Posted in Thinking

“Everything Happens for a Reason” – Really?

I have questions about this familiar saying … Everything happens for a reason.*

Really? Does it? Everything?

Everything from child abuse, to the latest iPhone, to a paper cut, to rape, to a war, to a sale on beach chairs?

I used to say it myself, but I don’t anymore. Though I hear it used by a range of people, in many different settings … most often said in an attempt to bring some kind of understanding/comfort/purpose to a difficult situation.

Each time I hear it, something in me cringes.

I’ve experimented with rewording the saying…

I’ve seen similar things (good or bad) happen to different people and yet the outcome can be vastly different. One uses the challenge or the good fortune to move forward and maybe even help others along the way. While the other one does nothing or even takes a negative turn and hurts themselves and others by their choices.

So if everything happens for a reason — both the good or the bad result are what was supposed to happen?

As I recovered from the accident, thinking there was a reason for the hell I was going through (and knowing many others live with worse circumstances) made me want to kill myself.  Only by letting go of that thought was I able to take steps out of depression.

Now I tend to look at life thinking everything happens and I have the option of becoming better or bitterit’s my choice. And the path I take determines what reason, if any, will or will not come out of whatever happens.

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How do you view that saying?
Do you think everything happens for a reason?

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*Generally said with the implication that God, the universe or
some divine being causes everything to happen for a reason.
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Posted in Thinking,
Hope

Rejection From ‘Her’

No one likes rejection, but it’s easier to take from some, then from others. There’s one person whose rejection affected me drastically in the past.

This person used to be relentless. She made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. She pointed out places I hadn’t arrived at yet. It seemed like she was determined to make me feel bad no matter what I did. Most days it felt like I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.

I needed to avoid hearing her rejection or not believe it if I did hear it. Yet I couldn’t avoid her or stop her from talking to me. And oddly, I was the one giving her the power to talk.

You see, the problem was … she was me.

‘She’ was that nagging voice in my head saying negative things to me. Some times, I realized she was an unhealthy voice. But other times, she could be so convincing that I thought what she told me was true.

To figure out who she was and who I am, I realized I needed a clearer picture of myself. I needed to know me better in order to get her to be kinder to me.

I took time to simply be. To think. To read. To explore what I like about myself and what I don’t. I tried to take an honest look at the reality of me. Yes, I had many faults and short-comings, but hello, I am human! But I’m not all bad, I also have some good qualities.

Also, it dawned on me that I would never talk to others the way I allow her to talk to me. I tend to give others the benefit of doubt. And to encourage others to continue to try their best even if they screwed up.

I’ve always instinctively known that we learn better with encouragement than with criticism, but I tended to think of that in light of others, not myself. But if it works for others, why wouldn’t it work for me.

I also gave myself time to ponder words from others:

Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. –Lucille Ball

Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built up against it. –Rumi

I have had more trouble with myself that with any other man. –Dwight L. Moody

You have to choose whether to love yourself or not.James Taylor

Love your neighbor as yourself. –Jesus
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Love yourself — as in me, myself and I?

Yes, love myself.

Love and rejection can’t co-habituate, so one of them had to go. As I absorbed the ideas above, I was kinder to myself. I gave myself the benefit of the doubt. I stopped her when I became aware of her negative thoughts toward myself.

Doing this allowed love to grow in me for me, and slowly lessen her influence. Every now and then, she rears her head again and spews out negative things before I’m even aware of it. But as soon as I hear her nastiness, I pause, take a deep breath, and think about how I would reframe the conversation if I was talking to someone else.

With time, there’s been less space for her rejection in my life
and I found that as I  loved myself more…
I also loved others more.

Because that’s how it works. If I call myself names, I’m quicker to call others names. If I put myself down, it’s easier to put others down. If I hate myself, I hate others.

And if I accept myself for who I am… flaws and all, I’m quicker to accept others for who they are. If I respect my journey so far, instead of beating myself up for what I did or didn’t say/do/think/believe, I’m more likely to respect others.

So it’s a win-win.
A win for me,
and a win for humanity.

