A Book Review: Living the Quaker Way by Phillip Gulley

This is the second of my book reviews for Blogging for Books. This time I chose and reviewed Phillip Gulley’s Living the Quaker Way. To be clear, I am not getting paid to write this positive review, but I did get to read a book I was interested in for free, which is pretty cool in its own right. For you bloggers out there, check out Blogging for Books and pick your own free read. As an author, I know how glad writers are when they get an objective review. So, Win/Win.

Book Review Phillip Gulley QuakerI loved reading Phillip Gulley’s Living the Quaker Way. I was first introduced to Gulley as a fiction writer, hearing my brother rave about Gulley’s Harmony series. When I looked at Gulley’s author page to find out more about his books, I was thrilled to learn that he also had a nonfiction book on the Quaker faith and
traditions. Having been interested in Quakers for some time, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to learn more.

Gulley did not disappoint. He laid out the basic tenants of the Quaker faith: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality and then expounded on each one. Chapter by chapter, tenant by tenant, I found myself both resonating and being further challenged by Gulley’s expositions. He manages to walk the line between challenging the reader to grow in their journey without completely overwhelming them with an impossible task. He calls us to greater heights and then admits his own failings (After all, who of us can be completely truthful all the time? Certainly not me, and thankfully not Gulley either).

Gulley also interweaves the history of the Quaker movement and the diversities within the tradition as he writes. Like all denominations, Quakers have their more conservative and more progressive groups and have even had factions and divisions over the years. He also debunked an assumption I had that all Friends only sat in silence for their meetings. Some meetings have pastors that give a small message and sometimes there may be music involved with the meeting. Apparently there is no one right way to be a Quaker, which is quite a relief!

What I love most about Gulley’s Living the Quaker Way is that he presents Quakerism as a way of life. One does not have to attend a Friend’s meeting to become a Quaker. Simply embracing the principles that are the heart of the religion and living a reflective life counts. To this end, Gulley actually includes a 30 day guide at the end of the book that takes the reader through the Quaker queries day by day. We are invited to meditate on how we are embracing simplicity by reflecting on questions such as “Do I keep my life uncluttered with things and activities, avoiding commitments beyond my strength and light?” and “Do I recognize when I have enough?” I am greatly looking forward to spending the next month meditating on these queries and seeing where they take me.

I never got tired of reading this book. Gulley stays to the point and keeps the reader interested with personal stories. I did have to pace myself so that I could digest the material properly since the material is so rich and challenging.
In short, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is seeking to know more about Quakerism or just curious about this group of people who simply call themselves “Friends.”

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Getting out into community

31 Days (7)

One of the paradoxes of anxiety is that anxious people often fear getting out into the world and around people, yet isolation only serves to make our anxiety worse.

When I hurt my neck recently, I was laid up at home for a few days on muscle relaxers and in pain. When I began to heal a bit, I remained anxious about getting out into the world. I was afraid that my neck would start hurting again or somehow become more injured by my activity. But the longer I stayed at home by myself, the more my fear grew.

As my husband sometimes says,Anxiety likes space.” When there is a vacuum, anxiety tends to rush in to fill the emptiness. And when we stay at home alone, our anxious thoughts and fears have plenty of time and space to grow and expand.

Sometimes the hardest thing but the best thing for our anxiety is to simply get out of the house and around other human beings.

The night I realized I was too anxious to enjoy the company of friends I was spending time with was the night I knew that I needed to get back on medication.

Community is vital to our physical and mental health. If I could not function well enough to remain in community, something had to change.

So today, a few weeks into my medication regimen, I am happy to share this moment with you.

getting out into community

 

I had the opportunity to spend several hours out on a beautiful day with my church community and several of their fur children as we participated in our annual blessing of the pets.  There were a couple of moments that I noticed my anxiety, but on the whole I enjoyed being out in the good world and around people who love me even when they know I can be an anxious mess sometimes.

As I have said before, if you do not have people in your life you can share your anxiety recovery journey with, I will pray that you find them soon. I know for me being a part of a church where people can be real with each other and share their brokenness has been an important part of my healing.

And even if you don’t have a community just yet, I encourage you to still try and get out into the world. I know it is scary. It will not always be easy or pleasant. But it is so important.

Go sit at a coffee shop and read or take a walk in a public place. If you have the chance, join an anxiety support group! Whatever it is, do something that allows you to remember the world is a beautiful place and there are still good people in it.

I’d love to hear ways that you have found community support for your anxiety and how you have gotten over your fear of getting out into the world. 

