Archive for the ‘Peace’ Tag

A Gentle Day   Leave a comment

Today was a mildly good day emotionally, and I thought it should be noted since I haven’t been on the positive side of the ledger in a long time.  It was not exciting or fulfilling or memorable, but pleasant in a blue-hazy way.  In the past I tried desperately to decode the secret of a day like this–what did I do right or avoid doing wrong?  How can I keep this going?  Like a capsize-victim scrambling to straddle a rolling barrel, I soon tipped over again, even more tired and discouraged from all my scraping and clawing.

Now I have a better appreciation for the staid Buddhists who let the feelings pass through like vapors across a room.  If God or the universe or my beleaguered soul is sending a message, it needs to be less cryptic.  I keep my eyes open, but when fog settles in, patience is the better part of wisdom.  Insight often takes the slow train, and pacing the platform doesn’t get it here any faster.  As Erwin Schrodinger says, “In an honest search for knowledge, you quite often have to abide by ignorance for an indefinite period” (a quantum physicist validating my confusion!).  I have learned to enjoy the good while it lingers, not weighing it down with questions or trying to finagle an extension.  It is what it is for as long as it is, and when it smiles,  I am grateful.

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Posted September 26, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal

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Giving Up Clarity for Lent   6 comments

I grew up the son of a preacher.  We went to Sunday school, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, and Wednesday prayer meeting.  We had daily family devotions with Bibles and hymn books, and all six kids, without exception,  prayed out loud.  But we looked on liturgy with suspicion.  A real relationship with God was spontaneous, not circumscribed by rituals like all those unsaved Roman Catholics.  I never even heard of Lent until I was an adult, but we lived Lent all year long–self-examination, repentance, discipline, sacrifice.  The problem is that we never got out of Lent.

boy in pew

By the time I discovered grace, I had enough Lent practice behind me to cover several lives over.  Last year was my first participation in Lent, and I approached it with the eyes of grace–to bless my soul by releasing it from some burden that weighed it down, to sacrifice a problem not a pleasure.  I decided to sacrifice busyness and embrace rest.  It was so good for my heart, that after 40 days I made it my spiritual emphasis for the year.  I have planned another year-long Lenten emphasis for 2013–sacrificing my need to figure things out (and so a reliance on my acuity), in other words, I am embracing ignorance.

confusion sign

I did not come to this point willingly.  I begged and pleaded for insight, thought myself into and out of a thousand speculations, tried to pry the lid off that sealed box of truth, and finally gave up.  Learning to trust God with a confused mind is a bit crazy and doesn’t feel very safe.  I was just now reminded that learning to trust God last year was pretty tough too–expecting more from doing less?  That doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense either.  I don’t know if my brain needs a break, but I’m pretty sure my reliance on it is false security.  I have enough faith to take this path, I need more faith if I am to find peace along this way instead of turmoil and fear.

Posted February 12, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal

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Hope in the Storm   Leave a comment

For the last few days things have been looking up, I have felt more positive than negative, more times of calm than of anxiety.  I would even say I have been happy.  But I have been reluctant to share for fear that folks will suppose me “back on my feet.”  We all give a break to those who are going through a hard time–we give them more patience, gentleness and concern, and a lighter load.  But once they have “recovered,” we suppose their strength has returned and put them back in the harness.  My personal experience is very different from this picture of energy simply lost and regained.

I once  had armor so thick nothing could touch my soul, including real and deep love.  Those defenses by which I kept the world at bay I laid aside to seek my true self and connect vulnerably with others.  And once I stepped into the wind of my fears, the wounds that had been festering for decades were exposed.  I have been attending to them now for ten years, but they are forty years deep and my soul is still quiveringly sensitive to any scrape against them.  

Kimberly and I talk about our personal and marital “bubble.”  When I am in my own bubble, untouched by the storms of life, I can eventually come to a place of peace as I have in the last few days.  When Berly and I are on the same page, which is most of the time, we share a bubble and reinforce that sense of security.  I can nestle into God’s love.  But the bubble is easily burst as the wind and sleet dash against our nest–a phone call or email, a memory, a bill, a frown… even a sunny day (like yesterday) can depress me, reminding me how dependent we are on lawn mowing jobs that I have no energy to hunt down.

FROM THE NEST LOOKING OUT

I can be content and even happy inside our bubble, but it is a very fragile peace, constantly threatened and often breached. Without some refuge from the world’s criticisms, disparagements, impatience, and harshness, I am simply battered relentlessly. And my spirit can find no air to breathe, no space to move, no pause to rest.  I am reduced to emotional survival.  So I withdraw to my nest to build up strength to face  the next nor’easter.  This, to my mind, is the biblical “fight of faith.”  Unfortunately, the storm can reach inside my little knothole, and often does.  Sometimes all my energy is used to keep it out.  It is always threatening to strike, and the closer it gets, the more difficult it is to find a place of peace, a gentle space in which to rest and heal.

But in the last few days, I sense a change. an ability to keep the storm outside and God and me inside the bubble of faith that keeps the shame and doubts at bay, a potential to respond in healthy ways to shame-driven tasks of the past.  I am able to see God as on my side regardless of my weaknesses, blunders, myopia, and erratic progress.  Perhaps I am finding a new way through the hurricane, though it is a strange direction to take as I will soon share.

