Words are powerful. We see it every day when someone uses the wrong word on social media and a career is over, or a relationship, or… The wrong words can inflame a nation to war, but the right words can move a people to peace.
Recently I ran into a familiar face during my yoga class. Afterwards I said, “You are so familiar, how I know you?”
She said that we had worked together in the school district over fifteen years ago. She remembered me because she had just moved to town from a different state and knew no one. Another woman and I hosted a party for her and made her feel very welcome.
The thing is, I remember none of that; I’m absolutely blank about the whole story. But kindness stays with us, and she remembered. Then she added, “You look fantastic! You look younger now than you did back then.” Well, that made my month! Every time after that, when I thought of her words, a smile lit up my face.
Bad words stay with us too. In fact they are stickier than the good ones. I can probably remember every mean thing ever said to me. Thankfully there weren’t too many, but you can see why bullied kids sometimes take their lives.
Last week I was in a medical office and the office staff greeted me with, “Unfortunately our computers are down so please be patient with us.” I took my clipboard to sit down with the rest of those waiting patiently when a man came in. He got visibly upset when he heard the computers were down. Somehow, it was as if the office workers had done it personally to him. He threw a fit and stomped out shouting that he “didn’t have time for this sort of bulls**t.” It was very disturbing.
I went on to my appointment and on my way out heard the office workers still discussing his behavior. I imagine that it set the tone for their whole day and they would probably be retelling the story for a while. That man needed a good dose of the book of Proverbs, which has a lot of say about our words including: “A gentle answer turns anger away. But mean words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
Unfortunately, we live in a time when it is easy to say bad things about others. People from both sides of the political spectrum seem eager to hurl insults online that they would never say face-to-face. I have found myself in this mindset too and I am trying to replace this behavior with either silence or kindness.
I’ve noticed that when I get attacked online, if I either don’t engage or continue over and over to respond with kindness, it takes the fight out of people. I’m trying to live from what the New Testament book of James has to say about our words, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19b
So, how do we push against our baser instincts and bless others? Here are some ideas:
First, the best way to bless is not by speaking, but by listening. If a person feels listened to they will feel loved. If they are sharing something you don’t agree with, you might say, “wow,” or “hmm,” but you don’t need to volunteer your opinion unless asked. This builds trust and relationship for a more open conversation later on. Who doesn’t like to be listened to? And here’s a bonus: the elderly and the otherwise marginalized are RARELY listened to – what a gift you can give.
Second, sometimes we toss the word “blessing” around, as in “God bless you,” when someone sneezes, or “Blessings,” at the end of a letter. But, what does giving a blessing really mean? Well, if you’ve ever received one from someone you respect, you won’t soon forget it. Have you ever had one of your parents look you in the eye and say, “I’m proud of you,”? Or a mentor that touched your shoulder and said, “Good work,”? Or had someone pray a blessing over you that sent waves of peace and love flowing through you, suddenly you’re crying and you don’t know why? These are real blessings that come from the heart. It’s as if the person giving them is giving you a part of themselves. Even if we haven’t experienced receiving these kinds of blessings, we can still give them to others.
Third, another huge way to bless is to ask for and offer forgiveness. Recently, when my boss and I had a big disagreement, it took a few days to work it through as I strongly disagreed with a decision he made. But still, he is my boss and I trust him, so at the end of the conflict, when I had calmed down, I went up and offered him a hug, saying, “I understand why you did what you did and I’m not mad at you.” He was very grateful for those words of forgiveness. And, just so you don’t freak out, I work in a hospice – we hug.
So, here is our challenge. Let’s spend November sharing blessings. It is the month of gratefulness anyway and we can give others something to be grateful for. Listening, blessing and forgiving will help bring light and love into a desperately hurting world.
How have you received blessings? How have you given them? I’d love to hear your stories.
For more on spiritual practices check out my new book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening which is out in eBook and releasing in print January 2nd. Pre-order now!
