Tag Archives: Lent 40/40/40 Challenge

Press On!

Athlete running road silhouette

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.  –Philippians 3:13-14

It’s pretty easy to get stuck in the past. We humans all too often step into the quicksand of old ways of doing things and outdated thinking. Why? I’m sure there are a host of logical (and illogical) reasons, but the illusion of security seems to be one of the bigger quagmires into which we oh so willingly step. I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard words like these: “Why should we change? We’ve been doing it this way since 1961? Oh, that’ll never work; our folks don’t like change. It’s too (fill in the blank with whatever rationalization comes to mind) to change.” The list could go on and on, but you get the picture. By blanketing ourselves with the vestiges of our sentimentalized or glorified pasts, we avoid stepping out into an uncertain and rapidly evolving future. Looking backward prevents us from seeing the things ahead that make us uncomfortable and that challenge our notions of how things ought to be. In short, and I’ll make a bold claim here, we open ourselves to the insidious nature of sin whenever we dig in our heels and circle our wagons.

People running in city marathon..

Take a look at this week’s gospel lesson (John 12:1-8). Jesus is dining at the home of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany. In less than a week, Jesus’ life and ministry will take a turn that changes both history and humankind forever, yet right now life is going on as usual. Life as usual, that is, until Mary steps out of the circle of acceptable community behavior and chooses to anoint Jesus’ feet with a pound of expensive perfume. Judas Iscariot just can’t stand the act he sees taking place before his eyes. How dare she “waste” something of so much value! What a prodigal show of devotion, this anointing. Jesus reminds Judas of the bigger picture, a picture he cannot fathom in the present moment.

Yes, fear stifles us and prevents us from moving forward in ministry and mission, from following the one who holds the cosmos in his hands. Succumbing to the “what ifs” keeps us bound and blinded to new possibility. This is not what God intends for God’s people. God desires good for us, but we must keep pressing on in faith and listening for the voice of the Spirit’s guiding. We must quiet our own hearts and minds and stifle our angry, fearful voices to even begin to discern God’s will for our lives individually, our congregations corporately, and the church universally. Listen to the words of the Lord as recorded through the prophet Isaiah: “Do not remember the former things,/or consider the things of old./I am about to do a new thing;/now it springs forth, do you not perceive it (Isaiah 43:18-19)?

Finish Line, Just Ahead Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Sky, Clouds and Sunburst.

Our God does new and wonderful things through ordinary people like you and me and calls us to look forward into kairos (divine) time. Yes, it is a step of immense faith, but do we really have any other palatable option? All of our fearful clinging to the past will get us nowhere but the future anyway. Wouldn’t it be better to press forward with purpose rather than cling to a pitiful illusion? We are all of us invited to join the great parade of the faithful who trust God enough to follow into the future, press on in the light of Christ, and sing good news with the psalmist:

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. (Psalm 126:5-6)

Note: This reflection originally appeared on the Stewardship of Life Website in 2010.

Photo Credits: © Warren Goldswain – Fotolia.com, © Chee-Onn Leong – Fotolia.com, and © Andy Dean – Fotolia.com.

Lessons Learned in Lent

The 40/40/40 Lent Challenge is history. I spent the week following Easter recovering from Holy Week, enjoying my family, and reflecting on the Lenten challenge to honor relationships, pare down possessions, and live more thankfully. It has been a busy time but a good one.

So what did I learn from my Lenten discipline this year?

1) I discovered that so many people have had an impact on my life and have shaped who I am today. I could spend a year writing notes and e-mails and still not exhaust the list! This tells me that virtually everyone with whom we come into contact has the potential to shape us for good (or ill). The key is to look for the best in others, to always be open to learning, and to accept the gifts others bring to your life. We do not live in isolation, and part of the joy of living is making and strengthening our web of connection and relationship.

