Monday, September 8, 2014

Sin Management or Healing?

When religion is not about healing, it really does not have much to offer people in this life.”  
--Richard Rohr

This statement in Rohr’s book Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World From a Place of Prayer has stirred my thoughts as I think of our world’s conflicts and woundedness. The turf wars in Iraq, in Nigeria, in Israel, are only a few we see daily in the media. These are, in part, about religion interpreted with a fundamental view taking extreme actions. In their minds, they believe themselves to be in the right.

Most religious persons today do not have a view to such extremes. On the other hand, I do wonder about how we who consider ourselves “religious” have taken more of a focus of sin management, and less on healing.

Focusing on sin seeks to define what is “right” and what is “wrong”. Who defines this right and wrong, good and bad, depends on those in power. This is not only in the extremism of Islam and Jewish states, it is found in Christianity, as well. We all have a tendency towards creating law above the love of the people and healing for the community and the world.

I see this especially as fear rises along with experiences of violence and aggression in our communities. We talk of gun control and putting extremists in their place. How do we speak of healing and education towards communication with each other in conflict, with teaching peace and compassion among our young people?

This healing of the world must begin with the healing of the self and with those we are with on a daily basis. In his book, Rohr states,

 “Only whole people can imagine or call forth a more whole world. Healing depends on relating with love and compassion. Official religion usually focuses on imputing and then forgiving guilt. This is much more about sin management than proclaiming a larger-than-life vision for humanity. Remember that the ego contracts around problems. The soul gathers and is drawn by meaning.” (p. 55)

What this calls me to ask myself includes:

“Am I focusing on the problem (and trying to manage that)?” or “Am I seeking to understand meaning with an openness to heal-myself and the world around me?”

Am I needing to “be right”, which means I am judging others as being wrong? Or am I seeking truth and meaning, which has the opportunity to invite others into the conversation? Am I about sin management or healing? Healing is not about the law, but the soul. This is about seeking healing out of compassion. It is open to a diverse community. From my Christian point of view, I think this is what it means to be a disciple of the One who sat with sinners and loved them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Passwords To Meaning-Making

Love, like a carefully loaded ship
 crosses the gulf between the generations…
We live, not by things, but by the passwords
from generation to generation.

--Antoine de Saint Exupery

As I read these words above in my morning meditation time, I began to reflect on my time with my dad and the family over the past week with them in Virginia where they live. My dad (pictured above) is 93, mentally very sharp, though finds his physical self growing more and more limitations, which have changed his quality of life significantly in the past year. Mom died 11 years ago, and this picture depicts how he still misses her daily. My siblings and I were blessed with a parents who loved each other and modeled for us a relationship of love and care for others. 

As I read the words by de Saint Exupery, I began to think of the words that are "passwords" of my past, of the things that I expect to see in my family home, of the decisions my 7 siblings and I will have to "sort through" in the future, whenever that may be. 

What gives meaning to this "stuff"? What makes the experience of returning to the home I grew up in one that I want to keep returning to again and again. I have been blessed to be in this home with family for 54 Christmases now. This struck me this year, in part because I wondered if this would be the last one. Whether it is or not, I am aware that the physical building, the furniture, the knick knacks that sit around, the stuff in the basement and closets are not what matter. It is how this place and these things have allowed us to grow up and learn to be in relationship with each other as family. How we loved, how we fought, how we were disciplined, how we celebrated milestones and growth as persons, how we lived faith and experienced disappointments. This place has given us a place to gather and remain as family over the years, even when we "left home". We continue to return. Where will that "place" be when we have left this behind?

So when I read these words in my morning quiet time, I was struck with how the place represents family, togetherness, the source of my life, even as I know it now over 500 miles away from there. I am so grateful for this. And no matter what lies ahead, it will continue to ground me in what is important, and bear meaning to who I am--not so much the physical place, but what it represents.  I have been reminded that it is not the physical place or the things that I return to, but the meaning-making in my life that has foundationally made me who I am. Our family's passwords that have been passed along through the generations include words such as, "family", "faith", "service" and "music". 

