Tag Archives: Compassion

Dignity and Decency

Wow, it’s the end of December and I haven’t posted in a while. I think the holidays took over my brain like an alien, turning me into one of Santa’s pod people. Truly, until the 26th hit, I wasn’t sure if I was on the ground or on my way to Oz. And now… I will happily use my massage gift certificates to get ready the joy that is or will be 2018. I used my first gift card (thanks Howard and Hazel!) for some reflexology on my feet. Well, actually, she managed a full body massage more or less and it was awesome. About half way through, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I felt very rude because I’d never asked the lady’s name and hadn’t been introduced. All I knew was that her English was minimal and she would understand if I said “too hard.” So I found out her name, or at least the one she uses so that I don’t mangle her real one and we moved on. I wanted to ask what language she speaks and learn to say thank you.

 In the midst of all this, I noticed how virtuous and (gag) nice I felt for thinking these things during a massage. When did basic human decency start being something I patted myself on the back for? When did recognizing the basic humanity of others become something I had to remind myself of? Yikes! Earlier in the week, I had talked with a colleague about the ad hoc group I belong to called Quad City Interfaith Council. We were partially formed around the idea of honoring the dignity of all people. How is it that we have to have committees to make sure this happens? I think we could be better than this.

My intention and invitation for 2018, therefore is this: I’m going to go back to an old practice that helped a lot in a dark time. I’m going to spend my commute to work practicing seeing the face of the Divine in everyone I pass and everything I see. It was easy when I was taking the bus in a big city. I wonder if it will be harder or easier from my car out here in the country. It doesn’t matter, really. Being surrounded by love and beauty and good is a gift I can give myself and I won’t even need a holiday or gift card! And maybe next year, I’ll be part of a bridge of good manners and decency that crosses the divide of race and religion and unconsciousness.

Duck, Duck, Goose!

The other day I realized that I was getting very anxious. I was anxious because I had so much to do and it wasn’t done yet. I had trouble sitting for more than ten minutes to do spiritual practice because there was so much to do and of course, I was late. Well, I told myself I was late.

You see, in order to fit everything into my week this week, I had a long day on Tuesday, catch up on Wednesday and then leave at 4:15 in the morning on Thursday in order to drive to Phoenix, park the car and get to the airport. I was stressed out in advance. I was stressed out because I was living the whole week at once and feeling like I was already behind… on days that hadn’t happened yet.

One of the metaphors for ministry (and all spiritual life, I think) is that of a duck. We are to glide across the waters of life peacefully and gracefully, never allowing folks to see that our feet are paddling frantically underneath the water. We’re supposed to make it look easy, right? Spiritual people have mastered equanimity. If I’m spiritual then I don’t ever have bad days. Right?

The best spiritual practice I have learned is laughter. Instead of trying to be a duck, I am realizing that I’m a goose. Once I see how silly I’m being, I can laugh and go back to my “to do” list. I can leave God’s “to do” list to God. Oh, and get a hotel in town the night before the flight.

Reaching out


I’ve heard that the biggest issue in America today is loneliness. I don’t know – maybe it’s actually homelessness or the fact that we are still at war or that bookstores and libraries are closing. Still the loneliness thing seems to be attached to all the other issues, so we may as well see what we can do about this one.

I’ve started several groups that meet on a regular basis to offer mutual support. Sometimes the groups really take off. Sometimes they take off after the third or fourth attempt. Sometimes I’ve found that the reason they didn’t take off is because there’s already a group and so I join that one.

I meet with a group of eight female ministers once a month for lunch. It took a few tries to get this group going, but we did it and have been meeting for several years now. I don’t know what I’d do without these women. They have heard me celebrate big and little victories. They have heard me lose it over big (and little) tragedies. They have remained in principle and unmoved by my story, although they are always wonderfully compassionate and loving to me (they just don’t buy my story – it’s a good thing). I’ve heard them in the same types of circumstances. We laugh together about the crazy gig called ministry that we all love. It is more than worth driving an hour and a half each way to eat salad with these beautiful souls.

The thing is, this started as a semi-professional meeting. We met because we were all ministers in a particular philosophy in a male dominated profession. We do share best practices, new books and trainings and what to never try again, but mostly we share our lives. This is the big secret. There is a lot more professional development and worth in creating the connection than in finding out which fundraiser works the best.

