beautiful. I have to keep reminding myself that it is summer.

A full night’s sleep!! I actually got it both dark enough and quiet enough to get one full night’s sleep! It transformed me! Now, alas, the following night, on the road trip, I had a HORRIBLE night with only 3 hours of sleep, but hey, one night is better than none!

Tom Petty. I have heard more Tom Petty on the radio since I arrived here 2.5 weeks ago than I have probably heard in the preceding 2-3 years. I finally had to look him up and see if he grew up here. No. I have no idea what it is. Nothing wrong with it, it’s just odd.

Gratitude. I’m scared and distressed about this new wrinkle with my job, but I am also grateful. I am SOOO grateful this didn’t happen in the middle of the LifeWreck. That would have been beyond my capacity. I am also grateful it didn’t happen until I had begun to get my trust in God back. I’m not at 100% yet, but I am FAR better able to weather this new crisis than I would have been a year ago. And I’m sure grateful that it didn’t happen the week AFTER I moved to a completely new community – and a rural one at that!

I had to think about it at first, but I decided I’m even grateful that the job crisis happened AFTER I started off on this research trip. Though I’ll head home sooner than I had planned, I really got the main information I need, and I would not have even considered this trip if I had learned about the job beforehand. I don’t know what will happen now, but I feel at peace for this point, at least, and that is pretty amazing.

 

Be well. 

 

 

Bernie Sanders. Reprise.

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I’ve watched Bernie Sanders’ role in the unfolding of the Democratic National Convention this week with both sadness and pride.

I have no patience whatever with the handful of snivelers raging that Bernie Sanders ‘sold out’.  You don’t sell out by giving up your own personal opportunities and agenda for the sake of what you believe is right, and what helps thousands of others at no gain to yourself. Grow up.

Fortunately though, those snivels are few and far between, at least  on my radar.

The majority feeling I’ve seen is better described by a post  I saw this week with an image of Bernie and Jane Sanders that said

This humble man rekindled my compassion and hope, and brought us together. Please be kind toward him. He had to make a very difficult choice.”

And that about sums it up. I definitely don’t agree with some of Bernie’s choices about the DNC,  but he has my respect. Because he deserves it. Something I don’t often say about a politician.

The second quote I’ve pondered a good deal said

“Let’s be clear about something. If Bernie Sanders is a choice for President on the ballot I will vote for him. I would support him in any way (except voting for Clinton or writing him in) but time is crucial if we want a viable Plan B….”

I’m not as delighted with this one, but  it does merit some contemplation. If there is a chance of getting Bernie Sanders to accept the presidency  and vote him into it, I am all for that, and as I mentioned in a prior post, am willing to campaign to make that more possible. I don’t know, however, if Bernie Sanders is willing.

And if he’s not, what IS the best Plan B?

I won’t vote for a libertarian at this stage in history, and I certainly won’t vote for an ignorant madman. I don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton. I respect what I know if Jill Stein, but I don’t know enough, and she remains a distant second to Bernie for me.

I certainly understand that a Donald Trump presidency would be far more visibly dangerous than a Hillary Clinton presidency, but I do have to wonder: Might that not actually be better in the long run?

Donald Trump will alienate our allies and incite our enemies to further violence, he will damage the ability of most Americans to prosper and to live better lives, he will make us a laughingstock. He will put people’s lives at risk; the lives of those who have serious health problems and need high-quality and affordable health care, as well as the lives of our soldiers, who must respond to the increasing aggression against us which will certainly result from choosing an aggressive, ignorant, and weak leader.

However a Donald Trump presidency should also galvanise the American people. Even we could not possibly leave our futures in the hands of the elite after the horrors that resulted from his reign. And it would be only 4 years, assuming he lasted even that long without being impeached, jailed or killed.

I’m not sure that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be as effective in those respects.

I think Hillary Clinton will be simply more of the status quo as president, not actually a clear abomination.

