A Powerful Practice to Melt Away Negativity

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-tkkkg-cdd6cc

Today is our final reflection on ways to live the new year in a new way, to seek the new you in the present, every present moment of the coming year. We’ll talk about a practice I began to address the negative thoughts that I find myself thinking…. And did I discover how many negative thoughts I had! Jeannette and I talk about how quickly things start to change when a simple practice gets put into place that catches our mind whenever it is engaged (or kidnapped may be better) by a negative thought.

 

 

ENJOYED THIS PODCAST? HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…

God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 4 ways you can join me on the journey. You can learn more about them at touchingthesunrise.com.

Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST.

Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.

Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace.

Become a part of the HeartWork Community, A blend of spiritual guidance, mentorship, and counseling, the HeartWork community is a place where you learn to explore, love, open and nourish your heart, your deep heart where God is dwelling within you.

New perspectives on our lives in 2020

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-c2sp7-cdd69e

When we think of New Year’s resolutions, we are often really thinking about closure and control, about getting to a goal that helps me become something I want to be. Poets, authors, and saints offer different perspectives on life that invite openness, vulnerability and love. Jeannette and I talk about contributions from Rainer Maria Rilke, St Augustine, Adrienne Rich, Erich Fromme, Anne Truitt, St Elizabeth Ann Seton, and others. 

 

 

ENJOYED THIS PODCAST? HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…

God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 4 ways you can join me on the journey. You can learn more about them at touchingthesunrise.com.

Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST.

Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.

Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace.

Become a part of the HeartWork Community, A blend of spiritual guidance, mentorship, and counseling, the HeartWork community is a place where you learn to explore, love, open and nourish your heart, your deep heart where God is dwelling within you.

Four ways to enjoy simplicity in your life

Do you know someone who has embraced the minimalist mindset? Simple food. A clean house. A stripped-down wardrobe. Quiet entertainment. Gentleness. Beauty. Simplicity. Essentials. Health.

I have friends who are minimalists. Who simply live—or live simply—with as little as possible. There is something very attractive to decluttering, getting back to nature, enjoying uncomplicated ways of living… There’s so much there, I could have written this article on embracing the minimalist challenge. However, I’d have to admit, I myself haven’t taken on the challenge myself! I look around my office and it’s filled with what I need to do my mission—along with numberless papers, piles of papers and notes and requests and reminders that eventually have to be tended to—or (hopefully) thrown out when they’re no longer relevant.

Instead of minimalism, what Jesus has been attracting me to is something at the heart of minimalism: simplicity. Finding and living from the essential.

I really like the definition of simplicity found on wikiuniversity:

Simplicity is the virtue of removing the unrelated things to reveal the essence. Simplicity is the direct alignment with reality and it is the opposite of false and its various manifestations including pretension, prevarication, bloviating, masquerading, exaggeration, denial, grandiloquence, falsehood, or misunderstanding. Simplicity is the opposite of excess, and its various manifestations including opulence, extravagance, gaudiness, ostentatiousness, and waste. Simplicity is also the opposite of indirect, and its various manifestations including oblique, roundabout, convoluted, devious, and circuitous. Simplicity fully enjoys the magnificent essence it has revealed.

Simplicity is not simple-mindedness, nor is it simplistic. Simplicity grasps the essence that organizes what is apparently complex. It reveals an elegance that often is only understood after examining and comprehending immense complexity. Simplistic ideas are false because they take invalid short-cuts that misrepresent the complexities, subtleties, and full scope of reality (read the full article here).

In these first weeks of 2020, I’ve been talking with God about what is essential in my life, in what makes up my “me.”

The Lord has shown me how we humans build up defenses, and masks, and monuments, and exaggerate grandiose projects in order to hide from the pain of not having found the essential. In a sense, we seek to become gods and escape the woundedness and poverty of  what it is to be human, to be created, contingent. Not the masters of our destiny.

In short, we don’t want to remain faithful to the humanity entrusted to us—that humanity with its limits, its trials, its unknowns, its risks.

We run away from the simplicity of who we are as created and loved creatures. In the words of Johann B. Metz in the spiritual classic Poverty of Spirit, “Man must learn to accept himself in the painful experiment of his living. He must embrace the spiritual adventure of becoming a man, moving through the many stages that lie between birth and death. Even the life of the child is darkened by the repulsive enigma of death. Soon enough, with man’s first feeble explorations into the unchartered inner depths of his personality, is he tempted to an outright denial of what is most his own. Man’s flight from himself begins early” (p. 8).

