Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's All In How You See It . . . Or Don't.

The other day I was making homemade noodles using an old family recipe. I've made it a hundred times, rolling of the dough, cutting the noodles, laying them out to dry. In the process I touched my eye. A tiny speck of wheat flour landed on my lashes and found its way under the eye lid and onto my eye ball.

The speck of irritation became immediately annoying. I rubbed. I teared up. I rubbed more. I blinked. No luck.

Within hours my eye was red and puffy like I'd been on the losing end of boxing match and still . . . I could not get that speck of wheat flour out. Now if you've ever seen ground wheat flour it is like sawdust, like sand, like, well, a small little curse of metal shavings basically on my ever sensitive eyeball.

How could such a tiny particle of wheat flour do so much damage? I could hardly see, was perpetually winking at people in the market, on the road, even hours later as I talked to my children. Ridiculous really.

It was so irritating. Yes, that is what is was. Irritating. And I was irritable.

As I looked up the synonyms of irritable:

1. snappish, petulant, resentful. Irritable, testy, touchy, irascible are adjectives meaning easily upset, offended, or angered. Irritable means easily annoyed or bothered, and it implies cross and snappish behavior: rude and hostile; Impatient and irritable, constantly complaining. Testy describes the same kind of behavior or response, particularly to minor annoyances: always on edge, testy and sharp in response; testy and petulant, resenting any interruption. Touchy emphasizes oversensitivity and readiness to take offense, even when none is intended:

I've always believed that things that happen physically often are a mirror of what is happening emotionally. The sooner we get the emotional lesson, the sooner physical symptoms can resolve as well.

Yup - that has been me for the last while. Irritable. And over the tiniest of things. Snappish. Testy. Resentful. A speck of dust, a flaw in someone else, an imperfection, an obstacle that keeps me from seeing clearly.

I was so grateful when the wheat flour speck found its way out so my eye could heal. And I was grateful to see clearly without being irritated.

Oh the lessons life gives us - it's all in how we see it isn't it?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Crystal Clear

I had an amazing experience the other night. A chance to try a new sport, well, new to me anyway. Snowshoeing.

For years I've dreaded winter, dreaded the snowfall, dreaded the cold temperatures. I've rolled my eyes as the avid skiiers in Utah would cheer for the white powder, they being elated as the snow pack increased. The more it snowed, the more they cheered. And the more I stayed inside and became depressed.

Seriously. I found no joy in winter - not inclined to stand on thin sticks with pokers in my hand and speed down a hill of ice. Not interested in the broken leg, the concussions, the crowds. Nope, not interested.

But then, the other night, I found snowshoeing.

Strapping on the funny tennis racket looking contraptions, I took my first steps. And then, out onto a beautiful blanket-covered golf course. The moon was out, bright and glowing on the pristine rolling hills and it was silent.

One foot in front of the other. The back of the snowshoes kicked up a light chilly powder freezing my calves, while my body warmed with the exercise. Beautiful. All I could feel was my heart enlarging in my chest and being so enraptured in the love of snow. I love this snow. Oh my goodness. I LOVE snow.

Funny how our paradyms change in an instant when we find the right fit. The right expression, the right setting, the right stretch. Crystal clear.

And all I can think today is I'm excited for winter. This winter. Next winter. And the one after that. Just THINK the places I can snowshoe!

I may never ski a Black Diamond run, may never enjoy the wind in my hair seated on a chair lift, may never see the top of the mountain, but I'm excited to say that I've found something I LOVE. And whenever you find something you LOVE, life gets that much sweeter.

Would have never thought it before - but I'm absolutely digging snow. Me of all people. Makes me smirl a little. And here I thought I had myself all figured out. That's funny. Thank heavens for the new things in life that keep reminding us we're works in progress.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bitterness - Bringin' It Home Baby

I came down with a nasty headcold and sore throat this week. It's slowed my run to a crawl, and fogged up my thinking. I haven't been as productive as I've wanted, spending many hours curled up in bed fighting chills.

Saturday night was a doozie.

