Friday, December 29, 2006

Energy in Action

As a student of faith everywhere I find it, I have recently signed up for a daily post from Yehuda Berg, at the Kabbalah Centre. I became familiar with Kabbalah years ago when I read the book Seeing God by Rabbi David Aaron and I found that many of the principles of Kabbalah connect with taoist, Quaker, and mystical ideas.

This morning's note was particularly pertinent here at the end of 2006:

The Kabbalists say that a person whose strength is in his words and not in his actions will always be caught in the world of extremes. That's why it is so important to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. And we all do it, to an extent.
Focus on action today. What have you been procrastinating on? What are you "trying" to do? Don't try. Just do. You'll be much happier this way.

What loose ends can you wrap up before the end of 2006? I'm going to make my list, scratch that, I'm not going to write the list, I'm just going to get them done. :) Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gifts & Giving

Before the boys woke up on Christmas morning, I sat in the big chair in the living room and enjoyed the glow of the lights on the tree, in the windows, and on the banisters. All was peace. My mind gradually settled on the presents. On Christmas Eve, my oldest son had wondered aloud where the tradition of "wrapping gifts in silly paper" came from. This morning, as I looked over the gifts, I remembered the story of the three wise men and the gifts they brought to the Christ child.

I thought there may be a connection between the gifts the magi brought to the baby in the manger and the gifts we give to those we love. Whether we recognize it or not, when we give a present to someone, we are giving our best, wrapped in our love and hope for their happiness, to the best in another. We've been thinking of them, their interests, their hopes, their dreams, their desires. What we give them lifts them up, affirms their talents, or brings them joy (or perhaps gives them comfort, warmth, or freedom from care).

In the Quaker tradition, we talk about the divine spirit within each living person and creature. The gifts we give each other could be, like the gifts of the magi, a living demonstration of the love we bring to others who--thank God--are walking the earth with us at this time.

I hope wherever you find yourself this holiday season, and whatever your own tradition of celebration for the birth of hope and reconciliation may be, you experience the peace, connectedness, and divine joy that exist in this very moment. :)

Monday, December 18, 2006

An Eve Moment

This weekend I was given both a kind of "dark night of the soul" experience and the light that came as a result. On Saturday night I went to hear my oldest son perform with his college jazz band. The venue was a small, dark, intimate jazz supper club. I was a bit nervous about it because, as a single person, I thought I would be highly aware of my "aloneness"--especially with Christopher's dad, his wife, and their friends eating together at a table not far away.

The music was wonderful, filling, lifting, energizing. I loved every minute of it. And yet I was acutely aware of the empty seats at my table, heightened by the fact that everyone else (as far as I had the courage to look) seemed to have others sitting with them--family members, friends, lovers, spouses.

I sat alone. At the break, Christopher and his girlfriend came and sat at the table and we talked a bit. Then they returned to the stage.

On the way home, I talked to my daughter on the phone. I told her how great the music had been. She asked, "Was it okay, going by yourself?" "It wasn't bad," I said.

But I came home to what felt like an empty house (although in reality I had my dogs, cats, and turtle to welcome me). And I looked at my beautiful Christmas tree and the lights spiraling up the stairs. And my heart ached as loneliness washed over me. I sat down and cried.

Yesterday my daughter and I scurried out in the early morning to try to get one of the late-release Wiis we'd heard a rumor about (we didn't get one, but we got close enough to see the people who got one!). Then in the afternoon I braved the mall and had a wonderful time finishing up my Christmas shopping. I cared for my grandbaby in the evening while her mama and papa went to a company Christmas party. And both boys were home--Christopher came home for Christmas break from college--and they were upstairs hooting and hollering as they played Xbox 360 games.

I put on the soundtrack to the movie Elf and made Christmas cookies. I was happy. I was singing in the kitchen as I figured out the new cookie press. Life was good again.

It occurred to me late last night that when I was feeling such a riping pain about being alone, I wasn't focused on what's real in my life. I was looking in the shadows for what I didn't have rather than opening my eyes in the light to see the very real blessings all around me. For that dark night in that dark jazz club, I allowed myself to believe in Lack. And you know what? It hurts!

It strikes me that I was reliving the moment in the Garden of Eden, when Eve believed the serpent when he told her she was missing something. Eat this, he said, and you'll have the knowledge God has. Eve thought there was something being withheld from her. She believed it was possible that there was something she lacked. And so she reached out, took a bite, and sought to fix the problem herself.

Not only did that solidify her belief in the possibility that she lacked something; she passed that belief along to Adam. And their own focus on lack caused them to hold back from God when he came for his daily happy stroll in the garden. They hid; they withdrew; they created the illusion of lack in their relationship with God.

If Eve had been completely happy with things as they were in the garden--if she's truly appreciated everything God had given her (and trusted God to reveal anything else needed at just the right time)--that story might have had a different ending.

For my part, this morning I'm very aware of the abundance around me. Life is good. I have companionship, and comfort, and peace, and joy. All along, all I needed were the eyes to see it, the ears to hear it, and the heart willing to fully, abundantly, receive.

Merry Christmas to you and yours--and may the grace and joy of God enfold everyone in the world in an embrace of peace.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dayienu: “It is enough”

This beautiful poem arrived in my Writers' Almanac newsletter this morning:

Poem: "Just One God" by Deborah Cummins, from Counting the Waves. © Word Press. Reprinted with permission.

Just One God

                              after Wesley McNair

And so many of us.

How can we expect Him

to keep track of which voice

goes with what request.

Words work their way skyward.

Oh Lord, followed by petition —

for a cure, the safe landing.

For what is lost, missing —

a spouse, a job, the final game.

Complaint cloaked as need —

the faster car, porcelain teeth.

That so many entreaties

go unanswered

may say less about our lamentable

inability to be heard

than our inherent flawed condition.

Why else, at birth, the first sound

we make, that full-throttled cry?

Of want, want, want.

Of never enough. Desire

as embedded in us as the ancestral tug

in my unconscienced dog who takes

to the woods, nose to the ground, pulled far

from domesticated hearth, bowl of kibble.

Left behind, I go about my superior business,

my daily ritual I could call prayer.

But look, this morning, in my kitchen,

I'm not asking for more of anything.

My husband slices bread,

hums a tune from our past.

Eggs spatter in a skillet.

Wands of lilac I stuck in a glass

by the open window wobble

in a radiant and — dare I say it? —

merciful light.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Great Givers

I've read God Calling as part of my morning routine for years and years. This morning the message really seemed to jump off the page at me. The reminder was to give of ourselves--our prayers, our time, our thoughts, our presence, our love--before we ever get out our checkbooks to buy a gift. It is so easy to rush out and find a nice sweater, candle, CD, or gadget, wrap it in pretty paper, and wait excitedly for a loved one to open it on Christmas morning. But when we begin to stress about how "little" we have to give, we can think of all the real gifts behind the material, hold-in-your-hands one. We can pray for the happiness, protection, security, and growth of the person--that's a gift. We can call them on the phone and share a little of our time with them. That's a gift. We can spend a little time thinking about them and remembering all loving things they've done and being grateful for their presence in our lives. That's a gift. And we can open our hearts and meditate on the preciousness of that person to us, which I believe adds more light to the world that everybody feels. That's a profound gift.

