Crying Here: For a Good Reason

boxes of books!

We interrupt this blog to bring you exciting news!

Hello, book-loving friends!

I have some exciting news to share with you. I feel shy to share it because it is so overwhelming to me. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

I have a friend who chooses to remain anonymous. She has read my books and decided they needed to be in the schools. She made an appointment with the heads of the Washoe County School Libraries, and we met with them. She said she would like to donate a set (of five hardback books) of the Finding Home Series to each elementary school. That’s sixty schools! And, she wanted to buy a classroom set (of thirty books) for each middle school of Snapped and Cracker!

As you can imagine, I was overwhelmed. I do not benefit financially as we bought the books at cost, but I benefit in a much greater way! The hardest part of being an author is trying to figure out how to get your books into the hands of the actual readers they were written for. In my case, writing middle grade fiction and young adult fiction, it’s hard to market to those age groups. The gatekeepers for these books are Librarians, Teachers, and Parents. The fact that three thousand of my books will now be available to students is entirely unreal.

The Librarians have invited me to speak to all the school librarians when they meet in late August and present them with the books at that time. Because Snapped tackles the issue of cyber sexual bullying and Cracker tackles racism, the librarians are also hopeful that I can speak to the social studies teachers, as these issues are part of their curriculum.

more boxes

In the meantime, boxes of books are stacked all over my little house, reminding me daily how incredibly blessed I am with good friends. Thank you for your love and support. I couldn’t wait to share this news with all of you.

Spiritual Practice: Reading

books

Sometimes the best spiritual practices are the ones that we don’t even notice because we do them naturally. Reading is like that for me, although I was a reluctant reader as a child. One day my best friend, Julia, introduced me to “horse books.” It was all I needed to become a lifelong lover of reading!

Fast forward twenty years and I had moved with my new husband to Reno, Nevada and it was like moving from a spiritual ocean in California to a spiritual (as well as physical) desert. Before, I had an abundance of older men and women who were mentors to me, but in Reno, those folks were hard to come by. So, I fell into being mentored through books. Hundreds of fantastic authors were right at my fingertips, and reading as a spiritual discipline is a practice I continue today.

Asking me for a favorite book is like asking me who is my favorite child, Instead, I’ll just mention the non-fiction books I’ve been reading in the last few months that have been spiritually significant to me:

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama.         

     

This book is put together from a week of interviews where the two men, in their eighties, sit together and talk about joy. It is fun (especially on audio) because you get a sense of their personalities as well as their profound spiritual depth. This depth has sprung from lives of suffering, and yet their pain has somehow blossomed into incredible joy for both men. In the back of the book, many examples of spiritual practices are listed for you to try (and you know I like that!).

The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, by Henri Nouwen.

I may have mentioned this in two blogs already so I won’t belabor the point except to say, READ IT! It is easy to read but hard to live out. It is based on Rembrandt’s painting of the story of the prodigal son from the Bible and it is deeply moving.

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr.

Richard is not an easy read, more like a seven-course meal than fast food, but worth the time. Thankfully our spirituality grows and changes over time and God just continues to get bigger and more inclusive. This little book gives me words for what is happening to me and it tells me I’m not alone.

The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, by Phyllis Tickle.

This is another book that gives words to my experience. Phyllis says that every 500 years, God has a ‘yard sale.’ All the old religious systems are tossed out to make way for a new move of the spirit. She shares the history and the cultural factors in each 500-year shift and points out why our current faith and culture are in such turmoil now. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s good news folks! Again, not a light read but worth the effort.

Lastly, what am I reading right now?

Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram by Alice Fryling.

I will do an entire blog on the Enneagram as a spiritual practice next time, but let’s just say that if you are interested in learning more about this ancient tool that will give you incredible insight into your true and false self, and help you grow toward your true self, this is the book for you. It is easy to read, full of helpful stories, and demonstrates great insight.

So, pick any book that promises you spiritual growth and dig in. You might not agree with all of it, but the exercise of thinking through deep topics, will stretch your spiritual muscles and help you grow.

As always, if you are interested in a FICTION book to help you grow spiritually, please check out my latest book. “The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.”

Until next time, let me know what you’re reading! Jacci

Bookcase Photo Credit

Spiritual Practice: Quaker Clearness Committee

clearness committee

Last time we talked about discernment using the Ignatian method of Examen over a period of time, looking for themes of joy and life to guide us to our true selves. This week I will discuss bringing a discernment question to a group in a Quaker Clearness Committee.

