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!

ALL TOGETHER NOW!

We’re locked in a war that’s making us all hostages.   We ‘re all scared. Politics has swallowed up everything else that matters, it seems, until there is no oxygen or energy left for anything else. Some may enjoy the constant combat, but most of us want things to calm down. It’s like the Talking Heads song: How on Earth Did We Get Here? We can blame the politicians, who richly deserve it, but nothing will ever change if we do that.  Politics is about pointing and blaming, to some extent. Maybe, it’s time for us to look at us? If experience is our teacher, what are we learning? What are we teaching? How much of what we’re experiencing in our political system today is about what we choose to see and the meaning we choose to give it?

  This may seem a radical statement, but I don’t think my Liberal Arts Degree was the cakewalk for stoners it was labelled to be. I’m more convinced of this every day. In many ways it’s exactly what we need today. It teaches what so many are looking for: that we’re not alone, that we’re not meant to be, and that we, in fact, never were.  Liberal Arts means a generous, extensive course curriculum. —the big picture. The more information is fragmented and aligned with our preferences, the less useful that information becomes. It provides no navigation tools for turning off the fear, the rage, the confusion we are being fed by our televisions.  But my liberal arts education taught me all I needed to know to combat all of this noise.  Here’s how:

I learned that troublesome people are often my teachers, particularly those I wish I’d never met. When I was at the University of Texas and Vanderbilt University, the schools deliberately paired Engineering students with English majors as roommates.  We thought it a sadistic exercise of power, but this simple practice was a deliberate part of our education.  We mocked each other’s chosen careers and thought the people with whom we had been paired extra- terrestrials. I, as an English major, was in “Arts and Crafts” and “Finger-painting”, and my roommate’s future vocation of Engineer was labelled “Robot” and “Gearhead.”  But when our own skills, mindsets, emotional intelligence, and aptitudes weren’t enough for an educational or life challenge, we borrowed those of our roommates and increased our arsenal for taking on the world. My engineer roommates taught me women could be tough and compete in male- dominated fields, and gave me organizational skills that made me more productive as a writer and artist and eventual lawyer.

I learned the real, comprehensive story of America and its place in the world through the study of world and American history.  I learned how a multitude of disciplines and points of view made us an indomitable whole.  I learned that America had help from other countries, particularly France, in becoming America.. I learned our American system of government, how the branches of government are designed to work, and when they don’t.  History reaffirmed our American values and explained why they were our values in the first place. It gave profiles and examples of courage, heroism, service, and sacrifice. It chronicled our mistakes and recorded them for posterity, so future generations wouldn’t repeat them. Attempts to correct these mistakes are the beginnings of policy.  In the study of history, we got to stand on the shoulders of millions who went before us and learn what their lives taught us, without having to suffer their tragedies. Our history is a gorgeous, unlikely miracle illustrating how the sum of our many parts made a whole of incalculable beauty.

Those “useless” English Literature and foreign language courses gave me the most precious thing possible:  a way to disagree with my friends, and still keep them as friends. They did this by giving me a bridge of language I could use to reach and learn about people unlike me.  Friends did not used to ask each other who they voted for before becoming friends in the first place. It made life so much easier. We had other things to talk about. We were focused on learning each other’s story and walking with them as it unfolded.

A broad- based education has served for generations to be an orientation on everything you want or need to know about America; our history and why it’s important, our heroes, and our children’s potential place in all of this.   It gave me a common story with every other American and gave me the gift of being  part of a giant family, all working together. It’s always the story that matters, that transforms and changes, not whatever technical information we may learn.

My education taught me to stay curious and dive in. That’s the magic bullet for fighting fear. I can say this from personal experience, as a naturally fearful person. For this reason alone, a broad education is worth its weight in gold.

Curiosity allows the mind to open just long enough for it to assimilate new information before fears sets in and stops us. It allowed me the space to ask the 3 questions that keep propelling me forward: What if? Why not? and Who says? I never would have gone to law school if I relied on polling to make my decision. No one thought I could do it, and that made me curious to see if I could. Even more importantly, how can I progress spiritually if I don’t wonder and question?

