Internal robo-responses

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A running joke started here recently with regard to robo-messages. You know them, the instant message responses on your phone that you send when you can’t answer someone’s call at that moment:

  • Call you back in 15 minutes
  • Can’t talk, text me
  • What’s up?
  • Driving, call you right back
  • In meeting
  • Running late- be there soon
  • Sorry, I’m on a call right now
  • Send me an email

I have two personalized ones on my phone:

  • Homeschool in session, will call back at lunch.
  • In class- teaching

It just occurred to me that it is more distracting and requires more effort to push that message to someone while you’re driving than it would take to just answer the phone. That one is not a good idea. At all.

 

As is often the case when something hits the forefront of my thinking, the running joke has sparked a tip toe through the tulips of random thoughts. Specifically, the things that pop into my head when I get a call or a message from people in particular:

  • Oh, gosh. What’s wrong now?
  • She always makes me laugh
  • Hope my brother’s daily verse is a good one (as if there is a BAD Bible verse)
  • Please Lord, don’t let them have been in an accident
  • I do NOT feel like hearing about her drama of the week.
  • Whatever else this might be, it won’t be boring…
  • She always encourages me
  • Let me get prayed up before I call back.

In other words, I have a real problem with attaching assumptions to people and while I’m blessed that my internal robo message is as likely to be good or neutral as it is bad, I should work on jumping to conclusions.

There have been times when I was dead wrong.

Tell the truth. You have robo-thoughts/messages too. I know you do.

 

Thinking about what we think about

That might sound redundant, but it really isn’t. One of the reason I was so animated by the post I reblogged on Saturday is because I read it on the heels of similar thoughts. As is often the case, the spark which ignited this particular train of thoughts started with something my Benevolent Dictator said.

We were riding alone in the car recently, and it was quiet. It’s rather nice to be able to spend time alone without feeling a need to fill the blank space with noise and words just so that one or the other of us can feel *okay*. Sometimes it’s nice to just think. As we approached a red light the man said to me, rather out of the blue (with a disarming smile), “We have had a good life.” I could only agree, and added that we’ve also mostly had a good time, even when things were hard. And the silence returned.

I was not only encouraged but struck and blessed by this living example of one of my favorite verses of Scripture offered as I am working and praying diligently to master my own thoughts. Winnowing my thoughts, if you will. There are at least a few things my man could have used that time as opportunity to correct, admonish, or guide me about  doing them better. Instead he was considering how blessed we are. I wonder how often Christians actually think about what we think about.

Our culture has trained us to think of ourselves primarily in terms of what we do. How much we do, how well we do it, how much better we do it than others. Christian culture does this as well, but we’re mostly conditioned to think in terms of what we don’t do. You know, the *big sins*. Christians don’t steal, cheat, commit adultery, fornicate, drink (I grew up Baptist), dance (I grew up Baptist), or listen to worldly music (I grew up Baptist). I wanted to include lying, but it’s one of those things that get little more than lip service. I think my point is clear either way. To the extent that we meet the requirements of our “good Christians don’t do checklist”, we feel free to rest on our self-righteous laurels.

We give short shrift, however, to things we do that are equally sinful and even more damaging, because they are things which are harder for those on the outside looking in to see and identify. Rather than feeling compassion towards sinner and the struggling we take the position of the Pharisee, smug in our righteousness, good health, prosperity, and comfort, never really stopping to consider what these kinds of thoughts reveal about us, our lack of gratitude and our misunderstanding of grace.

Every moment we spend judging, criticizing, or comparing is a moment we are not spending focusing on the noble, beautiful or true. Crouching criticisms, comparisons and judgements in religious sounding jargon doesn’t change the what they are. Lipstick on pigs, and all that good stuff.

The question of course becomes, “How do we winnow our thoughts, training them and directing them into the place where they produce positive action rather than passive, smug self-satisfaction?”

I’m still working that one out in my own heart, but I wonder if we will ever reach a place where we commiserate and bond over the good, beautiful things rather than the bad*? It seems like a tall order which, at least for me, weighs on the heart a little.

*I have some thoughts about this in the lives of women in particular, but it will take some time to work them out enough to articulate well.

 

 

Winnowing Your Thoughts

Reblogging this because it- amazingly!- it dovetails quite well with something I was hoping to write Monday, but may not have time to do justice. It occurs to me how little attention we pay to the ways we think and the unseen impact our thoughts have on our health, vitality, and ability to extend grace to others.

Annasach

You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random, everything irrelevant. And certainly everything self-important or malicious. You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says, “What are your thinking about?” you can respond at once (and truthfully) that you are thinking this or thinking that.

-Marcus Aurelius

Of course, I have written already that it matters what you fill your mind with, but this appeared on one of my feeds and I just had to grab it. The untrained mind will produce an untrained life. Mind training is not easy and probably never perfected, at least for just about everyone, but the benefits are still significant.

The physical act of truly tidying – i.e. discarding first what is unnecessary and burdensome – mirrors the philosopher’s thought quoted above. In fact, I see little difference between the two. They…

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Tending my own garden curbs the desire to tend others’.

I’ve thought a great deal about our culture’s tendency to formalize things which best happen organically. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be intentional about the way we live, nor that formalization has no purpose (the Bible clearly references the need for corporate worship, for instance). However in the absence of familial and social infrastructures, we seem to have determined that the only way to insure certain things are done is to do them in a formal capacity.

Play dates. Bible studies.  Marriage conferences. Mommy and me classes.Titus 2 mentoring blogs, books and websites. Exercise classes. I could probably list at least twenty more with very little mental exertion, but I think you follow. I am not saying that these things in and of themselves are bad things. I do some of them myself as this is the postmodern way of life. Without them, many of us would never connect with anyone. However the proliferation of formal connections at the expense of organic connections is bad, especially since they don’t seem to be doing much to make life better on the main.

