Feed Your Soul

How do you feed your soul? What gives you life instead of sucking life out of you? Just like you need food and sleep to be healthy, so you need to feed your soul! I enjoy quite Sunday mornings, time with friends, audio books, time in nature, and of course, music. I especially like to play my, “soul food” play list on Sundays and other times when I need to block out the world, quiet my soul, and focus spiritually. It’s a collection of music that touches my soul and encourages me. I love to take my dogs for hikes in the mountains, (though that doesn’t happen enough). I enjoy a cold beverage or two with close friends. I read books that are deep and shake me out of my little boxes. I take time each morning to nurture a devotional life. I sit, drink coffee, read and pray. It’s an awesome way to begin the day. What gives you life? What feeds your soul? Sometimes we are so focused on meeting others’ expectations, living up to obligations, and caring for others, that we fail to feed and care for ourselves. It is only by being healthy and well fed that you can truly give yourself to others. Think about what gives you life. Then schedule some time to it this week. Don’t give in to the, “I don’t have time,” argument. You can’t afford not to.   Photo by Solenberg; retrieved from...

Seek and Serve

I recently had a brush with my own mortality. I wasn’t aware of it, but I was told the surgery was just in time. Since then, I have been flooded with prayers and well wishes from literally hundreds of friends and acquaintances. It’s been overwhelming. And I’m grateful.

Never Enough

We’re never satisfied. Enough is never enough. Life seems to be a constant chase for filling what can never be filled. For some it’s food. For others it’s shopping, sex, drinking, being with people, working, or collecting. We never quite reach what we’re striving for. Seriously, how many pink shirts do you need in your closet? The Germans have a great word for this while English does not. Sehnsucht, is what we might describe as “addictive yearning.” Read on; this article isn’t what you think. The renowned 17th-century philosopher, inventor physicist and mathematician, Blaise Pascal is said to have written: “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man that cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God.” However, it seems that what he actually wrote in his Pensées (Thoughts) was more like the following: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself” This unfulfilled longing can lead us to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Franciscan Priest, Richard Rohr calls them addictions: “Addiction uses up our spiritual desire—the drive God put in us for total satisfaction, for home, for heaven, for divine union.” Many religious people view the “questing” part of our personalities as something God installed to drive us to him. HOWEVER, not everyone sees this unmet, addictive yearning as of God. Northern Irish philosopher...

How Do You Take Your Scriptures?

Varied interpretations of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian scriptures have been the center of controversy for centuries. Sunni and Shiite Muslims view the Qur’an very differently and defend their positions to the death (the cause of much us-vs- them hatred). In Jesus’ day, Pharisees and Sadducees rarely saw eye to eye. The sheer number of Christian denominations shows how people interpret passages differently. So how do you take YOUR scriptures? As a communication teacher, I know everyone interprets every situation through their own lens of personality, experience, culture and other variables. As a Christ follower, I understand people view passages differently. They even view the bible itself through different philosophical and cultural lenses. I know people who think that every time they open the bible, God directly talks to them in that moment. Instead of learning from the stories and trying to glean the principles, they over-personalize every passage to be some narcosistic work of God for them in that moment. As biblical professor emeritus Dr. Gordon Fee used to say, “It cannot say what it did not say.” In other words, you have to consider the original audience and intent of the author when reading the bible (or any text). I think a balanced perspective is well articulated in the following passage from a little book called, Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God by Bryan Berghoef: “The Bible—or we might say, each book within the Bible—was written by a particular community of faith, for a particular community of faith. It was written in history, by human beings, each and every one of whom had their own agenda, bias, and perspective. Does that mean it is not from God? Not at all. But it does mean that its message is not always going to be clear, unified, and simple. There are texts that don’t just appear contradictory—they are contradictory! For those with a simplistic view of the Bible, this is a problem (that some go to great lengths to explain away). But for those who see the Bible as voicing the experiences of people who have encountered God throughout history in a diversity of ways and over hundreds and thousands of years, it should be expected. “The reality is, I love the Bible—it’s my favorite book in the whole world—and I think it has impacted our world more than any other book, and I think it continues to speak powerfully today. And if it is such an important book, an avenue through which we access the divine, then we ought to take it that seriously. Taking it seriously does not mean we just simply say, ‘There it is—God’s Word! If it says, ‘Jump!’ we’ll jump.” That might appear on the surface to be taking it seriously, but it is also a bit naïve (taking it literally is not the only way to take it seriously). “It is actually more respectful to the Bible to care it about it so much that you are willing to take it on its own terms, as an ancient text, as something that was written in a particular historical setting, in a particular language and in a specific context.” Pub Theology is available from Barnes and Noble and other...

World Beat

There is a rhythm to the universe. Sometimes we humans connect to it. Sometimes we don’t. Here is a great example of everything in...

Contemplative Doodling...

