Category Archives: Uncategorized

The gift

I got this quilt as a gift. You can’t tell from the picture, but it’s made to fit a full size bed. I finally got it hung a few days ago, on the only wall that will fit it. I wanted to see it every day, but I didn’t want it on my bed due to my cats. So there it is. It wasn’t as hard to hang as I expected and now I can see it every time I’m in my room. I love homemade gifts like this. I know a little about how long a quilt takes to make. I know how expensive the various bits can be. Mostly, I know that the maker is actually very busy and must have carved out time for her schedule to slow down and make this. There’s so much detail! I’ve made a few gifts like this in my time – crocheted baby blankets and full sized afghans, knitted six foot scarves made out of super soft wool and cross-stitched scenes and messages that now are in their offices or homes. Sometimes, the person oohed and ahhed but never used the gift. Once, the person just said “thanks” and I never saw it again. Sometimes, I’d hear years later that the baby blanket became a favorite and is now packed away with other precious memories. These gifts represent hours and hours of work, sometimes undoing those hours in order to correct a small imperfection that only I would have known about.

I have to wonder, how often do I not see the detailed work the Master Craftsman has put into me? How often do I say thanks and move on, completely missing the huge blessings that the seemingly simple gift represents? I know how joyful it is to stop and figure out a way to see the gift daily, to find a way to display it for others to ooh and ahh over. How long did Spirit work on the miracle that is my life? How many eons were spent creating the master work that is your soul? Are you willing for it to be seen?

Sing a new song

This morning I tried to have a bad day. It was working rather well. I got on the scale and it didn’t say what I wanted it to. I tried to make the part I bought for our weed whacker fit and it didn’t. I looked around at all the things I think need to be done and got mad because I don’t think I’ll be getting to them today. Or tomorrow for that matter. Obviously that means there’s something wrong with me. I must be lazy or irresponsible or something.

Thank God for spiritual practice. The only thing that stood out to me from today’s reading was about singing a new song to the Lord. Now, when I read the Bible, I replace the word Lord with Law. And then I started being with how it feels to sing, and the power of music in my life. There’s something about it that goes beyond words, beyond even prayer for me. Singing requires me to breathe differently. Singing is about heart and soul rather than cognitive function. Music goes around all my anxiety or it speaks my anger and anxiety in a way that helps me let them go.
So if I sing a new song into the Law, I’m pouring everything I am in to creating a new experience. I was taught that when we sing, we pray twice. I take that to mean that singing a prayer is more powerful than just reciting it. There’s more emotion and more energy. It’s what Ernest Holmes was talking about when he distinguished between the technique (the steps we use in prayer) and the fire (the emotion and energy behind the words, the part that can’t be taught and must be discovered within each of us).

Today I’m singing a song of trust. I’m singing a song of this moment, not the next several days’ work all at once. I’m singing as sweetly and as strongly as I can that Spirit can get all this stuff done, with or without my help, and I am acceptable in God’s eyes right now. There’s nothing to earn, nowhere to race to and no obligations I have to fulfill. There’s just me and my God, doing what we do and singing in Divine Harmony.

Praying the Psalms

I never thought I’d do this. I never have been one to go to the Bible for comfort or regular spiritual practice. I go to the Bible for help with talks because I need a good story. I go to the Bible when it’s been assigned as homework for a class. I go to the Bible when I’m teaching a class about it. Recently though, I’ve been trying it out for actual, real life help. I don’t read it for the immediate, literal meaning. If you haven’t read the Psalms, I should warn you there’s a great deal of “be on my side” towards God and some suggestions regarding smiting of enemies.

I read to see what the metaphor is and how it applies to me. So, for instance, the last one I worked with is #6. The translation I use contains a line that says “my bones are weary with moaning”. There’s a lot of tears soaking into pillows, too. The rest of it is just as negative at first reading. Basically, it’s a “woe is me” psalm combined with “don’t be mad at me.” But I’ve heard that there’s always more to learn, so I reread it slowly and carefully. The line about moaning bones being weary finally caught me.

