Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: listen to your life

When it comes to embodied life, there are no guarantees.

Hip replacement surgery came with warnings but no guarantees. Sadly, and to my dismay, I am one of the unfortunate ones who had complications.

My new hip feels great. It works great. I’m grateful not to wake multiple times during the night because of discomfort. I’m grateful to be walking without pain.

But, I’m hugely disappointed to have suffered nerve damage during surgery. I’ve run the gamut of emotions, from anger and “who’s fault is this” to despair when I let worry take me too far into the future living with a foot that won’t flex properly.

I woke from surgery with a mostly numb left foot and lateral calf, no flexion in my foot or movement in my toes and minimal capacity to extend/point my foot. By the time I left the hospital, some toe movement and extension had returned. The doctors said it would take time.

For a few weeks I had no flexion at all. Slowly, the numbing has eased with some flexion in my toes and ankle returning. And almost full extension has returned. For that, I am grateful and hopeful.

Nerves are slow healers. They regenerate at only 1 to 5 millimeters per day. And, apparently, they are also mysterious! None of the doctors, including the neurologist I consulted with last week, could provide a very clear or direct path forward. Multiple MRI’s and a nerve study test will supposedly get to the root of the problem so a treatment plan can be recommended.

This is not how I envisioned life 30 days after surgery. I knew I’d still be recovering mobility and strength, possibly still using ambulatory assistance. But I didn’t think it would be due to an issue with my foot.

No guarantees!

Last Saturday I led a group of 15 women in what we call “Self-Care from the Inside Out.” One participant, Yolanda, is also a breast cancer survivor with four years of life post-treatment. She laughs easily and sparkles with brightness and positive energy. We swapped stores about the limitations and complications of medical treatment. As cancer patients know all too well, at times you wonder if the consequences of treatments are really worth the hoped for outcome for survival–which, by the way, doesn’t come with a guarantee!

My friend Kerry went to Germany for naturopahtic treatment of bladder cancer a few years ago. She opted to forgo conventional “slash, burn, poison” methods (which would have included the complete removal of her bladder) and chose to pay out-of-pocket for a less drastic alternative. The treatment killed the cancer, she still has her bladder and she’s made significant lifestyle changes to enhance her body’s capacity to remain cancer free! As her husband Jeff writes in his blog about their journey, “Kerry continues to use food as medicine by aggressively pursuing a diet rich with fruits and vegetables, grains and a handful of animal or fish protein a day. Sugar is out save a glass of wine now and then. She will have to cut back on stress by trying to say no to anything pushing her beyond her limits. We know we are not out of the woods; cancer likes to come back.”

An orthopedic surgeon told another friend a few weeks ago that she needed hip replacement. She’s investigating stem cell therapy as an alternative. Of course, it won’t be covered by insurance. But a growing number of patients in the United States are wondering: Since there are no guarantees, perhaps a softer, gentler approach that works with the body rather than against it, might be a better path to explore before more extreme options are engaged!

No guarantees!

As I prepare to lead “A Contemplative Path to Health and Well-being” with Alive and Well Women this coming weekend, I’m drinking my own medicine. I’m working with the Alive and Well philosophy, principles and practices as I discern how to go forward with my foot that will not fully flex. Rather than just following conventional doctor’s recommendations based on facts about how bodies in general operate, I’m seeking clarity in what Eugene Peterson calls “the largeness” of God.

While I desperately want full flexion back and am trusting that will come, the real miracle isn’t physical healing. The real miracle is how I’m finding God in the midst of it. I’m seeing the bigger picture. Everyone suffers. No one gets out without scars, suffering and sadness.

One problem of the “miracle of medicine” is that it gives us the false hope that everything can be cured…and that we can live forever. I know no doctor ever says that. But isn’t that the burden they bear when things don’t go in the hoped for direction? Their job is to support healing. But they don’t get much training in how to cope when things go poorly or how to help people die.

Ultimately, it all comes down to Love. Love is what holds us, sustains us, guides us and helps us face suffering, disease and death with grace. Everything that comes to me is an opportunity to expand my capacity for Love–to give love, receive love and live in loving presence with myself and others. During this season here’s what that looks like:

– Letting Dave care for me, feed me, help me dress and shower, lovingly massage my foot and calf, do all the shopping, cooking and cleaning.

– Asking friends to come by to “Cissy-sit” in the first few weeks when I didn’t want to be home alone while Dave was at work.

– Letting my friends care for me, feed me, lovingly massage my foot and calf, run errands, drive me to appointments and spend afternoons watching movies with me.

– Going slowly and living a more contemplative life than I normally do when I can move more quickly.

– Being more gentle with myself and patient with Dave than I usually am.

– Not finding someone to “blame” or bring a lawsuit against because things didn’t go as planned!

And that is just the beginning.

If you’re curious about this path that I’ve spent the last 25 years learning to live and the past 11 teaching others, please visit the Alive and Well Women website for more information. We still have a few spots open for the Immersion that begins on Friday, March 31st. Perhaps one of those spots has your name on it??

 

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.

I’m on sabbatical this month – taking time away from my customary routines to focus on writing my spiritual memoir. This week I’m working on the topic of sin. Thinking, writing or reading about sin is challenging. So, while they don’t have anything to do with sin, I’m adding a few photos of the beautiful places I’ve been as I’ve traveled in the Pacific Northwest. Grateful for those who’ve hosted me and whose company I’ve enjoyed along the way.

Sunset in Gulf Islands

Sunset in Gulf Islands

The majority of the explanations, definitions and teachings about sin I’ve heard over my forty years of following Christ have been unhelpful.

