Thursday, May 30, 2013

Your Twenties ARE Important!

If you are in your twenties, love someone in their twenties or will live into your twenties, please watch this. This TED talk was posted on my sister's amazing blog For the Love of Bookshops and I have to share it here too. My sister poses some great questions and reflections on that I hope you'll check out on her blog post above. 

  • Your Twenties are possibly the most important and transformative years of your life.
  • You have your last mental growth spurt in your twenties.
  • This means that you create behavioral patterns that you will probably keep all of your adult life in your twenties.

Think about all the major life decisions people make in their twenties. Think of all the fears, discouragement, encouragement, hope, and growth that happens as you discover, once more, who you are. This is worth watching and definitely worth thinking about. And guys, your twenties matter!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Jeff, who lives at home

Where can I even begin? There is so much I want to share with you all about this incredible experience of moving. We are right in the face of change, inhaling her sweet breath as she dictates the new existence we will both become part of. Now that Joel and I are about to have the oppertunity to stare down the otherside of this tunnel "unknown", there are so many pieces to this puzzle that leave me inspired. All of these precieved changes; Joel's job change, our moving off campus, finding an apartment, actually moving our stuff, getting a second car, traveling to see family and friends, all of these changes were given life months ago without our even knowing it. What we are experiencing right now are perfect blossoms stemming from roots God planted to spring forth at this very time.I have been praising Him in all my moves today as I think about how this new season is unfolding before us, carrying us. Before I can relay my amazement in detail, first I want to share a story with you that I did not write even though it has become part of my own story today.

Jeff, who lives at home is a movie that I happened upon on netflix a while ago. It is now one of my favorites. It is important to admit that I sympathize with Jeff's choice of looking to the signs and following his gut feelings. I have always done this (sometimes well and sometimes not so well). I believe this is a way that God speaks to me. I've talked about this before in Signs. By the end of this film, I weep for joy and I hope I always do. These tears bubble up from a deep place in my heart that rejoices in the confirmation that God truly is behind it all. Everything means something, everything has a purpose and we can choose to experience that truth or not.

I want to share the intro with you here. This is a comedy or at least it was sold as a comedy, so please forgive the toilet, bongs, and cuss words if you decide to watch the whole thing. It is the humanity of this film that captured my heart and my attention. There is so much to learn from here and a world of inspiration to be gleaned. 

So here is Jeff, a man after my own heart, talking about Signs...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Signs

Remember this film?

Anyone who saw the movie "Signs" and thought it was only about an alien invasion missed the point entirely. Call me a "mystic", call me superstitious, call me whatever you want, just know that I believe in signs. 

I believe that signs are everywhere. I don't believe that there are coincidences and I do think everything adds up even when I don't understand how. In my experience everything is connected. The tie that is binding me to everything around me is the Spirit. This energy that moves between and within us is always pulling us back to the source of life- God.

Paulo Coelho says it well in his book Aleph, "I explain that signs are an extremely personal language that we develop throughout our lives, by trial and error, until we begin to understand that God is guiding us."

When you look at the literal signs in our society you find stop signs, street signs, directional signs, etc. These signs are created to point you down the right path and protect you from harm. I believe the signs from our universe, the signs from God, were designed for a similar purpose. 

I can honestly profess that in my journey, the times I have followed the signs and let all the coincidences add up, I have found myself in the most fulfilling and transformative situations imaginable.  

There is power is in this way of living. It takes practice to discern the signs and trust that God is the one preparing them for me. I have to let go of my fear, my cynicism, my need for control in order to allow myself to be led to this destination of wholeness. Whether you are analyzing your dreams, keeping note of your animal totems, tracing your archetypes, reading a book, watching a film, listening to a sermon, chatting with a friend, just noticing something new in your life, realizing patterns, praying, meditating or finding strength to change a behavior, remember to note the signs. 

I believe that is what Jesus was trying to prepare us to embrace. He said he is leaving his Spirit with us, a friend, a counselor, an advocate, a comforter, the Spirit of Truth. I believe that these signs I recognize are the Holy Spirit always guiding me towards transformation and growth. It isn't painless to follow the signs but it is always fulfilling. As the signs from the universe... I trust them, or rather, I trust Him.