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Sunday Saying – Vacation

I am grateful for this past week — our first weeklong family vacation in six years. It was not perfect, but it was a good, good week.

Jonathan, Jerry, Janet, Joshua, Joseph

A vacation is having nothing to do and
all day to do it in. - Robert Orben
Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico
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And it’s good to be home again …

For travel to be delightful, one must have a good place
to leave and return to. - Frederick B. Wilcox
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Posted in Hope

Sheryl WuDunn: Our century’s greatest injustice

I’m in Puerto Rico on vacation this week. Due to a bruised foot, I cannot be as active as I had planned to be. Rather than feel sorry for myself, I’ve tried to make the best of the situation — and it’s been a good week.

During times I need to rest my foot, I read or I watch some TED videos. Most TED talks I’ve watched make me grateful and inspire me.

This one angered and inspired me — and made me extremely grateful. (no more pity-parties for myself)

It also gave me hope, that with people like Sheryl WuDunn researching and talking about the injustice of women — and you and I doing our part — things might change.

Sheryl WuDunn and her husband, Nicholas D. Kristof, have written a book Half The Sky — it’s on my reading list now.

What about you – do you think there is hope for things to change concerning the injustice of females worldwide?

PS. The Winner of the book contest for Evolving in Monkey Town is Warren Baldwin. Congrats Warren! The book will be on its way soon.
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Living In The Moment

I like reading. I like to write. I like my computer. I like being online (Twitter, Facebook, The Blogosphere – it’s all wonderful)

But, today — I do not want to read. I do not want to be online. I do not want to write, especially not this post.

I was going to ignore reading, writing and blogs … and have a pity-party for myself.

Then I remembered a post by Anne Jackson called The Story of Now. She writes …

“I was having a discussion with a friend recently about how, when we share our stories, we often refer to things that have taken place in the past …

Our stories are important. Nobody can argue the power of God’s faithfulness shown in our past.

May I make a suggestion? Let’s also begin sharing The Story of Now.

Let’s share the brokenness that is happening in our lives at this very given moment — The places we aren’t sure how God will heal, if he will heal them. The places that frighten us. The places that we think will make a great story in the future…but we don’t want to talk about them in the present tense.”

After rereading Anne’s post, I picked up my laptop and began writing … after making myself comfortable here:

You see … I’m on vacation in Puerto Rico with my husband and three sons. Instead of birthday gifts for each other this year, we planned this trip — our first vacation in six years as a family and the first time we’ve done anything like this. It’s beautiful and I’m enjoying it — the scenery, my family and the fact that we’re on vacation.

My gorgeous view from our balcony

Our last vacation ended with an accident where I received major injuries. I’ve recovered well, even completing a half-marathon this past June. So this trip was kind of a celebration of the past six years and a time of treating the boys to an unique adventure. We planned an active vacation of kayaking, hiking, biking, watersports, etc.

So today … I want to be out and about doing fun things!

BUT … two weeks ago, I was running and injured myself. It was an injury I could have avoided if I would have quit running at the first twinges of pain, but I wanted to finish the race, so I did. In the process, I severely bruised the front of my left foot. The pain was so brutal (nothing broken, just bruised) I had to use crutches for almost two weeks. The pain has decreased, but it’s still brutal enough for me to need a walking cast.

My foot and walking cast propped on a suitcase at the airport

I’m sure Jung or Freud scholars and my counselor would love to probe the depths of my conscience, sub-conscience to find out why I would do this to myself two weeks before a special vacation. Was it just determination to finish a race? Was it forgetfulness — I never thought of this vacation while running with pain. Or was it self-sabotage … but why would I do that?

I’m able to do some of the things we had planned, but not everything. Last night I swam in a bioluminescent bay with my family. I can walk a few steps without my boot, so I wore it until I was almost ready to go in the water. It was a wonderful experience.

Right now, the others walked down the beach to a great snorkeling spot near our condo. I will drive down to the spot later and see if my foot allows me to snorkel or just sit on the beach and watch them.

