Tag Archives: Living Well

A Living Sacrifice: Biblical Principles for “Self” Care

It was on fire, but not consumed...

 

I have the privilege of routinely teaching a local or teleclass version of  A Living Sacrifice: Biblical Principles for “Self” Care.  Lay leaders and clergy from across the country have continued to shape this and bless it greatly through their own stories and wisdom.

After four years of teaching this course, I am still deeply moved by the Word’s promise and by the hope it stirs in attendees.  While the class in rooted in reflections on Romans 12 (especially vs. 1-2), the image of a “living sacrifice” or of a life aflame with love BUT NOT EXTINGUISHED have often led us to meditate on Moses and his encounter with the burning bush in Exodus 3.  Encounter with the Holy, with a new call, with a fiery vision that claimed Moses for work he could not imagine himself to be up for.  And we linger with the feeling of awe passed down through the ages: the attention-getting “I am who I am” is alive with creative Exodusing.  Then and now.  Beyond what and who we can imagine.  Alive with possibility.  A sustained and sustaining message.

This is what my clients and students want for their lives.  And what I want for mine.  Lives ablaze, lived fully and generously with grace.  Given to others and yet replenished by the enlivening Spirit.  Biblical PRINCIPLES help us to make choices which cultivate space for Divine renewal.  If this sounds like something you’d like support for in 2013, we’d love to have you join us on the “living well” journey.  Sign-up for the January 2013 class (Fridays at 8am) here.

 

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Let Us Give Thanks (A Poem for Thanksgiving)

The Fall puts me in the mood, always, to both rejoice in abundance and also vulnerably declare the deaths and failures of my and our collective Life.  This poem made smile in wonder at the glorious diversity of friends along the way, and remember our humanity as we stumble along the journey together.  

 

For children who are our second planting, and, though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.

Let us give thanks:

For generous friends…with hearts as big as hubbards and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us we had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn — and the others — as plain as potatoes, and so good for you.

For funny friends, who are as silly as brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who — like parsnips — can be counted on to see you through the long winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils, and hold us despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;

And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past, that have been harvested — but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;

For all these we give thanks.

Source: the late Rev. Max Coots, who was Minister Emeritus of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Canton, New York. His passion for gardening yielded this beloved and much used meditation.

I AM SO GRATEFUL for friend Margaret Shaklee’s reading of the poem at last night’s interfaith Harvest Fest event here in Chicago.   I found it today at this blog: http://www.shockinglydelicious.com/let-us-give-thanks-a-poem-for-thanksgiving/.  This poem reminded me of the delicious diversity of people in my life. As I serve my clients through spiritual life coaching, spiritual practices like gratitude exercises are extremely important, as is the carving out of TIME to spend with our friends and time to forge new friendships.  When we place our attention on possibility, we never lack for what we need.

 

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You Can Cultivate Freedom

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist.

 

 PRACTICING THIS FREEDOM IS TRULY LIVING WELL!

 

My life as a disciple, partner, coach and minister has been changed by the principles of Energy Leadership.  At the heart of it is the reality that how we think about ourselves and the world (our consciousness) can be fueled by relatively more catabolic or anabolic thoughts.  These seven levels of energy lead to varying understandable emotional response, and can thus create a smaller or larger range of experiences in this world.  By exploring and removing our energy blocks, we make room for the natural inflow of MORE energy (spirit, I would say).  Thus, we experience and shape more peace, joy, productivity, objectivity, and compassionate connection.

As a minister and life coach I am dedicated to supporting the most grounding PRACTICES for my clients and students.  Helping with the daily practice of cultivating freedom in relationship to their thoughts and emotions is a wonderful, wonderful privilege.   I think that this is related to what some evangelical churches do well, and many mainline churches do poorly.  The mainline social gospel tradition has a much wiser grasp on the societal obstacles to justice and opportunity that we have created (“systemic ills”).  And, my heart is sometimes heavy that we lack a compelling vision of the intersection of individual freedom and responsibility with the social transformation we seek.  This model is a very promising tool for holding these two truths together for the sake of lasting change.

Created by Dr. Bruce D. Schneider, this is undergirding of the coaching philosophy of The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).  After my previous pastorate at Grace Baptist Church, I completed this coaching program when  I launched Living Well Ministries in 2008.  I count it as one of the most nourishing and challenging blessings of my life, and am proud to serve with thousands of peers across the world who share this “toolbox” for the good of others and fulfill their own callings.

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Daily Tasks & Divine Intention

Do you ever feel like you’re swimming upstream in the course of your day, your lists and your chaotic mind?

