Uncategorized

Applying the Principles

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that sleep is… a struggle for me. The things that messed up my sleep happened so early on in my life that I honestly don’t remember ever not having it be a fight. I’ve struggled with nightmares and insomnia my entire life. In fact, sleep itself used to be something that triggered me–I’d get panic attacks every time I tried to go to sleep. Sleep and I have not been friends in the past, although that is definitely changing (thank the good Lord!).

So, various times I’ve talked about the five Tai Chi principles (here and here)–being calm, relaxed, centered, grounded, and whole & total–and how they translate into spiritual reality–trusting God, surrender, living out of the essence of who God has made you to be, being grounded in who God is, and being engaged with the entirety of who you are and what’s actually happening around you (vs. what you wish/mistakenly think is happening). After having a few folks ask about how I use those principles in my life, I thought I’d share an example of how I apply them–in this case, how I apply them to my sleep issues.

Now, I am 100% not saying that you should ignore the physical causes of insomnia–e.g., lack of magnesium, not eating enough calories, exercising too close to bed, blue light near bedtime, certain insomnia medications, various chemicals, etc., etc., etc. I firmly believe that God has designed our bodies to work a certain way and when we align with His design, we’ll thrive–for example, we can’t expect Him to give us healthy bodies if we ingest poison every day. Please, if you struggle with sleep issues, address those things. Sleep is huge to a person’s mental and physical well-being, so it’s not the sort of thing one should just let slide. My current favorite book on these issues is “The Sleep Solution: End Your Insomnia Naturally” by Emily Benfit (and no, I didn’t get a free copy or any referrals, etc., etc.), so if you have sleep problems, go check it out!

Additionally, I’m not trying to downplay the emotional component of sleep issues. I spent a fairly large amount of time in therapy dealing with why I had nightmares all the time and have done cranial-sacral therapy to release the stored trauma on a physical level.

So, yes, applying the principles doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We’re not just spiritual beings–we’re bodies too.

Okay! Now that I’ve put all those disclaimers there, let’s get into the principles. I’ve already talked about Psalm 127 and how burning the candle at both ends is not a good idea. I’ve had verse two percolating in my brain: “In vain you get up early and stay up late, working hard to have enough food– yes, He gives sleep to the one He loves” (HCS). Yes, some translations talk about how God gives to us even while we sleep vs. giving us sleep itself, but it makes sense to me that God gives us sleep. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how if God gives me something and I don’t get it, I’m the problem. So, as I’ve been trying to be in a place where I can receive sleep (which includes addressing the physical and emotional stuff), I ran it through the principles recently.

  • Being calm/Trusting God–I realized that I have a scarcity mentality about sleep; I don’t actually trust that God will give me sleep or even that He created enough sleep for everyone in the world, as though if some people get plenty of deep sleep, it won’t leave enough deep sleep around for the rest of us. Yes, I realize that’s weird. I’m just sharing where I’ve been at. This lack of trust results in anything but calmness about sleep. My brain goes a million miles per hour when I start exhibiting signs of insomnia, instead of being able to stay chill and try to problem solve. So I’ve been working on changing that–on trusting God to take care of my sleep instead of trying to provide for myself.
  • Being physically relaxed/surrendered to God–Um, if I’m not calm, I’m not relaxed; it’s kind of a given. This is similar to what I just said, but I realized I’ve been trying to force sleep. Sadly, going to sleep is kind of the opposite of forcing something–it’s more about letting go of consciousness rather than grabbing onto unconsciousness. I’m working on letting God be the one to provide sleep and on letting go.
  • Being centered/living out of the essence of who God’s created you to be–in my mind, this is about making sure your sleep habits match your personal quirks. For instance, I’m pretty picky about my pillow and I can’t sleep unless I have a foot out of the covers. Applying the principles doesn’t mean ignoring who you are. It involves embracing who you are.
  • Being grounded/remembering who God really is–obviously, this one is an issue. As I said, I tend to have this belief that God withholds sleep or didn’t make enough sleep for the world. So I’ve been working on changing that belief. As I said, Psalm 127:2 has definitely prompted me to pay attention to what I actually believe about God’s character in this area. I actually had no idea that I had such a wonky view of God until I started thinking about it–isn’t it so interesting that we can compartmentalize that way?
  • Being whole and total/being engaged with the entirety of who you are and what’s actually happening around you–I don’t know about you, but I have a bad habit of laying in bed and then sending my brain somewhere else. I think about what else is on my to-do list, what I’m going to be doing the next day, something that happened in the past, a story that I read, what I’m working on in my writing, etc., etc. I’ve been working on trying to be fully present in my bed when I lay down–to feel the bed, feel the sheets, hear my husband sleeping, feel my body relaxing into the bed, etc., etc. I’m also working on not making assumptions about what’s happening. For example, I don’t need to assume that it will take me x amount of hours to fall asleep or to decide when I first lay down whether I’m likely to sleep or not that night.

