Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Time to Respond: Tuesday's Reflection

"Here I am age 60 and becoming an activist for the first time in my life," said the woman with gorgeous grey hair cut in a perfect bob. We were sitting at the same table at our church's adult forum about immigration, and I admired her passion and knowledge about the topic. At a later meeting we again were sitting near each other, and I told her I had been thinking about what she had said and wondered why she was taking on the role of activist in this time of her life.

"Because I am retired." 

She explained further, saying she didn't have time in the busy years of raising her family and working in a demanding job. I am sure that is true, but in addition perhaps there has never been more of a need for active involvement in our communities. 

Availability plus need equals purpose. 

If you are retired and wondering what to do with this stage in your life, or if you feel a lack of meaning in your life or if every day seems the same or if what you thought you would do during this time no longer seems fulfilling or interesting or challenging, I urge you to become an activist.

How you define that and how you choose to take on that role is up to you, but do it. Stretch yourself. Get out of your box. True, you may not have the energy you once had and maybe you feel overwhelmed by the number of issues, but there is no change without change. And you can change and make change. 

 Perhaps you have heard an older person say, "I've done my part. It is time for others to step in and step up." Well, my friend, the world doesn't allow that kind of luxury or apathy. We not only have the time, we have the gift of experience by this stage in our life, and if we have been doing our spiritual work, we have deep empathy and compassion for those in need. 

This is the time to cultivate passion and fearlessness. 

I love what Jean Shinoda Bolen says in her book, Crones Don't Whine, Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women,
         Crones are not naive or in denial about reality.
         When something in particular is an outrage, and
         doing something about it is a choice, a moment 
         of truth occurs in which activists are born. The
         suffering of others or the feeling of Enough is
         enough" radicalizes older women...A crone is a
         woman who has found her voice. She knows that
         silence is consent. This is a quality that makes older
         women feared. It is not the innocent voice of a child
         who says, 'the emperor has no clothes,' but the
          fierce truthfulness of the crone that is the voice of 
          reality...Her fierceness springs from the heart, gives
          her courage, makes her a force to be reckoned with. 
                                                                 pp. 42-43

Bolen writes specifically about and for women, but there is a lesson here for men, too. "Silence is consent," and the time for silence has passed. The time for being passive and thinking someone else will do what needs to be done or that the problems we face will pass away or that I am too old, just one person, or have done my part is not good enough. 

Most likely you are familiar with these words by the poet Mary Oliver, but they are worth repeating, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" We have lived a good chunk of our life, but we are still in the midst of life. So what is it you are going to do?

An Invitation
How are you responding to the current political climate? In what ways are you living your "one wild and precious life"? I would love to know.   

Note: Here's a link to follow with suggestions of what you can do this week. Checklist


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Are You Sleeping? Thursday's Reflection

I changed our bed the other day and oh, how good it felt to crawl
into bed that night. Fresh smelling sheets, cozy blanket and comfortable, familiar pillow. I read in bed for a bit, as I always do, and when I turned out the light, I felt safe and content. Although I was tired, the day had been a good one. I knew I would wake refreshed and eager for another good day. 

Most of the time I take these gifts for granted.

Many in this world do not experience the simple gifts of a comfortable and safe place to sleep. Nor do they wake to a day of ease and freedom. 

We know this, of course, but we need reminders.

Yesterday Bruce and I went to an exhibit at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. http://www.asimn.org to see an exhibit called "Where the Children Sleep" by Swedish photojournalist Magnus Wennman. Wennman poignantly, sensitively has photographed Syrian refugee children.
        A boy without a bed.
        A girl afraid to close her eyes.
        A child who dreams of when   bedtime didn't bring terror. 

I was glad I had a handkerchief handy. 

The gallery was hushed in honor of these children and their families, except for a trio of elderly white women who chatted, one even answering her phone. I overheard one of them say, "Well, at least we live in the good, old US of A." I guess these photographs didn't have much to say to her. 

We are facing an immigration crisis in this country in which many no longer feel safe, many will not be able to sleep securely, many will wonder what the night or the next morning will mean for them.

Along with these stunning photographs of children, who deserve at the very least a roof over their heads, the words introducing the exhibit clearly and concisely explained the big picture of immigration. 
             There are many reason to migrate. Some are pulled
             by the use of a more secure future. Some pushed by
             the atrocities of war. Whatever the reason, the story
             of migration cuts through time and has affected
             populations across the globe.

This exhibit is a "haunting reminder of the millions of children with uncertain future."

An Invitation
I not only urge you to see this exhibit if you live in the area--quickly, for it ends March 6-- but also to open your heart to those all around you who deserve to sleep well. I would love to know your response. 

Note: How ironic is this? Soon after going to the exhibit I received an email telling me that a piece I wrote called "The Magic of Reading in Bed" was accepted for the blog GraceNotes. You can read it here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Things I Love: Tuesday's Reflection

I admit I have felt a bit cranky lately. For one thing I have a cold that has depleted my energy. For another thing the house is a mess in part because I have no energy to clean, but our sweet granddog, Ralph, is staying with us for a few days and he may have an excellent disposition, but he also has long white hair and you know what that means! 