 Fight or Flight does not provide insight. 

  The antidotes to the terror we all can feel when we look at our world and the safety of our children in it are love, curiosity, and engagement.  The cure for our world and our politics is us—daring to live without fear and throwing ourselves into humanity and watching for what unfolds. No one mentors or transforms themselves.

It all comes down to the two roommates I described in paragraph 3 of this essay. Are they fellow travelers and friends, or enemy combatants? Is life a never-ending adventure and classroom for them or a sentence only to be endured? Is the world something benign and beautiful, or is it menacing and dangerous? Are there infinite possibilities for them? Do they stay in touch? I’ve got to believe that everyone we meet is our teacher, especially those we may wish we never met, that all things and people work together for our eventual good, that our purpose is to keep learning, and that life is most definitely not over after High School.

There is a way for all of us to come home.

HOW TO BLOOM

 

I don’t happen to believe that people who are truly spiritual are even aware of their spirituality. And here I am writing a spiritual blog, stumbling from one lesson to the next, inviting you to come with me. But, I think that’s the point. In sharing our stories of imperfect stumbling and discovery, we are sharing the most vulnerable and important part of ourselves, and are exercising our spirituality.

So much of our spiritual lesson is loss, and dealing with it. We are bulbs stuck in the dark, yearning to see the light and open. But, when we finally blossom, the light is glaring, and we feel exposed, and maybe afraid. There are prettier blooms out there! We have left the safety of the dark soil behind.

That is loss. Life requires us to shed the things we can’t carry or that belong to someone else on our journey.

Sometimes, we’re presented with the necessity masquerading as an option, to shed people, or bad habits, or a way of coping with life that is fearful, critical, or foolish. I personally can fill in the blank with 100 different things that don’t get me anywhere spiritually or anywhere else. They’re stupid habits, that provide momentary comfort, that are ridiculously hard to drop! It’s even more difficult to opt out of certain relationships in the realization that you have changed beyond them and they just don’t want the new you—they want the old version. All of these things or circumstances are innocuous in and of themselves, but they can eat up other options, even a calling.

Sometimes, the lesson is more brutal, as someone who occupies a chamber of our very heart is ripped from our lives. How to make sense of the brutal pain? I’m watching someone I love go through this now. Why did it happen? No mortal can answer the question.

I don’t think God is doing something to us or taking the things we lean on to make us grow. I think we can’t help but grow, if we let the tears out and let them water us like rain, letting our hearts open to the sunlight that’s still there, and always has been. 

ARE WE THERE YET?

 

The destination we have craved with desperation for over 2 years has arrived, and yet we are nowhere near “there” yet. There was a collective expectation that when 2017 finally came, decency, courtesy, civility, and normalcy, would return to us.  But, it dawns on all of us political trauma victims that was a fantasy we created to cope. Normalcy cannot return, because normal has been redefined. I have been silent, because I didn’t want to write anything that wasn’t unifying and solution -oriented, thereby contributing to the divisive, somewhat unhinged state of things.

 But, I’m Baaaack! — rested, with a new perspective and new hope.

Strangely, the worse things seem to get, the more there is to unite us, because it pushes us to return to our core values—not talking points, but values. When we get down to our values, we agree on solutions. Here are some examples.

  • We all agree that we don’t want our own behavior, biases, and beliefs to make our children ashamed of themselves or of us– ever. We can’t encourage our children to participate in a political system, if we believe that system is a cosmic joke. Most of us can agree that it is a cosmic joke at this point. But,

 

  • the problems aren’t insurmountable despite all being said to the contrary. To say so is an insult to us and our children. We deserve more than a group of politicians who create division and promise solutions only to throw up their hands and punt. It’s lazy, craven, and cynical, and isn’t us—even now.