So there you go! As I said, a couple people have asked about actually applying the principles. This is how I apply them. And they work great for every area of our lives!

 

 

 

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Trust-fund Children

So how’s everybody doing with all this heat, eh? The heat index was above 110 a few days around here–definitely warmer than I’d like.

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary about abundance and what it means on a practical level. One of the people (I can’t remember which) defined abundance as “enough-ness.” I don’t know about you, but I really struggle with that. I feel like there’s not enough time in my day… that I don’t have enough energy to do the things I want to do or enough money to do some things that have been on our list for a while. There are lots of other “enoughs” that make it on my list regularly.

As children of God, we have a different perspective on abundance than those who don’t know Him. I’ve been reminded of this fact quite a bit lately. I have a friend who doesn’t know God and therefore, is on their own. It’s been convicting listening to them worry. I’ve been reminded of that section in Matt. 6 where Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”(Matt. 6:31-33 ESV).

You heavenly Father knows that you need them all…. What if we’re all really trust-fund children? I’ve been asking myself that question for the past week or two. What if I really believed that my heavenly Father is a billionaire (financially, energy-wise, time-wise, etc., etc.–fill in whatever your lack is)? What if I believed that He gives me a certain amount of money–not because that’s all the money He has, but because it’s a test to see where my heart is at? What if money isn’t about providing for myself but instead about being a good receiver? What if time isn’t about trying to cram as much into it as possible but instead about being intentional and wise with the moments I do have?

As I’ve been thinking about this in my own life, I’ve concluded that my lack is not the issue; abundance is about whether I believe in God’s abundance and in my daughtership. the reality of life for a child of God is that He provides for us. As I’ve said before, it’s just as silly for me to worry about whether God will provide for me as it is for my daughters to worry about if I’m going to feed them today. If I really believe that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10-12) and I really believe that I am His precious child, my lack (whatever it is) isn’t a disaster. God is 100% capable of providing whatever it is that I need, and, as His child, if it’s in my best interest to have it, He’ll give it to me. Unlike people who aren’t God’s children, we don’t need to run around like chickens with our heads cut off desperately trying to make ends meet. We just have to run after God.

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

Uncategorized

An Internal Art Form

Do you ever get so focused on getting from point A to point B in your day that you forget even why you’re going to point B? It’s so easy to go through the motions, isn’t it? Some days I find myself doing that. For instance, I get caught up in just getting through my kids’ homework vs. making sure they actually understand the concepts.

Recently at my Tai Chi class we were talking about how Tai Chi is an internal art form, but it’s not always taught that way. It’s so interesting: because of the differences between eastern thought and western thought there are some things that are just hard to translate in a way that makes sense to our western mindset. In my opinion, Peter Ralston has done an amazing job of actually translating those concepts into a way that’s understandable. A while back I talked about the five principles–being calm, relaxed, centered, grounded, and whole and total–and what the corresponding spiritual reality is–trusting God, surrender, living out of the essence of who God has made you to be, being grounded in who God is, and being engaged with the entirety of who you are and what’s actually happening around you (vs. what you wish/mistakenly think is happening).