And when we receive in this same spirit, a new understanding emerges. Unwrapping something on Christmas morning is a joy, but maybe what we're really hoping for is some token that it matters to that person that we're on the earth; that we're loved; that we are connected and wanted and valued; that some other human being understands (or wants to understand) us. That might be a lot to expect from a scarf or a tie. But when we open our hearts and minds to receive everything that goes along with that gift--prayer, time, thought, presence, and love--we can truly know how blessed we are. And then we can continue to give from that richness.

This year may our holidays--Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, or a celebration of our own creation--be blessed with an abundant understanding of what giving really means.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Setting things down

This is a wonderful story from Listening to Your inner Voice, by Douglas Bloch:

According to a Japanese legend, two monks were walking down the road when they saw a finely dressed young woman standing before a large mud puddle. She explained that she had no way of crossing the water without ruining her clothes. Without saying a word, the first monk picked her up in his arms and lifted her safely across the obstacle.

A few hours later the second monk said in an accusatory tone, "How could you have picked up that lady? Don't you know that the rules strictly forbid us to touch a member of the opposite sex?" His friend smiled and then replied, "I put the woman down back at the puddle. Are you still carrying her?"

Friday, November 03, 2006

How to Live

This poem is posted this morning on the Writer's Almanac. It's amazing. I was pleased to know that I'm on the right track. I like Thai food and have a turtle (he's actually my son's, but I've been his primary caregiver for the last 8 years). I don't hear hidden meanings in a cardinal's song, but I do feel that a cardinal is a valentine from God. :)

This poem is a great reminder of the richness, variety, and open-hearted possibilities each of our lives offer:

"How to Live" by Charles Harper Webb, from Amplified Dog. © Red Hen Press.

How to Live
"I don't know how to live."
–Sharon Olds
Eat lots of steak and salmon and Thai curry and mu shu
pork and fresh green beans and baked potatoes
and fresh strawberries with vanilla ice cream.
Kick-box three days a week. Stay strong and lean.
Go fly-fishing every chance you get, with friends
who'll teach you secrets of the stream. Play guitar
in a rock band. Read Dostoyevsky, Whitman, Kafka,
Shakespeare, Twain. Collect Uncle Scrooge comics.
See Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, and everything Monty Python made.
Love freely. Treat ex-partners as kindly
as you can. Wish them as well as you're able.
Snorkel with moray eels and yellow tangs. Watch
spinner dolphins earn their name as your panga slam-
bams over glittering seas. Try not to lie; it sours
the soul. But being a patsy sours it too. If you cause
a car wreck, and aren't hurt, but someone is, apologize
silently. Learn from your mistake. Walk gratefully
away. Let your insurance handle it. Never drive drunk.
Don't be a drunk, or any kind of "aholic." It's bad
English, and bad news. Don't berate yourself. If you lose
a game or prize you've earned, remember the winners
history forgets. Remember them if you do win. Enjoy
success. Have kids if you want and can afford them,
but don't make them your reason-to-be. Spare them that
misery. Take them to the beach. Mail order sea
monkeys once in your life. Give someone the full-on
ass-kicking he (or she) has earned. Keep a box turtle
in good heath for twenty years. If you get sick, don't thrive
on suffering. There's nothing noble about pain. Die
if you need to, the best way you can. (You define best.)
Go to church if it helps you. Grow tomatoes to put store-
in perspective. Listen to Elvis and Bach. Unless
you're tone deaf, own Perlman's "Meditation from Thais."
Don't look for hidden meanings in a cardinal's song.
Don't think TV characters talk to you; that's crazy.
Don't be too sane. Work hard. Loaf easily. Have good
friends, and be good to them. Be immoderate
in moderation. Spend little time anesthetized. Dive
the Great Barrier Reef. Don't touch the coral. Watch
for sea snakes. Smile for the camera. Don't say "Cheese."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Worry Cure

Last night as I was climbing into bed my prayer was a request for help with worrying. Usually I am not a big worrier--I'm optimistic by nature and typically expect good things to happen. And good things almost always do. But perhaps because of the major changes in my life over the last several months--my son going to college for the first time, my daughter having a baby, my youngest son growing 8 inches in a year and suddenly discovering girls (!)--I have noticed an increase in the worry refrain in my not-so-conscious thoughts. I worry about my daughter driving with the baby to the bank by herself. I worry about my son getting overly tired when he stays up til 5:00am writing papers. I worry about my youngest wanting to go to a different high school where he will be the "new kid."

All of these are normal, natural parts of growing up (for them and for me). But the after-effects left me in a pattern of worrying. And worry is more than wasted energy--it creates fearful images of what might happen (thinking the worse) and projects them outward as though they could be a reality. And what's worse is that I might then believe that the worries are real and change my actions based on them, which can impact the messages I give to my kids about the goodness of life, my hope for the future, or my belief in the care of God.

So last night, my prayer was that somehow (God knows how) I might be released from this unnatural, unpeaceful worried state. I know God doesn't want me walking around with a low-grade worry fever, a kind of fear-based static that keeps me on my toes, watchful, anticipating something scary. That's just not God's way of doing things. From what I believe about God and God's world, there is a harmony, a loving harmony, in which all things work together for our good. We are loved and cared for and safe. This is the opposite of worry. Last night I prayed to remember what is real about God and to release the fearful thought forms I was creating by losing touch with my belief of the constancy of God's care.

This morning I awoke with energy and joy. One of the first thoughts in my head was, "If life really is a smorgasbord, what would I choose for myself today?" What an empowering thought! If I can choose anything I want for today, what would I serve myself? Joy, comfort, care, peace. Remembrance of God. A happy family and loving neighbors. Meaningful work. A sense of care and comfort for the world.

My hope for you today is that, if you find yourself in the clutches of worry, you will let God heal your worried mind and remind you how much you are loved. And then you will be free to choose the best parts from the smorgasbord your life is offering you right now!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Merit or Grace?

Yesterday I awoke with a panicked sense of how-will-I-ever-get-everything-done-today? coursing through my veins. The sun wasn't even up yet, and already I was fretting about all the deadlines I had in my work and the seemingly limited number of hours I had to complete everything. Editors were (and are) waiting. Family members had needs and expectations. I of course had preferences about how I wanted to spend my time.

The first thing I did when I noticed that frightening refrain in my head was to pray about it and do my best to release the unknown day into the hands of the Source who is love and light and harmony. God didn't want me to have a fretful, frightened day. God knows from the span of infinity how pointless it is to give too much sway to momentary upsets. They come and go like leaves floating on water. They are best noticed, acknowledged, and acted on if necessary--but not to be taken too seriously.

After distancing myself a little from the fear (by praying about it), I was able to get some perspective on it. I realized that that panic, for me, comes from a fear of not doing what I say I will, which comes from a fear of not doing the right thing, which comes from a fear of letting people down. As I traced each level of the thought process that produced that awful feeling, I realized at that the root of it was a belief that I had to do everything right--or else. Or else what? What happens if I don't do everything right? What happens if I mess up? What happens if life intervenes and I can't possibly live up to all the obligations I have created for myself?

That's where Grace comes in. Grace isn't about earning or deserving anything. It's not about coloring in the lines, showing up prepared at a meeting, doing or saying the right thing at the right moment.

When I am reacting in fear to the many obligations I have today, I am at some deep level believing that I must do the right things in the right way to be okay. That's a belief in merit, not a belief in grace.