 

  • If we look to the motivation for saying things are so forgone they can’t be solved, we see how false those claims really are, because we can see the motivation behind the words. Political platforms need problems to solve. So do re- election campaigns. If we believe there are no solutions, we get compliant, we stop making demands. We turn our lives over to our leaders. That doesn’t benefit us, it benefits them. FDR solved problems. Was he an alien from Mars or a special one -of -a -kind breed of human? Was Reagan? They listened to the people. We can still do that.

 

  • We can agree that our leaders to a large extent just don’t seem to care about us anymore. It’s like they have terminal narcolepsy: they’re not waking up anytime soon. They are focused somewhere else on something shiny.

 

  • We can all agree that there is a real resurgence of activism and involvement, and we need to keep it going. It is very, very early in the game.
  • We all agree that it is more important than ever.
  • We can all agree that  the preceding 6 points  lead to the inevitable conclusion that the solutions are up to us, the reasonable people left when you subtract the professionally angry and ideologue politicians.

 

 There is a hairpin turn in this plot: All of these problems effectively are one problem, which points to its own solution.

Our political discourse has been stripped of any and all language relating to possibility, tactical solutions, timelines, goals, and mission. It is a hopeless, barren landscape populated by people spouting ideologies without actual values. Our politics doesn’t know who or what it is, or who it’s for. It has been stripped of its very identity. Our political system, the system that finances that system, and the parties themselves are now biased against solutions and problem solvers. Language for policy drafting isn’t making it into our political campaigns, and that language is the beginning of the negotiation process necessary for lawmakers to propose and adopt solutions. How can anyone meet in the middle, if there is no middle?  So, people who know how to solve problems and want to, look strangely out of place, and are run out of the race.

Look at what happened to Bernie Sanders. Agree or not, this guy had solutions. He had thought seriously about the problems and had policies to solve them.  He was earnest. He was beloved by the populace. They had no idea what to do with him. The democratic party viewed him as a threat to its viability, because he pointed to its shortcomings. He transcended party politics, because that is what is required to solve problems, and that transcendence was viewed as a threat.

 Well, if one person can transcend party politics, what kind of effect would millions of us transcending party politics have? Significant. Maybe we should all re- register as Independents. Suddenly, the party hacks are automatically out of the loop.

  A problem this huge can only begin with a spiritual solution. Spirituality is about what is possible, and language follows that sense of possibility. Until we shift and lift our focus above the differences and the problems, unity and therefor solutions, will be impossible. The very language necessary to devise solutions will be impossible.  

Focusing on the problems effectively shuts down the higher consciousness that creates solutions, finds points of unity, and forges alliances, agreements, and treaties. There is a reason why the politicians, most of them, keep harping on our differences: as long as we perceive them as insurmountable, they don’t have to lift a finger to solve anything. It is up to us to drive it from the grass roots up. Let it begin with us.

Spirituality points to our common humanity, and embraces solutions and people. There aren’t two different Americas: there is one united America with a multitude of different perspectives and experience.  THIS IS NOT THE PROBLEM. IT’S THE SOLUTION. This is where creative solutions come from: Outside.

The key to happiness is said to be a sense of purpose. Well, now we all have one!

So, whoever you are, whatever you believe, wherever you get your news and info, you alone have the power. You have the power of the pen, the phone, your feet, your friends, your constitution, your memory (remember the names of the politicians who broke their promises or betrayed you) and your vote. We have the power of infinite creativity and possibility, and we don’t have to concern ourselves with re- election. It’s a swamp, but we aren’t in it. We are standing with clear eyes on dry land.

 

*****

 

 

MY CHRISTMAS WISH FOR CHRISTIANITY

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It’s been a heck of a year.

At many times, I was afraid for the state of Christianity.

2016 was the year of shouting, and softer voices temporarily got drowned out. This was also the year of labels. The candidates had labels and so did Christians. The media spoke of “the Evangelicals” as synonymous with “the Christians”, which was simplistic and false.  It had its place in election reporting, but it was a form of shorthand that was deceptive, leading people to believe that there is only 1 kind of Christian and there is a checklist to be followed. Call me Pollyanna, but I think there is as much diversity in Christianity as there is in any other area, and I think that is a fantastic and necessary thing for actual unity to occur. I think that what we non- Evangelicals bring to the party is also valuable.

