No Place Like Home

This week marks the eightieth anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” film. On August 11, 1939 there were three test market showings. Fun fact taken from the Cape Cinema website:

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“Special within our history is the premiere of the Wizard of Oz in 1939. It is difficult for many to believe but we proudly hold a poster from one of the anniversaries of that premier in our lobby, right above the Box Office. Part of the difficulty is the conflicting information you may find online. Our premiere of the show took place on August 11th, 1939 which was one day previous to the technical world premiere. As one of three test markets, we played the film before anyone else and feature a showing every year on its anniversary. For those wondering, Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West) was engaged at the Cape Playhouse at the time and arranged for the showing on Cape Cod, far away from the other test markets in Wisconsin.”

The movie’s theme is what all lifestyle coaches and even to some extent licensed counselors advise- when we have questions about our lives, we generally already know or have the answers in our “toolbox”.

In the case of the three compadres with Dorothy- the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow- they are reminded by the Wizard that they already possess courage, a heart and a brain. They did not have to keep looking for it but rather recognize that which was in them. In Dorothy’s case, she learns that one cannot run away from consequences for there is no place like home. The things she desires in life have been with her all along.

Yet, I cannot help but think it was the journey down the yellow brick road and the collective purpose of the four friends going to see the wizard that helped mold and shaped them. I cannot help but think that while we may have the tools within us, those tools sometimes lie dormant or are not fully functional until we experience life. Either we must have a chance to rise to an occasion or a chance to allow the experience shape the tools into what is necessary for us to continue along the journey.

I have seen it time and time again with friends and relatives who find that they do have the courage, heart or mind to traverse through tough situations. They may feel ill equipped for the journey or that a wicked witch is after them yet they persevere. If they were to be asked about their capabilities before the events, they would probably say that they couldn’t do it yet they do.

While I believe that we have many of the tools needed to help us in situations, I believe those tools are placed within our grasp by God. He knows what we need for this life journey. We need to trust Him that we will have everything we need when we need it. Sometimes the tools are a gift in the hand of a friend or stranger. Sometimes the tools need to be reused, cleaned and dusted off. Sometimes the tools need to be taken out of the box. And sometimes the tools have to be used over and over again.

Regardless we do not have to look too hard to find our tools. We just need to open our eyes, pay attention to our surroundings and be present. To ask for assistance when needed. To join with others in the experience. To hold on tightly even if the wind blows stronger than we can handle.

What about you? What do you already possess but for some reason don’t realize it? Creativity? Organization? Kindness? Grace under pressure? Resilience? Courage? Intelligence? Love?

Are you trying to get away from home? Physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? Why is that? Is it due to some tragedy? To some experience completely out of your control? Or behavioral consequences? What is home for you? More than just where we were raised, home can mean many different things: sanctuary, peace, familiarity,

Who are your compadres for your experience? Are you traveling solo or with others? Do you know where you are headed? What tools or information or equipment do you think you need?

Of course, with all analogies the story can only be taken so far. And, we know that The Wizard of Oz is just a story. However, God’s story and His care for us is real. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Tools that we can rely upon.

All I Need to Know... I Learned From My Dogs.

Professor Marley

Professor Marley

Lately it occurred to me that I have been struggling against life.  Not one particular strife but life in general and not a huge struggle but large enough to prevent me from doing what I need to do.  I can get myself all tangled up in thoughts:  Why do I get so overworked over something that in the long run doesn't  mean anything?  And then I get worked up for getting worked up.  Why can I not be content?  Why do I waste time by wasting my time worrying and kvetching over things I cannot control?  I feel like a protagonist in a Woody Allen movies - so much angst and mental turmoil over nothing.  

As is many things, I learn about life through the life of our dogs. I see how our dogs behave and I realize that I am doing the same in a human way. 

They loathe getting a bath, especially Marley. If he sees his littermate being carted down stairs, collar taken off and hears the water running, he will hide behind the nearest chair.   Something that should only take a few minutes (they are small dogs after all) can be extended for seemingly hours and can result in water going everywhere.  Once he gets "caught" from his hiding place, he squirms, tries to get out of the stationary tub, and in general makes it very difficult with his struggling.  If he would just relax and let me give him the bath, the process would be so much easier and I think he would even find it enjoyable.

