Living in the Now

 

Ever find yourself (or a friend) struggling with unresolved questions? I recently came across this intriguing quote:

“I beg you, have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them, and the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer…” – Rainer Marie Rilke

So now I’m thinking about what he proposes. The way I see it, he is saying to embrace the questions, they contain the answers. Give them time to incubate the answers… eventually the answers may in fact reveal themselves. That requires living in the Now.

Hmm… definitely going to meditate on this…

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When the Emotional Tsunami Hits

The Japanese man clings to the rooftop of his home, adrift ten miles out to sea. The tsunami has swept his house and his wife away, and that bit of roof is what is keeping him alive. Miraculously, after two days tossed about by waves, he is rescued.

I have never had to overcome anything physically and materially as challenging as Hiromitsu Shinkawa faced. But I have had some very heavy blows in life. We’ve been talking about “how to deal” when life blindsides you and you are nearly destroyed by an emotional disaster. After the first key – Don’t Panic – the second key is this: Find the Rock.

God as a concept can seem overwhelming. It is difficult to think of Him in “manageable” terms – in a way our brains and hearts can understand. When someone tells you to “trust God” or “turn to God” in hard times – how do you know what he (God) is thinking? Do you cry out to him in desperation (as we have all done) saying, “Please God, please God, help me?”

And then what? Do you hear a reply? When your emotions are in turmoil, does he seem inaccessible? God’s Word, though, is always beautifully and easily accessible.

When life blindsides me, I cling as tenaciously to the words God speaks to us as Hiromitsu clung to that rooftop. Those words are my Rock, my stability. I read them, pray them, repeat them… and feel my spirit regain its strength.

Index cards have been a great tool for me. I carry them with me for easy access. When anxiety or fear starts to creep back in, I can pull out the verses, read them, resist the negative emotion and move on with my day.

Below are some samples… I highly recommend you make your own set of cards. Hold tight to the truths found in the Bible. They will keep you from drowning.

How to Deal

Ever get hit by something unexpected? A sudden setback, an abrupt souring of a  relationship, an illness that snuck up and pounced, a long held dream smothered without warning?

It’s hard to deal, isn’t it, when something blindsides us? I think it feels so wrong because these instances come with no warning, no margin for transition, no time to “get used to it.” They feel merciless, and they give us emotional whiplash.

So, how do you make it through without having your spirit broken, or losing the essence of who you are?

Here are a few touchstones I have found helpful in surviving these stealth attacks from life:

Don’t Panic
I always remember something Rudy Giuliani shared. He said that his father taught him:
“My father, when I was very young, used to say to me, ‘If you are ever in an emergency, if you are ever in a fire and everybody gets very excited, very emotional, then you become the calmest person in the room.'”

Find the Rock
In order to be calm, and – very importantly – stay calm, you have to know you are standing on a very solid rock. God is my Rock, and his words to me are beyond comforting. They literally give me physical, emotional and spiritual strength. There are key Bible verses that have made me strong.

Use Your Lifelines
You shouldn’t go through these shaky times alone! In a wise way, ask for help. I believe with every cell in my body that prayer works. There are people in our lives put there strategically by God. They have been gifted with the right words to pray for us!

In the next few posts we can talk more about these points… In the meantime, I wonder how others cope? How do you deal?

Deadheading and Moonlight


I was just outside under the moonlight, in our front lawn deadheading… no not the gratefully passed on kind, but the blooms are wilted on the plants and need to be plucked off kind…

For those of you who don’t garden, it’s important to pick dead flowers from the plant. This allows the plant to focus its energy on pushing forth new blooms. You get more flowers that way.

9:30 at night is not the traditional time to do it. But it works for me.

There is a slight breeze, and the street light (on the fritz) fades in and out, light winking at me through the palm branches. Crouching there in my muddy bare feet, the thought just keeps nagging me: do I let Gardener do the same to me?

What activities, thought patterns, habits are faded blooms that need removal? What new things are just waiting for that extra bit of strength on my part, to begin to bloom?

Then I get distracted. The street light is completely out – and it is very dark only 25 feet way. I am in the light. Reminds me of the aftermath of hurricane Wilma, when we had no electricity for a week. Light was so much more than symbolically important then…

So I get even more distracted, now time-traveling emotionally back to the finca (farm, sort-of) where we used to visit my grandparents in Costa Rica… They had no electricity, and as we approached in the pitch black night through the curvy roads, under a distantly brilliant starry sky, we could see the kerosene lamp through the windows…

Upon our arrival, the guest of honor was always the car battery. My dad would hook it up to the TV set, and the family that cared for Abuelito and Abuelita could watch TV. This was a once a month treat for their children!

Oops, Barby, come back to the present… gotta finish the little gardening jaunt – it is getting late…

But wait, that bush really needs to be pruned… So I grab the pruners and trim the branches that need to be cut back, so the plant can grow stronger.

Then, as I stand there in my muddy bare feet, holding the pruners with now dirty hands, the thought just keeps nagging me: do I let God do the same to me?

What activities, thought patterns, habits are branches that need pruning? What new things are just waiting for that extra bit of strength on my part, to begin to grow back stronger than ever?

I don’t know, dear Gardener. It’s up to you.

Tuning Forks and Tears

I appreciate tears! I smile as I wonder, why did God give us tears?

I’m not being morbid here. I’m in a great mood. But earlier today something made me think about how awesome tears are!

