Friday, October 09, 2015

Cultivating play

Guidepost #7 of Brene Brown's book 'The Gifts of Imperfection' is "Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion As A Status Symbol and Productivity As Self-Worth." While I have never really thought I had a problem with this, I had to admit that the lack of "play" in my life is an issue. Argh.

The author is quick to point out the importance not so much of just crafts, hobbies, or sports, but rather, "a critically important component of Wholehearted living is [simply] PLAY!"

She points to psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown's work, who says that of the seven properties of play, the first is that play is purposeless. Basically this means we play for the sake of play.

Dr. Brown also argues that play is not an option. He says,

"The opposite of play is not work - 
the opposite of play is depression." 

He explains, "Respecting our biologically programmed need for play can transform work. It can bring back excitement and newness to our job. Play helps us deal with difficulties, provides a sense of expansiveness, promotes mastery of our craft, and is an essential part of the creative process. Most important, true play that comes from our own inner needs and desires is the only path to finding lasting joy and satisfaction in our work. In the long run, work does not work without play."

Again, I have to admit, I'm not good at play. I'm not sure I even know what it means for me. I feel guilty taking a nap, or watching a stupid movie for no apparent reason.

The author says on p.102 though, "If we want to live a Wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play, and about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth."

She suggests one of the best things she ever did was make an "ingredients for joy and meaning" list with her family. They answered this question together: "When things are going really well in our family, what does it look like?" They came up with things like: sleep, working out, healthy food, cooking, time off, weekends away, going to church, being present with the kids, a sense of control over money, meaningful work that doesn't consume, time to piddle, time with family and close friends, and time to just hang out.

They compared the "joy and meaning" list to their "dream list," and realized their dream list was all about things they wanted to accomplish or acquire (bigger house, trips, salary goals, professional endeavors, etc), and that by letting go of the things they wanted to accomplish and acquire, they would actually be living their dreams.

She ends the chapter by encouraging us to make our own "ingredients for joy and meaning" list. And taking a nap.

I think this is something I really need to work on. Too many of my hobbies, even, are about accomplishing or achieving something (running, guitar, reading etc.). Even having simple conversations about nothingness can sometimes irritate me because it seems so meaningless. As a somewhat overly "focused and intense" person, I need a mind-change on this subject. Perhaps I should order Dr. Stuart Brown's 'Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul," or Daniel Pink's 'A Whole New Mind."

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Creativity over comparison

Guidepost #6 in Brene Brown's book 'The Gifts of Imperfection' is on "Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison." This is another short yet insightful chapter.

On. p. 94 she says...
"Comparison is all about conformity and competition. At first it seems like conforming and competing are mutually exclusive, but they're not. When we compare, we want to see who or what is best out of a specific collection of 'alike things.' We may compare things like how we parent or with parents who have totally different values or traditions than us, but the comparisons that get us really riled up are the ones we make with the folks living next door or on our child's soccer team, or at our school. We don't compare our houses to the mansions across town; we compare our yard to the yards on our block. When we compare, we want to be the best or have the best of our group.

The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of 'fit in and stand out!' It's not cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity; it's be just like everyone else, but better."

The quotes Laura Williams, who notes, "Comparison is the thief of happiness." Isn't that the truth!

On p. 96 she shares what she's learned about creativity from the world of Wholehearted living and loving:
  1. "I'm not very creative" doesn't work. There's no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don't. Unused creativity doesn't just disappear. It lives within us until it's expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.
  2. The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.
  3. If we want to make meaning, we make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing -- it doesn't matter. As long as we're creating, we're cultivating meaning.
Writer William Plomer described creativity as "the power to connect the seemingly unconnected."

At the end of each guidepost she has a section called "DIG Deep." It has 3 parts: Get Deliberate, Get Inspired, and Get Going. She shares how that works for her, then asks "How do you DIG Deep?"

Under the "Get Going" heading for this guidepost she suggests taking a class. She says, "Risk feeling vulnerable and new and imperfect and take a class... Try something that scares you or something you've dreamt about trying. You never know where you'll find your creative inspiration."

