Mindful Monday

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

Sheros: Olivia Newton-John, My Friend Helshi

The June 19 edition of People was on top of the stack of magazines in the waiting room where I “relaxed” before my recent mammogram.

I had time to read the entire article that caught my eye and was probably the disconcerting reason that the magazine was on top of the pile: “Olivia Newton-John’s cancer returns–how she’s staying strong.” The copy read, “25 years after first facing breast cancer, the star, 68, learns it has spread.”

Definitely not the grabbing (no pun intended) coverline a gal should see before heading in for the annual smash job but I’m glad I read the article. In fact, I brought the magazine home (with permission!).

Her cancer returned

Two months ago, Newton-John announced that she is facing breast cancer again. This time, the disease has metastasized into her sacrum, a bone in the lower back. According to her doctors, taking 25 years to reappear is good news. The bad news is that metastatic breast cancer is incurable and in this case, because of the location, causes an extreme amount of pain.

My takeaway from the entire article is not the details about the cancer, however. It’s this quote from her husband: “We both have the same unshakable belief that she’s going to have a wonderful success story,” said John Easterling. “We’re not trying to be positive. We have an absolute knowing that we can turn this around.”

Here are the things that Newton-John has working for her, I believe. 1) Her husband is a natural health entrepreneur, according to People, 2) Her sister Rona called her Pollyanna because she always sees the good in everything and focuses on the positive and, 3) She gets treatment on two continents–the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre is in Melbourne, Australia.

I love that her husband (they’ve been married nine years) says, “We share a complete world. We can appreciate the joy in nature and the little things. We wake up and start each day with gratitude and we are able to maintain a sense of humor.” Their closeness is apparent in the photo that accompanies this post (First printed in People, the pic carries both the sweetness and the fierceness of their love.).

Speaking of a sense of humor . . .

Helshi in the middle flanked by Becky and me

My friend Helshi Lockwood was also recently diagnosed with breast cancer. To say we were all relieved to hear that it is stage 1A with clean margins and lymph nodes is a tremendous understatement. But then, we also know that Helshi–I call her one of the original Amazon women–is as tough as they come and probably flat-out told God that she would only do cancer if it was manageable.

That’s the way my 6-foot-plus friend rolls. She, like Newton-John, has a faith that is completely convicted and totally grounded. She knows what she knows and that’s all there is to it.

Helshi has the sharpest wit and will not hesitate to state what needs to be said. And, she will tell you that she doesn’t give a shit who needs to hear the truth.

I have to assume that Newton-John has an incredible life force. I know for a fact that Helshi’s force is strong like Luke Skywalker; I don’t know many other 76-year-olds who can get a cancer diagnosis, take a pill for it (so very grateful for no chemo or radiation!) and then take her Golden Retriever on a two-mile walk.

While I have huge admiration for Olivia Newton-John and wish her the very best, I love me some Helshi Lockwood and want her around forever!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my mammo results are all good!

Photo courtesy of Robert Lynden

Why Detachment is a Good Thing

detachment

Remember last July, when the driver of a truck deliberately plowed into a crowd of people in France, killing more than 70?

News and social media rightly reported the incident as terrorism. I wrote in my journal about feeling immense sadness mixed with detachment. I also wrote that I felt a little guilty about the detachment part.

Since last year, these events have become all too common; in fact, one day recently, drivers mowed down innocent people in both London AND France.

Don’t feel guilty for protecting your feelings

Detachment is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s healthy. Sometimes your heart needs a break; it needs to be soft without getting pulled into trauma.

There are times when you just need to breathe and detachment allows you to center, to breathe and to focus on love.

I’m learning to slow down and lessen the judgment on myself. But I have to tell you that focusing on love doesn’t seem like enough when whack-jobs are terrorizing people.

Pema Chodron says patience is the antidote for aggression.

Does anybody else cringe at those words because they’re just a smidge too namby-pamby?

Here’s my challenge, maybe yours too.

I want to strive for higher consciousness every day. I want to help right the wrongs of the world. Can I do that when I’m detached?

Yes, I think we have to strike a balance between detachment, which is a form of self-protection, and stretching for answers that only come as a result of a connection with your higher power.

Detachment forms a barrier to the shock of each situation. The unfortunate truth is terrorist attacks will continue to happen.

How do we live peacefully when so much hatred and violence swirl around us?

I don’t pretend to know the answer to such high-level questions but I do know what keeps me from whirling off into morbid thinking.

I go inward. I dig deep. I make sure there is time in my time to sit quietly with my God. I pray for those affected and for their families. I pray that people in powerful positions find solutions that don’t include more violence and fear.

Sometimes it feels like I’m praying to the wind–and I suppose I am–but we each have to take care of our own emotions and reactions to the world’s transgressions.

