Thursday, November 18, 2010

Radically Thankful

I was doing my dishes tonight, murmuring about having so many dishes to do.  I don’t like doing dishes, don’t know many people who do, but it is a necessary task in keeping the house clean.  It was during this unpleasant task that a thought struck me; I want to be “Radically Thankful.” 

The holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas typically bring out thoughts of thankfulness and well being toward others, but I want to be more thankful and throughout the year, not just during the holiday season.  I want to be dramatically changed in my thinking and actions by becoming “Radically Thankful.”  So what does this mean?  What will it look like in my life?

The most obvious change needs to be in how I think about unpleasant tasks and people, finding the truth of why I need to be thankful.  Doing dishes for example,  I can grumble about how many dishes have to be done, how the water is too hot OR I can be thankful that I have food to cook and eat, dishes to eat off of, silverware to eat with, pots and pans to cook in, a furnace that heats the water and oil to fuel the furnace.  But this is not radical enough for me, for me it needs to go deeper in order to transform.  I want to be thankful for those things that would be perceived as “my right” to grumble about, sitting in traffic, waiting in a check out line, being cut-off by another driver or shopper, being totally inconvenienced by someone else.  I’m not advocating giving up my rights; laying down as a doormat to others, no, not at all!  We all have to have good boundaries and take care of ourselves in order to be healthy.  But what I am saying is that I choose to not ruminate beyond the moment, forgive and change my attitude.  Here is my commitment, my resolution prior to New Year’s:

For each inconvenience and unpleasant experience I choose to find something to be radically thankful for.
1.      Stuck in traffic…I own a car and have a place to go
2.      Stuck in a check out line…I have money to buy things with and live in a country that offers items for me to buy.
3.      Inconvenienced by others…I am healthy enough to be around others, I am not isolated.
4.      My car or house needs a repair…at least I have a car and a place to live.
5.      Not enough money…I am thankful for what I do have, mindful there are plenty with none.
6.      Too hot or too cold…I am alive to experience temperature changes and live in a part of the country that has a change of season.
7.      I am bored…my life is without drama or crisis.

This list could go on ad infinitum; it will grow as my attitude changes.  As I look toward Thanksgiving, I am deeply thankful for my family, my job, home, pets and car.  I am thankful for my friends and acquaintances along with others that I meet, never getting their names.  I believe that this change of attitude will get me more than $2.50 will buy.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone, may your holiday be blessed, thank you for reading.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Refrigerator Door

I was placing a photo of one of my “adopted” nephews on my refrigerator door, when I began to think about what that door said about me.  I often find myself staring at other people’s refrigerators, looking at the pictures, the magnets and pieces of paper, gaining an impression of who they are and what is important to them and have come to the conclusion that it is one of the most intimate places within a home for it truly portrays what is important to our being.  It has often been said, “We are what we eat,” I would propose that what we hang on the outside of the frig is as significant to our life as what we eat from the inside of the frig.

On three sides of my frig are hung pictures of my best friends, newspaper articles about my family, postcards that have been sent from far away places and magnets representing places and things that I love.  There are flyers from festivals I’ve attended; restaurants menus, handwritten recipes, a to do list and heating oil receipts clipped together that flap from the door when I open it.  It is a mish-mash of stuff that looks chaotic but it is representative of who I am in this world.

I have seen some doors that are neatly arranged and orderly with pictures, no flapping papers or a wild array of magnets.  Others have hand drawn pictures from young children displayed in prominence either taped on the corners or held in place by magnets.  My mother keeps a calendar on the side of her frig that she writes appointments on.  As I have said, my refrigerator is covered on three sides with a variety of overlapping pictures, papers and such.  I believe this is also indicative of who I am.  I like my life integrated, everything over lapping, my closet friends know each other and they all know my family.  My life tends to be an “open book” and my refrigerator door will attest to that.  Most people would not like my door, it is not tidy but neither is my life but I love my mish-mashed, taped and magnetized life hung together on one big metal box…inside and out I am fed as a person, body, soul and spirit.  When I am feeling insignificant and small all I have to do is glance at my refrigerator and I am reminded of what is important.  I have the faces of those who love me regardless, a family I can be proud of and heating oil receipts that affirm I own my home.  The magnets and post cards remind me that there is a big world out there for me to explore and enjoy (even if it is from my armchair,) the menus, recipes and festival flyers tell me that I have and will continue to have fun; and the To Do list emphasizes I have purpose.

