Reaching Out for the Adjacent Possible

“Nine chapters, one hundred fifty two pages—how hard can this be?” I thought, as I loaded a well-known Christian classic onto my Kindle.

Slogging through chapter two, reality began to set in.

I had always been an avid reader but felt a need to be more intentional in my reading choices. The holes in my theology needed sturdy patches of truth, and I longed to benefit from the wise words of classic Christian writers.

By the time I reached chapter three, I was seriously discouraged . . . and I never made it past chapter four. Reading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy seemed like a great place to begin, but I soon learned a lot of really hard paragraphs lived between all those inspiring quotes I had swooned over on Instagram.

If I had chosen a book closer to what I’m accustomed to, would I have had more success?

Look for Small, Positive Steps

The concept of ‘The Adjacent Possible‘ has changed the way I approach adding spiritual disciplines and healthful practices to my life.

Adjacent means ‘in close proximity’.
If I am looking for The Adjacent Possible, I stop scanning the horizon for a “eureka” moment and begin looking close by for a small positive step in the right direction.

I’m writing more about this process of discovery over at Living By Design where I’m sharing a guest post today! I do hope you’ll come on over and read the rest.

Photo by Olav Tvedt on Unsplash

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Advertisements

Musings: April 2018

When a committee of five gathered to draft the Declaration of Independence, it was Thomas Jefferson’s pen that framed the colonies’ complaints against England. Then, taking their own quills in hand, his colleagues made 43 changes to the document, and when it was presented to Congress, they made an additional forty-plus edits. Learning that Thomas Jefferson weathered no fewer than 86 alterations to his draft is a lesson to me about the importance of collaborative process. It’s also a warning for me and all writers about the value of holding loosely to our ideas with a mature objectivity so our offerings can be improved upon by editors and others who care enough to give their input.

On the Road

This little historical moment has come courtesy of my visit to the National Archives where a friendly volunteer docent answered our many questions and enhanced our visit with his wealth of knowledge.

With traffic and frequent stops to stretch a St. Bernard’s legs, it’s a good 10-11 hour drive to our friends’ house in Delaware. We were thankful to have that time in the car with our youngest son and his best buddy, and it was fun to listen to an audio book along the way.

Our day trip to D.C. was packed with more sights and sounds than we could properly absorb, but we maintained a pretty relaxed pace for the remainder of our vacation. It’s good to be back home again well-rested, and I was thankful for a week away from Living Our Days so that I could focus on living my days in real life.

On the Blog

Have you ever had the experience of someone calling something out in you that you didn’t know was there? That’s what Kelly Baker did when she invited me to write a post for her site on the topic of time management.  Could I really do that?

AnnieDillardQuote2

Community among believers is so valuable, and I invite you to visit her place to read the post and also to profit from the great writing and spiritual insights you will find in other posts.

Every Day Habits of Holiness

It was also a pleasure to be on the receiving end of hospitality from Sarah Koontz and the Living By Design community where I shared some thoughts on spiritual disciplines in the context of everyday life. Everyday habits of holiness nurture our faith and remind us that God is, indeed, ever present and always available.

The Crash and Burn of a God-sized DreamIt’s been a joy to be a regular contributor to the God-sized Dreams website, and when this time rolled around the theme was “When Your God-sized Dreams Go Wrong.” With a rueful smile, I shared a crash-and-burn ministry fail that happened early on in my ministry, how it has stayed with me, and what I learned in the aftermath. I hope you’ll pop in over there for a quick read!

With all that virtual gadding about (and a vacation in real life!), there wasn’t much time for book reviews, but I was happy to share three very special books in the month of April:

Amy Simpson noticed early on that the tidy claims of Christianity were not lining up with the reality she was living at home. Suffering from the impact of her mother’s serious and debilitating mental illness, her family was certainly not strolling toward heaven with all their needs met and a smile on their faces. In fact, even though they seemed to be “doing the Christian life” according to all the patterns and prerequisites, their family was always just shy of “normal” and the provision they experienced always just short of enough. Unsatisfied with government cheese and feeling deprived on every level, Amy’s childhood was characterized by unmet longings and the dream of a“normal” life.

At this point, standard issue story-telling practices beg for an ending tied with a bow:  college, marriage, a successful career, and a loving family of her own–all a straight arrow toward deep satisfaction. However, in Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World, the reader is caught up in paradox, for even though many of Amy’s personal and professional goals have been met, she confesses that she still lives “with a kind of unsatisfaction that will not be lifted in this life.”

It was also my privilege and joy to serve on two book launch teams this month!

Jamie Sumner is one of my favorite people in the magical world of blogging. She writes with a blend of intelligent prose and humor that is more a grin than a guffaw, and we frequently exchange eye rolls over the mothering life and fan-girl squeals over C.S. Lewis quotes.

