Life As Rocket Science, Part 7: Christian Walking

September 27, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

So far we’ve covered a lot of different kinds of experiments you can do with your life–weight loss, homework, life, etc.

Today I want to look at how the concept of experiments works in our Christian walk.

I think we have been conditioned to believe there is “one right way” to be with God.  We think it involves praying a certain way for a certain amount of time at a certain time of day or day of the week.  We think it involves doing certain good things and avoiding certain bad things.  And we believe if we will just “do all of that,” our experiment called the Christian life will be a success.

Here’s the thing though… Much like my son with spelling, no two of us are exactly alike.  So what works for Janet down the street might not work for you at all.

However, we get trapped in thinking that doing it “right” has nothing to do with our way of doing it.  So we keep doing what doesn’t work for us because it looks right to someone else.

I recently read something that said, “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.”  I’m not sure if that’s from the Bible or not, but I know it’s true.

My sister was a good example of this.  She had been doing her praying, reading, meditating before bed each night, and it was working great for her.  She is not much of a morning person AT ALL .  Her children and husband all are.  So her mornings were filled with noise and people needing this, that, or the other thing.  Waking up earlier than them was not possible nor even advisable for her.  That would only have made her more irritable and less awake and able to deal with things.

So she was enjoying her nightly time with God.  Then she got a book that said the way you are “supposed” to pray is to get up early in the morning, an hour before everyone else, and sit in the quiet and pray.

Immediately she felt like a complete failure in her prayer life!  She called one night sounding really defeated.  “I just don’t know how to do that.  If I try, I’m just going to be exhausted…”

Pray as you can.  Don’t pray as you can’t.

I have a friend who hit the same wall.  She went to a retreat and at the end of it, the liturgy director invited us into her “living room” one morning to pray with her.  It was very peaceful and wonderful.  My friend decided THIS was what she should do.  So she did an experiment (okay, she called it “what I’m going to do from now on”).

She got up earlier than the sun, sat in her chair and read and prayed.  The first morning this worked.  The second morning, she nearly fell asleep.  So she decided to have her coffee with her prayer.  That worked a little better until about the fifth morning when she really did fall asleep and was very nearly late for work!

She called… also sounding completely defeated.  “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.  It worked so good for Carrie.”

Pray as you can.  Don’t pray as you can’t.

I’m the third example.  From the time I was very small, we prayed the rosary.  My grandmother was a huge rosary pray-er.  She loved it.  Me?  Uh…

Oh, I had the best intentions.  But when I’d start praying, my mind would wander–mostly to the beads.  “Was that #7 or did we already switch beads?  I don’t remember.  Am I behind?  Or ahead?  Maybe I should switch beads now…”  The thing you have to know is my sister loves the rosary, and she would expound on how wonderful it is.  So I would hunker down, determined to get this.  It still didn’t work.

Then one day at a retreat I was praying it behind a wall, waiting to play music at the end.  I got really frustrated with myself.  Why couldn’t I keep my mind on the prayers?  Then the Holy Spirit gently said, “Just hold the beads.  Don’t count.  Just hold and trust the person leading… Me.”  I literally lost it, bawling so hard I thought they would surely hear me.

Why?

Because I’d finally found what worked for me.  And all I could think was, “Thank You, Jesus.  Thank You for letting me be me and loving me anyway!”

So stop trying to pray as you can’t and start praying as you can.  That’s what God put in your heart to pray like!  If you love gardening, garden!  And don’t let anyone tell you that something else is the only way to pray.  If you love a set of prayers, pray them!  If you are called to work with the elderly, don’t get roped into working with pre-K because that would be more “holy” or “worthwhile.”

I know that sounds crazy, but it happens all the time to people of good faith, people who are sincerely trying.  And their light slowly gets dimmer and dimmer because they are trying to be in a place they were never meant to occupy!

Experiment in your Christian walk.  Find what works for you, where your spirit is released and relaxed and open!  It’s a great place to be!
*~*

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Life As Rocket Science, Part 6: Making Adjustments

September 24, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

I have another friend who is also working on losing weight.  This one found a program that was really going well for her.  She was jazzed to be on it, and it was working.  Then suddenly one day she sent a chat message to the effect of… she had been too into the weight loss and had taken her eyes off God and so she was not going to the meeting… blah, blah, blah.

