Sleeping Apps, Time and Expectation

I have this great little sleep app. I never thought I’d be the kind of person to ever own such gadgets (I laughed at those growing up who had “ocean machines” to help them sleep), but I am really thankful for it. It has nature sounds and light music that start off somewhat up beat and then gradually they become mellower and slower. All night it plays, gently. When it’s time to wake up, or about five minutes before, the music becomes a little louder, a little faster. Chirping birds begin to make their appearance as the music gradually becomes more upbeat. Usually it takes about 10 seconds or so for me to wake up once the app makes this transition, but it is so much nicer to wake up to chirping birds than the “EEH, EEH, EEH, EEH, EEH, EEH, EEH,” blaring in my ear like a normal alarm. I guess I’ve turned into one of those people I used to mock. At least sort of.

The app, or more like sleeping and the night,  resets my internal clock, realigns me with the stillness of night and the on coming day and reinstates my daily routine. It puts everything back in sync which I’m thankful for. It also gives our hearts and minds a break from whatever chaos may have been the day before. We may still be angry with whatever happened a day prior, but we’ve been able to step back from the midst of it and gain some perspective (which is simply a way of saying that we are able to more clearly see our perspective and hopefully begin to see the situation from the “others” perspective). In a way, that’s what the seasons do. Calendars are simply a way of marking specific days, but the seasons and change of them, do the same thing a night does.

Spring is the dawn of a new day. Summer is the heat of the afternoon. Autumn is the coolness of the evening sunset, and Winter is the dark, sleeping of night. God seemed to have thought of everything (I say with a smirk), but it’s true. The Hebrews recognized these seasons and the Early Church also recognized them bringing in the Messiah’s arrival, life and sacrifice and resurrection.

Now, we are at the beginning of Advent. There are really only five major sections of time in a year-Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time. These seasons, blocks of time, are meant to do for our soul, just what a good night’s sleep does for our physical bodies. Renews our understanding of Christ, refreshes our weary minds and hearts from life, resets our routines, realigns ourselves with Him and reestablishes God’s leading in our lives. Of course, I could go on and on with “re-” words, but let’s just stick with those for now.

I’m not saying that we need some major overhaul of our traditions and daily rhythms for this season (unless of course you do need to). But simply taking time to acknowledge this season we’re coming upon, Who it is that was born and why He was born, and the earth moving impact His birth had/has. It really is not just holy ground, but holy time. Moses took off his sandals when he was in the presence of God in the burning bush because he realized he was not worthy of even the ground he was standing on. Yet God chose him. And here we are, immersed in a time that is set apart for recognizing Him as the chosen one to come in the form of a baby.

As much as I desire to do nothing but listen to Christmas music, bake all kinds of Christmas goodies and watch Christmas movies, it seems that this time of year is insanely busy. Christmas programs, parties, get-togethers, special services, gift shopping, traveling…whew, the list is endless. But I’m fairly confident that God did not intend for life to be a life of busyness…especially during those special set aside times of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter.

As Moses removed his sandals, I wonder what God is inviting me to remove during this holy time. What might He be inviting you to remove during this holy time? Not that we have to. But what might be waiting for us if we did? What special gifts are awaiting us if we pause and recognize this time as a holy time? Perhaps, it’s a question worth pondering as we head into Advent this year. I’d love to hear your answers…..

be blessed today

 

Photo Credit: The BBC

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Are We At A Pivotal Time?

Change is hard. It just is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a superficial/minor change, or a change of your whole core value belief system….it. is. hard. And, it sucks. There’s fear, lots of fear, of “what will be”, the unknown , the “never before traveled” paths that we are faced with in life.

When we were first married, almost 15 years ago, we had our first argument as a married couple. We had just gotten back to Pittsuburgh from our honeymoon, picked up our car on the way from the airport and drove the 12 hours back to college for Iris to finish up her senior year. We pulled into our nice, but cheap, government subsidized apartment, unloaded the car, and I decided to take a shower. The full bath was right at the top of the stairs, literally the first thing you saw when you walked in our front door. Not only was the bathroom the first thing you saw, more importantly was the bathtub and shower. After taking my shower, I did just what I had always done the first 22 years and 11 months prior to that moment….I left the shower curtain open.

