Connected

Today’s Word: ‘Connected‘ as in “We belong to each other.” So said, Mother Teresa.

earth-wallpaper-high-resolution-20This week we begin The Third Rhythm: “We thrive as connected people by nurturing healthy relationships, practicing intentional acts of kindness and showing hospitality as ways of creating trust and building respect which sustains community.”

Also – a fresh podcast is available at http://www.paulgauche.com | podcasts. “Episode 7 | Connected” I’ll tell you three stories including why my mom always carried a pack of gum, a harmonica and a pocket-sized bible in her purse.

#100days50words

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Innovation

Today’s Word: ‘Innovation’ as in…

roads-diverged “Hey, let’s try something new, different, risky, creative, and maybe a little unconventional – let’s throw our nets out on the other side!”

Let’s not enter this new day doing what we’ve always done because when we always do what we’ve always done we’ll get what we’ve always gotten. So practice innovation today by using the gifts in your life to bring the gifts of life to another sister or brother.

Innovation: it’s the Third Way. #100days50words

Innovation

Today’s Word: ‘Innovation’ as in… channeling my inner Seth Godin:

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Don’t wait to get picked, asked, or chosen. Don’t wait to ponder, assess, or over-think. As my dad told me a thousand times, “Just get in there and pitch!” (pre-Nike!) This is the first step toward the power of innovation.

Sure, there will always be risk in innovation. Someone will tell you that you need to wait your turn, really hone your skill, make sure you’ve got everything all lined up. You need to think about it then get permission. You need to look before you leap. (Well, that one could be helpful). Just get in there and pitch! Volunteer, offer yourself.

Innovation isn’t just about painting the Mona Lisa or writing a bestseller or nailing the song on the first take (although that certainly could happen). Go ahead and volunteer to read to that class of kindergartners! Just get in there and let the God-breathed creativity that you inhaled with your very first breath make its way out and beyond you today. Inhale then exhale this sacred oxygen. Innovation is about breathing out what you’ve first breathed in. There I said it.

#100days50words

 

Imagination

Today’s Word: ‘Imagination‘ as in …

15190222775_f14ef58a58_b“Imagining is perhaps as close as humans get to creating something out of nothing the way God is said to.”

Here’s the full thought from Frederick Buechner:

“Even a thousand miles inland you can smell the sea and hear the mewing of gulls if you give thought to it. You can see in your mind’s eye the living faces of people long dead or hear in the mind’s ear the United States Marine Band playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” If you work at it, you can smell the smell of autumn leaves burning or taste a chocolate malted. You don’t have to be asleep to dream dreams either. There are those who can come up with dramas laid twenty thousand leagues under the sea or take a little girl through a looking glass. Imagining is perhaps as close as humans get to creating something out of nothing the way God is said to. It is a power that to one degree or another everybody has or can develop, like whistling. Like muscles, it can be strengthened through practice and exercise. Keep at it until you can actually hear your grandfather’s voice, for instance, or feel the rush of hot air when you open the 450-degree oven.”

#100days50words

Imagination

Today’s Word: ‘imagination’ … as in –

camel_20cig_20logo

As kids we used to find empty packs of Camel cigarettes on the ground. With our imaginations on fire, we’d pick it up and look at the front – the panel showing a camel, a pyramid and a palm tree. This was a set up. Then someone would ask: “Where would you rather sleep…under the palm trees, next to the camel or by the pyramid?” Assuming those were the only choices, an unwitting participant would usually pick the palm trees. Like you do. Who wouldn’t want to sleep there? How exotic, right? But not constrained by those three choices, we’d turn the pack over where, on the opposite side was the image of a grand hotel. I mean, a really grand hotel. We’d then announce that we’d be staying there.
A binary world is unimaginative. Using our imagination, thinking outside the box, or carton, or package is much, much more creative. #100days50words

Purpose

Today’s Word: ‘Purpose’ …

bg-1720— as in… “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

It comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a [person] is called to by God.

