Thursday, January 29, 2009

New ears on an old sheep

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
                                                                                                                                                                -Shel Silverstein

This new path I’m walking, or maybe not so new as just newly recognized, calls for a new way of living. Living by listening. Not just hearing, as that is a rather passive thing. Listening requires more than ears, it requires my whole being.

I am turning inward, seeking attunement with the still small voice of my guide, my shepherd. I can’t see the path ahead of me-blindness does that to one. I’ve surrendered the idea of control of what comes next and am residing in that hoof-biting place of releasing control and then attempting to take it back. I am after all a sheep!

I am learning, ever so slowly, that I can trust completely in my shepherd. He’s already determined the safe path, the fresh grass, the pure water- and then he’s led me there. I don’t wander alone, for he is always with me.
Sheep M 1/29/09

(The picture is supposed to show the sheep resting-not dead. Although sometimes I can’t tell the difference!)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Life

As I begin to take my first faltering steps down this path of self-discovery, my first task is to examine the labels I carry with me. Mine are plenty and each of us could easily come up with half a dozen or so that we wearily bear. Labels that not only define us, but limit our own vision of ourselves.

We are born with a label-our gender. Not so much nowadays, but that was once a powerful determiner in what dreams were available. Then our birth order label was handed over. Consider high school, or rank, ACT/SAT score, college… This list of academic achievements or lack thereof piles on the labels. School itself is a means of self-labeling as we attempt to define our very self by what degree we achieve or profession we enter. Marriage state-happy, unfulfilled, single, divorced, co-habitating. Add to this children, stay at home ness or professional life, size of income and the things that can add to the growing list. Our relationships label us. Are we the kind of friend one can call in the middle of the night with any assurance of help? Are we a giver or receiver?

Up until a few years ago, I didn’t think much of labels. Oh I knew I carried some around and had grown comfortable with their weight. There was a measure of safety in them. At any given time I knew what was expected of me because of those very labels. They were my ‘Rules for a Happy Life’. As long as I behaved within the confines of those labels and didn’t stray too far afield, I felt confident in my ability to have, if not the life I’d dreamed of, a life worth being proud of.

The first crack of any consequence came in the form of a change. A good change as it turned out. My family went from being active members of one church to being part of another. Gone almost immediately was my label of Sunday School teacher. As the new year started, I wasn’t asked to serve my new church. Others before me had taught and would be asked to live within that label. I served on no committee and the distance from the church made it difficult to be as involved as I had been with my old church. I went through a mild time of crisis as I sought to find a definition for myself in this new place.

The second crack was the most personally devastating. My marriage ended. It was a slow and painful death. I spent much time in denial and trying to convince myself that there was still something I could do to fix it. When my attempts weren’t enough, I became busy. Busy as a way to push away the pain, to conceal the dismay at one of my labels failing me. I was a wife. I had defined and limited myself to that label. I had done my part and the label was supposed to do its. For a few short weeks, I was adrift trying to identify and define the new label I bore-single again.

The last crack tore my carefully crafted world apart. My son, my only son, was stricken with ALL, an acute form of leukemia. All my striving to be a good mom, couldn’t keep my children healthy! In the days after the diagnosis, my mind awhirl, all my labels were rendered null and void. It no longer mattered what I was, what I’d done, what had been done to me.

My son’s journey toward wellness became my journey as well. All the old concepts were thrown out. I examined everything! Yes, I still had titles, but where once they had defined me, now I was in a place to make my own definitions.

I am still in that place. Defining myself without limiting the possibilities of me. Seeking who I am, not what I am. I am discovering anew, the joy of a childlike faith in myself. I am not limited by labels-I have survived their betrayal and like a phoenix, am arising from the flames. I am…..

As a reread this before posting, I realized this is not the article I had thought I would write, but one that I needed to release. I am still in process. The journey has begun, but I am a long way from completing it.

Sheep M 1/17/09

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Are You Smiling At?

A moment ago, just before typing these letters I yawned. No big deal, we all yawn at one time or another. But a minute or two before that I had read the word ‘yawn’, a coincidence? I don’t think so.