Doing what I say I will do is important to me, and I try to live and work in such a way that I honor that principle in my life. But when I do it out of fear, I lose touch with the world of Grace, which I believe is where God really lives--in peace, harmony, light, and the everything's-okayness that is so conspicuously missing when I'm running through my day trying to escape an imaginary, invisible stress monster that seems always at my heels.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Letting go

I have a feeling I've written about this before--maybe more than once. But I was on the phone with a friend this morning and I found myself talking about how much of mothering--at least in this stage of mothering--is about letting go. Letting go of Kelly and Tony and Ruby as they create their own wonderful family. Letting Christopher go to explore college and be in what sounds and looks like real love perhaps for the first time in his life. Letting Cameron go up to his room after dinner every night so he can talk on the phone to the young lady who has suddenly brought a blush to his complexion.

Letting go means I have to love my own life, simply because it is my own. I loved the time my days were filled with the needs and laughter of my children. But I also love the fact that their lives are now their own--happy, vibrant, full of possibility, with their own friends, interests, talents, and more. I am quickly moving into a time when I will be much less in demand--even Cameron will be driving before I know it--and I'd better be really in love with my own life by then. I think God gives us lives not to simply give to others (a tough lesson for women like me who love caring for our families) but to also enrich, enjoy, and expand them for ourselves.

I love to write, cook, read, listen to music, learn about God and others. I'm fascinated with Jung and dreamwork; I love to garden and watch things bloom. I adore my animals--and, of course, my kids and grandbaby. I love them all, but not because I need them to fill a hole in my life or keep me from being alone with myself. I actually love alone time. I love silence. I love watching old movies. There's a lot of me that just enjoys life--whether or not I am doing something for my children or not.

If I never let go, I wouldn't be able to see, feel, and appreciate that.

Enjoy your letting go today!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Pure Experience

Years ago Christopher and I drove through a wintry landscape to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where we sat in the front row of a college auditorium and were absorbed in the experience of live jazz played by Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. It was one of those high-point experiences--live music, spontaneously created and released into the air all around us. I had one of those crystal clear thoughts that stayed with me (which, when you first look at it, may seem to make no sense): "Jazz is a perfect moment."

To me, that statement meant that the improvisation that happens--that expresses itself as music--in the jazz solos performers create--is a perfect moment of creation. The solos aren't notated or memorized--the notes, the patterns, the riffs come naturally, arising in the heart, mind, fingers, and breath of the artist and released freely, never to be repeated exactly the same way again. It's a perfect moment of creation and gift--involving those who create it and those who receive it.

In something I read by Jung over the last couple of days I happened across the phrase "pure experience." Pure experience is what happens when you can arrive in the present moment clear-minded, open, and free of the burdens of the past or the fears of the future. It seems to me that so much of the thought that fills our minds is really clutter that has to do with rehashing the past or protecting ourselves against the future. We live our lives in our heads, trying to figure out the next thing to do, understand the thing that happened in the past, or check off items on our mental to-do list so we can feel like we accomplished something at the end of the day.

Being open to "pure experience" is more than an intellectual experience. It means feeling life in your whole body--letting the music reverberate in your heart, your hands, your toes. It means welcoming your whole self--mind, body, and spirit--into the presence of life happening now.

When we can notice that we have arrived in this moment--with its cool breeze, its noisy traffic, its sunlight, its music, or its quiet--we find the simple and profound gift of pure experience, already here, waiting for us to notice.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Forgiveness: How big is your story?

Rabbi Irwin Khula is being interviewed on The Today Show right now about the forgiveness of the Amish community in Pennsylvania after the horrific tragedy of the schoolhouse shootings. The rabbi just said something amazing and beautiful. In answer to Matt Lauer's question, "Is forgiveness a religious issue?" He said, "No--I believe there's a fundamental, powerful yearning in all humans for connection. Forgiveness becomes, 'How big is your story?' If you start your story at the violence and proceed from there, you're going to find it difficult to forgive. But if you can expand your story to include all of this person's painful life, his woundedness, his illness, his family, you will be able to see how much led up to this moment.'" And then, with understanding, forgiveness is within reach.

There's a line in A Course in Miracles that has been one of my favorites for years: Seek to understand another and you cannot fail to love him. When we can expand our view, letting the story be bigger than the horrific act, our understanding brings compassion, we begin to grasp the struggle, and ultimately, we may find ourselves connecting--and then forgiving--in a profound way.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bumping into Mystery

Last week brought one of the biggest experiences of my life. Thursday night at 8:43pm I became a grandma for the first time. Ruby arrived in the world, big, pink, and healthy. In the days leading up to her birth, I became aware of the vastness of Mystery in a way I'd never noticed it before. Birth is such an exciting and joyful event--the rebirth of hope, innocence, and newness of life. But birth isn't achieved in this world without risk--danger and pain. As a mom hoping, praying, and believing that childbirth would be a great experience for my daughter, I was keenly aware of how much was outside my control. I was aware--in a totally new way--of the huge unanswered questions about the development of life, the organization of cells, the spirit indwelling, and the relationship between being and nonbeing.

I witnessed the meeting of Ruby and mama and dada; I held her in my arms; I silent expressed my gratitude to God for knowing the way and holding us all in the midst of this Great Mystery. I'll never forget any of the moments, the faces, the sounds--or the feeling of bumping into the vast, indescribable Mystery that I can't grasp or understand but can somehow trust.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Intellect & Emotion

Last night I had a really interesting dream. Two friends who had been living together for a long time were breaking up. One woman followed the other out on the front lawn, yelling at her. She was completely consumed with her upset. At one point she threw something (a  glass something) at the little orange VW bug that apparently belonged to the other woman. The other woman was calm and sad. She was quiet, resolute. She had packed her things and loaded them in the car and was about to drive away from the apartment they'd shared for a long time.

In my dream, I stood at the back of the car (having just helped to load it, I guess), looking on with love and compassion. These women were both apparently my good friends from college. In my dream, I understood that even though there were many hurt feelings right now, we would all remain friends. I wasn't worried. I was even a little amused, because I knew the end of the story.

As I wrote in my journal and reflected on the dream (common theory being that all characters in our dreams are really parts of us), I asked myself where I was the woman heaving the glass vase at the other woman's car. And who was that other woman, calm, sad, quiet, but not operating from emotion?

She was my rational side, my intellect.

I think it's part of the human condition to be living out many influences at the same time. We are pushed and pulled between desire and will; between hope and doubt; between feelings and thoughts. We can intellectualize our experiences, but processing them requires opening to, being honest with, and giving our feelings a voice. And then after they've thrown glass vases at our reasoning, we need to give our intellect a chance to make meaning of the experience--what just happened? What does it mean? How does it enrich and expand the story my life is creating with itself?

I think the part of me standing behind the car (by the engine, in a VW bug, btw), smiling and knowing everything was okay, was my spirit. In spirit there was no argument--there's no division--there's no struggle or shouting on the lawn. The spirit has a vision I can only glimpse fleetingly, in harmonious moments.

And, of course, in my dreams. :)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

God as gravity

This morning I was thinking about Oneness, about how it's more than a pleasant concept or some ideal we try to live up to. The idea of Oneness is becoming more real to me the older I get. The mistake of separation--the idea that we're little, alone, and vulnerable--is seeming more obviously a mistaken belief of the ego to me.

