Category Archives: Inspiration

2015 One Word – Create

New Year
Rather than resolutions I usually pick one word or one short phrase for the new year.

I focus on that word or phrase throughout the new year.

It serves as a theme for me to live into – and guides and inspires me throughout the year.

My word for 2014 was “connect” and it was a great theme that served me well!

In 2014 I started a private Facebook group for moms of lgbt youth, I enjoyed meeting up with some wonderful women at gatherings in Austin and Palm Springs this past year and continued to connect with some local groups of women that I meet with monthly for great conversations and fun! I made some new friendships and deepened existing friendships. One of the synchroblog themes (that I manage with three other wonderful people I am connected with) was “Connection” and I wrote about Human Connection and The Power of Empathy which was inspired by Brene’ Brown who served as the inspiration for my decision to choose the word “connect” as my 2014 One Word.

For 2015 I have chosen the word “create” and look forward to seeing how it manifests in my life.

Are you choosing one word for 2015? If so, what word will guide and inspire you this year?

Human Connection and the Power of Empathy

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This post is part of the August synchroblog and the theme is “connection”.

When I think about connection I am reminded that significant, deep, meaningful connection with others is what I want most out of life. I think it is what most people desire. And yet there are times when we find the pursuit of connection daunting.

Brene’ Brown, who researches, writes, teaches and speaks on a range of topics, including connection, vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame says,

“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives,”

She goes on to define connection as:

“the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

In her books, Brown develops the idea that creating the kind of life giving connection that we are wired for requires empathy and then she drops this on us:

“we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.”

Boom! There’s the problem, isn’t it!?

In order to experience the kind of connection that we long for we are going to have to put ourselves out there. We are going to have to be vulnerable and take some risks. We are going to have to share our own fears and failings and fragilities.

And we can’t substitute sympathy for empathy. Sympathy isn’t a bad thing – it just doesn’t lead to the deep, meaningful connections we long for – for that we are going to need to “feel with people”.

Here’s the difference in sympathy and empathy:

Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others. It goes beyond sympathy, which is a feeling of care and understanding for the suffering of others. 

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges, created a great animated short that uses Brene’ Brown’s commentary about empathy and how it leads to connection:

If we can learn to be vulnerable enough to risk practicing empathy we open up the potential to experience the kind of life giving, whole hearted, healing connection we long for.

Empathy is connection!

Be sure and check out these other posts for this month’s synchroblog:

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Sara Quezada – Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer – Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Wesley Rostoll – Finding Jesus In Different Places
Doreen A Mannion – A bunny, a fawn and some geese walk into a bar …
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy
Loveday Anyim – Why Get Connected to God when He can’t be there for Me?

Quotes Worth Repeating – The Guru’s Cat

10257039_10204059223820221_7035561874645616129_n (1)The story of the Guru’s cat by Anthony de Mello is worth repeating:

When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshipers. So he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.

After the guru died the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat died, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.

Centuries later learned treatises were written by the guru’s disciples on the religious and liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.   – Anthony de Mello

You can find this story and many more in Anthony de Mello’s book The Song of the Bird

New Life, Empowerment and Dropping Keys

This post if part of the March synchroblog. This month’s synchroblog theme is New Life. I’m late to the party – the March synchroblog actually happened last Wednesday but my youngest son was home from college during his spring break and I was busy enjoying my time with him.

 

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Dropping Keys by Hafiz

The small man
Builds cages for everyone
He
Knows.
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the
Beautiful
Rowdy
Prisoners.

 

My one word theme for 2014 is “empowerment” and the idea isn’t primarily about my own empowerment but the idea of helping to empower others. It’s so easy to spend our energy keeping others small and caged so we can feel more comfortable; but I believe cages stifle creativity and ingenuity and end up robbing our world of ideas and innovations that need to be born in order for us to continue to progress and move forward. So, I’m trying to focus on being the sage who is dropping keys for the beautiful, rowdy prisoners locked up in cages rather than the small woman who is building those cages.

I see dropping keys as helping others consider possibilities that may have previously seemed out of reach, by connecting people to others and to resources that might be helpful, by taking the time to build up others who are life-givers, by spreading stories that seem to be changing the world into a better place, by encouraging those who still have work to do but might be tired or afraid or discouraged, by being willing to share my own “know how” about anything I do well with anyone who wants or needs it.