That sounds like a good suggestion. I never would have thought about the link between comparison and creativity until reading this. Innaresting stuff.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The spiritual discipline of facebook

Once again I left a long, impassioned comment on someone's Facebook post this morning... and then deleted it. I hate it when I get sucked into arguments. Then I want to delete my account or un-friend everyone.

I have always liked Facebook though. When other people were decrying its evils, I saw it as a way to stay connected to people - especially friends and family I otherwise wouldn't be able to interact with. However, lately I've been avoiding it more and more. What with politics, Presidential candidates, gun use/misuse, and all the other contentious issues... it seems an exercise in futility not really worth the effort. It's difficult to scroll through my news feed without my blood pressure rising at a number of posts or links shared by my "friends."

I have 'hidden' a number of people over the years, even un-friended a few in extreme situations, but the truth is there are still a number of people whose posts I like and enjoy, as well as the insightful articles and news from many sites I follow.

So I've determined that rather than backing away from Facebook, perhaps I can use it as way to practice spiritual disciplines. When I read things that offend me, rather than getting upset or leaving a snarky comment, I can use that as a chance to ask God for patience and understanding. And if I get good enough, maybe I can even offer a silent prayer for the person or group that has offended me. And... I can always stand to better examine my life, thoughts, motives, and beliefs. Certainly I have been the beneficiary of patience from others when I was the one doing the offending.

I do think I will limit my Facebook time, but not ignore it entirely. God knows I don't need to be checking it all day long. However, I feel better with simply acknowledging that there are people who think/believe differently than me. I need to remind myself it's okay to disagree, but it doesn't mean I have to dislike them.

It's kind of a way to help me mature. Hopefully.

We'll see.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Letting go of our fear of uncertainty

Guidepost #5 in Brene Brown's book 'The Gifts of Imperfection' is on "Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of The Need for Certainty." It deals with the importance of intuition and faith to wholehearted living.

Honestly, I'm losing interest in blogging from this book - actually, I've kind of lost interest in blogging at all for now - so I'm just going to drop a couple things I underlined in this short chapter.

"Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty." (p. 90)

She also discovered that it's not always the scientists who struggle with faith and the religious who fully embrace uncertainty. She quotes theologian Richard Rohr:
"My scientist friends have come up with things like 'principles of uncertainty' and dark holes. They're willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of 'faith'! How strange that the very word 'faith' has come to mean its exact opposite."

Once again, this was a good chapter. I just don't have the energy right now to process it fully in a blog post.

Monday, October 05, 2015


One of my professors from seminary ended his life recently. I had a great deal of respect for all my professors, but I have to admit there were a couple I felt more of a connection to. Gene was one of them. My friend, Lance, who is the director of our denomination, had a very nice tribute here:

