Thursday, April 25, 2019

Mindful Walking: Day 1 - Analogies

The choice for my first day of mindful walking was a no-brainer. I’d thumbed through Afoot and Lighthearted and chosen “Analogies” as my first point to ponder on my stroll along the beach. According to a study by Stanford Researchers in 2014, walking can lead to an increase in “analogical creativity.” And who doesn’t enjoy a clever and enlightening analogy? I mean, a good analogy is like the perfect word … when the perfect word eludes or doesn’t exist. 
When asked to describe heaven, Christ responded, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed … a merchant seeking fine pearls … a treasure ….” He knew there was no human word that would adequately capture the divine concept of it, so he relied on analogies.

Whenever I read, I’m always on the lookout for the well-stated comparison that shows me what a character is seeing or feeling or experiencing. One of the best tools for helping me understand a complex problem is to begin with, “It’s like this …”

In her book, Whitehouse gives an excellent exercise to follow, which I might use at a later time. But for this walk, I followed only the first part of her instructions: Let your mind wander. For me, the quickest way to squelch creativity is to demand I come up with something: “On this walk, you WILL come up with an analogy.”  So I set out walking with the suggestion nestled comfortably in the back of my mind.

It didn’t take long to come upon two women carefully inspecting a pile of shells freshly washed ashore. Every so often, they’d pick up something and place it in their opposite palm for safekeeping. My curiosity was piqued because I could see absolutely nothing worth collecting in that pile of broken, garden-variety shells. 

But just in case I was missing out on something, I asked, “What are you looking for?”

“Augers,” one of the women said. She held out her hand to reveal the tiny tips of conical-shaped shells.

I was delighted. The aptly named tips did indeed resemble little drill bits. What fun to search for them! How cute would these tiny treasures be displayed in a tiny bottle next to my sea glass collection! They had a fantasy quality to them … like tiny unicorn horns. (An analogy!)

And so I was on a roll. I noticed people all up and down the beach, involved in hunts of one kind or another. I started asking what they were searching for. Answers varied and they’d show you the results of their searches—colorful shells, bits of glass or sand dollars, parts of sea animals.  

And that’s when another analogy came to me. 

Perhaps life is a treasure hunt and we are all treasure seekers. We go through our days searching for the good, the delightful, the beautiful—something that brings us joy. The fortunate find it; others give up too easily or search for the wrong things in the wrong places. But I think as long as we are intent in the pursuit of what is good, we’ll be be happy in our search and eventually rewarded. And in our search for the ultimate Truth, Jeremiah 29:13 promises us this: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” 

Do you have any favorite analogies? Any that are original to you? If not, lace up your shoes and start walking. And happy treasure hunting!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Mindful Walking

I’d accompanied my daughter into Parnassus bookstore in Nashville solely to “window shop.” With my TBR list resembling a library card catalog, the last thing I needed was another book. But on the Local Writers shelf, Afoot and Lighthearted by Bonnie Smith Whitehouse caught my attention. No way was I buying it, but a quick perusal couldn't hurt.  


This gem of a book is chock full of quotations about walking (who knew there were so many?) and ideas to inspire, motivate, and de-stress during those walks. Lately, my creativity had been flagging. Likewise my required daily number of steps has fallen well below the required daily number. But I would soon be headed to the beach. Maybe this little journal, combined with oceanside strolls, would jumpstart the creative juices and get them flowing again. And maybe it would provide motivation for walking other than offsetting the massive amount of seafood I’d be consuming. I needed this book. 

My resolve to buy no more books also flagging, I made the purchase. And what a wise and happy decision that proved to be! I couldn’t wait to hit the beach and put what I’d read into practice. 

The beauty of this book is that it applies to any walk, any place. It doesn’t have to be along an aqua blue ocean or verdant mountain trail. In fact, Whitehouse begins by challenging readers to make new discoveries right in their own neighborhoods. Can’t wait to try that when I return home.

I'll confess to ignoring one of Whitehouse's suggestions--digital detox. I'm so excited about my new source of inspiration I want to share some of the results via my blog--which involves technology. Be looking for them over the next few days. Until then, I’ll leave you with this quotation from the book: 

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it."
                                                     --Soren Kierkegaard

    Feeling tired, out of sorts, uninspired? Lace up those cross-trainers and hit the trail—or the pavement. Let me know how it works for you.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Get to Work!

One of the tenets of Christianity is that belief in Jesus Christ, not works, secures our salvation. This comes as a big relief to me personally. Over my lifetime, the Oh, nos! have far outnumbered the Atta girls! If God were keeping score (which thank heavens He isn’t), I wouldn’t get a toe inside the Pearly Gates. I am all too happy to read Paul’s message in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith … not of works …,” and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

BUT … there are those other verses that let me know, I can’t just claim this promise and go happily on my way. For example, if you read further in the second chapter of Ephesians, verse 10 to be exact, you’ll find there’s a proper response to accepting this incomparable gift: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…” And in James 2:17, the author essentially tells us faith without accompanying good deeds “is dead.” 

My blog posts, while often having an inspirational message, aren’t usually quite this “preachy.” But an event this past weekend at my church inspired me to reflect on the relationship of faith and works. For the past three springs, New Covenant Methodist Church has organized an activity called Sent Out Saturday. Members devote a Saturday morning to helping with various needs around the community. Usually this involves performing a lot of manual labor—cleaning, repairing, painting, sprucing up—for organizations or persons incapable of getting it all done themselves. 

Just look at this impressive group!
And they're all smiling ... at eight in the
morning...on a Saturday!
When this program began, around thirty people gathered to be “sent out.” This year, over ninety showed up to help! What a thrill to see this growth—to see so many give up a Saturday morning to help people they didn’t even know. And what thrilled me even more was that many of these volunteers were families with children of all ages. By example, moms and dads taught their toddlers to teens that if faith is genuine, it will reveal itself in love and concern for others. 

No, task was too big...and no worker too small!
Okay, I’m just going to go with the preachy thing and make a suggestion. Even Christians can sometimes find themselves in the doldrums. I certainly do. If you find yourself in such a state, help someone. It doesn’t have to be in a big group or with a lot of fanfare. Just look around … in your family or at your workplace or in your neighborhood. A need, however small, will soon present itself. To steal an old milk slogan, helping others truly “does a body good.” And sharing the good news of Christ doesn’t get any more effective than this!

If you need proof that serving others can make you feel good, check out these smiles.

How many volunteers does it take
to open a bucket of paint?

A pretty mother/daughter duo!

More teamwork!

Some jobs are best tackled alone.

There's always a need for good organizers!

Men and tools--an unstoppable combo.

Taking a little time out for fitness.

Sprucing up the Exodus House courtyard for spring.

Getting ready for the summer campers at Shiloh Camp.

And mulching at Shiloh.  Volunteers also sent to
the homes of Meals on Wheels clients and helped
with cleaning and repair chores.