There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-Interest.

By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.

Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

– Originally published in Wishful Thinking, by Frederick Buechner

Purpose

Today’s Word: ‘Purpose’

finding-purpose

— as in … The purpose of life is not to be happy—but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.”

So said Polish-born American humorist, Leo Calvin Rosten. #100days50words

 

Discovery

Today’s Word: ‘Discovery’ …

onion skins

— as in … we thrive as creative people through the discovery of our identity and purpose in the world, exploring our creative impulse, delighting in the wonder of imagination and the power of innovation.

Creativity

Today’s Word: Creativity”

releasing-creativity

  • as in… Creativity was breathed into us from the very beginning. And at the beginning we had little if any trouble expressing that creativity. We sat in our high chairs and made boats and fish with our spaghetti noodles. We made rivers and lakes with the sauce. We imagined new opportunities during rain showers which turned dirt into a remarkably useful artistic medium: mud. With that mud we made everything from replicas of our current family members to the buildings we imagined. We took handfuls of dirt and recreated old family members and even imagined new ones. And with a strange impulse coming from who-knows where at that age, we took those lumps of earth and dirt and breathed life into pets and parents, buffalos and brothers and snakes and sisters and fish and friends. And continuing to follow that generative impulse, we gave each of them names. And as we looked at those creations that we had made in our image of them—made in the image we had in our little creative minds, we declared right then and there: “it is good, it is very good.”

 

Creative

Today’s Word: ‘Creative’ …

creative impulse– as in we thrive as creative people through the discovery of our identity and purpose in the world, exploring our generative impulse, delighting in the wonder of imagination and the power of innovation. #100days50words

 

Purpose

Today’s Word: ‘Purpose’ as in … Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem:

The Summer Day

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Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Thank you, Mary Oliver … #100days50words

Words

words

For roughly one-hundred days I’m going to let fifty specific words speak their unique language and world of meaning into me. Day after day I’ll meet up with one specific word and for that day and the day following I’ll let that word shape and frame my thinking and my conversations. It’s a bit of a discipline. But when I’ve done this in the past, the yield has been remarkable.

Over on Instagram I’ll be posting a word each day (one word every two days) and with it a picture of something that strikes me as a bit of connective tissue between the word verbally spoken and the word come to life in an image. The hashtag is, of course, #100days50words.

So where did this all come from?

During the summer of 2015, Nancy Lee and I spent a week on the Superior Hiking Trail together. Of all the things we packed for that trip, one of the most important items was a little piece of paper on which I’d written a handful of words. Both Nancy Lee and I are, among other things, readers, writers and speakers, so words carry quite a bit of freight for us. That we had this list of words was really Nancy Lee’s idea and I’m so grateful for her prompting on this.

So what we did was choose one word for each day of the hike. Beginning somewhere around the first cup of coffee in the morning, we’d toss out the word and let it settle in us while we got ready for that day’s hike. For each morning of that hiking trip, the word became the starting point. The word became a focal point for thinking and chatting it up as we hiked through meadows and forests and along Lake Superior. It was especially helpful to have a particular word to get us going when the going, you know, got tough. We chose words like Travel, Threshold, Embrace and Essential and what they had to do with a hike in the woods. We talked about how words like Expansive and Rendezvous, Growing and Opening had everything to do with the journey of life. It was a rewarding experience as each word brought anticipation, focus and inspiration to each day. And since those days on the trail, I’ve made it a habit to dwell on particular words on particular days.

Fast forward to all of this:

The sabbatical journey that we’re on is roughly 100 days. And If I’m doing the math right, I’ve got 50 words… I’ll spend a couple of days “dwelling” “being present” to each of the 50 words – sort of letting it unfold over the 100 days. Those 50 words each fit into one of the 7 rhythms that I’m living with: you already may know them if you’ve been keeping up with me here:

spirited | creative | connected | present | grateful | generous| missional

For each of the seven rhythms, I’ve created a statement that captures what it means to thrive in those rhythms. The first two podcasts dealt with the words “thrive” and then “rhythms”. Those two podcast are kind of an intro to all of this. So if you haven’t listened to them, you might want to jump back. In episode 3 of my podcast I deal mostly with the idea of sabbatical in general.

Today I want to quickly walk you through the 50 words and then briefly talk about how they fit into the seven rhythms. And while I’m doing that, I want you to think about how each rhythm and the statement about how that rhythm helps you thrive. It will make good sense when we get going.

The First Rhythm: “Spirited”

We thrive as spirited people by affirming that we are inspired, animated and enthused by the Source of all life, and that every breath is a gift. If you were to break that down, you would discover six key words: Inspire, Animate, Enthuse, Source, Breath, and Gift.

I’ll spend a couple of days dwelling on what it means to be inspired, animated and enthused. I’ll ask some important questions: where does that inspiration come from? How does animation work in our lives? What, really, does it mean to be “en-thused?” And when we acknowledge that all of that comes from our Source, our ground of being, from God—however we understand God, then we have a deepened sense of how each breath is a gift. So we really do thrive as spirited people by affirming that we are inspired, animated and enthused by the Source of all life, and that every breath is a gift. Do you see how that works?

The Second Rhythm: “Creative”

We thrive as creative people through the discovery of our identity and purpose in the world, exploring our creative impulse, delighting in the wonder of imagination and the power of innovation. Again, if you were to break that down, you would discover six key words: discovery, identity, purpose, impulse, imagination, and innovation. And during the two weeks that we’ll be dwelling in this rhythm, we’ll explore what it means to discover our identity and purpose and why that’s important; where the impulse for creativity comes from and the wonder and power of imagination and innovation.

The Third Rhythm: “Connected”

We thrive as connected people by nurturing healthy relationships, practicing intentional acts of kindness and showing hospitality as ways of creating trust and building respect which sustains community. We’ll focus on these words: relationship, kindness, hospitality, trust, respect, and community.

The Fourth Rhythm: “Present”

We thrive in the present as people who welcome sabbath, immerse in silence, and commit to being awake, becoming aware and making ourselves available to what each moment has to teach. We’ll dwell in several word, asking what it means to practice sabbath, how to immerse in the present moment, and how to become comfortable with silence. We’ll explore what it means to be not only awake and aware of others, but what it means to be available.

The Fifth Rhythm: “Grateful”

We thrive as grateful people who practice gratitude as a spiritual discipline, remembering with joy and thanksgiving that all we have is a gift of grace, The key words here are practice, discipline, remembering, joy, thanksgiving and gift.

The Sixth Rhythm: “Generous”

We thrive as generous people by seeking lavish interactions with the world so that the abundance of the few can transform the scarcity of the many into a feast of blessing where all have enough. The core of practicing the rhythm of generosity in our lives has everything to do with how we understand our interactions with others, our sense of our own abundance, and what the mindset of scarcity does to a person. We’ll also consider feast and blessing and how much enough really is.

Finally, the Seventh Rhythm: “Missional”

We thrive as missional people who embrace a vision of life and aliveness by creating a momentum of healing and unity by pursuing movements of hope and wholeness. We’ll think together about life and aliveness, healing and unity, and about hope and wholeness.

But first, a bit about the word ‘sabbath.’

I understand that sabbath means rest. I know it has much to do with ceasing and stepping out of the ordinary and familiar rhythms in order to see differently, hear more clearly, taste more completely, touch with more awareness, and to appreciate more robustly the aroma of a fuller life. I understand that.

For some, sabbath includes setting things aside: unplugging from technology, abandoning schedules, disconnecting from routines. For others it’s about emptying in order to be eventually filled. It’s about leaving room in order to find some room. It’s about losing and finding. It’s about emptying in order to experience filling. It’s about letting the ordinary be overwhelmed with the extraordinary and about walking away from excess and stepping into the essential.

No one writes about that quite the way Ted Loder does in his book “Guerillas of Grace.” Here’s how Ted articulates it:

O God,

let something essential happen to me,

something more than interesting

or entertaining,

or thoughtful.

 

O God,

let something essential happen to me,

something awesome,

something real.

 

Speak to my condition, Lord,

and change me somewhere inside where it matters,

a change that will burn and tremble and heal

and explode me into tears

or laughter

or love that throbs or screams

or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence

and dares the dangerous deeds.

Let something happen in me

which is my real self, God….

 

O God,

let something essential and joyful happen in me now,

something like the blooming of hope and faith,

like a grateful heart,

like a surge of awareness

of how precious each moment is,

that now, not next time,

now is the occasion

to take off my shoes

to see every bush afire,

to leap and whirl with neighbor,

to gulp the air as sweet wine

until I’ve drunk enough

to dare to speak the tender word:

 

“Thank you”

“I love you”

“You’re beautiful”

“Let’s live forever beginning now”

and “I’m a fool for Christ’s sake.”

 

~ Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace

That is about as good a place to end – and begin as possible. So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

A Blessing

And now my friends as you move through the day, may you thrive as spirited person by affirming that you are inspired, animated and enthused by the Source of all life, and that every breath is a gift…

May you thrive as creative person by discovering your identity and purpose in the world, exploring your creative impulse, delighting in the wonder of your imagination and the power of innovation.

May you thrive as a connected person by nurturing healthy relationships, practicing intentional acts of kindness and by showing hospitality as ways of creating trust and building respect which sustains community…

May you thrive in the present as a person who welcomes sabbath, immerses in silence, and commits to being awake, becoming aware and making yourself available to what each moment has to teach…

May you thrive as a grateful person who practices gratitude as a spiritual discipline, remembering with joy and thanksgiving that all you have is a gift of grace…

May you thrive as a generous person who seeks lavish interactions with the world around you so that the abundance of the few can transform the scarcity of the many into a feast of blessing where all have enough…

And may you thrive as a missional person who embraces a vision of life and aliveness by creating a momentum of healing and unity by pursuing movements of hope and wholeness.

And remember the words of Thomas Merton: “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony…”

Peace,

Paul

#100days50words

Spirited

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We thrive as spirited people by affirming that we are inspired, animated and enthused by the Source of all life, and that every breath is a gift. Including the one you just took.

And that one too.

The sabbatical adventure has begun. Nancy Lee and I are on the road heading east. The car is packed with everything we need for the month of January – including Shelbui, the Wonder Dog, We’ve got gifts for our family “out east;” suitcases full of suitcase stuff and several boxes of “things you just gotta have when you’re going to live in another place in another time zone, in another home.”

It’s a very spirited time, to be sure. When we talk about spiritual things, the spirit, spirituality, the nature of being spirited, we’re are really talking about things that are often beyond our capacity to explain, and in many cases understand fully.

After all, isn’t it always the case that we’re using finite words to describe – or at least, find some expression for the Infinite? At some point in any conversation about spiritual things, we probably need to acknowledge that our language is limited. The meanings of words we use change over time. The nuances shift. The definitions fade. There ways of understanding old words and concepts come and go.

This is true for spirituality.

So when we talk about our spiritual lives, or, as I prefer to say, our “spiritedness” and what that means—to say nothing of what it means to thrive as spirited people, we’re really walking into mystery. We’re walking into one big, beautiful, funky, ancient, poetic, delicious, complicated, gnarly, expansive, and wonder-filled mystery.

And that’s a good thing.

When we talk about spirituality, at some point we’re talking about breath – which in its very essence is spirit. The ancient words of the Hebrew scriptures—when they speak of spirit, are speaking about breath.

