Off Duty

So, Lord, I think this new cloak of mine is going to take a lot of getting used to. I was just sitting here thinking I felt pretty good, had a decent day, because (drum roll) I got so much done! Sheesh. 

It’s not about doing versus not-doing. It is about with what attitude are you doing. How did you feel today, running your errands, doing your paperwork?

I felt fairly relaxed for the most part, except once or twice, when I looked at the clock and felt that sense of being rushed, or rather, not moving fast enough myself. I did try to think all day long about what You said yesterday. I wasn’t sure how to switch gears exactly, but now that I think back, for the most part I wasn’t revved up. I made a list so I wouldn’t forget anything, and actually did all but one thing–I would have done that too but it was raining too hard at that point for that particular errand.

So you can actually balance your life with your work and your chores. You see? You were able to reach out briefly to friends today. You did your errands. You made real progress preparing for your upcoming buying trip. And you did it all with much less anxiety. You even got a little extra sleep this morning! You tried to remember to drink more water and you took bathroom breaks. I would say, for your first day, you were a great success wearing your new cloak!

Thanks, God. I do feel good tonight. I do. I even noodled around with a new lyric, sort of, in the car. And Kaylee was more affectionate, more playful, than she has been in a while. I could almost believe she sensed the change too.

Almost? You know how sensitive animals are. If such a change makes such a difference in her behavior in just one day, imagine the benefits that await you long-term.

You know, God, at one point this morning, I caught myself slipping into those old familiar thought patterns and I literally interrupted myself to say, no, today is going to be an incredible day!

And was it?

I am sitting here right now, feeling–and I do mean that word, feeling, I can feel Quiet, I can feel Calm. Peaceful. I am feeling at peace. I am feeling at peace with myself. That’s huge. And yes, I would have to label that as pretty incredible.

And what is happening to the earth?

Ha, God, You are so funny. It is spinning, spinning on its axis, revolving around the sun, keeping its place in the Universe. And all without me having to worry about it, ha! 

I Am not making fun of you. But it is helpful for you to see for yourself how playful and joyous this life can once again be, as long as you are focused on Being, on Being your best self. Sure, go, do–but from a center of being. And what did I promise you? That you will be even more productive, accomplish even more, and operate from a position of even more energy. So how do you feel physically?

I know bedtime is coming and I think I will sleep, but I don’t feel that same overarching fatigue I have been having. AND…this is incredible…although I planned to drink coffee in the afternoon, I didn’t. Somehow I didn’t need it. I got along just fine without it.

And you are not feeling exhausted now?

No. I’m not. I am actually feeling pretty good. Guess that will go down on my gratitude list tonight. Thank You, Lord.

Yes, I guess it will. Thank you–for receiving My peace. You know, I have called you to be a peacemaker, and a peacekeeper. And that begins with days like today, days when you are at peace first with yourself.

Cloak of Responsibility

Here is the best–and worst– part about old journals, Lord–busted, I’m busted. So a few days ago I was rejoicing over the growth I saw, looking back at pages from 15 years ago. Well I read a little further and I stumbled on an entry from mid-May that could have been written yesterday. Sure, the circumstances were different then–I was finishing up a later-in-life undergrad degree, studying for exams and preparing papers, but the stress responses, the fatigue, and my desperate, articulated on the page need for some time outside was identical. So writing that down, i think I see two things: this is not a new issue, a new problem and I think it dates all the way back to my school years; and second, the outdoors has been my safe soothing place for a long, long time.

So I really want to copy down here what I wrote there and then. Because I need to talk to You about this. I wish it could be once and for all. But maybe it can at least be for now. “In one sense I have no business doing anything but run this marathon called spring quarter (substitute, get open for season) but…I have a ton of buts. But I’m so tired. But I’m said. But my head is in a vice. But…but I want a break, not a big break–but some small break, some outside, outdoors break. Change focus. I deliberately am not going to write three pages, takes too long. Instead I’m going to shower and leave and go somewhere. Sounds rebellious just to write that down. Why should a morning beach walk or the Ridge be rebellious? Because duty has tons of tasks right here. When is a break ok? When I’m breaking? I don’t know.” WHEW! Yikes. May, 2003. 

I have a flood of memory. Being on call for work, in an era before cell phones, so that I didn’t dare even go to the beach for more than an hour even on the weekend “in case” I was called, called in to work or to answer a question or attend some meeting. Good grief. I remember unplugging the phone for a solid weekend and my roommate and I binge watching wonderful movies, Ghandi and Biko and I can’t recall what else. Something Native American but I don’t remember the title. I remember how I felt good and bad, doing that. I remember talking to the personnel director at the time, about all the extra work I was being expected to do after hours, but because my bosses were committee volunteers, I was told there was nothing I could do about it–and stay employed. Of course I did what I do. I stayed employed! It was seven years later and it took my mom’s illness before I finally left that job. But obviously I didn’t leave the mindset.

