Thursday, June 26, 2014

odds and ends: no, really, this one is odds and ends

See the next post for why I'm doing this, but here are several half-written posts that have been sitting in my "drafts" folder for awhile now.
Some word pairs that were going to be in a future Words on Wednesday post:
-hoard (a verb, meaning to save stuff up, usually a bit excessively) and horde (a noun meaning a group of people, usually used pejoratively to describe a mob or a dangerous, threatening group)
-prostrate (an adjective meaning lying down, prone; or a verb meaning to lie down)(which, for those of us who grew up going to too much church, immediately calls to mind "let angels prostrate fall") and prostate, which is a gland of the male reproductive system.
-seminary which is a school, usually for preparation for a career as a minister or rabbi (but not always, it is also an old-fashioned word for schools for young women) and cemetery, which is a place where people are buried.
-cavalry (a horse-mounted military unit) and Calvary (the hill where it is traditionally believed Jesus was crucified)

I've been feeling at loose ends lately. For a long time, school was my motivator--getting papers written, making decent grades, writing that damn thesis. Then I was recovering school, and then I had those classes to prepare for. But for the past couple of months, I've been adrift. Entirely too busy doing various different things, but I felt adrift, because I was just doing whatever was next on my to-do list.

So, and I hope you will be able to laugh with me about this, when Rick Warren's uber-bestselling The Purpose-Driven Life showed up on my recommendations feed at Amazon, on a whim, I thought why not? And if I'm going to do it, I might as well do it right. So I've actually been following directions. I read a chapter every morning. I started on May 1st.

I've joined the ranks of millions--for awhile there, just about everybody in our small town was in a PDL group. I hate being part of the crowd. I'm doing it ten years later than everybody else, but still it is a cliche before I even start talking about the book.

But you know, I have to confess. Even though there were times I was so mad or conflicted about what he was saying that I had to put the book down, he asks good questions, and he makes some good points. He has inspired me to think, and of course it has also helped me wade through some further layers of Dealing With My Past. Reading it was good timing. Even when I disagreed with him--and I often did--it was still good food for thought.

I realized something while reading PDL, though. I think I am done with my obsessive reading of Evangelical books. I've been doing it off and on for years now under the guise of "dealing with my past," and it occurred to me as I was reading the last 30 or 40 pages of PDL that I'm done with that. Not dealing with my past--I don't think you ever entirely get over that--but I'm done with mining Evangelical authors to get there. I think it's time to move on to reading more progressive authors, authors who can help me look forward instead of looking back. I'll let you know what I find. (And if you have any recommendations, pass them along.)

After a discussion with a friend, I've been thinking about spiritual boldness. I think it's under-appreciated.

Job is the best example. Job loses everything because of what is essentially a wager between God and Satan. He is outraged that the God he loves and trusts would treat him so badly. He sits upon his ash-heap and laments loudly, questioning God's fairness. Some of his friends join him, telling him all the standard platitudes about how God is bigger than we are, we can't understand God's design, we have to trust God no matter what. But Job is hurt and angry and he continues to pour out his frustration.

Eventually at the end, God appears to Job in a whirlwind. He tells Job basically the same thing his friends have been telling him--you are a human peon, you are nothing compared to God. But this time Job gets it. He experiences the hugeness of God and he finally understands. At the end, God rewards not the friends, but Job. God didn't want the platitudes, the easy answers given by the friends. God respects Job because Job was honest. He didn't pretend to say something he couldn't mean. He expressed his anger and his frustration, and he didn't turn away. He kept going until he understood, until he found answers that satisfied him down to his core, not just the glib theology. Even though the glib theology turned out to be pretty much the same thing as the real answer.

And Job isn't the only one. Time and again Moses stood before God and questioned his decisions or demanded that God act. David sinned hugely and yet in Psalm 51, he bares his heart before God and is forgiven. Peter stumbles and screws up and denies Jesus, but he is the cornerstone of the church.

It's clear God doesn't want us to go through our lives doing the right thing out of habit. God doesn't want robots. It isn't going to hurt God's feelings if we're honest and say exactly what we think.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

in which I do not use my words

Since I seem to have nothing to say these days, I thought I would pass along some things I've read recently that have made me think. I'm not a huge fan of inspirational quotes, because so often when you pull things out of context, you lose much of their meaning. Also, it starts to sound like you're designing those idiotic inspirational posters. But, like I said, I got nothin' these days, so here you go.

Brene Brown, in Daring Greatly, on the value of allowing yourself to be vulnerable: "Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it's understanding the necessity of both; it's engaging. It's being all in. Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection."

Jim Palmer, in Notes From (Over) the Edge: "When are you going to stop taking cues from others about what you should be and do in life? When are you going to stop denying your authentic self to satisfy the expectations and scripts others have put on you? When are you going to start listening to that voice inside you? When are you going to start trusting your own internal guidance system? When is the violation of your true self going to be a bigger violation than displeasing others?"

