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!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Listening to The Inner Voice

“Vocation …comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about-quite apart from what I would like it to be about-or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.

“That insight is hidden in the word vocation itself, which is rooted in the Latin for voice.  Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear.”

These words, written by Parker Palmer in his book, Let Your Life Speak, brought on an “aha!!” moment for me. I am both a professional counselor and a life coach. One of the driving forces for me in my work is for persons to find their inner voice, their authentic self, and find words to name who they are and what they value. So, when I read how the word “vocation” and “voice” come from the same Latin word, it all made sense to me. Giving voice, one names what moves them, gives them reason for life and meaning to their being.

I know that when I was a child, probably elementary age, I knew that when I grew up I wanted to be an artist or a nurse. Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were young? So often, we can find hints of who we really are when we connect with who we were back in our childhood years. Even though I am not engaged with either of those vocations now, it reminds me that creativity and compassion and caring for others was a part of me even back then. At some point in our lives, for most of us anyway, we lose sight of who we are for what others say we are suppose to be. One of the statements in Palmer’s book suggests that the first half of our lives we strive to be the person we are told we are suppose to be, and the second half of our lives trying to reconnect with who we really are!!

So, if you ask me now what is important to me, I would thankfully still say creativity, compassion and add being genuine and having integrity. I also know that I would not have any of that if it wasn’t for the loving and often persistent nudge in my faith walk with God. I am blessed to be surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, past and present, to support, guide and remind me of this relationship with God.

So, if you were asked about your true vocation, what would you say? Are you listening to your inner voice? Who has God called you to be? What is the voice that calls you to your vocation? By listening to our voice, we do not just choose our life, we listen to the life that has chosen us and frees us to live more fully.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What Is Your Spiritual Type?

What does it mean to be “spiritual”??  Does it mean being able to sit quietly for a certain length of time each day in prayer? Does it require that I am actively involved in a community of faith? Does it mean that I think about God all my waking hours or offer confession at least once a week or take part in a Bible Study?

Any and all of these can be a part one’s spiritual growth, nurture and journey. So, yes, these are among the opportunities to inspire and grow one in their spirituality. On the other hand, no, this does not define one as “spiritual”. We can go through the movements, yet not be fully aware of ourselves as spiritual beings. I love Julian of Norwich’s statement that “All that is good is God, and all that is God is good”. Spirituality is so much more than anything we do or say or even understand.

Discover Your Spiritual Type is the name of a book I am reading by Corinne Ware (Alban Institute Publication, 1995). I find this an interesting idea-being a “spiritual type”. We who are in a faith community may talk about being “spiritual”. And many of us are realizing that taking care of our health includes our spiritual health. So the whole idea of being a spiritual being has found more groundedness and visibility in today’s society as we seek to a more wholistic health. But, what does it mean to be a “spiritual type”?

In Ware’s book, she uses the definition that states spirituality is “…all those attitudes and activities that characterize one’s attempts to make connection with Deity” (10). So those activities named above may be a part of one’s experience and expression of spirituality, yet spirituality is so much more. It seems when I give trainings or workshops that include something along the line of spiritual growth and spiritual experiences, those that attend are ones who appreciate quiet time in prayer and/or enjoy deep conversation of conceptual and intuitive, even mystical experiences. This isn’t everyone’s experience of their spirituality, however. Sometimes the Spirit can meet us in very tactile and structure forms and experiences.

So, if I were to ask you questions such as:

What connects you with God?
When are times you feel closest to God?
When and how do you like to pray?
What is meaningful worship for you?

I would guess I would get as many answers as I would get responses to these questions. Not everyone finds meaning and Spirit in the same experiences. Some folks like predictable liturgy. Some will like the free flow of the spirit in worship. Some may prefer a quiet room in prayer. Some may pray best while doing meaningful work.

Along with the use of the PeopleMap Personality Assessment, these are the types of questions that will be explored in a course I will be offering through Pinnacle Leadership Associates in the fall. I would love to hear responses to these questions and more on your personal experiences of awareness of what grows and nurtures you spiritually in your comments!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Transitions As Our Best Time of Growth

I went to a friend’s retirement celebration this past weekend. It was a wonderful experience of care and appreciation of one who served 39 years in one agency. That’s a long time any more! This is a huge transition into being his own boss and managing his own time for himself and his family now! What a great time of celebration! On the other hand, one who has spent a long time in one place, especially for this amount of time, may say "what now"?
Transitions can be chosen and exciting experiences, and they can be unexpected and disappointing, at best. Either way, they often draw us into a time of saying “what now?”, or at least place us in a position that we are unfamiliar with in our lives. When life is status quo, we can get up in the morning and have some idea of what to expect in the day and what is expected of us in our purpose and list of things to do. Transitions are often the times when we are moved to explore and grow, whether we want to or not.

In the case of my friend, it was a chosen and anticipated time to get up and start his day without getting into morning traffic and go his own pace into the day. For others, this is far from true. There are many types of transitions. One of my friends experienced the loss of his father, and another just heard of the unexpected death of her mother. Some of my clients are dealing with pain and/or violence from their partners in marriage. On the positive side, I know couples beginning their life with a newborn, and others preparing to graduate. Transitions can be painful, are usually uncomfortable, and are the times where most of our creativity and growth occur.

