Three Ways to Choose Life When You’re “Stuck”

This week has taken on the theme of “stuckness” so I thought I’d continue it on this One Word Friday.  

When we’re stuck, “LIFE” often seems to be a choice hiding like Waldo at a convention of clowns.  It requires determination and intention.

Again, this is not a magic formula, but here are three things I do to try to “choose life” when I’m stuck:

1.  Affirm the LIFE in others.  Write notes of encouragement and blessing, noting the value you see in others.

2.  Pray LIFE for others.  Take time to lift up others who are struggling in challenging circumstances.

3.  Practice gratitude for the LIFE around you.  I love the theory that I just read in Rhoda Janzen’s memoir, “Menonite Meets Mr. Right”.  She tells of a jar of water representing discontentment being displaced as we drop in rocks of gratitude.  The waters of discontent are forced out by the rocks of thankfulness.

What are some ways you choose life when you’re feeling stuck?  Consider posting in the comments below!

Here are just a few of the things I’m grateful for today.  I wish there was a way to waft the aroma of barbecue and lilacs and clover and to record the squeals of the kids on my block playing in their wading pool!

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Two Truths and A Lie

Let me just start by admitting I can be a major cranky pants baby.  I can whine about my bad hair, long lines, and limitations.  Like this stupid foot injury that has kept me from running.  And the whole Polar Vortex conspiracy against Minnesota which has made doing anything outside (my spiritual pathway) virtually impossible because by the time you get all the layers on that you need to survive in minus a bazillion, you have to go to the bathroom and so it takes you all day to get in a walk around the lake and you don’t get all the other stuff done you’re supposed to do.

However, with this One-Word-Choose-Life-thing I’m trying not to be (a cranky pants baby, that is).  Which has led me back again and again to two truths and a lie:

1.  No matter what, no matter when, no matter where, we have choices.

Where do you feel stuck in cranky pants baby mode?  Right now, think…What choices of attitude, action, or reaction do you have that would mean choosing life in the situation that comes to mind?

I can’t run, for right now (limitation), but I can bike (choice).  I can’t bike outside (limitation), but I can bike inside on a stationary bike (choice).

I hate being inside, so I could whine and resist, but I’m blessed to have a facility I can use to exercise so instead I’m choosing to thank God for that (granted, sometimes through gritted teeth!).

2.  Everything counts.  Everything.  Something is always better than nothing.  You can’t do all of the things, but you can do something.  What is it in your situation?

Friday I pushed.  I went to the gym (that I hate), and biked 12 miles hard and fast (for me, at least).  I felt great.  I felt proud of myself.  I felt like I had triumphed over the Polar Vortex conspiracy and the foot demon conspiracy and all of the bad things in the world.

Saturday I was back.  I pushed again and biked hard, but only did 6 miles.  I could think, “LOSER!”, but instead I chose to say, “Everything is something.”  I needed to focus on the small ways I had chosen life.

The LIE?  “It’s all or nothing.”  The perfect ten mile run in 70 degree weather that feels like floating on air with a hot guy holding an umbrella drink at the end… or NOTHING.

You can choose to turn something off, do something new, make a phone call, thank someone, say “no”, say “yes”, listen…And every little thing you do to choose life counts.  Celebrate that!

What’s the one something you can do today to choose life that isn’t everything, but still counts?  Is it words? Attitude?  Actions?


What do you do When it’s April in Minnesota?

As I write this it is April 15th and I am sitting in Starbucks and it is snowing outside.


I’m convinced Hell isn’t hot and fiery.  It’s Minnesota in April when it is cold, dull steel gray and snowing. Still.

Eternally (it would seem).

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Looking at the World Through a Different Lens

Happy day-after-Thanksgiving in the U.S.!  Whether you’re braving the crowds to shop today, or watching football games still in an after-turkey stupor, or in another part of the world where it’s not the “day-after-Thanksgiving” I hope you enjoy this video my friend Devon shared with me.

