With 41 days to go until we celebrate Easter we may find ourselves wondering where we are supposed to be going. If Lent is the road to the cross, how are we supposed to know what road to follow? What if we go off track and end up in the wrong area?
The simple answer, of course, is that our map is to be found in the Bible. I don’t know about you, but I think I could still end up astray. Does it matter what part of the Bible we read? Maybe there are parts that will just confuse us more than we were already confused!
At my church, and I assume at many other Christian churches, members of the congregation are given a booklet with a series of devotional readings for each day of the season. Similar books often appear during Advent. If you weren’t at church for the 1st Sunday of Lent today, perhaps you could stop by a church during the week to pick up one of these booklets. I have found, over the years, that they go a long way in leading me through the maze.
Have you ever settled to pray in the evening and had trouble keeping your focus? Most of the time I pray in my head, that is to say that I don’t actually use my voice. Somehow, even in my own bedroom at home, praying out loud makes me self-conscious. This isn’t an issue for me in worship or anytime I’m praying with others.
Worry about seeming silly if my kids or husband come along and hear me is only a part of my problem. It seems that when I voice my private prayers they hit me more deeply. I almost always end up crying at some point. Similarly potentially embarrassing, this is an emotionally exhausting experience. I suspect that the tears etc actually are some indication of the value or efficacy of the prayer.
In the end I don’t know if it matters whether we pray in silence or aloud, but if you find yourself wandering off to plans and worries about the next day try switching. Maybe the sound of your voice will keep you on track.
I’m looking across the room at a picture of Winnie the Pooh in his classic thinking pose. His eyes are scrunched closed, one arm is around his chest and this other hand is up to his temple. Even looking at the picture I can hear him saying, “Think, think, think.” Maybe he is trying to think of an answer to a question piglet has asked, or maybe he is working on a hum, but he is thinking hard!
Here at the front of the room the same scenario is playing out. OK, I’m not physically squinting my eyes or knocking on my temple, but I am mentally trying to squeeze some kind of coherent thought out. I have an assortment of posts in the works at the moment, but they are stalled at some point or other. Some are just cool titles at the moment, while others were going along fine until I hit a mental snag on a point of logic or an annoying fact making my conclusion questionable.
There are various ways I get around this. Today’s choice was to write about the block itself rather than try to dislodge it from my path. Other options which I often use for blog writing include; saving my work and then choosing tags, previewing the post as it stands, heading off to http://creativecommons.comto find a good image to use, doing a spell check, or fixing the font and paragraph spacing. If all of these distractions fail to help me reach the dangling strand of my thought, I just stop for a while and do something totally unrelated.
There are times when the strands just won’t be caught and I eventually give up on the post altogether. Those bits often come back at a later date when they end up fitting like the missing puzzle piece into a completely different topic. I’m sure you are familiar with the adage, “I think, therefore I am.” It is the thinking that really matters and a slight change of focus can make all the difference.
Posted in Pet Peeves, Reflections
Tagged blog, details, distractions, help, improvement, Piglet, problems, quiet, reflection, survival, think, thinking, Winnie the Pooh, writer's block, writing
A while back I went out for coffee with a good friend. During the course of the conversation we touched on many subjects. She was sharing with me that she had been going for Reike treatments (is that the correct term?) for a while and she said she had an amazing experience at her last session. She shared the following story with me, and asked as well that I share it with you;
My wish is to have peace and taking part in a Reiki experience has given me this sense of peace and serenity.
My last two experiences have been quite different from my earlier sessions. During these session I encountered my angel. Initially, I saw two glowing lights moving around each other as if they were playing joyfully with one another. I felt happiness and an immense sense of joy, an almost childlike sense that only the present moment mattered. From the lights, a presence developed as an outline. The outline gradually became more visible until I could see a hooded figure there with me. I could not see his/her face. During this time I could see part of a wing that was a vibrant white in color. The energy that was present was very strong and real.
I can’t remember much else regarding this encounter but the feeling that I wasn’t alone. It was as if I was at another level compared to the earthly one. The message that came from this was to enjoy life, have fun and laugh. And more importantly, that I am not alone because my angel that is a very strong one at that is with me at all times. This in turn gives me strength during my spiritual journey called life. Is it possible that this other level is the spiritual parallel place of holiness?
