Saturday, September 29, 2007

emoting


I just finished reading Frankenstein. I love the style of the classic fiction writers - so emotive and descriptive. I really do not see it as a frightful tale as so many have made it out to be, but one about responsibility and choices. What stood out to me again (as often does when I read fiction in this genre) was the way the characters respond physically to an emotional stimulus. We think that odd in our scientifically-absorbed world. Upon hearing bad news or seeing a shocking sight, it is not uncommon to faint and develop a fever that lasts several months - if you are in said story, that is. In one case, after the news of a family death, the person died a few days later of an apoplectic fit, or brain hemorrhage. This seems odd to us today, but I fear that we might have a tendency to separate the body from the rest of the person far too easily.

I admit it. I have been known to go on emotional roller coasters as I am quite an emotive person and tend to feel things deeply and react strongly to various stimuli. I am beginning to discover that some of this is due to physical causes or unresolved issues and while the emotions are real, they can be misleading. Even so, they cannot simply be changed by modifying the outward stimulus or situation. It goes deeper and wider than that. In my quest for emotional strength and healing, and vice versa, when I seek for physical strength and healing as well, I must consult more than what my eye can see, what my body feels, what my mind knows, or the mood of my soul. I am one, a whole person whose spirit, soul, and body are intertwined in such a way that each part affects the other. I cannot compartmentalise myself. Contrary to some avenues of reason, emotions are not weakness. They are important signposts that let me know something is going on that requires attention. The wisdom comes not in rationalising the emotions and keeping them under control, but in placing each part of me in the right perspective and letting one part inform the other so that each can function as it was meant to do. I think of my emotions as the mechanism that signals me that something requires attention, and then I must engage my mind to figure out what is going on, and my will to accomplish the proper response.

Easier said than done, but I'm working on it.

This are the hands of my mother and myself after we had our first ever mother-daughter manicures. Lovely!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

seriously now

Sometimes I get a little confused. I take things too seriously that I should just shrug off and forget. And at other times I treat lightly those things that carry more weight than I realise. It is a question of priorities, I think, and also a certain amount of awareness that I need to cultivate.

Today I was presented with a few situations where I had to decide if this was something that merited being taken seriously or if it was something that could easily drain way more emotional and physical energy than it was worth. I made a few not entirely correct decisions, but after some rethinking and talking to God about it, I think my actions matched up with the priorites I am trying to pursue, and where there had been frustration, I felt a measure of grace and joy return. So let me summarise:

1. cats being slightly annoyed is not a serious thing.
2. a person needed a helping hand is to be taken very seriously.
3. finishing sweeping my floor is not in the top 10 list.
4. talking on the phone to a friend who has something on their mind is a priority.
5. crossing everything off my "to do" list is satisfying, but nonetheless, secondary.
6. making sure I consult God throughout my day and support people I love by praying for them is primary.
7. mercy triumphs over judgement.
8. peace and love and grace and forgiveness quickly conquer and negate any ill words or actions sent in my direction.

This is a bald eagle at the Ecomuseum giving me a serious glare.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

feed me...NOW!


Sorry about the lack of posts here lately, but I have had a lot of guests through my house in the past few weeks and...well...spending time with people while they are present and here NOW is more important than cleaning the floor or ironing or even *gasp* blogging. And that is something I am still learning - to be totally present in the moment instead of always thinking ahead or back or sideways to some task unfinished or other people I must contact.
Anyway, all the different people through my household have had an effect on my cats. Tea, especially, became very needy and loud and confused about whether she had been fed or not and was quite bothersome when I was trying to sleep. Someone suggested discipline and I thought, yes, I will have to teach her that this is inappropriate behaviour and was thinking about taking the water tool (a small sprayer) to bed to discourage her poking me and meowing into my ear at night. But before I pursued this avenue, I asked a fellow Jesus-lover and cat-lover what she thought and her answer changed my world! (thanks Tobi).
She said when her cats exhibit bad behaviour because of stress or change, she looks them in the eyes and tells them the truth: things like... they are beautiful, loved, and will never be abandoned. Hmmm. I decided to adapt this to suit my situation and give it a try. I came home late Sunday night and had a talk with Tea, telling her wonderful and true things to counteract all the insecurities and anxieties I saw her acting out of. Then I asked God to bring peace to her. The change in her attitude was immediate! Monday morning there was no whining, she was quiet and settled and was content to wait until a reasonable hour before being fed. In fact, Jazz asked for food before she did! I have seen the needy behaviour surfacing a few times since that, so I just keep reinforcing the truth and praying for her. It is amazing what true words can do! Let us speak them often to one another.
If God so cares for the plants and animals of this world, how much more does he care for us?
This is a hungry raccoon at the Ecomuseum, an animal rescue zoo near my house, where I took my visiting mom on Friday.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

come and jump!!

