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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Come, ye Disconsolate

A favourite hymn of mine.  I played it yesterday - here it is:

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
“Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot cure.”

Here see the bread of life, see waters flowing
Forth from the throne of God, pure from above.
Come to the feast of love; come, ever knowing
Earth has no sorrow but heav’n can remove.

I recorded myself playing it yesterday:

Click here to listen to the music.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

To the Wife who stole her husband's Doritos

Dear frustrated woman,

So you did it.  You took charge.  You showed him.  Good for you.

I understand - really, I do (on some level).  You watch him fill his body with junk.  You worry.  You beg, plead, convince, connive, determine what to do.  You love him SO much - you just wish he would consider how much you need him to be healthy - or at least try to be.

A recent blog post was written to the man who got his Doritos whipped out from under his unsuspecting nose.  He then was presented with celery and health food.

Now, it's your turn.

And I, for one, don't condone what you did.  And I'm a wife.

Let me make something clear to you: people rarely change when they are forced to.  And, when forced, the changes may be obvious and external, but rarely does inner change come about because someone was forced into it.  It CAN happen - like in prison.  But I'm not sure I'd advise it or call it ideal by any measure.

I get that you can try to control what your husband eats.  You can push for change.  You can advocate for what you'd like.  But when you do this you risk losing healthier aspects of the relationship.  Like, trust for instance.  When a person (husband OR wife) feels their spouse is trying to control them, it creates barriers in the relationship, unless you have an unusually, extremely gracious and forgiving spouse - and even then, their magnanimity may be serving as a barrier of kindness to true intimacy.

Do you want to threaten intimacy in your marriage?  (Emotional intimacy, as well as otherwise).  Then just keep trying to control what he eats.

There is a place for letting go.  There is a time to release him and allow him to be his own person who has desires, thoughts, feelings, needs, and down-time with a bag of Doritos.  I get that you love him and want him to be healthy.  But loving does not equate control.  Don't get the two confused, dear.  When you love someone you value their freedom just as much as you value yours.  No one is forcing YOU to eat Doritos.  You have freedom to eat your quinoa, avocado, celery, raw spinach salad.  Take, and eat.  And free yourself from the compulsion to control your husband.

Far better to merely be an example and inspire him with your joy in healthy eating - saying not a word of condemnation - but invite him to join you at the table, allowing him to decline if he chooses.  Far better to enrich your relationship on all other levels and let him decide how he wants to eat.  I daresay, give up the condemnation, and control mechanisms and let the poor guy live a little.  You are not in his life to micromanage his diet.

In fact, you are not in his life to micromanage anything.  I know God gave you wisdom and gifts and insights (like, about healthy eating, for one) that may be a benefit to him.  How about you wait until your husband invites your input about his diet.  You will not be content in God, yourself or your life as long as you are driven by a need to control him.  If it makes you happy that he conceded defeat and took up healthy eating just because you transformed his pantry stash of junk, you have just fed the monster within you named: CONTROL.  You are happy for a time.  But it is false.  It rests on getting your way, not on the freedom and joy that comes from releasing control.

To quote a famous song, "Let it Go."

Let me know how it goes after you've quit your compulsion - both in words and deeds - for a week, month, year or more.

I can't wait to hear what happens.


A Wife Who'd Never Steal the Doritos.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The 15 Books I'm Reading

So lately I've let it slip that I read a lot of books all at once.  I decided I needed to reign myself in a little and am limiting myself to only 15 at once.  (Sometimes I do cheat and sneak a few in that aren't on my list).  That means whenever I finish one I can then add one that I've been itching to read as an 'official' reader.  I have such broad interests and will read in one general category for a season until I feel completely maxed out or my curiosity wanes and I need a break.  My categories are almost entirely non-fiction:

human biology - specifically: the brain (neurobiology), endocrinology (related to hormones and diabetes), cancer, and anything else that strikes my fancy at the time

psychology - specifically certain disorders: learning and memory, trauma, family systems theory, borderline p.d, A.D.D., child development, PTSD, autism/asbergers, and anything related to anyone I know or come across;

history - specifically: 2nd World War, European history during early 1900's, U.S. history - lately more the civil war era, but anything American history (since I have huge gaps in my learning), Russian or/and Chinese history.

theology - I read a variety here - sometimes new stuff, but often older.  I tend to go for older books actually.  New books seem a bit suspicious to me.  Unless a friend wrote it.  Then I'll read it.

As far as fiction goes I have a lot of trouble focussing on it, but once in a while I can really get into a Louis L'Amour novel (on the lighter side) or a George MacDonald book (on the heavier side) - some of the newer re-done ones are easier, though I'll also read the old versions at times.

kid literature - sometimes I am able to take in fiction if it's aimed at a younger audience.  So I'll pick up some of the historic fiction (like imitated diaries and such) for 4-6th grade level.  Often this will spark my interest to actually go and learn more from the non-fiction side.  I guess for me fiction only serves as a stepping stool to further learning.

