Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for 'transformation'

This morning at my conditioning class one of the other students commented that for him exercise was a “necessary evil.” I immediately jumped into my cheerleader mode: “Just imagine how good you’ll feel afterwards.” He was friendly enough but clearly wasn’t buying into my attempt to re-frame of his view of reality.

It got me thinking about the destructive power of habituation and conditioning. We get stuck doing things the way we’ve always done them and  let our limited view of reality and ourselves create attitudes that undermine our efforts before we’ve even begun. We’ve all said things like: “That’s just the way I am…” or “I’m just not a person who…” or “I’ve never liked…” or “I’ve always…”  While there may be valid reasons for viewing exercise as a necessary evil, but it certainly isn’t contributing in a positive way to anyone’s life.

It also got me thinking about what emerging research reveals about identity. Historically Western philosophy, theology and psychology have tended toward a static view of the self: there is an “I” that I am becoming/finding/developing. Freud dubbed this the ego. But post-modern thinking and neuroscience studies on the brain and mind indicate that the “I” that I think I am is not as set in cement as many of us believe.

Circumstances change.

People change.

Change happens.

For many years I’ve struggle with getting things done in an orderly, systematic fashion. I tend to be random, intuitive, spontaneous, sometimes impulsive, and on a bad day tending toward chaotic movement in so many directions that I fall into an emotional tailspin which can end in an meltdown. And that is not a pretty sight. Just ask my poor husband!

Thanks be to God that the scenario has changed over the years. I’ve changed. Through mindful awareness, centering prayer, yoga and other mind-body practices I’m better able to regulate my energy and attention.  I rarely go into tailspins anymore and it’s been a very long time since I had a meltdown. I still tend toward randomness and spontaneity in accomplishing non-appointment related work. In fact this morning my calendar tells me I’m supposed to be clearing out my email in-boxes. But I had an inspiration to write and made an executive decision, spontaneous as seems to be part of my creative capacity, but not impulsive. I evaluated the decision in a mindful manner, aware that the in-box project remains to be tackled.

Consistently exercising the capacity to focus my attention and stay present through these practices has strengthened the connections between the executive brain (at the front of the head behind the forehead) and the emotional and survival centers in the middle and back of the brain. Neuroplasticity is the technical name for the brain’s capacity to develop these new neural pathways that are integral to our capacity for change.

It isn’t as much about my efforts to change as it is about opening to the Spirit of Grace that does for me what I can’t do for myself. It isn’t trying harder, but softening each time I fall short of my ideals and asking for help. Change happens when I am willing to be changed and engage in practices that make myself available to be changed.

Jesus asked a man who’d been an invalid for 38 years if he wanted to get well. The man responded with his static view of himself and his reality, reciting his scenario as to why change wasn’t possible. We all have our versions of this story: “It’s always been this way…”

In another story Jesus met a man whose son had suffered convulsions since childhood. His response to Jesus’ statement that everything is possible for one who believes is one of my favorite prayers: “I do believe, help my unbelief.”

Unbelief is the crack that opens us up to grace. God does for us what we can’t do for ourselves, not because we have 100% belief, but in the midst of our unbelief.

The first question to ask ourselves isn’t “Can I change?” but “Am I willing to be changed?”

Holding onto a static view of ourselves or reality not only is ineffective, it isn’t true! If you’re a person who “hates exercise…” or “doesn’t like to eat…” or “has always eaten…” or “never could imagine yourself….” then you’re in good company. Many of the people Jesus healed were in exactly the same position.

Will you choose to believe, in the midst of your unbelief?

Today I choose to move at a mindful pace in the unhurried rhythm of God’s grace. After posting this blog I’ll get back on schedule with gratitude that degree by degree I am being changed. And while one hoped for change is that I’ll continue to grow in getting things done in a systematic, orderly fashion, I trust that today’s version of that is good enough for today.

What version of who you think you are might you need to let go of in order to have the life your really want?

Are you willing to be changed?

We brought Miss Liberty Belle home on Saturday. Only 7 weeks old, she’s already reminding me of the ancient wisdom inherent in all living things.

Miss Liberty Belle - 7 weeks

People, animal, plants all need much of the same  basic things: food, water, sunshine, rest, companionship, space to spread out our wings and fly, but also time to withdraw and recover.

Most of all, we need love. John O’Donohue writes “Love is absolutely vital for a human life. For love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to your self.” I suspect he’d say it’s true about other life as well. When we are loved, we feel at home within ourselves and secure when we venture out into the world.