2) I have too much stuff. It must replicate like guinea pigs in the night because there always seems to be more of it whenever I think I have cleaned out and cleared out my life and home.  Either that or I’m learning to live and be content with a whole lot less! Likely it is a combination of both! I’ll continue to dis-attach myself to as much stuff as possible and instead place value in people and experiences.

3) We all have so much for which to be thankful. Naming just one thing a day is like eating only one Lay’s potato chip or a single M & M. Splurge on gratitude; there’s no calories or fat, and the more you give thanks the fuller and richer your life will be.

Thank you for following along with me. I hope you’ll continue to stop in for more adventures in thanks-living. There’s always something for which to be grateful.

Peace and blessing!

Photos by Ben Gray, bradipo, and Nick Saltmarsh used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Give Thanks for Hands

Tonight we celebrated Maundy Thursday with a reminder to give thanks for hands that serve and hands that love. Jesus’ act of washing his disciples feet prior to their final Passover meal together was a focal point of the gospel reading (John 13:1-17, 31b-35). Modeling servant leadership for those who would carry on, Jesus also issued a command that they love one another. In effect, God made flesh illustrated what it means to serve and love, and he did this by using his hands in service to others.

Before coming to the table for Eucharist, those present had the opportunity to stop and dip their hands in the waters of the baptismal font and dry them on a towel held by a servant leader. (You have to understand that most Lutherans are rather reticent about exposing their feet for a ritual washing, but since “cleanliness is next to Godliness” we have no problem washing our hands!)

Not only did this simple act serve as a reminder that we were washed clean in baptism, it also illustrated the value of hands that serve others. So we washed, we ate and were strengthened, and we were sent to serve in the world. We are to love one another actively, using our hands for the good of our community and world.

Whose hands do you need to give thanks for? Perhaps your mother’s or father’s hands or maybe those of a grandparent. What makes their hands so remarkable? How do (or did) they use them in service to others? Close your eyes and see their hands before you.

Remember the words of Isaiah 52:7: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns! (NLT) How beautiful, too, are the hands that serve others in love!

Whether it is preparing food for a family gathering, holding a hurting child, mending clothes, tending a garden, preparing the altar for worship, or repairing a window in the church building, the hands that serve are beautiful indeed. Don’t forget to give thanks for hands!

Lent 40/40/40 Challenge

Honoring Relationships

I was saving him for last, but thinking about hands that serve reminds me to honor my spouse. He has amazing hands! They knead bread to keep our family fed, they are handy with household repairs or changing oil, they are creative as they tap, tap, tap on his computer keyboard, and they offer amazing back and neck rubs. Thank you, dear wonderful life partner, for using your hands to serve others, to show your caring and love, and to lift the bread and wine as the officiant at Christ’s holy meal. You are a treasure!

Giving Possessions

Have you ever read Sandra Cisnero’s short story “Eleven”? If not, I highly recommend it to you. Click here to read it online. I have a red sweater that has always sort of reminded me of the sweater in Cisnero’s story–even though it isn’t ratty like the one in the story. Well, today I’m finally releasing it from my closet to find a new home. Bye, bye red sweater!

Giving Thanks

Tonight I give thanks for hands. I give thanks for my mother’s hands that have held me and stroked my hair when I’m sad. I’m thankful for my father’s hands that worked so hard to provide for us. I’m thankful for my spouse’s hands as he kneads bread dough each week. I’m thankful for the hands of those in our faith community who do so much and serve so well. I am thankful to have two hands to put to good use in the service of others. Blessings abound!

Photo by Nojhan used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

A Little Goes a Long Way

Happiness consists not in having much, but in being content with little.    –Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington

My youngest daughter and I have spent the past three days in New York City; it was her “senior trip.” We saw two plays and one musical: The Best Man, Newsies, and Seminar. We ate pizza and Cake Boss cupcakes. We walked between 40-50 blocks each day, and we did a lot of “window shopping.” All in all it was an outstanding trip.

