Stress and anxiety often come from too much expectation and too much ambition. Then when we don’t fulfill that expectation or achieve that ambition we experience frustration. Right from the beginning it is a self-centered attitude – I want this, I want that. Often we are not being realistic about our own ability or about objective reality. When we have a clear picture about our own capacity we can be realistic about our effort then there is a much greater chance of achieving our goals. But unrealistic effort only brings disaster. So in many cases our stress is caused by our expectations and our ambition.
God of Love and Mercy,
Give us your heart. Let us be overwhelmed by compassion for ourselves as we move throughout our week, doing for ourselves what we might more easily do for others. Let us be gentle and nurturing, and loving and kind to ourselves that in doing so, we are able to extend the same loving kindness to all those we encounter.
God keep your promises, and hear our prayer.
Give us a generous measure of grace to truthfully examine our own hearts, and the courage to confront our own beauty, to encounter our deep worthiness, to embrace our divine inheritance that we would fulfill this deep call in our hearts to be lights in a dark and dying world.
God keep your promises, and hear our prayer.
Give us your mind so that we can know the truth. Let us weigh every word spoken – every news report, every Facebook post, every bit of gossip shared – against your words of Life. Teach us your thoughts, show us your ways, set us free.
God keep your promises, and hear our prayer.
Give us your eyes and let judgment be far from us. Let us see ourselves and others through the same lens by which you see. Show us just a glimpse of your vision of us, for even a small preview would be enough to radically change our view of ourselves, and our view of others. And we want to change how we see.
God keep your promises, and hear our prayer.
And God…Give us a break. We confess we carry burdens you have already invited us to unload. But we like our bags, they comfort us, so we ignore your invitation and suffer in vain. Teach us how to let go. We give you permission to take our loads. Teach us the meaning of mercy and grace. Teach us more of this radical love you have for us. Undo everything we know, unravel us, and when we find ourselves overwhelmed by this new uncertainty, this daunting cloud of unknowing…help us not to be afraid.
God keep your promises, and hear our prayer.
“Racism is a sin. And America’s greatest shame. Let us be free from it’s grip. Free at last. Free of the weight of the oppression and the shame. And let us collectively count the cost of freedom. And be willing to expose every wound, every poorly bandaged bruise of racism’s long, strong, hold on this country; on our minds and our hearts. However it may hurt, however much the discomfort, let us talk and listen. Our healing is long overdue. Let us refuse to be almost free, any longer.”
Come join us and listen to prophetic voices of truth.
This Friday July 29, 2016 at 7pm at 4520 Cutter St. Los Angeles Ca 90039.
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,Where your thoughts never think to wander,This beginning has been quietly forming,Waiting until you were ready to emerge.For a long time it has watched your desire,It watched you play with the seduction of safety,Simultaneously hearing waves of the beckoning unknown rise and relent,Wondered would you always live like this.Then the delight, when your courage kindled,And out you stepped onto new ground,Your eyes young again with energy and dream,A path of plentitude opening before you.Though your destination is not yet clearYou can trust the promise of this opening;Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginningThat is at one with your life’s desire.Awaken your spirit to adventure;Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;Soon you will be at home in a new rhythm,For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
I’ve been working out a Word in me for 2016. I’m calling it the Year of Abandon.
Ready to leave some things behind – some things that haven’t served me, and even a lot of things that have. Ready to accept loss as a part of life. Ready to commit fully to something, to completely live…and still know how to say good-bye.
Mostly it’s time to abandon who I thought I was. Leave her behind. Pack up what I can carry, take one last look at what I thought would be my home forever, prepare to travel unencumbered, and set out for the new.
Abandonment has an uneasy tone to it. And I like how uncomfortable it makes me feel. No one wants to be abandoned, nor to abandon anything.
It’s like quitting midway. A work in progress you leave sitting untouched. There’s a sense that there’s still usefulness there in what remains…but nevertheless, something urgent calls you on. You must go. You must leave it. You must.
The call to abandon starts out softly, but everyday becomes more urgent….steady, consistent, obvious. Something is uneasy. A longing to be whole. The awareness of feeling incomplete. No…divided is a better word. Something old and familiar lingers heavy, threatening the resignation.This growing sense that somehow the joy that has always seemed so elusive suddenly feels attainable, but demanding something of you as well.
Then a loud whisper, “Joy is in honoring her.” Not this her you are abandoning, the other her, she who calls you to set out into the unknown. She tells you, there is a light on the path, and all you must do is walk. And you feel you must heed this voice. It sounds wise, like Presence, like a forgotten companion, like a dear friend to your weary soul. Weary of trying, desperate to be. You go.
