Are You Working Too Hard?


Faith and I were exploring the campground. Faith is ten. We wandered over to the bathrooms, which were a five-minute walk from our primitive campsite. I propped the heavy door open with my foot, and in the darkness I struggled to turn on the light. I pushed the switch; I pulled it; I pressed it up and pressed it down.

No luck.

Then Faith reached up underneath my arm, and turned the switch.  As she turned away toward the sinks, she laughingly said, “You work too hard at it, Mommy. It’s funny.”

It hit me. Like a ton of bricks.

She is so right. I work too hard. At a lot of things.  Always trying to get it right. A bit like a ringmaster in a three-ring circus, jaunting from ring to ring, making sure all the acts are perfect, every performer happy and feeling listened to… All this while envisioning electrifying new acts, novel adventures, what can be.

What did I learn from my Faith? A better question is: of what did Faith remind me?

One word – REST. That word has been echoing from my chest for several weeks, trying to get my attention. Close friends have verbally highlighted that word for me as we have prayed or talked. And God has steadily and insistently told me to REST.

Anytime you pioneer with your business or ministry, you face daunting tests. Obstacles bigger than your abilities. That is what we have been working through…

My goal now? To say, “That is what we have been RESTing through…”

What about you? Advice for the rest of us? What is the one thing that helps you to REST when life gets frantic?

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.

DON’T PANIC – When the storm hits

One of my all time favorite books is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a five-part trilogy. Douglas Adams wrote such a remarkable book(s) that to try and explain it here would twist my brain just a bit, and being that my brain is already slightly sprained, I’ll refrain. (Oops forgot to uncheck the Auto-rhyme feature in my medulla, however).

DON’T PANIC is a phrase that appears on the cover of the Guide. DON’T PANIC is the most vital advice for a perplexed, frequently-in-danger galaxy traveler.

It’s good advice for us too. A couple of posts ago we spoke about how to deal when life blindsides you. Staying calm is the first key. I will not pretend to be an expert at this, but I have had plenty of practice at being blindsided.

How to stay calm? These steps may seem simplistic, but they work for me:

  • Breathe – yes, literally, breathe. In and out, slowly. Breathing deeply has many beneficial effects. It also gives us time to slow down and not react immediately. Take in the news, however bad it may be. Consciously, as you breathe, reject that feeling of panic that is trying to rise up in your gut. If someone is speaking to you, pressing you for action and/or answers, calmly make them wait until you are ready. This may take some minutes or even some hours.
  • Think – yes, think. Your first reaction may or may not be correct, so move it to one side temporarily, and think through all the ramifications. Is the situation really as serious as it first appears? Can you call on some other people/perspectives to get the bigger picture? Who will be your support team as you navigate and overcome this situation? Always, as you think, avoid despair – you will overcome, and good will come out of it.
  • Remember – remember that you have probably survived other equally difficult challenges. Remember that even if you personally have not experienced such a hard situation before, surely other people you know have. Things do have a way of working out. Here it is so important to have already programmed your brain with memorable and helpful truths – and that is where the word of God is key. We will talk about this in another post.

I can promise you – based on what God says to us – that no matter how desperate or unthinkable a situation, you can survive it and eventually thrive as a stronger person, one who has even more to offer to the world. Here is a taste of what the Father wants us to know:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:10)

Dear friend, DON’T PANIC.

[PS – Okay, I can’t resist. Here is the basic premise of the book:
One Thursday lunchtime the Earth is unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this seems already to be more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun, and the galaxy is a very strange and startling place. Seconds before the Earth is demolished, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out of work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin their journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide “A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have” and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers. (from http://www.douglasadams.com)]

imagine the possibilities

Sometimes I have a hard time believing that God made us in His image… When I look around at all the small-mindedness and suffering humans  swim around in, I wonder – are we just a bad copy of a copy of a copy, a Multiplicity gone wrong to the tenth degree?

Then my imagination pulls the emergency brake on that train of thought…

Because I imagine people being so much better than they currently are. I  imagine change and growth, and stingy hearts growing three sizes bigger… I imagine injustices being set right, and funds released to help the poverty-stricken. I imagine forgiveness flowing in impossible situations.

I imagine all those things because I have smelled them and felt them and watched them happen.  I know they will happen again.

And when I imagine change, and see change, and help make change happen – I know I am not the only one doing it…

Which tells me YES – we are made in God’s image.

Let’s live like it.

 

 

 

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?