Perhaps Graham Hess (Mel Gibson's character in "Signs") says it best:

Photo from Pirates Lair Newsletter

"People break down into two groups when the experience something lucky. Group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. Just a happy turn of chance. I'm sure the people in Group number two are looking at those fourteen lights in a very suspicious way. For them, the situation is fifty-fifty. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they're on their own. And that fills them with fear. Yeah, there are those people. But there's a whole lot of people in the Group number one. When they see those fourteen lights, they're looking at a miracle. And deep down, they feel that whatever's going to happen, there will be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope. See, what you have to ask yourself is, what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?"




Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tea

"Just a moment, " Yao says. 
He asks us all to sit down again, distributes the mugs, and places the teapot in the center of the table. 
"When I lived in Japan, I learned the beauty of simple things. And the simplest and most sophisticated thing I experienced was drinking tea. I got up just now in order to repeat the experience and to explain that despite all our conflicts, all our difficulties, all our meanness and generosity, we can still love the simple things in life. The samurai used to leave their swords outside before going into a house, sitting down in the correct posture, and taking part in an elaborate tea ceremony. During that time, they could forget all about war and devote themselves to worshiping beauty. Let's do that now."
He fills each mug with tea. We wait in Silence. 
"I went to fetch the tea because I saw two samurai ready to do battle, but when I returned, the honorable warriors had been replaced by two souls who understood each other with no need for soothing tea. Let us drink together anyway. Let us concentrate all our efforts on achieving Perfection through the imperfect gestures of everyday life. True wisdom means respecting the simple things we do, for they can take us where we need to go."
We respectfully drink the tea that Yao has poured for us. Now that I have been forgiven, I can savor the taste of the young leaves before they were picked by calloused hands, dried, and made into a drink that creates harmony all around. None of us is in a hurry; as we travel on, we are constantly destroying and rebuilding ourselves and who we are. 

Excerpt taken "Aleph" by Paulo Coelho


photo by Jacki Harp- me with friends and family chillin'
Dear friends of ours gave us a new tea kettle. It is big , red and holds double the amount of water that our old kettle could. This matters to me because I generally drink green tea so much that having more hot water makes a big difference in convenience. Lately, I have been pouring my hot water from the kettle into my Claire Pot (that is literally the name of my tea pot, I am not that conceded) and I've been annoyed to realize that hot water has been leaking all over the place. It has only been after a close examination of the kettle that I have come to the conclusion that nothing is wrong with it. The leaking is actually a problem with the pourer not the vessel. 

How poignant! I am the reason the water has puddled all over my counters and coffee tables. The reason why my pot seems to leak is because I am pouring the water too fast at too great of an angle. Here is this incredible practice, "Tea Time", where time slows down, peace is laid on the table, and people partake in an ancient practice of communion together. However, here I am getting frustrated with an additional 20 seconds  it takes to fill my tea pot with hot water without spilling it. 

Coelho is right. The practice of drinking tea is meant to soothe and restore. The purpose is to rebuild and
This is me, resting, slowing down...ready for tea.
reconnect people to internal and external peace. I believe this and partake in it as often as possible. 

Narrowly escaping burns and drenching my mail is an important reminder that the gift of this discipline is in actually slowing down. It takes time for tea to steep. It takes time for those magical tea blossoms to bloom. It takes time to sit down for a spot of British tea or a tea ceremony. The gift of drinking tea surely is in the daily practice of allowing yourself to slow down and be soothed. Drinking teas (like green tea) daily is a healthy life choice but I imagine that the benefits of drinking green tea are even greater when you drink it as God intended...slowly.

Shall I pass you a mug?


From time to time, I like to order our green tea from Vital Leaf Tea. We did a tea tasting in San Francisco at one of their shops. The owner goes to China every year to pick our the teas he will sell. He makes sure it is the finest quality and that the workers are treated fairly. For what it's worth, their Angel Green tea is incredible. It is the best green tea I have ever tasted and I really do believe it does what it claims and detoxes my system.  One bag lasts us about 8 months. It goes a long way and saves us money on individually wrapped packages and bags. Less waste, less money, better tea. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Choosing Your Experience

My sister-in-law Sarah and her plate
 We dubbed it "sister weekend".

 For Christmas last winter, Joel and I gave his sister, Sarah, a certificate to come and spend the weekend with us. We promised pampering, good food, throwing pots, painting, green tea and lots of deep conversations.

Besides catching up with us and enjoying a meal together, she seemed most excited about learning to throw pottery. 


