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Rest Awhile

IMG_1234.JPGThe third week of September is coming to an end, and in just a few more days summer’s end.

We are all aware of the sun’s later arrival each morning and early departure each evening. As I sit at my computer there is rain falling, and the sky is dark and gray, like the winter months here in the Pacific Northwest.

We are, once again, slaves to calendars filled with good things, demanding things, obligatory things.

Children are requiring poster board, and more computer time to complete newly assigned projects and reports.

Date night moves away from the beach, and into the grocery stores, the Home Depot.

Exercise becomes something to schedule in as opposed to something that happens naturally when all of nature beckons us to come and play.

Awakening to a darkened room does not encourage the departure from the sheets, and their call to us to return seems to begin once the dinner dishes are put away.

There is hustle and bustle, and busy until your dizzy, and deprivation of sleep, sun and fresh air.

Overall, the fatigue of busyness has hit.

I am reminded of Mark 6:31,

“then Jesus said,
“let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
He said this because there were so many people coming and going
that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.”

Jesus and his disciples were so very much in demand. People were wanting them night and day. Though they were fulfilling the purposes of their lives, for the greater good of the kingdom of God, their physical needs required replenishing and refreshing. And it was Jesus, himself, who suggested the temporary retreat from their work, and all of the demands connected with it.

If Jesus would put his purpose on hold for a rest, how much more do we mere mortals need to do the same.

Maybe, this weekend, we will each be moved to go off by ourselves, to a quiet place, and rest awhile.

 

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*A re-post from a year and a bit ago, and a reminder of the barrenness of a busy life, as the calendar begins to fill.

June + kids + church + school = busy … and I cannot wait to do a little bit of subtraction!

I have been longing for the end, counting down to the end, all the while it seems as though there are stretches of days when every time I open my email inbox there is another ‘end of year’ event to be attended.

Don’t get me wrong … I love celebrating year ends, graduations, retirements, partings and weddings! They are each, on their own, most delightful events to be invited to, to witness, to attend. It is when they come one after another, with no pause for refreshment, for refueling, that they begin to extinguish the candle of my days, making it too dim to see the light of blessing that each one is.

I yearn for refreshment … the kind that comes from being home from waking until sleeping (maybe even with a little sleeping in between), the kind that comes from not one phone ring, the kind that comes from just us five being home, with no knocks at the door, no invasions of anyone or anything from the ‘outside world’ … except maybe a parcel delivery … and not one with an invoice to be paid!

Socrates was right, the busy life can be barren … lifeless, empty. It can be life-sapping rather than life-giving. It can leave us with little to give.

We need Sabbath rest!

But, do we make that happen? Or do we constantly add more to fill our days (and nights), rather than make time to rec-r-ate?

In Psalm 39:6 we are given the reminder that, “all our busy rushing ends in nothing.”

Is there a barrenness to your busy schedule? Do you, like me, get to a point where the calendar is so full, you refuse to add any more to the daily boxes?

Barren means not reproducing, not productive, it is a ‘lack of’ …

Busy means active, occupied, it is ‘full of’ …

How can we be both busy and barren? How can we be both full of and have a lack of at the same time?

God, in His process of creation, chose rest a feature of the seven day week. One-seventh of life is intended for rest. And this is not just Old Testament theology, because in Mark 6:31, Jesus reminds us that busy needs to be balanced by rest, when he said to his disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

My you and I find the will to omit something from our calendars this week, and go to a deserted place, and rest a while … and become, once again ‘full of.’

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*A re-post from three years ago.

The other day, I remembered a song, that was just a song, a few years back. When I say it was just a song, what I mean is that it was a catchy beat, with lyrics that ran so smoothly off my tongue, I didn’t even realize what the song was really about. When I was listening the other day, I decided it could be my theme song!

It is the song Hats, by Amy Grant (wow! I just checked to see how many years ago it was released … it was twenty years ago! Time does fly … but, I digress). The basic idea of the song is that she (the singer) is wearing so many hats … “one day a mother, one day a lover, what am I supposed to do? Working for a living …”

Is that not the musical description of being a woman in North America today? Whether we work full time in, or out of our homes, we are all wearing so many different hats, often many at the same time.