There are things in this world that are highly contagious and infectious. A yawn is one of them. A smile is another. Try it sometime! When you find yourself in a group of people start yawning and see what happens or start smiling and see what happens. Our actions and even our facial expressions have an impact on those around us.

If you keep smiling eventually an epidemic will break out and the whole airport, school or Café will enter in. Why am I telling you this… because you have something that is contagious. You have something that has the potential to multiply and explode.

What is it you ask? It’s a germ, a highly contagious unstoppable force that breeds and spreads like wild fire. When World War I came to an end the good news spread throughout Europe in a matter of hours. They didn’t have cell phones or laptops and most lines of communication had been destroyed by the fighting. How did it spread? How did it cover thousands and thousands of miles so quickly? It spread by word of mouth.

You have a contagion, a virus, a smile or a yawn that will generate excitement and change. The world is looking for an answer… you have an answer for them. The answer is so simple that many of us have been afraid to share it. The answer is good news… the good news that we are loved, accepted, forgiven and needed. God has prepared the way… the war has already been won! God needs us… not to do something for Him... but to join Him in the celebration… because we are a part of Him.

So what should you do? It’s really pretty simple… open your mouth! You cannot share your smile, your yawn or your life unless you open your mouth. Some of you started with your friends and family and someone frowned at you. Maybe they even sneered and the corner of their mouth curled slightly. Did you immediately clam up or did you go right on smiling, yawning and sharing what you had found.

Even if Aunt Gertrude gave you the most awful scowl known to man you still have a choice. Give up and quit or keep smiling. Eventually if you keep going, keep smiling, keep yawning, keep sharing in a positive way even Aunt Gertrude is going to smile. She may not smile at you… but she will smile at Uncle Clarence cause he just won’t quit and his smile is hilarious with those teeth missing!

There is something about smiles and good news that we don’t understand. When we smile somewhere between one-third and one-half of those around us are effected and end up smiling as well. As they continue on their journey smiling they in turn effect one-third to one-half of the people they come in contact with. Before long we have an epidemic.

Many think it happens over night, it doesn’t. The epidemic proportions appear over night but the incubation period was set in motion long before. In math this is called a geometric progression… what most of us would call exponential growth. How does it work? Consider the following example.

Take a large piece of paper and fold it in half and then in half again. Do this 25 more times until you have folded it a total of 50 times. How tall will the piece of paper be? I actually tried this a minute ago. I got to 7 times and then it was too difficult to fold. I measured it and found it to be about one-half an inch.

Using a calculator I doubled it 43 more times. The result… about 4 and a half trillion inches or 366 billion feet or nearly 70 million miles! Our linear finite minds cannot get wrapped around this type of progression… and yet there it is in black and white... we would need a telesccope to see that it reaches most of the way to the sun!

We are a part of something that has only been folded a few times. Right now, it still looks small and it’s hard to imagine what it can become. For those of us who know we are loved, who know we are accepted, who know that God is Love and that He is good and He always wins and always redeems… there is an unstoppable contagion in us that is going to spread and grow and multiply no matter what.

So what should we do? Me, I plan to keep on smiling! There’s nothing worse than a bunch of smiling sheep to get things stirred up. Everyone will want to know what you’re up to, what’s going on, why is everybody smiling? Who knows… maybe they’ll even ask for the reason for the HOPE within you?

Why am I smiling? Why do I have hope? I have hope because I know it’s not up to me. I know I can’t pull it off. I know I’m not in charge and I’m not in control. It’s Christ in me, the Hope of glory. I am in Him, He is in me and we are one. We are connected, interconnected and pumping God’s DNA through every part of our bodies, we were created in His image you know?!

Why am I smiling? I’m smiling because I have received “GOOD NEWS”… GOD LOVES ME! Whether I know it, believe it or not doesn’t change the facts. He loves me and wants me and needs me. Are you smiling? If not, why not? He loves you every bit as much as He loves me. Truth is… He loves everyone! The GOOD NEWS is for everyone!

Some become angry when they hear that God loves everyone. Some want an exclusive club, they want to make sure they get there fair share of love, like God might not have enough for all of us.

