Dust Storm

While ambling through my neighborhood this afternoon, gratefully absorbing the warm winter sunshine (and then peeling off my jacket) my mind wandered through the last week and I found myself stuck in a familiar “thought” ditch.  I’m continually dismayed at my lack of patience and grace.   Some days I feel like a piece of prairie during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s; a  little gust of frustration and my kindness swirls away like a dark cloud of dust, revealing the hard, dry ground underneath. If my life is a field (please go with it- I love farming analogies.  So did Jesus, I might add) then I have to admit that my topsoil needs some work.  It’s too shallow.

  There were two main contributors to the calamitous destruction of the Dust Bowl-  the relentless drought and a lack of resiliency in the soil due to severe clearing and mono cropping (native grasses had root systems that averaged five feet deep and many up to 15 feet, whereas the root systems of most annual cereal crops are only one foot deep.) Scientist estimate that 850 million tons of topsoil was lost during the “Dirty Thirties”, that’s an average of 480 tons of topsoil per acre!  One Sunday in 1934 became known as “Black Sunday” as three million tons of topsoil in Oklahoma blew away.  Kristin Hannah’s incredible novel, The Four Winds”,  and Steinbeck’s classic, “Grapes of Wrath” gave me a little peak into what it was like living in that period of history.  

A chart comparing root systems of North American prairie plants and  bluegrass. : r/ecology

   As a child, my “field” was full of deep rooted native grasses that nourished my spirit- imagination, solitude (usually while enjoying nature), friendship, simplicity, spontaneous worship, dreams, playfulness.  Somewhere along the way, I was convinced that mono cropping a field full of productivity would be a wise investment.  It required I dig out some beautiful shade trees and mow down the pretty meadows of wildflowers- no “wasted space” allowed. I wanted to be a good farmer and provide for the needs of my family and community, so I enthusiastically planted all the productivity I could fit in my field.  I didn’t know anything about soil health, the need for biological diversity and water holding capacity; I was just following the example of the apparently successful farmers around me.  Little did we know how weak and destructive our processes were.  

We are all suffering the affects of the “Covid drought”- first the anxiety, death and sickness that spiraled into ugly politics and non stop fighting.  So many fractured relationships and frazzled souls.  The ugliness of this season has mirrored the destruction of those awful dust storms.  Just like those devastated prairie farmers (and all farmers everywhere for that matter), I don’t have any control over the weather, but I do have a say in what crops I am growing and the methods used.  I’m learning the value of deep roots, rich soil and compost (making space for death and stinky things and allowing them to turn into something life giving and nourishing) in place of artificial fertilizer and pesticides (seeking identity by presenting a brushed up false self to the world, accomplishments instead of authentic relationship with God and others, work and striving in place of peace and contentment) that poison the land, water and ultimately all living creatures. 

This challenging season has motivated me to pursue habits that will help build deeper, healthier top soil that will nourish my soul and bless the people around me instead of filling their nostrils with dust.  I was recently listening to author Justin Whitmel Earley on The Habit Podcast.  He shared his story of an anxiety breakdown and explained, “It’s possible for your head to go one way and your habits to go another way, and there is a gap……..your heart will always follows the habit.”  I’m tearing out some of my field and interspersing with healthier morning and evening routines that include more scripture and less phone and news, daily sessions of silence, less work and more play (vacation coming in 10 days and several little trips to see friends this spring and summer), a book club with thoughtful people (this has been on my bucket list for years!!  Our first meeting is already on the calendar), even less social media (using a timer) and guilt free flower planting and beautifying of our property (I mostly have this one down already, but I still struggle with guilt when I’m not being “efficient”).  It’s a well known fact that pursing growth and change within community (perfect examples are AA and NA) gives us the best chance of success, so I’d be happy to support you and pray for you as you pursue healthy habits and I’d appreciate the accountability as well.  Please feel free to message me:)

“Benefit of the Doubt” by Gregory A Boyd

The first book I read by Gregory A Boyd was discreetly snatched from my friend’s bookshelf (thank you, Dee Robbins) and hungrily devoured, with many long pauses as I digested the deep and nourishing truths he developed in “Repenting of Religion.”  I’ve just finished slurping and chewing my second Boyd book, “Benefit of the Doubt; Breaking the Idol of Certainty.”  I will definitely be rereading this book full of underlined mind bombs.  Every chapter filled my heart and mind like a full course meal- I’m challenged with how to share just a few appetizers.    

