Unintended Consequences

I used to believe in the concept of a victimless crime. Maybe coming home late at night and eating peanut butter to soothe my jangled nerves did not directly hurt others - so long as I left enough for Pete to have his nightly snack of Ritz crackers and a smidge of Skippy.

But I was wrong.

If I am not feeding my body with the nutrients it needs (substituting peanut butter for cruciferous vegetables for example), then I am not my best self. I may be more grumpy, sluggish, and catch more colds. I might eventually develop an allergy to my beloved peanut butter through overexposure.

The nutritional framework I need for optimal fueling may not be the same framework others need. But it is my responsibility to figure out how my body operates best.

If I fail to own this responsibility, I am not the only sufferer. My family and friends suffer my bad moods and reluctance to go on long hikes. My work suffers as my brain is not agile and sharp. Strangers who annoy me suffer my impatience and dirty looks.

We matter. You matter. I matter. What do you need to take responsibility for and change? Have you been under valuing your potential to do good (or harm)? What thought projects need your attention?

Growing up

The traits that we associate with success may not be helpful in achieving our New Year’s resolutions. In a world where we believe that resources are scarce, we compete to win the prize. Like food. Or firewood. Or a promotion. Evidently we live in a world that believes that resources are scarce. How else can we explain the rush of December 2018 when the Cheesecake Factory gave away a free piece of cheesecake to customers as a way of celebrating their anniversary? There were traffic jams and fights and even arrests for disorderly conduct. For cheesecake. I’m obsessed with this story. I’m confused by it and disappointed that this is what we are willing to go to any lengths to acquire - a free piece of cheesecake.

There is another way of living. We choose to stop looking for the world to reward us. Instead, we turn around and notice those around us who need a reward and we give them one. This requires attentiveness and a commitment to believe that the world is an abundant place, with plenty to go around if we all share. No matter our status or job title, we can be people who offer rewards. Today I was grabbing a coffee and the baker slipped me a tiny piece of her peppermint bar dessert to taste. No charge. Delicious. She was rewarding me. I paid it forward. When I ordered my coffee, I also paid for the person behind me. I rewarded him.

After grabbing my coffee, eating that yummy treat and paying it forward, I hopped in my car and drove off. Because I was so filled with the joy of giving and receiving, I stopped to let a guy walking his two dogs cross the street. I could have just blown by. I had to wait for him to arrive at the crosswalk, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted him to know that I saw him and that he mattered and I would wait for him on this bitterly cold day so that he did not need to slow his pace for me to drive by. One kind pepperminty act inspired more acts of kindness.

My son just graduated college. We rewarded him. He tells us that our generosity and support during his college adventure is reward enough and not to get him a gift. He is rewarding us with such kind words. We will reward him even if he tells us not to because his accomplishment is worth rewarding. I imagine he will pay that forward.

What if we all believed that there was enough, and that we have more than enough to share? Maybe we cannot always share in a way that is monetary, but kindness is priceless and noticing someone’s presence is like winning the lottery. We all have the capacity to reward.

Having the attentiveness to notice and the willingness to reward others on a regular basis is an indicator that whatever our resolutions are, we are more likely to achieve them. This is an essential way of living life satisfied and joy-filled.

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15 NIV

Resisting power plays

Editor’s note: The editor (Scott) forgot his computer on his recent trip to California and got behind on posting devotionals. My apologies to you loyal readers!

Although I enjoyed the dinner discussion on power dynamics in a system, I prefer focusing on the power we have that no one can touch. Each of us can mature into the belief that no matter the storms that brew around us, we can develop an awareness of our own self-worth, increase our capacity for self-awareness, and translate those powerful tools into treating others with respect. This gives us the wisdom we need to speak into situations where we may feel we have no power or feel the burden of responsibility as a person with authority within a system. We find ways to effect change without violating our own core values. Sometimes the only person that changes is us.

Whatever position we are in, we need to be rested in order to be well. Are you getting enough rest so that wisdom can emerge?

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest...let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:9-11, 16 NIV

We live in tumultuous times. One of the most wonderful things we can do is show up to any and every situation with a bit of wisdom, and a huge dose of mercy and grace.

Exhaustion breeds criticism

Ever notice how tensed up we get when we are tired and cranky? It happens. In recovery, we talk about HALT - do not get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired - for that is a slippery slope.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

~ Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Jesus is not a fan of exhaustion. He is not looking for an army of codependent Christians who do not practice self-care.

Jesus said - rest.

How can you add rest to your day? Remember - this is not exhausted slumber or power naps. This is rest for the soul. How might you find a way to rest?

________________

#17 - Contribute!

It’s not enough to squash our tendency to criticize - if we want to grow and change. We need to learn how to be a helper. Here is what a helper can do:

* Effective helpers do not criticize.

* Effective helpers learn how to offer feedback, when asked, with clarity, kindness and support.

* Effective helpers are those who do not talk about a problem without being willing to labor over a possible solution.