Here are just a few thoughts and memories I have myself:
  • When we first moved to Findlay so I could attend seminary, the first church we connected with was call New Hope. It was a small gathering of people, led by a group of people of which Gene was one of. It seemed like just the type of church/group we had been looking for all our lives. And Gene was the first person I'd ever seen preach while sitting on a stool (instead of behind a podium). Unfortunately they decided to close the doors on the church within months of us falling in love with it.
  • I remember after they had the closing service for the church - I still hadn't talked to Gene too many times, but I could tell he was a sincere and deep thinker - and I stopped by the library when he was working one day and gave him the lyrics to the Rich Mullins tune "Peace." I'm not sure why, and he probably thought it was pretty strange, but it just felt like something I thought he needed at the time. We never discussed it.
  • I remember one other occasion during a time when I was feeling rather low and confused about life. I had a night class and he was teaching in another building, I just felt like I needed to talk to him. So I pretended to lock my keys in my car and asked him if he would take me by my house to get the other set (this was before cell phones). He did, and even though we didn't really even talk about anything important, I guess it meant something to me to just spend a bit of time with someone who I felt understood me. I know, I'm strange.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed his teaching - he taught my theology classes - and he opened my eyes perhaps like no one else ever had. He could challenge anyone's thoughts and reasoning in ways I'd never known possible. He preached in much the same way - putting a spin on things that often left me speechless, but with a mind so full like the perfect sunshiny day.
  • I'm sure the fact that he was a big Bob Dylan fan and an avid runner helped to feed the connection, but I guess I knew there was something else as well.
  • We were in a small group together with our spouses and another couple for a brief time. I never felt like he really thought much of me, but I wasn't all that concerned about it.
  • I did have him come and preach at our church one time when I was pastoring. I remember I started the service out by singing the Beatles song "Help" and had Carrie placing different images on the overhead projector while I sang (again, this was a long time ago). Gene did comment that he'd never heard anyone sing a Beatles song in church before.
  • I suppose the biggest, and maybe only, reason his suicide has impacted me so is because... almost every time I hear that someone has taken their life, I feel like, "Dang, another one of us has lost the battle." Please don't misunderstand, I am not suicidal - or even close to it - but I feel a definite connection to people like Gene who have gone that route. There, but for the grace of God, go I. I tend to think I can relate to the pain they were feeling. I feel a kindred connection in my spirit. It's almost like a part of *me* has died. There is a deep sense of longing in my soul.
  • I've heard it said that people who work those suicide hotlines are told to listen for two scenarios which mean people are serious: 1) they have thought out how they're going to go about committing suicide, and 2) they say they don't want to do it, but they just can't stand the pain anymore. I have never had a plan, but I have sensed #2. Again, I am not right now, but those times when I have been my lowest, I have probably used those exact words. I don't want to feel that way, but it hurts so much. I don't know how to describe soul pain. So when someone "does it"... I don't get upset; I understand; and my heart aches. My heart aches now.
So, that's about all I've got as far as that goes. I have fond memories of my old professor and friend. I have no judgment to make. I'm not sure if there was anything that could have been done to prevent it; I don't know. He was a remarkable person, though, and I'm glad I had the privilege of knowing him and learning from him. It is what it is. I feel bad for his family.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

15 miles

Yesterday I ran the farthest I've ever run without stopping. I actually ran 14.25 miles, and then walked another mile for a cool-down. I am counting it as 15 miles. Even my gps watch said, "Way to go!" when I was done.

It took me 2 1/2 hours, and there was an intermittent drizzle of rain. Plus it was was only about 50f and there was a brisk breeze. I wore a stocking cap, a long sleeve shirt with a sweatshirt over it, and my compression sleeves on my lower legs. I did 13.1 in 2 hrs. 6 minutes.

I actually felt pretty good through 11 miles. I have to say, though, the last few miles were killer. I don't know if it was because I'd only done 2 short runs last week, if it was because I'd just run a half the week before, or if it was because I never did stop for a drink or take any gel chews with me. I thought I was never going to get back to the house, and my lower legs were as stiff and sore as I can remember them ever being. Fortunately I didn't get any blisters, but I did forget to put anti-chaff stuff on my nipples, so they are still very raw and sore.

I do feel better today, though stairs are still a bit of a challenge. So I don't know if a marathon is in my future or not. I will attempt to still add a mile to my long run each week, but it may just be too much for me. We'll see.

Friday, October 02, 2015


I have tended to be a tad reactionary in the past. When I hear bad news, or am feeling blue, or get over stressed, I have at times reacted poorly or made rash statements or decisions. I am still feeling quite thrown by some events from this week, and when I went on my run this morning I was disappointed in how I felt physically. There is always the temptation in times like these to just say, "To hell with it," and decide to quit running, or quit caring, or quit... whatever.

For a simple soul such as myself, I've discovered that sometimes I rather need to just pause. I need to withhold judgement, reaction, decision-making... and just "be" for a time. I don't like talking about things; I don't like watching funny movies or doing something to keep my mind off things. It just takes me awhile.

So..... yeah.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Is the pro-life abortion argument possibly shallow?

So I was reading through the book of Ecclesiastes. A kindred friend, and seminary professor of mine, apparently committed suicide recently, and I just feel sort of... hollow. For some odd reason I thought I'd read through Ecclesiastes. I'm not sure if it was a good idea or not, but I did it. I read it in the version known as The Message. Again, I don't know if that was a wise choice or not, but that's what I did.