All of the world’s major religions share the idea of divine light. In a Christian worldview the Bible is full of references to light. Jesus said, “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.” Matthew 5:16 The Message
The founder of the Quakers, George Fox spoke of, “reliance on the inward light” and how everyone should listen for the still small voice of God within them1.
St. Teresa of Avila, speaks of the soul as a crystal castle in which God dwells. It is described as, “In the seventh and innermost of which was the King of Glory, the greatest splendour, illuminating and beautifying them all.”2
Thomas Merton said, “We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through all the time…in people and things and nature and events.”3
The problem is, we forget to look for this divine light in ourselves and in others. We get so busy that we forget to stop “doing” and start “being.” Finding the balance between those two ideas is the idea of living with a contemplative orientation and a life of compassionate action.
Thankfully our western culture is once again waking up to this need, as John Phillip Newell writes, “Regardless of our particular vocation, age, stage of life, marital status, and family commitments, we are invited to find balance — between being and doing, between inner awareness and outward engagement – that will lead to a fuller fruiting of our lives and relationships.”4
Where do we begin to regain our balance? This blog is committed to easily accessible spiritual practices to help with just that. Find one that speaks to you and start there. I often remind myself of the inner light on my way to work by praying “God that I will have your eyes today. That I will walk in your light and look for that of you in the others I meet today.” This gets my eyes off myself and prepares me to walk in peace and unity with others. Can you imagine the change in the world if we could stay in that orientation?
I’ll leave you with a meditation by John O’Donohue that someone shared with me yesterday. The first line alone is worthy of contemplation.
Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.
Let the flame of anger free you from all falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.
May anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.
Let me know how you keep the balance of doing and being in your busy life.
- Poverty in the United States: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, and Policy. ABC-CLIO. 2004. (pg. 615)
- Interior Castle, St. Theresa of Avila (pg. 2)
- Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, (pg. 84)
- John Phillip Newell, The Rebirthing of God, Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings. (60)
- John O’Donohue (author of To Bless the Space Between Us)
Interested in more help with Spiritual Practices? Check out my new novel, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.
I am married to the most loving man. Last night, when he scanned page after page of Facebook and saw all the women saying, “Me Too,” adding their stories of abuse and rape to the swelling narrative, he wept. That is our hope for all men, for all people, because men have also been raped and abused. Our hope is for broken hearts, awareness that leads to change.
No one is telling their story because it is fun; it is not fun to share your humiliation, and trust me when I say it is humiliating. People are telling their stories because the world needs to change. Our children and grandchildren need to grow up in a safer world than the one we did. We need a world where it’s okay to tell if someone hurts you and your friends, family, and those in power will stand with you and say, “I believe you. Let me help.”
No one ever did that for me, mostly because I didn’t tell. I didn’t tell because I grew up in a culture that believed women were created for men’s pleasure, like a nice brandy or a good cigar, and it was normal to be treated as such. Later, when I worked with college students, I began to tell my story as a rape survivor, because, as a therapist I heard over and over the stories of women who’d been molested as children and were still trying to make sense of it. I learned that the telling of the story is the key to healing and to empowerment for change.
But still when I saw the #metoo hashtag, I posted the obligatory “me too” and that was it. Why should I continue to rehash the past? But last night as I lay in bed, and all my own stories started to bubble up, I realized that this is not about me. It’s about my granddaughters and changing the world for them. So, it is with that hope that I add my voice to the voices of brave women and men who are speaking out. Ours are the voices of change.
– When I was 14, my friend and I were in San Francisco, waiting to cross a street when we were propositioned by a middle age man wearing a suit. We were mostly confused and raced away when the light changed.
– When I was sixteen I was driving down a mountain pass at night and a 16-wheeler kept flashing its lights at me. I thought there must be a problem with my car so I pulled over at the nearest pull-out leaving space for a quick exit and he pulled in next to me. I rolled down my window and he rolled down his. “Is there something wrong with my car?” I shouted.
“No,” he said.
“Then why were you flashing your lights at me?”
He just gave me a leering smile and raised his eyebrows. I took off.