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Shabbat Shalom, part 3

It’s time to finish this series of posts about Sabbath!  My desire is to write a little about the books I’m reading (in our Master’s program and my own reading list) as a way to process what I’m learning and also give you a taste in case you might want to read the book as well.  I’d only planned to write one post about about this book, “Dwell, Life with God for the World” by Barry D Jones, and it was difficult to pick one topic/ chapter- and then impossible to fit it into one post!  I highly recommend this book- I found it encouraging, enlightening, convicting and helpful in my walk as a disciple of Jesus.

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Shabbat Shalom Part 2

Sabbath Keeping Part 2

Click here to read part 1

“There is a freedom that comes from being who we are in God and resting in God that eventually enables us to bring something truer to the world than all our doing,” writes Ruth Haley Barton.  Every time I read this line, my heart burns to experience it.  I believe this resonates with me at this time in my life because of some tough lessons I’ve learned (the hard way, of course.)  First, I can no longer deny that I am weak and grow weary quite easily.  When I was twenty, I was certain that with hard work and willingness to make the sacrifices, I could change the world (or at least radically improve it.)  After a couple decades of “go big or go home” living, I’ve been humbled and discouraged to find the problems of the world, and all its inhabitants, are quite complicated; religious pat answers solve nothing, and even when I give my everything, it’s often not enough.  Secondly, no matter how hard I work and how pure my intentions, I am unable to save or even improve a single person, myself included.   Thirdly, I’m coming to understand my true self is not what I do or accomplish or how others see me.  God created me and loves me and wants to be with me! Much of this disappointment and exhaustion I brought onto myself, but my heart still yearns to see healing and wholeness come into the world around me.  The idea of being able to rest in God and fully bloom into who He made me to be, and out of that place of joy, intimacy and fullness to impact the world – Yes please!!  I want that! 

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Shabbat Shalom Part 1 “Dwell; Life with God for the World”

Sabbath Keeping

Our Master’s cohort just finished reading and writing  reflection papers on the book by Barry D Jones, “Dwell; Life with God for the World.”  Jones’ purpose was to help bring a healthy blending of spirituality (spiritual formation) and mission together, as our modern Christian world tends to hold the two at opposite ends.  Spiritual formation can easily become self-absorption, and in Dallas Willard’s words, “sin management”; whereas “missionalism is in the end a form of idolatry,” according to Barry, “and tends to focus the attention on us and our efforts rather than the God whose reign it is.”

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“You are today who you will be in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read,” says Charlie “Tremendous” Jones.  I’m not sure this is true, but it lessens the guilt I feel over all the books I own, my ever growing wish list of books, the messy piles of books throughout the house and the fact I’ve grown non-committal with age (instead of disciplining myself to finish before starting a new one, I now allow myself to read four, five, six at a time!)   “Two timing” is not a sin I ever dreamed I’d commit against a good book, but now I’m addicted and can’t imagine going back to the monotony of one book at a time.  I figure if I have to endure hot flashes, reading glasses and stubborn love handles, I’m granted a bit of grace.  So I’ve lightened up and allow myself to drop boring books without explanation and bounce back and forth between interests.  We recently listened to a Ted Talk about “slow motion multi tasking” by Tim Harford https://www.npr.org/2019/05/10/719575727/tim-harford-how-can-slow-motion-multitasking-boost-our-creativity, this was all the rationalization I needed to find peace with stacks of books and my  “popcorn” style of reading till I’m bored and trading out subjects. 

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