Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Are You My Mother?

What do you think of when you read that title?  You may be thinking that I'm off my calendar because Mother's Day isn't until May.  Well, what got me thinking was actually the P.D. Eastman book, Are You My Mother?  Do you know it?  Maybe you remember it from grade school or from reading it to your kids?  I have a bilingual (Spanish/English) copy that I used in teaching. 
I loved the book when I was growing up.  First, the little bird is adorable.  Also, I found it interesting that the little bird was so adventurous.  I don't know if I would have stepped out of the comforts of my nest to go look for my mother, had I been that little bird.  But, it did.  Of course, being a little bird, it thought it would be able to fly.  It got a shock as it fell down to earth that first step.  Instead of thinking too hard and long about not being able to fly, the little bird realized it could walk and set out to find its mother. 

Since the little bird didn't know what his mother looked liked, he walked past her once.  Throughout the book, the little bird asks one character after another "are you my mother?"  At first, he is fairly calm through the process, but then he begins to panic when he cannot find her.  He even follows an airplane, thinking that might be his mother.  In desperation, he gets up on a "big thing" that he thinks is his mother.  Then it "snorts" and begins to move.  Here is when the little bird really panics and realizes he needs to get out of there.  But, he cannot fly and the machine has lifted him off the ground.   The machine deposited the baby bird back into its nest.  Soon after, the mother returned to the nest with food and asked the baby bird if it knew who she was.  By that point, the baby bird knew, without a doubt, who she was.  He went through the list of who she wasn't and then declared, "You are a bird, and you are my mother."

What a great book!!  If you haven't read it, I encourage you to read it!  Sorry for the ending spoiler.  Hopefully it won't really ruin it for you.  If the book is too juvenile for you, find a child to whom you can read it.

Why in the world did this book come to mind the other day?  First of all, random things tend to pop in my mind.  Sidenote--Several years ago, a friend, who is now in camel land, got me into the world of random thoughts.  Random thoughts are often not as random as they seem. 

As I was thinking about this book and the little bird, I was thinking about the adventure this bird experienced.  As I have just now re-read the book, I see all sorts of life analogies.

Sometimes we think we can do things that we're not quite prepared to do.  Like the little bird who knew it should be able to fly, we step out of the nest only to fall to the ground.  Our reaction is important.  Will we, like the bird, realize that we can walk and get up and go?  Or will we sit there and cry and focus on the fact that we cannot fly?

The little bird had no idea what his mother looked like, but he knew he had a mother.  He knew he was created.  So, he goes around asking everyone and everything "are you my mother?"  The little bird is tenacious and doesn't give up easily.  He is bold and courageous.   I realize that he didn't run into the big, bad wolf-- but that's another story.  He was kept from serious harm in this story.  I think of Psalm 139 and how we are created and woven together by God.  I think of how we spend time in our life searching for our creator.

The little bird starts to panic when he cannot find his mother.  He knows she exists somewhere, but cannot find her.  He knows who his mother is when she comes because he has already learned that the others are not his mother.  The little bird went through a thorough search to find his mother and was able to declare with certainty that he knew this was his mother. 

What about you?  Are you still searching?  Or have you found your Creator? Genesis 1:27 tells us that "God created mankind in his own image".   We were created for fellowship.  Fellowship with God, fellowship with one another.  Prayer is a way for us to grow our relationship with God.  Spending time with one another in community in a variety of ways helps us grow our relationships with one another.

One way to grow both relationships is table fellowship.  Gathering around a table and sharing a meal.  Whether it's for a holiday, for a family get together, or just because, table fellowship allows us to not only gather, but to talk and to share.  As we share a meal, we share our hearts and our lives. 

Maybe you're gathering with family and/or friends this week.  If you're in the United States of America (to distinguish from the United States of Mexico or Canada), you might be celebrating Thanksgiving.  As you gather and share food and fellowship, may your relationships be strengthened, with your Creator and with one another.

I am gathering with family this week.  Not only is it going to be a Thanksgiving celebration, but my Mom celebrates one of those "big" birthdays that end in a zero.  For me, it is a time to celebrate my thankfulness for many things in life, including my mom's life.  (I wouldn't be here without her.  Plus, she's walked with me through some tough times in my adult life.)

As you think about the little bird (not the turkey) and about table fellowship opportunities, what things have come to mind?  Any challenges?  Any affirmations?  Any action steps needed?  Share these things with someone who is on the journey with you.  Share them in a comment here.

