Heart Connections

Musings on My Faith Journey

A recent lesson: When I say yes to the Universe, a spiritual vortex activates and I can absolutely trust that whatever I think about my perceived lack of time gets nullified. God steps in, says, “I’ve got this,” and I just show up. Thank you Kathryn and Christie.

One of my recent aha’s has been around how I’m the only one making choices for my good. It seems like a simple idea, yet one that is so hard to consistently execute! I even have the bonus of working a 12-step program that allows me the ultimate freedom to stay on the spiritual beam and yet I still spend too much time face-planted in the mat.

However, a recent meeting reminded me that being present to the 12 steps is something I forget–regularly. I get waaayy too busy and full of my self-importance to put God ahead of my plans.

The voices I hear in the shadows of doubt and the storms of news cycles sometimes make it hard to come back into the sunlight of the spirit. I wonder if that happens to anyone else.

When I say I’m a sensitive sort, I don’t just mean that I tend to get my feelings hurt easily. I mean that I get drawn in to others’ drama and chaos and pain, not in a let-me-fix-you way, but in a way that my soul absorbs angst and hurt and lets those things affect my present moments.

I don’t like this one little bit because feeling hopeful in those moments is nearly impossible and without hope, I really have nothing.

Oh, what to do, cries my tortured psyche! The answer is simple, but not easy . . .

Plugging into my spiritual connection, which includes living in the sunlight of the 12 steps, keeps me God-centered. I am grounded. I function where my feet are planted.

I become much less prone to worry and stress because I am trusting God in all things. My purpose is to be right here, right now, and to affect others with my good energy. If God and I are in sync, what I’m presenting are God traits of sweet love, compassion and joy.

The sunlight of the spirit is available to me all the time. Even when I forget. Even when I fall into the world’s stresses or get caught up in politics or social media or, man’s inhumanity to man.

These days, there is a channel for spreading hate that seems vicious and loud and always on. At times, it drowns out the Love Channel where soothing voices tell universal stories of redemption and truth.

Is it time to turn up the volume on our stories? Or convince others to share their personal stories?

I think so because the voices of doom and gloom are insidious and they come from bullies who believe they can shout us into silence, wear us down with their intentional divisiveness.

Standing and amplifying our voices is hard work. It’s easier to just go along, but that choice is becoming less acceptable, not when we’re in a war for love and kindness. Instead, lets get familiar with each other’s stories and raise the energy of peace and empathy for our fellow travelers.

Ready to walk? Say yes!

We Do, You Will Recover

Early morning dew covers the windows, a sure sign of high humidity outside. My heart is heavy with mourning the news of devastation from coastal Texas. Rockport and Port A are destroyed, while 85 percent of Houston is underwater.
Hurricane Harvey is one of America’s greatest natural disasters and probably the most horrific to ever hit Texas.

The images are heartbreaking. Like a moth to a flame, I’m drawn to the news, to friends’ reports, even to the detriment of my heart. There’s no survivor’s guilt; we’re too far away for that. But for the first time since I’ve lived in this Big Red state, I feel a sense of pride as I watch my fellow Texans reach out and down and over to lift a neighbor or a stranger.

One of the photos I saw last week on Facebook was the entrance to River Oaks, one of, if not, THE, most affluent neighborhoods in Houston. Water was at least halfway up the massive stone entry, proving that natural disasters, like addiction, have no respect for how much money, property or prestige a person holds.

That’s why the outstretched hands I see of National Guardsman, rescue workers, regular people, means so much to my aching heart. They are hands of hope, not really so different from the hands of recovery. In each case, we must surrender to a power greater than ourselves, as well as to the helplessness we feel in whatever our current situation.

I suppose the thousands–tens of thousands, in all likelihood–displaced by Massive Storm Harvey will similarly feel all the disaster-related feelings of early sobriety, like anger, grief and intense sadness. I am so very sorry they must go through the gut-wrenching pain that comes with substantial loss.

And yet, they go on. Somehow, they live day-by-day. Thank God for the faith that so many have. They’ll need each other and will no doubt lean on the kindness and generosity of strangers.

As with early recovery, each 24-hour period is made easier when we choose to not go it alone. Talking, sharing our feelings and fears with others who know exactly what is on our hearts and minds builds a healing bridge, a bond that can last for a long time.

