Just Enough

July 26th, 2013 § Comments § permalink

I’ve learned something new. That is, I have just enough.

I love learning, discovering, and understanding. Unfortunately, I’m a bit stubborn and hard-headed – not to mention redundant. Yet, when something does dawn on me, I am compelled to dig a little deeper, introspect a bit more, and sort it out better in my mind. Not only does this help me establish the certainty of the epiphany, but it solidifies the value into my being.

Last year, when things got desperate, we made a conscious effort to surrender to the financial pressures that sought to kill us. Our mortgage was worthless and required us to pay on a house that was worth only 60% of what we “paid” for it. I was making less as a paramedic than I did as a pastor – and the hours were worse. My job was killing me and killing my family. Jennifer said, “I’d rather live in a tent than continue living like we are now.” And yet, how does one step off? How do you quit the rat race?

We didn’t actually have good answers to these questions, but we knew we couldn’t stay on the treadmill of death. In processing through this, I finally accepted the idea that God is the provider of my family, not me. Of course, this isn’t the way I was raised – and it certainly isn’t a very “American” culture perception. But it is very biblical, and leads to greater serenity. There is great fear in accepting this concept. There is great uncertainty. Who doesn’t like to be in control – or at least feel like we are in control?

“We didn’t actually have good answers to these questions, but we knew we couldn’t stay on the treadmill of death.”

It took several months of healing and practice before I actually began to live a life that is compatible with this principle. Last Fall, after a few months of healing (and catching up on sleep), we sold and gave away our “stuff,” packed our remaining keepsakes into a truck, abandoned our house, and took to the road. For several months we lived with relatives and then in a loaned house. Going through that experience was painful, scary, and challenging. I learned just how invaluable my stuff was and how much I didn’t need it.

Letting GoOver the course of the past couple of months we’ve put our life back together. It’s been a very exhausting and painful few years. I’ve returned to a life of gainful employment, we now have health insurance and savings, and we’re living in a house we can call home. We are no longer homeless and unemployed.

In the process, we’ve been spending money on a lot of stuff. Granted, we’ve been buying used furniture and replacing some of our “stuff,” but nonetheless, we’ve paid out a lot of cash – for us anyway. Actually, we’ve refurnished our whole house for less than many would spend on a new TV and sound system. The best part is, we are debt free!

I’m a planner. I analyze the present, evaluate my options, and plan for the future. In this process, I’ve been thinking about some major expenses looming on the horizon. We’re going to need new tires on the minivan and I think the suspension needs some major work. I’m also concerned about the transmission and something under the hood occasionally makes a big “clunk” sound. Of course, there are always major expenses looming just under the surface – unexpected urgencies, emergencies, and other unforeseen needs. Living on the financial edge is disconcerting for a planner.

Then it hit me, our money is like manna. God is our provider and He will provide just enough for today’s needs. He tried to teach the exiled Israelites to trust Him and to never collect more manna than they could consume in a single day. In Exodus 16, they were told to gather as much as they needed. Interestingly, “some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough.” I realized, that God, our provider, would always provide “just enough” to sustain us.

“We are no longer homeless and unemployed.”

I don’t have to be concerned about tomorrow’s expenses and needs, He will provide. He is enough to meet all of our needs – and many of our wants. In His Sermon on the Mount He tells us to not “worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts… but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” In fact, He says, to “seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

I’m beginning to learn and practice this. It’s a good feeling – and it’s very relaxing. He is providing just enough.

PS: This applies to time, love, relationships, and sleep too!

What is a walkabout? “let yourself float in the derive mon amie”

July 11th, 2013 § Comments § permalink

What is a walkabout?” I asked.crocodile dundee

One of the fire chiefs I worked with was taking a two week vacation to drive around Eastern Oregon. When he told us about his plans, I resonated. Two weeks to just explore. He called it a walkabout. He told me it was something the Australians do to get their heads together.

My research tells me this was a spiritual journey undertaken by aboriginal natives in Australia. And yet, there seems to be more to this activity. Actually, as a registered introvert, I’ve been doing walkabouts my whole life – I just didn’t know they were called that.

As a kid, I would often explore the buttes and forests near my house. Of course, I always had to be home for dinner. But in my 20s I began to undertake longer journeys – hiking, camping, driving, or just riding my bike. I would spend hours just exploring. One of my best experiences was a five-day, solo backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail near Lolo Pass on the Western slope of Mount Hood.

Often, I would pack up my truck and drive around Eastern Oregon. A little snow skiing on Mount Bachelor, a little hiking in the woods, and camping in the back of my truck.

In the city, I would spend hours driving around in my car, or on my motorcycle. In the summertime, I would leave the house in the morning and often not return till late at night – just finding what a would find and experiencing what I would experience.

Then I discovered urban exploring – finding abandoned buildings and just snooping around. Old barns, warehouses, and 100 year old deteriorating church buildings are all full of interesting artifacts. Second hand stores and back alleys are full of interesting things. But still, it was the forests and back roads that I’ve found to be the most fulfilling and inspiring.

Often, before I write or create some form of art, I will take a little walkabout. It frees my mind, allows me to process events, conversations, thoughts, and ideas. I love the freedom of leaving the house and discovering the world I’ve never experienced.

“In psychogeography, a dérive is an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, on which the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct the travellers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.” ~Wikipedia 

I love getting lost in a new city. I’ve wandered the streets of Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Boston. Each of these explorations were memorable and engaging. Of course, I’ve wandered all over Portland – my favorite city anywhere.

