Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stay Young, Go Dancing

"Lisa, where have you been? We haven't heard from you in weeks."
"I've been doing some research."
"Research?" (somewhat skeptically)
"Yeah, I've been trying to find out what brings me life?"
"Did you find it?"
"Maybe."

November is one of those months of blah as well as some sketchy moustaches. I find my spirit wanes and my motivation for everyday life is in the toilet. I would rather be a hermit, holed up in my little nest, sleeping and reading in a cozy chair sipping tea than do anything else. Not very motivating, I know. But this has been where I've been. The pace of life continues at break neck speeds and pulls me along unwillingly. I bundle myself up against the biting cold and put my behind onto rock hard, frozen seats to drive over icy, snowy roads to do the things that require that I leave my cocoon. But somewhere deep inside I am have been in rebellion.

So much of life seems to be the default setting. Based on where you were born, your life follows a fairly predictable pattern. Here in the sometimes frozen world of the north, our pattern is: you are born, you are taught how to function socially, to a certain degree, you are involved in lots of activities to round out your personality, you get an education, a job that pays the bills, a spouse, a family, then you get old and die of some crazy disease caused by overeating or strange chemicals that infiltrate your body and shut it down. This pattern, if we are honest, sucks. We have become really great at insulating ourselves while going through the motions of life in the midst of our default setting. We insulate ourselves from the cold, the wind, food shortages, lack of technology, financial ruin, influenza, and adventure. The default setting of our lives, for the most part is safe. Nothing about our daily lives gets our heart beating so we have to exercise, watch sports and soap operas on television and yell at bad drivers. There is nothing that really motivates us to live fully. Survival is stocking up on the some of the thousands of offerings at the grocery store, turning up the thermostat, and turning on the hockey game.

I am tired of default. It has worn me right out and I didn't choose it, it seems. The adventure of life seems to have had the blood drained out of it. Adventure is dead. I'm not talking about jumping out of airplanes, or driving race cars, or swimming with dolphins. I'm talking about making everyday life an adventure. I refuse the default setting. I am going to choose something else.There are three things that I am going to experiment with to start my new adventure. The first, living with less. In saying that, I am not judging you if you don't choose to join me or if you think that I am a wacko. All I am saying is that simple, for me, looks like less, which leads to adventure. Finding ways to survive and thrive without iPhones, television, up to date fashion, and Doritos seems liberating to me. People did it before and I have a notion their lives were full and that communication, entertainment, the clothes on their backs and the food in their bellies was satisfying and genuine. I want to try that. It sounds exciting.

The second thing that I am going to experiment with is dancing. There's a song that I've been listening to lately called "Stay Young, Go Dancing". It's by a band called Death Cab For Cutie. (Mom, it's okay, they are not psychopath, goth murderers, they just have a strange name.) The title of the song really says it all. One Sunday morning, a few weeks ago, I cranked the tunes and danced my heart out. It felt so great. I am a horrible dancer, but it doesn't matter. Connecting my body to the melodies created by other humans, like me, makes me feel alive. I want to move. I want to throw my arms in the air and jump and twist and turn, because something inside of me says: "Dance, Lisa. Dance until you can't breathe. Dance until you fall down in exhaustion. Listen and respond to the life inside of you." 

The third thing on my list is rest. After the dancing, I am going to do nothing. I am going to watch as the snow falls gently to the ground. I'm going to tell my overactive brain to shut-up. I'm going to close my eyes and feel the warm sunshine through the window even though it's cold outside. I'm going to say no to things that would rob me of the resting time. Not everything that I do is vital or even that important. It feels so great to be honest about that.

I have looked and have seen that the busyness of the world can go on without me for some moments of genuine, face-to-face conversation, heart throbbing dancing, and soul renewing rest.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Honor

Jeremy and I always tell each other if either of us has something lodged in our teeth or if we have ambiguous crusty things around the corners of our mouths....that's usually Jeremy, just to clarify. It's just what we do. We are comfortable in each other's lives. We do this to help each other. We help because we care. But there have been times when I don't mention these kinds of things to other people because I do care. What is up with that? I care to not embarrass others by mentioning it, all the while they have green things clinging to their teeth and I try not to look directly at them for fear that I will be found out. Some of you may now be mortified that while I'm talking to you, I'm checking out your teeth and that I won't tell you if their are ghosts of meals past lingering there. I think that sometimes I just get shy.

A long time ago, I used to work at a farm supply store in a small town back in Saskatchewan. There was a lady who frequented our store that came mostly to use the bathroom. I am not sure if she had one. She spent most of her days wandering the streets, pulling her possessions in a wagon, rain or shine, sweltering heat or in the middle of a deep freeze, she was there. Her name was Rosemary, which I thought was a beautiful name. Her smile was beauty too. Her face transformed. The lines around her eyes deepening until only small slits of twinkling wonder were left. I would greet her and say her name, wondering if anyone else used it in an kind way. One day she came to use the bathroom. You could hear her talking to herself behind the closed door. Nothing that made any sense to anyone that could hear her, but she was communicating nonetheless. As she came out of the bathroom a trail of toilet paper dragged behind her like a train. People looked at her. You could see their thoughts swirling in the silent air. I couldn't bear to hear that silent roar of ridicule and disdain. As she reached the door to leave, I stepped behind her and put my foot on the paper trail. I helped her push open the door and told her to have a nice day. As I bent down to pick up that paper, I remember thinking that even thought most people thought Rosemary was crazy, she still deserved dignity and respect. She may never have felt humiliation or embarrassment but I would have, had I let her walk all over town that way. It hurt me that others would rather mock or laugh at the weak and poor among us. I was brave when it counted.

In my Heroes class this week, we talked about honor. We talked about how honor is a choice. We bring honor to ourselves when we give it away. Though others may never see how we choose to honor others, it strengthens us to do so. This is still a lesson that I need to keep learning. This life is not all about me. It's small acts of courage and love for others that can change things. I needed to be reminded of that today.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Labels

I've never shared one of my sermons before, here goes....if you want the live version I'm speaking this morning at Cedar Creek Christian Fellowship....

We like to put labels on things. It makes things easier to find. Sometimes it makes things easier to put away. But mostly labels are used for identifying things. I imagine a surgeon in the middle of performing an intricate brain surgery saying, “Pass me that thingy over there.” His colleagues would shake their heads and say, “What thingy are you talking about?” Meanwhile, critical moments are lost because he doesn’t have a word to use for ‘the thingy’ that he needs. “That thingy over there” is not very specific. It could mean anything. It could mean anything from tweezers, to clamps, to a scalpel. Without the label he can’t communicate what he’s really wanting. People could start handing him all sorts of things, none of them correct. If he had a label for ‘the thingy’ it would be passed to him immediately. Surgery would go on. No confusion.


We like to put labels on people too. We use all kinds of labels. Some labels describe what people do: teacher, lawyer, farmer, accountant, nurse, mom, athlete, astronaut, and pastor. Some labels describe the amount of power that a person has: president, CEO, Commander, Corporal, Premier, Prime Minister, Queen, laborer, Emperor, Manager, VIP, Petty Officer, servant, boss, and employee. Some labels describe how we view the world: Right Wing, Left Wing, Conservative, Liberal, Philanthropist, Environmentalist, Capitalist, Socialist, and Communist. Some labels describe our age: youth, baby boomer, senior citizen, Gen X, Gen Y, modern, child, post-modern. Some labels describe your marital status as well as our sex: Mr., Mrs., Miss or the nebulous Ms. Some labels describe our heritage: English, Dutch, German, Ukrainian, Irish, Jewish, Spanish, French, Chinese, Indian, Metis, Aboriginal. Some labels describe our religious practice: orthodox, protestant, catholic, extremist, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, evangelical, fundamentalist, Deist, Theist, post-modern, New Age, believer, non-believer. Some labels describe our problems: addict, alcoholic, manic depressive, OCD, ADD, hyper, lazy, and angry. Labels are useful to clearly identify people. One person could have many labels. Sometimes we use labels to hurt and draw lines between ourselves and others. Sometimes there is no emotion at all connected to being labeled.