Others get angry because they can’t believe God would forgive such horrible people. They can’t understand that each and every one of us belongs to Him. They can’t fathom an unconditional love that is so deep, so real and so pure that it pursues us until it has us.

I want to continue... but it’s already too long.

Until next time… KEEP SMILING!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What's a Sheep to Believe?

It doesn’t matter what we believe! What matters is who we are… or better yet… whose we are. We are who we are. At 2 years old I was Sheep S, at 8 I was Sheep S, at 13 I was Sheep S, at 21 I was Sheep S and at 50-something… well… I’m still Sheep S! I am who I am regardless of what I believe.

We tend to believe what we have seen, heard and experienced. The old world believed the earth was flat… was it… no. Did their mistaken ‘worldview’ make them bad people… no, of course not? They were still moms, dads, brothers, sisters, readers, writers, sheep, Johns, Carols, and Pams… they were still just people. Were they any less inhabitants of this round non-flat earth… no!

Many people today don’t believe God is good. Does this make them bad people? Does it change who they really are? Their mistaken ‘worldview’ or what they believe about God does not change the fact that they are a part of God… a good God… who loves them unconditionally.

Though they have not seen or heard or experienced the circumference of His goodness they still LIVE within it!

The people of times past could not grasp or imagine living on a world that was round. It made no sense. If the world were round it would fall apart… people would fall off, oceans and mountains would be sucked into the sky.

They could not comprehend… with their minds… until they saw it, felt it, heard it, experienced it and talked about it with others who had done the same.

It is no different today. We cannot comprehend a God who loves all, is in all and redeems all. It makes no sense. Our minds can’t grasp it and it would cause our religious worlds to fall apart. Yet as we hear it and see it and experience it… and hear it from others who are experiencing it… we begin to believe.

We are all a part of each other. We are all on the same journey… the journey of hearing and seeing and knowing that God is good, God is love, God never fails, and God always redeems and wins back all that is His.

All that is… all that was spoken into existence… all that has life breathed into it… is His.

He is already in us; He’s already in the trees, the rocks, the plants, the sea, the air and the animals. Red, yellow, black, white, brown, Australian, Chinese, Iraqi, Muslim, atheist, and yes… even Christians… we are all one… all a part of each other… all connected thru God’s DNA.

If we don’t believe… does it leave us out? Did the people of the 1400’s still live on the earth even though they didn’t believe it was round? Were they still a part even though they believed a lie? The answer is yes!

So stop worrying so much about what people believe and let’s focus on who they are. Let’s focus on the FACT that we are a part of each other. We are connected. We are a part of the same body. We are one!

So the next time you meet someone… drop all the stereotypes and see them as God see them.
How does God see them?
Just like He sees you
He sees a part of Him that He loves & needs & desires to enjoy.
He sees a part of Him that He can’t… and won’t… live without!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Leaving the maze

Have you ever felt like you're caught in a maze? Roaming endlessly looking for a way out? Do you find your happiness in escapist behaviors? Be they as harmless as simply using the TV to tune out or the more self destructive patterns of too much food or alcohol? 

Such weighty questions! Winter seems to do that to me, turn me introspective. Maybe it's the cooler weather or decreased sunlight, or the fact that in winter I have more time to read. One of my favorite past-times! Whatever it is, the first few months of every year usually finds me questioning life in general and my own specifically.  

Two events this past weekend have caused me to focus more clearly on the questions swirling within. One, a brief conversation I had with Sheep S. He's reading a new book (new to him) and he was sharing some of the lessons from its pages. I know we'll be having many more discussions. Some of the things mentioned in that conversation echo the questions I have right now. The second event, was saying goodbye to a family that has meant a lot to me. A job transfer has this family packing up and moving a state away. The flock is loosing some of its members and we, I am grieved at the loss.

How did all this focus me? Well, as I spoke with my friends, I realized that many of the books and articles I've been reading lately have had a similar theme. It may sound a bit new age guru, but "My best life Now".  As many questions as that has raised, my readings have given few definable answers. They have provided 'writings on the wall', arrows pointing in general directions, but nothing I could craft into a list of things to do to make it all better. 

