Spiritual Practice: Faithing Over the Lifespan – Stages Five and Six

As we’ve looked at the stages of faith development, we’ve moved from the early stages of black and white thinking (stages 1-2), to the stage of belonging (stage 3). Then we generally “hit a wall” of some kind, which leads to stage four, a great time of spiritual disorientation.

Stage five is a time of reorientation and tremendous spiritual growth, like stage three, but with very different parameters.

As I mentioned in the last post, in stage four it’s as if the “God Map” we’ve built from our earlier experience has been blown apart. Suddenly God gets much bigger, less definable, and yet more all-encompassing. The image of using a larger basket to collect spiritual understanding is helpful. We find we relate to truths found in other religions and become less about “us-them” and more about “we.”

In stage five faithing we learn to talk less and listen more, especially in prayer. Words become less critical, and being present to the Divine and to others becomes profound. Contemplative practices begin to feed the soul more than those in stage three faithing, where Bible Study, Worship, and Church attendance were the primary means of spiritual growth. Now growth comes from silence, solitude, and contemplative faith practices.

Just a bit of history here: Contemplative faith practices (as those written about in this blog) are not new, or New Age, as some say. In fact, the early church was known for them. If you look at the Bible, you will see these kinds of practices in both the old and new testaments. Elijah hid in a cave, where he found God was in the still, small voice. And Jesus often went to a lonely place where he prayed. God did excellent work in deserts, wombs, and tombs.

What changed? Christianity became the state religion after Rome’s ruler, Constantine, ended the persecution of Christians. And whenever you mix faith and politics, things go sour. (This has never been more evident than now). So, after Rome got involved, the state church became corrupt, and many believers fled into the desert to be alone with God and try to reclaim their faith. They became known as the desert mothers and fathers, and they taught the way of contemplation. These desert communities grew into monasteries, and the practices of contemplation got trapped there, available to only those who lived inside.

During the reformation, the protestant churches threw out the contemplative practices baby with the Roman bathwater and only trusted spoken prayer, Bible reading, and preaching. In Catholicism, the contemplative practices stayed mostly inside the monasteries, unavailable to the congregations.

But, every five hundred years, as Phyllis Tickle says in her book The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, God throws a garage sale to get rid of all the barnacles that have calcified our faith and bring something new. We are in the middle of that kind of cosmic shaking right now. This shaking has allowed these ancient spiritual practices to reemerge.

And, people seem to be coming to these practices sooner. Perhaps because young people are experiencing much pain early in life, or maybe it is time for something new to come to the church. I hope it is the latter.

Whatever it is, stage five is a lengthy exploration of a new relationship with God. People in Stage Three might look on someone in Stage Five and assume they have slid down the slippery slope into “liberal Christianity.” I know I used to think that way. Now I understand it is actually a place of deeper faith and increasing love of God, not less. This is where we will probably spend the rest of our days, exploring the ever-increasing depth and breadth of God—finding the Divine in all people and all sentient beings, often feeling closer to God in nature than in church. However, I still believe that being part of a congregation is important. Most of us will not move beyond stage five faithing.

So, what of Stage Six? I imagine few people get there. It has been described as a Oneing with God. Some people are so united with the Divine they care only for others. Think of Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., or Gandhi. These were not perfect people but people whose whole lives were to serve others and eventually died in that singleness of purpose.

What happens to what we learned in the previous stages? It is not lost; it is integrated into us as we continue to grow. We are not to disdain the things we believed in the past, but to honor them and hold them as foundational to what we have now. This is not a linear progression either. We can revisit previous stages at any time.

The goal of understanding faithing over the life cycle is not to box people into stages but to make us more compassionate to others on their own journeys and give us words for our own experience as we go through these passages.

I’d love to hear what you think of the idea of stages of spiritual development. Does it make sense? Does it help? What have you found to be true in your experience?

Cornucopia Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Rock Carin Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Monastery Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

Gandhi Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice: Faithing Over the Lifespan – Stage Four

We continue our look at how people grow and develop spiritually over six different stages of faith. To look at stages one and two, the early black and white stages, click here. There, you will also find links to books on this topic for further reference.

To read about stage three, the time of significant belonging and foundational growth, click here. 

