Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stop the Waves If You Can

As I have mentioned many times before, I am reading and at times, re-reading Eat, Pray, Love.  There are so many pages in this book where I have found clues to me.  I can't explain it.  But God is talking to me through this book.  For this post, let me borrow a story from the book, while Liz is in India finding her spiritual self:

"But now Swamiji was in my dream, standing beside me on the beach in all his power.  I was terrified.  He pointed to the approaching waves and said sternly, 'I want you to figure out a way to stop THAT from happening.'  Panicked, I whipped out a notebook and tried to draw inventions that would stop the ocean waves from advancing.  I drew massive seawalls and canals and dams.  All my designs were so stupid and pointless, though.  I knew I was out of my league here (I'm not an engineer!) but could feel Swamiji watching me, impatient and judgmental.  Finally I gave up.  None of my inventions were clever or strong enough to keep those waves from breaking.

That's when I heard Swamiji laugh.  I looked up at this tiny Indian man in his orange robes, and he was veritably busting a gut with laughter, bent over double in delight, wiping mirthful tears from his eyes.

'Tell me, dear one,' he said, and he pointed out toward the colossal, powerful, endless, rocking ocean.  'Tell me, if you would be so kind-how exactly were YOU planning on stopping THAT?' "

Wow.  Sometimes we actually think it is in our power to control things as only God can.  We try to manage everything.  We manipulate, plan, change, rotate, lay awake at night, thinking that we have the power to manage our circumstances.

Well, I don't know about you but it is quite a relief to me to realize that I don't have the power.  That the opportunities, missed and taken, the failures and heartaches are all part of the waves of life.  They roll over us some days and it feels cool, cleansing and refreshing.  Other days, it is rough and knocks us over as dangerous logs toss about like toothpicks.  We crash onto the shore completely out of breath and spitting out saltwater, tangled in seaweed.

I think the sooner we realize that much of life comes like those waves, the better prepared we can be.  Like tests of strength and courage, we are challenged to respond to the waves with our best effort.  But no matter what, the waves keep rolling in.  It's our response that matters.

We can't stop the waves.  We can respond to them.  It is futile to try to stop the waves.  But we can prepare for the weather, wind, sun, and rain, taking one wave at a time.  Buy some sunscreen.  Maybe learn to surf or sea-doo.  Take swim lessons.  Put on a lifejacket. 

Or maybe just enjoy the view.

Dear God, The more I realize that I can't control life but I can control my responses, the more empowered I feel.  I can smile through the rough times and sing praises in the good times, knowing that at all times You are with me.  You have the power to say to the waves, "Peace, be still."  And the waves must obey.  Thank you, God, for the blessings in my life.  May I always be mindful of the provision You have made for me.  Amen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Polly-Anna Theory

I am not sure of the Polly-Anna story or where it originated from, but I have been told that I am a Polly-Anna.  Be it a gift or a curse, as long as I can remember, I have tried to put myself in the other person's shoes if they were upset, mean, sad, cursing or just plain rude.  I look for the best in bad situations and give people the benefit of the doubt.

In fact, when I run into these people, I have often said to myself, "who knows, their mother may have just died."  It helped put the moment in context of what life is really about.

There came a day when, after my divorce, I was moving into my first place EVER!  It was a lovely townhome in downtown Gresham with hardwood floors and walkin closets and most importantly, air conditioning!  At 43, it was my first home alone and I could not have been more excited.

I was blessed to have new furniture to be delivered and it was scheduled to coincide with my lease paper signing.

When at the townhome, standing in the empty kitchen awaiting my things and meeting with the landlord to sign, he was particularly angry.  I could not understand his frustration with me.  He even said he thought I should not move in because he could tell I was going to be trouble.

What?  Me trouble?  I couldn't have been happier to move in and be grown up and have my things and decorate.

He excused himself and said he was going for a walk around the building to cool down.

My mother was with me and she said perhaps I would want to rethink living here.  It didn't seem like things were going well.

At first, my reaction was "no way".  I am moving in here.  I am not letting his sour attitude change my plans.  But then Polly-Anna took over:  Maybe he just lost his mother.

When the landlord came back in, he was still edgy but we got through the paperwork and things seemed calmer.  At the end, he asked me:  "Do you know why I am so angry?  My mother passed away last night."

Wow.  In that moment, nothing else mattered.  This man was standing there in pain and I understood.

If you find that you are quick to judge, quick to anger, quick to be impatient, I would implore you to consider what may be happening to the person right in front of you.  We never know the circumstances, stress or pain that someone is enduring.

And while we are talking about patience and ministering to others needs, may I remind all of us that we don't have to look any further than our own household.  Is your husband cranky and ill-willed?  Is your child fussy, insubordinate, or disobedient?  Do your parents get on your nerves worrying about every little thing?  Anyone with extreme or out of the ordinary emotions is a candidate for our special attention.

Using your heart to see their need can make all the difference.  I don't mean their need as in "things", although it may be part of the answer.  But most likely they are hurting and need some soothing words of encouragement.  Here are some starting places:

"Let's find the answer together."
"You aren't alone in whatever is bothering you.  Can I help?"
"How are things at work?  Want to talk about it?"
"Talk to me about your friends at school.  Who are your favorites?"
"What's been going on with you lately?  We haven't talked in a while."

Just last week, in the late of the evening, a heavy handed knock came to my door.  I looked out the peephole of the door and saw a young lady that I didn't know.  When I opened the door, she started jabbering right away about being a "good person" and she was "going to tell me."  She was perplexed and stressed to the max.  "I hit your car and a guy out there acted like I wasn't going to report it."

Turned out, she was by next door neighbor, one of two college girls that I had yet to meet.

As we stood in the dark of the street peering at my bumper and truly, not seeing any damage, she kept repeating that she was a "good person" and was "going to tell me."  Tears rolled down her face.  Babbling about working full time and school full time, it was obvious the week had gotten the best of her.

Without thinking, I said,  "You know there is a Hope."

She almost got whiplash as her head whirled around to look me in the eye and say, "What do you mean, there is a hope?"

All at once, I was faced with helping someone through a dark moment.  I have really felt called to this lately and here was my opportunity to share.  For a moment, I stood dumbfounded, realizing this girl had absolutely no concept of Who I was talking about!

So I said, "Well, tonight, when you lay your head on your pillow, you can talk to God.  He will be there for You, no matter what."

That was all I got to say before we were interrupted, but I saw her the next day on the sidewalk and she came up and hugged me.  She said I was the nicest person she had ever met.

The truth is, I am NOT the nicest person.  What she didn't realize was that she met God, THROUGH me.  Oooooh.  I have chills as I say that.

God used me to pour the warm oil over a wounded heart; a young lady who was at her breaking point.  And my neighbor.  My mom pointed out very astutely, "You haven't heard the last from her."  She was indicating that there was more ministering to do and not to be surprised if she shows back up on my doorstep.  Or me, on hers!

I went to and found this about the Polly Anna principle:  The concept as described by Matlin and Stang in 1978 used the archetype of Polly Anna, a young girl with infectious optimism.

I love that phrase:  INFECTIOUS OPTIMISM!

We need more of that! 

To close this lengthy blog, I want to share something I got via email today:

Heavenly Father, Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night might be a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.
Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly could be a  worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester. 
Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is probably a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares 

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress may be savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

Dear God,  I cannot believe that You can use me, who has been such a mess, to share with others the Hope that only You can give.  I thank you for the miracles you have performed in my life and the courage to share even the most humiliating moments so that You will be glorified.  Please help me to become the woman You want me to be, rather than looking to the humans around me for approval.  I only want what You have for me. ~Amen