Spiritual Practice: Centering Prayer

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Hi all,

As you know I’m doing on a series on contemplative prayer practices to help prepare for the release of my new book: The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening (now available for pre-order Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks and Google Play).

I really want to tell you about Centering Prayer, as it is a very popular form of contemplative prayer, but the thing is…truthfully, I don’t have a centering prayer practice of my own yet. There, I said it. But, I’m willing to try it for two weeks and see how it goes. I hope you will join me in this! I’ve asked my very own spiritual director, Joan, to guest blog. She is the source of many of my blogs (the wisdom behind most of my epiphanies) so I know you will enjoy learning from her with me. Without further ado, Joan Stockbridge.

“I was thrilled when Jacci invited me to write a guest blog on Centering Prayer. It’s the practice that has most transformed my life. And I also needed a nudge to refresh and renew my commitment to the practice! So thank you Jacci.

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Centering Prayer is a contemporary expression of ancient Christian practices. It was developed by Father Thomas Keating who wanted to expand awareness of Christianity’s rich contemplative tradition.  I first learned of Centering Prayer from an article in Time Magazine! It soon became a very important part of my prayer life, gradually bringing me deep peace and a sense of God’s indwelling presence. It’s an essential part of my commitment to ongoing conversion, helping me open to God’s love while also releasing fears and obstacles to that love.

Centering Prayer sounds very simple.

  1. Choose your love word (also known as your sacred word). This word will be your reminder to yourself that you are surrendering to God during the prayer time. My word is God.
  1. Set a timer and sit comfortably, with your eyes closed. Say the love word silently to yourself as a symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
  1. As thoughts arise, let them go. This is the hard part. One teacher has said, “Be gentle with yourself. The heart beats. The lungs breathe. And the mind thinks.” It is natural to have a rush of thoughts. The practice is to gently, without judgment, notice that you are having thoughts, and then to return to the sacred word. During an introductory workshop, a participant once said to Fr. Keating, “In the last 5 minutes, I had 5,000 thoughts!” And Fr. Keating replied, “How wonderful! 5,000 opportunities to return to God.”
  1. When the timer goes off, spend a couple of minutes giving thanks for whatever has happened. Many people like to conclude their Centering Prayer period with the Our Father or another favorite prayer.

See www.contemplativeoutreach.org for a lot more information. And there is a beautiful centering prayer meditation available for free on the Insight Meditation application for smartphones. If you download the application, search for Maria Gullo’s Centering Prayer.  Her gentle voice and clear instructions are very helpful.”

Thank you Joan! I’m ready to try it, who’s with me?

Candle Photo Credit

Spiritual Practice: Living with Intention

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Every two weeks, I’ve been posting a blog about a different spiritual practice, and you, hopefully, have been trying them with me. For more information as to why we are doing this, read the bottom paragraph. *

Review: Last week we talked about breath prayers. Did you try it? It’s such a lovely, easy way to bring prayer into your day, isn’t it?

Today I want to talk about Living with Intention.

Every time I go to yoga, my instructor starts a session by asking us to choose an “Intention” for our practice. The first time I went, that was a new idea for me, but I’ve found that it helps to have something to go back to when my mind wanders or when the pose is hard to hold. Sometimes this intention sets the mood for my day or even my week.

About a decade ago, I started picking an intention for each new year. This would be a word, a phrase, or a scripture, to sort of “pray into” for the year.

For example, when my kids were younger I remember picking the phrase, “People are not an interruption” – two years in a row! I really needed help remembering that.

When I was going through a particularly hard time, and the voices coming at me were overwhelming, I chose the image of living with blinders on. The idea was to keep my eyes on Jesus and what I believed he was calling me to do, instead of being distracted by all the negative things coming my way.

How do you find an intention? Well, first you need to set aside some time to reflect on last year and sort of brainstorm about this year. Recently, a friend of mine wrote a blog with some great questions to help this process. I encourage you took click on her blog to see the questions! I took her questions on a recent silent retreat and journaled through them.

Then finally, I came to a word that kept surfacing as I answered these questions and spoke to my spiritual director about them. The word was contentment. This year my husband is retiring. That will be very new for us and will come with a large loss of income. There is a verse in Philippians that I have always loved; it says in 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

I feel content in my life right now. I like my job, I like my church, I like my life. As we begin a new chapter, I want to stay in the place of contentment.