We may or may not be married.

We may or may not have children.

We may or may not have a paying job (or two, or three).

We may or may not have a house and garden that demand our time.

We may or may not have ‘stuff’ to take care of.

We may or may not have church or other places of volunteering and participation.

We may or may not have fitness routines.

We may or may not have hobbies … Ya right! Like we have time for hobbies!!

And then there’s ‘the list’ that we keep updating when we have a nanno-second of nothing else on our minds. I love how this ‘list’ was described and popularized in the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It.

And, on that note, although there are a number of technical flaws in that movie, it is so worth seeing. Watching it, I am sure there were parallels to my own life in a few scenes. It is a movie with real struggles, living in a real life (with some exaggerations … it is a Hollywood produced movie after all), exposing choices and disappointments that real people face every day … and the ending … well, go see it! But, I digress 😉

The list is what we do when we have free time, it is what has become our recreational time … we re-create our to do list, with the hopes that, one day, we will have everything crossed off the list and then we can finally have true recreational time. It is a vicious circle! One that has no end.

Truly it is the list that identifies the hats we wear each day. The hats we must wear, the hats we ‘should’ wear, the hats that others top our heads with, the hats that belong to someone else, even hats that have been handed down from one generation to the next. Our head feels heavy under the weight of them, our shoulders slump, our pace slows. We about to stumble and fall. We need assistance, we need a way out from the weight of all that we must do.

For me, there is only one way to alleviate the feeling of being weighted down by all those hats. And it is not a ‘catchy’ theme song. Reading it even gives me permission, and even strength, to remove a few of the hats from my head. Mostly, it reminds me that there is fresh strength available to me, if I just choose to lift my hat laden head to the one who energizes.

God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:28-32

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My post today is not one that I wrote, and I do not even know who wrote it, so I cannot give them the credit. What I do know is that I recently heard it, just when I needed the reminder of the message within. So, today, with back to school approaching, I am sharing this post with you, praying that you receive it just when and where you need it.

THE DEVIL’S CONVENTION
Are You Too Busy For Christ?
Keep The Christians Busy
Satan called a worldwide convention.
In his opening address to his assembled demons he said:
“We cannot keep the Christians from going to church. We cannot keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We cannot even keep them from conservative values.

Nevertheless, we can do something else. We can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship with Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.

So, let them go to church, let them have their conservative lifestyle, but steal their time, so they cannot gain that relationship.
This is what I want you to do. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection!”
“How shall we do this?” shouted the demons.
“Keep them busy with the non-essentials of life. Invent schemes to occupy their time.” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then borrow, borrow, borrow. Convince the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6 or 7 days a week, 10 – 12 hours a day, so they can afford their lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with
their children. As their family fragments, soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work.

Also:
*Super-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still small voice.
*Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive, and to keep the TV, VCR, CD players and PCs
going constantly in their homes.
*See to it that every store and restaurant in the world blares secular music constantly. This will jam their minds and break
that union with Christ.
*Fill their coffee tables with secular magazines and newspapers.
*Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day.
*Invade their driving moments with billboards.
*Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, sweepstakes, mail order catalogs, and every kind of newsletter and promotional
offering, free products, services, and false hopes.
*In their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted, and
unprepared for the coming week.
*Do not let them go out in nature to reflect on God’ s wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events,
concerts, and movies instead.
*When they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled
consciences and unsettled emotion.
*Let them be involved in soul-winning, but crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power
from Christ in prayer.

Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.”
Convention Aftermath
It was quite a convention. The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy and rush here and there.
Has the devil been successful at his scheme? You be the judge.
How about this definition of BUSY: Being Under Satan’s Yoke.
Author Unknown

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At the beginning of the Christmas break a sweet lady at church, experienced with life (aka experienced with retirement for many years), asked, “how are you?”

Before I could even put my early morning caffeine fix to work, she answered her own question,

“busy?”

with an understanding, yet predictable manner … as though she were answering her question that way because it was the most common response she had heard from anyone at my stage of life (or, perhaps, any stage of life).

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That short interaction has been in and out of my thoughts for weeks now.

I have been wondering if “busy” is a good answer.

I have been wondering if “busy” is the right answer.

I have been wondering if “busy” is the authentic answer.