My teacher was talking about how the first Tai Chi class he attended taught the choreography of the form, but didn’t talk at all about the principles–which is nuts because the principles are 95% of Tai Chi. It’s so sad. I can’t imagine taking the principles out of the form. Without the principles, the form is pretty, but it’s not functional. For instance, if you try to push something with your arms alone, you have less power than if you utilize your whole body. Tai Chi is an internal art form–95% of it you can’t see. You can’t see if someone is calm, relaxed, centered, grounded, whole and total–although you can make some pretty accurate guesses from observing them. And you can’t relax for someone else. You can encourage them to relax, but you can’t do the work for them.

Christianity is the same way: 95% of it is all the connection with God and hanging onto who you are in Christ–it’s stuff that isn’t visible. When we focus on the things that are visible–e.g., whether you attend church, read your Bible, pray, etc., etc., etc.–we are missing out on the majority of what’s important. It may look all shiny and nice on the outside, but it’s not functional. I don’t know about you, but I need reminded of that occasionally. I love that God is the power behind, um, well, everything in my life. He’s the power for me to stay calm when I’m late and stuck behind someone driving five miles under the speed limit. He’s the power for me to listen to my children and tell them that I love them the way they are. He’s the power for me to write when things are going awesome and when I feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall. He’s the power for me to love my neighbor even when I don’t feel like it.

I hate to say it, but if you’re focused on the 5%, you’re not doing okay. There’s so much more to life, to thriving and abundance and joy in Christ than that 5%. As I tell my kids, stop, take a deep breath and regroup. Reconnect with the 95%. Nobody can do it for you–Christianity is an internal art form.

 

Uncategorized

The God Who Fights

As I’ve shared, I’m working my way back through Beth Moore’s study on the Psalms of Ascent. One thing that’s been really hitting me lately is something out of Psalm 124. I’m going to post the whole thing because it’s really beautiful:

If the Lord had not been on our side—let Israel say—if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away. Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I don’t know what your upbringing was, but I am in awe that anyone would be on my side. Joshua 23:10 talks about how God fights for Israel so they were triumphant. Romans 8:28-39 talks about how God is on His children’s side. In the past, I’ve read these verses and though about how nice all that is, but somehow it hit me differently this time.

Imagine these two scenarios (we’ll use parents/children because God images Himself as our Father). Scenario one: A boy bullies you at school. You come home and tell your father about it and he says, “Man, that sounds really rough. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’m sure someday that boy won’t be in your life and then things will get better.” Scenario two: A boy bullies you at school. You come home and tell your father about it and he holds you and allows you to express your feelings. Then he teaches you healthy boundaries and how to protect yourself, reminding you that you are precious and don’t need to put up with someone treating you otherwise. He also calls both the boy’s parents and the school and talks to them about how to resolve the situation.

The second scenario involves your Father bestirring himself for you, rather than just commiserating. A lot of us have people who commiserate with us about problems in our lives–and I’m not downplaying the benefit of having someone truly listen and be with us in our misery; it’s a powerful thing–but how many of us have had someone actually fight for us? Someone who has the power and authority to change the situation and then actually uses that power and authority on our behalf.

I have to tell you that it’s the sort of thing that gives me goosebumps when I think about it. God has a lot of power and a lot of authority, and He brings all that to bear in my life on my behalf. Sometimes I feel really alone and/or unsure of how to even begin to fix various things in my life. But that’s not reality. I’m not alone. God says that anyone who touches His people, touches the apple of His eye. He’s not just going to let things slide. And He knows how to fix things. After so many years of people commiserating without ever bringing their ability or right to help me, I’m amazed that the God of the universe intervenes my life.

So let me remind you: God is on your side today, now, whatever your circumstances are. He fights for you.

Uncategorized

The Thin Line between Surviving & Thriving

A few months ago, in the study on 1 & 2 Thessalonians I’d been doing, I came across this idea that’s been percolating since then.

