hands under door
Sabbath
2

Even Jesus Needed Downtime

Pinterest

My childhood home was a 1000 square foot raised ranch; five people, one bathroom.  My mom’s favorite form of relaxation has always been taking nice, long, hot baths.  Thus, it was not unusual for my siblings and I to unabashedly enter the bathroom as needed while Mom was soaking in the tub.  I mean, isn’t that what the shower curtain is for?

House in McAfee
The thing is that we didn’t necessarily enter to use the facilities.  At any point in Mom’s bath, there may be one, two, or all three of us just talking with Mom: laying on the floor, sitting on the hamper, or lounging on the (closed-lidded) toilet seat with feet propped on the side of the tub as if in a Lazy Boy… just talking.

One day in my adolescence, Mom kind of got a little frustrated with the audience situation.  “Why do you all follow me in here when I take a bath?!”

Speaking from the heart, I responded, “Because it’s the one time we can talk to you without you going anywhere.”

Mom was a little taken aback, thought for a bit, and simply said, “Oh…”

From childhood through young adulthood, whenever I thought of this story, I recalled the honest yearning in my heart to have uninterrupted quality time with my Mom.

Now, as a mother myself, my whole understanding of this family story changed.  I cringe at my Mom’s lack of personal, private downtime.  In fact, now, when I read the story of Jesus healing the paralytic in Mark, I hear something that I never noticed before becoming a mother.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home.  Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.  They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:1-5)

I read this as a mother thinking – OMG, poor Jesus!  Not a moment to himself!  I mean seriously – there was no room in the house so they opened the roof above him!?!  SERIOUSLY?!

Mark, the shortest, most action-packed Gospel is the quickest, easiest read.  Go back to just before this scene into Chapter 1.  After Jesus finished his 40 days in the desert, he begins his ministry, calls his disciples and started teaching.

Verse 28: “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.”  I mean, come on.  Isn’t Mom the most popular, called-upon person in the house?

So then Mark’s Gospel explains that Jesus leaves the synagogue and goes to the house of Simon (aka Simon-Peter) and cures his MIL of sickness.  And word spread.  The next thing he knew, “The whole town was gathered at the door” (Mark 1:33).

The WHOLE town?  At this point, part of me is wondering what my Mom was complaining about with just three of us in the bathroom…  But only the sarcastic part.

So Jesus gets up very early the next morning before dawn, and goes off to a deserted place to pray (Mark 1:35).  Because he knew that this was his ONLY CHANCE to be alone, refresh, recharge, and reconnect with God through prayer.

And (for real, scripture says this): “those that were with him pursued him” (Mark 1:36).

The poor guy.  Giving everyone everything he has to give.  Selflessly, completely, without hesitation… and he can’t catch a break.  Wakes up early to recharge with some quiet prayer time, and those that were with him pursued him.

Sound familiar?

But wait, there’s more.

Upon finding him, his disciple Simon-Peter tells him “Everyone is looking for you” (Mark 1:37).

So not only are his plans for a moment of peace thwarted, but those closest to Jesus are actually giving him a guilt trip for not being MORE available.

I mean as a Mom, I can soooooooooooo relate to Jesus in this situation.

I can relate to the frustration of thwarted plans for alone time, but I can also learn from Jesus’ example.

No matter how many times his plans were thwarted, Jesus pursued time alone to pray.  Even Jesus needed downtime to quietly reflect, refresh, and recharge.   Those precious times alone with God gave him the strength, courage, and wisdom to be fully present and available to the children of God.  Because, as he told Simon-Peter, “For this purpose have I come” (Mark 1:38).

Jesus knew how important downtime—time to pray—was to being able to fulfill his purpose.

Especially as a Mom, I need to follow Christ’s example.  Girlfriend’s weekend / Mom’s Night Out / Alone Time, here I come!

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Drip Painting
Hope, Joy, Projects, Sabbath, Transformation
4

Just Paint Over It

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For the longest time, I really didn’t have a discernable hobby.  I mean I’ve always enjoyed doing lots (and lots and lots) of different things, but I never felt like I had a concentrated focus on any activity or interest to consider it my answer to what I would do for pleasure or relaxation.

Many of my closest friends and family members (especially my husband) would readily agree that the lack of doing something purely for pleasure or relaxation has been kind of a problem for me.  I don’t know if anyone ever bluntly told me to “go find a hobby.” Maybe they should’ve.  Hmm… Actually, I probably would’ve responded with, “I don’t have time,” which is evidently exactly why I needed one.  But I digress.

Several years ago, I discovered paint-your-own-pottery.  I loved the creative process.  I loved that so long as I approached painting like I was a 9 year old coloring a picture, it turned out pretty cool looking.  AND, I loved that I could use it in my daily life.


Painted Mug 1
Painted Mug 4

Painted Mug 2
Painted Mug 4

Painted Mug 3
Painted Mug 6

After a while, however, I found that paint-your-own-pottery was getting pretty expensive.  And really, how many mugs, plates, bowls, and light-switch plates does a girl need?  Well, over the course of 10+ years, it amounts to quite a bit of both: cost and stuff.

While excitedly working on painting a replacement tea mug, I mentioned my creative joy and my stumbling blocks to my friend, Stacey.  I wanted to do “this kind of thing” more often, but didn’t want the excessive cost or stuff.  She suggested: “Try painting on paper, just for the fun of it.  No one even has to see it if you don’t want them to.”

