Sunday, February 28, 2010

Where my desire meets the world's need

I had a flash today. A very vivid and chilling flash.

It's no secret that I have been working on a book of words and images, culled from my journals over the last ten years. It's what makes my heart sing and where God calls me.

The one has spilled into two volumes of prose, poetry and paintings as I stumble through life authentically seeking my way. I know it has power.

Well, mostly. Occassionally that nasty critic kicks in and I lose sight momentarily.

The manuscripts are completed and cleanly edited (enough to begin sharing if my perfectionist side will relax). I am still working on matching paintings, filling glaring holes and fitting them with the text. I have titles and a vision for covers. That they will be separate small paperbacks, but one hardbound set encased in a beautifully covered box. Maybe even a high-art set I create in limited number and sign.

Last week, I began to research the publishing world as I am uncertain about whether to self publish (hum ... use my design and marketing skills ... although it's always easier to promote someone else) or begin soliciting some of the big guys. There's also on demand and a bazillion options, which is good, but daunting.

As a part of that exploration, I visited Barnes and Noble to see what new titles are out there, which publishers may be prime targets and where my book(s) may fit. I even noted specific editors of periodicals that seemed similar in tone to mine (the old reporter at work).

I found absolutely nothing like what I am creating. And that was affirming, which is not the reaction I might have expected. Sitting across from a section of books where I could see mine resting, I opened my canvas satchel and gingerly pulled out the green and orange school folders holding my words, my heart, my wisdom, my life.

A bolt of energy sizzled through me and a flash of knowledge that these volumes – my work – belong here. There is a place for it ... the place where my deep desire meets the world's great need.* And that is the place for which I have been mightily and wearily searching.

*Paraphrase of my favorite Frederick Beuchner quote that vocation is "the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need."

• What drives the creative life?
• My creative life?
• Am I ready to share myself with the world?
• How will the world respond?
• How will I?
• Can I keep God in my pocket as I make this journey?

The day I searched Barnes and
Noble's shelves for a
book like mine.

The day I opened my messy
manuscripts in orange and
green school folders in
the spiritualty and religion section
of the book store.

Then, I was certain not
only did my book have
a place here, but there
is a real need for
my words, my heart,
my experience.

This is where my deep desire
meets the world's great need.

Thank you!

Friday, February 26, 2010


Stripped naked

no thing to hide
light and shadow
only the mighty Universe
and me
feeling very little,
but awed at being
a part of some thing
so big, so significant
about my existence
my place
my small space
in the grand
scheme of something
including mere me

Friday, February 19, 2010

I didn’t always hesitate

y family took a recent trip to the mall, my first in almost 2 years. So, I kinda had fresh eyes.

I was overwhelmed at the busyness. And it really seemed so shallow. I don’t mean to judge, it’s just that as I have grown older that kind of shopping has more than lost its appeal: it totally depletes me. Unlike when I was a teen and it was regular, exciting entertainment or when the kids were little and it was something to do, something I even looked forward to.

One thing – er, rather person, I noticed that day continues to haunt me.

The tattered-looking African-American man who walked up the steps looking dazed. I walked around him so as not to make him move. In an odd way, I believe it was an unthinking sign of respect. Not making him walk around me. I have even examined if I was purposefully moving away from him, but I don’t think so. He seemed invisible, engulfed in the white sea. By his smell and trail, he had not known a shower in a very long time. My girls noticed the odor and commented, but I don’t think they saw the person. I told them homeless people don’t have the luxury of regular bathing like we do.

And then he was gone.

I wanted to run back and hand him the $7 and some-odd change I had in my pocket. But I didn’t. I did say a prayer, however.

Even in the car I thought about him and how I could have shown him one person cared. But I didn’t.

I didn’t always hesitate. Accumulating the layers of family and children and responsibility filter my thinking more than it used to and probably more than it should. Or is that merely my excuse?

What I could have done was take him home, feed him, let him bathe and wash his clothes.

Why didn’t I or couldn’t I? That’s not easy to live with.

• Is there a time I missed an opportunity to express love?
• A time when it was harder than with loved ones?
• What prevents me?
• How can I not miss the next opportunity?

the beehive hum
of designer-dressed
moving through
the mall, bags
in hand, jovial

you stood
in such a stark
and clueless

I wonder
how you even
got there

why you were

how you were

I did notice
and gave you
my heart,
but maybe
it should have
been, could
have been

I pray you’ll
haunt me the
next time

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Malady lady

am struggling to blog today as my body has a huge message to which it's forcing me to listen: acute carpal tunnel in both thumbs/wrists.

What's this all about?

I have learned a lot from my body, but it still often takes it screaming for me to always listen and act.

And I want to scream back: "Why can't you subtract all these little, annoying ailments instead of adding more?"

