DON’T FEAR THE THRESHOLD!

sunflowerblog

God has opened a lot of doors for me in my life. But, not a single one of these opportunities looked like a door at the time. They looked like failure. They looked like defeat. They looked like unbearable conflict and loss, eventually driving me from that particular situation to find something more peaceful. They looked like sudden physical limitations, springing from nowhere, that forced me to limit and change my focus. They always looked like crisis and change. And pain.

With the wisdom of hindsight, I see that these events that I perceived as horrible at the time, were answers to my own prayers for direction, deliverance and other things. They were thresholds.

My entire writing career resulted from being fired from a job as a lawyer. I had been charging down the legal path for decades at full tilt with success, which blinded me to the unpleasant changes happening in my life and my personality. Law is a great venue for believing the fantasy of control: if I just work harder and longer… what I want or what my client wants will be mine.

I had two very young children at the time. My daughter was 4 and my son was 2, and I never saw them. They were in bed when I went to work in the morning and in bed when I got home. Their father had to take care of almost everything, while I worked sometimes until 4 am answering e-mails, worked on holidays, worked on weekends. I was in pursuit of “ success’, and was going to crack this code, if I just worked harder.

One day, I was at work, of course, and I got a call from our nanny, frantic because she was at the hospital ER with my son, and they would not let her check him in. He had fallen down a flight of stone stairs. He was ok after some emergency surgery to put his teeth back in his mouth, and fortunately I was able to be there with him through this ordeal he doesn’t even remember.

This was a huge signpost that I missed. But, my subconscious was working on me. I did not want to give up being a parent to be a professional anything. My love for the job never really returned after that, and it was just a matter of time before my employer saw it. It was humiliating and painful and horribly unjustified I thought at the time. After all, who worked harder for these people?

It was merely a threshold God was asking me to go through. I began writing in journals to get my myriad emotions out. The emotions erupted in the form of poetry. It took all of these events for me to remember that I had originally wanted to write. I finally remembered that I had started writing poems at age ten.

God had returned me to who I really was, and I had fought him every step of the way.

I started a poetry blog, which led to a book, which led to this blog. I may have been a lawyer by trade, but in my heart, I was always an artist, with the soul of a poet. God had returned me to myself by erecting a threshold, and creating circumstances that urged me to walk through.

In retrospect, he was removing obstacles from my path, which a large portion of the time was I. My ambition. My will. My hunger for approval.

What a God! …Every God direction is road- tested. Everyone who runs to him makes it…You cleared the ground under me so my footing was firm.

Psalm 18, Message Version.

 

We don’t suffer because of what happens to us. We suffer because we struggle against it. That struggle is based on what our thoughts tell us about where we are versus where we should be. But our thoughts lie to us. All the time. Our minds lie to us, because we want our will instead of God’s, and we tell ourselves stories justifying it.

 

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 

When it seems that I have tried everything and am beating my head against a brick wall, I am. There is no door there anymore. It’s scary, but all I need do is pray, look for the prompts, and take the next step in faith. It isn’t the end. It isn’t a death. It is only a threshold. Don’t fear the threshold; fear the cage that forms around us when we refuse to go through, struggling and fighting what is, and therefore, what could be.

 

2 BENEFITS OF SPIRITUALLY GOING PALEO

Caveman_Statue_(Josephine_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(josD0008)

Image provided by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

 

The truth of any teaching can never be found in the words. Rather, the truth is found in that which is revealed inside our own selves. By exploring in this way, we make the teachings our own. And by making a teaching our own… we come to awaken to a view of life that is whole and unified…and addresses the deepest yearning and longing of the human heart.

Adyashanti

 

I so want to consider myself a mystic. I’m always looking for that next burning bush, while ignoring that my left foot is on fire. Can’t see the tree, for looking at the forest. I want to have a positive impact on the world. But, the true point of impact is the fundamentals, not the polished product. I have learned this again and again and yet, the lesson is far from over. When I am trying to accomplish a lot, I focus so intently on the finished work that I literally lose myself, and lose these critical benefits in the process:

 

DIRECTION AND PERSPECTIVE

I can’t accomplish big things, if I can’t even accomplish little things consistently. I must remove all the fluff, drilling down to the most basic level first, before doing anything else.