Today we face more challenging topics. What generally happens to force us from the warm cocoon of stage three into continued spiritual growth is something difficult. It has to be a strong push to move past the confines of intense “us vs. them” thinking and into the ambiguous beyond. Generally, we hit what is commonly known as “a wall” in our lives. Perhaps we face a divorce, a health crisis, a job loss, or the loss of someone we love, and our equilibrium is tilted into a time of deep questioning and we begin to realize the old pat answers don’t work as well anymore.  It can be a dark time when heaven seems closed to us, when it feels like our prayers are useless, when worship or Bible reading falls flat.

St. John of the Cross coined the term, “The Dark Night of the Soul” to describe this transitional space. You can read about it in his book by that title.

It is a grumpy time. We may feel betrayed by our faith tradition as we realize that almost every religion has a creation myth, that there are different ways to view Christ’s atonement, and just as many ways to think about the end times. I remember reading books during this period that challenged the things I’d always heard from the church, and they made sense to me. I remember thinking, “I’ve been a Christian for thirty years. Why have I never heard this before?” It can be a time of great spiritual disorientation. We no longer fit easily in our cozy Christian bubble, but we don’t fit anywhere else either.

This disorientation leads us ever reluctantly into stage four faithing. It’s as if we are given a bigger basket to hold all the disparate realities, ideas, experiences, and people of our lives. We suddenly find the gifts in other religions, like in Rumi’s poems, the practice of Yoga, and other things that, at stage three, we would have considered off-limits. God gets bigger at stage four. We are less judgmental and more loving as we identify with marginalized populations. A stage four bumper sticker might read, “I’m spiritual, not religious.”

The most significant changes in stage four seem to be in how we relate to God. Our prayer lives change dramatically. Instead of praying with lists of words, we find peace in sitting in silence with God. Walking in a forest or gazing at the ocean will do as much for our souls as sitting in church. Contemplative practices, like those offered in this blog, become more meaningful.

Slowly we leave our anger at being pushed out of our happy clappy Christianity and begin to find others who are also on this journey. We move from the order of stage three to the disorientation of stage four and eventually to reorientation, which comes in stage five.

As with the other stages, we can get stuck in stage four. We are hurting and in pain, and we feel betrayed or violated by “the church.” I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I love God. I just don’t like his people.” That is understandable, but we can get stuck there. Hopefully, we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are wonderful people of faith we can connect with—places where our questions, ponderings, and pain will be welcome. Hopefully, we move forward in our faithing to a new spiritual depth, which we will cover in the next blog.

Can you relate to hitting a wall or to stage four? I’d love to hear what moved you into this time of disorientation. Take heart, it won’t last forever, and we are in this together.

Photo credit:

Top Photo by Dark Indigo on Pexels.com

Second Photo by Francesca Zama on Pexels.com

Third Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice: Faithing Over the Lifespan (Stage Three)

In the last blog, I talked about how our spiritual development moves along predictable stages, unless it gets stalled. We covered stage one and two. You can read about that here and also see the books I’ve linked on this interesting topic.

Today we will talk about stage three, a happy, wonderful time in faith development. Stage three is all about “belonging.” For most of us, that involves being involved in some faith institution like a church, temple, or mosque.

It is a time of tremendous spiritual growth. For the Christian, which is my faith tradition, it is a time to learn. If you’re lucky, you will learn to read and study the Bible, as well as teach others to do so. You might be taught how to pray, serve others, share your faith, and perhaps get to take a life-changing mission trip to share your faith in another country. It is a warm and loving stage where you are on the inside of a faith culture.

Unfortunately, a sense of “us versus them” develops by necessity at this stage because the goal of any institution is to keep nurturing its members. So, we are encouraged to invite people in. Those on the inside are “us.” Those on the outside are “them.” On the inside, we have our own language, music, and often unspoken rules that separate us from “them.”

People often ask if Institutions like churches can grow beyond level three spirituality. It’s very rare because how could they exist without people staying inside to run the show, give money, and help each other? Institutions need committed members to stay healthy but many folks, if they start to grow beyond stage three spiritual development, begin to feel stifled and look for support outside of the institution. Some churches with wise leadership create spaces for these people to continue to grow without leaving their faith community.

