Archive for October, 2009

Who Is God Anyway?

Often I coach Christian clients who worry that they are not spending enough time in the Word or in prayer. They’re not being faithful to their “quiet time”, and are feeling guilty about it. I recently had a client who loves the outdoors “confess” that when she went to pick up her Bible for her “quiet time”, she instead picked up an outdoors catalog. She sees herself as a “strong Christian” and when she’s out in nature, she has a profound sense of worship and communion with her Creator. But when it comes to sitting and reading the Bible, she’s “tempted” instead to plan her next hike into the hills. This got me thinking….and relating…

Who is God anyway, and what does it mean to be a “strong” Christian? How do I have a “close” relationship with God? What does that mean? So often, I feel so distant. Part of me cares and part of me doesn’t. To be perfectly honest, I’m often bored reading the Bible. Not that I don’t enjoy reading it with my friends who come over. We read it like we’ve never read it before, and we debate and react and take the “wrong” side and challenge each other. But when I sit down for my “quiet time” and stare at that big book, frequently there’s no spark. No interest. When given the choice, read the Bible, like I know I should, or read a great novel, or stimulating article, I choose the novel or the article. I mean really. Who wants to just sit down and read the Bible? I know, I know, lots of people. But is that IT? Is that all there is to getting to know God? There are so many other interesting things to do. I don’t like feeling so dead spiritually. And I don’t want to look back on my life when I’m older and regret not cultivating that relationship.

Growing up we read the Bible every day, often twice a day. Every morning we read a chapter the Old or New Testament and the daily Oswald Chambers message to the Christian worker. Every evening we read today’s chapter from Proverbs. In addition, being in Baptist Sunday School, we had weekly memory verses, Bible stories, and Christmas pageants. I distinctly remember winning the prize when I was in fourth or fifth grade Sunday school and standing before the whole church reciting about eleven verses from John chapter three. I felt so proud. When I was a freshman in high school I accepted a challenge from a girlfriend and memorized the entire book of James. Growing up in the missions organization YWAM, Youth With A Mission, I received Bible teaching constantly from my dad and from other “famous” men and women of God who had so much wisdom and knowledge. I was in awe of these people and strove, through the encouragement of my parents to grow into becoming one of them. Over the course of my upbringing I probably read through the entire Bible eleven or twelve times.

So now, the idea of picking up the Bible to read is sometimes well….. not that interesting. What if God speaks in other ways? What if a relationship with God has nothing to do with reading the Bible? What if God isn’t “way up there” in the sky looking down on little me? What if God isn’t male? What if God isn’t interested in the Bible either? What if God is more interested in enjoying the great novel with me? What if God is more interested in my garden than in my “prayer” life? What if God is curious about what I’m going to cook for dinner? What if God is a big black woman in an apron cooking up something amazing in the kitchen, or a forty-something career woman in a windowless office, or a five-year old boy playing soccer, or a four-year old golden retriever? What if God is a warm breeze on a cold day, or the exhilaration of a black-diamond ski run? What if God is that huge harvest moon, or the view from glacier point? What if God is a little girl of mixed race? What if God is a Democrat?????!!!! What if God is all these things and wants to just hang out in my world? After all, isn’t that what Jesus did?

What might be possible if I let go of my “shoulds” in my relationship with God, and just “was” in relationship with God? Not the God I’ve been spoon fed all my life, but the living breathing Creator of the universe, who is neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, the God who is Spirit, who can take on and inhabit any form he/she chooses. Who is Love itself. Who does not live in a box, a church, a book, or a routine, but moves, hovers, whispers, and breathes life into everything and everyone. This is the God I want to know. What if this universe that I live in is God’s house, and everything and everyone I encounter in this house is speaking, breathing, singing, dancing, screaming, and shouting the name of God in an infinite number of ways. What if there’s NOTHING and NO ONE in this house who doesn’t loudly manifest God. Then there is nothing, there is no one, on the planet whom I should fear. Then, if my ears are tuned in and my eyes and my heart are open, I will touch God in every breath of every day. Then I am at home in the home of my Maker. Let’s go out and play, shall we?

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Love

So often I have clients & friends faced with a relationship that is exciting and terrifying at the same time. They are thrilled with the possibility of love, but terrified that they will get hurt…. again….. They’ve been down “this” path before, and they “know” where it ends… heartache and disappointment. The only way to avoid it is to avoid love all together, but they’re not willing to do that either. So we’re in a conundrum. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The TRUTH? The only guarantee in love is that you will get hurt. Might as well accept it as part of the package. When we protect ourselves from pain we protect ourselves from love. Hmmmm do I choose a life of isolation and loneliness or a life of intimacy, struggle, love, and yes pain? My clients generally know they must embrace the pain to embrace the joy. Boy did this one take me waaayyyy too many years to figure out…. I finally chose love. And I’m glad for it. Does it come with pain and disappointment? You betcha – lots of it, and in ways I never imagined. But the more I embrace the pain as a gift – yes a gift – the bigger my heart grows, the more depth and humility I discover. This life is not mine. I get to choose along the way, but I belong to Someone bigger than myself, and slowly – spoonful by spoonful – I’m learning to let go of my self-protection and free-fall into life and love…. without a clue where I will land. What a ride!

Fawn Gilmore Kraut, CPCC
Personal Relationship and Life Transitions Coach

To Be Content… Or to Contend

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. With apologies to my friends who see contentment as the pinnacle of spiritual aspiration, I am NOT content. Not in any measure. That is not the question. The question I wrestle with is one of those evil “shoulds”…. i.e. Should I be content?