To which I said, “Wait. Wait. Wait.  Hold up a second.  You’re wanting to stop all of it, something that’s working, because you’ve seen issues with what you’ve been doing?”

Let me explain this thinking this way…

You are the pilot on a flight from the mainland to Hawaii.  You take off and you are flying.  Suddenly you realize that you are off course!  In the direction you are flying, you will MISS Hawaii and instead be in Japan!

What to do?  What to do?

Well, of course, you turn back around and go back where you started, right?

Oh.

Really?

You don’t turn around and go back?

What’s that?

You can make an adjustment?

Why, I believe you are right!  You can, in fact, make an adjustment and get back on course!

So if you’re doing your experiments and you realize you’ve gotten off course, make an adjustment!  If you are balancing your checkbook and miss a month, make the adjustment–do that month–and go on with life.  Don’t say, “Oh, forget it! I can’t do this anyway! I give up!”  Make an adjustment.

The good news is my friend did make an adjustment, put the program back in perspective and kept going.  The even better news is Hawaii (where she really wanted to be) is now on her radar screen!  Woohoo!

 

*~*

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Life As Rocket Science, Part 5: Gathering Data

September 20, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Years ago a new-at-the-time-to-me friend was flabbergasted that everywhere I went, I found lessons from God.  She got so exasperated that one day she said, “I thought we just lived. I didn’t know there were lessons!”  I still tease her about that.  ;)

One of the things I have learned about life’s lessons is that unless you realized you’re experimenting, you won’t gather the necessary data to make accurate corrections to your experiment.

Let’s say we’re talking about weight for example.  Now you are just going along not really paying any attention to your body.  Then one day you step on the scales and Gad-zooks!  You’ve gained 25 pounds!  So you start dieting and exercising (eating and moving), but unless it’s Jan. 1, you don’t really remember when you started.  And yeah, you went to the gym one day this week, or was that last week?  You’ve eaten pretty good.  Okay, there was that trip to get ice cream, and oh, yeah, your brother’s party, and then there was football on Sunday…

You get the idea.

We live such a fast life and our memories are so short that we often lose valuable data from our experiments.  Data are the markers that tell us how our experiment is going.  Are we moving closer to our goal or further away?  Is this experiment destined for success, or are we even paying attention?

In school, data would be grades.  You aced this paper but flunked that one.  That’s data.  It tells us what we need to work on and correct.

Without it, we are “flying blind” and “blind” is how many of us prefer to live.  After all, if we just don’t look, maybe the bills will go away.  If we just don’t pay attention, maybe our house will clean itself, our kids will get A’s in school, our marriage will hit 50 years with no effort at all.

Here’s the problem with that thinking.

If you are going to New York, it really helps to know where you are now and if you are moving in the right direction!  Think about how many ways you could end up in “not New York” if you just set out on the highway and drove.  Yet that’s what we do.  We get out on the highway of life and drive, with no plan and no data to tell us if our non-plan is working.

This is NOT the way to get an experiment to work out successfully!

Instead, we need to decide what we are experimenting on, see where we are, gather data as we go, and make adjustments.  Otherwise, we “just live” and get wherever life takes us (which oftentimes has nothing to do with where we wanted to be!).

*~*

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Life As Rocket Science, Part 4: Eating and Moving

September 17, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

I’ve been reading a fascinating book called Why Quantum Physicists Don’t Get Fat.  In this book, the author Gregory Kuhn discusses how in regular physics we believe what we see, but in quantum physics we see what we believe.  That is fascinating to me.

Last time I talked about my son and his struggles with homework.  See, to me, I see the spelling words and they are easy.  So it’s easy.  But when he looks at them, they look like a mountain and he gets overwhelmed so easily.  That’s why we’re having to experiment with ways to figure out how to get it so he sees them as easy and not as impossible.

Same thing with my friend and the weight issue.  She has looked at the problem and decided it’s impossible to lose weight, so… it’s impossible to lose weight!  She is getting what she believes.  She is seeing what she already believes.

