Coaching Christlikeness

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I began a Coaching Christlikeness class with Neal Nybo at church today, devoting myself to spending eight weeks learning more about myself, more about Jesus, and more about the path that will lead me to the life I want.  The scary part?  I’ll also be challenged to surrender things that are important to me.  To deny myself, and my wants.  To surrender control.  Scary stuff.  The love and gratitude and peace all sound wonderful … but getting there along a path of surrender, denial, and loss of control?  Taking down my protective barriers built up over 54 years and being brave enough to be fully vulnerable?  To stop talking and thinking and doing and rest in silence to listen to God?  Not sure if I can do it.  But for today, at least, I’ll try.

I have big dreams of retiring early and of spending a year in France, of long walks and daily yoga and reading under the shade of the oak tree in my back yard for long hours at a time.  

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What if God has some other plan for me?  A plan involving long hours of feeding the homeless or building orphanages in Afghanistan or who knows what else that takes all my money and all my time?  

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(How can someone see this child and not want to help her?)

God’s plan may be something I’ve never even considered and can’t imagine, and it might be nothing like what I think I want my life to be.  But I know to live my fullest life, to live my best life, is to live the life God planned for me, whatever that may be.

Today’s lesson focused on Belief, and Neal interspersed quotes from his mentor, Dallas Willard, with Jillian Michaels, among others (finding examples for our spiritual lives in the words at the end of Ripped in Thirty is just one of the things I love about Neal!)  Jillian was speaking of physical exercise, but the words fit well in our spiritual lives as well.  To quote her:

“Most people don’t show up in their own lives.  They go through life every single day without being focused and bringing their A game.  Transformation is not a future event.  It is a present activity.  That is why you must bring everything that you have to give in every moment.  And it doesn’t have to be perfect.  It isn’t about perfect.  It’s about effort.  When you bring that effort every single day that’s where transformation happens.  That’s how change occurs.”

We started class by listing three things we believe to be true — so true that I am prepared to live my life trusting it to be true.  That the sun will rise every morning.  That my kids will be okay, despite some bumps and bruises along the way.  That my parents love me, even if it’s in their own unique way.  I live my life each day knowing and believing those things to be true.  Next, three spiritual beliefs that we’re prepared to live our lives based on.  I stole my three from Neal.  (Note to self: perhaps stealing rather than using original thought is not the best way to uncover my own truth?)  But to be fair I do really believe these three things, so the fact Neal also believes them doesn’t make them any less true for me.

1.  God is a loving God (at times I did question this, with good people dying, bad people thriving, and all the things that aren’t perfect and don’t work the way it seems as if they should, but ultimately I’ve confirmed my belief that above all else, God loves)

2.  God loves me (yes, even me, even when I’m stupid and sinful and ignore Him and even if He knows I Could Do Better)

3.  God has a plan for me, and if I do anything less, it will be second best.  (And I’ve done a lot of second best in my life.)

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If we believe it, we should act as if it is so.

Neal closed by assigning homework — three times this week we are to sit in silence and solitude.  First, for five minutes, then 10, then 15.  Silence to allow God to speak to us, should He so choose.  God doesn’t tend to interrupt us.  If we are busy with our own thoughts, He doesn’t usually butt in.  But if we sit in silence, listening for His voice, He may speak.  If we ask, “is there anything you’d like to teach me?” He just might let us know that, in fact, there is.  

So I sat in silence, with eyes closed, for 10 minutes today (I’m a Type A … what’s 5 minutes when I can do 10?)  I didn’t hear God, and I almost fell asleep, but I sat.  I decided to sit for 5 more, with eyes open.  I’m not sure I heard God speak to me, but I felt it was step 1 of a long process of being open, receptive, still and willing.  I’m in, and curious and excited to see where it all leads.  Thanks for coming along with me on the journey.

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A Perfect Sunday

It’s a gorgeous day to be alive, and for once all my work is done and I’m free to do whatever my heart desires.  As I write I’m sitting in my backyard, enjoying the view of the garden tended by my husband to attract bees for the vegetables he’s growing below.