So I did try.  Twice.  Instead of feeling excitement, relaxation, and pleasure, I was filled with anxiety, completely stressed out about what I was supposed to paint and why.  The process itself was tainted by the fact that I genuinely didn’t like what I painted.  Moreover, I really did want to do something with it.  There was something about the overall purpose of the creation that generated joy for me.

Shortly after these failed attempts at making painting itself a hobby, Stacey’s sister Sara offered her own version of “Pinot and Picasso,” where she taught my group of girlfriends how to paint our own copy of a work of art with step-by-step instructions.  In case you missed it in the class title, there was also a promise of wine, so I was in.

Intimidated even further by the thought of painting on canvas, I hesitated at every step.  Then Sara said something that changed my whole approach to painting:

If you don’t like something, just paint over it.

How freeing!

This insight allowed me to experiment without hesitation.  I had infinite do-over’s.  If something didn’t work, I could just try again, and again, and again until I liked it.  Sometimes that meant starting over.  Sometimes it meant painting over the one spot that wasn’t working.  It removed the pressure of feeling like I had to have the whole thing perfectly planned out before I even started.  Or feeling like it was ruined by one little (or big) mistake.

As a proactive person, I don’t ever want to feel stuck in a complaining rut.  I’d much rather feel empowered to do something about it.  With this just paint over it insight, instead of feeling bound by a choice my attitude became one of exploring the possibilities.

What a wonderful approach to all of life!  If you don’t like something, just paint over it.  As I looked around at my house, my relationships, my work, and inward at myself, this insight became one of transformation.  Don’t trash it; don’t brush it under the carpet and ignore it.  If I didn’t like something, I could transform it.

The very idea of transformation cultivates hope.

In faith, this is the transformation that is linked to forgiveness.  The Greek word for what happens in the transforming process of forgiveness is metanoia.  It is a change of heart, a conversion where the person turns away from what is destructive, hurtful, hateful, and instead turns towards God.

Turning towards God involves

  • forgiving oneself and transforming one’s own character
  • forgiving others, seeking forgiveness from others, and transforming relationships
  • seeking forgiveness from God and becoming transformed.

Put another way, metanoia is about

  • becoming more (and more and more) of a good person
  • doing what is right
  • acting with love
  • helping others
  • Looking around your own life, what would you like to just paint over and transform?

Drip painting by Justin Green licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Woman Jumping with green scarf
Joy, Love
0

Joy

Pinterest

In a word, my New Year’s resolution was joy. I want to see the joy that I know permeates my life. It’s as much about an increased awareness for me as it is about changing my perspective on otherwise mediocre (or downright annoying) events in my life.

I read Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, happiness is not my word. For me, “happiness” conjures images of immediate, transitory, situational pleasure. Throughout her book, Rubin cites philosophers and theologians throughout the ages who offer a variety of definitions and descriptions about what happiness is and is not. I love Rubin’s expression of happiness; in fact, it is aligned with my own understanding of joy.

My notion of joy (and Rubin’s of happiness) is more of a deep, big-picture outlook encompassing the growth and well-being of one’s body, mind, and soul. Joy is enduring. Joy has a spiritual dimension to it – as if it is the very experience of one’s soul taking delight. Joy is infused with love and gratitude.

So joy is my word.

As a pastoral theologian and educator, my area of expertise is taking the theoretical, putting it into practice, and then reflecting upon the process to learn and grow in my life and faith. The idea is that joy will go from being my word to becoming my life.

In the first couple of days, I challenged myself to embrace the smiles which my boys bring me as opportunities for joy. I reveled in the opportunity to vacuum my carseat-free RAV4 and liberate it from the Cheerios, Chex, and raisins imbedded in the back seat.

One of my favorite pastimes is doing crafty projects, so one afternoon that I fully intended to walk to the park with the kids, I threw schedules to the wind and got totally absorbed in things involving fabric, paint, and a hot glue gun. I even let the boys use the low-temp glue gun and make their own messy whatevers. It wasn’t about making a birthday gift for a 4 year old; it was about creating something new, fun, imagined, and even useful. So, so much fun! Joy.

When I found myself with an extra 25 minutes before I needed to pick the kids up from school, I called the husband, coordinated meeting at the park near his work, and packed a picnic lunch. It was delightful.

I feel like I have found the Zen of cleaning. I have white tiles with “supposedly” white grout on my kitchen floor. Really scrubbing that grout is a hands-and-knees chore that I’ve been avoiding for two solid years. But I looked to the resolution to embrace it and ultimately transform it. A good scrub brush, a bucket of water, a decent cleaning agent, some towels, and a couple of hours, along with a lot of elbow grease allowed me to latch on to the perks of this previously dreaded task. The grout went from black to off-white, which in my mind was instant gratification. And in the “lather, rinse, repeat” mode, I had a lot of time to simply think and reflect – which in and of itself is a total bonus in my world.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I basically blew out my wrists with a repetitive-use injury the day after the kitchen floor project. But with a focus on joy, I acknowledged my transitory pain and every time I walk into the room, I’m still prompted to bask in the glory of sparkling white floors.

From the standpoint of faith, this focus on joy has helped me tune into the presence of God in my daily life. It reminds me of the virtue of Hope and maintaining a proper perspective on what does and does not matter.

Joy is available to me. I need only to see it. As the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) wrote:

Earth’s crammed with heaven.
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes –
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

“Jumping © Depositphotos.com/ikostudio”

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