Think about this as you build your ministry

“Woohoo! Look at me!!!” – ever want to say that? Sometimes, when feeling particularly accomplished, I wish others could see what I see – and tell me how awesome I am. Sometimes it happens; sometimes it doesn’t. (Hey, just being real here!)

“Wow, you are awesome!” would be a great reward… or would it? Truth is, public acclamation is like the chocolate of rewards. Doesn’t last. Gives you a quick high, some strength to keep going, but wouldn’t work as your only food source.

So what kind of reward fuels you for the long haul, and lasts forever? There is something called a prophet’s reward in the Bible. It says that when you actively embrace a messenger of God (a prophet – someone sold out to promoting God’s agenda only), you get the same reward he or she gets. (Matthew chapter 10 toward the end, if you want to check it out).

What does that mean? Well, when you recognize that God is transforming the lives of people (you cannot change the world without changing lives) through a specific person, you are recognizing God.

And recognizing God is a big deal.

It means that often the most significant work we do is unseen. It means if I bless a prophet  (no matter where they are in chain of command) to help them achieve their potential to change the world, I will be blessed every time.

It also means that when others invest in my life, and recognize God’s hand on what I do, they too will be blessed. I’ve seen it again and again.

Is public acclamation bad? Of course not! It gives you a great platform, is sweet and – a lesson I learned long ago – a crowd draws a crowd. I want that platform. Anyone who has anything worth saying should want it. But it cannot be your identity. If you base your ministry identity on being more and more attractive to more and more people, you will lose yourself.

And that is no reward at all.

It’s so opposite to what we humans believe. To us, public acclamation alone is success – turns out it is chocolate, and can melt as quickly.

Recognizing God in the lives of those that are truly devoted to doing his work – and helping them be strong – will keep you strong for a lifetime. Now that is the reward I want!

Father, please help us be peaceful enough today to recognize you at work through others, and to bless you by blessing them.

15 Fun Wordplays (take a mental break)

This is for people who love to play with words. Sorry I don’t know to whom it should be attributed. Or if they want attribution!

1. A bicycle can’t stand alone; it is two tired.

2. A will is a dead giveaway.

3. Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

4. A backward poet writes inverse.

5. A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.

6. When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

7. The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.

8. You are stuck with your debt if you can’t budge it.

9. He broke into song because he couldn’t find the key.

10. A calendar’s days are numbered.

11. A boiled egg is hard to beat.

12. He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

13. The short fortuneteller who escaped from prison: a small medium at large.

14. Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

15. When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

Steve Jobs: Creative or Savvy?

Hey Mac peeps – is Jobs really creative on same level as Mozart – or just a savvy businessman?

Here’s what happened: I was listening to classical music on my drive yesterday morning, and heard the story of Paganini. So many of the masters died penniless, often without recognition in their lifetimes. Or having risen and fallen dramatically.

So I was pondering true creativity when I twittered this question: “Paganini died a pauper. what is it w creative geniuses & money or lack thereof?!! lack of apprciation, $management, priorities, risk tkg??”

Got this response from a Twitter follower: “Steve jobs is pretty darn creative an ain’t a pauper…:)”

My reply: “He’s a good manager of other people’s creativity. I think he’s an innovative businessman, but wouldn’t put him in same categ. as Mozart, Paganini or VanGogh.”

Just chewing on it… What do you think?

(I suppose my questions about artists and their ability to maintain healthy long term relationships will wait for another day! LOL – these posts come from someone who is a poet at heart, comes from a creative family and works with creatives).

Insomnia

It’s two am and I can’t sleep.

Thinking of Italy, paperwork, Faithy forbidding us from working on Monday, China, more paperwork, the beauty of people growing, the sorrow of people stagnating, my husband’s love, my family’s potential, people we do life with, people we miss, potential potential potential for so much ahead, not wanting to make bad decisions, and a gazillion blog posts.

What do you do when you can’t sleep?

I think I’ll get some wings. The kind you eat. Though I could certainly use the other kind.

What would you do if you had wings and could fly anywhere you wanted? I’m not sure what I would do…. probably fly and fly, further and further until I was so utterly spent and exhausted I’d have to drop down. And sleep. No more insomnia.

Da Vinci Notebook

I came across this quote from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. Da Vinci was a genius. He started life in a simple way, as the illegitimate son of a peasant woman and a notary. He painted the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and many other works of art.

But above all he was an astounding thinker. He is responsible for advances in architecture, botany, engineering, science, mathematics, anatomy… and more. This is what he said:

While I thought I was learning to live,
I have been learning how to die.

Hmm. I am going to be chewing on that one for a while. What do you think he meant?