If I don’t put my spiritual life first, my entire perception of everything and everyone becomes skewed.

I am a person of words, but words can and often do lie. In his wonderful book, Falling Into Grace, Adyashanti posits that the reason for human suffering is that we believe our own thoughts.

My thoughts are just a story I tell myself. If I don’t make my time with God my top priority, I start to live in the story, instead of the truth. I have a story about everything: the past, the future, and my motivations for doing what I am doing. I even tell myself a story about my spiritual time:

“ It’s something I have to do, or God will be mad at me.”

“ I need to master the art of prayer and read scriptures or books about prayer.” Well, that’s just the enemy telling me another story.

It is best to start my day with God, before things get too far afield. Otherwise, I will take off in the wrong direction going 200 miles an hour until l hit the wall and finally collapse. My time with God can be 30 minutes or 3 minutes— it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be fluffy or perfect. My prayer and meditation time is where I find the fount of truth, which becomes, freedom, insight, purpose, direction, energy and inspiration. It starts out being like spiritual broccoli, how I get my antioxidants. But, soon it becomes the most pleasurable part of my day, because it leads me to:

 

IMG_2925AWAKENING. I get out of my head and my stories, and focus on what is true, and what is happening right in front of my face or even in my own beating heart right now. There is no truth, or happiness or peace or love living in my head. It is happening in this very moment. I even tell myself stories about the truth, wanting it to be bigger, something I can’t miss, like a neon sign. It isn’t.

It is amazing how often the truth for which I search is hiding in my own body. I drive and drive myself, ignoring the evidence. Am I sleeping and eating well, in other words, treating myself like I matter? If not, why?   What am I feeling? Is fear or resentment from the past driving me? What is my true motivation for the present course I am charting? Have I been feeling sick or tired for a long time? What is the story I’m telling myself about this? Is it even true? The evidence is not just physical: it is spiritual. Something is off. My life is skewed and out of balance and the cure is not driving myself harder, but drilling down to the Paleo: finding the truth in each and every moment. It is far from easy; it is peeling an enormous onion, but it is the seed from which everything else grows.

 

LOVE AND QUICKSAND

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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle

 

What else would I talk about this week, but love? As the quote would indicate, love is a practice, not a gooey feeling. But, what kind of love are we practicing? What is excellence in love?

 

Love can be a super- power, because it can erase fear, and not much else can.

Love can be freedom, because it can create an expansion in our spirit and open us to a whole new perspective on the world and a host of unexplored possibilities.

Love and intelligence combined can result in wisdom.

But love without detachment, can be quicksand for the giver and the recipient. Love that is not detached from judgment is entirely conditional, and can make the giver a puppeteer and the recipient resentful. Love not detached from the fact that we are not anyone’s saviors can ruin our health, take us off of our own path and ultimately take our loved one off of theirs. We can’t save anyone from all pain or consequences, even our children. Any and all efforts to do so only result in the erasure of us.

Love with detachment, gives us the ability to be compassionate and forgive. It allows us to love from the appropriate distance, so we don’t get stepped on for putting ourselves between someone else and their destiny.

Love is an attitude, an intention practiced daily, or even more often, to see others as a gift, a blessing, and a lesson for who they are right now at this instant.

 

 

7 WAYS TO TAKE FLIGHT IN YOUR OWN LIFE

flyingbirds

 

 Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…

Lift up your eyes all around, and see

and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and exult.

Isaiah 60

 

Image supplied with permission by David Eyestone

 

Thank God my friends don’t treat me like I treat myself!

My friends somehow see the me I don’t see.

Why do so many of us find it so difficult to have compassion for ourselves?

Where do we get the idea that driving ourselves relentlessly towards perfection and flogging ourselves for our failings is the best way to go?