I have been wondering if “busy” is the honorable answer.

I have been wondering if “busy” is something anyone ‘should’ be …

Then I came across a post written by Tyler Ward, called Busy isn’t respectable anymore. It was his title that drew my gaze, and it was his title which provided a glimmer of hope for the future … for my future, for the futures of my kids.

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The following is from his post “busy isn’t respectable anymore”, and he has other thought-provoking posts to read and ponder as well.

Why busyness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and a challenge to put it behind us.

“The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” | Lily Tomlin

Being busy used to make me feel important. It made me feel like the world needed me, like somehow I was more valuable or valid when busy. Perhaps that’s why I wore it like a badge and quickly resorted to it when people asked how life was. Yet in all reality, busyness was just another addiction I clung to so I could avoid things that made me uncomfortable.

Sadly, the things I often stayed busy to avoid happened to be some of the more worth while things in life.

I recently shared an article by one of my favorite columnists, Tim Kreider, in which he divulges on the vanity of always being busy. The general gist of his rant can be caught when he says,

“I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.”

Tim’s article is one of many pieces in a recent and widespread frustration with the perpetual busyness of life. As of late, there seems to be a general suspicion growing about the, once viable, value of always being busy. And because more questions are being asked, more answers are being found.

As it turns out, always being busy isn’t a virtue, nor is it something to respect anymore. Among many reasons for this, there are a few that stand out to me.

It can actually be a sign of an inability to manage our lives well. Though we all have seasons of crazy schedules, few people have a legitimate need to be busy ALL of the time. For the rest of us, we simply don’t know how to live within our means, prioritize correctly, or say no. “Being busy is not the same as being productive,” says Tim Ferriss, “…and is more often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions. Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”

It can be indicative of a lack of confidence and self-worth. Often we stay busy to subconsciously feel important and valuable to the world around us. Sadly, this points to an ignorance of our inherent value, in that regardless of our performance in life, we are important, loved and valuable. This slippery slope typically makes us too uncomfortable with ourselves or the reality of our lives to slow down.

Busyness actually restricts professional performance and limits mental capacity. With plenty of recently published psychological and biological evidence of this, Kreider seems to capture it well in the previously cited Busy Trap when he says,

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice. It is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

Busy often keeps us from the finer things in life. Though being busy can make us feel more alive than anything else for a time, the sensation is not sustainable long term. We will inevitably, whether tomorrow or on our deathbed, come to wish that we spent less time in the buzz of the rat race and more time actually living. Or as Seneca says in Letters from a Stoic, “There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living, and there is nothing harder to learn.”

An Experiment & Challenge in Resisting Busy.

Paul E. Ralph is a fundraising, copywriting & marketing expert living outside of Toronto. He’s recently launched PathwaysFund, an online tool which assists non-profits to cultivate spontaneous generosity. He also happens to be a longtime friend.

I’ll never forget when I was young seeing Paul standing outside in the freezing cold after evacuating my house with nothing but his boxers, a toothbrush in his mouth, and a pet parakeet under his shirt. This was after another friend and I, in attempt to clean up around the house, emptied hot coals from the fireplace into the plastic trashcan and returned it to it’s respective place: in the garage between two Lexus’. Long story short, six firetrucks later, we were able to salvage the cars and laugh about the incident today.

Shortly after I posted the previously mentioned article, Paul reached  out to me about an experiment he and his wife did last year revolving around the issue of busyness. I thought it too good not to share.

Enter Paul.

My wife and I began noticing that everybody in our circle of influence, including ourselves, responded to virtually any question with “busy.” Normal questions? busy. Normal life? busy. It was evident that the new normal was a declaration of busy.  It became the new mantra for living in the 21st century.  ‘I am busy.  Hear me roar!’

So, we decided to conduct an experiment.

We decided to never use the phrase BUSY as an answer for an entire year and to see if there were any changes in attitude and/or behaviour. Ours. Theirs.

We noticed alright.  Instantly.

We were forced to describe our own situations with more clarity, and without our best friend ‘busy’ to blame, we engaged with people more authentically. As we did, we noticed the general depth of conversations increase as we and those we were sharing with, were invited to communicate differently about our actual states of being.

