Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What are you waiting for?

I call December the month of waiting. Remember when you were a child? It seemed as if the wait for Christmas morning took FOREVER.

 You had a wish list. Something special you hoped would be under the tree. Maybe your family--as my daughter’s family did--held “tree time” at night, when you would turn out all but the Christmas tree lights and sit together in the magical dream of the holiday.

Or the holy-day, because for church-goers, December is also about another kind of waiting: when you light a candle each week to observe Advent, marking the time before the birth of the Christ child.

 Notice how important the word “child” is in describing December’s waiting time? Not only in December, but all year, let us honor the child within ourselves--and to remember
a child’s eyes are open to see miracles,
a child’s heart is open to experience joy, and
the Christ child--”The Christ in me”--is forever being born again when we pay attention to those around us in a loving compassionate way.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Laugh a Day?

Last week, I was hired to give an upbeat funny talk at the 40th birthday of a lovely lady who lives in Kansas City.

As I worked on stories for my talk, I referred to some notes I’d kept from a hilarious speaker named Jeanne Robertson, who tells stories in a Texas twang from her own life and who is so funny that, as she might put it, “I laughed so hard my water broke and I wasn’t even pregnant.”

At a workshop for members of the National Speakers Association, Jeanne encouraged us in a habit that I think everyone would benefit from --including you.

Said Jeanne: “Before you go to bed at night, think of at least one amusing experience you had that day.”

Oprah has told the world that it’s a good thing to make a daily list of our gratitudes, but how about also looking consciously at what is funny in our lives? 
Here’s why:
  • Laughter reduces stress and anxiety. Ever tried looking sad when you’re engaged in a hearty belly laugh? 
  • Humor shifts perspective. It helps us see situations in a less threatening, oh-poor-me light. 
  • A sense of humor has something in common with a suit of armor: it protects us from the slings and arrows of each day. It can be a good friend when the going gets tough. 
TRY IT FOR ONE WEEK. See if you can find one amusing episode in your life every single day. Jot it down. At the end of the week, notice how you are feeling about life in general. A bit happier and less stressed?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Gift of Memory

My son Andy was 18 and in college when he sadly said to me, "Mom, I don't have any of my own memories of Daddy. I was too young when he died.  All I have are the family stories." His statement shocked me. It made me profoundly aware of what a gift memory is.

 Right now, I'm enjoying the memory of a wonderful week spent with friends in the Colorado mountains.  What are some of your special memories? Getting your child ready for the first day of  school? A spontaneous "date" with your spouse?  A much-longed for trip you were finally able to take?

Sometimes we get so busy multi-tasking that we don't pay attention--we literally don't notice--our own memory-making moments.

Today, resolve to pay attention.  Notice.  And right now, take a moment to recall some of your own special memories. What a gift they are!

Monday, August 30, 2010

I’ve been remiss in writing my blog this past month--and for a good reason, I think. I went to Colorado to a wonderful Women’s Fitness Camp and left my computer  and smart phone behind. 
 Years ago, my friend Don Campbell, a man who truly walked his spiritual talk, said to me, “If you want a relationship with someone, you have to invest your time: the same thing holds true for a relationship with God. Start your day with an hour of prayer.”   
In these days of addictive texting and Face-booking, when we can easily spend an hour (or two!) checking  our Facebook messages, it’s worth asking: “Do I care enough about my day to day relationship with God to spend at least as much time communicating with my Creator?”  
In between hiking and biking and yoga and water aerobics at the Fitness Camp, I found it spiritually renewing to walk among the trees and gratefully ponder for an hour all the gifts in my life that have come from the great universal force of Love we call God. 
Notice how much time you spend on Facebook today. And then, ask: “Can I spend at least as much time in prayerfully building my relationship with God?”  

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Psalm For traveling along the Way

The path winds before me
Curving, hidden in parts
So I do not see where it turns.
And how easy it is to fear I will
Stumble or take a wrong turn.

Yet lifting my eyes upward,
Above the trees I see the sky,
blue and sun-tipped.
And in the dazzling brightness,
I step out in faith
Knowing I will not stumble for long.