I have been a Christian my whole life, but not an Evangelical, because my personal belief it that religion and politics is a bad pairing. Politics is a tribal blood sport! It’s “our team” vs. “their team.” It, of necessity, relies on soundbites, shorthand, and over- simplification and generalization of issues and the categorization and labeling of people. I think we can all agree that we have had enough of that.

My first  Christmas wish  for Christianity it that we drop the labels and checklists! Stop the madnessJ It is what is in our hearts, that only God himself knows that is what matters. We can’t attribute intent to someone because of how they voted.

Allow me to use a little humor to make my point. Is God a Republican? Is he an Evangelical? Did he have a favorite in the election? Was he rooting for Hillary or Bernie? Or Russia?

Though a registered Republican, I have voted Democrat or Independent in the past 3 elections, because I don’t want people in Washington that I have never met telling me how to be a Christian. Am I still a good Christian if I really don’t like Congress or the President telling me how to live my life?

What if I believe in separation of church and state despite the fact that I’m a Christian?  Do I forfeit my faith card?

Yes, these scenarios are ridiculous.  Can we stop pretending that they aren’t?

There are as many shades and flavors of faith as there are people professing it. There is not only room for all of us, but all of us are needed to raise our voices during this Christmas season and be reminders of what we actually agree upon, and it is a lot, despite what we see on the news and our Twitter and Facebook feeds. So, my second Christmas wish is that we ,put those sources of division away for at least some of each day during the holidays and focus on what draws us together.

The following are the things that we agree upon: We believe in loving our neighbors as ourselves and at least attempting to see them with understanding. We believe in peace and compassion, good will toward men, assuming the best until proven otherwise. Each of us, not matter what our faith, believe it is sacred and not something to be exploited by anyone –ever. We believe in extending grace, because we have received it. We believe in opportunity and optimism.

We are still the most compassionate, generous, open minded and open hearted nation on earth. The labels don’t matter. We know who we are. And I think God’s still rooting for us.

Pollyanna.

 

7 REASONS GRATITUDE IS A HORRIBLE WORD

It can’t sound

like anything but the lamest of platitudes

when exiting someone else’s mouth

(even when true).

One cannot will someone else’s gratitude.

It requires me to focus upon ants, daisies, and sunsets

instead of searching the skies for Clarence Odbody from It’s a Wonderful Life.

It does not beckon, appear like a beacon,

or saunter in on the arm of a muse.

Like exercise, and about as fun,

it requires practice and is never done.

Because a modicum of discontent is the fuel on which the artist feeds,

I must walk the razor’s edge between annoyance and despondency

to meet my needs and achieve productivity.

It is wickedly deceptive in its simplicity

and, quite frankly, that annoys me.

Because it always comes down to me,

and what I’m able and willing to see,

which can vary infinitely,

and I say this with just a scintilla of irony

HOW TO TRIGGER YOUR SACRED

 

 SACRED1

Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 4:23, NIV

 

This is my sacred place. I am watching the clouds and the sun play tug of war across the sky and listening to the wind chimes right now, far from the impending and now constant flash floods. There’s a Yellow Swallowtail tormenting two squirrels resting in the high tree limbs. All is right in the world at this moment. It always this way here; this is a truly sacred place. What makes it so?

 

SACRED2The magic of the place is who I am when I’m in it. It seems to be the only place I can answer the question “ Who am I?” at its deepest level, apart from anything external, detached from the stories my mind furnishes to keep me busy, entertained and distracted.

 

I can still lose who I really am deep down at my deepest core at a moment’s notice. I can find myself lost in a loved one’s pain, a crisis I feel compelled to solve right now, or even doing something I love, if things aren’t falling together the way I had forecast. But, when I’m out here, time stops. I am in the certain presence of the eternal. All there is, is peace.

