Discombobulation


“Discombobulate, meaning “to confuse, frustrate,” sounds like something straight out of a cartoon. It was first recorded in the form discomboberate in the early 1800s, and apparently originated as a humorous imitation of hifalutin-sounding Latin words.”—vocabulary.com

In the midst of getting belongings settled in our new apartment and also getting my office organized and beginning my duties, I lost (misplaced?) the set of church keys I had just been given the previous week.  The same morning I discovered the keys missing, when I got in the car headed to an appointment with a new chiropractor, a message read “Braking system problem!  See a dealer immediately!”  I totally lost my emotional center!  I was “discombobulated!” At the chiropractor appointment, my blood pressure, which normally is fine, had shot up.  I couldn’t seem to focus to fill out the forms.  In one place where I was to sign and date, I signed and started to put my post office box number!  I dated things incorrectly.  You get the picture.

I stayed agitated overnight.  Finally, in an effort to get hold of myself, I thought about what was really going on.  Keys can be replaced.  I realized I was really upset about feeling I had embarrassed myself. I considered that this reflected poorly on me.  What kind of confidence was I inspiring in my congregation when I immediately lost the keys?

So I went to the office where I forced myself to sit and focus on a daily reading that I do.  Then I randomly opened a book I have had for a long time but never read.  The chapter I opened to was based on a gospel story where Jesus encountered the man “Legion” (meaning many), who in current terms we would describe as mentally ill.  His behavior was so disruptive that the villagers had tried to restrain him with chains from which he repeatedly broke free.  One point the author made was about how fragmented we sometimes become.  One of the discussion questions was: “What would your life be like if you were in your right mind?” 

When I am “in my right mind,” I am either aware of all my blessings or I can fairly easily call to mind all that for which I am grateful.  And there is so much! Just at the moment I am so very much relieved that our “stateside” son-in-law (not the “overseas” son-in-law) came through his heart surgery this week with flying colors! (Of course, this also was a part of my “discombobulation.”) So my heart is full and I give thanks.

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  From Michael J. Fox, who has been dealing with Parkinson’s disease for 30 years:  “Optimism is really rooted in gratitude.  Optimism is sustainable when you keep coming back to gratitude, and what follows from that is acceptance.”

Standing In The Gap

Our drive from Tennessee to relocate in Montana was mostly uneventful, at least until we reached western Wyoming.  In the middle of nowhere we witnessed a trucker lose control of his 18 wheeler.  He careened off the road, his tires plowing through the ground.  Clouds of dust billowed around the truck, obstructing our view.  We had pulled off the road, both to spare ourselves being in his path should he hurtle back onto the highway, and to be available to check on him when that became possible.

When the truck came to a stop, thankfully without reentering the highway, we went across the road to assess the situation.  The driver was badly injured but still conscious. We learned his name was John and he was hauling a load of vodka and margarita mix, which was now leaking out the back.  While awaiting the ambulance with him, Terry turned off the truck and assisted in retrieving John’s cell phone, which John used to make the dreaded report to his boss.  Cursing with every breath, his back surely broken, he groaned with pain.  With every curse he uttered, I breathed a prayer for him, that the ambulance would come soon and that he would receive the help he needed.  I quickly posted on Facebook asking for prayers for him.

In Ezekiel 22:30 the prophet writes that the Lord says “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land.”  In the ancient world of the Bible, cities had walls surrounding them to provide protection from enemies.  When the wall was breached, the city was vulnerable to destruction; the only way to secure it was for people to risk their lives by literally standing in the gap in the wall and fighting the enemy. 

When we pray on behalf of someone else we are “standing in the gap” for that person before God.  It is a privilege to do so.  And so I continue to stand in the gap for John.  We are encouraged to do so in Galatians 6:2, which directs us to “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  I invite you to join me in praying for John, as well as for others who cross your path on this road we travel together. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Prayers for the energy of healing, for sustenance and restoration of John and others in need.

