Saturday, April 26, 2008

To Pray or Not to Pray

Went to a prayer breakfast this past Saturday at an African American church. I was the only white person there and I was welcome. The topic of the gathering was prayer- a message I was ready and needing to hear. I will share some learnings from this speaker in another post.

I have been warming up to the idea of praying regularly and on purpose. This does not mean that I don't pray- because I do. Those of you who really know me, know that I am on a spiritual journey and have quite a bit of faith. This faith has gotten me through some pretty rough times.

You see the concious decision to engage in prayer requires me to have some bravery and an openness to what I hear in response. I have a distinct feeling that God wants to use me for some purpose and if I listen, it will become clear. I don't say this because I am special or that I have some kind of gift- it has been a gut feeling for some time now. I also know that God uses the most unlikely candidates to carry messages, or carry out his wishes or to make a point.
This comes at a good time, I feel I have been wandering around aimlessly for what seems like eons now. Even though the timing is good, I still acknowledge that I have some fear of what is to come. What will God want of me? Will it be hard? I have been fine bumbling along. I have successfully kept my life busy- allowed the hustle and bustle around me to take center stage.

The noise associated with life has given me the opportunity to "tune out" many messages that I have been sent. God still gets through though. Even though I have done my best to distract myself, his presence is clear. This is an improvement from days gone by- a time when I seriously doubted his existance. I doubt no longer.

I have a knowing that if I am quiet enough, welcome him through prayer and listen, that something is gonna happen. There are times when I do have doubts though. My doubts center on my ability to be a vessel for God. I have been broken, lost, judged, and chastised. In many ways I have felt alone- trying to figure things out- and that is probably why I am tempted to open up and pray. Maybe, I don't need answers- maybe I need connection. Maybe, in my brokeness, I can provide some service to others. Maybe as others judge me or my circumstance, I can be an example of what not to do, or of how to recover from a fall. Maybe, I won't need that outside affirmation, if I have the internal strength and the knowledge that I am loved and accepted already.

So, I pray- for me, for you and for the bravery to do what I am called to do.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Keeping Young

I think in many ways many people are searching for the fountain of youth. We want to look young, act young and live young. Much of the advertisement in our world is focused on this concept and is counting on this principle to encourage us to buy products that promise to help us achieve this goal.

I too, want to stay as young as possible, and I believe our bodies are actually designed to do this. I want all life has to offer me and I want a body that will keep up with my mind and a mind that keeps exploring possibilities.

My desire for youthful living has been inspired by seeing folks around me with ailing bodies, aches and pains, stress and depression. You would think in this land of ours, where information and resources flow freely, we would have access and opportunity to maintain our health in an organic - easy way. But, I have found that it is not as easy as it would seem. Much pulls you toward being unhealthy, lethargic an overall passive entity. I think my kids are feeling the pull. My fear is that they will find comfort and complacency in sitting on the couch playing the Wii and choose this activity over playing outside, throwing a ball or scootering around the neighborhood. But I digress.

I really want to share my plan to pay attention and encourage health in my world. Little things that I can do on purpose and without tons of effort to increase the quality of my life and ultimately the longevity of my life. And these are things that I have done before and can easily pick up again.

The first thing I want to do is define how much I do these things currently and then define a goal for each thing. Here goes my current top 5:

Drink water. They say 8 glasses a day is the way to go- the site listed gives a formula for how much water you should drink based on your circumstances. Asthmatics need water more than most. I fall in that category. The work of breathing requires more water- maybe due to mouth breathing or needing more support/hydration to decrease inflammation. Regardless, water is a way to keep everyone from shriveling up- literally.

Get 8 hours of sleep. I am a happy girl when I get this, but all too often, I fall short- usually craving more time to do things while I am not working- either chores at home or fun stuff- trying to squeeze more quality time in.

Meditate/Pray/ Become Mindful. Take a few minutes each day for silence or focus. I have a quiet fear of silence- I am afraid God will talk to me. Sounds funny I know, but it happens now, even when I am filled with thoughts and distraction. I can only imagine what would come if I slowed and experienced the stillness. Deep inside I know that periodic silence is a good way to de-stress and achieve balance- I am making a commitment to myself to be brave, try it out, see what comes.

Yoga- my current focus is on Salutation to the Sun. I am trying to do 5 rounds of it each day. It does not take much time at all and you can really feel the stretch. I will move onto more routines in the future, but I thought I would start simple. The concept here is to pay attention to breathing while you are in different positions.

