Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes, and General Mental Mayhem


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Describe Yourself in ONE Word

200321305-001My friend Daron and I have a lot of things in common: gourmet coffee, restaurants, movies/TV, life philosophies, friends, ministry perspectives, good books, and adoring his wife and son, to name a few. Another commonality is our love for personality tests and philosophical questions. A year or so ago, he asked me a question that’s come to mind multiple times since. He said, “If you had to use only one word to describe yourself, what would it be?” Intriguing, right??? Surprisingly, it only took me a second to answer.

If you check out my All About Me page, you’ll see me use multiple words to describe myself. I believe they are all characteristics of my complex personality. So, initially it may seem like a really hard answer. I thought it would be. But I guess, over time, I’ve just come to identify more strongly with certain aspects.

So, what was my word? Writer.

I write for work. I write for pleasure. And I constantly write in my head for no reason at all. But right now, my job isn’t to be a writer. I’ve written professionally for many years, and I even supported myself solely that way for a couple of years. (By the way, I was the best boss I ever had. I was funny and generous and thoughtful. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay well at that time and had to let myself go. But we’re still on good terms.) However, more often than not, writing is not my primary paid task. It’s usually just one of the functions I perform. So, why “writer”?

Growing up, being a writer is one of the first occupations I ever considered. I’ve always loved writing. It came easy to me, and I really enjoyed it. In elementary school, I remember being assigned to write a story with about a page requirement. While everyone else was finishing, I was just getting started and had to add multiple pages to complete my story. I just couldn’t stop. And journalism steadily moved into my heart and rented a room.

I thrive when using words. I adore words. I like to play with them. I have fun putting them together in clever ways. In fact, my TV schedule is pretty much dominated by shows I think are well-written, not just entertaining. Words have weight and value to me. I’m not a great speaker, but give me the ability to write out my thoughts and feelings and you’ll get an ear full.

And okay, I have to admit, there is a certain degree of romanticism at the notion of “the writer.” I’d love to be sitting at a cafe in Paris, sipping coffee while the sun is setting all Monet-like, just plugging away on books and articles and whatever else struck my fancy that day. It would be a dream to live out scenes from movies about writers a la Midnight in Paris, Stranger Than Fiction, Eat Pray Love, Lady in the Water, Finding Neverland, Moulin Rouge and the like. Okay, so maybe excerpts of some of those, just to skip the hard stuff. But, hey, being a starving artist isn’t easy.

I also think it’s why I resonate so much with the concept of life as a story. When considered a narrative, it naturally makes sense to me. It just feels right. The words fall into place, moving in a direction. They take on life and begin to breathe. I see myself as living a role. I think Shakespeare was really onto something. Even the books of the Bible with story lines are the ones I prefer. Most people love Psalms, but I’m drawn to anything with a beginning, middle and end. I want words I can follow.

One of these days, I’ll write a book. Who knows when. I start them all the time in my head, but the words haven’t taken on enough life to make it to the page. Some day they’ll flow out of me, pouring out of my heart and on to the page. Until then, I’ve got plenty of writing to do—in my job, on my blog, for my volunteer work. And for now, that will suffice. The amount of words do not make me a writer, it’s the mindset.

So that’s my word—writer. What would yours be?


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My Theme for 2013

2013It’s interesting. I’ve been mulling over my 2013 theme for over a month now, but from the moment I started thinking about it, one word instantly came to mind. I wanted to continue thinking about it more to make sure I was certain I wanted to use it, but still, the same word came to mind. It’s kind of been stuck there. So, I guess maybe my word found me and I just had to settle into it.

SIMPLIFY.

That’s what I’ll be working on and toward for 2013. I like using verbs because I feel the implied action gives me momentum. It keeps me moving forward.

Last year, it was PRIORITIZE. This year, I wanted to continue the same thread while also getting a bit of a fresh start. I definitely needed a break from the craziness that was 2012. I feel SIMPLIFY does that. It just so happens that it also goes nicely with our 2013 theme for The Orange Conference, Focus. 😉

This tradition of a theme/word for the year is loosely based on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. My friend, Daron, came up with the idea, and he as well as several of our friends have continued it. The basic idea is that instead of merely looking back at the year to see what happened at the end, you start the year by looking ahead to see what you think the year might be about. Then you use the theme as a lens in which to view things throughout the year. At it’s basis, it’s a way to be proactive/responsive to the year, and not let the year just happen to you. It’s an intentional way to live rather than reactive—which is how I prefer to live.

