Thursday, October 18, 2018

VOTE! Thursday's Reflection

I'm going to vote today.

I prefer walking up the block to Nativity Church, my polling location, to vote alongside my neighbors, but I will be out of town on election day and therefore, requested an absentee ballot.

I am grateful there is more than one way, one day to vote, and I intend to wear the red "I voted" sticker enclosed in the envelope with my ballot just as soon as I complete the process. I do wonder, however, why there is only one official voting day when we can gather in our polling locations. And why a Tuesday? What would happen if the polls were open Sunday through Tuesday, for example? And why isn't a national holiday declared to celebrate this sacred right of citizenship? 

And why is it more people do not exercise this right, especially when so many people in our country have to remain vigilant to maintain their right to vote and so many people are denied a right to vote? Recently on a Minnesota Public Radio program about young people and voting I heard a young man say he doesn't vote because there is no one good enough to deserve his vote. Well, heaven knows, there seem to be many politicians who do not deserve our vote, but who is Good Enough? No one is perfect, and I suspect that young man is not Good Enough either to deserve the many blessings he has received and benefits from. 

What does it mean to be Good Enough anyway? 

I will be in Alabama the day of the midterm elections on a weeklong civil rights tour, and I wonder how that will feel and what I will learn. 

In preparation for the tour I have read Taylor Branch's massive Parting the Waters, America in the King Years 1954-1963, volume one of three books about the King years, and was so moved by the struggles, the bloodshed, the threats, and the desperation to prevent people from voting, and by the struggles, the effort, the passion in the face of physical harm, even death to claim that right. 

And now, amazingly, in 2018 the fight to insure that all citizens are able to vote continues. How can that be? 

I am one of the privileged. I have never been asked to prove my worthiness to vote, to show I am smart enough or rich enough, or white enough to vote. All I needed to do was register to vote, and no one has attempted to prevent me from doing so. I suspect that is true for most of my readers.  

Please, exercise your ease of voting. 

Marianne Williamson prays, 

                       Please reveal to me, Lord, a way to stand
                       in my power, through love instead of fear,
                       and through peace instead of violence.

Voting is a way to stand in my power. 

Voting is the loving thing to do.

Voting is the peaceful thing to do.


An Invitation
Are you registered? Are you planning to vote? I would love to know.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Invitation to Storytelling: Tuesday's Reflection

I had no idea the storytelling and spiritual direction conference I attended last week would inspire me to move my wolf friend Cap-Chi from the lower level of our home to my garret. Nor did I think I would move myWise Woman figure made by a dear friend from a bookshelf to the ledge in front of my desk. Wise Woman inspires me to speak from the heart, and wolves are a Native American symbol for teacher, and therefore, they both need a place at my table of discernment and inspiration. 

Both remind me I am not alone when I pray or meditate or when I write or prepare to be with spiritual directees. And both remind me of the power of story. 

One of the conference exercises was to reflect on our future best possible life, and part of that was to give ourselves a name for that time. Our names on the conference roster may have looked like Laura and Karen and Marge and Cindy and other names you would recognize, but in reality those in attendance were:
                        Visionary Woman
                         Soul Tender
                         Dream Weaver
                         Traveling Holy Woman
                         Radiant Life
and others, including two Sophias.

And me--Spacious Presence.

Perhaps, this seems silly to you, but Diane MIllis, Ph.d. was quite serious as she encouraged us to revisit our stories, the stories we tell ourselves and others. She invited us to view the ways our stories can be redemptive, instead of contaminative. 

                   What story is worth your life?
                                      Lisa Marshall

So here are a couple thoughts as you begin to think of your life as a series of stories, especially the stories you tell someone early on in a relationship. 

Retell a story in your life as if it were a fairy tale. Once upon a time there was a little girl who...  Use the third person--he/she--to tell your story. Using the third person is a way to go deeper because you become the observer of you, the object. 

Give your story a title. Give your protagonist, that's you, a symbolic name. I named myself "Sacred Seventy" in one of the stories I shared during the conference. Then ask yourself what you noticed in your story. Was there anything new, different, surprising in this telling or writing of the story? Is there anything you would like to explore further or anything you would like to advise or share with the main character (you!)? Can you write a new, more life-giving ending to this story? 

