Weariness Versus Wonder

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Canadian Rockies, Alberta, Canada

The frenetic pace of most of our lives leaves us exhausted many days and when that pace continues routinely, a relentless weariness creeps in as an unwelcomed guest. The results can vary, but for me it usually means that I cease to have enthusiasm or interest in many of the things I normally love to do. I see everything in my day as another “to do” when my energy and interest level say, “do not”.

 

None of us plan on living at a harried pace. We tend to accept it as temporary initially, “some days are like that”, “some weeks are like that”, and soon it can become “some months are like that” or even “some years are like that”. The demands of this life keep nudging us to do more and if we can, we call it success. It is a subtle temptation, which gains credence by our culture’s narrow view of success. If we yield to the temptation, we can get caught in a cycle that is hard to stop.

 

We look forward to the weekend, summer, vacation, or the spring break to restore us and lift the weariness. Sometimes we gain relief only to resume the pace we were determined not to restart. Sometimes the pace of our time away from routine is no less busy. We are even more surprised if we are in the group who makes exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep habits a priority. How can we still be weary?

 

Perhaps we have forgotten that we are human beings versus human doings and have become so driven to “do” that we no longer know how to “be”. We have also lost sight of the wonder all around us that serves to remind us of our Creator. We get so caught up in mowing the grass, we fail to notice how it feels beneath our feet, the shade of green, the fragrance it emits when freshly cut, or the genius of photosynthesis. We see the spider and its web and fail to note the delicate lace design of the web shining with drops of dew in the morning.

 

In many ways, we cease to experience wonder about anything and yet it is wonder that really helps ease the weariness when we are on vacation or a true break from the daily grind. We sense it on the beach as the waves come crashing onto the sand. We feel it when the breeze tosses our hair as we stand at a newly discovered trailhead. We taste it when we bite into the first watermelon of summer or the first fresh tree-ripened peach of the season. We see it when we stand at the edge of a canyon watching the beauty and power of a cascading waterfall. We experience it when we cradle a baby in our arms. We delight in it when we take time to look up into the star-studded night sky.

 

Flight View
Flight View

Wonder!

 

It always points us to the wondrous Creator and realigns our perspective, refreshes our soul, quiets our spirit, and causes us to pause and take in the moment.

 

That’s the true cure for weariness, pausing to take in the moment, to discover the wonder all around us even when we are not on vacation.

 

If we will only open our eyes to see it!

 

Peyto Lake, Alberta, Canada
Peyto Lake, Alberta, Canada

INTERRUPTIONS

 

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I sat at my desk focusing on a project or at least trying to do so. I had been interrupted more than once and then the phone rang again. Ugh! I thought I would ignore it, but by then the interruption was a reality so I took the call.

 

Interruptions.

 

They cut into our time and intrude on our plans, our project, and our rest. Interruptions hit the pause button, if not the stop button, of that thing we want to do. If we are working on a task that we do not like, for the moment the interruption might be welcome, but most of the time we chafe at an interruption. It slows us down from doing what we want to do. It stops us from moving forward. It reminds us that we are not the center of the universe and not in control.

 

Interruptions come at us from all directions. They are a normal part of living.

 

Jesus was often interrupted when He walked the earth. The woman with the hemorrhage touched him as He was walking, on His way to something else He planned to do. Children interrupted Him in the midst of teaching adults. What was His response? Did He see interruptions as a frustration or an opportunity?

 

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The man on the phone identified himself by a name that jarred me into alertness. The name was that of an author whose book had greatly impacted me thirty years ago. In a split second my mind was whirling trying to sort out if this was the same person. The man went on to state he had called me because he noticed I shopped online often for his father’s book. He quickly went on to tell me his middle name, which differed from his father’s.

 

He explained that his father had died and he had some copies of unsold books so requests routinely came to him. He was curious. What caused the interest in the book after so many years? How had his father impacted someone that now looked for more copies?