Anyway, in chapter 6, verses 3-5, the writer says:
Say a couple have scores of children and live a long, long life but never enjoy themselves—even though they end up with a big funeral! I’d say that a stillborn baby gets the better deal. It gets its start in a mist and ends up in the dark—unnamed. It sees nothing and knows nothing, but is better off by far than anyone living.

 I realize this is not the end of the book, but it got me thinking about the abortion argument. I am not "pro-abortion," but I have never seen it as the single-issue issue that a lot of my fellow Christians seem to make it.

So, this is what ran through my mind as I read this morning: If Christians believe in eternal life, and life starts at conception (rather than at birth), then is it really all that bad that a child be aborted before entering into the world as we know it? Is it not, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, "better off by far than anyone living?" Said "person" will never have to know hunger and thirst and heartache and disappointment. If they really are alive before birth, will they not enter into the presence of God unscathed, so to speak?

I don't know. And I'm not asking the question of anyone (I'm not looking for an answer). I'm just wondering. Could it be that we make too much of some things which aren't really all that terrible in light of eternity?

Who knows. I'm probably a heretic...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Gratitude & joy

Guidepost #4 from Brene Brown's book 'The Gifts of Imperfection' is on "Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark."

As she says on pp. 77-78:
  • Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice.
  • Both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were bound to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power greater than us.
  • People were quick to point out the differences between happiness and joy as differences between a human emotion that's connected to circumstances and a spiritual way of engaging with the world that's connected to practicing gratitude.

I think it's interesting she found that gratitude is so much more than an attitude, because attitudes don't always translate to behaviors. Rather, gratitude comes more from practice. The people she interviewed spoke of keeping gratitude journals, doing daily gratitude meditations or prayers, creating gratitude art, and even stopping during stressful, busy days to actually say out loud: "I am grateful for..." As she says, it's like gratitude without practice is a little like faith without works - it's not alive.


As for joy, she quotes Adela Rogers St. Johns
Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness. Happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you're lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love.

As Brene says, "Happiness is tied to circumstances and joyfulness is tied to spirit and gratitude."

She also quotes Anne Robertson, a Methodist pastor, writer, and director of the Mass Bible Society. She explains how the Greek origins of the words happiness and joy hold different meaning for us today.
She explains that the Greek word for happiness is Makarios, which was used to describe the freedom of the rich from normal cares and worries, or to describe a person who received some form of good fortune, such as money or health. Robertson compares this to the Greek word for joy which is chairo. Chairo was described by the ancient Greeks as the "culmination of being" and the "good mood of the soul." Robertson writes, "Chairo is something, the ancient Greeks tell us, that is found only in God and comes with virtue and wisdom. It isn't a beginner's virtue; it comes as the culmination. They say the opposite is not sadness, but fear."

She notes the things that get in the way of gratitude and joy are 'scarcity & fear.'

The opposite of scarcity is not abundance - joy is not going to be a constant, but rather, "a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith."

We have to resist the urge to think to ourselves:
  • I'm not going to allow myself to feel this joy because I know it won't last.
  • Acknowledging how grateful I am is an invitation for disaster.
  • I'd rather not be joyful than have to wait for the other shoe to drop.


This was a good chapter, but I'm preoccupied at the moment. So that's it for now. I will end with this quote shared from Marianne Williamson:

"Joy is what happens to use when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I got another haircut today. For the second time in a row I went to the Great Clips on Dupont. I was on my way to the bank and saw that there weren't many people there, so I thought "What the heck." I like that place. It's super convenient, and I've liked both haircuts.

This time I had Lakendra. She gave me a nice cut, but she was also just so relaxing. She didn't talk much, and when she did it was very soothing. This was just the relaxing kind of haircut I needed.

As usual it was the #4 on top and #2 on the sides, with the back rounded. She also did my eyebrows. I keep thinking I'm going to start cutting it myself but sometimes it's nice to just sit and have someone else do it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Another half done

I ran my third half marathon this past Saturday as part of the 8th annual Fort 4 Fitness Fall Festival. Actually, I ran this one with not only Jane (for the 2nd time), but Drew Carrie also ran their first! I was very impressed with them, and we all lived to tell about it.