Jesus has been given many labels over the centuries. Some of these labels are flattering, others not so much. Jesus used labels to identify himself too. The book of John is full of statements that Jesus uses to give clues to his identity. He calls himself the bread of life, the light of the world, the gate, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, the life, and the true vine. These labels are hints to who Jesus is and what he is all about. I find that these labels also give me hints as to what my identity is, as a disciple of the light of the world, the good shepherd and the true vine.

This morning I want to look at the labels that Jesus uses for himself in John 14. Jesus knew that his time with his disciples was coming to an end so they go off by themselves for a bit. He starts the evening together by washing his disciple’s feet. Most of the words recorded from John 13 through John 17 are in red. They are Jesus words, full of last instructions, hope for the future and prayers for himself and his disciples. None of the other gospels relate this time with his disciples in this way. It was a personal time, a conversation. Jesus tells them what is going to happen to him. They asked questions and Jesus comforts the people he is going to leave. Let’s start reading at verse one of John 14. The red words say: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also know where I am. You know the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Thomas, the man of questions, honestly asks what maybe everyone was thinking and didn’t have the courage to say. He essentially says, “Jesus, you’re saying all this stuff to us and I still don’t really get it.” Jesus responds with three labels for himself. The first one was “The Way.” Can you say that with me? The Way. When Jesus says that he is the way, this is something that Thomas and the other disciples would have heard before. In Deuteronomy 5:33, the way is mentioned. Moses had just received the ten commandments from God. God was making ‘a way’ for his people to be close to him. In verse 32 God says “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or the left. Walk in ‘the way’ that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” Isaiah 30:21 also makes reference to the way. It says: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Thomas knew that the way was describing how a person lived, how they experienced life, and how they could live in obedience to God. The way was following the prescribed rituals and commandments. The way was rule keeping. The way was pleasing to God. The way was impossible. What Jesus was saying to Thomas when he said that he was the way, was that he embodied all of those rituals and commandments that were previously the way to God. Jesus said that he was the way. He was the way to God. Throughout the book of Acts and once in 1 Peter, the early Christians were labeled as followers of the Way. It was their identity being aligned with Jesus, the way. Paul killed followers of the WAY.

The truth is a powerful thing. Sometimes we need to know it, even if it kills us. Sometimes we avoid it because the truth is too hard to take. Sometimes the truth is simple and easy to understand, like the answer to a mathematical equation. Sometimes the truth is asking us to be humble, like when it points to a fault we have. Sometimes the truth is asking us to change. For a long time truth has been treated like a weapon. If you have truth you use it to beat other people, that don’t have the same truth as you do, over the head until they see it the same way that you do. When we use the truth as a weapon that divides us, we have lost sight of the WAY. To keep on the path, the way, we need the truth to guide us. Jesus also labels himself as the Truth. Say it with me… the truth. When Jesus says that he is truth, he’s saying that the truth is available, it’s not a weapon to use. It’s free, anyone can have access to it. He’s saying that truth is within our grasp, it isn’t unknown. He’s also asking his disciples to apply truth to how they walk, the way. In John 8:31&32, Jesus says to the Jews that believed in him, “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” A few verses later in vs.36 he says, “So if the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus is truth and freedom.

So often we just want parts of the truth, the parts that we like, the parts that are easy, the parts that don’t require us to change how we act. We use the truth to justify what we want instead of letting the truth point us in the direction that we need to go, the way. We’ve all done this. Let me give you an example. Sometimes we go to the Bible, the word, the truth, to seek out an answer to make what we want to do alright. This is the “Well, the Bible doesn’t actually say that this is not permitted, so then I guess it’s okay for me to do it” approach to truth. Does the bible really say that I can’t sleep around before I get married? Does the Bible really say that I can’t smoke cigarettes? Does the Bible really have guidelines for how much I should give and to whom? This is often our approach instead of letting the truth, Jesus, be our focus; we focus instead on getting away with things that the truth isn’t clear about. The truth reshapes the way I think about myself and others. The truth says that sleeping around will hurt me and the other people. The truth wants me to be close to God. If we begin to make truth out of allowances, instead of letting the truth permeate us and lead us, the way will be lost to us. Jesus wants to shape our way. It’s what Jesus wanted for his disciples. “If you hold to me teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” This is beautiful. This is challenging. This truth, the Truth that shapes our lives brings freedom and life.

Jesus also gives himself the label; the life. Say it with me…THE LIFE. Throughout my years teaching Heroes, I have been given a definition of what most young people think the life is. It is: having a well paying job, driving a really nice truck, being able to pursue the hobbies that you love the most, having a gorgeous partner, travelling the globe, having a family, and living in a mansion. This is the dream. This is the life. We hear people say things like “So and so is really living the life.” The flaw with this dream, this life, is that it leaves very little space for Jesus. When Jesus says that he is the life, it’s an invitation. He invites his disciples to walk the Way, guided by the truth that leads to life, full life. I think that for most of us, we have not believed that when Jesus labeled himself as the life, that it is a life that we want. We have ideas, like those kids in my Heroes class that life is about pursuing ‘the dream’. When Jesus says that he is the life, it isn’t really attractive to us. The Life that we want from Jesus has more to do with eternity than the present. Our definition of the life will either lead us to God through Jesus or away from God; away from the way, and the truth.

So far, we have begun to digest the labels that Jesus used to identify himself as the way, the truth and the life. But there is more that we need to think about…the rest of John 14:6 says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” For a long time, I think that this might be the only part of this verse that Christians have latched onto. This is what is on billboards and bumper stickers. This is what we try to tell the world. This is just the story of the cross, without a life that is shaped by the one that died there. This part of the verse gets misquoted and is misguided without the first part that we have looked at. The way, the truth AND the life are the access codes to the Father. Jesus says that by following the way, being guided by the truth, living His life, gets you into contact with God. Anything else is a sham, it’s just a show, just religion. Verse 7 says, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” So, by knowing Jesus as the Way, the Truth and The Life we get to know our Father as well. Our life gets rearranged by knowing Jesus and having a close connection with the Father. AMAZING!

I am in no way denying the story and power of the cross this morning. Some of you may be thinking that. I am saying though that the Life and relationship, or closeness to the Father, come through walking the Way and letting the Truth shape our lives every minute of every day. If you want Life in the present; follow Jesus. If you want to know Truth: apply it, let the Truth, capital T, change you. If you want direction, walk in the Way. In connection to the identity that Jesus revealed by these labels, the way, the truth and the life; how would you label yourself? Are you a follower of the WAY? Are you a disciple of the Truth? Are you an apprentice of the LIFE?

To close this morning I would like to read a portion of scripture from Ephesians 4 from The Message. It captures this idea of the way, the truth and the life beautifully and gives us much encouragement! Paul writes to the Ephesians these words from prison: “In light of all of this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk – better yet, run! – on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling of, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this in humility and discipline – not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, on baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. Verse 11 goes on to say, He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for imposters. God wants us to grow up, to know the TRUTH and tell it in love – like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we can grow up healthy in God, robust in love.”

