Letting Go

Posted on 29 Sep 2017 | 0 comments

10 years ago, I stood with a friend from Dublin, Ireland in a church in Belfast, Ireland. Now for many of you, that comment may seem innocuous enough, without knowing the history of the “Troubles” in Ireland. Leave it to the British Isles to take a religious conflict with violence, terrorism, dehumanization, and significant destruction of community, and simply call it “Troubles.” But there we were. I had come to support a friend deliver a message – I honestly can’t remember what it was, but she asked me to listen for any words from God that might come. So I listened.

A young man stepped forth, and I saw sand slipping through his hands. The tighter he grasped, the faster the sand poured out. And when he simply let go and opened his hands, the sand stayed. Asking further what that might mean, the answer was simple – the tighter you try to grasp and control, the more life will slip through your fingers. When you simply let go, you will realize that not only are you holding sand, but that you stand on the shore of infinite grains of sand – at your fingertips, but also under your feet to allow you to stretch your hands to the sky in surrender and delight.

 

The last year has been one of complete and total surrender – of control, the lies I had to believe in order to survive. For decades, I simply pushed everything as far down inside me as I could, because it was the only coping mechanism I had to live in the world that had been given to me. In the midst of this, I began to realize that I was getting frustrated because I kept getting handed shitty choices – and yes, I made incredible decisions, even with those horrible, shitty choices. But the reality was that I continued allowing others to set the choices for me, and then trying to control the outcome. As a deeply spiritual person, I was falling into the martyrdom/self-sacrifice paradigm, thinking that if I just controlled it enough – if I just nailed myself up on that cross with Jesus…
That somehow it would all be ok.

And honestly, it never was. It was F.I.N.E – freaking out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional. But it was never OK.

Because the sand of my reality kept slipping through my fingers.

Until now.

Because I simply…

Let.

Go.

I opened my eyes to the infinite spread of sand beneath my feet, and the arms of the Diving opening, spreading, and longing to catch me when I fell – but also willing to lift me up to fly.

I’ve been loving this song, and letting it wash over me, especially when I forget – which is often. May you be graced today with the release of open hands to receive the Goodness, open hearts to allow perfect love to cast out fear, and open eyes to see the expanse of opportunity in your midst.

You’ve brought me to the end of myself
And this has been the longest road
Just when my hallelujah was tired
You gave me a new song

I’m letting go, I’m letting go
I’m letting go, falling into You

I confess I still get scared sometimes
But perfect love comes rushing in
And all the lies that screamed inside go silent
The moment you begin

You remind me of things forgotten
You unwind me until I’m totally undone
With Your arms around me
Fear was no match for Your love
Now You’ve won me

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5 Minutes to a Better Spiritual Practice

Posted on 2 Jun 2016 | 0 comments

In my many years of working with people on their spiritual journeys, one objection raises its head over and over again:

I don’t have any time!!!

I get it. I really get it. After all, before I had a job and a toddler and a business and the responsibilities of a spiritual community and my neighborhood community… Oh. Right. Well, before then, I was normally working 20-30 hours a week while doing either a Masters degree (or the year I was doing 2 Masters at the same time for different schools), or other post-graduate research and teaching, or I was working full-time and volunteering about 20 hours on the side.

So I get it. Not only do I get it, but I actually LOVE being busy. So I’m not going to sit here and rant and rave about the dangers of busyness (although if you’re really into that, you could read about that here or here or here). Because I get that your life, most likely, has commitments and things going on that you actually have chosen to be a part of. Right now, I’m at one of the busiest points in my life, and while I can feel overwhelmed sometimes, in general I’m thriving and super charged!Click here to get a free 5 minute mp3!

But to be completely frank with you, the reason I’m able to sustain my super-charged, completely busy lifestyle is the conscious choice I make each day to ground myself in my spiritual journey. By focusing on the Presence in the Present, I find myself able to keep all those balls juggling.

And the time commitment can be minimal – in just 5 minutes, you can radically change your awareness, your balance, your sense of purpose and productivity. Honestly, these are five minutes that you can do after you hit your snooze button on your alarm in the morning, or when you’re brushing your teeth. Five minutes that you can do while you’re brewing your coffee. While you’re sitting in traffic. And I’ve made it even easier for you by providing a downloadable mp3 that walks you through the process.

So, without any further ado, here are 3 steps – in 5 minutes – to keep the Presence in the Present and give yourself the needed spiritual juice to keep those balls flying in the air.

1. Breathe – one minute

It seems so simple, right? We do it automatically. It’s an instinct. But studies show that there are enormous benefits to conscientious breathing. Even one minute of conscious breath can change your mood, improve circulation, and in general improve your day. Use an egg timer, or download this free audio mp3 to help you keep time. All you need to complete this exercise is the ability to count to 3, and your willingness to give up one minute of your time.

As you breathe in, count to three. Hold your breath for three seconds, then exhale over the count of 3. Then hold for another 3 seconds. Repeat this process five times.

Amazing, right? So simple. Ready for another one?

