Pursue Life Like Eating Strawberries

What did you have for breakfast? Can you even remember? If not, you’re not alone — most days I can’t. Not that I’m so busy that I forget, but I’m distracted, hurried, preoccupied–those words pretty much sum up my experience lately. It’s a weed that’s grown back many times in my life.

I started this ordinary day a little differently. (There’s great invitation offered when our days start like this, a little differently.) Today started with a chocolate-covered strawberry! Now that’s a great way to start a day — experiencing strawberries — and that got me thinking about how I’ve been living lately. I’m not talking just about food, but how I handled this strawberry exposes a pattern that spills over into the rest of my life.

This thought started last night when my daughter made a plate full of chocolate-covered strawberries. She left a couple for me for this morning! I saw them sitting on a plate in the kitchen. I ate one on first sight. Soooo good. As I walked out the door, I grabbed the other in a napkin and headed to my car. I got settled in on the road and grabbed the strawberry in all its sweet, red, juicy, chocolate-covered goodness, and chomp, chomp, chomp, swallow. It was gone. Just like that. Hastily. Thoughtlessly, really. The whole process took seconds. Seconds! I have to admit, I felt a little empty sitting there with only the memory of what I could recall it tasted like. Tasted? Did I even taste it? Wow, some memories fade so quickly.

Image Credit: WikiCommons Public Domain

I’ve got to do a better job chewing my food. I’m sitting here thinking about how that works — if I chew more slowly, I’d actually benefit from it. Slowing down helps my body’s digestion. And, even better, slowing down lets me actually taste my food. (In my head I hear a parental voice saying, “Your taste buds are in your mouth, not your stomach!” 😄) Sometimes I’m just excited about what I’m eating and so I shovel it down in huge, efficient bites. Or I’m just so busy and hurried, ready to get on to the next thing, or distracted by everything going on around me that I just scarf it down. I don’t chew it well. I don’t linger, letting myself take in the flavor. In the end, I don’t enjoy what was meant to be enjoyed. I miss out on the best part.

That’s when the thought comes to me about how I’ve been living lately. It dawns on me that I often live life this way, like eating those strawberries. I can feel the effects of this way of life. My appetite has grown dull. I don’t have the attention span that I used to have. I’ve actually become a little lazy in my relationships and distracted in my conversations. Because I ‘eat too fast’, the food I eat tastes bland, and that is a fitting metaphor to much of my life.

I rush through conversations, not lingering on what’s being said. Instead, I spend too much time thinking about what I’ll say next. Or, I allow my mind to drift to what I need to get done after our interaction—distracted, planning, and scheduling. I go on vacations, and then busy myself to the point of distraction. My phone screams at me in it’s quiet, vibrating voice. My mind is so busy sometimes I can’t think straight, cluttered with chores and to-do lists and worries.

I’ve tried to fix it through efficiency, productivity. Ugh. I have such a love-hate relationship with these words. Efficient. Productive. Busy. There are times for them, sure, in business, in a trip to the store, when you need to finish an hour-long task in 30 minutes, but not in the more important things in life. Friendship. Romance. Happiness. Exploration. Fun. A walk around a mountain lake. Laughing with a friend. Letting someone cry on our shoulder. Hugging my children. Heck, even eating strawberries. These things require extravagance, generosity, time, presence, whole-hearted engagement.

I don’t want to let this idea go without letting it change something in me. I think the solution to my problem is close. Maybe simple, even. I’ve tried all-or-nothing approaches, they haven’t worked. Maybe it doesn’t need to be radical as much as it needs to be intentional.

