Spiritual Practice: Take Naps and Eat Snacks

I’ve been spending some time in 1 Kings chapter 19. Elijah was a Jewish prophet who had just gone head-to-head with the prophets of Baal and won. Well, God won to be exact. But then Jezebel threatened his life, and he took off for the wilderness, depressed and exhausted.

He sat down under a brush tree and basically said, “I’m done, God. I might as well die now.”

Have you ever been that exhausted? That discouraged or depressed? I have.

But what is interesting is what happens next. There is no rebuke from God for Elijah’s feelings or his whiny, woe-is-me attitude. This makes me happy because I can get very whiny and woey. But God sends an angel with snacks and lets him take a nap, TWICE!

Here’s the thing. Many of my friends and readers are exhausted. It has been a rough three years. Many have been spending themselves on behalf of the poor, their students, their employees, bosses, or family members. They are done-in! We are done-in.

So, what do we do? First, apparently, we are allowed to throw a pity party. Go ahead, invite your friends, they’re all feeling the same way. Then, eat some snacks and take a few naps. This is a very important thing to do before we move on to the next step. In fact, I want you to stop reading right now if you need a snack or a nap. Go on. Get what you need, I’ll wait.

Once you’re rested and nourished – this could take months or even the whole year, because we need it – then read the rest of chapter 19.

Elijah went into a cave and found out God was not in the drama (wind, earthquake, fire). God was not in the political drama, not in the social media drama, not in the family drama…God spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice.

Sometimes, we need to get away from the noise to hear that voice. Turn off the news, and the phone, and take a break from the people in your life that cause drama. Sit. Wait. Listen. Reflect. Redirect. Then move forward from that place.

Elijah was given new marching orders, which included anointing someone to take his place. Those of us who are older might need to think about this. How can we pass on what we know? How can we bless the next generation? Let’s look for ways to do that. But don’t be in a hurry, take your time. You might need a snack or a nap first. Or two.

Let me know how you are dealing with this difficult time. Let’s hold each other up until we get strong enough to stand again.


Spiritual Practices: Preparing for the New Year

I have a way of both processing the year behind me and preparing for the year ahead that I’d like to share.

First, when I have some time, I take out my calendar and go through the year jotting down significant events. I have to do this because I can’t remember what happened yesterday, let alone a year ago.

From this list, I make two more. One includes the hard things that happened, and the other has the good things that happened. Seeing them on paper helps me process them. I can mourn the hard things and be grateful for the good things. It gives me perspective to think about the new year.

When it comes to the new year, I can look back and see what was missing. What do I need in the new year that will help it be a better year for me? When I did this recently, I realized what I’ve missed for the last few years are in-person gatherings. I have plenty of zoom meetings, but I miss seeing people in person. I wrote that down as a goal for the new year.

In the past, I’ve picked a word or phrase to pray into for the year. But I’ve noticed for the last few years that I’ve forgotten the word about three months in. That’s my aging brain, I guess, or just too much going on in my head to hold on to. Anyway, I was meeting with my spiritual direction peer supervision group, and we were all talking about the angst of the new year. It’s hard to be hopeful after the last three pandemic years. And someone suggested that instead of grasping onto what we want or hope for this year, we keep our hands cupped gently open, flexible to whatever God wants to do in us.

That image made a lot of sense to me: two hands open and gently cupped, I think I can remember that. It’s a good image for me for 2023 when nothing has gone according to plan for three years. We’ve all had parties, trips, concerts, conferences, and appointments canceled because of sickness, weather, or whatever. It’s the new norm.

So, I’m going to try and hold things loosely this year. I hope for more in-person gatherings, but I’m holding that loosely too.

Let me know how you prepare for the new year and what you are hoping for this year, so I can hold it with you.

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Spiritual Practices: Reading Good Books

I love to look back on the year via the books that stood out to me as favorites to recommend to others. I’m always reading at least three books at once. One or two non-fiction (usually spiritual) books in the morning, an audiobook in my car (this could be whatever takes my fancy), and a novel at night (usually something young adult or middle grade to keep me current with my writing).