I just started reading a new book today on the bus, Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell. (I know, I know, I still have 2 other books unfinished!!) Some of the words in the book made me stop so that I could read the phrases again just to let the simplicity and truth of them sink in. If you ask me what the book is about I would say it shows off Jesus and cuts the legs off of the monster I will call, "Jesus AND...."

Here are a few quotes:

"Times changes. God doesn't, but times do. We learn and grow, and the world around us shifts, and the Christian faith is alive only when it is listening, morphing, innovating, letting go of whatever has gotten in the way of Jesus and embracing whatever will help us be more and more the people God wants us to be."

"If there is a divine being who made everything, including us, what would our experiences with this being look like? The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up. And if we made him up, then we are in control. And so in passage after passage, we find God reminding people that he is beyond and bigger and more."

Bell talks about doctrines, beliefs and statements about our faith being like the springs on a trampoline; they help give shape and words to the deeper realities that drive how we live everyday. They are most effective if they stretch and flex as we probe and question and develop in our relationship with God. Much less effective is a brick wall approach in which our doctrines appear strong and rigid but will collapse if just one brick is removed or found inadequate.

"Somebody showed me a letter from the president of a large seminary who is raising money to help him train leaders who will defend Christianity. The letter went on about the desperate need for defense of the true faith. What disturbed me was the defensive posture of the letter, which reflects one of the things that happens in brickworld: you spend a lot of time talking about how right you are. Which of course leads to how wrong everybody else is. Which then leads to defending the wall. It struck me reading the letter that you rarely defend a trampoline. You invite people to jump on it with you."

And I'm only on page 27.

This is a tree and a park bench near Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. And it is sideways just because I think it looks more interesting that way.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

lessons from a video game



define: transitive verb 1a : to determine or identify the essential qualities or meaning of; b : to discover and set forth the meaning of; 2 a : to fix or mark the limits of.

Last weekend I learned to play a new video game (not that I play many at all, my favourite being a boat racing one - Hydro Thunder woohoo!) that involved characters fighting each other in kickboxing. It was fun at first as I learned all the moves and got in a few punches and won a spar or two. Then the person showing me the game changed from being my teacher to being my opponent and *argh* I lost time after time after time and pretty soon had racked up a score of 14 - 0. So I tried to play the solo game against the computer and after a few good rounds, ended up with a character I could not beat and each time I tried, I did worse and worse until it seemed pointless to even try. So I gave up, threw the controller down, let my anger and frustration show, even shed a few tears and in general wondered why I ever tried to learn this stupid game. I felt inadquate and slow and slightly foolish and stupid. I hate those feelings.

Sunday night at church I was listening to God during worship and he asked me why, "What do you let define you?" Will you let wins and losses, other people's comments and difficult situations, strong emotions and harsh words tell you who you are as a person and direct your actions and attitudes? Or will you let the character and voice of your creator and lover be the determining factor in your decisions and reactions? I pick the latter, because the former just tosses me around like a leaf in the wind and I lose myself in the turmoil.

This is a tour guy in the Quaker House in Philadelphia.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

dream on...


I have been having rather vivid dreams lately and though I don't take them quite as literally as I used to, nor order my life decisions around them, I do think that sometimes they give me a good gauge of where I am at in my journey of learning. Sometimes they can also provide a solution or clarity on some issue that has been eluding me in my waking moments (just like one can sometimes solve a problem or remember a detail by taking a break and thinking about something unrelated).