My hope is that by dropping keys someone will experience new life and in turn become a life-giver.

The inspiration came from the beautiful poem “Dropping Keys” written by Hafiz, a poet from the 14th century along with this thought from Chris Guillebeau:

“Think about the times when someone has really helped you think or live differently. It was like they placed a key on the ground in front of you; you picked it up and unlocked a cage. You had to open the cage yourself, of course, but it was a lot easier with a key.”

What keys do you hold that could set someone free and give them new life?

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I hope you will check out the other posts about New Life:

Michael Donahoe – New Life
K.W. Leslie – Sin Kills; God Brings New Life
Carol Kuniholm – New Life. Mystery Fruit.
Jeremy Myers – I Get Depressed On Facebook
Glenn Hager – A Personal Resurrection Story
Loveday Anyim – Spring Forth – Ideas That Speak New Life
Loveday Anyim – Inspired By Spring To Create A New Life
Sarah Quezada – Post Winter Delight
Edwin Aldrich – Finding New Life In Our New Home
Doreen A. Mannion – Each Day A New Decision: Choose Life
kathy escobar – new life through nonviolent communication
Anita Coleman New Life, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Eternal Living
Sonja Andrews Persephone
Mallory Pickering New Life Masterpiece Theater Style
Liz Dyer New Life, Empowerment and Dropping Keys

Quotes Worth Repeating: Be Faithful By Being Yourself

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“I thought that being faithful was about becoming someone other than who I was … and it was not until this project failed that I began to wonder if my human wholeness might be more useful to God than my exhausting goodness.” – Barbara Brown Taylor in “Leaving Church” 

Changing Hearts Rather Than Minds

This post is part of the August 2013 Synchroblog – Parables: Small Stories, Big Ideas

“Religious writing is usually designed to make the truth of faith clear, concise, and palatable. Parables subvert this approach. In the parable, truth is not expressed via some dusty theological discourse that seeks to educate us, but rather it arises as a lyrical dis-course that would inspire and transform us. In light of this, parables do not seek to change our minds but rather to change our hearts.”  Peter Rollins in The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales 

I love the way a good parable surprises us and turns our thinking upside down.  Many good parables take a well-known story or situation and give it a twist here and a tweak there in order to cause the audience to think about something from a different perspective.  Jesus was a master at crafting and telling a good parable.

But I notice that Jesus parables don’t always seem to have the impact that they should have on me and I think that is because they have become too familiar.  Which is why I think I got such a kick out of the collection of parables that Peter Rollins wrote a few years ago.

If you haven’t read Rollins’ collection of parables you should pick up his book The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales.  I think the 33 parables in his book might end up pushing you around a bit and that’s what a good parable should do.

Here’s one of the parables from the book to whet your appetite:

You sit in silence contemplating what has just taken place. Only moments ago you were alive and well, relaxing at home with friends. Then there was a deep, crushing pain in your chest that brought you crashing to the floor. The pain has now gone, but you are no longer in your home. Instead, you find yourself standing on the other side of death waiting to stand before the judgment seat and discover where you will spend eternity. As you reflect upon your life your name is called, and you are led down a long corridor into a majestic sanctuary with a throne located in its center. Sitting on this throne is a huge, breathtaking being who looks up at you and begins to speak.

“My name is Lucifer, and I am the angel of light.”

You are immediately filled with fear and trembling as you realize that you are face to face with the enemy of all that is true and good. Then the angel continues: “I have cast God down from his throne and banished Christ to the realm of eternal death. It is I who hold the keys to the kingdom. It is I who am the gatekeeper of paradise, and it is for me alone to decide who shall enter eternal joy and who shall be forsaken.”

After saying these words, he sits up and stretches out his vast arms. “In my right hand I hold eternal life and in my left hand eternal death. Those who would bow down and acknowledge me as their god shall pass through the gates of paradise and experience an eternity of bliss, but all those who refuse will be vanquished to the second death with their Christ.”

After a long pause he bends toward you and speaks, “Which will you choose?”

