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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I recently found this letter written to a friend on dreaming - enjoy!

Funny how sometimes we stop and look at our lives and realize that we have stopped dreaming. Not altogether, of course-we would die otherwise. But those out there, “What the heck does that have to do with anything?” dreams. You know the ones: going into outer space, finding and extracting PsOW in a Cambodian jungle, marrying a prince. Dreams that make the other parts of your brain go- “uh, yeah, I’ll get right on that.”
But the thing is, these dreams ARE a part of us. They’re seedlings in the garden of our hearts that have sprouted while we were busy with more important things.
So we look back at the dreams of our younger day and we think – boy I have sold out! I’m boring and just doing the business of life. But beloved, do not doubt your heart and the shepherding of God so, for this is exactly the right plan. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, the Lord said something very interesting that I’m sure saved them energy and gave them an inheritance. He said that the entire land was theirs, but that He was going to leave the inhabitants in it to take care of it for them. I believe this is significant for a couple of reasons:

1. There is a difference between stewarding and occupying. Kind of like the difference between owing and renting. This was a people that had been nomads for an entire generation, and even before that. The ones entering the Promised Land did not have experience caring for vineyards and lands and houses. Their fathers came out of Egypt, where they were slaves, and nomads before that. Even the food in the wilderness was supernaturally provided. Actually, it’s interesting that the manna dried up on the day they walked across the Jordan – it was if the Lord didn’t waste any time in fulfilling His promise to Abraham, beginning the promise of making them a house for all nations. He did this by giving to them in seed form, an often misunderstood and frustrating act. They could have just gone from city to city, plundering and eating and celebrating, but the Father didn’t tell them to take FROM the land, but to take the LAND. This implies a partnership, investment and ownership, of growing in wisdom and influence season by season. This is why He left the inhabitants alive; otherwise the ground would become overgrown and crops would rot in the fields, and the people would be without government and order. He knew that this was a new thing for the Israelites – they had never HAD their own land before, not since the Garden of Eden, and He had a promise to fulfill. His promise was to establish Israel, to make her a praise in all the earth, to live among her and bless her. So
He wasn’t willing to do it the easy way, because it would not have been good for them. So
He told them to take it slow, roots down deep and keeping their eyes on Him.

2. You can only own the ground you have walked. This is the principle that keeps me from telling people I’m Scottish. It’s a little silly to claim something as an intrinsic part of you when you have no experience with it -in this way we allow the Lord to build our lives one step at a time. We can call ourselves prophets, or missionaries to Uganda, but if we have not taken the time to trace it out, break it into bite-sized pieces and make it a part of ourselves by investing time, prayer, resources, and interest, it can probably be safely said that it is not a part of us yet. The Israelites had to TAKE the land. They had to get their men together, rout out the inhabitants, walk and mark the boundaries, clear it and get it ready for their use, and then establish some sort of residence there, one that would last and produce. It is not in having the dream, but in the being capable of holding the dream that the extent of our life is shown. But this of course should not discourage us from having dreams that are far far beyond our capacity - I may never have enough money that buying a Land Rover, a notoriously bad investment, will not make a sizable dent in my finances, but I want one anyway. And this is okay – I enjoy the hope and the dream anyway. But for my life to spread, to not just hop and jump from one high point to another but to really own my own life and by investing and stewarding cause it to bear fruit for the One who gave it to me, I must be honest about what parts I actually possess. This is why I‘m not really worried about my diet & exercise right now, because I know that with my current schedule and finances I’m not able to make it a priority so rather than putting unhealthy expectations on myself I am letting the ‘inhabitants’ care for the land for me. And they can make some kick-butt French toast, let me tell ya.

3. You can’t leave an inheritance of what does not belong to you. If Israel was to be a great nation, and the blessing of God was to be on their children and their children’s children, then they would have to have something to leave. That means building, and sowing, and increasing, and having a storehouse of wisdom and justice and breakthrough. This is encouraging, because it means that whatever God had promised to do, if He does not do it in your lifetime He will surely do in your children’s, and if not in your children’s, then in their children’s.

4. We get to see His faithfulness daily, and THAT is what causes us to expand into the land. Think about it: how often have we asked Him to just make it happen, to just give it to us and get it over with? But in His mercy and wisdom He plants a seed instead, and then asks us to trust Him. We get to watch it grow every day, to see Him reach over and pull out a weed here, to shine more on it there, to drench it in His sweet rain. The point is not to have a full-grown plant –it is to see Him as a faithful gardener, the Shepherd of our souls. That is the treasure, and if we get what we want the season we want it, we miss out on an amazing show. He is giving us court side seats to a show of His faithfulness and goodness, and we should never pass up that opportunity. It is in the daily looking to Him, submitting our understandings of timing and what sowing and reaping are, that our capacity grows by miles, expanding our hearts to receive and our spirits for Him to flow through us. Kind of like babies; some species, like mice, have lots and lots of little tiny ones that when grown can cover, say, a barn. But with a human there’s only one, but it grows and grows and when it is ready it can have more of an impact than any amount of mice could have. By choosing to grow, to expand, to not let go because the pressure is increasing, we allow ourselves to become the kind of person that has more impact than many other people put together.

And this is how we stop ‘dreaming’. Or at least, it seems like we have, but what has actually happened is that we have grown so large that the impossible now seems inevitable. In other words, when we first looked over the expanse of all the land that could be ours, that our children might someday live in and inhabit it seemed incredible that our land might encompass not JUST that river there, but those mountains too, and the desert where wild things are, and that lush place in the valley that is teeming with life. By allowing our boundaries to slowly stretch and move and grow we encounter streams, and rocky hills and beasts that refuse to be tamed, and times that refresh our souls so that when we finally drive our stake into the ground at these landmarks it is a no-brainer that this land is ours. Because we have dug our hands into the dirt and invested, and failed and triumphed, and we KNOW our land, every foot of it. It is a part of us and we have compassion and ownership of it just as He does, and because of that we can walk through it as partners, yielding much fruit.**
This is why I continue to dream of finding prisoners of war in jungles – because He is daily teaching me how to find exactly the key that will sustain hurting hearts and bring them back to life. And I still dream of a prince finding me, though I have grown too large even for that dream, for He is establishing me as a queen. And I still want to go into outer space, because that would be amazingly cool and mind-blowing.
So beloved, do not fret when you see no more impossible boundaries, because it is certain that you have grown so large that they are no longer impossibilities, but inevitabilities. You are growing from strength to strength, allowing Him to replace drop by drop your own human, failing and suffering blood with that of His great Son and this blood cries out, yearning to be united with the thing it has purchased - and so it shall, joining you both in Peace and Love.
**This is what I think Heaven will be: all the ground we have walked and sweated over on earth will be completely given to us to steward, with resources and gifts not fettered by sin and fear. Amazing thought, and sobering.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Client Assignment

Client Blog Assigment – Grace Beecham – March 27, 2012 - JA12MN INTRO
My first client experience was a great experience. I never would have gone in for a massage but I happened to get a Groupon for an Aveda salon and decided to go.  The best thing about it was the atmosphere for rest and peace that she was able to create, and how I was shepherded into total release.  Active resting was something I had just begun to cultivate in my life, so to be in a situation where I had no choice but TO rest was hugely impacting.
It was surprising, but through this experience I discovered how much I value atmosphere, both for my own use and as a tool as a therapist.  Everything from the products, to the amount she spoke and how she took charge of the situation tipped me right over the edge into complete relaxation, and because of that my whole being was affected – not just my body.  I believe that knowing this key will make me a fantastic therapist, able to get in and release people in places they never knew existed.   
One thing that really impacted me was her professionalism.  We talked a bit in the beginning over a foot scrub,  then once she got the information she needed and I was on the table she said, “Okay, it’s quiet time now”, which released me to let everything melt away.  We exchanged a few comments during the session to stay present with each other, but for the most part it was completely silent.  She moved around the table efficiently and quickly and used an array of media: hot stones, aromatherapy, a sugar scrub and massage oil.  Having grown up in the Midwest to conservative/religious family it was completely outside of my grid - and I enjoyed every minute of it! 
Through what was undoubtedly a spiritual experience, I learned the value of being a strong presence.  There are those that come in who cultivate a lifestyle of keeping things in perspective, giving themselves grace and taking time to rest.  They are in tune with their bodies and hearts and can sense when they’re getting overloaded, so they come in to reconnect with their center.  All they need is the time and a little bit of coaxing to return, and so they come to us.
 Others have never learned what to do when they are overwhelmed, or even to notice when it happens.  They have no ‘muscle memory’, as it were, for the place of peace in their hearts and have no idea when they’ve lost it. So for them, getting back to rest is a difficult and often lengthy journey.   The whole person needs persuading, someone with masterful hands and a gentle heart that will take them by the hand and lead them into rest in mind, body, and spirit.  Sometimes it’s a whole lifestyle change over a course of years, and at other times we get to come in at just the right time and give them the last little piece that makes everything click, and this is what happened for me.  I was learning to relax and simply respond on numerous levels in my life, so having a physical lesson in this drew me into a depth of peace and rest that I am still enjoying today. 
This is what I want for my clients: to be strong, to know by intuition what my client needs on their journey into peace, and trust in my own abilities so that I can partner with the whole person to take them to the next step.  Amazing how one hour and a half session could have brought me to this place!

