The Gift of Slow

IMG_4447I don’t really have a natural mode to go slow. My two speeds tend to be go and stop. The guy who has been my boss and mentor for much of two decades told me once that he didn’t have any complaints about my creativity and productivity–only that he wished I’d slow down and give the things I created a chance to work before tossing them out!

Most of the time I don’t mind my two speeds because my “go” really is a beautiful mixture of passion for meaningful living and ADD. Truly. I am wired to pursue more good things than one might think could be crammed into a 24-hour time slot. And at the same time, ADD kicks in and supplies the energy to juggle my attention between multiple competing endeavors without breaking a sweat!

But even passionate ADD people tire out. That’s when my “stop” mode kicks in. My typical life drill is go, go, go until I stop. I do love to cram my days with all that I can possibly fit in, while grinning triumphantly at doubters who ask, “And when are you going to get that done?” Once I have started multiple fires to tend, and proudly silenced the naysayers, I do hit a point of just needing to stop and do nothing of any material or spiritual value for a short interval. Then, I get up and go again.

I embrace my wiring, even encouraging ADD kids who’ve been categorized with a life sentence of attention deficit that they have the unique ability to energetically tackle more challenges than most people around them. But, I am once again at a nuanced life experience where I cannot ignore “slow” even though it is very difficult for me. Today is day five after a surgery that restricts my activity for several weeks: no driving for at least a week, no lifting ten pounds or more for six weeks, rest often, walk–don’t run for a while, and basically take it easy on my body until the doctor releases me. But I can only sit so long and at some point too many naps give me a headache. So what am I to do when I can’t go, go, go, but also am weary of all the stopping?

Go slow. I know it may sound obvious to you, but I don’t naturally think that way. And frankly, “slow” is much easier for me to accomplish when it’s not optional. There are gifts to this speed that cannot be experienced at a feverish pace. I have encountered them in each of the seasons where I had no choice but to go slow. When I moved to Tulsa between my junior and senior year of high school, I knew no one and had no venue where I could really get to know other high school students for a few months. My memories of that time were of reading several books, exploring my new city, spending some good time with my family, receiving and responding to handwritten letters from cherished friends in Colorado and Wyoming, and getting a great tan at the neighborhood pool! It was a summer of deep breaths before a whirlwind senior year at a completely new school of almost 2000 eleventh and twelfth graders.

The last time it happened was more dramatic. I actually had a bi-lateral pulmonary embolism (blood clot in each lung) about four years ago and that crisis made me go slow and heal so that my body could actually breathe again. The details are in another blog entry, but the point here is that in the midst of slowing down for several months so my body could heal, I discovered some much needed spiritual and emotional healing.

If my own personal history tends to repeat itself, there must be some gifts I can glean from this most recent activity quarantine. Yes, my body needs to heal, but this time it’s not a health crisis or drastic life change. There is no trauma or drama to unpack. The gifts this time it seems are a few activities that require more deliberate thought and reflection than my typical pace can sustain. I am reminded that I skim too often and don’t do enough deep reading. I am sitting on my couch at 5:30 a.m. writing my first blog since springtime because I am fully rested from all the naps! I love to write, but I cannot do it well in a flurry of activity. Instead of just quickly praying and considering a scripture passage in a morning rush before work, I have experienced sacred space where quiet lasts longer than a few minutes.

The reality is I won’t be able to maintain this gift of slow in my regular routine much past the next week. Things will speed up. I will say yes to more than a sane person should agree to. But my goal now is to find days and times to enjoy the gift of slow more by choice. In between the go, go gos and the abrupt stops, I’d like to slow my time down at the intersection of these graces often enough to better contemplate my “humanness” and experience God’s goodness.

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Good and lasting change

Good and lasting change.  Those are the words of a prayer for Oklahoma schools that I heard yesterday as our staff gathered for our weekly meeting. I can’t think of a better challenge for our state leaders than that.  We need good and lasting change in our education system.  However it gets done, the people of Oklahoma are speaking loud and clear that it needs to happen.

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They are speaking at the capital, with protest crowds of teachers, parents and students growing in numbers.  Buses leave every morning to take people from the districts to join in the demonstration.  Those going in our district are paying to cover the transportation costs. They are meeting with their legislators as often as allowed and reminding them that we have cut education funding in our state annually for too long. I know the teachers going on behalf of my own kids have had a pivotal role in their lives, but many of them face daily obstacles in helping students flourish because of lack of funding.  They are advocating for support staff who make such a huge difference every day in school transportation, lunchrooms, differentiated learning opportunities and school offices to name a few. Many of these roles do not pay a reasonable living wage.