– When I was 17 my much older boss raped me one night after work. He was a man I trusted and liked. I thought we were friends. At that time in history, rapists were said to be men that hid in bushes, and there was no understanding of friendship rape or date rape. So, I didn’t tell anyone for four years, because I thought it was my fault. I shouldn’t have stayed after work for that drink to celebrate a special occasion. The PTSD from that event has taken years to work though.
– When I was twenty-two I was jogging down the street when a car pulled over ahead of me. I thought maybe the guy had car trouble as he flagged me over. I stopped several feet away from his car at the passenger window to look in; he was masturbating. By then I’d grown used to being treated this way. I was shaken but mostly felt dirty and angry as I jogged away.
I could never count the number of times someone grabbed my butt, or catcalled me or made lewd comments. In fact, I was recently working with a lucid 80-year-old man who tried to grab my butt as I walked by. When I told him it was inappropriate, he innocently asked, “Why?”
Why indeed sir, why indeed. This was the soup I was cooked in. This is why there is a #metoo hashtag. It’s time for a change. We need a society where girls and boys can be safe. Where men and women can respect, honor and stand up for one another. That is why I’m telling my story. It’s easy to be aghast the way girls and women are treated in other countries and I believe in fighting for them. But it is obvious that we also need to start at home.
If you want to tell your #metoo story here, I’d be honored to hear it. If you don’t, I understand and will hold you in my heart.
Have you ever encountered a place where heaven/God felt particularly near? I think of these as “thin” places. For me, I feel that groves of giant redwood trees are thin places where the Holy feels practically near. I’ve had the same experience sitting on a rock while ocean waves crash around me. I’ve also felt it at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting I visited once — the definite sense that God was present.
That’s not to say that other places are “thick,” or that God is not always near; it’s just that there are times or places that seem to draw us into the presence of the Holy.
John Phillip Newell, in his book, “The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle For New Beginnings,” speaks of the Island of Iona, Scotland, “Iona and other sacred sites of pilgrimage, and healing throughout the world, are like sacraments or living icons through which we glimpse the Light that is present everywhere.”
Why is it important to seek out thin places? The world can be a hard place. As I write this, we have experienced one of the roughest summers I can remember: hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, mass shootings and fires have ravaged our world. If we are called to be people of light to a dark and hurting world, then how are we to replenish the light within us that gets drained away by this kind of rampant despair?
I believe we need to go to places of light to do so. Many find these, “soul recharging stations,” in churches, in fellowship with friends, in prayer, and in compassionate action. I’d also like to encourage you to take a bit of a pilgrimage to a thin place, outside of your normal experience. Get out in nature, hug a tree, listen to the wind. The Creator would love to speak to you through creation. I promise it will recharge your soul battery!
Have you found places that are particularly “thin” for you?” I’d love to hear about them.
*If you enjoyed this blog please check out my new book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening. It is available now for pre-order in paperback!
Grieving is a spiritual practice? I believe it is and it’s one we often try to cut short, but it’s time to reevaluate grieving, it’s time to give it it’s due. I mean, even Jesus wept.
I’ve learned a lot about grief, personally and in my work as a hospice counselor. I guess if I had to summarize what I’ve learned about grief, I would say: White, non-Jewish Americans don’t have the practices in place to support a grieving process that allows the body, mind and spirit of a person to truly heal after a loss.
Grieving is a beautiful, natural outcome of loss, but we just don’t know how to make space for it in our culture. Let me give some examples of grief I’ve seen in white, non-Jewish families and then compare them to that of other cultures.
I attended a death yesterday of the husband/father of a beautiful family that was quite typical in this way. When the father died, the mother rushed everyone out of the room while the funeral home attendant loaded the body onto a gurney, covered him completely with a blanket and took him out to an awaiting van. It was all very quiet. Then the wife looked at me with a blank expression and asked, “What do we do now?”
Typically, in these kinds of families, what happens next is a flurry of activity. Family and friends are called, the house is cleaned, insurances companies are informed, death certificates are ordered, funeral arrangements made, and the bereft has to make a million small decisions. This process takes about a week, maybe two. Then the funeral comes, an hour of remembrance about the loved one, and that’s it. Now you are expected to go back to work or life — as if your world didn’t just explode.