  1. Choose poverty

God chose to be born into that poverty from which we flee. God “became man.” The Word “took on flesh,” as John so starkly puts it in his gospel. He took on our flesh. For Metz, being man (as in created, as in not being God) is to be poor. It is to have no bragging rights before God. No support. No power. Only the enthusiasm of our heart. “Becoming man involves proclaiming the poverty of the human spirit in the face of the total claims of a transcendent God” (p 14). Friends, Jesus chose this because he loved us. He needed to show us himself the beauty of our fragile created humanness.

Jesus chose poverty. He chose to be simple. He chose to live what is essential.

So what does this look like for me? An image that came to me in prayer that represents my simple givenness, my poor essentialness, my trustful createdness, is that of a leaf floating gently down a stream. It is a small leaf. It has no plans, no projects, no dreams, nothing to build up or become. There is no masquerading, exaggeration, or falsehood. There is no excess, no ostentatiousness, no waste. The leaf is carried along by the stream, protected by the stream (as precarious as this seems), almost embraced by the stream. The leaf is a symbol to me of what is left when all else is stripped away… the essential. It is a place of simplicity. It is a place where I discover the absolute essential point of “me:” I am loved by the One who made me.

Simplicity is a difficult virtue to practice. It demands other virtues that come first: self-awareness, humility, the honoring of our heart’s reality with a listening and compassionate ear. It requires us to learn gradually to let go of all that clings and clutters, all our props, everything that pervades our lives with distractions and dissolution and dispersion. All that hides, and all that holds us back from embracing our own humble humanness.

It is a choice for essence, for the essential. A choice for beauty and authenticity. It is a life that grows in meaning and the power of intentional self-giving to others through a leap of the heart.

Whether you are attracted to minimalism, hoping to declutter your life, or are searching for the essential, these five practices will help you enjoy simplicity in your life. See which one resonates with you!

  1. Schedule sacred slow-down time

There is something to be said for putzing around. For taking 30 minutes, 90 minutes, half a day, all day, just to do whatever you want—or nothing at all.

It isn’t my way at all. I’ve been very focused, organized, intent, and can get an amazing amount of work done. But the soul, remember, needs leisure. It is not a project. It unfolds, enfolds as it is led to. So give your soul a gift and schedule in some leisure time regularly. As you spend that time you may feel like your wasting time. Good! You need to waste time to find yourself. To live from the essential. To feel your way into the deepest part of your heart’s desire…

  1. Take time out for the moon

In Awaken Your Senses, co-author Beth Booram remembers the long slow summer days of playing outside all day when she was a child. She remembers most her time watching praying mantises, catching tadpoles, and… gazing at the moon. She wasn’t raised in a church-going family, but when she looked at the moon, she said, “I would swear that someone was looking back at me.” Even as an adult, gazing at the moon remains one of her strongest “God moments.” She writes, “When I stare up into the darkness of night and see this incandescent globe, it has a humbling effect.”

Gazing at the moon, a long, wondering appreciative gaze, helps us become childlike again. We find the simplicity of wonder, the essential role of awe in our hearts.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them? (Ps 8:3-4 NRSV)

And you know that even as you gaze at the heavens, God is gazing back at you.

  1. Assure yourself you are loved!

Love keeps things simple. It’s when we fear we aren’t loved that we begin to play a part, put on a power plays, amass distinctions, money, stuff, popularity—anything we can get our hands on. A simple way to start is this simple reflection: “I deeply love and unconditionally accept myself, because God does.” Try saying it nonstop for half an hour and discover the difference it makes!

And then ask God what simplicity looks like for you.

Images are powerful things. Like stories, they’re more persuasive in moving us toward an attitude adjustment, or to taking on new values that require difficult changes. God gave me the image of the leaf. Your image will be your own. To talk to God about receiving the gift of his vision for your more simple life this year, take just a few moments to jot down in the center of a piece of paper some highlights of where you’ve been and around that identify the feelings that come up for each of those situations. Then listen to God say to you, “Turn to me with all this.” As you picture yourself handing it all over to a loving and generous Father, ask him what he will give you in return. Wait for an image, an impression, a word or phrase. Let the meaning sink deeply within your soul.

It is the path to the essential.

I’d love to hear what is YOUR path to the essential!

ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE? HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…

God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 6 ways you can join me on the journey:

  1. Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST
  2. Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.
  3. Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace. Enroll in the free 5-day email series introducing Reclaim Regret.
  4. Enroll in courses on Midlife, Contemplative Prayer, and a do-it-yourself downloadable Surviving Depression retreat
  5. Become a part of the HeartWork Community, a place where you can ask the hard questions and find a path to a life that is free, fulfilling and fruitful.

 

Image by rawpixel.

Everything I get to do, is truly a privilege

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-nc3sg-cdd490

This year, instead of resolutions, I began the year with practices. In today’s conversation with Jeannette, I share a practice I recently began: doing everything as if it were potentially the final time I would have the privilege of doing it. In our conversation we talk about what I learned after just a few days of doing this and why I think it is more effective than New Year’s resolutions.