So love will be an essential nutrient we feed our little lass over the days, weeks, months and years ahead. And our number one dog, her uncle Legend, will also be getting more focused time and attention. We’ve committed ourselves to daily morning and evening walks since he thrives on exercise, discipline and affection – in that order (Cesar Milan’s three basics for well behaved dogs).  With a new puppy competing for attention, he needs to know more than ever how much we love him.

Any of you who read my blog regularly know I place a premium on love. Without it, all our efforts to be well, stay fit, eat right and look our best will fail to give us what we really long for. I can’t count the number of women who’ve sat in my office and told me that their efforts to lose weight were mostly driven by their longing for love. They hope that by perfecting their external appearance (an impossible task since perfection is an impossible goal), they’ll finally attract the love they long for.

Bottom line: love begins with me. I must all open myself to what Henri Nouwen refers to as “the first love.” Nouwen says that the love we receive from other living beings (human and otherwise) awakens our dormant desire to be completely and unconditionally loved. But our great task is to realize that the love of others is not the ultimate source. The love we receive in them is part of the greater love of a Creator who created us in love, from love, to love and be loved. Love is the beginning and the end.

Legend and Liberty soaking in the love

And, love is what frees us to live with liberty. More on that topic in the days, weeks and months ahead. Until then, may you have eyes to see and willingness to receive that great love that is the source of all love. It’s all around you. You must be willing to look for it and accept it in the forms and packages it comes in – human and otherwise.

I returned home from two weeks in Ireland longing for more regular communion with open spaces, rivers, dirt, grass, trees, birds, wind, rain, clouds, rocks, cows, sheep, goats, bugs and the great outdoors. Spiritual director Christine Valters Paintner calls earth the “original monastery” – a place set apart to deepen our connection to God.

Climbing the 600 steps to top of Skellig

Throughout time contemplatives of all sorts have nurtured their spirits through communion with the earth. Previously uninhabited deserts and islands removed from ordinary life were natural sanctuaries. In the 6th century Christians built a monastic community atop Skellig Michael island off the coast of Ireland – one of the sacred places we visited during our trip. The 600 steps we climbed were just one of three paths the monks who inhabited the island between the 6th and 12th centuries built to navigate the steep climb from the Atlantic Ocean to their stone slab home 600 feet above.

Stone dwelling huts atop Skellig

In the 10th century St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote that the natural world is our greatest teacher: “Believe me as one who has experience, you will find much more among the woods then ever you will among books. Woods and stones will teach you what you can never hear from any master.”

On Monday morning one of my soul friends and I took a walk in Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco (Spanish for “dry gulch”). Best known as the home of the Rose Bowl, the Arroyo’s trails, native plants and wildlife remind me that even though I’m far from the green, moist, cool motherland that made my soul sing and skin ever-so-happy, I can still find ways to nourish my connection to nature. The desert beauty of the Arroyo held us as we shared our hearts with each other.

Afterward we wrote poems using an exercise from Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words. Spontaneous and birthed by intuition rather than efforts to write “good” poetry, we painted pictures of God’s work in our innermost beings. I wrote about my Irish roots while her poem perfectly captured the essence of our conversation in the Arroyo. Stunningly beautiful and rich with meaning, I asked her if I could share it here. It reminds me that sacred places aren’t just beautiful for what we can seen, but for how they give birth to the unseen ancient wisdom that we can only hear if we make space to listen.

Disrobe

The wide expanse of sky
echoes your own heart’s desire
and you glimpse for
a clear moment
the wings of your own soul soaring.

It is time to stop
tinkering with borrowed dreams
that you wear like an
Ill-fitting dress
stiff-collared, pleated skirt
your arms limited
by taffeta sleeves.

It is time to shed the layers
and slip into
your own luminous skin.

Tentatively, at first,
you begin to disrobe.

Cantankerous voices mutter
your behavior is offensive,
oblique. As you persist
in your unraveling
of thread and fiber,
buttons and lace
the rumble turns
to shouting
Should!
Must!
Don’t!
Do!
Angry venom bubbles over.
Poison eyes, clenched fists.

But you are fully naked now,
not a shred of the old dress left.
the voices are lost
in the rush of wind,
and you realize
you are flying.

A poem by Stephanie Jenkins, Labor Day 2014

Stephanie didn’t set out to be wise or compose a great poem. Yet when she first read this to me, it went deep into my soul. Reminiscent of Mary Oliver, I think it’s a masterpiece! Thank you Stephanie for allowing me to share it here.

