Going Backward in Order to Move Forward

uturn3Progress is not always made by pushing through—by going forward. Often, we will need and will actually desire to go backwards in order to be able to move forward. When we are always moving forward and always moving fast, we simply cannot keep up. The constant momentum to keep moving; keep improving even keep transforming is incredibly exhausting. We are tired mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually and all of these arenas live us feeling “spent” spiritually.There is a remedy to our dilemma of always feeling the need for the next thing; the next break through; the next big thing. It is this: go backwards. Sometimes, we need to go back to have the new found energy to go on.  I'm finding this even right now in writing this. I chose to go back and not forward by giving myself a 48 hour solo retreat. I needed time to think. I needed space to access the trajectory of my life. I needed time off to be back on--which I knew was going to happen anyway. So I chose to take this retreat in the midst of so many demands and meetings and needs. I walked away from my staff. I left projects needing my attention on the desks. I went away in order to come back better.Here are 5 areas to challenge you to move backwards in order to move forward in your life.

  1. Go backwards with technology. I have a friend who is ditching his iphone. It has become way too much for him. He has told me that his iphone is ruining his life. He finds himself always checking; always on and always available.  He lamented to me last week that "Texting has become THE primary way we communicate--sometimes even in our house"  There was no smile on his face when he shared this with me. He has made the heroic choice to go back to a flip-phone. It’s unthinkable isn’t it? To go back 20 years in technology is to go back to the dark ages—we think—we actually believe.   But the value of a flip phone is incredible progressive. It can give you your life back. You can’t text as much. You can’t always be on. You will not always be available. IT may be the step backwards to help you move forward.  Choose one day a week that you literally unplug! Take a sabbath from all wired gadgets. Lift your head up and live untethered for just one day a week and see what can happen.  Most of us can simply confess this one thing: we are way too tied down by our wired world--even despite the benfits.....If you can't go back to a flip phone--try fasting from technology for one day. Go back to go forward.
  1. Get Quiet—not Get Loud. We live in a noisy world and the noise outwardly and inwardly is making life absurd. Did you know that the Latin word for “deafness” is rooted in the word meaning ‘absurdity’? When we can’t listen--- so much of life and relationships—even our faith can feel absurd. One mega church I work with adopted a series for their entire congregation titled, “Get Loud!” It was a way of inviting their congregation to get loud; get big and involved; perhaps do great things for God. But where is the sermon series or emphasis on “Let’s get quiet?” While writing this, I am on a private retreat. I am doing a solo retreat of 48 hours of quiet. Yesterday as I took a long hike in the Rocky Mountains, I was disturbed by the constant buzzing of helicopters circling around. Their loud and buzzing rotating blades invaded my much sought after tranquility of mountain streams and eagles flying nearby. I was annoyed. Loud things can annoy us and the only remedy there is to notice is quiet. Quietness is the great antidote to our stress. As the buzzing of the choppers keep disturbing me on my hike, I used that outer noise to help me assuage my inner noise which we’re saying, “You could be so much more productive if you were back at the office actually doing something!” That is a voice that needs to be suspect. That is a voice I need to shun. That is a voice that does not bring me life.
  1. Do Less not more. No book has affected me more this past year than the book by Greg McKeown titled, “Essentialism.”  I have thoroughly enjoyed and been challenged to align my life and work with what is essential; what I find to be absolutely essential in life. Putting meetings, people and invitations to help into a grid which asks me this one question: Is this really necessary and will it help me stay in the pursuit of less—not more. Am I investing in the right/essential activities? How can I live focused and not so distracted by all the chances; all the ways; all the people? When we feel too stretched; too much like we are skating on thin ice, we need to check the trajectory of our lives and see if where we are headed is actually where we want to go.
  2. Reflect more and react less. By learning to practice the lost art of reflection, we can have the time to think our own thoughts; feel our own feelings and find our own center of our own soul. Thus we can live our own lives—not live the life designed by someone else—someone who may not actually have the best intentions for my life. In this age of constant availability and constant news, we are over-saturated; over-stimulated and over-committed. We are robbed from the simple times of a stroll; a lingering conversation and following the thread of our own thoughts and feelings to find out our own passions and feelings. We simply must have time to reflect. Reflection is the great art of being human. My dog Laz cannot reflect. The humming birds busy buzzing around at the feeder cannot reflect. Only humans can reflect—and to be human; to remain human and to live a fully non-machine like life, we will need to go back and learn the great art of reflection.  As we learn to reflect, we will find ourselves less prone to react; less ready to fly off the handle and tap into our reserves of anger and rage that always seem so ready at our disposal. Walk away when the tension gets heated. Take a time out.  Sit with what just happened....that email that just came in that triggered you into writing back a angry email in response.
  3. Go slow—not fast. Slowing our lives down is the antidote to our time sickness. One year gets blurred with the next and the last. Birthdays come so quickly. Everything good in life is not fast. By slowing—by actually practicing slowing, we can savor the richness of the wine of our lives. We can lift up the chalice of our lives and toast---and celebrate—and enjoy the goodness of life—even in an age of terror and violence.  Time-sickness has greatly contributed to the constant state of exhaustion that so very many of us experience. The antidote is slow. When someone has burned out, the only remedy is dis-engagement.

