Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for 'alive and well in Christ'

Health, wellness, death and disease are on my mind. The new year launched, along with the usual “New Year – New You” promotions for diets, fitness programs, products and services being sold in the name of health and wellness.

As I watch January unfold, along with social media posts of friends  expressing delight with the 5.2 pounds they lost in one week working out with a new trainer or the increased energy they feel on the detox they started after the holidays, I have mixed feelings. I want my friends to be well. I want them to be in alignment with their bodies, to feel good and have optimal energy. And, I’ve seen and heard too many heartbreaking stories of people who’ve lived on the diet, fitness and wellness roller coasters, bouncing from one program to another, gaining and losing weight over and over again, looking for the answer to whatever health challenge they experience.

As I prayed about how to respond, about how to support and about how I hoped that this time it might really stick, I heard the voice of God’s love reminding me to take an eternal perspective on all these things. And, to remember that while health and wellness is important, in the long run, disease and death can’t be outrun.

I faced cancer at 30, had major shoulder surgery at 50 and am likely to have my left hip replaced this year as I hit 55. I’ve exercised regularly since junior high school, eaten lots of vegetables my entire life and don’t smoke, drink or take drugs. Disease happens anyway!

As I prayed, I got a download from the Spirit. As I went back to read it again, I felt inspired to share it here. For me, this is the Voice of Love reminding me that, as Julian of Norwich proclaimed, it is in the midst of suffering that we most need to experience that, held in God’s love, all will indeed be well.

All you have is today. You could die today. Don’t fear death. Death is not the enemy. Don’t fear disease. Disease is not the enemy. Each day’s sufferings are enough for the day. Don’t add to your burden by projecting into the future or clinging to the past. Today, this day, this moment, is all you have. Show up. Be present. Do your best. Let go of results.

Don’t fear your body. The great lie of health and wellness is that we can overcome and conquer the weakness of the body, bypass aging and never have to grow old or die. The truth is, time isn’t something to be managed, pain isn’t just weakness leaving the body and the value of external remedies and practices is limited. Health…wellness…isn’t the absence of disease but our capacity to live in harmony with ourselves and all living beings amidst the physical, mental emotional and relational disruptions that are part of life. There’s nothing to conquer, overcome, manage or fix! Our work is to be present with what is, listen to our aliveness and let decisions arise from the depths of our Inner Beings where Wisdom dwells.

Some wise person once said that discipline is remembering what you really want.**

It took a lot of discipline for me to show up and stay for 20 minutes in centering prayer today. In fact, it’s taken a lot of discipline to show up most days these past few weeks.

In one of his daily meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation this week, Richard Rohr reminded me that the union I desire with God is realized not by trying to achieve it, but by surrendering to it. He said that prayer is surrender.

Centering prayer is a prayer of surrender. As Father Thomas Keating wrote in his book, Invitation to Lovethe psychological content of my 20 minutes is irrelevant to the outcome. While I use my centering word to let go of mental material and come back to my center in God’s love, the goal isn’t to not rid myself of awareness, but to surrender myself to God’s presence and action within me.

For me, showing up to centering prayer isn’t the most difficult part. It’s staying still for 20 minutes that I find challenging. The past few days I couldn’t do it. I opened my eyes to see the minutes left on the timer and moved my body about trying to find a more comfortable position. But I stayed present to my intention to surrender. I stayed with myself and God for 20 minutes. I think Keating would say I succeeded!

What I really want is to rest and trust in God’s love. There’s nothing I can do with those 20 minutes that is more essential to my well being or the well being of the world than for me to surrender to God’s love. As Thomas Merton wrote in his Letter to a Young Activist, the highest good I can do will come not from me, but from my allowing myself, in obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love.

What I really want is to surrender my compulsive need to be active, engaged, doing and producing. What I really want is to strengthen my capacity to just be present with myself. What I really want is for all of my doing, activity, engagement and production to expand love within myself and the world around me.