And if this is still a struggle for you, you can share that story too and we will support and pray for you as we can.

 

 

Giveaway Winners

The prize giving puppies are excited to share with you that they have chosen the winners of last week’s giveaways!

 

giveaway prize puppies

 

 

Congratulations to the winners who will be notified today via e-mail and 

THANK YOU

again and again to all of you for your support.

As Emily Freeman shared recently at She Speaks,

 

A blog is not just the words of one person,

but a community that comes together to share about matters that

are important to them all.

Thank you for sharing this space with me. I hope that you all feel safe and supported in sharing the matters that are on your heart and that you would find something here that encourages you toward

giveaway

 

Peace to you all and Happy Monday!

 

How Sharing Your Struggles Leads to Healing

Six months ago when Jason and I first lead our Calming the Storms class on managing anxiety, I was primarily focused on sharing this resource that we had worked so hard on with others for the first time. My thoughts had all centered on what WE had to share with the participants in the class and how what we had to offer would help them. And certainly they did get a lot out of our writing and our leadership of the course.

But one thing that surprised me about the class experience what how important the group members were to each other’s healing. For one, it took no small amount of courage for the group members to just show up in a room full of strangers and admit publicly that they struggled with anxiety. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with having any kind of mental or emotional struggle. Having panic attacks, life limiting fears, or social anxiety can often be seen by others as weakness or an inability to get one’s self together and function as a “normal” person should in life.

This can be even more true in church circles where faith is expected to trump all worry and Jesus is believed to be powerful enough to solve all our problems on earth.

For those of us who try to be a person of faith yet still find ourselves struggling with fear, this unrealistic expectation of what following Jesus looks like can lead to a good bit of shame.  We are ashamed that our love of Jesus has not taken away our anxiety, so we hide it.

We try to hide our fears and struggles from others, try to hide it from God, and even sometimes try to hide it from ourselves.

I think that’s why the experience of coming together as a group was so powerful for our class. Just showing up that first time was a revolutionary act of coming out of hiding and admitting that we suffer from debilitating worry and fear. Although those first steps were tentative and small (mine included) they were the most critical steps we took the whole eight weeks.

For once we came together and were honest about our struggles, once we began to share our journey with anxiety with each other, the healing began.

sharing our struggles

As most people who have been to any kind of recovery group know, the experience of learning that you are not alone, that there are others who struggle in much the same way you do, is a huge relief. We no longer feel like a shameful failure. Instead, we feel like the normal human being we are that happens to have this particular difficulty in life.  A problem that we begin to learn is manageable, liveable, and even able to be healed.

Once the group became comfortable with each other over the weeks, it was amazing to watch them relate to one another. To hear all the “me toos” and “here’s how I handled that once” and “you can do its.” After a while I think they got as much out of each other as they got out of us. I learned once again that sometimes the best thing I can do is provide the structure and space for healing and then step back and watch it flow. Sometimes from surprising directions, but always rejoicing in its flow.

If you happen to be one of the 40 million people who struggle with anxiety and live in the middle Georgia area, I invite you to experience the healing of coming into a group of people who are all on the same journey as you. Come study the practices of breathing, self-care, calming the mind, and relaxing the body, all while supporting and learning from a community that is filled with people as broken and beautiful as you are.

One of the most touching moments of our last class was when we came to the end of the course and the group asked not, “What more can you teach us?’, but “How can we stay connected with each other?”

For even though they had the tools they need to continue their healing from anxiety, they realized they still needed other people to support and encourage them on their way.

My most happy moments after the ending of the group are when I see our group members reconnecting at a yoga class or run into them around town while they are exercising together or just catching up. The thing I most look forward to in our new class is seeing more people come together and finding a partner to journey through anxiety recovery with. I can’t wait to see more people supporting each other as they remember to breath through the fear, listen to their bodies, and live their lives in a way that is healthy and sustainable.

This link on Eventbrite will lead you to more details on our next Calming the Storms class coming up mid August.

If you do not live in the middle Georgia area or if your struggle in life takes a different shape, I still encourage you to seek out a community of people that you can connect with. People with whom you can come together and share your deep struggles. For when you find this amazing gift, healing will begin to come to you in exponential ways.

Sharing our struggles with others is a huge risk and takes great courage, but when we realize we are not alone in our brokenness and that others have our backs, even our toughest problems become more manageable. I hope you too take the risk and find a safe community in which you can find healing.