I hope and pray that folks in South Texas–Port Lavaca, Port Aransas, Rockport, Lagrange, Corpus Christi, Galveston, and Houston–will feel the love that their fellow Texans are sending their way. I know that my Dallas-area family is stretching it’s collective reach with money and time and heartfelt love.

Brothers and sisters to the south, know that our minds see you as healing from this unfathomable tragedy. We’re here for you, no matter how long it takes. Let us know what you need and it’s yours. Consider us your recovery sponsors, through the ups and downs of this early recovery road.

May God bless you and keep you warm and soothed–and dry.

Black Lives Still Matter

black lives matterI wanted to hug tight every one of my church siblings yesterday who have a skin color they did not choose. I almost knocked on my next-door neighbor’s door to say, “Hi, this may sound weird, but I really think you’re awesome and I’m glad we’re neighbors.”

Yes, the family next door to me is African American–beautifully black.

I am 56 years old and while there are many, many things I do not understand in this world, racism and bigotry tops the list of things I just can’t comprehend.

I am a white woman stunned by the horrific display of humanity in Charlottesville, VA, over the weekend. CNN reported that “men carrying Confederate flags stood side by side with the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and rifle-toting militia members in Charlottesville at a rally dubbed ‘Unite the Right.'”

These were white men–primarily from out of state–spewing hate as they chanted to the counter protestors, “you will not replace us!” You see, there’s a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in a park in Charlottesville that is slated for removal.

You will not replace us? I wonder what they’re afraid of losing?

I am angry. As I write this on a sultry Sunday afternoon in my suburban home in Texas–where there are no doubt factions of the white nationalist “movement”–I still feel stirred by yesterday morning’s rousing church service. My church–Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ–is vibrant, inclusive and progressive; absolutely everyone is welcome because Jesus was a welcomer in his time and we are Jesus people.

I never thought I’d be a Jesus person but here we are. I’m reminded that Jesus experienced anger too when he came across injustice, prejudice, or things that were just wrong. If he were here and heard “Unite the Right,” I believe he would say that uniting one group of people is not uniting; it is, in fact, excluding, and that true unity only comes from accepting everyone as no more, no less.

Rev. Neil was on fire for Jesus yesterday, which is to say, on fire for what IS right, not THE right. He said that the hatred displayed toward black people in Charlottesville and the hatred laid out every day in America on people who are not white and heterosexual is not about politics.

The flagrant and offensive prejudice is not about right or left, but about right or wrong, Rev. Neil said. Then he called on us to take the anger that we feel and turn it into a commitment to become more Christ-like and speak out about the injustices we see.

I’m so ready, ready to say enough is enough and to speak truth to power. Anger is a good thing when it’s channeled into transforming hearts and minds.

So today, I ask you to join with me. Pay attention for opportunities to transform. Watch your language and how you think and speak about people–black, brown, lesbian, gay, transgender, heck, anybody who is different from you. Carry love in your heart instead of hate. As trite as the question may be, “what would Jesus do?”

America can only be great again when Christianity is great again–but that’s a topic for a future post. For now, I’ll leave you with this and I don’t care who I agitate:

Black lives still matter.

Photo courtesy of bmartinseattle

As Within So Without

This past Tuesday was day three without air conditioning. I woke feeling like a good day lay ahead. I felt strong and resilient and capable of hanging out in my hot house all day while our heating and cooling system was replaced.

I’m working on seeing value and worth everywhere I turn. What’s the saying, “as within so without?” Or, as Debbie Ford wrote, “each of us is the microcosm of the microcosm.”

She also wrote, “what is actually inside me are the thousands of qualities and traits that make up every human being and that beneath the surface of every human is this blueprint of all mankind.”

As I grow in understanding of how we all are a part of one, grace fills me. Actually, its more of an awareness of grace, because grace is already present. The more I feel, the more I see and willingly spill out.

On the same day I was sweating at home, my sweetie was dealing with a difficult circumstance at work. Before she left that morning, we talked about how God’s grace is sufficient. And isn’t that the truth in all circumstances?

We pray to receive that which we already possess. I think that’s how Unity’s preference for positive affirmations instead of beseeching prayer came about. In fact, today’s Daily Word confirms that idea: “God is my strength and vitality. I am renewed.”