According to Rohr, Keating, Merton and the teachings of many spiritual traditions, the best thing any of us can do in order to be better lovers, is to surrender to a Love greater than ourselves.

Contemplatives practices teach us to surrender. And they demand discipline.

If discipline is remembering what I really want, then asking myself what I really want is essential for staying with the practice in those moments when I’d rather do something else.

The spiritual path of discipline isn’t about force or willpower. It is a path of surrendering to the “Divine action” within us. As Merton puts it, they free us from the need to prove ourselves so we can be more open to the power that wants to work through us, without our taking the credit.

Remembering what we really want, identifying our “Why” can be an important support for showing up and staying on those days when doing, engaging and producing look so much more attractive.

Why do you want to be more disciplined in your spiritual practice?

 

**When I discovered this quote 10 years ago on the internet, it was attributed to Albert Einstein. In the meantime, the internet is full of references attributing it to some fellow named David Campbell. Go figure!

My favorite scripture about hope begins with hopelessness: “When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do.” In Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of the Abraham story “We call Abraham ‘father’ not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody” (Romans 4.17-18, The Message).

Hope begins in hopelessness and being a nobody. 

My greatest moments of hopelessness and feeling like a nobody lie in the distant past.  In comparison to the plight of refuges, victims of violence, poverty, and oppression, my past and current moments of hopelessness are minimal. I am one of the most privileged people in the world when it comes to safety, freedom and provision.  Yet, as I tell my clients when they begin to minimize their problems, there is no measuring stick for suffering.

I wrote this poem about hope during a period of deep suffering. After years of trying to control and enjoy alcohol, I’d surrendered to the fact that I was an alcoholic. Waking up to my life, seeing things clearly, feeling things deeply, I entered into a period of painful transformation. I questioned my faith, my marriage, my career, my life. After a particularly intense week when most days included significant tears, this came to me.  Reading it now, my editor-self wants to throw it in the trash can. She thinks it’s trite, simplistic and shallow. But my soul-self knows it’s an authentic expression of what I needed to hear during a time of hopelessness.

Hope

The sky is crying but don’t be afraid.

Drops of life stream down from above.

Torrents of tears,

rivers of grief,

streams of compassion,

symbols of love.

The sky is sobbing but don’t run away.

Wait.  Be still. Listen.

See what may come.

Waves of life,

pools of refreshment,

springs of peace,

oceans of joy.

The sky is smiling now.  It always happens this way.

Clouds gone.  Sun shines.

In every birth there is a loss.

In every death there is a gain.

Rainbow of hope tells the world that for now– it must be this way.

Hope begins in hopelessness. Tears don’t last forever. Suffering  and death are not the final word.

As author Tony Campolo famously preached, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

For more on hope, please check out my blogroll friend’s reflections – beginning with Allison Hughes. 

This morning I sat down with my word for the year seeking inspiration to share. To be honest, I am not in the most self-reflective or “deep” season of my life.  I look back at past blogs in wonder. I feel so distant from the wise, reflective writer that I’ve been in the past. And that is okay! It’s just the way it is.

undivided word map

undivided word map

Two writing tools I fall back on when “nothing” seems to want to be said are word mapping and acrostics. This morning I tried both. No prizing winning essay emerged, but that’s not the point of reflective writing. It’s more about the journey than the product. It’s more about listening to my life than “landing” somewhere.

With a word map, you place your main word or idea in the middle of the page and listen for other words or phrases that arise in connection with it. Sometimes great insights come and a poem or essay emerges. Other times, like today, interesting ideas or themes unfold, but nothing more materializes.

After my word map, I turned to the acrostic method.

United with myself and all living beings.

Near to the heart of God.

Devoted to serving Love.

Integrity of body, mind and spirit.

Viewing myself and all human beings through the eyes of Love.

Intentional as to where I invest my time, energy and resources.

Dedicated to alleviating suffering.

Enduring expected frustrations, disappointments and obstacles.

Delighting always in my status as Beloved Daughter of God.