Saved yet again by my loving shepherd! It's not about lists, but listening. Listening to my heart as I am blindly led beside quiet waters into fields meant for me. I can't make this work, I'm not in control. I can't tell you or anyone else how to do it, as each field is a personal space. A place 
'just right' for each of us. It's not about the externals or end results, but about that quiet inner space of self acceptance and knowing that all is right in our world. 

How will I know this place? Can't answer that. As I risk leaving the false sense of security the maze offers,  leaving behind my Do list, I am discovering my heart. What an undiscovered county that is! The way is fraught with risk, disappointments, hurts, and glimpses of glory. 

On my wall, near the mirror I use to 'put on my face', hangs a card.  It is a beautifully drawn image of a traveler at a cross roads. The signpost reads: My Life and No Longer an Option.

Like me, the traveler's feet are beginning down the path labeled, My Life.
-Sheep M 1/6/09

Friday, January 2, 2009


Happy New Year! 
 I wanted to take a minute-or longer- to talk about this business of resolutions. Though I understand the desire to have a better year than the last, I take exception to the concept of 'righting' last year's failures. You know what I'm talking about-last year I didn't do such and such, or this is the year I will... That kind of talking smacks of failure talk. I'm sick of it!
 Please understand, this idea has been working itself in me for a long time. I was fairly clueless about it for most of my life. I have a rather sunny disposition and set backs didn't seem to effect me long term.  In the last five years of my marriage, I was confronted on a daily basis with the concept that some people see themselves through the lens of what they do. Similar to labels ( that's another thing I have a problem with and will probably be a later post), some people label themselves as failures because certain areas in their lives haven't worked out the way they intended. They can't, or won't focus on the areas in which they have succeeded, only on the ones that support the concept of failure.
 I want to stop that thinking. We, all of us, are not failures! We are unique individuals. Each of us fearfully and wonderfully made. When did we, individually or corporately, decide that trying something and it not work out the way we thought it would equalled failure? 
 Let's  think about it. Did you on your first attempt, walk? Talk? Print your letters? How sad would it have been if your parents at those moments in your life had shook their heads in dismay and labeled you a failure. You weren't then. That wasn't the response. If you are a parent now, you know what they did as you probably did the same thing, you rejoiced at the attempt! You knew that what you were seeing was a child exploring the world, taking a risk, going for it-and you applauded the effort!
 So why can't we do that now for ourselves, for the ones we love? Why now when a friend wants to take a risk ? Or quit a job that is killing them (literally or figuratively) do you come up with a list of why they shouldn't-top of the list including some warning of failure? Or, and I speak from experience, do we stay in a relationship that is sapping our true self only to avoid 'failing' at that relationship? Or why do we dream of...(fill in the blank), but hold ourselves back from taking the risk because we are afraid of failing?
 Think of all the things we now enjoy that are the product of risk taking, not getting it right the first time, and repeated attempts. Two that most of us are familiar with come to mind- the light bulb and flying.  Even if you don't know the complete story of Edison or the Wright Brothers, you know that they didn't 'get it right' the first time.  They kept at it until their ideal found a reality. History records their attempts, not to highlight how many times they tried, but to show how determined they were to succeed.
 Then there is a personal friend of mine. He is a modern day explorer. He loves to seek out new business opportunities. He loves the thrill he gets from creating a new business, but the idea of staying with that one business for the rest of his life bores him. He is constantly on the move, constantly exploring new options. Thankfully, he knows this about himself and doesn't interpret his many career attempts as failures, they simply are the results of his risk taking. He rejoices over the business that 'work' and is able to put aside those that don't. He is one of my heroes as he daily lives from his heart. He is showing his children a much better way to live.  
 In this New Year, I ask you to begin to take the word failure out of your vocabulary. Love yourself! See each attempt for what it really is-a risk, a step toward the goal or a step that shows you what not to do the next time. Rejoice in the risk! Embrace your uniqueness. Live from your heart!  -Sheep M 1/2/09

Evaluate each situation. Look at the steps involved, not whether you succeeded at the first attempt. Take the risk. Rejoice in the attempts! Realize that each of us has a part to play.