Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for 'spirituality'

This coming Wednesday I’m getting a new hip! I know…you’re probably saying, “She’s way too young for hip replacement.” That’s how I feel too. But the x-rays, a limp in my stride and increasing discomfort and fatigue that keep me from living the life I want, tell a different story.

I still love to ride my bike!

I still love to ride my bike!

My hip is dis-eased! It isn’t a happy hip anymore. It complains when I get up from sitting down and when I walk more than a few hundred feet. Sometimes it even grumbles just walking from the car into the house. I have moments of freedom and ease when I think, “Maybe I really don’t need a new hip.” But then I find myself limping again.

The combination of a hip supportive yoga routine along with physical therapy have kept my hip relatively happy over the past 3 years since arthritis was first diagnosed. I worked with my hip to keep it mobile and strong. I applied the principles I teach others. I listened to my hip. I eliminated activities that exacerbated the discomfort and found softer, gentler ways of exercising. I exchanged my road bike and long distance cycling for a more recreational style of riding. Swimming became my go-to cardio. I devoted anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes a day just doing my yoga and PT exercises. But, disease can’t always be cured. Some disease can only be managed and delayed.

Like breast cancer at 30 and my shoulder reconstruction at 50, hip replacement is another teacher on my path of being alive and well. What’s different this time is I’m choosing surgery. I’m choosing to do it sooner than later. I didn’t have that choice with cancer or my dislocated shoulder.

Learning to live with disease is an essential life skill that we don’t learn except through experience. We don’t always get to choose the treatment, but we can make significant choices about many other aspects of how we respond.

What dis-ease are you dealing with today?

  • Mental dis-ease of worry or anxiety about finances, employment, relationships, or other life issues?
  • Chronic emotional struggles with depression, anxiety or other bio-chemically related dis-ease?
  • Spiritual lethargy or existential angst about meaning, purpose, vocation, love?
  • Physical dis-ease of body aches, allergies, headaches, gastro-intestinal disruptions?
  • Stress and tension accumulating in random mental and physical symptoms?

What do you do to manage and work with the dis-ease that doesn’t seem like it may ever be cured? That you may just have to find a way to live with as best as you can?

My life’s work is to help myself and others love and enjoy living in our bodies, just as we are and make life-giving choices as we adjust to the changes and dis-eases that are an expected part of life.

I didn’t want cancer. I didn’t want a dislocated shoulder. I don’t want osteoarthritis in my hip and low-back. But once they became part of my story I made choices to let them become my teachers. All of the wisdom, guidance and compassionate support I offer others grows out of my daily choice to move toward dis-ease of body, mind, heart and spirit with compassion, openness and curiosity.

Will you join us?

Will you join us?

If you’ve got some dis-ease you’re dealing with and want support for your journey, please consider joining me and my companions at Alive and Well Women for our upcoming program: Alive and Well – A Contemplative Path to Health and Well-being.

Some of you participated in previous versions of the Alive and Well program. I’d love to have you re-join me for this revised version. The journey begins with an “in-town” retreat on Friday, March 31 from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 1st from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. followed by weekly gatherings on Thursdays from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. during April (6, 13, 20, 27).

Alive and Well is also offering Awaken: Self-Care from the Inside Out on Saturday, March 18th. The day includes experiential teaching and practices designed to help you connect to and work with your body to discover your unique blueprint for self-care.

Both events take place in Pasadena area. I’d love to see you at one or both.

In the meantime, your prayers for a smooth and successful surgery on Wednesday, February 22nd and a solid recovery after would be much appreciated.

 

 

 

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!

Last week I introduced a group of entrepreneurial Christ followers to the use of contemplative prayer as a means of self-care. I led a simple breathe and body awareness practice, inviting them to “just be” with themselves in God’s presence and notice their experience. What was it like to just stop, let their minds be still, notice their experience without “doing” anything in response to whatever thoughts, feelings or sensation came to mind?