I remember years ago trying to imagine a sense of everything being One. The picture in my head was something like sunlight spreading over an open field--how it expands and lights up everything it touches. I thought one basic thing we have in common is that all of us, sooner or later, touch the earth in some way--right now you're sitting on a chair that touches the floor that touches the foundation of your house of office, which touches the earth. We drive in cars or ride in busses with tires that touch the earth. When we walk, run, jog, or bike we touch the earth. Even when we fly, at the start and end of our flight, we are touching the earth (and some would argue that we are still in earth's atmosphere even in the air, so we're still part of the earth.)

So as I experiment with ideas of Oneness, it occurred to me that maybe God is gravity--unseen like that natural force, but giving us such a powerful and constant hug that he holds us on the planet, each and every one of us, every minute. :)

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Moment of Grace

In the Today's Gift email I get from Hazelden, I found the following quote:

"Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied." --Pearl S. Buck

This is one of those ideas that stunned me for a moment because (1) I'd never had this thought in my head before, and (2) because it is so true. I can think back to choices I made in my life that caused me pain (or at least gave me a mess to dig out of later), and I can remember clearly the moment when I was struggling with whether to go forward or choose a different route. Even when I prayed about some of those decisions, I still often made choices that turned out not to be for my good. Turns out that I didn't know it at the time, but I was unclear at my hurting places, and I could easily be swayed into choosing the wrong thing for me. As a friend told me over coffee one morning, "The next time you face something like that, call me--I think even though you were praying about it, you ultimately told yourself what you wanted to hear."

A lot of healing and radical commitment to self-love gradually led me into a place where I could discern whether something was good for me or not. But I love the idea that this moment of grace is built into every choice. God puts it there for us. And we will eventually have the eyes and heart to see it. When you're pivoting on the edge of a decision, look for it. If you can't see it, ask a friend. If it still isn't clear, wait for it. Grace is always present. Sometimes our eyes just need time to adjust to the light.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Indiana is poised and waiting. In the last two days, the temperature dropped from 89 degrees in the blazing afternoon to a cool 73. The sky is thick with big gray clouds. The leaves shimmer on the branches, just ready to begin turning.

The river birch tree in our garden has already begun shedding her leaves. Maybe she's more interested in being one of the first of the season than she is in displaying any colorful magnificence. :)

It's one of those moments of heightened awareness when the fullness of summer is all around you. You take a deep breath and look all around. In just a moment--any moment now--everything will begin to change very quickly. The leaves will turn colors and become a carpet on the ground; the sky will clear and become frosty blue. Soon the snow will fly.

But for this moment, the air is big with the abundant life and growth of summer. We have something to celebrate. We are ready. Let the winds of change bring the next awesome vista in this journey.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Perfect Blessing

I found this wonderful blessing in this month's edition of Yoga Journal:

Lokah Samasta

Sukinoh Bhavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute to the happiness and freedom for all."

Doesn't that just cover what you would wish for every living being everywhere? If everyone everywhere were happy and free, there would be no war, no hate, no sickness, no hardship, no poverty, no isolation, no rejection of anything God created, ever. It's the ideal of the kingdom of heaven realized within us.

May you be happy and free today, moving in harmony with the limitless Love that created, sustains, and cares for you. :)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The crime of comparison

This morning as I was driving through the misty countryside (the sun was just coming up and lighting the fog hovering over the cornfields--gorgeous!), I thought about the fresh intensity of beauty, perfection, life. This moment is unlike any other. It has its own gift, its own peace, its own perfection. I don't need to compare it with any other moment--when, I muse absently, I was either happier or sadder, more preoccupied or more present, more in tune or more out of sync. This moment is perfect now. I feel joy and appreciation in it. End of story.

The crime of comparison, I think, is that when we line a moment up with another--or compare our accomplishments with another person's, someone's house against another person's house, this car against that one, this talent and that, we overlook the sacredness of both people, places, moments, or events we're comparing. Each has a gift, if we have the open eyes and heart to receive it.

May each of us be open to the holy gift in each and every moment, person, and experience today. :)

Monday, August 21, 2006


My son Cameron is 13 and loves golf. He loves it so much that he played on average three times a week throughout the summer. By the end of the season, he was ready for some better clubs. His score for 18 holes had dropped from 100 to 88. He started watching every golf match he could find on television. He observed the pros. He spent lots of time on the course. It seemed to be the one thing he couldn't get enough of.

I decided that this was enough of a passion that I wanted to invite an expert to give him some feedback, so I contacted the golf pro at the course where Cameron plays. The lesson was interesting and packed with really amazing but subtle information that applied not just to golf but to life. Chuck talked about the importance of taking time, looking clearly, noticing your energy, balancing on your feet. He explained (and demonstrated through some actions Cameron could immediately feel and understand) how the muscles work together to support you in a natural, efficient swing.

He demonstrated how when all these forces are in tune--sight, balance, and motion--the contact with the the ball is natural and fluid, sending it 240 yards straight toward the pin at the end of the farway.

This morning I've been thinking about efficiency. When our forces--mind, emotions, body--are in tune, I think efficiency is dramatically increased in all areas of our life. We move with grace; we respond emotionally to the present moment and then move on through it; we have the energy we need to complete the tasks of our day with joy and appreciation. Efficiency makes things look easy, because everything is in alignment leading up to that point. When the contact--with the ball, the event, the obstacle, or the person--is made, all the harmony of the universe is lined up to support it. :)

Friday, August 18, 2006


I found this amazing quote by Franz Kafka in a powerful book I'm reading right now called Essential Aurveda: What it is & what it can do for you:

"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstacy at your feet."

How wonderful is that?!

I picked up this book because although something I found in an article on Auryvedic eating cured 25 years of chronic headaches for me (no kidding!), I had never really understood Auryvedic principles enough to know how to put balanced meals together. I thought it was complicated. But this book makes it simple, and elegant, and clear. And what's more, the author, Shubhra Krishan, writes about health and beauty in all elements of life--not simply diet (although what we put into our bodies--physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is very important in terms of encouraging or creating obstacles for health).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Just what we need, when we need it

I am continually surprised to discover that I tend to write about things that I will need later that day. It's curious--the post I wrote yesterday had occurred to me as a flash of an idea when I was writing to my friend. After I posted it, I thought I'd wrapped up the idea and put it out there, and that was that. But at 2:00am this morning it really came in handy. Something startled me awake and then I was suddenly beset by a huge cloud of anxiety--about everything, from my work to my relationships to my house. I was so churned up inside I couldn't get comfortable and tossed and turned. It was so unlike me (I usually sleep soundly and well--especially when the nights are cool enough to have the windows open!) and the fact that it was unusual gave me something else to worry about!

But then I remembered my post from yesterday morning. I noticed instantly that my stomach was tightened into a knot. Even my jaw was tight. I realized that I was fighting imaginary problems in the dark, when I was only partially conscious and not clear-headed enough to refute the worries as I might in the light of day. What I really needed to do was identify the sources of the upset--real or not--and then, one by one, give them to God and leave them for Him to deal with. So I mentally grabbed hold of the first worry, and put it in God's hands with a prayer. There, that felt better. I did it with the next worry, and the next one, and the next one. My jaw relaxed. My breathing slowed and lightened. Soon my stomach had unknotted. Soft and open, remember? By the time I'd handed off all my mostly imaginary worries to God, I was well on my way back to sleep.

