Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

Archive for the month “January, 2014”

Hold Lightly–and then LET GO!

Travel Lightly

Have you ever pondered just how little you really need? I have, and the answer never fails to surprise me. I always need less than I really think I do.

This month I’m participating (lurking mostly) in a Facebook group called “The Month of 100 Things 2014.” The idea behind the group is to support one another in the process of removing 100 things (or more) from one’s life, belongings, and possessions. The convener is one Dawn Rundman–teacher, writer, presenter, and senior editor at Augsburg Fortress Publishers, where she develops resources for children. She’s also a musician, spouse, and mother; in other words, she’s one busy woman.

Even the busiest among us can stand to shed some stuff, and most of us can ditch 100 things without batting so much as one eyelash. The problem is that there’s a lot of fear and insecurity in getting rid of possessions. We start to worry and ask questions: What if I need it? What if it’s valuable? What if those hideous trousers really do come back into fashion? Fretting about the questions allows us to avoid coming to terms with the process that’s really a very healthy one.

The key is to “hold lightly” to our possessions, realizing that we really don’t own anything anyway. Everything simply passes through our hands for our use, enjoyment, and (if we’re doing things right) for the betterment of our world. God created all of it, and we get to use it for a time. It’s all about love, grace, stewardship, and faith.

Last time I checked not even the Pharaohs managed to take their belongings with them to the afterlife, but people keep on trying to hang on for dear life to the detritus of life itself. Divorce proceeding become bitter battles over such seemingly insignificant arguments over who gets to keep the Smurf jelly jar glass collection. Really?

So how does one train oneself to hold lightly in a world that proudly proclaims “he or she who dies with the most toys wins”? It takes practice and effort and the power of supportive community.

The joy of learning to hold lightly is that it makes a person more generous. If you’re willing to share your stuff, you’re well on your way to a glad and generous heart. So here’s a project for this week…

Get rid of three things each day. Just three things. That’s only 21 items for the entire week. Either give or toss each item, but preferably give so that someone else may benefit from the use of an item you no longer need or want. If you find you want to do more look up the 100 Things facebook group and ask to join.

I hope you’ll take the time to share this idea and to comment below about your experience. Want a little motivation to get started? Read Matthew 6:25-34. And then…just LET GO! Three things. Seven days. One week. You can do this! We can do this!

Photo: Alice Popkorn, Creative Commons

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Just Breathe…and be Generous

The car hemorrhage

Bye, bye transmission!

Some days it can be tough to live with a spirit of generosity. Things happen. Details derail. Complications come up. What’s that old saying about the best laid plans?

It’s when our carefully laid plans or hopes and dreams are sidetracked that generosity becomes even more difficult. We look inward and focus on what’s wrong or what did not go as planned. Ironically, it’s at these frustrating moments in life when a spirit of generosity can be even more important.

Try this: The next time something inconvenient derails your daily plans, take a deep breath and take stock of your situation. Are you safe? Are you alive (well obviously if you’re doing this exercise)? Was anyone hurt? Will the world as you know it end because of what happened?

Most of the time the answer to all of these questions will put you in a frame of mind to be grateful–or at least help you to reflect on the situation more realistically. So your friend had to cancel lunch; maybe the dog could use an extra walk or you could use some quiet time. Maybe locking your keys in the car really isn’t the end of the world. Even not getting that job you thought you wanted so badly might have a silver lining before you realize it.

So how is this being generous? By being generous with yourself and with the situation, you allow yourself to be present in the moment. You open yourself to the possibility of thankfulness. You become aware of options that could have been oh so much worse.

A few weeks ago, my husband’s transmission blew in the driveway. It looked like a scene from “Garage CSI” complete with an undercarriage “bleed-out.” We had just moved to a new neighborhood and started new jobs. Fortunately, my husband caught one of our new neighbors at home who recommended a good garage and an excellent mechanic.

Getting to know this new mechanic has been a real blessing. He’s done an awesome job–both with putting in a good used transmission and with getting the transmission on our other car back in good order, too. Yes, we ended up spending what for us was a LOT of money. Yet as we look back and reflect on the situation we feel incredibly grateful. If this had happened a few months ago we might not have had the income stream to address it so readily. If the car had blown somewhere else, we might never have met this fine mechanic.We are grateful, and feeling grateful inspires us to be more generous in other ways because we recognize the extent of our blessings.

The flow of generous spirit–from my spouse who didn’t allow the situation to unsettle him, to the neighbor who was willing to help, to the mechanic who did amazing work–that same spirit of goodness and blessing keeps rolling on today and helps us to give thanks every day for our lives, for our blessings, and for the ability we have to make a difference for others by paying these blessings forward.

Ready for chemo in 2004 with a pony tail for Locks of Love

Chemo-bound in ’04 with ponytail for Locks of Love

Sure, not every situation can be solved as easily as a Chrysler van transmission, but even a grave illness or major life loss can be an opportunity to experience the amazing flow of generosity that’s part of life when we let it be. I can honestly look back almost a decade ago and say that my experience with breast cancer has left me with a more generous spirit, a more grateful heart, and joys I could have never imagined at the time of diagnosis.

