Tag Archives: Sleep

“…Don’t Scare Worth a Damn.”

 Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.
Ezra 4:4 (NIV)

I’m on the road this week for business. I rarely sleep well when I’m on the road. My brain is buzzing from long days of meetings with our client and it is often hard for me to shut down my brain long enough to sleep. I have found that one of the things that help me sleep is to have something familiar playing quietly near me like a favorite audiobook or documentary. Last night, it was Ken Burns’ documentary, The Civil War, that accompanied me to my dreams.

As I woke this morning the nine-part documentary was still playing as it told of how Ulysses S. Grant was able to finally defeat the Confederate General, Robert E. Lee. Lee had successfully defeated a long list of Union generals before Grant. Lee’s army was severely outnumbered and his resolute strategy was to discourage the Union’s resolve to wage war. It was working. When Lee won a battle, the Union’s response had always been to retreat. When Grant lost a battle, however, he refused to retreat. Grant continued to march his army forward no matter the cost or casualties. As one of his soldiers said, “Ulysses don’t scare worth a damn.”

I then read today’s chapter. The Hebrew exiles have begun construction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the repair of the walls. Their regional enemies, however, fear a rebuilt and powerful Jerusalem. So, they set out to thwart the rebuilding. Their strategy? Much like Robert E. Lee, they set out to discourage the Hebrews and break their resolve to rebuild.

In the quiet this morning I’m reminded that God’s Message tells me, as a follower of Jesus, I am engaged in a Level Four spiritual struggle. With the resurrection of Jesus, my enemy’s defeat is made certain, but it did not break my enemy’s resolve. Along my life journey, I have found that the enemy’s strategy is basically the same as Lee’s and the same as the Hebrews’ neighbors in today’s chapter. The enemy wants to discourage me, to diminish my faith and break my resolve to trust and obey the One I follow.

Will I retreat like a long list of Union Generals who always backed down despite overwhelming odds in their favor? Or, will I continue to march forward in the face of an enemy who continually works to discourage me from that resolve?

As I ponder this morning, I can’t help but desire that it would be said of me in the spiritual realm: “That Tom Vander Well. He don’t scare worth a damn.”

Outward Groaning; Inward Growing

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:16

For the past two months my life has been out of sync. You may have noticed that my posts have been more intermittent than usual. It started with the holidays when our kids and grandson, Milo, arrived home Scotland in early December. It was a joy having them with us for the month of December, though having a one-year-old (who is still trying to figure out normal sleep patterns) in the house tends to disrupt the normal schedule a bit. Then came Christmas, our daughter home from South Carolina, and, well, you get the picture.

I was looking forward to life getting back to normal after New Year’s. Then, on New Year’s Eve day, I was working out at Cross-Fit and I threw my back out on the rowing machine. Ugh. Unexpected and not fun at all. It’s been a slow recovery. A few days later, Wendy had surgery on her foot to take care of a pesky neuroma that’s been bothering her the past few years. That meant she was laid up on the couch with her foot up for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I developed a nasty chest cold that would not let go (still hasn’t completely). Wendy and I were quite a pair laying next to each other on the couch. Our house became a domestic M*A*S*H unit. Add to the mix a marathon week of business travel and some brand new responsibilities at work. Oh yes, and did I mention about 18 inches of now and sub-zero temperatures? Yada, yada, yada. Blah, blah, blah. Again, you get the picture.

One of the things that I’ve learned along this life journey is not to fight against the terrain I am traversing in the moment. I’ve learned to lean in and embrace each season and what it brings with it, even if it’s not what I want it to be. December was joyful disruption. It was a time to lean in to family, guests, and celebrations that fubar the normal flow of life and schedule. January has not been joyful disruption. It’s been a rocky road of injury, illness and the subsequent need to focus our energies on rest and recovery. Which has meant sleeping in a lot of mornings, and not getting to my regular chapter-a-day post.

And so, in the quiet this morning, I silently identified with Paul’s words, pasted at the top of this post. In the past few years I’ve noticed distinct changes in my body. I need more sleep than ever before. When I get sick, I require more rest. It takes a little longer to recuperate than before. I need regular, and more focused, exercise for my health and well-being. In other words, my body is showing the very natural signs of its age. Spiritually, however, I feel as though I’m in a time of unprecedented growth. My spirit feels more alive than ever. I’m making new discoveries. I find myself pushing further up, and further in. I’m less distracted by the silliness of this life, and more focused on Spirit and truth. It’s awesome.

