Awareness: Day 3 of “31 Days”

It’s day three of the 31 Days of Blogging “craze,” if I can be so irreverent. If you’re looking for days one and two, don’t. I didn’t.

But, I promised myself I’d take on the challenge so I’m here, writing about Awareness. And now it’s late and I’m cranky, wondering where the time went, though I know full well. It has been filled with the stuff of life, stuff that I almost miss the chance to be grateful for when I’m not paying attention. Like…

  • savoring the smell of salsa crockpot chicken when I open the front door
  • Hobby Lobby exchanging the $10 can of spray that only worked thrice
  • the joy of watching a grand-girl in her first season of volleyball
  • arms that feel like jelly after a workout
  • time spent listening to a friend
  • showering in hot water for which I did not have to walk
  • how many reds there are in Fall–our burning bush, the sumac on the canal bank, the last of the geraniums
  • the pink and white cosmos that has taken over the garden
  • a covered patio on which to park my car–and Mr. S who cleared the space
  • time to study and a migraine that only threatened

So I pause at the end of this day making time for a moment of stillness, step out of the traffic, someone has said, and tell God thank you.

“Thank you for the nudge to notice, for leading me to gratitude, which leads to…to You.” 


Join me? What did you almost miss today today that you remembered in the stillness? For what are you grateful? Share in the comments.

Thoughts On Desire: Do you even KNOW what you’re fighting over?

Is anybody else confused about desire? On the one hand “God will give you the desires of your heart..” On the other, “The heart is deceitful…who can know it…” If you’ve been around the Christian faith for any length of time you’ve likely heard a sermon (or forty) about the tug-o-war between what I want vs. what God wants.

Digging into desire includes:

  • Opening to consider God’s dream of us–seeing
  • Recognizing where we presently resist invitations to freedom–suspicions
  • Looking at what has shaped us–self-awareness

Seeing
What if the more in touch with our desires we become, the closer we come to “knowing God’s will for our lives,” a Christian phrase that has caused many well-intentioned high school seniors ulcer-inducing anxiety which turns into  adult exhaustion?

What if we put some effort into becoming aware of what we want and responding to that, instead of making “God’s will” a mysterious code that only a lucky and smart few are able to crack? What if God’s will is inside us, not outside us? What if God’s will is less about what we do to be loved and more about our living into our identity as The Beloved? What if we paid better attention to what our hearts are already whispering to us? It is not the only factor in discernment, but it is a critical one.

Suspicions
Are you suspicious about the topic of desire? Perhaps it is warranted since we know that desire gone awry can lead us down nefarious paths.

But what if instead we put all that suspicious energy into the exciting prospect that God puts in us what he wants us to want, according to who God dreams of our becoming?

Self-Awareness
My recent trip to the cemetery made me think about what I want–but not, as you might assume, in the bucket-list sense of the word. It felt good to be there since it had been a while.

Dad’s marker reads, “Gone to Heaven; meet me there.” Beside it, Mom’s declares, “Beloved Wife, Mother and Grandmother.” Characteristic of headstones, they each capture some essence of a life but neither is comprehensive in scope.

I only lived in their home for my first eighteen years yet their influence left an indelible imprint that 40-plus years of marriage and a life independent of their authority did little to obscure.

For instance, my penchant for overthinking, and my appreciation for road trips and ranches comes from Dad while Mom left me with unparalleled expectations for grandmothering. I tried to love quilting and crafting because she did. Honest. It took some time (and a lot of unfinished projects!) to discover that those were her preferences. I am still discovering my own.

As I have grown in self-awareness, I have begun to understand why I have difficulty with knowing my own desires, or giving myself permission to have desires at all.

For example, Mom had a charming way of steering my younger self which was full of FOMO (fear of missing out). “Oh, no…you don’t want that,” she would say with a chuckle,  avoiding many a meltdown by gently whoosing away my childish requests as if they were nothing of substance to cause either of us a moment’s concern. And for the moment, they didn’t.