They are speaking in communities by filling the gaps. I see churches, organizations and businesses all over Tulsa stepping up to help feed and care for students who are out of school. Last week, our church partnered with at least 7 other organizations to host a day camp for over 100 students in an under-resourced neighborhood.  The volunteer work included feeding students breakfast and lunch, providing early care for working parents, a daily program of hip hop, percussion, vocal music, recreation, arts and crafts and ukulele classes. They put it together in a matter of days and it has continued into this week. And that’s the incredible effort being put forth in just one part of our city.  It’s happening everywhere.

As I follow the details of the teacher walkout that began April 2, I have varying opinions about how that can get done. Some bills that are being considered or debated I agree with the idea.  Some I’d rather see a different funding source considered.  But I will support good and lasting change! Here’s the deal–most teachers I know became educators because they wanted to make good and lasting change in students’ lives!  But, we must see a visible difference in how our legislature responds to education needs to believe that they too, want good and lasting change for our students and for the system charged with this amazing privilege to teach. Friends in the legislature, there are ideas coming your way every day on how to reverse course. Everyone in our state is speaking loud and clear.  You are officially empowered to get it done.

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You are there, and there, and there…

An excerpt from my Labor Day sermon on Psalm 139.  This section is talking about verses 7-12:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

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My summary of verses 7-12:
You’re there. You’re there. And there. Over there. Still there. And, yes, even there.

When I decided in 2nd grade that I wanted to follow Jesus and really had no idea what that meant, he was there.

When I was starting my senior year at my 3rd high school, he was there.

When I met Gary McKinney and knew I liked him, but refused to admit for quite some time, he was there.

When I mourned my 1st and 2nd miscarriage, he was there.

When I held Lanie and Garrison for the first time, he was most definitely there.

When I visited my 100 year old grandma for the last time and she kept asking, “now who are you?”, he was there.

When I make a remarkable mess of my life, he is there.

When I led the funeral for a 6 week old little girl who was born with 1/2 a heart, he was there.

And in the midst of the last 3 years of my life, which have been the hardest for a couple of of reasons, God has been there.

Jer 31:3 reminds us “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

David Benner in The Gift of Being Yourself boldly announces that he is “convinced that God loves each and every one of us with depth, persistence and intensity beyond imagination.”

Oh, if we could leave this place today believing that no matter where we go, God is in it with us….

 

 

New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Always Fear the Porta Potty

Friends, here is a short running story I shared with Oklahoma Sport and Fitness for their September/October publication.  Enjoy!

Always Fear the Porta Potty

 

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Sometimes Joy Tastes Terrible

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I recently had a seminary assignment to write about a food memory that has had an impact on my faith.  Once finished, it seemed like a story worth sharing.  Enjoy!

As a little girl (I am in the middle on Daddy’s lap!) I learned that from the fellowship of a meal, joy can flow from the most unlikely circumstance. My siblings and I still reminisce at family gatherings about the dreaded day of the month when my mom would prepare liver for dinner. Absolutely no one liked it, and the moans and protests would begin as soon as we all caught a whiff of liver fumes escaping the kitchen. Those dinners were awful and hilarious all at once. On these nights, usually an entire bottle of ketchup was used to smother the liver steaks so that we could bear to chew, swallow and repeat.

On one particular night in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, there was a liver uprising. My parents fostered children in state custody who for a variety of sad reasons, could not go home.  So, there were 8 or so of us at the dinner table. As we all sat around the table attempting to eat what we were told starving children would happily consume, one of the kids said, “Hey, something just hit my leg!” Then it happened again a few minutes later. It wasn’t long before my parents figured out that one liver culprit was tossing liver under the table to the dog, but a few pieces did not hit their intended target!

Although eating our entire dinners was serious business in those days, it wasn’t long until my mom gave up the liver crusade and we breathed a collective sigh of relief to return to steak, roast and ground beef portions of the cow. And, I cannot think of another meal in my family that has generated as much laughter, exaggerated retellings and sense of joy at family gatherings for our own kids to hear. Who knew that God could use a sliver of liver to bring levity and belonging to a family with children who needed more memories around the dinner table, even if it tasted terrible.

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Learning to live Shalom


A little bit about my own journey towards a richer life of peace.

http://blogs.covchurch.org/lovemercydojustice/2017/06/05/learning-live-shalom/

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Being vulnerable when I am angry

Last Sunday, I gave a message in our Vulnerability series on anger.  At first glance, anger and vulnerability seem to be strange cohorts in our emotional lives, but digging a little deeper shows how vulnerability helps us express anger in a healthy way.


Here are a few highlights and the link to the podcast. https://rcctulsa.simplecast.fm/69

  • God is big enough to handle whatever emotion we feel.
  • Emotions aren’t bad, they are a part of being human
  • It’s not actually anger that trips us up, it’s how we navigate it.
  • Practicing vulnerability in our anger means being willing to go make things right….sooner than later.
  • There is a relational cost to allowing our anger to fester.
  • Sometimes anger masks the real emotion we are feeling.

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