 This weekend had been on the calendar for a month, we all were looking forward to it. I think we all expected it to be a wonderful time of rest and restoration. The trouble with this whole statement is that we "expected it to be"  something...

Sarah had only just arrived when we went out to dinner. After we had eaten, we weren't in the car two minutes before her face turned green and she informed us that her stomach was upset. We asked her what she wanted to do and she assured us she still wanted to go to the studio and learn to throw pottery.


Joel and Sarah showing off Sarah's pots
Once we were there, Joel walked her through the instructions and then set her up on a wheel. Before she could even get her hands dirty, she just looked at me and said "I think I am about to throw up so I am just going to step out for a minute." 

When Sarah came out of the bathroom, I really expected the worse. We both already assumed she had food poisoning. To my surprise, she walked back to her spot by the wheel and started centering her clay. I asked her if she'd like to go back to the apartment but she just smiled and asked me if it was alright for her to just continue throwing. Of course it was!

Sarah and Joel stayed up until 3 a.m. throwing pots. After every piece she threw, Sarah would hop up and spend a little while in the bathroom. I don't know about you, but I would have had a hard time continuing to enjoy myself if I was throwing up all evening. This scenario really got me thinking...

My sister-in-law has a barfing phobia. She will do pretty much anything to avoid that sensation but on this night, she just embraced her fate and pressed on. You know, she didn't just press on, she enjoyed herself. 

Joel showing me his creations
I believe Sarah gave us all an example of choosing our experience. She could have decided after the first puking that she would go back home and feel miserable there. Sarah could have taken me up on my offer to nurse her in our apartment. Instead, she embraced what she was excited about and what she came to our home to do- throw pottery. We teased her that she "threw" a lot that night but she did way more than create bowls and plates between bathroom visits. Sarah chose her experience. She chose to learn something new even though she felt terrible and was often turning green. She chose to create something. She chose to believe in herself. She chose to let her food poisoning be exactly what it was and didn't turn it into a monster or a big deal. It was simply a passing annoyance that would not stop her from being who she wanted to be that night. Sarah chose to have a good experience. She didn't deny that she felt terrible or that she was vomiting every 20 minutes. She simply chose to be fully present to the opportunity of blessing.

Blessing was part of it all. 

On her first try, she threw a beautiful bowl. On her second try, she threw a huge plate. I have witnessed a lot of newbies sit down at the wheel and struggle just to center the hunk of clay. I have never seen someone create something functional on her very first attempt at throwing ever. Sarah marveled us all evening.

I hope you don't have to live through food poisoning anytime soon. However, I do hope you know that even if something bad is happening and you feel like you can't control it, you can do one thing- you can control how you choose to experience it. You control your experience in life. You choose that. I hope you will choose to be blessed.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hospitality

My mom and mother-in-law preparing a meal
We used to giggle together in the van waiting for my mom to join us before going on a family vacation. The car was packed, the kids were in, everyone had gone to the bathroom and my mom was mopping us out the door. As a kid, I thought it was so funny that she cleaned the house before we left on a trip. Now that I am an adult, I get to experiencing the joy of giggling at myself. I have turned into that glorious woman, cleaning myself out of the house before we leave town. I knew that coming home to a clean house would feel like being welcomed back.

Joel hanging out in our living room
Any time we had guests come over when I was growing up, we knew that meant a list of chores would be presented and we would need to get to work. We'd fuss over who was giving up their bed and who would be cleaning the toilets while we'd smell the delicious scents of mom's cooking in the kitchen. Hospitality has always been important to my mother but I didn't just learn it form her. 

It is with deep respect that I call my grandmother a "domestic artist." She turns her home into a parade of delights from her handmade center pieces on the dinning table, vases of flowers, to the handmade bowls and platters that her meals are displayed on. Even the dishes she cooks are full of colors and sprigs of edible flowers or herbs that please the eye as well as the mouth. My family has always valued hospitality.

Friends hanging out in the living room
It is no wonder that Joel and I both enjoy keeping our home community-ready. We live in community being part of both a large church and part of  college life living on the campus where Joel works. We love to entertain and invite friends over so that we can share meals, music and artwork. If someone needs a place to host a party, gathering, small group, we like for it to be with us. We enjoy having overnight guests and showing people around our city. We love hosting anyone who wants to come for a visit. 

