Saturday, March 28, 2015

Janice Jokin'

About nine months ago, we had a controversial visitor to the neighborhood. Joel and I ushered her into our community after saving her from the terrible fate of being crushed in the dumpster on our college campus. We carefully carried this damsel's 40 pound body to our home and prepared her for the life of laughter and mischief she would lead under our care. 

We named her Janice. We don't know why, it just seemed right and it has stuck.

Janice was sculpted into existence by God himself. Well, not really, but pretty close. She was created by one of our very talented friend's who is the ceramics professor at our alma mater. She was a concept to him, just an idea which led to other ideas that developed into art. I believe Janice was the masterpiece, but I will keep that opinion to myself. She is a concept possibly inspired by the Venus of Willendorf and was used as a model for teaching a ceramics class how to paint with glaze. 

Venus of Willendorf

Her days as a model are not over but there have been some additions to her job description. Amused by the garden gnome in Amelie who traveled the world with an airline hostess who took pictures of her traveling companion everywhere she went and sent them home to Amelie's confused father, we thought we might find a similar amusement through Janice. 

The first night we had Janice, Joel and I stiffed our giggles as we creeped into our neighbor's back yard and planted her right in front of their kitchen window. No matter what, they would have to look out and see her piercing green eyes. We waited all night for a call or a text and finally, in the morning we had one. Janice had lost her balance in the night and face-planted into the yard. By the time our neighbors noticed her, she looked like a small, naked man who has passed out in their grass. They were tickled and disoriented, something between delight and revulsion. It had begun...

Before long, Janice ended up in another neighbor's bed after a trip. He came home and screamed when he noticed there was a figure lying beside him in the dark. Janice has slept in many beds since then. 

photo provided by John 
Janice has appeared in the back of neighbor's cars, in the branches of trees peeping into people's homes, in a dryer, under dinner tables, in shower's, closets and most wonderfully, in the manger scene during the Christmas season. 

photo provided by John

Janice has provided our neighborhood many grins and chuckles (and the occasional raised eyebrow of disapproval). We all pass her around. She has been dressed up, dressed down, been hidden and been shown with pride. Passersby think she might be a Buddha who has lost her manhood. Other's think she is a woman but wonder at the strange placement of her vagina. Either way, Janice is Janice and Janice has helped to shape our community in laughter. 

Photo provided by John

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Cell Phone Complex

I lost my cell phone almost two weeks ago. I haven't gotten a new one. 

When I realized it was not in all the normal places I lay it when I am not paying attention, I was baffled.I waited a couple days, calling it, feeling certain that it would pop up. I don't ever hide it that well from myself...

 Then the weekend arrived and Joel was going out of town to play multiple gigs with his band for St. Patty's weekend. When he is out of town I really like to have my phone. It makes me feel better to touch base and know he has survived the party weekend. Well, it was the strangest feeling to kiss him goodbye and watch him leave. I couldn't chat with him on the way or text him to find out if he made it (he left at 9pm on a Friday in the rain) and I wouldn't be able to find out how the gig went or when he was going to come home on Sunday. When he left, he left and that was that. It sort of made sense to me. 

I waited to feel nervous. I waited to feel worried or concerned. Those feelings didn't creep up. I just settled into what I was doing and it was nice. I was here and he was there.

Saturday, I woke up early and headed to class. I was in class from 9-5 and it wasn't until 3 that I thought about my phone. It hit me that on days in class when I have my phone, I check it about every hour. Sometimes I stop paying attention because I am thinking about how I want to text so-and-so back even though they knew I was in class and the answer could wait. This was one of the best classes I've experienced at Charlotte Spirituality Center and I began to wonder if it was because I was just really present to it.

That evening, I got home from class. I had emailed a friend earlier to pick me up for a party we were going to so I thought I'd check my email one more time. Instead I saw my neighbors on their porch and I ran over to hug them. They invited me for wine and I had a delightful hour of sunset with great people and delicious vino. My friend arrived and joined us. 

We joked that if she hadn't shown up, I would have just stayed on the porch or I would have just checked my email. Either way, I knew in that moment, I would have just gone with the flow because the flow was so good. We drove off and enjoyed our party.

I went to bed that night wondering how Joel was doing and prayed for him. I spent all the time I would have spent texting him and waiting on replies or not getting replies, just praying for him. My prayers moved quickly from prayers of safety to prayers of fullness and joy. I started imagining him feeling connected to his friends, so renewed by the music he shared with his band and the joy he has when he performs. I fell asleep happy for him and at peace that God was with him. I also knew that God was with me.