Actually, I want to scream that to God. It seems I just get settled into one thing or another, when something new strikes. If I bored you with a list, it would just suggest I am old and crotchety, things I desperately want to avoid. Therein may lay the message. Maybe avoidance and resistance are not healthy.

Maybe I've just taken too much on? Don't we all in today's dizzying culture?

My husband and family have always called me "malady lady," because I am always susceptible to weird stuff. Nothing ever serious, but chronic little things that begin to build. In elementary school, three doctors could not identify what rash I had or its source, so they ordered me to stay home simply because they had no diagnosis. I called my doc once in the midst of winter to say I had a severe case of poison ivy and I could almost hear snickering in the background. They believed me when I walked in with my face looking like a contour map, not counting normal peaks, valleys, protrusions and indentations. Must have brushed up against a bare branch as we tore down a friend's smokehouse.

So, this is nothing new and I can usually find the place in me that is grateful it's not terminal or critical.

But not always. What, exactly, is all of this trying to tell me?

• Do I get some constant message I misunderstand, avoid or dismiss?
• What would happen if I deciphered that message?
• Are the difficult spots a contrast to the hopeful and joyful ones just so we have a comparison, instead of living in perceived blandness where everything is on an even keel?
• Do we grow more in the difficult or joyful situations?

some days the sun shines,
I smile more and
everyone seems to
be wearing their
hearts outside

yet, others
my internal
is withered
and I don't
even notice
anyone else's

Monday, February 15, 2010

To push or not to push

I crashed physically yesterday, really crashed. Sat down to watch a movie at 4:30 and never moved until 10 to my bed.

I knew this was coming. I'd been pushing myself with new design projects and popping ibuprofen to get through I retreat I was helping facilitate Saturday. Fortunately, I felt really good that day and the retreat was ... hum, I'm not sure what word to use. Good? Successful? That's how you might describe a business meeting, but not a day devoted to spiritual companioning and listening as a spiritual practice. Fulfilling? Enriching? Those sound better, but are my perspective, not those who participated.

Still, I was wiped out the next day. I hate that. But after living with fibromyalgia for almost 12 years, I am becoming more resigned to it.

It seems to mirror the way I try to live my spiritual life as intertwined and not a part. I don't often do a very good job of it, but I think that's one of the lessons of the fibro: to live an integrated life. Life with the good and bad, the joy and sorrow, the connectedness and isolation, the pain and health.

Still, there are times I push through and I wonder what that's about.

Last night I dreamed I was in the midst of a kids' Sunday School class and the teacher said something that sparked a question in me: how do we know when we are supposed to use our hummaness to push and how do we know when to let go to something bigger and greater [or just to let go if we don't believe in something bigger or greater]? Come to think of it, I realize I had that thought during Saturday's retreat, but for the same reason I resisted in the dream, I held back from asking. I felt it wasn't my place (as an adult observing the class or as a presenter at the retreat).

But that really is my burning question these days.

Where is that balance between myself and the universe? How much do I push to get the books with art I have been forming for 10 years published on my own? Do I continue to wait through the newly established process for encouraging and financing ministry in my meeting? Do I keep following up on the 2 I submitted to influential women I admire? Do I begin sharing it more widely?

It is a bigger, universal question, but one that seems to keep popping up for me almost daily in a myriad of ways.

• What happens when I push myself?
• Do I find times for respite and relaxation?
• Can I discern my work from letting it go to others or the Universe?
• How do I use prayer to answer these questions?

always one
more task to

one more
place to be

one more call
to make

and yet,
I am spent

maybe even

how do I care
for myself
and do
my real

what is the
real work?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Loving our ugly internal stepchildren

chanced upon an online video the other day about helping the ego to surrender. Less than 5 minutes, yet such a profound message: make friends with this part of yourself, recognize that it is the judgment piece and it will begin to surrender.

What an intriguing idea: love the segments of yourself you thought were unlovable; the dark parts, the ones we hide, yet can be controlling. The ones that lurk below the surface and have power because they live under the cover of darkness. Bring them to light, acknowledge them and love them into surrender. Love every bit of your being, not just the good, easy fragments.

I am concurrently reading If Grace is True by Quaker Philip Gulley. He grew up believing God was as mercurial as our humanness to be kind one minute and damaging the next. He realized he was shaping God in his image, not the converse. He has also come to the sense that God is love. He explains that the stories of a violent, vindictive Old-Testament God were early interpretations of God without benefit of knowledge contained in the New Testament, before there ever was Jesus to teach us otherwise.

Above all, what Gulley has learned from experience and Scripture is love God and your neighbor as yourself. Above all, LOVE.

Love God. Love yourself. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemy.

Love every bit of all being, not just the good and easy parts.

I know that is a universal message and yet my understanding comes through my Christian upbringing.