The bed NOT soaked in tears

I’m sick of hearing myself moan about my life. I wonder if the Universe is, too. So if moaning is making me sick, what’s the cure? I returned to my old practice of looking for something positive as I moved about my day. Now, granted, I cheated. My sister and I celebrated her birthday, so there was some shopping and some lunching. There was a great deal of pointing out that she will always be older than me and telling folks that she looks good for 75, or 62 or whatever number I chose that time. There was appreciation of beauty as we found a few things for her room, which had recently been looked at by a feng shui professional. There was a sense of freedom as we made choices about art for the house (hey, I can shop for myself on someone else’s birthday, right? I wouldn’t want her to feel alone.) There were some giggles as she tried to get her dog, Ben, to walk in the paw-saving booties she bought. Ben noped right out of them.

There’s good to be found no matter what. So are you going to moan over your aching bones or move them and go find the good?

My Dusty Old Guitar

I have a mental bucket list that’s a mile long. I want to learn Arabic and Ancient Hebrew. I want to learn to love yoga and be all stretchy and bendy like a pretzel. I want to travel. I want to create a home with a garden. I want to adopt a teenager. I want to get a doctoral degree in about five different fields of study. I want to do so many things and I have a busy life to excuse me from doing most of them.

What I’m finding as I get older though is that that list contains things I both really want to do and things I want to have done. I want to have written a book and lost about 50 lbs. I don’t want to write the book or learn to eat better, I just want them done. Those are the things I thought I was supposed to want. Those are the things that would impress the people I used to want to impress (and sometimes still do want to impress).

The rest of the list contains things that I actually want to do. I spent seven years studying Spanish but I don’t actually speak it. So I want to travel and do some immersion learning. I want to be able to say I speak more than one language. I also want to go back to playing the guitar. I learned it long ago and gave it up when I got bored, as kids will do. About a year ago, I bought a great guitar at a bargain price. Some folks bought it for their daughter who played it for a semester and then stuck it in the corner. I brought it home, played around for an hour or so and then stuck it in the corner. Did you know that playing the guitar can be painful on one’s finger tips? It really can.

Here’s the thing. When it comes down to it, the only person in charge of my bucket list is me. I can take off the items that I only put on there out of obligation. I can play around with the rest and decide how important they are. I practice Spanish in my head sometimes and I just acquired a new set of books and tapes to help me. I agreed to learn one song on the guitar (only three chords and only played during the chorus) and then scheduled myself to be the soloist on a Sunday so I had to do it. Those things have immediate benefits.

The other thing on my bucket list that is staying has to do with traveling. I was invited to go to England for a few weeks and I said yes. My first reaction was no, it’s too expensive. Then the money started showing up and the way was opened for it. The gift of that yes is that other areas of my life are opening up too. By saying yes and living from my bucket list in some small and some big ways, I’ve informed the Universe that I’m open to a bigger life. It seems the Universe has been listening.

Fair warning: when you start living from your bucket list, the Universe will hear your yes, too. Prepare for miracles and large living. Prepare for your excuses to melt away. Prepare for a bigger bucket.

Divine Madness

I just finished a class comparing some of the Judeo Christian Bible stories to those in the Koran. It was wonderful – an exploration of how changing a few words or details can create a very different meaning. And I loved it so much that now I’m listening to one of the many biographies of Mohammed (pbuh) the Prophet and first Muslim.

What stands out to me is that when Mohammed had his first revelation, he wasn’t very happy about it. He thought he’d been possessed by a demon. He considered suicide. Can you imagine what the world would be like if he decided to die (ending the demonic possession) rather than submit to the will of God as he understood it and bring the Koran into being? The history of Europe, our knowledge of chemistry and algebra, and our access to the teachings of the ancient Greeks would now be very different.