Well, that’s my intention for the year. I’d love to hear yours!

*As you may know, my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March 28th through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it on Amazon right now). This book is fiction, but came out of my time at the Grounding Retreat. In anticipation of its release, I invite you to join me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. As I said above, every two weeks, I will blog about a different spiritual practice; we can try it together and discuss how it is or isn’t working for you! Ready, set, GO!

Photo Credit

 

Spiritual Practice: Breath Prayer

 

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Every two weeks, I’ve been posting a blog about a different spiritual practice, and you, hopefully, have been trying them with me. For more information, as to why we are doing this, read the bottom paragraph.*  

Review: The Labyrinth, how did it go? Did you find one in a strange place? If not, keep looking; they are around and worth the search.

This week we are going to try something called “A Breath Prayer,” also known as “The Jesus Prayer.” This way of praying has been around a long time — since the sixth century! It’s a very easy discipline to learn and helps a lot when you are stressed. Traditionally monks would pray these phrases as they took slow even breaths. The phrase comes from comes from the verse,  Luke 18:10-14 and is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

This has been shortened over time to “Lord Jesus, have mercy,” or even “Jesus, Mercy.”

When I was at a wonderful “Grounding Retreat” at the Gravity Center in Nebraska, we learned a few variations on this prayer and you can try them all on their helpful website:  https://gravitycenter.com/practice/breath-prayer/

Heres one that stuck with me: The leader, Chris, asked us to think of a name God would call us, to listen for a name specific to us from the holy. I listened and heard the name, “My Beloved.” Then he had us think of our heart’s greatest need from God in that moment. For me, the issue was TRUST. I was just coming off a very difficult time and in need of a job; my future was uncertain and my heart was sore. So, my breath prayer became, “My Beloved, Trust Me.”

I got to practice this breath prayer immediately when leaving the conference for the airport that day. My ride was late and I practiced breathing and praying all the way to the airport. I remembered I could trust God. God has always been faithful in my life. As I was standing in the body scanning machine with my hands over my head, praying, “My Beloved, Trust Me,” I heard my named called over the loudspeaker. “Final boarding call for Jacci Turner.” And I knew then, that even if I missed my plane, it wouldn’t be the end of the world; I could trust that God was good and would take care of me. And, I made it on that plane too, dirty looks from those waiting passengers and all.

So, take a moment, think of what name the Spirit wants to give you. Then listen for what you most need right now. Put them together to make your own breath prayer for the next two weeks. Try praying it in traffic jams, check-out lines, waiting for your child to buckle their car seat or on your way to work. Let me know how it goes!

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*As you may know, my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March 28th through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it on Amazon right now). This book is fiction, but came out of my time at the Grounding Retreat. In anticipation of it’s release, I invite you to join me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. As I said above, every two weeks, I will blog about a different spiritual practice; we can try it together and discuss how it is or isn’t working for you! Ready, set, GO!

Breath Photo Credit

 

Spiritual Practice: Praying a Labyrinth

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As you may know, my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it on Amazon). In anticipation of that, I invite you to join me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. Every two weeks, I will blog about a different spiritual practice; we can try it together and discuss how it is or isn’t working for you! Ready, set, GO!

Review: Wow, look how far we’ve come already! We’ve done The Examen, Silence and Solitude, Body Listening and Lectio Divina. I’m really enjoying using Jan Johnson’s book Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina. Let me know if you practiced Lectio and how it went.

Today let’s talk about Praying a Labyrinth. This is a fun one and it’s quite profound. A labyrinth is not a maze where you can get lost, but it kind of looks like one. Labyrinths come in different configurations and can be found in interesting places. They are often found at spiritual retreat centers, and some churches have them, some churches even have portable roll-out Labyrinths.

But here’s the fun part: try googling “labyrinths near me.” Once I was walking in the desert and found a HUGE labyrinth. I have since visited it many times. Someone took the time to create and maintain it. Amazing. One of our local parks has a beautiful labyrinth. The most interesting place I’ve seen a labyrinth is under a freeway overpass!