I had to finally break wide open to finally let up on myself and discover that gentleness works. The above quotation is the beginning of the cure for this spiritual malady because it stands in stark contrast to the lie at the root of it all: I AM NOT ENOUGH.

Here are some tools to take the weight off your wings:

 

1) Let yourself take off and soar and realize that the belief that it is wrong to do so, is lie #2. If a loving God created you, then hobbling yourself is denigrating something that God made and loves. Quit judging yourself. It isn’t your job. Fire your inner critic and run him or her out of town.

2) If it is true that nothing can separate us from our loving creator, it must also be true that there is no mistake I can make that will separate me from Him or the flight plan he has set out for me, and if that is true, then a host of wonderful things follow:

  1. a) There is no such thing as too late. There is no such thing as too old. There is no such thing as technologically obsolete. There is no such thing as too young or inexperienced. These things do not apply to your Plan. You can be what God wants you to be, because you already are. He doesn’t make mistakes.
  2. b) God loves me unconditionally and he made me. If that is true, then he has compassion on me. If that is true, then I am deserving of compassion and gentleness from everyone including myself. This concept was so alien to me; I had to teach myself how to do it, with the following exercise. This may seem ridiculous, but this daily practice has transformed me by teaching me compassion and love for myself: I face myself in the mirror every day, look myself directly in the eyes and say, Baby girl, God loves you and so do I. I see you. I hear you, and I will never let you down again.

In other words, I treat myself as a loving Higher Power would. If I was created by something divine, I have a purpose, and am worthy of love and affection and joy right now- not when I finally have mastered Everything.

3) Dare to suck and forge ahead. Redefine success as daily progress, not perfection. I haven’t seen Shakespeare’s first poem, but I bet it probably sucked. Those on their deathbeds regret the things they never dared to say or do, not the things not performed perfectly.

Remember the 10, 000 hour rule. I read a book recently that pointed out that behind each and every singular, supposedly unique success story like Bill Gates or Steve jobs was a common trait: each of these geniuses and stellar successes had spent 10,000 hours practicing and honing their craft before they reached critical mass. None was truly an overnight success story.

So keep going, keep practicing, keep singing, playing, writing or programming. It is impossible to fail as long as you are still learning, growing and trying.

Embrace joy instead of perfectionism. The two are almost mutually exclusive. Leave perfection for living saints, dead martyrs and maybe Martha Stewart. Psychotherapy is expensive and treating yourself like a machine will eventually require a major tune up.

4) Ask God instead of beating yourself up. Even if you don’t believe, ask God to change you, instead of using willpower to try and change yourself. In any event, it takes the fear out of your head, and puts it someplace where you can forget it, pause, and shift your attention to what is great in the present moment.

5) Want to be popular and well loved? The kindest thing you can do for your fellow man is be gentle with yourself. If we are rigid and unforgiving of ourselves, imagine how we might judge others. In any case, the constant ” I am an undeserving worm ” recitations are a pain to be around and, as the philosopher, Dr. Phil says, you teach people how to treat you.

6) The past is just a story we tell ourselves (from the movie, Her) The fact that you weren’t perfect in the past doesn’t mean that you aren’t exactly where you are supposed to be right now. Regret is premature. We don’t know how everything is going to work out. Miracles are the things that happen outside of your carefully prepared plan. Take a forensic look back on your life, looking for God’s breadcrumbs. How many “ mistakes’ and detours turned out to be blessed course-corrections?

7) If God never wastes a hurt, as I was told when I was in a great deal of pain, then maybe C.S. Lewis was right. Pain is the megaphone of God. Might as well ask, what is the gift or the lesson in this situation?

I will never be old enough to stop making mistakes, and if I look back with objectivity, those ” mistakes ” were the catalysts to growth, and a necessary change in direction. Labeling myself unkindly is libeling myself, because it isn’t true. Clipping my own wings, hurts me, doesn’t help anyone else and doesn’t glorify my Creator.

