Those Who Go Before Us

Image

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?

Thoughtful Thursday (A Plan and Encouragement)

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

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?

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

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

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

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.

Eating Crow

I quit planning the meals and buying the groceries for my family a few years ago. My husband said that he could do better than I was doing, so I decided to let him. (Well, I am sure I added a few choice words and such.) And being the stubborn mule I am, I have continued to let this chaos to continue – despite my children’s begging. Consequently, we have been eating like bachelors since.

Well, surprise of all surprises, no one has been really happy in our home. I think mainly it’s because we’ve been focused on our own things. And by we I mean me, you understand.

So I prayed for guidance. And guess what?  I am planning meals and shopping and eating crow.

I will be posting the steps I am taking to get our house a home again. We are actually re-thinking a lot of stuff. I guess getting close to 50 makes you do that? We’re working on budgeting, time management and organization. Good stuff, really.

Stay tuned. Turns out that crow isn’t that bad…when it’s sweetened up with success.

Petty Buffoons, Another Rant

This is another rant specifically directed to my Christian Brothers and Sisters. The rest of ya’ll are welcome to read. 😉

I am not a Democrat.

Actually, I’m not a Republican either.

I am, however, getting disgusted. And now, I begin my rant.

Yesterday I was reading posts on Facebook and ran across this picture posted of President Obama carrying a book called The Post American World. The conversation in the comments started to get a bit heated, jabbing President Obama for reading this kind of a book. I was surprised at how quickly those commenting assumed that this book was a book to teach Obama how to make America decline and that he was reading it to get ideas. I hadn’t heard of the book, so I went to Amazon and here’s what they say about that book:”This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of  everyone else.” So begins Fareed Zakaria’s important new work on the era we are now entering. Following on the success of his best-selling The Future of Freedom, Zakaria describes with equal prescience a world in which the United States will no longer dominate the global economy, orchestrate geopolitics, or overwhelm cultures. He sees the “rise of the rest”—the growth of countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, and many others—as the great story of our time, and one that will reshape the world. The tallest buildings, biggest dams, largest-selling movies, and most advanced cell phones are all being built outside the United States. This economic growth is producing political confidence, national pride, and potentially international problems. How should the United States understand and thrive in this rapidly changing international climate? What does it mean to live in a truly global era? Zakaria answers these questions with his customary lucidity, insight, and imagination.”

I hope he’s reading this book to get ideas. He needs to. He’s the leader of a wonderful country that is in trouble! Thankfully, my friend removed the photo and her comments. She was quick to realize that maybe she had assumed something she shouldn’t have. That was cool.

What isn’t cool is that there are so many Christians (me included) who jump to conclusions, base our opinions on half truths and become completely disrespectful when we disagree with someone’s ideology. Which brings me to the point of my rant: How can we show the world Jesus when we act like a bunch of bickering, petty, uniformed buffoons?

There is a great chasm between how we are to be acting as Christians and how we are acting. If someone doesn’t align themselves with our right-wing, conservative political agenda, we crucify them. While we don’t hang them on a cross and beat them up, we name call, make fun of, and show anything but respect to them. We pick  apart what they wear, what they eat, how they look, and now, what they read.

Little, petty things that make no difference at all.

And then we make huge political statements without even being informed. We are able to shout out quotes and quips of what we hear from our Conservative Christian circles, but we really have no substance to what we are quoting and quipping because we are really just uninformed. We rely on a few ‘leaders’ to spoon feed us rhetoric and we don’t know what any of it means. We rely on right wing conservative media and information, forgetting that their biases and agendas are just as strong as any liberal agendas or biases – and they’re not always right.  And then we spew. And those with whom we disagree become targets of mudslinging, slander and malice.

And the world doesn’t see Jesus. Again.

We live in a wonderful country that gives us the liberty to be able to disagree with our leaders and with each other without fear of federal wrath. I love that I can speak  my mind even when speaking my mind may be completely against the agenda of those in leadership. I am not suggesting for one minute that because we’re Christians we shouldn’t exercise that right. What I am suggesting is:

  • Be informed. We need to make sure that what we are reporting is accurate. We need to check many sources – even sources that are not :::gasp::: filled with right wing conservative agenda. We may be surprised what we think is true may not be.
  • Pray for those in leadership of our country. God says.
  • Pray again.
  • We need to remember that it is entirely possible to disagree with people without shredding them to pieces. If we really are informed, we will be able to explain our reasons for disagreeing or our stance on certain issues well. If we aren’t informed – really informed, and if we haven’t checked our facts, we really should just keep our mouths shut.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. From the Bible in Psalm 19:14

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: