Tag Archives: anger

Love Always Wins.

Love Always Wins.

Image result for lent imagesAnd just like that, Lent is here.

I have been pondering this liturgical season for several weeks.  How much did I care to or desire to delve into it?  What would I give up? What kind of spiritual practice could I take on?

I love that Pope Francis in the past has encouraged the harder things to be sacrificed.  Forget chocolate, and swearing, and smoking, the Pope takes it to a higher level asking that we give up things like indifference.  Why? Because Lent is not only a time to spiritually prepare for all that Easter represents and promises, but to move deeper into becoming the people God has created us to be.  A 40-day surrender of something is great. It allows us to consider the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made.  But that’s not the endgame.  We are called to remove it from our lives forever.

I recently came upon these words written by Dax, my friend and transgender, desert sage :

Some things I am learning:

Anger, fear and hate is finite, limited and diminishing.

Love is not.

Anger, fear and hate occur when we are idle.

Love occurs with action.

The energy expended for fear/hate is the largest taxation of the soul.

The energy expended for love is replenished again and again.

It is a constant flow that does not waiver.

Love has the best exchange rate ever dealing in realities of infinite

while hate languishes and grapples and clings and begs as it dies.

Love always wins.

Always.

Always.

Always.

Unusual  words to welcome Lent, but they are befitting.  In these tumultuous times, we cannot afford to just refrain from our vices for a mere 40 days.  What is required is spiritual transformations.   These days demand we dare to peer into our own darkness, to get at the roots of our being, and rip out that which is a “taxation of the soul.”

But do we dare?  Are we even capable?

This Lent, quiet your mind and examine your heart.  Allow the Divine to reveal that which is preventing you from being all that God has created you to be.  Is it indifference, hate, fear, or judgment?  Is it prejudice, resentment, or anger?

This Lent, be replenished by Love and render your heart free of all that is a taxation of the soul.

Cling to the promise that love always wins.

Always.

What is Your Joy Meter?

What is Your Joy Meter?

I recently offered condolences to a friend whose adult son had died suddenly. As we conversed, I was pleasantly surprised to glimpse a very strong resiliency within her.  She expressed the positive things experienced during and after his death and highlighted her gratitude in seeing another side of her son through his friends.  She was thankful as well to have gained an unexpected closeness to so many of them.

Curious, I questioned how these resilient traits of optimism and gratitude were formed.  Many years ago, she explained, she had become severely disabled by her fibromyalgia.  In her search for healing, she discovered that when she got to the root of her emotional state AND resolved that which troubled her emotionally or mentally, her body would respond positively.

She learned most of all that forgiveness, optimism and gratitude impacted her health the most.  Her fibromyalgia had become her “joy meter.”  If her symptoms began rearing up their ugly heads, then joy was down in her life.  Instead of stuffing away the problems of her life, she would evaluate, find that broken area, and mend it right away.

I couldn’t agree more.  In my own life I know that my MS symptoms often get more pronounced when I’m under stress or in emotional turmoil.

And for you?  What is your joy meter?  How do you know when there are areas in your life that need to be addressed?

Today Spiritual Prescription:

Mentally scan your body. (After each question, you may want to close your eyes and breath deeply as you listen to your body…)

Where do you hurt? Where are you carrying tension? Have you been more sick lately?  If you have a chronic illness, is it under control or have symptoms bubbled up lately?

Now take an emotional and mental scan. 

What is worrying you the most in your life right now? With whom are you in conflict or irritated?  What needs are being left unmet?  Are any emotions like anger, greed, resentment, depression, shame, or anxiety ruling your mind and heart these days?

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Our bodies and minds are very much connected. One absolutely impacts the other.

Take time to discover your joy meter and
allow Forgiveness, Optimism, and Gratitude to bring you back into balance.

 

In the End, It’s all Grief

In the End, It’s all Grief

Lately I’ve been working on a theory that under all the emotional baggage we carry—the regret, anger, control issues, fear, resentment, and shame—there actually lies grief or sorrow.  I experienced this first hand recently.

