Do you ever feel that you just need room to breathe? Room to catch your breath? Room to remember that you are a living being wanting to experience life instead of just floating through it? I am always impressed with the birds that live outside my bedroom window. They are the first to celebrate the dawn and the best at thanking God for a brand new day. They get it.
A few weeks ago, I picked up a book that I have had for a while and began reading it. A Hidden Wholeness is an insightful book by Parker Palmer. I know I am late to the party concerning this book, but I believe the timing is right for me. I have been struck by the light he shines on the need for our souls to speak and be heard. One of my favorite quotes from the book is:
The soul is generous: it takes in the needs of the world. The soul is wise: it suffers without shutting down. The soul is hopeful: it engages the world in ways that keep opening our hearts. The soul is creative: it finds its way between realities that might defeat us and fantasies that are mere escapes. All we need to do is to bring down the wall that separates us from our own souls and deprives the world of the soul’s regenerative powers.
Over 7 years ago, I was pregnant with my second child. I was overwhelmed by work, marriage, being a mother and life in general. I had not heard from my soul in a long time. It was then that I discovered spiritual direction. During my first meeting with my spiritual director, I experienced hope. Hope that I could undo what I had made of my life. Hope that my life could be lived with a deeper, spiritual purpose. I have also found this experience in small groups. In his book, Parker Palmer explains how groups can be helpful to soul work. Soul work in groups changes lives.
If you are seeking to live more like the birds of the air that celebrate each day, then I encourage you to find space in your days to listen to your soul. Find a group to help you or meet with a spiritual director. The Holy Spirit is within each of us and guides us. Sometimes we simply need to take a breath, clear our heads and listen. What happens then? You watch as you are taken to places and experiences you could never imagine yourself. It’s even better!
Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. Rabindranath Tagore
My daughters were holding hands on the edge of the dock ready to jump in the lake. I took a quick picture before their feet left the dock. The picture reminded me of two things…sometimes we just need to jump in AND it helps if we have a hand to hold.
Jumping in a lake takes some courage. I grew up on Possum Kingdom lake and proudly claimed the “lake rat” identity. I was in the lake as soon as the sun came up and until the sun went down. I washed my hair in the lake, wore my swimsuit to bed, skied across the glass-like-surface and loved every minute of it. But there are things in the lake I would rather not think about like big fish, snakes, mud, and trash. Not to mention all the other things that swim below the surface. But if I had only focused on the things I could not see, I know I would have missed a lot of fun and life. Sometimes we have to simply jump into what lies before us no matter what is under the surface.
If you find yourself hesitating, then find a hand to hold. Not just any hand, but a hand you trust to allow you to be your true self. Someone who you can visit with about your inner thoughts and they won’t judge you. Someone who won’t just give you a 10-step program to achieve your dream or a new app to try. Instead, someone who will be patient while you wrestle with your true self and what the God desires of you in your life now.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, did this. When she was informed she would give birth to God’s only Son, she jumped right into her calling. She also traveled to visit with her relative Elizabeth and stayed with her. She sought out a hand to hold. I can only imagine the intimate and sacred conversations they must have shared.
If you have a minute, close your eyes and imagine standing on the edge of a dock ready to jump in to the next vision God has for you. What do you see? Who is holding your hand? I pray you will jump in soon. And don’t worry…God is like a lifejacket. God won’t let you drown.
Humble yourself, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that God may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6,7
A few years ago while I was a chaplain in a hospital, one of our instructors asked a group of us, “What makes a good day?” Because we worked in a hospital day after day and saw things we wish we could forget, we quickly escaped in our minds. Someone said, “A day on the beach.” Another one said, “A long hike in Colorado.” The one next to me said, “Time with my wife and kids.” I remember saying something like, “A airplane ticket to any destination.” We had a lot of fun with our answers. Basically it was anywhere but where we were.
