Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday for us Christians. I actually love Lent. For me, Lent is a time for reflection…a time to assess where I am. I usually plan to take on something as well as give up something. I find it more difficult to take on something. I usually begin reading a book that I should have read already. I have books on my shelf that I meant to read but never got around to it. I have pulled two books from my shelf and would like to get through both of them. We’ll see.
Taking time out to reflect can be scary. It is possible to find gaps in our lives and thinking. We may uncover the flaws. This can be upsetting. Nevertheless this is work I need to do even if it finds the things I need to change.
However, it can also be a time of affirmation. It is important to also look at the good things and see where I am gaining in knowledge and strength. It will show me where my accumulated wisdom has helped me to make changes in myself and to help others.
This all sounds very grand. But 40 days is a big block of time and I want to use it well. I am glad that my particular faith sets this time aside. If not I would probably skip it altogether.
Today I saw the new Mary Poppins movie and enjoyed it very much. I read the book as a child (in the deep dark past) and always loved the story. I adored the original film but found this one deeper and more profound. I know that I will watch it again in the future.
I am often caught by phrases spoken in films and in this film it was said “some people think too much.” I suspect that any of us who worry and obsess and have anxiety do this. We think too much.
Thinking too much is definitely what we do when we worry. We lay out every scenario that can possibly take place. I explain to myself that if I encounter one of my scenarios I will be ready to face it. Usually I don’t face any of the things I envision and if I did I would probably not be prepared at all.
This obsessing is a venture into futility. It is a total waste of time, energy and, last but not least, an exercise in chaotic thinking. It leaves me anxious and exhausted.
It has been said that people who do this are smarter than the average. I don’t know if this is true but there are studies with that information. The reason given is that they can come up with more outcomes for any scenario.
If it is true that anxious people are smarter than the average then it is a mixed blessing. I might want to give it up for some peace.
Today I am counting my blessings. I do have many. It’s sad that we tend to think more about struggles and problems. Today I give thanks.
From childhood I have always love the sea and all things related to it. I now live where I can look out at the marsh and watch the tide. We have an eight foot tide here so when tide is out there is a lot of marsh and marsh mud exposed. I love that smell. We have floating docks since you couldn’t reach the water if tide is out.
There is so much life in the marsh. Many different birds from marsh hens to egrets. Lots of sea birds and pelicans love to fish in the creek in front of the house. Painted buntings love the marsh but like a particular plant which is disappearing here due to building so we don’t see them often. I love to watch the birds in my bird bath bathing and coming for water.
We have blue crabs here and shrimp. Fish of all sorts and dolphins swim by often…sometimes with their young.
The tide moves very fast and if you are swimming (even if you are a strong swimmer) it can take you with it. We taught our children and grandchildren early on if caught in the tide to swim to the next dock and walk back. We have often thought of putting in a water wheel for electricity.
Once a mama dolphin brought her children to see my granddaughters who were swimming in front of the dock. My kin almost walked on water getting out. They didn’t care that people pay money to swim with dolphins. I’m sure mama and babies were disappointed.
The beauty of God’s earth surrounds me. I need to take more time to immerse myself in it. It can help to put things into perspective. I am blessed. I treasure every moment I get to watch a ship entering or leaving port, watching the tide and just rocking on the porch. It won’t last forever but I will keep all of this in my memory-safe.
Listen or your tongue will keep you deaf. Native American Proverb
For an extrovert this is a very important statement. I am always ready to talk and I have to curb myself to really listen. Most of us instead of listening are thinking of the next thing we want to say. I still have to hold my tongue and let others share.
I once visited a convent where there was a rule about discussion. Everyone sat at a table and one person spoke at a time. After that there was silence for several minutes. Then it was someone else’s time to speak. That silence left moments for the digestion of what had been said and time to reflect on what you might say that had importance for the discussion. Many conclusions were easily reached as there was little unimportant information shared.
In social situations I can really get carried away but I am working at it. I am getting better at listening. However, I know that I am not always bad at it as people have come to me for solace or advice my whole life. I do seem to know when listening is critical.
The big difference I see at my age is that I am unafraid to speak about matters that are important and frequently avoided. I will speak out for those who are in need of a voice. There are times when this is not appreciated but I never do it in anger or an emotional state. Important things need to be spoken of calmly and rationally. Listening to others in this kind of discussion is also critical and not easy. Emotions can be triggered and I have had to learn when to just back away.
My father (who was amazing) used to say: put your brain in gear before you put your mouth in motion.
I have been listening to an audio book by Alexander McCall Smith from the No1 Ladies Detective Agency series( Tea Time for the Traditionally Built). I love these books and the audios are so well read I think I am there.
The main character had blister on her foot from walking. She had that day put several band aids on it and it had now popped and felt better. She thought to herself (my rendering)”If we will just do what we can about a problem to fix it and move on after that things will work out.”
This thought really resonated with me. We spend a lot of time worrying about a problem and trying to make a decision. In the meantime the problem continues. If we would just determine what can be done and do it we would be ahead of the game. The other piece of the puzzle is that once we have done that we have to let it go. That is also very difficult. We would rather pick it up and chew on it again like a cow chewing a cud. Somehow we have to learn and implement these important things.
Identify the problem.
Decide if anything can be done.
Determine the best solution (for now).
Do what we can.
Let it go.
This is hard for those of us who obsess and worry. Can you do what is possible and then move on?
School is starting here and it has made me think about children. I have a great concern about the children of today. They have so much to overcome. I haven’t read the statistics lately but I wonder how many of them come from homes with divorce or unmarried parents or any home that feels unsteady. The climate today is ok with there being children and no marriage. I certainly don’t condemn the people who choose to live this way but I do question how it is for the children. Marriage doesn’t necessarily help to keep people together but there may be more incentive to think harder about the decision to separate.
To get to the point I am worried for children who grow up in uncertainty. I don’t know that so many of us did in the past. Children need a base. They need a place of safety. Somewhere that feels rock solid. It doesn’t have to be a place….it can be a relationship. That place of safety allows a child to reach outside of that circle without fear. We all need some place to stand anchored.
When parents have little commitment to each other and no incentive to stay together that place of security is threatened. Children need to know that there is a safe place in their world. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be found in the new ways of living but I co think it is harder and may have to be more intentional.Without a safe stand they may seek it elsewhere and it may not be someplace that is really safe.
This has been difficult to put into words that aptly explain what children need. I hope I have, at least, gotten my thoughts across.
I have decided that I am a somewhat unorthodox Christian. I have difficulty following the rules. I am enamored of those who stepped outside of the norm: Matthew Fox, Martin Luther, Meister Eckhart, Francis of Assisi. Hildegard of Bingen, Jesus and many others. I also love the stories/parables of Anthony DeMello and the plain speaking of Marcus Borg. I grow reading them.
I grew up in an eclectic family. My grandparents were Methodist, my parents Presbyterian and my Aunt and Uncle Lutheran. I guess I decided early on that no denomination had all the answers. I still feel that way. Jesus did not follow rules but loved people. He broke the Sabbath rules and many others.
As the “church” grew throughout history it took the message of Jesus and added rules/doctrines to try and be sure that we all follow the norm…. that we are all in sync. This is not wrong in and of itself as we do struggle with the meaning of the writings in the Bible and the words of Jesus. We must listen to the teachings of others and weigh them against our own experience. We also need the community of other Christians. We learn and are supported by the stories of others. I hope that I find a middle ground in all of this.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t find our own way. It’s freedom within form. I don’t ask others to follow my path. Each of us must find our own way and I pray that God leads me in mine. May he also be with you in yours.