Therapist Entry

Therapist Blog Assignment - Grace Beecham – INTRO – JA12MN
                I had an interesting experience as a therapist last weekend.  I am still in the place where I am juggling understanding and intuition, often torn between what both the client and I ‘know’ is the problem and what direction my gut was telling me to go.
                This last session was exactly that; it ended up falling short of the fantastic massage I intended, and feedback from the client wasn’t so hot either.  At times like this we can find peace in the fact that even at its most mediocre, massage is still hugely therapeutic.  But knowing this, I feel that there is an even greater truth to be found. 
                When I think about the great therapist I hope to, and one day will, be I remember Lovelace telling our class about the contrast of mobility and stability.  It was in reference to body mechanics, but I feel the same is true for “heart mechanics” as well.  It is a continual dance to remain both stable – not easily overthrown or moved, and mobile – able to grow and expand with ease.  But this is where it gets difficult: in this therapist situation I could have simply gone with stability: doing what I knew by the book, staying within the lines of what I could understand.  But I don’t happen to be that sort of person.  I’m also not the sort whose fingers drip with creative intuition, knitting and painting and decorating ad nauseum.  Instead I happen to be a little of both, the sort that thrives on being surefooted in very unstable places, and finding myself in the unlikeliest of places – and still somehow ending up in a place of influence.  That is why this stability/mobility concept is so intriguing to me, because I feel it is a picture of my own life and journey.
                It is difficult to lead when we don’t know where we’re going.  It was hard to in that situation say to a person’s body: “I know I don’t have all of the answers, but come - let me draw you into healing anyway.”  In balancing the stability of understanding and the mobility of intuition we have to be very brave, trusting both and never fully relying on either.  There has to be something inside, a love of the journey, that is willing to look foolish and ineffective while we try and try again to stay balanced and with it, bring life.  It is like being on the sea in a boat; somehow you know that you will never master it, will always remain a pupil and very seldom be in control; and that HAS to be okay. Ours is an ever expanding field, not really fitting into any one category.  It touches so many parts of a person and it’s always a surprise which. It’s not the sort of tool that one can wield for their own glory, and the amount of life our clients receive is directly proportionate to the life we have flowing through us.
I know that it will be a struggle, a constant adjustment to keep the balance.  I know that at times I will wish I had sided with understanding instead of intuition, or vice versa.  But my heart is to never settle, to never stagnate but to continue to explore and grow and learn and fail.   And if there are times that I encounter discouragement and embarrassment, so be it; I would rather a white-knuckled discovery than a quiet safety any day. Because growing, even at its most confusing and frustrating, will always have more life than confidence in our own competence.  And that’s the sort of therapist I want to be – full of life, whatever it costs, wherever it takes me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Confessions of a Wanderer, Or, How to Get Lost in the Woods Without Even Trying

  I am a wanderer. Getting absorbed in the details and atmosphere before seeing the big picture, I often have to try something out to see if it will work. Like jobs..lots and lots of jobs. And living situations, and schools, and even rearranging the furniture until it feels right. I used to think it was because I was running away or dense or high maintenance, but it is only in recent years that I have come to term with my modus operandi, and in exploring it I have been able to not only identify a valuable part of who I am, but see aspects of who He is as well, something I never expected.