Bob Goff, in Love Does: "There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I'm tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement.... It doesn't come in an envelope. It's ushered in by a sunrise.... It's the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I've seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live."

Tara Brach, in Radical Acceptance: "The belief that we are deficient and unworthy makes it difficult to trust that we are truly loved. Many of us live with an undercurrent of depression or hopelessness about ever feeling close to other people. We fear that if they realize we are boring or stupid, selfish or insecure, they'll reject us....We yearn for an unquestioned experience of belonging, to feel at home with ourselves and others, at ease and fully accepted. But the trance of unworthiness keeps the sweetness of belonging out of reach."

Tara Brach also tells the story of Ed Brown, a Zen teacher who is also a cook. Early in his career as a cook, he spent considerable time and effort in trying to create a biscuit recipe that measured up to his memories of the biscuits he loved as a child. Until one day he realized that this remembered perfection was actually Pillsbury biscuits that popped out of a can. His biscuit recipe was just fine, once he realized that his standards had been shaped by forces he no longer wished to support. Moments like that one, Ed Brown says, "can be so stunning, so liberating, these moments when you realize your life is just fine as it is, thank you. Only the insidious comparison to a beautifully prepared, beautifully packaged product made it seem insufficient. Trying to produce a biscuit--a life--with no dirty bowls, no messy feelings, no depression, no anger was so frustrating. Then savoring, actually tasting the present moment of experience--how much more complex and multifaceted."

What words are inspiring you these days?

Friday, June 06, 2014

odds and ends: I got two hands, one beating heart

1. PellMel finished her first year of medical school a couple of weeks ago, was home for a week, and then took off again to do a month-long rotation at a rural clinic. She is so excited about the stuff she's learning, it's infectious--even I got excited when she called to tell us about her first experience with a cardioversion yesterday (which is the thing you see on TV all the time where they yell CLEAR and then jolt the patient with paddles, but apparently that's not the way it's done anymore. It is more civilized now. But they still say CLEAR.). MadMax is done on Monday. Their school has a long-time policy of allowing those with less than two absences during the semester to skip end-of-semester finals. Apparently, it cut absences by some outrageous amount when they first started it (60%?? something like that), but over the years it has been less and less effective. So they are changing it next year so that everybody has to take finals again. But for one last time, MadMax gets to skip exams. Summer is about to begin.

2. Reading Report: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. This is one of those books that if you think about it too much, it starts to fall apart. But if you just read it and let it be, loved it. Louisa Clark loses her beloved job at a cafe when it closes and must find something else. When she reluctantly takes a job as caregiver to a quadriplegic, she never expects it to change her life. But it does.

3. Our chickens got sick. We have northern fowl mites, apparently. I feel terrible, because we let it get really bad before we realized what was happening. We've done the initial treatment and they are already much better, but we aren't getting many eggs. I might have to buy a dozen eggs, for the first time in two years.

4. I caved into the pressure. I'm trying gluten-free for one week. I'm embarrassed to even admit it, because it seems like such a food fad, one of those things everybody is doing this year and by next year we will have moved on to something else. But a) I do know some people (including one of my sisters) for whom it has solved a myriad of health problems, and b) this way when yet another person tells me I should try being gluten-free, I will be able to tell them that I DID try it. You can probably tell that I'm not expecting much, but I will let you know.

5. So I don't think I"ve told you we're going to Italy this summer. Dean's dad has rented a villa in Tuscany for July and August, and how in the world were we going to resist that? We'll be there for five days, with stops in Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome, and Dublin smooshed on to either end for two weeks total. (yes, I did say Dublin. It's a long story.) I promise pictures on our return, but not too many of them. Any ideas for a theme? I did doors last time. Maybe I'll just do doors again, because those were some really cool pictures.

6. Amazon vs. Hachette. Clearly I don't know the full story here. Probably none of us do. You can't paint Hachette as the little guy being crushed by the giant, because Hachette is huge publishing firm that has done its own share of crushing. And also, I'm not giving up Amazon. I live in a small town in Northwestern Montana. Without Amazon, I would be.... oh, there are so many things I love about Amazon, and some of them have nothing to do with buying things. I read reviews there all the time, even when I end up buying somewhere else. You have to take the reviews with a grain of salt, of course, because you never know when a review might be a plant, but still I can generally figure out what I want to know.

But in this instance Amazon is wrong. Just sayin. For the time being, I'm shopping elsewhere. And for the love of Mike, why can't we get Stephen Colbert and Sherman Alexie together more often? (see video below, if I embedded the code correctly.) If you can swing it in your book budget, go to Powell's website and buy California. (watch the video to understand why.) I adore Powell's anyway. If I lived in Portland, I would be there every day.

7. We have been blessed with the most beautiful spring I can remember. It took a long time to get here, but it has been gorgeous. I'm saying that now, because June is often the rainiest month of the year and and we're just getting started on June. I'm getting off to enjoy it while I can. Hugs to everybody and have a great weekend.