Atop Skellig Michael with Little Skellig in background

Nature and creative expression are powerful sources of grace in our lives, yet can feel frivolous amidst all the ordinary demands of life. I pray that you may find what nourishes you and be fiercely committed to making time and space for those things. Even if it means walking in a dry gulch instead of on an Emerald Isle. Maybe you’ll discover you can fly!

What’s your vision? And what are you willing to invest to get there?

How about 37 years and over one million dollars of your own money?

That’s what Dillion Griffith has invested to build his 64-foot fishing boat in the backyard of his home in Sun Valley. “The Mystic Rose” was just a vision back in the 1970’s when he began to dream his boat into being. But, like many of us (myself included) he didn’t stop with a vision. He hired a ship designer to draw up plans, moved his family, traveled to Montreal to purchase materials, tore out and rebuilt parts of the ship, and navigated many obstacles to fulfill his dream. He had a vision, but he also created a plan and invested resources in getting there.

This August or September he plans to launch his 40 ton boat in Oxnard – at a cost of another $50,000 just to haul it to the sea!

Perseverance, faithfulness and determination are hallmarks of those who dream great dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true.

Seven years ago I began investing my resources toward building a world where women love and enjoy being in our bodies, just the way we are on any given day. That doesn’t mean we don’t have goals, seek to change what we can, or work toward being healthier, more vibrant and radiant. But it does mean we stop criticizing ourselves and change our relationship to our bodies. Or, as a reader commented on a recent blog, at least “stop saying mean things about myself.”

I thought I’d be further along by now. Some days I get discouraged and think about giving up. But when I read Dillion’s story I imagined that 7 years into his boat plan he probably felt like quitting too.

What’s your vision of a healthier, more vibrant, energized you? What’s your plan for getting there? What are you ready to invest?

Health coaching is a resource to support you in fulfilling your dreams–for health of body, mind and spirit. You may want to focus on specific health behaviors like eating or exercise or you may want to reduce stress by changing your job or increase your contentment by creating more beauty in your home. The Wheel of Health provides an overview of the potential topics you might work on to support your vision of a life you love.

Visioning, planning, supporting you with Duke Integrative Medicine's Wheel of Health

I’d love to help you identify your vision and create a plan for getting there. Contact me to set up a no-fee phone consultation about how health coaching can help you build your ship!

Years of healing work with myself and other women have taught me that God loves all of creation, including the parts I’d rather exclude from love–like the increasingly droopy skin encasing my upper arms. If I can’t love my body exactly as it is today, whatever my weight or state of health or disease, then I settle for far less than the fullness of life that lives in my by the Spirit of God. And I cut myself off from the transformational power of God’s love.

Having spent the first 30 years of my life in varying degrees of distance from my body, ashamed because my body didn’t match those of the models and movie stars of my day, I know about resistance to accepting and loving your body just as you are.

my nieces Sophia and Caity inspire my work - loving ourselves just as we are today

Acceptance and love for your body doesn’t mean you’ll “feel” good about yourself. Emotions come and go. I’ve worked with countless women with eating disorders and body image problems whose external appearance matched the cultural ideal perfectly, but still loathed their thighs, breasts, belly, nose or some other part of their body. As my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live character Rosanna Rosanna Danna, played by the amazing Gilda Radner (God rest her soul), used to say, “It’s always something…” Either your nose is too big, your breasts are too small or just when you finally came to a place of peace with your body, some other change comes along to upset your equilibrium–like pregnancy, menopause, an illness.

Loving your body as God loves you is about attending to the real needs of your body for nourishing foods, plenty of fresh water, and adequate sleep—at a minimum. Many of us run on sleep deprivation and then drink caffeine or eat sugar to compensate for our lack of energy and focus during the afternoon. Statistics indicate over 30% of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Most of us need 7-8 to function at optimal levels. Countless numbers of us exist at varying levels of dehydration—75% being the statistic most often sited.

Regardless of other possible ways you might respond more lovingly to your physical needs, how might getting seven hours of sleep a night and drinking more fresh water improve your life? It’s likely you’d even begin to “feel” more loving toward yourself as both of these deprivations are associated with increased emotional distress—particularly anxiety and depression.

You can’t have fullness of life if you aren’t fully inhabiting your body. It’s that simple. Your body is where God’s transformative power dwells. The Spirit is an energetic presence that lives in our bodies. I imagine the Spirit operating within our bodies along the central nervous system, but that’s a blog for another day. So the wisdom, vitality, radiance, power, joy, peace, hope—and all the other transformative energies of our new life in Christ—live in and are accessed through your body.