I’m grateful that there’s no one “right” way to share my life with others. And that every blog I post doesn’t need to be polished and perfect. Sometimes it’s just showing up and sharing what comes. 

If you have a “word” for year, make time to listen for wants to be known and expressed, if only to yourself. I highly recommend these two methods and would love to hear what comes as you listen to your life.

For more reflections on “words for the year” from my blogging friends, check out our blogroll. I love the way each of us does it our own way. A great example of how there is no one “right” way to share our lives with others!

http://www.growingplaces.us/prospero-ano/

 

Stephanie Says Yes to Rest - Camping in Joshua Tree

Stephanie Says Yes to Rest – Camping in Joshua Tree

My friend Stephanie’s fierce commitment to living wholeheartedly and authentically inspires me. She shared her poem “Say Yes to Rest” with me in early October. She listened to her body’s signals and made a radical choice to take a few days off from work before she got sick. I was proud of her and grateful for the ways we support each other in self-care. And I knew it would be meaningful to those who follow my blog. I appreciate her willingness to share the wisdom of her lived experience here.

Say Yes to Rest by Stephanie Jenkins

The street outside my window is filled
with the rush of cars; their dirty engines
propel them in opposing directions
with equal measures of hurry
as if, for each one, there is an unseen fire
somewhere that only that one driver can put out.

I have pulled myself out of the hustle
and bustle today; I have crawled
out of the jaws of the beast
refusing to be devoured.

The ache that runs through my body, the piercing
in my skull, the awful pressure on my throat
like two angry hands pushing, are evidence
that I barely survived. My eyes throb,
there is a stabbing in my right side.

This is the violence of our day–we abuse both
earth and body in our relentless pursuit of productivity.
The thirst for output that refuses to be slaked
has indeed given us more…
more anxiety,
more fear,
more pollution,
more poverty,
more violence,
so much more…

Today I want less. I push pause
on the crazy, frenetic rush. I enter
into my own slice of Sabbath. I tend
to my aching bones with loving care.

I want to see what is real in this world,
my eyes long to be healed by the vision
of the rose unfurling towards the sun;
my body asks to be rocked and soothed
in the ocean’s cool embrace; my bones beg
the soft give of soil rather than the harshness of pavement;
my skin thirsts for canyon breezes and dappled light
instead of conditioned air and florescent bulbs.

And today I say yes to my longings.
I say yes to rest, yes to wild, yes to free.
Today I say yes to Love,
so I might find again what is real in this world.
__________

After sitting with Stephanie’s poem, wondering how to fit it into a blog so I could share it with others, I realized that I was the one who needed the lesson. Stephanie’s words were prophetic–calling me to “crawl out of the jaws of the beast” lest I too be devoured by the ways I’d fallen prey to believing if I just worked harder, more efficiently or found the right time management tool I’d be more successful. Stephanie helped name my experience.

Following a very busy September and first two weeks of October I found myself depleted, out-of-alignment with myself and God, and in deep need of refueling. As Alive and Well Women enters its second year, I was experiencing the emotional exhaustion and decreased sense of personal accomplishment that accompanies burnout–and is an occupational hazard of helping professionals! The goodness, blessings and excitement of birthing a nonprofit had worn off. Amidst the busyness of my rushed and useful life, I’d lost my center, my “why” and “how” of the work I am called to do in the world. Distracted and anxious about “what” I was doing, my self-worth and identity were becoming overly attached to my level of productivity. As Thomas Merton wrote in his Letter to a Young Activist, that is not the right use of my work!

Merton speaks to the activist in all of us when he advises: “All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more, and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.”

Saying Yes to Rest in Coronado by Day

Saying Yes to Rest in Coronado by Day

I’m grateful that self-care and authenticity are the heart of Alive and Well. We are committed to practice what we preach. And I’m grateful for the remarkable team God is bringing together to support one another in these values and empower others to do the same. With their support and a very generous scholarship from The Cottage on Coronado, I spent last week recovering my center, remembering that the success or failure of anything I do is not a reflection of my self-worth.