This understandable limit to institutional change can become problematic when there is a clear line drawn around who is inside and who is outside. When those unlike “us” are looked down on or defamed for having different beliefs, it can become toxic spirituality. I’ve known of churches that will “disfellowship” members for not behaving in ways they don’t consider proper, like dating a non-Christian, being a feminist, or, heaven forbid, being gay. To find yourself pushed outside of that warm and fuzzy circle can be devastating. We will discuss this phenomenon more in the next blog when we get to stage four.

I’ve noticed that for me, the current political climate has pushed me right back into stage three, thinking. It’s easy to villainize people on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Apparently, other countries like to stir up this discord on social media in incredibly smart psychological warfare to keep our nation divided. If you don’t believe me watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix . I’ve been trying to limit social media and skipping political posts so as not to participate in so much level three thinking.

You can see the benefits of stage three faithing. But there are drawbacks to staying in it for too long. Suppose we seclude ourselves from other ideas and keep people different from us at arm’s length. In that case, it can lead to all kinds of problems. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and other issues arise when our circle is too tight; we don’t allow everyone to have a voice at the table.

Does this make sense to you? What benefits and drawbacks have you experienced in stage three faithing?

Photo of friends by fauxels on Pexels.com

Photo of worship by Shelagh Murphy on Pexels.com

BLM Photo by Life Matters on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice: Faithing Over the Lifespan (Stages One and Two)

In Greek, faith is a verb. Faith is an action, not a thing. Faith moves and breathes and grows with us in predictable stages. In the same way that Erick Erickson described predictable stages of emotional growth and development, others have described noticeable stages of spiritual development. These stages have been identified across religions and outside of religions as our spiritual development is a part of all human development. Over the next four blogs, I hope to describe an overview of these stages, but there are excellent books about these for those interested, which I will link here.

Stage One: Ages one to two years. Although the stages do not always follow chronological ages, stage one is an early part of development as it is mostly preverbal spiritual development. It has to do more with the way we are parented than it does with us.

Spiritual development begins from the moment we are born, or some would say that we begin to develop as spiritual beings even before we are born. Scientists say that new parents, with dilated eyes from the intensity of the childbirth experience, “gleam” into their baby’s faces, connecting brain to brain and stimulating brain development.

Celtic theologian John Phillip Newell tells of talking to OBGYNs about the first moments of a newborn’s life and hearing the consensus that looking into a newborn’s face was akin to looking directly at the Divine.

So, what is stage one of our spiritual development? It’s building trust. If a parent is consistent with us at the early ages of one and two, if our home is predictable and our needs are met, we learn to trust. Trust provides safety for a child to trust God as well.

If we are raised in a neglectful or abusive environment, this lack of trust is hard to overcome. Similarly, if we are raised with the idea of a scary and vengeful God, it will be hard to move past the guilt and fear which comes with that.

We know from studying children with attachment disorder that neglected children have a hard time developing any connected relationship. Interrupted stage one faithing can lead to difficulty trusting that God is good, safe, and available. It can also harm our relationships with others.

Stage Two: Generally, this stage is from ages 3 to 8 years, but we can get stuck in our spiritual development at any stage and have trouble moving forward, as we have seen in stage one.

Stage two is about black and white thinking. It is a necessary time to understand good and evil, heroes, and villains. This is why, in the Christian tradition, we tell children about all the wonderful Bible Stories like David and Goliath, Moses parting the Red Sea, or Noah and the Ark. Children need those heroes and this kind of concrete understanding that God as good, loving and will protect us from evil.

But you can see what happens when religion gets stuck at stage two thinking. It leads to legalistic fundamentalism in which there is only black and white with no room for gray.

You may have seen a bumper sticker that says, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” This is a classic example of Stage Two thinking. There is no room for discussion, no room for gray.

For our next blog, we will look at Stage Three, a very happy spiritual development stage full of belonging and spiritual growth. But it can have its drawbacks too, if we get stuck there.

So, why is learning about faithing over the lifespan a spiritual practice?

First, it gives us words for our experience. I LOVE to have words for my experience.