A newbie to contemplative practices reported that for a brief moment, he felt his brain stop working and relax. A calm and bright smile spread across his face as he reflected on the rapid pace of his life and how his mind is always thinking about something. “It felt amazing to just stop and be quiet for a moment.”

Another participant noted a deep sense of gratitude flooding his awareness as he felt his breath and body move in rhythm with each other. He said he felt like God was breathing with him!

Contemplative prayer is a way of praying without words, or with very few words. It’s a way of paying attention to experience as we are held in God’s loving presence, letting our very presence become a prayer as we rest and trust in God’s love.

Miss Liberty Belle - 8 weeks old

Miss Liberty Belle – 8 weeks old

Recently, I’ve recommitted myself to daily centering prayer—a contemplative prayer practice popularized by the writing and teaching of Father Thomas Keating and the community at Contemplative Outreach. From 2007-2014 I had an almost daily practice. Then, a two-week vacation to Ireland and the arrival of Miss Liberty Belle two years ago threw me off my game. Some days, it takes an enormous amount of discipline to show up for my practice. But I know from my experience of both yoga and centering prayer that these simple tools are powerful resources for helping me be a better lover of God, my neighbors and myself. So, after two years of rather sporadic practice, I’ve renewed my commitment to daily centering prayer.

Perhaps you too could use some practical tools to support you in being more at peace with yourself, a kinder and gentler partner, a less reactive employee or boss…Whatever the change you seek, strengthening your capacity to just be with your experience in a loving, non-judgmental way, can be a powerful support in the slow work of becoming!

On September 24th I’ll be leading a women’s retreat on how contemplative practices support spiritual growth—especially in facing the disturbing and disquieting aspects of ourselves that we desperately long to change, but also greatly resist.

Transforming Beauty from Ashes – Saturday, September 24th Retreat

Miss Liberty Belle - 1.5 years old

Miss Liberty Belle – 1.5 years old

I’d love to have you join me and the Alive and Well Women team at the LA County Arboretum from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. for a day of opening up to the life that wants to be born in and through you as you rest and trust in God’s transforming love within compassionate community. The $60 registration fee includes admission to the 127 acre gardens, spacious time for individual reflection, experiential teaching on contemplative practice, facilitated small group and community conversations, and light refreshments. See more details and registration at the Alive and Well Women website.  I hope you can join us!

In case you were wondering, Liberty is flourishing. Thankfully, I’m not as easily distracted by her charming ways I as used to be!

As I wrap up my writing sabbatical, I recognize the self-critical part of me that tells me “You didn’t do enough.” Ever present and ready to condemn me, I’m grateful I can notice that voice of shame, take a breath and soften into the truth that it is enough, that I am enough. I’m grateful for the ways of grace that are only learned through practice: compassion, self-forgiveness and letting go of judgement. And for the way writing my story integrates grace into dark corners still hurting and in need of lovingkindness.

Just installed last week - Casey Family Tribute at Calvary Cemetery in Seattle

Just installed last week – Casey Family Tribute at Calvary Cemetery in Seattle

I didn’t expect to write a memoir about addiction, sin and grace. Yet that is the story I’ve lived, in ways I’ve resisted sharing with the world–especially as a therapist. But grace is leading me to share the story and entrust the results to God.

Today’s offering, along with a few photos of yesterday’s pilgrimage to the the family plot of paternal great grandparents in Seattle, more on sin, grace and the longing to love in an unloving world.

We choose “sin” as a way to cope with living in an unloving world, a world where we can’t always get the love we long for. We sin as a way to cope with stress and shame. We sin as a way to cope with the emotional vulnerabilities that come with being human. Biblical inventories of sins identify some of the more obvious and destructive ways that we—yearning for love—imperfectly navigate an imperfect world of humans. Especially in order to cope with the shame we feel for being imperfect, for not being enough to meet the demands of our circumstances.