We are a generation of wanderers: career misfits, field jumpers, people who have no simple answer for "And what do you do?" The world has changed and now  with no clear direction and a random/seemingly useless collection of experiences in our wake, we choose to meet life with an enthusiastic and simple 'Yes, please'.  It is to you that I speak: freelancers, entrepreneurs and parents who do not fit into the typical functions, not really having a name for what we're most skilled at but developing those skills anyway, hoping that one day it will find a place to bloom. It is frustrating to come up short in the happy family/good career/stable living situation comparison and I'd like to share some of my journey with you, if only to give you hope and assure you: you are not alone. There are others who have taken the road less traveled and picked up treasures along the way, ones that are not valuable to most people.  I am the youngest of my family and luckily exempt from the marriage, career/ministry progression, which works for me since no one believes I'll grow up anytime soon.  But for those of you who DO live with the pressure to make something of yourselves, don't lose heart. There are so many aspects of this amazing journey to be uncovered and I'd love to explore them together, if you'd like to come along. 

 Being an experiential learner there were a few things that struck me in my experiences that are applicable to life in general, the woods being a particularly apt picture of my freelancing period. I would love to explore a few of them together, to combine what happened with what wisdom and encouragement I have gained. I'm sure there are numerous Scripture verses, parallel experiences and ancient truths to be paired with these nuggets, so feel free to chime in and let me know what comes to the surface as you read; I would love to see what you have found on your own journey.

 I have formatted these as a list of Dos and Don'ts in order to facilitate some level of clear communication. So here is a recent adventure; open your eyes and heart and see what life ye may find therein.

     It seemed the only logical thing to do in a rainstorm, to go into the woods. I don't know if it was my Scottish Highland blood wanting to be wild and miserable, or my cabin fever from the shut in Labor Day weekend, but on Monday evening I found myself itching for an adventure. Intending on being gone just a short time I pulled on my galoshes, donned a couple layers and a hat, grabbed the necessary electronics and sallied forth. Turning on a favorite album I began to get excited and before I knew it I found myself down the road, stepping over the remnants of a recent construction job at the very edge of our subdivision and passing into the dripping wet wood. The trees were not very thick and the brush was sparse so I covered quite a distance in the first ten minutes or so. The rain continued to come down, not too hard but enough to feel good after being inside for so long. As I walked, dodging downed trees and overly affectionate thistles my thoughts raced ahead to what might happen on my trek. They went straight to the most exciting prospect: finding something of value that was half buried and forgotten, or maybe happening upon a Norseman with copious amounts of good looks and herbal tea who has an affinity for more than half-soaked and less than half-sane females he finds in the woods. Or, best of all, perhaps I might meet with He Himself, providing a connection and sense of joy that I've come to love. As it happens, I found none of these. At least, not the way I thought I would.

What I found instead, or more accurately, lost, was : myself. I got lost. Actually, I like to refer to it as a brief period of "Location-Based Confusion" followed by "Acute Orientation Deterioration ". Technically I knew where I was the whole time. I knew that there was a stream to the south and beyond that a road, and to the north and west, a great big subdivision. I was in more danger than you would want your 5 year old child in, but certainly not more than I have encountered before (see also, "Things  Your Parents are Better Off Not Knowing"). In my 27 years I have learned to adventure well, with a contingency plan in hand. One of which was to contact a genius friend of mine to hack into the NSA satellite feed, tell me where the heck I am and GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!! (Not outside of his skill set, amazingly enough) Fortunately, the need never arose and I am, except for a series of scratches due to the unfortunate location of a hole in my jeans, unscathed. Nevertheless, I'm happy to supply an address where congratulations and sympathetically large monetary gifts may be directed (as well as the aforementioned tea-toting gentleman, should he be located.)
So here we go, into the woods.

