By What Rules Do You Live?

A Meditative Morsel…

Copied from a Bible study class for parents recently, I began our time together by soliciting from the moms and dads one rule that they try to live by.

Great rules were shared: take a sabbath day from gadgets, grocery shop within a budget, and spend more intentional time with one’s children were just a few.

We then looked at the 10 commandments from Exodus 20.  I must admit, I had fun breaking them into diads and triad to see which of the commandments they could recall from memory.  “Thou shalt not stone thy neighbor” was a creative version, I suppose, of “Thou shalt not kill.”

Here is a wonderful 21st Century version of the 10 Commandment for you to ponder. (Copied from the Religious Tolerance Website)

Ten Commandments for the Third Millennium:Written by a person who would prefer to remain anonymous. It is obviously a religiously inclusive restatement of the Biblical Ten Commandments which would be acceptable to followers of most religions and to secularists as well:
  1. Respect and worship any deity within your faith tradition, if you follow one. Value and support the right of others to do the same.
  2.  Enjoy and support legal guarantees of freedom of religious belief, religious practice, assembly and speech for all.
  3.  Do not use obscene speech in the name of the deities of any religion.
  4.  Follow the guidance of your faith or secular tradition every day of the week, because every day is important.
  5.  Help to establish social safety nets so that the very young, the elderly, the sick, mentally ill, physically disabled, unemployed, poor and broken will receive adequate medical attention and enjoy at least a minimum standard of living.
  6. Minimize the harm you do to others and yourself. Treat others as you would wish to be treated.
  7. Do not engage in sexual activity with another person, which is coercive, unsafe, manipulative, public, or outside of a committed monogamous relationship.
  8. Do not steal the property of others, except in case of emergency (and then only if you attempt to replace or pay for it later).
  9. Do not lie, either in or out of court. Be honest and truthful at all times.
  10. Attempt to be satisfied with your current standard of living; do not obsess over the possessions of others; that path leads to unhappiness.


So…By what rules do YOU live?

(And how’s that working for you? 😉 )

The Scarcity Mentality

where your heart isMembers of my church recently finished a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program) challenge to live off of $27 of food per person for a week.

I was quick to opt out of the challenge, speaking freely one Sunday after worship that our family lives off of this amount on a regular basis.  But I had boasted too soon.  The top-of-my-head calculation was off.  Our budget hovers around $150 per week, not the $108 that would be provided a family of 4 on state assistance. I had misspoken.

After a time of reflection, I had to acknowledge that this response arose out of my deep-seated scarcity mentality. My gut reaction to life is often from a perspective of scarcity, not abundance.

It isn’t that I’m simply Madam Miserly who has plenty of surplus and can’t tolerate spending of any kind.  When I tell my children we can’t afford something we usually can’t afford it.  We have a tight budget for each pay-period and need to live within that.

What I have noticed, however, is that I’m fixated on not having enough.

The wisdom Jesus shares in the Gospels about money, wealth and possessions is endless.

Okay, maybe not endless but his words about such things far outweigh what he has to say about hell (and so many other hot-topic buttons) and are brought up often throughout his ministry.

Here’s one from Matthew that speaks directly to me: Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?…. O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matt 6:25,31,32).

Our family may not have an abundance of money, but worrying about what we don’t have adds nothing beneficial to my life.  I am called rather to rest easy, to not stress and to trust that my needs will somehow be met.  Prayer continues to be my best tool for achieving this inward peace.

I love this scripture, too, from Luke 12:34:

 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

groovy heart

When my scarcity mentality is on overdrive, what does that say about what I treasure?

Do I somehow treasure not having as some sort of badge of struggle or sainthood?  I think back to my quick response at church.  Was there a part of me that wanted those around to marvel or perhaps pity what we live off of weekly? (Really Rebecca?  As if your family has truly experienced poverty!)

I can accept scarcity, but I do not want to treasure it.  I would rather find my heart firmly planted in contentment, and abundance and possibility.  That is the Christian spirit I desire.

Lately, instead of telling my kids “We can’t afford that,” I’ve been taking a different approach.  “Let’s see if we can fit that into our budget” or “How could we make that happen?” have become two new responses as I try to leave room open for possibility.