So, Run on the road, the WAY, know the Truth and tell it in love, become fully alive in the LIFE! Jesus is the way to the Father.



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Quiet Girl

I was a quiet kid. I could spend hours cutting paper into tiny pieces and writing notes on them to my Mom. I think she still has one of them. This little scrap of paper with the words, "I love you, Mom" and a flower drawn in pencil. I also devoured books, which lends itself to quietness. As I got older I remember walking a lot and exploring nature in quietness. I don't remember talking a lot. Maybe I did, but I don't really remember that. I was at my book club last night and I was reminded of a story. We were talking about getting in trouble at school when we were kids and how earth shattering that was for most of us. So frightening for one of the girls that she actually passed out in the principal's office and whacked her head on the photocopier. Talk about a traumatic experience; she wasn't even in trouble! The principal just wanted to ask her a question about her brother, who was in trouble!

I remember getting yelled at by my grade three teacher. We were in the classroom working on some kind of school work. I sat near the window. Outside the window was one of my busmates. I'm not sure why he wasn't in his classroom. He made a gross face at me through the window. I remember it. He had boogers. He pulled the skin down from his eyes and his nostrils up with his fingers.....really yucky! I stuck my tongue out at him. With the eyes in the back of my teacher's head, he saw me stick out my tongue. The boy disappeared from the window as my teacher told everyone to put their heads down on their desks. Then he tore a strip off of me. I was so humiliated. I felt like crawling into a hole. I didn't get in trouble for talking, which seems to be the problem with most girls, but my tongue still got the better of me!
At some point, I found my voice. I can't remember at what point in life this started to happen. I'm still quiet a lot of the time, but I talk when I need to. I say what needs to be said. So much so that I write this blog in the hopes that someone will hear what it is I'm trying to say. I wrote and recorded an album over ten years ago. I was defintiely saying something then too. It surprises me sometimes that I have this need to be heard. It doesn't seem to go with the quietness that I cultivated as a kid. I think sometimes your gifts and abilities trump your nature. As a musician, it's all about being heard. As a writer, my readers may not audibly hear my voice as they read, but they hear my thoughts in black and white on the page. I have to say that it is scary sometimes. It is like going to the principal's office. Putting my voice out there in the hopes that it will make a difference even though my nature is to do the opposite takes all the guts that I have sometimes.

I think what I want to say today is that your nature can sometimes keep you from doing what you need to do. If you're quiet, you may be the person that needs to speak up. If you are generally loud, you may need to zip it sometimes and let other people talk. If your holding back because you're afraid, even though you're desperate to give it all you've got; do it! By stepping out of what is comfortable, your nature, to use your gifts and abilities you will see incredible growth in yourself. Your nature will likely not change, you may always have a bit of fear, but you will be doing that thing that gives you life and purpose.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Brothers

I have two younger brothers. (No this is not a suck up blog, as far as I know I haven't done anything..???!!!) Anyway, my brothers are both incredible people. I'm not sure why I haven't written about them before. They have both influenced my life in different ways. They have taught me how to relate better than any other two people ever have. They are different from each other, yet they are both men of character and strength.

Long, long ago.....Jay, Me and Trav
Jason has always been the strong silent type. He's a thinker. If and when he speaks you know that he has mulled over whatever it is he is saying. Most of Jason's childhood was spent whispering his secrets to our dog and riding the lawn mower around in circles on the lawn. He's always had a dream. He is a details person. Nothing escapes him. He is instinctive and gifted. He makes some things look so easy. He's witty and smart. He is loyal an he is wise and has this strongness about him, kind of like a rock. Life has not always been easy for Jason, but throughout life's pains, his character has continually been honed and polished. In no way is he perfect, but I think that the proof of who he is has been tested and he's been found more than capable. People are drawn to him. They seek out his counsel. He plays rec. hockey and is known as the "Rev", not because he's preachy, it's because he's real. You can't argue with that! People want to be with him. I want to be with him. He makes you feel important and listened to. That's rare these days.I appreciate his example in my life.

Then, there's Travis. Where Jason is the strong, silent type; Travis is the strong, unsilent type! (It really is a type!) Travis is a talker. He comes by it honestly. Travis and my Dad are definitely cut from the same cloth. Travis is adventurous and extroverted. As a kid, Travis was the center of any crowd. He was so goofy and so cute. He captured people's hearts. He still does that. He is easy-going and takes things as they come. He deals with problems head on, there are no white elephants lurking around when Travis is in the room. He dreams about different ways of doing things. Things that some people would say are foolish because they go against the grain he does because he feels those things are honoring to others and to God. That takes guts. His courage to live out what he believes in the face of how the world pushes in his face is like art to me. It creates a different way. One that is challenging, but life-giving. Underneath all his lion-like courage, is the heart of a lamb. He is soft. There are no hard edges on his heart. He is open and honest. He loves people and they feel it. I feel it.

I love these guys. I wish that we lived closer together. I have so much more to learn from them. I feel honored to be the sister of these two men, my brothers....my friends.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Brilliance

I am a big CBC Radio 2 fan. I listen whenever I can. The morning program is one of my favorites. I listen when I wake up and it often really gives me a boost for the day. Great music will do that to ya! The host, until recently, was a guy named Bob Makowitz. His banter and stories also made the program worth listening to. One story from a few months ago really stuck with me. It also made me smile.

Bob told about this health food store in a small town in Prince Edward Island. This store had farm fresh eggs for sale in their establishment that had never been government inspected. Who doesn't love farm fresh eggs? There is something about them that makes every other kind of egg seem very institutional. Anyway, this store had been selling their customers these lovely eggs for years. The farmer was happy, the customers were happy, the store owners were happy. Everyone was going about their merry way, until some government official caught wind of what was going down at the health food store.

Farm eggs need to be inspected before they are able to be sold in a store. This little kink was putting a major kibosh on a very happy little community. This is where the brilliance comes in. The store owners sat on this problem for a bit, thinking about how they could continue to provide eggs for their customers. This is what they came up with: eggs are now free at their store, but if you want something to carry them home in you have to purchase a carton for $2.75. Isn't that utterly brilliant? I cheer for the ingenuity of the human race!


I relate this story, not to promote 'beating the system', but to applaud great problem solving skills. So often problems get the better of us. They seem so insurmountable, so enormous, that we would rather just crawl back into bed than to face them head on and come up with solutions to them. Sometimes the answer is so outside of the box. Sometimes the answer takes creativity. Sometimes the answer comes in one of those 'ah-ha' moments. However they come, don't be afraid to look those challenges in the eye and come up with solutions that work. The solutions may not make sense to others, that's alright. They need to work for you and your circumstances. Be brilliant and remember this little story about eggs!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Dangerous Woman

Several years ago, my husband gave me a book entitled, Nice Girls Don't Change the World by Lynne Hybels. That title grabbed me. (What also grabbed me was the fact that my husband gave me a book with that title.) I wanted to find out what the author really meant. What was her definition of 'nice'? I have a definition of nice that was embedded in my mind by my high school English teacher. She said nice didn't really mean anything. It was not an adjective that she wanted to see in our writing because it didn't really describe anything, it was overused and lacked oomph. There are certainly words that could be used in it's place. Nice is a word that gets you out of saying what you really think. Nice is lame. As I read the book. I realized that the author's definition of nice was in sync with my English teacher's. Nice girls really can't change the world because there is no substance. Nice girls have lost sight of what it means to truly live. Nice girls are existing in a world of other people's expectations with no expectations of their own. Nice girls can hardly be defined because nice doesn't really describe anything.

