SEEING

I saw beauty and magnificence today, with a side of inspiration. As I walked through my neighborhood, I smelled grass, trees, and flowers. I felt peace, gratitude, and, most significantly, awe.  I got an energy infusion from the warm spring sun and air. I heard children laughing and windchimes playing harmonies across backyard fences. I felt God’s presence and my own. My mind slowed long enough for the rest of me to catch up.

During my walk, the usual static was replaced with the quiet certainty of knowing I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to do. I was happy without trying to be happy. I felt joy without praying to be joyful or undertaking a self-improvement checklist that promised joy upon completion.

We strive to be rational. We plan our futures. We plan to be happy tomorrow. But, happiness is only possible in what Richard Rohr calls The Naked Now. Buddhists call it the present moment and mindfulness.

We spend so much time trying to get God to love us! But, if we show up for ourselves just for this moment, we can forget trying to be perfect, productive, and accomplished long enough to let God love us and really feel it. That’s a game changer!

4 LAMEST NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS FOR 2106

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These are my lamest resolutions, found in my journal almost every New Years going back at least a decade.

1) Drink less red wine.

This is a dumb resolution, but made for a good reason: There is the potential for abuse where alcohol is involved. But, if I’m honest, it has more to do with others, their own issues, or what they might think, than it does with me. I like red wine. It’s beautiful to smell, see swirling in a gorgeous glass, and to sip and enjoy at day’s end as I play the piano, or indulge in something covered in tomato sauce. I’ve already given up gluten and most vegetables by necessity. Small pleasures are not inconsequential.

2) Eat healthier.

What does that even mean? Healthier for whom? Gwyneth Paltrow?  I’ve been “ watching what I eat” for years, with decreasing levels of enjoyment. (See number 1) I’m not overweight, and though my cholesterol may be a tad high at times, my heart is healthy.

Basically, I’m watching what other people eat and trying to copy them. That’s stupid.

Maybe my body needs what it craves.

3) Exercise Every Day.

I’ve spent years lifting weights. I hate them. I also spent years running on a treadmill like a gerbil, which I only enjoyed on days where I felt so stressed I would stroke out. I wanted to look good, compared to others. Who cares? I got to about 9 or 10 percent body fat and discovered I looked like a well- muscled, but very sick skeleton. Exercise is never a bad idea, nor is eating well, but my body type does not look good doing exercises I hate. I’m never going to look like Ronda Rousey. I loved running outdoors and put in about 6 miles a day doing it, until my knees mutinied. Now, I swim outdoors. The common denominator is the outdoors. Today it was 40 degrees and I still swam, because I love it.

4) Lower my stress level.

This has never happened because starving and doing things I don’t like makes me irritable and nervous. I’m all for pushing past my comfort zone, but if I push and still hate kale, can I stop eating it?

 

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These resolutions are all extremely desirable and effective habits, but they were lame for me because they attempted to impose dramatic changes from an outside source, like a prison warden.

They fail, because my life is the manifestation of my thoughts, and those are so much harder to control than my waistline.

If I get no joy from something, I’m not going to keep doing it.

This year I resolve to renew my mind and soul, thereby changing from within at just the perfect, organic pace. I resolve to collect friends, joyous moments, and time with my own spirit until I become a better version of myself that pleases others and my Higher Power. That might be something worth putting in my journal.

 

YOUR WINTER IS OVER!

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I spent the better part of Easter Weekend digging in the dirt with my kids. It was glorious! We made the spring pilgrimage to Home Depot and Lowes and bought a cart full of vibrant blooms. One child graduated college in December, and the other is a sophomore in nursing school, so it had probably been a decade since we enjoyed this family pastime. Long enough for the soil to go completely fallow, for all of our ” curb appeal” shrubs and potted plants to have gone to the Great Nursery In the Sky. We had all been so busy with our lives; we didn’t notice how dead things were. So we raked, hoed, dug and brought in healthy soil. It came back to us, as if no time had passed. We were really working our bodies hard— quite joyfully we discovered, together. It was, in its way, a very holy celebration. We were ridding ourselves of all remnants of winter, and death, and planting the seeds of spring and summer. The very act of planting the seeds and blooms was an expression of faith in the future. mountainlaurels

 

We are all seed planters in some way, aren’t we?

