May Flowers

The unofficial start of summer is here, friends.  (School's out, here in Knox county...woohoo!  So glad my son-in-law, an algebra teacher at a local high school, can begin his summer break soon...after teaching a bit of summer school.)

This video isn't at all instructional.  It's just three minutes long.  It's just happy.  Pour yourself some iced tea and enjoy...

...and happy summer!

Birds of a Feather Flock Together {...the lost art of imitating the right people...}

It has been said, and I know it to be true, because I saw it in the mountains this afternoon, from about 3 o'clock to almost sundown:

"Birds of a feather flock together."

See, there's this question of authentic progress.  There's this nagging question as to how high and far you can really fly, if you are a bluebird flying alone...

....or if you are a bluebird from Tennessee who imitates a crow from Nebraska.

"Remember your leaders, those who have spoken God's word to you.  Think about the impact of their lives, and imitate their faith."  (Hebrews)

You will never fly high and long by imitating the flight patterns of a bird you honestly can't see, who isn't right in front of you.

You will never innovate (create something that is uniquely your own) until you imitate.  This is true in art, this is true in cookery - thus, grandma's biscuit recipe.  It is true for learning how to walk, talk, and use a spoon.  The necessity of imitation is hard-wired into all sentient creatures.

Be careful, therefore, who and what you imitate.  Bluebirds make strange crows.

There are 3 criteria that should be applied, when choosing who you imitate:

1.  Their outcome needs to be that which you want to see manifested in your own life.

2.  They need to be outspoken leaders.  (If they haven't said anything to you that ruffled your feathers, you will not make rapid shifts or big progress imitating their tactful timidity.)

3.  They need to be "YOURS".  

They need to be, to some degree, physically accessible to you.  "Remember YOUR leaders."

And while you are remembering, remember this:  If your leader carefully guards his or her time, that does not make them inaccessible.  That makes them productive, which makes them worth imitating.

We "remember" - we think about, sometimes even obsess over, and chase down -  remote teachers. Everyone wants Bill Johnson for their pastor.  (Good luck with that...I like him too, but he wouldn't have lunch with me if I asked him, not even next YEAR.  He probably would not personally answer an email from me.)

We imitate the faith of a YouTube prophet, and wonder why we don't see the personal growth we long to see.  We wonder why our lives always feel like two steps forward, three back.

Two steps forward, three back is what happens without the impartation that comes with the imitation of what is yours.

"Think about the impact of their lives...".  I challenge you to do something I bet you have never done before:  spend a few minutes each week, thinking about the impact of the life of YOUR leader.  I guarantee he or she has been up to way more than you know about, and their impact goes farther and deeper than you have actively considered.

Don't let familiarity rob you of yet another season of advancement!  You cannot make headway, you will not expand, by imitating the Internet Famous, or seeking the stamp of approval of a professional credentialist.

It never ceases to amaze me and stump my logic, the way people will set out on an absolute tangent, pouring their time talent and treasure into imitating someone they met six months ago, or imitating someone who wants to sell them an idea or a product or a book.  If the person you are imitating, profits directly from your interest in them, then frankly all you are is a feather in their cap.

You can keep imitating that awesome, remote person.  I'm not the boss of you.  But.  Be prepared to risk making huge the wrong direction!  And that is worse than no progress, because that pseudo progress will deceive the daylight out of you.

You need to reaquaint yourself with that seemingly ordinary man or woman who tells it like it is, and who clearly is "yours".  You know who they are - they are the ones you've been attempting to avoid, while you've been trying to get the attention of that cool, charismatic crow in Nebraska.  They are the ones who lead, irrespective of your criticism or reward.

I'm all about my book learning.  Some of my best mentors have taught me from their graves, through their books.  But something was always missing.  Always.  This is my confession.

See...I've never made the sort of progress from a book, that I've made from imitating the faith of someone who God placed very physically and directly in my life.  Someone who spoke the word of the Lord into my situation.  Someone who I can watch her do her life.

Proximity does matter.  God has localized this whole process, because that's how He wanted it done.

I believe with my whole heart, if you yield to God's plan of imitating what is YOURS, you will see a lot of authentic progress, and a heavy load will lift from off your spirit...

you will...

feel light...

as a feather.

3 Steps To Mid-Life Self-Care

I've studied mid-life issues for over a decade, now.  I've read so many great books, I have lost count.  If it is true that the status of "master" or "expert" is achieved after 10,000 hours of devoted practice and study...then, it is time for me to own the title of reluctant expert.  Not a medical expert, mind you - just a reluctant expert on things middling.

One thing I know for certain is that our end is designed and defined by how well we navigate our middle.  And the middle is the quitting-place.  All manner of quitting disguised as mid-life course correction happens between the ages of 45 to 55.  The middle is precisely the point where many women (and men) choose change for the sake of change.  The middle is when we are all tempted to reverse or change course on a journey that should be seen through to completion by faith.  The goal is not to alter the destination or abandon the path.

Everything in the middle is more difficult.  And to stay in integrity, to be strong and courageous, to resist idolatry, and refuse selling your soul for security or money or personal peace and affluence feels far harder than it did when you were young and all your prospects in front of you.  In the middle, it is easier to see the doctor, to see the obstacles, to change things up instead of clean things out, to buy new cars and expensive remedies and better clothes instead of investing in friends and faith and contentment.  It is easier to make excuses than it is to create beauty in the life and relationships we already have.

Before you decide to commit to your fear, or pledge yourself to pain so that change for the sake of change seems justified - here are three steps, three principles governing mid-life self-care that I've never heard anyone talk about, but I challenge you to live into:

1.  Rest.  Rest from your own efforts to feel more secure.  Free-fall into everlasting arms, and make the grace of God the great passion of your middle soul.  Read Galatians as if your life depended on it.

2.  Resonate.  To borrow a worn-out, kind of new-agey term, I have to tell you:  heaven has a resonance.  That resonance is faith.  Begin to believe God again, dear one.  Change for the sake of change is not healthy.  But to step out and do something you couldn't do before, for reasons far bigger than your own personal peace, is the healthiest thing you could imagine doing.  Pray in the Spirit.  Sing in the Spirit.  Soak your soul in worship.  Devote yourself to the community of your local church.  Come under healthy leadership and government.  These things will raise your resonance, both instantly and over time, to match heaven's vibration.  You will begin to walk super-naturally as a rule, and chasing natural remedy won't be as necessary.

3.  Respond.  Respond - not to your fears.  Stop designing a life around prevention and fear.  Rather, respond to your creative longings.  Nine times out of ten, those creative longings were placed there by the Masterpiece Maker.  The designer of your unique soul has infused your being with a message that needs proclaiming.  He's made it so that your gifts are the mechanism of proclamation.  He has surrounded you with people who need convincing.  Respond to all these sign-posts, and your midlife journey will take on beautiful texture and significance.