The author details her own descent into 'niceness'. She knew she had dreams and gifts and passions, but felt that what other people wanted from her trumped all of those things. So she set them aside, nodded her head and acquiesed to niceness at the cost of herself. She was lost and defeated. All the joy of life was stifled in niceness. She began to realize that the opposite to a nice girl was a good woman; a dangerous woman. She had encounters with some these woman and was inspired anew at the amazing things woman were doing. They were living and thriving. They were changing things. They were inspiring others. They were conquering injustices and spreading hope all around. These dangerous women infused her. They peeled back the layers of nice and unleashed a woman who speaks and acts in confidence and grace.

Dangerous woman, Rosa Parks (mugshot)
This woman's story inspired me. Often a dangerous woman is seen as a bra burner or gets the label of 'bitch'. I am here to shed some light on that misconception. A dangerous woman is not out to seek credit for herself or topple mountains that no 'man' has ever succeeded in. That's not the point. A dangerous woman knows who she is and what she's about. She uses her beauty, not to seduce but to show the world that beauty does in fact exist. A dangerous woman's beauty captivates with her heart. She is strong but not offensive, that brings me to the other word I mentioned....bitch. I don't wish to offend any readers by using that word, but to clarify and speak truth. I don't believe that a dangerous woman is a 'bitch.' Any other definition of dangerous woman may include that element which makes you fearful of dangerous woman. I'm pretty sure there are some country songs out there about this kind of dangerous woman. This kind of dangerous woman makes you want to stay out of her way, but not the one that I am proposing today. A dangerous woman speaks truth but does not crush or belittle. A dangerous woman speaks with passion, courage and is not afraid to share it with emotion attached. A dangerous woman empowers others. A truly dangerous woman is someone to reckon with, but you don't have the urge to tell them off. Do you see the difference?

I know many dangerous women. I long to meet more. I long to see women truly alive and pursuing life, no longer drowning in 'nice' because nice girls don't change the world. The world needs more dangerous women.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The News

I read about it in the paper. I hear about it on the radio. I pick up the phone and it's there too. The news is everywhere and most often it is bleak and heart-breaking. Souls fighting. Souls taking the life of another soul. Souls ravaged by abuse. Souls drowning in a sea of alcoholism. Souls dying. Souls full of cancer. Souls starving because of drought and famine. Souls that are homeless. Souls robbed of hope. Souls in prisons of their own making. All this strife and pain resounds in a sad refrain in the news. I could put names onto these souls, so could you. Sometimes the weight of the news seems too much. Where is hope? Where is love? Where is kindness? Where is light? Darkness, despair, greed, bitterness, lust and sorrow tug at the hope that's inside of me and threaten to pull me under in the dark undertow.

I read this other book. I try to read it often because it tells me that there truly is Good News. It comforts me. It tells me that there is hope. It shows me purpose in the middle of the darkest night. It buoys the hope that is inside me. It cradles my fragile thoughts and emotions and reminds me that this place is not as it should be. I sometimes ask myself what difference does my life make in the middle of the bad news all around me. How can I change it? What can I do? Is it possible for this world to be fixed?

Jesus quotes in Luke 4:16-22 these words from Isaiah 61 that infuse me with hope and light. "The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God has anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace - a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies - and to comfort all who mourn...." Jesus says he has good news. I believe that He is Good News. The enemies that he is talking about are everything that we hear in the news. It's murder. It's greed. It's homelessness. It's starvation. It's abuse. It's terminal illness. He has conquered those enemies. He has put in motion a plan that has given hope and light to the darkest of days; the worst news.

Jesus asks that anyone who has ears to hear the Good News, to spread it all around. He says to his followers in Matthew 5:14 that, 'You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world." If the Good News is in me, I have light to offer the world around me. Have you ever been in a room at dusk? As the light fades in the room, colors fade. The only colors that you end up seeing are the non-colors; black and grey. If you turn a light on in that same room, colors explode like a rainbow. Red, green, blue, yellow, orange all bringing the scene to life. That's what LIGHT does. That's what I do. I bring out the God-colors in this world. In the face of bad news, I have love. I have compassion. I have justice. I have grace and mercy. I have forgiveness. I have hope and joy. I have peace. I have hope. There is Good News for anyone with the ears to hear it...Jesus.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Weeding Therapy

Please read that title correctly. Not 'weed' therapy...just to clarify. There is something so cathartic about yanking ugly, bothersome weeds out of the ground. Some people punch a punching bag, some people run, some people scream at the top of their voice. Me? I pull weeds. There was a day a month or two ago when I really needed to blow off some steam, I weeded the entire yard in a couple hours. The weeds were really flying that day. Yesterday, I spent a couple hours weeding again. When I was finished, I felt so relaxed. I think it's because no one wants to help so I get to be alone with my thoughts for a couple of hours. I guess I really need that once in awhile.

I am one of those people who definitely recharges by being alone. I need time to process things. That time, if I am honest with myself, really points to areas in myself that need some recalibrating. Whether it's frustration, anger, unsettled thoughts, or just a busy brain, I find these times of being alone to really work out the kinks and refresh me for the next foray into craziness. I find that usually my frustration or whatever is unsettling me, needs to be looked at from many different angles. Weeding gives me time to do that. Weeding gives me time to sort out thoughts and get to the bottom of the issue. It also gives me time to pray. I find that weeding has double strength power for me. As I pull weeds out of the ground, I weed my thoughts. I pull out the garbage and I'm left with beauty, for the time being. If I don't weed, things get tangled up. Everything is a mess, it all becomes interconnected. Every issue is tied to the next. It all starts to seem hopeless and insurmountable. I'm not a drama queen, but if I don't get time to weed, my brain leans towards hysterics, which leads to headaches, which leads to more weeds! It's a bad cycle to get into.

Each of us needs to weed. It truly keeps us sane. Do what you need to do to be alone for awhile. Do that weeding in your mind. Getting rid of the clutter up there is healthy. As for the other kind of weeding, try it. It just might be your thing too! (One thing though, I am not available to weed your garden. You plant it? You weed it!)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Carpe Diem

For as long as I've been a part of the Seatter clan, and probably for years preceding, a clock hung on the wall of the kitchen just to the left of the garden doors in Jeremy's parents house. It always let us know how many hours we had spent around the table feasting, talking, laughing and enjoying each other's company. Yesterday was one of those days. Hours spent in that room doing just that. The only difference was that the clock was missing. I looked for it. In it's time honored place now hangs a picture of Jeremy's mom, Valerie, and her friend Tina on the day that they made it to Mount Everest Base Camp back in March of this year. This got me thinking...