What are your passwords that move things and daily life into meaningful experiences?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Who Will You Be When You Grow Up?

When I was in first grade I remember I wanted to be a nurse. Not sure why, other then in the 1960s, that was one of the acceptable vocations that I knew was common for a woman to be when they became an adult. When I think about it now, what I intuitively realized then, was that I wanted to serve others.

When I was in 5th grade, I wanted to be an artist. Not sure why, other then I loved to draw and create things. What I know now was that being creative was always important to me.

When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I felt that I didn’t fit into the world of my peers. I loved church camp and being outdoors. Where I didn’t fit in was what I considered as silly conversations that weren’t important in the big picture of things. What I know now, but didn’t have vocabulary for then, nor an understanding, was that the spiritual and purpose of life was important to me, at least from an intuitive level. I just didn’t call it that.

When I was in high school, I would hear peers talk about the parties and concerts they would go to, and who threw up or got hit by a flying wine bottle. Really?! Why would someone want to pay to get hit by a wine bottle at a concert? What I didn’t know then was that, intuitively, meaning and purpose in life was bigger than the moment.

What do all of these have in common, other than recognizing a developmental process? Somehow, somewhere, I was taught to listen to what is important to me. Even though I am not a nurse, I recognized in 1st grade the desire to serve others. Even though I am not an artist, I still love to be creative. And I now have an understanding of the richness of my spiritual experiences and nurture and encourage others to grow their own understanding of their life and purpose as a vocation.

These are the types of experiences that have led me to live the life I love, as a minister, a life coach and a mental health coach. This comes from listening to myself through the years. This calls me to continue to listen to who God has created me to be and how God has called me to serve.

How has God guided you through your life? Who has God called you to be? How are you called to serve? Who will you be when you grow up? Are you listening? 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Are You Listening to Yourself?

This past weekend I went on a wonderful women's retreat to a beach retreat center with a group of women from my church. I have been anticipating it for many weeks. I have been anticipating it because I knew that it would be a time for relaxing, growth and building meaningful and energy-giving relationships. As I was thinking about that this morning, I began to ask myself...what makes one experience, or the anticipation of the experience, energy-giving, life-giving, and what tends to sap the energy out of me??

As I thought about what I expected, I thought about the lack of responsibility to lead. In my vocation, I am expected to lead much of the time. I also thought about the fact that most of those going were going with an openness to experience, to learn, and to grow.

So, then, I started to think about what hinders me from being this way other times, other days. It isn't just about being in leadership. I love my work and experience as a minister, a counselor, a life coach. And, I can be open and learn so much from those with whom I have this responsibility. So what is it? If I anticipate resistance, if I am afraid of not meeting up to someone else's standards, if I am afraid of not being liked for the decisions I make or the things I say. This is when I start closing down before I even get into the experience. When I go into my day anticipating conflict among those I am leading, or even simply those that I am with, I need to be so aware of how this is impacting me, and the choices I want or need to make to stay on course in the direction that is right for me, for the purpose that is best for my role, for who I am at the time.

So, I ask you... what gives you energy and what shuts down your energy? Several questions to think about to stay self aware of yourself, to stay aware of those around you and to stay on course with what make you true to yourself and your purpose...this is an important part of what is called Emotional Intelligence.

1. Are you aware of what gives you energy and what takes energy out of you?

2.  What shuts you down from being available or open to others? 

3. In any given situation/moment, what are you aware about yourself in how you feel, what you are thinking about yourself and how your body feels in relationship to what you are experiencing?

4.  Did you enter today with anticipation of excitement or dread? How do you understand those feelings? What options do you have to explore that?

Self awareness is the first step towards a strong emotional intelligence and for living life in a way that is energy giving, not energy depleting. This is where we can find that sense of life balance and confidence to be open and grow in strength and character. There are many ways to explore this for yourself, including a close friend or family member, a spiritual leader, a mentor or someone with life experiences you respect. Working with a life coach is one way of addressing your personal growth and goals with intentionality.