Belden Lane is a Presbyterian minister and Professor Emeritus of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University. His books include Backpacking with the Saints: Wilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality, and Ravished by Beauty: The Surprising Legacy of Reformed Spirituality. In his remarkable new book due to be published in April of 2019, Belden ponders the gift of breath:

“Our first intense experience of the world comes through breathing—gasping for air. For the rest of our lives this happens automatically, without conscious effort, handled by a respiratory control center at the base of the brain. We breathe an average of 28,000 times a day. But breath is more than a physiological function. It represents an interior, spiritual dimension of a life that is more than us. According to the Torah, God’s breathing brought the first humans into existence, filling them with the “breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). Called by various names—[including the Greek word], pneuma, [and the Hebrew word] and ruach), breath is a divine energy recognized across every religious tradition.”

(Belden C. Lane, The Great Conversation and the Care of the Soul, New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.)

But talking about this “divine energy that is recognized across every religious tradition” can be challenging. One of the challenges we often face when it comes to “all things spiritual” is knowing what to hold on to and what to let go of. And that very tension – between the things we hold tightly and the things we hold loosely when it comes to theology, spirituality, religion, etc… and how we understand all of that, is quite a tension for some people.

Maybe for a lot of people.

And the things we hold in tension—when it comes to our spiritual/religious understanding is what I call “our 3×5 card.” It’s as if those of us who grew up in the church were handed an imaginary (and, I suppose in some cases, an actual!) 3×5 card that told us what to think and believe about all manner of religious and spiritual things.

Let me speak for myself: in my family of origin and including my community of origin – my mom and dad and the people around me from pastors and friends to teachers and relatives all had something to say about the wonderfully mysterious world of belief. And what they had to say about all of that went on my 3×5 card. And what got put on my 3×5 card (thoughts, convictions, feelings, ideas, data, doctrine, dogma, etc…) had an air of gravitas to it. And you certainly didn’t mess with it. You didn’t argue with it. I mean, why would you? You got it from people who knew about those things. Right? This is mostly accurate unless you were raised in a family that welcomed questions and doubts and embraced an environment of conversation that included a great deal of questions and back-and-forth debate. My experience tells me that that wasn’t the case for a lot of people.

As I grew, whenever I was in conversations about spiritual things, I’d default back to that 3×5 card. But as the years went on, some of the things on my 3×5 card began to fall off, or didn’t make sense anymore. And some of those things were replaced with new ways of understanding what I had first been given. It was a long process of discerning what was helpful and what wasn’t. It was a long process of learning to move beyond simply repeating what was on my 3×5 card – parroting what my friends and family told me which led me into the process of critical thinking.

And when I began to use the gifts of critical thinking—learning to articulate what I thought as well as learning to listen to what others were thinking created growth and maturity.

Maybe this has been your experience as well. When we do that, a great deal of things begin to shift and change. This is a common story. But one thing is for sure: often, the understanding we were handed early on limited us, held us back in our understanding of ‘spirited things.’

When you think about it, there are a lot of important things on that 3×5 card.

One of those things, for me, was the way I viewed God. Sometimes God seemed strangely “out there”—disconnected and disengaged with us; disinterested in who we are and what we are doing here. At other times, God seemed close. But all of that so often was tied into how my life was going at any given moment. When things were going great, God seemed close. When things got dicey or challenging, I would wonder where God was.

The biblical writer Paul, writes in Acts 17:28, “God is the one in whom we live, move and have our being. There is no disconnection, there is no disengagement, or disinterest on God’s part because God is in us we are in God. God is all in all.” Another way to understand that is to say that God is the oxygen that we breathe. God is the water in which we swim.

Some call this spirituality. Some call this religion. Again, finite words to describe infinite things. Those words – religion and spirituality are freighted with meaning and shades of meaning.