My audiobook favorite of 2022:

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelly Van Pelt
How can an older woman, a young adult, and an octopus make up a story that will capture your heart? Trust me, they do. This book was so good I’ll probably listen to it again! Then I found out it was the author’s debut novel and I almost cried.

My favorite morning books:

Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us into the Sacred by Victoria Loorz

Those who follow this blog know I find increasing peace and spiritual refreshment outside in the presence of trees. Apparently I’m not the only one, as this book talks about a movement of people who are taking church outdoors where they can listen better to God in the presence of creation. Loved every page.

Becoming Rooted: One Hundred Days of Reconnecting with Sacred Earth by Randy Woodley.

A friend gave me this devotional and the pages are short and readable, with indigenous wisdom about taking small steps to care for the earth. I’m really enjoying it.

Let your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer
I assigned this book to the discernment group I was leading. It is short and extremely readable as Parker Palmer always is. Very helpful about thinking about vocation/calling/ by listening to your true self.

Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction:

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince is the first of a trilogy that I read quickly. Fairies are making a comeback in young adult fiction and many of the books border on fairy porn. This one does not, but it has a little spice. The world and the story were exceptional. I enjoyed it.

The Peculiar Language of Llamas by Carol Ann Shaw

I listened to this book on audio, and I must say I laughed out loud many many times! It’s about a fourteen-year-old boy who ends up living on a small island in Canada with his dad, and the voice of the boy, as narrated by Steve Quinn, was perfect. I think any older child, but especially boys aged 12 and up, would find this book delightful.

Yep, those are my favorites. No heavy hitters this year. In a year like this, we sometimes need to read lighter fare in order to stay afloat.

May I also remind you that my own book, Tree Singer, came out on audible this year, and the reader, Barbara Bond, did such a good job I found myself laughing and crying over a book I wrote! She is amazing so if you have the credits, give it a listen!

I’d love to hear what books made you laugh, cry, lose yourself, or strengthen your soul this year. Books are so important when life is hard. Have a wonderful holiday season!

Spiritual Practice: Resting When Sick

After almost three years of dodging the bullet, I got covid this week. Apparently, this version of covid comes with little men that slice up your throat with their knives for three days. That, and a full-time clearing of my sinuses pretty much sums up my week. But as I binge-watched the first two seasons of Bridgerton and ate super soft chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, and soup. And drank the most delicious blackberry brandy a friend dropped off for medicinal purposes. Then, I had an epiphany (it may have been the brandy, but I don’t think so).

When a person gets covid, no one expects them to leave the house. In fact, they are begged to stay home! Don’t come to work, to the party, to the concert; rest up and get better. That is the mandate. And it dawned on me that in the first 63 years of my life, no one has ever said that to me before, nor had I ever said it to myself.

“Americans are stupid.” Was one of my German exchange student’s favorite retorts. And, about this, I must agree. Why do we feel we must keep working when we’re sick? Why does every teacher I know have about a year’s worth of sick leave in the bank because they never use it? I can say the same for state workers too.

The other day I went into a store and the clerk was wearing a mask. I must have said something because she replied, “Oh, I have pneumonia.” I just nodded. Why didn’t I say, “Helen, go home? They will find someone else to stand at this cold doorway and check my Costco card.” We are NOT that indispensable.

Why is it not okay to rest when we are physically or mentally exhausted? Many jobs not only do not provide paid sick days but also pressure their employees to work when they are sick.

I can only guess it is some misguided value in our culture that places production over people. And covid has come along to teach us something different.

One way for us to think about self-care is to think of how we would respond to someone we love who is sick. This week, all my friends said things like, “Heal well,” “Don’t overdo it,” and “Rest up.” If we want those things for someone we love, we must want and champion those things for ourselves when we are physically, mentally, or emotionally frazzled.

I’m sorry it took me this long to learn that it’s okay to rest when I am sick. I hope you learn it younger than I did. I’d love to hear what you are learning about caring for your body and mind. In the meantime, I’m going to take a nap.

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Spiritual Practice: Psychedelics?

“What, you might ask, do psychedelics have to do with Christianity?”