She tells you, “Joy is in honoring the gifts you’ve been given…nurture them in winter, and give them away in the spring.” She tells you that your tendency to cling, to hold on, your refusal to let go, this is what can wreck a soul.
There is irony is this. Because there is a recklessness about abandon. It gives everything up. It lets everything go. It forsakes what it knows. It holds nothing captive. It takes no ownership. It is under no influence. It insists upon being unhindered.
It is a higher-self freedom. A sustained “Yes” in my soul. An abandoning to something…
And up there, in that thin air, Joy unfolds itself.
According to some tradition, Christmas isn’t over yet. Today is the 11th day of Christmas. That song…”on the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…” wasn’t just a randomly written folk song. In the orthodox liturgical calendar there are technically 12 days of Christmas – the first being Christmas day which is widely celebrated religiously, culturally, and commercially. The last day, the 12th day, marks the beginning of a liturgical season called Epiphany. In the greek language, the word epiphany means to reveal, to show, or to make manifest.
I love this word epiphany. Webster’s dictionary defines it as: a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience. It’s a striking definition considering I often spend a lot of time seeking or trying to gain insight into things. I love to read and research. I love to ponder things and contemplate life. Those who know me and spend time with me know me as someone who you’re not likely to have a casual conversation with. I’m always looking underneath the surface of things.
Lately, I’ve been reading a book about vocation, by Parker Palmer. In Let Your Life Speak, Palmer writes, “If we are to live our lives fully and well, we must learn to embrace the opposites, to live in a creative tension between our limits and our potentials.” In my reading and reflection of his writing, and in examining my own gifts and vocation, I’ve come to terms with aspects of myself in ways that are both disturbing and relieving. I think we can spend a great deal of time trying to be things we are not. Or avoiding being who we are because of the limitations our gifts place upon us.
In my younger years, I was pretty much the same kind of girl I am now…I liked to read and write. I was quiet and focused. Sure, I had playful moments. I loved all the usual kid stuff…swimming, skateboarding, sledding, riding bikes…and I played just about every sport until I finally gave up softball in college. But if you put me in the house with a stack of books, I was good to go. I wasn’t a restless child, I didn’t need much company (well, I had three sisters so that was often enough!). My point is, in digging for “Who I am”…I’ve really just rediscovered who I’ve always been…. a writer. To write, requires one to sit still and focus on getting what’s in your head out onto paper…or the screen (as I’m doing now). To write also requires one to be comfortable with feeling stuck, and this odd feeling of nothingness that comes upon you. It’s akin to feeling, well, bored! But it’s in boredom’s finest moment that the muse shows up. Full of ideas. That emptying of yourself, and resisting the urge to fill the emptiness with some activity, gives my imagination the endless opportunity it desires to be filled. I know how to hold space, be present, make like a container and get filled.
So yay! I’m a writer. Vocational life crisis solved, right? Psssh. Except…coming to terms with oneself usually always means coming to terms with one’s whole self. My vocation is writing, and with it all the other mundane things I mentioned I’m really good at – being still, feeling empty, getting bored. And then new crisis emerges because none of this sounds like fun. Unless I shift my perspective and define fun based on what gives me pleasure, rather than what brings someone else pleasure.
And herein lies the Epiphany. Coming to terms with our gifts and our limitations may not always be a pleasant experience. Especially for those of us who pride ourselves in our ability to do anything or be anything. Though I often procrastinate and make excuses (would I truly be a writer if I didn’t?;) I typically do not like saying, “I can’t” do something. I like being capable and accomplished. I’m rewarded when I am able to perform tasks. And naturally, I love to be rewarded. Who doesn’t? But to get to the bottom of who we truly are, and what we are born to be and do in this world, we will have to come face to face with who we cannot be in this world. At first this meeting feels like defeat…but it passes. Like a dense fog lifting and then suddenly you see you are standing in the middle of a beautiful lavender field at sunset…sky above you stretching for miles…
You’ve been standing in this field your entire life. You just didn’t realize it.
“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”
The illustration above is of the magi, or Three Wise Men. They mark the season of Advent for me. Advent being, this journey, (or really)…a willingness to embark on a journey towards some light that calls us. Like the magi, who saw a star and began to follow it towards what they believed, Advent invites us to ask many questions – about what we believe and where we might be going.
The Gospel of Matthew tells this story of wise men from the east who came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is the child who has been born…? For we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him honor.” These men of wisdom, knowledge and science…were also believers.They had certain facts, based on observations, but their knowledge of science didn’t seem to limit their faith…it initiated it.