Carl Jung, a psychologist of the early 20th century, focused most of his work on the midlife of our lives. He saw this as a time when most of us go through a spiritual crisis. That is how he viewed what many call a “midlife crisis”. He saw this as a time when we recognize that much of what we thought we wanted and assumed we needed in life didn’t make sense anymore, and we become “lost” in what we really want out of life. We transition into asking “what now?”

James Fowler, who focused on the psychology of religion and wrote about the six developmental stages of faith, tells us that it is not in the “stages” that we grow in our faith. It is when we are taken out of our comfort zones and are forced to transition from our “old understanding” of God and our connection with that which is greater than ourselves that we are moved to grow in our faith. Our growth is in the discomfort and the searching, not the status quo.

I have heard it oft stated that “birth, death, taxes and change” are the only constants in life. Especially with our fast paced lifestyle in our society, this is so true. We can make a decision about how we want to face our transitions whenever they come. Knowing our resources and how to utilize them is usually important in this process.

Family, friends and my faith community are among resources that I have found to be significant in my own transitions. In this past year, personal life coaching has also been very important in helping me be more intentional about my own growth. I  believe resources and attitude make the difference in how we pull these transitions off. This has been one of my greatest lessons in my journey through my transition of the past year. How do you help yourself in your times of transition? What are your resources?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Simplicity in Life is Often the Most Satisfying

I enjoyed my early morning time in my small back patio area of my townhouse reading my devotions and experiencing quiet time with the flowers, birds, trees and my dog, Precious. Well, I was listening in quiet. On the other hand, the birds were very active. I love this time of year!!

Sometimes the most simple and basic of life is the most satisfying. What is more satisfying then being visited by a pair of bluebirds in springtime? Or what about the incredible colors of red, orange, yellow and purple bursting forth from the new flowers, the green of leaves on the trees after a dormant winter and the fresh spring breeze that hasn't yet taken on the heat of summer? I can do this now because of the events of the past year for me.

Last week I wrote in my blog a quote from John Maxwell about "time management" being an oxymoron. It stated we don't manage time, we manage our lives. It was one year ago this week that I was a part of a "downsize" of a hospital system. It was very painful then. Now, well, I consider it a blessing. Yes, I miss the consistent income and many of the people and the mission of the work I was doing. On the other hand, I was not fully happy because of the tension in the atmosphere of the hospital (like many healthcare systems these days), and that I was not free to utilize many of my skills and experiences there.

I don't fault that system. It is a good one on so many levels. Now I am grateful that I am where I am. I have time to explore, to do what I love, and to stop and appreciate the simplest of things in the present, like the birds building nests, and my dog exploring the weeds for another lizard. It also has allowed me to build my counseling practice and to explore opportunities to provide life coaching and training with those who seek a more satisfying (and simple?) lifestyle.

This time has also fed into my creativity. I have begun to ask basic questions more seriously about what really matters for me. What fills my life with meaning and satisfaction? Where do I get energy? What do I do well and want to do even better? I recently went to a workshop on building up a counseling practice (and coaching/training practice for myself). One of the things David Diana, LPC, one of the speakers, stated was that it is important to have a niche, and to be the expert in that niche. Not everyone will want what you have to offer, but those who do will come to you because you are the expert. The word gets out when there are persons who really like what you have to offer.

This, for me, is part of keeping life simple, staying focused on what is present, and basic to being good stewards of what God has given us. I still have much to learn about keeping life simple, yet full and satisfying. I think it is an ongoing life lesson. I am thankful, though, for the gift I have been given to take a hard look at what is important to me in this past year, and what it has taught me in coaching others in exploring their own lives. This reminds me of an old Shaker hymn, "'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free. 'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be..."

Monday, April 9, 2012

An Easter Tradition

I love Easter! Obviously, it is the time we celebrate our Risen Lord and the Grace and Life we know through Him. I also love Easter for the music. In my family, music was so important! My parents are the ones who first taught me to love music, and taught me of the values of the Easter faith through music.
I am one of eight children, and every one of us learned at least one musical instrument growing up. The irony for me is that the one I most enjoy now is one I didn’t play as I was growing up. The music, however, is in my bones and spirit. Easter brings the best of that out for me.
This Easter I had the privilege of playing my flute with several strings members and play along with our church choir in our Friday Tenebrae service. This is when music is more then notes, more than instruments, more then people who have skills and bring harmony (or appropriate dissonance) together. This is when it all comes together and tells a story and becomes a prayer that goes beyond any words. Anyone of us is part of something so much greater than we are as individuals. We are even more than the music put together. It becomes the Holy Spirit moving through us telling of  God’s Love for us!
Easter is more than a day, a family gathering, a church service. It is the harmony that tells a story of God’s love for us. Of all the traditions that we have in our Easter celebration, it is often the gospel in the form of music that moves me to the cross and into the celebration of Easter best. I am so grateful for the Easter tradition my parents have passed on to me.