One particular memory of this trip will stay with me for a long time. First of all, you have to understand that I LOATHE shopping. I have a difficult time making a decision that involves parting with my hard-earned cash, and I have absolutely no fashion sense. My dear daughter, however, has excellent fashion sense, absolutely no qualms about spending my money, and a keen love of shopping. The first day we took a little trip up Fifth Avenue. We stopped at a few of her favorite stores to gaze at the goods, and then we hit the motherlode–the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store. We took the escalator to every floor, stopping at the shoe department for a walk through. I don’t think I saw a pair of shoes in the place for under $300. It was a real eye-opener.

My take on shoes is that they are among the few things I prefer to buy new, I like good quality, and I want something that is basic and comfortable. I’ve been in the market for a new pair of black leather flats for awhile, as my current pair are decidedly ratty looking (after three re-heel visits to the cobbler and miles of wear). My dear daughter, on the other hand, could have given Imelda Marcos a run for her money for the shoe queen title.  Her philosophy is that the right shoe looks good on any body style. You don’t have to be an anorexic stick to look good in a pair of Jimmy Choos or Christian Louboutins. Plus, she’s only 5’3″ so she can wear heels that would make the average person dizzy–and she does, and she looks doggone good in them. So cruising the Saks shoe department was for her something akin to dying and going to shoe heaven, albeit in her case it was more like being Lazarus at the gate of the rich man’s house calling out for even a lowly sale pair of Steve Maddens.

Of course we left empty-handed. On the ride back down she whispered to me, “I have never felt so poor in all my life.” I’ll admit I understood where she was coming from with this confession. It’s interesting to view life from another perspective, and since I’m usually so focused on issues of simplicity and justice the trip through Saks gave me plenty of food for thought. Our family ranks in the top 1% of the worlds richest people, according to the Global Rich List, and yet here I was feeling like Grannie Clampett in my eight year old black leather boots, resale shop jeans, secondhand pashmina scarf, and bargain outlet jacket.  Perspective is everything (or pretty close to it), I suppose.

Now that I’ve had a couple of days to reflect on the event, I am so thankful that I have reached a place in life where I am quite content with a little and have no desire to have more. More importantly, I’ve learned that my “little” is true abundance for most of the world’s population. The fact that I could even take my daughter on this trip reflects how fortunate we are–yes we got a great hotel deal, we got our tickets at the half-price booth for two of the three shows, and we didn’t eat at any fancy or even moderate restaurants–but this was still a trip that most children will never have, much less the opportunity to receive a free public education and graduate from high school. Yes, a little goes a long way, and that is good enough for me.

My hope and prayer is that my child will grow to see that she is not poor at all but among the luckiest people on earth. As for me, next time I need a reality check, I’ll just go on-line to Saks and take a cyber cruise through their shoe offerings. That should do nicely to remind me to give thanks for all of life’s blessings–particularly the intangibles ones.

P.S.: I did find a new pair of black flats. They were a little more than I had hoped to pay, but they’re all leather and have the daughter stamp of approval (meaning at least my feet won’t be fashion failures for awhile). Plus, by the time I get through with these shoes their cost will be mere pennies per wear. Oh, and dear daughter went home happy, too, with a fashionable (and mom-approved-value) pair of black boots.

Note: The Lent 40/40/40 Challenge will return once I’m back at home and unpacked. For now, suffice it to say I am thankful for precious time with my baby girl who will soon be off to college and thankful for a spouse who is supportive of my taking off with her on this Broadway lark/girl party. I’m also thankful to my oldest daughter for depositing us at the train station and retrieving us. This trip was truly a family affair.

Photos by William Hawkins,  and Jerine Lay used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

The Difference

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

 ― William James

You were created to live a life unlike no other person on this planet. You were gifted with unique skills, talents, and potentials to contribute much of value to your family, community, and world. What you do, what you think, how you act does make a difference.

Do you believe the statements written above? Are you living like you make a difference? Are you willing to, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world”? A life of thanks-living is a life of intentionality, of recognizing, giving thanks for, and living out the gifts and blessings that are part and parcel of our lives.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the cares and concerns of daily living that we forget our intrinsic worth as human beings and our ability to make the earth (our home) a better place. Our hectic twenty-first century lifestyle simply does not encourage intentionality in thought, word, and deed.