I think of how often we allow science, facts, logic to interfere with belief. To know, is a guiding principle in our lives. We are educated to be critical thinkers and ascertain truth based on the analysis we undertake. We form thesis based on careful research of life and experience. 2+2 equals 4. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. These are more than observations, they become proven facts – mathematical and physical laws. If asked to believe that 2+2 just may indeed equal 5, our rational minds could not easily travel to this absurd place of impossibility. It is simply wrong. Our rational minds could not, but perhaps our more childlike wonder-filled spirits may begin to imagine, a world that was not limited by knowledge, but a world excited by miracles and magic.
This is why I love Advent and the Christmas season. It’s an invitation to imagine a world. This world is more than a place where a child was born to a virgin teenage girl. It’s a place where a child was born to be a perfect light in a dark world. A child come to light the way for us to find our own way back to the divinity inherent in us all. The rational mind will say, “Impossible…if there ever was such a light, it’s surely gone out now…I’ve seen too much, and done too much to believe such a simple fairytale.” But the fairytale is not the story…the story that remains is, we are all this light. All little lights born in a manger, into a dark world full of fear and violence. And as life goes on, our lights grow dimmer, eventually overshadowed by the dark spots that slowly and persistently mar and cover us. We make observations along the way from our own experiences – a violent childhood, a broken heart, a dream deferred, a secret shame – these become our facts of life that only belief in a miracle can undo.
The miracle says what reality cannot. The miracle tells a story that is beyond the mind. The miracle asks that we commit to believing a divine truth, even when the facts undoubtedly prove our terrible, more present reality.
The wise men had all the facts too. Then they observed this star. They were astronomers, who’d likely seen thousands of stars, but this star they chose to Follow. They followed this star beyond science, beyond knowledge, beyond experience, and found themselves on a spiritual journey.
The alternative to believing what violence, brokenness and shame has told us we are, is to trust that everything we’ve experienced has occurred, and is occurring, to compel us towards a deeper understanding of who we truly are and who God is for us and for this world. Yet, trust, is the very thing that most often holds us back from belief. How can we trust something that doesn’t make sense? In a world that says we get what we deserve, how can we trust a miracle that says, regardless of what we’ve done or what has been done to us, we are all called children of the light?
The wise men set their hearts to trust that what they knew WAS. There was no conflict between knowledge and belief in the impossible. They were astronomers and believers. And they let a star lead them into a foreign city and asked, “Where is the child?”
“Where are you, child, this Advent season?”
“What do you know?”
“Can you believe in the miracle that you are?”
“Will you commit to the possibility that you too are on a journey towards a new light?”
“Can you recognize the light that seems to beckon you?”
“Can you get in touch with your deepest desire at this moment in your life?”
“How can you be be faithful to the light that calls you?”
“What movement or inner direction does this Advent season suggest to you?”
The wise men chose to move towards honoring what they observed.
My advent prayer is to honor what I observe within myself and commit to showing up to honor the light that calls me, to respect this star, to be faithful to the woman I see becoming in me.
Won’t you join me?
Vision and purpose are revealed. Plans are made once you get the revelation. Being a goal-oriented, to-do-list-happy people, we often confuse the process. If anything, plans are the work we must do to live into the potential of what has been revealed; to live into the potential of who we now know we are.
I’m all for vision boards. But at a point, there’s a concrete distinction between what we identify as what we want (ie. What I put on my vision board are my ideas and I’m telling God, the universe, myself…what I want) vs. the type of vision that is revealed, the sort of vision you weren’t even thinking about, can’t even imagine. This kind of vision hadn’t even crossed your mind until it was placed there. Or, it had always been there, in your mind, but only visible to your mind’s seeing eye in a state of consciousness you hadn’t the practice to be aware of. This is the kind of vision I speak of. It’s more of a revelation. And it’s such a revelation that it often cannot even be spoken of. You can’t manifest this kind of vision. IT will manifest you.
The word revelation comes from the Latin revelare or the English, reveal. Revelare is to lay bare, it’s origin is ‘re’ + ‘velum’ ….the ‘re’ expresses a reversal, meaning again. The ‘velum’ is veil. To reveal…is the bringing to light of something that’s gone unnoticed to you. Something that was once known, but somehow became unknown to you, is now being laid bare…uncovered. It already existed…so it’s more like a re-sharing of knowledge. It’s now knowledge for everyone, but you’ve been chosen, selected to be privy to this information. So revelation comes like a whispered secret. It’s not shouted…it’s not Facebook messaged…it’s not casually mentioned. And you can’t force the holder of the information to tell you. It will be revealed, in their own time, when they are ready…when you are ready. But stillness, silence, and solitude (I call them the Three S’s)…they are postures for receiving revelation. This posture signals to the teller, that you are ready for the hidden facts, that you will honor these secrets.