Hillary Clinton will undoubtedly do far less to destroy our environment, and our existing rights and potential than Donald Trump will. She will almost certainly do quite a bit more to enable the 99% to make a decent living.

And that, of course, may tamp down the passion to make real and lasting change. If the global economy happens to be strong during her term, she’d likely even get a second one.

And America can do a lot of forgetting in 8 years.

And if we forget, if we sink back into complacency, we won’t finish this fight to prosper and to thrive, to wrest control from the elite and to ensure that America is a safe, secure, peaceful, and prosperous country.

So it’s a tough call. Much thought, much prayer, required.

My third key quote this week came from my main man Bill McKibben:

“Our job is not to elect a savior. Our job is to elect someone we can effectively pressure.”

A great way to look at it. Doesn’t answer my question, alas, but it’s a good reminder. The power is not MEANT to be the property of the elite in our political system; it’s meant to be ours and we are meant to use it to control the politicians we elect.

Our job doesn’t end on election night, it begins.

 

Be well. 

 

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 

Pray more than you worry

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“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Phil 4:6 The Message

I don’t know about you, but when I come upon this verse I usually think “YEAH!! Of course!” 

Then I come upon a crisis

and think

“How do I fix this?”

“How will I manage this AND that other?”

“And why is this my problem anyway???”

“Why can’t they ever…. ?”

“Must they always…?”

“And on my LAST nerve, too!”

Alas.

But one subtle blessing of crisis is it presents those … refreshing … occasions of ‘I have no choice, I’ve tried everything else.

On my best days (too frequently arriving days or weeks into my response to the crisis) this causes me to slow down and evaluate things more carefully.

And when I slow down, first, I remember. Then, I am reminded.

I remember: If God IS, and is all he says he is, he probably knows what he’s talking about. If he’s the designer, he knows how I function, and he knows how this situation functions, best. Being TRUTH, he’s also unlikely to give me meaningless platitudes to make me feel better, you know?

And I remember: all the research showing that worry is a toxic chemical spill that saps our health, our strength, and even our capacity for clear, creative, sensible thought.  All the research showing that prayer, mindfulness, meditation –  the things encompassed in this verse – provide healing, focus … that they reduce stress, increase creativity, create space for sound judgement to enter in.

Apparently God DOES know what he’s talking about!

And I’m reminded: Of the times when I HAVE done this right. Of how much better those occasions have gone. Of how often I’ve received direction and even blessing in response to bringing a crisis to God instead of to Panic. Of the simple fact that I seldom DO think at my absolute best when I’m freaking out!

And of peace.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray… 

This passage doesn’t say not to have things to worry about, not to have troubles.

It also isn’t the kind-but-meaningless admonition I am prone to reduce it to. I’ve come to suspect it’s a simple statement of correct function: DON’T do that thing; DO this thing.

And since worry and prayer require the exact same investment of energy, and time, how bad an idea can it be to try the one that is Manufacturer recommended, versus the one I know, from long experience, won’t help?

Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns… 

I’ve got the ‘petitions’ piece pretty well nailed. Not as a first resort, perhaps, but I eventually get around to ‘Please, please, please! Fix this! Stop this! Change this! PLEASE?!?!?’

God is well versed in my concerns.

It took me quite some time, though, to SEE that other bit: praises.

Oh. Yeah. God is still worthy of praise even when I don’t like my ‘now’.

And God inhabits the praise of his people. Now, I don’t fully understand that choice, but it’s his, so wouldn’t it make sense to obey the command that brings him nearest my trial?

Over and over again in scripture, God’s power is released through praise. Not my business why, but it makes some sense to be praising him when I most need some power.

Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down… 

And of course, this is the part I don’t REALLY believe, isn’t it?

If I REALLY expected a sense of wholeness, comprehension of everything coming together for good … if I really expected ANYTHING to come and settle me down, the clear path God lays out here would be my first resort wouldn’t it? Every time!

But I forget. I try 30 things that don’t work before giving in to The Manufacturer’s recommended maintenance. Why?