 

Our conversation lasted for nearly fifteen minutes. I shared about its impact on me and said I used the books with others I counseled. He said he was coming to my area in a few weeks and wondered if he could stop by my office. We hung up and I leaned back in my chair reflecting.

 

The call had interrupted things I needed to get finished that day, but if I had not taken it I would have missed meeting the author’s son, which blessed me. I would also have missed being a blessing to the author’s son as I told him about the impact of his father’s work.

 

As I reflected on the call, I felt challenged to consider what the Lord might want to show me through the many interruptions I experience every day. Not all interruptions seem like opportunities or blessings. Perhaps before I chafe at an interruption I need to pause and consider what the interruption is about, whether the Lord is in it, whether it is an opportunity. What can I learn from it?

 

What do you do with interruptions?  

 

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Mindset: The Key to Hope

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It can be so easy to forget the powerhouse that sits above our neck encased in our skull can grow and change throughout our lifetimes. This powerhouse is often a field of battle between negative and positive thoughts that are often whispering quietly without our notice or at other times loudly screaming at us. Those thoughts have created a mindset that began developing from our earliest years of life. Unfortunately, not everything that goes into the brew is truth, but we didn’t realize it and took some of those lies as facts. Their impact can affect us for years to come.

 

Perhaps that is why so many books have been written about how to improve or change the habits of our minds, to spiritually war against the enemy’s taunts that he plays out there. Psychology also seeks to help us with cognitive-behavioral techniques that help us identify negative self-defeating thoughts and tools to help us replace them with truth. No quick fix appears to be listed in any of the resources available.

 

One of the challenges for us is that our mindset ultimately gravitates into one of two types. These affect how we view every mistake, disappointment, setback, and failure and either move us forward toward hope or cause us to halt forward movement and give up.

 

Angela Duckworth in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, identifies these two mindsets as a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

 

Motivation-Picture-Quote-Dont-Give-UpIf we have a growth mindset, we believe we can do better, that it’s possible if we work harder, get additional support, and receive encouragement that we can get smarter and do better. And guess what? We get up and try again! Research shows that if you have a growth mindset, you’ll be more likely to do better in school, enjoy better emotional and physical health, and have stronger, more positive social relationships with other people. It doesn’t mean we don’t fail or face challenges. What matters is our response to those defeats.

 

If we have a fixed mindset, we believe that those failures, setbacks, disappointments, and mistakes mean we don’t have the “right stuff”, aren’t good enough. And guess what? We give up. That belief can be so strong that we don’t ask for support, we don’t risk trying, we become resolved to a sense of our inadequate performances. We decide we don’t have what it takes!

 

One of the keys to determining which mindset we develop is how those around us respond when we slip up and make mistakes. The more powerful the position of authority the person has in our lives, the greater the impact not just of what they say or don’t say but also by the facial expressions they exhibit.

 

If we struggle with a fixed mindset about our spiritual lives, the enemy is gleeful because he knows that he can defeat our hope over and over again as soon as we get up from praying or reading in the Bible. Too often our spiritual lives also get stalled because of how our brothers and sisters around us respond to our struggle. Instead of real encouragement, we might experience quite the opposite for any number of reasons. Sometimes the person isn’t really accurately listening to us to hear the nature of the struggle. Sometimes the person doesn’t know enough of our story to understand why we were defeated….again!!

 

All of this reminds me of what I love about Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

 

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and  thousand-reasons-not-to-give-up-motivational-quotes-sayings-picturestake every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Cor. 10:5 ESV

 

What we don’t always recognize is that eliminating negative patterns of thinking will not automatically bring about positive, “can do” patterns of thinking. We need to deliberately replace them with positive truth that we affirm to ourselves.