Now that I’ve lived in Lincoln for over a month, I was beginning to feel antsy. The other night, on a whim, and after a late evening errand, I started driving around. Three hours later, well after midnight, I was feeling peace. Also, a certain ownership of my new hometown was settling into my soul. It helped that I was listening to some of my favorite music from the last four decades. The nostalgia of music, coupled with the walkabout (in my minivan), was just perfect.

The French have a similar experience to the walkabout. One of my Twitter friends, @xolotl, sent me this message: “let yourself float in the derive mon amie.”  He later interpreted this for me: “la derive = ‘the drift’ idea of French Situationists: floating through your day experiencing like you did with eggs etc.”

I wrote about this a few years ago at Daddytude.com.Schwinn Commuter

Today I went for a short ride on my new bike. From our new home, it’s just a short trip into downtown Lincoln. Though this is not a tremendous, or large urban center, it was still fun to ride through the UNL campus and around the state capital building. Riding the bike paths, through the parks, and among the traffic – in the sunshine – and on flat terrain.

So, what’s a walkabout?

It’s as much about personal discovery as it is about spiritual enlightenment. It is part introversion, part creativity, and part freedom. The drift, “with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.

A Good Attitude is a Real Attitude

July 9th, 2013 § Comments § permalink

TruthFor as long as I can remember I’ve wrestled with my attitude. Some of this is Nature and some is Nurture. I’m a melancholy. There’s no getting around that. Much of my attitude is based on my feelings. Believe me, if you think it is hard being around me – you should try experiencing this from the inside. However, the other part of this is the way I was raised. I lived in a family where shaming, teasing, and not listening were the norm. I never really developed the skills to develop a healthy attitude or to appropriately wrestle with my feelings.

This has not been an easy issue for me. I often come across as moody, grumpy, and often negative. This isn’t really how I feel inside, but I definitely have projected these attitudes. This is where being alone is helpful for me. It gives me time and space to work through my feelings and attitudes. But in real life, it’s often not easy to find the time and space to be alone and to work through my stuff.

Marriage is hard enough, without having to live with an American Neanderthal who isn’t very in touch with his feelings. At this point, you may say a prayer for my wife. Let me explain.

Several years ago I was telling someone about a significant life hurdle I was facing. She asked, “How do you feel about that?” I was speechless. It never occurred to me that I should feel anything. It was just an experience – just something I was facing. It was neither good, nor bad – it just was.

But this conversation was eye-opening to me. I realized just how out of touch I am with my feelings. In the 12-13 years since that phone call, I’ve tried to paid more attention to my feelings. I’ve found that when I correctly identify what I’m feeling, I can better own those feelings and process through them. Sometimes it will take a few days to really understand what is going on inside, sometimes it is easy, but sometimes those feelings are very deep.

A few months ago, I found myself feeling sluggish, lethargic, and very unmotivated. I wasn’t depressed and I wasn’t upset – I just had no motivation. The next day I realized why. I was waiting for some news about a recent job interview. I was at peace with the process, but the lack of news left me feeling morose. Just identifying the uncertainty in my life allowed me to put a label on my experience. Within moments the lethargy lifted.

This was very educational for me. It confirmed the idea of “owning the truth.” Once I own the experience, feeling(s), and/or challenges, I (and many others) seem better equipped to move on.

Today I participated in an online video conversation that provided some valuable insight into this whole process. Here is what we came up with:

  • Own Your Feelings/Attitude

This is what I was talking about above. The first step is to always get in touch with what feelings you are experiencing.

  • Understand and Tell the Truth – Always

This is a hard one for most of us. We are afraid that if we tell the truth, people won’t like us, they’ll reject us, or worse, we’ll not like ourselves.

  • Be Clear About Your Identity

My feelings do not change my identity. Even when I feel like a failure, I am still valuable. Even when I am angry, I am still complete. Even when I am depressed, I am still a whole human being. Even when I am going through Hell, I am still worth as much as when I wasn’t going through Hell.

  • Reframe Your Story.

This one is challenging, and I won’t be able to address it very well here. The key take away that I got from the conversation, (and I’d recommend you watch it in its entirety), is that we need to remember those moments and times when we didn’t feel like we do currently. Grasp those memories and unfold those experiences, to reframe the current situation. For instance, when I went through the collapse of my first marriage, I thought my life was over. I now claim that to be one of the greatest opportunities of my life. In the midst of a current life-altering collapse, is it possible I would come to the same conclusion? Probably.

  • Experience a Near Death Experience in Order to Get Clear.

Universally, we all agreed that those life-altering, life-threatening experiences are some of the best tools God uses to get us to refocus our priorities and outlook.

Here is the video for you to view:

My problem remains – I’m a caveman when it comes to understanding my feelings. I get stressed, depressed, and distraught – but I often don’t know why. When I take the time, I can usually identify what those situations are and how I’m feeling in reaction to those situations. I am beginning to understand how important it is for me to take that time – daily – to meditate, pray, listen, and introspect. Without it, I can sometimes get twisted into a ball of ignorant feelings and attitudes.Melon Collie

My takeaway is that there are no bad attitudes, just poor reactions. Sometimes we are going through a rough spot, a life-threatening space, or a situation that seeks to destroy life as we know it. Understanding the situation, and the feelings surrounding that, will help us process our feelings and attitudes. As my friend Sovann Penn says in the above video, “A good attitude is a real attitude.”

Another way to look at this, from my friend Marc Schelske, “If you’re not growing, you’re not telling the truth.”

Or, as Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

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