May I abide forever in your embrace

Dear Friends,

May the blessings of divine grace and the peace, the shalom, the still and generous presence that is bestowed on us from God our Father fill your new year!

What’s on my heart this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord…is the way God has been reminding us all along that we are part of a bigger story…God’s big story…the story of His HEART. When Jesus came up out of the River Jordan after being baptized, the Father’s voice was heard saying, “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to Him.” Everyone else there that day saw their life bordered by birth and death, their need for repentance, their situation whatever it was. That moment reminded us all that we play out our lives within the larger umbrella of God’s fathering us, of his saving us, of his transforming the world as we know it into a new creation.

As year after year passes, we become more familiar with our own hearts, and with God’s great HEART. We begin to see how we live out our lives within the overarching story of God’s confident presence, plan, and dominion. We are brought along in the unfolding of his determined plan to save his creation, all of it. We travel “hid with Christ in God” on the highway that stretches from Genesis through Revelation.

I’ve been realizing lately how gentle this journey is.

How gently Jesus began his own public life by quietly standing among the penitents who lined the River Jordan waiting for baptism by the hand of John, the wild prophet of the desert. How Jesus began there in anonymity the three-year teaching, healing, holding, saving mission that would culminate in his death, resurrection and ascension…. That would culminate, actually, in the baptisms in baptismal fonts of every church in every century to the end of time…. That would culminate, ultimately, when he presents us all to his Father as his brothers and sisters, the lost sheep he would not return home without finding and rescuing and returning to him.

How gently began our own life. My own journey, though, and perhaps yours, has taken not-so-gentle detours. Hardened areas of my heart and rigid thought patterns have shadowed over the gentleness of who I most deeply am as child of a generous Father and a Good Shepherd. But in these later years, I see the rigidity for what it is. The selfishness for what it is. The cocky certainty. The anger. The resentment. It really isn’t worth it. It’s time to let it all go. It is time for love.

I think this is one of the reasons why we are given this Feast of Jesus’ Baptism every year. So we don’t forget the gentleness of the Shepherd who even now is searching for us. The voice of a generous Abba who says, “You are my Beloved. In you I am well pleased.”

I don’t know about you, but I usually am not “well pleased” with myself. I always have bigger and better ideas of who I should be by this time. My heart is never enough for me. God reminds us on this feast, however, that our heart is enough for him. That HE is the one who declared us “Beloved,” even if we do not love ourselves. We can be gentle with ourselves, no matter where we’ve been or how we’ve failed. It is really not all up to us. The story has been written already by God. Our responsibility, in the words of St Elizabeth of the Trinity, is to “let ourselves be loved.”

We are all unfinished women and men, or rather beloved unfinished women and men. This year let’s be gentle with ourselves so we can experience this love that saves, heals, and holds.

Be gentle with ourselves by slowing down so that our mind, body, and soul are in sync.

Be gentle with ourselves as we slow down so we can sense what God is bringing about.

Where he is leading.

How he is transforming.

What he is re-creating.

Capturing the faintest impression of his desire for us so that we can follow behind our gently compassionate and firmly purposeful Father who is determined in his Son that we would abide forever in his embrace.

You might also like to read: How Baptism expresses how close God is to us

ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE? HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…

God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 6 ways you can join me on the journey:

  1. Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST
  2. Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.
  3. Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace. Enroll in the free 5-day email series introducing Reclaim Regret.
  4. Enroll in courses on Midlife, Contemplative Prayer, and a do-it-yourself downloadable Surviving Depression retreat
  5. Become a part of the HeartWork Community, a place where you can ask the hard questions and find a path to a life that is free, fulfilling and fruitful.

 

Jesus’ Baptism Expresses How Close God Is to Us

When was the moment John knew? As he reached out his arms to baptize this young man before him, what tipped him off that this man was different from all the others who stood on the bank of the River Jordan, come to confess their sins and be baptized, “to flee from the coming wrath” (Matthew 3:7).

Was it when he looked into Jesus’ eyes? The eyes betray the depth of one’s soul. Or was it when his arms guided Jesus, submerging him in the waters of baptism and repentance?

How did he sense that this was at last the moment when baptism of water would yield to the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire?

The trembling awe-filled simple movements of baptizing. Pouring water. Words. The call to repentance. “I need to baptized by you,” whispered John, as he realized that before him stood the Messiah. “You come to me?”

A quiet hushed exchange surrounded by the water, just enough distance from the others. A sanctuary now of worship and glory.

Jesus chose to join the ranks of sinners, to be in solidarity with all of us who struggle through the mess and “muckiness” of life, so that he could express how close God is to us.