                     You are the story you tell yourself,
                     so tell yourself a good story.

We think we know our story, but Millis advises that our story evolves just as creation continues, and telling a story, especially if someone receives it, is an impetus for change, for redemption, for transformation. Any story, yours or someone else's, can be an opening to further discovery.

                           What's in a word?
                            A world.
                                       Michael White

One more thing: as you listen to someone's story, be mindful of how you hold it. Instead of giving advice or trying to solve the problem, offer your presence. 
                          I noticed....
                          I wondered...
                          I appreciated...

As a spiritual director, I attempt to hear my directees into their own story, their deepest story, the story that reveals the movement of the Divine in their lives. And in that process, I go deeper into my own stories. Wise Woman and Cap-Chi, the wolf, are witnesses to this ongoing process, and my hope of truly becoming Spacious Presence. 

An Invitation
What stories are you waiting to tell? I would love to know.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Pumpkin Love: Thursday's Reflection

I love pumpkins and urge you to hug a pumpkin or two, as seen in this picture taken a couple falls ago. 

Perhaps I can trace my love of pumpkins to a book I had as a child--the Disney version of Cinderella. When you opened the front cover out popped an orange paper pumpkin transformed into the coach that took Cinderella to the ball. I was delighted each time I opened that book.  

Fast forward to one of our first years living at Sweetwater Farm in Ohio when my parents came to visit one fall. My mother told me about something new--WHITE PUMPKINS! I don't recall where she had seen them or learned about them, but that very weekend we went out into Amish country in search of the great white pumpkin. If I recall, correctly, we were successful.

A few years after that our son Geof and daughter-in-love Cricket were married in October  and guess what? Pumpkins were the main decoration at the rehearsal dinner, which we held at the farm. 

Every year I look forward to pumpkin time and all the ways to decorate with them both inside and outside the house. Real ones of all colors and shapes and clever fake ones, too. They make me smile, and don't we need to do that right now?

So in the interest of smiling, here are a few favorite pumpkin pictures from the past, including ones with grandkids, Maren and Peter in much younger days. 
Maren hugging a pumpkin.

Peter and Maren

An Invitation
What makes you smile these days? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Smudging for Blessing and Cleansing: Tuesday's Reflection

This past weekend I went on a guided tour of Native American Sacred Sites led by two wise men, one from the Mohican tribe and the other a Mendota Dakota. A group of about 40 of us from my church gathered under a large cottonwood tree to hear stories of creation, of survival, of forgiveness, of hope, and about the history of domination that happened right in my back yard. 

We began with a smudging ceremony. 

Smudging is a spiritual practice among some indigenous peoples in which herbs, such as sage, are burned for the purpose of blessing and/or cleansing.

One of our guides walked around the circle we had formed, carrying a large abalone shell of burning sage. Each one of us directed the smoke over our bodies with open hands. We were quiet, expectant. I felt both cleansed and blessed.

What this country needs right now is a good smudging.

As I sit here at my desk, I imagine a thick, pungent smelling smoke wafting over us all from coast to coast, but lingering especially over the buildings and monuments in Washington DC. I imagine that smoke drifting into the Senate hearing room and the White House and now the Supreme Court. 

A smudging does not erase what has happened, but, instead, it clears the space and allows us to see with more clarity and to feel supported on the next steps. 

We need a cleansing from the hate, the fear, the partisanship. 

We need a blessing to remind us that we are all one. We need a blessing to learn how to listen, to act out of love. 

        Hear me, four quarters of the world--a relative I am!
        Give me the strength to walk the soft earth,
             a relative to all that is!
        Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand
             that I may be like you...
        Great Spirit, Great Spirit, my Grandfather,
        all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike.
        With tenderness have these come up out of the ground.
        Look upon these faces of children without number
             and with children in their arms
        that they may face the winds and walk the good road
             to the day of quiet. 
                                              Black Elk       

An Invitation
What needs smudging in your life? I would love to know. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Living in the Present: Thursday's Reflection

How often do you hear the advice to live in the present? 