I looked up content in my Websters 1828 Dictionary and noticed that right next to it is the word contend. Just change the t to a d and you more accurately define my normal state.

Content: Rest or quietness of the mind in the present condition; satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restraining complaint, opposition, or further desire, and often implying a moderate degree of happiness.

Contentment: Content; a resting or satisfaction of mind without disquiet; acquiescence. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” I Tim. vi

Contend: To strive, or to strive against; to struggle in opposition.

I am not content. This does not mean I am not grateful. I am filled with gratitude for just about everything in my life. But I do not have that “satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restraining complaint, opposition, or further desire…” Just ask my husband, Steve. I complain daily, I oppose, and I have many further desires that are far from being satisfied.

And to throw a little guilt on top of it, dear Mr. Webster quotes the Bible saying Godliness with Contentment is great gain. Good grief. I don’t feel very godly, and I know I’m not content, so I guess I can kiss off any hope of great gain!

So “should I be content”? I remember reading in one of John Eldridge’s books (highly recommend anything by John Eldridge), that the problem with us Christians is not that we desire too much, but that we are too easily satisfied with so little. Somehow we think wanting is sinful. I will tell you what I want..

I want us to stop playing small. Especially us women. We ask so little of ourselves and of others. There is this deep primal insecurity that teaches us that we are not worthy to be loved. I have talked to so many women, both clients and friends, who are picking up the pieces of their shattered dreams, wondering why they keep getting into relationships with men who only use and discard them, like disposable toys.

While talking about this recently with a friend, she asked me “What’s up with these men?” I asked her “What’s up with these women?” Why do we sell ourselves so cheaply? We’re so desperate for someone to love us, that we give it all away for a cheap imitation. AARRGGHH!! It makes me crazy!

I am NOT content to sit by idly, wasting my life away silently, while that bright creative light in a little girl’s eyes slowly dims as she hears and believes the lie that she is “stupid”, “ugly”, “weak”, “over-emotional”, and “just a girl”.

I have this in me in spades. I’m the ultimate pleaser. I’ll do whatever I can to avoid offending anyone, to be liked. My own personal boundaries disappear so that you will “love” me. I’m thinking about all those female country artists begging their man to lie to them so they can sleep with them just one more time. Puhleese! It’s pathetic.

You are a beautiful, powerful, unique daughter of God, with a heart, a mind, a voice, and a body that are yours alone to use. Do not give them away to anyone who does not respect that. Period.

Maybe I feel so passionate about this because of my own discontent. I’ll be 50 next year and I’m looking back on my life realizing how many many choices I have made from a place of doubt about who I am. I doubted my intuition, doubted my desires, doubted my gifts and abilities, and mistrusted my feminine sensuality. Oh I had, and still have, a healthy dose of arrogance about who I’m “supposed” to be. But when it came down to choosing Option A, what I truly wanted, or Option B, what others wanted, I almost always went with Option B, the one that would gain me someone’s approval. I so longed for someone to just tell me what I was “supposed” to do, that I actually did what just about anyone whose approval I wanted told me to do. Rather than choosing out of a deep confidence in who I was, I became what others wanted me to be.

I have a life-long secret admiration for the rebels. For those who all their life, spoke up and resisted those authority figures who tried to put them in a box. I know, they’re the one’s who “had to learn the hard way”, who got the snot beat out of them in life. But they’re also the ones who today are unafraid to speak their minds, to take risks, to embrace life with passion and gusto.

While they were being the “bad” kids and causing their poor parents so much grief, the rest of us were batting our eyes, smiling sweetly, and learning how to stuff ourselves into a comfortable mold that received all the pats on the back, all the you’re-going-to-go-far,-kids. We were the ones the adults used to measure their own miscreants against.

I used to recoil when I would see that bumper sticker that says, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Now, at the age of 49, it’s becoming my clarion call. (Better late than never my mother always said.)

So no, with more apologies to all my spiritual friends, I am NOT content to be content any longer. And I invite my friends to consider whether you are content either.

Marriage is a Three-Legged Race

Yesterday was the nine-year anniversary of my marriage to Steve Kraut. It amazes me how quickly time goes by. I still feel like we’re newlyweds trying to figure out what our marriage will look like, and what we want to do when we grow up. We still haven’t finished decorating the house, some of my stuff is still stored in the garage, and we’re just getting started. Yet I will turn 50 next year, and Steve will turn 65. He’ll be eligible for Medicare and I can start wearing all those purple and red things from the red-hat club. Marriage is an interesting thing. It brings a dramatic change to your daily life, and then again, nothing has really changed. I’m still the same person with the same neuroses; I’m just sharing them with someone else’s neuroses. Sometimes my marriage feels like a three-legged race. We used to do them at camp when I was a kid. You know, where you and a partner each put a leg into a burlap bag and then try to cross the finish line before anyone else. If you both try to run separately, you end up tumbling onto the grass either laughing or yelling at each other. It doesn’t work until you figure out a rhythm for running together. Inside leg then outside leg. Inside leg, then outside leg. Hmmm… In my marriage, it means bringing my own independence into rhythm with our shared life together. Both are needed, but they need to work together for the common goal. One cannot run faster than the other or we both fall down. But if we submit our own pace to the other’s, and find a rhythm together, holding up the sack with one hand, and holding our partner with the other, we start to find a stride. After that awkward struggle, we find ourselves gliding across the grass. Not that we don’t stumble, trip, and fall often, but then we get up, get set, and go again.