Second, it helps to understand when you meet folks in a different stage than yours. Since we all share similar paths of spiritual develpment, we can appreciate that one stage is not better than another. They are all essential building blocks to grow on. We don’t forget what we learned in a previous stage; we incorporate it and build on it as we move to the next stage. Also, we cannot force a person from one stage to another. God is in charge of helping us grow.

Third, we might realize where we got stuck along the way and be able to untangle and move forward in our development.

And fourth, when we get to stage four, which is a time of spiritual disorientation, we are going to need all the help we can get to understand what is happening to us! Hang in there, folks. Help is coming.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on your faithing journey. Can you see your own stage one or stage two history? Does any of it make sense?

Spiritual Practice – Reading Fiction

Okay, you might think this is a stretch, even for me, when I can find a spiritual practice in anything; but hang with me a minute, and I’ll explain. Fiction is what has kept me sane during this pandemic. You see, as a therapist, it is my job to keep all my clients sane, so who keeps me sane?

Well, apparently, it’s Robin Hobb. My spiritual director recommended Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, the first book of The Farseer Series, and 12 books later, I’m still enjoying her writing. It’s a riveting fantasy with memorable characters, but with even deeper themes running through the book about racism, spirituality, loyalty, etc. I’ve been unable to put them down. 

I’m sure no one would argue the spiritual power of The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, or A Wrinkle in Time. So, here are some other books that have resonated deeply for me from the fiction world.

I may have read these several times and still watch the movies to cheer me when I’m down.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series: I had a disagreement with my bestie when this book came out. She said it was of Satan because of the wizards and witches (see the last paragraph for a rebuttal). Of course, that gal never read the book. For me, the series overflows with Gospel themes: love, loyalty, friendship, bravery, doing the right thing even when it’s hard, and ultimately laying down your life for your friends. Beautiful!

Susan Howatch’s Glittering Image: This is a classic for people in the world of Spiritual Direction. It speaks of our true and false selves and how we need to peel back the onion of the glittering image we present to the world to find our true selves.

Angie Taylor’s The Hate U Give: I may have read this book twice AND watched the movie. Talk about an education in systemic injustice: so much goodness and pain in one book. Everyone should read this one.

Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games Series: Talk about a hard look at the 1%. The Capitol is where the money is, and all the other districts starve. Or The Capitol could be compared to America, which uses most of the world’s resources. This book is about the hard facts of war and what it means to sacrifice for those you love. Good stuff.

Jan Karon’s Mitford Series: I have to include this since I read all fifteen books. Such a charming town, and the main character, Father Tim, is the priest we all wish we had. He is kind and loving, gentle, and awkward. So fun to read.

Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing: Opens our eyes to how slavery separated families and the repercussions—beautifully written. 

Honestly, I could write on this topic FOREVER! So, I’ll end with one of my own.

Jacci Turner’s The Retreat: I wove a storyline in with spiritual practices, so you feel like you’ve been on a retreat after you read it! At least, that’s what the reviews say.

I’d love to know how fiction has encouraged, challenged, or informed you spiritually. Drop me a line and share a book!

Photo by Mark Neal on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice: Thriving Despite

If you’re like me, your current state of mind is that of escaping. By that I mean by this point in the year we have had a pandemic, fires, smoke, racism, and politicking; I want to crawl into a cave and wait until it’s all over. 

I’m not alone. I have friends who are so discouraged by the state of our country they are investigating other countries where Americans can relocate.

I have friends that have packed “go bags,” not to escape fires, but to try to escape the coming apocalypse.

I read an article about how humans are built to withstand short term conflict, but long term, ambiguous danger is not something for which we have a context. I guess World War Two might have been the last time folks felt this way.

It. Is. Getting. Hard.

So, what do we do? Crawl into a hole? Give up?

Thankfully for me, way before the pandemic, I committed to teach two writing classes this fall and to begin a new training program for spiritual directors.

 Life. Goes. On.

There are jobs that need going to, kids that want food, spouses who need our attention.

If you’re on the verge of giving up, tossing in the towel, taking a literal long walk off a short pier, please ask for help. We need each other to get through this, and the suicide rate is rising as we speak. Reach out, call the hotline: 800-273-8255 PLEASE! We need you. We need your voice, your gifts, your intelligence to make it through this.