Out of Control and Canceling my Day

The other day I wanted to throw something.  Or have a pity party that would involve eating lots of Patticake (from YUM!) with Cookie Dough ice cream.

And I couldn’t figure out why!

Until the late afternoon when it hit me.  I was cranky because I felt out of control.

Can you relate?  Maybe just a little bit?

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Being Stuck and Something You can Count On

Yesterday I was trapped in an elevator.  For a long time.  All by myself.  And firemen had to rescue me.

Any amount of time feels long when you’re stuck.

After my initial panic… I saw a button that said HELP!  I pushed it.

A nice lady (probably talking to me from India) answered and said she was with the elevator company.  In what seemed like something from Candid Camera, she instructed me first to hold down one button for thirty seconds, then push every single button I could see, and then push the alarm bell button every thirty seconds.

I did.

Nothing happened.

I fully expected her to tell me to jump up and down next.

The nice lady, who I still think was in India, kept asking me if I was breathing ok which made me begin to think perhaps I wasn’t.

She told me she was going to have to hang up on me to call some other people – 911 among others – and was that OK ?  Hmmm… Do I have other options?

After I realized how stuck and helpless I was and that my cell phone didn’t work and that the walls were starting to close in, I gave myself a little pep talk and started thinking about other things…

This is like that scene in “You’ve Got Mail!”  They all talk about what they’ll do differently IF they ever get out of the elevator.  What will I do if I get out?  Why am I thinking IF?

Why couldn’t I have other people in here to keep me company and have a little stuck-elevator-party with?

What if they tell me I have to put my beach towel over my head and crouch in the corner so they can blow the door off with explosives?  (Clearly I’ve seen too many episodes of 24)

Is this a metaphor for being stuck in life?  Who was “stuck” in the Bible…?  David!  After he’s anointed and before he’s king and Saul’s all jealous crazy.  Moses!  In the wilderness!  Noah on the ark!  Joseph, Paul, John the Baptist in jail!  Is there anyone in the Bible who wasn’t stuck at some point???

God what do you want to say to me? “Take the STAIRS next time!”?

I wonder if the firemen will be cute and how disappointed will they be that it’s little ol’ me and not my daughters?

Eventually I started singing softly “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.”  I have no idea why.

About 45 minutes later, after a lot of noise, but no explosives, the doors to the elevator were slowly pried open and there stood two firemen in full gear with the overall/boot deals and hats on, axes in hand staring at me.  Yes they were “hot”, and yes it was embarrassing.

Whether it’s getting stuck alone in your flip flops in an elevator, or getting stuck in a season of life, my take away is:

  • Keep your sense of humor
  • assess the situation
  • do what you can
  • pray
  • and wait.  For God (and/or the cute firemen) to get you unstuck.

And mostly, remember what you can count on.

The sun’s gonna rise, the sun’s gonna set and God is still going to be God.

Where are you feeling stuck?  What’s an adventure you’ve had where you’ve been able to laugh along with God?

Wile E. Coyote and Fixing January

If you’re on a New Year high, victory dancing your way through January with the Rocky theme song playing in the background, high-fiving your co-workers as you check off New Year’s resolutions left and right, and trying to hide the corner of your Superman cape under your street clothes, this post is not for you.  Stop reading now.

I do think there are people who fit the above description.  And right now, in gloomy Minnesota where there is still only gray and soot and no snow, I really envy you.  But I also think that for many people there is a trajectory up and to the right from October through January 1st, and then…It gets ugly.

It goes like this:

September – “bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils”, the smell of woodsmoke and new text books

October – Autumnal pumpkinny delight, a cornicopia of color, cute kids in cowboy costumes and caramel corn (for Pete’s sake!)

November – Over the river and through the woods Americana… Family football, Thanksgiving, and turkey sandwiches

December – Anticipation and Celebration.  Twinkle lights and Jesus.  Need I say more?

January 1st – Parties, broom ball, resolutions and new beginnings

But then like Wile E. Coyote, being chased by Road Runner, we scamper lickety split straight off the cliff into thin air.  We hang there, the first week of January, look over our shoulder to the firm ground of December, and proceed to plummet into the abyss that is 2012.

