generosity and the good shepherd

A couple times a week, I receive an email from MoodNudges. Each email has a little story and a tip for nudging the mood up just a little bit.  They are powerful pieces, and I smile when I see the familiar name in my Inbox.  The nudge I received this morning was about generosity:

Do you need to be well-heeled to be generous? Actually, I reckon money has precious little to do with it.

You can be generous with your praise.

A Mum, Dad and their four young children sat at the next table to me at breakfast one morning. The youngest occupied a high chair, all were impeccably behaved, so I complimented the parents as I got up to leave. Although it was no more than a few words from me, a total stranger, Mum and Dad looked momentarily surprised, then beamed in pride.

He continues by offering other intangibles as ways we can be generous: with our time, with our attention, with our love.

This reminded me very powerfully of work that children do in the Atrium, as a part of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd Atrium is for children roughly aged three to six, where they encounter, befriend, and fall in love with Jesus the Good Shepherd.  Where these persons are on their spiritual journey, they don’t understand the concept of sacrifice.  So instead of saying “Jesus sacrifices his life for the sheep,” we use the language of gifts instead.  The Good Shepherd gives us all his love, all his attention, all his time, all his life.  We have all experienced an earthly parent or teacher or sibling who didn’t have time or attention for us, at least once. There’s that day Mom is on the phone, and we want something, and she snaps at us to leave her alone.  But the Good Shepherd – he never does this.  He gives us all of his time, all of his attention, all of his love.

It was humbling to receive this lesson in our training as Catechists, to think of all those times we failed to be generous with our time and attention and love. But then there is Maundy Thursday, when Jesus gives us the new commandment – the five new words added to the central commandment: love one another as I have loved you.  We are commanded to give the same generosity that is described in today’s MoodNudge – to be generous with our time, with our attention, with our praise, with our love – because that is how the Good Shepherd loves us.

I confess that I prefer to reflect on the Good Shepherd and his gifts, rather than the sacrifice. This may even better reflect the gifts and grace of our infinite God, who never runs out of life to give, who never runs out of love and time and attention for us.  And while we may run out of time and have limits on our attention, Jesus the Good Shepherd makes sure that we never run out of love.  It is the one thing there is where when you pour it out for others, you are filled to a capacity even larger than you had before.

There is no food I could eat that would be more poisonous to my overall well-being than the chronic stress and anxiety, or social isolation that too often comes with feeling crazy around food.

What if we considered our mental health and happiness as fully in our decision making process around food as we did its physical outcomes? What if we looked at health from a truly holistic perspective, wherein our physical health supports our aliveness, rather than the other way around?

– Isabel Foxen Duke, in this week’s post Is “health,” not weight, the obsession?

the best place to find grace

The best place to find grace, preached the Reverend Doctor James Hutton this morning, is in an ordinary, ordinary life.

An ordinary, ordinary life.

This one statement sang to me so loudly that I had to write it down.  Father preached that God is all around us, within us, outside of us – everywhere. God can be found in nature, and God can be found in things God’s people have made, and God can be found in plants and rocks and streams and animals, and God can even be found in people.  Not just good people, like you and me, mind you.  God is found in all people.  Even the assholes.

Isn’t it funny how it can be easier to see Saddam Hussein or Adolf Hitler in heaven than to see that jerk that cut you off in traffic that day you were already late to work?  I can see Jesus with his arm around Osama bin Laden’s shoulders more easily than I can imagine him welcoming that entitled asshat who parked half in the handicapped space and half in the “normal” space next to it, straddling the line with his orange it’s-too-bad-about-your-penis Mercedes SUV.

Their lives are ordinary, after all.  Ordinary, ordinary lives.  They are neither Mother Therese nor Josef Stalin.  Their names will appear in the newspaper when they are born, when they marry, and when they die.  God is in their lives.  God is in their meager hearts and stubborn minds and ugly hair and middle-finger-upthrust hands.  Grace is in their ordinary, ordinary lives.

Which means we’re supposed to love them, like Jesus said. We have to love our enemies; we have to pray for the assholes; we have to treat them with loving-kindness and compassion and respect, those jerks with their ordinary, ordinary lives.

Because the truth of the matter is this: there aren’t “good people like you and me” and “other assholes.”  The truth is that we are all assholes. We are all living our ordinary, ordinary lives, trying to do our best and failing miserably. We are impatient and fearful and angry and mean. We cut people off in traffic, and we park poorly, and we forget to hold the door open, and we judge each other harshly, and we flip each other the bird, and we swear and drink and dance and carouse, and we carry around a thousand petty grievances.  We suck.

But there is Good News!  The Good News is something inexplicably wonderful, something true and worthy of acceptance, even to the darkest depths of our ungrateful hearts: Christ Jesus came into the world to save assholes.  Jesus came to save assholes like the guy with the orange Mercedes SUV.  Jesus came to save assholes like you and me.

We suck. We’re assholes, trying to be worthy as we live our ordinary, ordinary lives.