Angels, are they real? I’ll look into this in a future post with help/reference to Calvin’s Institutes.
Photo credit to Miemo Penttinen, miemo.net
Posted in Faith, Prayers, Reflections
Tagged angels, Christianity, faith, God, help, Holy Spirit, Jesus, kindness, love, prayer, promise, quiet, reflection, reike, spirituality, stress, survival, time, worry
I am supervising exams this week at my school. Right now I am covering another teacher’s class while he has a break. This is a grade eleven math class, and if they have questions I will be of no use to them at all. I did pass math in high school but that was a very long time ago now.
What I see in front of me is a group of twenty some students with calculators, papers, and pencils. They glance back and forth between their exam, the calculator and the booklet. Some are looking off into space as if praying for divine inspiration or intervention, others are hunched right over their desks. There are looks of determination, fear, and the occasional wry smile as we briefly make eye contact. There is near silence, papers turn, pencils scratch and feet shift on the floor, but there is no talking.
When you walk into an exam room, prepared or not, you know that in the next two hours your work will be judged. If you have a good day and a following wind, your exam mark may raise your over-all grade but you know that it is more likely to go the other way. On the up side, when the hours are over, so is the course and in June that means summer break!
Many of our life evaluations, however, do not take place in a classroom and are not neatly scheduled and limited to a two-hour block of time. We are often not even aware that we are being tested; that a customer is forming judgments about our competence or friendliness; that a student is deciding whether or not we are trustworthy enough to ask for help; total strangers may be deciding whether we are doing a good job raising our children. We will never know the results of most of these tests. Unless a customer goes to complain or compliment we won’t realize that they don’t return to the store or that they avoid our check-out. The student who decides against us will just walk away, and we almost certainly will not hear the strangers opinion of our parenting.
Whether or not we have any right to evaluate the people we meet and work with, we do it naturally. Unless you are a person’s supervisor or they do something hurtful to you, I see no reason that we should share negative feedback with them. Neither do we need to share with a person the nasty thing we heard someone else say about them, though we might want to defend a friend with the person doing the criticism. What I think we do need to be doing, however, is telling people when we think positive things about them, or when we hear someone else making a positive comment about them.
We don’t hear enough positive feedback. Certainly we don’t tend to give ourselves positive feedback, we tend to focus on our flaws and our failures. This does little good, and contributes a great deal to our level of stress. It may be as little as a smile or the like button on Face Book, or as big as nominations for awards or letters of thanks, but we need to praise more, encourage more, love more!
Posted in Reflections
Tagged choices, compliment, distractions, evaluation, exam, feedback, high school, improvement, love, prayer, quiet, stress, students, survival, teachers, test, testing, time, worry
Harry Potter was ever in the public eye. Everyone treated him differently because they knew who he was, some better and some worse. There are many characters in Rowling’s books that barely get noticed at all. Ron and Hermione get quite a bit of attention, partly reflected, as do his most notable rivals. We meet Luna Lovegood, but she is far from featured. But what of all those other Griffindor students, or even more obscure, the Hufflepuffs? There are far more characters who could use a little bit of visibility in this and in every story. I don’t mean to suggest that an author try to reveal every character in every book. There are millions of people out there who would like their invisibility cloaks removed, if only for a few moments.
There are many invisible people in the Bible. For instance the mothers of almost all those men named in the seemingly endless lists in Numbers. The women and children of those 5,000 men who were fed with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish, and those of the 4,ooo fed with 7 loaves and a few small fish were only visible as an afterthought, but not counted in the number of the miracle.
Just as Jesus was in need of invisibility in his early life, he chooses to whisk the cloak off many of the invisible people of his day; women, children, lepers, people with embarrassing health problems, the poor, the humble etc. He did this in a number of different ways;
healing physical problems that were causing the people to be overlooked or even shunned
making a point of speaking with someone
sharing a meal with someone
calling them by name
giving them his time and attention
Jesus drew away the cloak for the children in Matthew 9:14 when the disciples wanted to shoo them away and he told them instead to, “Let the little children come to me.” He was granting them his time and attention.