Thanks, God, for giving us what we need before we even know we need it. You think of Everything. :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Who's speaking, God? You or me?

Corresponding with a dear friend the other day, I realized that I use a kind of built-in discernment tool when I'm trying to determine whether a leading is coming from God or from me.

When there's something going on--maybe something that I'm praying for that I really want to happen--and I get that sense of peace about it, I feel that I've "turned the battle" over to God and it's out of my hands. But to really be sure, I check in with how I feel.

If I feel soft and open inside, knowing that I'll trust God no matter what happens, I feel like I'm in tune with God.

If I feel hard and rigid inside, thinking, "this just HAS TO happen!," then I usually think I haven't really turned the situation over to God and I'm still clutching to it and hoping I'll get my way, whether that is God's way or not.

For me, God's thoughts bring a strong sense of peace and everything's okay-ness. They always join, share, include, love. The thoughts I have that do not spring from my connection with God are often about worry, control, or my own protection. That seems really significant to me.

Luckily God will bring those hurting thoughts back to the whole, sooner or later, when I realize what's happening and really turn the issue over once and for all.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Centering Point

This morning I awoke with such a strong sense of okayness at the core of my being. It's hard to describe, but it's as though I finally found that place within where God is always shining, untouched and uninhibited by the worries of the world or the demands of my day. During yoga, I let the feeling of that sacred space wash over me. In meditation, it was still there. I wrote about it (such as I could, with words and their limits) in my journal. Now, five hours later, it's still with me. Could it be a new piece of understanding that has come to stay? God, I hope so. :)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bidden or Unbidden

Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit

Called or not called, the god will be there

-inscription on Carl Jung's gravestone

I just finished reading a beautiful and soul-filling book called, "Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul," by Claire Dunne. Ms. Dunne has somehow, miraculously, painted a vibrant portrait of Jung, who seems so fully alive he still pours off the pages. God's gift of life continues to radiate stronger and stronger. Called or uncalled, how can it be missed? :)

Photo from pg 2 of book, credited to K. Mann Library, NY

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nothing Is Missing

This morning I awoke and heard the pouring rain hitting the roof, the trees, the grass, the flowers, and thought, "Nothing is missing--God has provided everything we need, eternally."

The principle of harmony--that there is an underlying, balanced harmony among everything God created--has been floating around in my awareness for the last several weeks. Like a leaf on the water that floats closer to you and then drifts away again, I feel as though I almost grasp something important about the concept and then, as I reach for it, my excited movement causes a ripple that pushes it just outside my reach. So perhaps time is an important tool to use as I grow into an awareness of harmony. Not because time is real (because I'm increasingly questioning that--time is at least, I'm convinced, expandable), but because by using time in a spiritual way, we open up in patience and trust that the leaf will float all the way up to us at just the right time.

After all, the principle of harmony is at work. :)

Monday, May 29, 2006


There are those moments in life that are fully rounded, perfect, joyful. This weekend I experienced many of those moments as we watched Christopher graduate from high school. The whole family came together--we laughed, we hugged, we told stories, we relaxed. Thank you SO MUCH, God! :)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Love Means Both/And

Every so often when I'm working in the late afternoon, I turn on the television and listen to Oprah as I work. Yesterday was one of those days. In recent months, Oprah has added an amazing woman, known as Dr. Robin, to her shows that deal with emotional issues, patterns, problems. This woman is a real truth-teller; she's compassionate but doesn't pad anything. She inspires courage in others. She calls people to better care of themselves because they deserve it--not because they've been bad or wrong or incomplete. In my opinion, she's really got it together and serves people lovingly and truthfully.

Yesterday she asked a man on the stage to consider where he first witnessed or experienced the kind of destructive pattern he was now creating in his family life. She said, "A wound like this can only come from early childhood--where did you first see someone treating others this way?" The man at first said, "I don't know--my parents were perfect, the best..." but as Dr. Robin continued to ask the question, he began to cry. He said, "I love my dad, but he did't respect my mom--I love you, Dad--he never listened to anyone, not ever." Dr. Robin said, "He didn't listen to you," and he responded, "He didn't listen to anyone."

Dr. Robin said this was a very deep and important issue--we need to be able to hold those two realities--"I love you and you hurt me"--in the same space. Our tendency is to group people into "good" or "bad" groups. When they do things that affirm, uplift, reassure, or accept us, we think they are "good" and we love them. When they do things that tear us down, reject us, hurt us, or judge us, we think they are "bad" (or worse, that we are the bad ones and deserve it), and we believe we should stay away from them and not love them. So it becomes hard to us to be honest when we are hurt by the people that we have to love for our own sense of identity; we will deny the hurt, put it away, blind ourselves to it--and then later in our lives, unknowingly recreate it so it can be welcomed out and healed. Maybe this is where the whole "us and them" game comes from in life. This may be the root of the conflicts we have in our workplaces, our congregations, our marriages.

This morning in my reflection time, I was thinking about how important it is to be able to speak the truth and say, "I love you and you hurt me. I was hurt by your words, your example, your messages--and I love you and know you were doing the best you could at the time." Telling the truth is the first step. Loving anyway is the second.

Maybe that's what Jesus was getting at when he wept over Jerusalem and when he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He still loved--and loves--us, even now.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bouncing Back

Last night we had one of the first torrential rains of the season. By that I mean the raindrops were big, pounding, relentless. Some areas of the state received up to 3 inches of rain in just a few hours. The rain fell for the first time on the heads of my poor petunias, geraniums, zinnias. I noticed when I opened the curtains early this morning that the sand cherry bush had a serious droop--she looked like she'd been beaten down through the night by the driving rain. The instant after I noticed her sad look, though, I envisioned the bush springing back, tall, growing, blossoming. It's really a beautiful bush, and a little rain isn't going to change that.

I thought about experiences we have in our lives when we're beaten down by relentless rain, negativity, "bad luck," unhappy circumstances. Our leaves droop; our flowers fall off. Our smiles are gone. We may feel down and out for a little while; but after the rain stops, our leaves will begin to perk back up; the life will flow through our veins; we'll lift our heads. Over time, we may even see that we came back stronger than ever, fnding that the flooding nourished our roots in a way a surface watering couldn't.

Wherever you are today, whether there's rain or sunshine in your life, know that there's a strength inherent in you that is eternal and divine. We always bounce back--not because of anything we do, but because it's the nature of God's hope.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

An Alive Stillness

Last night I decided to sleep with the windows and the blinds open because for the first time this season I could hear crickets chirping, and the moonlight on the tree outside my window was lighting up the leaves and windowsill in such a beautiful way. Sometime in the middle of the night, I was startled awake by a sound. An owl was calling out in the woods right behind our house. Twice, three times. An eerie, other-worldly sound. A few minutes later, I heard a plop! which sounded like it happened right beside my head. It was the frog in the pond right outside my window.

When I opened my eyes at 6:00am, my ears were already full of the sounds of the morning. Songbirds--many songbirds--were already greeting the day. A woodpecker knocked on a tree not far away. The frog was making that low chiiiii--rup sound. I sat up and stretched, and thought about the difference between silence--the lack or sound--and stillness, a sense of harmony that occurs in listening, waiting, participating in the moment.

