Friday, February 11, 2011

I Take my Hands Off it: You Build and Destroy

My mom actually sent me this article about 3 weeks ago (excerpt at bottom of post). I printed it, and it has been in my "To read when i can breath" file ever since. Well, isn't that just like God. For today, when I desperately needed a breath, He had already provided. The faithful worlds of another soul in the kingdom provided me an access point for learning in my own life.  A few weeks ago, I read a wonderful, yet simple book, The Whole-Hearted Life. Not my typical read, but I am so thankful for the gift it has been to me. The author of the book is actually a Shame Researcher. Correct. She researches shame. Sounds depressing, I know, but her profound experience with shame--its causes, effects, and power-- actually lead to her understanding of what comprises a full, happy life. She interviewed hundreds of participants over a a period of years, had them self-rate their happiness, and combined her own session notes to achieve her data. Through a series of interviews and analysis, she recognized some very central commonalities among the group of people who lead happy lives. These commonalities breached: race, social class, occupation, gender, and even religion. I learned a lot from the book, as far as some more intentional techniques to weave good practices into my daily life, but I was also encouraged to find that I had been doing many of these things already. So--What are they? you may ask. Well, I will tell you, but to understand what these terms mean (she has constructed very intentional definitions in her book), taking 4-5 hours to understand them would certainly be worth the effort.

Compassion is huge. This comes almost directly from her shame research, but true compassion is not lying, "buttering someone up," minimizing, hyperbolizing or attacking.  Compassion is meeting someone with honesty, while validating their need and pointing them towards reality and calm. A great way to do this is to share an experience and become vulnerable, as well.  This creates a special bond between the two--for they share in the wonderful and overwhelming experience of humanity. A key point here is to know who you can trust to show you compassion.  It would be unwise to seek compassion from someone unable to give it.  No good would come from bringing your shame and vulnerability to someone who does not have enough care and concern to meet you in your weakness and see you through it.  With this understanding, it is equally unwise to publicize such need for compassion.  I do not discourage "publication" in the sense that one should hide his insecurities, but if you throw your needs to the wind, prepared for the wind to sweep them away. If some sparrow does happen to pass overhead and take hold of your offering, perhaps the semblance of compassion satisfies, but the sparrow will more than likely continue its flight, and your need for validation will remain unfulfilled.  The truth is, we all have needs and we all feel inadequate at times, but to try to fill up with "false compassion" leaves your heart like an empty malt ball.  Such a bummer.  It looks good, and the chocolate is nice, but you wanted the malt part.  Surely you have experienced this before! Because when you take a bite, there is only air!  Looked like a malt ball; felt like a malt ball; came in a malt ball box. But is a malt ball a malt ball without the malt?  (How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck... haha) Anyhow... the malt ball is empty, and you are still left with your hurt.  Better to develop real relationships that where the compassion is symbiotic. Promise.  :)  To illustrate this, just a few days after reading this chapter, I was handed an opportunity to practice what I had read.  I focused on not minimizing how real the situation seemed to my friend, I shared a similar experience of frustration, and we were able to laugh about our freak-outs. And guess what--it worked?!?! :) God blessed me. This encouragement gave me the motivation to keep reading.

Boundaries are important. When you feel taken advantage of, it is difficult to feel positively about your actions. Understanding your limits with honesty and communicating those to your environment, and following through with your needs even works to form stronger bonds when you sometimes have to say, "No." Resentment and obligation are difficult emotions to push out, and often, when unresolved, they poison the goodness that your initial desire to please intended to access.

Gratitude. I always felt like I was a thankful person, but this is different. My conversations with God no longer end or begin with, "Thanks for my amazing family. I know they love me. Thanks for my incredible friends; I love our community." These are CERTAINLY things to feel thankful for, but EACH DAY I am waiting for God's special little gifts. I realized that when I really feel thankful for a gift that someone has blessed me with, I want to bless them also. A very special bond forms through gratitude, and I see this as one of the most transforming ways I can remain connected to God. Today, I am looking for the gifts. A gorgeous, sunny day is a gift, and sometimes I can truly be thankful for it, but my gratitude has more become the connections or experience that dramatically move my soul. Example: Today, I met a man at Wal-Mart--he was asking for donations.  He was part of a ministry for recovering drug addicts. He said a lot, actually, but one thing he definitely said was, "I don't do this because the ministry needs money, or because I am even expecting donations. But when I walk into the world every day and can share the love of God, my hearts pulses and my spirit sings the grace that I can claim in Christ." I am pretty sure that is verbatim; for his testimony is inscribed on my heart and still rings in my ears. He also went on to say that people don't believe addicts can change. By confessing to people every day the grace and love of LORD, he was able to remind himself of the joy he has found. Amazing man. His name is Selby. We will be praying for each other for one month. Thank you, LORD. Your face shines upon me.

And--then there is play. I am actually pretty good at this, if I do say so myself. BUT, it was wonderful to hear that this is actually a key component to a full life. :) I think there are times when my play has been viewed as irresponsible or unnecessary, but actually, we need to play and create! Whether music, photography, scrap-booking, acting, woodworking. Lord God is Creator, and being formed in His image, it is only natural that we should have the desire to create (and procreate, I might add! But that is for a different post!).

Finally, spirituality is inextricably important--perhaps even the glue. A belief that we are all connected and part of something facilitates the possibility for all other factors of joy. In life, everyone is looking for purpose, and the need for purpose comes from a need to be validated or valued. This need points directly to love. We all are desperately looking for love. Well, Selby found it. I think/know that I have found it. And even in the times I choose the lesser or when I close my heart to the love that has been offered, there love remains, waiting.  An out-streched hand.  A peaceful stream.  Shalom. (by the way... Shalom--Definition: as His will be done. Translation: everything exactly as God wills it.) An opportunity to fall within His will awaits me.

So, that being said, here is the excerpt that really moved me to post. It is from Churchianity (Full article on Featured Finds Tab.) Worth the read.

It will not be enough for you to then say: "Lord, the Church belongs to You, not to me, not to anyone. Now I see my mistake. I take my hands off of it, for it is not mine to control or run. I repent of trying to build what you wish to destroy, and destroying what you wish to build. What am I, Lord, but a little stone, a little sheep, a little member of a wonderful Body of Believers? You are building Your Church, and now I will let you do it. At last I see. Only let me find a quiet place to serve You and serve Your people in secret, for I want nothing else for me, but all of it for You."

All the arguments in the world will not convince people, nor should we attempt to make people see. Simply allow them to see. Look upon the face of Him who sees things as they are so that others may look into your eyes and see Him as He is. God will grant us a discerning heart and eyes to see and hear if we will ask Him for such holy things, and if we are willing to accept both the joy and the burden that accompanies such a revelation.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay dusty.

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