Beth Moore argued that the only difference between surviving and thriving is faith, hope, and love (Children of the Day, p.21)

I think I agree with her.

Faith opens the door to believe that God is doing something in our circumstances, even when our circumstances feel impossibly awful. Faith believes that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Faith believes that God is who He says He is and that He’ll do what He promises. Faith can look at the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil because God is with me. Faith sees the potential and stubbornly pursues presence.

Hope likewise knows that there’s something better, so it’s worth my energy to stick around–despite how my circumstances look. Hope looks for the best in a situation. Hope knows that it’s only a matter of time until we get to see the fruits of our suffering–if nothing else, we are guaranteed eternal peace and joy after we die. And hope does not disappoint because God doesn’t disappoint.

Love opens the door to deeper relationships–to depending on God and growing in community. Being loved by God means that we’re safe–that He’s always working in our best interest. Community allows others to bear our burdens and for us to exercise our calling and gifting in the process of bearing others’ burdens.

Faith, hope, and love–not whether our circumstances change or not–define whether we can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances.

 

Movies

Bookshelf Tour: Speed Racer (the movie)

So, I was thinking books when I said “bookshelf tour,” but well, maybe I should have named it “story tour” because there a movies that are just as important to me as books. As I’ve mentioned, Speed Racer is one of my soul’s “chiropractic adjustments.” Most people we’ve shared that movie with just don’t get it, but I love it! Fortunately, our kids do get it 🙂

Okay, so for starters, lots of people can’t get over the cinematography. The film was done by the Wachowskis (they also did the Matrix if you’re not familiar with them) in 2008, and they really worked to keep the cartoon feel for people who loved the old cartoon Speed Racer. So, the colors are really bright, and there are some camera shots where you see multiple events happening on-screen at once. It can be a lot. But, once you let go of all that (if you dislike it–I personally thought their story-telling methods were really interesting), it’s easy to see there are some incredible themes.

*SPOILER ALERT*

The way they handle family is so beautiful. After a fight, Pops Racer becomes estranged from his son Rex, who dies in a car accident without ever reconciling. In the beginning Pops believes he lost Rex in the car accident, but later, when his son Speed is in the same situation, he realizes that he lost Rex to the fight because he “let him think a stupid motor company was more important” and he–dah duh dah!–changes. I can’t tell you how beautiful that is to me. He handles the same situation with Speed very differently.

You also see how important family is to all of them throughout the film. They really stick together and encourage each other, despite being aware of each other’s faults.

I absolutely love the way they talk about calling. In the movie, Speed participates in a race in order to try to bring down one of the race fixers. At the time, however, his father doesn’t support him. Mr. Racer tells him “You think you can drive a car and change the world? It doesn’t work that way!” When winning the race doesn’t have the results Speed hoped for, he’s discouraged and upset. Racer X then talks to him about why they race. He says, “You don’t get into a T-180 to become a driver–you do it because you’re driven.” I love that statement. I can’t tell you the number of times I tell myself that. We don’t do what God calls us to do so that we can become a certain kind of person. We do it because we’re driven, because there’s something in our souls that just can’t leave things the way they are. Anyway! At the end of the movie, after Speed wins the last race, the race commentator says “It’s a whole new world!” Basically, the point driven home is that Speed was able to change the world simply by driving a car.

Speed also struggles with why he should keep driving when he finds out that the vast majority of the racing industry has nothing to do with cars or racing, but instead with money and power. He tells his girlfriend, Trixie, that when he’s driving “everything just makes sense.” Throughout the movie, you learn that Speed has been obsessed with driving pretty much since he was born (arguing it’s in his blood). And his mother gives him this beautiful pep talk about how what he does is art, not business. In the end, he drives because it’s part of who he is–not because of what he can get from it. I don’t know about you, but I need that reminder. I need to be told that do flows out of be. I need to be reminded that I mother/teach/write/etc. because of who I am, not in order to try to reach a certain outcome.

