What if?

I've spent all day working on my teaching for the upcoming & Women's Conference at Orchard -- Rise and Shine Women's Retreat --  and I am just filled to overflowing right now with God's good heart toward his creatures. I am filled to overflowing with the knowledge of how much he wants for us... and how very often we refuse his good gifts.

In some of my reading today, I came across this little bit of writing from David Whyte and it just struck me to the core with its painful truth:

“Sometimes reading … I look out at everything growing so wild and faithfully beneath the sky and wonder why we are the one terrible part of creation privileged to refuse our flowering.” (David Whyte)

What if we simply did nothing except refuse to "refuse our flowering?"

What might our lives look like then?

Set the world on fire ...

"Be who God created you to be and you will set the world on fire."

(Catherine of Siena - 1347-1380)

What pours out ...

“If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain, but what He pours through us that counts.

It is not that God makes us beautifully rounded grapes, but that He squeezes the sweetness out of us.

Spiritually, we cannot measure our life by success, but only by what God pours through us, and we cannot measure that at all.”

(Oswald Chambers)

What if this was the way we assessed our lives?

Or, better yet... What if we just stayed so close to Jesus that He couldn't help but pour his love and grace into us, and then right out through us into our broken world?

And then perhaps we wouldn't even be bothered to think about assessing ourselves or trying to measure success.

We would know that our only job was to stay real, real close to Jesus. As if that were enough. Because it is.

Be a tree ...

"A tree brings glory to God by being a tree."

(Thomas Merton)

Be holy where you are ...

I am thoughtful this week about the idea that most of human unhappiness stems from within.

We are unhappy, many of us, with ourselves.

I often wonder what kind of energy might be freed up in the human soul if we simply were done disliking ourselves, berating ourselves, wishing we were someone else.

This is why I love the Merton quote I posted yesterday: “A tree brings glory to God by being a tree.”

That simple line says almost everything I want to say about self-acceptance, but also about the most profound way to glorify God – by simply becoming oneself.

So, more on this topic from Mother Theresa:

“The president of Mexico sent for me. I told him that he had to become holy as a president: not a Missionary of Charity, but as a president.

He looked at me a bit surprised, but it is like that: we have to become holy, each of us, in the place where God has put us.”

What might it look like for you to “become holy” in the place where God has put you?

Give up the idea that you should be somewhere, someone else.

Use all your God-given energy to become more and more who you actually are, right where you are.

Don't be Moses ...

"When I reach the world to come, God will not ask me why I wasn't more like Moses.

He will ask me why I wasn't more like Zusya."

(early Hasidic leader, Rabbi Zusya)

Live gladly ...

To tie in to yesterday’s post about how God gives us everything for our enjoyment …

These two quotes from the ancient mystic Julian of Norwich:

“The greatest honor we can give to God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”

And …

“What God most wants is to see you smile because you know how much God loves you.”

What if the most powerful way we can express our love and gratitude to God is by simply living gladly, enjoying all things, and smiling?

I think we make this whole “friendship with God” thing way, way too complicated. Way too hard …

And then we fuss about it all the time, always trying to “get better” at it, “work harder” for God, “do better” for him …  while missing the fact that he has provided all we need and simply wants us to live with joy because of all he has done.

Live gladly...

It seems the very least we can do.

I do know how to pay attention ...

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.


I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down


into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,


how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,


which is what I have been doing all day.


Tell me, what else should I have done?


Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?


Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

(Mary Oliver, 1935 - )

 

 

           
                                                                                       

  

Take up space ...

I don't often do this...

That is, post thoughts about "being a woman."

But, I have been pondering this for a bit:

I enjoy a hot yoga class a few times a week. At my age, a perfect form of exercise!

And one particular instructor often pushes us to "breathe... breathe so I can hear you!"

And sometimes she says to the room full of (mostly) women, "Take up space! Fill up the air around you... be large!"

Sounds kind of weird, but in the room, in the moment, in the poses we are working on with sweat dripping down our faces, it makes sense; it feels right. And when she says it,  you can literally hear the room full of women take a collective deep breath in order to expand our lungs and become a bit "larger."

And I find myself thinking: In what other venue do women get urged to "breathe loudly" or to "take up space?"

Not very many places...

And the church, historically, has not done this. We have instead urged women to be quiet, be small, to take up less space, rather than more...

And I get it. I really do. As followers of Jesus, we are all supposed to point to Him, to die to ourselves, to serve others; both men and women are called to these things.

But Christian women often "hear" these things differently - and these commands too often cause us to be quiet when we should probably speak, to try to be invisible when we should probably shine, to be small when God might be asking us to become "big" for Him.

So, I found this "I am a Dangerous Woman" statement, and though the title may freak some of you out... read it.

See what you think.

And picture me, in a hot yoga room, sweating like crazy and "taking up space!"

http://shelovesmagazine.com/2015/declaration-i-am-a-dangerous-woman/

Which sermon?