Outwardly groaning, inwardly growing. That’s the terrain right now, and I’m embracing it. It is what it is. I’m sorry my posts have been a little sporadic of late. I’m getting back to normal. It’s just taking a little bit longer than I expected.

Cheers, my friend. Have a great week!

 

Reflecting on Life Changes

The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth

    and honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me

    is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)

Thanksgiving is a day of reflection. Wendy and I certainly felt all the normal moments of gratitude yesterday. We are so abundantly blessed in so many ways, and we are so grateful.

I found that my reflection in recent days has stretched beyond the normal annual checklist of family, friends, community, provision, and regular blog readers. With my 50th birthday still relatively close in the rear-view mirror, I’ve been reflecting on the ways I feel my entire life changing this year.

I’m sleeping more, which is a huge paradigm shift for me. I’ve spent my entire life struggling with insomnia and being a chronic early riser. Instead of averaging 5-7 hours a night of sleep I find myself sleeping 8-9 hours a night and being much slower about getting out of bed in the morning.

The loss of 1-3 of waking hours, on average, has also changed my daily routines. For almost a decade I’ve rarely missed writing a blog post (or two) each weekday morning. I suddenly find my daily routines struggling to find equilibrium with my changing biorhythms. I’ve had to allow myself grace in the shift. If there are any regular readers out there who have noticed the more regular lapses in my posts, I beg your grace as well. It is what it is. My routines are increasingly whacked out.

There are also spiritual paradigms shifting along with the physical ones. I find myself being far less religious and more deeply Spiritual. I’m increasingly open and less uptight with just about everything. Rules increasingly matter less to me than relationships. My understanding of God is expanding rapidly in unexpected ways while I feel my own admitted sense of self-importance receding. I feel as though I’m just beginning to understand what Jesus meant when He said that the entirety of the law is summed up in the command to love God fully and love my neighbor as I love myself. I’m feeling a bit sheepish about it taking me so long to get here.

As I read the words the ancient prophet Isaiah penned (pasted above) this morning I was reminded that Jesus quoted this passage directly*. I feel like I’m just beginning to understand the heart of God’s message to me. More heart, less lips. More heart worship, less rote ritual. More heart relationships, less rule keeping. I’m beginning to experience the differences, and it makes me excited for where my journey is leading me (in my shorter waking hours :-))

In a little synchronicity, I received this quote from Fr. Rohr in my inbox this morning:

Evolutionary thinking is actually contemplative thinking because it leaves the full field of the future in God’s hands and agrees to humbly hold the present with what it only tentatively knows for sure. Evolutionary thinking agrees to both knowing and not knowing, at the same time. To stay on the ride, to trust the trajectory, to know it is moving, and moving somewhere always better, is just another way to describe faith. We are all in evolution all the time, it seems to me. It is the best, the truest, way to think. —Richard Rohr, “Evolutionary Thinking”

chapter a day banner 2015

*Matthew 15:9-8; Mark 7:6-7

Photo Friday: Napping on the the Lawn

2015 06 Wendy and Tay Napping - 1I’ve come to realize that there are some photos that you love, and you don’t really know why. This photo from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is one of them. Every time I’m flipping through my photos and I see this one my soul smiles. I love the simple joy lying on the grass, napping in the sun. I love the way Wendy and Taylor are placed in such natural, beautiful surroundings. I love the blue of the sky meeting the green of the trees and the lawn. Of course, I loved experiencing that morning in the gardens when it happened and perhaps that is the most powerful attraction the photo has for me.

Anyway, I hope it makes your soul grin a little too.

The Benefits of Insomnia

source: stefanoricci via Flickr
source: stefanoricci via Flickr

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.

During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision.
Daniel 2:1,19 (NIV)

I’ve never been a great sleeper. I’ve blogged about this in other posts over the years. I have an active brain that spins and mulls on all sorts of things in life at all times. So, after a couple of hours of REM sleep I will regularly wake and begin thinking about all sorts of things. At that point, getting back to sleep is out of the question. It is frustrating, and it has its ill-favored consequences.

I will admit, however, that along the journey I’ve come to recognize that my insomnia is not without it’s benefits. It will often happen in the nights before I’m scheduled to teach a class or give a Sunday morning message. In those watches of the night when every thing is quiet and my brain spins in the no man’s land between deep sleep and clear consciousness, I often find the words, themes and illustrations coming to me. Solutions to perplexing questions strike me. New creative ways of looking at things are revealed.

