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Posts from the ‘Faith’ Category

Claim the Sky

“A free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wing in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky.” – Maya Angelou, Caged Bird

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” – Alice Walker

Church is not a place to go or not go once a week for an hour to check the attendance box and return to “normal” life. We are the church, not a building. Individually and collectively, we make up the church. What we believe in, what altars we kneel at, who we become if we dare to take the journey within and venture out.

We put ceilings up to limit God, circumstances, other people, self to be comfortable, safe and certain. We want to know the ending, but the ending is being written each new day in choices, thoughts, actions and inactions.

Our willingness to expand and open without fear of losing our sense of security and stability is the dance, the balance beam, the inflection point that pulls us into this moment, this day, aware of the mystery and entering it without full knowing but trusting it will unfold as it should.

“There is nothing but mystery in the world, how it hides behind the fabric of our poor, browbeat days, shining brightly, and we don’t even know it. — Sue Monk Kidd

Regret’s only purpose is to change our behavior and actions. Carrying it further slows and stalls the journey forward. When we stop circling the same mountains looking for new terrain, we can venture off trail cutting new paths to new mountains.

Life is a series of interwoven journeys, moments to savor and memories in the making. Be present, feel the ground under your feet, expand your lungs with a deep breath.  Grasp the immensity and breadth of all that is before you and most importantly in you.

Allow the mystery to unfold and be revealed in quiet reflection and inquiry. Feel the pull of gravity. Follow the compass of intuition. Trust the soul’s compass. Ask the questions. Listen for the answers. There is no ceiling, just sky. Claim the sky.

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” —Henry David Thoreau

No Ordinary Week

“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV

Palm Sunday, the beginning of the holiest week for Christians, for the world if the invitation is accepted. From Sunday shouts of “Hosanna!” entering Jerusalem to Friday’s “crucify Him!” on Calvary, God loved the world so much He sent his son to bear the cross, the weight of the world’s sins. Jesus not only spoke love, he lived it, proved it and is the model of it. When we are amidst our own struggles, carrying our own crosses, we think we are alone and no one knows. And we are wrong. Jesus does.

Love is the only thing that will save us and save the world. We’ve been given the model of love and this week is the culmination of it.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV

It bears repeating. It bears living it out. Love.

22 Years Ago

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.” – Pope Francis

“The days are long, but the years are short.”― Gretchen Rubin

22 years ago today on Wednesday, February 17th, 1999 I went to 7:00 am Ash Wednesday mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul. When I arrived to work, I had a voicemail from my doctor’s office. The Friday prior, I had a biopsy taken of a mole on my right arm, so I was assuming the results were in. On Friday, she said, “don’t worry, it’s probably nothing.” When I called back, the nurse said I made an appointment for you on Friday. “You have melanoma.” Cancer. Hard stop. I blew off the rest of the day – it took a cancer diagnosis to finally take a day off.

She said I was getting an in-office wide excision (cut it off, a few stitches, move on). When I arrived, the doctor said that there would be no in-office procedure but due to the size and speed of growth, he would need to do surgery to go deeper and check if it spread to the lymph nodes. Three weeks more. Super, more waiting. The only time that I cried during the entire experience was when I went out to the waiting room and told my family that I needed surgery and looked into my Dad’s eyes. He aged 10 years in an instant. Both of his parents died of cancer, so I knew where he went.

The day of the surgery, they put dye in my arm and took pictures for an hour to see if any lymph nodes “lit up.” Three buggers did so full surgery on the arm to dig deep in the mole area and underneath the arm to remove three lymph nodes. Happy ending – caught just in time, no spread, no chemo or radiation. Move on, check in annually every year for five years.

Transformative moments of diagnosis, loss, transition, change, detours and sharp turns demand a hard stop to reassess perspective and priorities, inventory how, who and what we spend our time on and if we are living with intent, purpose, from a place of deep gratitude. If we don’t stop, we miss the blessings, steeped in the burdens alone. We can also make hard stops without a diagnosis to ensure we are not straying off the gratitude trail. Pause each day to reflect, take inventory and stay awake to the gifts of ordinary miracles and blessings. When we pump the brakes, the hard stops are less hard.

22 years ago wasn’t the last hard stop, but it did ground me in gratitude and optimism, although I wander off regularly. 2020 wasn’t my “worst” year or will it be our last hard stop. If we allow, hard stops from difficulties can be wake up calls, so no year can ever be completely written off. Woven through burdens and struggles are blessings and light that become apparent with time and distance. Knowing that allows for joy to enter daily, no matter the circumstances.

Life is happening for us, not to us. 22 years ago, at the end of Lent, 40 days in the desert, I was cancer-free. The promise of spring was different that year and spring has come every year since without fail. It will continue to come at the end of each long winter without skipping its turn. Do not forego the time between ashes, cross and resurrection. Each day is holy, sacred time. From Ash Wednesday to Easter, walk the path, experience the depth of the journey, allow a peace that passes all understanding to enter and sit next to you, holding your hand. Never alone, from ashes to resurrection, winter to spring.