It's interesting to me how all these joyful, life-filled sounds arise and return to stillness. It's the underlying harmony of all things. Stillness is not lack of sound but the full potential of all sound. Our spirits rise and rest in stillness. Our love radiates from stillness. Our laughter erupts from stillness. And our prayers spread and smooth and expand the stillness, rippling it calmly outward in an embrace for the entire world.

Blessings on your day!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Releasing Others

Have you ever had a hurt that keeps bubbling up in your thoughts over and over again? Months after I thought I was done with a painful situation, I found myself still trying to figure it out, get my mind around it, decipher what had happened and understand once and for all how the other person could have acted that way. I realized (maybe because I'm rereading The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle) that I was wasting time and energy trying to resolve something that isn't even here, isn't real, isn't happening now--it was over and done with months ago. Why was I spending so many of my present moments stuck on that past event?

As soon as I realized I was spending my time, energy, and focus on something that doesn't exist (and keeping myself stuck in the past at the same time), I also saw that when I focus on the past hurt that way, I am freezing the other person there as well. I am believing them to be that person who hurt me, and while I keep them stuck there, I am not forgiving them. So playing that mental videotape of what they did wrong, how insensitive they were, or how they hurt me only continues to keep us both stuck--and here's the most important point: it's not real. God would have us both be free!

This was a huge insight for me. Immediately I prayed, "In the name of Christ, who is all freedom and joy, I release you, _____, from the image construction I held of you in my mind. I give you absolute freedom. Blessed be!"

I felt such a huge sense of relief and release after praying this that I wanted to share it with you. If you are feeling stuck or keep reliving past moments that hurt you, ask yourself (and your spirit, and God) who it's time to release. Then go out into the sunshine, and enJOY your day! I know I will. :)

[Thank you, God!] :)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Radical Self-Acceptance

I've been doing a lot of healing over the last eight or nine months, working through old beliefs and messages that shape my thinking and my experience in the world. I feel that's part of God's work, helping us dissolve whatever holds us back from radiating more and more light. And I've come to believe that none of the blocks are really outside me--any obstacles I experience have to do with something in my thought system that is ready to be recognized and brought to truth.

Because I'm aware that I've been changing and getting clearer, I was surprised to find that I spent this weekend chained in the basement of "not good enough." I am behind on several writing projects (I'm writing two books at once for Microsoft right now and the deadlines overlap); I am not working as fast or as intensely as I usually do; I am not driving myself with the same unbending discipline that used to keep me up working until 2 or 3am. In other words, the thought, "What's wrong with me?!" was rattling around in my head almost all weekend. And like anything else in life, when you ask the question, you get the answer. So I was receiving a steady stream of negative thoughts that told me exactly what was wrong with me--and none of it was kind, compassionate, or understanding.

I realized finally late last night, after suffering and beating myself up all weekend (while I tried to work--which was double agony), that this situation of being behind on my deadlines was kicking up all the places where I wasn't yet able to be loving with myself. Does my good care of myself depend on me getting my chapter done on the exact day I promised? Does meeting a deadline make me a good person? Of course not. I know all these things--and I thought I'd worked through them. But here again I found myself living out old beliefs--unconsciously hurting myself and pushing myself and chastizing myself, trying to drive myself into that place where I would feel I was "good enough."

What a blessing to witness this attitude in myself! It is old thinking; untrue beliefs; attitudes that don't fit me anymore. I already know that, but like the smell of last night's dinner still lingering in the kitchen, the effects of that thinking still echo around inside me sometimes (usually when I'm under pressure). Recognizing the echos, I can throw open the windows and let the old beliefs out. They don't live here anymore. They aren't part of my new life of radical self-acceptance. The God I know and follow is about mercy, compassion, true love, and forgiveness--not control, judgment, criticism, and continually raising the bar so I have to jump ever higher in hopes of somehow earning that ellusive "unconditional love."

So I'm starting the week released from the prison of self-judgment. That's worth at least one Hallelujah, don't you think?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Present Perfection

Last night we went to hear a band concert at Christopher's school. A variety of different ensembles played the pieces they performed at the state band competition two weekends ago. Some groups--and some players within those groups--seemed more "on" than others. I sat in the darkened auditorium, enjoying the music and the kids, caught up in the swells and patterns (and sometimes squeaks) in the music filling the space.

Suddenly I had an image of the music in my mind, and I thought about all the groups through the years that had played this piece by Grainger, or Bach, or Sousa. These musicians were looking at notes on a page--the same notes dozens (if not hundreds) of ensembles had played before them. Some of those musicians had good days; some not so good; but the music was a constant, always finished, always perfect, always the base of possibility.

I thought how much like that the laws of God operate in our lives. We have the notes--we know it's possible. Creation exists; truth exists; love exists; perfection exists. How open are we to that completeness flowing through us? Some days we are fine instruments, completely in tune, present and willing for the Spirit of God to flow through us. Other days we are worried, or tense; our valves need oiling or our reed is worn out. We are fatigued and fearful. The Spirit through us may sound squeaky or small or miss a few notes (or make an entrance at the wrong time); but the essence of being--the music on the page--is always perfect, always complete, always eagerly awaiting the next musician's loving focus and willing heart.

May we each have a sense of God's perfection within us today, as we yet again sing another day to God. :)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Prayer Chain

I received this wonderful poem by Tim Nolan in this morning's Writer's Almanac and wanted to share it with you. Keep those prayers going! :)

Prayer Chain

My mother called to tell me
about an old classmate of mine who

was dying on the parish prayer chain—
or was very sick—or destitute—

or it had not worked out—the marriage—
or the kids were all on drugs—and

all the old mothers were praying intensely
for all the pain of their children

and for life—they were praying for life—
in their quiet rooms—sipping decaf coffee—

I bet they've been praying for me at times—
so I'll find my way—so I won't rob a bank—

I'll take them—the mystical prayers of old mothers—
it matters—all this patient and purposeful love.

Enjoy your day! :) k

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In Harmony with All

I think there's a bullfrog living somewhere in the woods behind my house. Or maybe he's closer, up by the fish pond outside the sunroom window. But wherever he lives, about 5:00 am the last two mornings, I hear a low, burpy sound "brrrrrrrrrrrr--upt!" repeated twice, three times. Then silence. It's as though he's warming up for the beginning of the summer season, when the females will be within hearing distance and he can show off his vocal chords for all they're worth.

Our natural voices are funny things. We all sound so different--we have different squeaks and laughs, our singing voices run a range from the highest high to the lowest low. We sneeze, we giggle, we exclaim (my mother's made-up expletive used to be "Oh, Piffle!"), we (sometimes) snore. We make all kinds of sounds to let each other (and ourselves, and God, perhaps) know we're here, we alive, we're participating in life, we're making noise.

I wonder whether God hears all this as a kind of wondrous, joyful harmony--all his babies creating something good, moving energy (that's all a sound wave is, after all), enjoying this garden he designed. The bullfrog doesn't hide his voice or worry about other animals sleeping (not even me!). He just assumes there's a place for what he does and he sings what comes naturally.