He drew the cloak away from the lepers he healed who would otherwise have lived their lives out in isolation. The man who couldn’t get to the healing waters before others had gotten there first was healed where he had been totally overlooked by everyone else. The woman who had been considered unclean for years due to constant bleeding was healed and thus allowed back into everyday lives of those whom she loved.
There were women to whom Jesus actually spoke, which really wasn’t common in the time. He spoke to a Samaritan woman at the well despite the stigma of her being Samaritan and having a reputation of being with many men.
We hear reports of Jesus speaking more than once with two sisters Mary, and Martha. He ate at their home, Mary sat at his feet and listened to his teaching and he even praised her for this choice. In fact, the names Mary and Martha are mentioned more times in the Bible than those of a some of the disciples.
Jesus ate meals with people who were not invisible but infamous. He ate with tax collectors like Zacchaeus who was reviled by his neighbours.
People will go to great lengths to be noticed. If you question this then I encourage you to watch some of the “reality” tv shows. People need love and belonging and would rather get negative attention than no attention. To get their “ten minutes of fame” some people even commit violent acts which then result in their imprisonment for life. For a few days, or months though everyone knew their name.
Do you remember the old tv show Cheers? The theme song for that show said, “You wanna be where everybody knows your name.” We can all do something to remove somebody’s invisibility cloak for a moment. Follow Jesus’ example. We may not be able to heal their physical ailments but surely we can make a point of speaking to someone who seems left out. We can learn people’s names and then using it when you greet them. Maybe instead of grabbing your lunch or coffee and running you might choose to take the time to sit down with someone to share the meal.
Thanks to SarahKristin’sphotostream for the picture of Luna http://www.flickr.com/photos/35643800@N05/with/4703546529/
Posted in Reflections
Tagged change, Christianity, church, distinctive, facebook, fame, feeding the five thousand, feeding the four thousand, God, God incarnate, Harry Potter, help, Hermione Granger, invisibility cloak, invisible, Jesus, JK Rowling, kindness, Luna Lovegood, Martha, Mary, quiet, reflection, Ron Weasely, time, visible, wizards, Zacchaeus
Harry Potter, the now famous young wizard from the books of J.K.Rowling, had a problem. Because of a scar earned as a young child, anywhere he went he was recognized. One of his great assets in the series was a gift he received, an invisibility cloak. With this he and his friends passed unseen into places of great danger and eluded even the most astute of older wizards.
If you follow my blog you will know that I have been musing on the issue of visibility or lack there-of lately. It would seem that we are either too visible, like Harry, and wish for a break, or we are invisible and receive no notice at all. Today I’m going to focus on the folks who could make good use of Harry’s cloak.
I think that there are two groups of people today who would benefit from a little invisibility. The first group, with whom I’m not entirely sure I sympathize, would be the people who either are born into famous families or have worked their whole lives in order to be famous. Once they gain that kind of notoriety, I think many people become victims of their own success. The constant press presence and public interest wear on them and it is almost impossible to get away and just live their lives.
The second group is those people who become known to be giving and caring. These people become magnets for people who are struggling in their lives and find it almost impossible to turn anyone away. Over time, this becomes overwhelming. They become exhausted both physically and emotionally and at some point become unable to continue giving. Those who recover from this burnout are those who manage to carve out a time out for themselves, which often involves going away, or turning off the phones, Facebook, and email for periods of time.
Jesus was God incarnate. The very God who created all that is and was came and lived among us. If anybody ever needed an invisibility cloak it was him. Jesus’ cloak came in the form of simple parents, an unremarkable birthplace (unless remarkable for its unsuitability), life as a refugee, and growing up in a fairly rural location. He didn’t get a high-powered career he trained with his father as a carpenter. When he began to gather followers he didn’t head to the Temple, he stopped by the fishing villages and picked up more common, invisible men.
