Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Dead Battery and a Heart in Training

I’m sitting at my kitchen table right now. I know that means nothing to you. However, the fact is, I should be sitting at a table at the Broad Ripple Brew Pub, enjoying a lively conversation with three pastor friends on the topic of one of my passions—spiritual formation. But that is not to be. You see, about an hour ago, I got in my car to leave, turned the key, and heard nothing but an irritating clicking sound coming from the starter. Evidently, the battery is dead. Bummer!

It is a bummer, probably more than seems obvious to you. Truthfully, all week, I have looked forward to today. In fact, I instigated this conversation with these particular friends because they are life-giving, interesting folks who also have a similar interest in helping people mature spiritually.

So, how do I engage with my spiritual formation right now, recognizing that it comes from the unsolicited disappointment of a dead battery rather than the energizing banter of spiritual conversation?

When I realized my plight, I sat for a moment in my car, taking in the reality that I would likely not make my meeting. In the past, stuff like this would have thrown me into a tizzy. I would have welled with anger and irritation, kicked it into high gear to solve my problem, to remove the obstacle impeding my goal, and likely been on my merry way. Or not. This time was different.

I knew intuitively that I was being invited by God to surrender to this blocked goal and turn to him in it. Wasting my energy in a fury of frustrated emotions would hardly accomplish anything. So I sat, swallowed hard and prayed something like, “It's okay, God. I know I will find you in this.”

Please don't hear this as the confessions of a self-promoting saint. In some ways, I am rather surprised. This reaction is very different from my old patterns of responding to disappointing mishaps. Though I feel sad and let down, I can tell that God is changing my heart. I am being trained by him to live into each moment, no matter what unfolds, and surrender to the transforming power of it. I know that this is where real spiritual formation takes place.

So, now I am contemplating what I want for lunch. Kind of bummed that I have to make it for myself. But, oh well, I have some leftover pot roast that will do.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Protect yourself from predators--follow your instincts!

As I stood at the sink cutting up some vegetables, I looked out the kitchen window and noticed the leaves on a large bush behind our mulberry tree sway with a sudden, wide movement. The foliage parted as if stirred by a swift gust of wind. And then I saw it--a large hawk, swooping in, ready to descend upon a wren house full of baby wrens.

In an instant, I knew what was happening and without thinking I began to whoop and holler. I ran to the large window that looks out on our garden and began to bang. My sudden and unrestrained action created enough alarm that the hawk gave up his hunt and flew away.

I chuckled at myself, amused by my barbarian reaction to this predator. At the same time, I was so glad that I was there at that very moment and followed my instincts. I felt protective of those sweet little babies. For a couple weeks, I had enjoyed their chatter and been amazed by their parents unrelenting attention to feed them.

My response came from my natural instinct to protect. I didn't think first and then act. I merely did what came to me--and it worked! My yelping and banging warded off a predator and saved some baby birds. The same instinctual reaction, however, can protect me and you from much more serious danger.

Not long ago, I did some research for a presentation on how to protect yourself from predators. I learned four important lessons, using the acrostic GIFT:

G: When facing a situation where you may be in danger, you have a gift of intuition. Learn to use it.
I: Pay attention to your initial instincts and follow them.
F: Your feelings often tell you whether you can trust a person or situation. Notice them.
T: Trust yourself; don't trust someone you don't really know.

I hope this story and this GIFT will help you remember to follow your instincts and protect what is near and dear to you!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

$158 in roaming charges and the misery of being powerless!

You can only imagine my husband’s perplexity and irritation when he opened our Sprint bill on Saturday and saw $158 in roaming charges for MY phone! Right away, I called Sprint and talked with a not-so-accommodating supervisor, for over an hour, who explained to me that I should have known to change my new phone from an “automatic” to “Sprint-only” setting so that when I was out of range, my phone would not automatically find another service and then charge me for roaming minutes. You can now only imagine my perplexity and irritation!

The amount of emotional energy I spent on this altercation is unbelievable. Yes, I do believe this is unfair and unreasonable. But why do situations like these get under my skin so much? Why do they raise my ire and incite such turbulent emotions?

For me, it has a lot to do with feeling powerless. I vehemently dislike engagements where I feel as though I have no choice, no power, and no alternative to protect my personal rights. It’s miserable to be reduced to compliance because I have no other alternative. I feel bitter, like losing to someone who cheats.

Yet, as I have wrestled through the emotional duress of this dispute—and it’s still not over, I’m heading to a Sprint store today to have a technician look at my phone to see if it is faulty—I have concluded that the only healthy path to take is to surrender. I sense the Spirit reminding me that I need to accept the reality that life isn’t always fair. I will face dilemmas when I have no voice or exercise of power that can change my circumstances.

In order to submit to this potentially unpleasant outcome, I need a fresh infusion of grace. I know that it is in these times, using this very stuff, that God forms my character and helps me become like Jesus. It also helps to step back and see how small and incidental this issue is in relationship to the weightier matters of life. The truth is, it really doesn’t matter all that much.