So, how do we thrive despite all that is happening?

  1. Give yourself a lot of grace. This is not a time to be hard on yourself. This is a time to slow down and lower the bar. Instead of being the best employee, try to be a good one. Instead of being the best parent, try to keep your kids fed and sheltered. Hug them occasionally. Grace. Grace. Grace.
  2. Give others a lot of grace. Right now, that is hard. We are more polarized than at any time in history. It is interesting that on my Facebook memories, I made the same statement eleven years ago. I guess this has been going on for a while. But, what does it gain us to disparage other people? Most of us are living in fear right now, and if your trauma brain is activated, you’re going to believe all the fear mongers because they make sense to your animal brain. We are all walking around in a trauma response. We need to try and put on glasses of love, to look at everyone as if they are doing their best, to give them the grace we desperately need ourselves. 
  3. BE WITH PEOPLE. I know we are in a lock-down situation, but there are safe ways to be with people. Social isolation is killing us. A neurologist just told my friend that locking up our seniors for their safety in these care homes is causing quicker onset of dementia that wouldn’t have happened if they could see each other and their families. It’s a challenging problem. We don’t want them to die, but they are dying of loneliness. How can we see people and be safe? Meet outside. Go for walks with someone. Have dinner in your back yard with a couple of folks. You can sit six feet apart and still enjoy each other’s company. We need to be with others to thrive.
  4. Find someone to care for. There is always someone who has it worse than you. Adopt a shelter animal, send money to people who have lost their homes via fire, tutor a child online. Try growing a succulent, they are hard to kill, trust me. Giving to others gets our minds off ourselves, which, if not unchecked, can quickly become a central occupation when we are stressed.
  5. Practice self-care. Read good books, watch positive TV, take naps, eat well, and exercise. The usual. We need that more than ever.
  6. Learn something new. Nothing lights up the brain like trying something new. Take an online class. Heaven knows there are a lot of those offered these days. Teach one! That will light up the brain for sure. Mine is quite lit these days with the class I’m teaching and my book club which is reading, “How to be Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi. There is so much to learn. My brain is on fire!

I’d love to know how you are surviving this difficult time. We need to share resources, ideas, and encouragement. Just know, I’m in your corner, and I’d love to hear how you are doing. If you’re in a cave, it’s okay to tell me.

Photo credit. Owl, mine

Family Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice – Releasing Anger

Election seasons can bring up a lot of difficult emotions. What do we do with our anger? My first thought is: Along with Dilbert, we all need to take a break from social media!

Strong “negative” emotions were not allowed in my family when I was a child; anger, grief, and sadness were all suppressed. As I’ve aged, I’ve learned these feelings are not negative emotions; they are just emotions. They are as much a part of me as happiness, joy, and delight. But, learning to be comfortable with them has taken longer.

I love how the ancient scriptures do not condemn these feelings. Psalm 4:4 teaches,

“When you are angry, do not sin.”

It doesn’t say don’t be angry, but when you are angry, don’t hurt anyone or yourself with your anger.

What do we do then, when we are angry? I’ve written before about the Welcoming Prayer. It’s always a good place to start. When any uncomfortable emotions come, welcome them and sit with them. Acknowledge them as part of you and ask what they are trying to tell you. If we listen, we can learn what is bugging us. If we suppress those feelings, we will most likely have physical difficulties like stomach aches or headaches. Suppressed emotions don’t magically go away; they just come out in different ways, hurting our own bodies or hurting those we love.

How do we release the anger from our bodies? When I was a mom of young kids, working, and going to graduate school, I felt anger and frustration as I tried to juggle all of my responsibilities. I call it my Alanis Morrissette decade, as I loved her angry Jagged Little Pill album. I’d crank it up and do some angry vacuuming to release my anger, or I’d go for a run and pound my rage into the pavement.

When my son was little, he had a lot of anger, mostly because he didn’t have the words he needed to tell us what bugged him. I taught him to pile up pillows and hit them with a plastic bat. When he outgrew that, we got him a punching bag, and when he was angry, he’d wail on that. Once he hit it so hard, he knocked it off the hook. Can you see why we need ways to get the anger out of our bodies? If that anger had been directed at a person, it would not have gone well.