Me too!  Drowning, actually, would describe how I used to feel A LOT.  Just occasionally now.

Thanks to much practice and support for my own Living Well, I know what a different space feels like.  This space is far from perfection, but it does have more of a center and sense of discipline and power in the face of huge commitments.  In the upcoming Biblical “self” care class (Tuesdays in October), we’ll go into this in a little more depth.

Here is a hand-out I’ve designed to share with my students.  I’m glad to pass on this copy to you in hopes that it might provoke some of your own resonance and/or creative ideas.  In a nutshell, these are ways I’ve learned to GROUND myself and keep moving forward in days that could be overwhelming.  They are methods for remembering the Sacred in my day.  I pray a blessing on your own journeys to do likewise!

MOMENT MARKING:

PRACTICES FOR REORIENTING FOCUS AND FEELINGS

Lighting Candles: before or after an experience that needs blessing or boundaries… when I need to focus on a stressful assignment;  before I write out today’s ‘to do” list; when I’m turning to a task that’s late – perhaps with some guilt; before an important and vulnerable conversation; when I don’t know how to offer an intercessory prayer…

Lighting Incense:  before or after an experience that needs blessing or boundaries… all of the above apply

Playing a Favorite Song:  before/during breakfast, to start the day out right; before/during meditation; before bedtime

Rearranging Piles of Papers:   to demonstrate “enough done” for today… “I’m done” or “I’m leaving” or “this can wait” etc.  It helps to let a long slow breathe out!

Making and spending time at an “altar” space:   pausing before a display of special photos, quotes, keepsakes that embody my loyalties, blessings and intentions

Meal Blessings:  to claim not only the gratitude we associate with these, but also a boundary around conversation, for instance dedicating the time to fellowship and re-connection, rather than  problem-solving or task management.

Coffee Cup Blessings:  Intentionally not multi-tasking with the divinely-favored beverage of  choice; using the enjoyment of it to mark a “non-task” moment before I dig in to first project.

Devotional Readings:  Returning to a favorite passage or setting time aside for brief reading of a new one; naming this time (3 minutes, 5 or more) as a threshold moment that is wrapping up or beginning a new task or experience

Pausing to REALLY LOOK at Sun, Lake, Birds, etc. : Building in the time to pause on walk to el or somewhere else, sometimes the same place on the established walk; allowing this visual banquet to encourage and strengthen me with God’s providence  and wisdom.

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Living Well on the Rainbow Journey

In preparing for the blessed opportunity to be with PFLAG-Chicago on July 15, I was so mindful of the long journey I’ve taken.   It feels more like concentric rings on a tree than a journey through strangely disparate lands, though.

A fundamentalist Baptist childhood

a graced evangelical college chapter (laced with the pain of the closet)

the finding of sanctuary and healing as a young adult lesbian in an intimate LGBT-welcoming church (Grace Baptist Church)

the journey of ministry call and the fires of social justice awakening at Chicago Theological Seminary

a season of pastoral leadership that brought new rhythms of wellness and passion for personal and community health

(including spiritual paths and places!)

new paradigm shifts that make peace and prosperity a reality, and call me to build yet more bridges.

 

What is the impact of all of this?

More than ever, I know that my part to play in justice-making is more of a healing and bridge-building role than an activist’s battle strategy.

I look around at the volatility of our times and the fervent opponents to diversity and solidarity.  What I see and feel is the brokenness we all share in the web of the Ego: fear, insecurity, anger, aversion, enmity.  No prejudice which would withhold safety or equality from other groups is VALID, and must be challenged and overturned.  But I trust more than ever this Knowing:  ALL EMOTIONS ARE VALID.  (By valid, I simply mean that people are having whatever experience they are choosing to have, and it is not my place to judge these difficult feelings.)  While we do the necessary work to persuade, and to “lobby” and to convince minds and to gain votes for the sake of more just laws, we can either hold a transcendent and redemptive hope for all (New Creation) or simply replay the unsustainable script Winner Takes All with its short-term gains.

The social and political opponents  of LGBT diversity, or transracial solidarity, are caught in the grips of age-old fears of difference and projections of blame and anger that the New Testament might call “the flesh.”  But I am letting go of the battle mindset that “spirit” opposes “flesh.  The Rainbow Journey has taught me that this idea does great internal damage to our personal spirituality and integrity.  And, how often do we make our group out to be the ones who need to battle those “Others!”

Time and time again, when I’ve set a different course and nurtured a different energy, I’ve found that hearts and minds of opponents open up to new encounters and relationships.  People long for a little respect and dignity; our brothers and sisters who are most afraid and angry, who are most caught up in emotional and social barriers or violence, need the healing presence of bridge-builders who genuinely care for their pain and can honor their authentic desires for Good.  It is only then that ideas about the Good, or how to live out the Good, can be reexamined and let go where they are found to be  limiting our God.

I most certainly have not “arrived” in my own struggles to occupy such a place.  But I am a product of these multiple communities and hold them all, somehow, inside me.  I have made peace with that. And I am more convinced than ever that spiritually speaking this is the KEY to “living well.”  In my living, coaching and teaching I am focusing on personal transformation and healing.  As LGBT folks and allies work on forgiveness, coming our, self-care or faith transitions, they find that the more self-compassion and acceptance we experience the less enmeshed in enmity we need to feel.  It is only from this place of spiritual freedom and equanimity that we can truly be the creative change agents that our world so desperately needs.

 

 

 

 

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Maintaining A Spiritual Basis of Civility

At its core, civility isn’t an issue of choosing our words more carefully.  Civility is an issue of attitude.  Ultimately we will discover that every human exchange bears the promise of blessing instead of cursing each other.  The more we can admit that God is always at hand and loving each one of us as (equal) children, the more we’ll treat each other in ways guided by our common Father-Mother God.

— excerpt from The Christian Science Monitor’s devotional column on 3/5/12.

How might we be civil with those whose choices are causing pain?  With those whose short-sightedness or prejudice would distort or diminish the welfare of others? With those who use the name of God to perpetuate hatred or insular complicity in social ills?

This Lent, I pray for daily openness to transformation.  A transformation of heart and character, not just external matters and etiquette.  This piece on civility points to the heart of the matter: an equanimity of spirit about one another in our challenging relationships is the only way we can bear the fruit of blessing. Genuine blessing that empowers social change, just relationships, and thriving kinship.  Blessing is not cheap affirmation, but holding a vision of empowerment and generativity.

For me, striving to know and be a blessing means always striving to see the Higher Self in myself and others, even when  beliefs and actions are expressing limited current capacity for loving actions.  For my spiritual coaching clients, it often means creating some essential space to simultaneously nurture their own good and their practices of prayer for others.   We often have so many more choices than we perceive.  For all of us, it can sometimes be very very hard on the Ego, which really wants to name Good Guys and Bad Guys.  But its a kingdom pursuit that is every bit as worthy as the priceless pearl of Matthew 13:45-6

Did I say it was hard?

I will pray for you and I ask you to pray for me!

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To Love Our Neighbors as Ourselves

Here’s a real golden nugget, I think, from Emanuel Swedenborg’True Christianity:

We read that we are to love the Lord God above all things, and our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27).  To love our neighbor as ourselves means not despising our neighbors in comparison with ourselves.  It means treating them justly and not judging them wrongfully.  The law of goodwill pronounced and given by the Lord himself is this:  

“Whatever you want people to do for you, do likewise for them.  This is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31,32)

This is how people who love heaven love their neighbor.  People who love the world, however, love their neighbor on a worldly basis for a worldly benefit.  People who love themselves love their neighbor in a selfish way for a selfish benefit.

Wow!  Think about the entrenched ugliness of our unresolved pain and violence in this world.  Is it not much about comparing and competing, treating folks unjustly or allowing injustice, and judging wrongfully?

I am really savoring this collection of Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings, including the parts of it that are a bit strange metaphysically.  I love to learn about innovative ideas and experiences others have had (or thought they had), and to ponder what it might reveal about God’s reality.  One does not have to be hopelessly relativist to be committed to appreciating at face value the potential gift that others are bringing.  To listen and to understand does not mean to give over all discriminating faculties!  (Unfortunately, the sort of fundamentalism and evangelicalism that formed my early life would indeed have us fearfully separate ourselves from such encounters, rather than seek in them the practice of neighborly love and intellectual humility).

I especially love to read things outside the mainstream of acceptance (or, shall I say invisible histories/herstories and even “heresy”).  It is a spiritual practice — studying the breadth and spirit of experience, testimony and communal ethics that have been born amid human grappling with the presence and expectations of God.  And, striving to encounter these things with the heart, not just the endlessly dissecting intellectual impulse.  Swedenborg called these  “sense-oriented” and I associate them with negative Ego grasping which other traditions name as our snare.

