Summer is here!

Good morning!

Summer is finally here. I have three months off until school with J starts up in September. I am thrilled to have a nice long stretch of weeks away from history, geography, science and the like. It will be a full summer, but a welcome change of pace.

One of my lingering spring projects is to sign off on our study of this book The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner. I’ve lost most of you in recent weeks, which I feared would happen because this is a difficult book to get your mind around. Of course, it might not have been the book – we’ve had a baby born, a new ring on a finger, libraries and gardens and the like, job changes, new cities – we’re not without our share of activity. So let me sign off on this book, and perhaps we’ll start up again in September. Vamos a ver.

In signing off, let me share a few key quotes and some thoughts.

All italics are quotes from the book.

Chapter Four – Knowing Yourself As You Really Are

Thomas Merton warns, “There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with reality.” The truly spiritual life is not an escape from reality but a total commitment to it….Most of us are quite willing to embrace reality when it fits with how we see ourselves and the world, and when it is not overly unpleasant…..( But ) The human capacity for self-deception is astounding.

Remember always that you are not simply a sinner, you are deeply loved sinner. And there is all the difference in the world between the two.

Benner encourages us to get behind sins to the sin, and I will say from experience, that this is a valuable exercise. Your sin patterns are particular to you, they are as unique and textured as you are. I have found my readings on the Enneagram to be an amazingly powerful tool in finding my patterns and receiving the challenges within them. When I fall off the path, it’s almost always in the same way. Walking toward my shadow side and understanding it, has helped me tremendously.

Chapter Five – Unmasking Your False Self

Every moment of every day of our life God wanders in our inner garden, seeking our companionship. The reason God can’t find us is that we are hiding in the bushes of our false self. God’s call to us is gentle and persistent: “Where are you? Why are you hiding?”

This is one of the key reasons I ever initiated contact with you all. I know as women we have a tendency to hide, to draw back into the bushes, to stay quiet. Know that God is looking for you, it’s okay to come out of hiding. You are His Beloved.

Chapter Six – Becoming Your True Self

God sometimes calls people to a cause not born of their own abilities or must superficial desires. But his call is always absolutely congruent with our destiny, our truest self, our identity and the shape of our being…..We are all called to live the truth of our uniqueness. Divine creativity has never involved a production assembly line. The results of God’s creative acts are never less than original and truly unique works of art. You and I are no exception.

It’s true. You are gifted with unique talents and they are desperately needed in the Kingdom. Wake up. Take a look around you. See the spiritual world swirling in the conversations, places and projects of your day. Know that you are called upon to pour into your world what you have been given. Don’t miss it.

Okay chicas. I’m signing off for the summer. I might write here or there, we’ll see. If you need me, email me and I will respond. Send updates when you can because they shape my prayers over you.

And be thinking about September, shall we continue or not?

Summer! Speak now or see you in September…..

Yippee! My summer officially started today at 1pm when we crossed our last history lesson and test off the list. We are done until SEPTEMBER! Three full months of summer await! I’m going to be wrapping up this current book in the next few days, not sure if anyone is actually reading it or is even out there anymore?

Shall we take a break for the summer? Let me know. I’m up for choosing a summer read to share together, but it’s really up to all of you.

Speak now or see you in September!

Clean Sweeping the Part Selves

I’m on a mission right now. I’m moving into clean sweep mode and the whole house is about to be free for the taking – well, not really, but everyone knows that when Mama starts to clean you better watch out. Everything passes through the Keep/Toss/Give Away process and it’s not pretty. The strangest of treasures provoke the strongest reactions – “Noooooooooooooooooo, not that! I love that! I didn’t remember that I had it and haven’t touched it for months, but nooooooooooooooooooooo, not that!!!”

Interestingly enough, that’s the theme of Chapter 3 – First Steps Toward Knowing Yourself. It’s a spiritual clean sweep of sorts, finding those little part selves that we have tucked away here and there. It happened to me this week, not once, but a few times. Little patterns or reactions or justifications or habits that cloud our true self. They’ve gained ground because they are so near to our tender spots, our private hurts. We don’t like to bring them up for scrutiny, we don’t want to examine them. But they hold us, they keep us from experiencing freedom and joy.