Journal- I am doing a gratitude journal. There was a period of my life when my journal housed all my negative thoughts. I now am trying to focus on all my blessings (which I have many). I think this is a good principle and I often fall out of practice- drained by everyday mishaps, disappointments and doubts regarding my purpose in life (you know the little things in life).
So it is my plan to track these things and encourage myself to do more, feel better and reach for the ultimate health. I know there are more things to pay attention to- love to hear your thoughts. I just wanted to start somewhere (I have been neglectful of late).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Ideal Set Up

After getting divorced I have wondered if there is life after the "ideal set up". You know the two parents, 2.5 kids- all biologically related to the said parents. The American family, neatly arranged and worked out as planned.

I have come to realize that in reality there may not be an ideal set up and most things don't go as planned. No set up is guaranteed. Even when you have that set up, something can come in and take it away, like with my sister and cancer. Many circumstances may effect a family's set up including: loss of a loved one, adoption, mixed race adoption, blended families, or an addition of a aging parent. These are just a few that come to mind.

So, how do we rise above changes, mishaps, and contortions in the family structure?

Even families that have all the "right factors" may struggle more than a family that has chosen to blend/morph and work through things. Now I am not trying to kid myself or others here. I know that families experiencing major changes can bring about special challenges. Any special circumstance will. I guess the question is: what you do with the challenge?

I believe that when people are intentional- loving and patient, thoughtful and purposeful, things usually work out. Communication seems to be key- being clear about needs, wants, feelings, concerns and keeping an open dialog to address them along the way. And, most of all, I believe that where there is love, the sense of family will prevail. Celebrating what is going right seems to be on the list too.

I don't know all the answers when it comes to how to deal with mishaps, changes or unexpected opportunities, but I do know that these circumstances are more the norm than the oddity. I think that acknowledgement of the challenge, trying to learn coping and growing strategies and a whole lot of prayer is in order. With intention, I can honestly say, that "we shall overcome" trials and tribulations. The main goal is to experience the rich sweetness of love and grace that comes by putting your heart out there and working for the ideal you want- the shared ideal you create.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Earth Day is Coming!!

Well, I have been pondering the little things and not so little things I have learned about how to be a steward of this environment we have been given. I tend to believe that the Earth is a precious resource that has an amazing ability to heal itself, renew itself and bring forth wonderful things to eat, see and experience. But, I realize that our ability to pollute and defecate this gift has and continues to be complicating things at a rate that both the Earth and our bodies cannot keep up with or create enough coping mechanisms for.

So, as I ponder, I thought I would share some learnings I have had over the years. I cannot prove that my logic is fail safe, but I believe that if we all do at least some of these things, we will be doing a service to this said earth and our bodies.

Take what rings true for you, throw the rest out the window (but only if they are biodegradable, of course).

1. Recycle. It is no longer difficult to do this, yes it takes an extra step or two, but gosh darn it, it feels good. In Columbus, most anything is recyclable and there is a handy dandy guide here. A large item of note is that all plastic bottles are recyclable. No longer to we need to identify the triangle on the bottom of the container, just throw it in. As I drive past my neighbor's houses, I see there multi trash cans on trash day as I carry my 1/2 can or less out to the curb. My neighbor right next door usually has 2 cans each week and they only have 2 people living there. We have 5 people contributing in our household and guests.

2. Buy organic milk, peanut butter and ketchup. In this day in age, it is difficult to define which things to go organic with and organics are more expensive- hands down. It is my belief it is good to do as much organic as possible. But, if your budget is a concern, I think these items are good places to start.

3. Organic fruit is a healthy contender for buying organic as well. The issue with this is the pesticides placed on the fruits. Peaches have the highest number of pesticides per item (average of 9). See this website for more information.

4. Start a compost pile. This is not hard to do and it makes really nutritious soil for gardens and flower beds. Go to this site to learn the ins and outs for composting. Anyone with a small patch of land can do this and you can reduce your waste tremendously.

5. Replace your regular light bulbs with the curly-q fluorescents. There is some controversy about this since they are a bear to clean up if broken. Precaution should be taken since they have mercury in them. But, by far, they are most energy efficient- by a long shot.

6. Use your dishwasher- if you can fill it and as long as you can go without rinsing each dish prior to use. This has been proven to be more water efficient. If however, you have to rinse, it may be better to just wash them by hand. There are supposed to be new dishwashers with garbage disposals in the bottom.

7. Speaking of appliances, buy Energy Star ones if you can. I bought a washer dryer set that was the cheapest Energy Star I could get and I am hoping for long term results.

These are just a few of the ideas bopping around in my head. If you have thoughts that you have pondered in this area, please add them on.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Three Words (or maybe a few more) by Glenn


Some of you know that at services for people I knew well
I like to share three words or phrases to sum the person up, three words to pay tribute to their life. While we all knew and loved Alanna, we knew her in different ways, in different roles, from different angles. So as I and the others share, I invite you to form your own words or phrases for Alanna. Write them down if you want to. Share them with Jim and the family. Swap words with each other while we eat pancakes later on. The folks who will speak from this microphone up front today aren’t meant to be the end of the tributes to Alanna, just the beginning. Let your words roll!