2. Gratitude – one minute

In this exercise, we simply take one minute to be grateful for something – anything, really – that catches our attention in the moment. If you are brushing your teeth, you could be grateful that you don’t have any cavities. If you are stuck in traffic, you could be grateful that you have some alone time to think and reflect. If you are waiting for coffee to brew, you could be grateful for coffee. Easy, simple. Just start with “Today, I am thankful for…” and insert your thing into that moment. Then, if you still have time, repeat the process. For example, this morning I was thankful for coffee, my daughter’s laugh, friendship with a someone I’ve known for over twenty years, and that the weather is a bit cooler and cloudy – my favorite!

That’s two minutes, now. You’re almost there.

3. 5 senses – two minutes and thirty seconds

This one takes a bit more awareness, and if it’s something you haven’t done before, I recommend that you try a guided meditation the first time. But it’s not really complicated. It just takes intention. In this exercise, you focus for 30 seconds on each of your five senses. All you are doing is cultivating an awareness of your experience. There’s no judgment or emotion attached to this process, it’s simply data-collection. If you find that you’re having an emotional response, that is completely ok, but recognize that this is a different process and a different practice for your spiritual journey. For this one, we are simply observing.

Sight – what are you looking at? What colors, light patterns, and shapes do you see? Does anything stand out to you? Is it clear or blurry?

Sound – what noises – or silence – do you hear in the background? Is there music playing, or do you hear birds singing? If it is silent, what does it sound like?

Smell – are there smells in your vicinity? Can you smell yourself? Is it something recognizable or familiar? What does it remind you of?

Taste – have you had anything to eat or drink recently that lingers? Is it bitter, sweet, sour, salty? Does it remind you of something? Is it familiar?

Touch – what sensations are you feeling in your body? Do you have pain anywhere in your body? What textures or textiles are in your vicinity. What are the parts of your body touching at the moment? Are your feet grounded – on what kind of surface? Are you sitting – on what kind of seat?

30 seconds isn’t much for this exercise, but it’s a great place to start. As you develop these muscles, you’ll find you’re able to spend a few minutes on each one with ease.

We did it! 5 minutes to a better spiritual practice!

Actually, it’s only 4 minutes and 30 seconds of actual meditation, so you have an extra 30 seconds to relax and smile, knowing that you’ve just done yourself a huge favor – body, soul, and spirit

If you’d like to download your free mp3 guide to this process, or subscribe to receive updates, please feel free to signup by clicking the image below:

Empowering Peace Logo

 

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From Easter, 2016

Posted on 6 May 2016 | 0 comments

Today is Easter. It feels a bit arbitrarily dated this year, and I almost feel as if I didn’t catch up. I’ve been so caught up in Jewish rhythms this year that my own liturgical rhythms have been a bit more muted. I’m still wrapped up in Purim and deliverance and courage and honor – and so my reflection on Resurrection feels so different this year. We went to church, and it was so uplifting and fun. My  “mom” up here in Canada is a pastor of a dynamic little congregation, and like many other evenings with this family, we have had intense and wonderfully thoughtful and deep conversations about faith and culture and ideas over amazing food and wine. We’ve been trying to figure out an age-appropriate way to talk about Easter with Amanda – but the whole ugly, violent death scenario is hard to reconcile. And you can’t get away from it with this holiday – I still have memories of being 3 or so and crying because they killed a nice man. But it’s a reality, because there can be no empty without a tomb.
I think about the diversity of people that I connect with here in this space. And I don’t want to have a preachy, turn or burny message on this special day in my tradition, but I want each of you to know the depth of love that my faith has given me for each of you – that there is something truly supernatural and miraculous to me about the *grace* that God has given me to love such a wealth of different people with such different backgrounds, faiths, opinions, perspectives, ethnicities, political views, and doctrine with the abandon and compassion that I feel when I think about you. There’s a passage in my sacred texts that I feel encompasses this – and if that same power that raised Christ from the dead is living in you, will He not give life also to you? That power of the resurrection – the power that brings things thought dead back to life – that’s the power in me. That’s the fire that fuels my love for each of you, believing in your dreams, believing in your goodness, believing in the best of each of you – knowing that whatever dies in undue time can, indeed, be brought back to life.
I want to live not just a resurrected life, but a resurrecting life, empowered and empowering each of you – no matter your beliefs or differences – to breathe life back into your dreams and dreams back into your life. To take broken and hurting places and pour as much life and love into them as I can, to bring restoration. To me, the empty tomb is a reminder to GO, to DO, to be present to each of you in a way that brings you life.
I may not always live up to this, but I pray that every year, I get a little bit better, and get a little bit closer to hitting my mark.
In general, this holiday, I am trying to hold sacred space for the resurrecting, life-giving power that I’ve been entrusted with, so that in living life with each one of you, I can impart some sacredness, some mystery, some light, life, and love.
I wish you a Blessed day, and may you find resurrection power flowing through your spirit in the coming season.