Blessings on your journey! 

May you travel like the little bird, knowing that your Creator is out there, waiting for you to return home!

~Debra

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Taking a leap of faith.

When I worked as a camp counselor, one of my jobs was working the Ropes Course.  That was FUN!  (I loved archery as well, but there was just something about being in those trees.) 

My last summer as a counselor, I was at a new camp for me, Saddle Rock, in Mentone, AL.   I had missed the previous summer due to a study abroad in Spain.  Prior to that, I had been at the other camp, Camp Skyline.  The kids weren't there yet and we were doing leadership training and bonding (though I didn't know that's what it was called back then) on the ropes course.  We were at the trapeze.   It has been 25 years since then, but I remember it well.  (Speaking of camp and 25 years ago.... I was recently able to visit with Marianne Harvey from camping days.... That was neat.  You should have seen the look on our faces when we both realized it had been 25 years since we had last seen each other.)

It was my turn.  I was standing on the tiny block of wood up in the treetop.  How high?  I don't know exactly.  I would guess it might have been 40 feet up to 60 feet.  I was on belay.  That means that if I fell, someone below had me secured and would lower me down safely.  The trapeze was dangling out in the air beyond reach.  How far out was it?  I don't know.  Far enough to have to jump.  Because the wooden platform on which I stood was right against the tree, there was no such thing as "taking a running jump".  I just had to jump with all my might, from right where I was.  How does it sound so far to you?  I'm not a gutless person.  I had already been doing and teaching ropes courses for several years.  I had rappelled down cliffs, regular and australian-style.  I had done the trust dives and trust falls.  Plus, I was known for doing wacky, goofy things.  (I'm sure that will come as a shock to some!)

So, there I was on that tiny wooden platform, no wider really than the width of my two feet side by side.  My fellow counselors and camp director on the ground and in the trees encouraging me to jump.  Me, with my chicken legs a shaking, taking deep breaths and trying to talk myself into it.  I don't know how long I was up there.  It seemed like forever.  I kept reminding myself that the worst thing that could happen was that I would miss the mark.  And, if I missed the mark, I was on belay and would be safely lowered to the ground.  So, what was the big deal!?!?  Fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear of not making it.  Fear of messing up.  Fear of moving.  Fear that maybe, just maybe, that person didn't really have me safely on belay.

I finally jumped.  I don't know where the strength came from.  But I used all the strength I had in my legs and reached out my hands in faith.  The next thing I knew, I was touching metal.  I had made it.  I was holding on to the trapeze!  YIPPEE!!

   

What leaps of faith have you taken in your life? 

They are risky, aren't they?  But, they are worth the risk!

I'm taking another leap of faith, another risk, another step into a possible adventure. 

While on the 5 Day Academy in October, they talked about an upcoming bilingual 2 Year Academy.  The 2 Year Academy meets throughout the 2 years for 5 days at a time.  The word "bilingual" took my breath, literally.  When I heard the word, a gasp snuck out of me.  I don't know why that happened, but it did.  It was like I was a balloon and just got popped.  There are many barriers to me doing something like this, but it won't go away.  But, I've already applied for my M.Div.-- true.  At first, I thought that things might be an either/or situation.  Now, I'm not so sure.  All that I know is that I am going to take each step as I see it, or as I perceive it.  It's not always a "visible" step. 

Who knows how this leap of faith will turn out?!?!  I hope I'll be holding onto the trapeze when it's all said and done.  We'll see.  Meanwhile, I know that I'm on belay and that I will be lowered safely to the ground.

What is your next leap of faith?

Enjoy and make the most out of the journey!!  It is truly an adventure!

~Debra

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lectio divina....spiritual reading.

Lectio divina is the Latin term for "spiritual reading", "divine reading", "holy reading".  Lectio divina is a spiritual practice that will help one slow things down and focus, contemplate, reflect.  It is a way of prayer.

Lectio divina works like this:  you take a passage and read it slowly, paying attention to the words and phrases that stick out to you at the time.  Re-read the passage another time or two, allowing the passage to speak to you.   Spend some time reflecting on what you've gotten from the passage. 

WARNING!  This type of reading is habit forming!  I have read in places that anything can become spiritual reading when read intentionally in this way.  I would agree, from experience.  Though I read Scripture in this method, I also read books in this way.  Not all the time, mind you...... But, it has become a default, underlying current, style of reading. 

