Spirituality

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!

Political Theater Lacks Compassion

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Like most of you, I feel disgusted with the daily tabloid-like fodder coming from the presidential candidates’ camps. Decency, respectability and admirability, like Elvis Presley, left the building weeks ago.

Political theater? We’re living the 2016 version of The Nightmare on Elm Street only this is no dream and Freddy Krueger is alive and well–he just has better hair.

Oh, I’m no Hillary fan either, except, she at least has  a comprehensive plan to address substance use disorder and addiction.

But even that topic, which is dear to my heart, takes a back seat to what is really missing in this election cycle.

Compassion.

The theater playing before us is not meant to be a laughing matter but it certainly is a joke. The joke’s on us–and it’s a cruel one–because we’re losing so much of what makes America great.

We need not lose ourselves too.

We have to dig deep

I’ve been tuning out a lot of news lately. I try not to watch the political back-and-forth too closely. I’ve decided that in this final month before the presidential election, I’m going to reach for the one thing that Jesus thought was “the dominant quality of God,” according to author Marcus J. Borg.

That quality, even more than holiness, is compassion.

In his book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, the Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith, Borg describes Jesus as a political rebel-rouser. He showed/demonstrated how to defy those who followed the lead of ridiculous men, even those who were rich and powerful.

“For Jesus, compassion was the central quality of God and the central moral quality of a life centered in God,” Borg writes. “These two aspects of compassion are combined most clearly and compactly in a single verse . . . ‘Be compassionate as God is compassionate.'” Luke 6:36

Jesus walked a walk of decency, compassion and reverence for people, not the possessions or status symbols that leaders and rulers of the time worshiped.

Jesus eschewed the rules of the day in order to be the Golden Rule.

It’s time for us to do the same

Admittedly, my view of the political theater is from the cheap seats. But I know this: there was a time when our country’s leaders were admired and emulated. Children were told they could grow up to be the president.

The presidency was held in high regard. Today, many believe it is little more than something to be mocked and derided.

It’s a sad situation with no single, nor simple solution.

Sometimes we must be our own solutions. We must take the lead, be the change.

Between now and November 8, a little less than one month from now, I intend to lead with compassion, the highest quality of Jesus, Gandhi, the Buddha, the Dalai Lama and other people of Spirit.

Then I’ll cast my ballot along with what will hopefully be a good majority of Americans. Political theater: the show must go on.

Champions of Change, Survivors of Storms

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In and around the Texas Gulf Coast town of Rockport, there are magnificent centuries-old oak trees that grow nearly horizontal to the ground.

We saw them recently, on a few days respite from life in suburban Dallas. I was astounded by these incredible examples of God’s enduring strength, these champions of change and survivors of storms

There’s a lesson here about learning to lean where I’ve previously stood flat-footed and braced against the storms of life.

You can learn to lean and not break

There are times when the winds of this world threaten to snap you into  two pieces. I really don’t think I’m the only one who experiences the destructive nature of howling winds that slash at my metaphorical windows. They screech at you until, in your anguish you just know that you’ll be ripped from your moorings. Life as you know it will be finished.

Remember: those bent oak trees are still beautiful in their bentness. And you, no matter how storm-battered, are still beautiful too.

The trick to withstanding the storms of life is learning to pause, assess and respond without reacting.

How to get onPAR (Pause, Assess, Respond)

It’s okay to take deliberate steps away from crushing news. Lord, I can see how people become surly and jaded. When I’m exposed to nonstop news, including the diatribe on social media, I tend to sink into quicksand of sarcasm and criticism.

At those times when I find myself overwhelmed by life’s grittiness, I’m trying to pause (I’m not always successful!) before getting sucked into the grime.

I assess the situation. Do I need or want to play? Is there an option to walk away and not participate?

Once I determine my part, then I respond instead of reacting (the former being a proactive stance).

Here’s an example: Say there is some sort of work drama that affects my department or my piece of the work plan. I can’t walk away but I can choose to sit quietly and keep my mouth shut!

That’s only one example of two trillion.

I’m fortunate that as a contractor, I work alone in my home office. I don’t get pulled into the vortex of office life. But that doesn’t mean my world is always peaceful! Here’s what I do when faced with daily vicissitudes:

I take a break. I write. I pray. I take the dogs for a walk and I deliberately notice the stillness of the water in the lake. Peace, be still.

I breath and I bend, grateful for my flexibility.

One day at a time, I lean toward flexibility and fluidity searching for a profound sense of grace and fortitude. All will be well because all IS well.