We stopped manipulating our friends. We weren’t actually aware that we were doing it before, however with that little four letter word excommunicated, we no longer predetermined the ubiquitous auto-response – “me too.”

We also quit guilting other people with all of our so called busy-ness. There’s nothing quite like the overachiever in the crowd diminishing everybody else efforts.  Our busyness somehow validated us in the minds of our peers. So we thought.  When we stopped using the word, we were free to be happy with our efforts for the day – and free to let others be comfortable with their own accomplishments.

‘The devil made me do it’ was a well-worn phrase when I was a kid.  Perhaps ‘busy’ is its new iteration.  An unintended consequence of our banishment of all things busy was that we stopped justifying our poor behaviors & choices.  As we practiced choosing better words to describe our circumstances, we noticed a steady decline in the blame game. It included saying things like “we choose to take on too much…our bad.”

And most importantly, when we quit using the word BUSY, we noticed that others did the same. It was refreshing, for all of the aforementioned reasons.

Busy, it would seem, is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The more we said it – the more we felt it.  The more we felt – the more we acted like it.  The more we acted like it – (well, you know the rest).  Guess what?  When we quit saying it, we reversed SOME (not all) of the craziness.

Exit Paul.

So, here’s the challenge. Regardless of our love or hate of busyness, let’s experiment with what it’s absence does for us.

There are several ways we could go about doing this. Elimination using the 20/80 rule, or a good dose of Parkinson’s law, or any one of a number of popular methods. However, I like Paul’s approach.

For one month, I’m going to stop using the word “busy.” I’m going to resist the comfort of it to try and dig deeper to explain how things really are. If I feel busy, my hope is to be aware enough to discover why and to learn how I can change it.

Join me. Or at the very least, remember that being busy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and often isn’t as necessary as we think.

Disclaimer: Being busy, in this context, is not synonymous with being hard working or productive or effective. Also, this article is calling into question busyness for busyness sake. Busyness by necessity, at least for a season, is an entirely different conversation.”

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It’s true!images-3

I shot my students!

(even a few who are not my students)

And they LOVED it!

And they even shot me back!

Of course we were playing Lazer Tag, so the shooting was all on the up and up 😉 .

It was an event birthed in the repeated conversations between a pair of students (could there be a better place to birth an event for students?). Then one day, I heard one of the students mention it to their mom …

and I saw the ‘look’ …

the look that wordlessly said,

“I have put this off too long, but I have so much on my plate …”

When my children have friends over, my life becomes easier, for many with children with special needs, having a friend over can be more planning, more work, more exhaustive.

Months ago I had written a previous post of these “Moms That I Admire“, and in that mom’s facial expression of ‘momma guilt’ I was reminded again of how very heavy the burden of raising a child with special needs can be.

I was also reminded of a line from the child dedication ceremony that my hubby has led many a congregation in:

“Will you, upon hearing the commitments made by these parents, do your utmost as God gives you opportunity, to ensure the fulfillment of these promises and seek to encourage, support and be faithful to these parents and this family?”

The correct response is “we do” or “we will”

Back to these “Moms That I Admire” …

As the momma-guilt look showed all over this lovely but weighted down parent, the commitment from these child dedication ceremonies reminded me that part of our task … as Christ-followers … as friends … as schools, is to come alongside of these families. These families raising a child with special needs, need the support of His people, His churches and schools named for His Son to do the job well.

And I thought, “wouldn’t it be great to support these two families in a practical way.” So, the dreaming began. Then the dreaming was shared with a co-worker, and we began to run with it!

In the end, my co-worker and I, along with twelve students (half deemed ‘special ed.’ and half not or ), and a school alumni, left school at noon on a Friday , leaving their classmates to snooze through their afternoon classes. We donned the vests of the battle, issued mortal threats, complete with evil laughs, chose code names, then we marched off to battle.

An hour and a half later, sweaty and sticky (and stinky) … and laughing with great memories made, we headed for Slurpies, then a slow drive back to school … we didn’t want to get back too early … that would have meant having to return to classes!

You might be asking, “so, Carole, what academic benefit was there from this event?”

To which I would reply, “none.”

But the goal was NOT academic, it was purely social skills.