In an interview with Meet The Press, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said, “God is The God of Spring, renewal, birth, and growth– not winter and death.” While so much is complicated, that is a theological concept easy for me to focus upon.

So often, we don’t know what our next step should be. There is so much that is difficult, trying and confusing. But, we can help keep it simple.

All we can do is the next task that seems to present itself to our attention, having faith that it is, indeed, where we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing.

Dig, plant, water, and grow. It’s your time to bloom! Winter is over!

 

IT’S HOLY WEEK! GET DOWN WITH YOUR ” BAD” SELF.

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Do not fear mistakes, there are none.

Miles Davis

This is my favorite quote in the world. What liberation lies in those words! Are there really ” flaws” or mistakes for someone submitting their will to God, every day or even more often? Let’s unpack this a little further.

As a reformed guilt and unworthiness addict, I’ve looked back on my life, and come to the opinion that these words are quite literally true. That is not to say, that there are no sins or missteps, but even my biggest missteps were not only not fatal, but led me back to Jesus and my true path.

I love Emmet Fox’s definition of meekness; as in: blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

He describes this rare quality as the mental attitude of being teachable. To me, that is the definition of true humility, not focusing on my unworthiness to the exclusion of all else.

Well, if we are to be teachable and humble, then presumably, there are lessons to be received and learned, and we will be given ample opportunities to practice. It’s an Internship that never ends. Aren’t we to assume that our infinite Maker knows these missteps/ lessons in advance and intends them for our ultimate good, according to his divine timing?

If I focus on mistakes and flaws in a self- shaming way, other people become my God, because they have the power to label my behavior or me a mistake. But, if I view these “ flaws” and “ mistakes” as lessons I get to learn with my God right there, teaching me, it’s a positive, expansive experience. I can rejoice in my progress, however small.

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Don’t put your spiritual growth in someone else’s hands. We all need trusted advisors and friends who will tell us the truth, but none of us needs our own personal Chorus of Doom. Sadly, there are folks to whom this is their whole job in life: pointing out others’ flaws and mistakes. You know whom I mean: The Oh! Bless your heart! You are so crazy/ naive/ inexperienced/ wrong/ But, I’ll pray for you Folks. Turn your back and run as fast as you can. As Marc & Angel Chernoff point out in their marvelous book, 1000 + Little Things Happy Successful people Do differently, we are the average of all the people we hang out with.  We can’t help but be affected by people who only see our flaws or can’t see that we aren’t failing at all.

 

Interesting to me is The Talmud’s interpretation of the verse ” if a leader has sinned.” The Talmud interprets ” if” to be derived from the word ” fortunate”. The Torah values truth above all else.

If our leaders establish a precedent for truth, we would be fortunate to have them as…role models, and would not hesitate to admit when we’re wrong. Truth sets us free to correct mistakes.

Schlomo Ressler

 

And the freedom to correct our mistakes and move beyond them, seeking God’s guidance, is that spiritual flowering others call growth.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder means so much more than what it says on the surface! What we perceive as awful missteps that trigger shame may be inspirational in the eye of their beholder. They may be beautiful in the eye of our Creator, because we were obedient to what we perceived as his will:)

A spiritual journey really is a terrible thing to waste.

Me. 

Happy Easter and Passover !

 

 

 

2 BENEFITS OF SPIRITUALLY GOING PALEO

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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.

 

I FOUND JESUS AT THE JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER

Clean your finger before you point out my spots.

Benjamin Franklin

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I’m bearing witness to how I can trick myself out of miracles by imposing rules or limits on my Higher Power to appear “appropriate “or holy, not being flippant or disrespectful.  If I have free will, doesn’t God? Won’t he show up where and when it suits him best?