My daughter Stephanie made this mosaic

In Cindy Bunch’s book, Be Kind to Yourself: Releasing Frustrations and Embracing Joy, she introduces the idea of releasing anger by smashing things. She suggests waiting until no children are around so as not to scare them, and then dash plates onto the cement to break them. She used this idea after her divorce when she was grieving. She says that when you are done smashing, you can either sweep up the broken pieces and throw them away or use them to make a mosaic, showing how you can make something beautiful out of your grief.

Some people garden, taking their anger out on those pesky weeds, others exercise, scream in the car, or weep in the shower. Of course, once you have words for your anger, it’s always good to talk to someone about what’s bugging you. A friend, a pastor, a spiritual director, or a therapist can be a big help. I’d love to know how you release anger. What have you found helpful? What works or doesn’t work for you?

Photo of lion by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Photo of runner by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice – Making an Altar

Six months into the pandemic things are getting difficult. Civil unrest around seeking justice for people of color continues and America can’t seem to get a foothold on this virus. Massive numbers of people are dying and sick. Today, I may have forgotten to put on pants. Thankfully, I don’t really go anywhere these days. Anyway, I thought it would be a good time to focus on something positive.

In the Old Testament people were always stopping to build altars, or memorial stones, to mark important events in their lives with God. I’ve been reading the coolest little book by my friend Cindy Bunch. She and I went through our spiritual direction program together. Her book is called, “Be Kind to Yourself: Releasing Frustrations and Embracing Joy.” In it she has a ton of very accessible spiritual practices.

The one I want to highlight is making an altar. I’ve never tried this, although Cindy makes alters all the time to celebrate or mark significant events. They are temporary things that she takes a picture of to remember each event. She may leave them up for an hour or for weeks; she may make them indoors or outdoors. She marks what she  calls “moments of grace.”

“You could pick up items on a walk, arrange them outside, use the altar for prayer and meditation, and then walk away from it as a way to reinforce the moment but not hold on to it. You can, of course, take a picture to preserve the memory and return to those moments of grace.”

I decided to make an altar representing what is getting me through the pandemic. First, I thought of books. I’ve been reading Robin Hobb’s Assassin series (I’m on book 13) and it is so engaging, I just love it. So, I put a stack of those on a chair. Then I added a paint by number kit I sent for. It’s ridiculously hard but I’m enjoying it in small bits. Of course, the Black Lives Matter protests are ever on my mind and I’m committed to learning and listening, so I added two books I’m reading with my book club. And I added a candle to represent my spiritual practices, which I am enjoying most every morning. Without these I would probably not be surviving at all.

If you’d like to give this practice a try, I’d love to see a picture of what is helping you get through this pandemic. And I’d highly recommend Cindy’s book as it is a very important time to Be Kind to Yourself! Otherwise you might just leave home without your pants.

Photo of altar rocks by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Second pic is mine

Spiritual Practice – Bridge Building

            It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when the world is falling apart. I often ask myself if am I doing enough to help move things forward. What can I do?

 Recently a business in our town had a rock thrown through its huge plate glass window. Small businesses in our area are going through a really rough time so my husband and I decided to meet there for coffee as a sign of support. When we arrived, we found our friend outside, who is a trans woman. She is very tall, has remaining “masculine” features and she is loud and proud! She was wearing a bikini and standing outside the business holding up a black lives matter sign. We went up to say hi and have a chat and I noticed that other folks walking by looked confused, or even scared as they passed her. Some openly stared. These reactions are common to the experience of trans women. We invited her into the business to buy her a coffee and then the customers around us seemed to relax.

It was as if our acknowledgement of her humanity allowed them to do the same. It took away her “otherness.”

            This was a very small thing to do, but it is an example of bridge building that we can look for every day. So many people are blowing up bridges right now, especially on social media. Just read the comments on any news or corona-related post and see the haters with their bombs sowing division. Bridge building is a small drop in the ocean of justice and healing, but as we each do something small it will become a river of love healing our land.

Mother Teresa said, “Do small things with great love.”

            What are some small things you can do to build bridges?

