A picture can say a lot with little need for words. In the age of iphones and smart everything we have the ability to capture nearly every moment in our life experience and collect these visual bites of funny, beautiful, irreverent, and profound moments. I am going to try to capture something “share-worthy” weekly on my iphone and post the images up here with a correlated quote that encapsulates what that picture embodies for me. If anyone has a good iphone moment they want to share please send them along ! This week’s image is “A Gulf Coast Sunset” taken when I spent a week this month on Florida’s Gulf Coast where there are some of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen. Exhibit A below captures some of the colors reflected off the water of the intercoastal waterway. Nature makes beauty look so easy.
If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God. by
Smith Magazine is the opiate for the concise masses. They are currently asking for 6 word stories about 9-11 which will be developed further into a project for PBS. The stories on there so far are concise, sad, and profoundly poetic.
My own is shared as well because it was a profoundly shocking and sad day for all and this year’s 10th anniversary will be filled with much reflection, prayer, and reverence.
What does it mean when faith meets action? And how does the contemplative dimension play a role?
This week has been one of those rough weeks. Those ones where you question everything you believe so passionately in calm and easy times–some of us have these days every so often and others battle with the “bad days” more often. Regardless of what your personal experience, when these times happen we are provoked to say “screw it”. And some times God just asks of us: breathe, let go, and listen. This is the contemplative pause, the time of reflection God asks of us when we get caught up in those moments of life’s storms. It is easy to get caught up in the storm and God asks us to pause and breathe and leave silence for his voice–the voice that can bring us back to a place of purpose and ACTION.
So, I was in my grumps last night–a moment of “so what? what’s the point.” It happens to us all. I tried to get perspective and get silence, but a little bit I just wanted to give up. I could hear God, distant from the self-serving motivations that were at the forefront of my mind, telling me to pause, breath, just wait…and I would get the point.
I was in conversation with a spiritual seeker the other day who was concerned about having to emulate the path of Shane Claiborne and “The Simple Way” (after I showed my spirituality group a video of his work). He worried that if he didn’t follow the blueprint of a life lived in communion with God’s way, set out by Shane, that he was not fulfilling his own calling from God.
He said, very honestly, “I was watching the video and thinking, ‘Man it is going to take me forever to grow dreads and don’t think I’ll look very good’.” I think often we can look at someone living a very spiritually rigorous life and wonder how much we are living up to our own expectations in comparison, if we are not in some way emulating their path.
I think the beauty of God’s indwelling is that he is “in us, as us” and that he does not want me, or my spiritually-seeking friend, to be Shane Claiborne or anyone else, it would be disingenuous. God wants us, urges us, to use our gifts, callings, and talents to be the most and the best of us. God asks us, when we listen, to take what we have to give to the world and use it–not to clone someone else’s calling but to find what the whisper inside, the God-urging in us, is asking of us as an individual. Listening enough to hear God and have the conversation is the first hard part, following what is asked after is even harder.
I have found, it is a bit of a “be careful what you wish for,” situation. I spent my childhood wishing for great signs from God, thinking they would come in the forms of bright shining orb-beings, or bleedings from my palms (yes, my flair for the dramatic added to my very active imagination). Now, it seems, I hear God-urgings constantly, because when you turn up the volume and stick up that antenna you’d better believe God uses that signal strength.
After trying so hard for so long, concentrating from my brain-space to listen, I just let go from my heart-space, and became an open receptor. I said, almost in frustration, “Ok, so what do you want from me really?! What has this whole life journey been about? Come on, just bring it on.” To which God cleared his throat, tapped on my shoulder and said, “Ahem, well, since you mentioned it…” and has been tapping ever since.
I feel, quite likely, God will keep internally urging until I say, “No more, please!”
So, we don’t have to become anyone else, or follow some blueprint of those set before us, we have to be us with God in us and take that journey wherever it leads. That is how I see the path as I have experienced it, and what is laid out before me now.
However, if you ask the question, “How can I help?” be prepared for a very long answer.
This week while probing the virtual world for all signs of Christianity today, something I had not previously found myself google-searching for, I stumbled upon “Hipster Christianity” and a requisite multiple choice test. After checking behind me about four times to make sure no one, dogs included, could see me typing, I took the test and found out…I am a fundamentalist, tied to tradition with little to no hipster in me.
Not that I thought, or would have considered myself hipster, per say, nor did I think that 10 questions would get to the root of my existential essence when 30+ years has only managed to scratch the surface, but still. Fundamentalist traditionalist is not what I thought the hipster answer magician would pop out.
I went back to review some of the questions and some of my answers and I began to see many of the faulty bits. One primary issue was, when asked if I would align with my parents on issues of faith, I said I would, on pretty much every count. Apparently, this is a cardinal sin in hipster-ville.
I knew all those long probing conversations with my mother in pre-teens, and the years spent immersed in John Denver and Peter, Paul & Mary lyrics, would one day get their revenge on me!
Alas, I find that, tattoos aside, I am still and always will be, the un-hip, book-wormy child of folksy, quasi-liberal, missional, Catholic parents. And, to my own great surprise, when life and faith came full circle I found us standing nearly side-by-side again, not at another John Denver concert (may he rest in peace), but in faith dialogues.
And in the end that is where I happily sit. Maybe a bit hyper, but no hipper, at 30+1.
Tonight at 7-8pm EST I will be on the “Life After Trauma” radio show hosted by Michele Rosenthal of Heal My PTSD (www.healmypstd.com). You can listen to it locally (in South Florida) on Seaview Radio (www.seaviewradio.com) at 960AM/95.9FM/106.9FM.
It will be exploring the subject of yoga as an avenue to help heal trauma. I will be on as a trauma survivor discussing my experience with yoga & additionally my professional vantage point and my evolution to using it in practice. Along with me will be two experts in the field and authors of the book in my “currently reading” section titled Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body : Elizabeth Hopper, PhD and David Emerson, MSW, RYT.
As always, I am looking forward to do anything I can do to progress people’s understanding of how it can be applied (not for everyone but for people it is a good fit for) for trauma recovery. I also feel it is equally important for me to discuss the issues around trauma healing both from a place of a survivor and a therapist. I think, once healed, a person who has come through trauma can be a good resource for how the healing process works and, conversely, as a professional in the field as well I can speak from a space that co-professionals can hear–in the language of both sides.
If you know someone healing from trauma or working with trauma–both in the somatic fields (yoga, massage, acupuncture, etc.) and the mental health fields– feel free to pass the information along. It can be listened to virtually from anywhere through either of the websites above.
Some are too big. Some are too small. Finally, one fits just right. Well, right in the way that a shirt fits you after a big holiday meal–it might be a bit constricting around the seamed edges, you may have to unbutton the top button so that your navel doesn’t start to bleed, but you don’t have to completely strip naked. That kind of just-right-fit.
In truth, in a human world, full of pesky imperfect humans (present company included) there is no “just right” there is only the “comfortable enough so you don’t have to strip naked” kind of fit. It took me my whole life to present to figure that out. I spent my entire childhood and adolescence looking for and being frustrated by the lack of perfection in the world and inside of my Christian experience.
I was cursed with an overactive inquisitive brain since about age two, when I blurted out aluminum to my Grandpop on the changing table and made him drop the baby powder. My nature became even less charming by the age of 5 when I pummeled my parents with questions about this mysterious Santa with a very tenuous backstory until they folded and told me the truth about Christmas and presents and all that–I sighed in relief at the truth. I was a truth seeker and a truth purveyor, much to my parents added frustration when I decided at 7 that I could no longer contain the secret of this Santa fraud from my poor, misled brother, and told him the truth–after which he bawled and refused to go to preschool until my parents told him the truth. I was punished, and confused I stormed off to my room, still standing by my choice to reveal the fraud.
So, since forever I have been plagued by this need to play by my own code of morality and truth and this led to a lot of frustration in my early church years…seeing a world and a faith full of similar tenuous backstories and blatant hypocrisies. I didn’t want almost. I wouldn’t stand for imperfect. It was all or nothing, and so it was nothing. I stormed out of church life in my mid-late teens with the same conviction of that child storming to their room.
It took me decades of frustration, disillusionment, and time spent searching for “just right” to realize that if we can find something that fits, even with stretching at the seems, and an unbuttoned top button at the navel, then we are probably as close to “just right” as we will ever be.
Otherwise we’ll end up running around full of conviction but totally naked, and nobody looks very good naked.
In crisis faith seems to come easiest, mostly because it comes out of necessity. For me, in the darkest moments in my life, without faith I would have drowned in fear and sadness. In those moments God’s voice was clear and sharp, and gave me hope that there was more beyond the bottom.
In my early years following the bottom, where I was re-initiating my relationship with God in an explorative and intentional way, I found myself aching for crisis to “feel” God in the way I had when life was at its worst. It seemed my intimate connection with the divine had been most intimate when life was most painful. In times of calm it was, well, just a lot more work. Then again, in times of calm, I had a lot more internal resources at my disposal to do that work. I was left in a crux of frustration and I could have gone one of two ways.
When I was a child I thought working at it was just too hard and my frustration led me to search somewhere else for God-type-magic, somewhere more flashy. As an adult, having hit the pit of the dark and ugly, having spent 3+ years in the trenches of internal warfare that psychology titles PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), I had a bit more willpower in me. So, I thought I would work at this inner spiritual intimacy with the same fervor for knowledge and application as I had with my PTSD recovery. But it was a lot of work.
I wonder how others maintain everyday faith and the routines and regimens necessary to keep the muscles of the inner experience strong enough to connect–in dark times and in light. I will admit, that even with willpower it is very difficult to maintain for the long haul. It leaves a person wishing for a crisis every now and then, if only for a short-cut. Then again life is full of crisis-on-the-brink, and when it comes down to it, they are never a short-cut to anywhere.
I wonder how other people maintain a healthy God-connection in the quietude of everyday life? I wonder how other people have experienced their faith connections or God experience in times of trial or crisis?