Why don’t I believe that he’s got this covered? Why do I think he can’t swing THIS ONE for good? It’s too big, to scary, too crushing, too awful?

For God ?!?

Clearly I haven’t mastered this one. I have NO IDEA why.

What I can say is when I have followed this guidance, it’s proved true.  And having just begun following it again, I’m finding it proved true again.

I suspect I shall always find it so.

It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life…

And isn’t this the point? What I’m focusing all my attention on is going to determine the direction I travel.  A mountain biker in my church gives this instruction: Don’t look where you don’t want to go. 

It’s no different in traveling through crisis. I know FOR SURE where I don’t want to be! I DO NOT want to be right here.  But if that is all I am looking at where am I going to go? That is what worry yields.

But if better understanding God, and following his simple, reasonable instructions: “Pray. Praise. TRUST.” and plain and simply CHRIST, are where I’m looking, I end up in a very different place.

It’s worth testing, anyway! 🙂

BE WELL.

 

 

Yes. … And No.

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I have a colleague, Doug, who frequently replies to pleas for his agreement with “Well, yes…. And no.”

Often this is greeted by a chorus of groans. Especially when the agreement he’s being asked for is one side or the other’s proposed solution to an argument we’ve been having for far too long in our sleep-deprived and jet-lagged state.

But I find it delightful!

Doug is a scholar. A thinker. He doesn’t talk a lot in meetings, but usually what he has to say is powerful, so when he does speak the room tends to go kind of quiet with everybody listening.

After the groans subside Doug carefully outlines the ‘Yes’, fielding questions, and sounding out any new information.

Then he carefully outlines the ‘No’ in the same way.

And I always benefit from the reminder that there is very seldom a 100% yes or 100% no answer to a complex problem.

Doug’s approach reminds me to look at the argument in 360 degrees to see it more clearly.

It reminds me that those 360 degrees are the only way to see it clearly.

Take for example, reducing abortion in the United States: If I oppose abortion, I should only vote for staunch conservatives, right?

Well, yes. …. and no.

Yes, if I vote for conservatives they are probably going to verbally agree with my views on abortion, and those liberals certainly are not. They may also appoint Supreme Court Justices who are more likely to oppose abortion, and will also probably oppose pro-abortion legislation.

On the other hand though, they will probably vote to cut funding for education, health care, and parental leave, and will focus more attention on the rights of the rich than the wages and benefits of the average worker.

Yet access to education and healthcare, escaping poverty, and parents being able to devote adequate time and energy to raising and attending to their children are all protective against abortion.

So the ‘yes’ doesn’t necessarily have ‘yes’ results, and the ‘no’ sometimes does!

In this season of ten thousand pressing decisions – finding a new job, maybe a new career, voting  for a new president, finding a new place to live – I’m trying to keep focused on the biggest picture.

So I’m grateful for the yes, AND the no, because together they hold far more truth than my narrow first impression.

On Being Sick

I realised this week that I have been in chronic pain for nearly as long as I had been alive before the chronic pain arrived!

That was momentarily sobering.

I was 24 years old when I woke one August morning with little bracelets of pain around each of my wrists, looping up my pinkie fingers.

Being 24, this was hardly a blip on my radar – must have held my book oddly reading in bed the night before. When it didn’t go away I wondered if I did something strange in my workout.

Then it didn’t go away for a long time.  And it started to spread.

THAT made it to my radar!

Eventually I broke down and went to the doctor.  Then more doctors.  After enough quality time with doctors for a lifetime, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

That was 21 years ago. 

When I first got sick, the pain was terrible. Beyond-my-previous-capacity-for-imagining-pain terrible.

RA is an autoimmune disease. That means you get sick because your body attacks its own cells. With RA, it’s your joints that the body decides to war against, so your joints swell, and hurt, and sometimes get deformed. They may even degrade away. (This isn’t jolly news when you are 24.)