Before we can become our self we must accept our self, just as we are. Self-acceptance always precedes genuine self-surrender and self-transformation. David Benner

Come, my shy and modest dove – leave your seclusion, come out in the open. Let me see your face, let me hear your voice. Song of Songs, The Message

You are His beloved, deeply known and loved. Don’t be afraid.

The Month of May and Down to Earth Spirituality

Hey there sweet girls,

I’ve always loved the month of May – it is deep in my natural rhythms to finish up school and get ready for SUMMER. In the spirit of finishing things, let’s wrap up our discussions around this little book and then maybe take a break this summer? I read a lot of fiction in the summer – fiction goes well with the beach and the pool, yes? Send along some fiction MUST READS, I blaze through them pretty fast and would appreciate a fun list of titles for the summer.

OKAY. So it’s not particularly easy getting your mind around some of the themes of this book – the main theme being, finding God/finding yourself, finding yourself/finding God. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, don’t get lost here. Don’t feeling like you’ve “missed it” somehow. Think of it as finding your way home. Stop and imagine your strongest childhood memories, can you find your way back there? Of course you can. I’m nearing 50 but I can still remember playing in my childhood basement while my mother’s sewing machine whirled away. I can remember long hot days at the pool, picnics in the park. I can remember playing on the farm and setting up house in the woods with hay bales and kittens and whatever else we could find.

The awakening process is going home. It’s working your way back to your Creator. It’s the deep sighs of YES, this is why I am here, these are the gifts placed into my heart. It’s emptying your pockets and stripping yourself of all your accumulated JUNK, and walking free and light.

So in Chapter 2, the author suggest two ways of delving into this transformational knowing of God. One, spend time reading about Jesus. Two, seek the meaning in everyday life.

I would encourage you to try this. Work your way through the Gospels again and pay attention to what Jesus is doing – where is he, what does he do, what types of stories does he tell, what does he care about, what makes him angry. Then “recalibrate” as our famous GPS systems help us to do. Get on those paths when you climb and you will find Him there.

And two, wake up. Watch for God in daily life. Let Him soak into everything that you do – laundry, cooking, changing diapers, working, conversing, etcetera. Weave a continuity of life, we’re not creating something super spiritual on the side, no, no, no, we’re living a life immersed in God. Laugh with Him, swim with Him, cry with Him.

If God has come in the flesh, and if God keeps coming to us in our fleshly existence, then all of life is shot through with meaning. Earth is crammed with heaven, and heaven ( when we finally get there ) will be crammed with earth. Nothing wasted. Nothing lost. Nothing secular. Nothing absurd…..All are grist for the mill of a down-to-earth spirituality. R. Paul Stevens as quoted in Benner’s The Gift of Being Yourself

Send me some titles and know that I am praying for you!!!!

Not for the faint of heart…..

Hey there chicas,

I’m sensing some weariness with this book and perhaps also with this whole process of contemplating the spiritual life in the way this author presents the material.

The comment – I spend so much time trying to “find God” and “do the right thing,” and in those pursuits I get overwhelmed – I think this is true for all of us.

In a different book, Benner says this – Transformation is not for the fainthearted. But it is for those whose hearts and spirits and minds are open and ready to become even larger. It is for those who long, those who dream, those who seek. It isn’t for the contented. Rather, it is for the seeker that is in all of us – seeking the larger places for which we were born, seeking the larger self we dare to hope we really are, seeking the truer self we trust must lie hidden in the clutter of the various selves of our own construction. It is for those who hunger and thirst after being all they can be and are not prepared to settle for anything less.

Quite honestly, if you’re reading this blog it is because I saw this seeker in you. I saw the hunger and thirst and felt God was asking me to come alongside you and walk with you. Don’t get lost in the mechanics.

Read this again.

Hasidic Jews tell a story of a young man who approached Reb Yerachmiel ben Yisrael one afternoon. “Rebbe,” the young man asked with great seriousness, “what is the way to God?” The rebbe looked up from his work and answered: “There is no way to God, for God is not other than here and now. The truth you seek is not hidden from you; you simply do not notice it. It is here for you if you will only awake.” David Benner

Waking up is one of the most difficult things to do. It’s coming out of a dark cocoon and learning how to fly. It’s climbing up and up and up the mountain and seeing things you never knew existed.

Don’t get discouraged. As you climb you will realize that your pack is loaded down with things you simply do not need, and you will find daily disciplines that make climbing easier. I’m not going to promise you won’t get blisters or never have days that are terribly discouraging, but I will promise you that you won’t regret climbing.

I so appreciate your comments. I’m encouraged by your honesty. Know that I’m praying for you!

Spiritual Tinkerings and the Hidden Life

Came across this thought in my reading this morning, wanted to share it with you here.

Authentic spiritual growth will always make us more deeply human, more fully alive, more authentic and much more. It will not simply be reflected in more conformity to religious standards or ideals…Far too easily we settle for holiness rather than wholeness, conformity rather than authenticity, become spiritual rather than deeply human, fulfillment rather than transformation, and a journey toward perfection rather than union with God. Far too often we confuse our own spiritual self-improvement tinkerings with the much more radical agenda of the Spirit of God. The call of the Spirit – which is always gentle and therefore easily missed – is an invitation to abandon our self-improvement projects that are, in reality, little more than polishing our false self and become the unique hidden self in Christ that we have been from all eternity. The call of the Spirit is always a call to return home, to settle for no other habitation or identity than that of being in Christ and knowing the reality of Christ in us. David Benner

Awakening to your true self…..

The world is quite proficient at lulling us all to sleep. We are slowly rocked back and forth and back and forth by an endless stream of nothingness. As we read and climb and breathe and listen, the goal is to awaken.

There are many possible metaphors for this journey of becoming. I have already introduced the concepts of awakening, unfolding, and evolving. Other possible metaphors include rebirth ( from death to life ), integration ( from fragmentation to wholeness ), liberation ( from captivity to freedom ), unification ( from separation to oneness ), enlightenment ( from blindness to seeing ), and homecoming ( returning from exile ). All of these help us identify elements of the transformation of the self that are involved in this journey…..

Hasidic Jews tell a story of a young man who approached Reb Yerachmiel ben Yisrael one afternoon. “Rebbe,” the young man asked with great seriousness, “what is the way to God?” The rebbe looked up from his work and answered: “There is no way to God, for God is not other than here and now. The truth you seek is not hidden from you; you simply do not notice it. It is here for you if you will only awake.” David Benner

Time to wake up!

Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self that I already possess…Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given to me at birth by God. Parker Palmer

We are held…..

Reading this book again has sparked something in me, it’s so very important. I’m sensing from your comments that it’s somewhat difficult at times to get our minds and hearts and souls around these teachings. Knowing God, knowing myself. Knowing myself, knowing God.

In thinking and praying for little Rebekah this week, and in listening to some of the speakers from the Christian Alliance for Orphans conference that Philip attended in Nashville last week, I’ve been reminded of attachment theory and the critical nature of being connected. Children who are known and loved and have an adult that responds to their needs, those children are more secure, more resilient, more capable of living life.

Stay with me in this. The search for the “true self” is not going out to find or create someone who previously didn’t exist. It’s not trying on various selves via Pinterest or Facebook. It’s reconnecting with what was formed in you by your Creator. It’s hearing a voice that you remember from somewhere but you can’t quite place it. It’s that moment when you find yourself smiling over something you love and you know that God placed within you the capacity to feel and see that which sparked the grin. It’s the peaceful breathing in the arms of God.

My strongest experiences with this were with my little boys. Sweaty, dirty, crying, frustrated they would appear, and we would first begin by bathing and putting on clean clothes. My voice would start to soothe the broken places, but it was never until they crawled up into my lap, that they would finally settle down. Many times I would just hold them and let them sob until the hurts slowly melted away, often they would sleep and awaken refreshed.

My absolute favorite part of that was the deep sigh. It was the signal that I made it home, I found my mom, everything is going to be just fine. I am safe here, I am known. Whatever ugly messages had penetrated their little hearts, these were the quiet moments where truth was spoken. Truth heals.

