Spiritually Speaking Blog

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Christmas Perfection?

With this nostalgic time of the year, childhood memories of Christmases long, long ago come to mind. Putting up the traditional tree drags up dubious memories.   Have you ever had a mother instruct you on “exactly” how to put old-fashioned tinsel on the Christmas tree? With mom’s German engineering skills we were admonished to hang one, and only one piece on at a time and it had to dangle down not touching any other braches. There were many “do-overs” when not meeting these expectations.  By the time the “tinsel drill” was over, I was ready to throw the whole box and the tree and call it “close enough”! So much for losing the spirit of the season! Perfection, I think we’ve all had some sort of “perfection” drilled into us somewhere along the line. If not the Christmas tree, there were demanding teachers, exacting parents, or imposing church rules careful not to deviate from. Especially during these busy days we need to remember the admonition that life is not about the destination, but “The Journey”.  We get so caught up in preparing the perfect dinner, purchasing the perfect gift, and displaying the perfect family, that we are swept through this wonderful holiday season just going through the motions, seeking the impossible ideal of perfection.  Like the rude guest at a cocktail party, who talks with us while all the time being distracted while watching for someone more interesting to move on to meet, we often look right over the present moment right in front of us. We are seeking to create the perfect holiday while the numerous blessings are right... read more

Christmas Reminder!

As this wonderful season begins to unfold, I bring you a spiritual reminder. Yesterday is history.   Tomorrow a mystery.      Today is a gift.    That’s why we call it the present!     Just a four short weeks from now we will be taking down the tree, packing up the ornaments, cleaning up the mess and look at a stack of “to do’s” that have been set aside for the holiday season. We will be wondering what all the hustle and bustle of shopping, cooking and dressing up was for? How will we feel in Dec. 26tH? How we feel that day hinges on how we remember what all the shopping, cooking and decorations are all about NOW. All of these preparations are about building community! All the work of Christmas is about renewing the bonds that bind us to one another and to the Lord. If we remember that we will know inside how to handle “The Present” these next few weeks. The gifts we buy will make sense in the larger scheme of things. How we decide to spend the days and how we decide not spend them will make sense. Our hosting of get-togethers and the way we are guests– reaching out and pulling everyone inside the circle of our care and concern. All will make sense if only we remember “why”. The calm we keep at our center during these busy days will tell all who see us that we know what “Our Present” is about, that we know what matters and what does not. And because of that, we ourselves will be a... read more

Who Needs Black Friday?

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving devoted to sales, brings out the crazy drive to “get the best deal”. Saving money and securing the best price, often comes with strings – beating out your neighbor, getting up at dawn and grabbing at a limited supply. Granted everyone wants a “deal”, but who really needs it? Especially remembering that the best things in life are free! This time of the year, with Thanksgiving as the kickoff is the perfect time to celebrate God’s love for us – the best deal of our lives. We don’t need Black Friday to get in on this special offer. All we have to do us to be ourselves, living as beloved children of God. God’s love for each of us is abundant and not anything like the Black Friday Sales. In God’s Promotional Program: There is no time limit– this is not a one-day shot of love. The offer stands throughout our lifetime. You can ALWAYS count on God’s love to be there. There is not a limited supply of product. There is plenty of love and abundance for all. God will not run out of love, caring or compassion. This offer of unconditional love is open to all– you do not have to “earn” the deal. God does not give a day of his love for a day of our good behavior. God’s love is there in spite of our behavior. What better deal could there be? “Give thanks to God – He is good and his love never quits.”   (1 Chronicles... read more

Make Everyday Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the quiet holiday. It sneaks up on us after Halloween as we are distracted by the Christmas decorations.  It’s a day set aside without the fanfare of lights, gifts, parties and other distractions. This holiday is totally devoted to one of the most powerful practices that can heal, energize and change lives. We read that maybe we cannot change our circumstances but we can control our attitude toward them. And gratitude is that lynchpin that allows us that turnabout. Physically – Gratitude is related to 23% lower levels of stress hormones (cortisol). Gratitude is related to a 10% improvement in sleep quality in patients with chronic pain and 19% lower depression levels. Gratitude empowers us to take charge of our emotional lives, and as a consequence, our bodies reap the benefit. Emotionally – Gratitude will increase self-esteem, strengthen will power, enhance our relationships, deepen our relationship with our Creator, awaken creativity, and improve our abilities both mentally and physically. The one trait that can multiply goodness in ourselves and in the world is gratitude, energizing all aspects of our lives. So why do we celebrate this potent holiday only once a year? Make gratitude a “habit”… Count your blessings instead of sheep at bedtime.  If you like to write – start a gratitude journal. Decorate a vase and each day write down a blessing adding it to the collection of blessings in the vase. Celebrate by reading them every Thanksgiving. Whatever and however you can develop the mindset of thanksgiving and gratitude it is well worth it. “Great things happen to those who don’t stop believing, trying,... read more

What Gets More Valuable With Age?