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Be sure and check out the other contributions to this month’s synchroblog:

Jesus’ Parables are Confusing? Good! – Jeremy Myers

Parabolic Living – Tim Nichols

Seed Parables:Sowing Seeds of the Kingdom – Carol Kunihol

Parables – Be Like the Ant or the Grasshopper – Paul Meier

The Parables of Jesus: Not Like Today’s Sermons – Jessica

Penelope and the Crutch – Glenn Hager

Parables and the Insult of Grace – Rachel

Changing Hearts Rather Than Minds – Liz Dyer

Young Son, Old Son, a Father on the Run – Jerry Wirtley

I Wonder What Would Happen

(The above video features the song Brave by Sara Bareilles)

This post is a contribution to the June Synchroblog: Ordinary Courage in which bloggers are invited to share their thoughts and stories about ordinary courage.

“Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.” –  Brené Brown

For the record, I am a huge fan of Brené Brown.  I could spend my whole post telling you about her, her great Ted talks, her great books, her great ideas but instead I will just confess that everything in this post is inspired by her.  AND I encourage you to check her out if you haven’t already done so by clicking on some links in this paragraph.

In her new book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brené harkened back to a speech that Teddy Roosevelt gave in 1910. In it, Roosevelt said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

I absolutely love that quote and I find it very inspirational but to be honest, I  have a hard time thinking of myself as brave or courageous.  The truth is I have a lot of fears.  Sickness, unemployment, accidents, violence, financial woes, rejection, failure, aging, not fitting in, being misunderstood and more that I am sure I will think of later.  Not only do I have these fears, I am even afraid to talk about the fears that I have.  But I’m finding out that being afraid does not disqualify one from being brave or courageous.  The crazy and wonderful thing is I might have fears but I can still be brave.  I can still walk into the arena, I can still take the chance of getting marred, of falling down or coming up short.  I might be afraid, I might even fail, but I can be brave, I can dare greatly.  What a revelation!  I don’t have to wait until I am no longer afraid before I get in the arena.

One thing that helps me go ahead even when I am afraid is playing the “I Wonder What Would Happen” scenario out in my head.

I wonder what would happen if I stay silent, I wonder what would happen if I speak up, I wonder what would happen if I make the first move, I wonder what would happen if I wait on someone else to make the first move, I wonder what would happen if I actually think about my fears, I wonder what would happen if I try to ignore and suppress my fears, I wonder what would happen if I try now, I wonder what would happen if I wait until I’m “better” “smarter” “have more experience” “older” “less busy” before I try.

You get the idea.  I try to imagine the worst, the best, the possible, the probable.  But I don’t just imagine it.  I find someone to talk it out with.  Not just anyone, but someone who I can trust to be honest but gentle with me, someone who really cares about me and knows me as a whole person, someone who I believe wants and celebrates good things for me.  It really does help me live beyond my fears.

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Sometimes that means being kinder and gentler with myself, sometimes it means pushing myself to do something that makes my heart beat too fast, sometimes it means coming along side someone else who is struggling or experiencing failure and reminding them how brave they were for even trying.  Sometimes it means doing something that I might fail at or asking for what I need when I don’t like to be the one who is needing.  

There are days when I think, “to heck with it! What’s so important about being brave and courageous?”

And then I remember that I want to be brave and courageous because I like being and feeling alive.  I want to get into the arena because if I try to avoid all possible pain I will also most likely be avoiding the possibility of joy and happiness.  I want to show up and try because I want to make a difference in my little part of the world, in my community, in my workplace, in my family.  I want to take a chance because I only have one life to spend and I want to spend it.

Sometimes my acts of bravery are nothing more than me getting the courage to do something new like snorkel in the ocean for the first time.  Boy, am I glad I showed up for that one. Talking about feeling alive and experiencing joy and happiness.

Sometimes my acts of bravery are trying something like blogging without worrying what others will think about me and my posts and ideas; and simply doing it because of the pleasure and healing and insight it brings to my own life.

Sometimes my acts of bravery are more about others such as when I stopped being silent about my support for lgbtq people, same sex marriage and complete equality, and sharing my new and revised understanding of what scripture has to say on the subject.

Sometimes my acts of bravery are healing like when I share my own failures and fears out loud.  They are healing to me because in sharing them they shrink in size and power and at the same time they are healing to others because as they encourage me they encourage their own self to know: they aren’t alone, their story hasn’t ended yet, they too can get back up again.

I think we all have something that keeps us from being brave and the most logical one to think of is fear but I’ve been discovering another obstacle to me being brave that may even be bigger than my fears and that is perfectionism.