A Family gathering at our apartment
The gift of hospitality doesn't just bless us with abounding joy but I like to think that it shares that joy with whoever crosses the threshold of our home. When you walk into a home that is clean, smelling of food or flowers, you just feel like you are welcome there. It doesn't seem like an interruption, it seems like you were meant to walk right on in and enjoy. I remember every home I was welcomed into over the years. The ones that rushed me with hospitality still stand out in my mind. The impression those people made on my life where huge just from opening their homes to me. Something about inviting someone into the intimacy of your space, feeding them, sharing with them, allowing them to play or rest where you play and rest is life changing.I am so grateful for the restoration and affirmation what was washed over me in those places.I have always wanted to be able to give that gift to someone just has it had been given to me. 


 I believe that through the loving embrace of hospitality, I have experienced God. The fullness of welcome touches the body, mind and spirit. This gift is holy.
Celebrating our friends engagement


Throughout scripture there are accounts of God blessing those who bless others with hospitality. It seems that God even comes in disguise to test mankind with this gift like when he sent angels to visit Abraham


God seemed delighted to discover ol' Abe was ready to cook up some food, offer his sleeping mat, and hangout all day with perfect strangers. According to the Torah, hospitality is a law. Jesus reminds us that when we shelter someone, feed someone, clothe someone, we are doing it for Him. Whether you are a follower of Christ or not, this practice has got to hit a chord of truth in you somewhere. 


Hospitality is one of humanity's most ancient practices. Entire cultures have killed each other over hospitality being absent in daily interactions. There is transformational power in the gift of hospitality and I believe we are called to live into it with reverence and gratitude.It offers us peace.

God's gifts become life-giving when they are shared. 


 Here are some the things Joel and I value sharing with visitors in our home:
  • Food- we love making meals that are healthy, from scratch to share with friends and visitors.
  • Tea- we always have some variety of hot tea ready to be tasted with guests.
  • Artwork- all of the artwork in our house was either made by us, purchased on a journey we have taken, or given to us by artist friends or family. It all has a story that we love to share.
  • feeding our friends
  • Smells- we love to have cookies ready, dinner cooking, or scented candles lit so that those comforting smells dance around our home.
  • Light- Joel loves mood lights. They make us feel at ease, relaxed and open to the moment, so we hope they do the same thing for our guests.
    flowers from The Grands in a cool vase
  • Candles- Candles are a luxury in life when you don't need them for light but if you can afford them they really do bring a warmth and life-giving energy to a room.
  • Flowers and plants- I like to keep potted plants and vases of flowers around our apartment. They freshen the air, bring beauty to a room, and connect us to nature.
  • Wine- we enjoy keeping our wine rack ready with vino to share with friends. Ecclesiastes tells us to drink wine with gladness! We share wine in times of celebration and time with guests and friends is something to celebrate. Jesus asks us to remember him with this cup and we do.
    Joel jamming with a friend
  • Music- we love to have music playing in our apartment, share music and create music together with guests. We have been known to start a jam session or drum circle out of the blue.
  • A dear friend with me in our kitchen



How have you been transformed by hospitality?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Expectation

Before setting out on a mission trip, I always give my youth a speech about expectations. I hope they have all memorized it by now and use it daily, but just in case they haven't, I repeat it again and again. I don't talk about how I expect them to act and represent our church. I am not listing all the ways I expect them to serve, grow and change. I am asking them to let go of all their expectations...

http://cafegratitude.com
Flash back...I read a book that completely changed the way that I understand my own life experiences. To date, I believe this book has offered me more transformational material than anything I have yet encountered. It  has also helped in laying a foundation for me to understand the Spirit's offerings in a more applicable and meaningful way on a daily basis. The book I am referring to is called "Kindred Spirit: Fulfilling Love's Promise" by Matthew and Terces Engelhart.

The Engelhart's created this book to teach their philosophy on life. They model this way of living daily and train their staff to practice their philosophy while they work in their various farm-to-table restaurants on the West coast. This way of living and viewing the world has become so transformational and life-giving that they have been leading weekend workshops all over the country empowering people to fully embrace being love. If you haven't had the chance to learn more about this couple, I hope you will check out the links on this page. I also highly recommend reading their books. 

