Jostling Our Perspective

There’s nothing like washing clothes in a laundromat to jostle your perspective on the things you take for granted.

Version 2Last week I whipped to the closest coin laundry to wash a couple of dog beds and an old comforter. I was zipping along cramming the bulky items into one of those advertised “big front load washers.” But the door would not latch shut after I swiped my credit card (it’s still called a coin laundry, but plastic payment was a faster choice). Rats!

That’s when I glanced over at a man with thick glasses at a side table drinking a Fanta® orange soda. With a Disney movie blaring from the mini screen above the dryers, I approached this stranger in my frustration.

“Do you work here?” I quickly inquired. “No,” he mumbled, continuing to stare at his magazine.

I rolled my eyes and partially huffed back to the broken washer, when this man’s voice pierced my irritated mood. “That’s why I always use the top loaders,” he offered. Now someone tells me! I bemoaned to myself. I found the coin laundry’s phone number online via my cell phone and talked to the real owner about my credit card charge for a machine I couldn’t use.

That’s when I really noticed the petite man. My eyes followed him as he shuffled past me to another washing machine, sliding and leaning on his wooden cane and a rolling laundry cart. Standing tall, he may have reached my middle ribs.

Instantly, a wave of humility surged over my annoyed attitude about finding another washing machine to use. The owner would refund me, but I didn’t care anymore. All I could think about was this disabled man quietly washing his clothes, sipping an orange soda. I wondered if he returned here week after week. Me? I’d only be back to wash another cumbersome dog bed.

Between my washer and dryer trips, I retreated to my vehicle, but watched the diminutive man through the front window return to his spot at the side table. Painstakingly, he folded his white tube socks and blue towels. His cane resting on his laundry cart.

There’s nothing like washing clothes at a laundromat to jostle your perspective on the things you take for granted.

What everyday people or life circumstances have nudged you to count your blessings lately?

Brave and Resilient Tip #134: Stay attuned to the everyday people who can jostle your perspective for the good.

Window on the World

IMG_1942I am writing to you from an airplane slicing through swirls of creamy clouds as light as my Mom’s mashed potatoes. I love to look out airplane windows and contemplate life. There is just something about getting above the planet and looking down on the patchwork of crop fields dotted with meandering streams that gets me out of my myopic view of everyday life. I feel like pressing my nose against this window on the world for the entire flight.

Imagine the colossal view that God has not just of Earth and all the celestial wonders, but also a close-up watch on each of our lives. The ancient Jews called Him El Roi, which means “the God who sees.” He sees all the moments of our existence from our beginnings in the womb to the end of our days and every nanosecond in between.

God sees the wrap up of our 2015 and sees ahead to the adventures and challenges of 2016. He observes what we eat, how we drive, how we work, how we interact with others. El Roi never loses sight of who we are and what we need.

But you know what? At times I pause and wonder if God has diminishing vision. Hearing about unspeakable ISIS atrocities, or violence in America, or people suffering everything from cancer to loss of jobs ruffles my faith in God’s eyesight. Is God seeing this breakdown in our world? Is He simply catching a quick glimpse of our angst or is He truly focused on us when disappointment and despair invade?

When these questions resound, I am learning to recalibrate what I know is absolutely true. And on opportunities like today, I get my head above the clouds to clear my fuzzy vision about God’s character. I am drawn to King David’s confident words about God’s watchful eye. “You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight. . . . Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
you’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting! (Psalm 139: 3-10, The Message).

God not only sees us now, but He’s already ahead waiting for us? That’s a mind stretcher, but it settles my doubts about El Roi’s need for His annual eye exam. Today’s flying “on morning wings” reminds me that no matter where we travel or if we hit some turbulence along the way, we will never escape God’s notice.

Before my plane descends, I want to linger above Cloud 9 just a little longer, pondering El Roi’s perfect vision and my need for His observant care in the year ahead. If you’d like to join me, I’ll switch to the middle seat so you can get your own close-up view of the creamy clouds as light as my Mom’s mashed potatoes.

How would you describe God’s eyesight?

Brave and Resilient Tip #129: No matter where you are, you are never out of God’s sight.

 

A 180 on Fear

Shortly after 9-11 marred its way into our lives, I had the privilege of interviewing a number of grieving family members directly affected by the terrorist mayhem. I talked with Lisa Beamer whose husband Todd became one of the iconic passengers aboard United Flight 93. Todd’s “Let’s roll” rallying cry emboldened a courageous handful of passengers to storm their attackers before the commandeered airplane slammed into a Pennsylvania field. Instant comrades in their last moments, Todd and the flight’s other brave passengers saved unknown thousands of lives on the ground that fateful September morning.

two way arrow road sign - Version 2
Recently I ran across portions of my conversation with Lisa just a couple weeks after losing Todd. Her grief was painstakingly fresh yet her words comforting.