Sometimes they just decide not to work and you drop things or face-plant, or other amusing party tricks. (For YEARS after I got sick I stopped holding babies unless I was sitting on a couch or arm chair. The thought of just dropping a small baby with no warning at all terrified me.  And was incredibly easy to imagine by that point. )

RA also has non-joint effects too, like astounding fatigue.

They tell you when you get RA that you’ll experience ‘morning stiffness’. This is an understatement of such magnitude as to be a sick joke.

There are 30 joints in each of your feet, did you know that? I didn’t, until the ‘morning stiffness’. Now I’m intimately familiar with Every. Single. One. of those joints.

I used to set my alarm for two and a half hours before I really needed to be up. Not so I could read the Wall Street Journal over breakfast, mind you, or perfect my hair and make-up, but because the pain could be so bad I didn’t how long it would take from the time I woke up to the time I could walk well enough to get ready for work.

But here’s the thing: I don’t live like that anymore.  

After about three years I began to improve. The excruciating pain very slowly mellowed to tolerable. Then eventually even to mild pain most of the time. Fewer joints were affected. If you can imagine, the deformed joints even straightened! The crushing fatigue became mostly manageable.

Now I can usually walk the moment I wake up!

Part of this is a remission: the RA stopped eating up my body. I don’t know why it stopped, yet didn’t leave completely. I don’t know why I was healed, but not entirely.

So, my life has changed a great deal since the first few years of being sick. Chronic mild and periodic moderate pain beat chronic horrific pain ANY DAY.

And now there are FAR more options for treating chronic pain. Back when I got sick, a progression of drugs with increasingly horrible side effects, and maybe periodic joint replacement surgeries were the future awaiting me.

Research paid lip service to exercise for RA, but I actually had one doc say ‘Well, don’t worry too much about exercise, after a while you won’t really be able to move much anyway.”

To a 24 year old girl! 

But now there are all manner of mind-body options for reducing and managing chronic pain. Now I know what foods, routines, and choices help me minimise the pain. I know how to work out enough to manage the pain, without making it worse (usually). Now I even see blessings in what chronic pain has taught me over many years.

Even in this current, very stressful season I (so far!) remain healthier than I used to be on my very best days. It’s not great, but it IS good.

When I realised that I had been in chronic pain for 21 years, I thought “Might it actually be possible to leave chronic pain BEHIND before I get to 24 years of having it?”

Could my life improve even MORE than it has so far?

Sure, it’s a long shot, but why not try?

So, my new goal for the end of August three years from now, is to be living without chronic pain

 

GONE FISHIN’ September 2016

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Okay, it’s true again: I haven’t REALLY gone fishing

REALLY, I have to take my Mac into the shop, and it may be a week before they can have it back to me.

If I were a good, organised, responsible blogger I’d be all prepared for that, but in my current chaos the tidy backlog of posts I was so proud of having prepared ahead is long gone, and I do what I can.

This week, darlin’, this is what I can do!

SO:

HAVE A SPLENDID WEEK!!

ALL  THE BEST TO YOU!!! 

And see you next week, when hopefully I’ll be writing from a much happier, healthier computer.

 

Be well. 

Judging Not

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I’m starting to think God might be on to something with this whole ‘judge not’ thing.

I’ve always (Okay, mostly. Well, as best I can.) accepted that I HAD to obey about judging, because, well, God is all powerful.

But I didn’t GET it.

I saw it as God-is-perfect-you-aren’t-get-off-your-high-horse. But that didn’t really make it clear WHY.

What I never noticed is how judging others limits us:

We can’t learn from those we judge.

The kind of judgement I’m thinking of here is not ‘using sense and discerning the truth of a situation to be safe or wise’, which the Bible is clear we must do.

I mean deciding someone is unworthy, worthless, or unredeemable based on their choices, behaviour, or characteristics. Writing them off. Condemning them.

On THIS God is crystal clear.

And  when I judge you like that, I make you a thing, a set of characteristics, rather than a complex human being.

YOU, as you, don’t really exist for me anymore.

But YOU, as you, are where all the lessons, and experiences, and knowledge, and emotions, and VALUE lie.