Knowing that God is at my right hand
And at my left foot.
Above me as the dazzle.
Below me as the humous.
And when I walk with God
I never walk alone.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Real Thing: Celebrating July 4th

American Reality is shaped by the freedom
into which all of us are born.
No more than we can experience what it is
to be a jellyfish can we understand
the reality of tyranny and non-freedom,
for we have never experienced what it is.

Our Constitution is more than our birthright.
It is our birth channel, for from its articles and amendments,
its freedoms and guarantees, we American are formed.

Nowhere on this globe can we find
a more perfect vision of freedom than the vision that
you and I got up with this morning.

And probably didn't even notice.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pedaling my prayer

Last week I “pedaled my prayer” on a five-day, 385-mile bicycle ride up a few hills and down again through the Fox River Valley in Wisconsin, from Watertown to Green Bay and back. Sixty-two riders breathed in the fragrance of Wisconsin’s dairy farms, waved to the black and white cows in the fields, admired the lush green tidiness of the state, and tried to laugh off the drenching rain on one of our days of riding.

I was a little worried at the start: Could I manage to bike 68 miles a day?

As it happens any time we successfully step outside our comfort zone, I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I did manage, even on the toughest day when we faced the big 3: hills, headwinds and heat.

And I truly did pedal my prayer because bicycle tires going ‘round and ‘round remind me of prayer beads, and it was easy, as I pedaled, to fall into the cadence of “Jesus, mercy, Christ, have mercy.” Or, “God loves me, Jesus loves me.”

Think about a time when you stepped out of your comfort zone and succeeded in something you weren’t sure you could do. I remember a woman who attended one of my women’s talks and who said to me afterwards: “I found the courage to start law school at age 42 once I discovered I could stand on my head in yoga class.”

Whatever the accomplishment, we feel, “Hey, if I could do this, why I can do that scary thing over there.” And isn’t that how we grow, psychologically and spiritually, throughout our lives?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What's so amazing about Grace?

I've been rereading What's so Amazing about Grace by one of my favorite authors, Philip Yancey.
He reminds me that the root word for grace in Greek means "I rejoice. I am glad" and that we receive grace as a pure gift, not something that is earned.

I grew up as a military brat and as a Roman Catholic girl child in the 1950s--two very powerful authoritarian environments where you were expected to "earn" your way--and where "rank hath its privileges" whether it was a military rank or an episcopal rank.
But really, when you think about it, isn't the entire  American culture rank conscious?

It has taken a looooong time to understand what Jesus was talking about: that Grace exists and comes to us as pure gift. We do not earn it. It often enters our lives as serendipity. Or as hope--"that thing with feathers" as Emily Dickinson said.

I think the Creator reminds us of the existence of grace whenever we walk into nature and see the wild and wondrous colors assigned to flowers, fish, and fowl...and the almost infinite variety in the shape of leaves and insects.  It's as if the message is shouted: "Look! Look at this incredible world I have bequeathed you. Rejoice and be glad!"

All we must do is open our eyes so we can see. So we can see the many gifts of Grace that come our way every single day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Bicycling Metaphor for Your Next Challenge

The cyclist next to me faltered. “I can’t go any farther,” she gasped.A 30-mph headwind and 94-degree temperatures had turned our 76-mile hilly ride into the ride from hell.

It was the fourth day of RAGBRAI, the annual 500-mile bicycle ride across Iowa, which attracts nearly 10,000 bicyclists from around the world in July. It still surprised me to be there. But the break-up of my 20-year-marriage had surprised me too.

Divorce is so common these days that it’s easy to forget how devastating it feels to go through one. To cheer me up, a friend had encouraged me to join a cycling group that met every Saturday.

I found two-dozen cyclists hunched over skinny-tired road bikes, wearing black spandex bike shorts and helmets with miniature mirrors attached. Their shoes clipped onto their pedals. Whoa, I thought, these are serious cyclists. Sure enough, the leader said they planned to ride 40 miles that day.

I had to quit after ten.

But I liked bicycling. So I bought a used road bike and showed up the next Saturday. My bicycle buddies became a supportive community, and bicycling, with its physical demands, helped me cope with the pain of divorce.  But could I manage a 7-day, 500-mile ride across Iowa?