It seems to me this morning that we could learn a lesson from the bullfrog--trying out our voices, getting ready for the season. God gave us something to sing and something to sing about! Whether your sound is a snort or a giggle, a whisper or a shout, remember God with your vocal chords today. I imagine God thoroughly enjoying the great symphony all his creation sings to him moment by moment. And don't think that with all this hubbub, your voice won't be missed, because it will--until you sing your part, the rest of us won't sound complete. :)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

First Thoughts

I ran across this wonderful quote this morning in a newsletter I receive from the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators):

"First thoughts have
tremendous energy.
The internal censor
usually squelches them,
so we live in the realm
of second and third thoughts,
thoughts on thought,
twice and three times
removed from the
direct connection of
the first fresh flash."

~ Natalie Goldberg

Isn't that interesting? It makes me wonder whether we'll be able to hear any of our own First Thoughts today--you know, the ones we share with God. Let's listen together, okay? :)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Time is on God's Side

If you're a child of the 60s or 70s, you'll get a kick out of this reflection. This morning, for some unknown reason, the song, "Time Is On My Side," (by the Rolling Stones) was playing in my head over and over. (At the time, I didn't remember who sang it, but it was playing loud and clear.) As I exercised, as I made coffee, I kept hearing this song. I wrote the phrase in my journal during my meditation and prayer time. When I came up to my office to begin work for the day, I decided to Google the lyrics to find out who wrote the song and discover what the rest of it said.

I thought maybe I was picking up a "time vibe" because I am feeling pressured in my work to catch up with several writing deadlines that are running on ahead of me. :) But as I read the lyrics (which you can read by clicking here), it occurred to me that this is the song God is continually singing to us! Time is on God's side. We can claim our freedom, go off seeking our heart's desires, but eventually, we'll come

running back

running back

running back

to God! Why? Because God's got that "real love--the kind you need, baby." What a fun way to start the day! Who knew Mick Jagger was a prophet? :)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Let There Be...

I read a quote from a woman writer somewhere once (and it's in my journal but I'm not sure where) that said, "Whenever you say, 'Let there be...,' something happens." This morning that idea is floating around in my mind and heart. The power of creation is something I believe God shares with us--as the Ultimate Creative Being, God has given us a share in that amazing ability to create what we choose with our days, our thoughts, our lives.

Sure, we can argue that something "out there" resists or rejects what we create. But maybe we create that too, by envisioning the resistance to begin with.

If you had total power to create something that was important to you today, how would you use that power? Imagine that nothing can hold you back; no one will laugh or criticize you. Your gift will be totally accepted, gladly received, and unreservedly successful. What will you create?

Here are a few possibilities that pop into my head:

    "Let there be peace."

    "Let there be love."

    "Let there be abundance."

    "Let there be health."

    "Let there be passion."

    "Let there be JOY!!!."

What do you want to create today? Roll the rock away and let it out. The world is waiting. :)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Energy & Light

I awoke this morning with more than the usual energy. Elliot the kitten (he's the one on the right in the photo) was purring and pushing at my head, trying to do anything he could to wake me up so I would pet him. This is a fairly regular occurrence lately; I think he realizes sometime close to sunrise that he is just dying to be petted. He's gone so long--all night!--without someone telling him how wonderful he is. :)

Some mornings this really gets old. I gently push him away, or hide under the covers, or just hide my hands under the comforter so he won't keep trying to make me pet him. Eventually he gives up and goes away for a little while. He's an interactive alarm clock with a loud, purring motor.

But this morning Elliot's antics struck me as funny. Maybe I was just ready to get up, but I gave in and cuddled him and scratched his head. He was so appreciative. I got up, got dressed, and took the dogs out, feeling cheerful. Not dragging; not wishing the day could start a little slower; not wondering about how much I can get done today and how in the world that could possibly be enough.

I'm not sure why some days have one kind of energy and other days have another. It might be my diet the night before; it might be my dreams; it might be angels that visit me through the night--I don't know. But I know when the energy is high, when I feel humor and compassion and a sense of gratitude for the day, I feel that I'm in tune with God; and when I drag and grumble and feel too small to face the responsibilities before me, I am somehow out of sync and feeling like a separate little me and forgetting my source.

I don't know why I wake up one day feeling connected and another day feeling not. But I'm grateful for today! And I'm noticing, God. Thanks for the energy and light, and for being always the source that shines throughout my life (whether I'm feeling it or not).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sharing Our Soul's Stories

Emma Curtis Hopkins says, "The soul doesn't need saving; it needs to be made visible." This really resonates with me because I've discovered that as I grow into self-acceptance, all those places where I judged myself before have become filled with life and energy--they are now a source of healing and joy; a miraculous resource I missed when I was unwilling to explore them!

Sharing our stories helps our soul become visible. We learn to meet ourselves with compassion and welcome back all the pieces we've missed, forgotten, or rejected along the way. I have written a book with my co-author Mike Torres about a program that makes it easy--and free!--for people to begin sharing their stories, their experiences, and their lives with each other. If you've been thinking about blogging but haven't given it a try, come visit our MSN Bookspace and read excerpts of our book. You can use it to begin to express those places in your soul that haven't been welcomed out in a while. They need love too, you know. :)

[No worries about privacy issues--with MSN Spaces you can set up your space to be completely private so no one else--or only the people you specify--can read or see what you post on your space.]

If you aren't sure how you can use blogging (or our book) to tell your stories, drop me a note. I'm a good blog coach! :)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Themes of Temptation

This morning I find myself thinking about the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert during that 40-day vigil. It's interesting to me that he was tempted three different ways--to use the power God gave him to sustain himself ("tell these stones to become bread"); to save himself ("throw yourself down"); or to choose what (or whom) to worship. The key here, it seems to me, is to not be fooled into thinking that our care and protection comes from anything or anyone except God. We may think our own efforts in our career are guaranteeing our success (which brings food for our table and shelter from the cold), but who provides the talent, creativity, opportunity that opens the way for our work? Sometimes I get so caught up in working so hard that I get stressed and fearful when I fall behind. When that happens (like earlier this week!), I have to ask myself--what am I afraid of? Who sustains me, protects me, cares for me? When I realize that my work, my health, my support comes from God alone, I begin to relax and return to my work with less force and fear. I work with focus and integrity. I enjoy what I do. And I thank the One who brings all good things into my life for bringing my mind back to the place of peace and green pastures.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What's the truest thing you know?

What truth is rattling around inside you this morning? Maybe it's something like "It's a beautiful morning." No matter what truth we claim, we can see God in it by looking a little closer: (1) We feel Joy when we encounter beauty. (2) Beauty is a gift given freely to us--we do not earn it (like Grace).

See? There's God, right there. Not even two steps away. I love that. :)

Whatever is true for you today--whether you enjoy a smile, or a sweet moment of peace, or a warm hug, or anticipating a fun evening--say it out loud and give God a wave at the same time. Because if you're enjoying something, God's there. He's in the JOY part. :)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Me, Myself & I: Prodigals All

I'm not sure what started me thinking about this, but the theme of the Prodigal Son has been surfacing in my life a lot lately. Instead of thinking of the prodigal as different people in a story, however, I've been thinking about it as different aspects of myself. I have a "good son" part of me that always tries to do everything right--that feeds the cows and does what's good and true. And I also have an "adventurous and carefree" self that sometimes wants to go off and climb mountains and wander through rainforests. There's a part of me that is really good at creating fantasy (especially when I'm hurt or scared) and there's a part of me that is firmly plugged into reality and knows what it means to have deep roots of faith. I'm rational and irrational; I'm logical and emotional; I'm body and spirit.