Hiatus

Even things that go on for a long time take a break once in awhile:  one kind of break is a hiatus.  If someone has to leave her job for a time, she’s going on hiatus.  A touring  band will need to take a hiatus if the lead singer gets in an accident.  The key thing about a hiatus is that it’s an interruption of something that was happening, but it’s not a permanent break.  (vocabulary.com)

            Hiatus comes from “hiare,” a Latin verb meaning “to gape” or “to yawn,” and first appeared in English in the middle of the 16th century. Originally, the word referred to a gap or opening in something, such as a cave opening in a cliff. In the 18th century, Laurence Sterne used the word humorously in his novel Tristram Shandy, writing of “the hiatus in Phutatorius’s breeches.” These days, “hiatus” is usually used in a temporal sense to refer to a pause or interruption (as in a song), or a period during which an activity is temporarily suspended (such as a hiatus from teaching). (Miriam-Webster)

          All this goes to say that I am taking a hiatus from Hope’s Café for six weeks while I am in the process of moving from Tennessee to Montana.  Why Montana, you might ask.  The answer is that I have accepted the pastorate of Columbus Community Congregational Church UCC in Columbus, Montana.  We are leaving the home we built 30 years ago, the farm my husband grew up on, land that has been in his family four generations.  Despite that we, of course, feel some sadness, we are excited about this move and about the church I will be pastoring.

          We appreciate prayers and well-wishes as we undertake this journey.  If you have found this blog uplifting, I hope you will await the return of Hope’s Café and seek it out when it resumes September 3.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: “And suddenly you just know that it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” (pinterist.com)

Insight Timer

Today I am putting in a plug for the app “Insight Timer.”  I am not sure when this was established.  I discovered it about five years ago when I attended a session that was offered at the local Center for Mindful Living. 

There are multiple online meditation sites.  What distinguishes Insight Timer is that it is free.  I haven’t availed myself of all its features but there are thousands of guided meditations, topics offered by various speakers, as well as a timer that you can set for whatever amount of time suits you.  That feature allows you to choose from various bells to begin and end if you so desire, as well as multiple background sounds if you prefer.

The one bit of information I found from the founders indicated that they wanted to make their site free so that more people would choose to develop meditation practices.  They do have features you can pay for, which is how they can afford to do this.  But they offer a plethora of free services.

Their pie chart shows that of the major meditation apps, Insight Timer is used 62%; Calm is used 17%; Headspace is used 13%; others 7%.  It would appear they are succeeding in exposing more people to easily accessible meditation practices. If you google Insight Timer, you can see their description:

The best meditation app with the world’s largest FREE library of more than 100k guided meditations, 11k teachers & the world’s most loved meditation Timer.

Free Guided Meditations · ‎Live events · ‎About us · ‎Peace in our Timer

The app is easily downloaded on your phone.  Basically, it leaves me with no excuses for avoiding meditation!  I encourage you, if you haven’t discovered this amazing tool already, to make use of this valuable service.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:

Today I am putting in a plug for the app “Insight Timer.”  I am not sure when this was established.  I discovered it about five years ago when I attended a session that was offered at the local Center for Mindful Living. 

There are multiple online meditation sites.  What distinguishes Insight Timer is that it is free.  I haven’t availed myself of all its features but there are thousands of guided meditations, topics offered by various speakers, as well as a timer that you can set for whatever amount of time suits you.  That feature allows you to choose from various bells to begin and end if you so desire, as well as multiple background sounds if you prefer.

The one bit of information I found from the founders indicated that they wanted to make their site free so that more people would choose to develop meditation practices.  They do have features you can pay for, which is how they can afford to do this.  But they offer a plethora of free services.

Their pie chart shows that of the major meditation apps, Insight Timer is used 62%; Calm is used 17%; Headspace is used 13%; others 7%.  It would appear they are succeeding in exposing more people to easily accessible meditation practices. If you google Insight Timer, you can see their description:

The best meditation app with the world’s largest FREE library of more than 100k guided meditations, 11k teachers & the world’s most loved meditation Timer.