On the other hand, I love being reminded that simply by being the person God created me to be God can use me to create “a whole new world.” That my calling isn’t a waste of time even on the days when it feels like it is. And the way that Racer X talks about the world–“it doesn’t matter if racing never changes. What matters is if we let racing change us”–is another reminder for me not to hang my hat on results. Just like Paul talks about it Galatians where he says “what matters is new creation,” what matters in the here and now is who we are–not what we accomplish. God’s the one who accomplishes things. It’s our job to just be who we’re supposed to be (and to act on that–e.g., to actually participate in races if that’s our calling) and God does whatever He’s going to do through all that. Such a comforting thought!

So that’s why we watch Speed Racer. There are some years where we watch it a LOT if our life choices get called into question. For us, watching Speed Racer is a call to “hold the line!” even when there are no results and friends/family members think we’re crazy for doing the things we believe God has called us to do.

Uncategorized

Joy & Presence

Last week was rough. A death in our family. Drama in other parts of our family. Sick kids. A ton of things on my to-do list. It felt overwhelming.

I’ve been thinking about joy a fair amount for the past several weeks. Becoming a person who’s characterized by joy is something that I’ve been praying for for a long, long time. I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life, so verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:16 challenge me like nobody’s business.

“Be joyful always.” How are we supposed to accomplish that in a broken world? We’re all inundated with challenges and pains on a daily basis–sometimes a momently basis.

I misread a commentary on this particular verse, and it sparked off a line of thought I’ve never even considered. In the church we talk a lot about joy, but what is despair? I’d argue that despair is characterized by the belief that ____ will never get any better. That belief results in absence. By absence, I mean a lack of trying, a lack of positive attention, and often escapism and/or denial. Growing up in a large family, we all became champions at escapism. We’re all bookaholics, and it wasn’t uncommon to need to physically shake someone in order to get their attention because they were so ensconced in the book reality.

Anyway! I think when you talk to someone who struggles with despair, there are lots of evidences of giving up, as though trying takes far more energy than it’s worth because change is out of reach. I know that’s how it works in my own life. I tend to pretend whatever the problem is doesn’t exist, and if I can’t successfully do that, I throw myself into being “not-there,” whether that’s by obsessing over minutiae I can control like housecleaning or by flat out leaving–getting out of the situation or escaping into literature/movies.

But something I’ve been learning in Tai Chi is how to be fully present in a moment. It’s been a difficult skill to acquire, and I am far from mastering it. Basically, it means that you’re there. Not sending your mind to the future or the past. Not planning what else you might do that day. Your brain is in the moment you’re in, focusing on the thing you’re doing. You’re fully aware of all parts of your body and interacting with the moment using the whole of who you are–physically, emotionally, spiritually. There’s an intensity to putting yourself fully in the moment.

As I was thinking about despair being characterized by absence, I found myself wondering if a big part of joy is simply being present. It kinda reminds me of little kids and the intensity with which they live the things they’ve anticipated. Think about Christmas or birthday presents or a looked-for outing or a treat. If you don’t have those kinds of things from your own childhood, watch your own (or somebody else’s) kids. I have often heard people talk about how a healthy childhood is characterized by joy. I think there’s something to that. Healthy children firmly believe that there is something good coming in each day, so they have no need to run away from the day. On the contrary, they throw themselves into the day with gusto because something awesome will happen at some point, and if they’re not paying attention, they might miss it.

As children of God, we have that same guarantee: something good is going to come today (Rom. 8:28; Matt. 7:7-11). Just let that sink into your soul for a moment.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to remember/believe that. However, if we really revel in the reality of being beloved, we can be present in each moment–throw ourselves into it with gusto, if you will. We can be passionately engaged in this moment even when we’re in pain and life is just plain hard, when there’s relational conflict, when there’s a mountain of dishes or a mile-long to-do list. No matter what horrible situation we’re in the middle of, we can stay present because we know that God is going to do something good and, just like children anticipating a treat, we don’t want to miss it.