God, Great Creator, Your own Name is I Am. Not I Do. How can You help me?

SO much in your culture, your schooling, your family, your past employment, and even the example set by your husband extols and rewards work, effort, productivity. You have been well trained, trained to perform. But life is not a circus, and you are not a trick pony. Nor are you a racehorse. Nor are you destined to plod, plod along pulling a plow. When you picture a horse, what image comes to mind first?

Running free. Running over the plains. Running by the sea. 

Freedom to Be, that is what comes first. Essence of Horse, yes? So what is Essence of Eve? That is what I want you to ask yourself, tonight and in the morning and in the days ahead. I will give you a hint–it is not what you think. It is not what first comes to mind. Your gifts, your talents, and yes your working life, these are outpourings in particular channels of an inner life. I want you to think less about the channels and more about the spring, more about the river. I want you to think more about the Essence. More about Being. Not about Being Efficient. Not about Being Organized. Not about Being Productive or Being Successful. Not even about Being Faithful, which you translate into productivity and effort, into doing and away from merely being.

Eve means Life. “Mother of all Living” — which you have chuckled over, adopting stray cats, calling yourself Mama. You have chuckled and donned a mantle of great and grave responsibility. Once before I asked you for a cloak, to give Me the cloak you were wearing. Do you remember?

Lord, how can I forget? Of course I remember. “I clutched my grief to my body like a robe/said it is all that is mine I have left/but I threw it down at Your feet and turned to go/cold, alone, bereft”

And what happened next, in your vision, in your lyric?

You led me to the beach. You wrapped a new warm something around my shoulders. You began to heal that broken place inside.

Somewhere along the way, you abandoned the cloak I gave you, and you wove for yourself a new one–this mantle of responsibility. It is neither keeping you warm nor keeping you dry. And I want you to do what I asked you to do years ago. Give Me your mantle. Give Me your sense of weighty responsibility, that feeling you have that so much depends on you and your effort, from your family’s health and safety to the health and safety of friends, to the success of your business and every artist whose work you so lovingly steward. Can you do that? Can you trust Me with your mantle, one more time?

Gosh God, there is blood and sweat and tears on this shawl. I don’t mean to be dramatic but there are a lot of years woven into these threads. Does this mean all that work, all that effort did not count?

No, little one. What it means is that you are trying to fit into a garment that was never meant for you. What I have for you to wear is a mystical, magical coat. It will grow as you grow. Its threads shimmer and gleam in moonlight and sunlight. It is soft and gentle to the touch yet the sharpest arrows of accusation cannot penetrate its weave. This is My Weaving, and I have spent all your life preparing it for you, for this moment. For the moment you are willing to let go, and begin to Be. Live into your name, live into your loves, live into your life. Give Me your heavy mantle. Slip on your new coat. Here is its first secret: see its color change as you tap deeply into the Essence of who you are, who I have made and called you to be.

One more thing. You can’t easily hide in this coat. This is not a camouflage garment. You will be both more conspicuous and more free, wearing it. You want to see how you look? Your reflection pool will be found first in the eyes of those closest to you, from animals to people you love who love you back.

Lord, what are You going to do with my old cloak, the one I just took off?

Give that cloak no more thought. I Am going to light a fire, to warm your winter and help light your way. This is not the sort of garment to hand down to anyone else, you know. And it had gotten way too heavy to wear in warmer weather, and your busier season. You would have fallen, trying to bear it.  How does your new coat feel?

It, it feels lightweight. And oh my goodness, I just moved my neck and it is moving more freely, less stiff, less pain.

The lightness in your spirit will translate directly into lightness for your bones, and energy for your body and mind. And paradoxically, into more restful sleep as well. So sleep tight, little one. Snuggle into your coat. Let Me teach you about restful labor, and energizing rest.

Nap Time

It’s almost three pages and I’m just rambling. I don’t have a meal, even a morsel, to feed the world this morning.

What if you share your truth? “I’m tired, I’m feeling a little bleary, I already want a nap.”

Where’s the spiritual victory in that?