We get so busy trying to manage the details of life that we forget to really live. We forget that we are created beings with a soul, a mind, and an innate desire to be in relationship and to make a difference.

How does one go about making a difference? Where to start? As a person of faith, I strive to uphold the “golden rule” or “ethic of reciprocity.” Specifically, as a Christian, I look to Jesus’ “Love Command” (Matt. 22:37-40) based on the Hebrew Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) for ultimate guidance. Of course, I fail mightily, so I am grateful for the grace that enables me to “fall down seven times, get up eight” (Japanese proverb). I find it interesting that many of the world’s religions have a similar teaching about how to treat others and how to make a difference. Click here for some examples.

We are all connected. Even the poet John Donne recognized that fact. Click here for an exploration of his Meditation XVII and the famous “no man (sic) is an island” quote. So then, our connections are only as good as our interactions and relationships one with the other. That’s why all that you say, do, and are matters and makes a difference. So, yes, act like it; better yet, live like it–each small moment of every precious day.

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

Charlie and Frances Rampp made a real difference in my life. As a struggling single mom and seminarian, Charlie nourished my soul with poetry, gifting me with the occasional treasured book or a sheaf of his poems (usually on recycled paper–nicely done, Charlie). Frances helped me laugh at life during some very dark days and showered me with kindness and hospitality. Charlie is gone now to life eternal, but his legacy lives on in my approach to ministry and attempts at writing poetry. Thank you, dear Frances and Charlie, for living lives that mattered and for being the difference.

Giving Possessions

Bye, bye blue fleece! I didn’t wear you all winter, so obviously you are needed elsewhere. I offered to return you to your previous owner, but she declined, so hopefully you will soon have a new owner to keep warm.

Thanksgiving

I am thankful for trains. Mass transit is a great way to share life with others, save gas, and avoid the stress of driving.

Photos by Manoj Kengudelu used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Do Something!

Between a router dying on Sunday and being without DSL for two days and coming down with some seemingly spring-allergy related malady, it has been quite a week. I have alternated between frustration at not being able to meet deadlines due to the deceased router, exhaustion and swollen lymph glands from the malady, and sheer joy and delight at the beautiful (albeit unseasonably early) spring weather. I’ve also missed posting about my latest adventures in thanks-living.

“Thankfully” I’m back on board and still grateful for so very much, including the cup of Sleepytime Sinus Soother herb tea that’s right here by my laptop. I am so lucky to be able to have clean, abundant water readily available to make tea anytime I desire. Yesterday was World Water Day. If you are not familiar with the purpose of this day, I encourage you to visit African Water Log written by ELCA missionaries Dr. Joe and Rev. Deborah Troester. You might also enjoy this post by Virginia over at Roses in the Rubble. Finally, here’s the official UN World Water Day website.

Sometimes, when we take time to dedicate a day of our lives to awareness about and consideration of a particular issue, problem, or need, it can seem overwhelming. How can one little ‘ol person in the USA make a difference in alleviating a problem of global proportions? When thought of in those terms, it’s almost easier to ignore the problem or throw a few expendable dollars at it and be done. Not that I’m knocking financial support! Every penny counts, and a penny shared reflects a person who cared. So yes, do give generously to the causes that move your heart and spirit.

But don’t stop there; DO something. Active involvement engages us with one another in a way that simply firing off a check cannot. So what can you and I do about water? Here are 10 small steps each one of us can take.