I realize what I had done…at least now I realize it. And, to many of you, you may also realize what I had done. But for some of you who don’t, let me gently explain the lesson I learned. Our shower wasn’t the prettiest. Closing the shower curtain after the shower not only blocked the sight of the not so pretty shower from the two of us who lived there, but it also blocked it’s view from all the wonderful guests that would be coming into our home, either planned or simply popping by. Plus, lest we forget, it would keep said brand new shower curtain, from mildewing prematurely.

Again, I now realize that this is an important thing in general, but especially to my co- adventurer in life. But at that time, it wasn’t a value of mine. Therefore, an argument ensued and, well, it just wasn’t a grand night. I didn’t/don’t always close the curtain as I am human after all. But after this moment,  I did become more aware that there was someone else in the house. There was someone else who valued a lot of the same things I did, but also had a higher value on things that I didn’t. I started to value those things higher than I had before. Yes, sometimes it was more logical to value those things higher (like mildew on a shower curtain), but with other things, it was simply because I valued Iris much more therefore I wanted to value the things that she valued. This is still a lesson I am learning, at least I hope I am still learning it.

I often wonder if change is difficult for everyone. I think it is. I could be wrong, and please feel free to push back if I am, but I think big changes are easier to take when they are abrupt as opposed to them taking a long time, and smaller changes are easier to take if they are taken over time as opposed to happening abruptly. For example, if I desire my kids to not use the same knife for peanut butter as they do for jelly, I can repeatedly tell them, show them and model over time. They will eventually learn and make the change. But, for those I know that have had cancer, when the doctor first told them such shocking news, it was a “well, this is our new reality, so let’s figure out how to live in it”  kind of reaction.

In neither scenario was change easy…but it seems that there are different ways of accepting and handling change. Wish I knew them all and would accept them, but, again, I am human after all. Change is hard. My life is in a big time of change. And though I am more willing to accept it, it is still very hard.

We as followers of Jesus, or the new proposed term, #commongoodchristian, are living in a world that is changing. This change has been happening for millennia, literally. But I believe the ugliness and power of this change became very apparent in this past election. The conversations (and I do hope they turn into conversations and not the mud slinging yelling they have been thus far) will not end today, nor with the inauguration, but for many years to come. In many ways, the American church is at a place where the Church has already been heavily engaged in for decades, if not centuries, in other parts of the world. It just seems that we in the States are getting much more of the spotlight then others have.

But politics aside, we are in a time of change, transition, adjustment, reconstruction, metamorphosis, or whatever you desire to call it, that we’ve never been before. I would much rather call it growing pains. They don’t feel well, they hurt, but they are a part of growing up. They are a part o your body preparing for it’s next stage of life. My hope is that we can look at this time in the same light. Not something that is simply uncomfortable and therefore we need medicine to soothe us. Jesus is the great healer, and if we truly believe that, we also must accept the truth that he does not heal everyone of every disease. This is not only a part of the fallen world we live in, but it is also a way of learning about him in ways that we may not apart from those aches and pains.

Growing pains are not things to fight against, nor are they things to soothe. We accept them as part of life and growing up…our body adjusting to the new reality that we are living in and preparing for the next season. Perhaps this time in Church history is the same- not something to be soothed or fought, but something to simply accept as what it is and a place that we can learn something about ourselves and God. Listening instead of speaking, being instead of doing, becoming aware instead making others aware of us….what would this time in history look like?

Every time God’s chosen people became comfortable, a massive change occurred and there were uproars. Is this no different? Maybe we’ve gotten too comfortable, to apathetic, to entitled. Change isn’t comfortable and it isn’t fun, usuallly. But it does bring us to a point of questioning why we do what we do and what will we do next. Maybe stopping and listening will help us to see that we are allowing something far dangerous than mildew begin to grow in our hearts and in the world God has called us to go to.