In a Jewish death, people observe Shiva: the mirrors are covered and people gather to sit with you at your house for a week to offer condolences. Often the dead body is lovingly washed by family. A candle burns in the home and everyone wears a black torn ribbon to symbolize grief. A Jewish friend of mine said when a family experiences a loss, they can turn down social invitations for a year without any bad feelings; I think that is beautiful.
My hospice agency had a Latino family who lost a beloved sister, and when we went to pronounce the death, the house was packed full of friends and family, weeping, wailing and eating together. Death in the Latino community is a communal affair. No one grieves alone. This is true in many other cultures and I believe communal grieving is extremely helpful in allowing the natural process of grief to occur. Grief can receive its full expression and is not cut short.
We need some rituals for our grieving. In the Hebrew Scriptures, grieving is taken seriously. There are psalms called Psalms of Lament and an entire book called Lamentations. Sadly these two sets of scripture have been removed from many modern prayer books. It’s as if we are afraid to give expression to our grief and we choose instead to “suck it up and be strong.” In my opinion, this leads to prolonged/unresolved grief and unhealthy bodies that have to carry unexpressed grief.
1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
How can we learn to grieve well?
- Realize that loss is a natural part of life. Not just death, but any kind of loss: loss of a job, loss of a friend, loss of a pet, loss of your health…
- Lament is another name for deep grief. Cultures that lament together heal together. As a culture, we have a lot of things we need to lament together to heal our nation: let’s start with the loss of our national unity, or our failure to end racism or systemic injustice. What would it be like to lament that together? Might that be a starting place for the healing of our nation?
- Make room for grief in your life and give yourself permission to grieve. Take naps, wear waterproof mascara, eat chocolate, lower your expectations…
- Invite people into your grief so that you don’t have to grieve alone. Friends don’t know what to say to a grieving person but they usually want to help. Let them in on how you’re doing, accept offers of food, chores, and company.
- Brainstorm, in advance how you want to respond to grief so that you have some ideas/structures in place to help. There are many grief groups, generally offered by hospitals and hospices; those are important, especially if you don’t have family or friends who understand what you are going through.
- Remember that everyone grieves differently. There is no rule book to follow and those unhelpful reminders by others to, “get on with it,” are just that: unhelpful. It’s okay to stand up for your right to grieve in your own way.
We need to create new rituals to allow for grief. What new ways can we allow ourselves to heal through the power of grief? Are there ways that we can facilitate healthy grieving through art, music, or dance? How can religious/spiritual organizations help create these spaces? What can you add to the discussion? I’d love to hear ideas about how we can help each other grieve more freely.
For more spiritual practices check out my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.
How can something as simple as walking be a spiritual practice? Actually, any kind of exercise: walking, running, or hiking, can be a spiritual practice when it is done without the distractions of talking or music, and when done with intention to listening to the Spirit, nature, and the wisdom of the body.
Or, to put it another way, In The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, the author says, “The wisdom of the spirit often comes through the wisdom of the body.”
Too often in the west we separate the body, mind and spirit from each other. But, in the Hebrew culture the idea of a SOUL has all three linked together. We separate them to our own detriment. How many people do you know that have allowed their bodies to atrophy and then become unhealthy of mind and spirit as well? Or students in medical school who are so focused on learning that they forget to eat, or walk outside in the sunshine, only to resemble the cadavers they study. We can even become unbalanced spiritually; I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “She is so heavenly minded she is no earthly good.” Walking can help us balance our souls.
I understand this can be harder if you live in a big city. But all cities have parks or marinas. You might need to have headphones on to block some of the noise, or even stream something instrumental to help you clear the external noise away.
For me, walking my dog for 25 to 45 minutes helps get me out of the house, and even though I live in a desert, I can observe the beauty of that landscape. How many Biblical stories happened in deserts? There is much to learn even there.