We’re always looking for something to do. Being still is a daily challenge even for me, who is one not overly inclined to being active or busy-ness. And being still as I am of late, I do think there is some truth to the old saying, “Idle minds are the devils workshop” so I understand every word of advise and inner resistance we have to what feels like doing nothing. Yet every day, despite “warnings,” I choose to notice the gentle urging for me to remain in this quiet rest of contemplation. Maybe having an intention, to put all of this stillness and waiting in context, helps.
If you desire to know something – Who am I? What am I doing? When will it come? Where am I going? Why am I here?
Rest, my loves. Let vision come. You cannot force its hand. Let purpose be revealed. God works slow. We have to slow down. We have to slow down if we ever want to see…
IT COMES FROM the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a man is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do.
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
Last weekend I spent Saturday at a retreat/lecture with one of my Christian Mystic teachers, Jim Finley. He’s amazing. Wise and profound. But what moved me more than his godly insight was the presence of several other teachers I saw there. My very first ever, spiritual director, Ravi. A woman named Carolyn who counseled me during a challenging post-seminary transition. And my current spiritual director, Greta. They were all thrilled to see me. They are the kind of teachers I’ve always been blessed with throughout my life. The ones who look at me and think I’m just amazing, and see my future as so big and bright. I cherish their vision of me, especially at times when seeing my own potential is clouded by doubts and fear.
During a break, I chatted with Carolyn about how things were going in my life. I told her I’m still on the journey. For a moment as I talked with her, I looked around the room, at a sea of mostly Caucasian faces, mostly 50 years old and up, and I found myself telling Carolyn, that sometimes I feel like an outcast. But it’s not here at events like these that I feel like I don’t belong, here where it may seem obvious I was out of place. No, I told her. It’s out there…amongst my peers, my friends in their thirties, living life, working jobs, starting families, having fun. Out there, this spiritual life isn’t a popular course of life to undertake. “Maybe, to be fair,” I ask her, “it’s not an easy undertaking any age?” Carolyn listened, and when she spoke she told me, “Remember what Jim said at the beginning of the day…the mystic way is like making a U-turn on the freeway in the middle of rush hour.” “Yes,” I told her, “I remember.”
I am one of those wild ones who dared enough to make the U-turn on the freeway…but now I’m sitting here, facing traffic head on, thinking I’m now actually going to get somewhere.
The foolishness of it all. The audacity to believe.
When doubt sets in, you need something to stand on. You need to remember that you’ve made moves like this before and you did in fact get somewhere. You need vision. You need to be able to look back, and look ahead all the while staying present to the now.
One month away from my 35th birthday I find myself excited. Sitting in rush hour traffic, excited. Now I’m five years closer to the big 4-0, which I know many women dread, but I have always had this strange fascination with turning 40. Because when I look ahead, I can see myself there. The same me, just a little wiser, a bit more content, a lot less concerned with what others think of me. I can see her there. Stronger, more convinced that this path she’s chosen is actually trustworthy.
Because I’ll be honest, even as I write and share, the more I write and share, the more people encourage me and thank me for sharing, the more convinced I am I know nothing! Nothing at all. Some days, to be honest, I’m not even sure there is a God, truly. And on those days the peace and the joy that are the promised fruits of the spiritual life, elude me.
So that’s when I look back.
25 was real, wasn’t it? I was just getting set to move to California. I had no idea what was ahead of me, but I had enough money saved to drive cross-country and pay a little rent. I entered seminary, graduated 3 years later with NO MONEY. But I kept following whispers. God kept favoring me. Every turn I took there was a teacher, a minister, a wise counselor. My whole life people have committed themselves to helping me make it through, seen something special in me, walked with me for a season, taught me the way. Taught me to notice God. So now I notice my life seems to follow a pattern. This isn’t my first U-turn on the freeway, and it won’t be my last. Taught me to pay attention to the unfolding. Taught me to embrace my becoming. Taught me to see that if here is good, next is better. Taught me to trust, that I’ve never gone backwards and I won’t go backwards now.
But believe me, when you make that first U-turn…it certainly feels like you’re going nowhere slow. Just breathe. Remember where you’re going, and remember where you’ve come from.