Mindless Scratching

It’s tempting to scratch that itch, isn’t it? What’s more tempting is to keep scratching that itch over and over again, as if it’s going to make it better. In fact, it makes it worse. In my family we call that “picking” at something, which generally leads to an open scab or sore.

At this point you may be thinking that this doesn’t sound like your typical New Year’s resolution blog. It isn’t. But I think it will motivate you none the less.

If you’ve ever watched free range chickens, you may have noticed that they keep their heads down for the most part, looking and foraging for food. In many cases they keep trotting with their heads down, pecking away.

chicken scratch

If you are not familiar with chicken behavior, take a quick look here.

They don’t even look where they are going. Their pecking could lead them right up to the base of the Empire State building as long as a trail of chicken scratch led them to it!

So what is chicken scratch and what does that have to do with you, me and 2017? Ok, scratch is a mix of cracked grains. It usually consists of wheat, corn, oats, sunflower seeds, millet. etc. It is NOT complete nutrition. 

So basically chicken scratch is not all that good for chickens, but they like it. I can tell you they love it and would keep eating all day if we threw it out there all day. It keeps them busy and in motion.

Are you eating chicken scratch?

Chicken scratch comes in many forms for humans: 

  • Worry is tasty treat for all of us; yet has no nutritional value for our minds.
  • Busyness keeps us running in circles, thinking that activity is accomplishment.
  • Pecking, poking and chattering about others deflects the need to work on our own issues.

My latest pallet knife painting “Mad Max with Poppies” encourages us to look at these things with a careful eye:

© Laura Gabel, “Mad Max with Poppies”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. $75.
© Laura Gabel, “Mad Max with Poppies”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. $75.

So what “human chicken scratch” did you entertain last year? I encourage you to write down one area that:

  • Is mindless, but makes you feel better. You love it.
  • Often keeps you busy but isn’t good for you. You love it and hate it.
  • Leads you in circles, keeping you from God’s desire for you.

For me the most damaging thing about “human chicken scratch” is it keeps my head down. It keeps me in the world racing in circles. I don’t have the perspective that God wants me to have. I am learning to step away from my “tasty treats” and frame a new life that keeps me looking up! Framing things God’s way makes things look and work better!  “…while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 NKJV

chicken scratch

So for 2017, I hope you’ll join me in not living like a foolish chicken!

chicken scratch
photo credit www.crossrivermedia.com

 

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Too busy to be still?

Have you noticed that “busy” has become the normal response to “how are you?” No longer do we brush folks off with a “fine” response, but now we sigh and say “busy” or a variation on it (crazy, barely making it, running wild, tired out). We wear our tag of “busy” like a badge of honor,  almost as though it were a contest to see who can be the busiest. Why are we so busy? Or are we not as busy as we think? Do we just feel busy? Do we just want others to believe we are busy? And what would happen if we suddenly stopped being busy? Is that even possible?

Some recent health problems have meant that I have been housebound, and at times couchbound, for the past three weeks. No housework, no cooking, no laundry, no errands, no activities, no driving. I know — some of you are thinking, “That sounds AMAZING! What I’d give to have some down time when I couldn’t do anything.” To be honest, the first two days were pretty amazing. I slept whenever I felt like it, checked email, wasted time on Facebook and binge watched HGTV. But by the third day, I was restless and cranky, and I took it out on those around me. The real issue wasn’t so much that I was bored with nothing to do. I work from home on the computer, which was still very doable. I was able to complete some larger projects that had previously been left undone, and I certainly do enjoy my share of Fixer Upper

As I stopped to think about it, the real issue was that I wasn’t doing the things that earn me the “busy” tag. I wasn’t busy doing stuff around the house. I wasn’t busy being doing mom stuff. I wasn’t busy cooking delicious meals. I wasn’t busy being a chauffeur for various activities. I wasn’t busy running errands. The reality was that if I wasn’t “busy,” I felt useless. In the stillness of a forced time of rest, I felt as if I had lost my sense of identity. My usefulness was tied to my busyness which was tied to my self-worth. 

I think we like to be busy, and have others know we are busy, because we are afraid of what we might find out about ourselves if we weren’t busy. But here’s the reality: My worth does not come from my work. My worth comes from my Creator whose eyes saw my unformed body when I was still in my mother’s womb. My worth comes from the Sovereign ruler of the universe who has made me in His image. It comes from the Redeemer who loved me and gave Himself for me. It is in those moments of stillness that I can see my own frailty. I can run from that, or I can let that direct me to the One whose power is made perfect in my weakness.

water lillies

My challenge for you this week is to be still. I know some of you will immediately object “but I’m too busy.” Yes. That’s all the more reason to do it. Take a look at this painting from Monet; it is one of my favorites. The Water Lillies is just a slice of a collection of paintings by Monet. While the largest collection is in France, you can also see several panels in New York. The paintings are displayed all along the walls of an oval room, so that the viewer can sit in the midst and be engulfed by the painting. Have you ever noticed that art museums have benches everywhere? The idea is to sit, to be still in order to look closely.

What is stopping you? It’s not your schedule. We make time for the things that are important to us. Can you take time to be still? Will you? Your worth does not come from your work. In your stillness, remember the One who made you, the One who loves you, the One who rules the universe. All your busy activity does not keep the planets in orbit. He’s got that. He’s got you. Be still and know that He is God.

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Finish the Hat

grande jatte

Date night is a rare occurrence in our home, so when Justin and I had the chance to get discounted theater tickets and free babysitting, we jumped at the opportunity. Sunday in the Park with George  is a Steven Sondheim musical that pulls its inspiration from the Georges Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte.

While we did enjoy our night out and the production, what was most encouraging to me was our conversation afterwards. The second song in the play, Color and Light,” pits the artist Seurat against his lover Dot as she laments wanting to go to a show while he is obsessed with his painting and his need to finish the hat.

Then in one of the final numbers, Move On,”, Dot remarks that what mattered was that she made a choice, not what the choice was. The choice she made was to leave Seurat to be with the stable-but-dull baker. While she loved Seurat, he was constantly working and neglected her in pursuit of his art. She then encourages the young artist to simply move on, make a choice, any choice will do.

In our fast paced world today, I think the temptation for all of us is to “finish the hat.”  We obsess over the task at hand, convinced that we must complete it whatever the cost. Unfortunately, the reality for most of us is that it’s not just one hat we’re trying to finish, but a whole haberdashery.

But is the only important thing simply to make a choice, any choice, even if that choice means leaving someone we love and settling for comfort? But it isn’t any better to continue to finish our hat regardless of the effect on those we love, is it? Shouldn’t there be a better way? What if there is a better way? Can we work together to choose those things which are most important, being willing to leave some hats unfinished?

Yes, I, for one, am grateful that Seurat did finish that magnificent painting. But was it worth the price of losing the one he loved? I have hats of my own that need to be finished — my family needs food to eat and clean clothes to wear (and this post needs finishing, too). But while I do have a choice, not just any choice will do. I do have a choice, and the content of that choice matters. I can finish the hat on my time table, regardless of the consequences. Or I can choose the things that matter most and order my life accordingly. 

What hats are you trying so hard to finish? Are there things you are neglecting in the process? How do we make the right choice, not just any choice, but what matters most? Let me encourage you to think about the choices we make, why we make them, and that, sometimes, that hat can stay unfinished, if even just for the moment.

Perhaps that’s what was most encouraging to me in thinking about the play and the painting. Those are people in the painting — people with wants, needs, feelings. That’s what matters.

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