Be True To All of Me

bluefaieA while ago, someone called me a ruthless, hard-ass, capitalist business woman with a razor-sharp edge.

It was the culmination of several weeks of increasingly uncomfortable interactions with this person, and I went home after the conversation and cried. Worse yet, I developed a cluster headache (which is the only condition more painful than natural childbirth, in my experience) and the crying made it worse. Not crying made it even more worse. (Yes, I was in such pain that this was the state of my grammatical abilities.)

I finally called a friend (and biz partner) and told him I needed meds, water and coffee. And a shoulder to cry on. He arrived with all of these, and I blubbered on said shoulder. I cried that someone would think so poorly of me. I cried that I was so shallow as to CARE what another person thought. I cried because I was crying, which clearly meant that I was weak. I cried because all this emotional fal-de-ral obviously proved that I was spiritually unevolved.

He patted my back, handed me tissues for my nose, and waited for the noise to subside. Then he said, “You are not weak. You are strong. You held yourself together during the meeting. You kept to the high ground while not giving up any ground. Thank you for that. You are strong. Look at you. You waited until you got home to fall apart. You don’t need to apologize to anyone for being who you are. I value you. Our other business partners value you. Your strength carries us all. We like your emotional nature. We like your hard-ass self. You don’t need to change a thing.”

My spiritual director said, “Why do you think that being emotional means you’re not spiritual? Isn’t bliss spiritual? Joy? Happiness? Those are all just emotions. Why would you consider anger, sadness, and frustration to be any less spiritual? They’re not good or bad. You are an emotional creature. In fact, you are uniquely emotional. And that’s a great gift. Why not accept it?”

That’s when I realized that to be truly spiritual is to be true to myself. ALL of me. Not just the version that I idealize myself to be.

Forty Days a Pilgrim

07-08-WalkingtheLabyrinthWouldn’t it be wonderful to embark on a Lenten pilgrimage? Here’s my plan:

In the Middle Ages, pilgrimages were popular. A group of people who may or may not have known each other ahead of time gathered, traveled together, stopped at shrines/altars to offer prayers of beseeching or thanksgiving. They were led by a monk/friar/priest, who read to them and encouraged spiritual conversation. Their travel was (ideally) a deliberate, spiritual one.

I’m creating a virtual pilgrimage during the forty days of Lent. We start at a newly created Facebook group: Forty Days a Pilgrim. The travelers are assembling as we speak.

Once gathered, we’ll start our journey on Ash Wednesday. This will be accomplished via labyrinth walks. Find one near you, or make a finger labyrinth, or…? I’ll provide detailed labyrinth instruction, in case some are new to the practice. Twice a week, I’ll send a labyrinthian meditation (I have books with great ideas – I’m not that clever all by myself.) 🙂 You’re free to use them or not, as the Spirit moves you.

Our spiritual leader will be Barbara Brown Taylor. Her book, An Altar in the World, will make a wonderful focal point for our travels. It’s available via Amazon or other bookstore (I have a Kindle download in addition to a hard cover) and it’s readily available in libraries.

We can read a chapter a week (not too arduous) or more if the group decides. We can take turns choosing a chapter. As we read, we can talk together on our Facebook page.

We’ll share prayers. We’ll share ‘travel.’ We’ll share our lives. I would love if we could even – via Skype or FB or something – share a meal or two! People are already ‘assembling’ from around the world.

Everyone can choose how much or how little they wish to participate. There is no pressure, no expectations. No one will be keeping score. We’ll just be journeying together and loving one another.

I hope that by honoring the way of the pilgrim, we’ll leave Lent as changed people – at least in little ways. (I can hope for total life transformation, right?)

So, what do you think? Are you ‘in’?

Do Everything With Love

love

Do everything with love.

This was the word from Spirit today.

So, in the two subsequent hours, I prayed, cleaned the kitchen, ate breakfast and folded laundry in love.

Then I totally failed. I became frustrated and LOUD at the robot who answered when I made a phone call.

But I recovered when – finally – I was connected with a human. I even remembered to wish her a quick return to health, since I could hear that she had bronchitis.

Do everything with love. Everything. Everything.

Everything.

I Have No Idea Where I’m Going

DSCF3079“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

This is Thomas Merton’s prayer, a prayer beloved by many. I love it, too.

I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know if I’m even following your path. But I’m trying to, and I think my attempts please you, even if I get it wrong. So I’ll trust you, even when I fear you might be getting it wrong. Because no matter what, you’ll never leave me alone.

Life looks pretty darn good when we wander life’s paths with this perspective.

Focus! 2015

focus 2015

Like everyone, I want to lead a meaningful life. But how do I carve out meaning when I’m always so BUSY? A few years ago, I realized I needed to focus on a few important things. The MOST important things. But what were they? I mean, I have a lot of interests.