And then, of course, there is the ongoing agitation I feel as there are more reasons to resist and to persist in that resistance. 

One of the books I have in the stack next to my comfortable chair in the garret is It's Never to Late to Begin Again, Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond by Julia Cameron of The Artist's Way fame. In the introduction Cameron writes about making a list of twenty-five things she loves. That list, which included many items describing the Southwest, led to her move from New York to Santa Fe. A clarifying and motivating list, to say the list.

I wasn't looking for such a major insight, but by making my own list I hoped I could lift my spirits. Here's my list --in no particular order, by the way, and please note, this is a list of things, not people or specific places. 

1.    Books and bookstores
2.    Lavender
3.    Snow 
4.    Quiet and solitude (I know this is not a "thing," but it feels tangible to me.)
5.    My laptop
6.    Fresh Flowers
7.    Big water
8.    Hawks
9.    Live theatre
10.  Old houses
11.  Country roads
12.  My mother's pearls
13.  Diet Coke
14.  Shawls
15.  PBS/NPR
16.  Labyrinths
17.  A chaise or comfortable chair with
       an ottoman
18.  A good pen 
19.  A new journal
20.  Sidewalks
21.  White blouses
22.  Vintage handkerchiefs
23.   Our son's landscape paintings
24.   My desk
25.   My bicycle

Maybe soon I will add another twenty-five items to this list, but right now, I am feeling ever so much better. I already know, however, what would be my #26: the white lights around my garret window.

An Invitation
What are your twenty-five favorite things? I would love to know.

Resistance Notes
I recommend the following link: Ariana Huffington

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Time Out: Thursday's Reflection

                Here I am reading.

                Here I am napping.

                Here I am writing.

                Here I am being.

Bruce and I spent a couple days at Grandview Lodge near Brainerd,  Minnesota, recently. Our simple, cozy cabin right on the shore of frozen, snow-covered Gull Lake offered just the kind of quiet we enjoy. Our agenda was simple: read, nap, nap, read, and do it all over again. Oh, and eat. We bundled up -- long underwear, earmuffs, hat, scarf, and our heaviest jackets -- to head to the lodge at meal time. Good hearty breakfasts and leisurely dinners. 

I brought with me some writing to revise, a chapter in my spiritual memoir that felt unwieldy. A change of pace and scene was just what I needed, and I came home with a new chapter now "at rest."

How good it was to let each day unfold. I gazed out our big picture windows taking in the expanse of white, seeing only a few icehouses and hearing only an occasional snowmobile. The day we arrived it snowed, gifting us with a couple inches of fresh snow, whiter than white against the clear blue sky. A postcard of winter. 

Sometimes a time out restores energy. Sometimes a time out clears the space of whatever is muddling your heart or mind. Sometimes a time out reminds us of what is most important to us. Sometimes a time out offers inspiration and becomes a source of new creativity. 
Sometimes a time out is preparation for whatever is next. 

Sometimes a time out is simply a time to be, to nap, to read, to enjoy the ease of companionship. 

Sometimes we don't know how important a time out is until we return. 

I hope you will pay attention to messages from your body, mind, soul, that may be whispering (or even shouting), I need a time out, and then I hope you will give that gift to yourself, even if all you can do is stop and close your eyes and take deep calming breaths, finding your own rhythm. Sometimes that is all we need.

An Invitation
What do you do when you need a time out? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Listen to Your Heart: Tuesday's Reflection

Instead of listening to a sermon this past Sunday, our congregation spent time in prayer, prayers for healing. Along with lighting candles in for a personal prayer, as well as healing prayers for the nation, we were invited to write a concern we wished lifted in prayer during the coming week. We deposited those prayer cards in a basket by the baptismal font, and then later in the service when coming forward for communion, we could take one of the cards from the basket and include that name or issue in our personal prayer time during the coming week.

Here's what was written on the paper I selected from the basket.
                 Prayers for our country--the horrors of ignoring
                 the poor and middle class. Those left out without

Yes, this prayer will be in my heart this week.

As I sat in the pew thinking about all the concerns in the basket and also those symbolized by the lit candles in the windows lining the sanctuary, my eyes filled with tears.

And my heart ached. How often have I said to someone in deep emotional or spiritual distress, "My heart breaks for you," but that is not really what I feel or what happens. My heart is stronger than that. Instead, what seems to happen is that my heart opens, perhaps wider than it has stretched before. It opens to hold someone else's heartache. The eyes and ears of my heart awaken me to someone else's pain and plight.

Sometimes, too, hearts ache when they snap shut, close up tight, and work extra hard to fend off what is unpleasant or when we want to flee into denial. It seems to me we think we protect ourselves when we retreat in this way, but I wonder if we aren't really weakening our heart, not allowing it to beat stronger.

When your heart aches, it is time to listen to it.