What, besides wine, gets better and more valuable with age? In an article by Jess Catcher the author lists 11 other interesting things that get better with age: whiskey, jeans, cheddar cheese, cast iron skillets, beef, balsamic vinegar, fine leather, pickles, flannel sheets, and seedlings. (Thumbnail Source: Pinterest). Agree? Anything else that you might add? Returning from a girls’ trip to Tucson with 4 of my dear high school classmates to celebrate a birthday, I’m reminded of just how precious life is. After spending 3 fun-filled days with them, I would highlight two additional things that become more valuable as we age: time and friendship! (Maybe the author, almost 30, has not lived long enough to value these other two.) Studies have shown that our happiness is in direct correlation with our social interactions.  Social interactions are paramount because friendships can add years to our lives and life to our years by creating meaningful connections. A good friend can help us make it though this life by acting as a sounding board, solving problems dealing with loss, disappointment, doubt, confusion, parenting issues and divorce..all  helping with depression. A friend’s honesty can be priceless, helping us see clearly.  Friends can be role models uplifting us to be our best selves. Through a sense of sharing and belonging our happiness soars. Our self-esteem grows. These  “friendship boots” are very difficult to fill, making friendship so precious and valuable, especially as the years tick away. True friendships are rock solid, forever firm. Time on the other hand is fleeting…If we waste it, we will never get it back. The old saying is true:... read more

Spurred On By ZD Wine

Recently I attended a wine dinner celebrating the 50thanniversary of the ZD winery in Napa Valley. The owner explained how his father began making wines while working in the aerospace industry in 1968.  In naming his newly found winery, he lifted the name, “ZD”, off the walls from his past employer, standing for Zero Defects. ZD – Zero Defects, a perfect call to excellence for all of us to remember. Can anything really be perfect? Well it is! Can we live in this conundrum with ironies surrounding us? All of creation is bursting with the Creator’s love. It’s up to us to discover how this “perfect” is in all the “imperfection” that we see. Even if you just look at the letters of the word, “imperfection”, you will find the word, “perfect”. The smaller word is tucked, almost hidden, in all the rest of the letters. How can we find this “perfect” with all the suffering, injustices and misery in the world? How can we find that kernel of perfect order in the midst of the chaos surrounding us? We need an attitude adjustment donning our faith colored glasses, knowing that everything works out for the best in God’s Big Picture. We may not understand it at the time. Maybe looking back in hindsight may help, but other times, may not. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We are “chips off the old block”, working our way back home. Listen to your heart whispering, “There’s more than you can see right now, much, much more on the other side of the wall. You are not made... read more

Life’s Seasons

Recently Sears and Roebuck, famous for their coveted catalog and mail order business, closed its doors. Once known for being so big that the employees filling orders had to use roller skates in order to work in a timely manner! Similarly, singing the same sad song, the beautiful historic Montgomery Ward building on the Chicago River, now serves as the corporate headquarters for Groupon. Both of these landmark businesses have had their “season”. The extensive use of Amazon has shifted our way of shopping. Shopping trends, businesses and life styles come and go. And so do our lives. Seasons come and go as we cycle through our years of life! We need to live knowing that life is a participation in the Divine Cycle. The Bible, the book of Ecclesiastes, tells us that there is a season for everything. “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.” As we go through our daily lives, moving so quickly through the times of our lives, we sometimes miss the blessing that each cycle brings to us. We need to retrain ourselves learning to rejoice in the present, no matter how difficult: There is a time to soar and a time to grieve. There is a time to laugh and a time to cry. There is a time to ride the wave and a time to hang on for dear life. There is a time for work and there is a time to relax. There is a time for closeness and a time for separation. There’s a time... read more

Want a Do-Over?

Alabama native, Philip Rivers, quarterback of the San Diego’s Chargers, is a devout Catholic, a husband and father of seven. (Even though the team is now in Los Angeles, they will forever be the San Diego Chargers to me). At the North Carolina State University graduation last May, while delivering the commencement address, Rivers shared a Latin phrase that is very special to him. (Probably from his days as an altar boy!) “Nunc Coepi” translated “Now I begin”. While known for his passing bombs through the air, Rivers reminds us of how this phrase is applicable to everything in our lives. It seems like we are always beginning anew – In our relationships with others, building trust, compassion, acceptance and patience. In our professions, beginning a new assignment, taking on new responsibilities, In in our spiritual development, initiating certain practices strengthening our relationship with God. And in our habits, trying to become the best versions of ourselves. Whether you throw an interception, score a touchdown, make an error or earn success – you are always beginning anew. Nunc Coepi. These beginnings are ongoing. You begin again, and again and again. You never give up. Nunc Coepi. God does not expect us to be perfect. We make mistakes. We learn. We take a tiny step at a time – no huge leaps. Not an exciting process to watch; oftentimes weary. We learn resilience like the inflatable children’s toy that is designed when knocked down to spring right back up. It’s the ability to recover from difficulties. Similar to elasticity, resilience is the quality of being able to bend but not break. We... read more

Don’t Resist What Is!

We start out in life with high hopes, even higher expectations, and the knowledge that everything in life will go as planned. We make decisions based on our hopes and dreams around our lifetime goals – schools, spouses, employment, and retirement.   But somehow life has a way of dashing our game plan. Education may not be what we thought it would be. Marriages, fail. Jobs come and go. And retirement somehow wasn’t the cruise we signed up for…but it IS the ship we’re on! Don’t let disappointments pollute your mind. We must be aware that our outside circumstances have nothing to do with our inside happiness – what really matters. Our happiness is not a goal, attained once and for all. Happiness is finding that joy in the present situation on our journey to fulfillment. There is no one way to happiness. Sometimes we put off happiness until…until we are out of school, until we are married, until we have children, until the children leave, until the divorce is final, until you pay off the house, until you get a promotion, until you retire… Alfred D. Souza put it in perspective, “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” These situations, for better or worse, are the building blocks of our lives. And as... read more