How many times have I gotten up from my meditation chair moments before my revelation? How many of us have felt the beginnings of a sacred call and run like hell so that the call would go to voicemail? What is it about Divine revelation, which should be our birthright that seems so awful?

I can only guess. I don’t think of myself as on the same level of the Prophet or any of the saints.  I know that I was leery of accepting the call to ministry because it would challenge my beliefs about authority and (I thought) mean that I had to be poor for the rest of my life.

The truth I have found, which I think might be common, is that I had to submit to a Divine madness. I found that the things I needed to do to answer “the call” were things that made no sense to my friends. Go back to school and do another expensive master’s degree? Why? I’d just worked my butt off to get out of debt. Give up a safe government job with great health benefits where I’d worked my way almost to the top of the heap? For heaven’s sake, I’d have to move to a place where I knew no one except my congregation. And I’d been warned about the pitfalls of having congregants as friends. It took me forever to make friends and create a home, why should I give that up?

The Divine madness wouldn’t leave me alone and eventually resistance was more painful than submission. I did have to give up the things I listed above. I did have to make the sacrifices. However, what I’ve found, and I’ll be the Prophet would agree, is that there are both tangible and intangible treasures to be found within Divine madness. Living in surrender to the flow, or in Muslim terms, in submission to God, has its own rewards.

Pride and Pruning

I just spent a little over an hour working outside the Center pruning bushes and cleaning up a bit. I was there helping our Saturday morning volunteers. One of them drags around an oxygen tank and I know at least one is an octogenarian. I lasted an hour. Tops. They were working when I got here and are still working. Yikes! I bow to their superior stick-to-it-ness.

I find that doing physical work is good for me, no matter how much I might avoid it. It’s good for me when I get too stuck in how hard it is to do all the mental work I do. It’s also good for me when I get too puffed up with pride, thinking about how I can do things better than other people and start thinking that means something. What Spirit was pruning from me out there was the unhealthy kind of pride. Healthy pride says I have intrinsic worth. Unhealthy pride says I have more intrinsic worth than you do.

I doubt very much those bushes out there are comparing themselves to each other and noticing who I left lopsided or where there are still stray flyaway branches. I know they aren’t comparing how they looked before to how they look now and lamenting that they can’t afford a better hair dresser… uhm, gardener. Emerson once wrote:

These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower, there is no more; in the leafless root, there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. There is no time to it. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

When I get stuck in unhealthy pride, I am miserable. Nothing I do will ever be good enough. Nothing I say will ever be wise enough. I know this is something most of you already know, but the answer will always be to go back to God (by whatever name you use). Get back into this moment. Remember that you are like the other plants, no better and no worse, that exist in the Divine Garden. You are there for a reason that is all yours. Physical work, as much as I might try to avoid it, helps me get back in the present.

Maybe today was about pruning my unhappy pride as much as helping out our volunteers. I’ll probably come up with a hundred and one excuses to do other work on the first Saturday of other months. But in the future, I’ll be aware that spending an hour with the landscape is worth the time.

Skunked

 

Many years ago, in the land of San Diego, I was home with my sister’s dog, Mali. Mali was one of my favorite people. She was cute, she was smart and she was cuddly. Not a small dog, more medium, and by smart I mean that when Kelly lived on a farm, she could have Mali fetch a particular horse out of the pasture and bring said horse into the barn. So we loved Mali. She did have one flaw. She loved chasing skunks. On this particular day, she caught one. I thought she’d escaped and I pet her as I was bringing her into the house. BIG mistake. Now we both smelled like skunk. I had no car, no phone and a gag reflex that was working full time. I had to take a bus (my abject apologies to the other passengers) to get to a pay phone to call a friend for help. The friend was sympathetic and told me to call if I needed anything before she hung up. I was flabbergasted. I thought that’s what I had done. I bought tomato juice and walked home. I was not allowed to come to work for almost a week because the smell was so bad. The person I carpooled with didn’t want me in her car and I was car-less at the time.