 

Archilbald Hart has written seven paraphrases of such truth based on scripture that gives a picture of what I mean so let me share them with you:

 

  • “God loves me more than I can ever imagine, and I can never travel beyond the reach of this great love.” (Rom. 8:39)

 

  • “No matter what my sin, God forgives me if I repent, confess, and return to Him.” (1 John 1:9)

 

  • “There is nothing I can do that will cause God to turn away from me.” (Heb. 13:5)

 

  • “Whatever I attempt to do, if it is God’s will for me He will give me the strength and wisdom I need to accomplish the task.” (Phil. 4:13)

 

  • “If I seem to fail because circumstances are against me. God will always give me another opportunity if I return to the starting point.” ((Psa. 37:24)

 

  • “God never wants me to give up. Never, never, never, never.” (Josh. 1:5,7,9)

 

  • “Hating myself doesn’t make God love me more; it just makes it harder for me to see his love.” (Psa. 103:10-12)

 

God has created our powerhouse brains to be resilient and adaptable. If we have had a fixed mindset, replacing lies and negativity with truth from God’s Word can change it. We also can choose to spend time with those who encourage us and believe in us even when we don’t believe in ourselves and remember that it is those very struggles that God can and does use to produce more endurance and resilience in us.

 

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Rom. 5:1-5 ESV

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The Unseen Foe

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Darkness.

 

What a paradox! Darkness intrigues us, but also repels us. Darkness fascinates us and stirs up fear.

 

We meet darkness as young children with trepidation because our eyes cannot glimpse our parents. At those young ages, what we cannot see does not exist for us so we fear our safe place with safe people has evaporated. As we get a little older, flashlight tag and chasing fireflies on starry summer nights delight us. A bit later still, we risk riding roller coasters in the dark at Disney World and screech as we watch a Halloween movie.

 

When we open the book of Genesis, we see darkness, an inky blackness, at the outset and learn God separates or makes a clear distinction between darkness and light. Reading further we recognize God’s enemy has many names including “The Prince of Darkness”.

 

Nothing gives me more of a sense of what such an enemy looks like perhaps than the final scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring in The Lord of the Rings or the opening scenes of the sequel, The Two Towers. The moviemaker presents a dark creature with some semblance of a man-shape made of shadow, fire, and flame that strikes terror into the company on the quest to destroy the evil ring of power. Gandalf tells them to get out of there because this foe is too great. Then he turns to face it and stand his ground. We breathe a sigh of relief as he skillfully wars against it, but gasp when he believes the enemy is defeated, turns his back to join the others, and discovers his foe has whipped a fiery lash around him pulling him into the abyss.

 

The movie trilogy of Tolkien’s epic work is a favorite of mine. I confess we own the expanded version and I have watched the series more than a few times. Each time I discover another nugget of truth in the twists and turns of the allegorical tale. Each time I learn more about the battle that not only rages on the screen, but also in the real world we all live in.

 

Each time I realize again that I am small, the enemies of darkness are big, but God is bigger still.

 

The movie trilogy reminds me of a battle that is largely unseen by the naked eye but leaves evidence of its existence.

 

The trilogy also reminds me that these foes will not be ultimately and finally defeated until our Lord returns. Yet because of the cross, each of us who call upon His name is empowered to join the fight and stand with Him.

 

One other thing from The Lord of the Rings trilogy stands out as truth. The fellowship is tested at many junctures and begins to break apart. However, it is not the many battles and skirmishes with various creatures of darkness that begin to undo the fragile alliance between men, dwarves, and elves. Rather an unseen foe defeats one and then another in the fellowship.

The foe, unrecognized by each, comes from a place of darkness inside of them that allows a chink in the armor. That place of darkness hidden within them, recognized by the enemies outside of them, neutralizes and defeats them.

 

This truth played out on the screen sobers me with a clear message: To defeat the darkness outside, I must first defeat the darkness inside.

 

 

A Personal Reflection on Passion

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One of the things I feel blessed to experience, as a writer/blogger is connection with others who are creative and courageous in these pursuits. I continually learn from them in many and varied ways. They are scattered across various parts of the country and world with a wide array of lived experiences and backgrounds. They encourage me, challenge me, and confront me with truth, new ideas, and different ways of looking at things. What a gift!