 For the present moment, I am going to share their idea on expectation which consequentially has become my own. When you walk into any situation you have been trained to create expectations. You picture how the day will go, imagine who you will see and how they will act, you decide how you will act and react and to what standard you will be held. We create expectations constantly. When you make a phone call you either expect someone to pick up or not. When you hangout with your friends you expect to do something particular or to find them behaving in a certain way. Cooking dinner, you expect the recipes to come out a certain way and the consumers to react according to those expectations. In relationships, you expect your spouse to understand what you are feeling or thinking or perhaps you don't expect them too. It doesn't matter if you are creating them for yourself, your relationships or your experiences; you are creating expectations. 
This is me expecting these pants to look good on me...


When you create expectations you are only letting yourself experience two things: Meeting your expectations or being disappointed. There is nothing in between those two outcomes from this daily practice. If you want to dilute an experience and reduce love down to a theory, the best thing you can possibly do is create expectations.

Growing up, I remember being taught to set high expectations for myself. These expectations were often unrealistic and therefore, I was usually left with a feeling of  disappointment in myself. I also expect certain things from my friends and family. All this ends up doing is holding them low, not allowing them to change or grow and not allowing us to grow together. How can there be love in this state of experiencing the world? We are taught that expectations are a tool for humankind assume control. What we are actually controlling is the hinge on a door that shuts out God's provision.

Expectations:

  • Pull you out of the present moment- they are future driven which means they haven't even happened yet.
  • Are met which only makes you right but often isn't fulfilling.
  • Are not met which leave you with the experience of disappointment.
  • Place your ability to be satisfied outside of yourself.
Expectation come from a place of want. Most of the time we just expect things to happen because it is what we hope will take place. Sometimes we expect things to happen because of what has taken place. Either way, these two reasons have nothing to do with what is happening right now in this moment.

When you set expectations about how things will turn out and how people are then you are not allowing yourself to experience what really is. You are saying that your experience of the world is outside of yourself. This is a lie. You choose your expectations and you choose your experience of everything. You can choose to experience this blog post as truth or as bull honkie. You can choose to experience your husband as not loving you because he isn't doing the things you want him to do. Or you can choose to experience how he is showing you that he loves you which is probably different from what you expected. We choose our experiences. The power is in your perception.

Letting go of expectation is allowing yourself to live fully present to love in the moment. When you can simply BE in the moment, BE with people, BE who you are right now, then you can truly open yourself up to experiencing love. God is providing in every single moment of our lives. I believe this with all my being and I believe His provision is laid before us in an experience of love. 

This is Joel taking the moment in Boston
When I am looking at my youth and talking about this, I think about moments on our mission trips. We are set up to expect to serve at various non-profits all over the city but sometimes that doesn't work out. Instead of having that chance to serve in a soup kitchen, we actually got to sit outside with a couple of homeless guys and hear their story. My youth have learned that God provided them that moment. They really are embracing the potential that this mission trip week is about being open to what God is already providing in every moment and choosing not to blind ourselves with expectations of what those provisions should have looked like. 

This is how I try to live each day. 

If there is something you want or need, just ask for it or share that information. If you find yourself creating an expectation based on something that happened in the past, remember that you are not the same person you were yesterday and neither is that person you are thinking about. Remember to leave room for transformation, not just in your life, but in the lives of others. We are constantly growing. We should hold each other high and honor the journey of growth we are all on together. 

If you have to live into one expectation please let it be this:

Expect the unexpected.







Sunday, May 19, 2013

No=Yes

"When you say 'no' to something, you are actually saying 'yes' to something else at the same time." 

I stared at the front of our conference room blinking dumbly. Our head of staff raised his eyebrows and nodded at our disbelief. What the heck was the talking about?
This is me in Chile


I don't know if I was raised this way or if this is just the penetrating culture of the southern gentlewoman but in my experience, saying "no" to someone was usually wrong, rude or selfish, unless you were being manipulated or attacked physically. Over the years, I have been caught saying "yes" way too much. Perhaps I just really like to take full advantage of every opportunity that comes my way and I have told myself I feel alive when I do that. Maybe, I just don't like to disappoint anyone and I still believe I am responsible for people's feelings. Either way, more times than I can count, I have said "yes" a little too much.  After this staff meeting, it took me a while and a lot of practice to fully embrace this truth, but once I did, what a difference it made! 

Anytime you are given the opportunity to say "no" to something, you are ultimately saying "yes" to something else. This works in reverse too. 

When I said "no" to a night out with my friends, I was saying "yes" to an evening with Joel. I was saying "yes" to my friends having an opportunity to hang out with someone new. I was saying "yes" to giving myself a chance to catch up on rest. When I said "no" to driving to work, I said "yes" to unexpected encounters with people would have not otherwise known. I said "yes" to 30 minutes of alone time. I said "yes" to admiring beauty and embracing nature. I said "yes" to exercise and taking care of my body. I said "yes" to one less car on the road which benefits the environment. 