In one of my dreams I was confronted with strangers who had come into my home and rearranged my furniture and had given some of my belongings away and were generally making themselves at home without any consideration for whose home it was. I questioned them on their identity and why they were in my home and quickly and firmly, but kindly, let them know that they were to put everything back as they found it and return anything they had disposed of. I then explained that I was a generous person and was happy to share my home with people who asked to stay with us, but since they had not made this request, the guest rooms were already spoken for and I would have to turn them away. I was amazed at my decisive and authoritative manner in the dream, setting things in order and placing the squatters under my authority instead of letting them usurp it.

I do have a tendency to let forceful people take advantage of me sometimes because I am very mild mannered, but I am learning that in the areas that God has placed into my care, I need to stand firm and take responsibility for their well-being. It also clarified for me the line between where I have the authority to change things and where I do not. Today I realised another key part to this is motivation. Being open and accepting and making people feel welcome is a noble thing, but an inadequate and rather weak motivation, I am finding out. A much higher and godly (and therefore more effective) motivation is to pursue the things God is doing, protect the working of the Spirit, and point people in the direction of maturing in Jesus. I welcome Jesus into my home and work and relationships first, and trust him to show me how to deal with each individual and situation that I encounter.

This is Smuggler's Cove near Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Friday, September 14, 2007

cats and dogs



Someone sent me an article on Cat and Dog Theology, a book written by Bob Sjogren. It takes off from this joke:

A dog says, "You pet me, you feed me, you love me, you must be God."

A cat says, "You pet me, you feed me, you love me, I must be God."

Basically, dogs are all about the master, and cats are all about themselves. And so it is in much of Western Christianity. We think that God is here to make things easy for us, to get us from birth to death as comfortably and with as many blessings as possible. And this self-centredness is a far cry from Jesus' example of giving his life for others and accepting whatever came from the Father's hand. A blessed and successful life by our standards may very well be quite different from the life of abundance that God promises us if we walk with Him and do what he does.

The word, "master" is not a popular one these days, but very biblical and we should not be ones who neglect the concept.

This is Cassie from Brooklyn chillin' in the back yard on Labour Day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

highlights from a road trip

We just returned from a road trip that included New York City, Philadelphia, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and Toronto, Ontario. Here are a few of the world famous things we saw: the Statue of Liberty, the National Constitution Center, Niagara Falls, and Cassie, the best dog in Brooklyn. Okay, Cassie might not be world-reknowned, but she should be. If you asked me what the highlights were of the trip, however, they would probably not include these famous sites. They would include brunch with Mike and Char who always manage to mix fun and wisdom in wonderful proportion. They would include making a helium balloon bouquet for Ryan and chasing it down the parking lot (alas it was lost in an updraft). They would include cooking a French meal for Constance who was somewhat confounded not to be in the kitchen but just able to sit and talk while someone else did the serving for a change. They would be listening to Jana talk about her confidence in Jesus to guide her future. They would be seeing the look on Greg's face when he received the gift of a beautiful musical instrument. They would be noticing Dean relax more and more each day as the company of good friends and the extravagance of a good God erased all the worries and responsibilities of business and church for a time. It would be a short motorcycle ride with Dean that reminded me of all the good reasons for being on this unpredictable journey. It would be going to sleep every night with contentment and rising every morning with expectation. It would be knowing that there are more people in the world who love us and consider us part of their family than I had thought us worthy of. It would be the stretching of my heart as once again I see how much bigger God's heart is than I could ever imagine. *sigh of gratitude*

Friday, September 07, 2007

let's talk about grace...

I am currently on a road trip so have not been blogging much. One of the stops we made was New York City and as we walked past this building near Times Square on Tuesday, I just had to stop and take a picture. The word just seemed to leap out at me from the stark white background.

And later on that day, I had an experience which made it plain that I still do not walk in this element as much as I could or should or want to. It seems that I still hold myself to some sort of arbitrary standard of performance and expect a certain level of righteousness and competence from myself and when for some reason, I am unable to deliver, I just feel horrible about myself and wonder if I have any value at all and deem it unlikely that I can ever do anything right again. I know, I know, I can blow things way out of proportion, but that is the way I feel sometimes and as God so gently reminded me a few days ago, this is not walking in grace.

Grace is a field God has invited me to freely run in, and I am determined to spend more time exploring this wide open space instead of trudging through a self-made fenced-in maze of unattainable expectations.