What loving action will you take today on behalf of your body’s real needs? Drink more water? Plan to go to bed earlier?

Pick one small change and work on that for a month. Build the muscle of choosing to love yourself as you are by treating your body in loving ways, even if you don’t feel loving or accepting. Even if you feel shameful, disappointed, regretful for all the years you’ve spent living at a distance from your body. Shame and fear are huge obstacles for many of us. I’ll write more about that in an upcoming blog.

But for today, what might treating your body with more lovingkindness look like, just for today?

I woke up today feeling unmotivated to get out of bed, uninspired by the day ahead of me, pondering what it would be like “if only…” I got up anyway.

As I made my tea and prepared breakfast, I looked out the window at the clear blue, crisp Southern California morning, heard the sparrows chirping and the doves cooing and decided to change my attitude. Just because I woke up feeling discouraged doesn’t mean I need to spend the rest of the day there.

Legend wants to know: What will you choose today?

Attitude is largely a matter of choice–especially for those without psychological conditions. But even those who suffer from mood disorders benefit from learning to shift their focus from what feels most natural (discouragement, sadness, suffering) towards something more life-giving. Our attitude impacts everyone around us, including our pets. When I’m in a grumpy mood, my dogs stay away. When I’m lighthearted they draw near. Same with my husband. The energy I communicate through my attitude changes the way others experience me and will reinforce whatever state I’m in.

Thoughts and feelings come and go. To a large extent we don’t have a lot of choice about the content that appears on the screen of mental awareness. But we do have choices about what we will do with what shows up.

Attention is the mental process that enables us to selectively concentrate on one thing to the exclusion of others. It is like a spotlight energizing whatever it shines upon. Deficits in attentional capacity contribute to all sorts of psychological, academic, occupational and life problems. It’s an essential skill for navigating the details of daily life, managing resources like time and money, and making health behavior changes. Without a strong capacity to focus attention on what is life-giving, we are prone to dysregulation of all sorts.

The apostle Paul knew about the power of choice and attention regulation. From a Roman prison he wrote these words of encouragement to his brothers and sisters in Christ who lived in the city of Philippi: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence or anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Powerful words from a man in prison. Like Nelson Mandela and other inspirational leaders throughout history, Paul didn’t let feelings evoked by unpleasant circumstances dictate his mood. He chose to set his mind on something bigger than his own miserable condition–specifically his faith in the God who radically interrupted his previous life as a persecutor of the Christian communities and called him to serve the very people whom he’d previously sought to destroy.

Twenty years ago I wanted desperately to do what Paul wrote about, but didn’t have the mental muscles to do so. I’d read biblical instructions telling me to choose to think differently, but couldn’t actualize it in my own daily life. I was largely subject to whatever thoughts and feelings rose to the front of my mind. In those days, “uninspired and unmotivated” might have set the tone for my day.

Like many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I needed more than just good information and the power of the Holy Spirit within me to live out the transformation Paul describes in his letters. I needed mental muscles to access the power of the Spirit and mind of Christ.

The good news is that attention is trainable. Consistent use of mental and spiritual practices that work the aim and sustain part of our brains can strengthen attentional capacity. Over time the effort of intentional exercise of those neuronal pathways leads to what interpersonal neurobiologist Dan Siegel calls “effortlesss traits of living…” which make setting our minds on what is life-giving possible.

Fifteen plus years of exercising my aim and sustain muscles through yoga, centering prayer and mindful awareness of all sorts, have enabled me to practice what Paul wrote about to the Philippians. If I’d stayed in bed with discouragement this morning, I might still be there.  Instead, I chose to get up and into action, to set my mind on what I really want–to be inspired and motivated. That got me moving in the right direction. Then I chose to notice the beauty of the day. That shifted me a few degrees more toward a positive mindset. Then I chose to show up to my blog and share my experience, strength and hope with others. That leaves me feeling inspired and motivated for the day ahead.

If you struggle with choice and attention regulation, instead of suffering through another day of “trying to get focused” or “trying to change your mindset” I encourage you to invest 20 minutes exercising the attentional muscles of your brain through a guided practice. Transformation is possible when you have the mental muscles needed to access the power of the Spirit of life within you.

Join me for weekly Christ-centered yoga classes at Fuller Seminary and Glendale Presbyterian Church or come to my June 21st “Self-Care through Self-Compassion” workshop.