I’m also aware that while we will all have some different things to share, we will also all have some of the same things to say. After all, she was who she was, whoever she was with. As the first speaker, it’s not my intention to say everything you’re intending to say before you get a chance to say it. But here’s the thing: if two or three of us say the same thing about Alanna, then we know that was a pretty important part of who she was. And if all of us say the same thing about Alanna, then we must have nailed it, and surely she will be smiling in heaven that we got it right. (Or more likely, trying to get our attention to tell us we didn’t get it quite right . . . but we’ll just have to do the best we can.)

So here are my three words or phrases for Alanna:
1) Worthy Alanna is worthy. Alanna was empowering of the people around her. She found ways to bring outsiders in. She let people be who they were, but found ways to guide and nudge us to be better. She gave gifts of lavish attention, like taking a whole crowd of people to meet one unsuspecting friend at the airport, or sending a hand-made card every day for a week to a lonely person in a nursing home. Through Alanna, people came to know their worth.
When Alanna and I worked together at Maynard Church, everything I did (well, not everything, but most things I did) were awesome, incredible, and she’d tell me so on a regular basis. Even when it felt to me like things were falling apart, Alanna believed in me. And whatever awesomeness there actually was in what I did was due in large measure to her. That is why 500 people showed up for her memorial service in Albuquerque and another large crowd has come here in Ohio.

Yet Alanna struggled to have that same sense of worthiness for herself. It was hard for her to let go of guilt over a thing or two from the past. We talked and prayed long and hard about that. And while she was willing to do or give almost anything for others, it was harder for Alanna to receive care and attention. This may have been one of the greatest transformations that took place for Alanna through St. Stephen’s Church in Albuquerque. As reluctant as she was to receive, they were just as insistent on being generous. Finally, perhaps, what she came to see is that worthiness isn’t really the issue. The key scripture is the parable of the prodigal son. The son comes home, desperate and disgraced, saying to his father, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” And of course in some ways he was right, and of course that didn’t matter to the Father in the least. God does not give to us because we are worthy nor withhold because we are unworthy—God gives because God loves us.

And as Alanna grew sicker and sicker, she received care and attention and accolades from hundreds of people. And though she may still have wondered why they were doing it, she accepted it all.

And I am here today to say to Alanna more than to anyone else: Alanna, as a human being, you are awesome, incredible. You are worthy and then some. And through the blood of the Lamb, you now stand before the very throne of God, blameless and worthy.

2) Alanna never really had a job; she insisted on living out a calling. I know a lot of people who talk a lot about being led by God to do this or that. And I know a lot of pastors, who all have a call of God on their life. But I’ve seldom known anyone who was so focused on doing what God was calling her to do. This is part of why she had such a hard time finding the right job. I’m not sure the job existed that would allow her to perfectly live out her calling. So what she did was this: she took the jobs she had and turned them in to her calling.

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, Mark makes a point of telling us that they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fisherman for people.” Jesus took who they were and what their job was, and turned it in to kingdom work. That’s what Alanna did with her jobs—whatever they were, she turned them in to kingdom work.
A lot of people have said to me recently, “Oh, so Alanna was your church secretary at Maynard.” Well, sort of. Being secretary was what she got paid for. What she actually did was more complex. She was the creative dynamo, she was the party organizer, she was pastor’s encourager, she was the justice crusader. It wasn’t always clear what my job was. To keep up, maybe!

Alanna did what she believed God called her to do; she didn’t do what God didn’t call her to do. It sounds so simple, until you try to do it.

3) I can’t reduce this last one to just a word or two. I’ve been wondering: did Alanna see the glass half-full or half-empty? Well, she was relentlessly upbeat, wasn’t she? Think of all those cheerful emails about “Freddie and his friends.” Yet Alanna could also grow quite discouraged. She had in her mind a picture of how things ought to be—that we should all love one another and serve the needy. And when people didn’t do that, it grieved her heart.
But if you had asked Alanna, “Is the glass half-full or half-empty?” here’s what I think she’d have said: “Are those my only choices? Give me that glass . . .” And she’d think of a dozen ways of seeing the glass, quite apart from half-full or half-empty. And what of her life—ending at forty, was it half-full or half-empty? I can see it either way. While she lived, she lived it full. Yet I will forever wish she’d had forty more years to live out her calling. But in some ways, it’s neither one of those. Her life was not half-full, not half-empty, but poured out. As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy: “I am being poured out as an offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Alanna poured her life out as an offering to God and a gift to those who knew her. My prayer is that some of that water might remain in all of our wells.