Sunday, I didn't have any plans. I thought it might be nice to hangout with some friends but I didn't email anyone, I just relaxed. I meandered to our trampoline (yes, we have a trampoline) and I laid in the sun. I fell asleep for a while and when I woke up, I looked toward the house and saw my Momma sitting there with our cat, Booger. We both giggled because she hadn't seen me and I hadn't noticed her right away. I invited her to lay in the sun with me and she obliged. Five minutes later, one of my dear friends walked into the yard. She rode her bike over because she wanted to hangout and knew she couldn't call. She hopped on the trampoline with us. Then, no lie, five minutes after that, two more friends rolled into the yard on their bikes. They emailed earlier and said they might stop by. We all hung out on the trampoline. It was good.

Right as they were all leaving, Joel pulled up. His car was full of wonderful gifts from his parent's garden. He hopped out of the car asking if I had gotten his email. I hadn't even remembered to check it that afternoon. His brother was coming to town, did I mind? Of course not! 

The whole week has gone like this. Some email touch-base, some g-chatting or video chatting but mostly, I've just gone with the flow and it has been wonderful. I've still seen lots of friends and had some very meaningful time with them. I find myself more present to each of them, to myself, to the moment. Even with work, where my phone is most necessary, things went smoothly and there wasn't a moment where I thought "Agh! I need a phone!"

I've lingered on the porch and thought about things, stared into the distance, imagined my future. It's been a gift to read for a while, draw, or write and not be interrupted by my own need to check my phone or see what time it is. It feels like there is more time, more space, more me, more others, just more. 

I am realizing how many unhealthy expectations come from cell phone use. Isn't it strange that we think that it is rude when someone doesn't answer our calls or text us back right away? How awful that if those texts or calls go unanswered, we start wondering if that person is mad at us or if we did something wrong. Our minds wander, we start beating ourselves up. Or we just wonder what they are doing and perhaps, why we aren't included in it? Then we wait for an answer...

When the answer comes we are either more flustered or annoyed or just relieved that everything is ok. Or maybe we just text back and forth or forty minutes. What kind of system is this? How did we let this happen to our precious human relationships? They can be so much more, so much richer.

Why do we have to call someone before we show up at their house or work? Isn't it the same thing to knock on the door? You don't have to answer it but if you do, the person you want to see is right in front of you! 

Maybe I romanticize it too much, but I love imagining how it must have been for my grandparents when they were young. Those letters they wrote to one another, sometimes the only correspondence they would have for months, were so thoughtful and sincere. Their words mattered and letters would be cherished because they carried weight. I love how Sundays were for "visiting" and you spent the day riding around to your friend's homes  to say "hello" and spend some time together. You just knew that was going to happen. Those times must have been longed for and could have been so life-giving.

I want that for me. With all the incredible things that a computer can provide for people, why do we need to also carry them around? I get all the arguments; GPS is so useful, 411 is convenient, calling for assistance in a time of need can save lives, you can check your email anywhere and be connected to work all the time, everyone you love is just a click away and so on... 

Have these conveniences made our lives better? I think they have in plenty of ways. The world is at your finger tips anytime day or night. The world is "smaller", right? There are good things that come with that. But do we need to carry the world around with us everywhere? 

I think cell phones, particularly smart phones, have made life a lot harder. Our demands of people's time are tougher, more stringent and consistent. We can access each other whenever we want. Sometimes it is not demands, it is just invitations, more invitations than we can ever say "yes" to but we try, don't we? We have forgotten how healthy boundaries can be. We have forgotten what it is like to not worry or how much more we worry when we carry these gadgets with us because suddenly, silence is scary and a bad sign.  What happened to "no news is good news"? Our expectations are high and sometimes unreasonable for our relationships and our work. We keep ourselves seeking and seeking and we stop being. We work longer and work when we are "not working". We miss the cool places you an end up when you get lost because you don't have GPS or the strangers that might help you out. You miss that sunset or that flower blooming in full perfection just for you to walk past it and wonder at it's beauty. We miss our stops, run red lights, have fender benders. We miss our inner thoughts, our heart voices. We can't feel God's presence because feeling connected is having our phone on to see who is reaching out for us. Someone is reaching out for us.

 I've felt that weird feeling, the one you have when you can't find your phone. For a few minutes you feel disconnected, alone. But you know what? That feeling goes away and is replaced with a fullness that I have a hard time describing. 