So I don’t get that anymore when I judge you. I lose all the good in you – the lessons you’ve learned, the experiences you’ve had. 

And let’s face it, no one person can make ALL the mistakes, or encounter all the experiences in the world and live to tell about it. So if we aren’t learning from others’ trials and errors, victories and failures, losses and recoveries, we’re going to miss a lot.

And we won’t learn the right things. How do I know the best way to change a situation I find incomprehensible, unless I learn from someone who has been there?

And we miss the point. 

Recently I’ve learned the name of a football player. The last football player’s name I knew was Joe Montana, so, clearly not my area of expertise. 

While caring no more about football than when Joe Montana was actively doing whatever quarterbacks do, I now know the name of Colin Kaepernick. 

Mr. Kaepernick is famous for not standing up during the National Anthem.

Inspired utter hysteria.

Without exaggeration, the man could have beaten his wife or raped someone and gotten far less attention for it. I hear he’s even getting death threats now.

But I’ve seen precious little discussion of the values our National Anthem represents. Or what the place of active dissent is in upholding those values. Of the importance of the rights we share, and of safeguarding them – even against our own preferences. 

To me, those are far more important than Mr. Kaepernick’s sitting, or standing, or taking a knee.

When we are ready to kill a man over his response to a song, it may be time to refocus. 

It doesn’t matter if this is a racial protest, a political one, a famous one, or a commonplace one: if ever there was a country where you should be safe expressing your deeply held values, it is the one nestled under the Star Spangled Banner. 

Perhaps worst, we lose our sense of responsibility.

One of the scariest outcomes of judgement I’m seeing is that we don’t feel responsible for fixing what we can judge instead.

Examples of this are legion!

  • People who passionately campaign against abortion but don’t lift a finger to provide safe homes and intensive, ongoing support to parents in crisis pregnancies and their babies.
  • Or fight to ensure that adequate healthcare and decent waged jobs exist to support young families.
  • Or provide help in healing  to women and men for whom it’s too late to prevent this terrible choice. 
  • People who write off millennials as a generation of whiners without taking the time to understand their complaints – or offering to mentor any of them! (Or maybe be mentored BY THEM; because, my experience of millennials, almost without exception, has been that they are talented and dedicated, with work ethics that put mine to shame!) 
  • People who don’t vote in elections because they don’t like the current political system, for goodness sake!
  • And people like me, who judge all of those people for years before realising there must be SOMETHING I can do to change things, and that if there is, I’m probably obligated to be doing it!

Mentors and judges seldom coexist in the same body, it seems. But responsibility is where the power is: judges seldom change the world, mentors regularly do.

Maybe God chose to withhold the right of judgement from me because I don’t see fully enough to begin with, so the last thing I need is more limiting!

I used to think not judging was something I HAD to do, because God was clear that it’s the only exit door from him judging me.

Now I suspect it is meant as a gift that opens the world up to me in ways I’d never experience from my seat of judgement.

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.

GO VOTE! Vote like the future is in YOUR hands!

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Happy Monday!!!

If you are in the United States, tomorrow is ELECTION DAY!!

Even if you’ve found this election year to be one of unremitting distress, there is STILL cause for celebration:

  • In a few days it will be OVER! No more horror-flick suspense, or endless candidate news.
  • No matter how bad it is, we will get through it. Really.
  • We have learned the error of our ways and we now have the opportunity to ensure we never face this awful an election again!

So PLEASE, use the precious right that you hold as an American Citizen, and VOTE!!

 

Vote the party line, vote third party, write someone in, but VOTE!!

Many people sacrificed, even died, to win this right for us, and many around the world still lack this right, don’t miss this opportunity!

Heck, even if you don’t want to vote for one of the offices, no worries: you can STILL vote for the rest!!

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. 

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. 

The last Monday of the year!!

My goodness, what a year this has been!

I hope this last Monday of 2016 finds you well.

As this year comes to a close,

What are you thankful for? 