So, when you find one, how do you pray it? Well, there are as many ways as there are people. You have to try a few ways and see what works for you. I will often pray out all the things that are bothering me as I wind my way toward the center of the labyrinth. When you get to the center, which takes a while, so don’t rush it, there is a God space. I think of it as the goal, or center, a place of unity with the divine. I like to try and leave my worries there. Then, on the way out, I think of all I have to be grateful for, for there are many things. This makes me a different person with a new perspective when I leave my burdens in the hands of someone bigger than me, and with gratefulness on my tongue.

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You can even walk a labyrinth with friends!

Here are some other ways to pray a labyrinth adapted by Lana Miller from Soul Shaper by Tony Jones. 

1.Ask God a question upon entering and then listen for an answer.  For example:  Ask God what he wants to tell you and listen for an answer.

  1. Pray for yourself on the way in, stop to experience God’s love in the center, and pray for others on the way out (or vice versa).
  2. Recite the Lord’s Prayer as you walk.  (Instead, you may recite some familiar prayer or scripture.  Repeat it as you walk.)

The interesting thing about walking a labyrinth is that just when you think you are getting closer to God, you move away. Isn’t that just like life? It’s a journey, a metaphor, a pilgrimage on the road less traveled.

Now, you try it. Track down a labyrinth near you and take a walk. Let me know what you think! Enjoy.

Spiritual Practice: Lectio Divina

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As you may know, my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it on Amazon). In anticipation of that, I invite you to join me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. Every two weeks, I will blog about a different spiritual practice; we can try it together and discuss how it is or isn’t working for you! Ready, set, GO!

Review of Body Listening: How did it go for you? I’m glad to say that my eye twitching resolved in about three days — so grateful. My break from Facebook was key so I’m glad I listened.

Today will talk about one of my favorite Spiritual Practices, Lectio Divina, which is Latin for Divine Reading. This practice comes to us from the Benedictines. In its traditional form, Lectio Divina has four separate steps: reading, reflection, response, rest. It’s more about listening than reading. You can use this spiritual practice with the Bible or any holy book, or even with poetry. To demonstrate I’m going to use a beautiful poem by ee cummings called, I Am a Little Church.

You can google Lectio Divina and find a lot of ways to do it, but I’ll share an easy and fun way. You can do this in a group or alone; I’ve done it both ways. If you are in a group, you can speak the word, or invitation aloud at the end of each reading.

The first step in Lectio Divina is to read the passage slowly, meditatively, perhaps read it out loud.

Let’s try it together:


i am a little church (no great cathedral)

far from the splendour and squalor of hurrying cities

– i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest

i not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;

my prayers are prayers of the earth’s own clumsy striving

(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children

whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around them surges a miracle of unceasing

birth and glory in death and resurrection:

over my sleeping self float flaming symbols

of hope, and I wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church (far from the frantic

world with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature

– i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;

i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to

merciful Him Whose only now is forever:

standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence

(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

 

During the second reading listen for a word or phrase that sticks out to you and reflect on it for a moment. You can even speak that word or phrase aloud.

During the third reading listen for an invitation from the passage. Something you might want to keep or do or try in response to the passage.

Then rest. Let the passage sink in and stay with you throughout the day.

Try it before reading on!

Let me know what word or phrase stood out to you.

For me it was the line: “over my sleeping self float flaming symbols

of hope, and I wake to a perfect patience of mountains”

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With the world as crazy as it is, this image if very comforting to me right now. I love to think of hope floating over me as I sleep. I need to reflect on the perfect patience of mountains. I can see mountains out the window from where I am typing. They have lived through and survived so many things — a testament that we will live and survive the changes in our government and world. I needed that assurance today.

 

By the way, I want to introduce you to a book I’m using to help me practice Lectio Divina. It’s by one of my favorite authors, Jan Johnson, and I’m linking it here. If you want to use Lectio with scripture, this book will be a great help.

Let me know if these practices are helping you!

 

Photo Credit, Little Church , Mountains

 

Spiritual Practice: Body Listening

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As you may know my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it on Amazon). In anticipation of that, I invite you to join me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. Every two weeks, I will blog about a different spiritual practice, we can try it together and discuss how it is or isn’t working for you! Ready, set, GO!