But the aspects of myself that I call "good" are much more welcome in my world than the parts that don't do things "right." My prodigal self needs to be able to come home hungry, having tried the wrong road and found it wanting, and find the true, warm, embracing love of a forgiving, understanding self that is eager to welcome those messy aspects back into the fullness of life. But all too often I think I behave like the jealous "good" brother in the story, wanting to tell the prodigal self that it didn't earn it's happiness; it doesn't deserve a break; it didn't do the right thing when push came to shove.

I'm so glad that Jesus told that story. He was talking about grace, mercy, forgiveness. He was talking about what matters--life, all of it--good, bad, messy, wonderful, upside-down, inside-out life. What matters is wholeness, not hiding, truth. When we can welcome those hidden or distanced (or rejected) parts of ourselves back into the family, simply because they exist, we will find what it means--in that very moment--to live Heaven on Earth.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Remarkable Recovery

This morning I read an amazing article written by doctor and breast cancer survivor Mandi Caruso in Spirituality & Health magazine (February 2006). WOW. Talk about inspiring. This woman's story is remarkable, and her own sense of healthy personal power just pours off the page as you read. If you've never read an issue of Spirituality & Health before, now's the time to try it. The article is called "Alive with Passion." Here's the web site.Enjoy and be inspired!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Living Faith

This is a quote from an amazing book by Iyanla VanZant, entitled "One Day My Soul Just Opened Up." I find her writing powerful and full of truth--it affirms much of what I've been learning in my present life circumstances. I hope it blesses you, too!
    You are faith in the flesh. God has so much faith in you that you were entrusted with the gift of life and a unique mission to fulfill. Did you ever stop to think that you could have been a fruit tree. You could have berries or flowers sticking out of your ears! Instead you were given the right to make conscious choices, the ability to create through thought and deed, and dominion over every other creature. That is a demonstration of the faith the Divine has in your abilities and capabilities. Your task is to return faith with faith. You must live with the knowledge that everything you need, at any time you need it is being provided. Not will be provided. Is being provided! This is how we can each become an example of living faith: by knowing that your good is on the way. In every undertaking you must live with faith in the power of your thoughts, the efficacy of your words, and the purposefulness of your actions. When you are challenged by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, you must live with faith that the truth of your affirmations, your positive words, will manifest as tangible conditions. When you set a goal, you must proceed with living faith that there is a divine plan unfolding in your life and as your life, and that if the plan is supported by knowledge of spiritual laws, the benefits will be divine. This is how we must direct our thoughts and actions in order to become living faith."

Isn't she amazing? I love it that although Iyanla writes about the power of our thoughts, words, and deeds, she roots that idea in love of God and the desire to manifest God's highest good in our beautiful lives. God is truly at the center of her message as a powerful, empowering, animating, creative force.

Thanks, Iyanla, for sharing your learning, your wisdom, and your voice. :)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Meeting the Day as It Is

When I awoke this morning, later than usual, I stretched and felt that wonderful sense of a full day ahead of me with no particular plans. By mid-morning, however, I had devised a mental list. Finish a bid for a new project for one client. Write the draft of the newsletter for another client. Go to Lowes to buy a ladder. Get to the grocery to get what we need for the week.

No sooner had I finished my mental list than Cameron came up and added his own ideas about what the day should be. He wanted not just Joe but also Justin to spend the night. (Add to the grocery list.) He wanted to stop at Blockbuster to rent a game and/or movie for the sleepover. (Add another stop to the errand list.) Then Christopher came home. He wanted to know when he could paint his new bedroom. (Add to the Lowes list--get paint chips and samples.)

The day continued on this way, changing and branching and flowering. On the way to Lowes we drove through a sudden--and breathtakingly beautiful--snow torrent. On the way home, we drove through snow-covered trees looking up at a creamy almost-full moon. We were late getting back from Lowes, so I made oven-fried chicken instead of chicken parmesan. On a whim I called Kelly and Tony to see whether they wanted to come over for dessert. The night ended (just a few minutes ago), with all of us crashed on the couch and chairs in the family room, watching South Park (not my first choice, but since the average age in the room was 24, I acquiesed to the majority).

The day now, in hindsight, barely resembled the free, quiet, open day I envisioned as I stretched in bed this morning. But you know what? It was richer. It was more work. It had more laughter, and more cuddling. The real day I had, I now know, was much more full of life than the controllable day I thought I was going to have. Unpredictability means blessings in all kinds of packages. I'll remember that tomorrow when I wake up.

Thanks for the day, God, whatever it brings. I know you place a blessing in every moment. :)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Trust In the Slow Work of God

Above all, trust the slow work of God.
We are, quite naturally,
impatient in everything to reach the end
without delay.
We should like to skip
the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on
the way to something unknown,
something new,
and yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stage of instability –
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually –
let them grow,
let them shape themselves,
without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today
what time (that is to say, grace and
circumstances acting
on your own good will)
will make them tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of
feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

~ Teilhard de Chardin

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Feet of Clay

I am one of those people who always sees the good in everything. At first glance that sounds great, because I'll be the one who is sure to find the silver lining, make lemonade out of lemons (my kids hate that phrase! Ha!), and generally always come up with the blessing in any circumstance. The downside is that sometimes I may be not seeing things I really need to see in order to make good choices, fully rounded thought-out choices, that will affect my life and well-being. My work over the last couple of months (the inner work I mentioned the other day) has been about getting to know that eternal optimist who lives in me and find out why she sometimes plugs her ears and sings real loud when the not-so-optimistic voice wants a chance to talk.

We humans are complex and marvelous beings. It feels funny--a bit ticklish--to begin to poke around at your own innards, asking curious questions about why you view the world the way you do. I've done that kind of questioning on a spiritual level--that's part of what I loved so much about seminary--but I feel as though I'm on new ground with Kathy the Human. I feel that I understand the spiritual me fairly well, but the more human me I haven't given as much attention. So the New Year brings an interesting, curious, and adventuresome feel for me. If I really want to walk and talk in the Garden with God, I better find out more about the human being's feet I'm walking in. It's bound to be an interesting journey. You're welcome to come along. Just pack a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. We humans get hungry. :)

Friday, January 06, 2006

All in All

Happy New Year! I hope this year is gleaming with hope and promise for you. I have been doing a lot of work--internal work and external work, public work and private work--but it's all good. :) One of the themes that seems to be arising again and again in my thought and my life and my understanding is the idea of All in All. When things look dark, there's a little bit of light. When things are light, there's a little bit of dark. And varying degrees of light, on a continuum from bright to night. I laugh and tears spring to my eyes. I'm sad and the boys make me laugh. I find a moment of peace springing up unexpectedly in the middle of a hectic afternoon. I lounge through a quiet morning and suddenly burst into a frenzy of busy-ness. People who love us sometimes hurt us. And people who hurt us sometimes love us. I still tend to want to stack life up into neat little piles--but that's really just my attempt to compartmentalize the rich, swirling, unboxable essence of the All. The All in All means that there is that love and hurt and hope and despair and communion and isolation all swirling around us every moment like so many scents on a spring breeze. It's all there. What will we notice? Is it a busy day or a quiet day? Was it a good movie or a bad movie? If it's All in All, there's bits of all of it there, built right into the mix of the moment.