Why Do You Feel?

The past 11 days have been a slew of saying last goodbyes, traveling from one of the remotest countries on the planet to our new home here in the States, all 17 bags + carry-ons in tow, saying hello to some of “our people” and fantasy family, purchasing groceries, getting acquainted with our new home, purchasing our Christmas gifts and celebrating Christmas…it’s been a tad hectic. I write that to say thank you for understanding why I didn’t post last week, and as a way to share why I feel the way I feel right now. And why do I write about why I feel what I feel? Because of Clay, an artist friend of mine’s  post on Facebook a few weeks ago.

He writes, “Writers, everyone talks about honesty. Let me tell you what honesty isn’t: a description of something you feel. We’ve all felt the full spectrum of emotions, but I want you to tell me WHY. Be specific. I’ve heard it said that many writers spend time writing about the epic mountain landscape, but only the best write about the blade of grass. If you want to make someone feel something, don’t tell them how you feel, tell them what made you feel. Give me a story, not a list. Give me humanity. Be so honest that it gets you in trouble.”

Though I don’t fully agree that everyone has “felt the full spectrum of emotions” as some suppress what they are feeling because it’s “dangerous” and leaves them vulnerable, I do agree that there are many of us who desire to know they why and how. How did it make you feel is just as important as why. But without the why, we are left hanging in a place of ungrowth…dormant perhaps. Knowing why someone, or why you yourself feels a certain emotion, helps us truly be present, experiencing the moment to the fullest extent we can or are able to.

I was on the 10 hour flight from Seoul to Seattle when I started to cry. Sobbing really. My youngest son looked up, got very quiet, and asked if I was crying. “Yes,” I said. “Why? Are you hurt,” he replied. “No, no I’m not. I’m just very, very sad.” Why,” came that very sincere heartfelt innocence truly wanting to know why. “Because I had to say goodbye to some people that I love a great deal. I had to say goodbye to our cat who was special to us. I had to say goodbye to a place I loved and a job that I really loved doing. And to a lifestyle that is no more any longer. That’s why, C,” I replied. “I’m sad to dad. I had to say goodbye to our cat….and my friends. I don’t have anymore friends, at least, I only have two friends where we’re going, but none at my new school. That makes me sad.” And he began to cry to. We sat there for a while, snuggling up next to each other.

It’s been a hard place to be in, here holding both joy and grief in tension. The past few weeks, I’ve handled many things matter-of-factly simply to get the logistical stuff done. But when I stop and allow myself to feel, it all comes back quickly and intensely. It’s amazing how simple things that seem hardly connected, can cause me to feel the pain of saying goodbye-a smell, taste, the way the sun hits a certain angle on a tree or bush….simple things. And then of course there is that excitement of something new, undiscovered territory, risk and what lies ahead. The joy of relationships that were deep and jobs that were fulfilling. The feeling of being home, a new start, a new chapter.

The next few months will be more about reflection, deep searching, an inward and upward journey than they will about a profession. My hope is that I will take my friend Clay’s words to heart and be able to express why I am feeling what I’m feeling and more clearly express the learning journey that I’m on. Whether it be spiritually or the trail I’m currently hiking. I also hope that as we head into a new calendar year, you all will be able to express the same things. Not because you’re narcissistic (unless maybe you are), but because we learn and grow from each other. Reading what I write, I hope it helps you grow in your journey in life. But I also need to learn, and perhaps there are things in your life I may can learn from. But I won’t know unless you share them with me and others. I encourage you to share the what, why, how, where and when with others this year.

May 2017 find you to be on an inward and upward journey as well.

be blessed today

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My Reading list since December 2015, What’s Yours?

I know you’re probably looking for some deep insight and great spiritual wisdom (snickers silently to himself), but not today. Today, I want to share the books that I read over the last 12 months. Perhaps you have a book worm in your life or you’re looking for something that is going to challenge you. Take a look at this list and perhaps you’ll find something. As you look through this list, you’ll notice that some of these books are not about spiritual formation, per say. I do believe that learning is still learning, and we can always learn more, so I would encourage you to look at all of them on the list (I should get credit from Amazon or something for recommending books…hhmmmm).