It wasn’t until his ministry took off and was including healings that these cloaks began to slip off, and even then he was still trying to stay off the radar by asking people not to tell about his miraculous works etc. When Jesus was overwhelmed he went away to a quiet place, often a garden or mountain area, to pray. If you know someone who really needs an invisibility cloak, help them to get some time away. They may choose to pray, meditate, or just do something they enjoy, but when they recharge they will be ready to get back to their normal selves.
Posted in Reflections
Tagged change, Christianity, church, distinctive, facebook, fame, God, God incarnate, Harry Potter, help, invisibility cloak, invisible, Jesus, kindness, quiet, reflection, stress, time, visibility cloak, visible, wizards
A good friend of mine teaches Sociology in our high school. One of the projects her students do is called “Who Am I?” This is intended to take them beyond their looking-glass selves, past what they think other people see in them, to their real selves. The projects are quite amazing and I always think that I have no idea how I would answer the question myself. Today, while sifting through my “junk drawer” in my desk, I ran across a note which I wrote while at a seminar on stress. The title? Who Am I?
I think that what I answered that day is pretty accurate. The part I want to talk about today is, “I don’t really feel like a grown up most of the time, even though I have three kids who are growing up.” If I don’t feel like a grown up at forty-six years of age, when will I?
Have you heard the song “I Won’t Grow Up” from Peter Pan?
Are you ready for today’s lesson?
Listen to your teacher. Repeat after me:
I won’t grow up,
(I won’t grow up)
I don’t want to go to school.
(I don’t want to go to school)
Just to learn to be a parrot,
(Just to learn to be a parrot)
And recite a silly rule.
(And recite a silly rule)
If growing up means
It would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree,
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up
I won’t grow up,
(I won’t grow up)
I don’t want to wear a tie.
(I don’t want to wear a tie)
And a serious expression
(And a serious expression)
In the middle of July.
(In the middle of July)
And if it means I must prepare
To shoulder burdens with a worried air,
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up
Never gonna be a man,
Like to see somebody try
And make me.
Anyone who wants to try
And make me turn into a man,
Catch me if you can.
I won’t grow up.
Not a penny will I pinch.
I will never grow a mustache,
Or a fraction of an inch.
‘Cause growing up is awfuller
Than all the awful things that ever were.
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up,
Let’s look at that a bit. “If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree,” I can not remember the last time I climbed a tree but I do remember spending hours reading in the maple tree in our front yard. Thinking about it now I can feel the gentle swaying of the branches in the breeze. Why don’t I climb trees anymore? I don’t think it has anything to do with dignity but possibly opportunity and the fact that I’m not at all sure my body is up to it anymore. I have found the gentle swaying of my hammock both more accessible and equally satisfying.
As for penny pinching, moustache growing and gaining height, I did reach my full height, I hope I never grow a moustache that leaves penny pinching. It is interesting that Peter associates penny pinching with being grown up. I wonder if he means the constant challenge of making the money we make stretch to accommodate the needs and perceived needs of our families. This is certainly one of the big stressors in adult life and in relationships as well.
Where Peter’s logic comes crashing down is when he sings, “Cause growing up is awfuller than all the awful things that ever were.” This is the image that we tend to give kids, sometimes directly and sometimes inadvertantly. I know some kids who have already gone through more awful things in their first eighteen years than lots of adults. Children who are abused, abandones, bullied etc. often fall into despair from our message of, “you think you have it bad now, just wait until you are an adult.” It is little wonder that the teen suicide rates are what they are!
I guess by Peter’s standards I am grown up. I shoulder the burdens of responsibility and while I make every attempt to do it with good humour and placing my faith in God, I’m sure I often wear the worried air to which he refers. But being a grown up is really awesome! The freedom and opportunities open to us as adults are amazing and I would not for a second want a young person to feel they need to avoid being grown up. At the same time, though, I still spend hours wondering what I will be when I grow up. My career as a teacher is nearing its natural end and I think a lot about what I will do then. In the meantime I plan to not take myself too seriously, and if a nice low branch offers itself I just may climb up a tree with my Kobo and settle in to read a bit!
Posted in Reflections
Tagged bully, burdens, choices, God, growing up, penny pinching, Peter Pan, promise, quiet, reflection, stress, students, teachers, tree climbing, worry