“Lent is a time of going very deeply into ourselves… What is it that stands between us and God? Between us and our brothers and sisters? Between us and life, the life of the Spirit? Whatever it is, let us relentlessly tear it out, without a moment’s hesitation.” – Catherine Doherty

Your Lion’s Suit

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin

“The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.” –  Thucydides

I stopped by to visit and drop off a few coloring books for Liam who was just getting up from a Sunday nap. He walked out in his lion suit, a costume sewed decades ago by my Aunt Terry for my niece Emily for Halloween.

A random day in February and it was lion suit day. I’ve written often in Cast-Light about my dogs, Liam, friends and family. All sources of inspiration and frustration (humans can do that), light and love. Who and what we surround ourselves with defines the quality of our life. As important, perhaps more so, is who and what we surround our self with inside of thoughts, mind and actions – the me in the we.

When we are our most authentic self, showing up in our own lion suit and not the one others think we should be wearing, we come home to joy, purpose, clarity and contentment.

Many will tell you what “suit” they expect you to wear.
Don’t listen.
Many will tell you that you don’t wear a lion suit that’s too small for you on a Sunday afternoon.
Don’t listen.
Many will tell you, do it my way, it’s better.
Don’t listen.

Wear your lion suit with joy, awe and wonder, entering your own space, completing your own assignment. When I drift and wander, listening to everything but my own voice, I find the courage of a lion again when I see Liam in his lion suit, unapologetic, filled with joy and coloring outside the lines.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” – Ephesians 6:11-18 NIV

The Gifts

Start your day slowly, quietly and with intent. Throughout the day, listen to your own voice, seek wisdom outside when thoughts constrict rather than expand your view. Poetry, music and art are balms to the soul, a lift to the spirit.

For the past six months, the most fruitful ritual that has become a nonnegotiable is the Insight Timer app. It is the best tool to guide me into quiet, contemplation and exploration. It has changed the quality of my days, especially as we move through one year of “pandemic living.”

Amy Bost Henegar has 4-6 minute prayers that are uplifting and grounding at the same time. In the one I chose today, she referenced a poem by Ann Weems that is worth sharing as we move closer to the other side of pandemic living into whatever may come next.

We are in transformational times, struggling in the dark cocoon and preparing for the promise of the butterfly, which never fails. Resilience, optimism and hope are the fuel to move through all difficulties in life. The pandemic wasn’t the first nor will it be the last chronic and comprehensive struggle we will experience. Misery, consternation and fear do not make transformational times pass more quickly, rather they only serve to steal our joy that’s available despite circumstances, other people and even a pandemic. Dare to find awe and open the gifts in both ordinary and extraordinary days.

The Gifts of the Magi, Ann Weems, Kneeling in Bethlehem

“O Lord, I’d like to go to the stable this night!
I’d run – even through the dark
To lay my gifts at your feet!
Lord, why couldn’t I have been there?
I needn’t have been a king – perhaps just a shepherd child
Or someone sent from the inn – To check on the progress of the birth…
Or are you waiting this night in other stables
For me – to bring my gift?
Are you waiting for me to run
Even through the dark and cold of the night?

God’s Handwriting

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible.” – Brene Brown

Listen up
You are enough
Right now, nowhere to go, nothing to do, no permission needed
You are beautiful inside and out

Look around
Take in the beauty of a sunrise, binding heaven to earth
Right now, nowhere to go, nothing to do, no permission needed
The sun remains in front and behind the clouds, unmoved

Head down
Root your feet in this place and time
Right now, nowhere to go, nothing to do, no permission needed
You are where you need to be so find the reason and let it unfold

Journey within
You are worthy
Right now, nowhere to go, nothing to do, no permission needed
You have arrived and will continue to unfold

Step back
Observe as a spectator and absorb only what is necessary to nurture, prune and prepare
Right now, nowhere to go, nothing to do, no permission needed
Seasons, rhythms, cycles promise full bloom, the transformation to butterfly

Enough, worthy and beautiful in this very moment
Return to yourself and allow God to do His work and you do your work
Right now, nowhere to go, nothing to do, no permission needed
God’s handwriting is within and all around. Let your story be completed by the author of life.

You are enough, worthy and beautiful.

“Acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness.” – Eckhart Tolle

Walls, Windows and Doors

“Depth must be hidden. Where? On the surface.” – Hugo von Hofmannsthal

“The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart.” – Julien Green

Teaching is the activity, learning the outcome, growth the reward. You cannot teach people who don’t want to learn, starting with, including and ending with you. Our futile efforts to change others, circumstances beyond our reach drains energy, shadows light and surrenders the joy of the journey.

If but only for a few minutes a day, lay down your expectations, assumptions and opinion long enough to examine them with sincerity. Determine what’s on you, on others and on no one. What’s fact or fiction? Internal or external? Road marker or roadblock? There are signs and wonders abound when we pause long enough to see what is already in front, within and surrounding us.

When observation and reflection do their job without assistance, create two piles. Rocks and flowers. Leave the rocks behind and pick up the flowers to move forward with ease. This is the lifelong process of becoming and unbecoming, planting and harvesting, learning and growth, caterpillar to butterfly ,a thousand deaths and two thousand rebirths.