I’m not yet convinced my teenagers hear it any different than “Nope, not possible” but I know there has been a slight shift in my own outlook and for that I am grateful.

One final thought from scripture: Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 18:15).

I couldn’t agree more!

The abundance I seek will not be found in having more.  I long instead to be free of worry, content with what I do have, and aware of all of God’s blessings around me.  That is where I will discover a more beautiful kind of abundance.  A place where my heart shall gladly be found!


Here’s a website written by man who lives with his family of 3 on less than $27,000 a year.  Okay…I’m a bit skeptical and have only read a few things by Mr. Money Mustache, but check out his site.  Very intriguing…See what you think.


From Girl to Woman

The media has been diligently documenting  the evolution of Miley Cyrus, child star from the Disney show, Hannah Montanamiley

I wasn’t overly shocked by her performance at the 2013 MTV Music Awards, but was disheartened with her recent music video, “Wrecking Ball”, in which she sways naked on, but of course, a wrecking ball and seductively swings, strokes and licks a sledge hammer.

Miley Cyrus is taking great strides at separating herself from the All-American Girl, Hannah Montana, as she moves into being her own woman.

Many girls, even outside of Hollywood, have taken this same pathway from girl to woman.   The young girl, body maturing, longs to be seen as sexually desirable. I get that.  My own understanding of being a woman in my late teens (and sometimes even now in my 40’s) was intimately tied to being sexy and beautiful.

Sandy from GreaseConsider the musical, Grease.

I love the sound track and definitely enjoyed my very minor part in our high school production of it.   But I am forever saddened with the dramatic transformation of main character, Sandy.

To finally get her man, she is persuaded into dressing seductively.  Olivia Newton-John, who plays Sandy, even provides a bit of tongue action when Danny, played by John Travolta, first spots the hot, new her. (Yes, long before Miley… the tongue thing has been done!)

My funny, talented, beautiful daughter turned 13 this past week.

As her body changes from child to adolescent to young woman, I am hyper vigilant about encouraging her to defy main stream definitions and to be her own young woman.  We discuss transformations like Miley Cyrus’ and ponder other ways the star’s emergence into adulthood could have taken place.   Perhaps it will be impossible, but I hope to help her avoid many of the body image traps I fell into at her age and struggle with still.

For both my daughter and my teenage son, I want them to know the joy of sex but to not be defined, judged or measured by how sexual they can be. I want them to love their bodies and to ignore the often impossible standards set before them by the media and the world of entertainment.

I want most of all for my children to intimately know themselves.

I long for them to realize and celebrate their gifts and skills using them for the betterment and healing of the world.

I desire for my children to know what they value (creativity? friendships? service? trust?) and to live by those values.

I hope they will have a sense of the Holy in their lives: to know for themselves what brings them peace and what enables them to not only survive, but to move through difficult times; to have a spiritual connection to the Divine, self and others.

As I was finishing up this post today,  I turned on the radio to hear for first time More Beautiful You by Jonny Diaz.   I love the chorus:

There could never be a more beautiful you
Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops they make you jump through
You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do
So there could never be a more beautiful you

I don’t know Miley Cyrus…at all.  And perhaps I misunderstand her evolution.  But for a young woman who turns 21 next month, I suspect that she is only beginning to define and know herself.

In her journey,

in my children’s as they mature into adults,

in mine as I accept being middle-aged,

in yours,

may we trust that we are far more than sexual beings.

We are spiritual creatures capable of loving unconditionally, transforming pain, extending our hands and hearts to those in need, and dispelling hatred.  We are not only capable, but are called to do these things and so much more.

Know and believe that

You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do!

Broken AND Beautiful!

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.    

Psalm 34:18  (NIV)

gold bowl

 I am my own worst enemy.

My internal critic easily and frequently highlights my shortcomings while downplaying my gifts.

As you can imagine, I often feel inadequate.  Too many mistakes.  Too many missed opportunities.  Not enough drive.

“Broken”, my critic tells me.  That’s what I am.

In my spiritual walk I am called to nurture this critic and to pray for my internal enemy.  So, I love on her daily with words of affirmation and encourage her to remove those crap-colored glasses from which she negatively views me. But her stream of criticism is tough to shut off.

