Follow Your Bliss…

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.  Joseph Campbell

Meditation: It takes courage to find one’s own way. It is easier to follow the crowd or to do what is expected. If we follow our bliss, we follow our heart. We follow that which calls us by name. We take the risk to be laughed at, misunderstood or judged for being different. However, if we do not allow those voices to stop us, but we lean into that which feels most life giving and life affirming, then we will find the life we could have never designed, we could have never envisioned ourselves. As we follow step by step this journey into our bliss as God’s purpose for our life or God’s calling on our life…we might be doubtful, fearful and stuck at times. However, if we continue to seek, if we do not stop knocking, we will find our bliss… or it will find us.

Prayer: Creative God, you piece together our life like a mosaic. You have known the complete picture all along, while we could only see little pieces, small glimpses of that which You have in store for us. We are deeply grateful that You want to help us put those pieces together along the way and also in the end. Our life might never be perfect, but it will be beautiful. Despite detours, despite broken pieces, despite times where it feels like nothing is coming together: You will open the door. In Your presence we will find our bliss, and we will be made whole. Amen

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

Jesus Waited…

Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Meditation: When Christians misunderstand the New Testament as “a marching order to convert everybody they meet to Christ”, this behavior often feels to those pursued as manipulative, boundary violating and obsessive. Those who are trying to convert others often believe that they have to “save those from hell”. At times those converting Christians seem to have a real fear that unless they “lead” a certain amount of people “to Christ”, they themselves might “go to hell”. However, this fear based religious behavior does not resemble the way Jesus approached others. Nothing that we learn about Jesus includes behavior based on fear, manipulation or obsession. Jesus usually just lives his trust in a loving and compassionate God and others begin turning to him. Why do we Christians choose a fear based religion if we can follow the example of Jesus? Let us wait patiently for others to be attracted to the way of living and loving that Jesus invited us to.

Prayer: Gracious God, we are deeply grateful that the life of Jesus was built not on fear, but on love. We are grateful that he believed in Paradise as a place united with You, and that he did not threaten anybody with going to “hell”. Thank You that just turning toward You opens up for us Your Grace, Your forgiveness and acceptance. Let us realize that we cannot manipulate, threaten, pursue or force others to believe in You. Thank You that we can follow Your lead as You patiently wait until we humans trust You and turn toward You without any fear and without any coercion. Amen

“And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:40-43 (NASB)

New Clothes Of Compassion…

Nothing that we despise in other men (women) is inherently absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in light of what they suffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Meditation: When I experience and don’t like certain traits and behaviors in others, it is easy to start judging them. Spiritually, the first step might be to pause and become aware by asking myself: “That I am reacting so strongly to this or that behavior in the other, what does this have to do with me?” Sometimes I am unaware, but I might wrestle with something in myself that parallels exactly what I dislike in the other, and that I wish I did not have. Humility means that I admit why I react harshly and critically namely based on unfinished business within myself. The second spiritual step is to look at the other person for what they have been through or what they have suffered so that they have become or act a certain way. When I ask open and compassionate questions, I will learn more about the person whose behavior or traits I despise. I might find surprising stories of human suffering, which will likely increase my compassion for the other. And interestingly this experience of listening often increases my self-compassion as well, as I am sometimes blind to how my own suffering has made me impatient and harsh with myself and with others. As a beloved and chosen one by God, I am invited to grow spiritually by clothing myself with new traits and new behaviors like compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience. Those “new clothes” will first heal me, and I will then also become able to extend healing behavior and words to others.

Prayer: God, take away my impatience, my harshness, my judgmental tone and voice. Take my assumptions away about why others are or act a certain way. Help me ask more open ended and gentle questions. Help me to become more compassionate, more patient, more open to the flawed humanity in others and in myself. Your love sees our suffering and our broken hearts behind the ways we are and act. Your Spirit of compassion is gentle, humble and kind. Clothe us with Your Spirit as we shiver from the nakedness of our harsh judgements. Your example and Your love warms our very being. Amen

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

Healing Means To Stop Consenting To Oppression…

Movements begin when oppressed people make – and keep remaking – a deeply inward decision to stop consenting to external demands that contradict a critical inner truth, the truth that they are worthy of respect. Parker Palmer

Meditation: What if the messages from our family of origin or of society have conveyed to us that we are “deficient or not good enough”? What if they neglected or abused us and conveyed to us that we are “not worthy of care, love and respect”? What if we were told that our life “has no value other than to enrich the lives of others”? How do we find this critical spiritual truth that we are worthy of respect, self-respect and love? Change and a new movement begin when we allow new and different voices to tell us how valuable we are. Healing happens when we stop consenting to be mistreated, excluded, disrespected and abused. Just as the ten leprous men refused to stay in their assigned marginalization but held onto hope of healing when Jesus came along. They cried out. And they were heard. They experienced acceptance and left their untouchable isolation. Their self-perception changed forever. They were healed.