Free Guided Meditations · ‎Live events · ‎About us · ‎Peace in our Timer

The app is easily downloaded on your phone.  Basically, it leaves me with no excuses for avoiding meditation!  I encourage you, if you haven’t discovered this amazing tool already, to make use of this valuable service.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:

Crises

I heard a wonderful true story this week of a pastor visiting his rabbi friend.  The rabbi asked how he was doing.  The pastor described how they had sent out the pipes to the organ for cleaning, an extremely expensive task.  They had paid a fellow the down payment for the work, many thousands of dollars.  But the man was not doing the work.  Their efforts to press him to fulfill his agreement had yet to yield any result.  The congregation was upset.  The organist was especially frustrated.  But the pastor was focused on finding a solution.  He said: “I am not predisposed to a crisis.” 

            When I was in eighth grade, a friend’s mother was driving my friend and me downtown for a movie.   Suddenly their car began to make a terrible noise.  I was prepared for some anxious or frustrated response.  Instead, the words the mother spoke, in the most calm, undisturbed tone, were: “Well, isn’t that interesting.” And she drove to a nearby gas station, where she proceeded to get some assistance.  I was astounded:  a problem need not engender an automatic response of agitation??

            Having spent the past week dealing with various technical issues, I really needed the pastor’s story.  I feel totally incompetent where computers and phones are concerned.  When something goes wrong, my initial response is to panic.  It takes a lot to marshal my energies and direct them in a more constructive manner.  I spent the week affirming, “You can do this, Kate.  You can learn how.  Reject intimidation. This does not have to be scary. “ 

            When I put this in context, my fear of technology seems laughable.  Many  face much more difficult situations and maintain their determination to succeed.  Think The Pursuit of Happyness, the 2006 true story movie about Chris Gardner, the 27 year old homeless man whose wife leaves him with their 5 year old son.  Time and again this faithful and determined father encounters setbacks, but he ultimately becomes a successful broker 

            Actually, my father serves as a model closer at hand for this.  From the time he began as a 17 year old  printer apprentice on a newspaper  to age 59, he worked in “hot type.”  At age 59, the paper switched to “cold type.”  He talked to me about how uncertain he was, how daunting it was at age 59 to learn a new system. He articulated that he was worried that at his age there would be no work available to continue through retirement if he couldn’t learn this new method. He could have succumbed to crisis mentality. But in fact, he successfully made the transition and did not retire until age 70. 

            Next time you encounter a formidable task, consider this mantra:  “I am not predisposed to a crisis.”

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “Being challenged in life is inevitable.  Being defeated is optional.”—thepowerof positivity.com

Serendipitous Wisdom

Years ago I attended a conference workshop led by the author of Forgive For Good.  Dr. Fred Luskin had what I considered a reasonable approach to forgiveness.  But I have been reading Home by Marilynne Robinson.  In the context of her novel, I came across some powerful words about forgiveness that seem worth passing on.

            The narrator in Home is Glory, the daughter of her retired pastor father and the sister to Jack, the n’ere do well sibling who unexpectedly returns home after a 20-year absence.  Father and son have struggled with their relationship.  Glory, as she observes them now, recalls her pastor father’s words over the years about forgiveness:

            “You must forgive in order to understand.  Until you forgive, you defend yourself against the possibility of understanding…If you forgive, he would say, you may indeed still not understand, but you will be ready to understand and that is the posture of grace.” 

            In sorting through accumulated cards and letters saved over the years I came across a card filled with kudos to Terry and me for being so kind and helpful to her during a difficult year.  She said she did not know how she would have gotten through without us.  Was this from a former client? Nope.  It was from the business “manager” who ultimately defrauded us, resulting in the loss of our longtime business.  Given how slow we were to catch on, she may have been defrauding us even then.  She had been with us from the beginning and we trusted her implicitly. 

            To refuse to forgive would seem to tie up a lot of energy.  Sometimes there is the implicit expectation that holding on to one’s anger punishes the offender.  She had already taken so much from us.  I did not want to allow her to sap my energy with anger or to take up any space in my life at all.  I remember I prayed for her everyday for a year because that act seemed to keep me in a better space.  I forgave her for my own peace of mind. 

            I appreciate those bits of wisdom that come across our path in serendipitous fashion—the line in a poem….song….novel…a bit of conversation.  And I ponder the words of the fictious pastor:  “….you may indeed still not understand.  But you will be ready to understand and that is the posture of grace.”

