Zero for Six-ing in Chicagoland

I’ve been in Chicago (Tinley Park, actually) for two weeks with my daughter, Hannah, who’s attending at ballet intensive with Ballet 5:8 (Romans 5:8), and we head home tomorrow. It’s been a marvelous time, truly, but I am ready to go back to my nest.

As to how Zero for Six-ing has worked while traveling, I will begin with my successes. I haven’t watched any non-helpful “entertainment”. Rather, I have seen and heard Creflo Dollar teach powerfully on manipulation (that last night at 2:30 a.m. when I was also privy to a hotel night clerk being read the riot act by an irate guest–don’t be that guest); I have paused to write this post in the middle of an excellent Bill Johnson teaching on the devil’s tactics (see previous post); and past that I’ve just had too much great stuff to do, and important naps to take, to be watching.

But I am doing a sort of watching–I am watching the world around me, noticing the people, praying and praying and praying. It has become not just second nature, but first offensive maneuver. Don’t talk about it, get mad about it, fret and fume and worry about it. Pray. The Word. Now.

Which is why I was up at 2:00. I woke up feeling a heaviness and from an unpleasant dream, and the more conscious I became the more I knew I wasn’t going to put up with it, wasn’t supposed to put up with, don’t have time for the devil’s lies and tricks. They seem so big at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.

But they can be vanquished in a matter of moments.

Then there are the negative words, the “non-essential” speaking. I have looked for and found so much to admire and appreciate and enjoy here in Tinley Park, as well as in Orland Park and Frankfort (where Azul Boutique is!) I don’t think I could be negative here if I wanted to. This is the land of Isabella’s, Rocco’s, Ed and Joe’s, Portillo’s, Gatto’s, and did I mention Isabella’s? Isabella’s is magic. It’s in Tinley Park and it’s the place to take those you love. For more love. I figured with a name like “Fat Rosie’s” we should try Mexican food, but we just haven’t gotten past the Italians.

But there is the “non-essential” spending–surely magical Italian restaurants qualify? No. Enjoying the very best of hospitality is essential to the soul, and worth the price. Making memories with a lovely daughter is not even to be considered in terms of dollars. I’ve said all I care to say about this subject, because I have to get it over with and talk about non-essential eating.

Let is suffice to say that when I had a little niggle to forgo the coffee shop this morning and simply make a cuppa tea in the room, I felt quite satisifed with my miniscule victory. Possibly I had one or even two too many sweets these past two weeks (Stan’s Donuts must not be missed, we were told, and it’s true). When in Rome . . . these Chicagoland people know how to cook, and how to enjoy what they’ve cooked and how to share it.

I’m thinking of adding a new Zero For Six category: Expect, Receive, Enjoy, and Give Thanks for the blessings of the Lord!

Zero For Six and Coffee? I Can’t be Serious!

I went for LaVazza Super Crema, but when I saw that the yet-untried LaVazza Gran Espresso had “notes” of cocoa and black pepper, I called my partner-in-coffee crimes, Seth. “I would be honored to try Gran Espress,” he responded. I could hear him grinning. “Notes” it would be.

The cool thing was that I could taste the cocoa, and that the black pepper was so good it made me extremely happy. Having gotten my cup first, I said to Seth, “You’re going to like this.” Sure enough. The uncool thing was that I didn’t stop with one cup, and the second one gave me a bit of a headache.

There is so much to be said for, so much to be gained from stopping with that one cup, that one serving. Savoring, enjoying, focusing on, being grateful for, that one lovely cup. More is not always better.

I don’t think I’m alone in over-endorsing the belief that, as Mary Engelbreit put it, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” Sometimes definitely yes, sometimes absolutely not. It’s called moderation, it’s called balance, it’s called not swinging from one extreme to the other, landing on one ditch or the other–all or nothing! I won’t have coffee for six months!

Why then, am I doing this, if I’m (obviously) doomed to failure? Because what’s obvious is not always true. I may fail now and again, but I’m still moving forward, still learning how to walk wisely in this high place of grace.

So, it’s about grace. God knows I want to do this, to take care of my health, and He knows I want to enjoy excellent French Press coffee with my son. He also knows that I need to move to a place of quality, not quantity, and believe it or not, you can learn that from coffee!

My Zero For Six adventure, as regarding coffee, is Zero consumption of fatiguing foods for six months. I never supposed I would have 100% on this quest. I am simply taking it step by step, and hoping, praying, believing He is with me.

The Art of Conversation Creates Art

It was a lovely morning yesterday. Seth and I tried a new LaVazza variety (falling off the wagon a bit on this aspect of Zero For Six-ing, but more on that later) on the balcony. We likened the rustling of the Aspen leaves to the feel of clean cotton sheets, the breezes in the pines and the birdsong to music.

The conversation went and wound its way here and there, and somewhere in there I had a fantastic idea–a doable, practical example of how to remind our government that indeed, they work for us. I won’t go into the particulars of the idea, because I want to talk about the power of conversation.

We’re meant to have it, and it’s meant to produce ideas, solutions, revelations. It’s meant to connect hearts and minds and put us in the creativity zone. So, if our conversations aren’t producing this magical marvel, especially when we’re talking with our adult children, we can examine ourselves.

Do we listen carefully and thoughtfully? Do we interrupt? Do we have to be right? Are we taking a parental role when our family members are not asking for that? Just as we’re extra polite and considerate in our conversations with non-family folks, are we also with our beloveds? Do we remember that sometimes hearts simply want to be heard–not to hear our opinion?

When we don’t know the answer do we simply say, “I don’t know, but I will pray for wisdom, and I will pray for you to have wisdom, and all will be well”?

It’s helpful to remember that those who talk the most and loudest are often drowning out the words of those with the deepest and best thoughts. Just in case you’re like me, and maybe are a bit chatty, it could be time to put some art into our conversation.

Politics and Zero For Six Don’t Mix

In my Zero For Six No-Negative-Words quest, I find politics not to be my friend. But progress I do make! Today when I heard that yet again, our supposedly mostly-Christian Supreme Court has dropped the ball, and that even Justice Thomas failed us, I didn’t speak negative words. It wasn’t that I kept my mouth shut, but because it was hanging open. Seriously? But then I remembered that we are not to put our trust in man. Oh, right. Christianity 101.

Then there was the letter in the mail from our commander-in-thief paper doll “President” Joe (was that negative?), telling me how he’s going to take care of us all, blahdy, blahdy, blah. I managed not to mention it to John, and to wash my hands after I threw it in the trash, but it put me in a shady gray place for a bit. Fear not. Only believe. Shall I heed Joe and Co., or Jesus? I pick Jesus.

Back to the throne, back to the Psalms, back to prayer. Back to peace.

But then here they come again–those thoughts. Of every single solitary person who had ANYTHING to do with our election thefts being put where they belong–in jail. Turn out the people in jail for bad judgment and dumb mistakes and lock up the real criminals! Rant, rant (was that negative?). And then I remember, again–He sits in the Heavens and laughs–Psalm 2.

And I pray for us all, and for our beautiful and beleaguered country, and remember and notice how He’s at work, and that all will be well, and it’s past time to remember who I am as a child of the Most High–a Life-Speaker!

Back to Philippians 4:8– Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Politics? Not on the list.

Zero For Six TV is Play

It’s not deprivation! Not watching makes us more childlike, more apt to play. I find myself delving into old joys, thinking new thoughts, considering forgotten possibilities, simply because I’ve freed my mind from the tyranny of watching.

When I’m not watching a fake world I take in my own. I hear the wild turkeys in the yard, come to see the goldfinch when someone exclaims at its beauty, listen for the lovely sound of the blackbirds. I see the cottontail munch, munch, much stems of grass, sing him a bit of a song and watch his ears twitch as he listens. I’m noting the scent of my beloved’s soap on his skin, of the juniper and sage on the breeze, of the lemon curd just cooked. I’m listening to what plays when I try “Romantic music for daydreaming.” I’m listening to my beloveds. I’m hearing the music of life, and life becomes musical.

When I’m not watching, I’m gracefully and rhythmically getting through those little details cluttering my life, thus freeing my mind for larger and deeper thoughts. Or simply thoughts of play, maybe like being in a play, or learning the rules for Charades and having a tea party. A proper English tea, perhaps, as I share Queen Elizabeth’s 23 rules for living (including play) from Bryan Kazlowski’s Long Live the Queen, and dream . . .

If I can’t go to England right now, I muse, maybe I’ll read James Herriot, or P.G. Wodehouse, or Agatha Christie, sipping Earl Grey. Maybe I’ll nap like a baby all afternoon, and stay up all night, and see what I can get up to . . .

We’re meant to play.

Zero For Six Going Strong

Mostly. I am not even missing non-essential viewing. Not one minute has been lost to TV since I began my four adventures. To re-cap, I began a quest on June 1: Let’s see what happens when (and if it’s possible) I attempt a six-month exit from the lands of: 1) TV watching; 2) fatiguing food consumption; 3) negative words; and 4) non-essential spending.

About that non-essential spending. Well . . . I bought two new outfits yesterday, and I won’t bore you with assertions of how essential these outfits are, of how long it’s been since I bought anything new, etc. I will say that John was trying to get me to go shopping for new clothes, and wasn’t giving up. I will say that there is no buyer’s remorse. I will say that I didn’t buy these clothes because they were on sale, which can often be likened to eating a bag of cookies because they’re low sodium. The satisfaction just isn’t there.

Moving on to what’s the toughest part–negative words. Boy, is this a process. It is helpful to me to keep on keeping on reading Psalms and Proverbs. Not only do I find therein continual evidence of the importance of words of life, of faith, but the help needed to stay the course.

And I pray. There are those tricky little areas that most people, including me, wouldn’t even notice as negativity. But upon further examination . . . when I think about the power of words, and that what I just said was a pronouncement of power, but not for good, I find so much of what I say is enforcing a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. “It is what it is,” is a dumb thing to say. It’s defeat. Talking the problem simply solidifies it in our minds as unsolvable.

I’d like to say, regarding consumption of fatiguing foods, that I’m doing soooo well, good, and fantastic! I’ll simply that that I’m making a bit of progress. My coffee consumption isn’t remaining at zero, but like the purchasing of those above-mentioned new outfits, I am making it special. For instance, yesterday. I split a piece of actually and truly made-from-scratch key lime pie with my daughter at Island Grill in Fort Collins, and had a cup of coffee that almost made me swoon when the server set it down under my nose. Since this was the appetizer and followed with a simply divine burger and cole slaw, I was not at all fatigued. Interesting concept: Food that is sometimes fatiguing can, done right, be energizing . . .

I am absolutely loving not watching. Not simply sitting and watching (and munching) I get a little more excited about life every single day. Might I suggest, ever so gently, that you consider a Zero For Six adventure quest of your own?

Thanks for joining me!

Week One of my Zero For Six adventure is over, and here are some conclusions and confessions.

ON NON-ESSENTIAL SPENDING

I tried more than once to buy makeup and skin care, and finally settled for ordering the ingredients to make skincare at home (from Vitacost.com) and a tube of lipstick and some foundation, both Mineral Fusion. This after I trashed all my old (some 14 years old!) cosmetics and was completely out of skincare. I was using Vaseline.

When I say I tried more than once, I mean I filled my cart with some very impressive products on the Net, and then just couldn’t spend all that money, so gave it up. The next morning I drove to a department store to see if there was one of those cool specials where you spend $35 and get a promo package worth $150 of stuff you mostly want and will use. Nothing doing, plus they were blasting cruddy (non-relaxing, non-uplifting, non-melodious) music and I’m just so over going into stores where the customer is obviously not that important.

So, one of the morals of this story is that frugality can either be deprivation, or it can be an open door to creativity, often resulting in a better quality and healthier outcome. And of course, there’s that lovely smug feeling that comes of spending less and getting more. How smart are we? Pretty smart.

ON NON-FATIGUING FOODS

I dropped the ball here a little, both at The Sugar Mouse tea house on Thursday in Laramie, Wyoming, and then again Saturday night, when I made chocolate no-bake cookies (they had peanut butter, so that makes them real food, right?). But then this morning I read Honey, God’s Gift for Health and Beauty, which caused me to sweeten my blueberry muffins with honey rather than sugar, and to give my leftover no-bakes to my son, who has no belly fat and a great love for no-bakes.

From there I researched benefits of drinking vinegar and honey and went to town for organic (with the mother) apple cider vinegar. I already have raw honey, so upon finishing this post I’ll make this amazing elixir and partake!

As to coffee, I actually went to a coffee shop and ordered herbal blackberry tea, iced. Delicious! I didn’t have any coffee at all, all week long, until a very tiny cup (1/4 cup of coffee, 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream) today, telling myself that I will allow myself one cup per week. So, we’ll see how that goes.

ON WATCHING

I scored A++++++ on this one. There are so many other marvelous and fun and creative things that get done when the TV/laptop/phone is off. I love it. Yes, there were a couple of times when I wanted to watch something, but it was only when I was thinking of eating something fatiguing . . . As I’ve said before, these habits, for good or for not-so-good, go together.

It was helpful that I didn’t take a martyr’s stance, that I checked my thoughts before speaking them. I might have thought a few times that it would be nice to sit down and take a load off, watching something totally fun, such as Decoy Bride, or that it wouldn’t hurt to watch whatever John was watching. After all, it was Friday night . . . But I didn’t speak it, didn’t talk about it. Instead I settled in with a stack of books, my journal, pens, and highlighters, and read old favorites such as The Shape of a Year by Jean Hersey, and Candy Paull’s Abundance. I prayed as I read from the Psalms, and also had a couple of lovely phone conversations. Best of all, I did some some very in-depth listening to my beloveds as they shared their hearts. This simply doesn’t happen when you’re glued to the tube.

Determined not to be even a little bit tempted to watch an episode of Poirot tonight, I made a library visit and came home with Francine Rivers, Victoria Holt and of course, Agatha Christie. I was completely surprised by the ending of By the Pricking of My Thumbs, and I keep marveling at the mind of Agatha Christie, and wondering when my non-watching time will become writing time. Fiction, I mean–the writing that stretches me, calls me, eludes me, and won’t leave me alone. As my daugher Rebekah said when she was little and things didn’t go smoothly, “Oh, sigh.”

ON SPEAKING GOOD WORDS

I noticed and noted that I don’t need to worry about the negative words of others–I have plenty of my own. I read Lindsey Roberts’ free booklet, The Company You Keep and among so much rich and uplifting information, I focused on the idea of being good company to me. I really enjoy myself when nothing but faith, thanksgiving, and great expecations come out of my mouth.

And of course, what you fill your heart and mind is what comes out of your mouth, and then what becomes your life. So, maybe out of all four of my Zero For Six quests, this one of is most important of all.

Tea, Perhaps, My Dearest?

In my Zero For Six non-fatiguing foods adventure, it’s not going quite like I planned. I eliminated coffee four days ago, and until today I felt like the living dead. I suppose I was just getting all the poisons out?? Anyway, today the headache is gone and the energy is back! So glad.

Coffee will now be something I have as a very special treat, if at all. I’m so NOT against coffee–it is truly one of God’s greater ideas–but my body is protesting, and I am listening. It’s so tempting to blame everything but the real culprit–that food we love best. Diabetes? Oh, that just fell out of the sky because I was stressed. It had nothing to do with the fact that I put sugar in my coffee, sugar in my tea. I eat sugar at breakfast, lunch, dinner and any opportunity in between. And so it goes.

“I only drink one or two cups of coffee,” a friend said, holding onto her “mug” which was more like a jug. If your cup holds a pint and you drink two of those, let’s just be honest and say we drink a pot of coffee every single morning. If that quart is extra strong, light roast, filled with sugar and fake cream, you aren’t being very nice to yourself. You will, sooner or later, end up with a fatigue issue.

May I suggest that it’s time for a spot of tea?

This is another example of how good habits overlap, or sustain each other. In choosing tea instead of coffee, I am eliminating a substantial amount of money spent on the very best coffee (must be brewed in my French Press), as well as the only thing truly suitable for such coffee–organic heavy whipping cream (the non-organic has carageenan and it makes my joints hurt). Tea, on the other hand can be bought in bulk for pennies a cup, and it is perfectly fine as it is. Just a beautiful color steaming in a pretty cup.

And since it’s summer, it’s the pefect time to try iced teas such as blackberry sage black, ginger peach herbal, or just plain Lipton sun tea. Pure refreshment, and with a lemon or lime wedge on your iced glass, quite a treat.

How to be Weak

If Henri Nouwen is correct in today’s e-mailed deovtional, and he is when he states,”Joy and Resentment Cannot Coexist” and if it’s also true, and it is, that “the joy of the Lord” is our strength. then unforgivness (resentment) makes us weak.

In my current quest for positivity, my Zero For Six adventure against negativity, I am aiming for joy, for strengh. Indeed I am aiming for the acquisition of the very joy of the Lord God Himself!

How is this going? I’m stumbling here and there, and seeking my way in communicating with those who, it seems, would rather be weak. It also seems as though some people prefer resentment to joy. That is entirely their business, of course, but does that mean they have a right to inflict their negativity on me? No.

The trick is in rejecting the negative person’s negativity, but not rejecting the person. Negative people have already rejected themselves, the Word of God, perhaps even God, and they expect further rejection. This is where it is helpful to say something like, “I’m doing a Zero For Six adventure of no negativity for six months! Wanna join me?”

It is also helpful to saturate that person in prayer, whereby we get perspective on their preciousness to God. This helps counter our perspective on their aggravation to us. We need a change of heart, or at least I do. Otherwise, I will not overcome evil with good. Rather, bad company will corrupt me.

Negativity is contagious, but there is a vaccine, a sure innoculation. It’s the Mighty One–Jesus. The only time I feel those sick symptoms of negativity, that debilitating weakening of frustration, is when I hold on to an offense. I am actually choosing Death, rather than God’s mandated choice–Life. I am choosing to fearfully focus on and glorify what Satan’s crowd is up to.

We can be less than worms with fear and negativity, or more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.

“You show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy…”
PSALM 16:11 (NRSV)

Zero For Six–Feeling the Freedom

So much more than time is lost to the screen, to junk TV. As we connect to the entire world we lose connections with our own hearts, and with our Creator. As we watch and see and are programmed by the creations of others, we cease to create. We are stilled. Jailed even.

The great narcotic, the false god, the black box we come before at every opportunity–that is TV. “There’s nothing worth watching,” we hear others lament, and agree. And yet we go. Just as pagans of old throwing the valuable before a dead god to no avail, so we sacrifice our very lives to TV.

That man who was called into politics–he only watches the news and rants. The child whose art was lauded and entered into the World’s Fair at age 6–she can’t wait to leave her cubicle and get home to her shows. And year after year she becomes a bit less picky about the offerings. She’s not even embarrassed that porn (call it what you will) comes into her home day after day. (Note: research reveals there is an inverse relationship between watching porn and a personally satisifying sexual relationship.)

Yes, there are Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth, Emma, Jeeves and Wooster, Fawlty Towers, and James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. But how many times can you watch these, or Quigley Down Under, Man on Fire, and Rocky? If there’s nothing worth watching, push the “off” button. It can be done. We can just stop rewarding Hollywood by opening our pocketbooks and hearts to insulting excuses for entertainment.

Last night, May 31, was my final movie for six months, and I chose carefully. I considered You’ve Got Mail, and my visiting daughter suggested Bruce Willis’ Red, but we couldn’t find the DVDs (not paying for movies via Internet). I thought carefully. What would be worth the watch–excellent plot, casting, acting, and not a single dull moment? Oh, and one where the guy gets the girl. I chose a movie where I actually did shut my eyes (I take seriously the Bible’s admonition to guard my heart) a time or two for a moment or two. What is this paragon of a movie? Spectre.

Interestingly, given this post’s subject and matter of introspection, Spectre is about James Bond saving the world from being watched.

Could it be that when we do nothing but watch, when we never pause to think, we set the stage for our own demise?

Please consider joining me, if not on a Zero For Six TV adventure, at least on the sensationally rewarding activity of pushing the “off” button. Even if you simply sit still and do nothing, you will begin to reconnect with your marvelous self. Who knows what will happen–you may make a jailbreak!