Those Who Go Before Us

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I ran across this cartoon on Facebook, and it touched me. (I have no clue to whom the credits are due.) Memories of those wonderful people who have gone on before me, waft in and out of my mind throughout the year, but during the Christmas season, it seems like there is just this barrage of memories that assault me. So many of the traditions we follow each year have threads of these precious folk woven through them.

Through this barrage of memories, it could be easy to get wrapped up in the sadness and stay in that dream world.

Traditions – if we let them – can serve as a type of Balm for healing, I think. Remembering what those precious folk taught us and meant to us and lived for can spur us on to continue on, live in joy, keep the faith. Traditions can also keep us trapped in the past. I guess it’s important to learn when to embrace tradition and when to let go and begin new ones.

May your Christmas past be a Balm of healing memories so that your  Christmas present is joyful and strong and you make way for your Christmas future!!

What traditions do you have that bring peace to you at Christmas?

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The Clarence Effect

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When I was a child, we seldom ate in restaurants, so when we were able to go out to eat, it was a really big deal. I remember one day, my mom told us that we were going to Indianola, a nearby town. It was such a cool town, because they had an A&W Rootbeer. For some reason that day, we were all going to Indianola and we were going out for supper at the A&W!

I was beside myself. I was outside playing in our front yard, when Clarence our next door neighbor started washing his car. Clarence was kind of a big shot in our town, but I didn’t know it then. When I told him about our upcoming trip to A & W, he was about as excited as I was. We talked about the menu – whether we were going to eat in our car or if we were going inside. He liked how they had root beer in the chilled glasses. He also taught me how to say Indianola. I’m not sure how I was pronouncing it, but he let me know the correct way.

That day was over 40 years ago, and I can remember it like it was yesterday!

Now, Clarence really didn’t do anything all that special. He didn’t spend a dime (well, that day he didn’t spend a dime; I think he bought every fund-raising product I sold), he didn’t take a ton of time out of his schedule, and he got his car washed. What he did do was to listen to a little kid and engage that little kid in meaningful conversation.

In my life as a social worker, I’ve learned that there are many studies that tell us that just one caring adult in the life of a child can impact that child’s future success or failure! One positive adult role model can provide a sense of stability for a child. When a child has healthy bonds with positive adult role models the youth is less likely to be in trouble or engage in risky behavior and is less likely to drop out of school.

Now, I don’t think Clarence was nice to me because he had read these studies and had determined to make a difference in the life of a kid. He was just an all around nice guy. It was second nature to him. I do think our society has changed a bit. As a general rule, we are much more busy. Our schedules are full and our minds are often distracted.

What if we take a few minutes during the course of our days to pay attention to the people around us? What if we engaged our neighbors in real conversations? What if we cleared up our calendars to slow down a bit?

We just might make that kind of impact, too. Being kind, having conversations, encouraging…

World changing stuff. One kid at a time.

How to Reduce Stress

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I have this sneaking suspicion that the title caught your attention. Am I right?

If I’m right and the title caught your attention, then you must be feeling stressed right now. Overwhelmed. Anxious. And here’s what I’m NOT going to do. I’m not going to throw out some well placed verses from the Bible that tell you to stop being that way. Cause I’m tired of that, too.

I am going to sit with a cup of coffee and just write down some of the thoughts that have been going through my mind today. When I spent some time in prayer, I kind of poured out my heart to God this morning. I feel on the edge of burnout, which in my job can have such negative repercussions  Hello. Have you met burned out social workers? They’re not so social and usually aren’t that nice.

I am very worried about becoming a “letter of the law” follower and not so much a “spirit of the law” follower. I believe each has two different outcomes. So, for a while this morning, I just sat in quiet. Well, as quiet as one can be with a demanding baby kitty in the room.

My mind started wandering to the old Sunday School lessons I learned about the Genesis account of the beginning of the Earth. In that account, God created a lovely, perfect world and placed a couple of people there. These people were given the task of going forth and multiplying. That’s it. In a perfect garden, enjoying each other and the creation around them.

Of course, that isn’t the end of the story, and it seems that we humans have done a pretty good job of screwing up perfection. I can’t live in the Garden of Eden; I have to live in the world I’ve been given. And that world includes seeing and hearing very ugly things. That world is filled with packed calendars and very high expectations.

I’m pretty sure it’s vital to have Garden time regularly. I shouldn’t wait until I am at the brink of burn out before I take some time to recoup. What if I figured out a way to just be alone with my thoughts and focus on my God a few minutes throughout the day. What would that do?