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: “Today I decided to forgive you. Not because you apologized, or because you acknowledged the pain that you caused me, but because my soul deserves peace.”—Najwa Zebian

Claiming Our Gifts

Recently I preached at a little church celebrating their “Homecoming Sunday.”   At the meal after the service, I chatted with the children.  I had brought some “bubble pens” and other colored pens to offer as little gifts to them.  When a young teen accepted one of the pens, she commented that she had lots already and proceeded to open a bag she had filled with dozens of sketching and coloring markers.  “How in the world did you come to have all these?” I asked. “I’m an artist!”  she answered.  And then she opened up a notebook full of her drawings, stunning in their detail, beauty and artistry.  She is, indeed, an artist….and even better yet, she claims that gift.

              At her age (about 15) I wonder how I might have owned any particular ability.  I knew better what my disabilities were.  I wasn’t an athlete.  I wasn’t a musician.  I was shy and didn’t consider anything I did noteworthy.  But I did well in English and I enjoyed dabbling in writing.  But I would have never declared “I am a writer!”

               Some years back I took a continuing education class in writing.  The teacher said even if you simply wrote a column for the church newsletter, you should take some token payment you could choose to return as a donation.  She strongly recommended that we get business cards made that identified ourselves as writers.  In some recent conversation, I heard myself say “I’m a writer.”  I was startled.  I normally say “I like to write” or “I was editor on my high school paper and always worked on school newspapers in college.” 

              For years I would not identify myself as a minister.  If I was to preach a sermon at church, I would only say I would be in the pulpit that Sunday, a somewhat quirky distinction.  This week in a unanimous vote, I was elected settled pastor at a church in Montana.  In the time I spent in that little town, I introduced myself as the new pastor.  I marvel every time I say that. 

              I once read where many models do not see themselves as beautiful.  There are certainly successful people who admit to feeling like “frauds,” viewed as competent by others but internally wracked with insecurity.  I admitted to a therapist friend once that I had always felt my abilities inferior to hers.  She declared “Oh, no!  You were always my role model.  I hoped I would be as good a therapist as you.”

            Imposter Syndrome is a term used to describe an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context.

         To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud. The term that was first used by psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 1970s.1 When the concept of IS was introduced, it was originally thought to apply mostly to high-achieving women. Since then, it has been recognized as more widely experienced. (from the article “What Is Imposter Syndrome” by Arlin Cuncic).

         May we challenge any such thoughts that undermine our acknowledging and claiming our gifts.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: “Never again will someone be made like you. Do not deny the world your gifts by doubting them.” ~The Daily Love

Self Compassion

As a therapist, I saw many people who evaluated themselves in very negative ways.  Seeking ways to help them re-evaluate their perceptions, take corrective action where needed  and develop “healthier self-esteem” was part of treatment.

              An approach being advocated by Kristin Neff, PhD, emphasizes increasing self-compassion instead of focusing on building self-esteem:  “The self-worth from self-compassion is much more stable over time than the self-worth that comes from self esteem because it’s not a judgment of good or bad.  It’s just being kind to yourself.”    

              In my therapeutic role, I often gave handouts of “My Declaration of Self-Esteem” by the late Virginia Satir.  But I think her document could accurately be titled “My Declaration of Self-Compasssion.”  She wrote:

“In all the world there is no-one else exactly like me.

Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine because I alone chose it.

I own everything about me; my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or to myself – I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes, because I own all of me.

I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me and other aspects that I do not know, but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.

However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me. If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded. I can see, hear, feel, think, say and do – I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.

I own me, and therefore I can engineer me – I am me and I am okay.”  

We are often encouraged in these divisive times to be kind to others.  May we remember as well to offer kindness to ourselves. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: Perhaps you recall the Saturday Night Live Skit of “Stuart Smalley” played by Al Franken.  Franken published a book in 1992 of Stuart Smalley Daily Affirmations full of the humor of that character, humor being one of those life-giving qualities that can help us stay grounded and kind towards our own humanity.

Savor and Swish!