It wasn’t easy to say “No” to the many tasks left undone on my list. As noted in research on the stresses of nonprofit work, despite the intrinsic rewards of the work we do, jobs in this sector often come with high demands, long working hours and low pay!  My main work is to stay rooted and grounded in God’s love and entrust outcomes to God’s care.

The wisdom of Stephanie’s experience is a gift to remember as we head into what can become a very frenetic season.  May we listen to our lives, find courage to press the pause button, and take time to rest!

“Adventure” evokes memories of the three months I spent in Zambia during graduate school or my solo travels a few years later through Italy and the South of France. I remember driving through the Verdon Gorges (France’s version of the Grand Canyon), getting a flat tire and the relief I felt when a small town appeared after several minutes of slowly inching my way down the road while anxiously wondering:”Should I pull over and try to change it myself? What if I don’t know how to work the jack? What if there is no jack? What if there’s no tire? Is this a safe place to pull over? I wonder how far it is to the next town?” I think of my solo hike in the mountains of Provence, where I spent most of the time worrying about the dangers of hiking alone.

Those were bold, risky and exciting undertakings that I’ll never forget. But the adventures most on my mind these days are of the spiritual realm where the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.

Adventure comes when we step out of our comfort zones, begin the journey not knowing where we’ll end up, defy the rules, risk an uncertain outcome, go places that scare us.  This weekend I ventured to Minneapolis where 1000 spiritual risk-takers gathered at St. Mark’s Cathedral for the inaugural Why Christian? conference.

St. Marks Cathedral by Lisa Swain

St. Marks Cathedral by Lisa Swain

Brought together by Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber, we heard stories from eleven remarkable women about why, in spite of corruption, hypocrisy and televangelists, they continue to follow Jesus. Personal stories of upheaval, challenge, despair, perseverance–often with the odds highly stacked against them. From a transgender Baptist minister to a 29 year old African-American powerhouse who preaches in heels higher than my feet have ever seen, each one took us on an adventure, testifying to their hope in Christ.

Why Christian?

– Made in the image of God, we can’t lose our human dignity. Someone will always care even if we can’t see them or don’t know them. (Nichole Flores)

– “Your sins are forgiven” – no one ever says that in yoga class. (Nadia Bolz-Weber)

– My life was no longer about fulfilling others views of who I was, but believing God’s view of who I am. (Winnie Varghese)

And the one that resonated most deeply with me:

- I am a Christian because having a body was not always good news for me. (Kerlin Richter)

I left inspired, disturbed, renewed and more aware then ever of my need for the diversity of the body of Christ where I learn to love the Kim Davis’ and Donald Trump’s of the world. If I can’t love those in my own family of faith, how will I ever learn to love neighbors in other communities.

The Christian life isn’t supposed to be safe. C.S. Lewis conveys something of this in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are first telling the children about Aslan. When they learn that Aslan is a lion, they are concerned because they don’t know if it’s safe to meet a lion. Mr. Beaver says, “Safe! Who said anything about safe. Of course he isn’t safe, but he’s good.”

Christ doesn’t invite me to safety and certainty. He invites me to goodness, kindness, generosity–especially among those people and in places where I don’t feel safe. That’s where the growth takes place.

Pastor Emily Scott of St. Lydia’s Dinner Church in Brooklyn pushed me to consider the importance of being uncomfortable in my faith. She asked “How are we nurturing a discipline of discomfort in our churches?” And summarized her understanding of Why Christian? saying: “Being a Christian is living at the fulcrum of your fear.”

That’s the adventure I’m living this week. I want to live on the edges of chaos where physicists tell us creativity takes place. I don’t want to do life in the comfortable zone. I’m not sure where that will lead me, but that’s the point of adventure–not knowing and going anyway.

I’m grateful for a community of bloggers I’ll be sharing a writing adventure with over the coming months. I’m new to blogrolls but excited to see what comes as we journey together, share our stories and grow together. For more on adventure, start with Lindsey’s blog and then click on through.