Tears are fascinating to me. In some cultures, tears flow freely, in happiness or in sorrow. In others, they are a sign of weakness. Some say men shouldn’t cry. Others say real men cry. Women in public leadership are not allowed to cry. Men in public leadership – well, it depends on the situation as to how the public interprets their tears. Some children cry loudly, some stifle their cries. Supposedly, a good cry cleanses your body from toxins (one of my personal favorite tear-facts!)… There are thousands of other tear-related truths. You are probably thinking of a few right now. (Do share!).

At times, tears are a sign that our heart is resonating with God’s, like a tuning fork. For that moment, we feel Him so closely and sense so strongly what He is saying, that the only response is a deeply emotional one. These resonating tears can make a far greater impact than the most eloquent sermon.

Today I saw an example of that. I saw a church leader so forcefully impressed by God’s love that he struggled to speak, and when he did, tears were the punctuation marks to his words. They were resonating tears. He just wanted us to get it – that ministry is all about people, not numbers, not statistics.

It was comforting, because I know that when we as leaders are aware of our failings, Christ shows up strongly to do His thing.

Which is why, folks, I really appreciate tears!

When You Have to Start Over

It is becoming a tradition that I post this every year!  I have found that there’s always someone out there that needs it right around this time of year… could it be you?

I am sitting in a Starbucks thinking about growing things.

In 2003, when we moved into our house, there was a huge 60 foot (at least) Tree. It was a hub of zoological life in our back yard. A virtual Grand Central Station of flora and fauna. Squirrels, birds, foot long fluorescent green lizards, children… all were drawn to it.

In 2005 hurricane Wilma visited. For a day we watch it assault our beloved Tree. Through the night it howled, as our Tree and thousands of others fought a losing battle. We watched 20-foot branches weaken and begin to tear, giant invisible hands pulling on them until they fell with a crash, inaudible in the roaring storm.

Morning came; our Tree was devastated. By God’s mercy it didn’t cave in our home. It simply fell apart, becoming a pile of wood and leaves, taller than me, filling our entire yard, destroyed by an event totally outside its control.

I miss that big old shady Tree, so full of life. It made me feel safe. It gave me a sense of roots, of stability when we first moved here and were weary with transition.

The yard has been transformed. Grass grows where it could not grow before, because the Tree’s shadow used to lord it over all. A new tree now grows in its place. Not the same at all, but pretty. Several feet away I planted an avocado tree. Can’t wait to taste the fruit. On the rebuilt fence nearby morninglories grow. Always my favorite flower, because they are new every morning, just like the mercy of God.

And in an opposite corner, I have two papaya trees waiting to be planted. They were given to me as babies, six inches tall each. Now they are a few feet tall, and more than ready to be planted. I very much look forward to their fruit.

I’m planning on having lots of containerized trees also. Oranges, mandarins, lemons… and maybe a mango tree or two in the ground.

New things grow when old things fall apart. It’s the way things work. My big old Tree in an odd way was a special friend. I would look out the window at the kitchen sink, see its huge trunk enveloped with life, and feel safe. But its foliage, so beautiful, was too big.

It was top heavy and in the end that is why it could not stand the storm. Its presence fell over the entire yard, and a lot of other things couldn’t grow in its shadow.

When we hauled all the old branches out, and the stump was ripped out of the ground, I had no inspiration as to what would replace it. I didn’t understand why it had to go.

Now I do.

My thoughts drift to other places in life. More than once I have had cherished relationships torn apart by storms the hit us unannounced. Work situations, life situations, seemingly unnecessary situations…

But new things grow when old things fall apart. Always.

Your Voice

This post is about your voice. And your seasons.
I am going through a season change… are you? Time to get more involved in some things, and less in others. Can you relate? Thinking through priorities and proportions. This is especially challenging because I am, at heart, an activist.

Everyday I pray that my children will learn to hear God’s voice… and learn to love that voice, to trust it, to navigate through life guided by it, much as the sailors of old relied on the stars in the heavens.

But another aspect of navigating that has taken me years to learn involves my voice. I have a voice. You have a voice. Each person has a voice. Is your voice effective?

I strongly believe that every human has a purpose and that God gives us a voice as the means by which we fulfill that purpose. By voice I mean that unique set of attributes that makes you, you!

We each need to look at all areas of current or future involvement – relationships and organizations in our spheres of influence – and ask a fundamental question: does my voice make a difference? Does anybody hear me? Do they want to hear me?

If I am committed, doing my part, and carefully listening to the voices of others – but making no impact and finding no reciprocity, then that is not a fruitful involvement. It may be time for change. There are likely needs or opportunities elsewhere, just waiting!

Or, it may be time to speak more loudly. But no one likes a shouting match. If you’re in a relationship and have had “the talk” multiple times, to be comforted by a “you’re right” and no change, time to move on (and I’m not speaking of a marriage here, by the way!). If you have a friendship with someone who has taken advantage of you repeatedly, and you’ve confronted and received an “I’m sorry” only to be misused again, time to move on. If you’re on a board or team and have expressed the same serious concerns multiple times, to be greeted by “yeah, great input” and no action, time to move on. Why force others to listen to you, when somewhere else there is a person praying precisely for what your voice can do for them? Keep the peace, spread the love… and move on.

I’m not talking about giving up when things get tough! If you are fighting a fierce battle for social justice, or to grow a business or fulfill a dream, you don’t get to “move on” – that is a whole other subject…

Bottom line today – your voice is valuable, and there is a definite place where it is needed and where there will be grace abounding for it to be heard. Relax in that knowledge. Listen, think, pray, speak, be thoughtful about your season changes. Then watch that last leaf fall and welcome the new season. And as you listen for God’s voice in the stillness, remember – He is listening for yours.