What are you excited about? 

What concerns you? 

What is your most delightful memory of 2016? 

What is your greatest hope for 2017? 

 

I am thankful for SO many things! For my friends and family, for my writing project, that I had enough savings to weather my job disappearing, that my health is improving, for tea and bread, for BOOKS, for the blessings my gracious God has showered upon me. The list goes on…

I am excited to see where this next chapter in my life will take me! I was distressed to lose my job, but I trust that it still can be a blessing in my life. I am excited to finish this manual I am writing and see it in print! I am looking forward to visiting my family and friends back home after the first of the year. This list too, can go on and on…

Yes, of course this coming year is one of many concerns. Will the new Powers That Be in my country do as much damage as I fear? Will my hopes for a modern healthcare system be dashed utterly for 2-4 additional years? Will I find my next work quickly, or will it take a long, frightening time? Where, oh where, will I live 6 months from now?!?!

So yes, I have concerns. But I have hope again, too. 

 

My most delightful memory of 2016 is a hard one! While things have been tough this year, I tend to have a lot of delightful experiences! Well, one that comes to mind:

After I started on this medication and began to feel SIGNIFICANTLY better, it was raining and I opened the door and just stood and listened to the rain.

For once no one was driving by, or making a racket; there was only the gorgeous sound of the rain, the glorious colours of the courtyard against the grey.

After being so sick for so long, I couldn’t even remember when I had last just stood and listened to the rain with nothing wrong, nothing to worry about, and nothing urgently needing to be done. It WAS delightful.

And my greatest hope for 2017? For the blessing of more and more evidence that my trust in God is a safe bet, and that this last few years truly IS a part of his loving plan. Not the most noble hope, perhaps, or the most profound, but it’s important to me just now.

 

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 Sentiments

 

Ah, Monday. And this particular Monday.

Having no words with which to greet the impending United States Presidential Inauguration, I must again fall back on music:

 

Yep, that about covers it. 

Be well. 

 

Hope, civility, knowledge: Love STILL Wins.

              

I found this article remarkably hopeful.

There IS much we can do!

Post-Fascist Europe Tells Us Exactly How to Defend Our Democracy

Have your passports ready, watch your language, and other advice from a Yale history professor.

 

If you are nervous, unsure, or even appalled in considering the next four years, give some time to this sensible, encouraging, information. The reference to the Holocaust Museum alone is worth the price of admission. 😀

While the comparisons to early Nazi Germany in this election year had not escaped me, I’m ashamed to say the GOOD NEWS in that had!

We have been here before! Yeah, it’s scary to think we didn’t learn ALL our lessons then, but we do still have those lessons to learn from.

And that can make all the difference, if we only use the lessons and learn.

 

Be well. 

Prayers for my new President.

I want to be like Daniel.

One of my favourite scenes in the entire Bible is when Daniel is called in to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream:

Now, good ol’ Nebbie is the king of  Babylon, who has completely crushed Daniel’s country, sacking their towns, carting their ‘best of the best’ off into captivity, dissing their temple, and God with it, and  generally wreaking havoc.

Undoubtedly friends and family were injured or killed in this conquest, and Daniel, with the other best and brightest of Israel, has been dragged off from his homeland to serve in the King’s court.

So, Daniel might have some pretty legitimate grievances.

But in this story we see Nebbie having this really disturbing dream, and calling in our hero Daniel to provide an interpretation.

And Daniel is so horrified by what the dream predicts is going to happen to Nebbie, that we end up with the Nebbie comforting Daniel, saying (slight paraphrase) “Listen dude, don’t freak out. It’ll be okay. However awful this thing is, just tell me, and we’ll get through it.”

 

I love that.

I love the heart of Daniel. I love this relationship of trust and concern.

Let me be clear, in case you don’t happen to know my man Daniel: he was by no means a brown-noser! He risked his life on more than one occasion when the demands of his conquering employer went against his obligations to God.

