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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Thoughtful Thursday (A Plan and Encouragement)

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I love writing. I always have.

I used to write letters all the time. I think I kept USPS from the brink of bankruptcy, actually. Something happened, though, when my son died that made letter writing difficult; I’m sure some psychologist somewhere would be able to explain why to me, but after Ben’s death, letter writing was just not on my radar.

Although I never did recoup my letter writing fervor, I continued writing using newsletters and blogs as my venue. Then I became a social worker. Naturally through the course of my job, I write days and days and days worth of reports and I’ve got to admit, that type of writing and the focus of the work I do seem to suck the creative side of my brain right out of my head.

And a lop-sided head means no joy for me.

A couple of years ago, I made an effort to bring some creativity back in my life. I realized that to go through life seeing ugly things and working with crisis and drama and trauma every single day all the time without an end in sight was not good. You’ve seen a lot of what I’ve been crafting and thinking about crafting throughout these last  months.

That has been good, but not quite enough.

I need to write.

I want to show (off) my crafts and crafty-ideas.

I’ve decided that I’m going to try to organize my blogging attempts to 1) be more consistent in posting, and 2) be more organized in how I post. I need a little more consistency and organization in my life!

Welcome, Thoughtful Thursday! On Thursdays I will post writings that are more thoughtful, encouraging and spiritual. I am usually mulling over ideas throughout the week, and it would benefit me to write those ideas down. Maybe someone might get encouraged by it. Maybe not. But I have given you a head’s up!

I love hearing from readers! Let me know what YOU’RE thinking and up to!

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 Week One

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When I started this journey last week, a couple of the goals of going public with this usually very intimate and quiet subject was to 1) keep myself accountable and 2) do a little educating about fasting by sharing what I am experiencing. If you joined me in this fast, or if you are a frequent faster, please feel free to comment on issues you have dealt with during your journey. Or, maybe you are struggling and could use encouragement, go ahead a place a comment!

So, this past week actually went by fairly fast. I have mostly stayed with water, but I have added vitamin water, life water or broth once in a while – especially when I am going to be driving. Nothing with calories, but with some added vitamins and minerals. I think that’s important when I need to be alert.

There are some interesting things that have been happening to my body during the last week. It’s been a little hard at times…sometimes my stomach hurts. I also noticed that the emotional eating urges have been probably the most difficult to ignore, though and quite honestly these urges are the ones I need the most help from God on. As part of the whole bringing-my-body-under-submission-thing, I will need to pay attention. Some of the things I have experienced this past week I think are pretty common for anyone fasting. There are the headaches, stomach aches and fatigue. It’s real stuff. That’s why I think it’s really important that when planning a fast it’s important to plan for some down time. Focusing on God is hard to do in the noisy everyday life-stuff, anyway, so two birds and all that.

There’s also some nasty, nasty stuff and not completely knowing my audience, I’ll be careful…but bathroom habits almost gross me out. Just sayin.

Spiritually, I like what is happening. Practicing focusing on God is just that. It takes practice. Lots of practice. We have so much in our world that just keeps us away from being in His presence. When I feel the headaches, the tummy aches and the fatigue, I am trying to use those yucky things to remind me to spend a bit of time in prayer. Do you know how much differently a day goes when you’re praying every few minutes?? It’s really incredible.

I’ve been reminded of our fascination with personal comfort. I think we are obsessed with it, actually. If I am a tad bit hungry, or nervous or sad or overwhelmed, I reach for food. Others reach for other things. When  tired, I want sleep. I don’t really want to push through it that much. I think God is teaching me that I need to focus on Him before I try the immediate gratification avenue. Happy-making stuff, I think.

Theme words this week: Purify and Focus.