So, why do we do what we do? And, what will we do next? How will we behave, engage the world and engage the one right next door to us?

be blessed today

Photo Credit: http://www.gaggenau.com/cz

Is The Storm Coming To Harm or Teach?

I’ve been on a few good hikes in my day. A few good places that I wanted to simply stay and basque in the moment a little longer. Hiking up Mt. Washington, in New Hampshire, USA…climbing out of my tent at sunrise in Denali National Park in Alaska, the view from the highest pass on the Annapurna Circuit on that cloudy day in Nepal, and several more. Moments I wish I could linger and soak in where I was, what I saw, what I was smelling, tasting, feeling. And that’s just hikes. Not to mention my children being born, Iris and my first date, the places we’ve visited, etc., etc.

Then there are those other times. Those times that I could not wait to end. Dealing with a car accident, being sick with the flu, waiting for the doctor to confirm if Iris had miscarried, our oldest having an asthma attack not knowing what was going on, feeling as if I were in a fog for months, unclear of where God was leading me. Ya, those times. Those times which felt like an eternity, and I just wanted them to be over. And to be honest, who wouldn’t? They’re painful, they’re uncertain, they’re times of instability and, because we’re humans, we usually become afraid. Well, at least I know I do.

I’ve had a lot of these moments, the ones that I wanted to end so I could have some answers, so I knew what to do next or where we were headed as a family. It seems that these moments (or months) have grown in intensity and rate the past few years. Part of that could be that they simply have grown in both intensity and rate. Or, it could be that I am in a different place nowadays and am more quick to acknowledge them and engage with them. Me in my pride would like to pick the second…but I’m still not sure.

Nevertheless, I’ve had a few more of these times in my life than I would have preferred. But I am becoming more welcoming of these times. Which for me, is really odd. I was speaking with my spiritual director the other day and he had this to say, “Every time I go through a crisis of some sort, I think ‘this is going to end…’ Meaning, this opportunity for growth is going to end. Therefore, I need to glean as much from this experience as I possibly can before the opportunity passes.” He has seen great pain and great joy. But for someone, who when they realize they are in a crisis, is able to step back and say these words, more importantly, live them out-this speaks of great wisdom.

In every crisis, fog or hardship I’ve gone through, God has used it to teach me something, grow me or lead me to a new place. Maybe not a physical place (though that has happened is happening now), but a place of better understanding of self, of others…of God himself. From past experiences, I have learned patience-a lesson I continue to learn, forgiveness, grace, peace-another one I continue to learn, humility-yet another one, rest, hope and deep, great joy. When the crisis is coming, I see it on the horizon, or I am in the middle of it, I panic. I try to figure out what to do, how to escape from it, how I can get it over with as fast as possible. But, if it’s there for a long time, I begin to settle into it. Not that I want to be in it, but if I am, I need to stop trying to escape and just be present. I don’t always have this attitude. I have people in my life that help give me perspective, help me see where I am and help me to hear what God might be saying to me. I am incredibly thankful for them.

Maybe this all sounds cliche. It might. I would not argue. It might also so pretty simple in word, but in action, it’s incredibly difficult to stop and be present-actively engaged in what God is saying. And, honestly, it is incredibly difficult. Stopping and being present seems hard to do because it is counter-cultural. We, at least we in America, don’t like to sit there and let things happen…we like to make things happen. When we make things happen, we are in control, we’re in the lead, we call the shots. But to sit and engage in the present, to listen, to just be…that is allowing something else to control, someone else to lead, and that’s hard for us. Usually when we allow others, we have victim mentality, blaming others for “doing” things to us. And in those cases, we need to use our voices and speak up. When it comes to God, however, this requires trust of him, because what is going on is him taking us to a deeper place of understanding. Understanding love, compassion, grace, mercy, trust, faith, and the list could go on. In these moments, if he really does have our best interest at heart and will never forsake us, then this can only be a time of learning. Still use your voice and speak how you’re feeling to him, question what is going on and question why. He’ll answer, this much is true. But we have to be at a point of engaging with him in order to hear it.