That is true so often.  I think it’s one reason why the positive thinking movement sprang up–because when everyone was saying, “I can’t,” and someone finally figured out that when you say, “I can’t” you will get those results, then the obvious solution is to say, “I can.”  Of course, we’ve now found the limits of that application because just because you say you can, doesn’t mean you believe you can!

That’s why I started saying, “I can’t” — because sometimes I really believe I can’t.  “But God can.”  Because I believe God always can.  So now I say, “I can’t but God can” because that is something I do believe and it frees me up to do whatever God tells me to do, which oftentimes solves the issue I was having.

In fact, one of the main points of the Quantum Physicist book is learning to tell yourself the best story you can that is believable.  Kuhn says (and I agree) that we all tell ourselves stories each day.  We tell stories to ourselves about our ability to do something, our time, our talents, our effort, our circumstances.  And what we TELL ourselves becomes what we BELIEVE and is thus what we see.

In the area of weight loss he talks about how we have told ourselves about diet and exercise so long that those two have become hated, loathsome words.

So, one of the experiments he talks about doing is substituting words for diet and exercise.  The two words he says to try substituting are:  eating and moving.

I thought that was really cool.  When I think of diet and exercise, my body and spirit tense up.  I feel guilty about how little exercise I’m getting and I worry about how my diet is going.  But when I simply replace those two words with eating and moving, suddenly my body and spirit relaxes!  Eat and move?  Well, I do those two every day!

I’ll let Mr. Kuhn tell you what cool stories to tell yourself when you experiment with the words eating and moving, but for now, that’s something else you can experiment with in your own life.

*~*

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Life As Rocket Science, Part 3: Homework

September 13, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Anyone who has read the blog for a couple years now knows that my son has a lot of trouble in school.  It’s not that he’s not a hard worker.  The only one who beats him in that category is his oldest sister.  It’s that his eyes have not played fair with him and didn’t play fair when he was younger.  So in kindergarten and first grade, he missed a lot of pieces of information and knowledge that are needed to build upon later (now!).

This makes homework extremely difficult.

Now his just older sister is like I was in school.  She has to study, but she can look at something and with a few repetitions, she’s got it.

Not my son.

To “get” something, we have to repeat it and repeat it and repeat it.

Worse, simply repeating it in normal ways often doesn’t work.  For example, copying spelling words.  That sounds so logical.  To learn them, you copy them, right?  Yeah.  Not so much.

Why?  Because he tends to copy LETTERS not words.  So he will copy…

C

then look back at the paper and copy A

then look back at the paper and copy P

Then get tired and go get a drink of water.  Once back, he looks at the list, figures out where he is.  Copies a T.

Then the phone rings and he talks with his cousin for a few minutes.  He comes back and copies an I

Then an O.

I come in and ask if he’s got his homework finished….

Well, no.  Not exactly.  :)

Add to this that he is only now learning to pull words apart.  To me, that was cool.  To him, it’s like brain surgery.

My eyes would look at demolition and pull it into dem o li tion with no trouble.  He looks at the WHOLE word and starts guessing about what would start with a d have an l in the middle and end with an n.

So he’s having to LEARN to do in spelling and reading what for me came naturally.

That means we are having to experiment extensively to figure out WHAT works for him because what works for him is not what most teachers and parents know to do.

Add to this that if you try something and it doesn’t work, he tends to shut down, and you’ve got a fun experiment going!

We have learned a few things since the start of this year in August (3 weeks ago).  Jumping into 20 multisyllable words a week doesn’t work.  He has to SEE the words pulled apart, not just together.  He has to do a lot of repetition of seeing the words pulled apart.  He can’t see the words MISSPELLED as homework (i.e. pick out the one that’s spelled right).  If he gets one in his head wrong, it’s a major challenge to ever get it right… so get it RIGHT the first time.

Kindle works great to send the words to it and have him read them over and over.  Flip index cards from the store also work well.  Cutting the list down to ten and then adding one or two each week so he doesn’t feel overwhelmed also helps.

It is still a challenge, but with our experimenting, we’re learning some things to do and some things not to do.  That’s how experimenting goes!  It’s more a process than a destination.

*~*

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Life As Rocket Science, Part 2: Small Things

September 11, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Last week we talked about one friend who has been dieting and how her attempts at losing weight was like Thomas Edison experimenting with the light bulb.  He had lots of failures that all eventually led to the success he’s known for.  In the same way we are all “experimenting” with various things in our lives, finding out what works and what doesn’t.

Today I’ll turn my attention to a different friend of mine.  This friend was overwhelmed when I met her.  Haunted by a past she couldn’t change and wishing things could be so, so different now.  Seeing that trying to change everything overnight would not work, I instead suggested she try something radically new–small things.

We’re not even talking small like cleaning the kitchen.  We’re talking, being grateful for one minute somewhere in the day.

At first she was skeptical because what did she have to be grateful for, and what difference would that even make, but I challenged her to do one small thing.  The first day was interesting because I think she related to me one small thing she did toward God and like 7 she did away from God.  But the experiment was a success.  I got her to do ONE small thing.

The next day, I challenged her to do two small things.  She came back with a list of two small things and five things away.

Within a week, she had flipped the list six-seven small things toward God; two-three things away.  Then in two weeks, she had a list of 8 things toward God… and NONE away!

So very cool!

But here’s the thing.  She had come up with a lot of ways that life didn’t work, and she rehearsed them every day, nearly every minute of every day.  She had gotten very good at picking herself and her situation apart so that there was not much left.

However, it was in experimenting with very small changes that she finally found the key to turning life around.  It was in being willing to try something new that something new showed up.  And just like rocket science, it was built one small piece of knowledge and understanding at a time.

So when you’re thinking about experimenting with life, remember, you don’t have to do a whole-sale change to everything.  Choose some small things to change, to try, to experiment with.  Do those things and then add onto them.

You might be surprised how quickly your list of steps away from God and steps toward God flips!

*~*

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Life As Rocket Science, Part 1

September 6, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Today we will turn our attention from the Sowers and the Seed to something equally fascinating and just as fundamental.

This idea sprang from a conversation I recently had with a friend of mine who has tried about everything she can think of to lose weight all to no avail.  This has been going on for years.  Our conversation started with her telling me that she had decided she was a failure, that nothing worked, and that she was just tired of it all.

I could understand and relate.

However, instead of following that with, “That’s it. I’m just going to give up.”  She came back with.  “I don’t know.  Yesterday, I worked on a menu for like 3 hours…”

It occurred to me, and I told her, that far from being a failure, she had a great amount of courage!  After all of those attempts, after all of this time, she’s STILL searching for the answer.

Then I related the story about Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb.  Now I don’t know the exact details of the story, so I’ll tell you what I know.  Thomas Edison decided to harness electricity into something that was useable–a light bulb.  But at the time, no one had ever seen a light bulb or imagined a light bulb.  He had nothing to go on other than the belief that he could make a light bulb.

So he started, and he failed.  And he failed.  And he failed.  And he failed.

ONE THOUSAND times, he failed.

But is Thomas Edison remembered as a failure?

Of course not.  Why?

I submit it is not only because he was eventually a success.  Most of all, it was because he was willing to keep trying!

I told my friend that what she’s been doing her whole life is experimenting, and she’s simply found a lot of things that don’t work.

However, the truth is, she has also found some things that do work as well.

The problem is, she is allowing the don’t work experiments to cloud her vision to those things that do work.

So let’s say Thomas Edison is working, and he’s had five consecutive “don’t works.”  What does he do?  One of two things:  Either, he imagines something completely new that he hasn’t tried before, OR he fashions some of the “almost workeds” together to see if there’s a different combination he hasn’t tried yet that will work.

As I told my friend, I did and tried and worked for 16 years to get my books in the hands of readers.  I did “experiments” on the Internet, in person, in bookstores, with my blog, in groups, etc.  I tried everything I could think to do. Some things were more successful than others.  Some things were outright disasters.

From the more successful things, I gleaned information that I could cobble together to try something else new.  From the outright disasters, I learned it was not smart to go down that road again.

But the truth is, in EVERY situation, I learned–what worked, what worked for me, what not to do, what I could tweak and try again.

As I told my friend, “That’s all of life!  Experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t!”

So in the next couple of days, we are going to explore this idea and see what new things we can learn from it.  I think that you too will begin to see that Life really might be like rocket science, but in a really cool, adventure kind of way!

*~*

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