Yes, I am a perfectionist.  I’d like to say a recovering perfectionist but most of the time that wouldn’t be true.  At the same time I am trying to keep the perfectionism subdued these days and sometimes I am winning the struggle.

I no longer take days to write a short post for my blog.  I don’t wait for others to make the first move.  I’m letting go of the idea of “the perfect holiday” “the perfect mother” “the perfect wife” “the perfect marriage” “the perfect anything”.  I’m finding some humor and even goodness in my imperfections.  I’m finally beginning to enjoy my humanity.  I’m starting to like “me”.

But mostly, I am finding that the best antidote to perfectionism is finally believing that I (me! – not me the mother, or me the wife, or me the good writer or idea person or wise thinker, or me the best friend, or me the employee who is always on time or a great team player or the one with the best attitude – just me) am worthy of love and acceptance!!!  My worthiness is not attached to how good I am at doing something, or to how good I look, or how much I succeed.  My worthiness just “is”.

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Sure I have trouble believing it some days but some days I do believe it and some days I don’t even have to try and believe it … I just do.

When I am not so caught up in being perfect I can more easily show up and be me and I am discovering that I am better at being me than most other things!

I wonder what would happen if we all tried really hard to just be ourself?

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——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-Here is the list of all the contributions to this month’s synchroblog.  I hope you will take the time to read these great thoughts and stories on Ordinary Courage:

This Is Courage by Jen Bradbury

Being Vulnerable by Phil Lancaster

Everyday Bravery: Overcoming the Fear of Being Wrong by Jessica

Moving Forward Takes Courage by Paul W. Meier

How to Become a Flasher by Glenn Hager

Ordinary Courage by Elaine Hansen

Courage, Hope, Generosity by Carol Kuniholm

The Courage to Fail by Wendy McCaig

The Greatest Act of Courage by Jeremy Myers

Sharing One’s Heart by K. W. Leslie

All I See Is Rocks by Tim Nichols

I Wonder What Would Happen by Liz Dyer

What is Ordinary Courage? by Jennifer Stahl

Loving Courageously by Doreen A. Mannion

Heart Cry: The Courage to Confess by Elizabeth Chapin

The Act to the Miraculous by VisionHub

the spiritual practice of showing up & telling the truth by Kathy Escobar

It’s What We Teach by Margaret Boelman

PS I chose the video above because it featured Sara Bareilles’ song Brave and I thought it fit this theme so well.  Be sure and check it out.   Here are the lyrics:

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you

The Best Religion

This month’s synchroblog asks the question: if you were to change to another religion, what religion would you choose and why?

 

There is a story that has been circulated online about a conversation that took place at an interfaith conference between the Dalai Lama and the Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff.*

When recalling the conversation, Leonardo Boff confesses he thought the Dalai Lama would defend oriental religions as being the best, but instead, His Holiness answered, “the best religion is the one that gets you closer to God and makes you a better person.” 

Expanding on that, he went on to say, “whatever makes you more compassionate, more sensible, more responsible.  The religion that will do that for you is the best religion, for you.” 

Clearly inspired by where his thoughts were leading, His Holiness added, “I am not interested, my friend, in your religion, or if you are religious or not. What is important to me is your behavior with your peers, family, work, community and in front of the world.” 

I am a Christian and have been all of my life.  I was born into a Christian family, as a young girl I chose to be a Christian and many times throughout my life I have chosen to remain a Christian.  However, my idea of what it means to be a Christian has changed so dramatically over the last decade that it sometimes feels like I have completely changed religions.

I have changed enough that some Christians have even questioned if I still have the right to call myself a Christian.

To them I would say, “the best Christianity is the one that gets you closer to God and makes you a better person.”

I might even add, “whatever makes you more compassionate, more sensible, more loving, more responsible … that’s the kind of Christianity one should pursue.  You should not be so concerned with what I believe as how I behave … with my peers, my family and friends, at work, in my community and in front of the world.”

Just as some have reasons to choose a new religion I have reasons to remain a Christian and yet, that doesn’t mean that I am not changing my religion.

I hope I continue to change my religion as I grow and learn more about what it means to be the best kind of Christian – the kind that moves me closer to God and makes me a better person.

*I could not verify that the story is true, however, the ideas presented seem to be harmonious to the Dalai Lama’s philosophy and the teachings of Buddhism.

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Here are links to all the contributions for this month’s synchroblog: