25 October 2006

Tammy’s Tuppence

We’ve got geckos! Technically, we don’t really ‘have’ geckos, but a wonderful pair – whom I’ve named Fred and Irma - regularly show up on our back porch and I’ve kind of adopted them. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure whether this pair is monogamous or, for that matter, can actually be described as a couple—for all I know they could be patio crawling mates which would more willingly answer to the names Fred and Ernest.

But I digress. At the moment, this pair is quite a novelty for us and we’re quite enjoying keeping an eye on them. Certainly not a substitute for the Siamese members of our family, they are but one of the many blessings of life in Arizona and a unique reminder of the boundless imagination of our Creator God. For even though we greatly miss our home in England, we are in awe of the majesty and variety of the desert. And to think we get to live here – geckos and all!

For the uninitiated, ‘Geckos are small to moderately large lizards belonging to the family Gekkonidae and found in warm climates throughout the world. Geckos are unique among lizards in their vocalizations, making chirping sounds in social interactions with other geckos. Geckos are unusual in other respects as well. Many species have specialized toe pads that enable them to climb smooth vertical surfaces and even cross indoor ceilings with ease....’ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gecko.

19 October 2006

Thinking about 'Becoming'

"Becoming what?" you might ask. A fireman when I grow up? A waste processor fertilizing fields? No, I don’t mean that.

Let me get at what I mean in a roundabout way. Listening to a message from DHVC that I downloaded off the internet the other day, I heard Aaron use the phrase ‘conduct unbecoming an officer.’ It got me thinking about this word ‘becoming.’ How did it begin to get used in reference to behaviour?

I recall the old English use of ‘comely,’ as in 1 Samuel 16.18 referring to David as ‘wholesome, and pleasing in appearance.’ I don’t know that there’s any link in this to ‘becoming’ (see the definition at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/comely), but I kind of like the idea if it does. In this sense, ‘becoming’ conduct isn’t perfect conduct, but consistent conduct, conduct that is attractive, wholesome, healthy, and maturing.

As I was thinking about this, I happened to read a chapter in Gordon MacDonald’s book A Resilient Life. He quotes Thomas Merton: "If you want to identify me, ask me now where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully the thing I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person. The better answer he has, the more of a person he is. "

This speaks to having a vision of what life is all about, and how one addresses the obstacles that come along the way. And how one addresses those obstacles is all about becoming.

MacDonald then goes on later to write: ‘In the lives of the disciples, it is clear that there was an invitation to follow, which the disciples accepted. But one sees relatively little attention paid to the beginning and far more attention placed on what the disciples were becoming.’

‘Becoming’ behaviour, then, focuses on a dynamic process rather than a static and lifeless state of being. It doesn’t require a moment of perfection, but a journey of progress where there may well be one step back for every two. It is reflected in the question ‘Am I growing more loving toward God and toward people?’

Am I indeed becoming the kind of person whom God and people would enjoy being with forever?

17 October 2006

Catching Up on the Aho USA Update

From the September Issue:

Welcome everybody to the long awaited 2nd issue of the Aho travel diary!

We have a new lesson we've learned we're calling the '3times rule.' In the past 7 weeks since our first travel update/blog (can't call it a blog, really, since the definition says it must be 'frequently updated'--we haven't done that!), we've learned that everything takes 3x as long as we planned or anticipated to do. E-mail, expenses, researching information, communicating, organising, buying supplies, settling into a temporary residence--it all takes 3 times what we anticipated.
So we're feeling a little more exhausted than we anticipated, and chaos has been our close companion for many weeks. But we've now been 'settled' in Mesa, AZ for a week....just in time to fly out to Virginia tomorrow for a 10 day trip.

Suggestions for the name of this rather boringly titled update came fast and furious--over 55 submissions!! The funniest, as a result of the 'letters from the loo' story I told, were 'BogBlog' (in the UK, 'bog' is another less proper word for the WC) and 'Down the Pan' (an Americanism, for the UK audience, referring to the toilet). We can't say we were really struck with any of the names suggested, so, while boring, 'Aho USA Update' remains descriptive enough to survive the renaming attempt.

