Saturday, 30 April 2016

Taking A Time Out

This week I had the opportunity to participate in a stress management session. It was enlightening and challenging. The facilitator began with this story 

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?" Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything." It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!


This is a story that I have heard before and it always holds a solid point for each and every person. All of life brings a certain degree of stress, some events more than others, but we all experience stress. Most of the time we all think that we are handling it well and like the glass of water we hold it for so long that the weight begins to pull us down and we need a reminder to put it all down and let it go even if it is only for a very short period of time.

The other point that the facilitator made was that we can lose ourselves in the stress that we live with and it is important to check in with ourselves from time to time to see how we are doing and to consider our strengths. To consider positive things people have told us about ourselves if we have lost sight of them. The exercises were a timely reminder and a thoughtful practice as the group considered and reflected on the challenges that were presented to us.

It could be good discipline for everyone to take time out to re-evaluate, to focus on the positive, and to hear the good things that others say to and about us. It, for a moment at least, rejuvenates us and lightens whatever burdens we carry and for a short time we can rest, put down the glass and just enjoy the simplicity and the beauty that surrounds us.

Friday, 15 April 2016

How is Your Breath?

Thus says the Lord God to these bones: 
I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 
Ezekiel 37:5

Breath and the ability to breathe is something that we all take for granted, seldom think about and just automatically do.  We never actually notice the action until perhaps we are in the presence of someone nearing the end of life and changes in the breathing patterns become more significant and noticeable.  For the majority of people it automatically happens with little thought involved except that it is necessary to survival.

On the same token there are people who struggle to breathe.  The struggle comes because of health issues, like anxiety, asthma or something far more serious.  It is on the bad breathing days that a person who struggles realizes just how much work is involved in breathing.  I suffer with what has been termed mild asthma.  Spring, the season we all look forward to, is my most dreaded season!  It is wet and the budding of the trees and flowers begins and for breathing it is a nightmare.  Breathing becomes hard laborious work.  The need to feel the breathe into the deepest recess of the lung feels so good when it seems to happen and the next few breaths can be a little less intense, a little less labour oriented.   I once commented to someone that while the day was beautiful "it would be so much better if I didn't need to breathe."

Breath sustains us, it calms us, if we use a rhythm for meditation or yoga.  Its very essence is life giving to everyone.  It is essential to life.  The majority of people are fortunate to not have to think about that next breath (unless they are doing intentional breathing exercises) but for a few it is hard and it draws all of the focus.  So can this focus be turned into a positive?  Not all of the time, but occasionally it can serve as a focus.  The Jewish people  reference God as  Yah (inhale) Weh (exhale), every breath becomes prayer, a mantra.  The focus of deep breathing can also call us to enter into a calm space, to breathe it all in and then let it all out.  Breath can center us, calm us. It can  be prayer time and it can be laborious.  It is hard to imagine that breathing can consume a persons day and to simply say to someone take a deep breath has a whole different connotation for people with lung issues.  So as we enjoy the slow approach of spring with all of its wonders remember to breath, to keep breathing, to work and it will be ok . . . better days are coming and breathing will be easier.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Festivals and Anniversaries

As I sat having lunch before running out of the door for a home visit I looked at a bowl that has been filled with eggs.  These eggs have been beautifully and lovingly painted by artists.  Some much more proficiently than others.  Some of the eggs have been gifted to me, some tediously painted by me but in the midst of them there is one that was made for me the Easter of 1993.  It was made by a young man, whose family I had been living with as I finished seminary and ordination loomed on my horizon.  The egg, has been carefully wrapped and packed many times through the twenty three years.  It has moved from town to town, survived a year of storage and then moved halfway across Canada to our current location.  It is not as professionally painted as many of the other gifted eggs are but it holds significant meaning and is a treasured memento.

After all of this time the colours have started to fade, as it was colouring leads that were used instead of paint. The egg is filled with ordination related messages, to "go and preach the gospel", a stole and the date of the upcoming ordination to the diaconate.  As simple and thoughtful as that gift was it is the most personalized egg in my small collection.  It was a thoughtful gift of a young man just entering his teenage years to someone about to take a gigantic step in life and in faith.

I have not seen that young man for these many years but he holds a warm place and a special memory in my heart.  Each Holy Saturday I do a small amount of decoration to mark the Easter season.  First and foremost is to carefully unwrap those eggs that have been carefully preserved and then at the very top of the bowl goes this very special gift.  This May 2nd will mark a twenty third anniversary to ordination, there have been many changes and challenges over that period of time but the message on the egg remains constant and true.   It sits as a reminder of the Easter hope and challenge with its resurrection drawings and the message... well the message is still just as important as it was when the egg was gifted to me and that is to simply "go and share the good news."