For all of us, time passes. Our lives are marked by the minutes, hours and days that we live. Most of those moments are forgettable. We check the clock to see is we are late for a dentist's appointment or if we are missing our favorite show on TV. The many mundane minutes that we squander doing nothing particular while our dreams are wasting away seem like such a tragedy. I get it though, we all have responsibilities and demands that must be met but doesn't it seem kind of crazy that we sacrifice the things that we really want to do in life because the 'other' stuff eats up our time. There has to be some room for both??!! If you sacrifice one for the other, disasters are bound to happen. Let me give you two illustrations. I knew this guy, he got married young. He was in love, he was happy. He had a dream of family and life with his wife and kids and he was living it. One day he sacrificed that dream for a different one, one that could only be lived out by himself. He left his family, his first dream, to pursue his second dream. He no longer has a family and I don't imagine there is as much fulfillment as he thought he second dream would bring because he's alone. Here's an example of the other side of the coin. This makes me crazy. I know so many women that have given up the things that they are passionate about because they have children. There is no room in their lives for their passion anymore because they have kids. The thing that they are sacrificing, their dreams, the things that they are gifted at, are the very things that kids need to be shown. Kids need moms that are alive and that are pursuing their dreams. There is a balance. There is time for both. There just aren't easy answers that we like for solutions.

Wasted minutes could be replaced by photos of a Mount Everest climb. We need to mine out those minutes from our days to pursue dreams. Everyone has a dream. My sister-in-law wants to record some songs that she's written. I have been kicking around the idea of writing a book. My dad wants to have some chickens and horses on his acreage. My friend wants to become a mid-wife. Some want to travel. Some want to create. Some want to teach. Some want to farm. Some want to race. Some want to heal. Some want to change the world. We only have one life. Carpe Diem.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Brotherly Love

Well, summer is passing all to quickly. It has been busy and fun thus far. One thing that has been an adjustment for everyone, but mostly for Coen, has been the reality that his big sister is around all the time. All year while Elle was in school he would ask (usually a half an hour after I put her on the bus) when Elle would be home. Now he's not sure what to do with her and her with him. There have been numerous episodes of complete and utter meltdown between the two parties. It's like they are learning all over again how to be with each other. It seems so hard for both of them.

Last week, I was speaking at a camp full of teenagers. It was a great time. I really loved being able to share every night about God's love and how that love translates into real life. While at camp, my kids had many tantrums. Elle, because Coen was all up in her business, and Coen, because he was on the bored side and just needed someone to throw stuff at. One morning this was all unfolding while we waited for breakfast. I noticed a girl and a boy, close in age, sitting at a table having coffee together. It was not the first time during the week that I had witnessed this morning ritual. I had asked them a couple days earlier if they were related and they told me that they were brother and sister. I was totally moved and shocked to see these two siblings taking time away from the craziness of camp to sit at a table together and take a few moments to connect in the morning. Pretty incredible. As we waited for breakfast, the tattler came over to complain that the annoyer was pushing and I saw a perfect opportunity to talk to the tattler about brotherly love. A picture of it was sitting across the room having coffee in the morning sunshine. An older sister, a younger brother. Most likely ten years earlier a tattler and an annoyer now sharing moments together before another day started and they wouldn't have a chance to be together. I told my tattler to take a good look at the coffee drinkers. I told her to remember that her brother, though truly annoying at times, really is the best friend that she could ever have and though it is really hard to love him at times, it is not optional.

I had been talking about God's love all week at camp. I saw it lived out in brotherly love. This is truly an expression and a lesson to be learned and cultivated. We only love God as much as we love our brother. Hmmm. I read a quote by Abraham Lincoln the other day that also really challenged me in this line of thinking..."Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them." This is my hope for my kids. Though they truly are enemies at times, I know what is possible, I've seen it. The part that really hits home to me about this whole thing is that my kids find out what real love looks like when I love. They see it when I love their dad. They see it when I love them. They see it when I love people that are hard to love. They see it when my love is more than words; when it has been translated into actions. They see it when I say that I love God and then love the people around me. They see it when I destroy my enemies by loving them...what a concept?!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Theories

I played a game awhile ago called Urban Myth. It was very enlightening. Most of the things that our mothers have told us over the years turned out to be myths. Carrots really don't do anything for your night vision. Watching television in the dark isn't going to ruin your eyesight. Spinach isn't a high source of iron. I was shocked. I had been watching TV with the lights on while eating my carrots and my spinach cause I was trying to cover my bases. It made me wonder how many other things that I am fed everyday as "gospel" truth really are just nice theories that people spout off not really knowing the whole truth.

This brings me to mosquitoes. Earlier this spring, there were so many wild and contradictory stories about mosquitoes that it made my head spin. It seemed every person I talked to had a bit of a different twist on why there were so many, what would get rid of them, and which wind had blew them here. None of these fabrications were based on fact and really did not change the glaring reality that there were mosquitoes and that there were a lot of them. Funny how people hear something and then choose to either pass it on in the next conversation that they have with someone or store it away in the memory bank as a wierd tidbit of information, which is what I did with the mosquito information after a good laugh at all the bunk that people spread around.

After playing this game and all the mosquito fables I started to really analyse what comes out of my own mouth. Am I merely regurgitating things that other people have told me as a means to carry on a conversation or do I speak about what I do know, reality and truth from my own experience? I can sure pick it out in the conversations that I have now. The more awkward you feel around the person you are talking to, the more the theories pop into the conversation. My theory is that we are more truthful and real with people that we know will see through our talk of mosquitoes, carrots and television. Generally speaking, we aren't that great at truthful and real, at least I'm not. It's easier to not go deeper than generalities and theories. To keep it all on a philisophical playing field is safe. It doesn't cause change in us if we only scratch the surface, and even then it may not even be truth that we are speaking.

I totally understand that it is impossible to have the real kinds of conversations with every single person that we talk to everyday. Those telemarketers would be in for a shock if you started telling them about your day and even more so if you asked them about theirs. Sometimes conversations are about relaying information, facts. Like when you talk to the tellar at the bank. They are more like transactions. You don't leave that situation and go and tell everyone that you paid your power bill and made a deposit for $235.00. No one really cares. But, when you have the opportunity to really talk and really listen, weed out the theories and take a risk. Be real. Ask good questions. Listen. It's no myth that we have a lot to learn when it comes to relating.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gifts

Words. Sometimes words are gifts. Sometimes those word gifts can really get you through. A couple of weeks ago I was feeling kind of down, I felt drained of my passion and my energy to keep sloshing through the muck. The very things that I love to do rarely have any immediate payback. I spend most of my time encouraging people to succeed and to become the best possible versions of themselves. This is a lifetime process and I rarely see the finished product. I don't get the satisfaction of knowing that I have accomplished something. It's kind of ironic actually. The very thing that I do for other people, the hopes and dreams that I have for other people, I rarely feel myself. My dream to inspire and to encourage others doesn't usually give back.

In the middle of my slump. Three different people, two that I didn't know at all and one that has the gift of giving and have known for years spoke through the darkness that I was in. The first was a lady that stopped me at the pool to say that the words that I spoke at her son's graduation a year ago really impacted her and that even a year later she was still thinking about them. Wow. I think I was kind of stunned. Feedback is always nice, but I have come to not really expect it much. I was touched and left that brief conversation buoyed by the gift that she had spoken to me. The second encounter was with a mom of girl that I know from the choir I used to play piano for. I had never met her before, but she thanked me for giving my time and energy to use my gift for others. Again...wow. I started thinking, "Are these people even real?" They were speaking to the heart of who I am. They had no idea that I really needed to hear the words that they were sharing with me. The third gift came from a friend and neighbor. He came bearing gifts, a genuine Afghan rug, which I have dubbed 'The Magic Carpet', and a beautiful pashmina. The gifts were amazing, but it was the card and the hug that went with it that brought tears to my eyes. I felt like there were people who really saw what I was about. The gifts of their words helped me not to give up, to keep going and to give gifts of words to everyone that I encounter.