We do the best we can. I let the mind of God, as The Daily Word calls it, enlighten me.

“When I become aware of the anxious or vulnerable feelings that accompany uncertainty, I pause. Even a brief pause helps reset my mind and opens it to greater possibilities.

“When the mental whirlwind has settled, my whole being is quiet and my mind is open to receive. In the mental space that I have cleared, Spirit’s guidance comes through.”

The mental space that I have cleared. Only I am responsible for how I approach each day. Detachment helps me see that events and circumstances don’t happen to me; I always have choices, even if those choices are simply how to respond.

Which brings me to the Bible verse included with the The Daily Word reading–it’s one of my favorites:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God.” ~Romans 12:2~

Juneteenth: Freedom From Bondage

Juneteenth: Freedom From Bondage

Today is Juneteenth, the day that commemorates and celebrates Union soldiers who landed in Galveston, Texas in 1865 and emancipated Texas slaves, two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery.

Can you imagine an African American slave learning that she was free from oppression, that his chains were forever broken, that they could leave the plantation?

For some of us, imagining comes fairly easily if we’re still shackled to a hurtful relationship or a harmful behavior. Far too many of us hide behind personas because we believe others want us that way. We make choices that are not really ours because we don’t know what it’s like to choose without fear of being shamed or denigrated in some way.

The Rev. Dr. Irie Session, a Christian Church, Disciples of Christ clergywoman and resident pastor for New Friends New Life, a Dallas non-profit that restores and empowers trafficked teen girls and sexually exploited women and their children, spoke at my church yesterday. More accurately, she preached a rousing sermon at Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ, about freedom and how the very air of freedom is often silent.

Rev. Irie focused on the Bible text of Acts 16 that describes a slave girl “who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future (Verses 16-26).”

As the story goes, the unnamed slave girl made a lot of money for her masters. But her spirit would not and could not remain silent (You can read the passages for yourself.) As a result of her expressing her true self, spiritual circumstances were arranged to later unchain and release all the prisoners locked up with Paul and Silas, the two men with whom she traveled.

We read all about their freedom but not the slave girl’s. We don’t even know her name. In fact, we never read another word about her.

What keeps you silent?

I believe the slave girl represents anyone who struggles to name the things that keep them chained. While today is Juneteenth, this idea of finding freedom from bondage goes way beyond African Americans to include all people of color, sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender or religious affiliation.

Rev. Irie asked, “Where in your mind are you experiencing oppression?”

How am I holding myself back with sabotaging thoughts of doubt or inferiority?

Am I afraid to speak up for fear of rocking the boat?

Could I be withholding or shaving off bits of my truth so that someone else looks good or remains unsettled?

In this post, the first one in six months (but I’m baaaack now!), I’d like to issue a challenge for you:

Go figure out who you are.

Do whatever it takes.

Then be that person.

No matter what.

Find, as Rev. Irie said, a way out of “no way.”

If you don’t, if you choose to remain chained to whatever holds you back, you are living beneath your privilege, she says, because “human beings were meant for freedom.”

Let freedom reign.

And Still I Rise

“And still I rise,” Maya Angelou nearly cries out the refrain in her achingly beautiful poem that feels wholly comforting to souls that wake weary these mornings.

I wrote Angelou’s words in my journal on January 16th, the day we celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. On that day, so many gave pause to honor the man whose eloquent voice rang out, “I have a dream,” in what seems a lifetime ago when considering today’s tumultuous times.

On August 28, 1963, when King called for an end to racism and for civil and economic rights, I’m sure many dared to hope as they hadn’t for a very long time.

And now, here we are, perched hesitantly on thin branches as the new president threatens hopelessness again. Oh God, I pray it isn’t so.

Maybe this 10-day-old period of rushed presidential edicts will turn into an eventual time of quieter order and understanding–miracles do still occur. In the meantime, we cannot ignore the real civil uprising that is occurring in cities and towns across our still-great nation.

The people need to speak. They need to be seen. They need to raise their voices against what seems at the moment like abuse of power.

Now is a time for care and caution. As a person in long-term recovery, I am not immune from rapidly accelerating thoughts that can lead to wrong action. I urge all my brothers and sisters in recovery to stay vigilant on their respective recovery paths and to stay “prayed up.”

Remember too that no one can take your joy or change you without your permission. Hear the rest of Angelou’s words:

“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

In the Daily Word  on January 16, the passage about the word Dream, read, “I must act, pursue, and above all else, live in faith-filled awareness.”

I must remember that my life is about action now, not passivity laced with complaint. The latter was a part of my old life.

Today, I have a dream. I have a purpose. I will rise.

From James 1:25: “But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing.”