I wish her book had been written 25 years ago because motherhood, for me, started out like a tightrope walk. To keep my balance and maintain my place on the tightly stretched wire, I read all the books, analyzed all the angles, second guessed all the decisions, and the only thing that saved my sanity is that Google had not been invented yet.

I’m still in the process of taking grace for this mothering gig, and one huge encouragement along the way is the shared experiences of others. Jamie Sumner is also a mother who walks on the tightly-wound side, and Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood is a memoir of her mothering journey in which she allows her own story to tell itself, while weaving in fresh re-tellings of the familiar life stories of biblical women.

Then, as a member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild, I’m getting to know a platoon of gifted women who write and serve God in a number of ways. Shelli Hunt Wildman is first a mum and then a writer, and her thoughts on parenting in First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship invite readers into an intentional practice of envisioning the kind of family we want and then, by God’s grace, doing what needs to be done to make that vision become a reality. Fortunately, Shelly is writing from a place of self-awareness that prevents her from sounding off as a “parenting expert.” With honesty about her own shortcomings and failures, she shares her own goal of greater mindfulness with the voice of a fellow-traveler on this bumpy road of parenting.

 On My Nightstand

OrthodoxyG.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy has a permanent spot on my nightstand this year, and is also finding a place in my heart. April’s installment of the on-going discussion centered around the challenge of Chapter 4.  In his pre-Christian life, Chesterton worked to frame a personal philosophy or a “natural religion” (75) that would express his thinking about some of the fundamentals of life.

Imagine his surprise in finding that (1) the essence of all he had “discovered” was already embedded in Christianity; (2) his thinking about the world had been shaped by his reading of fairy tales. If you missed the post, catch it here, and be sure to add your own thoughts to the discussion.

Meaning Orthodoxy

 

One of Madeleine L’Engle’s lesser known works found its way onto my night stand last year, and I’ve been plugging away at it, but a recent bout with a stomach virus helped me to make some real progress. (Hey, lemonade, right?)
Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols in Antarctica and Other Unexpected Places (Wheaton Literary Series) is classic-Madeleine with her insights on faith and practice interspersed with anecdotal accounts from her interesting life. The strange title springs from her visit to Antarctica and her musings on the human tendency to make idols out of the good gifts of God which He grants as icons:  “An icon is something I can look through and get a wider glimpse of God and God’s demands on us than I would otherwise.”

“Whatever is an open door to God is, for me, an icon.” (16)

On the Hill

At Christmas time, I had the urge to take a blogging break, but (very unwisely) let the pile of books on my bureau bully me into persevering through the end of the year. Consequently, I’ve been running and writing on fumes ever since.

Live and learn.

Vacation with family was just what I needed to refuel and then return with new energy. When we returned, the crocuses had made their appearance, and daffodils had sprouted and multiplied as if they had an actual business plan! Spring is slowly making her presence known here in Mid-coast Maine. We’re still a long way from planting the garden, but it’s never too early to start dreaming about those sunflowers and ripe tomatoes.

I’m encouraged these days by the spontaneous words of praise from Jeremiah from his context of imprisonment and national chaos:

 “‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.”  (Jeremiah 32:17)

Whatever challenges you are facing today, my prayer for you is that you also are encouraged by God’s ability to do anything and His wisdom in knowing just the right thing to do.

Rejoicing in the Truth,


Many thanks to my friend Abby who created the lovely “April” image and then graciously allowed me to use it here, thereby extending my vacation by the minutes/hours it would have taken me to produce an image for this post.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the titles listed in this post simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Everyday Habits of Holiness

The insistent tone of my cell phone’s timer carried through floorboards to our basement schoolroom–another call to prayer unanswered.

I sighed, turned the page, and continued with my sixth-grader in a lesson on fractions.

I had been reading about the historical practice of praying the hours, setting aside intentional moments throughout the day at specific times to stop everything and pray.

Believers long ago listened to the sounding of bells to remind them to pray.

My solution?

Setting a cell phone timer.

It seemed like the perfect solution for a more intentional prayer life..

Why, then, did my timer always seem to sound when I was in the middle of an un-interruptible task?

  • Dinner preparation on a ball game night.
  • A fervent untangling of numerators and denominators.
  • An intense disciplinary moment.

The reminder was impractical for that season, but it was an important step on my journey toward a more mindful use of my minutes in building my relationship with God.

I began to realize that regular prayer, immersion in the Words of Scripture, meditating on its truth, and the constant recognition that God is part of the entire day are not unattainable goals set aside for “advanced” Christians.

These practices can be woven into ordinary moments of our daily lives, helping us build a meaningful relationship with God.

Here are five things I’ve learned on my own journey of inviting holiness into my everyday habits; I hope these simple strategies will encourage your faith and help you to grow.

