Tag Archives: spiritual health

Hello Friends

I’ve missed you.  For the past few months I’ve put my energy and time into other parts of my life and not saved energy for my writing.  Mistake!  Here’s what I’ve done instead of tending to my writing:

My husband and I refinanced our house (reams of paperwork), had carpet replaced with wood and tile in much of our house, and built a raised vegetable garden in the backyard.  I was the lead person on the first two projects and kept Mark company while he built the garden.

I’ve edited a colleague’s memoirs, a project that ballooned in March and April as our deadline loomed.  In late April and early May, I provided three weeks of pastoral coverage for a colleague in Idaho who is on sabbatical.  My time in Idaho was a fantastic experience about which I’ll write in future blogs.

This leads me back to a recurring discovery:  Unlike the years when I multi-tasked even big projects without difficulty, life is different now.  Health and energy dictate that as one project moves to the front of the line, I have to set my other projects aside.  Dang.  It’s another change in how I live–and not a change that I like, either.  I want that seemingly endless supply of energy and stamina I used to have.

Regrettably, I let go of my writing while managing these other projects.  While in Idaho, I realized again that since writing is a prominent part of my calling at this stage of my life I need to make it primary and figure out how to balance my other projects around it.

Regaining this insight feels like I’m a piece of warped plywood:  every time I get one corner nailed down, a prior nail pops out and its corner has to be nailed down again.  In other words, each time I think I’ve learned to balance my life, it shifts out of balance once more.

Don’t get me wrong.  Every project I did was important.  Much was enriching.  And yes, some was deadly boring and frustrating.  But no matter how important each project was, I’ve learned that my writing is equally or even more essential.

As I think about how to reach the right balance in life, I picture the Billingsley Creek where it wanders past the rustic Billingsley Lodge and Retreat in Hagerman, Idaho (www.billingsleycreeklodge.com).  I stayed there overnight in April.  Like the health of the creek’s ecosystem, my life depends on both the oxygen it receives as it rushes over rocks and the germination and feeding which occur in the quiet, still eddies along the shoreline.

While in Idaho, I recommitted to my writing.  So, here I am once again.  The other stuff will have to take second place.  I’m making time to write.

Photo:  Billingsley Creek in Hagerman, Idaho.

Gandhi Has It Right

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” said Gandhi.  The tally sheet of rights and wrongs is never balanced.  When we are busily making each other blind, or focussed on the tally sheets in our life, we lose sight of what’s most important: seeing beauty around us, love in our life, hunger in children, and scars on others’ hearts.  there’s a better wayA

Holding onto bitterness about an injury–supposed or real–chews away a part of us.  It exerts control over us and limits who we are, who we become, how we respond to life, and what we think about.  It limits our capacity for love, joy, creativity and freedom.  Let go of it, and we’re able to see a better tomorrow.  There’s a better way.

Yes, consequences need to follow actions.  But those consequences not rooted in revenge tend to be the wisest and carry the greatest good.  Giving up the right for revenge ends the injury’s control of us.  Once we’re free of its control, we can make wiser decisions, reconnect with the goodness of life, and work toward understanding, reconciliation, or justice.

Sometimes I’m able to forgive, and sometimes I just can’t.  Sometimes I’m not the one who needs to do the forgiving.  When I can’t forgive, or am not in a position to forgive, I  give the matter of forgiveness to God.  Some types of forgiveness belongs only to God, anyway.

When I forgive or ask God to deal with the matter of forgiveness, I feel as though I have just reduced a boulder that was blocking my path down to the size of a little pebble on the ground in front of me.  I can look at the pebble, know it’s there, step over it and move on.

Forgiveness is not a rule we have to follow.  When we can’t forgive, we can trust God, instead, to do that which is right in the matter of forgiveness.  This doesn’t make us bad Christians.  New Testament Scholar Frederick W. Keene writes that when Jesus says from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” Jesus doesn’t say that he has forgiven his killers.  Rather, he is asking God to forgive them.*

When we forgive or give the task of forgiveness to God, we free our soul, lighten our spirit, and open the door to new or renewed relationships.  Forgiveness lets us recognize the humanity, strengths and limitations of the Other, and acknowledges that we, too, have limitations and need forgiveness on occasion.  Forgiveness gives up the right to revenge.  It opens the door to a state of peace inside.