When God wants to show me something, there is nothing subtle about it. Every scripture or anything else I have picked up to read in the past few weeks has had to do with the heart, as the source of spiritual energy, literally our physical and spiritual force and source. I found the scriptures quoted in this blog all at once and by happenstance. For “ fun” I just happen to be reading, the untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer and Falling into Grace by Adyashanti. Both deal with this issue of who we are really, deep in our hearts and the power this knowledge and revelation can have in our and others’ lives.

The 6th chapter of the gospel of Matthew speaks of the Secret Place, as the seat of our united consciousness with God.

What if the Secret Place is simply the real me–the one God sees all the time? I love the word and the image “untethered.” In this special place, my heart is untethered to anything, anything external or any idea I’m telling myself about whom I think I am.

When I manage to drill down past all of the things and people I think I am or others think I am, all of the ambitions and fears, past resentments and sadness, there is my beating, beautiful heart, and God’s will siting perched in it, like a magnificently plumed bird, waiting to be seen and admired.

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I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

Psalm 119:32, NIV

 

 

What else is there, really?  If your heart is open, life and light flow through it to you and others, making every place a sacred place. If it is closed, instead of a temple it becomes a prison cell, removed from all light.

Can you answer the question, “ who are you?” apart from who you parent, who you married, who your friends are, what your vocation is, what you look like, or used to look like?

Trigger the sacred by finding what ignites your heart. Where are you and what are you doing when time stands still (in a good way) and you are at peace? That is your heart’s trigger. It doesn’t have to be a place: it could be as small and as simple as a song, a poem, an affirmation, a prayer, a hope or dream.

Our best days are not behind us. We can ignite that flame any time.

© L E Kinzie

WHERE AND HOW I SATISFY MY LUST FOR WRITING ABOUT RELIGION

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Writing spiritual books and other inspirational material needs a wild and brazen counterbalance to get the spiritual and creative juices flowing. I need to be where things are naked and untamed, so my angels, demons and muse of the day can run free. This is where I do it.

As you can see from the pictures, it is completely untamed, and looking at the trees of every variety run riot, helps generate ideas run riot. I need to be grounded in this place that’s sensual in its abundance and fertility to connect to the sacred. It keeps me in mindfulness, wonder, and gratitude, making me simply an observer asking questions and giving thanks. Yet, this primeval forest is in keeping with my lifestyle and can be accessed any time by walking out my back door.

I don’t know what’s buried under the soil, and I probably don’t want to know, but whatever finds its way there grows. I think that was a horror show of some kind. We have 50 trees of many varieties and counting. There are two Rose of Sharon trees that are blooming now and attract solid black and solid blue butterflies. It’s the land that time forgot without dinosaurs.

People can’t understand why we bought/ remain/ won’t dump/ our falling- down house, built in the 1960s. It looks like the house on the old television series, Green Acres, except for the talking pig. It looks like a flea market that someone moved into. The power went out when we had Christmas dinner at our house, because the oven collapses when two burners and the oven itself are used at the same time.

But, when people see the yard…. they change their tune. This is where I unleash and expose the writing beast.

And then there is the huge metaphor of the two paths encapsulated in my yard, put there by my higher power. There are literally two divergent paths. The one you see, on one side of the yard, and the other going in another direction on the opposite side of the yard. There is no way to avoid pondering life’s deep questions and the spiritual significance of what I am doing at any given time.

IMG_2241I take a big cup of coffee out there in the cool, breezy morning; sit on a cement bench left to me by my great- grandmother, and the words and the Spirit flows. I hear God whispering with the leaves, see him dancing as they sway and,before I know it, I have started to pray in writing- poems, songs, blogs and books. I feel close to God and all his infinite beauty as I hear the wind in the chimes, watch the butterflies flit from tree to tree, and feel oh so blessed and lucky. If only I didn’t have to go back in the house:)

If it’s raining or the mosquitos get as big as cows, or we run into some coral snakes that don’t know they shouldn’t live here, I go to Wahoo’s on South Congress, sit outside, eat fish tacos, people- watch and write. Last time I went, I met a pig in a baby carriage named Huxley, who was eating the remnants of a fish taco, while his owners drank beer. Austin is its own brand of wild.