For online resources, Dan Siegel shares downloadable audio practices as well as lots of other resources on his website. His Mindsight book is a wonderful introduction to both theory and practice related to mindful awareness.

The quiet stillness of centering prayer opens my ears to hear the birds sing outside my window and the tiny ticks of the clock on my desk. Calm peace fills my body as I remember that my value is not in what I produce. No need to hurry up and finish prayer so I can get to work. My prayer is my work and my work is a prayer.

At least that is how I want it to be.

I am choosing to fast from media overload as my lenten practice this year. Not because media is bad, but because too much of it keeps me from aligning my mind with my soul and my daily actions with the wisdom of the Spirit.

Every email I view demands a decision: open and attend, delete, or delay decision. Every decision to click open an email or link leads to a series of decisions about how to take in that information. In that process I must determine how beneficial it is to me and decide how much time and energy I will devote to it.

Listen from Within

Someone else always has an alternative view of reality or a supposedly better plan for my life. Each external engagement demands I consider yet another perspective on something. Too much of that pulls me away from my own inner guidance, from the quiet, hidden place within where God’s wisdom guides me (Psalm 51.6).

Lenten fasting invites us to turn toward God, to deepen our connection to the voice of the Spirit within as we abide in the love of God in Christ. It’s not just about sacrifice, giving up something or turning away from worldly pleasures.

We fast from bodily pleasures or temporal things not because they are bad, but because they can never fully satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. We let go of sensory overload because it dulls our capacity to listen from within. We let go of pleasures so we can access a felt sense of Spirit’s embodied guidance whose sweetness and satisfaction is much more subtle than that which comes from wine, chocolate and rich foods.

My Great Uncle Solanus Casey said that human greatness lies in faithfulness to the present moment–to be fully present with myself, God and whomever or whatever is before me. I’m not very adept at that. Lent gives me a chance to acknowledge what keeps me from being fully present and experiment with a new way of being. I’m choosing to regulate what information I take in from the internet and focus on staying connected to God in each moment, listen from within, and let go of an old pattern of being easily distracted.

What keeps you from hearing the birds sing and the clock tick? What so fully fills your mind  that you forget to attend to your soul? What so completely satiates your bodily desires that you neglect listening for the wisdom of your innermost being?

More than turning away from something, fasting aligns us more fully with what makes us fully human. Then our prayer is our work and our work is our prayer.

I wrote the following poem two years ago in response to Joyce Rupp’s Dear Heart Come Home: The Path of Midlife Spirituality. She says that midlife beckons us inward, to our depths where we come home to our “truest Self.” Much of my midlife journey revolves around letting go of the “Self” I thought I was and learning to just be present in each moment as life unfolds.

be faithful to the present moment

Midlife “crises” of all sorts invite us to let go: shed layers of identity along with jobs, relationships and possessions that no longer fit who we are discovering ourselves to be. Divorce, job loss, the proverbial “empty nest”, illness in ourselves or loved ones each become thresholds into the inner life where we discover a more authentic version of who we thought we were.  What appears as a crisis on the front end can become an opportunity if we choose to listen to our lives.

My friend Betsy is doing the hard work of listening to her life and sharing her discoveries through her blog. Her writings inspired me to pull my midlife poem out and share it here. I offer it with the prayer that regardless of your current stage of life, you will allow the obstacles and challenges of your life to become opportunities to deepen your connection to your innermost being–that place where you know you were born from love, made for love and that nothing you do can make your more lovable or less lovable.

Love is our truest Self.

My Midlife Soul – A Response to Joyce Rupp’s Dear Heart Come Home

She told me to toss away the old map.

She said it’s of no use where I’m going.

She says I must learn to travel by the stars that shine in the shadowy places within.

Maps charted by other’s travels no longer suffice.

Broad open roads that lead to a good life, a happy, successful life–now dead ends offering comfort and ease but going nowhere meaningful.

Those routes partially taken–directives for a productive, busy life that belonged to another season–also dead ends now.

The old maps fade as the fires of midlife burn away the dross of the self I thought I was, of the self I grasp backwards to remember, of the self I keep trying to resurrect along with remnants of borrowed dreams.

How will I ever find my way?

A light pierces the thick fog, beckoning me to come and see.

A song whispers of joy amidst suffering, of blessings born of ashes.

I join hands with the One who told me to toss the old maps away.