I love  the  pieces that are marketed these days. To experience that life really IS good, one must be both self aware and be open to new growth and learning, both about oneself and about and with others around them. This is an important step towards meeting your life goals and living with meaning and purpose that is right for who you are.

So, what gives you energy and what keeps you from being open to growth and living fully yourself? Listen to your body, your heart, your mind. Listen to what is going on around you and how it is impacting you. Listen!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Making the Change-Being the Change

My Dad on his 90th birthday!

“Out of clutter find simplicity;
from discord, find harmony;
in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
Albert Einstein’s Three Rules of Work

Albert Einstein, who is considered the father of modern physics and the one who discovered E=mc2 and the quantum theory in the world of early 1900s. He believed in something that hadn’t been found, and was willing to seek and take risks toward his beliefs. He set goals to discover and seek what wasn’t yet known or found. What a visionary! I love his “Three Rules of Work”!

Even though we may not have that same kind of profound vision, we each carry beliefs and a desire for something in our worldview and experience. What do you seek? Are you needing change or entering a time of transition? Change is one of the things we are pretty much promised in this in this fast-changing world. Day-to-day, even moment-to-moment. So, what does it take to move towards that change?

Prochaska’s “Readiness to Change” Model can give us some insight into being intentional about how to make, to take some control of the direction you go:

Precontemplation-You are not even aware of the need for change, much less ready to make the change
Contemplation-You recognize that change needs to happen and are considering it, but you may not know what to do to make the change, or are ambivalent about making the change.
Preparation-You have decided to make the change and are making preparations for it by assembling resources, checking out possibilities and gathering information.
Action-You are ready to take action, to practice new behaviors, to step out into something new.
Maintenance-You have established new actions towards your goals in the change and have begun to integrate it into your life.
Termination-You no longer have to focus with intentionality on the new action as “change” because it is well integrated into your normal activities. A programmatic approach is no longer needed.

What is the change you are looking for? Or perhaps one has been imposed upon you. Whatever the reason, you can choose to face it with intentionality.

-Awareness of the need or goal is the first step.
-Then consider all the possibilities.
-Next explore the benefits and risks of each.
-Then make your decision.
-The decision can be changed at any time. Putting a decision to action is the point!

I have found that having a life coach is so helpful in staying focused on what is most important to me in difficult decisions and transitions. A coach both helps me stay true to myself and stay accountable to going forward with my dreams by encouraging me to think beyond what I would do by myself, yet keep it realistic and faithful to who I am.

“…in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” What lies ahead for you? Are you making the decisions for your life? Or are you letting life happen to you?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Your Spiritual Walk: Living With Intentionality

This could be a “Part 2” from a blog in June called “What is Your Spiritual Type?” I guess you can tell this is gotten in my crawl, so to speak…and moves me to reflecting a lot on the presence of God in my own life and life in general. So, I continue along the same vein…

Corrine Ware, in her book Discover Your Spiritual Type, states that there are five attitudes or actions to take towards promoting our spiritual growth.
  1. Being willing to change and grow (which I view as foundational).
  2. Becoming intentional-do what we imagine, using Jesus as our example.
  3. Integrate tradition-absorb and use the best that has come to us-both past and present.
  4. Become an individuated person-think for self and appreciate the legacy of tradition at the same time.
  5. Become a change agent-make a difference. This comes after listening to the inner voice and to tradition.

I like reading this kind of stuff because it gets my juices flowing, and stirs me to want to grow and learn more. I enjoy it so much that I want to believe others want to know about this, as well. This is my hope, anyway…

I am getting ready to offer a one-half day learning opportunity in November to connect learning about self and understanding one’s own spiritual type. A friend asked me a great question…”So what?” “Why does all this matter?”