About half of the students are designated ‘special education’ students, and learning the skills to be socially acceptable in the larger society is a main factor in their learning (of course if anyone walks the halls of any high school, the majority of students might seem to need social skills learning … heck, if anyone were to walk into the staff room … but, I digress 😉 ). The best place to teach and reinforce these skills is in a true social setting, not in a classroom.

These students got to talk, interact, laugh and observe their more ‘typical’ peers in a social setting. There was no ‘us’ and ‘them’ that day, only ‘we’. The ‘typical’ students got to be noticed for the intrinsic way that they already care for their peers … a ‘thank-you’ that most probably did not feel necessary, as they are who they are because that is how they have responded to God’s call to “love their neighbor, classmate, as themselves” (Mark 12:31). These ‘typical’ students were chosen by their ‘not so typical’ peers … no higher praise could be earned!

I cannot wait to see and hear the interactions, and rehashing of memories next week in the halls and classrooms of school.

My favorite part was when my co-worker recounted the words of one of the boys, who said something to the effect of, “I think I will remember this for an exceptionally long time.”

I hope he does, I know I will too.

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ONE is the loneliest number …”
the Beatles

The Weight Loss DiaBLOG – month five! This month has produced (or removed) the hardest fought to get rid of one pound!

The good thing about this one pound loss is that it has put me out of the teens, and I am now twenty pounds lighter! Clothes are feeling so much better, and the ones in my closet that have been gathering dust, due to snugness are now anticipated to be wearable in another five to ten pounds (well, that is just the slightly dusty ones … there are levels of dustiness in my closet that indicate the gradual weight gain over the years like rings around a tree).

So folks, Christmas festivities are just around the corner, and we need an action plan! I am sure that you can agree that we do not want shortbread cookies, nuts, festive beverages and stuffing to ruin our months of effort! So, now is the time, before you are offered, “just one little appetizer,” to think about the strategies you might use to either not gain, or maybe even lose weight in December.

Here are my Ten Ways to Not Blow the Diet:

  1. Food Is Not Reward – No matter how well you and I have done in the past year, cocktail wienies are not the prize
  2. Move – Standing at the party is not exercise. If there is dancing, step out on that dance floor … the worst that can happen is that you look like Eilaine from Seinfeld (see below for a little chuckle).
  3. Quality Friend Time – Cream, fat and carbs. are not the vehicles to meaningful friendships. A visit with a friend over a simple tea, coffee or while taking a walk on a street that provides window shopping are great ways to visit without the additional caloric treats. Spend an evening catching up with each other instead of exchanging gifts, and you will both save money too!
  4. Don’t Always Say No – It is okay to SAY YES TO THE DRESSing, if that is your favorite part of the festive feast. Skip some other part of the meal, or ensure that you are more active that day and the next. Eat what you want, just do not risk not getting back into that little black dress!
  5. Write All That We Eat – Whether you are using a computer program, website, app, or paper and pen, commit to writing down everything that will go into your mouth, every day (yes, Virginia, there is the ability to write it all down on Christmas feast day).
  6. Friend Someone – one IS the loneliest number, especially when we are trying to eat more healthy! Find a friend (NOT a skinny one … that would just be depressing!) that is also trying to eat more healthy, and use each other as daily accountability partners. Two is better than one!
  7. Don’t Overbook – trying to lose weight means be alert to the choices you are making. Don’t allow your holidays to be so busy that you have no time to think and make the best choices possible. Busyness can be our biggest enemy to eating healthy and exercising regularly.
  8. Think Ahead – Before you go to that holiday party, before you go to visit your friends and family before you go to the staff room think about your P.O.A. (plan of action). We are more successful when we take the time to think ahead, and plan what we are going to eat.
  9. Less Is Best – Just because those yummy chocolate truffles are on the table does not mean that you and I need to eat the entire bowl full! If you really want one, eat ONE, and enjoy every moment of it! Multiples do not multiply the enjoyment, only the waistline!
  10. Our Bodies Are Our Home – Lets take care of these vessels we were given to live this life in. I am hoping to be youthful and active as I age, but that does not come from living a sedentary life now. Move it, or lose it … that is the reality we live with in the bodies we have!

Have a Merry Christmas!

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