Monday, May 7, 2012

Abiding Change

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.  He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.  Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.  You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me as I abide in you.  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  -- John 15:1-4

Last week opened my eyes to the mess I and my kids have gotten ourselves into.  Because we all have a tendency to play first and work second, we have done more playing than working.  And now we are seeing the results of that:  poor grades as a result of missing school assignments for my kids; and an already overwhelming, and growing, list of Things to Do for me.  The only difference between my kids and me, is that I don't get a zero for missing work.  Life, however, does get harder, either way, even without the grades.

As an adult, it is up to me to fix the mess I have gotten myself into.  But like my children, oftentimes when I get myself into a mess, I don't know how to get myself out of it.  Fortunately, I have a guide to turn to, one in whom I trust completely.  Since my children rely considerably on me to guide them, I trust God to show me how to do that, as well. 

Last weekend I picked up a book, "Awakening a Child From Within," by Tara Singh.  I had been thinking about my children when I stumbled upon it, and I've learned to accept those things that come into my life which make connections to my thoughts.  I wasn't surprised to find that this book spoke to me quite significantly: "How can a mother correct the child?  She would have to correct herself first in order to correct her own patterns which are within the child.  ...We make things difficult when we don't want correction...  The promised land is just a stone's throw away.  It only becomes difficult when one holds on to one's own conclusions.  Our responsibility in life is to be true to who we are as God created us.  Then we bring the Kingdom of God to earth and the whole planet vibrates differently."  (pg.21 - 23)  These words echoed my conclusions from last week. (See "Plagued by Demons".)

On Wednesday, while waiting to get a doctor's appointment for my middle son, I picked up a copy of USA Today.   I was deeply moved by the story of Pat Summitt and her son Tyler.  ("Mother, Son and Alzheimer's, May 2, 2012, pg.1)  Pat, "the all-time winningest basketball coach, man or woman" developed, at the age of 59, early-onset Alzheimer's.  The article is an inspiring story of one woman's legacy to her players and, most especially, her son.  One of her players said, "She taught us to maximize our time each day, giving everything you can. ...She taught us how to excel and about seeing things through to the end."  Her son said, "My mom always told me to focus on the present.  She says, 'Left foot, right foot, breathe.' "  What an inspiration.

Later that day, I went to the used bookstore to look for a particular National Geographic magazine so that I could finish an article about twins (March 2012), which I had started reading at the doctor's office.  This fascinating article by Peter Miller, intrigued me most when he mentioned that sometimes identical twins have very dissimilar brains when it comes to diseases such as autism and Alzheimer's:  one twin can sometimes be highly functioning and the other very low functioning.  While going to buy the magazine, my eyes lit on another book:  "The Brain That Changes Itself:  Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science," by Norman Doidge, M.D.  Having been intrigued by the information about brain diseases that I had just read, I grabbed this book, too -- making more connections with each step.

In this second book I learned about the ability of the brain to relearn tasks that would appear to be impossible because of brain damage or atrophy of one kind or another.  This idea is called "neuro-plasticity".  Modern scientists no longer believe that the brain is hard-wired in a fixed way forever.  Rather, it has been discovered that we all have the ability to change the wiring in our brains, even though large parts may be severely damaged.  And we can make this change permanent, though it takes great effort, especially as we get older.  A scientist named Merzenich, one of the leading researchers of neuro-plasticity, "discovered that paying close attention is essential to long-term plastic change.  In numerous experiments he found that lasting changes occurred only when his monkeys paid close attention.  When animals performed tasks automatically, without paying attention, they changed their brain maps, but the changes did not last.  We often praise 'the ability to mulitask.'  While you can learn when you divide your attention, divided attention doesn't lead to abiding change in your brain maps." (pg.68) 

"Abiding change."  Lasting change.  Paying attention.  And the readings about "abiding" in yesterday's lectionary, quoted above. Staying connected.  Or, as Pat Summit said, "...give everything you can, focus on the present, 'Left foot, right foot, breathe.' "

I am pretty good at staying connected to God.  And for this I am grateful.  For the rewards of doing so are immediate.  Without this connection, I would certainly be in a worse mess.  Abiding with God not only feeds my soul, it helps me grow into the person God wants me to be.

So now all I have to do is pay attention!

Dear God, as I abide in you and you in me, may I learn to pay close attention to all that is a priority in my own life, and create lasting change for the better.  Love always, Pam


doug said...

A couple of comments. First, how in the world do you find time to read so much ? It is amazing the number of books you read.

Second, I too, do believe the brain can be trained, my older brother is a good example. At age 70 he was diagnosed with Parkinson's. This on top of years of back issues with much pain. There is no cure for Parky's nor his back issues but there is treatment, drugs, mental, voice, n physical and of course, prayer, lots of it. So with God at his side (he is very faithful), he has shown a super strong attitude to doing the work to train his brain to learn new ways of doing normal everyday things. And it is working. He is truly an inspiration to me.

I see you used the word abide in your post. So you were actually listening to P Gayles sermon last Sunday !

Pamela Keane said...

Hi Doug,

I enjoyed your comment. The first part made me laugh!

I read what the Spirit leads me to read for the most part, and sometimes that means that I don't always finish a whole book before I pick up another book. Sometimes I feel compelled to go back to a previous book, where I left off, and I find that what I read then resonates with where I am at that moment. It's a little weird, I know, but I'm getting used to it now. Some books are compelling from beginning to end. This "brain book", for example, is fascinating!

And yes, since I attended all three services last weekend, I definitely heard Pastor Gayle's sermon!