Live now. 

Live now fully.

I have said those words, written those words myself frequently. I have examined the meaning of those words for myself, especially since I am a planner. What do I need to do tomorrow? The rest of this month? And how am I going to accomplish those things? 

What would it mean to be a recovering planner, I ask myself, as I add another item on my To Do list:  Conquer the need to plan.

Realistically, I know that isn't going to happen, but isn't there a way, I wonder, to be both a planner, to pay bills on time, to set goals for my writing, to make sure there is food in the house to eat, to be organized and ready for tasks I have agreed to do?

Perhaps planning and living the present moment are not the same thing. Perhaps thinking about what I need to do tomorrow or next week or even further in the future doesn't detract --at least not totally--from living in the present moment. I get confused about this some times. 

And then there is the fact that I am writing my spiritual memoir and that means looking backwards, pulling out the past, including what I would prefer to gloss over, sweep away. I have been keeping journals for decades. Packed in plastic bins from Target, aren't those journals mere bundles of past days meant to be set aside in favor of smelling the roses still left in the garden? 

As I said, I get confused about this business of living in the present moment sometimes. 

Recently, I heard a wise woman say, "Live as if you had eleven months to live. Not twelve months."

Today is Thursday, October 4th. If you only have eleven months to live, that means you will never know another October 4th, so how do you want to live your last October 4th? How do you want to live from now until September 4, 2019?

The Sufi mystic Rumi says, "There are a hundred way to kneel and kiss the ground." I take that to mean that there is more than one way to live fully, to live with a sense of the sacred in all we do and all we are. 

Once again I return to one of my mantras, "Sacred Yes. Sacred No."
Sometimes I have a hard time deciding whether something is a sacred yes or sacred no, but staying present to the distinction, subtle as it may be, is a way for me to explore my own path of awakening, as Kathleen Dowling Singh says in her book, The Grace in Living. 

Today I am present to the transition from early fall to the middle of fall. Today I am present to the sight of pumpkins lined up on the steps of more and more homes in my neighborhood. Today I am present to the open day in front of me when I will begin revising another chapter in my memoir. Today I am present to the taste of chili I made the day before. Today I am present to my quiet morning meditation time when I will listen for the voice of Spirit in whatever form it takes. Today I am present to the suffering in the world and offer blessings for all who live in pain, no matter the reason or the form. Today I am present to the time I will have with those who attend a guided labyrinth walk I am facilitating. Today I am present to encounters, face to face or via text or email.

Today I am present to the sacredness of this day. 

                             The blessings of heaven,
                             the blessings of earth,
                             the blessings of sea and of sky.
                             On those we love this day
                             and on every human family
                             the gifts of heaven,
                             the gifts of earth,
                             the gifts of sea and of sky.
                                           J. Phillip Newell

An Invitation
What does being present mean to you? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Anger and the Hearings: Tuesday's Reflection

What a week it was! 

I was glued to the hearings for the Supreme Court justice this last week, as I am sure many of you were. I will continue to follow the process carefully, and I will send a letter of gratitude to Amy Klobuchar, who happens to be my senator and in a few weeks at the midterm election I will get to vote for her again. She may be a senator from Minnesota, but she clearly was representing many beyond her jurisdiction when she asked "Where is the bravery in this room?" and when she reminded the other committee senators that the constitution does not say, "'We the ruling party. ' The constitution says "We the people.'"

Her questions to Brett Kavanaugh and her steady demeanor when he tried to shake her with inappropriate questions will remain in my memory for a long time. Clearly, she was angry, but she directed her anger into focused clarity. 

Both Klobuchar and Kavanaugh were passionate, but one chose to rage, and the other didn't. How different would you respond if  Klobuchar had been the one to exhibit such open anger and Kavanaugh had instead lowered the tone of his voice and responded in a civil and measured manner?

And what about the difference between Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh? Or Lindsey Graham and Klobuchar or Feinstein? I imagine these hearings will someday be perfect subject matter for not only college political science courses, but also psychology classes. 

Aside from the political implications of the last few days, I have thought about my own anger; something I don't express openly very often, if at all. My anger is apt to dissolve into tears, as it does for many women.