Good question. The short answer is, apparently quite a bit. Before I decided to retire as a therapist almost a year ago, I was hearing a lot about the use of psychedelics in therapy. Specifically, Ketamine, as it is already legal for use medically. At first, I was skeptical, but I kept hearing stories about clients who’d suffered from debilitating depression, OCD, eating disorders, PTSD, and even substance abuse, who made dramatic progress in their healing after only one guided Ketamine treatment.

Recently I’ve found that the use of psychedelics is having a renaissance in the religious world. Of course, some indigenous peoples have always used things like peyote in their religious practices. But Episcopal Priests, Catholics, and Evangelicals as well? What is happening here?

The Netflix Documentary, “How to Change Your Mind,” follows researchers who are investigating the history and resurgence of the healing uses of Mushrooms, MDMA, LSD, and Peyote. In the ’60s, MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, was then known as Empathy, and it was commonly used in marriage counseling, as it produces a lack of defensiveness and the ability to listen without judgment for yourself or for your partner. In fact, many of these psychedelic substances were used in therapy.

What changed? When Nixon’s “war on drugs” started, all drugs/medicines that were being used recreationally were outlawed. Unfortunately, these included MDMA, psilocybin, and peyote, which were previously used for healing and/or spiritual quests. But now, these drugs/medicines seem to be showing up in a new way, in university research programs and in guided “retreats,” for spiritual people who want to get closer to God through the use of psychedelics. Many of these retreat participants have been pastors in traditional Christian churches.

How do mushrooms or ecstasy get you closer to God?

Here is what I’ve discovered.

First, the practitioners/therapists who monitor and guide the person using the drug/medicine emphasize both “Set,” and “Setting” in the non-recreational use of these drugs. “Set” is your mindset. You are taking this “trip,” to be closer to God, to experience psychological healing, or to bring clarity to questions you might be asking. You come in with an intention to trust God or your Inner Healer to guide you with what needs healing. The “Setting” is also important. You need to be somewhere safe, with people you trust, who know exactly what they are doing and where they are getting these substances. Those who are guiding the experience are trained therapists/practitioners. For every participant there is a period of preparation, then the trip, then some debriefing.

Many who go through these experiences describe them as incredibly healing and emotional. They encounter themselves in a way that removes their resistance to hearing the truth about themselves. They can face their addiction, fear, or whatever keeps them from moving forward and being healed. There are often tears, and a lot of processing afterward, sometimes for months, to mine the depths of what they have experienced.

Using this kind of “medicine” does not appear to lead to addiction and many people receive all the healing they need from one experience.

So, how is this becoming a thing in Christian settings? Many people who have been going through healing in medical research environments, report religious experiences. For instance, finding their “ego” dissolving and becoming one with everything mirrors experiences described by many Christian mystics. This leads to great hope for the world. Many find it enhances and heals their relationship with God.

It follows naturally that if this is a religious experience, religious people will begin facilitating it. In a podcast on the Harvard Religion Beat, Paul Gillis-Smith talks about how you wouldn’t want a religious expert giving medical advice or a priest telling you how to fix your car. You’d want a spiritual person taking you through a spiritual experience. These kinds of experiences are popping up all over the world in every religion, guided by practitioners within that religion.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Have you heard of it? Have you tried it? What do you think?

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Spiritual Practice: Accepting a “No”

Have you ever been disappointed when you wanted something, and the Universe handed you a big fat “No?

One time I got the news I had not been chosen for a writing mentorship that I was really excited about. I was disappointed. However, I was not depressed, disillusioned, or despairing. I did not spiral into all the reasons why I suck. Why? Because you can’t live to sixty-plus years old and not learn some things about disappointment.

I remember one of my first big disappointments. I had a three-year-old and a brand new baby and I had decided it was time to go to graduate school. I hadn’t just “decided,” I felt it was what God wanted me to do. I’d prayed about it; I was ready, and I was excited. The problem was I was also naïve; I didn’t know you had to apply before signing up for a grad school class, and when I went down to register, I found out I’d already missed all the deadlines to apply. I was devastated.

Disappointments are often best understood in retrospect. At the time, David and I were working with a student ministry. Each year we trained a group of student leaders and they, in turn, ran the fellowship group on campus. We called these student leaders our “exec team.” The year I didn’t get into grad school, our ministry was going strong. We had a great exec team locked and loaded, ready to start the year with BBQ’s, weekly large group meetings, etc.