Anyhow, what I would also like is suggestions from you. We all learn from each other, after all. I don’t usually read fiction (except the Shusaku Endo one at the bottom), but if it’s intriguing, I might be up for it!  I hope if you do read one of these books, that God uses it to speak to you.

be blessed today

Discernment: Reading the signs of daily life-Henri Nouwen

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith- Seth Haines

Rising Strong- Brene Brown

Seasons of the Soul: Stages of Spiritual Development- Bruce Demarest

Contemplation And Midlife Crisis: Examples from Classical and Contemporary Spirituality- OSU Rosmarie Carfagna

Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the year- Philip Reinders and Eugene Peterson

Life Together- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Let Your Life Speak: Listening For The Voice of Vocation-Parker Palmer

The Dusty Ones: Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith-A.J. Swoboda

On Loving God-Bernard of Clairvaux

The Making of a Leader-Robert Clinton

The Search For God and Guinness: A biography of the beer that changed the world-Stephen Mansfield

Crossing the Chasm, 3rd edition- Geoffery A. Moore

Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There-Leonard Sweet

Branding is for Cows. Belonging is for People- CJ Casciotta

Run With The Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best –Eugene Peterson

The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey-Henri Nouwen

The Needs of the Heart-Chip Dodd

Water To Wine: Some Of My Story-Brian Zahnd

Silence- Shusaku Endo

 

 

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

Lingering and The Butterfly Effect

Lingering and The Butterfly Effect

Butterflies. They’re pretty. The zoo near my folks place has an indoor butterfly garden that I just love. These incredibly delicate flying things. Metamorphosis is alone incredible. I really do enjoy them. They flutter around, looking for more food, cross pollinating for the betterment of crops, forests and wild flowers. They are beautiful. The normal life expectancy, on average, for a butterfly is around two weeks. As beautiful as they may be and flutter from here to there, they don’t live long.

Though I am an extrovert, I fall just over the extrovert/introvert line on the scale. I love to be in front of crowds and parties but in order to recharge I need solitude. Throughout high school and college, even into my early professional years, I was a social butterfly. Fluttering from here to there, trying to be as much apart of what was going on as I could. But I never fully committed to one group of people, one small group of friends. Fluttering around is ok, but eventually it will burn you. It isn’t sustainable. It isn’t something that will give you life, but in fact, will take it from you. Lingering, staying, eating well, drinking well, resting, loosing track of time…these are aspects, if done in moderation, of living a life in community. These are characteristics of living life, not just surviving it.

This past week we were able to host three professionals in the coffee world in the States. They came here to help in training our staff as well as a conference we were putting on. The conference, a huge success and the first of it’s kind here, was wonderful as we sought to build community amongst the coffee world here. Everyone who attended both vendors and the general public alike, thanked us for putting on such an event. I am incredibly thankful.

As a way to get away from the busyness that has consumed us the past several weeks, and a way to enjoy being with our three guests, we headed out to the countryside, to a national park to spend the night in a ger (yurt). Huddled in a 5 bed, one room ger with a single fluorescent light bulb and one wood burning stove in the middle, we were able to talk and just be. Talking about life, great “successes” and great “failures,” family whom we were all missing at the moment, praises and petitions, community was happening. This is where spiritual formation takes place. Moments of vulnerability, raw honesty and truth are where bonds are formed and where trust starts to be built.

I’ve had moments like this with my kids, with Iris, with friends both next door and thousands of miles away. This kind of community is something of great sacredness and holiness. Well, at least to me. I think of Jesus and when the disciples seemed to have the deepest, sometimes hardest truths of God. Some were in public sermons Jesus preached. But, it seems to me, that most of those times were sitting around a table, resting after a hike, gathered around a fire on the beach, in a garden, lingering just a little while longer with each other.

Communities aren’t developed or made when people are busily buzzing from one place to another. They are created in times of great patience, great graciousness given to each other mutually. A few years ago, I was struggling hard with trying to ascertain where it was that God may have been leading us as a family. We knew we were leaving one city, and perhaps a country to move somewhere else, but didn’t know where. I was frustrated, angry, hurting and wanting answers so I would feel stable. But I’ve talked about stability before in a few places.

In a group made up of some of the best leaders in the Church in the States and Canada, we went around sharing what God had said to us during this, one of 4 two week long residentials we would spend together over the course of two years. I had been struggling with not knowing where God wanted us…my first ever Dark Night of the Soul. With tears filling my eyes (not entirely uncommon for me), I yelled “I know what God has for us 20 years from now. But, as to our next steps….I don’t know. I ask, and I hear nothing. I seek and haven’t found anything. I just want Him to show me my next footprint damn it! I just want Him to show me what is next and tell me what the hell is going on!”

My community simply sat, in sacred holy silence watching as God did work in my life. No cliches, no comforting words (though those who speak them usually are only trying to comfort the person uncomfortable with silence, not the one who is hurting). And it was this same community that I would sit with again, six month later in the same circle, thanking them for allowing God to work, sharing with them about where we knew God was leading us. Had I been fluttering instead of lingering, I may not be where I am today. I may not be the person I am today. I pray that we stop the busyness of buzzing around from thing to thing, group to group, person to person and …just………linger. Linger with a few. Linger and lounge and converse and sit with people who are being honest and raw. Those who give life. In community.

be blessed today

Have you found yourself to flutter around? Have you gotten out of that demand of the world? Have you found community? And do you linger in it’s life givingness?

 

photo credit: http://oddnygumaer.com/2014/10/