• Being Passive is a Discipline

    Passivity is a discipline. In fact, sometimes I think it is the hardest discipline – particularly in a culture like ours. We humans like to DO things. We like to build. We like to invent. We like to build relationships and parse them out when they breakdown. We like to plant and grow and make. We like to talk and write and sing. We like to be masters of our fate, captains of our ships, directors of our plays. We seek, we strive, we fight, we climb mountains simply because they are there. We admire those who do it well and follow those who champion the cause of doing. Which is good and well. It is as it should be in most ways. And yet . . .

    Here in the great Northern Tundra of the Upper Midwestern United States, there will be a reduced apple harvest this year, although fortunately it’s not as bad as some had feared. You see, as in much of the country, winter was mild and warm weather showed up early. The apple trees woke early from their winter doze and sent out their blossoms into the warmth. However, March and April had merely traded places. The warmth of March that tricked the trees into releasing their blossoms too soon gave way to frosts of April that threatened the delicate apple blossoms before they had time to set fruit. So now, this fall when the trees produce the fruit of a long summer of growing in warmth and rain, their harvest will be inferior. All because the trees were tricked into think their passive winter wait was over and their time to shine and begin the work of making fruit was at hand. But the conditions that made them think their time had come were not sustainable.

    We humans are not trees. We don’t have to be tricked into acting outside of our proper time. But it requires great discipline to refrain from action when conditions seem ripe even when we know it’s not sustainable. We tell ourselves we’ll work it out later. But this is a lesson to learn. To be passive. To wait. And most of all to allow God time enough to work in us and on us. Continue reading

  • commute

    Make Your Commute a Blessing

    So, the truck we bought last April has a problem with the transmission. It’s in the shop, although if the repair’s going to cost more than a couple hundred bucks (ha!), we have no way of paying for it. I’m not really sure what the point is. Too bad we have 20 more payments to make on it, huh? But chin up, carry on and all that. So out comes the trusty, dusty 1995 Pontiac Gran Prix to do its duty to the Trotter family once again and haul the hubby to and from the bus stop each day. Which means that I’ve spent more than my normal amount of time driving over the last week. (I’m totally spoiled – if I don’t absolutely have to leave my little town, I don’t!) Last night while driving back home from the bus stop with a sleepy hubby in the passenger seat, I realized that I had left one of my very best idea for enjoying the hard life out of my book: praying while you drive.

    A couple of years ago, I was going to be a massage therapist and my teacher was the most unique man – a Christian hypno/massage therapist who claims to be able to see angels around people and read their auras, among other unusual talents. He also believes that after Jesus’ return, we’ll all be nudists. And that Americans ought to be working to overthrow their government and that the law of attraction is basically true. Yeah, he’s a mite strange, but also very smart, kind, humane and tolerant. And faithful. He loves Jesus more than he loves himself. (I always think that one of the real benefits of a properly functioning Christian faith is that it means you’re more impressed that someone is good and kind than put off by how strange they are. You get to meet much more interesting people that way.)

    Any ways. As I mentioned, in addition to being a massage therapist, this man was also a highly trained and skilled hypnotherapist. Often he would meet Christians who objected to the idea of hypnosis as un-Christian. He would always respond by trying to convince them that hypnosis is actually the deepest state of prayer that a person can obtain. While in a state of hypnosis, he believed, all the parts of yourself that are keep you cut off from your true identity and connection to God – your tendency to criticize, be fearful, be self-conscious and uncertain – are temporarily deactivated. He would also try to explain that hypnosis is actually a very normal, natural state which we all slip in and out of many times a day. The best example, he would say, is when you are driving. It’s how you can get to where you are going and not really remember much about the drive there.

    When I heard him say that, something clicked in my head. Continue reading

  • Spread the Joy – Enjoying the Hard Life

    hardlifecoverBack in college I briefly dated a guy who taught me how to drive a stick shift. We borrowed my friend Romi’s little Ford Escort and drove around deserted back roads so I could practice. I was awful. My date was very sweet and patient but after several hours of me stalling at every stop and losing speed as I struggled to find the next gear and the occasional grinding, he finally said, “I don’t want to make you feel bad, but it seems like you should be catching on by now.”  Shortly after that, I dropped him off and drove back to my dorm without a single hitch. I never had another problem driving a stick shift after that night.

    The story always makes me laugh because it’s so typically me. It’s like I have to make every mistake possible before I can figure out the right way to do things. And then I’m golden. The downside is it’s probably best to steer clear of me when I’m learning something new. The upside is that on the other end, I can tell you about any mistake a person can make and how to find your way out of it. And it’s in this spirit that I wrote The Upside Down World’s Guide to Enjoying the Hard Life.

    If there’s a counter-productive, neurotic or unhealthy way to approach life, it was probably a habit of mine at some point in the past. In this book, I share 45 of my favorite ideas, practices and attitude adjustments which have allowed me to overcome my worst tendencies and enjoy my often difficult life. The essays are quick, easy to read, good humored and practical. No lectures or theological treatises. Just lots of ideas for how to be more mindful, self-compassionate, forgiving, happy, grateful and at ease with yourself, your life and the people in it. There’s even an index to help you find which essays to turn to when struggling with everything from anxiety to guilt to forgiveness to relationships and more. Continue reading

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    Being Passive is a Discipline

    Passivity is a discipline. In fact, sometimes I think it is the hardest discipline – particularly in a culture like ours. We humans like to DO things. We like to build. We like to invent. We like to build relationships and parse them out when they breakdown. We like to plant and grow and make. We like to talk and write and sing. We like to be masters of our fate, captains of our ships, directors of our plays. We seek, we strive, we fight, we climb mountains simply because they are there. We admire those who do it well and follow those who champion the cause of doing. Which is good and well. It is as it should be in most ways. And yet . . .

    Here in the great Northern Tundra of the Upper Midwestern United States, there will be a reduced apple harvest this year, although fortunately it’s not as bad as some had feared. You see, as in much of the country, winter was mild and warm weather showed up early. The apple trees woke early from their winter doze and sent out their blossoms into the warmth. However, March and April had merely traded places. The warmth of March that tricked the trees into releasing their blossoms too soon gave way to frosts of April that threatened the delicate apple blossoms before they had time to set fruit. So now, this fall when the trees produce the fruit of a long summer of growing in warmth and rain, their harvest will be inferior. All because the trees were tricked into think their passive winter wait was over and their time to shine and begin the work of making fruit was at hand. But the conditions that made them think their time had come were not sustainable.

    We humans are not trees. We don’t have to be tricked into acting outside of our proper time. But it requires great discipline to refrain from action when conditions seem ripe even when we know it’s not sustainable. We tell ourselves we’ll work it out later. But this is a lesson to learn. To be passive. To wait. And most of all to allow God time enough to work in us and on us. Continue reading