So, dear friends, when life “gets your goat” and threatens to plan a pity party for you, STOP. Just breathe. Allow the spirit of generosity, of being present in the moment, and the joy of being alive wash over you. You, with the help of friends, neighbors, and the Creator of the Universe, can handle anything–somehow, some way. And looking back in that proverbial “rear view mirror” of experience, I can promise the perspective will probably look a whole lot different than it did in the midst of whatever happened. It may not be perfect (it might really stink), but you will find blessings. In turn, you can be generous with others and make this world a much better place.

Blessings on the new week that lies ahead.

Giving Time

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Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. — Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

Rick Warren is spot on when he says time is our most precious gift. Money comes and goes (too often it seems to go!), but time is finite and cannot be regained, reinvented, or recaptured. Time is the Creator’s precious gift to us, so how we choose to spend our time also says something about our understanding of this gift with which we have been entrusted.

Remember those Mastercard commercials that illustrated the priceless nature of spending time on relationships? They ended with “For everything else, there’s Mastercard.” Being generous with time is foundational to cultivating and nurturing relationships. The gift of time is critical to keeping a marriage or partnership strong. Time spent with children is love made visible. Time invested in strengthening one’s faith life and spiritual relationships is of eternal importance.

We have no way of knowing how much time we have left to live on this earth–how long this phase of our eternal journey will last. Therefore, steward time wisely. Give it generously. Treat it with the care it deserves. Do with your time what really matters. Don’t squander and fritter it away on frivolous activities.

Here are seven suggestions for how to be generous with your time:

1. Call someone you love who lives in another town or state. Really listen to them. Don’t have an agenda. Don’t set a time limit. Let that person know how much you care even though you can’t be there in person.

2. Devote an entire evening or day to your partner. Put away the work. Take a digital sabbatical. Talk. Laugh. Love.

3. Have a “date night” with your child. Even if you would really rather not go to Chuck-e-Cheese or play yet one more game of hide-and-go-seek do it. Be there. Be fully present. These are the kinds of things your children will remember more than what was under the Christmas tree from Toys-r-Us.

4. Go to worship regularly. Make this a priority for spending your time. Not only are you giving God your best, you are setting an example for others and walking the walk.

5. Invite friends over for a meal. You don’t have to do anything extravagant; just get together. Try a potluck or progressive dinner.

6. Give time to your favorite charity. Work in the soup kitchen or food pantry. Play with the dogs and cats in the animal shelter. Visit the elderly in your local nursing home. Be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Do something for others.

7. Read a book. It’s a vacation for your mind. Reading isn’t your thing? then do something for yourself other than veg out in front of the television. Go for a hike. Ride horse. Plant flowers. Work out at the gym. You matter, too. If you don’t take care of your physical and emotional health, you won’t be much good at giving time to others.

Thanks for taking time to read this post. This is my gift to you. Time is precious. Thanks for spending some of yours with me. Blessings on the journey!

Photo: kojotomoto, Creative Commons

The Year of Living Generously

Happy New Year

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.    Acts 2:46-47

It’s a new year, a new day filled with promise and possibility. What will you do with the minutes, hours, and days ahead? How will you shape and craft the time entrusted to you? How will you use your gifts and talents to make this world a better place?

I’m not talking about resolutions. Those are well and good if you make them, but our culture and human tendencies work against their care and keeping. I’m not even talking about goals. Setting goals is vital to achievement and essential to moving forward in ways that are productive and measurable.

What I hope to do–and I invite you to join me–is to commit to live intentionally and deeply into a fresh way of being for this new year. This year I want to build a life that is deliberately joyful and generous. I’m talking about a deep culture shift that begins on an individual level and ripples outward into community.

Living generously begins one person at a time, BUT…living generously has the power to change the world and to heal and cultivate relationships, one life at a time, one small group at a time, and one community at a time. It starts with you. It starts with me. It starts now.

The Year of Living Generously has two parts. First, I’ll be posting three to four times a week to offer ideas, share experiences, and plan and dream with you. I invite you to comment and share your ideas and experiences, too. Secondly, I invite you to participate in a Lenten discipline called With Glad and Generous Hearts. This 40-day faith-based study is designed with both individuals and groups in mind. It features daily reflections and questions for individual use, as well as a weekly group study. More information about how to participate will be available mid-January.

I hope you’ll consider joining me for the journey and will share this information with your friends and in your communities. Together we can craft a year of living generous lives, marked by prodigal love, and seasoned with gladness and joy.

For today I leave you with this thought:

Divine time is infinite and fluid. Human time is finite and marked by artificial constraints of our own creation. The key to a glad and generous life is to acknowledge our human reality while embracing and living into Divine (or Kairos) time. In doing so we have the potential to maximize our days and hours by living fully each precious moment.

Happy New Year! Blessings on the journey.

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