Search for information, you get knowledge. Keep going, insight. Keep going, changed behavior. Keep going, invisible walls appear, crumble and transform to windows and doors. Go beyond information to knowledge to insight to action to transformation. It is on you and in you, hiding in plain sight the entire time.

It’s impossible to have four walls with no windows and doors and expect to thrive. To journey beyond survival, we need windows for light and fresh air and doors to cross thresholds to our ever becoming.

God’s not waiting on others to change or your circumstances to change. He’s waiting patiently and lovingly for you to change, unmoved by others or circumstances, from a place of abundance, not scarcity.

A hammer swing at a time, start breaking holes in the walls to create windows and doors. Let light and fresh air in to heal and restore. Enter wide open spaces, breath deeply, absorb and cast light.

“Surely there is grandeur in knowing that in the realm of thought, at least, you are without a chain; that you have the right to explore all heights and depth; that there are no walls nor fences, nor prohibited places, nor sacred corners in all the vast expanse of thought.” – Robert Green Ingersoll

Return to Center

“When you wake up each morning, you can choose to be happy or choose to be sad. Unless some terrible catastrophe has occurred the night before, it is pretty much up to you. Tomorrow morning, when the sun shines through your window, choose to make it a happy day.” – Lynda Resnick

“The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere.” – Empedocles

Honestly, the last few days have been a bit of a struggle culminating from at least a three week build up. The reasons don’t matter. How I respond does. Each of us can change our perspective. Rather than defaulting to the easy answer of things happening “to” us, we can transcend to see the whole picture and discover all that is happening “for” us. Blessings and meaning can always be found when we look for them.

The common thread of our discontent usually returns to other people and circumstances, not getting our way assuming our way is the right way. It may very well be, so keep going. Don’t let external forces knock you off your center of knowing, your intuition, your light. If it is you, face it, be honest and don’t react with the same behavior that has never served you well. As Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.”

Before reacting, pause and choose to respond with ease, positivity and kindness. I am in the middle of unfolding a lot right now so I am returning to center to mindfully respond rather than randomly react. When we get our equilibrium back, the thin crack of light bursts open for more light to shine to illuminate the path forward. As the sun greets the morning or bids adieu to rest at days end, center on the light.

Let bliss find you and embrace light, so you can release it again and again.

“Meditation is to dive all the way within, beyond thought, to the source of thought and pure consciousness. It enlarges the container, every time you transcend. When you come out, you come out refreshed, filled with energy and enthusiasm for life.” – David Lynch

Breathe

“Gratitude is not a limited resource, nor is it costly. It is abundant as air. We breathe it in but forget to exhale.” – Marshall Goldsmith

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius was the Roman Emperor during the Antinone plague which lasted 15 years, resulting in 5 million deaths, 1/3 of the population lost. During this time, his journal turned into the classic Meditations, which can inform and guide us especially now. In our most challenging times, we must choose to keep going in the darkness and to never let our spirit be kept down but for more than a brief moment. Fall two times, get back up three times.

Focus on what’s good, hold tight to hope and never ever give up. There are plenty of dark and heavy moments. And woven through it all is goodness, light and growth. Light always remains and works its way through. Streams, beams and then full sunlight. Take time several times throughout the day to stop and breathe.

Strength, resilience, gratitude, joy and hope. Carry on. Breathe. We are and will be alright.

Binoculars

“For me, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, or for flowers or beast or bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly and perfectly alive.” – Al Purdy

“Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.” – Victor Hugo

For the past week, small crowds have gathered (socially distant of course) to witness a rare sighting of the mountain bluebird at our usual running spot at Como Lake in St. Paul, Minnesota. In awe, the birders quietly gaze with binoculars to observe the bird in the tree. The finches have gathered in the dry winter grass and flowers in disguise to watch as well.

We spoke to one of the birders and with excitement, he explained that the mountain bluebird is home to the Rocky Mountain area and it doesn’t belong here. I’m sure that bird is wondering what happened to his internal GPS and what the hell are those people doing down there with big glasses on.

This year has been a year where we have felt that we don’t belong here either. Stop the ride, I want to get off! But we do belong where we are at for some unknown reason(s) and can choose to learn the lessons that each day offers. Apply the lesson, let go of the pain of learning it. When we think we are lost, we are actually on the path of being found, of becoming our authentic self – imperfect, raw, real, egoless, generous, holy and beautiful.

Contemplate and reflect on the burdens and more importantly, the blessings. They co-exist and always will, it’s called life. I hope and pray that the burdens of the pandemic fade to our memories in 2021 and the world is healed in many ways. May we be more kind, grateful, joyful, faithful, empathetic, in awe, aware, mindful, curious, responsive, peaceful, proactive, delightful, purposeful, forgiving and enthusiastic.

With rapt attention, put binoculars on and see the detail, ordinary miracles and beauty in each day. These days shall not return and they our are currency for a good life. Look for, be and Cast light!

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