They changed the starting spot this year to accommodate the new bus station, but it was basically the same course as before. I think they also moved the start time back this year - to 8:30. Once again it was a beautiful day. It was in the low 60's at the start and was an overcast mid-70's later in the day, so it was not cold but also not hot at all.

Jane and I both started in the "J" corral, and Drew Carrie were in "L". We probably should have both been in "K" but it didn't matter much. Drew Carrie passed us not far into the race, but we stayed just behind them the rest of the way. Jane and I both even stopped to pee once each. We also took along (and ate) some energy gels for the first time. I don't really know if they helped much or not, but they didn't hurt. I also took more drinks than ever before - though I need to remember to stick to water instead of gatorade. I don't much care for gatorade. I really don't even need water during a half, other than to wash down the gels.

As for the race itself, it was okay. I think there were fewer half runners this year than previously. There used to be around 2500, and this year there were just over 2000. The biggest annoyances for me were the couple who were following some app on their phone where they alternated running and walking. When they ran they would sprint ahead of people, and then stop right in front of them to walk. They had no consideration for anyone else, and just annoyed me in general. There was also a mentally "challenged" spectator around the 12-mile point who wanted to give people high fives, except he would get right in front of you and stop. He did it to Jane. Not a good thing to do to someone who's been running for over 2 hours. I'm not blaming him, but someone should have done something because I can't believe no one got hurt.

I was only slightly annoyed by the fact there were 4-mile finishers at the same time we were finishing. The 4-mile leaders were running at a way faster pace than we were, and it just kind of takes a little out of you to watch them blow past you at the end of a long race.

For some reason I just wasn't in a very good mood the whole day. I really love this event, and the race went fine. I was annoyed that I drank too much on Friday though, and I didn't feel the greatest. My knees were also uncharacteristically sore while running. Not that I was in pain, but I just had the sinking feeling that there was no way I could ever run a full marathon. Now that I've had time to think about it though, and since I felt fine after it was over, I think it was from drinking too much alcohol and not enough water. So that's something I can fix. I hope.

Drew Carrie finished in 2 hrs. 25 minutes. Jane and I came in at 2:27. I think that was just over 11-minute miles, which is almost exactly what we ran it in 2 years ago. I ran my first half marathon in 1:47; which was just over 8-minute miles. At this point I can't really imagine how I did that, however I never did really even breathe hard for this one.

So... while I seemed to be a little out of it from the start (we were late leaving the house to begin with), it was another fun day of running through town. I would say I felt better after this one than any before. I didn't even have any blisters or nipple chaffing! That's always a plus. Can't wait til next year!

Here is a pic of our traditional post-race beer...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Musical equipment purchases & repairs

The above Tradition guitar is one of son Isaac's first "real" musical instruments. This is what he used from middle school through college to pound out everything from Metallica to Hendrix to the hardcore stuff he did later. It holds a lot of memories not only for him, but for his mother and me as well.

He has 3 guitars with him in Atlanta, and this one he left at our house (along with a couple of my own). Somewhere along the line the nut broke in half. I finally decided to replace it the other day.

I googled how to replace the nut, and it seemed easy enough. So I swallowed hard and went to Guitar Center to buy one. Ugh. I hate going there - it's the musicians equivalent of going to Walmart - but they had what I needed. A young girl waited on me and when I told her I needed a guitar nut she thought for a moment, then showed me the wall where they hung. She told me I could just go behind the counter and find what I needed. It's not that she wasn't helpful, but... anyway... I found one that was close enough to what I was looking for.

It wasn't really all that difficult to replace. The old one snapped right off, and this one needed some sanding to sit at the same level. I also adjusted the string height from the other end somewhat. I used a 50/50 mix of glue and water to seat it (something they suggested on the google video). So now the Tradition works again.

I did manage to also find out that this particular guitar was made in October of 2001. It is listed in the 2002 catalog.

While at Guitar Center I also picked up a drum key for the drum set in the basement. They sound much better (as much as is possible anyway). I still have no idea what I'm doing on the drums, but at least I have a key to keep them somewhat in tune.