So I’m here… in the now, disappointed… in myself, in the circumstances, in life…

Over the next few days, I will probably have to sit by while my family hikes the rainforest and swims under waterfalls, while I am left wondering … why and what, if anything, I will learn from this.

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Rachel Held Evans Interview – Part 2

Part 1 of my interview with Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkey Town was posted yesterday.

Today the interview continues and you have a chance to win a copy of her book. Leave a comment before Monday and you could win!

Yesterday, I listed a number of the topics Rachel writes about in the book. Today I asked her questions about a few of those topics. I would love to discuss the whole book here, but the interview would be way too long — plus you’d have no reason to read the book. If you’d like to hear Rachel’s thoughts on the other topics, enter to win a copy below or pick up a copy of Evolving in Monkey Town here.

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Janet: Zarmina’s story touched me, as did your realization of a crack, then multiple cracks in the biblical worldview wall. What’s your opinion on a biblical worldview now – is there such a thing? Can a worldview be summed up in one or two words?

Rachel: I think “biblical” can be an unhelpful word when it is used prescriptively rather than simply descriptively. For example, technically speaking it is “biblical” for women to be considered property and for men to have multiple wives. That’s just what the culture was like when the Bible was written. But few people would argue that submitting to a husband’s desire for multiple wives constitutes “biblical womanhood” today.  The same goes for cosmology and creation and all kinds of other topics in which the Bible’s ancient cultural context plays a role. In that sense, a “biblical worldview” includes a flat earth with a solid firmament in which the stars are fixed, the acceptance of slavery, and the assumption that people think and feel with their stomachs!

So I find it problematic when modern Westerners advocate the acceptance of a “biblical worldview,” as I think it’s impossible for us to share the minds of ancient near eastern people.  What I think they mean is that as Christians we should have a view of life and the world that is impacted by the many timeless principles found in Scripture, and particularly in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. I agree, but considering the fact that we all interpret the Bible a little differently and we all have different opinions about which of these principles are indeed timeless, I think the phrase “biblical worldview” sounds a bit too singular, too presumptuous. I think instead we should celebrate the fact that there are as many views of the world as there are people, and that even within the Christian community it’s possible to see things a little differently. While the Bible certainly informs my view of the world, I do not claim to have a monopoly on its many truths.

Janet: You write about your frustration with the practice of calling everything a “God thing” from good weather for a picnic to cars, jobs, etc. I agree with you. Recently a nasty storm in my hometown blew over a lot of trees – some people had their houses/barns hit, some didn’t. The ones that didn’t said or posted updates like “So thankful for God’s protection.” “It was a God thing – he was really watching out for us.” I was sad for the people who had damage – guess God was too busy protecting the others or something. Have you found a creative way to respond to the “God thing” conversations?

Rachel: That’s such a great example of why “God things” can be a frustrating turn of phrase! If God’s goodness is determined by how much stuff he gives out, then he’s not particularly good—at least not to the widows and orphans I met in India, who suffered from extreme poverty and disease.  Yet the fact that these widows and orphans seemed to have such a beautiful relationship with God makes me wonder if material “blessings” are really blessings after all. Maybe Jesus was purposefully turning the concept of blessing on its head when he said “blessed are the poor,” and “woe to you who are rich.” Maybe new cars and spared homes aren’t really “God things,” but rather neutral events at best and temptations at worst.

I understand why people use the phrase and I don’t try to “correct” them when they do. (I believe they are sincerely wishing to show gratefulness and appreciation to God for those things that are indeed out of their control.) But in my own life, I try to look at both the good things and bad things that come my way as opportunities for me to do evil or good. I believe something becomes a “God thing” when we use it to advance love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And that’s our choice, not God’s.

Janet: Was there a particular chapter in Monkey Town that was really fun and/or easy to write? Why? What about one that was difficult to write? Why?

Rachel: I really enjoyed writing those short, in-between chapters about some of the interesting people I’ve met in my life—from June the Ten Commandments Lady, to Laxmi the Widow, to Sam the Feminist. It was nice to take a break from myself and my own story for a while! The hardest…(though perhaps most cathartic)…chapters to write were chapters 7-11 because they touch on some of the troublesome theological issues that triggered my doubts. I cried a lot and ate a lot during those months of writing. (Animal crackers and red wine are my writing vices.)