Many years ago a therapist in a counseling session told me I could continue talking through my tears; that crying doesn't need to halt what I feel and need to express. It seems obvious, but had never occurred to me. That piece of advice has been helpful, for sure, but still I know I don't allow fury to surface. 

This summer my writing mentor mentioned after reading a draft of my memoir that she sensed some underlying and unexpressed anger   in my writing. On no! Do I have to go there? 

I dutifully pulled out my dog-eared and heavily marked up copy of The Dance of Anger, A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Goldhor Lerner first published, would you believed, in 1985. And still in print. Order your copy now!

In the first chapter I met myself--again--right away in the first chapter, a section called "The 'Nice Lady' Syndrome." 
               ...we stay silent--or become tearful, self-critical,
               or 'hurt.' If we do feel anger, we keep it to ourselves
               in order to avoid the possibility of open conflict. 
               But it is not just our anger that we keep to ourselves;
               in addition, we may avoid making clear statements
               about what we think and feel, when we suspect
               that such clarity would make another person 
               uncomfortable and expose differences between us. 

Lerner refers to "a storehouse of unconscious anger and rage." 

Oh no! Do I have to go there?

So perhaps I need to go into that storehouse and see what's there that still matters now, and perhaps Amy K in her direct and clear self and her clarity about what truly matters can be my role model. 

I turned a couple more pages and read about "The 'Bitchy' Woman,"  a label that indicates how our society doesn't value angry women and how they are seen as threats, especially to men, and who need to be silenced. An angry woman who doesn't voice her anger effectively--with clarity, direction, and control- often is not taken seriously and is not heard. 

Once again, look to Amy K and her superpowers. She is not a "Bitchy Woman." Nor is she is the victim of the "Nice Lady Syndrome," which in my part of the world we call "Minnesota Nice." 

I will continue re-reading the Lerner book, for I know I still have work to do to become my authentic self and to bring that authenticity to my memoir. A friend reminded me that age 70 is a good time to do this!  (If not now, when!) But who knew I would find a role model in Washington!

An Invitation
How good are you at expressing your anger? I would love to know. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

From Mindless to Mindfulness: Thursday's Reflection

I spent the afternoon cutting and pasting.

And praying.

At first, the task seemed mindless. I had decided to put together journals for the guided labyrinth walks I am leading in the next few days. I wrote prompts for each part of the labyrinth and then cut and pasted them into small journals the participants can carry with them as they walk the labyrinth. I started the project the previous day, but hadn't finished it and, I admit, I was a bit frustrated about that.

After all, I had planned to spend the afternoon working on my spiritual memoir, but there I was cutting and pasting and getting my fingers sticky and scraps of paper were drifting to the floor around my desk. What had seemed like a good idea, a creative idea, began to feel more like a chore. 

But somewhere along the way--maybe journal #3, I noticed a change. I started cutting more slowly, more deliberately and less frantically. I started pasting the small slips of paper into the journal in a gentler way, smoothing the paper, almost caressing each page.

I thought about the people who will be walking the labyrinth, wondering what cares or questions or yearnings they will bring with them. I thought about all the feet that have walked the labyrinth we will use and hoped they have found some peace, some insights, some grace along the way.

I thought about the privilege of accompanying others on their journey, about the stories I hear, the hopes and dreams shared, the joys and the sorrows expressed, the depth of seeking for connection, for awareness of the movement of God.

As I completed each journal, I whispered, "Amen." 

After I put away the scissors, the glue stick, the ruler, and cleaned up my work space, space I realized had been an altar for a short period of time, I opened Celtic Treasure by J. Philip Newell to reread the prayer from this morning's devotion time.

                   Open our eyes to see your Spirit in all life.
                   Open our hearts to receive the blessing that
                       is in all created things.
                   Guide us with your wisdom, O God,
                   in the handling of matter,
                   in the sharing of earth's resources
                   and in the knowing of one another,
                   your Spirit within every living spirit.

What had felt mindless to me, had become a time of mindfulness. 

An Invitation
What mindless activities can become a time of prayer in your life? I would love to know.