Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What God Cares About

"It you have ever wondered what God really cares about, let Isaiah 58 be your guidepost. If our lives are marked by gossip and slander and apathy and neglect of the poor, we can skip all the outward disciplines and save God the energy. He is stunningly concerned with the marginalized, and He is always, always burrowing deeply into our hearts, our motives, the way we think, the reasons we move. The ax is at the root of the tree. There is a time for pruning, but sometimes a total replanting is in order."

Jen Hatmaker
The 7 Experiment 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why Nobody Believes I'm an Introvert

I look a lot like an extrovert. As a marketing and communications consultant I put myself out there a lot; and as the wife of a pastor I have worked hard to be the first one to extend a hand of welcome and initiate conversations and friendship. 
But don't be fooled, I am definitely more introvert than extrovert. I have always defined this by how I like to recharge my batteries. For me that tends to be alone; I need to withdraw every day. In fact an active day of consulting usually has me running for cover. As my friends can tell you, I rarely agree to anything in the evenings. It just makes the day too long and draining.
My favorite mother's day present for several years was Todd driving me to a nearby Colorado State Park; hooking up the RV and leaving me there for three days. Heaven.
So, when I saw this Fast Company article today it was like I was reading from my own journal. If this stuff interests you as well, it's a great article. Beth understands that introvert/extrovert is not about your public persona. 
I took the test offered in the article. Not really a surprise based on the questions..."You're an ambivert." Frankly I'd never heard the term before, but its that in-between place. Because I'm a consultant, I know I skewed to the middle because I've trained myself to be outspoken and outgoing professionally. And then there is that pastor's wife thing. Yep, skewed to center. So here's the definition of ambivert:
That means you're neither strongly introverted nor strongly extraverted. Recent research by Adam Grant of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Management has found that ambiverts make the best salespeople. Ambiverts tend to be adept at the quality of attunement. They know when to push and when to hold back, when to speak up and when to shut up. So don't fall for the myth of the extraverted sales star. Just keep being your ambiverted self.

And yes, I am a seller of ideas. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Facebook Collecting and Other Misadventures Online

First a disclaimer: I realize that everyone has a different approach and perspective to Facebook so no hate mail. I respect that and have used/engaged with Facebook in an evolving way as well. This is just about some of my own reflection from this summer and my journey to redefining Facebook's place in my life. 

It was seven years ago when I signed up and created my Facebook profile. I did it deliberately but with reservation. I did it because I was a pastor's wife who was working full-time, raising a child, and trying to connect with a high-need congregation that was about 45 minutes away. I wanted to be involved, to be present when I could not actually be there in the flesh.

I believe I started well. Facebook was for friends, not for work associates. LinkedIn was for business; Facebook was personal.

Somewhere along the way I think I lost my way. Thousands if not millions of potential friends joined Facebook since my first status post was written. It was fun to "connect" with friends and acquaintances; new and old, including those from 30 years back in a pre-Internet world.

I watched others have friend lists that topped 1,000. It was a great broadcasting platform for them. I have friends that are single minded in their posted; they are passionate about a certain topic and FB is a great broadcast media for them. I have other friends who link their Twitter feed with FB so there are a lot of short and sweet posts.

At my most generous, I had probably 460 "friends." And I really tried and wanted to be a friend - high interaction with all they posted. It was a daily ritual to get on FB - peruse the latest in the world of my diverse circle of friends from all walks and seasons of my life.

This past year I confess to experiencing, well, hurt feelings from my cadre of Facebook friends. I began to suspect that in fact I was part of some obligatory FB friend collection because regardless of what I posted ( lost job, illness, etc.) they never post a comment or interacted in any way.

Was I hidden or no longer on their feed? Was it something I said? Was it something I had done?

Ouch, it was starting to feel very much like rejection. Okay, I think I have reentered high school!! Yep my expectations had changed. And I think the real thing was, I actually needed/wanted friends.

Now I know that everyone has different FB habits, motivations and expectations. I accept and applaud that - but am hoping it is deliberate. I think it's important that we access how social media impacts the quality of and even nature of our relationships.

So once I was able to reconcile all those crazy emotions, I realized I am no longer impressed with Facebook friending in my life. It's a shortcut to the real thing; a counterfeit of the real thing: real interaction. At some point I simply wanted more than Facebook could give. I wanted real friends.