Fast forward to last night. My sister’s dog Ben is wonderful. He’s very handsome, silly and smart. He has one flaw. And last night, the skunk got him. Kelly can’t smell skunk so she brought him in. It took me a minute for the stench to actually process. Gag reflex fully engaged, I told her to get him out of the house. Now, it’s winter so Ben can’t spend the whole night outside. He was locked in Kelly’s room. I brought out the essential oil diffuser and used what I had to save the living room. And then I put myself to bed.

Why am I telling these two stories, other than to garner sympathy for my skunk-y plight and/or throw my sister and her skunk chasing dogs under the proverbial bus? Because while the two stories start the same way, they ended very differently. My tools for handling the crisis were very different. I didn’t take ownership of this problem; I gleefully (well, as gleeful as I can be while gagging) left it to Kelly to handle. I am at work the following morning, stench free (as far as I can tell). My home is no longer a small apartment so I was able to get away from the worst of it in order to sleep. It doesn’t even smell bad in the living room this morning. Kelly had some kind of deodorant for the dog that allowed me to pet him this morning without additional gagging.

This is the difference between a life with some spiritual tools (which often translate into physical resources) and without. This is the difference between victim-hood and victory; between feeling skunked and feeling serene. I could beat this metaphor into the ground, but you get the idea.

The To Do List

I remember a sign my mother kept on her dresser. It said, “If you have built your castles in the air you work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” That’s a Henry David Thoreau quotation. The same sign sits in my office on my altar. What I see is that we tend to do one or the other. We dream-weave about what we’d like to see happen (or if we are serious spiritual people, we call it visioning) or we race around and “do” until we’ve pounded our foundation into the ground. Often we pound a few of our loved ones into the ground right along with it.

I spent the weekend working with a Center that is about to be “between ministers”. The current senior minister is retiring at the end of the month and the assistant minister will be stepping up. That means the rest of the leadership will also be stepping up, and many of the congregants will need to step into greater ownership of their Center. I’m excited for all of them!  We spent some time looking at the consciousness of the Center, then got clear on what was theirs to do and what should be left to God and finally put definite goals in place that reflect only the human “to-do” list.

How many times have I forgotten to split up the chores list before I started? Well, that skipped step defined my college years, from my very first class right through two masters’ degrees. It wasn’t really my job to make sure the right teachers were hired, but I worried about it. It wasn’t even mine to worry about the money – I showed up, earned as much as I could and the rest just showed up on its own. Of course, I had to fill out some forms, but there’s another example of knowing what’s on my list to do and what’s not. My job was to study, mostly, and to support myself as I did that. My job was to do the assignments and not skip class. My job was to trust that Spirit had my back, had filled Fort Knox and therefore could pay my tuition somehow.

These days, my job is to show up to facilitate the work being done in each person’s consciousness. I teach the tools. I show folks where to plug into the Source of these Power Tools, metaphorically speaking. It really is none of my business what they do with the tools after that, although I will admit to loving the chance to watch folks play and succeed and build magnificent lives. I teach and then cheer. I pray. Everything else is on Spirit’s list.

The art of the spiritual snit

The thing about this philosophy is that you can’t just read the books. If you don’t use the tools in your everyday life, you’re wasting your time. No, really, let’s just be honest here. I can teach tools and you can use them really well in a class, but if you don’t use them in the meeting with your boss, or while buying a home, or while untangling a misunderstanding with your spouse or neighbor or kids, why bother spending the money and time learning those tools? That might sound harsh, but it’s true. And I know it’s true because I bumped up against it myself. Okay, so I got into a head-on collision with it while racing at top speed. And as you might imagine, it wasn’t pretty.