I don't know where you are at. I don't know how you are feeling about yourself. But I do know that you need words that shine a light on your soul too. You have immense value. You are making a difference. Your thoughts and ideas are important. Your smile brightens people's day. You are loved. Your words are gifts to others. Your passion is worth pursuing.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

White Lightning

In writing this blog, my motto has been to change the world through words. It is something that I take seriously. I guess you could call it a passion. I find my greatest purpose in writing and speaking words that inspire people to come fully alive. Sometimes words need a soundtrack. This quote by Hans Christian Anderson kind of sums up the lack that I feel sometimes. "Where words fail, music speaks."  I have been moved by music and it has moved me towards life and action. One of my new favorite bands, White Lightning, is on a mission to move people and inspire through the medium of music. These words off their Facebook page describe what they are all about; "Energetic modern rock that will make you dance, thrash, weep and inspire fence sitters to be world changers." This seems to be a tall order, but they deliver. Steve Bosch, Enoch Rottier and Jason Grilo have taken a passion for music, life and for people and have crafted a manifesto of Peace, Hope, Love and Lightning that calls out to anyone with ears to hear, that there is more to life.

They too are wordsmiths, like myself, but their influence is broad and far reaching when the elements of lyric and song intertwine. The first track, Satisfaction, off of their first full-length album called See It All, is a challenge to look inward at all that we think that we need and ask the question, "Do you think that all that you desire will satisfy your soul?" Every time, I hear the words being sung with conviction in the backseat of my car by Elle I know that though she may not understand it now some day she will ask herself that question. Those words are emblazoned on her mind and my own. Answering this question honestly does become a catalyst for change in our world. It is a question that begs to be answered by this generation. The answer is echoed in the lyrics of the song 'See It All'. "I want to live the life of no regrets. Be free, live free. Know how to say no. Know when to say yes." These words are the heart cry of a generation bombarded by so many distractions that are fueled by consumerism, self-absorbed success and an every-man-for-himself mindset. Deep within each of us, there is a desire for something real. Something that we get to unlock about ourselves that gives us meaning and purpose in life. Something that we were created to do that goes beyond making a living and acquiring stuff.

I have come to believe that this world will never be changed by better politics or a reformation in money-hungry world powers. Reformation will happen through people who ask honest questions of themselves and others. Change will happen when people allow themselves to be moved from "fence sitters into world changers". This is change at a grass-roots level, where people live, work and play. It happens when we take the message of inspired people like White Lightning and run with it. As White Lightning continues to hone their skills as musicians, songwriters and entertainers they will fulfill their mission as reformers of a era that is seeking something more, something else, something to live for.

To hear some tunes, watch some live performances and get your hands on some epic inspired music check out White Lightning's website @ http://www.whitelightningmusic.com/

Friday, May 20, 2011

What goes up....

I coined a phrase regarding my little guy Coen recently. Coen is addicted to gravity. He is constantly doing the research to prove that gravity exists. Be it rocks, kittens, or his favorite toy, Woody, everything is thrown up into the air. I've also seen him with his toes, three steps from the bottom of the stairs, precariously far over the edge, creeping closer and closer over the edge until there is no other option but to fall, face-first, down three stairs and then get up and try it again? I'm not sure what it is about his little psyche that doesn't believe that whatever he throws, himself included, will not return to the earth. Maybe he's hoping that it, or himself will fly?! Strange things are afoot!

I think ultimately he has trust issues. I have put him in swimming lessons for the last couple of months. He absolutely despises getting his face wet. I bought him goggles just so we could get through the lessons without the screams of bloody murder echoing throughout the pool. I forgot to mention that I am in the swimming lesson with him. He frantically clings to me. He cannot trust that I will not let him go. He cannot believe that I, his mother, would do anything to ensure that he will NOT drown. At this rate I may still be in swimming lessons with him when he is twenty. Sometimes fear, lack of trust, gets the upper hand in our lives. The result is hell. The irony of this whole thing is, is that if Coen could calm down and hear the comforting words of someone that loves him with an overflowing heart, maybe fears would take a back seat and he could actually enjoy being in the water. He chooses to be afraid and to cry and yell, while peace is there within his grasp. To me this definitely describes hell.

We also choose hell for ourselves at times. We worry about things that are beyond our control. We stay up late in bed mulling over problems and worries that can never be changed by our own troubled thoughts. The result is a tormented soul, far from peace and hope and joy while all of those things are within our grasp. We may even be clinging desperately to them but cannot hear or feel the assurance that comes from them because we are wrapped in our fear, doubt and pain.

Maybe you have experienced this. Whatever your hell has been, HOPE is there. Trust. Reach out and grab a hold of PEACE. Be quiet. Rest. The storm can be over, if you allow it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Grain Car Graffiti

"I lost a friend today." These words have been etched in my brain this week. I saw them painted in graffiti on the side of a grain car as I waited for a train to go by. Some of you may argue that graffiti is not art. But according to my definition, it is. Here's my definition of art; an expression, be it music, painting, words or otherwise, that captures a thought or an emotion. As I've pondered and wondered what prompted someone to paint those heart breaking words on to the side of a grain car, I have come to understand that art is also about imagination.

"I lost a friend today" are words that are the ending of a story. A story that I will never know, but I can imagine. I imagine that these words could have been the result of a tragic death. These words also could have been because of a divorce or a relationship breakdown. Or they could have been the result of a misunderstanding that could not be repaired between best friends. My imagination sees many images that play out the scenes that end in the emotional angst of these haunting words, "I lost a friend today." My heart's memory is also awakened to times when I too have lost a friend.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. But five small words create a thousand pictures in my head. So I guess you could say that these five words by themselves may not conjure emotion or imagination but together have a huge impact. There is a message in them. As that train travels throughout the land, that message will be spoken. The loss of a friend is something that we have all experienced to varying degrees throughout our lives. We have all felt the sting of loss. Whether we wrote a song about it, or spray painted words on the side of a train car, sharing our pain, or whether forever in our hearts and minds there is a tattoo  with that person's name on it, we remember. We remember laughing. We remember sharing secrets. We remember love. We remember long talks. We remember dreaming together. We remember the day that it ended and we grieve, maybe to this day, about a friendship that has been lost.

Tell a friend today what they mean to you. Maybe it means that you have to repair and mend a friendship that is broken. Do what it takes to fix it. True friends are rare....

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lifeboat

I rarely comment on what is happening in the world news but I just heard the news that Osama Bin Laden is dead. I was somewhat taken aback by the rejoicing that people were doing over the fact that he had been killed. It kind of stung me actually. As humans, have we become so desensitized that we are happy, even ecstatic when someone is killed?

Several years ago, I read a book by Donald Miller and in it he talk about the value that we place on people by using the illustration of a lifeboat. I am going to put it in my own words with this scenario... You, as well as nine other people are on a large boat that is sinking. It is discovered that there are not enough spaces in the lifeboat for everyone to be able to be saved. Somehow in this surreal scenario, you have been given the final say in who makes it on to the lifeboat and who doesn't. There is space for six people. Among the passengers are a pregnant woman, and elderly gentleman, Wayne Gretzky, a child, The Pope, Osama Bin Laden, a quadriplegic man, a serial rapist, Bono, and of course yourself. You don't have a long time to decide who gets saved. What do you do? Do only good people deserve to be saved? Does noted fame or talent make someone more worthy? What about age? Does someone at a young age deserve life more than someone who has reached a ripe old age? Do only people who contribute to society garner the nod of life? Do terrorists and rapists deserve to be saved? What about you? What value does your life have? Are you for sure on the boat without a question? What makes your life more valuable than any other? Would you give up your place on the boat for someone else? Do any of these people not deserve a second chance at life? To be better? To change? Where does a person's value lie? At what point are people a right off? When is there a point of no return for someone? Is it when they are terrorists? How about if they just reach a certain age? What if they are severely disabled? What if they are unborn?