Most recently, I listened to a sermon on Genesis in which the pastor taught that at its’ root sin is not believing that God is as good as he says he is. He said that every particular sin is an expression of unbelief. He suggested that we steal because we don’t believe God will take care of us. And that we lie because we don’t believe God will take care of us if the truth be known.

I suspect that this pastor hasn’t done much lying or stealing in his life. If he did, I think he’d might have a different perspective.

Perspective is everything. How we see things, how we view reality, how we understand biblical teaching, is informed by our life experiences. Ultimately, if there is an objective reality or “truth” about God, human nature, sin and all the other issues theologians and pastors attempt to conceptualize and put into words, no human being is capable of holding in consciousness, defining or communicating that objective “truth” objectively. All attempts to communicate eternal truth are subject to human subjectivity.

Vancouver Marina at Sunset

Vancouver Marina at Sunset

That’s what led me to write a memoir. I’m owning my subjectivity. You can argue doctrine and ideology all you want. But you can’t argue with my story. My story is my story. You may not like how I’ve come to understand reality or what I believe about sin. But you can’t deny the wisdom of my lived experience.

My theology professor at Fuller Seminary, Ray Anderson, used to say that a theological essay without a story is not a good theological essay. I’d say that a theological essay or sermon or teaching that doesn’t help me become a better lover, is not a good one. When all the theologizing is over, I want to know: does it help me be a better lover of God, my neighbor and myself? Jesus said that all the law was summed up in two commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Do this, he said, and you will live!

Jesus didn’t come to put a cage of ideology around us to keep us safe from unorthodox views of God and life. He came to set us free. He came to give us life and give it abundantly.

My journey to sin less and love better has led me to what will be considered by some an unorthodox and heretical view of human nature and sin. So be it. That’s why I’m writing a memoir and not a theological essay!

Amtrak Cascades - Vancouver to Seattle

Amtrak Cascades – Vancouver to Seattle

I never doubted God’s love or care for me. It’s people I couldn’t trust. I lied to my mom because I feared the emotionally rejecting way her attempts at discipline were most often administrated.

It wasn’t God’s care or love I didn’t trust. At its core, it wasn’t even my mom’s care or love I doubted. I knew she loved me. At an intuitive level, I sensed her care. But I didn’t trust her ability to respond to the limits of life, it’s problems, trials and challenges in life-giving ways. I didn’t believe in her capacity to emotionally care for me the way I needed to be cared for. That’s why I lied as a child. Not because of some eternal stain of “sin” that predetermined me to be a liar.

Created by God, in the image of God, what was deepest in me was God’s eternal love. Love is my eternal nature. At my core was and is a longing to love and be loved. I want to live in loving relationship, all the time.

Jesus’ mystical prayer for his disciples in John 17 reflects this ultimate longing for loving unity among all created existence that is the core of my human nature. He prays for a restoration of the original harmony reflected in the creation story–the humans are naked and without shame, in harmony with God, one another, themselves and the earth.  Jesus prays for restoration of our eternal oneness, praying, “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me…that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:21, 26, NASB)

Bainbridge Island Trees

Bainbridge Island Trees

But living in perfect harmony isn’t possible in limited temporal reality. In limited human life, we must develop capacities to cope with individuation, separation and limitations.

In real life, living in perfect harmony with all people, all the time, is impossible. And I think that coping and surviving in an unloving world has a lot to do with what my Christian tradition calls sin.

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.

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/

 

I ran into an acquaintance last week at the dentist. A fitness instructor at a gym I used to attend, we’d had significant conversations about our shared health and wellness passions.

Several years have passed since I’d seen her, but we immediately recognized each other in the waiting room. We exchanged greetings and caught up briefly on where I’d gone and where she was teaching now.

Throughout the “conversation” she kept looking down at her cell phone, scrolling and looking back up. Sadly, it didn’t seem all that strange to me. A few years ago I might have been offended. But I guess like the proverbial frog in the kettle, I’ve grown accustomed to it. 

After I finished my business with the receptionist, I turned back to the waiting area. She was just a few feet away, sitting by the door. I walked to the door and bid farewell: “Hey___ it was good to see you…”

But, caught up in the digital world, she had totally blocked me out. She didn’t hear me or see me. She’d barely acknowledged my existence during our conversation, what made me think she’d hear my farewell greeting?

I didn’t take it personally. But as I walked to my car a flood of emotions and thoughts rose within me about how digital devices are altering human engagements. And concern about future generation’s capacity for empathy, vulnerability and authenticity.

Among other discoveries, psychologist Sherry Turkle’s research indicates that over-reliance on digital connection is diminishing our capacity for face-to-face engagement. In her latest book, Reclaiming Conversation: The power of talk in a digital age, she advocates for carving out “sacred” device free zones and embracing “unitasking”.

Digital Free at Lean-In Women's Retreat

Digital Free at Lean-In Women’s Retreat

Being more interested in our phones than the people in our presence is not good for the future of humanity. If we can’t invest time to be present with the real flesh and blood neighbors standing in line, sitting in a waiting room or at the dinner table, then how will we ever love our enemies?

It made me grateful for the work I do. I help people develop empathy with themselves and others. I sit with individuals and groups without cell phones or laptops. We have real engagements that sometimes get complicated and messy. Sometimes there are tears, sometimes voices get loud. That’s how real conversations with real people work. And only real face-to-face conversations help us develop empathy.

May the change begin with me!

 

 

 

 

 

“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.