What would your Garden time look like? For me, I desperately need uninterrupted time to let my brain just be. No planned readings, nobody interrupting my thoughts. Just being free to wander to and fro. During that time, I am usually crafting, or doing dishes, or laundry, or just sitting. Sometimes I am actually in my garden pulling weeds, digging holes or planting flowers.

Fill up time. Garden time. Sabbath.

Lovely.

What If?

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It occurred to me  as I’ve been trying desperately to wake up this rainy morning, that perhaps if I paid more attention during the day, God wouldn’t have to wake me up to give me the answers to the questions I’ve been asking.

Yesterday I was wrestling a bit with some dilemmas related to my job. I often wrestle with work related things. Last night, though, I woke up and I had a plan. Amazing. It makes sense, it’s exactly what needs to happen, and I know this is the direction I need to take.

Trouble is. I’m tired today.

What if:

  • I turned the volume of my life down during the day?
  • I dedicated a portion of my day to quiet?
  • Instead of the radio, I tuned in to God?
Lord, You have my attention.

Breaking the Fast

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Tonight I have entered in to what I feel is the hardest part of the fast – breaking it. It is very important at the end of an extended fast to make sure to gradually get your body comfortable with digestion again. It is so important to start with very small amounts of food – like a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt, or a few bites of easy on you veggies, and to spend a lot of time chewing your food like you’ve never chewed before. Overloading your body could not only cause you a whole lot of discomfort, but it could be life threatening, so PLEASE don’t take this part lightly.

The taste of the food is SO much more complex and intriguing right after a fast, and it makes me want more! Breaking a fast requires ever so much more discipline – both spiritual and physical than the actual fast. This is when you really get to put what you’ve learned into practice!

Tonight, I ate about 3 small bites of yogurt and then about 3 hours later I followed up with about 1/2 cup of asparagus. The half cup was probably over doing it a bit. Be prepared to have some more disgusting digestive stuff going on. You may experience some cramping and diarrhea stuff. You will probably get really gassy. These kinds of symptoms are really managed better when you choose very small amounts of foods over the course of the next few days and drink lots and lots of water.

I’m glad I did this fast. I learned a great deal, and much of what was started, I believe the Lord will finish. I’m looking forward to that journey!

Have you done an extended fast? Do you have any advise about breaking it? What have you learned?

 

 

Some More About Fasting

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I did a search of fasting in Scripture today, and ran across this portion in Isaiah. The more I read God’s word, the more I am impressed with His desire that we take care of people. Feed their bodies and their souls; clothe them in their nakedness; help them find rest when they’re weary.

Another thing I am always reminded when I read through Scripture is the insistence on good motives. So many times we get caught up in the traditions of our faith without making them meaningful. In Isaiah 58:3-5, the people asked Him, “We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ 

When you have lived a life in the presence of God, and then become involved in the rote-ness of the faith rather than the relationship with our God, you miss that closeness. These folks in Isaiah are crying out. They’re like, “Hey, we’re uncomfortable here. We’re fasting and wasting away, God. Doesn’t that mean anything to you? We want your presence!”

What I see is that a common thread throughout Scripture is that God isn’t impressed with acts that are self-serving. He wants behavior change. Listen to what he responds in verses 4-7: “What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD?  “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”

Motives vs. Method is a big deal to God. I could site verse after verse after verse. God is more interested in the heart of the matter than the matter. So, in this time of fasting, I need to spend time checking my motives. Am I still quarreling and gossiping and ignoring the plights of the less fortunate? If so, I might as well go eat a bacon cheeseburger.

Quotes from New Living Translation.

Fasting and Prayer

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The past Lenten season, which is when people normally think of fasting, I fasted from Facebook and from bad language – and I’m not talking grammar! 😉 My life as a social worker has had quite an impact on me, especially my mouth. I did not like the person I had become in more ways than one.

I wanted to become more God-focused and less me-focused.

Several years ago, I completed a 40 day fast. A call came out on email for Christians to fast in unity, and after great consideration, I felt compelled to join them. I had fasted before, but only for a day here and there, so I spend time preparing and learning about fasting. The purpose of that fast was to pray for our country and our leaders by name every day. Boy, did I learn a lot!

I also added some of my own purposes to the fast. I needed direction in my life. It was an incredible experience.

I read a lot prior to my fast and even during my fast, but the one that stuck out most to me was from Bill Bright, the Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. (http://www.ccci.org/training-and-growth/devotional-life/personal-guide-to-fasting/index.htm)

Yesterday, I began another fasting journey. I will be blogging about that journey here over the next few weeks. If you would like to join me, give me a HOLLA! I’d love to be a part of a band of believers fasting and praying together.