As we approach the celebration of Easter, the resurrection of Jesus... preceded, of course, by the rememberance of Good Friday, the crucifixion of Jesus, I have been pondering two little thoughts these days:

1. I read this the other day: 90% of sermons preached in the American church can be summed up in two words:

TRY HARDER!

and,

2.  The Holy Spirit preaches only one sermon, over and over. These three words:

IT. IS. FINISHED.

Which sermon ultimately drives your life?

Which sermon is Easter about?

Which sermon sounds like "Good News?"

Mind over mattress ...

As spring rolls in, and the birds start to chirp earlier and earlier each morning, I am reminded of a Stephen Covey quote that always inspired me and my early morning walking friend of over 15 years.

Here it is:

"If we can overcome the pull of the flesh to arise early in the morning -

putting mind over mattress -

we will experience the first victory of the day.

We can then move on to other things.

For by small means are great things accomplished.

Such an early morning victory gives a sense of conquering, of overcoming, of mastering --

and this sense propels us on to further conquer difficulties 

and clear hurdles throughout the day.

Starting the day with a private victory over self is one good way

to break old habits and make new ones."

I so believe this is true.

Except for this morning... after decades of "having" to awake before dawn, every once in awhile, I find great joy and pleasure in sleeping in.

So, with grace for yourself sometimes, consider rising a tad earlier than normal... and start your day with a "private victory." 

 

Unless you say no ...

I wonder how much our lives would improve...

how much the QUALITY of our lives would improve,

if some of us said no more.

Not just so we can "say no,"

but so we can say a really big YES to the things we are sure God is calling us to.

What might your life look like if you said "no" a bit more often?

"You've got to keep control of your time, and you can't unless you say no.

You can't let people set your agenda in life."

(Warren Buffett)

Summon the courage ...

"It's not for me to judge the gifts I have to offer the world,

but it is up to me to summon the courage to offer them.

There are as may ways to be of use and to express our love as there are people on this earth.

Some save lives in emergency rooms while others flip pancakes in church basements;

some compose symphonies that make our spirits soar while others sing lullabies to sleepy children;

some open their wallets to fund a museum wing and some open their hearts to a cat who shows up at the door;

some prepare haute cuisine in fancy restaurants and some cut sandwiches into triangles at an old folks home;

some prepare court briefs and some prepare garden beds.

And there is worthiness and beauty in all these efforts."

(Katrina Kennison - Magical Journey)

Simplify, simplify!

Seems right, as summer begins, to ponder a bit of writing from Henry David Thoreau:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,

to front only the essential facts of life,

and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,

and not, when I came to die,

discover that I had not lived...

Our life is frittered away by detail...

I say, let your affairs be as two or three,

and not a hundred or a thousand ..

Simplify, simplify...

Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?"

May your summer be filled with at least a tad of what Thoreau proposes...

a few quiet nights,

a couple lazy weekends,

numerous unhurried meals,

a few less things on your schedule,

time to live in such a way that when you come to die... you find that you have really lived!

What is mine to do?

I read this from Thomas Merton today and it hit home:

"The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.

More than that, it is cooperation in violence.

The frenzy of the activist...destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful."

I am no good to anyone, I "destroy my own inner capacity for peace... destroy the fruitfulness of my own work" when I say yes to too many things.

It is a spiritual discipline of the deepest kind to know one's own limits.

It feels humbling... humiliating even, to say "This is all I can lovingly, wisely do."

But I am starting to wonder if this is just pure godly wisdom at work, rather than something to be ashamed of.

"What is mine to do?" This is the question for all of us...

What is mine? 

What is yours?

Do that. Do it well. Do it with all the love you have.

And let the rest go.

What if the church ...

Something to ponder this morning...

What if the church helped people become the kind of people who:

Loved one another?

Forgave one another?

Prayed for one another?

Bore one another's burdens?

Were devoted to one another?

Regarded one another as more important than oneself?

Did not speak against one another?

Did not judge one another?

Showed tolerance for one another?

Were kind to one another?

Spoke truth to one another?

Built up one another?

Comforted one another?

Cared for one another?

Urged one another on to love and good deeds?

 

What if that is all we did?

What then?

How different might the church look in today's world if we just focused on those things?

(Hat tip to Philip Yancey and his book, Vanishing Grace)

 

When it's over ...

"When it's over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world."

(Mary Oliver - From her poem "When Death Comes")

The impeded stream ...

This is for any of my friends who feel "stuck" right now...

Who are facing decisions that feel big and hard and confusing...

Who don't know which direction to turn, which fork in the road to take...

Don't be afraid. You are in a good place;

a place of your "real work."

A poem by Wendell Berry:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do

we may have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go

we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

It is not only prayer ...

"It is not only prayer that gives God glory,

but work.

Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall,

driving horses, sweeping, scouring --

everything gives God some glory if,

being in his grace,

you do it as your duty.

To go to communion worthily gives God great glory,

but to take food in thankfulness and temperance

gives him glory too.

To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory,

but a man with a dung fork in his hand,

a woman with a slop pail give him glory too.

He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should.

So then, my brethren [and "sistren!"],

live."

(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

 

This is the true joy ...

This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one;
being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances,
complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

                                                                             (George Bernard Shaw)