One more thing: A new friend happened to select my prayer request from the basket and told me she would pray for my dear one. My heart lifted.

An Invitation
What is your heart telling you right now? How does your heart want you to respond? In what ways can you nurture your heart to be a truth teller in your life? I would love to know. Happy Valentine's Day!

Another of my posts about the heart: 

NOTE:  I invite you to read my guest post on Abbey of the Arts—one of my favorite websites. Christine Valters Paintner, whom I quote often in my blog, is the host of this site. Consider subscribing. Anyway, here is the link to my post on one of her ongoing features, Monk in the World http://abbeyofthearts.com/blog/2017/02/08/monk-in-the-world-guest-post-nancy-l-agneberg/ 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Bad Habit: Tuesday's Reflection

Note: I am taking a brief break. No post on Thursday, February 9. Back on Tuesday, February 14. 

A confession: I have gotten into a bad habit lately. I check my emails before getting out of bed and that includes reading the newspaper online. 

The result: I am all riled up before I even start the day. I have an even harder time settling into my morning devotion/meditation time. 

This new pattern is sort of like eating a piece of chocolate before taking my vitamins in the morning. 

Now more than ever it is important to stay grounded, to give priority to the ways that give you stability, that deepen your relationship to God, even as you respond to the world in new ways. 

So I hereby resolve to check my emails, read the newspaper and other articles that come my way only after I make the bed and slip upstairs to the garret where I begin my day praying and meditating and reading words of wisdom. You can keep me accountable.

Here are some words of wisdom;
          Each footstep on the vacillating path of life,
          Each heartbeat on the rugged road of growth,
          Each passage on the shifting river of renewal,
          Each thoroughfare of increasing self-knowledge,
          Each route on the way toward further freedom,
          Requires the attendance of your wise presence.
          Whether the journey is deliberate or unexpected,
          Whether the voyage is taken inward or outward,
          With every inch of the tentative way that I travel
           I count on your companionship and teaching. 

           Today: I turn to my Wise and Faithful Guide.
                                           Fragments of Your Ancient Name
                                           Joyce Rupp

An Invitation
Are you noticing any new habit that may be undermining your spiritual practice? I would love to know. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A New Month: Thursday's Reflection

I had a visitor one morning this week. A robin. 

Snow lightly sprinkled outside, and oh, how cozy it was, sitting in my quiet garret space. The white lights around the landing window framed the gently falling snow, and the only sound was my quiet clicking on the keyboard. Just the kind of day I most like.

Then, however, I heard a new sound. Tapping. A pecking, patting on my skylight. A fluttering. The window was covered in a veil of snow, but I could see a moving shadow. I left my desk and slowly approached the window peering towards the light. Of course, the shadow jolted away, aware of my presence. I waited, and it returned to peck through the sheer curtain of snow. A robin. 

Its Morse Code continued, gradually clearing a space in the snow. Back at my desk I watched, but returned to my own tapping, hoping to make progress on an unwieldy piece of writing. Tap, tap. Click, click. My guest left and returned, off and on, through much of the morning. I tried once or twice to take a picture of it, but no luck. That's ok, I decided. We can just be gentle companions with each other. 

I know some of you will immediately think of the robin's presence as a sign of spring, and there were an unusual number of robin's in the crabapple tree next door that morning, but robins migrate when there is a lack of food and not because of the cold. 

I wonder, instead, about the message of the robin's tapping. Is there a message, a reminder this robin has for me? What has been knocking gently on my heart that needs to be recognized and heard? 

The start of a new month --already one month of the new year has passed-- is a good time to revisit intentions for the new year. Intentions grow out of some yearning we have for our own lives and how we move and live in the world. A tapping on our hearts. A clicking of our inner voice. A shadowy presence signaling new awareness. 

As you think about the signals you are receiving, I offer you the following resolutions for the new year by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat of the wonderful website Spirituality and Practice

1. I will live in the present moment. I will not obsess about the past or worry about the future.

2.  I will cultivate the art of making connections. I will pay attention to how my life is intimately related to all life on the planet.

3.  I will be thankful for all the blessings in my life. I will spell out my days with a grammar of gratitude.

4.  I will practice hospitality in a world where too often strangers are feared, enemies are hated, and the "other"is shunned. I will welcome guests and alien ideas with graciousness.

5.  I will seek liberty and justice for all. I will work for a free and a fair world.

6.  I will add to the planet's fund of good will by practicing little acts of kindness, brief words of encouragement, and manifold expressions of courtesy.

7.  I will cultivate the skill of deep listening. I will remember that all things in the world want to be heard, as do the many voices inside me.

8.  I will practice reverence for life by seeing the sacred in, with, and under all things of the world.

9.  I will give up trying to hide, deny, escape from my imperfections. I will listen to what my shadow side has to say to me.

10. I will be willing to learn from the spiritual teachers all around me, however, unlike me they may be.

I think my robin guest would not only approve of these intentions, but was gently reminding me to practice them.

An Invitation
Who is tapping on your heart? And what is the message? I would love to know.