For some, religion carries a sense of “doing.” A friend of mine uses the word “protocol.” There’s a list of particular steps to follow. There’s no intended judgement in that. For some, this is a very helpful method of dwelling in the larger mystery. Consider the original faith community, the early disciples, and then the early Christ-followers in the decades following the Jesus event, and then the followers of The Way who, through the centuries practiced religious disciplines and discovered comfort in the regimented, formulaic ways of doing certain things which led those who practiced them to deeper expressions of being spirited people.

For others, spirituality is way of “being.” They experience this “spiritedness” in a way that moves beyond method and structure. For instance, some talk about singing as a spiritual practice which leads to a certain kind of transcendence. Others find a deeper awareness of their “spiritedness” while celebrating communion. Something spirited happens when a priest, a pastor, a minister recounts the original communion or Eucharistic story. Something moving happens when Christ’s presence in bread and wine is proclaimed.

For still others, an awareness of the Spirit happens by simply watching the community of Christ participate in communion. This is the power of community: to be witness to the presence of Christ which is always end essentially an act of community—joining millions of Christ followers around the world who experience the Spirit of God among them through bread and wine.

As people come to the table there are expressions of spiritedness: heads bowed, empty hands held out, laughter, tears, the sign of the cross, a blessing shared, etc. These are all reflections of the Spirit’s presence; our experience of being spirited.

Religion, at its best, is incorporation of the many into one; the many people gathering around the One who is present in bread and wine. Religion, at its best, which is an expression of the Spirit, allows for a community to experience together the unique and personal – but never private – expressions of spirited-ness: creative prayer, silence, singing, confession, forgiveness

praise and gratitude, connection with one another, being present, expressing generosity, living into mission (the seven rhythms). Too often though, religion is reduced to having to behave, and believe, and agree with, proclaim allegiance to certain set of rules and dogma with the sense of needing to get it all correct, or to experience (suffer) the wrath of an angry God.

At the end of the day – or at least at the pause in the conversation, I wonder if it’s just enough – for now, to acknowledge ourselves as spirited people. That is to say, people who have been breathed into – breathed into my the Source of all life, God.

I wonder if it’s just enough, for now, to tap into the ancient story: the creation poem from Genesis in the Hebrew Scriptures when God scoops up some of the humus, the dirt, the soil of the ground, the earth, the ground level of creation and fashions and shapes it, molds and makes it into something. And then, (here it comes), breathes into it – wind, oxygen, breath, the animating force, the essence, the inspiration, the enthusiasm of the Spirit – and then from that moment and in every moment after that we are constantly being inspired, animated, enthused by the source of all life. And when we know that and when we let that fill us up we begin to live in such a way as to affirm that every breath is not something owed us, not something that we earn or deserve – but rather something that is itself the very gift of a thriving life.

And isn’t a thriving life in the midst of this one, big, beautiful, delicious, complicated, gnarly, expansive mystery is what we’re aiming at?

This week let’s think about what it means to say that we thrive as spirited people by affirming that we are inspired, animated and enthused by the Source of all life, and that every breath is a gift. Think about these words: inspire, animate, enthuse. What does it mean to be inspired? How does the sacred oxygen of God’s spirit animate you? The word ‘enthuse’ is originally made up of two smaller words: “in” and “theos” which is the greek word for God. So when this is translated it literally means “in-God.” So think about a time when you were enthusiastic about something. How might you have been ‘in-God” in that moment? Or how might God have been in you?

Some more questions

  • What happens when you, being filled with breath, the Spirit of the Divine, experience inspiration, animation, enthusiasm?
  • Describe a time when you have felt really alive or full of the Spirit. What were the circumstances? How did all of that come about?
  • God has been understood in many ways and by many names. G-d, God, the Divine, Ground of Being, and even Blue are just a few. How do you understand the Source of your own spiritedness?
  • Think of a time when you paused to marvel in the beauty of something that left you feeling inspired. Did you do anything to act on that feeling of inspiration? What lasting impact did it have?
  • Think about what it means to say that the breath you just took is a gift.