This illustration, to me, is something that we all need to wrestle with. So often, we don't even realize how we look at others or ourselves. We place value on people by some sort of ranking system. Evil people should definitely be lower on the list than those that contribute and make the world better. Right? These people even deserve death? And we do a jig when we hear that they have gotten what they deserve? At what point have we decided that we are at the top, that somehow because we have made different choices or were raised in a different culture or religion that we have more value? Honestly now, when was the last time you slandered someone with your words? What about lying? What about gossip? What about intentionally pushing some one's buttons to hurt them? What about feeling jealous or envious? What about blowing a gasket at your spouse or your kid or your boss or someone in traffic?

The world does not change when what we call "bad" people are killed. The world changes when we can look at ourselves honestly and say that we are "bad" as well. At that point we realize we need grace; a second chance. It's when we realize that every person has immeasurable value and that we could give up our own lives, through dying and living, for the world to be better that something truly amazing can happen.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Dress Mess

So yesterday I took my favorite three-year-old to the city with me to look for a dress. I have at least two weddings to go to this summer and I thought maybe, just maybe I could find something. I could wear the one dress that I've worn pretty much everywhere for the last three years but it's starting to look a little shabby! Let's just say, Coen is a terrific shopper. Upbeat, energetic, positive. His mom, on the other hand, has a lot of trouble being positive about the things they call dresses these days!

I think maybe my trouble is that I have a checklist of must-haves for the dress that I want. The dress of my dreams must be: well made, comfortable, stylish yet classic, fit well, no cleavage (who am I kidding? I don't have any!), not some flimsy material that wrinkles if you look at it the wrong way, and within my price range!! I know, tough customer. Needless to say, I tried on many dresses yesterday and came home dress less. I am starting to think it may be impossible or maybe I'm just too vain to find a so-so dress and buy it, even though it is NOT perfect in my mind.

I tried on long dresses, short dresses, silky dresses, flowery dresses, romantic dresses, cheeky dresses, all-business dresses, tight dresses, and dresses that should never have left the hanger. At one point one of the ribbons that are used to hang dresses on a hanger got stuck in a zipper and I was pretty sure I was going to have to get outside help. That would have been attractive!!??  I imagined myself saying something like this....."Excuse me, I am stuck in this dress and I utterly abhor it. Could you please stick your face in my sweaty, hot underarm area and dislodge the ribbon from this zipper? Thanks a bunch." Thankfully, just before I entered the utter humiliation zone where grown-women cannot dress themselves, the ribbon came free and I could unzip! The best news is that no one had to see me in that dress except for Coen!!!

This morning as I watched some highlights from the Royal Wedding, I was reassured that my lot to find a dress really isn't so bad. These are the perks....I will never be televised to the masses worldwide wearing the dress that I choose, and I don't have to find a HAT to match! Thank heavens for that!

I

Monday, April 25, 2011

Agreed?

There are times when agreement is important to move on. But sometimes agreeing is so not the point.

I had an interesting experience yesterday. A reader of this blog, asked me a question about the "Pay it Forward" blog that I wrote a couple of weeks ago. He was somewhat disturbed that I had not confronted the lady who had taken the dollar out of the cart. He asked me why I didn't stop her? I told him that I was already in my car and driving away when I realized what she had done. I also told him that I didn't want to judge her. That, in my mind, judging seemed about on par with what she was doing. I am very quick to judge and it is something that I would like to change about my soul. Yeah, I was upset with what had happened in that parking lot, but I needed to time for the more generous and kind Lisa to be able to be heard in my head and drown out the judgy, grumpy Lisa that often has free reign. This conversation yesterday didn't end with him agreeing with me. I don't think that was the point. He had questions and he wasn't afraid to ask them. That was amazing. Having this conversation gave me a great insight into what I believe this blog is really all about....I don't think I even really knew until yesterday.

I am not asking you to agree with what I write in this blog, though I think often I may be preaching to the choir. I am asking you to think about someone else's perspective, as the reader who approached me yesterday was doing. Ask questions. Ponder. Wrestle. Have conversations with other people about the things you are wrestling with. In these exercises, truth and soul wisdom are uncovered in each of us. It is what I do before I ever start typing the words on this page.

We are taught as children to play nice, to not ruffle feathers, and to not rock the boat. These sentiments, though well-meaning, are not the mindset of world changers. There is an underpinning of appeasing the status quo in these thoughts that results in stoic and often pious mediocrity. I have come to see that agreement is not the goal. Seeking Truth is. Therefore, don't simply nod your head in agreement and take your daily dose of whatever it is that you read or watch or listen to. Think, respond, feel your heart beat with passion or disdain or even anger. Engage your soul. If you disagree, say so. You don't have to be confrontational or rude about it, but don't let your soul die for the sake of a flimsy attempt at peace. If you have questions, ask them. If you are sparked with a fire in your belly, use that passion to do something, anything. This is just another way of paying it forward.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chopin Challenge

One thing that I truly love is playing the piano. It's been therapy for me since I was young. My mom once said that she could always tell when I had been through the wringer, I wouldn't talk, I would just go and sit at the piano and play for as long as it took to regain peace of mind. Recently, I have again found solace in playing. A couple months ago, I started teaching a grade eight piano student. I was feeling very challenged to teach at that level. I decided to break out my old classical books and start playing again. It has been wonderful. Not only do I get to play beautiful music, I feel like I have something to offer my student as well. Playing myself seems to sharpen my awareness when it comes to teaching.



One of the pieces that I've been in love with for a long time is called Prelude in D Flat by Frederic Chopin. The piece also has a nickname, Raindrop. If you've ever heard the song, the raindrop is undeniable. It is one note played throughout almost the entire song. It's beautiful and haunting. I always thought that somehow this piece was beyond my reach, way too difficult for me to learn. Well, let's just say, I've tackled it! It feels so amazing to sit and play this song in my house, filling the rooms with raindrops. I didn't take on this challenge for anyone but myself, to prove that I can do it. I have it in me to work hard at something and see it through to the end. Practicing takes work and discipline. Two things that I seem to need right now. 

I've been thinking a lot about practicing and how it's something we should never stop doing. Whatever you're into, there will never be a point when you have arrived and have nothing left to learn. The old adage that practice makes perfect has a flaw...perfection says that you have achieved the ultimate and you can quit. I don't buy this for a second because I know that I will always have something to work on in terms of technique and repertoire. I think about the time when  eventually I will be asking my own kids to practice the piano or the guitar or free throws or whatever. I need them to have an example of what that looks like. If they have never seen me practice anything, where is the credibility in what I am asking them to do? So, turn off the TV. Pick up your paint brush, your cello, your badminton racket, or your soccer ball and practice. Make dates with the important people in your life and practice relationship. Love is a skill that will never be perfected. Don't ever quit.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Touch

When I was eleven our family took a vacation to the west coast. We drove through the Canadian Rockies. It was the first time I ever remembered being in the mountains. A prairie girl used to wide open flatness with a few trees here and there, was dumbstruck by the awesomeness, the majesty, the beauty of the rugged peaks and winding highway through it all. My face was pressed up against the window for hours. We made it to the coast and had a lovely time. On our way back through the mountains, again the same feelings overwhelmed me. As we left the mountains behind, I remember feeling a sadness. Tears welled up and spilled over. I had been touched by something and it had left an impression on my soul. I knew I would miss the mountains as we headed back home.

