Tag Archives: courage

The Courage to Change

I knew something needed to change as I hiked one summer along the Pacific Crest Trail.  I had looked forward to the seven-day backpack for several months.    I had entertained frequent day dreams in which I visualized myself hiking across open alpine meadows, surrounded by the snow-laced  peaks of the Cascades and swimming in cold sky-blue lakes. But as my fantasy became reality I notice something troubling.   My mind had trouble staying on the trail.

IMG_20130816_105142_210Instead I would discover that my thoughts were ruminating about some worry or concern back home in Minnesota.    For a moment I might be able to enjoy a colorful alpine flower or a striking mountain peak, but all too quickly my mind jumped to some pestering concern at my church or my family.   My intention was to be on the PCT in Washington; my mind seemed to be at dozens of other locations.  And I wanted that to change.

bowl-with-spoonWhen I came back to Minnesota, I began to hear about “mindfulness” – the ability to be in the present moment.    My health plan offered a simple six-week exercise that focused on mindful eating.   I thought it would be easy to simply focus on my meal as I ate.   I discovered that it was incredibly hard for me.  My eyes continually looked for something to read; my ears sought the noise of the radio.  The challenge was to simply be present to my bowl of cereal, to see the color and texture of the granola, to taste each bite, and to give  thanks to God for the meal.

Emotional LifeI began to read more about mindfulness and my emotional impulsiveness.  A key book  was The Emotional Life of Your Brain by Richard J. Davidson.   I remember reading about how our brains have plasticity, that they can be rewired or remolded with certain practice.  The author discussed how people who have participated in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction classes have been able to deal with their chaotic, impulsive mental thought patterns.   After reading the book, I signed up for a MBSR class.

“Courage to change the things I can” is the second part of the Serenity prayer.  I once thought courage was reserved for the “big” things like racism or sexism.  I admire Dr. Martin Luther King’s courage to challenge the racial injustice of his time. We need such models of courage in every age.

Yet there is also the daily kind of courage to face our own flaws.  Through the MBSR class I learned the practice of daily meditation.  The practice has begun to calm my busy mind and to live in the present.   I am thankful that God gave me the courage to change the ways I look at the world and to be fully alive in each moment.

How do you stay living in the present moment?

Lord Jesus, thank you for your promise to be always with us.

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Facing the Monsters of Our Life

A Teaching Story from R. Wayne Willis.

There’s an old Egyptian story about a little boy named Miobi who came to a village where the people were very strange. They did little more than moan and groan about almost everything. The fires didn’t get lit, the goats didn’t get milked, the children didn’t get clothed, and the crops didn’t get planted, all because the villagers were expecting any time to get eaten by the monster that lived on top of the mountain.

Miobi looked up, and behold — the monster was real. He had a head like a crocodile and a body like a hippopotamus and a tail like a very fat snake. Smoke and fire came from his nostrils. The villagers lived in dread that any day the monster might come down and devour them.

Miobi said to the villagers, “I will go up the mountain by myself and challenge the monster.” The villagers pleaded with him not to go, sure that he would never return. Miobi began to climb the mountain, and as he climbed higher and higher and got nearer and nearer, the monster looked smaller and smaller. “This is a very curious phenomenon indeed,” thought Miobi. “When I run away from the monster, the monster gets larger, but the nearer I get to it, the smaller it becomes.”

When at last Miobi reached the cave, instead of a gigantic monster, he found a quiet little creature about the size of a toad. It purred. Miobi picked it up and put it in his pocket and headed back down the mountain.

When the villagers saw Miobi safe and sound, they wanted to make him their god for slaying the monster. Miobi explained exactly what had happened and how he had brought the “monster” back down the mountain as a pet. He showed them the little-toad like creature. “What is your name?” the villagers asked. The monster answered, “I have many names. Some call me famine, and some pestilence; some call me war, and some cancer.” Then the little creature yawned and added, “But most call me What Might Happen.”

— R. Wayne Willis in Hope Notes

How do you face “what might have been?”

“Be strong and courageous, do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:8

Lord Jesus, give me courage to face “what ever comes” with you.