Holiness is Breathing our Prayers

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. – Isaiah 30:18

Isaiah 30:18 portrays God’s longing for communion with His children, although not from any lack on His part. Purely out of grace, He “waits on high” to have compassion on us, to lavish us with His unwavering attention.

Normal conversation involves a comfortable back and forth between two people, and talking with God is no different.

But we must be willing to start the conversation!

Hanging laundry on the clothesline, waiting in the parking lot for my kids, standing at the kitchen sink – all of these moments are an opportunity for prayer.

Just as the next breath that keeps me alive requires a release of the air in my lungs, prayer, like breathing, requires a release.

Focused attention on God through moments of prayer helps release us from our position at the center of the universe.

It reminds me who is in control, and how much I need to commune with my Savior.

Holiness is Taking Small Daily Doses of Truth

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” – Psalm 119:18

When the psalmist prayed for focused attention and a receptive heart, he was not preparing for a legalistic, mechanical quiet time.

He was coming to the Bible in recognition of his need and reaching out to the Great Physician for a prescription to fill that emptiness.

Scripture is our daily dose of Truth.

When I fail to consult with biblical wisdom, my judgment and emotions inevitably go off the rails.

I’ve learned that a small daily dose of God’s Word, read with focused attention, is better than a huge gulp, quickly forgotten.

When my brain is especially tired, I read aloud, allowing the truth to reach my ears and to linger on my tongue.

Holiness is Viewing Everything As a Gift

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – I Thessalonians 5:18

We are immersed in a culture that encourages us to inflate our wants until they take on the dimensions of a need.

Reading about the Church fathers and their vows of poverty and humility challenges my sense of entitlement to convenience and comfort.

Viewing my snug and secure surroundings, I know in my heart that everything is a gift from God.

Lingering on this truth changes the way I see everything:

The turkey in my freezer is best used to serve the missionary family with three kids who are visiting in my church and need a place to relax and enjoy Sunday dinner.

The hour on Tuesday morning when I’d usually be “accomplishing something” becomes a gift, offered to a friend who needs a listening ear.

The heartbreaking loss that catches me off guard is also a gift that God uses to break me open to dazzling grace in the midst of disappointment.

Holiness is Learning to Seize the Quiet

“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” – Psalm 131:2

The practice of Lectio Divina dates back to the 5th century as one of the primary ways for Christians to meditate on Scripture.

It begins with reading (Lectio in Latin) followed by silence (Silencio) and reflection (Meditatio).

Looking for tiny pockets of quiet in my day reminds me that the listening life has a place even in my noisy world.

Phone calls, emails, schedules, and the endless chatter inside my own skull are all noise.

Silence interrupts the noise for a brief time of focus on eternal truth.

One of the best times I’ve learned to practice this is right after I turn out the lamp on my nightstand.

Closing my eyes, I begin to review the day, consciously rehearsing the fact of God’s presence within each event and saying “thank you” when I become aware of a gift of His grace.

Then, if I’m still awake, I practice handing over the details of the next day to the God who listens.

Holiness is Ensuring God Is Glorified in Everything

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10

When my crew gathers around the dining room table for tacos and birthday cake, the chaos does not lend itself to monastic style contemplation of the goodness of God—and yet, God is there, too.

In his book “Life Together”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer also reminded his readers that “without the burden and labor of the day, prayer is not prayer, and without prayer, work is not work.”

Our times of prayer remind us that life is not simply about work, while our work reminds us that life is not simply about prayer.

To our great surprise, we see that God, who waits on high to have compassion on us, longs to be gracious to us. He made our bodies and our spirits with a need for all these things.

Thus, when I honor my body by getting sufficient rest and by planning healthful menus for my family, God is there.

When I walk the dog and give thanks for the vast blue sky and the bracing wind in my face, God is there.

When I am ironing the collar of a shirt and folding my son’s jeans still warm from the dryer, God is there.

By turning our attention purposefully toward God in the midst of our ordinary days, we demolish the wall between sacred and secular.

By turning our attention purposefully toward God in the midst of our ordinary days, we demolish the wall between sacred and secular.CLICK TO TWEET

What Does Holiness Look Like for You?

In the framework of a living and vibrant relationship, spiritual disciplines are not impersonal.

You can be an active participant in your own spiritual formation and follow hard after Jesus while firmly embedded in 21st-century life.

Consider the following:

  • How would your prayer life be changed if you began to view it as a breathing-out of words to the One who knows you fully and loves you extravagantly?
  • What if your Bible reading were transformed from a dreary discipline to a daily infusion of Truth, the completion of a circle of communication that your spiritual life depends upon?
  • Can you envision your heart set free to receive whatever comes to you each day as a gift, with peace and the firm conviction that God is the Giver?

Show up every day in the quiet of God’s unwavering attention and remember and rejoice that God is present.

He longs to meet you in the ordinary moments of your life.

 

This post first appeared at Living By Design.

Everyday Habits of Holiness

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.