Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Almost Ready!

One scripture I love says the world is "standing on tiptoe" waiting for God to make life new. This is a tiptoe kind of time.

I keep checking the to-do list to be sure I haven't forgotten anything for Christmas preparations at home and at church. It's a tip-toe feeling that our celebration times are almost here!

Right after we celebrate God coming among us, then we celebrate a new year. Standing on tip-toe we can almost see the year coming. A new calendar is like a new box of crayons or a clean, blank piece of paper. So much possibility! I always have high hopes for how I'm going to be a better person in the new year. Then I try to remind myself that I'm the same person, just hoping for some more productive habits.

I'm looking forward to a New Year - New Life class I'm offering in January (Tuesdays, beginning the 4th, 10 am or 7 pm). We're going to bless the year that's closing, for better or for worse. Even the struggles of the year give us opportunities for growth. Then we're going to bless this present moment and remember that offering gratitude for the present grounds us. Finally, we'll look ahead at our goals for 2011. Sometimes that feels like wishful thinking, but I'm hoping we can gain some clues about how to insure that our dreams come true.

May this holiday season hold many blessings for you and yours, and may 2011 be an amazing year for us all!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's been cold and windy in North Dakota for three days. All that time it's been cold in our office, and we've been shivering while we worked. I've been muttering and blaming the weather for our discomfort.

Now the wind has stopped and it's still cold in our office! Clearly, we have an equipment malfunction, and I just now called to have a repair person check it out. If I had called on Monday, we'd be warm by now.

In our lives, it's easy to blame people or circumstances for our problems. A family member, the weather, or God take the brunt of our discontent. Then we discover that no one is to blame, there's just some adjustment that needs to be made. As long as we're in blame mode, we ignore or avoid actions which would actually make our lives better. When we set aside blame (and the muttering that accompanies it!) we can take action and see improvement.

It's good to ask ourselves from time to time what situations are being held back by blame. Then we can turn blame off and start addressing the real causes of our discomfort. Then things can get better!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Beginnings

Every January I find myself writing about new beginnings. The turning of a year helps us all think about fresh starts and resolutions for improvements in our lives.

Here it is October and the middle of fall - not really the beginning of much of anything and close to the end of a year. But today is still a day for new beginnings. Today I can do what I've put off for weeks. Today I can focus on that decision I've been postponing. Today I can choose to see life with new eyes and new energy.

All it takes to make a new beginning is one deep breath and a resolve to make a fresh start. Think a positive thought. Look on the bright side. Find one thing to be grateful about, even if it's a small thing. Smile and your world shifts in that simple action.

Then get busy and do what you've been putting off. Not the whole list, but just one part. Take a walk around the block. Write an email to a friend. Clean out a drawer.

Small shifts in attitude and simple actions are the beginning of a new way of living, and they are always possible for you today.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

sunny days

Today is a beautiful sunny day, and our spirits rise to that occasion. Last week when it rained all the time (didn't it?), many people talked about how they were longing for sun and trying not to be down in the dumps because of the clouds.

I work in an office with no windows, so as far as I'm concerned, every day can be a sunny day. Since I can't see out, I try to assume that the sun is shining. It's a choice I make.

In our lives, we get to choose every day - not whether or not the physical sun is out, but if our dispositions will reflect sunshine to ourselves and others. Our attitude toward each day is always a choice. If the day is bright or gloomy, we can still keep a positive outlook.

Spiritual communities help us do the work that it takes to focus on the positives no matter what life brings. We are a gift to each other as we remind one another to look for blessings and assume the best. I hope you do that for someone today, and someone returns the favor to you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Friends, here's a poem I wrote last fall. I hope it reminds us that when we go looking for God and asking God to fill us with divine presence, we discover that God is already fully within us. We're not looking for more so much as we're asking to see more completely what we already have. Enjoy!

Deep within
A hunger longs to be filled
With the pure light of divine joy;
A thirst for life
Begs to be quenched
At the dancing, singing spring
Of the Beloved’s love.

And deeper still God whispers,
“I have already satisfied all hunger;
I have already slaked all thirst.

“Are we not one being – sacred Life?
Are you not born of all that I am?
That which you seek, you are -
All that and more -
For I have joined my Life with your living.
Let loose the joy
that rises from beneath your sighs.
With open heart
Receive what has already been given.
Sink deep into the waters of my love
And as you drown in the abundance of I Am
Rise to Life."

-Gretchen Daneke Graf
© 2009

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Life

I grew up in Kansas, where spring is a beautiful season with flowers and amazing signs of new life everywhere. When I moved to North Dakota, I learned that spring is the season of dirty snow and mud - not my idea of signs of new life! Still, I don't want to spend the season depressed about what's not there and mad about what is. I'm learning to find different signs of spring and life than I used to. The first 33 degree day, sunshine that feels warm on my face once more, a small patch of grass where snow is receding... How we see each day is a choice we make, and we can see mud or we can see hope. Life is like that in every season: we can choose to see events and people which lift our spirits in any moment of any day. There's always life rising within and around us. It's a matter of seeing the signs.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thoughts for MLK Day

I’m writing this on the day we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. for his leadership. He is the icon which represents the dreams and the hard work of thousands of people working for racial justice in our nation. He stands in a long tradition of people who came before and those who followed – a few of them well known and most of them nameless. Their witness to us is that dreams and the resulting actions can change the world.

Folks who worked (and continue to work) for civil rights in the United States and around the world aren’t hoping for a world of no differences. They are working for a world in which differences are seen as enriching rather than divisive. Human beings are sometimes quick to reject those with another color skin, different ethnicity, varying politics or religion. We have been mystified when people from far nations fight wars over differences we can’t recognize – Tutsi vs. Hutu. Instead we can all learn to embrace our differences as a way to make life richer and fuller. We learn important insights from people who practice other religions. People from other political parties keep debate honest as we work together to address important issues. Even as we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., our congress is engaged in partisan politics in which winning for the party is more important than caring for the people of this nation.

It’s time to reclaim the dream of unity in the midst of diversity. It’s time to reach out to those who differ with us and make the opening which leads to greater understanding. It’s time to honor a great man and a great movement by continuing the work and holding fast to the dream until it is fully realized. It’s time for us to take our place among those who work for unity and recognize our human brothers and sisters.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Don't feed the pain

There are lots of hurts, big and small, which come into our lives. We treat them gently for a while, they heal, and may or may not leave scars. Pain is a warning that we need to deal with something. It's not meant to be a permanent condition. But emotional pain is a hungry animal, and if we feed it, it will stick around and consume us. We feed pain by focusing on it, repeating the story of our hurt, asking others to feed it sympathy. Pain feeds on anger and insult and retribution. If we let it, it will destroy us. So how do we move beyond pain? 1) Feel it fully and acknowledge it's there; 2) Tell it that even though it may be fully justified, it's not going to become the new focus of your life; 3) Starve it to death - by refocusing our thoughts when we want to dwell there. Stop telling the story over and over. Stop rehearsing the pain in your thoughts. When it appears, think of flowers or a perfect golf stroke. Give pain the attention it deserves and then no more. Move on to the joy that fills your life when you push pain over and give joy room to thrive.