 

A Blessing

And now friends, as you move through the day—may you thrive as spirited person filled with the breath of God. May you know the joy of inspiration. May you experience the thrill of holy animation. May you know the true wonder of what it means to be en – thused. May you acknowledge that the Source of all life, and that every breath is a gift; and may you walk into that one big, beautiful, funky, ancient, poetic, delicious, complicated, gnarly, expansive, wonder-filled, mystery of the Spirit of the Holy One and know that that’s a really good thing.

Remember the words of Thomas Merton: “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony…”

Peace,

Paul

Thrive

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Hey friends, welcome to the Rhythms blog where we’re exploring essential rhythms that sustain thriving lives! That sounds like fun, no?

When I think of what it means to thrive, I think of individual moments: that moment in the restaurant, at the table, by the lake, along the path, in the meadow, at the foot of the mountain, on top of the mountain, during the sunset – in that precise moment when you’re with people you know and love when you realize that you’d rather be with them, right there, right then than with anyone else, at any other time, at any other place on the planet. To thrive is what you feel, what you know, what you’re convinced of when you look around the room and know that you are more fully alive and fully yourself in that moment than before.

When I talk about thriving rhythms, I think about what it means to be intentional about living into a particular series of life rhythms which helps us bring our best to each encounter with the world around us. When we move with thoughtful purpose toward a deepened sense of identity – that we are purposefully spirited, creative, connected, present, grateful, generous, and missional people – we discover new ways of thriving in life.

This thriving rhythms journey – this blog and the Rhythms Podcast – intends to explore how these particular rhythms can continue to redefine, reinvent, and reinvigorate us in ways that clarify identity, illuminate purpose and sustain thriving lives.

Catalytic Moments

Asking the question “What does it mean to thrive?” really goes back to the Fall of 2016 when three events took place within three months that necessitated a reframing and forced a reimagining which finally led to turning point. I’ve often referred to those three events as Catalytic Moments. The first moment took place in August while hiking 150 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail along Lake Superior. The second happened in September when I was hit by a drunk driver and totaled my truck, but was able to walk away without any physical injuries. The third moment came one month later in October when my father died at the age of 92. A full, well-lived life for which we all gave much thanks. And yet, any combination of two of those events might have been “doable,” but all three just seemed to push me over the edge. I remember returning to work in the days that followed my dad’s memorial service, sitting in my office and struggling to concentrate. I had to sort out a few things. And that led to one of the most courageous decisions any of us can make in those times: I headed for a counselor. And in the weeks that followed, the two of us were able to identify several key pieces in the emotional jigsaw puzzle that I was working on.

Along Comes a Story

One of those key pieces came in the form of a story.

In the first century, a rabbi was journeying back to his home after tending to some business in a nearby town. Late in the day, a storm was rapidly approaching. By evening the clouds were rolling in and the wind was howling. As darkness fell, the rain intensified. The rabbi approached a fork in the road (because in these stories there’s always a fork in the road, right?). The left fork would lead him to a military outpost while the right fork would lead him toward his village. In the confusion created by the storm the rabbi mistakenly took the left fork. Sometime later he found himself at the wall of the outpost and needing shelter for the night he began to pound on the large front gate. A soldier from the tower called out to him,

“Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

The rabbi didn’t answer. The soldier called out again,

“Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

This time the rabbi called back to the soldier,

“Who do you work for and how much are they paying you to stand there?”

The soldier, a little taken aback by the question, told him who he who he worked for and how much he got paid.

The rabbi then said to him,

“I will pay you twice that much to come to my house every morning and ask me those same questions.”

Essential Questions

The story reveals two essential questions for every one of us.

The first question: “Who are you?” is essentially a question of identity. Answering the question, “Who are you?” can be an extremely complicated. And of course, there isn’t just one response. Every time we turn the gem of our lives even just a bit—as the light of understanding continues to bring illumination, we discover new ways to understand ourselves. “Who are you?” is the question of your identity and people have been asking this question since the dawn of time.