In our experiences of the last 7 weeks, I've lost count of the times I've said to myself, 'what I've just observed or experienced would be good for reflection on the blog site,' only to be foiled by lack of internet access or other to-do list items of greater importance.

Still, we're fresh enough on the American scene to note several surface differences from the UK. Everything is BIGGER than we remembered. Streets are bigger. Food portions in restaurants are bigger. Cars are bigger and SUVs far outstrip any other model too. We're reminded that to get anywhere, personal vehicular transportation is required--everything is so far apart and spread out. Oh, and everything is air conditioned too--we nearly froze in Indiana when we first arrived there, then melted when we went outside. We've forgotten or lost touch with proper etiquette in social situations (that's hard to describe how we feel that, but Tim chewing on his toenails while accessing a wireless hotspot at Starbucks definitely generated a few stares).

For those counting (as of 4 September 2006), we put 1507 miles on the 1999 Yukon SUV, given us as a loaner, for the 2 weeks we drove it. The 2000 Oldsmobile Silhouette, which the Weston family (Josh and Jan @ http://www.westonpontiac.com/) so helpfully arranged for us to purchase, now has 3400 additional miles on it since we purchased it on the 9th of August.

The ride continues!

Sleep is Spiritual

OK, so I’m sleeping more, believing that’s the most spiritual thing I can be doing in the moment. What does that mean? It means I’m trying to be less addicted to adrenaline by giving my body and brain time to rest and recover from life. It means releasing control of the day to God and letting God create in me a hunger for him. It means being a wise steward of my physical being with which my spiritual being always is influenced.

Here’s the essence of what Arch taught. Basically, we sleep in 90 minute cycles. In the first several cycles during a night, the vast majority is for the physical recovery of the body during what’s called ‘non-REM’ sleep. Barely a few minutes of the 90 minute cycle is devoted to REM (rapid eye movement) or dream sleep, where the brain ‘defrags’ information from the day. It is a physical bio-chemical process that only occurs at the end of the 90 minute cycle. However, what’s significant, is that as the cycles proceed, the non-REM sleep decreases, while the REM sleep increases. The last 90 minute cycle of 9 hours of sleep can have anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes of REM sleep—and is the most significant healing/recovery time of the whole night!

So, at least for the last 3 weeks I’ve been getting to bed by 9.00 or 10.00pm, and instead of getting up at 3.30am (though I still wake up at that time!), I’m staying in bed until 5.30 or 6.00 and getting one or two extra sleep cycles in (depending on my bedtime).

For this time in my life, rather than ‘activity’, sleep is the most spiritual thing I can do. It reminds me of a statement I once heard, "There’s always enough time in a day to do what God asks us to do."
Greetings after a bit of an absence; life for the Ahos in America has been a bit fractured as we’ve settled into more of a routine for our time in Arizona. After a load of travel, we’re now looking forward to several months of being ‘home’ here in Mesa.

My last bit of travel (without Tam) was to Pasadena for my DMin class at Fuller Seminary. The course was taught by Dr Archibald Hart on a minister’s personal health. Actually, the material on depression, sexuality, assertiveness, confrontation, marriage and family, stress and adrenalin addiction, sleep, and burnout was not only outstanding, but applicable for anyone.

Our class was one of the smallest Arch has ever had—just seven of us, but very diverse! We had an Aussie, Korean, Chinese, Anglo military chaplain, and a ‘retired’ couple providing pastoral care in a local church but with decades of experience in juvenile detention facilities. Of course, there was me too, but, some would argue, I’m my own diverse universe anyway!

What’s one thing I’m practicing from the class? Sleep. No, I’m not joking. Arch is a guy who travels the world speaking and teaching, and yet gets 9 hours a sleep most every night. He writes books, lectures in a seminary to grad and post-grad students, and finds time to take a relaxing bath before he starts every day. And he’s smart—he was a civil engineer in South Africa in his 30s before launching into a ministry career as a psychologist and pharmacologist.

After his teaching on sleep and the whole 90 minute non-REM/REM cycle, I realised that the chaos and disruption of the past several months, where it’s been difficult to pray and study, in large part has been because of too little sleep and not enough rest. So, I’m spending more time sleeping. More on this later.