Me wandering in Canyonlands
A lot of "yes" answers are really good. I still believe that most of the time saying "yes" is a life-giving idea. The "yes" moments I am calling into question are the ones that take our free time, down time, family time, rest time,dinner time, prayer time, worship time,exercise time and even some of our resources. Those are "yes" moments that were hopefully fun but in the end, you know you compromised something. 

I think this whole idea is directly correlated with the issue I've brought up about Self Love. Most of the people I come in contact with say "yes" to everyone but themselves. Serving, loving, sharing, giving, being with people are all things that I say "yes" to and I believe you should too. However, I also believe you should say "no" to them from time to time as well. 

When you say "no" to something and you feel that guilt starting to bubble up, think about what you have said "yes" to in that same moment. Remember that you are worthy of saying "yes" to yourself. How many times have you reminded a friend who gives and gives that he/she just has to say "no" sometimes? We don't wish that life of drain on our friends or family. We are worthy of not wishing that on ourselves either. This is a part of Self Love. When you can say "yes" to others as much as you say "yes" to yourself then you will know the balance and fullness of peace.


Me street-dancing in Berlin with a religious group
Another way that I discern my daily moments of "yes" and "no" is by choosing to always say "no" to guilt. I refuse to do anything motivated by guilt. Guilt is a force that manipulates and destroys love, all love. A good action motivated by guilt is not authentic and I don't believe true love can pour out of those kinds of encounters. I want to be a person who is genuine. When I serve others, I want to do it because I am called to serve not because I feel guilty if I don't. When I spend time with friends, I want to do it because I love spending time with them not because I feel guilty if I don't. 

When I say "yes" I am saying it out of the fullness of love and I am ready right then to participate in the moment. When I say "no" it is because I trust there are "yes" moments that will generate love in a way my saying "yes" could not.

The balance is clearly the key and the answers are yours to choose.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Play


My sister and brother-in-law playing in the yard
Joel, a family friend, and my grandfather playing Wisemen at Christmas




 "The child is in me still and sometimes not so still." -Fred Rogers
 














 "Life must be lived as play"-Plato









Me with my girls playing in the mountians







"Whoever wants to understand much must play much"- Gottfried Benn













Joel, my sister and me playing dress-up in a parade





"Surely all of God's people...like to play" -John Muir



Me with a friend leaping into our very cold pond






 "In every real man, a child is hidden and wants to play." Friedrich Nietzsche










My 88 yr old grandmother preparing to slide in a bouncy house




"It is a happy talent to know how to play." -Ralph Waldo Emerson














Joel and our friend who surprised us by coming back in town dressed as Elmo




"We don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing." -George Bernard Shaw
Joel and a friend playing on the Parkway
















"Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or loose the healing capacity for humor"-Stuart Brown
My grandfather playing dress up with me (he is 87)
  





 I have three living grandparents. All three are very close to me and all three drink hearty gulps of life with all the deep, breathy vigor of a child. 

Each grandparent of mine values and embraces the powerful gift of play.

Play is what I consider to be a conductor of growth and transformation.




The men folk at family Christmas doing a little dance
 Play has the power to release, teach, affirm, create and connect people. It is through our child-like play that we probably have become the people we are today. I am certain that the most joyful moments of your life are somehow woven into an experience of play no matter how old you were. 

I consider play a spiritual discipline. Giving yourself the permission to play is actually an act of showing yourself love. Playing honors the divine. 

If you read scripture, it becomes clear that the story of who God is describes a being that loves pleasure. It is written that this being made us in its very own image. This suggests to me that part of our very purpose and calling in this world is to enjoy the blessing of being part of it.




My grandmother dancing in the living room
My life is full like yours. There are jobs to do, duties to fulfill, people who need care, meals to be cooked, plans to be made...

However, if you are blessed with the opportunity to look back at your existence and reflect on it as my grandparents do, think about the moments that brought you the most joy. 

Where were you connected to the life force? Who were you with? What were you doing? My guess is that you were probably laughing. Maybe you were dancing. Perhaps you were in costume. I wonder if you will remember the duties with fondness and honor? 