Benedict XVI put it this way:

Jesus shows his solidarity with us, with our efforts to convert and to be rid of our selfishness, to break away from our sins in order to tell us that if we accept him in our life he can uplift us and lead us to the heights of God the Father. And Jesus’ solidarity is not, as it were, a mere exercise of mind and will. Jesus truly immersed himself in our human condition, lived it to the end, in all things save sin, and was able to understand our weakness and frailty. For this reason he was moved to compassion, he chose to “suffer with” men and women, to become a penitent with us. This is God’s work which Jesus wanted to carry out: the divine mission to heal those who are wounded and give medicine to the sick, to take upon himself the sin of the world….

Indeed Jesus acted as the Good Shepherd who tended his sheep and gathered his flock, so that none might stray (cf. Is 40,10-11), and laid down his life so that it might have life. It is through his redeeming death that man is liberated from the dominion of sin and reconciled with the Father; it is through his resurrection that man is saved from eternal death and enabled to triumph over the Evil One.

John the Baptizer knew at that moment that his life had meaning. That the promise of his birth, the role he was to play as the precursor of the Messiah, was indeed true. Unexpectedly that morning he had bumped into the majesty of God and his glory. “As Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:16-17).

And we, baptized in waters made pure by Jesus’ own baptism are “deeply united with Jesus for ever, immersed in the mystery of his power, of his might, namely, in the mystery of his death which is a source of life so as to share in his resurrection, to be reborn to new life. This is the miracle that is repeated [at every baptism,]. In receiving baptism [we] are reborn as children of God who share in the filial relationship that Jesus has with the Father, in other words who can address God, calling him with full confidence and trust: “Abba, Father.” The heavens are also opened above [us] and God says: these are my children, children in whom I am well pleased” (Pope Benedict XVI, January 13, 2013).

Perhaps you are still waiting for that awe-filled moment when you realize not that the Messiah stands before you, but that God stands for you, is for ever with you, and has called you his beloved and dear child because you have been deeply united with Jesus in baptism.

It is fear that makes us feel lost, forced to hurry through our lives, too busy, buried in consumption and distraction. Yesterday in a Melkite cathedral my eyes feel on the loveliest icon of Mary holding her child. There was a purity, a transparent beauty that made all the distractions in which I immerse myself seem like mere dust. It is fear that keeps us focused on everything but the glory of being God’s child. The fear of the unknown, the fear of being undone, the fear of breaking and falling apart, the fear of rejection, and the fear of death. We look in every place but the face of God for solutions to these fears, this God who has walked our fearful ways and shown us that we are never alone wherever they may lead us.

Here is a simple practice to retrace our steps to glory:

Bless yourself with holy water. Holy Water is known as a “sacramental,” a sacred sign that bears a resemblance to the sacraments. Unlike a sacrament, a sacramental does not itself confer the grace of the Holy Spirit, but helps the faithful to sanctify each moment of life and to live in the paschal mystery of our Lord.

Holy water fonts are just inside the doors of the Church and we probably don’t realize the amazing gift we have to bless ourselves in this way each time we enter a Church. We can also bring holy water into our homes. When my brother and sister and I were growing up, we had holy water fonts in each of our bedrooms and at the front door. We blessed ourselves regularly and Mom often would bless us with the holy water when she woke us up in the morning.

When we make the sign of the cross with the holy water  we remind ourselves of our Baptism, when by the invocation of the Holy Trinity and the pouring of Holy Water, we were set free from original sin and all sin, infused with sanctifying grace, incorporated into the Church, and given the title son or daughter of God. As we make the Sign of the Cross with holy water we enter anew into John the Baptist’s call to repentance through baptism. We renew our life in Christ, in whom we have died and risen. Holy water is also a protection from evil. Saint Teresa of Avila wrote about the power of holy water with these words:

“From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like Holy Water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the cross, but return; so Holy Water must have great value. For my own part, whenever I take it, my soul feels a particular and most notable consolation. In fact, it is quite usual for me to be conscious of a refreshment which I cannot possibly describe, resembling an inward joy which comforts my whole soul. This is not fancy, or something which has happened to me only once. It has happened again and again and I have observed it most attentively. It is let us say, as if someone very hot and thirsty were to drink from a jug of cold water: he would feel the refreshment throughout his body. I often reflect on the great importance of everything ordained by the Church and it makes me very happy to find that those words of the Church are so powerful that they impart their power to the water and make it so very different from water which has not been blessed.”

 

Holy water, then, is a powerful means to root ourselves anew in our identity in Christ. No matter how lost in fear or distrust we may be, no matter how far we may have wandered or how scattered we may feel we can find our way back to our baptism, to the moment of recognition, to the power of being called “my beloved child” by the Father, to the certainty of our being held in existence by Christ.

Image Credit: Baptism of Christ: David Zelenka Own work, available wikimedia commons.