I will explain.  You may have noticed.   There are at least two blog entries in which I've quoted a passage from an author and then I've gone back and shared the words that stood out to me.  Then, I've reflected on those words.  That's lectio divina, spiritual reading. 

I realized yesterday (with the help of an "intervention" by some friends) that I am in constant "think-mode" when I read.  Even when I read fiction.  Seriously.  If it's my copy of the book, I'm known to take notes and underline.  If it's not, watch out for lots of yellow sticky notes or brightly colored sticky flags.   I think part of my "problem" is that I have developed the practice of reading in the style of lectio divina.  The other side of that coin is that I rarely choose non-thinking material to read. 

Have you tried lectio divina as a way to change up your study time?  I encourage you to try it.  I realize that my amateur explanations of this spiritual practice may not be enough for you to get into the practice, so I am going to include some additional resources for you.

A book I've mentioned before, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives For Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton, has a chapter on lectio divina, Chapter 3: "Encountering God Through Lectio Divina".

Another book I've mentioned before, Soulfeast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life by Marjorie Thompson, also has a chapter, Chapter 2: "Chewing the Bread of the Word: The Nature and Practice of Spiritual Reading".

Weavings has an online guide "On Spiritual Reading" you can print out.  It is intended to be used with the Weavings articles, but gives a good overview of spiritual reading as well.  http://www.weavings.org/ (Click on "Reading Groups" and then scroll down and find "On Spiritual Reading".  Click and read and/or print.)

Here is a link to the Upper Room: http://www.upperroom.org/methodx/thelife/prayermethods/lectio.asp.  Here you can read a little about lectio divina and then try it.  Just follow the instructions for the next steps.

This is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg on the topic.  If this is new to you, maybe you can post what you read and your reflections...... If this isn't new to you, post your experiences and/or some other resources you've found along the way.

As we continue the journey, I wish you all "happy reading"!  As for me, I'm going to attempt to NOT read something with spiritual reading eyes.  (I've been told that if I do and if I take notes or even reflect on this one, I have to share....)

You might be wondering what I'll be reading..... Sisterchicks in Sombreros by Robin Jones Gunn.  I hope I'll be able to read this like a "normal" person. :)


May there be joy in your journey today!

~Debra

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pottery... and the potter.

I have a thing for pottery.  I admit it.  I like going to pottery shops, seeing potters at work, seeing their work displayed.  I enjoy buying pottery.  I have a flower vase, some candle sticks, an oil lamp, and about a handful of hand-thrown mugs.  My favorite pieces of pottery?  The two chalices and the patten plate. 

Why are these pieces my favorites?  Because I personally know the hands that made these pieces.  They were made by my friend Dawn, for my wedding.  These pieces were used by my spouse and I as we served our friends and family the shared meal of wine (juice) and bread.   These pieces are special because of the hands that made them and because of what they are and how they were created to be used.  The chalices make wonderful wine glasses as well.
                     

I have also met the potter for some of my other pieces that I own, Pitter the Potter.  Though I have only spoken with him in visits to his shop, I feel that I have gotten to know him a little bit. 

All pottery shows the mark of the potter's hand.  The potter leaves his/her mark through a signature, a signature glaze, or an image on the piece of pottery.  A trained eye (not mine) can know a potter by the pottery.

There are those who know much more about these things than I.  For me, it's just an adoration of beauty that draws me near.  As well as a glimpse into who the potter is by seeing an example of his/her work.

My friend Dawn named her pottery shop "Adamah".  Learn more about it here: http://web.mac.com/daraburn/Adamahpottery.com/dawn_raburn.html

Pitter the Potter can be found in Maggie Valley, NC:  5858 Soco Rd, Maggie Valley, NC 28751,  828-926-7676  828-926-7676 .


So, is there a point to all this talk about pottery and potters?   Yes.   There is.  In fact, there are probably several points. 


First, the potter leaves his/her mark on the pottery, the creation.  Each piece is uniquely made.  Second, knowing the potter brings relationship into the scene and therefore adds a personal element of meaning.


We're still talking about pottery and potters, right?!?!  Well, sort of. 


Here is a verse that compares God to being the potter and us to being the clay.


Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)--"Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand."


Great analogy.  God molds us and puts his mark on us.  We are uniquely made for a purpose.  We can have relationship with the potter.  The clay in relationship with the potter.  For me, the potter has to take this lumpy thing of clay and shape and reshape quite a bit.  Then, there are times when I know there are cracks in my personal pottery, but the potter doesn't seem too disturbed.  These, too, are somehow used for growth and good along the journey.