I can only speak for myself by saying very certainly that I will remember the times that I played and played well. Recreation is God's gift of the continual re-creation of joy. It is here that I believe we tango with the Divine and entwine in a way of living that is truly holy.

Wanna play? I believe that you do.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Self Love

I speak to youth and adults often about self love. People feel uncomfortable talking about it most of the time. Youth usually associate self love with bragging or being cocky. Adults sometimes make jokes about masturbation or justifying unnecessary, expensive purchases that cheer them up. However, the self love that I am talking about is true love; really being love yourself. On Sunday when I wrote about the "Golden Rule", I was opening up the door to what this practice could look like for most people and why it should be adopted in the first place. 

Self love is different from being selfish. Self love is love that allows for grace, assurance, confidence, restoration, forgiveness, spiritual rest, letting go, and most of all...transformational, life-giving growth.  

The way I have come to understand self love is through the periods of my life when I practiced it and when I didn't. Those experiences exposed me to the successes and failures that come with self care or the lack of it. 

For those of you who still are not sure what self love can look like, I am going to show you how I organize these truths so that you might be able to join me in the practice of living into the fullness of the Golden Rule. 

Physical

My friend allowing himself sleep.
I believe that in order to truly become love to others we first have to become love to ourselves. One way to begin doing this is by taking good care of the bodies that we live in. Joel and I have noted throughout our relationship the biggest (and nearly only) arguments we have gotten into have come about because we were lacking one of these needs below. You could add hormones into this mix too if you like, but mainly these are the culprits of our miscommunication and bad moods. When I am hungry I can't even think straight. When I am tried I am not processing information. How can I expect to love other people well when I am not well?
  • Sleep- Between 6-8 hours
  • Eat Well
  • Exercise
  • When you are sick just STOP 
  • Rest
  • Take vitamins
  • Utilize Preventative care- chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga, annual physicals and screenings, dentist visits, wear sunglasses, wear sunscreen

Mental

Our minds were created to create.We were created to be curious. We are command to seek and find. Ask and the answers will be given. These brains were given to us for growth and development. When we limit ourselves and don't explore the possibilities we hold within us, how can we imagine them in others? How can we expect to share wisdom if we are not cultivating wisdom? How can we expect our lives to become better if we are not able to address our own behaviors and grow from transforming them time and time again? If we do not model these values of growth and imagination, we will stop seeing it among our youth. 

    Me learning the banjo
  • Try Something New- I am teaching myself to play banjo.
  • Travel
  • Read Books
  • Research Ideas
  • Hang out with people who are different from you
  • Rest-turn off the computer, turn off the music, turn off your cell phone, just rest in the quiet for a moment. Disconnect.
  • Speak only love to yourself- don't bully or condemn yourself, show yourself grace and love.
  • Choose to experience goodness
  • Choose worthiness
Joel writing music

Spiritual

 Our spiritual state is our life force. Your Spirit is the source that taps you into God's great pleasures and creations. When our spirits are allowed time to grow and connect to the power that binds us all together then we are free to live a life fully blessed by God's provision. 



  • Create something- paint, draw, invent, write, build, cook, design,write music, dance, plan a party, decorate, etc.
  • PLAY- the word "recreation" could be read as "re-creation" as you re-create yourself, relationships and experiences through play. Re-create joy over and over again.
  • Pray
  • Meditate
  • Rest
  • Say no to "doing" life and yes to "being" life
  • slow down
  • be mindful
  • experience beauty right now 
  • clean up, get rid of junk
  • tell your story and then retell it differently
  • connect to an old friend
  • make a new friend
  • be vulnerable
  • listen, really listen
  • feel all of your emotions, claim them, live them and don't be ashamed.
  • worship
  • commune with others and with God
  • Be part of one thing at a time
  • talk to a counselor- if you have had any reason to see a counselor do not hesitate to go. Chances are only a few visits will make a world of difference. This a gift to you.

Joel and his brother playing in Little River
 Self care, like all things, is part of a delicate balance. These practices should not take over all of your free time. What I am proposing is that self care is the yin to your neighbor-loving yang. As much as you love others, love yourself. As much as you say "yes" to other people, say "yes" to your own needs. If you can practice both of these things in full then you will become the fullness of love. When you are restored in love then pouring love out will not be the goal or the burden because it will simply be what is happening. When you are full of love then that love becomes life, the way of life. This is the self love that I am talking about and this is a way of living that I believe is life fully alive.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mindfulness

  Last summer on my visit to Ghost Ranch, I took a class with Carol Stalcup. This woman is a heroine at mindfulness. She loves all the arts and we quickly found ourselves dabbling in the wisdom housed in dance, music, visual art, and writing. It was a glorious escape from computers and office work into a world where everything you could create was literally pouring out of your own fingertips. Each morning Carol shared a lesson with us that I want to share with you.