Reality sets in.  You realize you actually have to DO something if you want to accomplish the resolutions you optimistically committed to and there’s an interminable winter ahead where a 3 hour football game at the end of the month is about the only mildly bright spot til…well, til Mother’s Day if you live in Minnesota.  It’s all you can do to limp along.

All that to say I’ve been a cranky pants and I’ve been trying figure out what spiritual practices might help me be more Jesusy in January (and the following 3 months if I’m honest).  I have a couple ideas but I’d be delighted to hear yours too.

My first idea is to switch the order of holidays.  October, November and December are hogging all the best holidays and what is January left with?  MLK’s birthday??  I say we move Thanksgiving to January.

Not exactly.  But kind of.  I remember hearing about a couple who was having marriage trouble and went to a counselor.  He told them to go home and all he wanted them to do was affirm 10 things about the other every day for a month.  Then come back.

“Thank you for ….”  “I like the way you…”

The couple did it, came back and had fallen in love all over again.  Problem solved. (Oh that all marital issues were that easy, eh?)

When I was teaching school we called that “self-fulfilling prophecy.”  Tell a kid enough times that he’s responsible and he’ll rise to your expectations and be responsible.

So here’s my thinking… January and I have not been on speaking terms exactly, and I’m thinking, what if I (and you, if you want) tried the practice of gratitude.  Infusing our day with as many shout outs of “Thank you!” and “Way to go!” and “Yea God!” as possible.  Has to be genuine, but you know my love of competition so I’m gonna make it a game to see if I can make January seem like November – a month of Thanksgiving.

Today I’m thankful for Katy and Maggie who always make me laugh, a body healthy enough to run this morning, my daily mocha from barista Corey, a husband who’s my favorite person in the world, and new friends coming for dinner.  What are you thankful for?

How Happy are You?

Recently I heard about a fascinating study that I’ve been thinking a lot about.  Researchers asked a group of singles two questions.  The first time, this is what they asked (on a scale of 1-10):

Question #1 How happy are you?

Question # 2 How many dates have you had in the past month?

They found a weak correlation between how happy the responders felt and how many dates they had had recently.

BUT THEN they SWITCHED  the order of the questions:

1.  How many dates have you had in the past month?

2.  How happy are you?

Tricky.                                                                                                                                             And you know what they found?  All of a sudden there was a stronger correlation between dating and happiness.  Those who hadn’t had as many dates believed they were less happy.  Because they had been asked the dating question first, that’s what they were focusing on.  Researchers called this phenomenon, “focusing illusion”.

Your focus impacts your reality.

As I was thinking about this, the person who came to mind embodying this truth is my grandmother.  “Grams” was a hero of the faith.  A remarkable woman who focused on God’s faithfulness.  She became legally blind late in life, but instead of focusing on what she wouldn’t be able to do, her first response was, “Well, I have a really nice phone voice.  Maybe I can call anyone who comes to visit our church just to welcome them.”

Then she had another idea.  She and my grandfather felt prompted to give $1,000 to a mission organization caring for the blind, but they had no money.  Really, no money. But instead of focusing on what they didn’t have and couldn’t do they participated in a “run” in which they got sponsors to support them walking once around an olympic track.  Grams had my aunt write down hundreds of phone #’s in black marker, large enough for her to see and she called everyone she knew.  That’s a lot of calls to people who mostly gave $25 or $50.  None more than $100.  When they hit$1,000 they sat down and laughed and cried over what God had done.  The following year they raised more.  The year after that Gramps had died, but Grams persevered, raised $3,300, walking with her great-grandson.  At 92, the last year she walked, Grams raised $4,000.

Grams focused not on what she couldn’t do, but what she could.  Not on the “can’t’s” but on the “cans”.  Her focus determined her reality.

And now she and Gramps are in the “great cloud of witnesses” cheering us on, encouraging us to “run with perseverance” even if we can’t see clearly.

Is there someone who has inspired you by their focus?