“If your perspective is only on this life and you are holding onto your little world at all costs,” she explained, “that’s going to be a very fearful thing. Anything can impinge on your security or threaten it—especially terrorism. Despite all the best efforts of our government, we will always be vulnerable in some places.

“Most people’s knee-jerk reaction to the events of September 11 was to look to something higher than themselves—go to church or a prayer service—and I think that’s an indication that people deep down know that this isn’t all there is to life,” Lisa continued. “It’s easy to forget about those deeper issues when life is good, but when a true crisis strikes and people’s earthly security is knocked out from under them, that God-given desire for looking above yourself and beyond yourself comes through.”

What wise words from a newly widowed 32-year-old—a pregnant mother suddenly raising two small boys on her own. Fear hisses when our circumstances spin out of our illusion of control. Fear claws into our thoughts and hunkers down until we look above and beyond ourselves. This 180-degree change in perspective happens when we train our eyes to view the needs of others around us and steady our focus to “see things from [God’s] perspective (Colossians 3:2).

As Lisa reminds us, “If your perspective is only on this life,” fear will eat away at the best of you. We won’t all be called to bravery at 36,000 feet like Todd Beamer. But we can start rolling today with looking above and a beyond our fears right in front of us.

Brave and Resilient Tip #83: Fear dissipates when you look above and beyond yourself.

Put Down Your Shovel

American business magnate Warren Buffet shares some profound advice about how to get unstuck in life: “The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.” Stop digging? But doesn’t a little extra muscle help lift you out of your stagnant circumstances? Doesn’t trying a little harder move you forward?

IMG_3752Not necessarily. Sometimes the harder we try, the more frustrated we become. Sometimes digging and digging simply results in a deeper hole without a smooth escape. Warren, the Sage of Omaha, is right. Despite our instincts to work our way out of a hole, it’s important to stop and get our bearings. Often, it is best to put down our shovel and either climb out of the hole we’ve dug or ask for a helping hand to get out.

By nature, I’m more of a try-harder, dig-deeper kind of gal. I don’t list stubborn on my list of admirable qualities, but sometimes I do let my determination and drive get the best of me. What about you? When do you find it most challenging to put down your shovel? When the kids are sick and whiny? When you are sick and whiny? When the bills are stacking up and the bank account is running bare? When you are tired of waiting and want to see progress NOW? Some of us dig an assortment of holes: overworking, crash dieting, overspending, complaining, skipping sleep and rest, criticizing, and on and on.

But what if we applied Warren’s advice and instead of digging ourselves deeper in a hole, we dig deep inside ourselves . . . and stop? I’m game, if you are. With our shovels at rest, we’ll have more time to look around at our situation and even apply the advice of Hosea, a Sage of Israel, “it’s time to dig in with God” (Hosea 10:12). When we’re in a hole, fresh perspective from above helps us see the light of day.

What does getting out of a hole look like for you?

Brave and Resilient Tip #80: If you’re in a hole, put down your shovel and get some fresh perspective from above.

Let’s Talk

 Seeing with New Eyes

 

Q.  Can you talk about the importance of our “not seeing” (loss of vision) today and our feeling of despair?

A. Let’s Talk! I recently heard an interesting fact about the Titanic. If a certain key had been present to unlock the ship’s binoculars, the Titanic might not have sunk. Vision is huge. Here is the story about the key from The Telegraph website*:

It is thought to have fitted the locker that contained the crow’s nest binoculars, vital in detecting threats to the liner lurking in the sea in the pre-sonar days of 1912.

Catastrophically for the Titanic and the 1,522 lives lost with her, the key’s owner, Second Officer David Blair, was removed from the crew at the last minute and in his haste forgot to hand it to his replacement.

Without access to the glasses, the lookouts in the crow’s nest were forced to rely on their eyes and only saw the iceberg when it was too late to take action.

One, Fred Fleet, who survived the disaster, later told the official inquiry into the tragedy that if they had had binoculars they would have seen the obstacle sooner.

* “Key that could have saved the Titanic,” The Telegraph, by Graham Tibbetts, retrieved August 9, 2013.

We do need physical sight, as evidenced by this story and more, but we really require spiritual sight or insight even more.