For me, it feels like I am freer, like I am not alone. I feel less alone than ever. I am getting to know a presence I have ignored for a long time- my own self. 

People keep asking me when I am going to get a new phone. I am sure I will have to eventually, but I am going to put it off as long as I can. When I do get a phone, I will try to use it differently than I did before. I won't let it use me. 

My days have become surprises because I can't schedule every moment, I don't know what time it is all the time. I can just be. Be with me. Be with God. Be with whoever joins me here or there, where I choose to wander. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Beauty of the Music Box

Friends gather in our home rather spontaneously. The effort to create this only goes a little further than sending a quick text or passing someone in a coffee shop. Next thing we know, people are coming together in our home, an apartment, a porch, a outdoor seating area at a brewery. Someone has a guitar, someone likes to sing, maybe someone has had one too many and is feeling more confident than usual; it doesn't matter why or how or who because a song is coming.

This is a fairly regular occurrence in our house. I know it has a lot to do with the fact that my husband is an incredible musician and tends to attract friends who are equally as talented. But for the rest of us less musically trained folks, we don't hesitate to join in. Impromptu jam-sessions are not about being talented. They are about coming together and creating something as one. They are a connection that we can all share.

My mom keeps a box at our family cabin full of instruments. We are talking about egg shakers, triangles, castanets, washboard, spoons, anything that might make a sound or a rhythm. When family or friends gather around the fire, it doesn't take long before someone wants us to sing together. Everyone can sing a song, shake an egg, ring a bell. There is not judgement here, just song. 

A couple weekends ago, Joel and I attended a surprise party for a dear friend. After dinner, all of his loved ones gathered in a small living room naturally forming a circle around him. Then everyone spoke of their love for him, the ways he has improved their lives or understanding, and expressed deep gratitude for his life. What a wonderful way to say "Happy Birthday"! Once he was fully awash in affirmation, his dad rushed out of the room and returned with a box. I knew what was about to happen...

 There were musicians at the party. There were guitars, a violin, a nice dejembe that a few folks really knew how to play well. The rest of us grabbed shakers, noise makers and all variety of percussion do-da's from his father's music box. For the remainder of the evening we just sang together. Folks requested songs and sometimes we could make them sound good, sometimes we couldn't. There was usually one person who knew all the words and usually one person who could figure out all the chords. But the sound isn't what mattered most. Seasoned musicians passed guitars to newbies, newbies passed their shakers to musicians. In this jam-session, everyone was a music maker. 

The music became communion. It was a breaking of bread that brought us together, on the same level, in the same moment, giving of ourselves and taking in the splendor all at the same time. We were being nourished by the simultaneous give and take. Music connects the mind, heart and soul. Music also connects us to the world around us, the people around us and to God. This birthday party became a holy feast and it filled all of our hearts to overflowing.  

I long for more music box moments in my life. I will keep a box of instruments ready...

Friday, March 20, 2015


After a trip to Lowes to pick up potting soil and grow lights, we are ready to start letting our veggies grow!

First, I sprouted some of our seeds in the sprouter. Second, I placed sprouted seeds and regular seed in seedling containers with potting soil. These planted seeds need to be watered daily so I took a disposable plastic bottle and poked holes in the lid so that I could use it to create a gentle water flow for watering these delicate, germinating seeds. Then I covered the seedling containers with plastic wrap to keep the soil moist throughout the day. 

Once the seedlings started poking through the surface of the soil, I placed them in my "grow light box". Thanks for Joel's dad, I was able to watch a helpful video tutorial to make one. Check out the video here:

We already had most of the supplies so it turned out to be a very cost effective venture. This is only the second week and our seeds are doing very well. I can't wait to poke them in the garden beds outside. However, I will wait. It is best to plant your seedlings after the final frost and we have a chilly weekend ahead.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Family Secrets Making You Sick?

Here is an article that was published on NPR that sheds more light on "Making Ourselves Sick"

Can Family Secrets Make You Sick?

(If you would prefer to listen to the interview the link above gives you this option)

Maria Fabrizio for NPR
Maria Fabrizio for NPR
This article resulted when a doctor found a link between obesity and childhood emotional trauma (associated most often with neglect or abuse). I found it interesting because emotional trauma created a very real physical problem. Just to be clear, this is not the same thing as somatization disorder where a person experiences pain but there are no physical causes.  In this article, patients with physical illnesses like heart disease, stroke, obesity, cancer, addiction, etc also scored high on the ACE test (Adverse Childhood Experience).