I do believe that much of prayer is recognizing the good within each of us, within myself and within you. These are the things I need in times of difficulty. Going within, BEING that which I already am. And that which I am, you are too.

It’s tough work sometimes.

But I’m grateful that now–during this week that brings both the anniversary of Mom’s death and the anniversary of stepping toward my life partner–I am open to seeing the real and true me.

God’s light and love ground me into right now where I can appreciate every detail, yes, even on miserably hot, 95-degrees-inside-my-house days. One gift from Mom–she did teach me how to make the most of any given situation or circumstance! So thanks for that, Mom!

And now I smile remembering her goodness. I got to see a lot of it during the last year of her life. I saw because I found unconditional love in Becky. It’s probably not a coincidence that our love began on the very day that, one year later, Mom’s place on earth vanished.

I’m a little bummed that I’m not taking a sojourn to Missouri this week. But I will travel to my heart several times over the course of this week and find her eternal spirit there, maybe even in the meditation garden I’m creating within. See you soon, Mama.

Photo courtesy of Scott & Mary Freeth

Be Present to Your Spiritual Connection

Be Present

This from The Shack: Reflections for Every Day of the Year:

“The present is raw, real, alive, and scary, commanding my attention. I see how you have been with me, but only in the present can I actually be with you.”

God is talking here, responding to a question God asked of Mack about how Mack spent his time: present, past, or future.

Mack answered, “I suppose I would have to say that I spend very little time in the present. For me, I spend a big piece in the past, but most of the rest of the time, I am trying to figure out the future.”

God is

Today I find comfort in knowing that God–or whatever you choose to call your spiritual connection–is as close to me as my breath. God is.

Try an experiment. Go outside and just stand or sit still for a few moments. Whenever your attention lights somewhere as you look around, think, God is.

When I let Jaxson out this morning, the first thing I noticed was the cooler temperature. God is. (Actually, I said, Thank you, God!)

A soft breeze kissed my cheek. God is.

A cardinal chirped while flying overhead. God is.

Sun rays peeked through the early morning clouds. God is.

The point is, God is really there–everywhere–waiting for your acknowledgement and your welcoming.

God is, even in tragedy

Our church family at Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ received some terrible news over the weekend. Our senior pastor’s executive assistant, Lee Covington, died last Friday, the victim of a vicious homicide. I’ve been reading everyone’s thoughts and tributes to him on Facebook, and watching the news coverage. There were several camera crews at our service yesterday, where many of us wore bow ties in Lee’s memory.

I didn’t know Lee, only met him once, but from everyone’s accounts, he was a pretty incredible man. One of his good friends posted that in addition to being impeccable in every sense of the word, Lee was present. He said that Lee had the ability to give the person with whom he was in conversation his complete attention, making it seem as if nothing and no one else mattered in that moment.

We should all aspire to Lee’s habit.

The present commands our attention, as Wm. Paul Young writes in his reflection. God yearns to spend the present with us and to celebrate whatever we’re doing in this speck of time.

Really, how difficult is it to turn a thought or a word to God? We can pray at times other than before meals or when we feel especially connected like during a meditation practice or church service.

I learned years ago and think often of Unity’s wise counsel that our thoughts are prayers.

Each time we think that very line, we acknowledge God in the present.

When someone passes from this human life, we’re gently admonished to live, to grasp every moment and cherish it as if it were our last. Let’s also remind ourselves to live fully every single day. That message was loud and clear in church this morning.

Live fully as if your life depends on it.

Nearly eight years ago I made a life-changing decision to move from Missouri to Texas. The decision was a giant leap of faith because I was moving into a completely unknown, albeit exciting, situation.

I HAD to make that move because my spirit craved a life of deep connection to every one of the 1,440 minutes in each day. In the life I was living, I was merely getting along, doing the same things as if I were a drone on remote control.

Back then, I couldn’t express the reasons why I had to leave, other than to say, I must go. Others speculated, I’m sure even gossiped. What I know now is I had to figure out a way to acknowledge, then honor every moment that God and I spend together.

It’s the trip of a lifetime–raw, real AND alive. I definitely recommend the journey.

Photo by Benjamin Davies