If I were to gauge friendship by Facebook over the past six to nine months, I think I have three friends (thank you my unnamed friends, you know who you are!). I have never been someone who collected friends. Regardless of what I may appear I am an introvert living a very extroverted life. I'm a deep with a few versus expansive with many.

So the net, net is that two weeks ago, I trimmed my Facebook "friends" by 25 percent. I suspect I will cut it even further in the future. I want to focus my attention on people that I actually have relationships with or those that I want to stay in touch with over the miles (whether they are active on FB or not).  In fact, I am convinced that the 100 people I cut don't even know I cut them; I think I was part of their collection but we really didn't have any real relationship. Again we all have a FB personality type, mine is simply changing.

I considered getting off altogether. That is certainly a choice. But I love connecting with family in Europe and throughout the US; I enjoy seeing my friends' pictures and reveling in their vacations; and I love keeping dialed in throughout the day to the two loves of my life whom I life with. Truth be told I love the birthday alert!

So for now, I will continue dealing with the tension this personal yet impersonal channel affords.

I have much more I could say about Facebook; so much I love about being able to create an awesome news feed that I can customize based on my clients and interests. In fact the news feed function is the one I spend the most time with at this point. I love following my favorite bloggers via FB.

But friends, well I want a strong emphasis with face-to-face or over the phone or via text, or even via Facebook chat. I want real engagement. Pure and simple.

I'll have more on this topic - friendship - in the coming days. It's been such a great thing to explore and be deliberate about. Friendship is worth it; worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Quote for the Day ... and for a Life

Do more than belong: participate. 
Do more than care: help. 
Do more than believe: practice. 
Do more than be fair: be kind. 
Do more than forgive: forget. 
Do more than dream: work.
~ William Arthur Ward  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Living Room Series Study...No Other Gods

This year I am reading a lot about idols. I try to pick a theme for each year. Last year was simplicity. This year I'm working at getting to the heart of the issue. Idols. Seriously crazy topic to tackle but I am loving it.

Last week I finished Kelly Minter's No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern-Day Idols study. It is my second Kelly Living Room Series study - I completed Ruth: Love, Loss and Legacy a couple years ago. Also excellent.

So if you are interested, here are some excerpts from this great study. I've already started a handful of blog posts on some specific ideas from the study. I'll be writing about those soon. Enjoy.

The core concept comes from 2 Kings 17: 33 & 41: They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods; Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. "Gods and gods: the people were living split lives, worshiping the One, while serving the others."

"I believe this half-hearted living is possibly one of the reasons why so many of us have been stuck. Basically, we have edged out God. We have left Him with little room in our hearts. Our false gods have taken up our most treasured spaces, leaving little room for God to show Himself strong on our behalf."

She talks a lot about the difference between professed gods and functional gods. It's a great exercise to evaluate "what has been inflated to function as a substitute for God. All things are potential idols, depending only on our attitudes and actions toward them...idolatry may not involve explicit denials of God's existence or character. It may well come in the form of an overattachment to something that is, in itself, perfectly good...An idol can be physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero -- anything that can be substitute for God." (Richard Keyes)

A great quote from John Calvin on the subject: "The evil in our desire typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much."

In the second week of the study Kelly asks a great question (actually she asks a lot of them): Other than God, who or what am I trying to build a life through? This is part of a great study on Hagar and Sarah. Terrific and challenging. As was a later study of Rachel and Leah. "The point is that it doesn't matter if you have it all and everything your heart desires, or if you're left wanting and unloved. Neither works. The two women had vastly different circumstances, yet both were left hungry. Why? Because God was not their ultimate thing."

Another great quote: "Of course we may feel grief when parting with something we enjoy, but if true conviction is present, we will begin to look at that thing as something that was taking the place of God, something that was stealing from us. As we rid it from our lives we will be hopeful with anticipation, anxious to see what God will do in this newly-created space. We will not look for loopholes. We will be resolved. We will know that we are in a position to gain, not to be stolen from any longer."

Then in week five, this gem: "This is the 'making room' piece. God wants to do us good! Too often we associate the idea of turning from our false gods with misery and legalism when really it means making room for God to do good in our lives."

It's all about making room. Often our emotions and stuff, physical and otherwise, creates clutter that gets in the way of making room for the good stuff.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Art of Being a Connoisseur of PT...and My Unexpected Summer

I'm guessing a few of you immediately assumed that the "PT" I was referring to is Pastor Todd, as he was fondly called at Open Door Fellowship. Ah, but no, I'm talking physical therapy.