Cousin Nancy Anne Herkenrath, SNJM on Family Heritage Pilgrimage

Cousin Nancy Anne Herkenrath, SNJM on Family Heritage Pilgrimage

Grace enables us to accept limitations, forgive failures and let go of the shame that so easily entangles us in loveless cycles of relationship with ourselves and others. Grace is the ever-present energy of God’s love that enables us to soften in the face of our own and others unloving ways. Grace allows us to stay open, receptive, and vulnerable rather than hardening our hearts. Grace frees us to confess our sins, take responsibility for our unloving ways and learn from our failures.

What’s so amazing about grace is that we can’t control it and it doesn’t control us. But grace is ever present wanting to engage us, seeking to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. My Great Uncle Solanus Casey, the first American born male venerated (the first of three steps for official canonization) in the Catholic Church, referred to God’s grace as being like the air that permeates us. He suggested that “If we were only to correspond with God’s graces continually being poured out, we’d go from being great sinners one day to being great saints the next.”

Great Uncle Solanus Casey

Great Uncle Solanus Casey

For me, this is the essence of setting my mind on the Spirit: corresponding with the grace of God that wants me to thrive, that wants me to be able to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love my neighbor as myself. Jesus said that all the law was summed up in these two commands. Do this, he said, and you will live!

Created by God, in the image of God, what is deepest in us is God’s love. Love is our eternal nature. At our core is a longing to love and be loved.

“Sin” is a word to describe both our human “state” of being limited in our capacity to live in love, as well as the specific ways we manifest falling short of living in love—like my history of addiction. But sin is not what is deepest and most “original” to human nature. As author John Philip Newell puts it, created in God’s image, God’s love is deepest. Sin obscures, but never erases that image. Our human wiring to love and be loved is deeper than sin. And avoiding the pain of love’s absence drives the impulse to sin.

This morning I’m especially grateful for the centrality of God’s love and grace I learned in my family. And for the prayers of my dear Great Uncle, mom, dad and all the other saints interceding for me and for you that we might correspond with the grace being poured out today as we seek to sin less and love more.

Father Richard Rohr says that the entire second half of life is about letting go…of ego, of doing, of the need to prove myself, of having things my way.

There’s a lot to let go of!

We Love You Cobbs

We Love You Cobbs

This past weekend I said goodbye to a dear friend, a soul sister who has walked with me the past ten years. A group of friends surprised her family Saturday morning. We showed up at their estimated time of departure to send them off with one last outpouring of love. Some helped finish packing, others vacuumed, some stood around visiting and drinking coffee. Then, we waved them off to the great adventure awaiting them in Washington.

When I returned home, I cried.

The tears began slipping out in little bits a few months ago when Lauren first told me she was moving.

Then again last Saturday night at a going away party.

Then again at her final yoga class with me last Wednesday. At the end of class, as the rest of the students lay in final resting pose, I went and adjusted her shoulders for the last time. Then, I looked at her face, so serene and lovely, and began to cry, again.

Goodbye Soul Friend

Goodbye Soul Friend

I know the tears speak of other “letting go” experiences. Of more than just a friend moving away. They remind me of the many I’ve loved who’ve moved on, either geographically or through death. The many I’ve known and loved who are no longer just around the corner, up the freeway, or a phone call away.

When I went to my yoga mat later Saturday morning, more tears came.

Not just for Lauren, but for Colleen, for Dee, for Peggy, for Andrea and Paul, for Marsha and Greg, for Francie, for Linda, for Patty and John, for so many soul friends who came and went as I’ve spent most of my life planted here in Los Angeles.

Not just for the living, but for my mom, my dad, aunts and uncles, grandparents I never met, people I grew up with, former pastors and their wives, many dear saints we worshipped with in churches over the years, no longer with us in body.

This week, I’m most aware that it’s another opportunity to let go of the love I want and open myself up to the love I already have.

Recommended Couples Resource

Recommended Couples Resource

A still popular self-help book, Getting the Love You Want, was first published over 20 years ago. It’s a good resource for helping couples develop more supportive, satisfying relationships.

And, getting the love you want isn’t always possible, even with the ones you love.

I wanted Lauren and her family to stay in California.