Review: Silence and Solitude – How did the silence go for you? On my last spiritual retreat I added Body Listening to my silence. I was experiencing post-election stress when I met with my spiritual director and she helped me with a body listening exercise. It was very helpful so that is what we will focus on today. I had the rest of the 24 hours to sift through what my body was telling me.

Body listening is something I generally forget to do until my body is screaming at me in some way, but it’s better if you don’t wait that long and make it a more regular practice.

Here’s how it works. Sit comfortably in a chair and practice breathing deeply, allowing your body to relax and your mind to focus. As your body relaxes, let your mind wander around the different parts of your body until something catches your attention. Once something draws you, either because it is hurting or just wants your attention, let that part know you are listening. You might even say, “I’m here. What do you need.” This might feel a bit silly, but trust me it works.

When that part of your body tells you why it needs attention, let it know that you heard and you will give it what it needs. Don’t forget to follow through and do what your body needs.

I have a friend who teaches a Listening class at the university. She has me come in and do this exercise with her class. When the students listen to their bodies, they usually realize that they are hungry, sleepy or need to exercise. No surprises there.

But I’ve also seen some deep things come out of these exercises. One woman was drawn to a freckle on her arm; it was itching. She ignored it, then that night had a dream that she went to her dermatologist. She chose to listen to her body and went to see the doctor who found that freckle was actually a melanoma. She had it removed and she is fine.

One woman was drawn to her non-dominant foot. She felt she was being called to step out in leadership in ways she was not comfortable with.

The first time I did this exercise, I was drawn to my lungs. They felt tight and said they needed more room. This was true because I had a lung infection and needed to go to the doctor, but I also saw it as true in my life; I physically and spiritually needed more room. I went home and used one of our spare rooms to create a prayer room. It gave me space to be with God and be creative. That is when I started writing books.

As I mentioned earlier, I did this exercise the last time I was on a silent retreat, with my spiritual director (we will explore spiritual direction later). My eyes were twitching terribly. This is what happens when I’m under a great deal of stress for an extended period. They had been twitching since the election, as many of my friends of color and from the LGBTQI community were in great pain and fear.  I was somatizing that stress. When I stopped to listen to my eyes, they told me they were worn out from seeing so much pain and hurt. They told me they needed to rest and to turn off Facebook for a while. I promised to listen and did those two things. They immediately calmed down.

Listening to your body can be a powerful thing. Give it a try a few times in the next two weeks and let me know how it goes.

Bonus: I recently did a podcast with Merritt Onsa at Momentum Podcast. We talk about spiritual practices join us by listening in!

Girl with shell: Photo Credit:

Spiritual Practice: Silence and Solitude

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As you may know, my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it on Amazon). In anticipation of that, I invite you to join me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. Every two weeks, I will blog about a different spiritual practice, we can try it together and discuss how it is or isn’t working for you! Ready, set, GO!

Review of the Examen: This discipline had a surprising effect on me. As I reviewed the places I’d seen God at the end of the day, I started noticing those places more during the day. How was it for you?

Silence and Solitude

This is one of my favorite spiritual practices. I used to take college students to a week-long camp on Catalina Island to practice different forms of prayer. The one they were most terrified of was 12-hours of silence. This was also the one they ended up loving and learning from the most.

It’s counter cultural to be silent and alone. People (including me) are so tied to our phones that we stay instantly connected, to technology and to each other. But getting away, and practicing silence is a powerful experience.

I love the analogy of a cloudy jar full of river water. If you let the jar sit for an hour, the sediment will settle to the bottom and the water will become clear. So it is with our mind, body and soul. If we allow ourselves to be quiet, even or an hour, we will be able to see things more clearly, hear better, and make better decisions about our lives.

The Quakers understand this. For one hour each week, traditional Quakers sit together in silence. They are listening for God to speak. If they hear God they ask themselves two questions: Is this word for me alone, or is it to share? I’ve been to a Quaker meeting where no one shared for the entire hour. Sitting together in silence is a powerful thing. Is there a Quaker meeting in your town? Maybe you could visit. I only went twice but they were very welcoming.