In the same way that you don’t have to be Catholic to try the Ignition practice, you don’t have to be a Quaker to try the clearness committee. I am neither and have used both very effectively.

Of course, there are wonderful online resources to read more about this practice in depth, so I will do a short summary here.

When you have a difficult decision, and you need some wisdom and guidance, you can try this with some trusted friends. You will be called the “focus person,” and you will come with your question written out as clearly as you can, even if it is not a fully formed question. Some questions might be: Should I marry this person, should I take this job, should I go to college…any big question will work.

The goal of the clearness committee is not to give you an answer to the question, but rather to help you listen to your inner voice, your own wisdom, to find the answer.

When you gather, make sure you have two hours of time set aside to really listen well.

Appoint someone to be the leader or clerk and keep everyone else on target. The target for the committee members is to listen well and ask ONLY open-ended, honest questions. That is the hardest part right there: No advice giving, no pointed questions or leading questions or judgments. At the “Alive Now” site they said this about the process:

Typically, the meeting begins with a period of centering silence. The focus person begins with a fresh summary of the issue. Then committee members speak, governed by a simple but demanding rule: Members must limit themselves to asking the focus person questions-honest, caring questions. This means no advice (“Why don’t you…?” or “My uncle had the same problem and he…,” or “I know a good therapist that could help.”), only authentic, challenging, open, loving questions. Members guard against questions that arise from curiosity rather than care for the person’s clarity about his or her inner truth. The clerk dismisses questions that are advice or judgment in disguise.

The last fifteen minutes, the leader can ask the focus person if they’d like to suspend the questions only rule and at that time, and if the focus person wants to, the committee members can reflect back what they’ve heard. Still, no advice is given. The focus person is not expected to have an answer by the end of the meeting, but the process of unpacking the focus person’s inner wisdom will continue to unfold over time.

Of course, all that is said in a Clearness Committee is confidential and all notes taken during the meeting are given to the focus person at the end.

I did this once, with some wise women friends and I found it very helpful. I was going through a major transition at the time and I felt lost about what to do next. The main idea that stayed with me from the clearness committee was that “when you are journeying through the wilderness you can’t carry a heavy load, you have to decide which things you want to keep and which things you need to let go.” This began an important season of letting go of some old things and making room for the new.

I’d encourage you to read more on this idea and to try it with some friends. You never know what your inner wisdom is waiting to tell you.

If you’re interested in a fun way to learn more about Spiritual Practices, check out my eBook, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening. It’s fiction but you will learn many new formation techniques along the way, and you will get to know some quirky new characters as well.

Photo Credit

Spiritual Practice: Lectio Divina

little-church

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”

628796

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. 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

Glimpses of God– The Sequel

 

micah1

In my last blog, I talked about terror and shared the story of my recent car wreck. I hinted that my children had the ability to take me to a place of fear 100X greater than the wreck. And so, part two.
The reason I was trying to get home over the mountain at night was because I wanted to maximize my time with my son Micah who would be coming back from Burning Man. He had only two days in Reno before heading back to Fort Bragg. We had a good last two days, and then David put him on a plane back to his base. The next morning I received a call that Micah didn’t show up for work.
At first, we thought, “Oh, it’s just like Micah to get home late and not realize he has to be at work right away. He probably thinks he starts tomorrow.” But, just in case we decided to check with the airline and look at his bank account. He had made it all the way to Fayetteville, North Carolina where Ft. Bragg is located. Then, he’d gone on base, filled up his car and then emptied his bank account. So, he had either been robbed (beaten, lying on the side of the road dead?) or gone AWOL. Panic set in.
Two hours later, after a conversation with my daughter, we found that he’d talked about going AWOL at Burning Man. In fact, they’d had a big fight about it. She was sure he’d changed his mind by the end of the week, so she didn’t mention it.
The next four days were sheer torture. We’d had no word from Micah. I spent most days alternating between trust and despair. I had no words to pray so I turned to the Psalms:
“I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” Psalm 6:6
Our friends and family stood with us and sustained us. And there were glimpses of God. One morning I was so despondent I prayed, “I just want to know that you are with me. It would help if someone I didn’t even really know was praying for me right now. I need to know you see me.” After that, I took a shower and when I came out my husband had put the mail on the dresser. In it was an envelope addressed to me from a woman I hardly know – I met her two years ago at a women’s retreat. On the outside of the envelope was a picture of birds. Under it she had written, “He is watching over you.” Inside was her assurance that I was not alone and she was praying for me! It was so unexpected, so needed. I cried tears of thanksgiving.
Two days later, again despondent I took the dog up in the hills for a walk. It was a warm, dry Reno evening, but when I turned and looked up, there was a big fat rainbow. Not the kind that arches across the sky, but a straight fat one that looked like an exclamation point, slamming into the earth. I sat on a rock and starred at it in wonder. All the promises of the rainbow came back to me and I felt God say, “This will not end in destruction.”
Micah has called us every Sunday for the five years that he’s been in the Army. On Sunday we received a Facebook message, “Alive and Safe, I love you.”
We were so relieved, he was alive and safe!
Our worry for him continues. We know he needs to go back to the base ASAP. We held on to the hope that he would contact us again this Sunday. When he did not, we again sunk into despair. We held each other in bed that night and cried.
Monday morning my husband had an inkling: It was the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. He went to a Flickr and put in Occupy Wall Street into the search engine. After two hours of searching, he was rewarded with the above picture of our boy.
Another glimpse from God. We are not alone. We stand with so many who are praying with us, and God continues to sustain us.
Many of you are going through equally difficult times right now. Let me know what they are so we can hold each other up. These things are too much to bear alone.