So much of life is in the way we see. We don’t see a desert at seventy miles an hour from an Interstate the same way we see it at, say, thirty from a two-lane. . . the Great Plains from a two-lane the same way we see them from a bicycle. . . the Appalachians from a bike the same way we see them when we hike the trails. . . And the mountains in the same way when we hike as when we stop and stay in one spot for an hour or a day or a year. . . there [are] two ways to see the world. . . One is to stand back, squint, and see the landscape in a beautiful blur of colors. The other is to go down on your hands and knees and examine the flowers one petal at a time.
~ From “The Everlasting Stream”, Walt Harrington [edited]

So, today I’m going to make a few readjustments:  I’m going to adjust my engagement. Slow my pace. Add pauses. Linger in moments. Not like holding my breath until an explosive exhale, but long, slow breaths, filling my lungs with air. Focused. Ready to ask questions of the person talking to me. To engage, and hear, and deepen the conversation. When I come home at the end of the day, I’m going to look my wife in the eye, and pause. I’ll ask her to share with me her day, and I’m going to be fully present and not just think about my day or the chores that I need to get done now that I’m home. When I eat, I’m going to slow down there, too. Breathe in the aroma. Actually taste my food not just make it another effort in efficiency.

And in my faith, here’s an area that I think is even more important. More, because it is the headwater of all my other efforts. Nothing I’ve ever learned or tried has impacted my life as much as attention given to the growth, maturity, healing, and development of my soul. It impacts everything else. Not coincidentally, it is one of the hardest (and most assaulted) growth areas of my life.

Efforts in faith often lead people toward doing more, striving, adopting a “nose to the grindstone” sort of approach. But, what I’m suggesting, what I’m trying to learn, is how to reduce, not strive. Pull back, not add on. Strip away, not heap on more. Life already bombards me with more than I can handle. World affairs. Global pandemics. Family needs. Heck, even Netflix begs me to watch more TV series’ than I have hours in a day. My response is simple: I’m going to pause. Listen. Create intentional pockets of quiet, instead of filling every minute. I have had some of my best, most inspired thoughts in paused moments. I installed the One-minute Pause app on my phone, setting it to remind me twice a day. I’m going to shift my engagement a bit, marinate, deepen, in a series of small choices to pause along the way.

I’m looking forward to what’s ahead. I have a feeling my appetite is going to come back.

Mark


P.S. UPDATE:  Several days have passed since I wrote this. I have to admit, my efforts to slow down have been met with opposition. It was naïve of me to think the patterns I’d fallen into would be so quickly dismantled. It’s been hard. My first few bites (ok, first few meals) I didn’t catch myself stuffing my face until the meal was over. My first few days of using the “Pause App” went well, but then I’ve seen the notification pop-up and paused my pause, telling myself I’ll get to it in a second, once I finish this one last thing. (Truth: There’s two notifications on my screen inviting me to Pause right now.) But, something good is happening, too. Last night I cut my food into smaller bites and slowed down to savor the flavor. It was a Sautéed Lemon Chicken Piccata with seasoned rice. It was so good.  And, yes, I’ve missed several pauses, but the One-minute Pause app is making a difference. I can feel the shift inside. I’ve paused 28 times for 87 total minutes. 28 times I’ve given space to my soul and invited a deeper connection with the Father. My adjustments haven’t been radical, but they are having a positive impact. It’s been like a pit-stop for the soul. And I think I’m just beginning to feel the effects of my efforts.  I’m going to keep going… or I should say, pausing. 😉

WANT MORE?

It’s been a journey of trying. I’ve written about it to capture a snapshot what I’m learning. You might find these helpful.
Something is Sucking the Awesomeness Out Of Your Life
Space to Breathe Again
What a Few Minutes of Quiet Can Do
Waking Up Again To The Point Of It All
Hesitating to Believe? Maybe it’s time to take a walk!
And more…


Finding Time to Reboot

My wife just told me I’m being really negative lately. What?! I don’t see it. At least, I hadn’t seen it until she pointed it out. All along I was just being practical, informational, helpful even, or so I thought. But, she’s right. Lately, I haven’t seen the world as a happy, hopeful place. I’ve sort of lost the ability to dream and hope and believe into the future. I’ve become “realistic”, concrete, and short-sighted — negative. It’s like I can only see two feet in front of me. The rest is a blur. So, I’ve reacted with this cautious, controlling, less hopeful approach. It’s not how I want to live.

This isn’t an excuse, but I just feel so busy. (I know, who doesn’t feel busy these days, am I right?!) I don’t feel like I have time to process. It’s weird, because I have spare minutes. I watch TV. I listen to podcasts. I sleep 7 hours each night. But, something is going on. Calling myself “busy” doesn’t really describe it. We’re all ‘busy’, but we’re not all ‘negative’. Maybe another word fits — words like Distracted. Anxious. Cluttered. Hurried. Yup.