Silence and Solitude (being alone) is even harder. I’ve never met a generation so afraid of solitude. My granddaughter does her chores while FaceTimeing a friend. There is a lot of fear of being alone. One student, during our Day of Silence, hated the experience as being alone meant he had to face himself; he didn’t like what he saw, but eventually this lead to some deep healing.

So here is my challenge: Take some time away, by yourself and turn off your phone. Drive to somewhere beautiful, sit by a tree or look at a lake. Let your spirit settle and listen for God. You may not hear a voice, but God can speak in many ways. One student, who had just about finished the day, and was feeling like a failure for not hearing anything, went and stood out on some rocks that jutted out into the ocean. He threw up a challenge, “Okay God, if you’re gonna speak, I’m here.” Then two huge pelicans flew down and rested on either side of him. This was very unusual for the shy birds. As he stared in wonder at the birds, dolphins started doing aerial acrobatics in front of him. He was awed and humbled.

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God will not always be so dramatic, but if we listen, he will speak to us in some way.

If silence is already a discipline of yours, try taking it to the next level. Book a room at a retreat center for a 24-hour silent retreat. I try to do this monthly and I can’t tell you how much I look forward to it. It’s like pushing the reset button on my psyche.

If 24 hours feels daunting, you can go on a guided retreat; most catholic retreat centers offer them. Or you can try breaking the time into hours; every hour try something different: Take a walk, sing, take a holy nap, read, draw, eat, journal, be creative.

I’d love to hear back about how your silence and solitude day goes. Or let me know in advance if you’re going to give it a try so I can pray for you. Have fun!

Photo Credit: River water, dolphins

 

 

Spiritual Practice: The Examen

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As you may know my newest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, will be out in March through Harper Legend (pssst, you can actually pre-order it here on Amazon).

In anticipation of that, I invite you to join me on a journey of spiritual awakening as we try different spiritual practices together. Every two weeks, I will blog about a different spiritual practice, and we can try it together and discuss how it is or isn’t working for you! Ready, set, GO!

The Examen

I thought it best to start with a spiritual discipline which is an easy on-ramp. This is one of my favorites. It’s best to use it at the end of the day, but you can really use it any time. I’ve even tried it early in the morning and it still works! It’s a way to reflect on the day, rejoice and mourn over the day – and move on from it.

There are different ways to practice the Examen, and if you google it, you’ll find many examples. Some have five steps, but I need easy access to spiritual practices so I go for only two.

First, look back over your day for a place where you saw God, or Good or your True Self. Chris Heuertz, of the Gravity Center, suggests that this is like looking in a bag for your keys; you know they are in there, you just need to find them.

Sift through different memories until you find one where you saw that Light of God, felt peace or breathed deeply. Savor that moment, rejoice over it, treasure it. This is not a time to congratulate yourself, but to enjoy the presence of God in your life.

Do you know that if you savor a good memory for thirty seconds and really try to remember all the senses associated with it: the smell, touch, taste…it will be placed into your long-term memory?  

Go ahead, do it right now. Think of a small, enjoyable memory you had today, close your eyes and savor it for thirty seconds.

Many of us have ruminated on too many painful memories, cluttering up our minds with negativity. We need to consciously replace those with treasured moments. This first step will help us build a storehouse of positive memories.

Then Second, sift around for a time today that you missed God, or Good, or operated out of your False Self. Sometimes these come more easily to us, as we are self-critical. Sometimes it’s hard to choose just one. But do that, choose one and don’t beat yourself up over this memory, just hold it lightly. Perhaps you need to mourn something associated with the memory or make a mental note to apologize to someone. This memory or behavior is a part of you and the goal is to hold it in the Light and welcome it and then, let it go or give it to God so that it doesn’t weigh you down.

That is it. That is the way I use the Examen. Remember that tomorrow is a new day, and this spiritual discipline will help us begin to look for God moments throughout the day as well.

Let’s try to do this daily for the next two weeks. Let me know how it goes for you. I’ll be trying to do it with you and let you know how it goes for me.

Photo Credit: http://www.huntvalleychurch.org/spiritual-practices/

 

Books that will LITERALLY change your mind.

 

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I’ve been reading some of the most fascinating books and I found out why I like them so much. I found out that some books can cause, “Ah-ha” moments that can change the neuro-pathways in your brain and maybe even change your whole life.