But, as you know, I’m also a tree hugger and I try to drive up to the trees at least once a month to fill my soul with green beauty. God often speaks to me through nature, but only if I get out long enough to let my thoughts settle and then turn my inner ears to really listen. I don’t have huge revelations every day, but moving my body regularly is a great way to make sure my soul stays in balance.
Have you found that exercise helps strengthen your soul? I’d love to hear your stories.
When first exposed to the Enneagram, many think it is just another personality test, like the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator. They might find an online test and take it, looking at the nine Enneagram numbers and trying to decide which one they are.
But the Enneagram is much deeper than that. It is an ancient tool for helping you distinguish your true self from your false self, or your “shadow side.” I’ve been learning from the Enneagram for the last ten years and I still feel like a novice. So, full disclosure: you will not be finding your Enneagram number by reading this blog. But, I hope to give you a slight overview and point you in the direction of how to do so and I want to encourage you to investigate the Enneagram for yourself. It is worth the work because the Enneagram is a truly life-changing tool of personal and spiritual growth.
The Overview: The diagram of the Enneagram can be the first thing that turns people away, especially Christians. For us, it looks to similar to a pentagram. But, it’s good to know that the spiritual mothers and fathers of our faith have been using this tool for centuries and that the diagram is made of interlocking triangles is NOT a satanic symbol.
There are many levels to understanding the Enneagram, but here are a few:
- Finding your number
- Understanding that that number is not prescriptive but descriptive; it is a starting point from which to grow. Your Enneagram number has a light side (grace) and a shadow side. Often when you have a hard time finding your number, it is the shadow side that is the tell. We DO NOT like to be confronted with our own shadow. But, as we acknowledge this side of who we are, we can bring it into the light, ask God to heal us and become more self-aware when we are operating from our shadow. The goal is not condemnation; the goal is healing, health, and love.
- Each number has a number to either side. For instance, a #9 is bracketed by the number 8 and the number 1. Most of us lean into the attributes of one of those side numbers or “wings.” But both wings are important to understand.
- There are also numbers we “go to” when we are stressed or when we are happy. These are important to know and to either cultivate or avoid.
- The numbers are in set of three that have some commonalities 1,9,8 are called the “gut” triad. 2,3,4 are called the “heart triad,” and 5,6 and 7 are called the “head triad.” These triads have some common strengths and pitfalls.
Obviously, there is a lot to know about the Enneagram, and this overview won’t leave you feeling like you understand what it’s all about. So, lest you feel overwhelmed, let me tell you one story about how understanding the enneagram helped change my life.
When I first learned that my Enneagram number was Two, the “helper,” I was so distraught about seeing my shadow side that I spent a week on the floor crying in despair. I didn’t want to believe that I had a bossy side. My husband, however, lovingly pointed out instances when my desire to be “helpful,” became overbearing, when I was helping others who weren’t asking for help. Once, when we were on a stressful trip, and I started ordering everyone’s food for them. This was not helpful. Seeing this tendency in myself has helped me to grow; now I catch myself more often or feel it coming on and can stop myself by repeating, “They haven’t asked for help,” or “This is not my responsibility.”
On the other side, when a two is happy, we go to the high side of the number four, which is creative and romantic. When I realized this, I understood that I had not made any room in my life for creatively. I used to be involved in theater, but found that it took too many hours out of my life. That is when I decided to set aside one day a week to create, to write. And ten years later, I’ve published nine books, with two other manuscripts awaiting a publishing home. That’s eleven books in ten years, all because I realized I needed to give room for creativity in my life. Thank you Enneagram wisdom!
So, what is the best way to begin this great work? The simplest and most straightforward book I’ve read on the subject is called: The Essential Enneagram
What’s great about this little book is that is really helps you get through steps 1-5 listed above. That being said, it is helpful to do this with a friend. My husband and I read this book together and we tried to come up with a archetype of someone we knew who exemplified each number. That helped us get a handle on each number, which helped us find our own. Think of this book as “dating the enneagram;” try on different numbers and see what fits.