Looking back on the meandering path of my life choices, I see all the times that I tried running away and hiding or struggled in my situation. Some times I seemed to have control over my path's direction and other times I found myself on a path not of my choosing. Sometimes my response to life's choices  was influenced by the calm or frenetic response of others while other times I felt that I couldn't help myself in my response.  Either way, it is my choice on how I respond. I may not have control over the direction but I do have control on how I travel in that direction. 

Lately I just felt a sense of peace, calm and understanding. I can relate to the Hebrew wisdom, "Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad."  When I feel the anxiety bubbling up and taking over, I think of Jesus' words, "...do not be anxious about your life."  In fact Jesus has a fair amount to say about anxiety/ worry and it involves all aspects of our lives: our physical possessions and our emotional/spiritual well-being.  

I realized that it is all about relaxing and not struggling with the hand that is dealt us.  It is such a waste of time.  I think of how many lessons that I had to revisit because I wasn't listening or understanding due to my squirming and whining, "Why is this happening?  It is not fair."  "Why? Why? Why?" It seemed that all my wrestling with God involved "not getting what I think I deserve".  Thank goodness for God's mercy and that I  do not get what I deserve.  Jesus reminds us that all we need to do is seek the Kingdom of God and everything else will fall into place. 

Looking back I realize so many times I just didn't get it.   At the time, the things that caused me to be all hot and bothered have not been significant at all.  They are just distant and fleeting thoughts.  I am painfully aware of this when I meet extended family members or distant friends.  They might ask me how is so and so or how is the situation?  I have to furrow my brow and think back, "What are they talking about?"  Situations that, at the time, seemed so important are relegated to the recesses of my mind. 

What about you?  Do you worry over your worry?  Is your life filled with angst?  Looking back, what were some of your concerns- 10 years ago?  5 years ago?  1 year ago?  Do you remember what it was?  What can you do to be content?  What are you seeking? 

I pray that I am entering a new stage.  A stage where I can just relax and enjoy where I am, what I am doing and with whom.  I am actively trying to be present for all that I am doing. Which is what Jesus is saying with His wisdom in Matthew 6. 

 All the angst, all the worry and the extra worry of the original worry have done nothing in helping me achieve any goals.  It just prolongs the agony and makes a huge mess. 

Just like Marley's bath. 

 

 

Gifts From The Sea

My well worn copy...

My well worn copy...

One of my favorite books is by Anne Morrow Lindbergh- Gifts From The Sea.   I try to re-read it once a year.  It revives me, refocuses me and helps me regroup especially regarding my writing.

I have pulled it out this summer and have added it to my reading pile.  

Even though Anne wrote this book over fifty years ago, I find that the truths still resonate.  She speaks to human relationships, to life/work balance, to creative pursuits, to solitude, peace and contentment.  It seems that in this day and age we have even more need of her philosophy.  As humans, we can only process so much and so we need to step back, pause and recharge.  "For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication." Imagine that was written before cell phones, internet or Facebook!  She challenges us to "remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life." 

What I love about the book is her " search for outward simplicity, for inner integrity and fuller relationships". It is important to take some time and reflect on those ideas. For me, what better way than through the sea. I may not get a chance to go to the sea this summer but I can try and bring the sea to me.  I can make time to "get away":  block out a week or a day, free from obligations and return to a rhythm of simplicity, of deep reflection and of time spent with others.   

What about you?  Do you find the summer is a good time for reflection?  Do you have a chance to slow down the rhythm of your life? Do you have "annual" books that you read?  Any re-reads?  What about them resonates with you?  Lifestyle?  Escapism?  Reminder of ideals?  Inspiration?  

This weekend, why not check out your local library or local book store.  Reading is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. 

The Season of Joy

I love the word joy.  It just has such a wonderful image.  What I love about it is that it represents peace that transcends circumstance.  It is being able to say, "I am okay even in the midst of trouble.  I know that my present circumstance will not be forever and even if it is, there are things that I can learn and change and do about it."  It is viewing our situations and problems as opportunities.

I have heard various people talk about happiness and joy lately.  Totally unrelated conversations which makes me think that this is a topic in which I need assistance. In each of those discussions the conclusion has been that joy and happiness are different. Happiness is dependent upon surroundings. The focus becomes on achieving and getting things and that those things will provide happiness.  Isn't that the crux of the materialistic holidays?  Or that happiness has to be a reaction to what has occurred.  If the surroundings aren't quite good enough then one is unhappy. Life is miserable until something else happens that may provide a positive reaction.  Then we feel "happy".