 

 

 

A young adult friend spoke with me last week about her struggle to embody her sexuality. In her late 20’s and single, she’s part of the fall-out from the “purity culture” that advocates virginity and emotional purity before marriage. She’s also part of a movement to find a better way to support healthy sexual development in church communities.  After our conversation she referred me to a blog that gives voice to the inner dissonance I hear from many women and men raised in purity culture.

That interaction was on my mind when an op-ed response to the FDA’s recent approval of “pink Viagra” appeared on Sunday. In spite of significant controversy surrounding its’ safety and efficacy, flibanserin is the first drug approved to treat low desire disorders in pre-menopausal women. The author Emily Nagoski holds a doctorate in health behavior and describes herself as a “science-driven sex educator.” She calls the science behind the drug outdated and invalid. Distinguishing between spontaneous desire (which is not essential for sexual satisfaction or well-being) and responsive desire which emerges in anticipation of pleasure, she notes that “responsive desire isn’t worse than spontaneous desire, it’s just different.”

As a post-menopausal women with history of fairly robust spontaneous desire, I get the difference! Most often I operate on responsive desire these days. But just because my libido isn’t as strong as it used to be doesn’t mean I’m disordered or that I am any less in love with my husband than I used to be. It’s biology. It’s life circumstances. It’s 26 years of doing life together with freedom to have sex anytime we want. And, many other factors that come into play over the normal life cycle of those of us whose abundance of resources allow us to worry about having less sex or less dramatic orgasms than we used too!

Yet the pharmaceutical model doesn’t take those psycho-social-spiritual factors into consideration when looking for an answer to our multi-layered sexual, mental and emotional “problems.” Like the anxiety and depression that the drug industry would have us rush to diagnose and treat with medications, so-called problems of “low” desire may be manifestations of disordered lifestyles and distorted values about sexuality and intimacy. We live in a culture where we use excessive amounts of caffeine and sugar to compensate for sleep deprivation and then over-the-counter products and alcohol to help us wind back down. Much commercially produced food is nutritionally deficient. We over-work and over-spend. Is it any wonder we get to bed at night and lack spontaneous desire?

Moreover, the fact that hoards of middle-aged women helped make Fifty Shades of Grey a bestseller and box office hit is clear evidence to me that our cultural values about sexuality and intimacy have landed in the trash heap! If sadism and masochism are what it takes to get us turned on, we’ve certainly lost our way as to how to be sexually vibrant and loving human beings.

Ironically, the very teachings meant to “safeguard” the virginity of young people in purity culture can contribute to later problems with desire. As another young woman told me, “Sexual desire was just as bad as sexual activities. You were supposed to suppress it until you married. Then, it would somehow spontaneously emerge again.”

Rachel (who tells it like it is in her blog) is trying to ‘rid herself’ of purity culture thinking, but she hasn’t found anything concrete to replace it. Here’s how she describes her struggle:

Evangelical Christianity made it really easy to know what was right and wrong. It was easy to know when I was supposed to feel guilty (most of the time). I never really had to think about what I wanted in regards to sex because all that mattered was what the Bible said. And now I have to constantly question, “How do I feel about this? Will I regret this? Does it matter that I don’t know him that well, don’t like him that much, don’t think this will lead anywhere? If he does this, should I do that? Because I want to? Because he wants me to? Because it’s expected? Because I’m drunk? Should I do anything when I’m drunk? What is this saying about me? Does this say anything? Am I saying yes because I am horny or because I want to be nice? Will this change our relationship? Do I care? When is it okay to leave?”

And those questions are exhausting.

Yet those are the very kind of questions we ought to be helping our children consider from the first time they fondle their genitals in public or ask questions about sexuality that make parents uncomfortable. Not these exact questions, but similar ones that are appropriate for the challenges of their developmental stage.

