Summer of a Significant Birthday

2017-08-07 23.03.46

  • Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older, and will some day be old.
  • Keep me from getting talkative, and particularly from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.
  • Release me from craving to try to straighten out everybody’s affairs.
  • Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details–give me wings to get to the point.
  • I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of others’ pains. Help me to endure them with patience.
    But seal my lips on my own aches and pains–they are increasing and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.
  • Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally it is possible that I may be mistaken.
  • Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint–some of them are so hard to live with–but a sour old woman is one of the crowning works of the devil.
  • Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful, but not bossy.
  • With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all–but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

—From Little Book of Prayers

(by a Mother Superior who wishes to be anonymous)

Holiness 101: People Matter

If you react to the term “holiness” like I do, this may help you breathe. May even help redeem it. Take a listen and let me know what you think.

Episode 73 – Holiness is Better Than You Think // Trevor Hudson – Renovaré

https://renovare.org/podcast/episode-73-trevor-hudson

21 Quick Actions You Can Do Today to Simplify Your Life – Slow Your Home

Like many of us, I’m in the struggle. Slow and simple are not characteristics of my native habitat. Yet they are helpful–no, essential–in opening space for God, for others, for ourselves. Suggestions like these point me in that direction. 

Most are practical tasks that nudge the process forward. The piece finishes with a grace-filled framework. Enjoy…and implement. 

What would you add? [or eliminate… :)]

http://slowyourhome.com/21-quick-actions-simplify-life/#_a5y_p=5259893

Awareness: Day 17 of “31 Days” – Maybe I Just Need to Write For 4’s

#4 wooden coastersIt occurs to me after listening to Leigh Kramer on Tsh’s podcast, that maybe I just need to write for 4’s; that maybe nobody else has experienced the kind of discontent around their life with God that we/I have!

Whatever our deepest desire, it’s one of the ways God comes to us, calls us forward, causes to us to put our gifts into the world. For a ‘4,’ it’s often an unrequited longing that becomes a prayer expressing what another needs to say but can’t quite get in touch with. (Or maybe we 4’s just wish that were the case because we can’t bear to be left out, thus we create everyone else in our image so that we’re not alone!)

I googled “enneagram 4 blog” because I wanted some specific info on how 4’s tend to see things and found the little gem. I mostly found that we 4’s have a certain method and motivation and rhythm–or not!–even for blogging. Of course. I just hadn’t thought to reference it against the enneagram. Many things make more sense when run through the E-filter. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s simply a way to organize information about personality including thoughts, feelings, behavior and the like. It makes me both appreciate and lament the struggle and the celebration that is this life. In fact, it kind of makes me want to re-title this whole blog endeavor and start over–which is also very ‘4’.

What it mostly makes me aware of is why I have written only four, now, four (4!) days out of the 31-Day challenge. And that on this day, knowing my 4-ness helps me be okay with that. And I hope that on this day, wherever you are and whatever you find yourself doing, you’re okay with it–especially if you’re also a ‘4’. If you’re a ‘1’ it will be even harder–but you can do it! Just a little inside enneagram humor, which you can find out more about right here.

It’s no magic bullet, but almost. Discovering the why underneath what you and others do–or don’t, fosters empathy and graciousness. And God knows we could use a little more of that. Yes?

Awareness: Day 12 of “31 Days”

I’ve been immersed again in the wisdom that the enneagram offers (and apparently a lot more since it’s now Day 12!).

The Enneagram offers an awareness of the filters through which we see; how we view ourselves, experience God and interact with one another, for better and for worse.
Awareness at the capacity available to humans is a gift bestowed on no other creature. It is foundational to the understanding necessary for growing safe, loving relationships with God, ourselves and others.

Especially at this time of year, awareness travels a meaningful path.

  • Awareness with intent toward appreciation leads to gratitude.
  • Gratitude assumes a source.
  • Source points to “in the beginning.”

As a 4 on the E-gram, I’m not a fan of the church year’s Ordinary Time– or ordinary anything else, for that matter. In spite of it not being my natural habitat,  I’m learning through practicing awareness, to value the ordinary. 

October is the last of it and is a great build-up to Festival season. All Saints Day then November with its focus on gratitude. Thanksgiving, Christ the King Sunday then right into Advent. 