That is what our instructor hoped we would say. He hoped we would define a good day with dreams, because then he gave us a follow up question, “Why does a good day have to be an extraordinary day…what about ordinary days? Aren’t they good too.” Of course he was right. Because isn’t it the ordinary days that we miss the most when we look back on our lives? Or if we are in the midst of grief…we miss the normal days. The days where we have a cup of coffee together with someone we love at the kitchen table. The days when we laugh because of something one of our children says from the back seat. The days when we read a good book or cook a simple dinner for our family to enjoy. Ordinary days. They are good days too…maybe even the best days.
There is something that happens in life. It is subtle and silent. Through all the information we receive on a daily basis, there is a subtle message that says we have less than what we deserve. Our lives are not exciting enough. Our car, washing machine, grill (I have heard that the Green Egg grill is pretty cool), are out of date and we need a new one. Message after message, we start to believe these subtle messages. They become a part of our daily chatter. And before we know it, ordinary days loose their shine.
In my life, my delightful days begin with a to-do-list. I keep a running list in my kitchen and attend to it before I go to bed. That way I know what I need to do and I do not have to worry about it all night. Then in the morning, I make a cup of coffee and read a chapter or two of a book that enlightens me or gives me something to think about concerning my faith. I write my prayers down in a prayer journal. It is a gift to read back over prayers that have been answered. I choose to have a good attitude for the day. And then I work for God. I listen to the nudges God sends me to call a friend, write a note or serve someone. I work on our non-profit because that is my current mission.
And in all of this, my day turns out to be delightful simply because my day is less about me and more about God. I encourage you to find your rhythm. Find your recipe for a delightful day. Claim your place in God’s plan for this world and make things happen. If you are willing, God will use you.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
During spring break of 2015, my family and I went to Biloxi, Mississippi for a family mission trip. We worked there in Biloxi at a homeless shelter, painting, tiling, doing some general construction-type work, and sharing the love of Jesus with the guests at the shelter.
One day at lunch our work team decided to go to a seafood restaurant right by the marina. A boat had just come in from a guided fishing trip, and the guide was filleting the fish that the group had caught while out in the Gulf of Mexico. A very peculiar thing to me was that a pelican had cozied up to the guide, and was waiting patiently for him to share a scrap of fish. I’d never seen a pelican so close to a human before – it seemed almost domesticated or tame. It goes without saying that this pelican had pursued a relationship with the fishing guide, a relationship that benefitted the pelican greatly.
Isn’t that what we do when we draw close to the Lord through prayer? We pursue a relationship with God almighty. And Jesus encourages his followers to spend considerable time and energy doing this very thing. He tells us to, “ask, seek, knock” – and we will not be disappointed. But the benefits of pursuing a relationship with God through prayer are far greater than a few scraps of fish (sorry, pelican!).
I love what M. Basil Pennington (monk, author, and prayer-warrior) has to say about pursuing a relationship with God through prayer. He states, “In prayer we seek God. We do not seek peace, quiet, tranquility, enlightenment; we do not seek anything for ourselves. We seek to give ourselves… to God. He is the all of our prayer.” The greatest benefit is the relationship itself. We get to give ourselves to this relationship – we get to give ourselves to God. We get to ask, seek, and knock; knowing that whether our prayers are answered the exact way we ask them or not, we are building the most blessed relationship this life (and the life to come) has to offer.
We pursue a relationship with the One who is our Friend, our Counselor; yet at the same time is also our Rock, Refuge, and Guide. We pursue a relationship with the One who is our God – and we will not be disappointed.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
Dr. Steven Bell
I live for quotes during my weeks. Quotes and words cause me to pause…remember…reflect…be inspired. They take me from where I am to where I probably need to be in a specific moment. This is why I live for them…they remind me that I am alive. I am capable. I am creative. Quotes give me moments in my day that cause me to collide with beliefs, the world and others. Some push me closer to where I need to be and some remind me that my voice is important. Some even change my life.
My all time favorite quote by Carl Sandburg who said, “Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you.” I still have the email from the friend who sent it to me in 2010 and this quote serves as my filter when I take a new project.
