They got me at hello, or the magazine equivalent of it. Just received my first issue of The Sun Magazine and turned to the first article and am hooked. The story of the Mystic and the Warrior former priest Matthew Fox speaks to my soul. It isn’t about original sin and questioning our existence on earth, but about God’s original blessing of life to each of us, at the divine within us, about love and the feminine as well as the masculine, about embracing science and God, about relationship, about a “regrinding of faith in a mystical, prophetic, cosmological worldview.” Beautiful stuff. In the article he quotes David Orr as saying “Hope is a verb with its shirt sleeves rolled up.” Let’s get to work, let’s love God, let’s love life … let’s just exude, bathe in, celebrate and spread love.
My practice group has its annual retreat at Surf and Sand in Laguna Beach each year, and there is nothing better than having a room overlooking the ocean. They even provide ear plugs in case for some crazy reason you want to block the roar of the surf crashing into the sand below your balcony.
As if. There’s something about hearing the surf pound the sand and then retreat, the sunlight glistening on the waves and melding into the blue of the sky on the horizon that makes it hard not to be at peace. I’m supposed to participate in a scavenger hunt with my team members this afternoon but I can’t drag myself away from the balcony of my room.
Laguna Beach is one of my favorite Orange County spots, with funky boutiques and more art galleries than you have time to visit and, of course, the gorgeous ocean and beaches. It also makes you want to reflect and inspires you … well, inspires me at least … to write.
When there are many other things, including participating in the Scavenger Hunt, that I should be doing. But that’s been my problem as long as I can remember … I feel obligated to do what I should be doing or guilty that I’m not doing what I believe I should be doing and who came up with this “should” anyway? Why is it easier to deny the things my heart and soul want me to do to choose instead the things my head says I must do regardless of whether I enjoy them? No matter how many O Magazine articles I read or TED talks I view or things I know to be true. No matter that my 45-year-old friend was killed at lunch a few days ago and an 18-year-old classmate of my daughter at SDSU who was fine on Monday and thought she had the flu on Tuesday died of meningitis on Saturday — two tragic reminders that I may not live through this evening, so shouldn’t I at least try to live my best life now, today, right this minute and not some vague future year when I’ve got it all figured out — I still keep on plodding along as if I had all the time in the world.
I don’t. But I’m going to enjoy the view from my balcony this afternoon and soak in all the beauty around me without even a tinge of guilt, at least for today.
I began a Coaching Christlikeness class with Neal Nybo at church today, devoting myself to spending eight weeks learning more about myself, more about Jesus, and more about the path that will lead me to the life I want. The scary part? I’ll also be challenged to surrender things that are important to me. To deny myself, and my wants. To surrender control. Scary stuff. The love and gratitude and peace all sound wonderful … but getting there along a path of surrender, denial, and loss of control? Taking down my protective barriers built up over 54 years and being brave enough to be fully vulnerable? To stop talking and thinking and doing and rest in silence to listen to God? Not sure if I can do it. But for today, at least, I’ll try.
I have big dreams of retiring early and of spending a year in France, of long walks and daily yoga and reading under the shade of the oak tree in my back yard for long hours at a time.
What if God has some other plan for me? A plan involving long hours of feeding the homeless or building orphanages in Afghanistan or who knows what else that takes all my money and all my time?
(How can someone see this child and not want to help her?)
God’s plan may be something I’ve never even considered and can’t imagine, and it might be nothing like what I think I want my life to be. But I know to live my fullest life, to live my best life, is to live the life God planned for me, whatever that may be.
Today’s lesson focused on Belief, and Neal interspersed quotes from his mentor, Dallas Willard, with Jillian Michaels, among others (finding examples for our spiritual lives in the words at the end of Ripped in Thirty is just one of the things I love about Neal!) Jillian was speaking of physical exercise, but the words fit well in our spiritual lives as well. To quote her:
“Most people don’t show up in their own lives. They go through life every single day without being focused and bringing their A game. Transformation is not a future event. It is a present activity. That is why you must bring everything that you have to give in every moment. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. It isn’t about perfect. It’s about effort. When you bring that effort every single day that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.”
We started class by listing three things we believe to be true — so true that I am prepared to live my life trusting it to be true. That the sun will rise every morning. That my kids will be okay, despite some bumps and bruises along the way. That my parents love me, even if it’s in their own unique way. I live my life each day knowing and believing those things to be true. Next, three spiritual beliefs that we’re prepared to live our lives based on. I stole my three from Neal. (Note to self: perhaps stealing rather than using original thought is not the best way to uncover my own truth?) But to be fair I do really believe these three things, so the fact Neal also believes them doesn’t make them any less true for me.
1. God is a loving God (at times I did question this, with good people dying, bad people thriving, and all the things that aren’t perfect and don’t work the way it seems as if they should, but ultimately I’ve confirmed my belief that above all else, God loves)
2. God loves me (yes, even me, even when I’m stupid and sinful and ignore Him and even if He knows I Could Do Better)
3. God has a plan for me, and if I do anything less, it will be second best. (And I’ve done a lot of second best in my life.)
If we believe it, we should act as if it is so.
Neal closed by assigning homework — three times this week we are to sit in silence and solitude. First, for five minutes, then 10, then 15. Silence to allow God to speak to us, should He so choose. God doesn’t tend to interrupt us. If we are busy with our own thoughts, He doesn’t usually butt in. But if we sit in silence, listening for His voice, He may speak. If we ask, “is there anything you’d like to teach me?” He just might let us know that, in fact, there is.
So I sat in silence, with eyes closed, for 10 minutes today (I’m a Type A … what’s 5 minutes when I can do 10?) I didn’t hear God, and I almost fell asleep, but I sat. I decided to sit for 5 more, with eyes open. I’m not sure I heard God speak to me, but I felt it was step 1 of a long process of being open, receptive, still and willing. I’m in, and curious and excited to see where it all leads. Thanks for coming along with me on the journey.