DO Follow Life
  As I walked, I found myself most often taking the path of least resistance. Scanning the trees ahead I could tell which path was the most free of brush, where the branches sat higher, the best way to circumvent a thicket and still stay on course. But also taking small challenges, like shouldering my way through what I very quickly discovered to be a patch of thorns, or scrambling over a maze of fallen trees. When I saw this pattern and began to think about it, I saw the wisdom in staying simple in whatever situation we find ourselves and using common sense, neither forcing yourself to risk more than is appropriate, nor diverging widely because of a small obstacle. This is especially true in freelancing, where there can be no shame in just following the path that opens up to you, no matter what conventional wisdom says about having a plan or only going down a path that we are sure will lead us where we want to go.  It is an exercise in trust to be sure, forcing you to be okay with trial and error.
    A wise man once said that 'Promotion is ALWAYS a good thing - embrace it.' Excepted, of course, is if you have joined the Mob as a lowly getaway driver and are offered the position of Hit Man, complete with benefits package and your own sawed off shotgun. But pretty much everywhere else, this holds true.
  It could be argued that walking this way provides a false feeling of 'leading'; it occurred to me that just because I could SEE a path does not mean it was the path I should follow. This is a more intermediate step, one that gives us the responsibility to be discriminating in our investments, as a steward who must give an account.  It is my advice to only take that responsibility when the Holy Spirit tells you to - otherwise we get ahead of Him.   At that time I knew that taking on the responsibility of getting myself home would only lead to panic and resignation, and I knew that I HAD to trust Him: I followed life out there and life would bring me back. I didn't know how long I would have to walk, but this was not a desperate situation - it was an exercise simply in following His voice and trusting my own intuition.
  There is lots more to be unpacked here, including stewardship and sark  (the old part of our soul that equates what's easy/comfortable with God's will.)  Maybe we will explore that at a later date!

DO Know Your Limits
   I didn't take a homing beacon, jug of water and a rope of beef jerky, so I knew my time out would be short. I also kept an eye on my 'had enough fun-o-meter', the bit that tells me how much adventure is enough for one day. I knew that the sun would set in a couple hours, I knew that it was raining and I would soak through in less than an hour, and I didn't know the woods all that well.  As I got further in I realized that while I knew the general direction I had come from, I couldn't exactly remember which turns I had taken and when. And upon seeing spoor that looked for all the world like kidney beans (what kind of an animal WAS that?!?), I could tell that I had gone far enough.
   When I then came upon a dry stream bed a few steps later, I remembered the same feeling when I found a full time job after freelancing for two years. I had hacked my way through the jungle of production, stumbling through long and crazy hours, getting stuck by terrible gigs and bosses and had finally begun to wonder if I was wandering around in circles. In His kindness He provided a steady job, a place where I didn't have to worry about picking the direction or making enough money; I just had to show up and collect a paycheck, a huge rest for my soul. Finding that stream bed took all the concern out of the hike..I didn't have to keep track anymore and I could be free to explore as long as I liked and when I was done, trek back to where I had entered it. Easy peasy.
  I HAD to know my limits, to see when the joy was turning to stress and the responsibility was growing heavy. Sometimes He has to make us lie down by the still water, but if we can recognize when we need rest it will retain the joy of the journey. Sure, there were rocks and trees to be climbed over and I still had to listen to the Holy Spirit when to stop and turn back but He knew just the right time to give my brain a rest.
  I have learned that there is no 'point'  the journey is getting us to.  The journey IS the point, where we learn to perceive the miraculous in the simple things just as easily as in the great.  I have found that gratitude is the lens for the miraculous - it is impossible to perceive His hand otherwise. I say this, because having this mindset allows me to have experiences free from weird expectations of how we can spend time together.  Anyone in a relationship can tell you that the most precious times are when you are able to rejoice in who they are, at that moment, as things presently sit.

DO Start Small
  The first time I walked into the woods I brought a dog with me. She followed her nose for about ten minutes and then when I began to get a little fuzzy on where we were I stopped her and said, "Okay, Simba - go home!" and held on tight. Somehow she knew just where to go and we stepped out of the trees just two doors down from our house, which was amazing. Good thing I cooked that pound of bacon before we left!

  If you want to be led by that inner voice, lighten up and start small. The ability to hear and follow is built on trust and time spent together; there is nothing to prove to Him OR you by going commando. In other words, don't get airlifted to the Rockies Bear Grylls - style and put pressure on you OR God to get you out alive. I have learned that the more anxious we are the harder it is to hear His voice, so if you cannot remain connected to Him when He is slow to answer, back off a little and just enjoy your time where you are. Starting small will allow you to build skills such as knowing your capacity, building contacts to help if you get stuck and learning the rhythm of rest and labor. I know there are deeper places in the balance of trust and risk that I have not found yet; I can only speak from the place I currently occupy. But I have found the value of not pretending to trust Him more than I actually do, and have seen amazing growth in trust as a result.  He loves it when we are honest , for it gives Him a place to start from. 