We can amplify the voice of someone whose voice is marginalized. A friend of mine organized a protest of a local park named after a white supremist. I stopped by for about a half hour, created some of the available art, and took a lot of pictures. Then I went on my Facebook and the Black Lives Matter pages and shared those pictures, thanking my friend for organizing the protest. If you see a post by someone of color, reshare, like, or comment on it; that amplifies their voice and builds a bridge from your friends to theirs.

We can stand with someone who might be treated unfairly and lend them your unspoken support. That’s what we did with our trans friend. We just stood by her, talked to her and bought her coffee. Two middle aged CIS gendered folks treating a friend with dignity allowed others to see her as a person, one that was safe to approach. Others felt free to interact with her more. You can do this by attending peace vigils or protests too.

My friend Jessica wrote this book. It’s short and informative, read it!

Or we can buy books by people who are different from us, read them, and then leave reviews. One idea I heard was to make a commitment to do this for a year. What a great way to learn new things and hear new voices. What bridges will be built as you talk with your friends about these books or post about them.

You might go for a walk with someone who sees the world differently than you do and just listen without judgement. I wrote about this earlier and it was a great experience for me to learn why my friend was against mail in voting. She had some legitimate concerns. A bridge was built between us that strengthened our friendship that had been weakened by political differences. Friendships are more important than politics.

My husband and I were talking about Jesus, who was a great bridge builder. Whenever he met a tax collector, clearly one of the most hated populations in his day, he wouldn’t mention their “sin,” he just saw them as people, and generally invited them to lunch. In fact, he rarely confronted anyone’s sin, except those of the Pharisees who were trying to keep people away from him. He did have some harsh words for them. Yes, let’s stand up against that kind of injustice, those who make policies to harm the orphan, the widow, the prisoner, and the immigrant. We need to vote them out. But, let’s put on our Jesus glasses and try to see people the way he did, as humans to be loved and cared for. Let’s look for ways we can build bridges.

What ways have you found to build bridges in this difficult time?

Photo’s mine

Spiritual Practice – Enjoying Art

One beautiful thing to come out of the Pandemic is an unprecedented outflow of art. Suddenly musicians are releasing songs from their living rooms, art galleries are opening virtual tours, and DYI arts and crafts are booming. I ordered a paint by number art canvas and when it came, I thought I’d lost my mind. But, working on it slowly is actually relaxing. Why is there such a deep need for art during a time of crisis?

Somebody help me!

I remember reading about Solomon building the temple in Jerusalem. He was directed by God to put as much beauty into the temple as there was structure. God knows we need beauty. Of the interior walls alone it says, (1 Kings 6:14-22)

He paneled the main room with cypress, which he overlaid with fine gold and decorated with palm trees and chains. He adorned the temple with precious stones for beauty, and its gold was from Parvaim. He overlaid its beams, thresholds, walls, and doors with gold, and he carved cherubim on the walls.

An artist’s idea of Solomon’s temple

Then I think about Burning Man, where artists spend a year building art features that will be burned when the week is over! It seems like such a waste, but the artists want to enjoy making art for art’s sake, not for the commodification of art in the outside world.

Black Rock City Temple, My son helped build this!

Paul Gauguin said, “Art is either revolution or plagiarism.”

In Reno, artists are meeting every evening to create art around the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It is giving them joy, passion and expression during a very dark time. People who come to watch them work end up in conversations that would be difficult otherwise.

They agree with Louise Bourgeois who said,

“An artist can show things that other people are terrified of expressing.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda made his play Hamilton into a movie to be released in theaters in October of 2021, but because of the virus, he released it on television so that millions could enjoy it. If you haven’t seen it, find a way. It is amazing and the songs stick in your head forever!

Gerhard Richter said,

“Art is the highest form of hope.”

We need hope right now more than anything else. So, I encourage you; take some time to draw, sing, paint, dance…whatever you enjoy. Watch other people share their art. Let your soul be lifted by beauty. It is not a waste of time. We have a God given need to experience beauty, now more than ever.

Let me know how you are enjoying art and what art means to the health of your soul.

Pictures: Burning Man art top, Paint by numbers, mine

Temple Art Solomon’s temple