Janet: Now that your ‘baby’ is out and traveling around the world, is there something you wish you could change and/or add to it?

Rachel: Oh yes! Every time I pick up the book I find a sentence I would rewrite! But I would keep the content exactly the same, even though my perspective has “evolved” in some ways since I finished the book. I really want my story to serve as a companion to young people who are asking similar questions about their faith, and I think they will relate more to my voice of two years ago than my voice of today.

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This concludes the interview. If you want more of Rachel, she’s on Facebook and Twitter or visit her blog. She writes regularly there addressing issues from politics to seeking peace to vacations.

Order Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions here.

Everyone that leaves a comment here will have a chance to win a copy of Evolving in Monkey Town. So say hi, ask a question or start a discussion in the comments below about something in the interview or something that you wish would have been in the interview. (Leave contact info (email, twitter) so I can contact you if you win)

Disclosure – I received a free copy of Evolving to review. That in no way influenced my review, I would like the book whether or not I paid for it.

Posted in Interviews

Rachel Held Evans Interview – Part 1

Sometime in the past year I found Rachel Held Evans‘ blog. And I’m so grateful I did. She writes about a range of topics — Calvinism, church, doubt, politics, theology and more. Some I’m lost on (she’s an intelligent gal) but many of her topics are things I’ve thought about and/or had questions about. It’s been a joy and an education to read her writings.

Like me, Rachel believes in a God of love, but has questions and doubts. Bonus: she also likes coffee.

Rachel has written a spiritual memoir called Evolving in Monkey TownHow a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions. Monkey Town is a reference to the town she lives in – Dayton, TN – where the Scopes Trial, about teaching evolution in schools, took place. The title refers more to her faith evolving and changing, than to evolution.

Her book takes us through her storybook Christian childhood. She knew all the answers and did all the right things. Even winning the “Best Christian Attitude Award” four years in a row.

Durning her college years, she first learns more ‘correct’ answers about Christianity. But sometime in the last year of college, she began asking questions that she hadn’t been asking before. For a time, she wasn’t sure if she could continue to embrace Christianity. In the book, she talks about many of the issues that she struggled with.

Through continued searching, her faith evolved and she found peace in Jesus, while living with questions.

This book is a good read, whether or not you’ve ever had questions or doubts about your faith. And if you think you have all the answers … you really need to read it.

This is a partial list of the things Rachel wrote about in the book. (List is in alphabetical order, like all good lists should be)

Biblical ‘pick and choose’
Biblical worldview
Cosmic lottery
Doubts
‘God things’
God’s higher way
Is being saved only about avoiding hell?
Politics
Pond-scum Theology
Questions
Restrictions on women
Survivor’s guilt
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Rachel was gracious and did an interview for me about Evolving in Monkey Town. I asked her about some of the topics above. Here is part 1 of the interview. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

According to the dedication in Monkey Town, you knew you wanted to write a book at age 8 already. Congrats on achieving that dream! Did that desire stay strong through the years or were there times you considered another career?

When I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be either an author or a cowgirl when I grew up. I’m allergic to horses, so my career path became clear to me early on! I majored in English in college, worked in journalism for a while, and did some freelance writing before writing the book. I always knew I wanted to make a living as a writer—with or without a book deal. “Evolving in Monkey Town” has just been the icing on the cake.

As you question your beliefs in the book, you say, “Sometimes I’m afraid I might be wrong.” Was that only a fear at that time or is that an ongoing fear? Or does it fluctuate depending on … the moment/reading material/conversations/weather?

I suspect I am wrong about a lot of things, which is why I am more careful these days about speaking in absolute terms.  Learning to live without certainty has alleviated the fear that my entire faith will fall apart when I am proven wrong something—so I am much more hopeful and patient.

What worries me now is that I will allow this uncertainty to turn into apathy and I won’t take a stand for the people who need it the most. I recently read “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett (a fantastic book, by the way!) and was reminded of how much bravery it took for Southerners to stand up for the African American community during the civil rights movement. I don’t want to be that person who remains silent on important issues because I haven’t made up my mind about them yet.