Had a prescription called in, headed to the pharmacy, and my car broke down. It was dark by then, I felt awful, aches and chills, and now my car wouldn't start.

On my drive there, I had been listening to an Anthony Robbins CD as he interviewed Steven Covey about following your life's gift. And there I sat. Freezing with a fever, and now in tears, realizing I had a new crisis to solve. I felt very very alone and overwhelmed. Who do I call? I'm in unchartered waters here.

The CD player was dead too, but Anthony Robbins' voice kept repeating in my head - all of the positive mumbo jumbo hype he talked about so elequently seemed in such dramatic opposition to what I was experiencing.

This is where the rubber meets the road friends.

I realized sitting there I could get madder and more bitter and self-pitying than a one-legged man in a butt kickin' contest, or I could get humble. Either, or, but not both.

It's Monday morning now. I'm following up on my car in the shop - having been able to get it there safely. I had a sweet weekend in spite of my car loss, in spite of feeling under the weather, in spite of the Steelers losing the Superbowl : ) I feel more clear headed and am hopeful this week is going to be a good one. I wish my car wasn't in the shop, but, that's part of owning a car isn't it?

A couple of verses hit me this morning in my Bible time that seemed to ring true to my car drama.

Romans 5:6 "When we were utterly helpless Christ came at just the right time . . . "
Helpless moments are our most transparent moments - in moments when we are at the end of ourselves, we are able to acknowledge just how dependent we are. That's not a bad thing . . . ugh . . . not a comfortable thing, but not a bad thing. Christ did not fix my car, but trusting Christ fixed my character in that moment.

Ephesians 4:31 "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words . . . instead be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving . . . "

In those moments where life really does a number on us, we choose. Either, or. Instead. Bitterness OR tenderness. Rage, anger, OR forgiving, kindness.

That decision is 100% up to us personally. That truth is upsetting at some moments, empowering at others.

When the rubber meets the road, bitterness is an option. Peace of character is too.

Pick one.

Life will continue to be life, with its car breakdowns and all. That will never change. Thankfully God has given us the opportunity every single day -

Either - OR.

You choose.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain"

I remember the first time I watched The Wizard of Oz. I was so upset when I realized the Great and Powerful Oz was simply a grey haired man behind a curtain. In my young heart I was devastated for Dorothy and her friends who had travelled so far and hoped for so much . . . I was disillusioned right along with them.

As I've been reading and learning and searching and praying about bitterness the parallel is a powerful lesson.

Bitterness is big and loud, a mean face with colored smoke and thunder - The Great OZ - it shakes you where you stand so you back up and don't come any closer. It intimidate and scares, it threatens and attacks our peace of mind and confidence.

Yet in reality, behind the big, ugly, loud, mean bitterness (in others and in ourselves) is small fear. Puny in its form, but ashamed, small, and cowering.

Let me show you. Trust me for a minute. I want you to see something.

There is something in your heart that you're bitter about. Oh, you've called it many things, but it's bitterness. Maybe towards some one, some thing, some situation . . . and it gnaws at you. It's angry, ugly, jealous, contempt . . . maybe something you've never even shared with anyone . . . but it's bitter.

See the colored smoke whirl around it, the loudness, in fact, let it get as big and mean as it can possibly get. Let it take its true form, as ugly, spiteful, vengeful, angry as it can get. I hope you'll even turn up the volume and let the words and thunder explode and shake . . .

Ok now. Look to the side and see the small curtain. Carefully pull it back. And let the production, the smoke, the big ugly image, the noise . . . let it stop.

And see what's really behind the curtain.

The big production of bitterness is simply the distraction of our own heart and mind - to distract us from our greatest fear.

"What if its true? What if I really am broken?"
"What if I really am unloveable?"
"What if I really am too far gone?"
"What if I'm really a loser?"
"What if I really am . . . blank . . . "
"What if I really have sinned too much?"
"What if I really do need help . . . "
"What if what they say is true?"
"What if that person never loved me?"
"What if I really did deserve this?"
"What if I can't ever succeed?"
. . . add your real fear here . . .
"What if I really am these things . . . and people really knew . . . "

Bitterness is our minds way of rerouting us away from our real pain. Our real fear.

