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Flow: In the Zone

February 1, 2020

Another Way for week of January 31, 2020

Getting into the Flow

(Editor’s note: Fourth in a ten-part series on physical, mental, relational, and spiritual health. #KashiCereal)

What does the word “flow” bring to mind? Is it a good word? Does it make you think of someone who doesn’t like to cause ruffles and perhaps not stand up for what he or she believes?

Or do you think of a beautiful river or endless ocean where waves flow on and on, carrying you to new adventures?

When you are in traffic or a parking lot, are you patient to go with the flow of traffic, or always in a hurry to get where you are going?

Sister “Pert” flowing up for a layup, circa 1966.

Flow can bring to mind all of these things and more. I picture a couple waltzing effortlessly on a dance floor. A basketball player dribbling in for a layup and she just flows up near the basket and it beautifully goes in. (That would be my sister. Short, but very good.)

But then I pondered: why did the marketing people for my Kashi cereal include Flow in their list of “Go” words as something to aspire to (such as the others we’ve explored so far: rise, play, spark). Was there a meaning I wasn’t currently aware of?

Wikipedia comes to the rescue, from the field of psychology: “Flow, also known as the ‘zone,’ is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” This flow state is also called being “in the zone.” Or I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “she’s in her element.”

When writing flows, I definitely get in that zone and I know several fiction writers who would identify with that. But again, it doesn’t just have to be a creative enterprise like writing or painting that gets you there. My other sister (not the ball player) used to work in an operating room and was in her element in that setting. A preacher like Martin Luther King Jr. was certainly in his zone in his famous “I have a dream speech.” People describe this kind of flow as total concentration, feeling like you know what you’re doing and happy to be doing it, effortlessness, even an altered perception of time—like time doesn’t matter. A person kneading bread dough might be lost in a flow of rhythmic punches.

For another angle on the word and what thoughts it brings, are you familiar with the beautiful hymn, “My Life Flows On.” Many of us—though longtime Christians—have only learned this hymn in the last 30 or 40 years. It likely wasn’t a hymn of your childhood if you’re my age or thereabouts. The author/composer, Robert Wadsworth Lowry, was a Baptist minister. Even though it was written and first published back in 1869, it was not included in many hymnals for decades. In fact, it only appeared in one hymnal between 1900 and 1966, according to Wikipedia. (Also known by the title “How can I keep from singing,” the song was popularized by folk singer Pete Seeger who changed some of the lyrics in his version so they weren’t specifically Christian.)

But now it is an oft-sung favorite hymn especially at funerals or memorial services where people are looking for comfort and hope. The strong words of the refrain, “No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I’m clinging” easily draw tears from many of us.

The first verse starts out:

“My life flows on, in endless song,
Above earth’s lamentation.
I catch the sweet, though far off hymn,
That hails a new creation.”

These words are precious as we perhaps lament and grieve the loss of a loved one. We can cling to the solid rock of faith in a loving God. We keep going. Our loved one is no longer experiencing the lamentations we have on earth. And that is a precious promise.

Stained glass windows in Scotland, photo by Doreen Davis

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If you are currently down and not “in the flow,” I hope and pray this lifts your spirits and that you will feel God’s arms wrapped around you in endless love. And if you’re just facing an ordinary day, perhaps you’ll find your flow in something you love to do.

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What is your all time favorite hymn, or maybe the top three?

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Is there a funeral or memorial service song you especially love or relate to?

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You may want to check out the new Mennonite hymnal Voices Together coming later in 2020 from Herald Press.

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For a free booklet, “Losing Someone Close,” comment here, or write to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

 

 

14 Comments
  1. martyw37 permalink

    Another good read
    Thank you Melodie
    Had to pick the hymns though, as there are many
    Here would be a start though

    It Is well With My Soul
    Amazing Grace
    What a Friend We Have in Jesus
    And Can it Be

  2. Hi, Marty! (long time friend, right??). Thanks for your great list: this idea came from a music leader at our church who asked us one Sunday to think about what would be on a list of “My life in 5 hymns.”

    • martyw37 permalink

      Car0-Claire here

      Marty is my husband so I guess he qualifies as husband of your long time friend

      • Caro-Claire, thanks for straightening me out!! I have a friend Marty (her given name was Martha, she never liked that), and I thought there for a minute it was her who was writing. Sure, your husband qualifies as a friend through you!! And you, dear lady are a sweetheart. Thanks for correcting my guess.

  3. I had never heard the song you quoted, so I looked it up, and the first (and shortest) rendition was sung by a Unitarian choir: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BifkC92nT8

    A few favorites:
    Great is Thy Faithfulness
    In Christ there is no East or West
    Sheep May Safely Graze (Not a hymn, but I like the melody)

    • How interesting that you hadn’t heard of “How can I keep from singing” until now. There are certainly a variety of lovely versions online. Thanks for pointing me to this one and another “celtic” rendition. I have heard Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” but I did not know that’s what it is called. Thanks, Marian, have a great Sunday.

      • P.S. I am chagrined to see I somehow left out the title of the hymn and the link and did not check my post one final time. Grrr. Thanks for reading anyway!

      • No worries. Happy Tuesday! 😀

  4. In the Garden – it’s a song we three children sang with my Grandma Cline at the monthly singsperation at Grandpa’s church in Goshen, IND way back, probably about mid-1960s. But that song always reminds me of her.
    Onward Christian Soldiers – my brother’s favorite, who we lost in 1985.
    And, Old Rugged Cross.

  5. Nancy ketcham permalink

    Nancy your sis-It is well with my Soul” and When Peace Like a River and These are the Days of Elijah

    • I will need to look up “These are the days of Elijah.” I don’t think I’ve heard that one. Thanks for commenting Nancy!!!

  6. It is so sweet how songs, and especially hymns, bring back not only memories of our loved ones, but somehow it feels like their actual spirit is there with us. These are some great old songs. Thanks! And Trisha, have we discussed that I grew up in Goshen (well, near it, on a farm, 6 miles towards Middlebury. I lived there until 1969. What school did you go to? And if you don’t mind, what was the name of your Grandpa’s church. We didn’t have a “singsperation” but now you’ve got me curious!

  7. This was John Kliewer’s favorite hymn. He always requested it when we had a music Sunday and took hymn suggestions from the congregation. A beautiful song!

    • That doesn’t surprise me about John Kliewer. Thanks for bringing that memory onto this page. He was such a sweetheart. 🙂

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