  1. Don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth or washing your face.
  2. Don’t leave the water running while you wash the dishes.
  3. Install a rain barrel.
  4. Don’t water your lawn. Instead, consider edible plantings that add beauty and fill your belly. You can also share extra produce!
  5. Consider installing a greywater system. Here’s a link that provides some basic information.
  6. Fill the bathtub only halfway full, or cut your shower time down. (Many people of my parents’ generation remember washtubs and sharing the bath water.)
  7. Take a “military” shower at least once a week. This means getting wet, turning off the water, lathering up, and then turning it back on to rinse. This simple act will definitely help you appreciate the gift of adequate water.
  8. Keep track of how often you flush. Install water displacement devices in your traditional toilet tank (i.e. a plastic jug filled with water or bricks) or if you need a new toilet, consider one of the water-saving or composting options.
  9. Charge yourself a “water tax” for a week or month. Each time you use water for any purpose, put a set amount of money in a jar as a “luxury tax.” At the end of your designated time period, donate that amount to a charity that helps provide wells to people where water is needed.
  10. Finally, say a quick prayer of thanksgiving every time you use water for at least one day. Not only will your thanks-living capacity improve but so will your prayer life! In short, DO something. Practice may not make perfect, but it will have a lasting effect on your life.

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

This week I have been giving thanks for aunts and uncles and cousins who have given me a sense of rootedness and connectedness. Our family is spread out all over the US and abroad, but a note or a Facebook post means so much. Thank you to Faye, Bev, Uncle Jesse and Aunt Louise, Uncle Oliver and Aunt Norma, and Uncle Mick. You are connected not only by blood, but by heart and memory and love. Thanks!

Giving Possessions

I have some catching up to do here. I have some unopened boxes upstairs and in the garage that need to be opened and sorted and disbursed. I also have more books to go. I’m enjoying the more minimalist wardrobe. Having space in the closet and trying to organize around one key color is great. Most of all, the simple act of giving and sharing is wonderful. Open hands, open heart, and open mind–not a bad mantra for thanks-living.

Thanksgiving

I am thankful to be reconnected with the world via high speed DSL and a new router. I will say that a forced media fast wasn’t all bad.

I hope you are all doing well and finding plenty of reasons to be thankful for your blessings, your abundance, and the relationships that matter more than any possessions. Peace and light!

Photos by osseous and likeablerodent used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Traveling Light

Why do we insist on journeying through life loaded down with baggage? Sure, we all carry within us the “baggage” of our experiences that makes us who we are, but why do we make it more difficult by hefting an extra load of cultural and consumer baggage? You wouldn’t try to hike the entire 2,179 miles of the Appalachian Trail hauling a pony cart full of “stuff” behind you, so why do you clutter your life with adiaphora?

I’m not going to delve into the emotional baggage we tote; that’s a topic for another day. What I suggest is that we journey through life overly burdened for two reasons: 1) we have short memories, and 2) we have a hole in our heart that our culture tells us can be filled by buying and possessing the right “stuff.”

From the time we are old enough to make sense of images and sound, the wonderful world of marketing begins competing for our allegiance. No wonder one study found that more children recognize the golden arches of McDonald’s than a picture of Jesus or the president! Ever consider why you probably buy the certain brands that your parents bought? Why you prefer one brand of paper towel over another one? Why you gravitate toward one soft drink in particular? Why you choose one brand of jeans instead of the competitor? You have been carefully taught by the purchases of others and by deliberately crafted advertising campaigns.

Marketers create a need in our minds, but it can’t be a long-term need because we must consume again and again. We are conditioned to want newer, bigger, better, and brighter. An iPod classic of the first generation is a dinosaur compared to the “new” iPod classic, for example. Who wants limited storage space when there is SO much music out there to purchase?

How do we stop the cycle of need and greed? It starts with awareness, it continues through constant reminders, and it takes practice. It’s a process. We need regular reminders about what really matters, what is “true” and “real,” and how to discern a need from want or desire.

When we moved from North Dakota to Tennessee, we sold or gave away almost all of our worldly possessions. What had taken us almost half a U-Pack It trailer to get to North Dakota ended up fitting into two sedans along with several boxes mailed ahead by parcel post. The two bedroom apartment we rented looked mighty big and empty. It was also, surprisingly, truly liberating.