I feel like up 'til now, I’ve know about three-quarters of that message and missed the love-even-your-hidden-and-not-so-great-traits segment.

That means not just tolerating, accepting and acknowledging, but loving. Even the fibromyalgia or that blasted judgment meter that follows me. I am an INFJ on the Meyers-Briggs profile and have always detested that J, which I mostly used on myself but also set pretty high standards for others. It is who I am, however. I have begun to own that, but now I have to love that into surrender. Same with my ego.

If I think of those as children (ok, maybe ugly stepchildren), I have to love even them. When that revelation hit me last night going to bed and this morning in the pool, I felt a tingling of energy in places I know have been blocked. That was love’s energy shining in those dark, untouched, unwanted and, until now, unloved places.

• What about me do I find hard to love?
• If I have accepted and acknowledged those pieces, can I take the next step toward loving them?
• If I truly love myself, what possibilities does that open in my life?
• What obstacles can be cleared with that unconditional love?

that inner critic,
internal voice
always pecking

should not be
silenced as I

it should
be loved
for what it
is, its intention
to protect,
its propensity
to judge

it should simply
be loved
into surrender

nothing more,
nothing less

just loved

If you want the link to the talk about ego:

Monday, February 8, 2010

A lesson from the Grinch

wonder if your heart can grow. I have this mental image of the Grinch’s heart in a Seussian x-ray machine busting outside the frame.

I seem to have these periods when all I can feel is my heart expanding or shifting or something. Once it drove me to get an EKG and all checked out normal. I figured if I could swim a half mile daily with no problem, probably my heart was ok.

It also coincided with my holding others' spiritual concerns, often centered around my faith community. Or my family or close friends.

Secularly, it would be labeled stress. And when that’s what I recognized it as, I became worse. Now, with the luxury of some experience and perspective, I see it as a change. Maybe a change of heart. Maybe holding someone else's. Could even be an expansion of sorts, like St. Teresa of Avila’s rooms of the Interior Castle. Has something become unlocked in me? It does seem my heart fills more of my chest.

The first time I noticed this was also the scariest and most severe [to get my attention?]. It focused on a spiritual group meeting for discernment and clearness for the larger body. In the initial session, I felt as if something had gripped my heart within my chest and said: “STOP. This is not the way.” I was forced to express that and, while perhaps not totally understood, was heard. The person next to me said she felt it as well ... although less powerfully and, yet, it rankled her, too. I am so grateful she told me. I was wondering if I had lost my marbles.

I had been excited to be in this group of people whom I admired. Then, right off the bat, I was forced to speak up without knowing what really had happened. My ideal mask of being the seasoned, reasonable one went right out the window. To some degree, later, I wondered what people thought. But in the moment, all I knew was what I was feeling and had to express it or I would have burst.

It, definitely, was a being present-in-the-moment experience.

Now that I think about, the interior of my chest has never felt the same. As if that gripping hand re-shaped my insides, stretching them a bit more, leaving room for something that had not been there before.

So, am I filling it correctly? Or merely stuffing things in?

• Has there been a time when a bodily experience has really touched or changed me? How?
• How do I know when I am living in the present?
• What happens when I do?
• Am I transformed by the experience and does it stay with me?
• Or do I continue on as before?

I have often asked
to be opened.
So why, when
it happens,
am I caught
off guard?

It is always so
very different
from what
I expect.

Maybe I need
to change
my prayer:

Spirit –
Open me
help me
may be

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rooted in winter

I really do like winter. A time to snuggle up, hunker down and pull inward. I recently told a friend who adores summer and detests bundling up in winter that it may have something to do with the season in which we are born. I am a January baby and she celebrates in June.

Sometimes the lack of access to sunshine can be diminishing, but talking a brisk walk in the sun can be so recharging ... for me, anyway. I remember always feeling so alive in college when walking to and from class (or the local watering hole) layered with rosy cheeks. I am rediscovering that joy this season as I trek back and forth daily to the small office/former storage area I bummed off my husband two blocks from our house.

It also helps that I have live green things (herbs) growing in my sunniest window and just started some microgreens. They are thriving next to the spot where the cats often settle for a warm nap.

I have an appreciation for what goes on underneath that seemingly sleepy state of hibernation. Even though most trees have lost their leaves, I sense the energy that’s been sucked inside and focused toward the roots. That stillness reminds me of the Sundays I worship in silence or the times I meditate or practice centering prayer. My mind and body are quieted, yet so many things are happening gently and deeply. Shiftings of which I am barely aware, but try to trust.

I like the idea of roots and wings; being grounded, yet also ethereal and free to change or go wherever one is led. Winter seems the season of roots, centering life more intimately on family and close friends. For me, it’s also a time of more reflection – perhaps a reaction to the over busyness of the blurred holidays.