Glimpses of God

 

glimpses of God

I often feel more evidence of God’s presence during difficult times. Maybe I’m just more aware of what actually goes on around me every day, or my radio dial gets tuned in quicker during trauma. Maybe I just pay more attention when my legs get kicked out from under me.
Labor Day weekend was my 35th class reunion and my high school besties and I decided to make a girls weekend of it. We got stranded in a bar for several hours (a long and humorous story for another time) and played the game, “Tell me a Story.” This is a game I invented when I was young to entertain my little sister on long road trips. In this game, someone gives you a word or phrase and you have to tell a true story about your life related to that prompt. My friend gave me the word “Terror.” I laughed and said, “I’m not sure what the story will be, but I’m positive it will have something to do with my kids.” Kids have a way of pushing our fear buttons faster than anything I can think of.
Driving home from the weekend, I got a first-hand look at another form of terror. I was driving up the Sierra Nevada Mountains at night when I came upon a pick-up truck stopped in my lane with no lights on. Instant decision: plow into him or try to miss him. I swerved left, overcorrected right and plowed head-on into the guard rail at 65 mph. I won’t go on about all that happened next. I won’t tell you how I found out the guy in the truck was a four-time DUI offender and plastered. I won’t tell you about his wasted female passenger who I thought was coming up to ask if I was okay but instead asked for a ride to the next town. Or the sheer miracle of how I walked away alive and unbroken even though my car was totaled and sitting in the same lane as the truck. I will say that I finally had the clarity to get out of my car and onto the side of the road. Then Brain-Trust in the truck opened his door so an oncoming car could take it off and fling it at me. At that moment I had an epiphany: I felt terrified! I knew that if I ever got asked that question again playing Tell Me a Story, I’d have an answer.

51216156_10155897145596975_3710294119550025728_n

But, I do want to mention a glimpse of God I got that night.
The tow-truck driver dropped me and all my worldly goods, including my grand-baby’s car seat, at an all-night gas station in a small mountain town. It was a warm night and there was a man sitting on the bench where I was deposited. He was sipping a soda and smoking a cigarette. After noting my arrival he asked if there was a baby in the accident. I assured him there was not and we started chatting. It was very comforting to have someone to talk to. He told me of his life as a journalist in the bay area.
After about an hour I asked, “Why are you here?” I mean, it was about nine-thirty by then and he seemed content to sit and talk to me. He said he managed an apartment complex down the road and came here to get away from the noise. As the temp cooled he even got me a shirt from his car to cover my bare arms.
When my frazzled husband arrived around ten-thirty, my nameless angel got up to leave. “Thank you for staying with me,” I said, knowing that sentiment was inadequate for the situation.
“I just wanted someone to be with you until your husband arrived,” he said, shrugging as he walked away – just an every-day hero, just a glimpse of God. I wondered as we drove away, if he was real or a soda sipping, cigarette smoking angel? It didn’t matter, he was exactly what I needed in that moment and I was grateful.
There is a part two to this story, where the terror and the glimpses both crank up about a hundred notches. If you are a careful reader you will know where this is headed. But…since I’m still in the middle of this one I think I’ll wait a bit for that post.
Let me know of times you’ve seen glimpses of God.

 

Photo Credit, Believe Sign – Debbie Mitchell Pinjuv