We ended up bying a sofa and love seat, kitchen table and chairs, entertainment stand, two chairs for the patio, used washer and dryer, and two mattress/box spring sets. Everything else we needed was either given to us or found through freecyle or creative reclamation (i.e. dumpter diving when people moved out of the complex). Even after this major possession purge, the slow creep of acquisition returned with our short memory of freedom from attachment. By the time we moved to Pennsylvania, it took a small U-Haul truck to get us here. Now my spouse and I are parting with possessions once again. With each possession gone comes a little less weight and a little more freedom.

I realize traveling light is not for everyone. Some people can be content in a tent, while others require a Winnebago or a Holiday Inn. Some people need few things, while others collect and acquire much. What I urge you to do today is to consider what it might be like to limit your possessions to what you need and/or truly love. How might letting go enable you to live more fully in thanks-living and giving? Imagine what it would be like to put all that you own into a backpack, suitcase, or car. Could you do it? Could you even dream it? Do you dare?

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

I am thankful today for my cousin Doris. This strong yet gentle woman served for many years as a missionary in Honduras. She has given so much of herself to help so many people, and she exemplifies a lived faith. Thank you, Doris, for your light and for your life. You truly understand the value–and beauty–of traveling light!

Giving Possessions

I have a stash of extra greeting cards and envelopes–not all of which match. I have been keeping them thinking I would use them at some point, but the truth is I have not used them and likely never will. So they’ll be going to church with me for the box to donate to St. Jude’s Ranch. It’s a small thing to give/let go of, but it’s one more small lightening of the load.

Thanksgivings

I am thankful for sleep. I don’t always get enough of it, but I am grateful for a good night of it. Sleep is refreshing, necessary for good health, and a true blessing. Thank you, God, for the gift of sound sleep.

Photos by Timitrius and Quinn Anya used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Open Mouth, Insert Foot, & Eat Some Humble Pie

Remember Fonzie from the 1970s television show Happy Days? He was the captain of cool, the sargeant of slick, and always, always right. Right? Well . . . almost. Click here to watch that famous click where he admits he made a mistake (and tries to say the word “wrong”) in order to keep Ralphie from joining the Marines. It’s priceless, a prime time memory that has stuck with me for years.

How easy is it for you to admit when you’re wrong? Are you secure enough in your self to fess up and say it, or do you rival the Fonz when it comes to avoiding the dreaded “W” word? When you open mouth and insert foot, are you able to eat humble pie without choking on it? The older I get, the easier it becomes to admit my foibles. But, perhaps it’s more than age at work here.

I think it has something to do with grace (see Romans 8) and realizing that nothing we can do or say or think can earn God’s love and acceptance. We can’t keep the law. In fact, the law drives us straight to our knees with the realization that no matter how hard we try, no matter how “good” we are, there’s no way we’ll ever achieve “perfection” under our own steam. All is gift–every single bit of it–our life, our intellect, our relationships, and our possessions. Sure, we may work for what we have, we may exert great amounts of honest effort and toil, but everything can be gone in a flash. Just ask the folks in Joplin, Missouri, or New Orleans, Louisiana, after natural disasters wiped their worldly goods off the face of the planet.

Yes, it is the gift of grace that sets us free to be the unique individuals we are all created to be. By grace alone through faith (sola fide) we are justified, and that’s incredibly good news. What’s a pity is how stingy we are sometimes in extending that grace to others. Our human nature is to scrabble for the pinnacle of rightness, to come out on top, even if that means breaking relationships and trampling on feelings.

Part of living into that grace, of growing into one’s potential as a child of God, is to extend to others what has been given to you. We’re all going to mess up, make mistakes, say stupid and hurtful things, and pretty much make idiots of ourselves at some point in life–maybe even at many points in life. If we can’t forgive ourselves, then how can we possibly expect to forgive others when they make mistakes?