At first—no problem. The air was rich with the fragrance of sweat, manure, hogs, flowers and barbecue. There was a visceral sense of being in the moment. Then came that awful day of headwinds, heat, and hills.

When I finally staggered off my bike, after 12 hours, another cyclist, who had ridden ten times across Iowa, said, “Man, today was the toughest day I’ve ever had.”

The toughest day? My shoulders straightened.

My divorce had just become final. And suddenly it hit me: If could cycle Iowa on the toughest day, why, I could re-cycle my life after divorce.

That’s what is special about athletic endeavors. Indeed, about any activity that takes us out of our familiar comfort zone. They help us realize --”Wow, if I can do this (you fill in the blank), why, I can do that. (your next challenge).”

Remind yourself now: What tough thing have you accomplished? Whatever it was, it means you can successfully face your next challenge. Count on it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Death and Taxes? How about Prayer and Taxes?

If "April is the cruelest month" as the poet said, then April 15 can seem like the cruelest day. It's the day we pony up and pay our taxes.  I had a throwback moment myself--a moment of acknowledging some financial truths. Even a moment of scarcity thinking.

And then I reminded myself of the truth I wrote about in my book, Prayer to Ease Money Worries.

"True prosperity is not about money or things. It's a way of living and thinking, of noticing the wealth we already have that goes way beyond money." So as I send off my tax form, I  smile and say thanks: thanks for health and loved ones and friendships, and daffodils--and also...

...thanks for roads and bridges and schools and all the things my taxes pay for that I am blessed to have and sometimes take for granted.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Discovering "sermons on the mat"

My friend Tom Jacobs likes to end the yoga classes he teaches by having his students lay in a circle on their mats while he dims the lights. Then Tom, too, lies down, and as music plays softly behind him, he speaks quietly for several minutes about the connection between yoga and the rest of life.
One of his students, with tongue in cheek, dubbed these talks SERMONS ON THE MAT.
Tom laughed as he told me that, and his eyes crinkled in smile lines. Tom teaches yoga six nights a week, and to him, it is “prayer of the body.”

The word yoga means union, and for Tom, that ‘s what life is about: finding union with God, whatever way that union expresses itself to individuals. As the son of a Jewish father and Catholic mother, he early accepted the idea that God is larger than any doctrine.
I agree.

With a yoga instructor like Tom Jacobs, we do more than stretch our bodies: we stretch our souls. I salute Tom. He is in the Kansas City area. Go to this website.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Daring (gulp) to Disconnect?

Sign on the road to a Buddhist monastery in the Colorado mountains:
“Drive more slowly.
Road gets harder.”

I juxtapose those words with the PBS Frontline episode I watched last week titled “Digital Nation” where everyone is multi-tasking like crazy, always connected to someone somewhere via smart phone or computer.
I wonder: Is it possible to disconnect-- to occasionally travel more slowly in today’s increasingly rushed world? One of the MIT students interviewed for Digital Nation claimed that she can work efficiently while simultaneously juggling five tech connections. Yet a university study has shown that in fact, multi-tasking does not make us more efficient, we just THINK it does.
Life, like roads, can get harder as we go along; a little more challenging.
Taking time to sit quietly in prayerful meditation can give us the inner strength we need to face challenges.
I wonder: if you’re under 30, do you think you could handle 30 minutes of quiet without being connected? Maybe that same question applies to over 30, too.
Here’s a challenge: Try it!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

What's Coming Next?

At the beginning of January, I had dinner with a half-dozen women friends. Afterwards, with some fanfare, our hostess handed out magic markers and small white tiles, each about an inch and a half square.

“What is your word for this new year?” she asked. We were to write the word on our tile and keep it with us for the next 12 months. Various words were selected--”trust” “focus” “patience” “faith” “success”--but the one I liked best is the word NEXT.

Depak Chopra once said, “What happens in life is neither good nor bad, it is simply next.” In years past, I was too quick to call an event “bad” if it didn’t match what I had hoped --or expected -- would happen. But I’ve learned that even painful experiences can take on transformational meaning over time. So this year, I'm willing to be surprised. I'm going to open my eyes and my heart to whatever comes next.

What about you?