They speak to our inability or unwillingness to do the work required to achieve the ends these things are designed to produce: greater community, real and deep friendships, and most important, the accountability needed to motivate us to do the right things as we are inspired by these connections. Formalization makes it easier to disconnect from people. Heart connections don’t allow this as easily because when we love someone or something, it’s harder to drop them and walk off. Our practice today is to be just close enough for social connections but distant enough to be unencumbered.

These equidistant relations makes it easy for us to feign duty to others -by way of self-proclaimed authority- with little knowledge or appreciation of the fallout. It is this danger which gives me pause about being so quick to offer prescriptions for someone else’s life. Bible quotes sans relationship can give the erroneous impression that I got my spit together through stellar obedience when in reality my life is what it is due to heaping amounts of Grace, no small amount of good fortune, and the love and protection of excellent men. It’s easier to offer my thoughts when asked,  be succinct, and get back to minding my own affairs unless I’m dealing with people who know me well enough to filter what I say through the lens of knowing me up close and personal. And to whom I am close enough that I don’t disrespect her heart or trials with pat answers.

Despite every earnest attempt to walk out my “mind my own business” approach to life and family, we frequently find ourselves in situations where it feels like I should say something rather than nothing. I am sorely tempted to call every married woman I know and ask, “Please tell me you regularly find yourself in a position to share your philosophy on marriage! This I am told, is NOT normal and I would rather not live in the Twilight Zone if I can help it.” One told me”it must be God” and that’s not what I really want to hear.

Even more puzzling is that these opportunities present with people I barely know or don’t know at all. I pray thus: “Lord, when these things happen, give me the words to say that are most appropriate and will bear the most fruit.”

Benevolent Dictator takes these things, as he does most things, in stride but  I find my apprehension rising when they occur. I frequently wonder, “What is is about us in particular, that people feel comfortable approaching us with such statements and questions, even in jest?” Case in point:

We are doing some decorative updates to our home since we haven’t done that in a while. We went to one of the big box stores over the weekend to buy paint. I’ll spare you the back story but when I am picking out paints it is very helpful to have the Dictator around. I tend to look at the big picture and miss the details. He sees the details in relation to the big picture. To that end, he was asking me (ever so politely) to consider certain aspects of our house, walls, lighting, etc. as I was choosing the color.

We were having a good time, laughing with the paint guy about something, as my husband is usually having a good time no matter what he’s doing.  Another couple, about a decade older than us, walked by. The wife stopped and told my husband, “No matter what she chooses, just tell her she’s right and everything will be fine.” Her husband concurred in a less jovial manner, to which my husband laughed and replied, “We don’t really do it that way but thanks.” That should have been it.

But the other husband continued,  adding that as my husband gets older (he seemed to think we were younger than we are), he’ll find out this is “how the game is played”. [Sigh.] “Nah, we don’t play that game”, my husband replied. [omg what is happening here!!??] The man persisted, “You may say you don’t play it, but you play it.” [sigh]  I should say something.

Finally, I said, “No, we’ve been married a long time and we really don’t do it like that. I don’t need that kind of pressure in my life, to always be right? I gladly let him have it.”

The wife looked as if she had heard something revolutionary and you could almost see the light bulb come on. The whole thing lasted about a minute, and unless life causes our paths to cross, I will probably never see that woman again, but I know I unwittingly planted a seed that will hopefully grow into food for thought. Which brings me to the point of this winding road of commentary.

I contemplate what it is I’m doing here in this space, what the end game is. I am loathe to declare it a teaching tool. I feel deeply that mentoring is best done in the flesh and I invite anyone who reads here to try and make that your reality. When I sit down or stand at my counter top and start typing, I am more interested in a conversation with other people (particularly women) of like faith about myriad thoughts that I may not get to hash out with a real life friend over coffee for two weeks or a month.

I want my girls to be able to come back here and contemplate the lessons we’ve gone over together and the conversations we’ve had that have touched on all of those subjects at some point.  To the extent that something I jot down here helps someone figure out some tangle of thoughts and emotions they are dealing with, I am eternally grateful. But these are seeds of thought, not pills offered as prescription.

It would be all super spiritual of me use a Bible quote if I were going to end with a quote at all, but I like this one, which I think applies to the faith journey as much as any other:

Perhaps the secret to living well is not in having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.

In honor of Mother’s Day…

… Some cool mom stuff I have encountered in recent days.

  • A large group of mothers of infants in a local park working with a trainer while their babies sat in strollers. One mother with a particularly fussy baby calmed him by holding him in her arms while she did squats.
  • A mother who, when she saw that her daughter has a particular interest in studying foreign languages, loosened some of her control of their homeschool day and allowed her to explore them.
  • A mother who responded brilliantly when her teenaged daughter complained about her flat butt: “You have a perfectly shaped white girl butt!” I love that she encouraged her to embrace who she is.
  • The mom who takes the time to help out mothers with young children even though she has minor children of her own still at home.

I tend heavily towards improvement and accountability in American women, because Western women are so poorly represented as a whole.

I do know, however, that there are some wonderful wives and mothers out there doing their best to get it right. If you’re a mother reading this post, I commend you for your labors of love.

As for me, I have a newly minted 9-year-old whose requested birthday dinner is not pizza or macaroni and cheese. Oh no!

She wants an “Asian feast” consisting of Mongolian beef, orange chicken, vegetarian bibimbap,  noodles, egg rolls*, and cake decorations representative of the theme.

So, I’d better get back to it.

Happy Mother’s Day, ladies.

* Egg rolls are store bought.