And Jesus came to save… us.  That is the very definition of grace: God’s favor – impossible to earn, impossible to achieve, impossible to ever deserve.

Grace.  Found in our ordinary, ordinary lives.

is it safe to assume that you will understand this?

I got to work this morning, logged into Slack (which is wonderful, by the way), and reviewed the late-night activity on a pressing project deadline.  An urgent task had been assigned to one of my peepz, and I did not see a response from him in the chat channel yet.

“Is it safe to assume,” I wrote, “that you are working on this task?”

I saw “peep is typing” and then that disappeared.  Then again, “peep is typing” and it disappeared.

So I looked at my question again.  Is it safe to assume that you are working on this?  And I remembered that this peep is in Ukraine, and not a native speaker of English.  With new eyes, I realized: This is a strange construction!  It is fairly clear what “you are working on this” means, but the first few words? Bizarre!

I reworded the question.  His response was immediate.

I wonder this morning: is it safe to assume anything?

the noonday demon

The morning had been going well. I was in a good mood, feeling confident and competent. Then it got to be about 11:30, and the floor dropped out from under me. Everything I touched was a mistake and a failure. All I could do was let down my coworkers, my family, my kids.  I should just die.

I thought: WTF!? Where the hell was this coming from?

I’m pretty sure that what happened was fairly simple: my breakfast ran out.  And my mind interpreted the physical feeling of low energy as “We are fatigued and depressed and nothing will ever be right in the universe again.”  It would have been ever so much nicer had my mind said, “Hey! Maybe we should have some lunch!”

I find it fascinating how our brains take the physical responses of our bodies and tie them to memories of when we experienced that physical response previously, so that the physical response triggers similar behaviors.  This is a gift – it helps keep us alive and unharmed.  Think about the last time you were really sick to your stomach. I bet you remember the last thing you are before you got so sick.  And I bet it took some time before you could even think about how that food would taste and feel in your mouth, without having a gag reflex kick in.

For me, from 1989, it was nuggets from KFC. It was a few years before I managed to not turn green when somebody even mentioned them. For my sister, it was movie theater nachos.  We played the game of teasing each other with these, which was probably a mean thing to do, but…. siblings!

Like fear and anger and pain and many other things our brains can do, this is a gift with a shadow side.  Dissociating from profoundly painful situations helps us to survive in the short term, but in the long term, we have to learn how to re-integrate and heal.  Feeling my energy level drop lets me know when I need to eat or sleep, but today I experienced the shadow side: the physical feeling of “low energy” was tied to experiences of depression and chronic illness, rather than experiences of satisfying my body’s needs and feeling better as a result.

So I’ll have some lunch, and I will hold onto the very rational thought that responding to “my energy is low” with lunch will send that noonday demon packing!

today in chat: learning lessons in managing

What I wanted to communicate:

Scenarios are not necessary at this time. We will write those in the next iteration of this document.

What I actually said:

No no no!
No scenarios!

What I would think if my manager said this to me:

OMG she thinks I’m stupid, and I did it wrong, and I never do anything right, and I will fail at this document, and it has to be delivered today, and it won’t make that timeline, and [Client] will fire us and [Employer] will go out of business and I will live in a box in an alley and eat rats raw until I starve to death, and it’s all because I started working on scenarios!

What my peep thought instead of “I will live in a box in an alley”:

And if I have no money, I can’t get hookers and blow.

How I felt after inadvertently shouting at my peep in chat:

77% lower.

Was a lesson learned?

Yes. Apparently the missing filter between brain and mouth is also missing between brain and fingers.  Slow the fuck down, hedwyg, and THINK!

a moment of panic, a moment of grace

I had the freakiest, scariest experience this morning.

I woke and prepared for my day. My partner and I discussed plans and schedules, and I headed out the door for my commute.  It was a fairly smooth drive, and I earned points on Waze for updating gas prices and adding a marker for active police.  (I have my shield now! Yay!)

I exited the interstate at my typical off-ramp, noticing that the “faster” route was actually blocked due to a crash and being glad that I had established this routine. I yawned and confirmed an earlier decision: I needed coffee.  I turned on my blinker and moved into the left lane.

I checked the time.  7:48.  Plenty of time to get through the crowded drive-through before my 8:30 meeting.

I turned left at the stoplight, and decided I would pick up a cup of coffee for my boss as well.  Pike Place. Black, no room. Venti.

I turned right into the shopping center. The time was 7:49. As I crossed through the parking lot, I took a deep breath. It’s the 1st of the month: payday. This drive-through is almost always full and slow. I prepared myself to drive around the parking lot so that I could establish The Line in a way that doesn’t block the entrance.

I approached the stop sign.  Something was wrong.  The view ahead looked awfully sparse. I wasn’t sure what this meant. I wouldn’t have to drive around the parking lot, so that was good.

I crossed the street, into the parking lot. I looked to my right and saw…

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