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Permission to Grieve

Posted on 7 Apr 2016 | 0 comments

Well, it seems like grief is going to be my subject of choice for a little while.
I missed February and March, and now, here in April, I’m circling back to the subject.
Nabeel SyedI was listening to a podcast today, by Ben Katt (you can find it here: The RePLACING CHURCH Podcast), on having permission to grieve. Some of what he says is similar to what I’ve been saying for years: that we as a people – Western, individualized, bootstrapping (and particularly Christian) people – have rejected grief as an emotion of weakness and of failure. We’ve turned it into something that “other” people do. It’s seen as something almost shameful, something that we aren’t supposed to do, because being American, being Christian, is all about hope and light and love and being joyful in all circumstances. So, when people die, there’s this unspoken expectation that we’re supposed to get it together. There’s also this bizarre individualism and relationship to nuclear family – if you aren’t a sibling or parent or spouse, your grief isn’t as valid, which is heartbreaking. I can remember a few years back, a dear friend of mine lost her significant other. They weren’t married – yet – but all of us who knew them, knew her, knew their relationship, knew how close they were, how intimate their connection was, how devastating the loss was for her. We all knew that this was every bit as life-shattering as losing a spouse, but because the ceremony hadn’t been performed yet, her grief – as significant as a spouse’s – was discounted. She was at times excluded from those “family-only” moments, even though the family was compassionate.
That moment also taught me something else about grief. That so often when friends die, we have to have freedom to grieve the might-have-beens. I wasn’t particularly close to my friend’s partner. He was an amazing guy, and I liked him. My grief was ALL about who he was to her, and the way that he had changed her life for the better. My grief in losing him was about the lost opportunity, the lost future, the loss of the dream to see her walk down the aisle to him and know that he would take good care of her forever. I’m still grieving that for her.

I find that the grief of the last few years, losing my husband’s mother, my dear Uncle, my beloved friend – it’s no less real for me, even though they weren’t *directly* related to me. No, Karin was not my mom. But I loved her like one. Uncle Bud, not my father, but he treated me as his daughter. Carrie, not my sister, but as integral a part of my life as one. And because of the way our society handles grief, I’m left holding these griefs in a sort of limbo, where there are sharp, poignant moments surrounded by guilt because I’m not *really* supposed to be feeling the grief this sharply. That’s for those “directly” affected. Sadly, it doesn’t account for the grief of  the might-have-beens.

We’ve taken the verse in our text that says, “we don’t grieve as those who have no hope” and turned it into “yeah, sure, we don’t grieve because we have hope.” When the actuality, as Ben talks about in his podcast on Grief, is that as believers, our hope causes us to grieve even harder. We don’t just grieve the loss of a beloved friend, spouse, parent, sibling. We grieve all the might-have-beens. We grieve that the Kingdom didn’t manifest and spare us death. We have to wrap our heads and hearts around the concept that the world is still hurting and death and illness are still robbing us of opportunity. We have to grieve that the abundant life that we have been promised is still an expectation, a longing. This kind of authentic, vulnerable grief is NOT weakness. It is strength. It is powerful. It is significant. And it should be embraced by the community. Rather than expecting people to pull themselves back out of the sadness by their bootstraps, we need to surround them and grieve with them, holding sacred space for them in the midst of their grief. We need to create those safe places where people can be held by one another in their difficulty, in their loss. They need to understand that they are not alone, that we grieve with them. In many ways, the Jewish culture has such a lovely and better approach, with their traditions of sitting shiva and praying together in minyan. There is a togetherness, and a holiness to standing with those in the midst of the grief and giving them permission to be there.

Today, I’m giving myself permission to grieve. I don’t have anything specific in my immediate sphere, but there’s been enough loss in my circles of friends that I will take time today to mourn with those who mourn, to take the love and light, the joy in all circumstances, the hope, and to grieve with my friends for all of their might-have-beens. I will give myself permission to be sad and miss my dear ones that I’ve lost over the last few years, wishing that they could be a part of my daughter’s life, sad that they’re missing out on my life, and I’m missing out on the possibilities of theirs.

Today, I encourage you… Grieve. Whether for your own loss, your own might-have-beens, or with someone else, there is power in the process.

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On grief… the strange, sharp poignancy

Posted on 11 Jan 2016 | 0 comments

11143264_10204514085074165_1633403475304736337_nToday, I would have texted her. I would have told her I loved her. I would have laughed about whatever shenanigans she was up to. And this year, I would have loved to hear about how she’s enjoying being a mommy. How her little girl is growing so quickly, and how she’s figuring out work-life balance – because I know she would have kept her science career alive and vibrant. I would have reminded her that the world was a better place because she was born, and that she not only was destined for great things, but was already living into her greatness.
 
Instead, I’m sitting and crying and remembering that she’s gone from this life, passed on to the next. But I can still remember that I loved her and laugh about the shenanigans that we got up to together. I can follow a little bit through Jake and Erin how that beautiful girl is doing. I can know that the world is a better place because she was born and that she accomplished amazing things in her short time on this earth. I can trust that she is looking down on all of us and praying that we all live into our fullest potential.
 
Gracious, funny, kind, sassy, and an amazing friend. Steadfast and true. We were there for each other in ways that I can’t even imagine how I would have made it without you.
Happy Birthday, Carrie Moore! You are definitely missed today. <3 you, LL. 🙂
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