Prayer: God of healing, You always want to lead us out of oppression and out of our imprisonment. You want to help us where we are marginalized to stop believing the oppressive voices around us. You want us to come to believe the truth that we are deeply loved and valuable. You want us to be able to say “no” to those who disrespect us and who want to use us only for their own advantage. You want us to be healed by developing deep self-love and self-respect. Your Spirit wants to free us from any isolation, abuse or oppression. Help us to call out to You, today and every day. Amen

As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Luke 17: 12-13 (NASB)

Healing Of Body And Soul…

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. John Muir

Meditation: I remember a difficult time in my life. My studies had worn me out. My body was tired. My Spirit was depleted and my soul was restless. I was not sure anymore of the direction I was going. I remember choosing to go for a week to enter a silent retreat in a monastery in Germany. The Sisters baked self-made bread and offered us all kinds of healthy food. The landscape around the monastery allowed me to walk for hours in quiet and beautiful nature. Every few hours the monastery bells would ring to invite us to come together as community for meditation and prayer. My thoughts and feelings were allowed “to play” freely as in my covenant of silence I did not have to get distracted by socializing or making small talk. I was free to attend to my Self, even though I was part of a community. If needed, I could ask one of the Sisters to listen to me and pray for me. That week was one of the most healing experiences. My body rested a lot. The healthy food replenished me. My soul was able to sort through many emotions. And my Spirit reconnected with the larger community and with God. This week taught me a lot about what I needed to heal and be strong again. Since that experience I have incorporate most of those elements (walking, healthy eating, being part of community, praying, and time without “noise”) into my daily life. It keeps me sane and grounded.

Prayer: Healing God, thank You for those spiritual communities that help us heal and recover when we need it. Thank You that they teach us what we need physically and spiritually to be healthy and remain grounded in ourselves and in You. Help us to incorporate those healing experiences into our daily life. And if we fail and get sick or depleted, help us to get away and allow to be healed through silence, nature and community. Amen

I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the LORD. “And I will heal them. Isaiah 57:18-19 (NIV)

 

Let Your Body Take Care Of You…

But the real secret to lifelong good health is actually the opposite: Let your body take care of you. Deepak Chopra

Meditation: The idea that “our body is taking care of us” is intriguing to me. We usually hear the sentence that “we are supposed to take care of our bodies”. I am also intrigued by the thought that our body is “God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in us”. While unfortunately many sentences in the New Testament devalue and put down our bodies as mere “flesh” that pales compared with our minds and souls, how amazing and valuable that our bodies are here named to be God’s temple and a dwelling space for God’s Spirit.

Both of these quotes see our body as a subject and as an authority in its own right. Our body is not just an object that we use or allow to be used however we or others want to. If we allow this truth, then we begin to listen to our body telling us what we need, instead of doing with our bodies whatever WE want to. If we allow our bodies to be guides and authorities in their own right, we will find health, serenity and a spirit filled journey.

Prayer: God, thank You for valuing our bodies and for not reducing us to our minds or to our spirits/souls over and above our bodies. Thank You for an inherent wisdom and an amazing ability for our bodies to heal themselves. Help us to listen more closely to our body so we follow its lead. Let us listen to Your Spirit living in our body. Health and wellbeing will come from this our listening to Your Spirit and to our body’s inherit wisdom. Amen

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV)

Places Of Calm…

Right now I am trying to be in a place of calm, a place where I can chill out and then handle the chaos of life better. You don’t just get it overnight; you have to work at it. It’s a daily struggle. Jackee Harry

Meditation: My life is very full with working a full-time plus a part-time job and driving teenage girls all over to get them to where they need to go. At times it is challenging for me not to lose myself in the hectic of daily life. I have developed a few coping mechanisms that help me stay calmer and if possible differentiated from the stress I find myself in. The first are “power naps” of 20 minutes or so. Those short naps allow me to “dip into my unconscious” and shed some of the emotional overload of my life. The second is “physical stretching/Yoga” of about 5-10 minutes at a time. Feeling my body again in the midst of intense stress helps me be present with myself more consciously again. And thirdly I pray all throughout my day for a few seconds or minutes at a time to connect with God. Praying gives me the sense that I am not alone. Prayer lowers my anxiety. I am reminded that I am being held in the midst of my daily stress and chaos. And so, sleep, stretching and praying are “the Trinity” of my coping. This is how I usually recharge and stay balanced in the midst of my very busy days.

Prayer: God, thank You for the ways in which You rejuvenate me daily. Thank You for sleep, for my body stretching while feeling alive and for being able to talk to and connect with You at anytime. You help me stay in balance. You are my place of calm. Remind me of what works for me to become re-energized and stay sane in the midst of a sometimes “insane” schedule. Amen

Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart. Isaiah 7:4a (NIV)