For me, the little quotes are gifts from God. God knows me. God knows you. (Even if we try to pretend God’s too busy to notice us.) And God knows how to get our attention on our busy days and on our days when we are just lazy. I need God on both days to either slow me down or pull me out of myself and back into the race for the day. And that is why God created quotes! God was the first in the communication business way before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. God has used bushes, mountains (Moses really had all the fun), prophets,disciples, scribes, friends and more to communicate with us. God was also the first in the recycling business…God takes us from where we are and turns us into a new creation through God’s love.
This week, I have come across some great quotes and I simply thought I would share. And I hope you might send some of your great ones back to me. It is kind of like a recipe exchange. Who knows…we might even change each others lives.
We may feel there’s way too much to do, but some of it is not his (God’s) will. The pressure is coming from you, or your employer, or your friends, or your parents, or someone else besides God! Article by Tim Keller
Thy will be done. From a friend fighting cancer
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 sent from a friend in the mail.
The whole world was changing and I didn’t know how I fit in. Cecil Gaines from The Butler
If you feel your life is terrible, just look at your own profile page on Facebook and your life looks great! from a friend
Who says it has to be itsy bitsy? a talk by Jessica Rey
Sometimes God says yes. Sometimes God says no. And sometimes God says not yet. from a sermon
Enjoy your quote hunt this week!
A few weeks ago, Steven and I went hiking. We hiked through the Hot Springs National Park . The day of our hike, we woke up at the Spring Street Inn, enjoyed a delicious breakfast (one of those meals you can truly eat ALL of it because you know every calorie would be burned off…joy!), stepped across the street from the B&B, and began our hike. We just walked.
After a steep 2 mile climb at the beginning of our 16 mile hike, I needed to take a break. I just sat on the ground. When you are hiking it is amazing what feels good and comfortable…the ground. (I made a mental note to myself to tell my trainer that we needed to work on conditioning my body to do more than a 30 minute workout.) While we were catching our breath and laughing at what we were doing, we heard a familiar noise…church bells. They chimed over the town and through the trees with the breeze. The sound of the bells brought a sense of calmness to us while we rested early in the morning. It was just a moment that seemed to give purpose and peace to the day. God was with us.
Historically, church bells have been used to gather worshipers together for a church service. One small village I visited during college in Costa Rica still used their church bells for this purpose. When the pastor was in town, the bells rang to let the people know to come to the service. Services were not always on Sundays. When I was a chaplain in a hospital, bells chimed twice a day through the halls. Their purpose was to encourage the hospital staff to pause and offer prayer for those in their care.
On our hiking day, the church bells calmed my soul. They reminded me that I was not alone. They gave me a chance to give thanks for a day to explore God’s natural sanctuary. They called me back from my distractions into what is truly important…time with God and my husband. They reminded me that 3 people were hiking that day even though we could only see each other.
Since then, I still hear the bells. They are not as loud at home, but they are still there. When I start my day on the wrong side of the bed, God and I meet again when I think of those bells. Then my day gets a lot better.
I wonder what you use each day to connect your agenda for the day with God’s presence? Prayer, service, scripture, a cup of coffee? What are your church bells? They can be so subtle and quiet that they are hard to hear when we are busy or in a hurry. But I guess being busy and in a hurry is not what God wants us to be doing anyways.
When we started hiking again (up another incline…ugh), I was still struck by how the church bells connected to my soul. I shared it with Steven. And then I said, “Hey, those church bells…that’s our song! We are the Bells!!” We are on this journey together. Glad you are with us too!
Driving down a road recently, our car passed fields and fields of sunflowers. They were in full bloom and all of their little yellow faces seemed to be smiling back at us. We smiled at them. In their own little way, they lifted our spirits and gave us something to think about the rest of the day. They created JOY. It made me think about all of those little moments in our day that offer us JOY. A phone call from a friend, a funny text, ice cream, unexpected flowers, a laugh, a good book, a nice meal, a hug…these are moments of JOY on my list.