So I created a Focus list. All I do is read the list every day. It amazes me how much reading the list, just reading it, has changed my life. I highly recommend it to everyone. To create your own Focus list, click here: FOCUS

Usually, I do this the first week of January. But the new year didn’t wait for the calendar this season. It’s bursting forth now, as we approach Yule. With December death (my mother) and birth (a new great-niece), the cycle of life is shouting NOW! Thanks to the Focus list, I’ve learned to listen.

The Advent Police

advent

Every year, I have to suffer through the admonitions of well-meaning liturgical Christians who insist that it is incorrect to sing (or listen to)  Christmas carols until December 24, because until that date, it’s not the *proper* season for it. (If you’re not Christian, substitute “the day after Thanksgiving” and proceed.) Not satisfied with self-righteous abstinence, they feel they must loudly – and often – announce this *truth* to others.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:5

Furthermore, all who consider themselves Christians (and preferably, even those who don’t) had better join them. We must put on our sober faces, sit in the dark, and sing minor key hymns until Christmas Eve.

Because we all know that Jesus was actually born on December 25. That he advocated for dour expression and doleful song in the face of joyful events. That this was *exactly* how Jesus rocked a celebration.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” John 2: 7-10

One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why don’t your disciples fast like we do and the Pharisees do?” Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. Matt. 9:15

The truth is, if Jesus stood among us today, he would never castigate people for celebrating, especially not the arrival of the Messiah. He would probably say something like: people are not made for seasons, seasons are made for people. (Mark 2:27)

So. To all my beloved fellow liturgical Christians: Honor the season in your way, and let others honor in theirs. Quit judging. Back off – not just from me, but from EVERYONE else, too. You see, you don’t know our stories. You don’t know our burdens or our struggles. You don’t know what courage it takes for some of us to choose to celebrate in a season that reminds us so sharply of what we’ve lost. You don’t know what solace can be found in a familiar carol.

Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matt. 16:23

I know you mean well, but you aren’t being the voice of Christ in the world, you’re being the opposite. Jesus doesn’t need Advent police. He needs people with open hearts, minds and arms to bring more love and less judgment. THAT’S how to celebrate Advent.

Broken Heart Syndrome

mintobrown 01Pouring my heart and soul into family, friends and work, I took little or no time for renewal this summer. My attitude was arrogant: “I am tough. I can take care of it all.”

My heart knew differently. It felt the stress of my worry over my baby brother and his stroke; my mother and her dementia; the start-up I had shared with friends and family (though I continued to feel solely responsible for its success, because even if I’d brought them in as partners, they were still depending upon me to make it all work. Right?)

It suffered from grief over Robin William’s demise, followed quickly by the self-death of a friend’s nephew, then the twelfth anniversary of my own husband’s suicide. The seventh anniversary of my father’s passing. Relationship woes. Money worries. The push to complete my first book.

The result was an event called stress cardiomyopathy, the heart’s way of saying, “Enough! I can’t take any more.” A warning shot across the bow, this terrifying experience brought me to an abrupt halt.

I’m convalescing now, sitting before the divine with a contrite (and slowly healing) heart. What do you have for me, God?

“You have unique gifts. There is so much you can do! But you aren’t called to all things: take your talent and focus on a few precious tasks. Listen to your heart; trust its direction. The flaming piles that distract you are someone else’s calling. You do a disservice to the world, yourself, and others if you engage their lifework and ignore your own.”

I’m listening. No, really. This time, I’m listening.

Labyrinth of Fir and Fern

labyrinthI hiked ten miles during a recent camping trip. It was hot and I was tired (and thirsty – I didn’t realize there wouldn’t be water available at the highway trailheads we passed) but I felt deep satisfaction in knowing I could complete a long day’s hike. 

The next day, Tali and I took a two mile stroll through the woods, following a path that twisted and turned and led ever upward. As I turned around to retrace my steps, I realized I was traveling a labyrinthian trail. I stopped.

“Divine – whatever you are, whoever you are, IF you are – show yourself. Not so that I will believe, because I don’t think you ever obscure yourself. I think – no, I believe – you are visible, if I can only have eyes to see.”

I looked around. I saw firs, ferns, tiny maples. I remembered the majesty of the aspen grove we walked through the day before. I remembered when, long ago, I received these words: Look at nature. Look at the trees, the hills. Wrap yourself in them, because it is my love extruded into the world.

My deity is not a god of deserts, but rather, one of forests and hills, of vineyards and fields. So long have I searched for home, but in that moment, I realized I’ve never been homeless. I am a child of the Willamette valley. I carry it within me, and in so doing, also hold the divine, who is visible within and without.