Image found on the Internet
In a drawing class you are taught to look at the main figure of your drawing. This is the figure that you probably want to make the subject of your drawing. This figure will claim much of your attention as you learn all of its details and recreate it on your page. 

 In our daily journeys we focus on many subjects. They claim both our time and our attention. We devote ourselves to every detail of their needs and desires. Think about all the people, places and things that you offer all of your focus to. Friends, Family, problems, TV, computers, cell phones, etc. 


Image found on the Internet
Carol asked us to look at a figure that happened to be a jug and draw only what was around the jug but not the actual jug. We all found this to be a strange and difficult task, but we were able to do it. She then told us that in a life devoted to mindfulness, we should practice both studying the figure and the background. The more we practiced just drawing the background the better we were able to focus on it.

 Think about the people that live in the background of your daily motions. Bus drivers, janitors, people walking down the street, the homeless lady on the corner, the students who aren't in your class, that person who isn't a close friend but is always around, etc. 

When we can become mindful to the figure and the background of the master- pieces of our lives then we will truly be living in the moment.I wonder what influential encounters, stories, truths and wisdom I miss by only focusing on the subjects of my days. The truth is, when you are able to see the background and foreground you are able to fully understand the work of art, you fully experience living.

The artwork might even surprise you as you realize there are so many meanings and so many purposes for the lives that fill your space.

Who abides in the background of your lives? How can you become mindful of them?



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Golden Rule

"In all you do, love your neighbor as you love yourself." -Jesus

Anyone who has grown up even remotely close to a Christian culture is familiar with the "Golden Rule." We know it in all its variations and applications and I think all of us who know it believe it to be true. However, who is actually practicing it in full?

Courtesy of "outside of the box sermon illustrations"

I am under the impression that at least in the Christian culture of the South, we have only been taught to fulfill one end of this two part recommendation for Jesus-living.


Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

How many of us actually love ourselves? The quick cerebral answer is "Yes, I love me" but I live in this world and I have seen how you show yourself love.I know it well because I have done the same thing.
 
We haven't learned to love ourselves from our pastors and elders. We probably haven't learned this from our parents or friends. It is hard to find a follower of Christ who actually believes and models the second part of this rule. 

We piously commit our lives to giving as much as we can of our time, money, and talents to our neighbors. In the churches and communities I have lived in I have seen people model loving your neighbor selflessly. But what about you?

Photo from Kim Prucha- Me refueling on a mission trip.
Jesus gave and gave and gave and guess what- he is the son of God. He can give so much more than we can. But have you ever noticed how many times Jesus stepped away from the crowds? He escaped for alone time over and over again. Even the son of God needed some time to recoup and refill after giving all that he could to those who needed him. After each time that he "went up the mountain to pray" he came down and performed his greatest miracles to date.

If he had to do it, people, so do we! I am beginning to think that we need to revisit this golden rule and try it backwards to forwards: As you love yourself, love your neighbor.

How do you love yourself? 

Me in Iona- I love myself by spending time alone with God in nature
I love myself by tending to my basic needs. I am no good to anyone when I am tired, hungry, or ill. Once those needs are taken care of sometimes I still just need to step away and spend some time with God, alone. I need to spend an afternoon taking care of me; cleaning up my apartment, painting, resting, reading a good book. 

I like to think of this practice as refueling love. When you are filled up with God's love then it simply pours out of you naturally. It overflows onto people and situations making your life exactly what it should be- a vessel for God's love. 

Yosemite- When you are full of love it pours out of you like this!
So many of us are not in balance with this golden rule. We pour out love but never stop to refuel. Imagine how much richer, fuller, more potent our attempts at loving our neighbor would be if we were fully engaged with loving ourselves. 

 When we are loving out of a fullness of being love then there is no deficiency. Loving your neighbor should not be a drain and doesn't have to be a burden.  I believe that if everyone got really good at loving themselves then we'd all be loving our neighbors so well that we wouldn't even have to plan to do it. It is time to practice loving yourself. How can you refuel right now?