I’ve decided I that I also want to live more simply, which was an underlying inspiration for my theme. Some days, this seems incredible difficult. “Stuff” just seems to find it’s way home with me. A new kitchen appliance. A piece of furniture. Picture frames. Gadgets. Books. Clothes. The list goes on and on. I somehow keep adding to my Amazon Wish List. But in the end, I usually end up with some form of buyer’s remorse. Not only are 99% of these things not needed, but many days I just get sick of having too much. I hate looking around at all my junk. I realize more and more the excess and accumulation of the society to which I belong. Realistically, if you came by, you probably wouldn’t say that if you saw my apartment. I don’t have piles of things around. I don’t like clutter. I periodically give items to Goodwill and clean out my closet. But much of what I have, I just don’t need. And as my heart becomes more attuned to global issues, I think I begin to understand that I can do so much more if I have less. Those are things would never cause me remorse.

I feel like SIMPLIFY will be a sort of cleansing for me—on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. I’ve already started incorporating it into many areas of my life, down to small things like unsubscribing from some email lists. There are numerous ways to SIMPLIFY and I hope to tackle many of them over the next 12 months.

Here are just a few of the ones that have already crossed my mind, with more to come, I’m sure:

  • Getting rid of more stuff. A couple of items include my coffee table and dining room table, because really, I don’t use either for anything other than setting decorations on.
  • As noted, unsubscribing from email lists.
  • Paying down more debt. I started off pretty good last year, but medical expenses and a couple other extraneous items did more damage.
  • Going through my budget, yet again, to see what I can cut back on.

I’ve even done a couple of things that may seem counter-intuitive to SIMPLIFY. I printed a reading list to read through the Bible chronologically, since I’ve never read it that way, and started using the service eMeals.com. These two things were done more as a way to automate habits that I was already in or wanted to be better at, without really taxing me mentally. I’m not one that loves and craves routines, but I think incorporating these two processes into my life will be really good. They will allow me to refine past routines, which I think fits nicely with SIMPLIFY.

My song and verse for 2013 came to me during the church service last week. I love it when that happens because it feels natural and promised. The song I’m using is “Be My Everything” because of it’s repetitive nature and message. It is what SIMPLIFY sounds like to me based on those two words. My verse, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily go with the theme. Frankly, I just really liked it and kept repeating it in my mind:

Matthew 16:18, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” ESV

Quite honestly, I think I just sat at home sick so much in 2012 that the action in this verse makes me want to get up and get out there. I’m ready for a little hell-gate prevailing.

So, that’s it. There you have it. That’s what I’m looking forward to in 2013. Realistically, I know curve balls will come and life will happen, and I’ll just be along for the ride most of the time.

But I’m hoping I can keep SIMPLIFY in mind along the way.

I’m hoping this theme will give me the ability to channel my thoughts and actions.

And I’m hoping I can come to you in 11 months or so saying that I have have less, and have lived and given more.

 

Okay, and if I get to do a little hell-gate prevailing in the meantime, so be it. 😉

 


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A Friend’s Take on the New Year: March 1 isn’t too late.

I just read this fantastic post by one of my very best friends, Daron. He’s been so influential on my life the last decade or so, and is the one who introduced me to my Word for the Year thinking.

Here’s the way he explains our tradition (much better than I):

I was listening to a podcast once about Jewish Holidays. It struck me that the Jewish faith purposely incorporates a time meant for reflection. I would not consider myself a Jewish scholar, but the rabbi on the podcast explained that three very important holidays, distinguished as “high holidays”, stood out from the rest. The rabbi described the Jewish concept of time like this. Imagine a spiraling river flowing upward around and around and around. Each time it completes a circular curve flowing just above the last it can be thought of as a year in the passage of time as we know it (the Jewish calendar is a little different from the western calendar, but roughly the same amount of time passes). The river moves forward ever winding and surging. Although the forward direction is always the same it is not linear, it does not leave its latest path in the past. It moves back, swirling just above where it just flowed. Now imagine three brilliant beams of light shooting up from below soaring up to the heavens as far as the eye can see. These beams of light touch the flowing, spiraling river at the same point in every rotation. These beams of light are the three high holidays. They bring together the past, present, and future. Despite the current location of the river, the beam of light is the same and brings tradition, connection, and stability every time it touches the river of time.