* Effective helpers are careful; they do not assume that their position is correct. They are curious, asking tons of questions before diving in and pointing out a problem. Oftentimes, when we hear another’s perspective, we realize that the problem is more complicated than our imagined solution can handle or maybe the solution is better than we realized.

* Effective helpers do not try to solve problems that aren’t theirs to solve. They save their helping energy for issues that they have earned the right to speak into, they have sweat equity in the solution, and they have earned the seal of trustworthiness.

Are you as effective as you’d like to be? If not, what do you need to find support and skills to help change and grow?

Be Reasonable

Resilient people are those who are able to see the world as it is, not as they wish it to be.  Looking through this lens, these realistic folks are able to make plans that are reasonable AND they carry these plans through to completion.  

 

Although flexibility is important, it is balanced with an ability to stay focused.  If we are going to follow through on our realistic goals, we need to learn how to be proactive, not reactive.

 

I realized at one point that I was feeling scattered (as opposed to flexible).  I might get to the end of a long day and have failed to accomplish even a modest task.  I, in an effort to be flexible and present for others, was constantly interrupting myself to answer emails and return phone calls.  This constant hopping from one technology to another left me drained.

 

I have strategies today to compensate for my tendency to flit from one crisis to the next.  Am I still flexible? I think so. But I’ve balanced that with a plan that includes the capacity to attend to and complete necessary tasks.  I’ve had to change the way I work in order to make this happen, which is also an example of being flexible and realistic!

 

How about you?  What do you need to reconsider in order to find balance and improve your resiliency?

As you love yourself

We raised our children in a large church; much of it we dearly loved. We were very involved.  We rarely missed a Sunday - morning or evening. We had meetings every Wednesday night. Committees were often Tuesday and/or Thursday evenings.  It was in some ways a gruelling schedule; a fact I never realized at the time because all my friends were doing it too. In those days I daydreamed about finding an island where I could practice my spiritual disciplines in peace and quiet.  Over time, I realized that I was taking an extreme position. Instead of taking responsibility for my schedule, I was looking for a way to escape.

 

 

If we spend to much time devoting ourselves to our  intimate and/or our community relationships without taking time to stay in touch and relationship with ourselves we are going to find ourselves acting out in the other two love arenas and losing touch with ourselves.  

 

Not understanding this, I often lamented our packed church calendar and our children’s busy social and sports obligations.  Honestly, it never occurred to me that as the parent I was responsible for setting the pace of our household. I suspect that this is because I was also unaware of my responsibility to monitor my own personal calendar.  

 

Too busy?  Aren’t we all?  No, actually, everyone is not.  Folks who understand the value and accept the responsibility of practicing good self-care are not too busy.  They balance their relational and social obligations along with what they learn they need to stay healthy as an individual.  

 

Today, I am unapologetically not too busy, even though I have a full calendar.  That is because my calendar includes regular time for self-care. Exercise. Quiet time.  Prayer and meditation. Therapy. Is my schedule ideal? No, but I am making progress. How about you?  What do you require, what are your daily practices that help you stay awake, aware and reasonably happy with yourself?

 

Wholehearted Living (again)

Yesterday we talked about taking responsibility for  the work of soul care. We called it self-care but it really involves creating a body that can hold the soul with ease. I do not want create confusion in this area.  Self-care is not getting your nails done or indulging in our favorite gelato every night of the week instead of eating a nutritious dinner. Self-care is not indulgence.  Self-care is figuring out how to take care of ourselves in a way that allows us to live wholeheartedly - IN ALL THREE LOVE VENUES ON PLANET EARTH (self/close relationships/community).

 

 

Wholehearted people are able to operate in all three arenas of life with reasonable competency.  They dedicate the time they need to self-care so that they can look at their reflection in the mirror without shame.  Springing from a reasonable level of self-awareness they can show up for their intimate relationships in a way that allows for the flourishing of the relationships.  Finally, they contribute to their community - whichever community they inhabit. If they attend a faith community, they participate in it. They give of their time, their talents, their finances - they share.  They do not simply take, they reciprocate. This principle holds true at work, in the neighborhood, even in the city in which they reside. Wholehearted people show up with their entire heart and are capable of both giving and receiving - as the situation dictates.

 

This is different than learning how to behave well.  For a number of years, I did not understand this truth.  As a young adult, I read the bible as if it were an instruction book for living.  Certainly you can find guidance in the holy scriptures. But it is also an epic love story.  It is the story of God and the story of us, his people. It presents a sweeping narrative of who God is and how he operates.  Much is also revealed about humanity. Our work is to take this saga and see how it applies to our current culture.

 

Wholehearted people have the capacity to look at situation, consider their principles and apply a right-sized principle to a particular circumstance.  This is far better than memorizing a set of rules and trying to not break them. Wholehearted living requires us to think, to feel, and to respond. It gives us the capacity to apply the appropriate set of core values (we have many) within the current arena (me, me with my besties, me and my community), all based on this grand epic adventure that God has given us as a gift - we have the privilege of loving him, ourselves and others reasonably well.  This is our grand epic adventure.

 

How is yours going?  Tomorrow, we will talk about ways this can all go terribly wrong.