Because of this group, I answered the call to be a Regional Support Representative for our region. Our region is five states, with about thirty Centers. I did it because 1. They asked me and I didn’t think “they” even knew my name and 2. I wanted to pay the good I got my from minister friends. Now, I don’t get to meet with all the ministers or Boards in my region on a regular basis. We certainly don’t get to do lunch together more than once a year, if ever. But I can call, and send silly emails, and that’s a connection. They all have my number. I know before I took over, I sometimes thought my RSC was watching me and would call just as I was losing perspective. And she usually said exactly the right thing or pointed me in the direction to find the right thing myself.

Here’s another secret. I’m massively shy. I don’t reach out easily. I’ve gotten myself into hot water more times than I care to say because I let myself get isolated. I get why loneliness might feel like the biggest issue in our country right now. And I’ve learned that the best way to heal my own loneliness is to reach out to someone who might be in the same boat. In that way, neither one of us is lonely anymore. So it’s really a self-serving spiritual practice. I’m not nice as much as smart. And I offer my trick to you as a cure of any loneliness or isolation you  might be feeling.

Worthy of consideration

Today I found out that the report I worked so hard to get out…hadn’t been sent. For whatever reason, I attached a report from several years ago to the email. I got the right report out this morning, and heard back from our manager that I have another month before my report is actually due. Son of a motherless goat! This is a great opportunity to stop for a moment and chill. I don’t need to get everything done right now. I am trying to make sure all my bases are covered so when I leave (in over a month) I have everything done for the time I’ll be gone. What I need to remember is that, due to my compulsively responsible nature, I’m actually ahead of the game.

I spoke last Sunday about realizing that sometimes the things we most hold against ourselves are actually strengths in disguise. Okay, they can be strengths when seen correctly, as part of God/Good. That’s more accurate. I used to take it very personally when I made a mistake because I thought/believed that mistakes or dropping the ball was a direct reflection of my worth as a person. I didn’t know that worthiness is something we all inherently carry. When I know I’m worthy of love or my space on the planet or whatever good I feel I need, life is just easier. I have nothing to prove. When I don’t know I’m worthy, I have everything to prove and no hope of ever proving it.

If I still believed in the lie about being unworthy or inherently broken and bad (anyone else ever feel that way?) I would be deeply embarrassed by sending so many emails to folks who are already busy. This morning, I laughed it off and let it slow me down enough to notice what is going right. I have plenty of time to get things done. I have time to go slow and be creative. I have time to do whichever project I want because I’ll get to the others in due time.

What aspects of yourself can you reframe in a positive way? What would allow you to feel worthy, or notice that you were never unworthy? What will it take for you to live from worthiness?

The Vows

Most of you know that I was raised Catholic. I thought all the clergy took the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. However, I’m taking a class right now that says that ain’t so! According to our teacher, many spiritual folks don’t realize that there’s a cultural belief, or something in the race consciousness that says to be spiritual, you must take these vows. What the heck was I thinking?

Poverty doesn’t just mean that people will watch to see what car I drive. It means that if there’s something good going on, I should apologize for it. Who am I, a servant of the Divine, to take the best of what’s offered? Now, as I type that, it sounds ridiculous, but I’ve caught myself explaining that my new(ish) car was actually a gift from my mom’s estate. Oh, and I really needed a new car. Oh, and it’s ecologically sound and I got the most basic model. See where I’m going with this? I took the vow at some point, albeit unconsciously.

And then there’s chastity. Want to end an awkward date? Or get out of having to go on one in the first place? Tell him you’re a minister. Go ahead. No really. Best if you wait until he’s been flirting, or even better, told a dirty joke. I was raised Catholic, remember? Clergy doesn’t date. Now that’s just me, but I’m willing to point out that “hedonist” is usually not a compliment. In modern terms, then, chastity means not enjoying sensual pleasures, like silk pj’s or really good wine. It can mean lots of things to lots of people, but I’m off to confession because last night’s chicken was truly exceptional, so you’ll have to figure that one out yourself.

And that leads to obedience. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t do being told what to do. I don’t react well at all to being given orders. Do you know a meta-physician who does? Neither do I. Our teacher explained that in modern terms, obedience means needing to work really, really hard in order to be a good servant. I’m a spiritual person so I must get up super early to meditate and read self-help books and scripture (where’s the sarcasm font on this thing?). To be a good person, or at least one who is spiritual, our culture says you can’t get angry or impatient. One who is obedient to the Divine does not rest when there is more work to do (and there will always be more work to do).

So those are the vows. Are you recognizing yourself in any (or goddess help us, all) of these? What would your life look like if you excused yourself from those vows? How about all the other ways we play small in this life? You don’t have to go live large right now – don’t freak out. Just think about it.