Posted March 20, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal

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Be Still My Soul   4 comments


The truth is that my soul asks for very little.  It mostly just needs to be heard and affirmed.  It is sad that I have spent my life denying it this small benefit, that my automatic response is still to shame it into compliance.  My Lenten fast from haste has inclined me to be gentle with my soul, and with the support of my wife, it seems to be making a real difference.  I think I may make this my year’s resolution, “be gentle to your soul, listen to it and affirm it.”

This afternoon with many tasks pressing for attention, my soul said, “I need a little care.”  So I left the tasks aside and followed my heart.  After an hour with a soft puppy, a soft pillow, soft music, and gliding birds on our wide-screen, my spirit relaxed and set me free to be “productive” without choosing against my own needs.  Forcing my soul to comply to the demands of duty tears at its very fabric.  My soul is far more important than the leaky faucet, dirty living room, or ragged lawn.

OUT OF SEASON

My heart is even more important (dare I say it?) than satisfying others with birthday gifts, a lift to the airport, or help painting.  If I wound my soul by caring for someone else, I not only harm myself, but prevent God from using alternative means to meet that need (or get in God’s way of teaching them an even greater truth).  My giving to others must come from genuine resources that I have to offer.  If it is squeezed from me by obligation, fear, shame, or the like, it will hurt both me and the one I am intending to help.  Giving sacrificially is a part of genuine love, even to the point of giving my life for another.  But God forbids me to sacrifice my soul.

This year I really need to give up my role as Savior of the world… or even of this particular situation or person.  I need to learn to trust God with others’ needs and respect myself even if others blame me, reject me, or try to otherwise manipulate me to meet their expectations.   That is a very tough thing to do without strong human backing, especially since my emotions are quick to agree with their evaluations.  Thankfully, I always have Kimberly’s support (not on every occasion, but always in the set of her heart towards me… I think she is more supportive of me than I am of myself).

If I feel pressured by the expectations of others, I will try not to protect myself by minimizing their need (shaming or blaming them in return).  Their need is legitimate and significant whether or not I can meet it.  Caring about their need does not mean I must care for their need.  What a heavy yoke I have been dragging around most of my life.  In spite of how I imagined it, Jesus did not say, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you more to do,” but he said to the weary, “I will give you rest.”

Posted March 16, 2012 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Shadow and Light   Leave a comment

In the Shadows

I was pushing my grocery cart slowly down the aisle this afternoon when I felt my soul stabbed.  This was one of those emotional spasms that spring without warning or excuse… sudden and sharp, making me feel physically ill or out of breath or as though I need to double over and grab my stomach from a knifing.  When your psychic energy is chronically low, even small things can cause a short-out.

Just now as I write, I stop to recall my shopping and identify where I got jumped.  At the entrance to Food Lion, I picked up the sales leaflet and wended my way through the produce and baking sections, making the cheapest selections and asking with each item, “Can we do without this?”   My conscious mind was sorting through ounces and labels, but down below that, economic claustrophobia started squeezing my heart.  Then I saw the ground beef.  After 5 p.m. meat is marked down, sometimes as much as half off (depending on how old it is).  At a 50 percent discount, hamburger was still $2 a pound.

That shock connected viscerally to my concern over whether I can make enough mowing lawns this spring and summer, whether it really was a good financial choice to buy a truck and mower (what do I know about lawn care anyway?!), whether Kimberly or I might have some major medical issue now that our health insurance has lapsed.  These worries intermingle with fears of inadequacy, poor planning, stupidity, limited energy… a hundred whispered concerns babble in the backroom of my mind, and when I don’t recognize the source of my anxiety, it is difficult to calm the muttering.  At least now I see what the clammer was about.  Why the fear?

I know God can be trusted, but living involves my (faulty) input.  It seems that however good and great God is, I can screw things up, make bad decisions, miss a turn.  God has his hands full to keep me from driving into the guardrails, and I never know when God might see fit to let me “learn my lesson.”  I tell myself that God is not like that.  He is full of grace and patience and protective care.  And I believe it… mostly… for now.  I snuggle up next to my wife, scratch my dog’s ears, and find the shadow lifting.

Light in the Woods

Light In The Forest

Posted March 12, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal

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Fireside Chat   10 comments

As we have been struggling financially for a while, I decided to save money this winter by installing a wood burning stove in our basement.  I found a 55 gallon barrel, scavenged cinder blocks and ductwork from ditches and dumpsites, and with a $50 kit converted the barrel into a stove.  I mortared the blocks together with clay from my yard and ran the ducts into our heating system.  It is utilitarian, stuck in our basement with our washer/dryer, fusebox, unfinished ceiling and walls, and storage units, so I let it  be an uncouth affair.  It has served us well with free wood which is always available in these forested hills.

Nature's Ballet

As I build each fire and stoke it through the day, I have gradually spent more and more time just watching the flames.  In my boyhood, the hearth was a spot of peace and calm.  It was simply for our pleasure, so we lit it only when we had leisure time and a desire to sit in quietness.  Childhood emotional memories are deep rooted, and I find that sitting by the fire now is healing, soothing.  At first I sat leaning against a paving stone on the cement floor, but I eventually dragged a recliner into this storage room, and here I sit, listening to the steaming, popping, and crackling and watching the orange dancing glow, art in motion.

I’d like to ask my readers, what was peaceful and calming for you as a child?  Would you share it with us?

Posted February 19, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal

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