This morning my parents drove out of my yard after having spent the weekend with our family. Elle sat on my lap as we watched them drive away and her tears fell. They are special people to her. They have touched her little soul with their love. I knew what she was feeling. The sense of loss and sadness that happens when you have been touched and you don't want to let go.

Many things in life can touch us. I have been touched by a piece of music many times. I can never really explain why if someone asks, it just speaks to something inside of me that longs for beauty and love. I guess it speaks to a longing for things to be right and good. Babies have the same effect. Holding them, looking into their sleepy faces, having their tiny hands wrap around a finger touches something deep inside. Nature speaks to me too. Sunrises, thunder storms, the stillness in the middle of a forest, the spicy smell of damp foliage, the intricacy of tiny wild flowers, waves crashing, and starry nights all reach into my heart and pull at the same longing. Watching people take care of others is one thing that gets me every time. I think it's because that might be our purpose. When I watched my parents and my kids spend time together this weekend it made my heart sing.  When I see Elle take care of Coen and look out for him, I see love and compassion. When I get to hold people that I love close when they hurt, I feel alive and this overwhelms my heart.

This is one way that we can catch a glimpse of the Divine. He wants to touch us. He wants us to connect those moments to Himself. Those moments when our souls feel awakened are the moments when we can know for sure that God is close. He's letting us in on a secret....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Whatever

Whatever. It's a word that I use a lot. It means a lot of things to me, I guess. It's a non-committal word at times. It can also mean that I don't care. It is sometimes said with a certain tone called frustration. It can be lighthearted and silly in some cases. Sometimes it just really means that my brain hurts and I'm tired of the conversation and it's seeming pointlessness. It means I give up!!

One word with so many nuances. At times saying "whatever" is a way to avoid being real and honest. At least it is for me. Now every one of you is scrolling back in your memories to see if I've ever said "whatever" to you and you're wondering what it meant. I'm going to be honest. It probably was my way of conceding and not really saying what I might be feeling on the inside.

We all have words like this, words we use to get around touchy subjects or things that we just can't face. Words like "whatever", "maybe", "I don't know", and "I'll see" are all words that hold uncertainty. They are usually also conversation killers. They are words that signal that the end is nigh. There will be no more information forthcoming. There will be no commitment. There will be no going deeper.

I sometimes imagine what it would be like if every person said what they really meant all the time. If people  felt they could express their wishes, their desires, even their dislike in a way that was not grouchy or aggressive but in peace yet totally honest, I think relationships would be different. There wouldn't be the tip-toeing around certain topics or the feeling like you always have to hold yourself back for fear of what other people might think if you told it like it is. I would like to banish "whatever" from my vocabulary. I would like to say what I think and not feel like it's stupid. I would like to be able to say even challenging, hard-to-hear words with grace and kindness instead of fear. I would love it if people talked like that to me too. Imagine if parents, politicians, judges, lawyers, doctors, teachers, bankers, accountants, business people, and kids all felt they had freedom just to say what they were really thinking and were able to say them with love? Words are powerful. How do you use them?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

P is for Phonics

The English language is on fraught with many idiosincrisies and downright strangeness. There are so many words that seem to not fit any of the so-called rules. For the last few months Elle and I have been working in her reading. She's almost six and really wants to read. Trying to explain why words like pear, pair and pare all sound exactly the same but are spelled differently or why the word "are" is just weird and doesn't follow any rules seems like a lot for a little person to be able to grasp. Yet she remembers the rules and the exceptions to the rules and is succeeding with reading.

A couple years ago Jeremy and spent a winter taking Spanish lessons from our lovely friend from Argentina. It is such a fluid and beautiful language. The most amazing part about it is that every letter in the alphabet has one sound....one. That letter is always pronounced that one way regardless of where it appears in a word. Learning how to speak and spell in Spanish just makes sense. It is logical. The rules are straightforward and easy to apply.

I wish I could say that the rules for life were straightforward and easy to apply. I'm afraid that life is a lot more like English than Spanish. It's hard. You think you've learned something and that in every situation, you know what to do and then....bam, you're in the dust, on your face, the wind knocked out of you and you're struggling to pick yourself up and face the fact that you don't know everything; in fact closer to nothing!! I think life is more like English because life is about people. People don't fit into neat and tidy little packages that you can manipulate and they respond in the way that you desire. It just doesn't work like that. People are complex, intricate and complicated beings. We don't respond the same every time. We have moods, and feelings, and sugar-induced highs and lows. Our bodies have hormones and chemicals that give us energy and desires and drive. Our souls long for meaning and connection and destiny.

Learning to live with others and keep relationship with people is difficult. There is no formula. There are just suggestions. When someone is sad, offer comfort. When someone is laughing, join them. When someone needs help, help them. When someone is worried, listen. When someone is heartbroken, hold them. When someone is dreaming, spur them on. When someone has lost their voice, speak up on their behalf. When someone has open arms, run into them. You don't have to do any of these things. They are optional. For every person, these things look different, more like exceptions to the rule. The way that I offer comfort may look different than what you would do, but that is okay. Awesome, in fact...an expression of how we are all unique but still have the same desire to connect with others and to truly love.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pay It Forward

You know when you go to buy a cart at the grocery store and some lovely person has left their dollar in it, making that moment a bright spot in your day? That happened to me the last time I was at the grocery store. I had my dollar in hand and was ready to put it in the cart and realized that someone had left their dollar in it. I don't know if they forgot or if it was intentional but it put a smile on my face. The first thing I did was look around to see if  someone was smiling, letting me know that they had planned this moment for someone, that they were paying it forward. I really like to think that the world is a nice place, that people really care about each other and are looking out for each other. I like to think that generosity and the brotherhood of man are principles that the world could live by. The concept of paying it forward is one that is both heart-warming and world-altering.

With these thoughts in mind, when I returned the cart to the parking lot I left the cart with the dollar in it for the next person. I was feeling great. I was paying it forward, I was doing the right thing. I noticed, as I was settling the kids in the car, that there was a lady sitting in the car right next to me, which was right next to where the carts are parked. I had noticed that she had been putting her groceries into her car as I was walking across the parking lot with the kids and our groceries. Now, she was just sitting there in her car. As I was backing out of my parking spot, I saw her get out of her car and go to the cart that I had just left there (with the dollar in it). She took it! I watched her hurry back to her car like she was trying to hide. I was at first stunned. Then, mad. She had busted up the pay it forward! Then I was bummed.

As I thought about it, I realized that I wanted the pay it forward to work the way I wanted it, on my terms. The lady, whom I had dubbed Ebenezer, had ruined it for the next person to receive a free cart. The one thing that I was overlooking was 'Ebenezer's' story, which I do not know. I was judging her for what I thought was a tragic breakdown in paying it forward. She broke the cycle. But did she? Maybe she really needed that dollar. I have no way of knowing. It wasn't even my dollar to begin with. I realized something important about paying it forward, when you add judgment to the equation, it takes away the meaning and purpose of the whole thing.

I hope that someday 'Ebenezer' is truly affected by someone paying it forward. I hope it takes her breath away that someone cares about her. I hope she is speechless in that moment and that tears well up in her eyes. I hope that the first thought in her mind at that moment is how she could do the same for someone else and then pays it forward.