 

Some of these persons I have gotten to know a bit more personally through comments and emails while others are voices I respect, but whose lives I only know through their writing. As I sit at my desk in my den, I smile as I think of Lisa and Stephanie in Alabama, Ceil in Chicago, Susan and Debbie in North Carolina, Michele in Maine, Linda in Massachusetts, Lynn in Alberta, Canada, Ifeoma in Nigeria and others as well. Each stirs my thinking and often nudges me toward writing something.

 

Recently I posted a piece about perseverance and my friend, Lisa from Alabama responded in comments and made mention of a book that connected with the theme of my post. Her skill at being an excellent source for a good book resulted in me ordering it that very day. As I have been reading it, it has stimulated a great deal of thought and encouragement and is the foundation of the musings I am sharing in this reflection.

 

The book is Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth and although this post is not truly a book review, I will be referring to some of her points that stimulated my thoughts. Her topics are ones that have always held my interest as a teacher and counselor, mother and grandmother, but most of all just as a person. The topics addressed intersect and impact how I view the Christian life as well.

 

If you were talking with my husband, he might very well point out to you that I am passionate about nearly everything, chuckling as he said it. I could be tempted to disagree with that statement, but if I am honest with you and myself I think there is some truth in it. I would have simply said that I care deeply about things. That’s true, but the book’s author gives a better definition:

 

Passion is not just something you care about. What I mean is that you care about that same ultimate goal in an abiding, loyal steady way. You are not capricious. Each day you wake up thinking of the questions you fell asleep thinking about. You are, in a sense, pointing in the same direction, ever eager to take even the smallest step toward some other destination.”

 

Clearly, life does not allow any of us to pursue a long list of passions, but oftentimes our list reveals an overarching goal expressed in different ways if we take time for closer scrutiny. Additionally, we grow and develop it over time, gradually potentially gaining more expertise whether it is in laying bricks, teaching, practicing medicine, working in sales or anything else. But it isn’t just about more time; it is crucial that deliberate practice is involved. (The author can help you understand a lot more about that. She also can help you look at how to grow more grit!) Not everyone is passionate or perseverant and certainly not to the same degree.

423016a465ee6ec8f780733413d66607The important question I was provoked to consider was what level of passion was connected to my spiritual walk. Did I simply feel passionate about it or did I pursue development of it to participate with the Lord in my sanctification? In other words, my words, actions, attitudes, and pursuits would need to be congruent.

 

What would growth in spiritual passion look like?

 

It would mean that I would not just attend church and enjoy what I hear, but that I would attend to the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart through worship, the message, and even interactions with others in the service. It would mean that I would long to spend time with the Lord getting to develop a more intimate relationship with Him. I would not only read in His Word, but I would desire to learn how to read it better, learn more, and understand more by purposeful study habits. I would not only spend time talking with the Lord in prayer, but I would also spend time waiting and listening for His nudges and whispers to my heart. My heart would be other-focused in healthy ways more than self-focused. It would mean I would face my weaknesses in any of these areas as well as my sin without fear of rejection or shame and seek the Lord to diligently change them with His help instead of choosing self-rejection, denial, or ignoring their reality.

 

I felt good as I reflected that I had accepted an invitation from my daughter to attend a Simeon’s Trust workshop that taught me excellent tools to learn to unpack scripture without always leaning on a commentary this past fall. That was a step in the right direction and I look forward to another one to gain more practice and learn how to utilize the tools with different genres of the Bible.

 

The longer I considered where my passion level was regarding the Lord, the more I recognized the growth I have experienced. It was also clear to me that there definitely needs to be a strong intersection between my passion and perseverance for positive growth to occur. I saw more ways to expand that quality in my spiritual life as well, even though this was not a spiritual book.

 

Most importantly, I also realized that I needed to be more deliberate in my practicing of these very things and more, not out of some legalistic sense of duty but because I want to get to know more and more about the One I will spend eternity with.

 

Be honest and not condemning. How are you doing with your passionate persevering pursuit of Christ?

 

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