I think of joy as the serene, gracious wiser sibling.  The one who seems to be unruffled and steady during difficulties.  The one who remains calm, speaks in a pleasant tone and doesn't fly off the handle.  The one who is unfazed if things don't go his way.  The one who is content whether he has much or he has little.  The one who is confident in all circumstances. 

I think of the past to the many times when I didn't exemplify poise in a situation. Times when I certainly wasn't full of joy.  Times when I let my unhappiness because "things didn't workout the way I wanted" spill out in my speech. Times when I railed against the "injustice" or aka "not getting the things I wanted" of my life. How ridiculous. How unattractive.  How childish. 

Joy comes from contentment. Joy comes from hope.  Joy comes from God.

The world is is need of joy this season.  I am in need of joy this season. What about you?  Can you replace happiness with joy this season?  This coming year? 

How To Give Thanks

Do you feel thankful this holiday?   I am feeling conflicted this season.  In the big scheme of things I am quite thankful- for my faith, my family, my health and all the material blessings I have. Yet in the microcosm of my life, I am not too grateful.  I find myself grumbling, complaining and disappointed that my life is in the pattern it is.

I realize that I need an attitude adjustment.  I need to learn contentment and gratitude. I need to learn how to give thanks.

I was doing my daily Bible reading and came across these  verses from the book of Hebrews 13:5, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." 

It dawned on me.  Perhaps I am not overly pursuing a life that reflects a love of money (or at least not intentionally)  but I am most certainly trying to manipulate my future to go my way and when it doesn't, I find that I get annoyed and cranky.  Part of the sin of loving money is that in its pursuit we forget that we are not in control. I wasn't leaning on God and trusting Him with my thoughts, dreams and plans.  I was allowing my focus to be on the smallness of my life and all the "slights" against me causing me to try and handle it all myself like the Little Red Hen.  I was idolizing me. 

I came across an article in the November issue of "Real Simple".  It was suggesting how to be grateful (when you really don't feel like it).  I liked the ideas because cultivating gratitude lifts our thoughts from ourselves and can help shift our attitude to being thankful and grateful for our circumstances.  It is then we can recognize contentment in whatever that situation might be. Below are some of those suggestions as well as my own: 

  • Gratitude can be simple and subtle. In Hebrew the term for gratitude is hakarat hatov, which means "recognizing the good". A reframing of our attitude might be to "reorient ourselves around things that we should already be grateful for".  So, it might not be so hard to "find" gratitude rather look for the small things which already occur- e.g. a garaged car that keeps the windshield free from frost and the daily morning scraping that non garaged car neighbors have to endure.
  • List your blessings.  Focus on the big four- food, family, health and shelter. If you have to break them down to the smallest item, e.g.  breathing without oxygen assistance,  then do so.
  • Cultivate a grateful eye.  I was raking the leaves in our yard the other day.  There is a neighbor's tree that drops the smallest sliver of leaves possible onto our front yard.  The tines of the rake cannot pick them up.  The only way to collect them  is to use a gasoline powered mower.  In the back of our house there is a HUGE sycamore tree on the adjacent county property.  Not only is the tree big and drops limbs but the leaves are the size of dinner plates.  As I was picking up the sycamore leaves I thought, "I am so grateful that the small tree is in front and the larger one is back here" as I had to pick up by hand the large sycamore leaves as they had fallen over the pebble walkway around our potting shed and pond.  If I used a rake or any other type of machinery I would also denude the path of pebbles. 
  • Look at the way you say thank-you.  Is it automatic or can you look at the way someone is helping you with a cost-benefit eye?  Notice not just the money spent but the time and effort and energy it took.  "Thinking about everyday kindnesses like that will make you way more grateful." 
  • Share  your thanksgiving/gratitude stories with others.  Here are some conversation starters for the Thanksgiving table:
    • What's the nicest thing that anyone has done for you this year?
    • What the nicest thing that you've seen someone else-friend, coach, family member, teacher- do for another person?
    • If you  had one super power that you could use to make a difference int he world, what would it be?  What would you do with it?
    • What are you most grateful for that doesn't cost money?

What about you?  How's your attitude this Thanksgiving holiday?  Do you need an attitude adjustment?  What can you do?  Have you ever counted your blessings?  Actually written them down as assets?   Have you ever shared your feelings of gratitude with others?