 

How Community Heals

This is the last in the trilogy of blog posts on what the new dog I didn’t even want is teaching me about life. Otherwise know as, Dang it dachshund, how did you win me over so quickly?

I will readily admit that I was not in favor of getting a new dog. I was hurting over the death of our beloved terrier and couldn’t imagine who would replace him in our home. We still had the hound dog with us and I was content to spend my days comforting the spotted one about his brother’s absence. I really thought the hound dog was okay. I was walking him extra, petting him extra, snuggling him on the sofa more. But then after Christmas I noticed his tail. He had begun licking a spot that was now balding and red. We assumed maybe he got a scratch or bug bite and it would go away.

It did not go away. So we wrapped his tail with athletic tape (we are nothing but cheap around here). This slowed him down a little, but eventually he always got the tape off. Time wore on and the place on his tail got worse, not better. We would find it raw and bleeding. Eventually I broke down and took the spotted hound to the vet. We gave him prednisone for a couple of weeks. It helped a little, but I think only because the medicine made him feel so bad he didn’t even feel like licking his tail. The vet advised that if the prednisone didn’t work maybe we should try Xanax.

Xanax. For my dog. Who apparently has was having depressive/anxious symptoms.

how cummunity heals

another adventure with spotted hound and terrier

So yeah, I guess dogs go grieve the loss of their friends. For we all want a best buddy. We crave someone who is like us, who gets us, to go through life with.

The Xanax comment sent me to the papers to start checking out rescue pups. We visited a couple of shelters and started meeting animals. I think I knew the chubby dachshund undergoing heartworm treatment was our guy when the vet nurse caring for him started interviewing me on the phone when I called to ask about him. She even got a little chocked up talking about how great he was and how they had all grown very fond and protective of him.

I’ll be honest that it wasn’t love at first sight between the little hound and the spotted one. Our big guy moped and pouted for a day or two that someone new was getting attention in the house. But then we noticed them playing together. And then we’d catch them cuddling on the sofa at night. After a few days the spotted one had a new bounce in his step out on walks again. He would come back from our school run car rides with a look of joy I hadn’t seen in quite some time.

IMG_4209

And then about a week and a half after we got the new dog I noticed it. Spotted one’s tail. It was almost entirely well. There was no more redness or bleeding at all. The skin had all grown back and new fur was coming in.

I jumped up with relief and started sharing the news with my husband. My guy, the therapist, said he was not surprised. He talked about how horses that are kept in pastures alone often suffer from tail biting. He went on to say that when he sees a teenager or young adult that is self-mutilating he always asks them about what kind of community they have.

It makes sense really.

For we were not made to be alone. We were meant for community. We were designed to need buddies to walk with us and share in the great joys of life like car rides and after dinner treats. 

Its just as well really. Life does seem to be better when we travel with a beloved pack. We play more and smile more. We have someone to keep us warm during the cold, dark nights.

So thanks little hound. Not only for making me smile everyday, but for bringing joy back to our sad spotted guy.

And you out there feeling sad and lonely on the sofa by yourself? There’s are buddies out there for you too. I know many days you don’t feel like making the effort to find them. But pick yourself up, start looking around, and take a chance on community again. Once you find a good pack of people, it will heal wounds you could not have imagined possible.

A Introvert Learns to Network

I had the great opportunity to attend the Crossroads Writer’s Conference this past weekend. It was a great experience and I’m so glad that I went. But I got to tell you, a day or so beforehand I was dreading going. Not because I didn’t think the speakers were good or I was worried I wouldn’t  learn anything from the classes.

I was dreading the conference because I am a strong introvert and therefore get quite nervous around new people, especially people I am expected to talk to for a purpose such as networking.  

So yeah, cocktail parties … my worst nightmare. Did I mention I signed up for the package that included a cocktail party?

But the thing is, I really wanted to attend the conference and knew I needed to go. So after pacing around nervously for a while, I sent out a little plea on Facebook Friday afternoon asking for some support. Well, ask and you shall receive people, cause I got not only encouragement, but some great advice from The Baddest Mother Ever. She reminded my introverted self to start off by asking questions of other people about themselves and the conference.  Brilliant.  Of course this would work.  Because here’s the truth about making impressions on people.

introvertslearningtonetwork

I’ve read this advice again and again.  It’s based on a simple truth about people.  Everyone wants to feel valued and respected.  Listen to a person, make them feel important and they will be pleased to meet you.  This rang true in my weekend networking  no matter whether I was talking to the newest newbie or well published authors.  All people just want to be known and appreciated.