, this wonderful Japanese word defined above, has given me a lovely fuel against this critic.

Yes, dear Critic, I may indeed be broken. 

But I AM all the more BEAUTIFUL because of my brokenness!  Through my faith, I have been repaired with a Divine Love by the Potter, Herself.  I do not need to be perfect to bring God’s light into the world.  In fact, it is through my faults and imperfections that I am better able to serve and to relate to others.

I am broken…AND beautiful. 

In a world so broken, may we realize the beauty within ourselves as well as each other.


Twelve hours later:
Well, what do you know?  Sadly, my Critic seems to have a lot to say about other people, too. She was busy making unnecessary comments while grocery shopping this morning.  Can’t seem to take her anywhere! 😉

Yep, like most of us who are self-critical, I am guilty of judging others too. (sigh…)

My current cure for this?  When that critic is happily pointing out what she perceives as another person’s faults/shortcomings, I simply reply, “Beautiful!”

Yes, dear Critic.  That person may or may not be broken. But he or she is certainly BEAUTIFUL! 

Spiritual Lessons from the Desert, Part II: Take Shelter

When people ask me how long I lived in the Sonoran desert I usually respond in terms of summers, not years.  “I survived 6 summers!” I boastfully reply, as if they should be impressed with my cunning, woman vs. nature survivor skills. (Yeah…right…).

As I continue to ponder the spiritual lessons that the desert taught me, it may be no surprise that with the extreme climate the desert can bring that I would think of “shelter” as a spiritual necessity.

The Southwest sun can be brutal much of the year.  Last May 2012, Tucson had two hikers die from the heat within a 48 hour period, one from Germany (age 35), the other from the Midwest (age 23).  And let us not forget the countless migrants whose lives are claimed each year from heat related deaths.  Taking shelter from the heat and understanding the dire importance of drinking lots of water is crucial in surviving in the desert.

The beautiful Palo Verde in bloom

My urban shelter came in many different forms.  I discovered that using a UVA/UVB umbrella while walking reduced the harshness of the sun.  It felt womb-like each time I entered my car after its windows were finally tinted.  And I rejoiced every time I could sit or park in the shadow of a Mesquite or Palo Verde tree.  They may not compare to the grandeur of a Maple or an Ash, but even the slightest bit of shade for me was a welcomed blessing.

And what might spiritual shelter look like?

This is often what I attempt to discover when I first meet a hospice patient and his or her family/caregivers.  How have they coped in the past when things turned foul in life?  When circumstances intensify, from where or whom do they seek shelter?

Here are some of the things that spiritually shelter me:

  • Scripture or even profound quotes often buffer me from life’s hardships.  I will never forget coming across an inspirational Ojibwe saying on the BART train, of all places, that shifted my self-deprecating mood. “Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while a great wind carries me across the sky.”   Like stepping under the cool shade of that Palo Verde, I was instantly comforted. The intensity of my life had lost a bit of it’s heat. For your own spiritual shelter, have a few memorized scriptures and/or quotes  to draw upon or have at a glance for those moments of need.
  • Having several confidants—whether a friend or a professional—with whom I can share my heartaches, frustrations, and worries protects me from holding things in and letting them fester (Which is always bad for the soul!). There have been several core people in my life who have rescued me through the years with their gifts of presence and listening.  (And I thank you.) Seek out and keep close in your life those who truly care about your well being.
  • A spiritual discipline is an essential shelter.  A spiritual discipline might be reading sacred scripture like the Bible, praying, doing yoga, or meditating.  It could be that gardening or hiking reconnects you to the beautiful world around and gives you a fresh perspective on life.  What matters most is that the discipline allows for or leads to personal reflection. For me, I find journaling to be very effective at leading me to examine my life, to notice my connection—or lack there of—with God, and to see my spiritual growth. But know this.  This is the kind of shelter you don’t want to get too run down.  Maintain it! Create time each day, or at least each week, to practice your discipline.

My environment is so very different these days living in the Pacific Northwest.  But I will always be grateful for the things I learned on my desert sojourn.  May your own journey provide you with valuable, spiritual insights.

And feel free to share them here at Desert Sojourn!