Childhood emotional trauma is a terrible thing and I want to be clear that I do not believe that children choose this. From my resent studies, I am exploring the possibility that human beings choose to be sick. However, the word "choice" may come across too literally. Humans have the choice with how we cope, however there so many instances where these choices are made subconsciously. The conscious decision on how to store, release, or cope with emotional pain is often not possible until we are adults (and self-aware adults, at that). Our culture does not do a great job in teaching healthy methods for self-care and self-awareness. 

In my discussion of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), this therapy is used to help rid the body of emotional blockages resulting from your body holding emotional pain in it's cell memory. These emotional memories are said to eventually create physical pain, illness and even disease. EFT can help a person learn to choose to let go of those burdens. The result of choosing to allow your body to release these blockages is health and healing. 

I can't help but wonder how EFT might help some of the patients in this study. It seems to me that EFT will be most effective when it is taught and used before a person has a chronic disorder of some variety. Preventative care is key to good health. However, if you already have a disease or pain, the practice that the medical intuitive showed us (tapping into your body/inner goddess/inner child/Holy Spirit) would be able to connect these patients to their first memory of the emotion trapped in the area causing the illness or disease. Connecting to the first memory and the most recent memory associated with the emotional pain being held in that certain area of your body, helps you to then recognize, claim and then release the burden being carried and nourished there. This stops feeding the blockage allowing your body to return to it's balanced energy flow (a.k.a health). 

Whether you are comfortable talking about your body as the "inner god/goddess" or whether you think this is is all bull-honky, there is reliable research that shows links between disease and emotional pain. The better we, as humans, can learn to not just cope with our emotions but actually release them, the healthier we will become.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What the Quail?

We have quail. 

Our quail are wonderful little creatures. They were hand raised by Joel's mom, laid right in her garage quail-hatchery and hatched in an incubator in her kitchen. They have been touched, petted and sung to their entire three months existence, which makes them a pleasant flock to take care of. Nothing scares them and they seem delighted to be petted and talked to.

We are keeping in them in a small chicken coop in the back yard so they have the option to play in the grass or hangout in their nest box. They can pick at things on the ground or enjoy their high protein quail feed. 

We are already enjoying their eggs. They are prolific layers. We have 5 females and 1 male. All of their eggs are fertile and edible. Their eggs are about a third of the size of a chicken egg, so it takes a few more eggs than we are used to using for an omelet in the morning and they sure are tasty! Quail eggs have a slightly nutty flavor and make for a delicious breakfast. 

Joel, delighted by the first egg!

Eggs are not the only reason we are keeping the quail; we want meat. These guys can provide some delicious (dark) meat for our own protein needs. This meat is clean, organic, and hormone free. Joel and his Dad are the processors of the quail and have realized just how simple it is to kill, clean and prepare these little bodies for good eating. 

In time, we will start incubating the eggs to continue growing quail so that we can begin enjoying them not just for their docile demeanor, but also their nutritious eggs and meat. 

Turning the Tables

When I was a youth director, I used to teach a lesson that examined at all the "faces" of Jesus. This simply meant that the class would explore various interpretations of Jesus's actions and words throughout the gospels. There is a particular scene in scripture which showed a side of Jesus I think a lot of us pretend doesn't exist. Most often, the youth titled this side of Jesus as "Angry Jesus" or "Incredible Hulk Jesus." 

Matthew 21

12-14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:
My house was designated a house of prayer;
You have made it a hangout for thieves.
Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.
15-16 When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, “Hosanna to David’s Son!” they were up in arms and took him to task. “Do you hear what these children are saying?”
Jesus said, “Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?”
17 Fed up, Jesus turned on his heel and left the city for Bethany, where he spent the night.

Like most people, I assumed this was literal and Jesus was angry because people were selling things in the temple which was obviously supposed to be a place to worship God. Reading it again, I wonder if there is more to this story.
There was trade happening inside the temple walls in Jerusalem. People set up tables for money changing because Jews were not allowed to use Roman currency (it had the blasphemous face of the Emperor on it) or foreign currency, so all of this money had to be exchanged for a currency that could go into the holy coffers. It was not a reasonable expectation to imagine that one could enter the temple and not spend their hard earned cash. People still needed money to make their Passover offerings. People were required to make sacrifices by purchasing pure animals (sheep, doves, etc) to slaughter in God's name. Not to mention the vendors providing all sorts of touristy do-das and snacks to see folks through the chaotic Passover season. 