Now, if you’re ready to go deeper, here are some other helpful book to take you there.
Hot off the press:
Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram, Paperback – August 15, 2017 by Alice Fryling (Author)
I just finished Alice’s book. She is a Christian mentor from my youth and this is an excellent guide with good stories and Bible Study reflections for each number.
The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, Paperback – September 5, 2017 by Christopher L. Heuertz (Author), Richard Rohr (Foreword)
I pre-ordered this one as Chris is someone who, along with his wife Phileena, leads the Gravity Center for contemplative activism. Time with them inspired my most recent book: The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, which touches briefly on the Enneagram. I can’t wait to read this book as I respect Chris and his spirituality a great deal.
And, for those who are ready to go in greater depth, these authors have several books to help:
Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery Oct 29, 1996 by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
Another way to learn about the Enneagram is through a retreat or seminar, which is how I got my first taste. You can google “Enneagram training near me,” and see what you can find.
I hope you join me in this grand adventure as we bring our shadows into light and find grace there to heal us. Let me know about your journey with the Enneagram.
Photo Credit: Colored Enneagram
Black and White Enneagram
Sometimes the best spiritual practices are the ones that we don’t even notice because we do them naturally. Reading is like that for me, although I was a reluctant reader as a child. One day my best friend, Julia, introduced me to “horse books.” It was all I needed to become a lifelong lover of reading!
Fast forward twenty years and I had moved with my new husband to Reno, Nevada and it was like moving from a spiritual ocean in California to a spiritual (as well as physical) desert. Before, I had an abundance of older men and women who were mentors to me, but in Reno those folks were hard to come by. So, I fell into being mentored through books. Hundreds of fantastic authors were right at my fingertips, and reading as a spiritual discipline is a practice I continue today.
Asking me for a favorite book is like asking me who is my favorite child, Instead, I’ll just mention the non-fiction books I’ve been reading in the last few months that have been spiritually significant to me:
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama.
This book is put together from a week of interviews where the two men, in their eighties, sit together and talk about joy. It is fun (especially on audio) because you get a sense of their personalities as well as their profound spiritual depth. This depth has sprung from lives of suffering, and yet their pain has somehow blossomed into incredible joy for both men. In the back of the book, many examples of spiritual practices are listed for you to try (and you know I like that!).
The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, by Henri Nouwen.
I may have mentioned this in two blogs already so I won’t belabor the point except to say, READ IT! It is easy to read but hard to live out. It is based on Rembrandt’s painting of the story of the prodigal son from the Bible and it is deeply moving.
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr.
Richard is not an easy read, more like a seven-course meal than fast food, but worth the time. Thankfully our spirituality grows and changes over time and God just continues to get bigger and more inclusive. This little book gives me words for what is happening to me and it tells me I’m not alone.
The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, by Phyllis Tickle.
This is another book that gives words to my experience. Phyllis says that every 500 years, God has a ‘yard sale.’ All the old religious systems are tossed out to make way for a new move of the spirit. She shares the history and the cultural factors in each 500-year shift and points out why our current faith and culture are in such turmoil now. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s good news folks! Again, not a light read but worth the effort.
Lastly, what am I reading right now?
Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram by Alice Fryling.
I will do an entire blog on the Enneagram as a spiritual practice next time, but let’s just say that if you are interested in learning more about this ancient tool that will give you incredible insight into your true and false self, and help you grow toward your true self, this is the book for you. It is easy to read, full of helpful stories, and demonstrates great insight.
So, pick any book that promises you spiritual growth and dig in. You might not agree with all of it, but the exercise of thinking through deep topics, will stretch your spiritual muscles and help you grow.
As always, if you are interested in a FICTION book to help you grow spiritually, please check out my latest book. “The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.”
Until next time, let me know what you’re reading! Jacci
Bookcase Photo Credit
Well, I failed miserably with the fasting practice I chose for the last two weeks; I just completely forgot about it. I guess that happens sometimes, life encroaches and then there was Harry Potter World, and butter bear, and the beach… but, anyway, it’s all about grace, right?