The 16th century mystic saint, Teresa of Avila probably said it best: “You are the presence of Christ in the world—who has no body now but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours—yours are the eyes through which Christ looks with compassion on the world. Yours are the feet with which Jesus walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which God blesses all the world.”

The second question: “What are you doing here?” is the question of purpose. Humankind’s search for meaning has always led to “the purpose question.” And that, too, is extremely complicated.

Teresa of Avila continues… “You are here to reach across the gap – across the chasm into the life of someone in need. You are here to be the hands, the feet, the eyes—the body of Christ, because Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

But there is a third question. “Where are you going?” And this is the question about our mission.

And our mission is the outward expression of our identity and our purpose.

Seven Essential Rhythms

So I’ve begun to ask these three questions of myself on a regular—often times daily basis: Who am I? What Am I Doing Here? Where am I going? And all of this has led me to explore some of the essential roles in my life and that exploration has led me to seven specific roles, or, what I call essential rhythms. Here they are:

I am a Spirited person: a child of God, a pastor, a follower, a leader.

I am a Creative person: a musician, a cook, a song writer, a writer.

I am a Connected person: a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend.

I am a Present person: I am here, I am showing up to this very moment in a way that helps me experience the gifts in this one moment.

I am a Grateful person: I practice gratitude which leads me to deeper expressions of thanksgiving.

I am a Generous person: I seek lavish interactions with the world around me in order to bring fullness and wholeness to the lives of others;

I am a Missional person: I embrace a vision for live and aliveness for all people.

Thriving Rhythms

When all of these rhythms are activated, there is a kind of hum that takes pace. There is a healthy vibration, a frequency, a resonance, a sense of thriving in life.

All of that lead to several more questions:

  • What does it mean to thrive spiritually – as a spiritual/spirited person?
  • What does it mean to thrive creatively – as a creative person?
  • What does it mean to thrive relationally – as a connected person?
  • What does it mean to thrive – as a fully present person?
  • What does it mean to thrive – as a grateful person?
  • What does it mean to thrive – as a generous person?

These are the questions we’ll be asking; seeking understanding and clarity.

Blessing:

May you thrive, may you be embraced by that moment in the restaurant, at the table, by the lake, along the path, in the meadow, at the foot of the mountain, on top of the mountain, during the sunset. May you be embraced by that moment when you’re with people you know and love when you realize that you’d rather be with them, right there, right then – than with anyone else, at any other time at any other place on the planet. May you be embraced by what you feel, what you know, what you’re convinced of when you look around the room and know that you are more fully alive and fully yourself in that moment than ever before.

Peace…

Paul

Thriving Rhythms –

We are spirited | creative | connected | present | grateful | generous | missional

What are we doing here?

Exploring practical ways of living intentionally into these specific and essential rhythms (hums, vibrations, pulse, resonance, harmonics, whistles) in order to create and sustain thriving lives.

The Seven Rhythms…

+ We thrive as spirited people by affirming that we are inspired, animated and enthused by the Source of all life, and that every breath is a gift;

+ We thrive as creative people through the discovery of our identity and purpose in the world, exploring our creative impulse, delighting in the wonder of imagination and the power of innovation.

+ We thrive as connected people by nurturing healthy relationships, practicing intentional acts of kindness and showing hospitality as ways of creating trust and building respect which sustains community;

+ We thrive in the present as people who welcome sabbath, immerse in silence, and commit to being awake, becoming aware and making ourselves available to what each moment has to teach;

+ We thrive as grateful people who practice gratitude as a spiritual discipline, remembering with joy and thanksgiving that all we have is a gift of grace;

+ We thrive as generous people by seeking lavish interactions with the world so that the abundance of the few can transform the scarcity of the many into a feast of blessing where all have enough;

+ We thrive as missional people who embrace a vision of life and aliveness by creating a momentum of healing and unity by pursuing movements of hope and wholeness.