Yep, it’s here folks! Right around the corner. Almost time to untangle the tree lights.

And when I pull the lens back into the present,  all of a sudden, ordinary time is anything but. In fact…

  • a glance out the window at the brilliant Autumn hues
  • the joyful chaos of kids’ Fall sports
  • breathing the stimulating chill of morning’s air
  • monitoring weather reports for mountain pass travel 
  • sitting in a surgery waiting room
  • celebrating milestone birthdays

…all nudge me into full consciousness. I am reminded that the present moment is gift. I am alive. I am aware.

Awareness: Day 5 of “31 Days”

If I’m honesr, it’s days four AND five. But who’s counting, right? 

————-

One moment our small formation group was celebrating that we were back together after a break. The next, we were grieving news that the passing of someone we all love was imminent. Cancer treatment had been halted and family called.
The reality of what her absence would mean settled over us like a cup of strong coffee sobers a drunk. 

One shed tears, some had to speak their grief, another was uncharacteristically silent. 

Yet, rather than leaving us under a morose, dark cloud, we were graced with a gift that comes only through shared pain. 

Our misshapen circle in the sunlit living room seemed to grow smaller. It was as if connective tissue was being formed between chairs drawing us more tightly together.

In that instant, I became aware of how we are shaped by sorrow, formed by community. That trudging through dark places nurtures empathy and trust, moving us beyond ourselves as perhaps no other experience can.

Since we are not spared life’s difficult milestones, of which death is one, I find myself asking,  “Am I becoming the kind of person who can hold both the agony and the ecstasy, and be at peace trusting that God is present and at work in it all?” 

I am becoming increasingly aware that it is possible, even glimpse it from time to time. And so my prayer is, “May it be so”.

—————-

Where are you being asked to hold both joy and sorrow? How are you being formed by being in community?

What I Want You to Know About My Silence | Addie Zierman

Addie writes my heart with her pen in this post. I hope you will read, thoughtfully, all of it. 

http://addiezierman.com/2016/07/14/what-i-want-you-to-know-about-my-silence/

Why I Am Pro Choice

constitution_thumb_295_dark_gray_bg…agency is the “capacity of an entity…to act in any given environment.

I’ve been thinking these 3 things about agency recently and I like this definition from trusty Wikipedia. For some of us whose default setting is compliance, agency is a foreign concept. We agree in theory but have no skill in practice In fact, it needs some unpacking before we can grasp its meaning and allow it to be our lived experience. Continue reading

Post-Flu and Ready for Resurrection

This is my real life. We’re on the home stretch of a two-week bout with flu—not the gross intestinal type, but the respiratory variety that keeps you awake coughing and pinned to the couch with nary enough energy to lift a pinky. It’s been brutal. Mr. S got the shot, I didn’t. I guess this strain sneaked through. I tried as many immune boosting remedies and DIY recipes for relief as I could possibly find on Pinterest as well as the OTC “tried’s and true’s.” (Thank you, God, for Nyquil.) I’m sure I would have gained several honey-cayenne-ginger induced pounds were it not for the lack of appetite that accompanied this bug. But we’re all better–or almost, and life is getting back to normal. A new normal since Daylight Savings Time happened in the interim.

While I was down, I had the opportunity to face the reality of my attachments. Continue reading

It’s Not Complicated: How the Liturgical Year Can Simplify Your Life (Lent, Pt.2)

Too Many Words
If all it takes is words, I am, with Paul, a Pharisee of the Pharisees. Mr. S has been known to say, “That’s too many words. Can you please say that another way?” I’ve learned to be less offended because he’s right. (To my accusers who would say I am for other reasons, I can only reply, “Likely, guilty as charged,” and ask your forgiveness.)

Clarity seems to reside in the DNA of some. Others of us arrive only by hearing ourselves talk a thing through. I know because we have lamented it together–after I went first! It does tend to complicate things (many thanks to our longsuffering friends) but we have other gifts.

Maybe the John 7 account of Jesus’ exchange with the religious leaders of the day is just for us. But I don’t think so. I think there is something more systemic at issue than the word count.

Where Am I?
In the last post, I wrote about the value of observing the liturgical or church year, how it simplifies one’s life serving as both guide and reminder. Today, I write about an insight from that practice, one that keeps me mindful of my location in time like a GPS does as I travel.

