What’s Next? From Michael Gott

This beautiful teaching from Michael Gott starts at “Expect a miracle” and ends with the question “What’s next?” And what a great message throughout! I’m a huge fan of Michael’s music, and his words have come my way at just the right times. Listen to his words and be inspired!

You’re not a sad story

“Right now, these moments are not stories. This is happening. I am here and I am looking at her and she is so beautiful. I can see it–this one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive. And you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder, and you’re listening to that song on that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment, I swear, we are infinite.”

Infinite_Perks

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen Chbosky
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

On trees and home

Bird on tree

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.  – Herman Hesse

May 24 – 31 Everyday Inspired

May 24 – Carrying loss through normal days

I sat at my desk in our bedroom, shuffling through some notes, when my husband came in and asked me a question I can’t now recall. I do remember that our exchange escalated quickly. Rather than argue with me, he stood quietly, let me finish my rant, and asked, “Honey, what’s really going on?”
My dad died about 6 weeks earlier. In my grief I tried to be strong, to handle the days in a poised and calm way. Yet, the great hole he’d left in my life loomed large in every moment. Some days it was all I could do to grasp the edge and not tumble in. That day at the desk was one of those days.
wilted roseHis eyes met mine, seconds passed, and my guard came down. “I miss my dad so much,” I said, and sobbed. God’s grace swooped in and the healing began.
After dad died, I discovered that the sadness I felt through the wake and funeral was nothing compared to the pain of living without him. “Getting back to normal” would never happen. I had to find a way to carry this loss with me, somehow, and create a new sense of normal in my life. The love of my husband and family, especially in my tired and state, sustained me. The tears released a bit of the pain, and brought me peace, until the next time I needed to cry because life had caught me off guard with my broken heart.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

 

May 25 – Life is improv

I’ve heard it said that life is not a dress rehearsal.
It’s more like improvisation. Like the TV show, Whose Line Is It, Anyway?, we get handed situations in life and figure out the ending as we go along. It’s impossible to rehearse for improvisational comedy, but there are a few guidelines performers use.
improv-theatreOne of them is: “Yes, and….” This means that no matter the line, prop, or action your fellow actor gives you, the response is always affirmative, and builds on what the other has offered. Nothing shuts down a scene quicker than “no.”
This guideline is a wise one for life and faith, too. Circumstances are often out of our control, and if we resist, problems persist and may escalate. Greeting life with a “yes, and” creates opportunities. “No” will get us stuck.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

 

May 26 – Banking the embers

If your faith was a fire, what would the embers be? Those glowing, warm coals which sustain the fire through the night, even when the flame has gone out?
The Memorare prayer is one of mine. My mother often prayed this prayer to Mary, and by osmosis I learned it along with the Hail Mary. In times of stress, this prayer comforts me when I can’t find my own words to pray. As Paul comforted his church community in Rome:

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Romans 8: 26

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

 

May 27 – Stoking the fire

I will try, like them
To be my own silence:
And this is difficult. The whole
World is secretly on fire. The stones
Burn, even the stones
They burn me. How can a man be still or
Listen to all things burning? How can he dare
To sit with them when
All their silence
Is on fire? -Thomas Merton

Rising in the morning at the campsite, or hearth, the embers are gathered, prodded, and fueled by new kindling, stoking the fire back to life. How, in our own faith lives, do we tend the fire of our faith? Spiritual reading? Prayer? Meditation? Daily reflections? Journaling? For me, if I miss a few days, I feel it in heightened worry and anxious thoughts. When I return to that silence, the fire of God’s love warms and sustains me.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

 

May 28 – Fanning the flames

Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us? Luke 24:32

embersLuke’s gospel tells the story of Jesus’ walk with two disciples following the resurrection. At first they do not recognize him. Later, they retraced the journey and they understood. What their minds could not comprehend, their hearts recognized. The disciples shared an “A-Ha Moment.”
An A-Ha Moment is when one has a sudden burst of insight, when grace breaks through with new information and reveals to us a new paradigm or approach to a situation in our lives. The transcendent, or something outside ourselves, is the catalyst for the insight—a song, a scripture passage, a scene from a movie, a child’s insight—which causes us to reflect. There’s a deep knowing that we’ve “hit gold.” In the A-Ha Moment, God is moving in the external circumstances to touch us, and God is there internally, too, in the recognition.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

 

May 29 – Carrying the torch

We may not describe ourselves as “mystics,” such as Thomas Merton or Theresa of Avila. Yet, our lives are rich in opportunities or reflect on and grow closer to God. The elements of water, wind, earth, and fire present such opportunities. Throughout the Christian scriptures:

…we find the four elements represented in multiple ways. The Spirit is represented as both wind and fire. The living water of baptism is a central symbol for our self-understanding as members of the Christian community. The communion feast springs from the gifts of bread and wine, earth’s nourishment. – Christine Valters Paintner

Each element illustrates a dimension of God: the wind as powerful force and life-giving breath of spirit; the fire of illumination or purification; water that cleanses and soothes; and, the groundedness of earth as the foundation of living things. These four elements aid the mystic in the journey to deeper experiences of God. They each reflect our powerful God, and yet are the simple stuff of our earthly existence.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

 

May 30 – Strawberry surprise

My mystic self dug in the garden yesterday. The strawberry plants have returned, and now dominate the small space which includes basil and parsley and assorted annuals. The strawberry leaves are wide and green, disguising the red sweetness underneath.
garden strawberriesMy fingers touched and lifted the scratchy leaves, revealing the vibrant fruit underneath. The delightful spring harvest is a feast for sight and taste.
So much to consider with this batch of strawberries: They were hidden from sight, and revealed with some gentle prodding; they multiplied and thrived through a bitter winter; they’re just getting started for the season.
How are we like the strawberry plant? Hiding our vibrant gifts from the world? Or gently nurturing them till the proper time? Or how are we like the mystic farmer: patiently waiting for the produce of the fields, watering and tending it? We might also be a bit of both, delighting in gratitude for the abundant harvest.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

 

May 31 – Spiritual friendship

Paul’s letter to the Cornithians speaks to us today of the deep, sometimes mysterious, and often graced subject of friendship, specifically spiritual friendship:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Spiritual friendships grace us with a bit of heaven on earth through the humility and prayer necessary to establish and maintain such a connection. Spiritual friends celebrate all that is good and holy in one another, gently sifting away the failings and regrets, and drawing each other closer to God. This purity of heart and purpose brings each friend into a fuller expression of the person God created him or her to be. This is the clarity of sight of which Paul spoke. We shall see most clearly when we are united in heaven, and we can partake in some of this now, on earth, through the love and companionship of spiritual friends.
friend see the painOne of the great graces that come with spiritual friendship is freedom. As spiritual friends, we are deeply connected, aware of and sensing a mutual love and concern even when physically separated. The spiritual friend’s love is not dependent on any action we take or contract we fulfill. We are loved, unconditionally, and “fully known.” This love is also free of an adolescent approach to friendship based on a quid pro quo of texts, phone calls and mementos. Freed of these distorted calculations of love, spiritual friends are challenged and invited to explore our deepest selves by sharing and reflecting on God’s movement in our lives. There exists a “sacred space” between us where our truest selves are lifted up, empowered and graced to shine more fully in our daily lives.
Through this glorious connection, God’s love is communicated and imitated. A spiritual friend’s deepest desire for the other is full union with God. A spiritual friend’s greatest joy is to share the journey with the beloved.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

Everyday Inspired May 19-23

May 19 – Monday plans

Today is Monday. I’m slow getting started. My feet hurt and there’s that pan in the kitchen that needs scouring, and there are piles of dirty clothes backing up in the laundry room. Sigh. At an earlier time in my life, I would have looked at all this and just felt tired. I’d be thinking: if I can just get rid of the achiness, then I’ll be fine. Or, if I can just get the house clean or get that work project done…whatever it is, if I can just get to the other side of it, then I’ll be happy. Then, I’ll know what it means to live a peaceful life.
dirty-dishes-sink-home-mess-590jn121610But my grown-up self knows better. She knows that the stuff never stops coming, and she always has some pains, or cleaning up to do, or rearranging in her life. She also knows there’s joy hidden in the stuff. For example, my sore feet are the product of a long family walk yesterday. The dirty pan comes from the delicious dinner we shared, and the laundry piles are my daughter’s task, as she settles back in from a semester away. These potentially discouraging circumstances are joy’s tracks in my life.
When we are able to see through the circumstances to that greater meaning, then they aren’t so heavy any more. I’m going to scrub that pan and get on with my day. How about you?

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 20 – Grace, part one

Frederick Buechner on grace:
After centuries of handling and mishandling, most religious words have become so shopworn nobody’s much interested anymore. Not so with grace, for some reason. Mysteriously, even derivatives like gracious and graceful still have some of the bloom left.
Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good works or bring about your own birth.
A good sleep is great and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 21 – Grace, part two

Buechner continues:

A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion people are saved by grace. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. The grace of God means something like: “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.”
There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it.

A dear friend of mine speaks of “ridiculous grace” in her life: through the struggles there’s beauty and wisdom and laughter and love all folded in. Buechner’s reflections on grace illustrate how ridiculously wonderful it is.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 22 – Oh, what a beautiful morning

 

beautiful mornin'In the musical “Oklahoma” Curly, the lead character, reflects on his world and sings, “I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way.” We all have days like that, and days when we wake up and wonder how we’ll get through. On those days when it’s all we can do to just take it as it comes, gratitude is key. If we can slow down and be very deliberate about recognizing the things that are going well in our lives, our attitude can change.
For example, yesterday I was on the highway and my mind was somewhere else, thinking about my destination. Then, it dawned on me that every time I step on the accelerator, the car moves forward in a miracle of engineering and physics. What a gift to use my car, without a thought for the mechanics involved, and transport myself to where I need to be.
Let’s pay attention to the miracle machines that help us, like the light that comes on with the flick of a switch, or the technology that carries the cheery voice of a friend in sound or text. As we take it as it comes, let’s be grateful for the means by which it’s delivered to us. As we look back over the day, we can see how a string of little miracles brought everything our way.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 23 – Try a different path

CCL sunsetMy daughter and I were leaving the YMCA last night. The building is at the top of a small hill. I usually take the same entrance in and out of the parking lot, but for some reason we went out a different way. As we turned westbound, an amazing sunset blazed ahead in the most vibrant magenta I have ever seen. My daughter said, “Let’s go to the park!” As it happened, our spontaneous turn had us on the road to the park, and we drove right into that beautiful color all the way to the lakeside. We hustled out of the car to see the sun set over the water, and who should appear but two dear friends who were there for the same reason! We laughed and hugged.
As the last of the colors faded from the sky, I was grateful to have paid attention to life. We shared a beautiful spontaneous moment with friends, and soaked in a glorious sunset, all because we turned away from our usual route. That path would’ve taken us to the bottom of the hill, where the colors were lost.
If we loosen up our schedules a bit, who knows where the road will lead us?

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

A poverty of attention

Lately I’ve been reading the book “Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creativity.” All things I really need to do.  I was absolutely slain by this quote from renowned social scientist Herbert Simon…and he said this way back in the ’70’s!

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

Wow! A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. Boy, I know I’m guilty of that. I fall into these times when I’m clicking over to facebook, or checking email or some news site. And I think, “Okay, I’ll just do this one more little thing, and then I’ll get down to work.” Or, “Maybe so and so replied to my email.” And I allow all these distractions to swirl in and carry my attention away from tasks that are really important and that need more focused attention. I know I’m capable of doing good work, and yet I allow myself to get distracted away from doing it and my end product either goes undone or is less than what it could be.

So, I’m looking at this book and thinking of ways that I can truly carve out time for creativity, instead of waiting until the distractions are gone, because: Guess what? That never happens!

Today I invite you to honor your ideas and your need for focused attention by making priority time for them. It won’t take away from what you accomplish. Rather, you’ll be more productive because you’ve gone at your task with greater attention and focus. As you look at the course of your day, and perhaps once a week you’ll sit down and block out time everyday for that focused attention to work on the projects that need it.

I hope you’ll include these Everyday Inspired reflections as a means to focus and attend to your life.

I’ll close with a beautiful quote from Frederick Buechner, one of my all time inspirations and guides in my spiritual and creative life:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

All moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

So, what do you say? Let’s notice, together, the blessings of life. When we pay attention like this, marvelous things happen. Let’s live Everyday Inspired.

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Thank you, Seth Godin

Thank you, Seth Godin, for calling me on this:

The strategy is simple, I think. The strategy is to have a practice, and what it means to have a practice is to regularly and reliably do the work in a habitual way….

The notion that I do my work here, now, like this, even when I do not feel like it, and especially when I do not feel like it, is very important. Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby. – Seth Godin, quoted in Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

 

This week I’m beginning a new practice in two ways: one) no facebook or news for at least one week; two) blocking out time in my work day to write, and only write…to “do the work in a habitual way.”

The clock conspired against me as a rare bout of insomnia had me up and writing in the dead of night. I eventually fell asleep around 5 a.m. When I woke, I expected to be so dazed that I wouldn’t hold to my practice. But I did. I fudged a little by counting my middle-of-the-night musings as part of my writing time, but on the whole I’m happy to say I found the energy and inspiration to do the work. Even when I didn’t feel like it. I’d read these words from Seth Godin just yesterday. Timely, yes!?

Changes

The creative process at Everyday Inspired usually starts with the simple question: What needs to be said today? For a few moments, my mind is open, and then comes the question: What can I say today? Or, What should I say today?

See the shift? Subtle though it maybe, the process moves from receiving to directing. What I’ve found is that the messages that come from the receiving posture are often the more vulnerable ones for me to share. And, I’ve discovered over the two years of this blogcast that the messages that hit closest to home for me receive the greatest responses from my dear listeners and readers.

So, today I share with you a meme I discovered on Facebook yesterday, posted to a page I follow called A Beautiful Mess Inside. Don’t you love that name? And I love the wisdom that’s shared there throughout the day. This bit of wisdom is a quote from the British novelist Jeannette Winterson:

When we make a change, it’s so easy to interpret our unsettledness as unhappiness, and our unhappiness as a result of having made the wrong decision. Our mental and emotional states fluctuate madly when we make big changes in our lives, and some days we could tight-rope across Manhattan, and other days we are too weary to clean our teeth. This is normal. This is natural. This is change.

I’m in the midst of big changes in my life. I expected to dance on the waves, and some days I do. But there are other days of deep grief that cause me to question my decisions. I am consoled by her words. And I hope, if you are in the midst of change, that Jeannette Winterson’s words bring you peace as well.

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A Beannacht for you

My reflection for you today is a simple one: a beautiful poem by the Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue, called Beannacht (Gaelic for “blessing”)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the curach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

(from Anam Cara, A book of Celtic Wisdom)

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An Irish Blessing by John O’Donohue