Two high holidays in particular caught my attention. These were Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year’s Day, and ironically the day of remembrance. It can be found in Leviticus 23:24-25. It is the day Jews look back not just over the year but also to the beginning of creation and to Adam to reflect. They take in how they measure up to the creation that they were intended to be and reflect of the flow of the river to this point, specifically to their personal point on the river. Most importantly putting creation into perspective with the concept of God‘s sovereignty. I am told that one of the practices of this holiday is to walk along a river bank and empty your pockets into the river (for the environmentalist out there, don’t you fret. The practice calls for filling your pocket with bread before hand). Symbolically this is the act of “casting off” sins. So, during this holiday you are taking stock in where you have come and where you have deviated from the path of God and from creation.

The next holiday, Yom Kippur, is 9 days later. It is the Day of Atonement. So, having taken stock of your life, your community, and your origins during Rosh Hashanah you recognize where you have fallen short and it is on this day of Yom Kippur you work to right your path. In Old Testament it was on this day that the “High Priest made an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people. This act of atonement brought reconciliation between the people and God.” It can be found in Leviticus 16:8-34; 23:27-32. It is traditionally when Jews attempt to make amends to those they have wronged. It is a day of fasting and repenting of sins. In some respects it is a day to align and calibrate oneself with God for the coming wind in the flowing river. It is a day to start fresh and in step with the purpose for which you were created in the first place. A very cool holiday, I must say.

So after wading the deep waters of the concepts of time, atonement, and alignment I began to ponder. What would my life look like if I were standing at the end of the year that has yet to happen? How would my perspective on helplessness and the ziggy, zaggy nature of my life change? What would I do differently? What would I have done differently? As I found myself at the end of each year and imagined being there before it began I started to recognize patterns. Each year did flow into the next. I was just so focused on what was unfolding in front of me that I could not take in the perspective that God was sovereign and because I was aligned with him I was never helpless.

So, I set out to “live atoned.” There is a place where this idea is contemplated everyday. In the smoke filled rooms crowded with those who know a far heavier burden of the zigging, zagging peril of losing your way from creation a prayer is recited. This prayer acts as a life vest in the raging river of life for those caught in the grip of addiction. It is called the serenity prayer. “GOD, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen. – Reinhold Neibuhr, 1926”

This is a lot easier said than done. How do I balance the tensions of being fully present in my life while fully open to the desire of God for my life? I stand on the edge of the current year and ask, “Who am I with my current strengths and weaknesses, and in my current circumstances?” I do a mini Rosh Hashanah. I then take an imaginary motorboat to the end of the bend in the river and I ask, “Given who and where I was, with those strengths and weaknesses and in those circumstances at the beginning of this year, what will I say the year was about? What will I have been involved in? How will I have invested my time and energy? What would have been wise to think about and to do?” Then I race against the current back to the present for a mini Yom Kippur, a day of atonement. I calibrate with God, and live my life in a way for God to use me. I don’t force my desired path. I don’t make plans that cannot be broken. I simply do the things that I can do to make a way for God to use me and do the things only He can do. There are times God will still zig and zag, but I find that I do not feel as blind sighted. I find that aligning my day-to-day life brings the stability of a life connected to all He has done before me and all He will do once I am gone. I have the peace of a connected story.

To make this tangible I choose a theme word for the year. It is a word that describes the year to come. I am open for it to change (and it has), but it is a word that gives the year a sense of course. I also choose a scripture that embodies this word. It is often something that has leapt out to me as I read and attempted to align with God. It is not something that I try to shape for my own purposes or needs, but one that makes sense. It acts as a word of encouragement from God. Finally I choose a theme song for the year. Why a theme song? Well, because it is cool. Seriously, wouldn’t life just be so much better if you had theme music like a movie or your favorite television show? I mean seriously, how much better would driving to work be if the theme song from Magnum PI was playing in the background? There is a secondary reason for the theme song. It is a very effective antidote to the inevitable wane in momentum (think Rocky as he nears the top of the seemingly insurmountable series of steps to the tune of Eye of the Tiger).

And that’s a much more developed explanation than I gave. Great, now that he’s got it written down I can read this every year to get ready for the New Year! Thanks, Daron!