I only speak of personal experience. And, as I’ve said before, I wish I did this even half of the time. My prayer is for you…for me, that when that next crisis comes, or in the midst of the one we’re in right now, that we would have the courage to stop and listen. That we would ask for the smallest of peace to pause and see where God is in all of this and what he has for us. Because when this moment is over, we may not have an opportunity to linger with God in such a way that could be something utterly divine.

be blessed today

Photo Credit: https:the_tahoe_guy

 

One Way to Work Through Your Fear…Especially Today

So, today is election day in America. I debated back and forth as to whether or not to even post today. My assumption was that no one will read this, eyes will be glued to the tv screen or scouring the interwebs for the latest updates and numbers as to who will be in the position to lead my passport country for the foreseeable future. Why? Because Wednesday will be a different place, a different world, a different day for many. A day untraveled nor experienced, of course, but one that may be much different than we would have expected a year ago. That can cause fear, concern and worry. None of which will add an hour to our lives…at least that’s what’s written in scripture.

I have learned these past few years that when I am in a place of worry and concern, there is something I can do that helps to take that fear away. More or less, the answer is Jesus. Ya, I know, that’s the answer for almost everything in this life. It sounds cliche. But, he’s not a cliche, but many use him as one. “Jesus”-not on ly does it sound cliche, it can also seem a distant, disconnected answer. Yes, also true, he is the God that we can interact with, engage with, and speak to in a personal way, but when we speak of him in these cliche ways, he becomes disconnected and “powerless.” Meaning, we view him not really able to do anything. But, I’m rabbit trailing.

Part of making him personal or perhaps acknowledging his presence and the fact that he is real, is showing gratitude. There are a lot of the things that go on in our lives on a daily basis. No matter whether we are living in our normal routine that we’ve done a thousand times or a new adventure, there are still several things a day to be grateful for. As we begin as a family to transition from Mongolia back to our passport country after 12 years of living overseas, we have had many things to be thankful for these recent days.

I was chatting with a friend of mine last week. When I began sharing about all the things and in all the ways we’ve seen God’s provision the past few weeks, he suggested that I start keeping a gratitude journal-simply writing down the things that have happened and why I’m grateful for it. I did this while in my 12 step groups, but haven’t kept up the practice.

I decided to give it a try, and guess what….this simple act of worship released a lot of stress, fear and worry. Being thankful for what we have amidst the fear and concern about the unknown future, releases a lot of our desire for control. Seeing on paper, or just vocalizing what God has done and is doing, helps us to see that God really will bring about his goodness no matter what. And come hell or high water, he is there. He has been there. And, he will be there right alongside us. Which is another thing we can write down in our gratitude journal.

As we Americans head into today’s voting booths and spend time praying about the future of our country (or as any of us head into today), we need to hold our “freedoms”  loosely knowing that if every one of them is gone and taken away, we still have much to be grateful for. This simple-in-theory-act holds no power, but acknowledges the power that God already possesses and releases to him any power we may think we have. In that, we have more to be thankful for-we don’t have to keep the world spinning, that’s his job, and we don’t have to worry about tomorrow, he’s got it.  May we all be blessed in acknowledging the fear that we sometimes live in, who we are and who he is. Acknowledging reality…living in true freedom.

be blessed today

 

Photo credit: discoveringfatherhood.com

 

Why Are You The Problem?

Life has a rhythm to it. There’s a cycle, a general flow that continues on with our with out us. God set these things in motion and they will continue so until He desires them to stop. The seasons, jet streams, the ocean currents, day and night, the orbit around the sun….they all have a consistent, faithful, periodicity about them. And so, we’ve adapted our lives to work in these intervals and time frames as well. We go about our normal routines and habits, continuing to move in some direction. We created systems to operate in, as fallen as they may be. We continue in this system. That is, until something disrupts the system.