Part 2 of our interview.

Posted in Blog Carnival

Laughter Truly is the Best Medicine

During World War II, Winston Churchill said,  “When going through hell … keep on going.”

I’ve not been in a war (and hope I never am) but I fought some nasty battles after receiving massive injuries. That quote was my mantra during the painful procedures and endless hours of physical therapy.

All the injuries forced me to be wheelchair bound for three months. Jerry was my caregiver and helped me with everything. Yes, everything—even bathroom duty. He rarely complained, though at times, he murmured, “I didn’t know this was part of the deal, when I  promised to take care of you through better or worse.”

Finally a day of big excitement came. My therapist gave me permission to put weight on one leg and taught me how to transfer myself from my wheelchair to my bed or another chair.

Which meant I could tackle the bathroom alone! Jerry and I both cheered, though he was concerned about me falling and reminded me to be careful as I wheeled myself into the restroom.

Transferring myself took forever and was painful, but I accomplished it. I knew I was the last person that should be playing jokes, but this hell needed some laughter. Before I wheeled back out, I intentionally knocked a plastic bowl from the bathroom sink to the floor … and yelled ‘in pain’.

Jerry was in that door faster than lightening. (think someone was hovering outside the door?) When he saw me sweetly sitting on the wheelchair with a smirk…
Well, you can imagine his reaction.

That day, I felt better than I had in weeks. For two reasons, I could go to the bathroom alone (oh the things we take for granted) and whenever I thought of Jerry’s face or repeated the story, the fits of laughter were great medicine.

Have you every been in ‘hell’ and laughter helped you survive?
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Posted in Personal,
Hope

Words – Hurtful or Hopeful

I said words I knew I shouldn’t have … to a person that I love.

As the words came out of my mouth, I knew they would hit and hurt their target. A portion of me was appalled at what I was doing, but (sad to say) another portion of me was happy about it. I heard the words, knowing the pain they’d cause — but I didn’t stop them.

I said what I was told someone else said. (Why do I think that whisper-down-the-lane ever gets anything right?) I said it, all of it, while not being sure I even believed some of what I was saying.

I saw the pain I caused — yet I didn’t stop. I repeated some of it twice to make sure they heard.

What am I — two years old? Why would I intentionally hurt someone near to me?

As I thought about why I would hurt someone else, I wondered if it could be because before I hurt them, I had been hurting myself.

You see, I didn’t really like myself that day. I had been spending too much time beating myself up because I thought that I wasn’t measuring up to a imaginary yardstick I had constructed in my brain, which caused my insecurities to raise their ugly head.

We are to love others as we love ourselves. As I thought of it, that is exactly what I had been doing. If I don’t say nice things to myself — why would I say nice things to others? If I don’t love myself — what makes me think I will love others?

Those unkind words had their start with unkind thoughts towards myself. By focusing on love for me and others, I was able to change my words to spread hope instead of hurt.

Do you find that you treat others as you treat yourself?

Posted in Hope

Being Alone

I love people. I get energy from people. I rarely say no to a party.

But I also like to be alone. I always have.

As a teen. I enjoyed shopping with girlfriends, but I also liked shopping alone. Then as a young mom with toddlers, playdates with other moms and kids were good, but I often took my kids to the park alone. (I know, that’s not technically alone, but since there was no adult conversation, it was kind of like being alone)

I like walking/running/biking/kayaking with friends, but I also love only hearing my breathing.

Being alone, alone can give me time to…

breathe deep
meditate
be still
hear myself think
reflect
process life

And being alone with strangers gives me time to…

notice others
imagine the stories behind the faces
strike up random conversations


And that’s why I like this video I saw on Flowerdust today.

So even though I love people. I get energy from people. I rarely say no to a party – I am more centered if I also plan some alone time.

Stop worrying if you don’t have a spouse/friend/etc to go with you … spend some time alone today and you might be surprised at what you discover about yourself and/or about others.