Then, suddenly, all but one of the leaders quit. This left David and me to pick up the slack until new leaders had been trained. If I’d been in grad school, this would have been impossible.

Here are three things I’ve learned about disappointment:

  1. Sometimes a “No” is saving your butt! What I learned that year was that the Universe knew what I didn’t. I couldn’t know that our leaders would bail, but God did, and God protected me from being overwhelmed when I needed to pick up more ministry slack. One bigger than I had the bigger picture. Sometimes when we don’t get what we think we want, it’s because God can see down the road and knows it’s not the best timing for us to receive that desire
  2. Sometimes the “No” we receive is temporary. I did get to start grad school, one semester later. I loved it and it was perfect timing. Our student leaders were up and running and I could concentrate on school and babies.
  3. Sometimes a “No” is because there is a better “Yes” coming that we can’t see yet. When I didn’t get into the writing mentoring program it freed me up to trust myself and since then I’ve written eighteen books, fourteen are published, and I learned by doing it myself and attending all the classes and training I could find.  

Now I’m more at peace when life brings me a “No.” I’ve lived long enough to trust the Divine for the bigger picture and to know she has my best interests at heart.

How have you dealt with disappointment? Have I forgotten something that has helped you? Are you facing any big disappointments now?

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Spiritual Practice: Calming Anxiety

Today I had the opportunity to work with some young people from difficult backgrounds on the topic of anxiety. Each has experienced anxiety and even panic attacks. They are in a job training program, and we practiced breathing and grounding techniques they can use when they get stressed on the job or in other difficult situations.

First, I explained what anxiety can do to our bodies, releasing cortisol and keeping us in a freeze, flight, or fight state, which is not good for our long-term health. Then I asked them to identify where they felt anxiety when it was happening in their body. Several said their stomachs, and some identified their chests. It is important to know where anxiety starts in your body so we can use it as a signal to start breathing.

When we’re anxious, we tend to breathe quickly in shallow breaths, keeping our bodies in a fear state – lowering our blood oxygen and making it nearly impossible to relax. So, we learned the following two breathing techniques to keep the oxygen flowing and to help us feel more relaxed.

  1. Smell the flower and blow out the candle. This one can be done at work, and no one will be the wiser. Breathe in through your nose (smell the flower) and out through pursed lips (blow out the candle). Do this a few times and your body will relax.
  2. Breathe in a square: on each of the four sides, count to four with one inhale, hold for four, exhale for four, and rest for four. Like this:

Then we talked about grounding. If you are having an anxiety attack it is best to try grounding yourself in the present.

  1. Count five things you can see.
  2. Count four things you can touch.
  3. Count three things you can hear.
  4. Count two things you can smell.
  5. Count one thing you can taste.

Grounding yourself in the present is useful when we are worried about the future as most anxiety is future-related.

Lastly, we talked about those crazy ruminating spirals we get in when we’ve had an argument with someone – or anticipate having one. My spiritual director told me the best thing to do when I’m in a thinking spiral is to ask myself, “Where are you right now, what are you doing, and why?”

I might be washing dishes and say to myself, “Right now I’m in my kitchen. I’m washing dishes because I have food that I fed to my family. I’m thankful to have food because not everyone does.” Getting our minds on the present and finding something in the present to be grateful for, can break the cycle of intruding thoughts.

Time will tell if this training helps those students. I hope it does. But the world is so scary right now, I thought we all needed a reminder on how to care for ourselves when we feel anxious. Any of these practices can help us if we are having trouble sleeping as well.

What works for you when you are anxious. How are you coping with all the crazy?

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Spiritual Practice: Letting go of Adult Children

Once I thought of writing a book about parenting adult children. I decided it would have one page in it. That page would have two words in large, boldfaced font, “Let Go.”

Letting go is the hardest part of parenting adult children. Letting go of their decisions, their whereabouts, their lifestyle choices — so much to let go of!

The hardest part is that, unlike when they are young, their choices have such HUGE consequences. They might be on track for college and end up sidelined by pregnancy. They might choose to drink and drive and end up killing someone and spend the rest of their young adulthood in prison. They might try extreme sports and end up paralyzed from the neck down. I have friends that have faced all three of these scenarios with their kids. It’s heartbreaking, it’s tragic, and it’s life. And we parents want to spare our kids this kind of pain, but we can’t.