But, except for the few occasions when true essentials were at stake, Daniel did his very best for Nebuchadnezzar.

But I’m not like Daniel.

Maybe someday. It’s a goal. But I definitely tend more toward opposition than diligent objective assessment. It’s ALL personal to me! And VITAL! EVERYTHING!

Alas.

 So it’s handy that praying for my leaders is not optional.

God has been very clear about my responsibilities toward my leaders; good, bad, or anywhere in between. And the outcome promised certainly fits into my ‘essentials’.

 

So, on this inauguration day, one I hoped never to see, I will certainly pray for, and FIGHT for, those most at risk, and for the things I value that this administration endangers. But I will also pray for President Trump, Vice President Pence, and the cabinet they will assemble to help guide them.

I’ll ask God to bless and guide our new President and Vice President. Giving them wisdom to lead, and bringing them wise advisors, as well as the humility to listen to the advice.

I am frightened of the harm that this administration can do to my country and this planet, but I’ll ask God to shape even this period for good instead of evil. And to use the trials that this administration will undoubtedly spark to awaken and energise the American people.

I’ll ask him to multiply and reward the good work that they will also do during their term(s) in office. Even if that takes more faith than I have right now. God has enough faith for both of us.

And, judging President Trump as I do, and having little knowledge of Vice President Pence, I’ll ask him to bring them to know and serve him if they do not, and conform their hearts and minds to his will.

And to conform my heart too, because I do not want to pray for, or support this administration in any way, and in some areas I should support them, even as I diligently oppose them on the essentials.

And I’ll keep praying. For as long as it needs to be prayed. And expecting it to build my faith and change my heart.

And remembering who is the ultimate source of power, I will trust.

Thy will be done.

Be well. 

Work, work, work. Crash…

Good day all!

I hope everyone is well.

Short, short, post this week, because it’s a LOOOONG, busy week. I will definitely not be gone fishin’ THIS WEEK, though, alas, neither will I be responsibly posting!

By the time you are reading this I shall be finishing my writing contract!!

However, as I write this I am definitely still far from my end point. Yikes.

Just yesterday I got six chapters of exciting new revisions  – to chapters I had already completely formatted and into which I had set dozens of links which will change with the revisions! Sigh.

Ah well, the editor’s life can’t be ALL cappuccino and dark chocolate.

And I must say, on this job long hours aren’t as difficult as they can be in other work.

It’s been really good.

 

BUT!!!

After this mad rush to get the final work done I will be:  

  

Mmmhmm, I am taking a  glorious couple weeks off!!!!!!

I MAY get some posts up in the midst, but I may not, I can’t tell yet.

(Depends largely on how many brain cells I have after this edit. And whether or not my eyes still focus by the end of it.)

I AM going to take a proper little holiday though, spend some time with family, and also work on getting through some projects that have been back-burnered while I’ve been writing The Manual.

Oh, and probably spend a little time lying on the floor staring at the ceiling, after this whirl-wind three months! 

 

I fear I may not be willing to go near the computer for a while! 🙂

So, I wish everyone a lovely weekend, and a splendid week or so, if I don’t happen to speak with you.

 

 

Be well. 

 

 

 

New Life Resolutions: Kicking it into High Gear

 

Just a few short weeks ago, I laid out the plan for this year:

  1. Focus FIRST on getting more of the kind of work that I really want to keep doing.
  2. Expect hope instead of horror with this next move.
  3. GAIN health in the coming transitions.
  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.

And so far?

 

Number 1, a little intimidating, but giving it a decent run.

The lack of immediate ‘security’ is nowhere even remotely near my comfort zone, but I’ve been able to stay the course. I’m learning a lot, and though I still don’t know what the outcome will be, I’m doing the work!

I’ve gotten through the career coaching. And numerous training courses. I’ve learned more about small businesses, and resources for them, than I previously even imagined there was to learn. I’ve chopped down my budget and spruced up my resume. My head spins with the skill-related knowledge I’m brushing up on.

I’ve even found some options for jobs that fit within my goal!