Ann Voscamp, in her book, A Thousand Gifts, has taught me another way to “see.” I won’t do the book justice, but a summary is that we must have gratitude for every glimpse in our mind’s eye. A soap bubble. A child’s laugh. Maybe we can train ourselves to see what is in front of us in new ways. This gratitude is an antidote for despair.

Looking at our trials from God’s view or vision instead of our own is “the key!”

 Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” We are so trained to see things from a human, earthly and physical viewpoint that we forget God’s perspective – the REAL and important one, though invisible to our eyes! Ask God to “show” you in your mind’s eyes His truth today for whatever is difficult. Look up!

 

For Deeper Reflection

Read Proverbs 2: 1 – 12             

 

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

 

        

Flowers or Weeds?

This past weekend, my friends’ 3-year-old daughter found it enthralling to pick the yellow “flowers” in their backyard as a bouquet for Mommy. The darling cherub was so giggly eager to preserve her handpicked dainty flowers in a sippy cup of water just for her mother. Last year her 5-year-old sister plucked the yellow beauties at the park and we also kept them well watered in a sippy cup just
for Mommy.

DanielDandelionsTo me the “yellow flowers” are annoying dandelions that I dig up and spray every spring before I can get my lawn sufficiently safeguarded with weed ‘n feed fertilizer. I’ve come to detest dandelions messing up my green grass. But do I need to become like a child in my middle-age thinking? What is there about a child’s perspective that nudges you to examine your own?

Yellow flowers or weeds? It all depends on your point of view. To exuberant children who know nothing of pesky weeds and toxic chemicals, dandelions are bright and beautiful. To me, who ran my own lawn service as a teen and who studied weeds (not “Weed”) in college, dandelions are an annual landscaping evil. But what if I paused to consider a child’s view of the pointy little buttercup florals?

Life is like a yard sprinkled with dandelions. Part of our resiliency is learning to acknowledge other people’s dandelions, er, viewpoints. Some of us need a little practice at accepting truth that may not fit our preconceived grid. Others of us need to put down our weed killer spray and rethink our perspective.

As my pastor is known for saying when mentioning two different perspectives that are both true: “Which one is right? . . . Both.” A dandelion (meaning “lion’s tooth” because of its shape) is both a perennial plant with florets and it is a weed. But it’s also a medicinal herb used for upset stomach, joint pain, and much more.

Oh, for the patience not to jump to conclusions about facts or people and the wisdom to stretch our viewpoint or soften our stance. Perhaps today you’re facing a particular situation or problem. Is it a dandelion or weed? Perhaps it’s both.

And if you’re like me, you can choose to view dandelions as cheery flowers when you’re with children and annoying weeds in your own yard. This morning I noticed some of those golden floral, medicinal weeds cropping up in my landscaping rocks. Now where I put the Roundup®?

Brave and Resilient Tip #27: Learn to consider and respect other people’s viewpoint.

Perspective

Perspective is one of those words I’ve thought about having etched on my tombstone. You may not know it, but for most of junior high through college years, I mowed a cemetery on the bluff overlooking my rural Nebraska hometown. On those muggy summer days when I mowed around hundreds of tombstones with both a riding and push mower and then manicured stone markers closely with hand clippers and even by plucking, I learned a thing or two about perspective, perseverance, and perspiration—all part of being resilient. (I still have mild calluses at the base of my fingers from years from squeezing manual grass clippers. Wish I had a Weed Whacker back then!!)

IMG_0352 - Version 3There was something mind-cleansing about cruising along on my mighty mower in the open edges of that cemetery and looking out of the farmlands and my hometown a couple miles in the distance. Summer after summer I could zip along glued to the slightly padded mower seat and work on my tan, all the while refreshing my view of everyday life. Somehow alone, except for the hundreds of early settlers and townsfolk now silent in their graves, I could muddle through my problems (catching the eye of cute guys, understanding algebra, improving my volleyball serve, lining up my new fall wardrobe, helping choreograph swing choir moves . . . and on an on).

Perspective. It’s the ability to look underneath and all around at the people and circumstances of life to see the big picture. Or as one dictionary states, “a view or vista; the ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations and comparative importance.” Like my days on that vista above my hometown, I daily need to pause and refresh my view of what’s truly important and what has eternal value.

I  like what British rabbi Jonathan Sacks says happens when people pause to turn to God throughout the day. “We recover perspective. We inhale a deep breath of eternity.” Recovering our perspective each day makes us more brave and resilient for tomorrow and increases our capacity to exhale the here and now and inhale deep breaths of eternity.

What helps you gain perspective? I’d love to hear what works well for you.

Brave & Resilient Tip #19: Recover perspective one deep breath of eternity at a time.