True forgiving doesn’t require that we forget what happened.  Forgetting blocks productive change and can even be dangerous.  Remembering what has happened can help us plan for the future.

Some people give up chocolate or alcohol for Lent, some take a daily walk or meditate.  If everyone in the world–both Christian and non-Christian–gave up the desire for revenge for 40 days, maybe we’d have a chance for peace.  Barring that, let’s each of us give up for 40 days, any grudges or bitterness we carry.  Let them go.  Reduce them to pebbles, take a breath of fresh air, and walk away from them.  I think we’ll feel radically better if we do.

*Structures of Forgiveness in the New Testament,” in Violence against Women and Children:  A Christian Theological Sourcebook, Carol J. Adams and Marie M. Fortune, editors: Continuum/New York; p. 128.

Walking My Talk at the Food Bank…Again

L.A. Food Bank Volunteers

(The format of the earlier post on helping at the Food Bank was messed up.  Here’s a version that’s easier to read.  Check it out.)

I did it.  Well, I wasn’t walking, I sorted oranges and limes,  but it’s all the same.  When I complained in a recent post that too many of us forget the lesson of our belly buttons (that no human being is born or survives without help from others), I decided to woman-up (The Myth of Being Self-Made, 10/25/2011).

I volunteered last week at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank one afternoon.  I had a darned good time doing good.  I’ve helped at food pantries and soup kitchens before, and still do.  But working farther up the food chain–literally–was different and fantastic.

Even though I didn’t meet anyone who was benefiting personally from my labor, I knew that hundreds of people were doing so.  How great is that, for three hours work?!?  “I can’t do everything, but I can do something.”  And those “somethings” make a difference.I sorted oranges and limes, bread and croissants, cheese, milk, potatoes, onions and fruit juice.  All that food would fed the landfill, but by now it’s feeding children, seniors, families, and homeless people.  When I came home that night, I was exhausted!  I put my tired muscles to bed early and slept straight through until morning.  The next day, I still felt a sense of peace, fulfillment, meaning, and connection with the world. 

Food banks receive thousands of pounds of food each day from groceries, big box stores, schools, religious organizations and food drives.  As the holidays approach, 8000 pounds of food is arriving at the L.A. food bank every day and needs to be sorted by somebody.  Those somebodies are people like you and me.

Look, reading expiration labels isn’t hard, and separating good produce from the gross stuff is easy.  If you can’t lift much weight, don’t worry, someone else will lift it for you.  If you can’t stand for a long time, you can sit down.

Want a change from your usual gym routine?  Schlep boxes at the food bank or move items from one box to another 2 million times, and you’ll have a good workout.

Want a change of pace for your date time on the weekend?  Volunteer together at the food bank.  Work together on pallets of food from Costco and Trader Joes. Pretty soon you’ll have sorted hundreds of pounds of food, had a good time, and have something to celebrate over dinner.

In the gleaning room, you meet career climbers and those who’ve arrived, people who have jobs and those who want jobs, younger and older people, teachers, nurses, and techies.  Whoever you are, you’ll fit right in.

One of the saints in my life helped start the Dayton-Cincinnati Regional Food Bank in the 1980’s.  She taught me about the wastefulness of our grocery system and the importance of gleaning.  Micky Gogle’s life has probably touched a million people by now with goodness and food.  Micky, I felt your presence as I sorted food last week.

Whether we have little food in our fridge or lots, have great health or don’t, have oodles of time or not much, in a matter of hours, we can help hundreds of hungry people. Let’s do it.

I’m headed back to the food bank on Tuesday afternoon, November 13. Want to join me?  Go to www.lafoodbank.org and sign up.  Or find a food bank in your area and volunteer.