Victory isn’t overcoming your body or ignoring its physical needs. Victory–to use your word–is living a whole, integrated life, a soul-life, a spirit-life, through the vehicle of a physical body. You neglect any part of you to your detriment. Can you feel tired or ill but still smile, still react with love and kindness to those around you? Can you delegate tasks or must you always do everything by yourself? Can you give yourself permission to rest? These are soul questions, spirit questions, body questions. They point out deficits in your thinking. I seek whole, joyous, fulfilled children, not exhausted, stressed out, driven machines. Today you don’t have a set schedule. why don’t you try living these next hours in awareness? honor the messages from your body, your soul and your spirit. Eat when you’re hungry. Drink more water. And yes, rest–even nap. Did you know that rest, physical rest, can be an immune booster? That your choice to rest today might actually prevent you from being susceptible to the colds and flu that are making the rounds? Try to live today off the clock. See what happens.

 

Rest

I know I’ve been pushing lately, rather than flowing. I can feel the difference. I’ve been trying to work, to “make it work.” So I’m going around to spots where magic has happened before, longing for it to happen again. Lord, I need to stop doing that. I need to instead move back into the current, where I sense, and then go. I have so much to say thank You for. I feel that as well as know that. So, what’s my problem?

 

Your problem is, you live in a body. Your body can tire and ache. So can your mind, and so can your spirit. Sometimes one carries the other: your body is tired, but your mind/thoughts or your spirit/feelings are buoyant, and they help carry your body. Sometimes physically you feel that sense of energy, and that helps energize your thoughts in a positive way. And sometimes all three aspects of your life need refreshing all at once. That is where you are now. Rather than trying to figure out why, which only tires your mind and spirit further, just bring your whole self to Me. It’s okay to say, “Daddy, Abba, I am so tired.” Crawl up into My lap and rest awhile. Sometimes “work” energizes you. Lately, it drains you.

This was supposed to be your rest, relaxation, restoration, rejuvenation time. Ssshhh. No “buts.” Just hear what I said. I planned this as a rest, relaxation, restoration, rejuvenation time for you. That doesn’t mean you lay around doing nothing, or that you become irresponsible. Write out things that mean rest and relaxation to you. List some.

Lord, I just re-read this old entry. It is several years old, and it could have been written for now. Well, not today, exactly, but certainly for the past few weeks, for the end of the year. Now a New Year is beginning. And You just talked to me over the past two days, again, about Flow. About sensitivity. And about rest and play balancing work.

So the first image that came to mind when I re-read those words was a hammock. It is 25 degrees outside. Even if I owned a hammock, I wouldn’t get in it now!

But you can picture yourself there. You use your mind all the time to picture an uncertain future, or to pre-plan the next day’s tasks. Why don’t you use your mind to imagine restful pursuits instead of working ones? Relax your thoughts and imaginations first, and watch your body follow. Try it now. What is your earliest hammock memory?

I was a kid. We had a fabric hammock in the yard under the big tree, oak or maple. Oak, I think. Out the kitchen window.

And?

I felt safe there. And cool. I think I even napped in that hammock.

I need the part of you who is a writer to relax, to stretch out, to close your eyes, to remember, to imagine and to dream. With some people, I have to energize work and effort. With you, I have to inspire you to slow down and relax. That is part of the transformation I seek for you in this new year—allowing yourself to really pause, and let the creative, playful aspects of your imagination have more space while you give your analytical, planning self a break, and a rest. This will be metamorphosis for you. You have always worked hard, studied hard, tried hard to do your best. I want you to give yourself the same permission to relax and to play as you do to work. I want to transform your nature, not into irresponsibility, as you fear. If you can trust Me with your working, responsible self, I can help you birth more creativity and more ministry than your reasoning mind can arrange. For it is your imaginative mind that is most sensitive to inspiration by My Spirit.

So come, rest. Hear Me say to your still troubled sense of duty, you’ve earned this. Receive. Rest is a gift of My Grace, your first gift of the new year.

 

 

The Gift of Sabbath

Oh Lord, part of me doesn’t want to go on a quest for grand adventures. Part of me just wants to sit and be near You. Like Lucy in Narnia, leaning against Aslan’s side (and reading a book)! Vacation unplugs from responsibility but you can’t live that way.

That is why I created the Sabbath! For you, for mankind, for human rest. For a mini-vacation every week! Not to burden you with the rule of its observance, but as a regular time-out from responsibility. As a Time of Refreshing. “Church” was added much later. I created Sabbath years for the land, so it could rest, not be worked to death by humans who had forgotten how to rest, how to play. Your sleep is not restful because you allow yourself no Sabbath. You will sleep better all week long if you can create and maintain Sabbath.