 

 

Do Christians Have Free Speech Today?

daisy-detail

 

I like to live life in the cracks, because that’s where the light comes in.

Leonard Cohen.

 

On this day in 2015, do we have more or less freedom to speak than 10 years ago, or even 2 years ago?  This Monday was Martin Luther King Day. Dr. King was a living example of the power of speech, particularly, the power and the right to use speech to protest injustices and inequality.

I can’t help but wonder if there is still freedom of speech when the thing spoken about happens to be religion. Do we still have the right to speak in protest of religious inequality or other practices? With Charlie Hedbo, we saw the dangers of freedom of speech about someone else’s religious beliefs. But, what about Christianity? Right here, today in America, a land that ridicules theocracies, do Christians really have free speech? Are Christians really allowed to speak honestly or even critically about their own religion without losing the moniker of “devout” or “faithful?”

The most common observation my non-Christian friends make about we Christians is that we don’t seem to practice tolerance or grace to each other or even like each other very much. Case in point: the YouTube uproar resulting from a Victoria Osteen sermon. A video clip from a sermon preached by Victoria Osteen seemingly saying, “ come to church for you and your own happiness” was played with a predictably vehement series of responses. She was called a heretic. I’m not surprised that some people vehemently disagreed with her. I even disagreed with some of what she was saying. But, what really caused me concern as a Christian was the vitriolic claims of heresy not because of what she said, but because she was a woman saying it. One YouTube commentator said she was a heretic because the Bible does not allow women to speak with authority over men. So, she was a heretic because she was a woman speaking in a church? 

Another case in point: Rob Bell. The Huffington Post recently ran a great article recounting what happened to him as a result of writing the best-selling book, Love Wins. It recounted how Mr. Bell fell from grace, lost his flock and had to completely re-invent himself after publishing the book. Fellow Christians labeled him a heretic. Heretic? Apparently, Christian commentators did not know what to label him; was he a Christian Universalist or something else? I’m wondering why that is important in a theology that stresses grace?

These two events happened before the cyber- attack pending the release of The Interview, and the subsequent attack on Charlie Hebdo. Where at first, I was concerned, now my blood is running cold.

 ~                                                                   ~

 I have a question or two. Do we find wonder, authenticity, or miracles in rigid dogma? I haven’t. I haven’t found compassion or tolerance resting there either. What about grace, the hallmark of Christianity? Doesn’t grace only occur when we fall short of the absolute rules and someone loves us, anyway? I have been unsuccessfully trying to be as perfect as Jesus all these years, and found these spiritual prizes in the cracks between the dicta, the dogma, the all or nothing commands.

When we decry any work or statement we don’t’ agree with as heresy, aren’t we limiting our own ability to speak out in the future?

Owe no one anything except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

Just saying:)

5 PRICELESS GIFTS I HOPE YOU ALREADY HAVE FOR CHRISTMAS & HANUKKAH

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(BOOK EXCERPT)

“ I overheard a conversation recently which was life- changing for me.

The man whom I was pretending not to overhear was giving a definition of integrity that I had never heard: it simply means undiminished. This is the first gift I wish for you for Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year: that you go through this season and this life with passion and dignity undiminished. Love undiminished. Faith undiminished. Influence and ability to help others undiminished. Joy and lust for life undiminished. Beauty and purpose undiminished.

 

Audacity

I hope you are already audacious enough to realize you are ageless and timeless and to love wildly and unconditionally, especially yourself. I wish you the audacity that provides you the certainty that you were created intentionally for a reason and that your life and your individual experiences will ultimately matter to others, and that makes them not only valuable, but also sacred. May you always have the audacity to question those who judge and question you. May you be audacious enough to ask for answered prayers and even miracles and to expect those answers and miracles to arrive.

 

The Simplicity necessary to actively look for, perceive and receive those answered prayers and miracles with clear sight. May you never second- guess, analyze, or explain a blessing or miracle away, just because it didn’t arrive in the predicted packaging.