I’ll be over here, with my glass of wine and some chocolate. Doing my penance.

Spirit was willing….

This morning if I hadn’t had an appointment, I don’t think I’d have gotten up. There’s nothing wrong – I just decided to ignore linear time and play on social media. Ever notice that reading about doing stuff (DIY projects, how to meditate, etc.) is not the same actually doing it? I’ve been clipping pictures of gardens for a couple years now, but my own meditation garden area is still dirt, concrete and a few weeds.

This is why I both love and dislike our philosophy. Nothing happens until I actually use it. I can tailor the tools to fit my needs and my personality. It’s all about me and how I experience the Divine. At the same time, this spiritual work is like any physical exercise. You can’t really pay someone else to do it for you. If that was possible, I’d be paying fitness coaches lots and probably working full-time doing the spiritual work for other people. Somehow it’s easier to do this stuff for other people rather than myself. But that’s kind of a different topic.

The good part is that Spirit is always willing. Spirit will wait for all of us to sit down and listen (read: meditate). Spirit will wait for us to decide and then say what we really want (read: pray). Spirit is waiting for us to notice how powerful we are, how loved we are, how beautiful we are.

The even better part is that sometimes Spirit conspires for our good. I had an appointment this morning and didn’t know the other person had to cancel until I was already up, dressed and in the office. So here I am, doing my work and loving it. And I’ll have extra time to do my personal work, and love it.

Are you willing today to let Spirit “trick” you into loving yourself? Into feeling loved by the Universe? Into looking into the Universal mirror and seeing your own beauty?

Mercury in Retrograde

I tried to come to work on Saturday, I really did. I woke up not feeling like doing anything, but I figured once I got here the energy might kick in. I got here and there was a praying mantis balanced perfectly on the doorknob. I didn’t want to knock him off, so I went around the building to go in another door. Then I spent about half an hour trying to get my computer to turn on. It thought it was on and all the lights were lit, but I had nothing on the screen. So I decided to go back home and use my own computer to write my talk. I couldn’t get the printer to print. After much prayer (well, I said God a lot) and a trip out for ink, I figured it out. And then I remembered that Mercury is retrograde right now, so of course I was having trouble.

Except that’s not why I think I was having so much trouble. I had decided that I had no energy to do work and so I created all sorts of obstacles for myself. I wanted to want to write, both my Sunday talk and this blog post, but in truth I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my day. Since I was sending mixed signals to the Universe, I got mixed signals back. I was able to eventually get things done and even use the technology available to me. Still, it was a struggle. And I knew I was creating it.

Sometimes I am smart enough to remember what I teach. I’ve taught over and over again that beating ourselves up for whatever we’ve created is a waste of time. It’s far faster to skip the guilt and just create something else. I learned when I was in school that if a paper wasn’t ready to be written, it wasn’t going to write. Or I’d force the issue and end up with something highly delete-able. I finally figured out to walk away and do something else, then sit down again later and let the paper write itself. Shaming myself for not having it all together when the calendar says I’m scheduled to be creative is something I do less and less. I’m generally smart enough to wait for the Universe to write talks and blog posts. So here I am, Sunday morning, with a talk that wrote itself last night and blog post that is flowing this morning.

Mercury can retrograde all it wants to. Spirit and I have this covered.

The Long and Winding Thought Pattern

So much happens so quickly these days. I had a whole bunch of things to write about, but that was last week. Somehow they stopped feeling relevant and now are positively uninteresting. I suppose in some ways, that’s great. The fears and false beliefs that hypnotized me are no longer even interesting enough to remember. The “aha” moments that were so critical in the moment are part of my everyday thinking.

It makes me wonder about the things that feel so urgent and important today. I am more than willing to be excited about learning. I have fun finding new “aha’s” that can improve my life. Yesterday I sat down and read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandburg. I was so into what I was reading that I finished the book in one day. I felt like she was speaking directly to me about how I hold back in order to be “nice” or how I don’t even realize I’m limiting myself. I loved the chapter about feeling like a fraud. It’s so much more common than I thought it was – and I thought I was over it, but she redefined the issue for me. I can see, now, the chance to go deeper, to be more authentic and to let go of limiting beliefs.

The things that were bothering me, upsetting me, flipping my sense of identity even two weeks ago feel less important too. I’ve had time and space to come to grips with them, to redefine what some situations mean and to lose the energy around them. Some of the issues weren’t worth talking about. Maybe I just needed to hear myself think them through. Other issues have evolved and I’ve maybe even healed some. I’m more than happy to let those go, given the opportunity.

