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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

You know how you get so wound up that the only thing you can do that will help is exercise? That’s how I was on Friday. Well, truth is first I went shopping, but shopping is like a quick sugar buzz—it makes you feel better briefly but then it drops you back where you were or lower. Even though I was looking for something to resolve a specific problem in my home, those bright retail lights and flashy displays offered no more than empty promises.

All I could do was try to run off some of my tension and, in return, maybe improve my cardiovascular function at the same time I might begin to feel calmer. I wish I could say that in general I get all Zen-like when I am running while upset and that soon I am thinking only about my breathing and the way my feet feel each time they touch the earth—but so far I haven’t reached that level of enlightenment. Yet despite my elevated level of irritation, I could really feel the benefits of a cool breeze and the shade from the bridges and trees and remember to keep dropping my shoulders whenever tension built.

No, my thoughts weren’t filled with sunshine and butterflies—and for the most part they really weren’t focused on my body either. My mind was definitely running faster than my feet—I had to work hard to keep my feet from going faster than they should. I was mindful enough to keep slowing myself down even though that crazy monkey mind of mine wanted to push the tempo.

What was—and still is—unsettling to me is a combination of recent happenings and how much of what surrounds those events conflicts with all I believe matters in life. As my feet touched the ground (yes—still trying hard to be all ChiRunning about it and not let my feet push off from the ground—a very difficult task for me, especially when upset), in my head I saw my abbreviated philosophy in writing, just like this: God, family, and kindness.

Everything else follows from there. Everything. These big problems we are experiencing are related to a clash of values. What we consider to be all is considered to be foolishness by some. This in itself is not a news flash, but it appears to be a major problem when you are linked closely to others who not only do not share your values but who also may actually mock them.

If you think I am weak because I value kindness, then you do not know how much strength I use to be kind to you when you are not being kind to me or mine. My values also say that part of being kind is completing my obligations to the best of my abilities and not leaving them to someone else. If that makes certain people think I am stupid—oh well. That I should continue to be kind and hard-working is not a question for me; however, you know the expression? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Just because I believe in kindness doesn’t mean I believe I am required to be a doormat. My memory is long and my eyes are open.

While I couldn’t run enough to run away from this situation, the run did solidify where I stand—even when I am moving.

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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I can’t even begin to understand how prayer works—or if it even should in some ways—but I’m really grateful when it does. Often there’s no way to know a prayer matters, but you just send it out anyway.

My difficulty at slowing down tends to get in the way of praying, so it turns out that I send out many more bullet (i.e. short and/or random) prayers than anything else. Someone comes to mind and I call up a quick prayer to God. Even when I start out intending to pray longer for one person or one cause, often at some point my mind just drifts away. I figure if God can be God then He knows both the prayers I send and the endings of the ones I don’t finish.

Every time I see someone ask for prayer on Facebook, I try to pause and pray, even if I don’t really know the person very well. Sometimes I comment and give public support, but often the person for whom I pray may not ever be aware that I pray for them. The truth is we have no way of knowing how many people are praying for us, whether invisibly somewhere–especially thanks to the randomness of the Internet–or specifically as part of their prayer practice.

The other night I was the one who needed prayers. In the middle of the night I sent out detailed prayer requests to specific prayer warriors as well as a generic request on Facebook. Despite all the heaviness weighing on my heart, I slept well that night and woke up to see that many had responded to my requests.

I’ll never discover just how many other prayers were lifted in my name, anonymously, from people who paused in the moment and responded to my request, but I think I felt the power of all those interceding for me. My mood and thoughts were calmer and a seemingly hopeless situation took a turn for the better.

However prayer works, we should just thank God for it—in prayer, of course—as well as remember to continue to pray without ceasing for one another. We’ve got God’s whole world in our hands, too.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

You know when the phone rings and you don’t recognize the caller, but for some reason you answer anyway? That’s what happened to me today and maybe it was for a reason. You see, the man was calling to talk about his ministry on and around my daughter’s campus.

She goes to a secular campus populated by many groups trying to evangelize to the students. Boy, do the kids on this campus need some faith or religion. But that’s also why you can’t just approach them by scaring them to Jesus—and that’s what most of the groups there do. I don’t know if this man’s group takes this approach but I asked him if I could give some feedback and he agreed to hear what I had to say. He was a bit quiet after I spoke, but thanked me anyway—I pray he’ll prayerfully consider just a portion of what I shared.