Cover of book: Engage-Pastel brush strokes

In the day’s reading in Engage, the brass is getting all worked up because Jesus pokes around in their insistance that connection with God requires navigating their complex labyrinth of requirements (John 7).

Historically, what began as ten reasonable guidelines given for the good of the whole became a highly developed code to illuminate humanity’s need of grace (that in the present cultural context seems foreign at best, repulsive at worst). Enforcement of The Law of Love fell into the capable hands of a corrupted power structure until life with God was understood as an exhaustive and exhausting system of external behaviors–Leviticus on steroids. But Jesus entered the conversation, cut through the crap and created clarity where clerics had clouded most everything with complexity. Yeah, like that.

Aaarrghh!
Spending time in the scene revealed how easily I, too, confuse internal consent with external compliance, a heavy yoke, a way to prove to others, to myself, to God, that all is well with my soul. And how easily I expect my yoke to be worn by another, at least invisibly if not aloud!

For example…

  • Squirming if another expresses or experiences their creativity or passion or restraint as I do–or don’t (Tattoo or not…, hands lifted or not…?)
  • Uses a vocabulary with which I am uncomfortable or unfamiliar to explain their life experience or mine. (Do you get pissed of or just really ticked?)
  • Prioritizing a particular value over one another has deemed more valuable (Bible study before mercy ministry, or vice versa?)

Judging, assessing, measuring… Exhausting! As long as external behaviors come into compliance, I am to assume that internal consent has been given, or that the reverse will be true?

Frankly, Jesus lifts from me the burden of assuming anything. It’s not in my job description, though I’m pathologically inclined to assist wherever I think the watchful eye of the Spirit may have overlooked something!

A Bigger Story
Living the liturgical year calls me back in regular rhythm to the Bigger Story, the simple invitation to a life with God, here and hereafter. It tells me God can be trusted with that Big Story and with my little one. It walks me through the one Jesus lived on earth rather than clamoring after this or that variation on The Theme.

Any one of our pet distractions (the nicer word might be emphases), interesting, exhilarating, or well-intentioned as they may at first be, can, without the larger canopy of grace, become its own complicated system of dos and don’ts; death-dealing dogmas with heavy, excess baggage we are not asked to carry. Before we know it, we lose our way. Centuries of religious tragedy, comedy and glorious, epic love story are proof.

Instead, hear Jesus’ invitation: Come to ME, you who are weary. I will give you rest.

Jesus + X = Rest
I suppose I could be the only one. But maybe not. My early experiences of “coming to ME” had moments of relief, but they resulted in my finding anything but true rest. Over time, it came to be understood less like an invitation to fine dining and more like a McDonald’s menu (Jesus plus X = the “full meal deal”):

  • Jesus plus the proper moral code
  • Jesus plus the right social group
  • Jesus plus the right theological language
  • Jesus plus the right physical manifestations
  • Jesus plus the acceptable fashion
  • Jesus plus a sanctioned career
  • Jesus plus a quota of gatherings attended
  • Jesus plus the right political ideaology
  • Jesus plus the right view of eschatology
  • Jesus plus a specific worship style
  • Jesus plus financial sacrifice
  • Jesus plus _______________________________ (fill in the very long blank).

No longer. Less truly is more. If you’re in a similar place, perhaps you’re ready to hear again–or for the first time, the invitation to rest, to step onto the simple path of trust and walk with God through the eyes and life of Jesus… for the love of God! It really is that simple.

AND YOU?  It’s midway through Lent, the seaon when generally we give up something to give our attention more fully to what God offers. What “plus” are you carrying that makes your journey heavy? Are you unaware of a “plus” you might be asking another to carry? How might God be inviting you to them up?

In simple rest,
Gwen


P.S.
Lest it seem that rolling to the rhythms of the liturgical year is just one more “Jesus plus ______,” this:

“Once again I should emphasize that what I’ve been describing here is not a matter of biblical rule. You don’t have to recognize the Christian year to be a faithful follower of Jesus. But the experience of countless believers throughout the centuries should at least encourage you to consider shaping your yearly life by the themes and narratives of Scripture – and this is, after all, what the Christian year is really all about.”
(Mark Roberts, Patheos Blog, Bible Gateway)