Here is the book that explained it all:

How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain: The New Science of Transformation

by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman enlightenment

This book was written by brain scientists who use brain scans to show how enlightenment (small “e” ah-ha moments) and Enlightenment (large “E” life changing moments) literally change the structure of your brain. Once you’ve had a large “E” experience, your brain can not go back to thinking as it did before as those neural pathways have been replaced. You can encourage large “E” enlightenment by practicing prayer, meditation and other contemplative practices. These help prime the pump for the large “E” changes you need in your life. Fascinating.

I’ve had a lot of “e” experiences through reading so I thought I’d share books I’ve read lately and how they have changed my mind:

outliersOutliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell 

This book changed my mind about education, genius, and ice-hockey. It also explained why it took me fifty years to learn to write well. This book explains sooo many things. You must read it. And I highly recommend the audio edition as he reads it and is a good reader.

 

 

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawandbeing-mortal

This book helps change your mind about aging in America. It explains the history of things like Nursing homes and encourages us to start thinking outside the box in our care for the elderly. As a hospice worker, this book was very important to me.

 

 

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

big-magicby Elizabeth Gilbert

I know I’ve talked about this book before, but seriously, this book is awesome and she reads for the audio edition. This book changed my mind about my writing and made me not give up until I found a bigger publisher for my books. And now I have a book coming out with Harper Legend in March!! Woot.

 

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes  year of yes 2

I know I’ve talked about this book too. I’ve been living my year of yes and taking all kinds of risks. It’s been crazy fun. This book, read by the author, is a lot of fun and will change your mind about the things you say yes to!

 

 

Cracker by Jacci Turner Craker (1)

I wouldn’t be an author if I didn’t promote one of my own books. This book has been changing minds. If you read the reviews, people don’t walk away from this book thinking the same way about things like racism and injustice. Yay! Give it a try.

 

 

 

I’d love to hear what books are LITERALLY changing your mind!

 

Photo Credit: Brain Picture

 

 

Embracing the Mystery: Moving Toward Unity In The Second Half Of Life

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Mysterious Forest in the Pacific Northwest

 

The goal of the second half of life, is to move from “doing” to “being.” I heard that somewhere, probably from my spiritual director. But what does it mean? It does not mean we stop doing things or that we should not enjoy doing things. But our jobs, roles and things we do no longer come to define us.

I was sitting in a small room in Mercy Center with my wise spiritual mentor and a candle burning between us to symbolize the presence of the holy. I was pondering aloud the love and care I get from the “older” saints from my previous organization.

If you’re new to this blog, let me summarize: I worked for a large Christian organization for 30+ years, but I was asked to leave over a difference in theology. It was kind of a big deal. I believe that my rainbow friends should be fully included in the body of Christ and allowed to marry; my employer disagreed and we parted ways. In retrospect, it was best for both of us!

That was almost two years ago. I keep in touch with a few of my friends from those days, the ones that are more like family, but also, there are these “older” saints I mentioned. When I say older, I mean older than I am. Most have retired or are looking at retirement from this organization.

I guess I thought they would be the ones who would try and correct me or “give me a talking to.” But it was the complete opposite. They have not changed towards me at all. They continue to include me in their lives as if nothing had happened, and their love for me remains truly unconditional and sweet. They are like the grandparent who watches their grandchild with love and amusement as the child tries on different personalities in middle school. “Ah, it’s Jacci, isn’t she the cutest thing? I just love her.”

My spiritual director linked these two thoughts for me. As we find our identity in “being” and not “doing” we become more loving and patient with others who are also trying to find their way.

People always quote Richard Rohr to me on this topic. His book Falling Upward, speaks to this idea. As we age, we can move closer to unity with Christ, and it puts everything else in its proper perspective. We  worry less about who will the next president  or if a football star stands for the national anthem. We can trust, listen, love and smile, knowing that others are on their path and I am on mine. It is quite freeing actually.

In full disclosure, I have not read Rohr’s new book, but it is on my short list. I did read this intriguing quote from it though:

“People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know that they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind.” 

So that is my goal. To move toward the mystery and not get bogged down in things I can’t control. I want to love like those older saints who have been so good to me.

How about you? What lessons are you learning as you mature?

 

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