This week I wanted to talk about the spiritual practice of Hospitality. It’s funny, I used to be really into those, “spiritual gift tests,” and when I took them, the gift of hospitality never came up for me. Still it has always been a value of our family’s, and very much modeled by Jesus, whom we follow. He talked and modeled welcoming children, the marginalized and he told many a parable about the importance of hospitality.
Once I asked my adult children what was most memorable thing about growing up in our household and how our faith had impacted them. They both talked about the people we invited in: the pregnant teens that lived with us, the international students who came for all the holidays, the exchange students we adopted. These were memories they cherished and values they wanted to continue.
You can see why moving from a 2200 square foot house with a large dining room and two-family rooms, to a 1200 square foot house with no dining room and one small living room led to some mourning on my part. It changed the way we do hospitality. We’ve had to scale down. My daughter now hosts the large gatherings we love and we have smaller groups of friends over. But, hospitality is not all about food and parties.
I’m again struck by the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:11-32. In Nouwen’s book by that title, he talks about the father’s welcome of the son, saying that the father, welcomed without question and blessed without condition. Isn’t that a fantastic definition of hospitality? The son had taken the father’s money and gone off to squander it on wild living. But, when he came home the father didn’t ask one question about any of that. I would have wanted at least an ounce of blood and a tearful confession. The father just welcomed him home and threw a party. He blessed him as a son and gave him the full benefit of that blessing as if nothing had ever happened; it was completely unconditional! I would have been all, “You can come home but you’d better shape up mister! “
What would the world look like if we went about welcoming people without question and blessing them without conditions? We would be hospitality, not just do hospitality. And the world would be a kinder, gentler place. That’s what I’m going to try for the next two weeks. Hopefully I’ll do better this time! Want to join me?
For more spiritual practices check out my book: The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.
Photo Credit: Christ the Redeemer,
To fast is to step away from something you normally do for a span of time, in order to pray, or free up time, or cleanse your body or soul.
I’ve tried many kinds of fasting over the years. I’m not good at it, but I keep trying, which I guess it important. Here are the fasts I’ve tried:
Food: I can usually fast food for two meals a day. Not sure I’ve ever made it to three. It’s good for me to do this occasionally because I love to eat. So, when I do fast from food, it’s usually when something is very heavy on my heart and I want to be reminded to pray about it. Food fasts remind me to pray every time my stomach growls or every time I want to reach for food.
Sugar: This is a toughie. Like any addiction, fasting from sugar will mess with you. I broke my sugar addiction and now I can taste the sweet in regular foods, my cholesterol is much better and I’ve lost weight. Fasting from an addiction, like coffee, cigarettes or sugar comes with a period of depression as the body tries to find a new normal. It is important to have good support for this kind of fast.
Technology: I also have a really hard time fasting from technology, but I think it’s good for my soul. If I can unplug myself from my computer and phone I can settle and let my thoughts wander and generally get clarity. This is a beautiful fast that I try once a month. My fingers twitch to my phone and occasionally I cheat, but when I succeed, it is marvelous.
Talking: The first time I tried to fast from talking I about went stir crazy. I’m an extrovert, you see. But, I’ve learned to appreciate this kind of fasting which I call “silence and solitude,” and I have found it quite enjoyable. When you stop talking you can listen, to your heart and mind, to great books, to nature, to God.
Behavior: I’ve done fasting from behaviors, like gossip and negativity. This can be fun, but it’s hard for me to remember day-to-day. So, some sort of reminder like post-its around the house and in the car, can help.
For a year or so, on every Wednesday, my husband did something he called, “Peace Fast;” he based it on a passage from the Hebrew Scriptures: Isaiah 58: 6-8
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
What would it mean to do THIS kind of a fast? At this time in history I think this is the kind of fast we need. For the next two weeks, I’m going to read this passage every morning and try and look at the world through this lens. Perhaps I will discover a new kind of fasting that will help make the world a better place or at least make me a better person. Who’s with me?
*For a fun way to learn more spiritual practices check out my new book: The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.