I want Paul and Andy to live next door.

I wanted to have a child.

The story is complex and many layered.

We never talked about it before marriage. I just assumed we’d have children.

Three years into our marriage, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the doctors recommended we wait five years, just to be “sure.”

A few years later, my husband, who’d been my “commando” following my diagnosis, fell into a depression. He realized he’d probably been depressed his whole life and was finally beginning to deal with it.

Once I was ready to have kids. He wasn’t.

I stopped going to baby showers or hanging out with friends who had small children. It was too painful.

He wasn’t ready to say “yes” or “no.”

A few more years passed. Individual therapy. Couples therapy. Trying to work it out.

I got older. I felt my body changing. I wondered if having a child in my forties was a good idea. And found myself in tears every month during ovulation, grieving yet another opportunity to birth love into the world.

He still wasn’t ready to say “yes” or “no.” He wanted me to be happy, but didn’t feel a strong urge for fatherhood. And, he worried, “What if…cancer came back…depression reemerged…” Images of himself as a depressed, single dad haunted him.

After years of wrestling within myself, therapy with my husband, pastoral counseling, considering divorce, and shedding many tears in prayer, I made the decision to “let go” of the love I longed for with a child of my own body, in order to hold onto the love, I already had with my husband.

Letting go of the love I wanted. Keeping the love, I already had.

It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy.

On days like Saturday when a community of moms, dads and kids gather to send off another family, noticing I’m the only one there without children.

On days like Mother’s day last month or Father’s day yesterday when the focus is on the family.

And, I’m grateful for the wise ones like Richard Rohr who remind me that this is the path to life. No one gets to “have it all.” And, even if we get to have it all, once we get it, we’re told to let it all go.

Many major spiritual traditions offer teachings about letting go.

The Buddha said “You only lose what you cling to.”

The twelve step tradition tells us to “Let go and let God.”

From my faith tradition, I especially like Eugene Peterson’s translation of Jesus’ teaching on letting go.

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

Gifts are all around us. The kingdom of God is now.

May I have eyes to see the love around me today. In my husband, family and friends, but also in my neighbors, the grocery store clerk or the kind gestures offered by strangers.

For more on letting go, check out the offerings of my blogging community, beginning with Sarah who writes with heartfelt depth and wisdom on walking with her mom through ovarian cancer.

“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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Last week I received an email from a colleague. She’s learning how much more effective self-acceptance is than self-hatred for motivating positive health behaviors. She told me what I’d said  the last time we met kept coming to mind: “I love myself more as I get older because there’s more of me to love…”
I don’t remember saying it. But God knew I needed to remember!
Most of the time I’m content with aging, grateful for the wisdom and sensibility of growing older and I accept my body just as I am. But last week I looked in the mirror a few times and felt that old familiar sense of shame and dissonance flood my body and mind. My particular body story combined with living in a body-shaming culture, I don’t expect to ever “get over” it. And I’m not sure that’s either realistic or necessary.
My mantra when that old story of “I’m not okay just as I am” shows up: “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” And repeat as needed until dissonance vanishes.
 
Sometimes that’s not enough. I need time to work my way there. Not with compulsive exercise or dieting…but with breathing in God’s love, naming the shame, writing in my journal, talking to my husband or a friend.
As Brene Brown has confirmed with her research, shame thrives on silence and secrecy. When we can name it and tell another about it, it loses its power.
Glory be to God in Christ, we don’t need to remain silent about the shame that so easily entangles.
With the season of summer comes more body shame activation opportunities. And each one is an opportunity to breathe in God’s love and let go of shame.
I take a deep inhale and pray, “Lord, have mercy.”  I exhale and pray, “Christ, have mercy.” And will repeat as needed!
Don’t let shame win! When it hits you, take a deep breathe and remember how deeply, fully and unreservedly loved you are by God, just as you are right now.  If that cloud of shame is still hanging around after a while, call a friend and talk about it.
Let’s not let shame have the last word this summer!
May the final word be LOVE.