So what do you think it takes to be such a connoisseur of physical therapy?

Let me provide a few of the high points in my credentials:
1) Car accident/rear ended on my way to class my senior year of college (yep, the guy who hit me - no insurance - totaled a sweet, red 1961 VW bug). Result: a lot of neck and back damage and years of physical therapy.
2) Thrown from a horse in Montana. Result: broken back and yes, more than a year of physical therapy.
3) Fell down two stairs into garage (seriously!). Result: severely sprained ankle and a couple months physical therapy.

Which brings me to the summer of 2013. I've spent a lot of it on the couch. Unfortunately.

And yesterday I found myself again with a physical therapist. Referred by my Head and Neck Surgeon (those folks must have been feeling bad about how important they sounded since they used to be call Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists). Anyway, I've spend the summer on a journey of sorts, not a comfortable one at all I might add, to get answers to why I have felt so miserable.

I suspect a few of you I know can totally relate. Mystery symptoms. First you ignore them. I thought I had some cold virus, menopause or exhaustion-thing going all at the same time. Then the dizziness, mental zaps, fatigue, blurry vision, body shocks, and on and on. I've felt like a nut trying to describe how I feel to doctors. The lexicon isn't great when it comes to dizzy.

My summer of 2013 journey led me to an evening brain MRI up in (Lafayette) to rule out multiple sclerosis, stroke and brain tumor. All clear! Which then led me to the Head and Neck Surgery department downtown with a side trip to Audiology. Yep, my hearing is great and no holes in my eardrums or fluid in my ear so I intend to continue to turn the volume up on my to music -- I love it loud.

It's a process of narrowing and eliminating more than identifying. Sometimes that is how life's difficulties are - you have to eliminate what it isn't before you can land on what it is.

So are you still interested? Actually I'm getting bored with the topic, except I have to live with myself, in this body that is simply not cooperating.

Okay, back to the ENT (sorry I just can't do this surgeon thing). She got it. I was talking her language. And yes, I hugged she when I left.

While she couldn't be positive without more tests, it sounds  like inner ear which of course makes total sense based on the symptoms. It's just there isn't anything much more specific than that. We are just going with inner ear before she hands me off to the neurologist for investigation into vestibular migraine. I hate the word migraine so I am sticking with inner ear.

And that led me to the physical therapist yesterday and a nice guy named Scott at Kaiser's Skyline PT offices...downtown again (apparently everything related to whatever is going on requires a 45 - 1.5 hour drive to get there!).  He spent an hour making me nauseous. And it was a good thing.

First, I had no idea after years of back rehab that these physical therapists also rehab inner ears. Well some do. Kind of made me want to laugh. I prefer back massages, just to be clear. But now Scott has allowed me to add to my resume of physical therapy experiences.

So it was a bit too easy for him to get me off balance, spinning and reaching for a bucket. Again, while he doesn't know precisely why or how... he pretty sure I don't need any more tests ... inner ear problem. He's also pretty sure it's not vestibular migraine (I like him alot). And he sent me home with 'phase one' exercises for my brain/inner ear combo. Basically I do these every day until they no long make me sick, dizzy or visually unfocused. Fun. Then he'll give me tougher exercises, and so on.

It could take up to a year to "fix" this. But at least I know where the damage is and that it can be fixed. That's a hopeful place for someone who has virtually stopped driving and doing much of anything. My introvert tendencies are in full display - just not feeling super social this summer.

But the really bad news was delivered at the very end of my session with Scott. He recommended some dietary changes to help with the symptoms - no caffeine (coffee!), no salt (as in don't touch a shaker and no processed foods with salt), no chocolate (enough said).

If I wasn't depressed before he just sent me over the ledge. So which do you think I am mourning most? Yep, it's the coffee.

So if you made it to the end of my tale, you get a gold star in my book.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Litmus Test

"If you want a good litmus test of your spiritual growth, simply examine the nature and quality of your relationships with others. Are you more loving, more compassionate, more patient, more understanding, more caring, more giving, more forgiving than you were a year ago? If you cannot answer these kinds of questions in the affirmative and, especially, if others cannot answer them in the affirmative about you, then you need to examine carefully the nature of your spiritual life and growth."

Invitation to a Journey by M. Robert Mulholland, Jr., page 42

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mother's Wisdom

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. People may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It is never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa

(Thank you Kris Wright)