So here’s what I think I’m saying – let the emotions and energy ebb and flow. The good stuff will add to your life in some permanent way. You can’t really lose the progress you make, even if the effects are hard to see later. And the other stuff that ebbs in importance, that’s okay too. Let it flow. What’s for you can’t go by you. What you take into your soul is yours to keep. What drifts off again can’t really be yours. And thank god for that, right?


Give me a break!

I’m on retreat all next week and I can’t wait! For many people, the idea of sitting around, reading non-fiction books, refusing to leave my room (okay, I might go to the pool to read) and generally being alone in the quiet, doesn’t sound all that appealing. What I’ve learned is that all that quiet can be very annoying for the first few hours or even the first day or so. After that, something in me slows down, starts to listen deeply and, if I can stay with it, allows me to hear that little voice that tells me what I really think and feel underneath all the things I do.

I schedule this time away. It’s actually in my contract with the Center that I get 5 business days per year specifically for this. It’s not vacation time – that’s something different. This is dedicated to spiritual practice and not much else. Now, I consider napping and baths spiritual practice if they occur on retreat, but other than that, it’s just the usual stuff you expect a spiritual seeker to do. There’s a part of me that’s still Catholic enough that I wouldn’t be comfortable sneaking out to a movie during retreat time or channel surfing through whatever is on TV these days. Ted talks and documentaries are okay, but no Housewives of Whatever County.

I find that when I don’t make the time to do this slowing down, sometimes the Universe creates it for me. I remember once, long before I understood the concept of the Cosmic Two By Four, I was overdoing it and my car blew a gasket. I couldn’t do my job without a car, so I had to take a break. I was just grateful that it was the car that blew a gasket rather than me. Another time, while in ministerial school and working full time, I discovered myself on a San Diego freeway stuck in overdrive and without brakes. I got the message earlier at that point (and a new car, too!). My point is that if don’t slow down voluntarily, Spirit brings me to a screeching halt.

So what would a retreat look like for you? Would you be willing to try for just a few hours in the silence (awake, I mean) and see how it feels? Are you getting signals from the Universe that some quiet time is in order? Give it a shot and see how you feel. Your soul will thank you. And, maybe, so will your mechanic.

Learning CPR

I found, posted on my Facebook feed, the video of Rev. Dr. William Barber at the Democratic National Convention. I sometimes listen to these talks just to learn things about the art and science of doing sermons. I listen because I might hear something I can learn from. And I listen because obviously, folks like him know how to speak in such a way as to gain a national platform.

In this case, I had no idea that the theme for the Convention was “healing the heart of democracy” but I heard it loud and clear from his talk. And what does it take to heal a heart that might have stopped beating? Sometimes, in extreme cases, it takes CPR. Now this is not just about our country – it’s about every community we belong to, including the one that lives inside our individual skin.

CPR usually stands for cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. It gets both the heart and lungs working again when they stop (when it works). So I’d like you to take a moment and make sure your heart and lungs are working, in the spiritual sense. If your spiritual lungs are working, you are breathing deeply of Spirit on a daily basis. If your spiritual heart is working, you are circulating good all around your body.

Just for today, let the C stand for compassion. Compassion is the opposite of judgment. Compassion requires that we reach out (and sometimes in) to find the human within the situation. Compassion isn’t a free pass on bad behavior or a joint pity-party. Compassion is seeing the Divine in any situation and/or person and refusing to speak to anything else.

Just for today, let the P stand for patience. None of us got into the habits, bad or good, that we have in our thinking or our behavior in five minutes or less. Most of us have been working to dismantle erroneous beliefs for as long as we’ve been alive. Most of us get impatient with ourselves and others when we see behavior that doesn’t live up to our ideals. What if we allow ourselves a bit of time to learn how to live from our philosophy rather than our fears?

Just for today, let the R stand for repeat. Because living this philosophy, that says there is no “other” or enemy, that says that God is all there is and it’s up to us to find evidence of that when it seems so very impossible, living this philosophy is something we do over and over. We practice compassion and patience over time, getting better at seeing when we’ve fallen out of practice.

If you’re noticing that life doesn’t seem to be flowing for you or you’re feeling uninspired (do you know that one of the original meanings of inspire is to breath in Spirit?), then it’s time for some CPR. Get a friend to help. Do what you have to do to return to the life you were built to live.

Where in your life are you judging too harshly or being impatient? What are you willing to do to heal that? Please comment on this or anything else in this post either below or on Facebook.