We in the West especially, do not do well with disruptions to our “normal.” Sickness, a pipe bursting, a quick run to drop off the lunch at school that our child forgot, these disruptions can sometimes be small or massive, depending on who you are. Disruptions are things I’ve written before.  But this post is about something different. It’s not about something causing a disruption in your life. No, this post is far different. It’s about being the thing, being the person, who disrupts the system. Not for the sake of saying “screw you all, I’m gonna do what I want,” or for some sort of pride or selfish gain. No, disrupting the system because you have chosen health over dysfunction.

There’s a psychological term that became very impactful to me several years ago while taking a psychology class in grad school from an awesome professor. He was talking about dysfunctional families, for example. Often times, there is one child who will be acting out, acting oddly different than the rest of the family. In some cases, sadly, these behaviors are detrimental to the well being of the child. In other cases, the behavior is actually good, but because it is sssoooooo different than how the family operates, it looks as though the child is the one with the dysfunction. This child is called the “Identified Patient.” Psychologists began to notice this type of situation happening time and time again and realized it had nothing to do with the child, really. It had everything to do with the dysfunction of the family.

Today, we can see this same type of situation in families. But it doesn’t just stop there. Churches, businesses, organizations, schools…anything with a group of people, we can see this very same scenario played out. And it is sad, because often times those in the middle of their dysfunction, cannot see that they are the ones being dysfunctional. I have seen people, Identified Patients,  torn apart from the raw sinful dysfunction around them. Iris and I have walked through that very same type of situation as well. For those of us that follow Christ, really for anyone, we always have a choice whether or not to engage with the dysfunction or not. The alternative option may not be a good option either, but we always have a choice. We also have a choice to continue on in playing the game, enabling the dysfunction and communicating to those involved that this type of behavior is ok. Or, we can chose where God is leading us, which is never to play the game of enabling dysfunction.

This road that God leads us down is not easy. Remember the 12 Steps and what we see in scripture? Often times hardship is the pathway to peace. One of the clearest times Iris and I walked through this, we had several people tell us that we should abandon ship, jump out before it continues to get worse. And, yes, I believe there is a time for that. But we continued to follow God’s leading into it because He hadn’t yet released us from that. Was it hard? Yes. Did it feel shitty, hurtful and at times, hopeless? Yep. It did. But we also had people, deep people, people who understood pain, who understood the suffering of Christ, people who have walked continue to walk that road of hardship, who patiently sat and listen. They are there even now,  to encourage us to keep Christ center, no matter what, to trust in Him and to not care what others think or what rumors they may say, but to simply (how hard “simply” can be) stay the course. These are the voices we listen to and staye a tune because those are the voices of the Spirit speaking.

Yes, in some cases the identified patient needs to examine themselves and see why they are acting in a way that is detrimental or harmful to themselves. But if you are living a life of Christ, trying to do the right thing, making amends when need be and owning your own stuff, please be encouraged by this-God is there amidst the cloud and fog. He is there. I have been there, and I’m sure I’ll be in the midst of that again.

When we begin to life a live of health, spiritual health, in a system that is dysfunctional all twisted and warped by the fallen world we live in, it disrupts the way things have always been. People who have grown quite accustomed to the dysfunction, learned how to play the game, moved in and set up shop there, do not like to be disrupted. And sometimes the uncomfortability of the disruption comes at you full force.

Christ was a disruption. He was living a life of true spiritual health in every way. When those attacked him out of their own dysfunction and hurt, he simply showed grace, love and Truth. Eventually, this got him killed. Yes. But not even the gates of hell could stand against him…not even in death. If He truly cares for the flowers in the meadow, or the birds each day, how much more will he be there in the fog? How much more will he rescue us? Reach out and find people who speak, breathe Truth into you, and lean onto them. Trust in Him, and I know how hard that is.  May you not lose heart, may you be a person of peace who God uses to bring Christ to a broken system and a broken world, and may we all accept what God has laid before us as the pathway to peace.  That’s my prayer for you…and myself today.

be blessed today

Photo Credit: http://www.borongaja.com