I spent years in an Old Testament box awaiting punishment, because I put God in a box, and refused to believe he was big or limber enough to find me outside of that box. I wanted everything about my faith and my relationship to God to be intellectual and complicated. If it is important, it should be complicated and difficult, right?

If there is one thing on which those of us who believe in a Higher Power can agree it is this: whatever we choose to call this divine being, it is omnipotent, infinite, omniscient, and omnipresent. For grammatical simplicity, I choose to use the pronoun, “he”.

His holy presence is everywhere and cannot be labeled or limited in any way. A host of amazing things follow from this:

Miracles are possible anywhere, anytime.

Sanctuary is too, because it isn’t a building. It is the presence of grace.

Spiritual community can happen anywhere, because true community is about joy and the freedom from fear and shame.

I used to think that thinking was the highest function of humanity. Now I know that loving is our supreme function, because it can transform both those who receive it and those who give it.

Through love, my faith has become about freedom, not labels and limits. Through the eyes of freedom, life becomes a simple adventure: I ask for help, blessings, and even miracles, and then just let them fall on me like summer rain. They happen when and how God wants them too. They don’t and can’t look the way I forecast them in my head, because my imagination is too small.

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Lift up your eyes all around, and see;

they all gather together, they come to you…

Then you shall see and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and exult,

because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you.

Isaiah 60:4-8

So, why wouldn’t I be able to find my God at the Jewish Community Center, regardless of whether or not I am Jewish? There is such warm and loving acceptance of individual beauty there, such a beautiful spiritual atmosphere that is spacious and has room for me; I am immediately receptive to divine guidance, love and presence.

I swim laps outside, and, more often than not this winter, I have literally been swimming through clouds. Tell me, that isn’t 3 steps from Heaven! The warm water carries me and I don’t have to struggle or fight or try. It’s literally a communion between nature, spirit and body. That sounds like sanctuary and spiritual community to me.

Don’t I believe that God loves me enough to reveal himself to me in a way that I can see and understand? You bet I do! I’m not going to cheat myself out of another miracle.

This blog was partially excerpted from my book, Undamned, My Escape from the Old Testament, which just happens to be 61% off March 7-10th. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=is_s_ss_i_0_6?ie=UTF8&k=undamned&sprefix=Undamn

Happy Spring:)

 

 

 

DON’T JUST DO SOMETHING. SIT THERE!

 

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My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

Albert Einstein

 

God speaks to me in metaphors because it is the only thing I understand. Every year, I go to a retreat at Laity Lodge to get closer to the Creator and his creations and foster the creative process in myself. Usually, I am presented with a lesson or several on the last day. I offer this, for what it may be worth to you.

I had been feeling severely depleted and removed from my Higher Power due to some serious and ongoing personal crises, aka life. I just wanted to hunker down somewhere and hide and try to find my center again.

I found a cool spot on the footbridge facing some waterfalls and situated myself where no one could see me.  I tried to get still and quiet, but the beauty of it all was too much. I tried to catch the 4 big waterfalls with my iPad camera from every angle, but they didn’t show up.  I got up and changed position, but it didn’t work. I resorted to my phone, because it had a zoom, and I figured I could capture the beauty and crop it after the fact.

Finally, I gave up and sat back down. I resumed staring at the falls. As soon as I did, a 5th big waterfall came into view.  I don’t know how I missed it, but I did.  This sent me into a new tailspin. I began to try to capture the 5th fall with my cameras; it was the biggest one! This effort to capture a moment was even more fruitless and frustrating than the last.

Slowly, I realized the sound of tumbling water was coming from more than 5 places. My eye was drawn, each in turn; to 3 other small falls spewing from the rocks.

The lesson just kept coming.  I tried to capture these new, hidden sources of flow with my camera, but they didn’t materialize either.

I looked around again at my surroundings, paying attention and noticing two additional falls staring me in the face. This was getting ridiculous!

All of these sources had been there all along, biding their time. Not waiting to be revealed, but waiting to be noticed.

