I am a Reformed Control Freak (Advent Musings)

I am a reformed control freak.  By reformed I suppose I mean that I know I am, was, can be a controlling person who wants things just so. Christmas is a perfect example of what really gets my ire up.  OK, once again I’m showing what a wreck I am.  Yesterday I found myself at the hardware store ready to purchase lights for the house.  Yes, outside lights.  Just that is progress for me, twenty years it took.  Colored lights and all the glitter and s*** that we’re supposed to buy for this holiday, and Halloween, and all the other supposed “Hallmark Holy Days” — Well I rebel.

Yes, I have been told that I am “no fun” when it comes to decorations at holidays of any kind.  I don’t do ghosts in the trees at Halloween.  I don’t do little plastic hearts on the windows on Valentine’s day.  And I’ve felt sort of righteous in my snootiness.

Most especially at Christmas.    From the year I had my first tree we had our first tree, I have tried to control it.  My need for control being off the charts I would allow no colored lights, only clear ones.  No home-made ornaments, only accepting matching ones with a theme on my tree.

((Sigh)).  I am reformed because we do have home made ornaments.  And this year, after eighteen years of marriage, I have decided that it would be “festive” and “fun” to have lights on the house outside for all the world to see in their glorious tackiness   I mean isn’t really all about the kids?  And their imaginations?

And this didn’t help.  Driving home the other night, I heard my ten-year old son counting out loud.  When asked, he said, he was counting the number of people on our street that had “Christmas spirit.”

I knew this was the year.  I was going to get some spirit, let go and lighten up and have a little fun.  Who cares if the house is garish if it makes kids happy? Screw Martha Stewart.  And so I found myself at the hardware store putting down the lovely-green-genuine-pine-wreath-that-matches-my-house, for the front door.  And buying a bright red, bow that lights up.  And colored lights. (Picture forthcoming.)  Yes, I am a reformed control freak.

This isn’t about me.  This year for Christmas I’m giving everyone a decidedly much better time.

Isn’t everyone controlling at Christmas, with expectations ramped up to 110% for perfection!?

In all honesty Christmas never lives up to expectations because it isn’t about us and whatever experiences we can conjure up.

It’s about a babe born to a girl, quite unexpectedly and miraculously, who grew up to give his life up for me. And you.

What Is Most Personal Reveals What is Real: transparency pulls me toward God

The way we experience God every day is in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We can’t help but respond by changing — some call it growing.  This is individual.  It is personal and it is communal.  The Holy Spirit is present, leading us deeper into the wisdom of God through our honesty and openness with one another.

Even if we choose not to reveal ourselves it is evident through our life.     Don’t you think?

One of my favorite quotes is by Lev Tolstoy is

“A writer is dear and necessary for us only in the measure of which he reveals to us the inner workings of his very soul.

I believe it.  I believe that is what makes writing such a healing and positive thing for me and for those that follow along — the openness.  The honesty.

Henri Nouwen put it this way in Bread for the Journey:

We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, “Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else’s business.”  But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal.  What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life.

Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). The most inner light is a light for the world. Let’s not have “double lives”; let us allow what we live in private to be known in public.

I do believe transparency within (trusted) community is crucial to the spiritual life.  Keeping our private lives full of secrets only encourages more secrecy.

I have experienced that transparency pulls me toward God. He longs for us.  And by doing so, often it throws me down on my knees.  Humbles me. And within a community where there is mutual dependence, it draws others in thus allowing space for their own transformation.  That is the miracle.  That is it.  The moment in which the attributes of God are seen us.  That is everything.  That is the resurrection and atonement all over again.

Has this been true in your life?  You don’t have to tell me of course, but I urge you to tell someone. And if you find it difficult to reveal yourself — your true self — to others ask yourself why?  And what are you going to do about it?

Be well friends.

On Complaining & Criticizing


“Complaining is epidemic in our world”

Yep, that is pretty much the way to communicate these days. Some call it critique (I have) but it is pretty much bad news.  And a bad example.   And it’s gotten so out of hand with one of my kids that I just snapped recently.  “Not another word!” I found myself screaming.  I totally understand the old adage which I heard from my father “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”  And when he was mad, just “Shut up” in Tibetan so no one else would know what he was saying.

So I’m trying to lead by example and not complain about anything or criticize anyone, or gossip, for 21 days, which is how long it takes to form a habit apparently.

They offer purple bracelets (you can get free on their website) but I have stuck with a rubber band.  Wear it on a wrist and switch it to the other wrist when you catch yourself expressing a complaint, gossiping or criticizing.  And begin again.  I started on Sunday and I haven’t made it through a day, yet.  But I am über conscious of my thoughts and have struggled to not express a lot of complaints, criticism or gossip.  The idea is by changing your words you change your thoughts — a constant striving to reformat your mental hard drive.  By doing that you change your heart and your life.

And I think Jesus would agree.  He talks a lot about kindness, speaking kindly to one another, not slandering one another, not calling names.  In Matt 5.22:

Whoever says to his brother raca will be answerable to the Sanhedrin; and whoever says “you fool” will be liable to fiery Gehenna. NIV

But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister,* you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult*[Greek say Raca to an obscure term of abuse] a brother or sister,* you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell* of fire. NRSV

Whoah!  Bottom line beyond our words:  “Be kind.”  Watch our tongues, stop putting others down, or gossiping.  Perhaps I’m just on about this because I have two middle-schoolers and they are often catty and snarky and I find myself also guilty.  It’s such a common part of our culture that we don’t even realize it, often.

So, build into your life a practice of treating others with respect, giving people the benefit of the doubt, stopping your tongue, and be kind!

This could easily become a fix-it gimmick, but if you look at this in spiritual terms I believe it could change you forever.  Irrevocably.

Speaking positively about others is a simple thing, but it is so hard to do.  Trust me, I shout out loud at the “idiots” on the road. I talk about people who I don’t understand (e.g. gossip).  I called the Governor of Wisconsin a bad name yesterday.  When you have kids all of a sudden you have a mirror in front of you or in the case of yelling obscenities at the dog-sh*t on the floor, you have a tape recorder in the memory of your children.  Yikes!

Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms:   Shut Your Mouth!   Don’t be a fool.   Be kind.

Listen to him and I believe it will change you.


[“Ephphatha” Be opened] First in a series on responding to Jesus’ words

A Complaint Free World: How to Stop complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted by Will Bowen.

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