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?


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.


Called to Forgive. Called to Love.

I had done it again.

For the fourth time–not a second or third, but FOURTH time–I spilled tea in my car.  An entire thermos of tea.  I simply could not convince myself that wedging my leaky-lid thermos between my work bag and the seat of the car wasn’t the greatest idea ever.

And so, four times later, I felt like a total IDIOT.  Seriously, Rebecca?  You couldn’t learn after the first time? You are SO dumb!  You will obviously never, ever learn.  Just like with all the other stupid mistakes in your life you keep making. (My critic’s voice was impossible to silence.)

A co-worker asked later that day how I was doing. After confessing my pathetic, chronic idiocy, she, the passionate Pagan, questioned why I, the devout Christian, was unable to rise above self-deprecation and move into the belovedness of which my faith teaches I am worthy.  Why was I feeling so unworthy?

Whoa!  Mind blown.

I didn’t have an answer, but mulled over her words for the rest of the afternoon.

That evening my daughter and I went to the Ash Wednesday service at our church.  No sooner had we sat down did the pastor hand me and my daughter two copies of the Prayer of Confession requesting we read the highlighted section of each.  No hesitation on my part. I enjoy participating in worship. My daughter? Not so much.  So her copy went to a somewhat willing congregant behind us.

I then previewed my part: For the times we don’t love ourselves or others as you have taught us to love–  God, forgive us.

Mind blow, again.

Forgiveness.  I had forgotten to forgive myself AND to ask for forgiveness.  I had mostly forgotten to love myself, flaws and all.

ash wednesdayWhat a blessing to be surrounded by messengers of the Holy to call me back as a Christian to love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and will all my mind; and, to love my neighbor as I love myself. (Luke 10:27)

This Lent may you, too, hear and perceive words of wisdom from God’s unexpected messengers! 

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

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.