I’m concerned that many of you feel like I’m asking you to add another thing to your long lists. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m nudging you to climb your mountains, find your safe places, learn to breathe, release yourself to the One who knows you completely.

Find yourself and you will find Him, find Him and you will find your true self. The little girl born into this world for a reason, with gifts special to her that the world desperately needs.

Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Climb, climb, climb.

I run to you, God; I run for dear life…..Your granite cave a hiding place, your high cliff aerie a place of safety…..You’re my cave to hide in, my cliff to climb. Be my safe leader, be my true mountain guide…..You didn’t leave me in their clutches but gave me room to breathe. Psalm 31, The Message

As simple and complex as breathing…

I found this quote today….“Prayer” in this sense could be imaged as spiritual “breathing” of life. No one has to be enjoined to “breathe without ceasing;” to fail to do so results in death. Prayer, in its deepest sense, is breathing our very being out to God and God breathing God’s being into us. Such a reality is the essence of the Christian life and Paul’s starting point for engaging adversity as well as all of life. Robert Mulholland

Think about what he is saying – the essence of the Christian life is BREATHING.

We breathe all day and all night, so start by becoming present to God and paying more attention. Paying attention is submission. We humble ourselves and receive the very breath in our lungs.

Climb, climb, climb.

Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Seek solitude and silence.

Turn off all electronics, anything with an on/off switch.

You will find Him, He’s looking for you.

The Treasure Hunt

Hey there,

Fun news on the birth of Rebekah yesterday! Please be praying for her and for Kristin’s family as everyone makes room for a new life.

I’m getting back into the swing after a very quick trip to and from Chicago to take care of a little eye emergency. All is well thankfully, so good to see the world clearly again!

I’m not completely sure who is reading our book this spring, but wanted to jump in today on a comment posted last week because I’ve been thinking about it and have wanted to respond. I think Jodie’s honesty touches all of us and is worthy of our reflection.

But what a struggle! It is so difficult to let go and completely surrender. It’s difficult to understand what it means to stop bothering about your personality or whatnot. I’ve recently come to the realization that I’m afraid to submit to the Lord completely because I’m afraid of what I might find or be asked to do. I want to be in control of who I am and what I do (because I guess I think I can do a better job than God, how silly of me!). But only in letting go and searching whole-heartedly for the Lord will I ever find my true self.

In a sense, our collection of false selves can be very soothing, and they most certainly make us feel in control, but they are also extremely tiring. Like wearing clothes that don’t quite fit, or walking in a high heel and a flip flop ( which is how the doctor described my eye problem ) – however much we fear the surrender, the weight of a false self life will take its toll. It is taking a toll. It is taking a toll on so many of us.

My encouragement is to get out there and start climbing these mountains. Go for a spiritual hike every day until you can breathe the mountain air without gasping. Stop talking and scrolling and soothing, and start to breathe, listen, and climb.

Go on a treasure hunt in search of God and you will find yourself. Go look for yourself and you will find God.  And do not be afraid! Hike up and around the fear because our timidity is a veil.

People who have never developed a deep personal knowing of God will be limited in the depth of their personal knowing of themselves. Failing to know God, they will be unable to know themselves, as God is the only context in which their being makes sense. Similarly, people who are afraid to look deeply at themselves will of course be equally afraid to look deeply at God. For such persons, ideas about God substitute for direct experience of God.

Know God and knowing self are therefore interdependent. Neither can proceed very far without the other. Paradoxically, we come to know God best not by looking at God exclusively, but by look at God and then looking at ourselves – then looking at  God, and then again looking at ourselves. This is also the way we best come to know our selves. Both God and self are most fully known in relationship to each other. David Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself

Thanks Jodie for your authenticity. It’s daunting! But such treasures you will find if you get out there and hunt – the mountains are filled with surprises and trails and brooks and vistas.

Go on the treasure hunt! Take the hikes! You are His Beloved and He is looking for you as relentlessly as you search for Him. Do not be afraid.

Add your comments sweet girls, this is a great book and worthy of our consideration.