Lent commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert fasting, praying and being tempted by Satan with what my former pastor Darrell Johnson calls “the world’s trinity” – power, possessions and control. As one New Testament author wrote: Because he suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those being tempted. That’s the good news we enter Lent with: we aren’t alone in our struggles. God gets it. Lent is a time to reflect on our lives, acknowledge temptations to be conformed to the culture around us and take stock of our investments.

In our media-saturated, often too busy lifestyles, many people, things and opportunities invite attention. The internet is a vast network of lanes going an infinite number of places. Thanks to technology we don’t even need to leave home to engage with hundreds of people and travel the world.

Every day I delete dozens of emails from retailers and service providers I subscribe to and organizations I value. I’d love to investigate the new brain book that Amazon recommends or the workshop offered by the Center for Non-Violent Communication. But to do so takes me on detours that eat up time, energy and, potentially, money. I delete 90% of what enters my in-box, but don’t unsubscribe because I think “Someday, I might want to go down that path…”

I like to keep my options open.

Cissy, Marva, Kathy and Diane

Cissy, Marva, Kathy and Diane

But, as my prayer partner Marva’s dad so wisely counseled her on many occasions, I need to stay in my own lane!

When Marva came home, complaining about some person or circumstance over which she had no control, he’d say “Marva, you’ve just got to learn to stay in your own lane.”

For Lent, I’m choosing to practice staying in my own lane!

- When I find myself tempted to open a superfluous email or click on a link to who-knows-where, I’m going to take a deep breath and stay in my own lane.

- When I am on the road and become frustrated with how others choose to drive, I’m going to take a deep breath and stay in my own lane.

- When I feel irritated because my husband left crumbs on the counter, I’m going to take a deep breath and stay in my own lane.

A deep inhale, followed by a long, slow, pursed lip exhale, activates the calming system of my body and brings me back to center. It’s a quick way to down shift my nervous system when it starts to amp up in response to the excitements and aggravations of life. It’s a powerful tool to bring my attention back to myself, let go of what I can’t control and change what I can–my own response.

I know I will fall short. I’ll probably veer into  Dave’s lane at least once by the time we go to bed tonight.

Thanks be to God that in Christ, I am already forgiven. And that’s exactly what makes Lent possible–I can reflect on how far short I fall because I walk into my darkness with Christ at my side. Before me, behind me, to my left, to my right, over and under, all around me. Nothing can separate me from God’s love. He’s in my lane with me, ready to help me bring my attention back where it belongs.

That’s Great News for this driver!

 

 

My senses rejoice in the sights and sounds of this dark, wet morning. Raindrops dripping from naked tree branches, birds chirping as they hop through glistening bushes, white ceiling of clouds softening the rumble and clanking of trash trucks rolling up and down the street.

Christmas at our house

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, ‘Stay awhile.’ The light flows from their branches.”

Mary Oliver’s images in “When I am Among the Trees” sank deep into me years ago. Her words resurface frequently–reminding me of the unhurried rhythm of God’s grace I long to embody.

“I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world…”

Trees, bushes and birds instinctively follow their own rhythm. Unlike me, they live in alignment with their natural  pace and entrust their blossoming to their Creator.

Long a significant symbol for me, I’m surprised to notice we have four trees gracing our living space.

Guests at our annual open house a few weeks ago dressed our ThanksLiving tree with gratitude lists.

ThanksLiving Tree 2014

A living Christmas tree and a rosemary “tree” arrived as gifts from guests. And we carried our baby Christmas tree home from our local nursery on Saturday.

As I move through the busyness of the next ten days I don’t want to forget the message of the trees:

“…You too have come into the world to do this, to easy, be filled with light, and to shine.”

May the unhurried rhythm that comes without effort to the trees, bushes and birds grow in those of us who aspire to entrust our lives to the care of the Light of the world who came to enlighten everyone and empower us to go easy, be filled with light and shine.

For the full text of Mary Oliver’s poem, see her anthology Thirst.

Go easy, be filled with light and shine!