My own kids have made some decisions I wanted to protect them from Choices I was scared might ruin their lives. These were their choices, not mine. And you know what – they are both okay. They have both survived their choices, learned from them, grown and become rather impressive individuals, if I say so myself. Because navigating life is what we all have to do, it’s how we grow, learn, and develop.

So how do we parent adult children? A friend recently told me a wonderful story that mutual friend and author, Alice Fryling, shares. It’s about the story in the Bible where Jesus is off praying and sees his disciples out on a boat in a storm. He walks out to the boat and calms the sea. Alice was contemplating this story and her role as a parent of adult children. “What can I learn from this?” she asked.

“The first and most obvious answer is to pray for our kids. Nothing, and I mean nothing, has taken my prayer life to the next level like having kids. I don’t know how people that don’t pray survive the stress and worry of parenting. It is the one thing I can do when I can do nothing.”

But Alice then realized there was something else she could do. She could sit in the boat. Just be there. Be available during the storm.

She shared this insight with her adult daughter and her daughter replied, “Yes! I want you in the boat. Just don’t try to row.”

“Don’t try to row.” That is it in a nutshell, isn’t it? That is the art of parenting adults. Be in the boat and don’t pick up that oar. Don’t splash around where you’re not invited. Be present, be available. And, sometimes: They might. Even. Ask. For. Help. Or advice. Then you can give it, but only then.

That’s what I’m learning about parenting adults, how about you? Any tips from your experience as a parent of an adult? Any tips from an adult child on how to or not you’d like to be parented?

letting go


To let go does not mean to stop caring, it means I can’t do it for someone else.

To let go is not to cut myself off, it’s the realization I can’t control another.

To let go is not to enable, but allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to try to change or blame another, it’s to make the most of myself.

To let go is not to care for, but to care about.

To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their destinies.

To let go is not to be protective, it’s to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny, but to accept.

To let go is not to nag, scold or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.

To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more.

Remember: The time to love is short.

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Spiritual Practice – Play

I think the problem when I hear the word “play” is that I have an old notion of it. I imagine children playing and can’t picture myself running around outside. But as we age, play can mean different things, things that give us joy, light up our brains, or make us laugh.

I was visiting my granddaughter recently and she showed me her new TikTok feed. She was a natural at doing silly posts and the number of her followers were climbing as we watched.

Now, I’ve been on Tiktok for a year, as an author. I stay mostly on #booktok and #authortok and just post videos about books that I’m reading or writing. But, after watching my granddaughter, I remembered, “I have a whole degree in theater, why not have a little fun!” After a year on TikTok I knew who the major players were and what they were known for. I decided to do a fake, “Booktok News” broadcast where I highlighted the positive things people were doing there.

I instantly recorded about eleven videos and then – My Brain Exploded. It was the strangest phenomenon. I was having fun, and fun activates a completely different part of your brain. My brain was so awake from the play and creativity that it took me hours to fall asleep.

Today I’m at a retreat center. I was sitting outside in the forest and just listening to the breeze in the trees when two squirrels started chasing each other around, and down, up, and over the trees. Neither seemed mad, it didn’t appear to be a mating ritual or a territorial dispute; they seemed to be playing.

I think we, as a grown-up species, forget to play. I know I do. I know because when I actually started doing it, my brain fired up in a way it hadn’t in a long time. Play doesn’t have to be physical, it can be using your imagination, it can be creativity, it can be a lot of things. And play is good for the soul.

I’ll tell you one thing when you are having fun, people notice. The response to my “news” program on TikTok has been amazing. The followers are streaming in and the “thank-yous” for adding something positive to the world are as well.

I’ve seen people enjoy roleplaying games, cosplay, or online gaming. Pickleball is becoming popular as an outdoor game for older people. My son and his partner are building their own video game.

When we play, we are using our free selves to connect with others, to find that “sacred space” within us that we need to activate, and everyone benefits from it.

How are you finding ways to “play” these days? Our world is a tough place just now; let’s help each other find some fun!

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