So long as you bend but don’t break.

Look Out For #1 But Be Kind to Others

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Back in the ’70s I was enamored with a book called Looking Out For #1 by Robert Ringer. The basic premise of the book, one of the New York Time’s 15 bestselling motivational books of all time, is you have to take care of yourself before you can be useful to anyone else.

In other words, put your oxygen mask on first!

You have to admit the title is a little off-putting, though, egotistical even, especially during this time of continual Donald Trump yammering.

If we believe that happiness comes from being our best, then maybe the idea of looking out for ourselves is a good one. Think about it: Is there anyone else qualified for the job?

Humble and kind

Two words swirl around me–humility and kindness. Be humble. Be kind.

These two words are a firm foundation to build our best self as we look out for number one. (Can you see the beginnings of the plan to be better so you can do better?)

Tim McGraw has a hit song that seems to be everywhere I turn. His lyrics are simple but the message is powerful.

An recent essay in a recent Sunday edition of the Dallas Morning News describes a fourth grade teacher’s idea to remove all her classroom rules but one: Be kind.

The essay’s author writes about one woman’s decision to be kind to herself. “It’s a decision we make every day. We are in total control of decisions, our choices, our lives. I choose to love and I choose to be kind.”

If kindness is the goal, I believe we’re naturally humble, even when we’re taking care of ourselves.

Three more words

My friend Amy, a former Sunday school teacher and Jesus freak (My description and it’s a compliment), says Jesus’ messages can be summed up in three words–surrender, acceptance and love.

Add humble and kind and you have a winning full house hand, not to mention a recipe for a contented life.

I like knowing that a lifestyle with these five words in my heart and on my mind is always available to me. My simple-but-not-easy task is simply to put my oxygen mask on first and breathe them in.

When I keep my focus on me–looking out for #1–I am less likely to judge you, gossip about you or make fun of you.

Buddha said, “What we think, we become.”

If you want to look out for #1 today, let your thoughts focus on five words that will transform not only your thinking, but your place among women and men.

Humble. Kind. Surrender. Acceptance. Love.

Be AND do all these.

Photo courtesy of 5demayo

A Late-Night Call From GUS

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Cruz Bay off St. John Island slept while I watched the single light in the harbor. It blinked and I tried to catch it’s rhythm, get in its cadence.

It was the middle of the third night of our Virgin Islands vacation and my spirit struggled to transition from my hectic mainland life to our annual island life.

I sat outside, listened to the cocks crowing and wrestled with my unsettledness. Instinctively I knew that I needed these few hours in the dark with only God and the harbor light as company.

Here’s what God/GUS had to say:

Soften your edges, babe. You’re a little too sharp, a little too jagged.

That’s it, just breath as the gentle breeze sweeps across your face. You are here. Just be. Your job, your only job, is to enjoy.

Be in joy.

Listen. Here the distant waves. Let them soften you. There is nothing wrong, love. You just haven’t arrived with your spirit intact.

You are fixable. In fact, let’s say you are fixed. Right now. Just decide it is so.

Can you do that and be pleased with your decision?

There is no happy. There is no sad. Yes, there is morning and night, high tide and low. Those things are fixed. carved into eternal being-ness.

Then there is the finite you. Trying to soften, be more gentle with you. 

Let go. Release anything and all things that block you and keep you from knowing your worth and your beauty. 

Follow your true north. It is here, right where you are–in you, not out of you. 

Soften. Be. Know that you are perfect in my eyes so let go of those error thoughts. They have no place here where you are.

Feel mercy, feel grace. Sit with these things. They are my gifts to you. Let them guide you back to me. 

There are times when the only thing that soothes middle-of-the-night angst is a good, old-fashioned talk with God-Universe-Spirit. GUS tends to ring my bell in that 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. window that closes one day and opens the next.

You know what I’m talking about, right? For me, that mystical wake-up means there is no sleep until I heed the call. Many years of practice leads me to my journal, as it did a couple of weeks ago in the USVI.

I likened my call to write to a drunken headache that nothing but throwing up will relieve. Yes, it’s a gross comparison, but you get the picture.

And so I vomited on the pages, scribbling in the dark, knowing the words would hardly be legible in the morning light.

And yet, I got the message. We get the message when we unplug from the silliness of daily living and plug into the wisdom of the one who grounds us.

Sometimes the force to listen is strong. Forget about hearing. Just listen. If you’ve ever experienced a pre-dawn call from your higher power, you understand the difference.