A visit to the temple did not just require money, it required purity. One was just not pure on their own. There were bathing rituals, for example, but there were also a mass of folks that were always going to be seen as "unclean" so bathing really wouldn't help them. For those folks, no amount of money or sacrifices could purify them to the point where they could enter the temple to worship their God. 

If you were pure enough to enter the temple, you knew that you had followed the 613 commandments required by the Jewish faith and now you could make your offering to Lord (an offering of your time, your money, and the life of an animal that you would not eat but let burn on the alter). If you follow the law then you can then have the obligation of making the sacrifices necessary to show that you are good enough for God. 

This system sucks.

If you can't live into these insane expectations then you are automatically unclean; a disappointment. You have reason to feel guilt and shame, and all the terrible ramifications that those feelings can stir up. How does this make anyone want to worship God? 

Well, the Good News is that Jesus was God in the flesh, a living breathing example of how God designed humanity to be in his vast and wonderful creation. Often, this scene from scripture is described as "Jesus Purifying the Temple". Interesting name, eh?

What if God's thoughts on the doings of the temple were congruent with Jesus's response to what he witnessed that day. Jesus flipped the tables, forced the money changers and sells-men to leave. Some translations said he even grabbed a whip and wielded it all around to make his point. I don't think he was just getting rid of the commerce that was happening inside this holy space. I don't think he was just making room for everyone who had a desire to worship God (like the injured, diseased and "unclean" who were not allowed in). I think he was forcing us to consider that God's love is not conditional. It does not require obligations. It is not require guilt and shame if those conditions are not met. God's love is about life and those things people had to do to be good enough to enter the temple were not life giving, they were stifling.

Can you imagine being just a normal citizen of that time? You are a good Jew so you probably don't have an issue getting into the temple. It is Passover, you have your family with you, you have you money ready to exchange and then you start going down the mental checklist. 
Kosher money-check.
Pure white doves to sacrifice-check.
Wait in line to sacrifice doves- check.
And so on. So how present can you actually be to worship God when you have to DO all of these things? What if you forgot your money? What if you did not come at the right time? What if a beggar touched you before you came in and now you are not allowed to reenter the temple until you have ritually bathed and waited a certain number of days for a priest to dub you worthy?

This is a human system. I do not believe that God would create this space at all. Jesus tore into that place and forced out those conditions and obligations, therefore, forcing out shame and feeling unworthy of God's love. He made it accessible to everyone. He flung the temple doors open to the worst of society, the outcasts, the rejects, the ones people thought this God could not love. God-in-flesh made his home open to everyone with NO conditions. All you need is a desire to come in. 

I think we live in a similar system today. We still have Jesus raging to show us that we are enough to love God. Jesus turned the tables on obligatory faith. He turned the tables on the good person to-do list. The turned the tables on feeling ashamed and unworthy if you could not follow all the rules. He turned the table on having to DO something to be loved by God at all. 

You don't have to do anything. You just need to have something and God has already given that to you if you are willing to accept it- the desire. God's love is accessible to everyone. Transformation comes out of a deep desire to love God, to know him. This desire plants you in the very heart of God and from that position, one's life can blossom into goodness that takes shape in the world.

The tables have turned and the doors are wide open. Are we inviting the money changers back in and recreated obligation and conditions? Have we pushed out people who we think should not deserve God's love? Do we stand outside the gates ashamed, because we could never be good enough? Was Jesus just having a bad day?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Making ourselves Sick

It all started with a late night conversation. It was after midnight, Joel and I were lying in the dark going round and round about why there is illness in the world. We were originally discussing alternative medicine when the conversation kept coming back to one rather disturbing (and liberating) idea:

Do we make ourselves sick?

We pondered that idea late into the night, recalling times we were very ill. We asked each other how that sickness benefited us in some way. Obviously, being sick sucks and no one likes being sick, but could we honestly describe how that time of sickness may have served us? We were finding that we could and I became convinced that we make ourselves sick.

Months later, I joined my mom for a Sacred Women's Circle at her Yoga studio. We had no idea what it would be like, but we heard that a medical intuitive was leading the session so we were intrigued.

It turns out that we stepped into a workshop on "Tapping". Tapping is a a technique that uses Chinese Acupuncture and modern psychology to break up blocked energy in your chakras. It is suggested that this blocked energy directly correlates to illness and body pain. (Be sure to click the link above to read about tapping and see a demonstration if you would like to learn more.) Before any tapping began, Nicole (our intuitive) shared her wisdom. 

She explained that in order for EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) to work, you first have to understand why it will work. She told us that every atom in the universe has God's-self in it and they are all connected. Likewise, every single cell in our bodies has God's-self in them. Our cells carry memory and most importantly, they carry emotional memory. She suggested that our bodies carry all of our emotional burdens by storing memories that are too tough to think about so that our minds can keep on moving forward and "living". 

All of the blocked emotions, the forgotten experiences, the things we push out of our waking memory, are carefully stored in our cells and reside in our organs, muscles, and in our very bones. She said that all the aches and pains, the disease and sores, that we experience in our bodies are linked intimately to an emotional memory stored there. Her psychic gift gives her the ability to see where emotional energy is being blocked so that she can help people connect to the memories that are stored there. Her aim is to help people unblock that energy so that they can return to a healthy state of flow

Nicole, knows that she can help individuals all day long, but she believes that it is more important to teach individuals how to tap into their own bodies so they can work on healing themselves. She taught us how to talk to our bodies so that we could learn, grow and become healed without the help of a medium. 

She asked us to consider our bodies as an inner-goddess. She also said that some people see their goddess as their inner child. However you envision your body, what you are doing is connecting to the God-self within you. I have always thought of my spirit as my heart or a voice in my gut, but as I performed the exercises with the circle, I realized that the voice rising up out of my body was the voice I have long recognized as the Holy Spirit. It hit me, my body is the house of the Spirit. My body IS the Temple of God's-self inside me. I have been thinking of my body as a worldly human suit, a shell that I had to wear in this life with a spiritual "me" living inside of it. Now, I wonder if I have it inside out? 

Nicole reminded us all of how we hurt and betray our bodies. We scold ourselves, cruelly crush our own dreams, our delights, our desires. We force our bodies to hold heavy burdens and we don't even say "thank you". Sometimes we even inflict pain on our bodies by starving ourselves on diets, cutting ourselves, forcing our bodies to become something they were never designed to be. We are mean to our bodies in this culture. I ignore mine. I don't exercise it, listen to it, give it purpose. I knew my goddess might not have any interest in talking to me. Nicole said, in order to form a relationship with our goddess we have to give her a reason to trust that we truly want to know her and listen to her. She said that the path to healing and restoration with our bodies begins with these 4 lines:

I'm sorry.
Forgive me.
I love you.
Thank you.

Once we have established a healthy platform for forming a relationship with our body (god-self, goddess, Holy Spirit, inner child) then we are able to begin to listen and ultimately, to heal. In order to receive the messages from our bodies, we have to do these two things:

Receive them without judgement or criticism.
Do not rationalize them away.

Nicole said that the universe and all the God-atoms in it, align to create what we desire. The less intentional we are with how that desire is met the more the results might look like illness. God wants to give us what we long for and it is right there in front of us, but we don't allow ourselves to accept it.

This got me thinking about an upper respiratory infection I had in the fall. I deeply desired to stay home because I could not stand keeping the secret of my resignation at work. I felt so false and had such a hard time getting my work done. It didn't take too long after that feeling set in for my cough to develop and next thing I know, I had three sick days keeping me home to finish my work in private. What if I just took a couple days off? Would I have gotten so sick if I had just given myself permission to take that time? I had the time but I felt guilty taking it. The gift was right in front of me and I did not accept it. Did my God-self cells call out to their brothers and sisters in the universe to give me what I needed the only way I would accept it- through illness? If I believe this to be true, then I have to also consider that the Universe would have aligned to give me what I needed in wellness too. This is what Nicole wanted us to know. When we do not face our emotional burdens and allow our bodies to release them we create illness. When we do not live into our desires, those desires will come to us the only ways we will accept them. 

St. Ignatious believes that God enters our hearts through our deepest desires and it is through our deepest desires that we become unified with God. Is he describing the same phenomenon?  Are we the ones keeping ourselves from our heart's desires? Is this making us sick? Can you imagine what your health might be like if you gave your body what it is asking for in the first place? Can we trust that God-self is working for the good if we just accept the blessing? Or must we continue to make ourselves sick in order to get what we desire?

Take a moment and consider a time when you were really ill, or maybe you are ill now. If you can do it, and I know that this is a hard thing to do, imagine how this sickness is serving you? How is this illness giving you something you deeply desire? 

Then, imagine what it might be like if you simply allowed yourself to have what you deeply desire. 

Do we have the capacity to make ourselves sick? If so, then we also have the capacity to make ourselves well. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Diversity and Inclusion

Love has no boundaries. People create them. Why do we do that when God designed love to be so much more?

Bread and Butter

There is just nothing like the smell of bread baking in the oven. I love walking into a house warmed by baking, overflowing with the scents of homemade goodness. Lately, it seems, that bread is becoming an enemy. With the rise of gluten allergies and more people realizing that bread can become an unnecessary carb on a weight loss diet; bread gets more bad press than good. Not to mention that people just buy bread anyway. 

I love homemade bread. It is such a gift and a delicious part of a meal. It takes a little time, a little fore-thought, some planning and is worth the minimal effort required. Growing up, my mom always enjoyed making zucchini bread or banana bread. These are sweet treats to me still. If I baked it was usually in the form of a treat like this. When I met Joel, I was amazed that his mom made bread every few months, loaves and loaves, that they would store in the freezer. She made wheat bread, slicing bread, stuff that we tended to buy. It had not occurred to me that you could just make your own bread for your weekly needs. I was suddenly inspired.

Homemade Honey Wheat bread, yum!

I've discovered that every bread maker has their way of making their masterpieces. There are a million and one recipes out there to help guide you. I've tried to keep my attempts simple and healthy. I do not have a bread maker and I do not have time to spend hours and hours by the oven, so please trust that this recipe is worth a share. 

I've tweaked a recipe from my favorite cookbook "More with Less" from the Mennonite tradition. Besides their natural, seasonal approach to food, I like their theology behind eating. Food has a purpose beyond just filling you up. There are nutrients involved, communities shaped, and souls restored by breaking bread. They also write their recipes out so that you just start at the top and follow them to the bottom because ingredients and instructions go hand in hand. I like that.

In honor of that beautiful tradition, I share my favorite bread recipe with you.

Acts 2:42
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

makes 2 loaves

Combine in a mixer bowl:
3 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. nonfat dry milk or regular milk
1 T. salt
2 pkg dry yeast (or 4 1/2 tsp yeast)

Heat in saucepan until warm (or in microwave):

3 c. water or potato water
1/2 c. honey
2 T. oil

Pour warm (not hot) liquid over flour mixture. Beat with electric mixer 3 minutes. Stir in:

1 additional cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of Oat bran
1/2 cup of flax meal
4 - 4 1/2 c. white flour

Knead 5 minutes, using additional white flour if necessary. Place in greased bowl, turn, let rise until double in bulk. Punch into loaves. Place in greased 9x5" bread pans. Cover and let rise 40-45 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes. When you remove the bread from the pans to cool, rub butter over the top so that it will stay soft. Eat with butter melted over the top of a warm slice and enjoy living!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Remember what has happened

In my studies on discernment, I ran across a very important idea. As I read through the spiritual practices that are meant to aid in discernment, it was suggested that you should record all the moments where God answered a prayer or made His presence known. 
It is such a simple idea and I am starting to realize this usually means it is going to be a good one.

In a period of discernment or anytime really, it is vital to record what happened. If you look back in time, in history, there are countless examples of people forgetting what happened in their lives or the lives of their ancestors which leads them to repeat the same mistakes. When it comes to discernment, we do the same thing. 

How many times has God answered a prayer or shown me He is with me? If I really think about it I can come up with dozens of times but honestly, I wish I had written them down. We human creatures forget God's provision faster than anything else. I know I can tell you pretty much every offensive or hurtful thing any person has ever said to me, but I would scratch my head a minute if you asked me about a time that I knew I was loved by God. These moments are vital and they are gifts, it is just incredible how we ignore and forget about them as we journey forward. 

I don't know why we do that but it has been going on for ages. Remember Moses and the Israelites? They witnessed miracle after miracle and still they doubted God in the wilderness, creating idols to worship and empowering people who shouldn't really be given the authority. Even Jesus's own disciples who were with him every single day and witnessed his power and grace, even they forgot what he taught them as they betrayed him, denied him and feared what would happen after his death even though he told them he would be resurrected. They forgot everything and did not even recognize him when he appeared in front of them.

We do the same thing STILL. Perhaps the real curse of the Fall is that we forget what is most important and hold on to everything that isn't. We let our lives and hearts become burdened with memories that do not serve us while we have expansive encounters with God and can barely recall what they were like.

Whatever your daily practice is, remember to record the answers and encounters you have with God. When the hard times come and the dark nights seem very dark, it is so helpful to look back at your life and be reminded of the moments where God has shown you that he will not leave you and has never abandoned you. Remember how He has loved you and that this love is always present to you. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Enneagram Social and Relationship Roles

Now that you have taken your Enneagram test (if you haven't click here for a free 10 minute version), I am going to share some social and relationship roles that are typical for each type. 

First, check out this circle to see a basic description of your type or sub-types.

If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality indicator then you might find this chart interesting as it relates Myers-Briggs types to Enneagram types.

The Enneagram can be broken down into three groups called the "Triads". 

  1. The Relating Triad experiences the world through their body first, they feel everything in their gut. These are 1,9,8 types.
  2. The Feeling Triad experiences the world through their emotions and feel everything first in their hearts. These are 2,3,4 types.
  3. The Doing Triad experiences the world first through their minds and feel everything first in their heads. These are 7,6,5 types.
The Dialectical Structure of the Triads are where these types seem most over developed or out of touch. 

  • 1's are underdeveloped in relating (to other's)
  • 2's are overdeveloped in feeling (other's feelings)
  • 3's are most out of touch with feeling (their own or others)
  • 4's are underdeveloped in feeling (other's feelings, they feel their own)
  • 5's are underdeveloped in doing
  • 6's are most out of touch with doing
  • 7's are overdeveloped in doing
  • 8's are overdeveloped in relating (to others)
  • 9's are most out of touch with relating (to others)

Descriptions of Each Type
(Don't fear the shadow side)

  1. The Reformer- principled, orderly, perfectionist, and punitive.
  2. The Helper- caring, generous, possessive, manipulative.
  3. The Status Seeker- self-assured, competitive, narcissistic, hostile.
  4. The Artist- creative, intuitive, introverted, and depressive.
  5. The Thinker- perceptive, analytic, eccentric and paranoid.
  6. The Loyalist- likable, dutiful, dependent, and masochistic.
  7. The Generalist- accomplished, impulsive, excessive and manic.
  8. The Leader- self-confident, forceful, combative and destructive.
  9. The Peacemaker- peaceful, reassuring, passive and neglectful.

How each type manipulates others
(manipulation has a negative connotation in our culture but sometimes manipulation is used for the good too)

  1. By correcting others and insisting that others share their standards
  2. By finding out other's needs and desires and creating dependencies.
  3. By charming others and by adopting whatever image will "work"
  4. By being temperamental and making others walk on eggshells.
  5. By staying preoccupied and by detaching emotionally from others.
  6. By complaining and by testing other's commitment to them.
  7. By distracting others and by insisting that other's meet their demands.
  8. By dominating others and demanding that others do as they say.
  9. By "checking out" and by passive-aggressively resisting others.

Wake up Call
This serves as an indicator that we are moving from a healthy range of our type to a more fixated average range.

  1. Feeling a sense of personal obligation to fix everything themselves.
  2. Believing that they must go out to others to win them over.
  3. Beginning to drive themselves for status and attention.
  4. Holding on to and intensifying feelings through the imagination.
  5. Withdrawing from reality into concepts and mental worlds.
  6. Becoming dependent on something outside of self for guidance.
  7. Feeling that something better is available somewhere else.
  8. Feeling that they must push and struggle to make things happen.
  9. Outwardly accommodating themselves to others.
Invitation to Abundance
Living into our strengths we can experience Abundance.

  1. To live for a Higher Purpose- Remember that it is your true nature to be wise and discerning.
  2. To nurture yourself and others- Remember that it is your true nature to be good to yourself and to have goodwill and compassion for others.
  3. To Develop yourself and set and example for others- Remembering that it is your true nature to take pleasure in your existence and to esteem and value others. 
  4. To let go of the past and be renewed by your experience- Remember that it is your true nature to be forgiving and to use everything in life for your growth and renewal.
  5. To observe yourself and others without judgment or expectations- Remember that it is your true nature to be engaged with reality, contemplating the infinite riches of the world.
  6. To have faith in yourself and trust in the goodness of life- Remember it is your true nature to be courageous and capable of dealing with life under all conditions.
  7. To joyously celebrate existence and share your happiness- Remember that it is your true nature to be happy and to add to the richness of experience for everyone.
  8. To stand up for yourself and to speak out for what you believe- Remember it is your true nature to be strong and capable of affecting the world in many different positive ways. 
  9. To bring peace and healing into your world- Remember it is your true nature to be an inexhaustible font of serenity, acceptance and kindness in the world. 
Brought to you by The Enneagram Institute 2005 from The Wisdom of the Enneagram