Category Archives: Personal Growth

“Contemplation Is the Highest Form of Activity”

I was recently watching a program on PBS called “Excuses Be Gone” featuring Wayne Dyer. In it, he quotes Aristotle as saying:

“Contemplation is the highest form of activity.”

I so resonate with that statement! I am wired differently from what society, corporations and even churches applaud and hold up as good. “Idleness is the devil’s workshop” we were often told as kids. Certainly that was the message in the church and family in which I was raised. For me, the opposite is true.

The more “activity” I am involved in – the less I do – and the quality of anything that I do, and even the person I am, suffers greatly! It is in the silence of nothingness, in time, seemingly wasted – where great things are born within me. When I don’t take time to be, read, write, pray, listen to music – my life and work suffer. When I have, or take this time – despite great pressure not to do so – then my work finds life and creativity and I am a decent person to be around.

I find this is not very much appreciated either in society or the church. Produce! Produce! Produce! This is the message that most of us receive. It’s funny. I don’t find society, churches or countries any the better for all the incessant activity! Perhaps we would be wise to slow down, take stock. I recently heard these very words in a church, coming from a man who’s an unredeemed, angry workaholic whose toxic energy is oppressive to his staff and his church. He does a tremendous amount of work; but I don’t know of anyone (who really knows him) who looks up to him or actually wants to spend time with him. How sad. But I believe, like all addicts, he’s basically a good person at heart. Perhaps he just needs to slow down and take stock.


Supernova

Like a dying star
Convulsing – trying to hold on
The heat – intense as gravity folds in on itself and energy ceases
Unable to escape the intensity – I collapse inward and finally explode

Will I fall into the inescapable darkness?

Or find myself thrust outward in a burst of creative energy
Forced and forged by this seeming death
Exploding into newness – Supernova my name?

Elements strong and bright
Silver and gold are forged in this heat
Gravity’s intense pressure – beauty’s unlikely birthplace


Staying Connected

John 15: 1-8

“I am the vine. . . . Remain in me.”

To what or to whom do you stay connected? Is it a good connection? Is it a connection that feeds you, one that nourishes your spirit, one that gives you joy and life? To what or to whom do you turn to when the chips are down?

If I am to be honest, I have to say that sometimes I turn to things or people that are not the best for me. My spirit ends up further eroded. Gratefully I eventually return to the Source that does nourish my spirit in good ways – and people that share and support that connection.

When I remove myself from my Source due to busyness, worry, compulsive behavior and the like, I begin to whither. I can literally feel the life force drain from my body. When I seek to re-establish that connection I feel the life force return.

To what, or to Whom are you connected? Is it a good connection?


Learning to Fly

Last night I was reading the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Shack:  Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by Wm. Paul Young.  The jury is still out on what I think of the novel, but I find parts of it intriguing so far.  If you read it, I recommend getting through the first third of the book.  After that it begins to get intriguing and plays with questions of images of God, religious assumptions, suffering, relationships and new life.

One line from the book struck me.  As the main character and God are conversing about various things, God says:  “This isn’t Sunday School.  This is a flying lesson” (p.98).  What an image!  What if we could view all religion, all spirituality, all relationships from the point of view of this metaphor?  They’re all about flying!  They’re all about being lifted up beyond the pain that sometimes befalls us in life and learning to fly again.  Our relationship with God is NOT about following this or that rule it’s about learning to fly!  It’s about learning to live well!  Of course, any pilot will tell you that there are things you have to learn and do if you are to fly.  But that is not about rigid adherence to rules.  It’s about learning to live well, making good choices so that I feel as if I take flight.  It is about calling on the power of God within and trusting it, trusting that it is with us and will carry us through anything.  Now, we’re not going to “feel” it all the time, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t there.

Some of my friends know that I have gone through a bit of a difficult time the past couple of years.  I have struggled much.  A few weeks ago, I sat down and tried to meditate, having “felt” no connection with God, or others for that matter, in quite a while.  I felt that this was such a waste of time.  I didn’t feel any better.  But I kept going back to meditation anyway, if even sporadically.  One day, wondering about the pain and difficulty of the past couple of years, wondering why I was even doing this and if there was any Power out there to help, I softly heard these words:  “It was then that I carried you.”  I look back now . . . and indeed I see only one set of footprints in the sand.  Indeed, I was still flying, still being lifted up, even though I didn’t feel it.

What strikes me is this:  if I had not meditated, if even sporadically, I never would have heard those gentle words, which were the catalyst which is giving me some thrust, some wind, as it were, as I slowly stretch out my wings again and learn to fly.