My daughter’s favorite book before bed is Tickle Monster. It is about a monster that comes from planet tickle and tickles her from head to toe. She loves the book. It is not the best book (in my rational, boring, mom opinion) before bed because it does not really settle her down. Maybe it is the monster gloves we wear or the way the tickle monster grabs her boney little knees. She wiggles. She screams. She laughs until she cannot breathe. She is filled with JOY! Just JOY. No wonder she chooses the book night after night. I imagine that she probably sleeps best after having a day with JOY.
Leon Bloy said, “JOY is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” I am sure God loves to see us full of JOY in the same way I love to see my daughter laughing so hard that she needs a break from tickles. JOY lifts us out of the seriousness of life and into the presence of God. JOY reminds us to celebrate life. JOY puts us on the path to hope, peace and love.
One of my college friends lost her mother to cancer this past year. I spent time at her home in college. She was a gentle and loving woman. When I heard how she was walking through her fight with cancer, I was not surprised…she was Pimpin JOY. You can read about her JOY journey. She chose JOY over everything else. Since her death, her family has done the same. And I know they have experienced the presence of God all along the way.
As our country celebrates today, I encourage you to experience JOY. Make your own list of JOY moments that work for you. Share JOY with those you meet this week. And if you really want to dive into a day of JOY, there is always Tickle Monster at the end of the day!
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Psalm 98:4
Today I learned about a woman who lived along the Cane River in Louisiana on the Melrose Plantation. Clementine Hunter was a farm laborer and never learned to read or write. She lived from January 1887-Janurary 1988. When she turned 50 years old, she decided she would paint. Her paintings reflected the life of the plantation. She is well known today for her work as an American Folk Artist.
The guide who shared her life with me made one comment that has stayed with me. She shared that the reason Clementine Hunter’s paintings were so famous is because she painted from the inside; from the inside of her heart and from the inside the culture of the Creole people on the plantation. From the inside she shared her experience of the world in her own way through painting.
We may often spend more time than necessary tending to our outsides. Clothes. Hair. Makeup. Image. But what about the inside? Patience. Acceptance. Listening. Prayer. Love. These are the things that really matter. Connecting with God and others really matters. Who we are on the inside is what we are called to show the outside.
It is good to pause now and then to take an assessment of our spiritual life on the inside. When we stay busy and distracted by calendar items that are necessary but not life giving, we can easily silence our inner voice or inner thoughts that are inviting us to connect ourselves with our God. When we go along enough days only living from the surface of our selves, we begin to believe that that is all there is to life, when in fact there is so much more. What has been stirring in your heart lately?
Clementine Hunter found purpose and power in turning inside out. I imagine we can do the same when we stop listening to outside voices and start listening to the God who dwells in all of us on the inside.
If you insist on saving our life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live. Mark 8:35
Let me introduce you to Gloria. A little over two weeks ago, my family received a call and we were told we would soon be moving our tent. Not just the new indoor tent we are enjoying, but our bigger tent. We were all a little taken back by the news. But to calm our initial thoughts, we decided to go and spy…tip toe spying.
When we arrived at our new location, we stopped to have lunch at the Collin Street Bakery. With sunglasses on and hats pulled low, we entered the welcoming eatery. The first things we saw were cakes, pies, cookies and of course fruit cakes. Our first reaction, this is going to turn our just fine. Yummy!
Then we met Gloria (aka God). Gloria was a beautiful woman and her spirit shined. She brought us our food and quickly observed that we did not receive any chips to go with our sandwiches. She talked to both of our daughters and said, “Little mommas…come with me, you need some chips.” They soon returned with smiles and four packages of chips. They were so excited explaining how they were free, really free. Later when Gloria (aka God) checked on our spy table, she observed that we did not have one cookie on our table. Once again, she recruited our daughters to correct this problem because she recognizes good help when she sees it and said, “Little mommas…come with me, you need some cookies.” They returned with bigger smiles and a plate full of twelve cookies.
Our spying skills seemed to slip under the table as laughter and smiles filled our hearts. When we left we looked for Gloria (aka God) to thank her and could not find her. Then we knew she really was God!
We are on a new adventure, but we know that God is there too!