I was cleaning out my files and came across the summary of a church survey from 10 years ago.  The survey had been the beginning of the end for me as pastor of that congregation.  Even before the unsanctioned survey was sent to church members, my anxiety had been through the roof, my health was deteriorating, and my attempt at doing it ALL (from full time ministry to parenting two small children to managing our home life) was failing miserably. It was such a painful, difficult time for me.

As I read the comments in my kitchen, both positive and negative, the emotions came flooding back:  the regrets in all that I did not accomplish; the deep shame in having let people down; the resentment of those who spoke critically of me; the fear of failure and rejection I carried into the jobs that followed. Regret, shame, resentment, and fear.  Powerful emotions. But in the end, all I could do was quietly weep. Until seeing that survey summary, I had no idea that grief had been buried so deep. I had dealt with all the other emotions, but grief—she had lain dormant.

And so it is with much of life.

We move through it often numb to the losses we have experienced, oblivious to the ways our emotional baggage weigh us down. I’m grateful for those kitchen tears and pray I continue to grieve the many losses experienced in that ministry.  More than that, I am moved to remember all of the blessings that came out of that time—the incredible landscape and seasons of Vermont we experienced, the life-long friendships gained, the lessons learned, the spiritual growth attained.

No longer remain in denial about the baggage you, too, are carrying. 

Open those boxes, duffle bags, backpacks, steamer trunks—any and all emotional baggage—and unpack the fear, regret, shame, anger, control, and resentments.  And when it is all said and done, grieve.  Weep for all that has been lost, all that cannot be changed.

But do not stop there.  Remember that in the midst of the sorrow, joy will appear.  She may come in unexpected ways, but she is promised to us nonetheless:

From Jeremiah 31:13 (The Message)

Young women will dance and be happy,
    young men and old men will join in.
I’ll convert their weeping into laughter,
    lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy.

So grieve and lament…and trust that, in time, joy will come rushing in!

Guilt, Shame, and the Search for an Absorbent Heart

Guilt, Shame, and the Search for an Absorbent Heart
The forgiveness class I’m taking is kicking my spiritual ass.

Two weeks ago, at the start of Lent, we looked at shame and guilt in our lives.  And this past week? Anger.

Super light topics of introspection, to be sure.  I mean, who doesn’t LOVE dredging up past ridicule, regrets, humiliation, scandal, embarrassments, family secrets, and mistakes?  Who in their right mind would pass up the opportunity to admit one’s propensity for irritation, frustration, or rage?

Truth be told, dredging and admitting is exactly what we must do.  “Why?” you ask.

A significant part of spiritual growth is seeing ourselves from a fresh and honest perspective.

It is certainly NOT easy.

Being exposed to hidden truths is often agonizing and emotionally exhausting.  Why else would most people chose denial over self-awareness, to remain emotionally unconcious instead of becoming spiritually wakened?

Believe me, during that first week of Lent, denial was looking rather tempting.  Me? Live with guilt or shame? That’s ridiculous!

Courageously, however, with each daily spiritual exercise I began to expose the guilt and shame in my life and observe an interconnection between the two.  It was curious to notice how one would often bleed into the other as my life’s story unfolded.  At times shame led to feelings of guilt; in others, guilt reemerged as shame .

I was shamed in front of my family by my grandmother, for instance, for throwing out shriveled up carrots which she in turn pulled out of the compost and served for dinner. Each time I am wasteful now, I am aware that the guilt I feel is associated with that childhood shame.

And that’s just over carrots!  Imagine the emotional impact of the larger, even irreversible mistakes I have made.

As a final exercise, we were to consider what it would take to be more deeply steeped in Jesus’ love.

Steeped in Divine Love?

Impossible, I thought.    In the areas of my greatest shame or guilt,  I have coated myself in a layer of unworthiness, making me nothing short of nonabsorbent.

