Mindful Monday

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.”

2017: Let’s Do Some Spiritual Shifting

Whew! Thank God THAT year is behind us!

While there was much that was bright and brilliant about 2016, we had to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for it. So many of us are bone-weary from the animosity that flanked the presidential election season regardless of whether our preferred candidate won or lost.

It feels like so much more was lost than won.

I propose that we make 2017 a return to decency and respect.

While it’s a relief to draw a deep, cleansing breath now that our shiny and new 2017 is here, there is damage from last year that needs repairing.

Please know that I’m not writing about politics, but about taking responsibility for one’s humanitarian footprint. In other words, leaving the past behind, how do you wish to care for and connect with your fellows throughout this year to make it a better one than last?

At my church, we’ve kicked off 2017 with a sermon series called Time to Shift. While the focus is on growing our church and its ministries and our individual walks with God, the series has a deeply personal call as well.

I think the time is absolutely right for a spiritual assessment of massive proportions. It IS time to shift.

It’s time to go deep, my friends. It’s time to see what we’re made of. It’s time to learn and grow, and yes, to shift.

Can I get an amen?

Some of you know that I was baptized for the first time last October. As a new Christian and new member of Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ, I am passionate about all things Jesus.

Here’s my big HOWEVER: I cherish the notion of individual spiritual sanctity. Whatever your path, I honor it. I hope you share it with me, especially if you agree to move into a shift.

As you begin to take your spiritual practice to a new level, I offer these seven ideas to support you:

Let music, dance, works of literature or art tingle your senses and offset the negative voices of news reports (or any negativity, for that matter!).

Stand firm in your power. No one else will state your case as well as you can.

Believe that you are valuable and worthy. God does, so why shouldn’t you?

Plant your feet in today and keep them there. If you find your mind wandering into “what ifs,” look at your feet.

Honor who you are always. Do not try to be anyone else for anyone else. Ever.

Love wildly and freely. Love big. And please, by all that is holy, love beyond those who look, act, vote like, or eat in the same restaurants as you.

Finally, should you ever feel the need to complain, stop it. Instead, find a solution, or at least a beginning idea.

May you have gobs of courage, hope and faith in 2017, my dear peeps. Big love to YOU!

Facing Addiction in America

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I met U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy last week in Los Angeles during the historic release of his report Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. When I introduced myself as part of the Facing Addiction team, he put a hand on each of my shoulders and said he was honored to work with us and that our organization is doing really good work.

Dr. Murthy is America’s top doc and he’s right. Facing Addiction is doing great work; I too am honored to work for an organization with such heart for getting America’s attention around the issue of solving the addiction crisis in this country.

What happens now?

I love this paragraph from Dr. Murthy’s preface in the report:

How we respond to this crisis is a moral test for America. Are we a nation wiling to take on an epidemic that is causing great human suffering and economic loss? Are we able to live up to that most fundamental obligation we have as human beings: to care for one another?

During this Thanksgiving Week, I wonder if we will remember our obligation to those suffering with, or touched by, addiction. Consider these facts reported by Facing Addiction’s co-founder Greg Williams in his recent Huffington Post blog:

  • Nearly 21 million people suffer from a substance use disorder but only one in 10
    receives treatment—that’s more than one and a half times the number of people who have cancer!
  • In 2015, substance use disorders affected 21 million Americans—approximately one in 12 adults and adolescents.
  • Implementation of evidence-based interventions around substance use disorder can have a benefit of more than $58 for every dollar spent.
  • Substance misuse costs society an estimated $442 billion each year in terms of lost productivity, healthcare costs and criminal justice costs.

Greg writes, “If every person in every community in America would stand up to addiction as they stand up to other major health issues, we would forever shift the way addiction is looked upon in this country. It’s our duty to take this historic moment and make it an enduring turning point for our children and generations to come.”

Indeed, there are walks, runs, ice bucket challenges and all kinds of other awareness-raising gestures for virtually every other health issue with critical needs. Where does addiction fall in the list of critical needs?

Alcohol- and drug-related deaths now surpass car accidents as the number one killer in the nation. When will we be sick and tired of these dubious distinctions?

The time is now. It’s time to join with the Surgeon General and say we’re ready to do whatever our hands and feet, hearts and minds can do.

We’ve seen reports from the Surgeon General’s office that have a major impact on societal change. Fifty years ago, the Surgeon General issued a report on the dangers of smoking and a call to end the tobacco epidemic gripping the nation.

Dr. Murthy issued a similar call to action last Thursday from the Paramount Theater in LA. Now his office is calling for an end to the public health crisis of addiction.

It’s time. Let’s make sure social media is our friend when it comes to spreading the news.

 

Surrendering to Election 2016: Let’s Move On!

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Election 2016 is nearly in the books. Nervous anticipation hangs everywhere; the words, “I’ll be so glad when it’s over,” are exchanged again and again in coffee shops, at train stops and every other locale where two or more are gathered.

Throw in a stewed  mess of negative campaigning (what an understatement!) that stirs people into an emotional frenzy and I’m beginning to believe that our next president will need a divine intervention to repair the damage done to the collective American psyche.

My Australian friend Patricia says watching the American presidential campaign is like watching the best reality TV ever!

Too, too much!

I find the entire spectacle childish and sad. There’s a downside to living in a time when our culture is seemingly controlled by social media. Don’t get me wrong, I love the connectivity and potential for good that social media affords us, not to mention that I make my living working with social media platforms.

But for months, every sound bite and pictorial moment among the political candidates has become embedded in the global Twitter feed and therefore deemed newsworthy. My journalist’s heart weeps.

In Texas, we can choose to cast an early ballot so last Wednesday I approached the polling booth, not with excitement as I usually do, but with trepidation. I did not want to vote for either candidate. I felt a surge of resentment just as the polling judge announced, “We have a first-time voter!”

The young woman looked so eager and fresh-faced as she waved to the room.

“Bless her heart,” I thought to myself. What an awful, worn out election to be casting her first presidential vote.

Then I found myself wondering who is blessing the nation’s heart.

A Sunday surrender

At church yesterday, I got the reminder I needed of who is blessing us all. As dark as our nation’s time seems right now, God–insert your name for the Divine–always offers light. The beauty of humanhood is we get to choose to walk in the light and to send the shadows away beyond our hula hoop.

With light comes hope and who among us doesn’t want to carry that torch? I was also reminded during Sunday service at Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ, that choosing to bear the light of hope is carrying the mission of countless other masters of hope and peace who came before us. Certainly Jesus, but also the Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. were saints in that they lived and walked in light and love.

We would do well to emulate them. And we do.

You are an everyday saint when you speak words of hope to another and each time you encourage inclusivity instead of division. You are an everyday saint each time to listen thoughtfully without judgment or derision. You are an everyday saint when you see the world with eyes of compassion and when you touch someone else with your peace.

The votes that we cast in this presidential election are crucial–I’m praying for a future filled with optimism and goodwill among those who win their chosen offices.

But we have a higher calling. May you be blessed with an abundance of hope, love and peace this week, and in your blessing, pay it forward.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile:maryhere