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I ‘m always trying to capture the infinite and reduce it to a sound bite. But, then it disappears. This is complete insanity on my part, but we all have those moments of craziness, when what we are trying to accomplish for ourselves, for others, or even for God completely takes over our thoughts and makes us completely lose perspective. What is required at this moment of lunacy is to sit there and do nothing, reconnecting with our Source of infinite peace, intelligence, wisdom, love.

The Infinite Source is magnificent, but not necessarily glamorous. It is like the support girders that keep our national highways humming without falling down. We are supposed to keep driving: not stop and take pictures of them as we make our way down the road. Imagine what would happen if we did! Well, that is exactly what does happen in each individual instance of mini-crazy. We go off- course and can stay there until we can stop long enough to check our direction. I can veer dramatically off course before my feet even hit the floor in the morning.

Perhaps, for me personally, the best thing I can do every morning before I bounce out of bed is to simply ask ” God, what are you going to show me today? What’s my lesson? Please help me to see it and receive it.

This is when being a storyteller can be a less than good thing, because I’m so excited about relating the miracle, the blessing or the lesson, that I don’t give it time to sink in. Hopefully, next time I’ll just sit there for a while and take it all in.

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

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 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.

 

 

6 WAYS TO BE RICH EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE

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1. COMPILE YOUR BUCKET LIST NOW– NOT WHEN YOU ARE SERIOUSLY CONTEMPLATING YOUR OWN MORTALITY.  This is the best way there is to discern and get clarity on where your priorities really are and to what hidden parts of you have been denied all of these years. Then, start doing those things now. Guess what? You are now living the dream.

 

  1. REDEFINE “WEALTH” ACCORDING TO PRIORITIES FOUND IN # 1. For me, wealth is discretionary time and freedom. It’s the likelihood and ability to do the things I want to  now, not “when I retire in 40 years.” The truth is our friend, and the truth is that there are no guarantees. Do you really want your life to begin decades from now?

 

  1. REMOVE THE CLUTTER. It affects your attitude and potential. If I hang on to every purchase I’ve ever made, “ because I might need it someday” or “ I might lose everything”, it creates an attitude of scarcity and fear. I’m the worst about this. Every object has sentimental value, but I live in a small house, and if I don’t get rid of the things I haven’t used in a year, my precious living- space becomes an episode of Hoarders. There is another reason: Even though I tell myself I’m a disorganized artist, the clutter affects my mental clarity, discipline, and peace. I don’t want to have to double the size of my house every 10 years simply to store my “ things.” Think of all of the people living in huge warehouse- type houses, who are under water on their mortgages.

 

  1. LIVE A LIFE THAT ALLOWS FOR MORE OPPORTUNITY AND CHANGE. What if the opportunity of a lifetime presents itself today? Could you pick up and go follow it tomorrow?

 

  1. AS A COROLLARY TO NUMBERS 1-4, LIVE A LIFE THAT IS FREE. Debt- free, cage- free, worry- free, clutter free. It’s freakishly weird, but almost every adult in my extended family growing up was a banker.  They all said the same thing: “If  you don’t have the cash to buy it, don’t buy it.” Obviously, I am not suggesting going off the grid.   For anyone not Amish, that could present an obstacle or two.  But, it’s a matter of degree, isn’t it? One or two credit cards may be necessary, but 6-10, may be quicksand.

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  1. LOOSEN THE GRIP. I have my first dime, and my second and my third. I want to be ready for emergencies, so I tend to not spend, even if it might be critical for my long term well being. This stems from the delusion that if I am cautious nothing bad will happen. But, while I’m trying to control everything, I’m not discovering, learning, or living. It helps me to remember that my material possessions aren’t really mine. They come from the Source of Infinite Wealth to be funneled through me to go where they need to go, and eventually replenished. If God doesn’t call the equipped, but equips the called, I will have what I need when I need it, as I continue on my journey of discovery. My job is to stay limber, stay ready and await further instructions:)