DON'T Be Ashamed
  Many (too many) times I have ended a project without the money/contacts I was convinced I would emerge with to make it worth the time, energy and bad diet it would inevitably cost. Coming off a gig and seeing my budget and realizing yet again that I wasn't quite as professional as my bank account needed me to be, it was a temptation to feel ashamed. After all, there are entire cities full of people who know how to get work and network and make something of themselves - why couldn't I?? Thankfully, I was never more than an emergency fund away from eating the goldfish, but still - who wants come out with the smell of smoke on their clothes?
  I felt this acutely when I got back from the woods; while I was searching for the path that would take me home, I said to myself - "You're not in trouble yet, your clothes are  mostly dry!" For some reason that meant that I could put off getting really alarmed until it got dark, I was soaked to the skin or the owner of the bean - shaped poo came crashing through the brush. But upon getting home I found that I had in fact soaked through every layer and not noticed it until I pulled my earphones off, music being a great buffer against reality. (As you parents of teenagers will confirm!)  Realizing just what I had been doing for the past hour hit me and like any venture, a wave of "that could have ended very badly" hits, making you wonder why someone didn't stage an intervention a long time ago. But you know what? It's okay. Sometimes our striking out into something new costs us more than we wanted it to, and sometimes it's scary how close a call it was. But those feelings don't hit until we're home safe and dry, and that gives us the wisdom to prepare a little better and the courage to do it again. There is no standard for trust, or walking by intuition, no place of competence or success that you ought to be at; it is its own process so give yourself a break. He's got you. And those of us in the same kind of journey have got you too - we know how hard it is, so you don't have to have it all together. 

DON'T Confuse Getting OUT with Getting THROUGH
   As we get better at listening to that small voice, there will be ever - increasing levels of stewardship and responsibility He'll take us to: better management of our resources, bigger risks and hopefully bigger rewards than before. The goal changes from just staying alive to developing our strengths and partnership with Him. And you get better and better until, like me you're being asked to leave a perfectly good landmark to follow Him instead. I could have happily continued to follow the stream down to where it hit the main road and take the longer trek through the neighborhood to my house. But after a bit, I felt that I wasn't to continue on but to leave the familiar behind and head south.
   This was a bit of a problem as I knew that if I overshot the edge of the subdivision it might be quite a while before I hit any more landmarks. But feeling connected with Him and knowing I was safe I left the stream bed and followed the direction I felt to go. It wasn't a warm fuzzy feeling, to know how little control one has, but if there's one thing that freelance has taught me these past 3 years, is that it really will be okay. Somehow I turned a corner that day, having a partnership between us that I've never before experienced.  The rhythm of following my nose and following His voice, the rhythm I have been learning for years, finally clicked.
   And it was amazing! Just - JUST- as I began to realize that things were out of my control I found a golf ball. Not so amazing in itself, but it made me stop and look up and there was a street light winking through the trees and the rain.  What a beautiful sight it was! From there it was simple to cross the stream, climb the bank and walk the hill to my house.  In His kindness He didn't toss me out into the deep end of a learning experience, but He also didn't make it so easy for me that I forgot to look to Him, and to partner with Him.
I still don't know where I’m going in life.  But that trek through the woods has settled in my spirit and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I can hear His voice and connecting with Him is infinitely more important that any thing I could achieve.  There is no doubt in my mind that the passions inside will one day take over and spin my life in a direction I never could have anticipated and the dreams in my heart will explode in brilliant colors.  But until that day I am content to know that the Father and I are a team. It doesn't matter whether we are engaged in something simple or great; we are engaging each other and that is the greatest thing I can do with my life. It is my hope that you may find the grace to allow yourself to come to a place of rest where you can enjoy each other in a deep and fulfilling way, just for the fun of it.  And if you're reading this, you're on that journey!  It won't be long now, and even the time spent en route is precious, so embrace it.  Hopefully our times together will impart grace in the journey.