This is deeper than just my busy calendar. My mind is cluttered. And deeper still, my heart is distracted, disengaged. My life is crammed with unfinished “to do” lists and projects, unmet goals, unsolved problems, unfulfilled expectations, unresolved relationship issues – the list seems endless. My wife feels the effect. Heck, I feel the effect. I’m missing out on important things. I’m half present. I’m half listening. I’m scattered in twenty different places. Everyone and everything gets only a piece of me.

My wife’s words were like a glass of cold water to the face. I needed it. Awareness and acknowledgement are powerful friends, if only I’m willing take the time to know them. And like any relationship, I must put time aside for them.

I should have recognized the signs sooner. In my last job, I was a computer ‘fix-it’ guy. People would come to me saying, “My computer isn’t working right! It’s running really slow. Things are crashing.” And my job was to find the answer and fix it. Most of the time the solution was actually pretty simple, and I’d ask, “When is the last time you rebooted?

A Metaphor for Life.

– CLICK TO READ THE REST OF THE STORY

What A Few Minutes Of Quiet Can Do

A couple of years ago a friend handed me one of the most unique birthday cards I’ve ever received. Not unique because of its design, but because of what he wrote inside. Written inside the card, as a sort of climax to the typical birthday sentiments, he concluded with a simple thought — take the next year to be quiet, say less, grow, and deepen.

To be honest, when I first read the words I was sort of confused and a little hurt. I mean, “quiet?” For a year? Is it just that he doesn’t think I have anything of value to say and just wants me shut-up?! But, I know my friend and his motives. And, I’ve watched his efforts to build quiet space into his life. Still, the words stung more than they should have. I just couldn’t shake them. Do you ever have those moments? When something jars you, is painful even, but you know down inside you shouldn’t ignore it?

I couldn’t forget his words, but thought to myself about how crazy it seemed. 

– CLICK TO READ THE REST OF THE STORY

Something Is Sucking The Awesomeness Out Of Your Life

Let’s be honest — we skim our way through life. There seems to be no way around it. We are inundated with information. Our email boxes are overflowing. There are more TV programs than we could watch in a lifetime. There are more cooking shows offering recipes on more meals than we could cook in a 100 years. Our Kindle offers page after page of new reading material. Yes, we are overrun by information.  Even our relationships can feel this way, there is always something to do, always someone that needs something.  It is one of the most exciting eras ever known to humankind.

So how do we make it work? We skim.

And this in and of itself isn’t a bad thing — in fact, I believe it is a critical skill. But, this powerful technique must not be applied haphazardly – it can be catastrophic if not harnessed!

multi-tasking-poster

I’ve begun to pay attention to this skimming process as it occurs all around me. I’ve noticed how often we skim our favorite TV programs using the “30-second skip-ahead button”. I’ve begun to notice how I skim articles in magazines. I “browse” the internet (a clever word for “skimming”). I’m catching myself skim books for nuggets of information. I listen to my Podcasts at 1.5x speed. What a rush! I have to admit, my skimming techniques do seem to help me feel more productive. Much like driving 10 mph above the speed limit helps me feel like I’m saving tons of time in my drive to work. Continue reading “Something Is Sucking The Awesomeness Out Of Your Life”

No Shame in Stillness

I post my blog on http://www.wordpress.com and so I visit the site often. A while back while pursuing their “Freshly Pressed” page (which is a rotating display of selections from their immense blogging community), amidst the chaos and noise or all that tugs at our attention I stumbled upon this posting from “Jenni”.  I asked her if I could reblog it to you… I think you’ll enjoy it.


No Shame in Stillness

by Jenni

Today I did something shocking, socially unacceptable and so counter-cultural, it’s downright rebellious: I was still. To be specific, I put my feet up on the porch rail, leaned back in a deep chair, and sat in the afternoon sunshine for a while, accomplishing absolutely nothing.