 

I wish you Freedom to find and lose and find your authentic self yet again within the safety of a group that provides you the sanctuary to do so without the hindrances of:

Deadlines

Shame

Dogma

Labels or

Limitations”

 

May you have happy, joyous and peace-filled holidays and beyond.

God bless us, every one:)

 

Undamned, My Escape From the Old Testament 

 

GUILT. (DON’T SHOULD ON YOURSELF!)

nightwithmoon

 

You don’t have to suffer continual chaos in order to grow.

John C. Lilly

 

It’s so unseemly when we should on ourselves! Yet for almost all of us, except for perhaps those on Capitol Hill, guilt seems to be the Great Common Denominator. We torture ourselves with it, sabotage ourselves with it, spend millions of dollars in therapy because of it, and warp our religious heritage because of it.

I spent more than half my life dragging my own personal Old Testament Tribunal with me everywhere I went: finding myself guilty and choosing my own punishment, until I escaped because I learned I was treating the wrong things reverently.

One day recently, I was watching television. During the holidays, certain commercials play on what seems like a continuous loop. I saw the one showing the abused and neglected kittens and puppies, with the sad, pleading eyes. Only $19.50 a month would save them. “ I should save them!” I thought. I felt like a personal failure for not taking all of them home. Before, I knew it, I was in the middle of a second commercial for the Wounded Warrior Project. Only $19.50 could pay for a caretaker for one of these magnificent warriors. “ I should do this! They fought for my freedom!” Before I could even reach for my check book, a third commercial appeared about becoming the benefactor of a starving child in a far- away country for only $19.50.

By the time the three ads finished running, I was convinced that the Pergo floor my chair rested upon would open up and my immediate descent to Hell would begin. I felt guilty that I was confused as to which charity I could afford to give that money. I felt guilty that I actually assessed my budget and whether it would support this monthly commitment.

Then, I remembered that I am supposed to tithe 10 percent to my church, and if I gave to these charities, I would not be able to do that. The bonus of legalism had crept into the mix in the span of 3 minutes. Guilt had led me down a labyrinthine rabbit-hole to a place where God would be mad at me for giving money to the less fortunate, because to do so, would lessen my tithe. I had should on myself until I couldn’t see straight. I had confused compassion for those who are hurting, with being the source of that pain. Did God send these confused and guilty feelings? No. I generated them in my own spinning little brain in response to a thing created by humans, designed to move other humans to gratitude and compassion.

 

What is the remedy for this dire state of affairs? A little bit of irreverence– enough to gain a fresh perspective.

Guilt is a serious subject because I take myself way too seriously. It stems from the delusional and arrogant belief that I should be perfect and be all things to all people, and when I don’t meet this standard, I fail.I realized that I suffered because I chose to punish myself with guilt. It was an albatross I was voluntarily strapping to my back.

I finally got that guilt is always a choice and that shoulding on myself isn’t ever divine. It is exactly what the expression implies: a decision to denigrate and punish myself for human failings. A loving Creator, who created me to be me, would never give me the near constant message that I was not enough. I no longer believe that God has a smite button he longs to hit whenever I fall short of the mark. I believe I cause most of my own suffering, with my beliefs and attitudes, and that God does not want me to take on his job of judging or punishing. I believe my Higher Power rejoices in my progress and the fact that I am imperfect and fearful enough to constantly seek him and his guidance. He rejoices in forgiving me.

Guilt does not lead to spiritual growth or transformation; it prevents it. It keeps us regretting the past and fearing the future and robs us of peace and the ability to fully give ourselves to others in the present. True remorse and a desire to obtain forgiveness for our wrongs brings us closer to our Creator, while guilt causes us to run and hide from our Creator and those we may have wronged, because we haven’t acknowledged these mistakes and decided to make amends and do better. God’s grace is inexhaustible.

 

For we are his workmanship, created … for good works, which God prepared beforehand. Does this sound like a creature to be should upon?

Ephesians 2:10.