So, if you suffer from the Fonz’s aversion to admitting wrong, keep working on it. Remember that God loves you dearly, in spite of your human shortcomings. God sees you are you will be, as you can be, as you are becoming. God sees others with those same eyes of love. When you open your mouth and firmly insert your foot, as you certainly will, just admit it and get on with it–life that is. Try to better, try to love more, and be sure not to take yourself too seriously. Oh, and be sure to cut others plenty of slack, too. Look for the good; trust me, if you look hard enough you’ll find it.

We are all works in progress, and when we work together life is so much better. A life of thanks-living includes amples sides of forgiveness and grace, seasoned with laughter and love. Whether you like it or not, be sure to order up a serving of humble pie once in a while and share it with a friend. Chances are you’ll be glad you did!

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

Today I am thankful for our Friday Morning Book Discussion group members. We gather at Christine’s Coffee Shop in Waynesboro twice a month to share some good brew and books. It’s a fun group of folks. Thanks for making my day brighter!

Giving Possessions

I finally parted with my Eddie Bauer Fair Isle zip up sweater, matching turtleneck, and thin wale cords. They’re all in various shades of brown, which doesn’t go with my current attempt to create a functional minimalist wardrobe based on black and colors that work well with black. Instead of keeping them in my closet because they’re “too good to get rid of,” I’m sending them to the rescue mission.

Thanksgivings

I am thankful for people who love and care about me in spite of myself. I am grateful for friends, parishioners and family members who are willing to trust, forgive, love, and laugh. I hope and pray I am capable of giving to you the same level of trust and transparency. You make life a rich and wonderful experience, and I am blessed to have all of you in my life.

Photos courtesy of saraandthegoonsquad.com and craftybmwife.blogspot.com. Thanks!

In Praise of Laughter and Silliness

What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.  — Yiddish Proverb

Here’s a question for you: how much did you laugh today? If you said none at all, or that there’s nothing worth laughing about, then you need to find a way to tickle your funny bone, my friend. Laughter is good medicine; in fact, it might just help you stay healthier longer.

A recent study conducted by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that laughter, combined with a good sense of humor, may help to prevent heart disease. Click here to read the entire article. There’s even a type of yoga called, appropriately, laughter yoga, that uses breathing and laughter to promote good health. A variety of physiological benefits result from laughter, including a reduction in blood pressure and reduction in the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol. Laughter also helps boost the immune system by raising levels of immunoglobulin A and cytokine. For more information about the health benefits of laughter, click here.

If you find life is getting you down in the dumps, try a little laughter. Click here for a Youtube video that’s sure to give you a chuckle. Now, don’t you feel better? I know I do. We got a huge kick out of our Springer modeling a fuzzy purple hat. He’s a pretty good sport about humoring our silliness. If you don’t have a canine to provide much needed humor, consider these options: watch a good comedy, get together with friends who enjoy a good laugh, be silly with your children, or even make faces in the mirror. Don’t risk a diagnosis of “terminal seriousness” when a dose of “silliness” and a little laughter each day will lead you to better health.

PS: Don’t miss Krista Tippett’s interview with Kevin Kling about “The Losses and Laughter We Grow Into” this week on the American Public Media radio show On Being. Click here for more information.

Photos by AugieSchwer  and Elspeth Lucas used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Lent 40/40/40 Update

More than halfway to Easter and still going strong! Here’s the latest…

Honoring Relationships

My cousin, Melanie, is bright, articulate, compassionate, and FUNNY. Whenever I’m around her I laugh and laugh and laugh. She can take any story and give it a humorous twist, and she can find a silver lining in every cloud. Thanks, Mel, for being just who you are, and for sharing joy and laughter with so many people.

Giving Possessions

In praise of laughter, I’m giving away my copy of the hilarious book Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir by Susan E. Isaacs. Isaacs writes with great honesty, passion, and humor about her quest to take God to couples therapy and reclaim a relationship with her creator. All you have to do is leave a comment telling something you find funny, or share a link to a funny video, or tell a joke. Laugh on! I’ll draw a random winner from responders on Saturday.