Our faith tradition is based upon grace. We have not earned—and cannot ever earn—our way into heaven no matter how “good” we are or how many good works we do. Grace is a gift that we do not deserve—it just is. Whatever good we do we do because of love.

From what I hear, the pitches most of these groups give do not start with love. I told the man that our kids live in very difficult times for remaining faithful believers. Fewer believers out there mean that more people question just why someone would want to believe. Is a sufficient answer really going to be something guilt-related?

Yes, Jesus gave 100% to save me, but when you start asking me what percent I give back to him, what I hear is that I am not now good enough and not so likely ever to give 100%, as he did for me. Well, duh! That’s why he’s Jesus, both human and God, and I am simply human. Our tradition also asserts that we are all sinners—from birth to death. And sin is more than partying in college anyway—it’s how we don’t consider others in our actions or when we ignore God’s will, even if many of those sins don’t stand out as much as drunkenness or casual sex do.

I also don’t think this Millennial Generation is into being guilted or scared into faith. When so-called Christians yell and call students names in the campus commons, that only promotes the hypocrisy or judging natures of many who claim to follow Christ and does little to promote Christianity itself. Kids today may not expect a Christian to be a perfect person, but they won’t follow someone who publicly sins in such a way and acts as if it is a virtue. That is not loving your neighbor—any neighbor—as yourself—unless, of course, you don’t love yourself at all.

No, the message of Jesus=Love is the beginning, middle, and end. The more we love Jesus, the more we think his rules for living are valuable. But if you start your Jesus sales pitch by telling people they aren’t enough, they’ll never know that Jesus loves us especially when we’re not enough—and no human can ever be enough anyway. Jesus loves the students who sleep with random people, the ones who cheat on tests, the ones who abuse chemicals, and/or the ones who don’t believe in Him just as much as He loves those who dedicate their lives to Him and who want to do all in His name. Plus, he also loves longtime Christians whose behavior continues to fall short of what they think it should be.

His love never ends even when we disappoint Him again and again. Hatred or judging spoken in His name just turns people from His love, but once you personally know He matters and why, then you can get on with the business of loving yourself without worrying about what percentage of you is worthy (none of you and all of you at the same time!) and sharing that love with a world crying for a better way. After all, it’s His love shown through us that shows the world why He mattered.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son . . . for my son, your daughter, the believers, the non-believers, the questioners, and any other person walking across campus. That’s the first thing they all need to know and everything else follows from there.

Half-Dollar (Fifty-Cent Piece)

Half-Dollar (Fifty-Cent Piece)

This morning, while driving in my car, I heard an ad targeted to people “50 and better”—can you blame me for bursting out in laughter? Got the giggles so hard that I have no idea just what was being advertised. Here I was on my way home from my Deep Water exercise class where I had just spent my time with women who tend to be even better than I am. Believe it or not, I’m still on the younger end of classmates even though I’ve been taking this class for something like nine years.

Water exercise often attracts people who need exercise that is gentle on the joints so that tends to skew the age of participants. The first summer I did it I was—obviously—much younger than I am today, but was recovering from a severe bout of plantar fasciitis brought on by running and step aerobics—as well as by my naturally stiff muscles and some extra pounds. Deep Water exercise (done by participants wearing some sort of flotation device in the deep end of a pool) was the only type of no-impact aerobic exercise I could do while healing.

I’m no swimmer and I don’t really like getting wet in cold weather, but I learned to love exercising outdoors in a pool on a warm summer day. When else do you get to hang out in the deep end of a pool without a lifeguard blowing a whistle at you? With the sun still fairly gentle and temperatures fairly temperate, a dip in the pool a couple mornings a week seems like such a treat; plus, you can’t beat seeing birds such as hawks or Blue Herons floating above you or hearing the songs from smaller birds in the nearby trees.

So that’s why I’ve continued to come to summer Deep Water classes even in past years when I wasn’t injured—or when I was just less better than I am now. With that statement, I can imagine my former English teachers either pretending they never had me in their classes or rolling over in their graves. Well, if the word better can’t be compared against itself, then I’m pretty sure better isn’t a very good way to describe the aging process where we either get older—or, well, cease to breathe and begin to reverse the process in way that has nothing to do with getting better as far as our bodies are concerned.