And I can do that.  Thinking  about it this way made even networking seem fun and enjoyable to this shy girl.  Because here’s another truth I believe in.

All people are worthy of my respect and attention.

 Everyone has a valuable story that I can learn from and be blessed by.

I met so many great people this weekend.  So many different kinds of people.  Across the board I loved hearing their backgrounds, stories, and interests.  I loved how they made me laugh.  I stopped caring at some point if I was practicing my pitch or meeting someone who could get me something and just started enjoying being with the people around me.  It turned out that was the best gift of all.  But, community always is, isn’t it?

So thanks to those who encouraged me to take a step out of my shell and more thanks to those who turned networking into community.  I’m not sure I’m a cocktail party convert yet, but there’s always next year’s Crossroads to find out.

Got any more advice for meeting turning strangers into friends?  Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Why God gave us Hands

This post was originally written in October of 2012.  Since I’ve been run down with allergies and behind on my writing this week (but thank God no major sinus infection yet) , I thought it appropriate to republish this piece.

On day eleven of a battle with sinus infection and allergies, I finally hit that point in illness where despair begins to creep in. After being sick and miserable and stuck on the sofa for days on end I had hit my limit. One sick day at home or two can seem like a nice break from life, but this was heading into the territory where I was beginning to wonder if I would ever wake up in the morning and actually feel well again.  Add to this the disappointment of not being able to travel to the training that I had been looking forward to for months.  As I finally unpacked my hopeful suitcase that had been sitting on my bedroom floor for days, the waters of depression began to lap up around me. I was tired and sad and tired of being sad.

Because we were low on groceries I dragged myself to the car and drove to Kroger for the first trip beyond picking up prescriptions in several days. I scowled at the evil fields of allergy inducing weeds that I drove by on the way and walked inside the building.  I had already decided to visit the Starbucks counter hoping for a little lift out of the fatigue that comes from both infections and antibiotics.  Waiting at the counter I engaged the barista in an extended conversation on the greatness of the new salted caramel mocha and details on exactly how to make it.  I realized this was one of my few actual conversations in many days.  Under the guise of “rest” I had holed up in the house and avoided human contact in general.

Walking around the store and sipping on my latte, I felt my spirit begin to lift.  I picked up fruit.  I browsed the organic section and picked up more herbal tea. I walked through the book aisle and picked up a book on how to understand your dog.  Since all I had been doing all week was lie on the sofa with the dogs and read, I might as well read up on my furry friends as they keep my company.  I chit chatted with pretty much every employee that I encountered, asking for directions for products I was buying and anything else I could think of.  After I left the store I noticed that I wasn’t so tired and depressed anymore.  And I’m thinking it wasn’t just because of the latte.

I read a blog this morning that talked about how God is the answer to all of our longings. It was a really sad story of a woman who had suffered great pain and loss after being seriously wronged by another person. I totally get her point that God is there for us always even when other human beings fail us.  And I get that other human beings will never satisfy our innate longing for God.  But I gotta tell you I think she was missing the mark on this one.

I’ve been reading Donald Miller’s new workbook Storyline this week and he writes about how the story of Adam and Eve illustrates our God-created need for other people.  He explains how in this story Adam lived on earth in total communion with God.  Adam even had the company of the animals, but still something was fundamentally missing for him. There was a longing, a longing that was fulfilled only after God created another human being.

I think this is why my trip to Kroger was so healing. I can sit on my sofa for hours and days reading Scripture and praying (as I have) and it still doesn’t satisfy the need God created in me of connecting with other people .

God is good and loving and a million other things, but God can’t hug me like my children can or stroke my hair like my husband or even hand my a latte like the random barista in Kroger… because God doesn’t have hands.  But people do.  In part because God meant for us to use them to care for each other.

Isolation is dangerous not only for sick people and introverts, but for others as well.  We all have known or even been the person who gets hurt by the church and decides they can be a person of faith just fine all on their own. They avoid any other interactions with spiritual communities and stick to themselves and God. The spiritual equivalent of being laid up sick on the sofa.  I have been hurt by the church as I’m sure I will be again, so I understand this reaction. But the problem here is that God didn’t create us to be alone. That’s why we have families and communities and also faith communities. People of faith need other people of faith just like Adam needed Eve. None of us are perfect (have you heard about that incident with the fruit?), but we still need each other in order to be healthy and well.

So thanks to all the people at Kroger who made me feel truly human again today. In honor of you I’m going to remember to take some soup to someone who’s been ill and laid up for a while. Because I too have hands and God expects me to use them.