1 Aug 2020

Scales of Relationship

"Nobody Will Notice"
CC-BY2.0 by PebblePicJay. Source: Flickr
            This week, I bought a bathroom scale.

            Not exactly living my life on the wild side, I know! But it's something that I needed, and something that I use... I'm aware that the "Quarantine 15" weight gain is real, and I know that I generally do better at tracking my weight if I can consistently and accurately track my weight. So: a scale.

            Now, for me, the numbers it will show me in the morning are not my worth - they are my weight. They'll fluctuate from time to time, but they will do one thing consistently: numerically articulate my relationship with gravity. These numbers will then help inform my decisions around food and exercise, and I'll be able to accurately keep an eye on trends in my lifestyle and health habits.

            Imagine if all our relationships were so easily tracked? If we could discern quite easily if we were staying the course, or if things were moving either to decline or excess? And thus, to consider how we might want to respond?

            Imagine if our relationships could be easily tracked... I think it's possible! When we are intentional about things, we can consider where we are, and where we want to be; what goals are realistic and what ones we just don't want to move towards. We can make choices based on intentional decisions that are made.

            So with our interpersonal relationships, we can consider: have I extended kindness, and have I received it? Is there open communication? Is there regular communication? How do we show love through our words, and actions? What markers are there that let us know we are appreciated?

            Our relationships can have tangible markers (how often do we speak?) and intangible ones (when did I last feel respected?); and they will ebb and flow. But by understanding what markers are important to us, and where our limits lie, we can have a better understanding of our overall relationship - and how/when/where we may want to work on it.

            Extrapolating that, then, to our spiritual journey: how is our relationship with God? Are we healthy? Are we effectively communicating, engaging, and valuing? What markers do we need, and how do we track them?

            Our relationships say a lot about us... and deserve regular attention if they are to stay healthy. So whether we're measuring for our physical health, or our emotional and spiritual health, keeping track can be a good and balancing thing.

25 Jul 2020

What Brings You Joy?

            This week, I received a few packages... of books! This is usually an exciting thing for me to get - even when I buy them myself.  And these books are for a course I'll be taking this fall - which doubled the excitement!
            Admittedly, it doesn't take much to make me happy. Books, dogs, coffee, canoeing - we're good!
            This caused me to reflect on what it means to be happy, and what it means to be joyful. And there is a difference!
            Happiness (in the OED) is defined as "a feeling of pleasure or contentment" - how true! Many things make us happy. We can think of any number of things that we say made us smile, that made us happy. The word itself is rooted in the middle English with the sense of good fortune, of being lucky. Having received good news makes us happy!
            Joy, on the other hand, goes deeper; being defined as "a feeling of great pleasure or happiness." So it's *more* than happy, it's more lasting than happy. And the root of the word gives us the reason. Joy comes from the Latin gaudere which means to rejoice. And rejoicing, of course, an experience.
            So... happiness is a thinking sensation, a logic, a head-space reaction to positive stimulus. Whereas joy is a feeling sensation, an emotive reality, a heart-space response.
            For those of us with faith, I believe we can understand this on a different level as well. Happiness is based on something we encounter in this life - books, for example, or canoeing. Joy is based on something that transcends the limits of this realm - the gift of learning, for example, or physical release in nature. The creature of a dog makes me happy, the character of my dogs brings me joy.
            And what a delight that God gives us both. We don't have to choose; happiness and joy are not an either/or dichotomy. I think God invites us, in fact, to be intentional about seeing the joy in the moments of happiness, reflecting on what is temporal and what is eternal. And God challenges us to take moments of happiness and dig deeper.
            For in happiness, we see the good. The earthly. The tangible. And in joy, we see the magnificent. The divine, The spiritual.
            So... what makes you happy? What brings you joy? And how do you connect those things to your creator?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!

18 Jul 2020

Am I a City?

The fortress city of Mont St. Michel, 2011

            I was recently pre-scheduling social media postings for a gender equality faith group, and a distressing theme came up when I included the word "woman" in my searching for scripture ideas (hoping to be reminded of the amazing people of all genders in the Good Book).
            Aside from my challenges with the order of priorities many of the commentaries and blogs seemed to present (multitudes of blogs by women highlighting physical beauty first, then human value, THEN as beloved of Christ. uh, PARDON??)
            What else caught my attention was the passages that were being shared to support these statements. Rubies and gold for beauty - well we do like sparkly things. The epistles assuring our part of the family of God are heartwarming.
            But: many people cited Psalm 46.5 as 'biblical proof' of women's value: "God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day." (NIV) It sounds so empowering for the "her", doesn't it? Lovely. What woman wouldn't feel encouraged by this divine assurance?
            Well... any such woman who actually read the rest of the psalm... or checked a different translation. Because the "her" in the psalm is not a woman, but a city. The NRSV clarifies: "God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns."
            Hmm. Awkward. And an awkwardness that could be so easily avoided... no one reading psalm 46, regardless of the translation, would think that verse 5 is about a human woman (verse 4 is about the river around the city; verse 6 is about the desolation of other nations). 
            Context is so important! Otherwise, we can easily find ourselves using quotes - or soundbytes - or social media memes! - to validate our opinions. Not because we've checked the facts, but because they agree with our pre-determined position or agenda. 
            It's why I find it so important to understand a bigger picture - a fuller story - a deeper understanding. One small perspective of something may make us feel good for the moment, but in the longer term it may do us a disservice. (I can't think of many people who would want to hear themselves praised as a large stone fortress!)
            It is a good idea, then, to try and understand the bigger story... the fuller picture... the wider perspective, if we are going to engage in a topic or conversation about something. There is always more to the story than we know, and usually more than we need to know. But if we are to engage, let's be sure we understand what we're talking about: whether it's buildings re-opening or out-of-province license plates or our knowledge of epidemiology. 
            ...and let's remember that it's okay, to NOT engage in every conversation. 
            But especially when we're sharing the word of God, let's make sure we know what we're saying to people.

11 Jul 2020

For Want of a Bag

            I was recently in the neighbouring town enjoying a gorgeous sunny day's walk with my dogs. Now, the practicalities of such walks are that with 2 dogs, I have at least 4 bags with me, for any en-route pickups.
            Imagine my dilemma when, with 4 bags in my possession, my dog opted to be an overachiever, and I found myself needing a fifth bag.
            Fortunately, the owner of the home (on whose yard this extra present had been deposited) was outside in her garden. So, up the drive we trekked, and I asked if she might have a bag - any bag - that I could have. As she was not a dog-owner, it took some explanation as to why I wanted a plastic bag (and what I did not want to leave on her yard!); she was happy to oblige!
            ...and that was not the end of our conversation. We chatted (physically distanced) on her driveway for about 10 minutes - about the weather, COVID, the dogs, her garden... it was a lovely chat. Started, for want of a bag.
            I was back in that area this week, when a cheery voice called out "Do you want a bag?" - the same lady and I had another chat. Still about weather, and dogs, and gardens... And Watson flirted with her shamelessly, and Comet rolled in the grass. It was lovely, and I found myself smiling long after we had moved on.
            For want of a bag, I was able to start a relationship of sorts with this woman. I'm not sure if we would have crossed paths otherwise; but I trust that God has put her in my life for a reason - even if only to bring a smile to my face!
            There are encounters that may seem random, and meetings that may start off awkwardly, and interactions that we may not understand a deeper purpose behind... but maybe there's a more divine agenda than we can fathom, and I thank God for these gifts of connection, and am hopeful that I will be alert enough to realise them when they happen.  I trust that God will use whatever means to get us to connect - even if it needs to be cleaned up, with a borrowed bag!