I used to work in a law office. I was the supervisor for the clerical staff. I did some of the clerical work, just to keep my hand in and show that I wasn’t too good to do it. Plus, I was bored. I remember transcribing an audio tape of someone who was mentally ill, was accused of burning down a family member’s home and, unfortunately, killing the cat. I really didn’t like that transcription job. Luckily, I was in the midst of training to be a Practitioner (a spiritual coach) and had the presence of mind to ask “Where is God in all this?” I don’t remember the answer I got, but I got pretty peaceful after that. It must have been a great answer, but all I remember is asking the question.

This past week was challenging for me, so I used another tool taught by my former minister, Rev. Duchess Dale. She’d turn on a kitchen timer for five or ten minutes and then tantrum until the bell went off. Whatever she needed to feel was expressed, and then she got back to being a reasonably adult human being. I gave myself more than ten minutes, but the same principle still applies. Lie in bed for the day, pouting resentfully, eating bad food, irresponsibly reading fiction when I knew there was work I could be doing and generally having a tantrum, introvert style. This morning I got up, mentally heard the timer go off, and got back to being me.

There are lots of tools we teach and they work. However, you have to be ready to use them. You don’t get to use them in place of having your human experience. That just leads to more problems because now you’re in denial plus you have all the original issues. This is not a philosophy in which you get to pretend you’re not a human with human issues. Then again, this is a philosophy in which you don’t have to pretend not to have issues. You get to be you, just as you are, and still be a wonderful spiritual being. You get to try on tools in the real world, mess things up and try again. That’s the actual practice part. If someone sees your training wheels, you’ll just get cheered on rather than laughed at.

I screw up on a regular basis. I have bad days, and even bad months. I have times when I have a rotten attitude. I am perfectly capable of spending time having arguments I win with people who aren’t even there. As long as I come back to truth, as long as I spend more time in a higher consciousness and know that the older, more immature behaviors are ridiculous, I’m doing okay. So there. Ppbbbt.

Scriptures

I’ve been reading the bible today in order to get inspiration for this week’s talk. As I read the story of Samson, I realized that if I was reading this in order to see how historically our heroes have behaved, I wouldn’t be able to see any good in Samson. He sets people up to fail. He sees himself as deserving of special treatment. He thinks his cool hair makes him special and strong. Whatever, dude.

Luckily, I know better than to read any holy book or wisdom tradition literally. Samson is a lot more than an Old Testament super hero with entitlement issues. His metaphorical and metaphysical story is about entertaining thoughts that either hinder or heal us. Of course, if you want to know more about him, feel free to listen to the recording of the talk from this Sunday.

Spirituality points me beyond the obvious story. Take our election story for 2016. The one everyone loves to hate is Mr. Trump. The established political machine loves to hate him because he’s upending the process, not playing by the rules and refusing to pretend that what we’ve always done is actually in the best interest of the country as a whole. Women love to hate him because he speaks with the voice of the good-ol’-boy system that systemically places women at risk not just of sexual assault but at risk of being blamed if they are victimized. Other billionaires hate him because he is the stereotype of the heartless robber baron.

If I just look at the first level of this story, Mr. Trump is the bad guy. He’s the wolf that threatens the sweet girl with the red cloak. He’s Dr. Evil. Let’s look underneath, though, shall we? I mean, that’s the place where we find spiritual truth, right?

Donald Trump has been a bright light shining in the darkness that many of us would prefer to leave dark. He shows us how we have recreated the civilization of Ancient Rome. I don’t mean the part that created the Senate or spread “civilization” across Europe; I mean the part right before Nero started playing his fiddle. This is the Roman Empire that created bread and circus, which now shows up as reality TV and prescription medication overuse. The Donald holds up a mirror to all that we don’t want to see about ourselves. He’s our shadow side in form. And he’s going to suffer, if he isn’t already suffering, for personifying the worst of who we can be.

In the end, Samson is able to bring down the temple of the false god on all the heathens. Mr. Trump is rocking those temple pillars right now. The question is will we stick with the top level of this story? Will he stay a reality TV star or will we see him for the spiritual gift that he is – the person who was willing to take on our false beliefs so that we could see him clearly.