Children and teens need to be empowered with discernment skills to access inner guidance. Not just about sexuality, but about all the moral challenges of life that if they choose to live with open hearts and minds, they will inevitably face. They need to sense, feel and think about their sexuality throughout the developmental cycle and make choices each day about what to do with sexual pleasure they’ll naturally feel if not repressed.  They need to be equipped to discern the difference between healthy self-exploration and release of sexual energy via masturbation and self-pleasuring that is compensatory or otherwise unhealthy. They need us to help them consider the potential consequences of getting emotionally or physically intimate before their psychologically or otherwise ready to commit. And so much more.

They need us to help them learn to think and discern God’s path for them in a complex world where black and white answers are insufficient for many of the challenges they’ll face.

Ironically, the best book I ever came across for working with teen sexuality went out of print because the Christian publishers didn’t want to acknowledge teens might be sexually active! Thankfully, you can still pick up a copy of Judy and Jack Balsick’s Raging Hormones: what to do when you suspect your teen might be sexually active on Amazon.

Thanks be to God for my young friend, Rachelwhotellsitlikeitis, and others like them. May God’s grace show them a better way to pass on to the next generations.

I posted a Mary Oliver inspired Sabbath painting on Instagram recently, along with the first line of her poem “Thirst” and my comment “Thanks be to God for grace that does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” Quite a few friends “liked” it along with several “Amen” comments and a “Thanks. I needed that today.”

Mary Oliver Inspired

Mary Oliver Inspired

One social media friend responded “I wake with a thirst for the goodness I have!” followed by a party hat emoji. Something about that struck my heart. It evoked my curiosity about the distinction between the goodness we have just by being “good” human beings with positive attitudes and the goodness we do not have.

Ordinary human goodness has to do with reliability, competence, strength, behavior, thoroughness, morality, enjoyment, attractiveness, freshness, worthiness, desirability, promise and so on. We say things like:

“He’s a good person.”

“She’s good looking.”

“It was a good party.”

But what is the goodness we do not have and why does it matter?

It is the goodness of a world where we love our neighbors as ourselves, where every child has clean water, nutritious food, access to health care and education. It’s the goodness of an earth that isn’t being destroyed by toxins and depleted of resources because of greed. It’s the goodness of communities where women receive equal access to education and hold equal earning power to men. It’s the goodness of nations where all lives matter and no one is pulled over by law enforcement just because of the color of their skin.

It matters because many people wake up each morning unable to find any goodness within them or around them. Depression, anxiety, abuse, neglect, trauma, addiction, poverty, violence and the social injustice that underlies much human suffering are among the afflictions that leave some of us to wake thirsting for goodness we do not have. Like dear Mary Oliver,  who suffered a painful childhood, we too long for something more than merely human goodness.

Mary Oliver became a Pulitzer Prize winner and was declared by the NY Times “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet.” I don’t think it was her thirst for the goodness she already had that nourished her creative capacity.  As author and teacher Pat Schneider writes in How the Light Gets In: writing as a spiritual practice, by naming “the bottom of the night within myself…I can begin to understand the darkness of the world” (my paraphrase). I suspect Mary Oliver cultivated her remarkable capacity to hold the tension of the dark and the light by working with her shadow – the goodness she does not have. She is beloved not because she paints the world with a rosy hue, but because she lives in the in-between of the goodness that is and that which is not yet. And that’s the place most of us live – in that tension between owning all that is good, true, beautiful and worthy about us and acknowledging how far short we fall.

I went to mass this morning at my neighborhood Catholic church. I watched a long line of the ordinary “good” people process up for Eucharist, their humble acknowledgement of thirst for the goodness they do not have.  A simple but powerful receptivity to the grace that does for us and through us what we cannot do ourselves.

I am grateful for the goodness I have. But I’m even more grateful for the grace that enables me to acknowledge the goodness I have, forgive the goodness I lack and live with the tensions and sufferings of a world where we do not love as we ought!

“Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have.”

Thanks be to God.