I don’t know how to do that. There’s both galleries, there’s the house, there’s…

There’s your health. Physical, emotional, spiritual. You want more energy? More creative ideas and solutions? More stability in your words? Allowing yourself My Gift of Sabbath is the key to all these for you.

On The Edge

Lord, why am I fatigued?

 

Seriously? You are asking Me why you are fatigued?

Look in the mirror. Pull back and watch your life as you would watch a movie about someone else. What would you say about the character who is you?

Driven, Lord. I’d say driven. Obsessed, even.

 My word says, Be Still and Know. Not, Be Frantic and Know. You are on the edge of a breakdown and you don’t even see it. You are right at the precipice—physically, emotionally, spiritually. Everyone around you sees it. Who are you trying to prove yourself to? The one with the most stress loses.

 So, Lord, here I am.

And Here I Am. But you have not let Me be I AM, your I Am. You have thought you needed to be I am—and especially for everyone else: I am efficient, I am calm, I am a good friend, I am faithful, I am kind, I am loving, I am creative…and you are all those things. But who, Who, is I AM for you? You ask Me for strength and for wisdom so you can continue to be “I am” for all those people. I want to be I AM for you. You ask Me, what can I do? What can I give? And I keep saying, Receive. Let’s increase the flow in your life. You are trying hard to be the riverbed and the spring. Not out of ego but out of a misplaced sense of duty and obligation, as if you had to prove both your love and your worth. For a little while, the only Believing Mirror I want you to look into is Me, not My Word, which you still interpret through older, poisoned voices, but My Eyes. Let My Eyes become your Believing Mirror. Let Me show you what I see, and what I foresee, what I envision.

First, you don’t generate the power, the electricity, the current—I do. Let Me clean off the terminals, the connections, that have become corroded. My cleansing is gentle and with you consists mostly in removing old layers of fear and guilt and shame which have no place in your life today. They are like barnacles; they slow you down. And when you try to pry them off yourself, they only make you bleed and ultimately suffer more.

 

I did not plan humanity for suffering. I planned humanity for bliss. That is why the goal of Buddhism is bliss; otherwise the goal would be increased suffering which anyone but the mentally ill can see is wrong. Buddhism has it almost all right. Life can be hard because of humanity’s choices, not by My design.

Gentleness

Lord, the theme or challenge right now seems to be health. I need to remember to be gentle with myself in my thinking. I need energy.

Your secret right now really isn’t Power. You think it is–you think you have to rev your engine and power through. That will actually make you feel worse, physically–and that will make you feel worse emotionally. Your secret today is to coast. Drift. Soak. This is a gentle day–start by being gentle with yourself. Eat gentle-to-digest foods. Treat yourself gently and easily. Catch your breath. Your calm is what attracts most people to you. You have an opportunity to model that calm now.

Follow Me

Lord, this morning I had a choice. I could rush off to church or I could sit here with You. Last week I felt the need to be in community, but this morning I felt I needed this most, being unrushed here, with You.

Ours is not a cookie-cutter relationship, a one-size fits all, follow this recipe, relationship. The Old Testament said, essentially, follow these precepts. But in the New Testament, what do I say? Follow Me. Come with Me.

The church has in large part taken New Testament principles and made new precepts to follow, and overlaid those on top of the Old Testament laws—not the ceremonial laws, those the church has replaced with ones of its own. To the extent a community of believers or any church institution is focused on precepts, that is the limit of the depth of relationship with Me they encourage.

To Follow Me is to engage in a dynamic relationship even more complex than any earthly one, for I Am both Parent and Brother, I Am Lover and Friend, I Am Defender and Protector. You know nothing quite like it on earth. Your best earthly relationships mirror one facet of what it means to be in relationship with Me, and that is what I am calling you, calling all of you, to.

How do you bond on earth? You spend time. You pay attention. Other than the parent-child relationship, which begins with the parent as giver and child as receiver, but then grows over time into mutual ways of giving and receiving, the best earthly relationships are reciprocal.

Rest

Why is it so hard for you to rest?

I don’t know, Lord. Why is it so hard for me to rest? Because nothing, nothing is ever finished. I’m thinking about Genesis—You finished creation and then rested. As a model. Right?

First of all, creation is ongoing. Second, you have scripture that says the Lord never sleeps or grows weary, that I am always watching over My creation. So maybe you need a new definition, a new understanding of “rest.” Maybe it’s not meant as an antidote to “fatigue.” Maybe labor requires one kind of pause, physically and mentally. Maybe “rest” is an immersion, like floating in water, like soaking in a hot tub, but immersed in My Presence where you receive new creative input. Like plugging in a battery—you don’t have to wait to re-charge until it’s fully depleted.