Such strategies work for petulant children, but over the long-term it becomes important to name one’s needs. The inability to do so can result in:

  • Paralysis in choosing
  • Fear of asking
  • Feelings of unworthiness
  • Holding too tightly to acquired possessions
  • Impacting every area of life from deciding on a career to shopping for shoes

Perhaps what you want and what God wants aren’t all that different. It just may take a little excavating. What awaits is the freedom of discovering that what God desires, God has already put in your heart.


How can you dig into your own desire?

Get curious. It may be buried deep. Ask God to show you what you want.

Notice what your heart is drawn toward. 

Pay attention and record it over the next week or so at the end of each day.

What do you notice in nature, scripture, spontaneous thought, snippets of engaging conversation, memories that randomly surface?

What might God be showing you about your desires though these moments?

How are you responding or resisting? Why?

  • Spend a few minutes in reflection at the end of the time
  • Note any common thread(s)
  • Talk to a trusted friend
  • Trust your desires to God

BONUS: 
Ruth Haley Barton of The Transforming Center does great work around the topic of desire. If any of this resonates with you, you can watch her talk about it here.

[Mom and Dad raised Boston Terriers. I had to include this photo which looks just like theirs. :)]

 

 

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/

Perks and Process: The Why and How of Memorizing

 

013

Parroting with perfect 6-year-old Elizabethan elocution, I was rewarded with glowing approval.

“Blessed is the man”-or person, my dad astutely responded to my early gender sensitivities, “that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” (Psa. 1 KJV)

“And God is the redeemer of every situation…”

Someone said that to me once, a line I committed to memory and have never–well, sometimes–forgotten.

Mmm…Tasty!

Those same words, once sweet in my mouth, turned to gravel over time. The experience of having the Bible crammed down Continue reading

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

Why You, Me and Britney Spears Should Stop While We’re Still Having Fun

I was suprised to discover how long I have been away from the blog–apologies for the unexplained silence. Life happens and… Boom! Two months is gone.

It’s amazing what comes to mind when you’re mindlessly picking raspberries on a relaxed Sunday afternoon in the hot summer sun. So I ran inside when my bucket was full and wrote down what I was thinking. Only after I had thrown down a draft did I look at what and when I had previously posted. Then I laughed out loud. All by myself. The last post was on recovering from injury. Apparently I need to chill because…

Six women, one in therapeutic cam boot

Sam’s Bridal Shower

Oops! I did it again (start at 0:51 to karaoke!)
Played with my whole heart
Got lost in the game
O bummer, Baby
Oops! It’s pickleball love
Not sent from above
It just LOOKS innocent Continue reading

Injured? 3 Essentials for Returning to the Game (Pt. 2)

Jeans with hole in knee

When we sustain an injury, a little self-care may be necessary if we’re to return to the game. Consider taking an intentional approach to recovery. (Click here for Part 1 of this two-part post.)

Acknowledge – Be real with ourselves and our situation

Pride is a killer. I hate it when I have to admit that everything’s NOT okay. But sometimes it’s just not. And while our difficulties don’t need to be broadcast to everyone, we need to be willing to tell the truth at least to ourselves. It’s normal and healthy, and in fact good Continue reading

Injured? 3 Essentials for Returning to the Game (Pt. 1)

Man and woman playing pickleball outdoors

Courtesy of Creative Commons. Photo credit here.

Pickleball. I started playing two or three years ago at my husband’s urging as a way to get some moderate exercise–and so he would quit nagging me. I figured it had something to do with the comic strip that follows the antics of Earl and Opal Pickles as they learn the ropes of retirement, and while it is popular with the retired set, don’t be fooled by the association. It’s actually a rather rigorous court sport originating in the Northwest, which shouldn’t be played by people with bad knees.

Some sessions result in more-than-moderate exercise. Ergo, six months in, my “all out or get out” approach netted me a severe sprained ankle that sidelined me for the next 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)