My coaching clients and students see this loving neighbors and self thing is the heart of the matter.  So, in fact did Jesus.  Swedenborg has some truly innovative ways of picturing and teaching this.  Tomorrow’s post will be especially interesting for those working on the spiritual projects of forgiveness and biblical self-care.

Maybe a Lenten practice that would be good Christian contribution to public discourse this election season:

To not despise our neighbor in comparison with ourselves.

To treat others justly.

To not judge wrongfully.

To do unto others as we’d like done unto us…

“The Law of Goodwill.”

 

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A Jesus Kind of Lent (Life)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

–Matthew 11:28-30

 

Who could you be if you took this invite of Jesus at face value?

What could you let go of?

What long could you wait in a period of rest?

How might you distinguish the false burdens placed by the world, from the worthy yoke placed upon us by Christ?

 

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Hindu Prayer Speaks My Heart This Lent

A Prayer from the Rig Veda

God makes the rivers to flow.

They tire not, nor do they cease from flowing.

May the river of my life flow into the sea of love that is the Lord.
May I overcome all the impediments in my course.

May the thread of my song be not cut

before my life merges in the sea of love.

Guard me against all danger, O Lord.

Accept me graciously, O King of kings.
Release me from my sorrows,

which hold me as ropes hold a calf.

I cannot even open my eyes without the power of your love.

 

Guard us against the grief that haunts the life of the selfish.

Lead us from darkness into light.

We will sing of your love as it was sung of old.

Your laws change not, but stand like the mountains.

 

Forgive me all the mistakes I have committed.

Many mornings will dawn upon us again.

Guide us through them all, O Lord of Love.

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Jacki’s Reflection for Today…

I’m a life coach, a Baptist minister, a lesbian, a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ.  I give thanks for the wisdom, skill and poetry found in all world religions, and for the ways that learning from them helps to nourish my own faith and choices so much.  This happens when I deeply connect with something (as above), as well as those times when a different belief or form or practice is that which I clearly do not want for my life or would agree with as a wider social norm.

This prayer has long touched me, as well as my spiritual coaching clients and students.  During this year’s Lent I am especially keenly aware of the “impediments to my course” (of growth).  A renewed child-like trust in the Lord of Love, who I know as Jesus Christ, is being cultivated in me.  I have been readied for and chosen to receive anew that powerful love of His made so plain in his life.  That Love makes any sacrifice — when Divinely guided — worthy to make.  That Love makes a way of safe passage into the sea of plenty.  That Love cuts the cords that bind us in Ego’s condemnation (our own or others’) so that we may know true repentance and true wisdom.   That Love not only offers me forgiveness, but teaches me through the wildernesses of this life how to draw everlasting life from a Living Well (not solely for myself, but so that I might  know the bliss and freedom of serving others).

This is how I experience walking with Jesus… worthy sacrifice, safe passage, liberation from Worldly sorrows, and the Good News of repentance.

***

The Rig Veda contains the most ancient portions of the Hindu scriptures. Hymns, from which this selection has been chosen, make up the first part of each Veda; in the latter parts are found the Upanishads.  Read more about Passage Meditation

 

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Excel When You Must, But Do Not Excel the World

“Do not seek too much fame, but do not seek obscurity.
Be proud, but do not remind the world of your deeds.
Excel when you must, but do not excel the world.
Many heroes are not yet born,
Many have already died;
To be alive to hear this song is a victory.”

— A West African Song

Thirteen years ago, a blessed brother traveler read this aloud in a public setting and dedicated the gift of this poem to me.  It was a time of difficult transition, and his great heart saw and felt my great need for new Grounding.   Another precious friend framed a beautiful version and gave it to me upon my ordination that year.  It has provided a kind of measuring stick, mantra, and mirror-question many times since.

The Course in Miracles teaches about the danger of special attachments and special relationships.  In my coaching and teaching, I often draw upon my own journey of recovery from workaholism (in which illusions and attachments to excellence abound).  I have often found capacity to let go of outward achievements wherein lay temptation to “excel the world” or “remind the world of my deeds.”  I faith, I am pressing on for a different prize: “to be alive to hear this song” and to be Christ’s presence in it.

Today, I draw upon this Life Text as I honor my grandmother, Elizabeth Schrock, who died Monday.   She embodied victory in her Christian life as she lived out humility and perseverance while receiving no great outward honor.  She is not famous, yet she is a hero. My hero.  And her life is a model of victory.

I am grateful for so many lessons along life’s path, and for the example of Jesus Christ through whom we see “the express image of God.”  Thank you so very much, Grandma Schrock, for the gift of your life.

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‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ — from a parable of Jesus in Matthew 25:23.

 

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