Not exactly the picture of a revolutionary, is it? I know, but if you look a bit deeper, you might recognize that one action as essentially giving the finger to a powerful and ruthless dictator: the dogma that my busyness reflects my value.

Does the idea of sitting quietly, alone with your thoughts for a while make you sigh wistfully or squirm uncomfortably? Probably a mixture of both.

In my experience Continue reading “No Shame in Stillness”

Waking up again to the point of it all

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I have to admit, I’ve really struggled lately to stay focused. It is easy to slide into a funk when the busyness and chaos of life edge their way in. And I don’t mean to imply “bad” things have happened. Actually, some really good things have been going on. In April, my small “band of brothers” and I hosted another LIFEQUESTweekend Retreat (a 3-day Retreat for men, a place for them to come and focus and replenish and recalibrate for the journey ahead). It was an amazing, truly amazing weekend. And, since then I’ve spent a lot of time around family and friends, rebuilding and strengthening bonds. These are really good things. But with these things it has come a whirlwind of activity. And, I’ve struggled to Continue reading “Waking up again to the point of it all”

Hijacked Thoughts

I was meditating on God the other day. Soaking in His presence, thinking about Him, laying a question before Him, and pondering.  Then, suddenly I started thinking of something totally other than Him.  A dialogue with someone else or in front of a group?  You know what I mean, like drifting into fantasizing about something worthless and then you kind of shake your head and come to and think, “What the heck?!  Where did that come from?  How did I get on that!?“. It’s like my thoughts were hijacked from right under my nose and I’m taken for a ride.

Is there a way to guard my mind?   Does that skill or discipline just come with experience?
Continue reading “Hijacked Thoughts”

LIFEQUESTweekend Retreat (Jan 28-30)

I don’t normally make ‘advertisement’ type posts. In fact, I never have before. But today I’m posting a note to let you know about a retreat some friends and I are hosting on JAN 28-30th.  It is called LIFEQUESTweekend and it is a 3-day retreat for men (sorry ladies). You can get all the details at the website www.LIFEQUESTweekend.com.

This retreat is not just another “church” service… not another “religious” activity to attend. It is an invitation to join us on a quest… one that every man must make at some point in their life. An invitation to walk with God.

So let me ask you a few questions… Fully Alive?! Is this how you’ve been experiencing life: Fully alive? Too few of us actually find this true in our day-to-day. And strength? Are you able to fight for others with freedom? Do you live with a sense of freedom? And Love? Do you love well? Have deep friendships with others?  Is life what you’d hoped it would be?

And, let me ask you this — How often do you take the chance to spend a weekend away with the singular purpose of seeking what God has for you? Finding answers to your questions… Finding purpose for your future…  If for no other reason than this — if God is in it, this weekend will be remarkable.

Freedom… Strength to offer… Healing… Purpose… to know our Place in the Story… It is possible!

I hope you’ll take a few minutes and visit the website. And I hope you’ll take a few more minutes and pray to ask God if this is a retreat you should attend.

Whatever you’ve found true of God… of Christianity… there is more.  This retreat may be the next step in your journey of faith.

Space to Breathe again

Andrea and I recently took a short trip up into Michigan. We needed some time away… time to reconnect… time to unwind from the busyness that tangles up our lives and our hearts.  It was refreshing… no, it was more than that… it was like breathing again.  Having time away, creating some space in our lives, it gave me time to catch my breath.  I think we get so busy and focused on getting things done and “doing life” that we sort of hold our breath.  You know… like when you’re concentrating on that golf shot you’re about to make — you hold your breath… or when you are trying to hold the camera perfectly steady so you can take the picture, you breathe in and…. hold it…. hold it…. almost got it…. hold it…. Pppffffhhhhh… exhale.  The pace of life (even when doing good things) can have that effect on us… and so this time away gave us space to breath again.

So… how are YOU doing?  Now that school is back in session and summer is winding down, are you carving out some space in your day?… your week?  your month?!  It is critical!  What’s stopping you? (pause)  Give it a try… carve out just a few minutes of quiet for you and God and see what happens.

Here are a couple of things that help me: Continue reading “Space to Breathe again”