Number 3, I haven’t been doing too badly on either.

As mentioned, transitions are NOT my happy place, but I’ve managed to keep up on a workout routine that is at least holding me together, and I’ve (mostly) managed to stick to it even when deadlines loom.

Chronic Pain: Not as bad as it could be, and even improving some.

Mental Health: Not where I want it to be, for sure, but it could be, and trust me, it has been, far worse!

Faith: Holding up decently, and 10,000 times better than in the midst of the life wreck.

Number 4, of course, is a longer term outcome.

But even here, I feel that all the things I’m learning, and the progress I’m making ought surely to be of use to someone else down the line. And some days I even remember what it’s like to have the energy to contribute!

Which leaves us with:

Number 2.

Expect hope instead of horror with this next move.

You’d think with the improved faith, decent mental and tolerable physical health, nearly a year of warning, and even the courage to try something as radical as working for myself, this one would be much easier by now, wouldn’t you?

Not so much.

 

Apparently the power of Horrible Move PTSD transcends well-rounded progress across the rest of life.

Once again, my landlords are preparing to sell the house I live in.

This time it’s for sure.

This time, it’s time to move out, and on. Forward.

Which is nearly paralysing.

Strange how you can have so much horror about leaving a place you never wanted to be!

Because it isn’t that I like where I live now, or that it’s a good fit. It is that this is a known evil.

It’s that my BETTER, BIGGER, HEALTHIER faith still isn’t perfect faith, or anywhere near.

So it’s still hard to expect hope instead of horror.

But, as with the other three, if I’m going to accomplish this one, well, I just have to do it. I have to move forward, even if that means inching forward. Because paralysed isn’t one of the options.

So, what abundance lessons have I learned that I can apply NOW?

Not a bad start.

Will that carry me through without a qualm? Probably NOT!   🙂

But if it at least carries me through despite the qualms, it’s a good start.

 

 

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. 

Adventures RESUMED.

Image: cobblestone path

They’re back!

Remember the Adventures in Optimism?

It was just shy of a year ago that I first heard the words ‘We are going to sell the house.’ in reference to the house I’m living in, and the Adventures began.

Fairly successful considering the conditions, but by no means an unqualified success.

And yet, here I am again, adventuring to the most optimistic of my ability! Not quite so northerly this time.

I find myself in the lovely Pacific North West state of Oregon. Once again staying in a house that is not my own, once again assessing the fiscal, cultural, and psychological possibility of living in this land more permanently.

There are distinct differences this time:

  • I am not in a hotel, and rather than being noisy, my temporary abode is deliciously quiet.
  • I don’t have a nice, secure, long-term job to light the eyes and tempt the hearts of potential landlords and mortgage officers.
  • I do have a good possibility of renting this particular quiet abode, however!
  • And I’ve had a year more of learning to trust, of preparation, of experience.

And of course there are some similarities too – grey skies, rain, gorgeous surroundings, and so far, pleasant, courteous people! 😀

So, what will it be?  Trust or fear? Life abundantly or LifeWreck 2?

I’m certain it will be trust AND fear, but I’m praying, and striving, to have the TRUST win out by a large margin.

And I’m TRUSTING that it will be life ABUNDANTLY, not another LifeWreck. That’s difficult, and of course it’s where most of the fear comes from, but it’s something I can do.

I’ve learned, and I’ve gotten more healthy, and I’m in a different place than I was at that last, ill-fated, move.

 

We shall see. Let the Adventures … resume!

 

 

Be well. 

Gone Fishin’

Cartoon image of a striped fish.

Happy Friday!!! 

I hope everyone is well!

 

Me, I’m buried under an avalanche of boxes, hoping to meet all my moving deadlines.

Okay, SOME of my moving deadlines.

At least the most important ones!

I have a strong suspicion this will still be the case next Friday, but we’ll see what I can manage.

Have splendidly marvellous, gloriously delightful weekends!!

(And relax some for me, won’t you?!?)

 

Be well.