 As you consider going backwards, take a look at my list and add your own areas and suggestions and possibilities and let’s encourage each other to go backwards in order to move forward.  Go ahead, leave your comments! Let's get a good discussion going! 

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The Care of the Soul

The Care of the Soul is the answer to these questions!The care of the soul is not a program to be mastered; not an agenda to be followed; not a curriculum in which we advance. The care of the soul is a way of life—a way taught by Jesus, followed by the early church, practiced in communities in the mid centuries and almost entirely forgotten and neglected by the modern church today.This way of life is a clarion call to pay attention to God in the world and in your own life. Soul Care is about awakening to what really matters in life—far, far more than monetary success, personal achievement and individual significance. The more modern we become, the more likely we are to both forget and ignore the old, ancient ways that we see in the Scriptures. In today’s world, we value the fast and swift; the busy and the one who can multi-task efficiently; the strong and convincing.  By returning to our roots, we find a whole, other way to live--a way the ancients knew and practiced--a way that brought them life in the midst of trials and tribulation. We need this hope today, don't we?Our souls are in need of great care because there is great violence happening in the world today and great violence in our inner lives. The world seems so thin—so much turmoil—so much disturbing us. We seem on the brink of war with so many. Our inner worlds are in turmoil too! We’ve become over-medicated; over stimulated and over committed. We can’t do it all. We can’t keep up. We’re not sleeping well anymore and there always seems to be a committee meeting happening in our minds when we try to be silent.  The expectations we care in our minds about our work, marriage, money, relationships and witness to the world can sink us. They are heavy, often conflicting with one another and sometimes confusing. We need help.[tweetthis]The care of the soul is a non-linear, fluid and kinder way of life.[/tweetthis] Soul Care has a predictable movement which involves these developments:- an awakening that we need to tend to our inner life.- a confession that we can’t do this on our own and that we need help.- a humility to become a beginner in something we’ve never been good at but need to master.- a guide to show us the way forward.Perhaps we need to just stop here and say that the reason why there is so much resistance to the care of the soul is because we are not really good at all at: awakening, confessing, being humble and realizing we need a guide. Our culture has shaped us into almost the exact opposite of each of these postures of the heart. We have been led to believe we are already the enlightened ones. We have no need of confessing anything because we feel we have not done anything wrong. We are stiff-necked not bowing to anything or anyone. Thinking that we are the real trail blazers we have no need of guide because there is simply no time to ask anyone for guidance.Caring for the soul is seen first and foremost in the life and teachings of Jesus, himself. Since he said, “I am the way…” we would do ourselves some good here if we remembered that the first followers of Jesus never called themselves “Christians.” They referred to themselves as the “followers of the way.” This is mentioned five times in the book of Acts alone.I’m sorry that the church, in general, is not much help here. Addicted to programs, attendance and performance, we must return to the ancient ways to find our own ways of doing our life. I lament this so often as I travel, experience and witness the unfolding of our American attempt to be the church.  Personally, I feel like we are on thin ice with our smoke machines, performance driven ways and spectator like methods of worship.  I'm so thrilled to share a new and just released resource with you here. Our friends, Mark and Carrie Tedder have now released a way for house churches, missionaries, those who travel; those who can't go to church--a new way to worship. It's called, "Scattered and Small" and you can view it here. It's a way to worship without the frills and trappings and for those who might want intimate, small and more reflective.  I am thrilled to discover churches that embrace the care of the soul for the sake of others as a basic tenet of their life. I'm so glad to say, I know of many and lift of the chalice of my life to greet their life.Throughout the history of our faith, individual men and women have stood up and stood against the tide of culture defining our faith and how to do our faith. Throughout time, there have always been individual voices beckoning us this way or that way and a part of caring for your soul is listening to the voices who speak with authority, clarity and conviction.  Perhaps, you might decide to start reading books published 100 years ago–for in these pages, you will find a more distilled voice–a voice that we can benefit from in today's modern world. Ancient wisdom still lives today and helps us today.Potter’s Inn is a resource to individuals who seek to care for their soul and then offer that same care to others. Our Aspen Ridge Retreat is a place people can come to be trained, receive guidance from our trained spiritual guides, and explore more resources we offer.To get started or to continue in the journey of caring for your soul, I’d like to suggest the following places to dig in:

  1. Get and read, Embracing Soul Care and do a daily reading. Use it as couples, in small groups, with a friend or alone. There are short entries to grasp some new thinking. Also, consider reading Soul Custody. Use this as a guide because there is a short study at the end of each chapter.
  2. Consider having a spiritual guide—a spiritual friend where you can enjoy conversations that are deep; life-giving and healing. At Potter’s Inn, we offer this through Skype, but also in person at the retreat.
  3. Attend a retreat this coming year. Consider the Potter’s Inn hallmark retreat: The Soul Care Experience. It’s a five-day, guided retreat covering the life-giving themes of soul care. The May 2016 is almost full but there is room in the fall retreat in October.
  4. Consider the Soul Care Institute, which is a two-year, cohort modeled training initiative led by seasoned veterans in the field of soul care.

Caring for your soul is a spiritual journey that has tremendous benefits for our physical life, our human bodies and minds–who always seem to beg for more!  It is a journey of the heart and mind, where a place of convergence begins to flow onward and inward.Blessings as you move onward and inward in the care of your soul this year!