Thanksgiving

Today I am thankful for the gift of laughter and silliness. It’s good to laugh until your belly hurts. It’s fun to be silly. Thank you, God, for the gift of laughter!

Why I am NOT Bored

Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful, or to discover something that is true. ~William Inge

According to merriam-webster.com, boredom (n) is “the state of being weary or restless through lack of interest.” Whew! This is definitely a state I do not inhabit. I may live parts of my life in the fifty-first state of confusion, and I may be weary and tired to the bone, but I am never a resident of the state of boredom.

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone else say he or she is bored, I would be a wealthy woman. Supposedly, according to one recent study I found online, one in three students in school is bored either from lack of teacher interaction or uninteresting subject matter. Really? Whatever happened to intellectual curiosity?

Evidently boredom is a problem in the workplace, too. Check these facts from an article by Sandi Mann in the The Psychologist, published by the Britist Psycological Society:

  • Nearly 45 per cent of hiring experts in a 1998 survey said firms lost top workers because they were bored with their jobs (Steinauer, 1999).
  • A third of Britons claim to be bored at work for most of the day (DDI survey ‘Faking It’, 2004); in the financial services, half were often or always bored at work.
  • Boredom has been found to be the second most commonly suppressed emotion at work (Mann, 1999).
  • 55 per cent of all US employees were found to be ‘not engaged’ in their work in a recent survey reported in the Washington Post (10 August 2005).
  • 24 per cent of office employees surveyed by Office Angels claimed that boredom caused them to rethink their career and look for alternative jobs (reported in The Guardian, 20 January 2003).
  • 28 per cent of graduates claimed to be bored with their job in a survey by the Teacher Training Agency (tinyurl.com/ltn6e).

There is much research–and speculation–about why boredom is on the rise. Are we, as a society, amusing ourselves to death (see Neil Postman’s work by the same name)? Are we overly stimulated by technology and the pace at which we live and move? Does it have to do with our ability to produce dopamine in the brain? I don’t know.

What I do know is this: I am a naturally curious person, and I am content. Because I am content, I can entertain myself by reading a book, taking a walk, writing a poem (or blog entry), or interacting with family and friends. Finding joy in the ordinary is not a problem. Because I am curious by nature, I can usually find something worth investigating, watching, reading, or studying. I am also finally comfortable simply “being.” Age, spiritual health, and creativity probably have something to do with keeping me from being “bored,” but life itself is simply so precious and amazing that I want to participate in it fully. This is why I am NOT bored.

Perhaps as a culture we are losing something through excessive emphasis on consumption and passive entertainment. I can remember when my girls were little, their favorite toys were pulled out of kitchen drawers and cabinets. I could buy them the latest doll or trinket, and they might play with it for a little bit, but give them crayons, paper, costumes, or wooden spoons and plastic bowls, and they could entertain themselves for hours.

I think William Inge was right on target with his words posted above. Seeking truth and creating something of beauty are fine antidotes to boredom. Want to be a good steward of your time, talents, and resources? Avoid boredom at all costs. Fall in love with life and the One who created it. Take part in the healing of the world by seeking truth and creating something beautiful. Most of all, have fun, laugh, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Finally, just ban all forms of the word “bore” from your vocabularly!

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

Today I am thankful for Paul Roland. This thoughtful man was a huge positive influence in my life as a teen. He always had a kind word for me, kept up with my track and field progress, and let me know that he and his spouse, Fran, were praying for me. He probably doesn’t realize that after all these years, his simple acts of kindness and Christian witness had an impact on me that extends to this day. Thank you, Mr. Roland.

Giving Possessions

I gave my daughter my favorite sundress to use as a costume for the play. Whether I get it back matters not. There will be other sundresses, but there’s only one more high school musical. Break a leg, dear daughter! I’m proud of you.

Thanksgivings

I am thankful that my life is so full and rich that I never have to worry about being bored. Life is good! I am thankful to be here.

Photos by opensourceway and rolfkolbe used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!