This annual cold spell reminds me of “emptying” spiritual practices and the season of desolation. Winter strikes me as emptying and desolate, yet not devoid of Spirit.

• What season speaks most to me?
• What is the spiritual correlation to that season?
• What nurtures my reflective nature?
• Do I ever take a more restful time, a time to hibernate?
• Do I notice that I have cycles, perhaps corresponding to seasons, of activity and inactivity?

the sharp wind
frosts my cheeks,
fills them with redness

I see beyond the
bleak, monotone landscape,
anticipating nature
at work

resting for

yet, occasionally
out of that
stillness, a lone
bird sings,

as if to remind
me that after
the deadness,
spring will return

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Listening by heart

I am helping facilitate a retreat soon about spiritual companionship and, particularly, listening. That’s what speaks to me most right now about those rooted alliances.

In “playing” with ideas of how to actually emulate that listening as opposed to just discussing it, I think I may try out some activities this week on the children I regularly teach on Sundays in what we call First Day School.

They are usually game for anything. We even attempted lectio divina – an ancient, sacred reading of Scripture when you pause and deeply ponder the words and what may be between them for newly inspired meaning – that I felt was wildly successful.

I had encountered some doubt when I mentioned trying it with children among practiced adults, but I knew these kids would get it. I chose a passage about Jesus and children, hoping they could relate. At the end of the reading/meditation, I asked them to be still in their chairs and feel Jesus’ touch. They and I were mesmerized as they basked quietly in that embrace before I broke the spell. It’s an image I won’t soon forget.

I really feel like we don’t get enough practice or instruction on deep listening. In the era of soundbites, facebook and IMing, when would we?

I do know listening is one of my gifts and must have known it early on as I became a journalist. Of course, the writing appealed to me, but hearing and sharing others’ stories was the real reward. It was an honor to be the steward of those.

I could listen on multiple levels that pushed real meaning from a story, not just the facts, because that’s what I wanted to hear. One of the best tricks I learned was to faithfully conclude every interview with “is there anything else?” Often, that’s when the real story flowed.

In listening by heart, as I like to call spiritual attentiveness, I have had to retrain myself to NOT jump ahead to the next question or thought and not to question at all. Sometimes it’s only about listening. Obviously, we can’t turn off what the words spark in us, making us connect to them. Nor should we. The goal in this kind of endeavor is not to fix, give advice or relate our experience.

The goal of spiritual listening is to open ourselves to the words and experience of another – something for which we all hunger. This kind of listening we can practice anytime ... not just in a spiritual context. Try it; I think you will be richly rewarded.

[When we know we will also have a chance to share, the listening is easier. When it is all one-sided, it can become a task. It doesn't mean we stop someone midstream or that it is always even, but we should all be given the chance to share.]

• When was the last time I felt really listened to?
• How did that make me feel?
• When was the last time I really listened?
• To another?
• To nature?
• To Spirit/God?

Open my heart

that I may hear

not just the words

but what you,

dear Spirit,

are saying

in and through

this being,

this creation

Monday, February 1, 2010

Spiritual mermaid

Every once in awhile, when I switch my daily swim to the afternoon as I did today (my favored morning time is crowded this time of year with resolution keepers, who will dwindle by March), I encounter John, a former chef. He’s a great storyteller who’s experienced much in his life, not all good, yet he always flashes a smile and seems genuinely pleased to see me.

I have met so many interesting people at that little gym pool. More than I ever could have imagined. We’re all drawn there for various reasons, but usually they are health or pain related. The water is healing as we all have discovered. Some of us have even talked about that. I also think we each add our own healing into the mix.

I could probably swim laps faster – though I work at a pretty good clip – but I hum the number of the lap I am swimming to keep track and, more importantly, add good energy and a prayerfulness to the water. I think of it as water goddess, mermaid, power.

A wonderful Quaker friend of mine introduced me to the concept of what positive intention, prayer included, can do to water ... someone has even studied it. That research concludes that chaotic water molecules organize into beautiful shapes when exposed to beneficial comments or prayers. So, I believe that by purposefully spreading affirmations as I swim, the water will be helpful and healing to the next person to take a dip.

I find diving in is such a spiritual metaphor for me as if I am experiencing the Divine in such a wonderful, kinesthetic way. Floating is the balance we all seek: being so deeply rooted in our bodies that we can let go ... enough practice and we don’t even have to think about it ... it comes naturally and everything is at ease, nothing hurts and all is pure joy.

Being in the water is pure joy for me.

• What brings me pure joy?
• Do I make it a regular practice?
• Is there anything in my daily life I can make more intentionally spiritual?
• Are there places I encounter others beyond my faith community with whom I can share something deep?

just jump in
breathe, glide
be joyful
in receiving such joy,
is there a way,
a place to
spread that to
to turn chaos
into beauty?