Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Footholds of the Past

This morning in Indiana there is so much moisture in the air that a kind of mystical haze surrounds everything. After almost two weeks of bright, white heat, the soft, muffled morning feels like what I imagine it must be to discover an oasis, somewhere far out in a desert on the other side of the world.

I noticed a couple of days ago that one of the clematis vines that winds its way along the front porch had gone brown. This morning I decided to clip it back to give the green vines more room to grow. But when I took my shears out and started looking for a clean place to cut, I noticed that the other vines were curling their tiny green tendrils around it, using it as a foundation from which to reach a little higher. I tried snipping a few small places, thinking if I cut in a strategic place, the whole vine would just come out with a gentle tug. After a few attempts, I realized that wasn't happening. The old vine had become part of the growing of the living vine. The structure was real. The investment was forever. The old and the new were twined together inseparably.

I looked at that vine and saw in myself my own tendency to want to weed out the "bad stuff"--the mistakes, the errors, the plain old-fashioned bad choices I'd made in my life. I'd just as soon clip them back and put them in the compost bin, where they can become food for better things. But it does ring true that all the experiences we have, however we name them, serve as a foundation for our current life, whether they have sap flowing through their veins or not. They become a foundation we lean on, maybe unknowingly, as we reach higher. We might not want to make those same choices or have more experiences like those again, and it's probably worth considering why the vine went brown (so perhaps we can avoid making the same mistake in the future), but seeing the value of it all wrapped up together like that was comforting to me this morning.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Something to Give

I've been working with the idea of abundance for a long time. My own financial situation, as a self-employed writer, has fluxuated over the years. Sometimes things felt stable and secure, sometimes not. Whether my barns were full or empty, though, I did learn in a very real way that God was there throughout, trustworthy, faithful, helping.

Here in Indiana everything went from the brown of winter to vibrant green spring almost in a single day. I marveled at the green green grass and the full leaves on the trees--it all happened so suddenly! Surely this is God's abundance at work, I thought. I prayed to understand that sense of constant, instant, always available supply so that I could know once and for all my financial needs were met in God--no two ways about it. I really wanted that certainty.

A little while ago I read this article over on The author talks about how he felt when he lost his job and couldn't get any traction. He struggled with fear and was stretching a pot of soup to last a whole week so he wouldn't go hungry. When his thinking began to change, it all started with the thought, "I have something to give." That's a powerful thought when you feel yourself being backed further and further into a corner. Giving has been a part of my life for a long time, but when I'm being really honest with myself I know that my giving had a lot to do with getting. I gave money to the church because God said to and I was afraid not to! I gave extra effort for my clients because I hoped they would want to work with me again. I always went the extra mile, did more than was asked, was as good as possible--but the effort came from fear (lack) in the hopes that it would earn the love, care, and supply God already provides simply because that's God's nature! I didn't realize that last part, and I didn't know I was giving to get.

In the article, the writer talks about discovering what he already had to give--ways in which he could give out of his own abundance. You may not have a lot of money, or time, or special talent. But you already have abundance somewhere in your life. The world needs your gifts. Your family needs your gifts. God needs your gifts. What do you have to give to the world? It may be something simple, like appreciation of beauty or your time and attention. But whatever you have to give, you can be sure that it fits perfectly a need that someone else has.

Because I love these kinds of object lessons, I sat down with my journal and wrote "I have something to give" at the top. Then I began to list all the things that occurred to me as things I can give from my own abundance. And you know what? "Money" didn't appear until #24 on the list! This really made me feel good about what I have to offer the world from the abundance that exists within me right now.

Try it--you'll be amazed! And then drop me a note and share some of your abundance of insight. :)