I will walk deeper into the dark of my night. I will wait for the stars, trust their guidance, and let their light be enough for me.”**

By Cissy Brady-Rogers, January 2012, with thanks to Joyce Rupp

**From Dear Heart Come Home, by Joyce Rupp

Christ-centered yoga brings body, mind and spirit together to help you deepen you connection to God’s love.

praying with our bodies

We use the physical poses of yoga, breath awareness and experiential prayer to enhance your ability to sense God’s presence and align yourself with the graces continually being poured out by the Spirit to transform us degree by degree into greater Christlikeness.

In addition to the spiritual growth fostered through praying with our bodies, other potential benefits of regular practice include: increased mobility and energy, improved balance and mood, normalized gastrointestinal functioning and much more.

I’d love to share the gifts of yoga with you.

Tuesdays at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena @ 7:30 p.m. – 8 week session begins January 14th.

The Fuller class is open to people outside the Fuller community when spots are available. Contact Jose at 626-584-5680 to register.

Wednesdays at Glendale Presbyterian Church @ 6:15 p.m. – meets weekly in room 202. Contact me for more information.

Both classes are open to all levels of experience.

Bring a yoga mat or towel, water and wear comfortable clothes.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer the Tuesday before Thanksgiving 21 years ago. Far from thankful, in spite of my doctor’s assurance that I had less than 5% chance of re-occurrence, fears of all sorts filled my mind that Thursday as we celebrated at my brother’s home.

ThanksLiving with Pam & Deni

A year later I was grateful just to be alive. More connected than ever to the gift of each day, being alive with eyes to see the beauty around me and soak in the love of family and friends was enough.  We gathered a few loved ones for a simple meal to celebrate life on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. A friend designated it a ThanksLiving party. It became a tradition and we’ve been celebrating ever since. A week after our 21st ThanksLiving Sunday event, I’m still soaking in the gratitude that filled our home a week ago.

ThankLiving is a lifestyle of giving thanks for whatever good will come as we seek to be a loving presence in the world. Whatever the circumstances, gratefulness is good medicine for the mind. I didn’t know the power of gratitude in 1992. Since that time, when I get to feeling fearful, anxious, worried or resentful, I come back to gratitude–making a mental or physical list of all I’m grateful for in the moment. It reminds me that just being alive is a gift!

My great uncle Solanus Casey lived a life of gratitude — a ThanksLiving lifestyle. He became known for his practice of thanking God ahead of time for whatever good would come as he trusted God’s providential care for all beings. His love for the poor and suffering endeared him to people of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. When in died in 1957 over 20,000 people attended his funeral mass in Detroit. He didn’t do anything remarkable. He just showed up each day to comfort and pray for the troubled and to serve food to the hungry. People said that just being in his humble Christlike presence ministered peace and consolation to their troubled minds and hearts.

Solanus followed the biblical teaching that giving thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us. I spent a great deal of energy in my younger years trying to “find” God’s will for me. I thought God’s will was about circumstances: who I married, what job I had, where I lived. But time has taught me that God’s will is about being a loving, Christlike presence in the world. In whatever circumstances I find myself, who I am and how I respond is the key to living the will of God. And gratefulness is the perspective that gives me eyes to see the goodness of life, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Pam, Todd and I celebrating 50 years of combined life post cancer diagnoses!

Last Sunday we hosted our annual ThanksLiving open house. Loved ones came and went all afternoon and evening. As I enjoyed reviewing photos from the day, I noticed how many of our friends are also cancer “survivors.” And all of us are survivors of something. Gratitude helps us move through the difficulties of life. When we can’t see any good to be grateful for in the moment, we can thank God ahead of time for whatever good will come. It reminds me of the following prayer reflection used by Solanus during his life.

Life is to live and life is to give and talents are to use for good if you choose.  Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be strong. Do not pray for tasks equal your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks, then the doing of your work shall be no miracle but you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at the richness of life that has come to you by the grace of God. But everyone needs someone–knowing that somewhere someone is thinking of you. (A reflection used by Solanus Casey, OFM)

Kari & I - grateful for Life!

Pam, Deni, Kari, Todd and I have also survived many other trials. We keep showing up each day, thanking God when we remember and doing our best to be loving Christlike people in the world. Whatever troubles you face this season, may you have eyes to behold the richness of life that has come to you by the grace of God and to thank God ahead of time for whatever good will come when the darkness is so thick you can’t see anything good yet. The miracle isn’t in the circumstances, but in the transformation that will come in your own heart and mind as you open to the grace of God that transforms us degree by degree into more loving Christlike people.