Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's Just Good Horse Sense

I was pedaling past an open pasture on my bicycle the other day and came across a remarkable sight.

Two horses were standing side-by-side, facing opposite directions, simultaneously scratching each others' backs. Each was diligently chewing/scraping his teeth along the mid-to-lower back of the other and they both looked like they were about to spout out a satisfied, "Ahhhh!" Mr. Ed style.

And there's nothing quite as satisfying as a scratched itch, is there? 

It was the most clever thing! I almost fell off my bike doing a double-take.

So tell me, did humans make up that old saying, "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours," or did we get that from our creative equine friends?

I suppose I shouldn't have been so astonished at the ingenuity of these marvelous creatures. My 35-year-old niece, a dedicated horse-woman since childhood, mentioned once that training horses takes 200 repetitions of the desired behavior. And smart horses take longer.

Longer? Why? You'd think it would be the dumber ones that would take longer.

Nope. If you let them get away with doing the task incorrectly after 192 times doing it right (and if they're smart, they WILL test you), you have to start all over. From scratch. Ground zero.

Come to think of it, we're not so different than our horsey friends, are we? In trying to replace a bad habit with a better one, we can toe the line and do it perfectly for 192 days straight. We can stick to 1200 daily calories, floss faithfully, read the Bible, or run a mile every morning and think we've got it nailed. But somehow, on that 193rd day, for some strange reason we cannot seem to grasp, we sneak an extra Krispie Kreme, or put off buying another roll of floss when we're out, or read The Hunger Games instead of Genesis, or run two blocks (just today so I don't get my hair sweaty).

And then it's much easier to break the new habit the next time. And the next. And before we know it, it's not a habit at all.

"Ask the animals, and they will teach you," (Job 12:7, NIV).

So I guess when we're creating a new habit, it pays not to fall off the wagon. Even once. Especially a horse-drawn wagon.

What good habits are you trying to form? 


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Get Your Bad Self Down

Deb on her He & Me Retreat
I think we all reach a point in our lives when fifteen minutes of quiet time in the morning just isn't cutting it. We're exhausted physically, frazzled emotionally, and parched spiritually.

We need an extended time of renewal in every sense of the word.

After nearly completing work on my newest book, I was at that point recently and was completely blessed to sneak away for a five-day spiritual retreat. Alone. Yes, girlfriend, that's what I said: Five days alone! 

No whining kids, inquisitive husbands, nagging bosses, gossipy workmates, chatty friends, borrowing neighbors, nosy mothers ... just me and Papa God. I call it a He & Me Retreat.

As I described in my book, More Beauty, Less Beast, a He & Me Retreat is a time to break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and imbed yourself in our Father's pure, unmarred creation. To listen for that still, small voice that often gets drowned out in the cacophony of life. To rest. To revitalize. To refuel our tanks.  

My He & Me Retreat was located at my favorite spot in the world - our remote Smoky Mt. cabin, deep in the quiet woods about 3/4 of the way up a mountain where the 4200-foot elevation provided a refreshing 60 degrees in the mornings and evenings, quite different than our 92 degrees with 90% humidity at home.

After a long sunrise prayer walk (rain or shine), I spent my mornings reading, marinating, and recording insights about scripture, crooning praise songs aloud in the woods with no audience except the One I was singing to ... along with a nosy chipmunk or two. I danced with wild abandon to toe-tapping, spirit-swellin' songs played on dulcimer, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo.

I picked bouquets of wildflowers in mountain meadows by the Christmas tree farm, and rode my rootin'-tootin' four-wheeler, Sir Lancelot until it got too dark to see the twisty path. Then I chased lightening bugs in the forest clearing like I once enjoyed as a 6-year-old.

And I ate chocolate. A LOT of chocolate. And never felt guilty one single second.

My little recouping get-away was fun. It was fulfilling, It was essential to sanity. But it certainly wasn't original with me. There are many scriptural examples of Jesus stealing away alone to retreat sites like the mountains (Mark 6:36) or the seaside or lake (Matthew 13:1).

I figure if it was that important to him, it should be that important to me.

So how about you? I strongly encourage you to consider the benefits of a He & Me Retreat for yourself: uninterrupted time to get to know yourself again, to touch base with the marvelous creation Papa God made in you, and to embrace the opportunity to relax and enjoy His rejuvenating presence. As an added benefit, you'll revive your enthusiasm for the Word.

You'll fall in love with Him all over again.   

It's something you really can't afford not to do.