A Mink in My Backyard

No really!

There is a MINK IN MY BACKYARD! He (or she–I haven’t gotten that close so I can’t say for sure) lives along the bank of the creek that runs past our backyard.  I first noticed the mink a couple of years ago–a dark brown, sleek weasel-like creature running along the edge of the creek.

This winter I have seen it half a dozen times. Once I even saw the little critter swimming under the ice that had formed on the creek.  I just think that’s so amazing–having a mink in my backyard that I don’t have to feed or care for or do anything for–other than catch a glimpse and enjoy.

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We live in wondrous world.

A world that God has filled with wondrous things and wondrous sights and wondrous creatures and wondrous people.  Every day we have the opportunity to participate in this amazing, crazy, beautiful creation.

What’s in your backyard? What do you see (or who do you see) when you look out your window? There may not be a mink, but if you look hard enough, I know you will discover some really cool stuff!

American Mink” by PdreijndersOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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A Failure at Prayer

by Dan

Do you ever feel like you are a failure at prayer? I sure do.

Here is how many of my prayers go: “O Lord, um, well, you know a lot is going on right now. I am feeling kind of….did I turn off the oven?…I’m sure I did…Didn’t I?…O sorry, where was IO, right…I am feeling kind of…wait, eggs, that’s what I need to remember to get today…eggs, eggs, eggs…don’t forget…eggs...so, I’m feeling kind of…maybe I should write that down, I always forget things when I don’t write them downno, I’ll remember…so again…I’m feeling kind of…is my neighbor really mowing his lawn now? At this hour? Really? How can anyone concentrateack! I’m praying…OK…so God, I’m feeling kind of…kind of…preoccupied.”

Sound familiar? A lot of us have spiritual ADD.  We want to talk with God, we want to listen to God, but there is so much going on in our heads that we have trouble clearing our minds and having what we consider a prayerful time. And if you are like me, in such times you can feel like a prayer failure.

At Living Waters we are learning that this is no “right” way to pray; indeed, there are many ways to pray and some of them will fit us better than others.

Sometimes prayer can be quiet and calm and meditative. But there are prayers that involve movement and walking. There are prayers that involve looking at something (a picture or an icon). There are prayers that use music or other sounds.  It’s all a matter of finding what works for you.

The other day I was talking with a friend who has been a Christian all her life. She confessed that she too has spiritual ADD. And for much of her life she felt bad about this, even inferior compared to other believers.  But over the past number of years, she has learned that this is who she is; this is how God created her.  And so instead of fighting it and feeling bad, she has embraced this about herself and has found ways to grow spiritually that fit her personality and her style.  Because of that shift, her spiritual life has become much richer.

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No one is a failure at prayer.

It’s just a matter of realizing who you are and finding a style of prayer that works for you.

This Time It’s Personal

Lord's Prayer

by Dan

In our small group gathering this past Sunday, we considered the Lord’s Prayer.  This is a prayer that many people in the group have said thousands of  times in their lives and for others it is a relatively new prayer–that’s one of the things I love about Living Waters, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey, you have a place in the community!

As we looked at the different lines of the prayer, we considered how these can and do relate to our own experiences and to our own lives.  At the end of our time together, we shared what had struck us as we worked through the prayer.  One of the participants said, “I have known this prayer all my life, but for the first time, it feels personal.”

Ancient prayers that capture who we are, that embrace us, that speak to us, that speak for us.  That’s what we’re up to at Living Waters.

Volunteer to Live Longer!

by Linda
It turns out that helping others is good for the body as well as the soul! Researchers are finding that helping others, whether through “random acts of kindness” or regular volunteering, not only gives us a sense of well-being and optimism (called the “helpers high”), but also benefits us physically with significantly lower death rates – 44% lower in one study! (Journal of Health Psychology) A study done by the Corporation for National Service found that states with the highest level of volunteerism also have the lowest rates of heart disease.