Please, I’ve earned my muscle imbalances, extra pounds, wrinkles, scars, and the occasional gray hair—although in that area I’m very much willing to admit I am doing better than the average person in the “50 and better” category. Parts of me are better: my long range view, wisdom, experience level, sense of self, connections with others, commitment to a set of values, problem-solving skills, and ability to apply lessons learned to new and, often times, unrelated situations. I’ve learned that not only do you need a Plan B, but sometimes you also need Plans C, D, E, and all the way through the rest of the alphabet.

And that’s where I am at this better phase of my life. I’ll do what I can to con myself into performing my physical therapy exercises and I’ll pursue other techniques, such as ChiRunning, to keep moving as long as I can. However, at “50 and better” I also know that I am more likely to continue to get better at pursuits that are more cerebral, spiritual, and/or social than at those that are physical. Though the physical pursuits help maintain my sanity and improve my joy—i.e. make my life better—I’m pretty sure that, these days, my path to better (as defined by that ad) will involve more improvements to my brain and heart and soul than to anything else such as my back or feet or even my hair color.

As a child who grew up listening to advertising jingoes in the late 60s/early 70s, how could I have forgotten what Clairol taught me: I’m not getting older—I’m getting better! Really—and even though I do go to Deep Water exercise, I still don’t dye my hair.

You know what? I feel better already.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Busy, Busy, Busy—that’s how it’s been around here. That’s also why last night we waited until we started hearing booms before running out—accompanied only by our dogs—to watch whatever fireworks we could glimpse in between houses and trees.

First stage of busyness happened when we had to prepare our home for company since we were expecting eight guests to our modest-sized 1940s home. Did I mention that half of those guests are boys ages six and under? Those kinds of guests require detailed cleaning and de-cluttering to protect them even when you know you’ll have to clean up after they leave!

Long story, but my brother and his wife currently have guardianship of their grandchildren by her son. Life for them since last year has been one big roller coaster of love and chaos as they settle into parenting little ones again. But despite the challenges, they are organized enough to take long road trips to visit us and provide themselves with a little change of scenery—and a few more adults to help—for a few days from time to time. This visit their son (not the children’s parent) and his fiancée were able to come along, too, and provide a few more helping hands.

Can you say full house? Even when we weren’t all busy looking for kids’ shoes and cups and the grandparents busy changing diapers and rocking little ones to sleep, we still had to figure out how to schedule all our showers and get something to eat that would work for everyone.

In the midst of baseball games, mountain train and car trips, and visits to the park, I had a birthday, too. We managed to celebrate my day, as well as my kids’ (earlier) birthdays with one big family get-together in Sherman’s parents’ much bigger back yard. Thanks to Sherman’s brothers and their rental company, Allwell Rents, we even had enough tables, chairs, dishes, glasses, silverware, and linens—as well as a Sno Cone machine, which was a big hit with all the little boys.

After all our guests left our home the next morning, I surveyed the damage but didn’t find much. Other than disinfecting tables and chairs and washing towels and sheets, we didn’t have much extra work to do. As crazy as their visits are, it is well worth it to see my family and to get to know these little boys who are the apples of their grandparents’ eyes despite all the extra work. No, my sister-in-law doesn’t drive the sports car she once envisioned and my brother doesn’t get to keep his shirts as clean as he’d like, but they do get a lot of (sticky) hugs and kisses every day. What they do matters very much—to these boys and to the people who will encounter those boys as they grow into young men.

Though our home officially houses four adults in the summers, it is mostly quiet because our kids are busy working, going to school, socializing, and taking their own road trips. We don’t do this kind of busy very often.

Which, combined with our recent family fun, might explain why I felt a little overwhelmed by the thousands of people at Wednesday’s Independence Eve Celebration in Denver’s Civic Center Park. The next day, in pursuit of a more solitary activity, Sherman and I headed into Staunton Ranch Colorado State Park for a holiday hike—as did everyone and his/her dog it seemed. The brand new beautiful park was quite popular!

If we wanted solitary, we were going to have to find it at home—which we did. Other than the oohs and ahs we heard from other backyards, we felt alone in the dark while sitting on the still sun-warmed sidewalk where we watched to the east. One show over, we stood and became transfixed by another show lighting up the skies to the south. Being by ourselves felt good for the night.

But in the end, I’m glad we’re not really alone—especially in our times of need. Quiet, still, and apart or loud, crazy busy, and together, we are family—as were so many of those other people we encountered listening to the symphony and enjoying the concert’s light show and fireworks on Wednesday or out hiking Thursday afternoon or responding in unison at each new burst of color and light Fourth of July night. Despite the messiness, our connections make us human.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert