My life is a circus……..

The classic Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus gave its last performance last month. How sad! But I am here to tell you that the three-ring circus is alive and well, at least in my life…….

tightrope

The first ring of my three-ring circus is my role as a tightrope walker. The pressures of living as a baby-boomer, sandwich generation, healthcare professional and aspiring writer keep me precariously balanced. Add to that the pressure of longing to be a Proverbs 31 woman who could care for and provide for her family with the ultimate devotion and skill while serving the Lord and her community selflessly. She lived with a higher purpose, leaving a legacy for her family. She was a master at cultivating family relationships and friendships, old and new, with the ultimate hospitality. And she was to do it all in a 24/7 time frame! Do you think that life is even possible? I find myself constantly longer to be better, accomplish more, live my writing dream. Having impossible goals is not fun! It sets one up for a chronic sense of failure. Even though I know I do accomplish so much, it seems there is always more to be done. My expectations of self set me up to feel inadequate, even as I know that I am doing the best I can. I long to be like a woman of the “greatest generation” who could do so much with so little, for whom hard work was the essence of life. And I have heroes like Mrs. Mildred Sterling, who until just a few years ago was teaching Sunday School as she approached the age of 100 years. Or Mrs. Mary Formby, an extraordinary soul who excelled in intellect, hospitality, grace, and faith. I only hope that at the end of my life I, too, will be able to say as Paul did (and, as Mrs. Formby surely could and as Mrs. Sterling will) :

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  2 Timothy 4:7 (NKJV)

th90Z32R6O kissing the enemy

The second ring of this circus is the world we live in, kissing danger (kissing the enemy?) every day. Terror attacks across the globe are common. There seems to be a pervasive streak of personal violence across our land, with daily reports of murders across our communities. And then there is the overarching danger associated with foreign powers trying to disrupt our democracy coupled with the “vanishing American adult” mentality (see Ben Sasse’s book by the same name) that has resulted in the election of a president who has never before served in private office, a president who values his own opinion above all others, a president who makes his own rules, and a president who disregards the time-honored protocols of our justice system, proven relationships with our allies, and simple human decency and honesty. His promise to “drain the swamp” is resulting in the formation of a more ominous swamp fueled by ego, nepotism, disregard for human rights and emotions, and a corporate executive, as opposed to statesman, mentality. The system of checks and balances as envisioned by the founding fathers is no longer checking or balancing power.  Political party lines, instead of ethical and moral truths, have become the guiding force in our nation’s capital. There is widespread lack of understanding of basic civic principles and, therefore, a tendency for many across our nation to apathetically ignore or excuse what is happening in the nation’s capital. Ring #2 multiplies the stresses of ring #1 exponentially. My only hope is to trust that God is in control, and that His plan will prevail.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8-9 NKJV)

thWVWH0IIN elephants

Ring # 3 is perhaps the most tragic. For I am seeing in evangelical circles a tendency toward judging others without remembering that we are all sinners, saved only by the grace of a loving God. In the name of Christianity, believers accept the circus in ring #2 as a demonstration of conservative values at work. I am having a crisis of faith. It is not a crisis of whether or not I believe in God. It is not crisis of doubting my salvation. It is a crisis of not understanding how we can call ourselves Christians while demonstrating and endorsing a judgmental and intolerant mentality. It is a crisis of wondering how God’s family can expect everyone to be alike–well-trained Christians who, unprotesting, “go with the flow” instead of demonstrating truly unconditional love for all God’s children, instead of hating the sin, not the sinner, and instead of recognizing the inherent personal rights this country was founded upon. I resist being the well-trained elephant sitting in the pew, obediently accepting everything said and done, silent about my own convictions.  I don’t want to be a well-trained, docile Christian, who never rocks the boat. Maybe sometimes the boat needs to be rocked. I want to be a thoughtful, kind, loving, and faithful member of God’s family, unafraid to recognize, and, if indicated, speak, the truth. Remember, Jesus said:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Matthew 7:1-2 (NKJV)

AND, when questioned about how to punish an adulterous woman,

…..“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” John 8:7c (NKJV)

I, for one, am not without sin. But I am troubled and concerned and tired of the circus. I pray for a change of heart in the United States of America. I pray to turning back, not only to God, but to the fundamental truths of democracy upon which this nation was founded and to ethical and moral behavior. The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus may have closed. Let us not let democracy be the next casualty.

 

A cleansing breath, please………

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Lately a repetitive refrain has been playing in my mind–“The world is going too fast! Slow it down! Or, maybe, let me off?”

It’s strange the way God uses the little book above to interrupt my frenzied busyness. After a particularly busy weekend (which is supposed to be a time to rest, correct? Or did I make that up?) I came across the perfect quote. It goes like this:

If you could once make up your mind in the fear of God never to undertake more work of any sort than you can carry on calmly, quietly, and without hurry or flurry, you would find this simple commonsense rule doing for you what no prayers or tears could ever accomplish. The instant you feel yourself growing nervous and like one out of breath, you should stop and take a breath.

(Elizabeth Prentiss as quoted in Mary Tileston’s compilation titled Daily Strength for Daily Needs, copyright 1997, Whitaker House Publishers)

I have a dear friend who often remarks, “Cleansing breath”, when we are faced with technical or interpersonal difficulties at work. The comment used to just remind me of Lamaze childbirth exercises! However, wouldn’t it be lovely if the simple act of taking a “cleansing breath” became our reminder of the true breath of life, God’s spirit dwelling in us? And, how lovely would it be when that reminder reframed our attitudes from frustrated, helpless, hopeless, overwhelmed, and angry to flexible, capable, hopeful, in control, and serene?

Now, granted, I suspect Ms Prentiss lived in a time a little slower than ours. I am almost certain she was NOT a nurse! However, there is to be considered the reality that we 21st century Americans are encouraged to overcommit and use the word no with great reluctance. We do want to be considered team players and good citizens and superhuman in every facet of daily life. I was gratified to find Ms Prentiss’ words giving me permission to be judicious in my commitments.

So, dear readers, the next time you feel at the end of your rope, tie a knot, hang on, and, just, Breathe!!

Kathy Parish headshots 2014 (1 of 6)

Caught in the panini press of life…….

We have all heard the phrase, “the sandwich generation”, a description of baby boomer life in which we are sandwiched between the needs of aging parents and growing children. I’m here to say that my sandwich is a Dagwood variety (remember the comic strip?), not only composed of layer upon layer of stressors, but, true to 21st century culture, squeezed and heated in the Panini press of life! You all know the feeling, right? Trying to write, make a living at the “real” job, be a good mother, daughter, Nana, Aunt Kat, in-law, cousin, etc., etc. And, of course, trying to be at least a modestly good wife. Oh, and there are the friendships that are so sadly neglected because there just seems to be not enough time (or energy) to go around. And Facebook. And what about Twitter–I don’t even understand that whole scene yet. And LinkedIn ……….. I am doomed!

Well, of course I am not really doomed. I just feel that way sometimes. I’m trying to understand why. Reason one: An obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic nature (although I am slipping away from the latter as evidenced by the dust on this desk as I write). Reason two: Failure to cultivate a heart of gratitude by recognizing and remembering my blessings and giving thanks on a regular basis. Reason three: Impatience (you know the feeling, wanting it all now–forever seeking a sense of completion and control with the mistaken perception that it would come if the house were clean, laundry done, pantry stocked, bills paid, blog faithfully posted to–you get the drift.)

I am reminding myself right now that that Panini press is of my own doing. Sure, life is full of stress. That’s how we know we’re still alive, a friend of mine often says. But I don’t need to be in control because someone higher and better and wiser than I is. Remember Jeremiah 29:11? “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” That verse should turn off the heat and release the pressure of that Panini press!

So, right now, I lay the imperfection of my obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic, impatient, ungrateful nature at your feet, Lord. And I prayerfully ask for your forgiveness for taking the remarkable blessings of this life for granted. I thank you for your love, grace and mercy; for faith, family, friends, work, and the gift of self-expression through the written word. May it always be done for your glory. Amen.

Kathy Parish headshots 2014 (1 of 6)