Incorporating small ways to help others in our daily life brings health to our whole being and to the community in which we live. Compliment a stranger, write an encouraging post-it for a co-worker, leave flowers for a neighbor, buy a bag of groceries for a local pantry, hold the door for somene, smile!

What small way can you extend life this week?!

Enemy Territory

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I have a friend who frequently says,  “When I am in my own head,  I am in enemy territory. ”

There are many moments in my life when this is more true than I would like. On the racquetball court, if the ball has a nice,  lazy bounce and I have plenty of time to check out where my opponent is,  have plenty to time to think about the perfect placement and the precise force needed to hit a winner,  I will invariably hit a poor shot.  Why?  I am too much in my own head.

The same is true in other places in my life: I have a tendency to overthink,  to overanalyze,  to get in my own way as I live my life.  Enemy territory,  indeed!

What to do?  How do we get out of ourselves and live more in the present and more fully?  I have found four important ways to do this:

1. Spend time outdoors.   Nature is endlessly fascinating and it always fills me with wonder and gives me new perspective.

2. Read a book or watch a movie.  There’s nothing like getting absorbed in someone else’s head to get out of your own!

3. Perform an act of service.   Sometimes this means we spend a chunk of time helping others,  but even a small act of kindness (such as helping someone load their groceries in the car  or holding a door for someone) can get us out of our rut.

4. Laugh.  Laughter reduces stress,  helps us feel good,  and enables us to take ourselves less seriously.   I know it is sometimes hard to find something to laugh at,  so if you need something now,  remember this: when you are in your own head,  you are in enemy territory!

What is Your Superpower?

superhero

by Dan

My grandmother was a superhero.  At least that’s what my best friend thought when we were seven.  And what superpower did my grandmother possess that caused her to loom so large in the imagination of my friend?  She could bring saltine crackers back from the dead.

One day my friend and I were scrounging around for a snack.  We found an opened box of saltines and each bit into one.  Not good! They were stale.  My grandmother overheard us.  “Give me those crackers and let’s see what we can do,” she said. She turned on the oven, placed the stale crackers on a cookie sheet and popped them in.  A few minutes later hot, crispy crackers emerged.  My friend couldn’t believe such a thing could happen.  And for years he talked about what my grandmother had done.

As it turns out, we all have superpowers.

Not x-ray vision and the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but the ability to bring delight to others, to spread joy, and to make life a little better for those around us.  Some of these superpowers are called kindness, ingenuity, compassion, generosity, forgiveness, hospitality, being a good friend.  These superpowers, while seemingly small, have the capacity to change the world.

What is your superpower?

The Power of Together

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by Dan

A few years ago, my son and I were on a flight together from St.  Louis to San Jose,  CA with a change of planes in Denver.  As we approached Denver we could see storm clouds up ahead.   The pilot announced our final descent and we made a bumpy but otherwise uneventful landing.   I knew that the Denver airport was enormous,  so I was surprised when the terminal looked so small.   I was even more surprised when we didn’t pull up to a jetway,  but instead parked on an open section of pavement like some sort of quarantined plane in an action adventure movie.   Finally the pilot explained: due to bad weather in Denver we were put in a holding pattern.   But the plane was low on fuel so we diverted to Colorado Springs  which sadly didn’t have facilities for this particular airline so it took extra time to arrange for fuel.   There was no telling how long we would sit there.   Everyone on the plane started to grumble as we often do when our travel plans go awry. My son was particularly worried,  this being his first time stuck on a plane for an unspecified amount of time. The anxious energy of the people around us only heightened our own.

Then an interesting thing happened.   Someone with a smart phone announced the score of Cardinals’ game.   People cheered for the home team and then started to talk about the Cardinals’ season.   Someone had snacks and offered them to those around him.   Anxiety morphed into camaraderie.  The time passed quickly and before we knew it,  we were on our way to Denver.

This is the power of together.   It provides us space to let go of our worries and gives us a new perspective. This is what Living Waters is all about–being together,  finding camaraderie so we can better navigate the unexpected delays and the change of plans in our lives.