I know intuitively that it does, and it is one of those subjects that I love to explore. Doesn’t everyone? Well, not really! So, I begin to think on this question…”Why DOES it matter?” What is the importance of learning about self and how it impacts one’s spirituality?

I think about the folks that I have been in ministry with, and those who have come into my counseling office. If you ever want to experience the importance of being connected to one’s own spirituality, or spirit, befriend one who is depressed, or anxious, or grieving! Spirituality, as I understand it, is that which connects us to something beyond ourselves, where we find hope, faith, courage, a belief in something greater than ourselves.

Our spiritual type is the way we make that connection. Many think of prayer, or worship, perhaps doing good service for others. These are important in making that connection with others, and helps to build that hope most times. But, it is more than that.

For some, it is a heart connection. For some it may be understanding of doctrine and the history of the faithful before us. For some, it is giving self to service to God, to Christ, or the betterment of humanity and the environment. For some it is to be a prayer warrior. There are as many ways as there are opportunities for goodness and hope and connecting with others in growth-filled ways.

So, this still doesn’t exactly say why knowing your own spiritual type is so important. So, let’s name a few of the reasons….
  1. It is always good to know oneself in any given situation…good for self and more helpful for others.
  2. Spirituality often seems so subjective. It is good to understand how connection to God and others finds meaning in ones life.
  3. It can help with stress management and life balance!!
  4. It helps to understand what provides meaning for self in connecting with the community of faith.
  5. It provides awareness of the gifts one has to give in the stewardship of the larger community of faith, and can help you to find satisfaction in finding your “place” in the service of the community.
  6. It gives clarity to one about what is meaningful in prayer. Why one person finds quiet time alone helpful and another prefers being in a prayer group or prayer while working.

This is my “start-up” list. I feel like there are as many reasons to understanding one’s own spirituality, what makes meaning, what drives a person in faith, as there are individuals. Perhaps it would be helpful for you to make your own list of why spirituality is important in your life.

The course I will have at the beginning of November is not to be one that completes a project or a learning, but to begin one or encourage one who has already asked the question of understanding of what it means to be a “spiritual” person.

Of course, I recognize that spirituality is not separate from who we are as a physical, mental, emotional persons. We are integrated persons. That is how God has created us! That is why we will begin with the Peoplemap inventory, to establish common language to state awareness of self, and use that as a springboard to explore how one’s spirituality is integrated your own unique personality.

Wherever you are on your own experience of the spirit, may it be one that awakens you to being fully alive and alert to God’s presence around you, and give you the joy of knowing there is hope and goodness in the midst of the suffering and distress that so often seems to be emphasized around us!

May you find the true joy of God's Spirit in you!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy Interdependence Day!!

Yesterday was the birthday celebration of our country. What a privilege to have the freedoms and blessings we have! As I thought about this as being “Independence Day”, I kept thinking there is no such thing as “independence”!!

To me, independence suggests that we are on our own, or as a 2-year-old would say, “I can do it myself!” The dictionary states that it is a state of being self-governing. I can go with the dictionary’s definition. However, being self-governing doesn’t mean we go it alone.

What I often experience in our society is not so much a perception of being self-governing, but more of an attitude that we in our country can go it alone. We, as human beings, are not meant to live in a vacuum, to live without community. When we gained our freedom from the British government of old, it wasn’t breaking relationship with them. It was changing what our relationship looked like…from being controlled to becoming mutual governing bodies.

I am reminded how many a teenager feels that when they leave home they will be “free” to be on their own. What they don’t recognize at that point is that “freedom” comes with responsibility and working with others in a responsible manner.

When we interact with each other with respect, being who we are intended to be and allowing others to do the same, we can learn from each other, share in resources and be more, both individually as well as together. This is what is meant by that old adage that states, “The whole is greater then the sum of its parts”.

So, when we celebrate the birthday of our country, I am wanting to say “Happy Interdependence Day!!” It doesn’t have the same ring as the other, but I believe it is more true to what makes a great nation, community, family, world…..any system that is healthy and strong!