 

The helping professionals I train in self-care often have long-standing patterns of accommodating, people pleasing and over-extending themselves to the point of burnout. I equip them with skills and information and help them create personalized self-care plans to support optimal health.

But life-long relational dynamics frequently sabotage self-care efforts. We know what we want to do, make a short-lived success at it, but then get pulled off track and back into self-neglect.

Adam Grant’s book Give and Take: Why Helping others Drives our Success took my understanding of the costs and rewards of giving to a new level. His identification of three types of reciprocity styles–givers, matchers and takers–gave me a conceptual framework for thinking about how to work with myself and other helpers who are blessed and cursed with the “giver” style.

A Revolutionary Approach to Success

A Revolutionary Approach to Success

- Takers strive to get as much as possible from others–it’s all about them!

- Matchers seek to give evenly with others–tit-for-tat!

- Givers contribute to others without expecting anything back!

Interestingly, givers are both the champs and chumps when it comes to professional success. When we make others better off at our own expense we end up at the bottom of the success ladder. “It appears that givers are just too caring, too trusting, and too willing to sacrifice their own interests for the benefit of others.” But when we learn what Grant calls the skill of “sincerity screening” we can create value for ourselves while maximizing opportunities to give to others.

Sincerity screening involves learning “to distinguish genuine givers from takers and fakers. Successful givers need to know who’s likely to manipulate them so that they can protect themselves.” To learn more about assessing motivations check out Adam’s presentation at Google.

Give and Take is full of research and examples of the many factors involved in assessing reciprocity styles. Illustrations from business, education, sports and health professions along with fascinating studies of corporate dynamics makes the book entertaining as well as information.

My reading in Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love this morning brought spiritual insight about how to give without burning out:

When you get exhausted, frustrated, over-whelmed or run down, your body is saying that you are doing things that are none of your business. God does not require of you what is beyond your ability, what leads you away from God, or what makes you depressed or sad.

I want to follow Jesus’ revolutionary call to “give to everyone who asks…”  I don’t know what Jesus would have said about giving to the takers and fakers. I suspect it’s related to what he said to the Scribes and Pharisees about the dangers of hypocrisy. It’s a matter of discernment that I’ll continue to ponder and pray over as I seek to give to those who ask as I do what is within my ability to do.

I give thanks in advance for the good that will come as I listen to the inner voice of love and deepen my understanding of how to identify the takers and fakers who aren’t operating from the same value system.

Today hasn’t gone according to schedule. At only 9:30 this morning it was already “one of those days…”

I’m grateful the wise reminders from Eveyln Underhill and my friend Stephanie that came to me before the day started going sideways.

In her Lent devotional, Evelyn reminded me that Saint Paul did not say that the Spirit of God would bring forth qualities of productivity, organization, effectiveness or success. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. These hallmarks of spiritual maturity may at times manifest in productivity, efficiency, etc., but can’t take primacy over love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The energy of the fruit of the Spirit may fuel my capacity for effectiveness and successful completion of my tasks for the day. But sacrificing peace and patience in order to “get things done” isn’t worth it!

Soul School with Stephanie

Soul School with Stephanie

My friend Stephanie Jenkin’s blog about her journey with infertility in today’s Monk in the World guest post reminds me of what I most value. She writes:

As a monk in the world, I am called to live authentically into who I am at the core. Infertility stripped off the false pretense of perfectionism and control and made me see that Love is bigger.  And I am called to choose Love each day. I am called to strip off the demands, the deadlines, the pressure to perform and conform. I am called to live in to and out of my heart.

My sacred symbols have become the feather and the leaf. Whether I am flying like the feather or falling like the leaf, I am surrendered to God who is greater than I.

I am loved. I am Beloved. That is more than enough. It is in this great Love that I am naked and unashamed.

For the rest of her story, please visit the Abbey of the Arts.

Thanks for taking me to soul school this morning Stephanie. I am loved. I am Beloved. That is enough!

Amen!

Your capacity to remind me of who I am and what is most important is a precious gift. You are a blessing to me and all who know you.