In the book, God says to the main character who has been deeply wounded:  “Mack, pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly. . . .And if left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place” (p.97).

I pray that we all know that we were created to fly; that we have the courage to slowly spread our wings again.  And even when life is difficult may we know that “it was then that I carried you.”


Naked and in the Groove

I recently heard a talk in which the speaker described an animal that had been born in a zoo. After some years they built a multi-million dollar display, simulating the natural habitat for the animal, thinking that it would create a better, happier space for the animal. When it was released into its new space, much to their surprise, it stayed to one small area. It only walked the same path over and over, creating a rut in the ground, which got deeper as time went on. The animal had all this beautiful space, but it stayed in that one little rut and didn’t roam elsewhere! The speaker went on to say: aren’t we like that sometimes? We get in a rut, doing and thinking the same things over and over – missing so much of what could be if we just got out of the rut.

If you’ve read my last couple of meditations, you’ll know that I spoke of Lent as an opportunity to “get naked” to remove the “cloak” that holds us from being more present to life, to others and to God. When we, with the help of a Power greater than ourselves, remove whatever that is and stand naked in life, present, alive and aware – we get outa the rut and into the groove!

Suddenly, we begin to live again! Suddenly we look around and see so much of life around us. We slowly crawl out of that rut and begin, perhaps fearfully at first, to wander out into the beauty that we have been missing. All that beauty, all those people, all those possibilities suddenly open up before us – because we have had the courage to name that which keeps us all bound up, because we have had the courage to call on a Power greater than ourselves to free us.

Have you named the cloak that you need to remove, the cloak that keeps you separated from life, from others and from God? Have you called on a Higher Power to help you, trusting that the help WILL come? Is the cloak beginning to fall away?

Are you getting out of the rut, and into the groove?


Get Naked!

I recently heard a wonderful conference in which the speaker used the example of the blind man Bartimaeus (Mark 10: 46-52) who cries out to Jesus “I want to see!” Two things that the presenter said about this story struck me that have bearing on my living and on the season of Lent.

First, notice that in the story many people tell Bartimaeus to be quiet! They try to shut him up! They don’t like what he’s saying. After all, according to the prevalent thought of the day, Bartimaeus would have been considered a “sinner,” an outsider, a nobody – someone to shun and avoid. He certainly would have held no status in the religious establishment. Notice what Bartimaeus does after being told to shut up. He speaks even louder!

Sometimes the institution, be it church, society, political, the workplace, family or friends – sometimes the institution tries to shut people up. Like Bartimaeus though, I pray for the courage to only speak louder! Notice too that Jesus does not shun Bartimaeus. If anything he ignores the people telling Bartimaeus to shut up, but looks with compassion upon Bartimaeus.

Secondly, notice what Bartimaeus does when Jesus calls him over. He removes his cloak and runs to Jesus – buck naked!! He removes anything which would hold him from being fully present to Jesus and to others.

This Lent, what “cloak” do I need to remove? What is it that keeps me from being fully present to God and others? It could be a variety of things from an addiction, to a negative attitude, to fear, a poor self image, self centeredness, etc. What needs to be removed so that I can be more fully alive and present to Life and others? In what way do I need to get naked?

 


Paralyzed

Mark 2: 1-12

 

Did you ever feel paralyzed, emotionally, physically or spiritually?

Sometimes life is like that. We get stuck. Moving forward seems impossible. I have recently been in one of those paralyzed seasons of life. Can I believe that the same Power that set free, healed and raised to new life can, even now, do the same?

When I am paralyzed I am without energy. However, I must put one foot in front of another and keep moving. I may not “feel” like it, but I must keep moving. Oftentimes we may not “feel” like doing something, but there is Power in just taking one small step to do it anyway. Love is that way sometimes isn’t it? Work is that way. Life is that way. We may not feel like doing this or that; but it’s important to do it anyway. And in the taking of one small step, there can be contained a Power that lifts and heals and raises to new life. Sometimes it’s just a matter of moving, just taking a step.

What paralyzes you today? What keeps you from moving, from taking a step?

Sometimes fear keeps us from risking a step in life. We fear the unknown and so settle for a lifeless sense of comfort. Yet sometimes we are beckoned to take one step, just take a step, just one risk and see where the path might lead. We may find ourselves freed from the paralysis of our comfortable, secure life and born into an adventure that promises no security, but gives birth to a lived life.

Take a step today!