Thanks for joining me in thinking about pottery today.  Have you been inspired to go find a master potter at work and watch?  Or, browse a collection of the finished product?  Stay within your budget (don't blame me if you get carried away....).


Thank you to my friend Dawn for using her gifts and talents and sharing them with the world!  And to Pitter the Potter, you are a joy to know!  Blessings on each of you and your creative adventures!


And, to all that are journeying..... may our clay continue to be moist enough to be molded by the Potter's hands.


~Debra

Monday, November 15, 2010

Struggling.... does it have a purpose?

Struggles, struggling...... Have you ever wondered if there is anything worthwhile in the process of struggling?  Maybe I should back up and ask, 'Have you ever struggled?'  I didn't really think I needed to ask the second question.  I'm guessing that most folks will answer 'yes' if not YES. 

So, what good are struggles?  (uh, oh... did I just say "good" in the same arena as "struggles"?)  Gulp, am I in trouble?  :)  I'm going to venture out on the edge of the trail here and say that I believe that struggles are good for us and that we can benefit from them.  I say 'can' because I believe it depends on our focus, our attitude, what we do with them.....

First of all, why am I even thinking about "struggles"?   Because they are a normal, natural part of life.  Everybody has them.  But, what caused my brain to click?

I just finished reading a book.  (Does that surprise you?)  The Unlikely Disciple:  A Sinner's Semester At America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose.  It was very insightful and interesting.  I learned quite a bit in reading it and recommend it. Kevin Roose openly and honestly shares his journey through this semester "abroad" experience.


Here's what got me thinking about "struggling".  Kevin is at the end of his semester and is talking with his campus mentor, Pastor Seth, about his belief in God.  Kevin's answer to where he was in his belief with God was this: "I'm struggling.  I don't know where I am.  I wish I did, but I don't." (284)  They continue their dialogue and Pastor Seth explains: "Listen, you're in a period of transition.  You're still struggling to find your spiritual identity, and there's no shame in that.  God doesn't make everything clear for us right away.  We have to engage our faith, wrestle with it, make it ours.  Otherwise, it's dead." (284)

Refreshing words!  From both..... it's refreshing for folks to say that they are struggling.  And, it's refreshing to hear from a spiritual advisor that there is no shame in struggling, in wrestling-- because there isn't.  Didn't Jacob wrestle with God? 

There is quite a bit in this selection that I like:  "period of transition", "struggling to find your spiritual identity", "no shame", "engage our faith", "wrestle with it", "Otherwise, it's dead." 

As I read this passage (and re-read it), I thought about the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly. 


The caterpillar has to go through a time of transition in the chrysalis before it can become a butterfly.  (I'm keeping this simple.  I'm not a scientist. There are great details available even in children's books.  Check them out!) 

When the butterfly is ready to come out of the chrysalis, it must struggle to get out.  If someone cuts open the cocoon to "help" it, its wings won't become strong enough to fly and the butterfly will die.  So, therefore, the butterfly needs to struggle in order to become stronger, in order to live.  Wow!!

There is another nature example about a baby bird pecking its way out of its shell, but it's very similar in the outcome.

Struggle is GOOD for us.  It causes us to grow.  That doesn't mean that we enjoy it, have a good time, etc.  It simply means that we understand that there is a purpose to it-- our maturity, our growth.  Whether it is emotional, physical, psychological, mental or spiritual struggles.... there is potential for growth and maturity.

I say 'potential' because we can come through a time of struggle and not grow, not learn.  It depends on our actions, our responses and our reactions.  But, hopefully we are not trying to make this journey alone.  So when we are in times of struggles, our companions on the journey are there to encourage us, to walk with us, etc.  They are not there to get us out or to fix it for us, but rather to be our companions along the way. 

How do you see "struggles"?  Do you see them any differently now than before? 

It is my hope that any struggles you encounter along the journey will serve to strengthen and mature you.... and me....

May we wrestle through the struggles knowing that we are becoming more mature and stronger.

~Debra

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weavings | Fortunate Fencing

Weavings Fortunate Fencing

"Fortunate Fencing" by E. Glenn Hinson in the "Fenced In" issue of Weavings.

Being "fenced in".... the "should's" and "should nots", St. Augustine and much more. This article is worth some reflection and "chewing" time. :)


Are there fences in my life, your life that can be seen from a different light now? Do some fences need putting up or mended? Are there others that are no longer needed and can be taken down?

