Tag Archives: perspective

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.

 

 

Spiritual Lessons from the Desert, Part III: Be Mindful

Spiritual Lessons from the Desert, Part III: Be Mindful

Living in the desert, my family and I were fairly quick to learn that you have to pay attention.  The environment demands it.

Working in my back yard of brick and rocks, for instance, meant keeping my eyes on the ground scanning constantly for spiky Mesquite branches or even just the thorns that had fallen out of my neighbor’s tree.

In the desert, night time strolls are foolishly done without a flashlight to quickly spot the rattlesnakes, gila monsters and scorpions that might be enjoying the cool night as well.  cactus spinesDay or night you must be mindful of the terrain so as to not brush up against an agave, ocotillo or cactus  eager to share its spines or glochida. It took too many accidents before I finally wised up and moved two potted cacti on my deck to the front yard.  I simply couldn’t seem to avoid brushing a hand or arm across them while tending to other more benevolent plants.

I have never lived anywhere where I needed to be so observant in my environment. Out of sheer desire to not be poked, stabbed, stuck, stung or bitten, I had to be mindful.

And so the third spiritual lesson from the desert emerges:

Mindfulness shouldn’t be reserved for safe passage, whether through a dangerous part of town or an unforgiving land.

We should be aware and mindful at ALL times—aware of our actions and reactions to those around us; conscious of the subtle blessings in our midst; mindful of our habits and hang ups that keep us from spiritually maturing.

We must have the sheer desire to not miss the opportunities and beauty that surround us.

Begin today. Open your eyes, your ears—Open ALL your senses. Notice the splendor to be shared and the deep needs to be met.  Notice the brokenness to be mended and the injustices to be challenged.

Be alert, not just for dangers, but for life’s unexpected wonders that await us all.

 


Spiritual Lessons from the Desert, Part II: Take Shelter

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!

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Lessons from the Desert: This Too Shall Pass

Spiritual Lessons from the Desert: This Too Shall Pass

I haven’t blogged in such a long time.

Alas.  So much for being a “true” blogger who’s at it unceasingly!

It seems, however, that I needed this hiatus.  Much of my energy during this break has been poured into realizing a dream to move to cooler climates.  After literally years of prayer (of asking, seeking and knocking—Matthew 7:7), a door of opportunity opened for my family and I to move to the Pacific Northwest.  As I write this I am in a climate so very different from the desert.  Eugene is wet, lush, green, cloudy and cold…and I’m loving it!

But the lessons I have learned from my time in desert have not escaped me, especially the spiritual ones.  I am so grateful for the intense spiritual growth I’ve witnessed in myself over the last 5 1/2 years in the Sonoran Desert.  My sojourn tested me physically, emotionally and, without a doubt, spiritually.

As I reflect on this desert journey, I want to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learned.  Here is the first one:

This too shall pass.

Summer in the desert can seem to last forever. It arrives early in the year and continues month after month. It is not uncommon for late March and early April to be in the mid 90s.  The month of May continues to see temperatures rise and by June it is guaranteed to be dry and blazing.  July, August and September are hot and if luck has it, humid with the wet monsoon season.  By October, with the weather still warm both day and night, it feels like cool temperatures won’t ever grace the desert land.

And then it happens.  A sudden shift occurs in the evenings.  A cool  breeze beckons you to open your windows and doors. The nights almost require a long sleeve shirt and quite possibly, for the thinner-blood, desert dwellers, a light jacket. With little warning and almost overnight, fall arrives.

But it wasn’t just the heat that I thought would never pass. There were days and weeks in the desert when I believed my depression would never lift, financial burdens would remain heavy or illness would forever be present in my life.  I could look to the future and see no hope on the horizon—only more of the same, heat and heartache.

Ever felt this way? Ever believed life couldn’t possibly change for the better?

Like the fierce desert sun that can be so oppressive, perhaps your burdens are overwhelming you right now.  You cannot find any shelter; no sanctuary seems to exist for the renewal of your spirit.  Your life has become an ongoing battle and despair is winning.  Just as cool weather in the desert seems to have abandoned the land, so too does hope seem out of reach.

If this is how you feel, if this is your reality here and now, know this: This…too…shall… pass.

This season of your life will NOT last forever.  And if you cannot believe this for yourself, I will hold that hope for you.  I have been where you are now.

Do not give up

A new season is just around the corner!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transform your Attitude

Transform your Attitude

Today’s Spiritual Prescription:

Transform your Attitude

So…there is this volunteer plant that has been growing in my back yard for just over two years, a desert marigold to be specific.  Honestly, I was irritated when this wildflower sprouted in the narrow space of dirt between our no-longer-working fountain and brick patio.

“Really?” I said to it.  “Did you really have to sprout roots in that crack?  You know I can’t transplant you, right?  You’re now stuck in that ridiculous, barren space.  Didn’t you consider any other spots, like near some fellow plants in the garden, before grounding yourself there?”

My response to this beautiful Arizona native wasn’t as hospitable as it could have been.  At all.  My perspective at the time was admittedly narrow-minded.  I could only think of the lack of purpose the plant had in that particular spot in my yard.

And then it happened.

Spring arrived.  And what should I notice while looking out my kitchen window upstairs in our split-level home? It was that damn marigold in bloom!  It was in clear view, and oh so gorgeous.    In fact, it was the only pretty thing in sight!!

For all of my initial complaining and negative attitude about where it had grown, I had never before considered the joy it could bring me from that particular vantage point.

My negative attitude about that beautiful wildflower had been transformed!

And now for your Spiritual Prescription:

Take a fresh look at a current situation.

What have you missed? What do you see new for the first time?

How is a negative attitude affecting your perspective and even your life?

It may be time to gain a new perspective and transform your attitude

Do it today and discover the possible joys all around you!