Now look at that fear - look at it for what it really is. A scared, shaking, big-eyed, lonely hurt.

THAT question is what you take to God Himself. You don't take it to your friends, you don't take it to your ex, you don't take it to Anthony Robbins or Dr. Phil, you don't take it to your old boss who fired you, you don't take it to your church . . . you take that very real fear to God.

You take it to the Bible and find out what God says about it. You take it to God in prayer and listen for an answer from Jesus Himself. You take it as a handwritten letter to the cross and nail it there for Jesus to read and reply . . . HIMSELF.

Only then will the smoke, the thundering, the anger, the production of bitterness disappear from the stage of your life.

The production and ugliness of bitterness is a decoy - to fool you so you won't feel what you really feel anyway.

Bitterness yells, "Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain" - closure says, what's behind the curtain fuels the whole production.

Heal what's behind the curtain. Then bitterness in all its ugliness can disappear.

And what would your life be like if there were sweetness, closure, and peace?

Click your heels together. Come home to yourself. Come home to what's really hurting you. Come home to God and the bigger things He wants to do with your heart.

Face the fear behind the curtain and come home.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Recipe For Bitterness

I have a flour dusted, oil spilled, warped 3 x 5 card that bears the recipe of my mom's famous chocolate chip cookies. That's a recipe everyone begs for. They are delicious, time tested, unforgettable.

Just this morning I came across a recipe for bitterness. Not sure how many will beg for that on a 3 x 5 card, but I hope by sharing it you might see it when its being stirred up in your own life.

Bible: Ruth 3-4 The story of Naomi. It's really the story of Ruth and how God blessed her and kept her, but it's also about Naomi and the recipe for bitterness.

Long story short. Naomi has several sons. They marry and the entire clan moves to a new area. The sons all die. Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to go on with their lives and find new paths. Ruth (one of the daughters-in-law) chooses to stay by Naomi's side and go back to Naomi's homeland with her.

When Naomi goes back to her hometown she is so devastated at how her life has turned out that she tells her friends to call her by a different name. "Mara" - which, interestingly enough, means "bitter mountain".

Naomi says, "The Almighty has made my life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi (which means pleasant) when the Lord has caused me to suffer and has sent such tragedy?"

So, we see a recipe for disaster that could apply to us too.

Step 1. Start with Loss of identity - losing our identity in our hurt
Step 2. Add Blame - blaming God (and others) for our losses - never ourselves
Step 3. Mix in the "Has Been" feelings and the "I had it all once . . . " self-pity and sprinkle in the feeling of being robbed unfairly -
Step 4. Bake on high and seal with a victim mentality of "suffering and tragedy"

Naomi was right smack dab in the middle of her own bitterness - a recipe she cooked up out of her own pain. Sadly, she stayed there for a long long time.

She would not allow her heart to feel joy. She clung to how right she was about God being so wrong. She wanted people to know that she had suffered, that she deserved her agony, and that she was a victim.

I know people like this.

I also know people who have had terrible, tragic circumstances play into their lives and they have chosen to claim their divine God-given gifts and callings, have chosen to focus on giving and serving, and have developed an inner gratitude that is magical. They are contagiously happy, warm, loving and encouraging.

They choose to bake up something different in their lives - something sweet, something worth savoring, something they can scoop up in spoonfuls with their children, that fills their home with an aroma that is remembered forever.

Now that? That's a recipe worth having.

* the day following this blog on bitterness I watched my friend Katie's YOUTUBE video. Katie is one of our Heart 2 Home volunteers and comes out on every project, working right along side everyone else in the dirt, paint and chaos. She's a no excuses kind a gal. I've been inspired by Katie and her choice to pursue sweetness. Watch this video and you'll see exactly what I mean. She could have cooked up some fine tasting bitterness in her life and been justified, but instead she created sweetness - and it blesses EVERYONE around her!