What tools do you use to focus your mind and overcome adversities? Do you walk, pray, listen to music? Below is a guest article by my friend Shini Abraham. Shini has medical conditions that cause her to be in pain all the time. She has discovered that doodling is therapeutic and deeply spiritual; others are finding it helpful for their own...

You Are Contagious

Most of the world has an identity that is tied to their group. Africans, Asians, Latinos and Middle Easterners have a sense of connection; they know they need each other, so effort is put to the common good. However, those of European descent tend to have a very individualistic view of life. Self-identity tends to be self-contained; we like our independence. Science is beginning to back up the non-Western view of life, that we are all connected in ways that we are only beginning to understand. I recently watched the documentary, I AM, that journals Tom Shadyac’s search for meaning. He is a successful filmmaker whose credits include Bruce Almighty, The Nutty Professor and Ace Ventura. After a head trauma that limited his his life, Shadyac set out to find true significance. In searching for what’s wrong with the world, he actually discovered much of what’s right. His film contains interviews with remarkable men and women who work in science, philosophy and faith (including Bishop Desmond Tutu). One unlikely finding is the extent to which we’re all connected. Really. You may think you’re an island, but you’re not. You are connected to other people, atoms, plants, people, and even yogurt. Yes, he showed one experiment that registered the effects of his thoughts and emotions on YOGURT! The thumbprint of a common designer is on everything in our world. And it seems to be our heart that drives us, not our brains. Did you know you have heart intelligence? Shadyac learned that cooperation, not competition, is in our DNA. And the world operates better when cooperation is in full-blown action. The film’s website says, “I AM shows consensus decision-making is the norm amongst many species, from insects and birds to deer and primates.  The film...

Spiritual Adjustment

Self-reflection penitence are long-standing traditions in many faiths and cultures. There seems to be a common understanding that human beings are flawed and need periodic adjustments to live good and faithful lives. This week marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Lent includes the 47 days leading up to Easter, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ. It is actually 40 days plus seven Sundays. (Remember that 40 is the number of days Jesus fasted and spent time in the dessert seeking God.) Other faiths have similar traditions. Muslims celebrate Ramadan, a month of fasting, charitable giving and prayer in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It is also during this time that many make their pilgrimage to Mecca to participate in the Hajj, a trip every Muslim must make at least once during their lifetime. During the Hajj, Muslims engage in purification and unity. The Arabic word Tawbah literally means, “turning around.” In addition to celebrating Passover, Jews participate in the Days of Awe, ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This is a time for serious reflection, a chance to consider the previous year, and to repent. The Scriptures (what Christians call the Old Testament) concept of repentance means to literally a 180-degree turn towards God. According to the website, Judaism 101, “Among the customs of this time, it is common to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the course of the year. The Talmud maintains that Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible.”* During Lent, many people (especially Catholics) give up something they enjoy, like sugar, alcohol or movies. These are types of fasts. Lent is not a time to prove to God that you love Him (or manipulate Him to love you–because She/He already does), rather it’s a time to reflect, search your soul, and make amends. If fasting is something that is meaningful to you, then do it. But more important is to reflect, pray, and perhaps engage in rituals (such as Lenten services). It might be a good time to go on a spiritual retreat. Take time. Find a resource that will be helpful for reflection and meditation. It’s good to take time to reconnect with your spiritual center, reflect on the past and renew your soul.   * http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday3.htm Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostration...

Jesus By GPS

The Christmas story includes the tale of wise men who took cues from the stars and went seeking for the Christchild. Here is a short animation made by some friends of mine that tells the Christmas story with a cute and modern twist.

Stop The World

When life gets really crazy I’ve been known to say “Stop the world, I want to get off!” But it seems the spin just keeps going. How can we take the time to slow things down and get ourselves “centered” so that we can respond with grace and wisdom rather than reacting to each circumstance? I’ve been practicing a simple discipline called centering prayer or mindfulness meditation. This is an ancient practice used by the mystics and others perhaps growing out of an ancient challenge to, “Be still and know that I am God.” The goal is to ‘still’ our over active mind and emotions, to step off the spinning merry-go-round for a few minutes a day and simply BE.  Sounds peaceful, doesn’t it? There are many techniques used to help stop the spin. The most common is to sit quietly and comfortably and draw all you attention to your breath, breathing in and out in a slow measured pace. I add a simple ‘breath prayer’ or mantra that fits well with one cycle of breathing. Some advocate using something that does not carry deep meaning because our mind will start thinking about the meaning instead of being still, so “ooommm” is often used.  I have chosen “Grace” for my intake breath and “Peace” for my breath out. On a recent episode of his television show, Dr Phil told a guest that if you are feeling anxious, simply taking a few minutes to measure your breaths equally in and out, will calm anxiety. From there (as a beginner to this process) I imagine myself sitting in my happy place, a place of peace and quiet. I try to be fully present in my body. Inevitably my mind wonders to the cares of the day...