Ultimately, I have allowed myself to become love-proof, unwilling to receive God’s healing grace.

At the closing of our weekly time together, we were asked to select a small stone from a basket and after some time in silence, return it to the altar naming that which we seek to release or gain this Lent.

I laid my stone down, desiring a more permeable self—an absorbent heart eager to steep in God’s Divine Love.

Before departing that evening, at least one of the participants retrieved her stone from the altar. I’ll admit, I was tempted to do the same. Mine was a beautiful rock after all.

But it dawned on me that there are too many things I’ve been carrying around.  I opted instead to travel a bit lighter this Lent, leaving room for the Holy Spirit to do her work.

 

BINGO! (More Sweet Than Bitter)

BINGO! (More Sweet Than Bitter)
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I found this beautiful image on the website IslamicAnswers.com. Wish I knew more about it.

Some of the hardest personalities I work with as a hospice chaplain are the ones who are bitter.  These individuals carry heavy hearts burdened with loss, betrayal, hardship, and abuse.

Their conversations are always filled with negative comments, mistrust, dark thinking, and hatred.  Isolation is typical; forgiveness, rare.

Often, I don’t even make it across their threshold.  One mention of “spiritual” and my services are quickly declined.  In too many cases, I represent the God who left them hurting in the first place.

Others allow me in, identify as people of faith, but speak in such a way that the God, Higher Power, or guru they claim as theirs might not recognize them as followers.

And they can’t just stop the “stinkin’ thinkin’.”

I counsel individuals who have lived through decades and decades of disappointment and despair.

It is extremely difficult for them to trust and to see that goodness and kind-hearted people really exist.

But I do firmly believe that one’s attitude about life is the palette from which her or his world is painted.   Dark imaginings tend to produce dark realities.  If I am convinced that my day will be crappy, chances are…my day is going to be crappy.

If I assume that everyone I meet will belittle, cheat, or regurgitate their ugliness upon me…I’m fairly sure that any words or actions of another will be interpreted as such.

As I vigilantly stay on the look out for every bleak signs that I was right about this dark world, I sadly miss out on that small blessing that just passed me by: the clerk who genuinely complimented me on my outfit, the small child who smiled sweetly, the individual who helped me for no other reason but to be kind.

  The kindness, goodness, and magic of the world sometimes have to be diligently sought after.

When my children were younger, I began creating bingo cards  (5 x 5 square grid—the center one FREE of course!) to keep them entertained on long trips.  It was a treasure hunt, seeking out the ordinary and the ridiculous such as donkeys, rainbows, rock stars and unicorns.

Never seen a unicorn on a family trip before?  Well, they exist.  They come on key chains and bumper stickers and  little children’s t-shirts.  We were looking for a clown once and found it at a rest stop in the intricate design of a man’s tattoo.

 Even the most obvious, when we are not consciously seeking, can pass us by.

On a recent trip, as part of my own bingo challenge I decided—the hospice chaplain that I am—to find the Grim Reaper.  Impossible you say?  That’s what I assumed.  But, after 12 hours on the road, with an hour left to go, there he was on a billboard—the Grim Reaper, himself,  persuading folks to not drink and drive. I was so ecstatic to find him!

But honestly, after that many hours of driving, had I not been seeking Grim, I would have blown right by him and his important message against driving drunk.

 And what about you?

How do you see the world?  What shades of color are on your painter’s palette?  What are you expecting to find on your bingo card of life?

The Apostle Paul advises in his letter to the Philippians (4:8-9), “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received of heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.(NIV).**

Perhaps stinkin’ thinkin’ can’t ever be fully eliminated.  Life, after all, can suck.  But let us strive every day to keep that which is excellent and praiseworthy on our lips, in our hearts, and on the forefront our minds.

    And when we do, I promise we will discover life to be more sweet than bitter.

 

**I also like this same scripture as found in Eugene Peterson’s The Message: Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.