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Practicing Appreciation

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Our capacity for appreciation is a function of the "human" brain over the reptilian, at least for the times we choose to exercise our God- given capacity for wonder and appreciation. Appreciation is worthy of its description as one of the transcendent emotions, because it can foster profound moments of connection with something greater than ourselves

Appreciation allows us to be human, to love, to calm down, and better endure difficult times.  

When I served as a labor coach for my expectant wife, I was to make sure that her focal point was available, that is, a photo of her beloved kitty cat. Why? Because the sight was comforting and peace-giving to her, even in the most difficult pain of her labor.
Appreciation counteracts our natural tendency of adaptation to good things (the animal brain)- try making a regular list of all the things taken for granted.  

There are two ways to experience appreciation: one, we practice it daily or, two, we undergo the loss of blessings- and…

What do I really want?

We tend to look outside ourselves for what we think we want; money, fame, love. We tend to get stuck looking for what we want. What we want, true happiness, is inside. D'Souza, Discovering Awareness Be born to us today. O Little Town of Bethlehem In, Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer shared a memorable story about the time he was offered the opportunity to become president of a small educational institution, In essence, he had been told that if he wanted the job, the job was likely his. He called on a half dozen friends to help him discern his vocation by means of a "clearness committee," a process from the Quaker tradition where the group refrains from giving advice but spends three hours asking you honest, open questions to help you discover your own inner truth.
Halfway into the process, someone asked Palmer a question that proved to be the turning point. It sounded easy yet turned out to be very hard: "What would you like most about being a president?" Aft…

Collecting Spiritual Toys

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Some years ago, I met a young American woman who had traveled to India on several occasions to study yoga and meditation under distinguished teachers... After listening to her life story, I asked her why she was doing this. She told me that she was fed up with the materialism of the West, and she was now looking for the spirituality of the East. I told her that essentially she hadn't changed. She reacted strongly, "What do you mean, I haven't changed? Isn't spirituality better than materialism?" I told her in the past, she was collecting material toys to entertain herself; now she was collecting spiritual toys. The problem was she was still collecting. Her mindset was the same, only the object of her "treasure hunt" had changed... We think what we want is outside, but what we really want is within us. Tony D' Souza, Discovering Awareness The beginning of growth begins with a simple question: "What do I really want?' The answer to this que…

Humility: Open to the truth

Humility is humble in the sense of not being offended by the truth. But humiliation, according to Saint Bernard, is the path to humility. Saint Bernard means the humiliation that one uses well, that one accepts willingly insofar as it is true, but does not attribute to oneself if it is not true. Humility is never a put-down, but the willingness to acknowledge the truth about ourselves. Humility welcomes humiliation. Although it's painful at times, it realizes that, precisely because I feel humiliated, I'm attached to my happiness seeking programs in some way that needs correction if I'm going to be really happy and at peace in daily life. Thomas Keating

Does the Pastor Have a Pastor?

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Let your mind wander through your life, and let it notice what is hasn't noticed yet.
 L. Roger Owens

In his book, Abba, Give Me a Word (2012), L. Roger Owens tells the story of his journey in spiritual direction. The volume is one of a kind: I know of no other practicing United Methodist Pastor who has authored a book on his or her work as a directee.
Let the tremendous benefits to personal well-being and ministry outweigh whatever barriers you have.  Begin, Owens, suggests, by writing a "longing list," noting what you want, the things you are longing for. Do this for three days, writing for five minutes each time without over-thinking. "Just write." Eventually, we will probably move from a new roof or car or suit to things like peace, quiet, healing, God. The fuel for spiritual direction is our spiritual yearning for more of God. This longing is more important than the obstacles we might construct to seeking spiritual direction.

Thus, in the "Finding&q…

Goodbye Birds, Emilie Griffin

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Emilie Griffin's volume, Goodbye Birds and Other Poems (2014), is an authentic witness to an exuberant faith lived deeply and well. The themes and metaphors are far ranging and relevant. For example, the book's namesake, Goodbye Birds, is a comment on the ecological disaster of the "deep petroleum roar," while The Loss of Monarchs and other Puzzlements, refers to global warming affecting all living things: "Across the blue world, summer extends." But the little, powerful volume is also the fruit of life-long reflective and lived faith in Christ. As an octogenarian and one who suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Griffin patiently, courageously, makes her way on walker up to the front of the room to speak about her life and writing. Griffin has earned that right to speak of aging, God, and spirituality. But it's also her gift: This is what you may call if you like to give names to things a spirituality of rheumatoid arthritis: the human spirit, fueled b…

Please Wait

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They also serve who only stand and wait. John Milton, quoted in Griffin, Doors Into Prayer.

My mother, Judy Endress, died earlier this year, in January, 2016. Instead of ruminating about making changes, the best decisions I am making are about self-care here and now, and living well through this experience of loss. For clergy who cannot avoid facing death, dying, and grief as apart of their ministry, it is especially important to make our well being the priority. Take time by: scheduling a private retreat,  seeking a skilled counselor  going to a spiritual director listening to the waves roar and the birds echo  Grief is not easy nor is it temporary. There's no "getting over it," nor is there a solace that removes the reality of the loss. There's no "cheering up" or feeling good because the deceased lived relatively happy and long, or died some kind of hero. There is not a pill nor a therapist nor a Bible verse that is going make it all better, to take our grief a…