Throughout time great inventors, thinkers, and creatives have kept paper and pencil near their bed to capture thoughts, dreams, and revelations that come to them in the night. It is a fascinating and mysterious thing which I believe God can and does use if we learn to tap into it. In fact, my most fruitful period of spiritual growth came when I applied a disciplined approach to writing my early morning thoughts. My local gathering of Jesus followers is exploring the idea of hearing the voice of God, and this Sunday morning (1/25/2015) I’m going to be sharing the morning message about my lessons and experiences with early morning journaling.

Which likely means I’ll have a sleepless night or two later this week.

I need a nap.

Occupied

source: kungfuji via Flickr
source: kungfuji via Flickr

“Oh, for the days when I was in my prime,
    when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house,
when the Almighty was still with me
    and my children were around me….”
Job 29:4-5 (NIV)

I had to be careful when I came up to my office this morning. Madison flew home yesterday for a brief pre-Christmas visit (she has to be on-call for work next week), and both bedrooms upstairs across from my office are occupied with sleeping angels. As I tip-toed up the dark stairway my mind was occupied with thoughts of the days when that was a regular morning occurrence. I remember going through a period of grief right after Madison moved out and the nest was truly empty.

And then, in a moment of vague synchronicity, I get to my office and open my MacBook to read Job’s words pasted at the top of this post. I get that Job is lamenting a loss that was far more extreme and infinitely more dire. That’s the cool thing about God’s Message. It meets you where you are in the moment.

In this moment I feel the bitter-sweetness of aging.

I watch my girls riding the roller coaster of young adulthood. One moment they express to me the excitement of independence and adventure that accompanies that stage of life’s journey. After years of parental guidance (and/or repression), they are living their own lives. They can go where they want and do what they want, whenever they want to do it. And, they can legally drink adult beverages while doing it (except for our acquired young adult, Suzanna, who still has a year or two for that one!). And then, the next moment they express to me the terror, doubts, and insecurities that accompany the realities of finishing school, finding jobs, navigating the health care system, and making ends meet. Welcome to life, sweetie.

For the record, I look at my life currently and realize that I’m on the same roller coaster ride. My car is just over-the-hill. One moment I express the excitement of independence and adventure that accompanies this stage of life’s journey. After years of parental responsibilities with children and teenagers, Wendy and I can once again go where we want and when we want whenever we want to do it. We even have the added blessing of financial resources to enjoy a few things for the first time in our lives. And, we can still legally drink adult beverages while doing it. And then, the next moment I experience the terror, doubts, and insecurities that accompany the realities of a body that doesn’t work the way it used to, hanging onto a job, and planning for retirement that suddenly doesn’t seem so far away. I carry concerns about the parents ahead of us on life’s road, and carry more concern than I thought I would about those young adult children following behind.

C’est la vie. It is what it is.

On this particular December morning, however, both rooms across the hall from my office are occupied with sleeping angels. And, while I miss the one angel who slumbers across the ocean, this morning feels a lot like “old times.” And, for that, I’m thankful (and hanging on for that next hill).

 

You Don’t Say “No” to Robert Redford

At the premiere of "The Conspirator"...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I had this dream.

I was standing in the hall of the Pella Community Center looking at an interactive map of the world. This is funny since the only interactive things in the Pella Community Center are flush toilets. Anyway, I was standing there thinking I was looking at a street in London and realizing it was a golf course in New York, when Robert Redford walks up to me and says, “Hey, Tom.”

“Hey, Bob,” I answered. Crap. I just called Robert Redford “Bob.” I don’t know him, of course, but he just addressed me on as if we were on a first name basis, so I just went with it.

“The men’s club would like to come see the show you’re directing, ‘Best Christmas Pageant Ever.’ We would need, like, 500 seats. Can you make that happen?” he asked.

There are two problems with this question. First, I have no idea what men’s club he’s talking about. Second, the Joan Kuyper Farver Auditorium in the Pella Community Center only seats 330 people max.

“Sure, Bob. I can make that happen,” I answered calmly.

“WHAT?!” My ego screamed at my super-ego deep within REM sleep as it frantically accessed all sorts of hidden synapses in my brain trying to figure out how on earth I was going to get an extra 200 seats in the auditorium in the next four weeks.

“Hey!” my super-ego snobbishly retorted to my critical, moralizing ego. “When ROBERT REDFORD addresses you on a FIRST NAME BASIS and asks you for a favor YOU DON’T SAY ‘NO!!!'”

It was then that my id graciously woke me up to pee. I was angling towards one helluvan anxious nightmare.