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I started the morning off with my reading from The Divine Hours Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.  It’s a blessing to read her book each morning; at least for a few minutes upon waking I feel all’s right with the world and my place in it.  One day I’ll hopefully remember to return for the mid-day reading to get back on track, and close each day with the Vespers reading.  So far I’ve been good about remembering every morning, terrible and rarely remember to read in mid-day and remember the evening prayer about half the time.  Something’s better than nothing!

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After my healthy morning shake (a carrot, celery, cucumber, kale, protein power, flaxseed, strawberries, blueberries and half a banana with 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice and a teaspoon of vegetable juice) and a quick glance at the paper (which doesn’t take long given how small even the Sunday edition has become) I headed out to Meadowbrook Middle School where my church was holding a “Love Your City” day.

Today, instead of doing the normal Sunday church thing, we closed the church doors and instead went out into our community to make a practical impact and, hopefully, reveal that our faith makes a difference in the here and now.  We painted benches, planted a hillside, packed school supplies, and  cleaned lockers — my job.

Some of the lockers were merely dusty, others were caked with months-old soda spills and many had been taken over by spiders.  By the end of the morning I was feeling nausous from the cleaning solution and spider combination but I was also happy that I’d been able to help make the middle schooler’s day a little better when they first open their locker.  I know how nervous I was when my first child first set off for middle school, a little boy entering a scary new world, and would not have wanted him to open the locker to put in his books only to discover sticky stains left over from the occupants from the year before.

So, my good deed for the day done, and having finished my left-over work yesterday, I have been able to completely enjoy my afternoon, guilt-free.  I finished one book and started another and have been researching my trip to France planned for early October in the Dordogne.  I often fantasize about spending months or even a year or two living in France, or Italy, or England, or … pretty much anywhere in Europe.  In fact I’ve been dreaming of living in Europe since I was six or seven years old, and I hope to find a way to retire early so that I can at least spend a few months at a time over there.

But on days like today, I remind myself how good I have it right here in Poway, California.  Perfect weather, shady live oaks filled with the sounds of birds, a creek meandering through the back yard, and fresh veggies and fruits courtesy of my husband’s new-found love of gardening.  Today I’m grateful to be here, enjoying a beautiful day with a great book, my daughter home from college and nothing so urgent on my “to do” list that it can’t wait.  It doesn’t happen often, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can!

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God Will Provide

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I’ve lost my energy and passion for the work that consumes most of my life; instead I stay at it out of convenience and fear and a sense of responsibility to my family and co-workers and not having a clear idea of what to do next — what is my passion?

I search for the aspects of my day that energize me and make me feel alive and as if I’m contributing but haven’t been able to translate those bits and pieces into a plan that looks like a career path I can head down.

And thinking about my income going away scares me and my family, who count on it to help pay the mortgage and the college tuition and the grocery bill and … well, you get the picture.

I’ve started in the month of June to read the prayers and readings from The Divine Hours Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle, and it’s a beautiful way to start each morning. This morning it turns out I actually accidentally read ahead, what I shouldn’t be reading until June 22, but it turned out to be the perfect reading for me.

Taken from Luke 12:22-31, it goes like this:

This is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you clothe it. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Think of ravens. They do not sow or reap; they have no store houses and no barns; yet God feeds them.

And how much more are you worth than the birds!

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Can any of you, however much you worry, add a single cubit to your span of life? If a very small thing is beyond your powers, why worry about the rest? Think how the flowers grow; they never have to spin or weave; yet, I assure you not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of them.

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Now if that is how God clothes a flower which is growing wild today and is thrown in the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he look after you, who have so little faith! But you must not set your hearts on things to eat and things to drink; nor must you worry. … Your Father knows well you need them. No, set your heats on his kingdom, and these other things will be given you as well.

(The Divine Hours Prayers for Summertime at 103).

It reminds me that if I truly want to find what God wove me together to do, then by focusing more on strengthening my relationship with Him, and on truly loving everyone and actively living that love, all will fall into place. Why is letting go and loving so perfect and yet so darn hard?

So my prayer for today is to free myself to fly like the raven, and beautify the world like the wildflowers that sprout untended in the fields, by pouring out my love freely and worrying less about myself and trusting more.

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