I sit relaxing with the door open to the screen porch, listening to the gentle lullaby of the wind  in the trees and the steady blessing of rain soaking the earth.  I happen to be eating some chocolate fudge pudding (which might or might not be accompanied by a fudge brownie!)  I am savoring the sweet chocolate sensation on my tongue, the music of wind and rain, the caresses of fresh air wafting through the doorway.  I am in the moment.  And I am struck by the simplicity of savoring. 

              I think of evenings with our grandsons sitting on the balcony of the condo awaiting their mother’s return from work. We greet neighbors; watch the sky as it is set ablaze by the setting sun; experience the sight of the shifting clouds as they take on myriad colors; take pleasure in our grandsons’ antics; savor one another’s company.

              One can indulge in an expensive, elaborate meal.  But one can just as easily savor a bowl of hot soup of a chilly day.  We can enjoy a symphony at a favorite venue. But putting on some music and dancing around your living room offers an opportunity for simple pleasure as well.

              Just this week I witnessed the first fireflies of the season.  I stood on the porch, entranced by these delightful creatures, who are neither flies nor bugs, but are beetles like ladybugs or rhinoceros beetles.  I savored the moment.  It cost me nothing. 

             Fred Bryant, a social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago, is the father of research on “savoring,” or the concept that being mindfully engaged and aware of your feelings during positive events can increase happiness in the short and long run. “It is like swishing the experience around … in your mind,” says Bryant, author of the 2006 book, Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience.

            His research and the research of others has identified many benefits to savoring, including stronger relationships, improved mental and physical health, and finding more creative solutions to problems.

            How descriptive!   Let us savor and swish!

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: Bryant is in the process of analyzing a wide range of studies on savoring to determine what works and what doesn’t. Already, he has distilled his research into 10 succinct ways for us to develop savoring as a skill. Included in the ten is the suggestion to get absorbed in the moment:

            “Studies of positive experiences indicate that people most enjoy themselves when they are totally absorbed in a task or moment, losing their sense of time and place—a state that psychologists call ‘flow.’”

“Manifest Destiny”

This term was brought back to me this week in a different context from the one I remembered in American History.  You may well recall that manifest destiny referred to a widely held cultural belief in the 19th century that America was destined, inspired, even divinely ordained, to expand its borders to the Pacific and beyond.  That kind of arrogance lives on, however, as I discovered in the column Roadside Assistance by Rabbi Rami Shapiro, published recently in the magazine Spirituality and Health.

              Roadside Assistance consists of folks’ letters to Rabbi Shapiro and his answers.  This particular questioner suggested that she and her friends were into manifesting their future through the power of their minds.  They were feeling sorry for folks who just manifest poverty and illness and unemployment.  But they didn’t think that government handouts or charity would influence those people to choose differently.  So what sort of world, they wanted to know, does the rabbi manifest?

              The rabbi was both succinct and quite blunt: “One without people who hide their selfishness and privilege behind the mask of manifesting.”

              When I was about 10, I recall seeing a rather disheveled woman in ragged clothes.   She may well have been homeless, was certainly poor.  From the comfort of our car as we drove by, I commented: “What kind of garb is THAT?”  My memory is that I had only recently come across the word “garb” and saw that as an opportunity to use it.  But my statement came out as very demeaning and mean-spirited.  My mother quickly disabused me of the notion that I had any right to be judging her.  More sharply than she generally spoke to me, she said: “That is probably the best clothing she has.”  I felt appropriately shamed. 

              This world does not operate on a level playing field.  I once witnessed a visual demonstration of this.  Some college age students were going to be in a race.  But first they were to respond to some directions such as:  if you grew up with the two parents you were born to, take a step forward; if you always had sufficient food in your household, take a step forward; if you were able to get your education without any hindrance, take a step forward.  There were many directions along these same lines.  Pretty soon, there were some who were well ahead of the others. 

              If we are willing to face this reality, we can use our energies to develop compassion…..and perhaps to work to manifest a different world:  one where our differing abilities are respected and the common good is sought. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  The question posed by the inquirer in Roadside Assistance may be repugnant. But, if we are honest, we likely recognize our own capacity for this.  Challenge yourself this week to “catch yourself in the act” of judgement.  You might even have a Judgement Jar for a fine each time you catch yourself.  At some point, if the money accumulates, consider giving it to a good cause.  😊nifest