~dd

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blind Spots.

Blind Spots.

If you drive a vehicle, you know what a blind spot is.  It is that area in which you cannot see anything.


Here's a driving scenario:

You checked your rear-view mirror and both your side mirrors.  There was nothing behind you nor beside you.  You start to move over into the left lane and HOOONNNNNNKKKKKK!   Oops!!! You jerk your steering wheel back to the right, barely having missed that other vehicle.  What just happened?  Most likely, that vehicle had been there the entire time, but it was in your blind spot.

Does that scenario sound familiar?  Has it ever happened to you?  It has happened to me.  I try to turn my head around and look beyond the blind spot in my car, but that doesn't always work.  Especially now with two herniated discs in my neck and some stiffness.  We need to be careful of blind spots when we are driving.

What about in life?  Do we experience "blind spots" in our lives?  Yes.  This morning during neck traction time, I was reading Radical by David Platt and these words on blind spots struck me:

"We all have blind spots--areas of our lives that need to be uncovered so we can see correctly and adjust our lives accordingly.  But they are hard to identify.  Others can often see them in us, and we rely on friends to point them out.  But the reality is, even then we have a hard time recognizing them.  We don't want to admit they exist...often until it's too late.  We discover them in hindsight, but we struggle to see them in the present." (107)

That's a powerful paragraph.  It is packed with truth.  I'd like to take a few moments and unpack it.

First, "we all have blind spots".  That's easy for him to say.   Can you agree with that statement?  I hope so.  If not, why not?

Next, "they are hard to identify."  Is that true?  YES.  And, that's why community is so important, as Platt points out.  Our friends, those closest to us, can help us see what we cannot.  Think about the car situation for a moment.  If you have other people in the car with you, they can help you look out for other cars and you are less likely to get caught by your blind spot.  It's the same in life.

Even with friends helping us, Platt says "we don't want to admit they exist".  That is also true.  It takes humility and integrity to be willing to look into our blind spots, admit their existence, and then to take steps to correct them, change them.

Who are the people on your journey with you that can help you see the blind spots in your life?  Do you have an open relationship with them in which they can speak truth into your life and you into theirs?

May you and I begin to see more clearly those things that hinder us from walking well on the journey.  May we not only see, but take steps to make the necessary changes so that those areas will no longer hinder our journey.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
Search me, God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting.


~Debra

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Radical... what does this really mean?

Radical.  I'm reading the book Radical by David Platt.  I've mentioned it before in one of my blogs.  I typically read it while I'm doing static traction for my herniated discs in my neck.  This means that it is taking me a while to read the book and that I can't take notes easily because that is hard to do.

What does "radical" really mean?  Per the Webster's New World Children's Dictionary, 2nd edition, "radical" as a noun means "a person who favors basic or great changes or reforms."  Change..... transformation.

Jesus has been described as a radical.  Jesus wasn't afraid to push the envelope of teaching, of learning, of growth.  He did it every single time he said, "You have heard that it was said...But I say to you..."  (See Matthew 5:21--46, but read the entire chapter for context.)  What is Jesus doing each time?  He is expanding his teaching, his way.  The old way no longer works.  Jesus has a new way of looking at things and it is radical.  It requires change.  It requires humility, love, perseverance, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation.  Yet, at the same time, Jesus is offering something new:  freedom!  Freedom from laws and rules that left one feeling that they had only "done their duty". 

Freedom is radical!

We are cautioned to not use this freedom for evil (1 Peter 2:16).  Our freedom in Christ must not become a stumbling block to someone else. 

Like every aspect of the journey, freedom has its bumps and bruises.  It's a journey in itself to learn and grow in the freedom of Christ. 

Knowing Christ and knowing who we are in Christ are crucial components of our freedom.  We must know who we are and whose we are.  As we become confident in that, we are better prepared to reach out to others, to share freedom with them, to love them as Christ has asked us to in Matthew 5.

Neil Anderson has some great resources on freedom in Christ!  Here is a link to his Freedom in Christ Ministries website: http://www.ficm.org/newsite/index.php.  There is a poster that expresses "Who I Am In Christ".  Check it out: http://www.ficm.org/newsite/index.php?command=whoamiinchrist.  (The print is available for order in their online bookstore.)

Where are you on the journey in relationship to knowing who you are and whose you are?  Where are you on the journey in relationship to freedom in Christ? 

What changes need to happen so that you and I are living more like Christ? 

May there be joy along the journey!

~Debra