Right now my 15 books list is as follows:

Healing the Child Within  (Whitfield)
The Imitation of Christ  (a Kempis)
The Pressure's Off  (Crabb)
Care of the Soul (Moore)
Practicing the Presence of God (Lawrence)
Healing the 8 Stages of Life (Linns and Fabricant)
I thought it was Just Me  (Brown)
A Long Obedience (Peterson)
Healing the Shame that Binds You (Bradshaw)
The Wounded Healer  (Nouwen)
The Gifts of Imperfection (Brown)
Talking With God (Fenelon)
Intimacy (Nouwen)
Conscious Performing (Bonkrude)
Becoming Attached  (Karen)

Shortly, I'll post the books I've recently finished.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Putting Performance Ahead of the Person (Parenting Pitfall)

Lest you fall into the same errors we have as parents, let me divulge to you my latest 'aha' moment in parenting.  I call it: What You Do Matters More than Who You Are.  (Big lie, by the way).  I like to think I communicate grace, acceptance, mercy, kindness and love to my kids.  These sound like Utopian ideals - and would be easily applied if I were supplied with Utopian kid material (which, though it seems close at times, is far from the case).

It's tricky - this issue of 'what-our-kids-do'.  Because in fact, we are supposed to - commanded to - tell our kids what to do and how to behave.  This is what molding and shaping and nurturing them is kind of about: getting them to do the things that civilized society expects, to a certain degree.  How do we get the results we want without becoming a nag, nuisance, irritation, grit-under-their-skin?  When I find that answer I'll blog it, but until then, let me just stick with this one thing: putting performance above the child - his inherent worth and value.

I get that we want the best for our kids, so we want them to behave well.  We love them, so we teach them to do what is right.  The matter isn't so much that we have expectations and instructions for them - that's all well and good.  The matter (problem, parenting pitfall) is when through such instruction we communicate to our children that they as people, (with hearts, souls, feelings, ideas, value, worth, uniqueness) are only valued when they DO as we like, expect or ask of them.  When my child senses that he as a person is second to his performance, it is a BIG RED FLAG.  For me, it is a wake-up call to change course - to re-evaluate, to consider my language, interactions and expressions to my child.

So far my kids haven't been great at communicating openly how they feel about these things.  Some kids are more verbal and in-tune with their own emotions.  Since I don't have much experience with that, I think it must be ideal (grass-is-greener-syndrome) and helpful to be able to hear directly what they think and feel.  For those who are more reserved I daresay it's okay to sit them down at times and point-blank ask: "Have these recent conversations (insert a few examples here) made you feel like your worth is conditioned upon how you measure up to what we ask of you?"  I dare you: ask your child this question and see where it leads.

I struggled with this issue a lot - and still do at times in my understanding of God as my Father.  When I started to peek into theology and wonder at what God is like, I was surprised at what I discovered.  So many verses talk about God being a Rock, and about our footing being sure, and about the one who trusts in Him will not be shaken.  What, to me, is this idea of a Rock, of being secure - not shaken?  As I began to understand how God loves me, I recognized that this aspect of His being is for me a sure foundation.  His love, expressed in Christ, is an anchor for my soul.

You see, I often fail those around me when I ask them to meet expectations before I will love them.  I believe in unconditionally loving my kids, but too often they come away from me sensing something other than that.  And that is pretty much modus operandi for most of the world.  It was in Jesus' day.  Religious leaders went around putting others under the microscope of their judgement.  They had no room for things like grace, love, mercy (and I daresay, joy!)  Theirs was entirely a behavioural construct: You do the things we say the way we like and we will approve of you.  You can earn your acceptance.  And Jesus stepped onto the scene and discarded that thinking, which drew their ire and led Him all the way to the cross.

He blazed a trail contrary to the earned-acceptance model of the day.  And the world has never been the same since.  He called it the Kingdom of God.  And He told us it was within us, if we follow Him.  Instead of:

             1. What You Do    (coming before)
             2.  Who You Are

He flipped it and made it:

       1.  Who You Are (His deeply loved child, His creation, His joy) - supercedes
       2.  What You Do

He didn't waive the importance of living righteously - but He recognized that how we live flows from who we are and if we're posturing, insecure, afraid, and unaccepted our behaviour will be fraught with exhaustion and lifelessness.  Following that model may produce some outward gain, but inside there will be lifeless despair.  Can anyone relate to that?

If I somehow communicate to my child that what he does (when and how and such) matters more to me than who he is as a child of God, I have confused the truth of the Gospel and complicated his view of God.  (By confusing the Gospel, I mean that by showing them their acceptance is conditioned on their behaviour I risk them thinking that this is how God views them - and the Gospel is precisely the opposite: because you can't perform to perfection, and because God made you and loves you and redeemed you, you are completely loved, welcomed and affirmed as His worthy creation - based entirely on HIS work, and not yours).

In Christ the highest performance requirements are met.  And if I am in Christ, I am fully accepted and loved, even when how and when and what I do isn't as great as anyone thinks it should be.  Sadly, I think I have sometimes made too much of even things that aren't even remotely sin issues.  Sure, as soon as I ask my child (or tell him) what to do, if they disobey it then becomes sin (I suppose at some level).  But why do I complicate life by asking them to do so many nit-picky things the way I want?  Do I respect them as individuals with thoughts and feelings and ideas when I ask these things of them?  Do they know why I'm asking?  Why it's important to me?

Lately, because I have such stellar human material in my children (ha ha), I have taken to actually asking them politely if they can do such-and-such, but often giving them an out - an, "It's okay to say no this time."  (I haven't tried this at all on the younger ones, mind you :) - just 9 yrs and above).  And often they are willing to comply because I am aiming to respect them as persons.  Of course this won't work if your kid is belligerent, defiant and rebellious.  So, don't take this as some kind of sloppy parenting advice (use your noggin' in other words).

But I know I am just meandering my way through this and discovering new insights all the time.  Maybe you have some good ideas of how to affirm our kids - respecting them as uniquely wonderful individuals - while at the same time instructing them as to how we (and God) want them to live.

I'll look forward to your comments!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Anxiety, Mindfulness and Jesus

Lately I've begun to explore this topic called Mindfulness.  At first I scoffed - it sounded silly - because it was all about 'living in the moment' 'being fully present' 'accepting and observing your own thoughts and experiences.'  I get that.  I thought, 'Why is this so revolutionary?  Why is this making such waves in the psychology/meditation fields of interest?  It seems so obvious.'

I also thought I had it down pat.  I am SO about living in the present that I have a hard time planning anything future (think: kids' birthday parties).  I have also tried to stick with a 'leave the past in the past' mentality.  But lately I've had to reconsider things in the past, which has become troubling.  

I began to read about Mindfulness and even tried to implement these concepts in how I function.  In fact, I kind of loved that someone had come up with this whole category, labelled it, wrote about it, and explored it.  It puts words to what I've kind of thought is a good way to be all along.  I just hadn't recognized that it could be a 'thing'.  You know, a trend, a fad, a therapy. 

But then there's anxiety.  I just issued my apology regarding how I've written about and viewed anxiety in the past - merely from a spiritual perspective, and ignoring that the struggle often can stem from more than just a difficulty trusting God.  Anxiety can be physical - often it is - through no fault of our own.  Anxiety focusses on future or past and often has little to do with the present.  And mindfulness is all about the present.  So, mindfulness practices often help with re-orienting the anxiety-ridden towards the present.  In most instances, this is ideal.

But then I thought about anxiety, sorrow, depression, grief.  And immediately I thought of Jesus, known as The Man of Sorrows, who was acquainted with grief.  "Surely He bore our sorrows.  We considered Him smitten, stricken and afflicted."  We know Jesus was perfect - He demonstrated a life lived not just as God, but as God-approved: "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased."  It is noble to want to live a life pleasing to God.  Yet the life Jesus lived, which pleased God, had many griefs and sorrows.  And anxiety.  If Jesus had anxiety, I think we can rightly say, it is okay to experience it also.

My mind went to Gethsemane: "...he began to be sorrowful and troubled...Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." (Matthew 26:37-38).  Jesus was conflicted.  He was sorrowful, overwhelmed and troubled.  Sounds a lot like anxiety.  Was He mindful?  Yes, very much so, it seems.  He asks his friends to stay with him - to stay in the moment.  To accept the pain He was enduring.  But He was also grieving His coming pain - knowing the future, knowing He was about to suffer.  His anxiety was justified.  But that made it no less difficult.

When I say that Jesus meets us in our anxiety - whether it stems from past, present or future troubles - I mean that He knows, He gets it - He understands - not in some other-worldly way, but in a very intimate, deeply compassionate way.  He is the great I AM.  He meets us in the present and welcomes the hurting soul to walk through any path - including the paths of grief, pain and suffering.

Friday, September 4, 2015

I Apologize

I want to issue a retraction and apology.  Often I have written about anxiety, worry and fear.  I even coined a phrase: 'W.A.F.fing'.  And now I regret some of what I've said.  I haven't even gone back to look.  I might cringe if I did.

Because I thought that fear and anxiety was really something to do with lacking trust - a spiritual issue, if you will.  There may be some truth in that thought, but it isn't all the truth of it.  Sometimes anxiety can hit and it isn't your fault.  It isn't because you aren't spiritual enough.  It isn't because you haven't developed your soul or done your internal homework.  Doing spiritual exercises, I'm sure, can help.  But there is a level of anxiety and fear I never understood or knew was possible until recently.

I don't need to go into it all here, now.  (Maybe someday I'll write on my own experiences).  But I just want to issue this apology to my readers, lest I have offended, hurt, discouraged or rebuked any of you needlessly - you who might suffer from bouts of fear and anxiety.  I haven't been fair.  I haven't understood.  I vow to change how I write on this subject.

Yes, we need to grow in faith and trust God.  Yes, we need to reflect that He is Sovereign, powerful and keeps us - He KEEPS us.  A powerful truth.  I believe it.  And still...there is anxiety at times.  Perfect love casts out fear - that's in the Bible.  And still, there is fear.  I get it.  I understand.  No more will I tell you how to solve your internal crises.  Instead I'll reflect with you and engage with what you experience.

I'm sorry if I've been radical and failed to fully understand the complexities of anxiety.  You have my sympathy, you who suffer through these things.

God meets us in it, for sure.

But often He meets us hurting and needy, and not needing a lecture.  Instead He meets us where we're at - discouraged, confused, disoriented by life.  And He welcomes us.  This, more than anything, helps anxiety.  More than reading the Bible more, praying more, thinking more, doing more.  HE, more than anything else, at the end of the day is there in our anxiety.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Adolescence of the Soul

I'd like to point out something that just dawned on me.  Okay, maybe it was a little late in coming - or maybe I'm just slow to 'get' things.  But I just realized that though people grow up, their age increases with each year, sometimes the adolescent stage lasts far beyond the years we allocate to this supposed maturing process.  I see it in myself, and sometimes in others, though I'd like to think I don't bother to scrutinize or oversee anyone else's growth (unless, of course, you count my children - whom it is my duty to oversee!)

It is easy to watch kids growing up and think they will arrive at somewhere between 19 and 25 with a fully matured person in place.  And an easy mistake to make - to think it is a magical process that happens with the passing of time.  Because I am noticing more and more that there is so much growing up to be done still - on the inside.  I thought that once I got certain concepts; changed in certain ways, that I would then operate from a position of maturity, wholeness, completeness and be such a source of grace and wisdom to others!  Ha!  I'll let you know when I figure out which certain concepts facilitate such grandiose schemes!  Because I keep finding more and more growing to do.

It is as if my soul has risen and peeked above the fray of life and said, "I'm still an adolescent!  You can't rest on your laurels!"

I wonder if there is such a thing as a mature soul; one who has grown past the adolescent phase.  I suppose there is.  If I can imagine it, it would look like one at peace with himself and the world, whose trust is unyielding in his Creator, God, and whose strength and endurance serve as a source of comfort and hope to those around him.  I think I have mature moments like that in my own life.  The process of growing out of soul-adolescence, must be, I imagine, one where those moments of inner calm increase and start to blend together to create a life of richly overflowing joy.  I use language of imagination, because I don't see it in myself a whole lot and haven't probably taken the time to see it in others, though I'm sure it's there.

Adolescence is by nature a tumultuous time of turbulence and growth.  I see it in my growing children - they act like mini-adults some days and like 2 year olds the next.  And I see this same adolescence in my soul - the back and forth of doubt and trust; the tendency to anxiety and fear one day and the next a supremely hopeful confidence in God.  God must tenderly smile at me and wonder at my impetuous temper-tantrums followed by earnest prayers of how I will trust Him for all I need.

Yes, God wonders.  If we know Him through Christ, we see that at times He wondered at people's lack of faith, or at their incredible faith.  This knowing God responds to soul-adolescence with tender, compassionate love.  Don't believe me?  I read it just the other day: A man comes to Jesus and tells Him about how he has done so much law-keeping and everything he's 'supposed' to do.  This is an example of soul-adolescence.  A self-assured, confident, spiritually proud, yet simply ignorant soul.  What would my response be to such smug-self-righteousness?  I'd probably throw my hands up in annoyance and tell him to get down off his high horse.

But not Jesus.  He treats the adolescent-soul with grace and truth.  It says, "He looked at him and loved him."  Such simple words.  Striking.  Not exactly profound.  But exactly what was needed.  This man did need a dose of truth, "Sell all and give to the poor and come follow me." (In that order).  But Jesus began with love.

That's what my adolescent soul needs.  A heavy dose of compassion from on high that says, "I welcome you even when you're blind.  Even when you think you're mature, but you aren't.  I will love you and meet you right where you are."  That is the starting place for me: a place to begin to grow, to lay down the angst, and to move towards deeper joy, daring hope and divine love.