What does the outside of your refrigerator tell about you?  What truths would be revealed about what is important in your life?  It is easy to walk past this appliance and not perceive the significance hung on the door.  I encourage you to take a moment and reflect on the love and life that stares back at you.  But as always, this and $2.50 will get you something yummy, maybe even from the freezer!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Traffic Jam

Once again I write about traveling.  Some of my best muses (I believe) come from driving.  I have heard it said that the last part of your body to be “saved” is your right foot.  I would go on to say that the last place, in at least my life, to be sanctified is my car.  But, I digress.  Driving back from a splendid vacation I got hung up in heavy traffic.  All of a sudden my best laid plans and schedule went out the window (excuse the pun.)  I was stuck behind a line of tractor-trailer trucks for an hour and a half, going a grand total of 3 miles.  After which I promptly followed the traffic in a direction I did not want to go.  As I groused and growled my way through the line my best friend, who was traveling with me, commented, “well you have your next blog.”  Got to love best friends, God’s gift to remind us of HIM.  As we sat in traffic on a back road in Pennsylvania we talked about how we made the wrong turn.  We reversed direction and ended up missing our turn again, but thankfully realized our mistake after 5 miles.  When we were finally headed in the direction we wanted to go, we were able to reflect on the spiritual aspect of our journey.

Lesson 1: It is easy to become impatient when we are moving slower than we want.  The statement “Man proposes, God disposes” is very apropos when sitting in traffic on a super highway.  I had my plans, my schedule to meet.  I had places to go, people to see and this slow down was interfering.  How often is this true of our lives in general and how often do we become impatient because we are being stalled by others?  Who owns my schedule and my plans?

Lesson 2: When I am impatient and pushed, I often do not take the time needed to follow the correct path, I follow the obvious to what I believe will be a quick solution.  I had difficulties seeing what was ahead of me when I was behind the truck and was very cognizant of the fact that there was another 2 – 3 miles of traffic behind me.  The most obvious and quick solution is not always the best for that is what sheep do; they follow the sheep in front.

Lesson 3: Trust the road map, not the man waving his hands.  Part of what got us into the situation was that we believed the DOT man had our best interest in mind.  He didn’t, he just wanted the traffic to move.  The Bible is our road map and that is often contrary to the general public waving their hands, directing traffic.  I learned after going past the same man three times to be bold and turn on my signal light indicating that I wanted to turn a different direction than the general mass of metal.  It takes boldness to stand up for what you know to be the direction God has for you.

Lesson 4: Sometimes the road signs are missing; it’s okay to be lost for a moment.  For a few hours after the experience I chastised myself and ruminated about the lost time driving around and sitting in traffic.  I had wanted to be somewhere at a certain time and my error, coupled with the seeming incompetence of others hindered that goal.  In hindsight, yes I followed the pack and got stuck, yes I missed the turn again and got lost for a minute, but when we turned on the right road we discovered there was no route marker to tell us where to go.  That happens in life, but the reason we did not get horribly lost was because my best friend knew how to look at the sun and tell the direction.  It was okay to be lost for the moment because we knew how to look at the map, read the natural signs and return to the last point we knew we were right.

To sum this all up, perfectionism is not something to be sought after, but is attained through quiet patience and learning from your mistakes.  It comes from knowing when the path you are following is not the best route to take.  Oh, sometimes following the pack is the best thing and sometimes we are forced to go where we don’t want to, but living in the moment, recognizing where you are and being bold enough to go where you need to go is important.  Don’t be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Life is a journey with twists, turns, missing road signs; traffic jams and DOT people waving for you to follow the traffic.  Be blessed in your journey, follow the map and don’t beat yourself up for wrong turns, just turn around and go the right way.  And remember, this and $2.50 will get you a beverage of your choice!