Blog
19169
blog,stockholm-core-1.1,select-theme-ver-5.1.7,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.0.3,vc_responsive

A Safer World

Affirmation:  The world is safer than we believe it to be.
She didn’t phrase the affirmation in the positive, so I had to re-wright it.  She actually said, “The world is not as dangerous as we imagine it to be.”  She was backpacking through So. Africa.  She was crossing the border from Zimbabwe into Botswana.  She was all alone, no travel buddy along and she would be spending the night in a camp site, somewhere about which she knew very little.  “Will you be in a tent?” I asked.  She didn’t know.  She appeared to be in her early thirties and while I was dressed to be sure the mosquitos didn’t find a free square inch on me, she was in a tank top and shorts.  Her name was Anya.  I told her she was one of my newest heroines.  I have many but she was definitely the latest and I was so pleased to meet her, to share a little time with her and to learn from her.  “The world is not as dangerous as we imagine it to be.”  I felt like someone had opened a door in a stuffy, small room,  Yes, I was in So. Africa too.  I had only been here a few days when we were traveled to Chobe to cruise the river and ride through the jungle to see lions and giraffes and elephants and whatever other exotic creatures chose to show themselves.  I, however was with a buddy, Susan Auman and we had hired a guide to help facilitate the transfer across the border.  I was in awe of Anya.  
This was towards the end of our trip.  

It can be hard to imagine the world as safe.  The news is so gruesome most days.  It is the focus of the media and it leaves many feeling anxious and afraid.  Fear can be useful.  We are genetically wired to use fear as a warning system but when we always are in a “flight or fight” response, it becomes debilitating, cortisol levels rise and our systems are overloaded.  

Susan and I had already visited Cairo.  We had seen the pyramids, the Sphinx and visited mosques and several holy sites where the Holy Family had lived, according to the legends told.  We had also sailed the Nile and visited temples as old as three thousand plus years old.  (We had used some toilets that we were sure were just as old. Toilette paper was handed out by the sheet and that only with the payment of a dollar or more.) We had danced and hiked and rode in a hot air balloon over the desert but I still wasn’t sure if the world was more or less dangerous than I imagined but I was beginning to see the world differently, more like Anya.  

We were traveling during Lent and finishing our Egypt segment at the end of Holy Week.  Egypt is 80 percent Muslim and I was feeling very unsure about our journey.  I always wear a small cross necklace and I just wasn’t sure how advisable that was.  I took the cross off for a few days but I felt very uncomfortable without it and so, I put it back on.  I once read a story about a man who decided to wear a large (I don’t know how large.) wooden cross around his neck for Lent.  He was fairly sure people would react to his new pendant, he just didn’t know how they would react.  Imagine his surprise when no one reacted at all.  His decision to wear the cross was a very brave statement.  The only thing that mattered was how it made him feel.  That’s how I felt about wearing my little necklace.  The good news is no one reacted to it, positively or negatively but it was very important to me to openly claim my faith.  I felt very brave. 

So. Africa was a very different environment than Egypt.  I fell in love with the people.  We arrived and were eventually met by Sindy.  He was definitely one of the highlights of our travel.  Actually, for me, meeting the people wherever we went was the most fun.  Whoever we met, we were greeted warmly and courteously.  Susan and I did always present with a smile and I think that’s a universal language.  Very seldom was there not a response in kind.  

We had both prayed that God would send his angels ahead to pave the path with grace, ease, compassion and love and I must say, we were in awe of how well our travels went.  When met by our last tour representative we knew our prayers had definitely been answered.  His name was Blessing.  The names of the people we met in Victoria Falls were inspiring.  One of our waiters was named Tadiwa. He told us it meant, “We are loved.”  I asked him if it were true and he said, “yes” he was loved.  Sindy’s wife’s name is Simangaliso.  Her name means, “Great wonder” and according to Sindy, she is.  

Sindy had stories galore for us.  His enthusiasm for the falls was contagious.  As we walked the path to the Danger Point and the Devil’s Pool, he quoted Livingston.  “These are signs so wonderful that the angels must have gazed upon them in their flight.”  As we were leaving, this unassuming, gentle man he told us one last tale about being invited to speak in 2015 at the “Be the Change Conference” in Atlanta, GA.  It was his first time to fly and when he arrived, he spoke to five thousand people about helping women develop their own businesses because they are the mothers who nurture our future. 

The quality of the So. African people I found most striking was how they looked you right in the eye.  When you asked them how they were, they would always smile and engage you in a way that I found to be endearing and unusual.  


“The world is not as dangerous a place as we imagine it to be.” I am so grateful to my friend, Susan, for inviting me to join her on this pilgrimage.  Her desire to see and experience the world and her willingness to share it with me, dragged me out of fear and into love.  It’s not the first time she has led me this way.  It was she who led me to walk the Camino in 2017.  I can fall into fear very easily but she reminds me that “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”  We said our prayers and then stepped out into a whole new world.  She would tell me periodically that “You knew you weren’t in Kansas any longer,” when you had warthogs on the front lawn, elephants crossing the road, baboons climbing out of inn windows and monkeys waiting to steal your breakfast.  We were in a different world and I had conquered my fears, again.  It’s a gift I gave myself. It’s keeping me excited and enthusiastic about life, about the future, about our future.  It’s a reminder of a phrase I heard while at the Haden Institute, “God loves me exactly as I am but She loves me too much to leave me there.”  Thank you, God!  Thank you, Susan.  

Embracing Lent


Affirmation: Lent is a time dedicated to strengthening my faith. 
Today, February 14th, is not only Valentines Day it’s Ash Wednesday.  For Catholics it marks the beginning of one of the holiest seasons of the church year.  Practicing Catholics go to Mass or at least to a Lenten service and have a thumbprint of ashes smeared on their forehead.  The words accompanying the ritual are “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” (Genesis 3:19) The ashes normally come from the palms that were blessed for the previous Easter season.  At my church, St. Michael the Archangel, here in Cary, NC, the practice includes sprinkling holy water into the dishes holding the ashes.  That makes them pastier and then the priest or the minister can really smear them on.  I don’t remember them being so black and pronounced when I was a child.  We are then encouraged not to rub or wash them off until we would normally cleanse our faces.  I found myself eating lunch today at a local cafe and was charmed by the number of Catholics who proudly proclaimed their faith that day.  Let’s face it, it’s hard to miss a big black smudge on someone’s forehead and it’s the perfect opportunity to share your faith without saying a word. 
I live in the Bible Belt which I understand to mean we have a lot of practicing Christians in this area, many of whom are evangelical.  They have a mission to convert the world, the whole world to Christianity.  This is not the place to live if you are wishy-washy about your faith, unless you’re living in Chapel Hill.  (That’s a little hint for anyone reading this who is thinking of moving to our beautiful state.) I’ve lived in the Bible Belt now since 1976.  First, I was in Cincinnati, Ohio for ten years and now, I’m here.  How is that different from other parts of the United States?  If you look at one of USA Today’s graphs, you will see that the south-east and mid-west areas are shaded darker when the shading represents the number of people calling themselves Christians.  As the map expands to the west, California, Oregon etc., the shading becomes lighter and lighter.  My experience with this part of the world has been wonderful.  I have noticed that the people here who are working to be faith filled are kind, caring and compassionate.  I don’t think one need be religious or perhaps even spiritual to have those qualities but when your faith is an integral part of your life, I believe you are enjoined to raise yourself up to a higher level of responsibility to lead a more exemplary life. 
I know all about the hypocrites, those who show up at services all holy and righteous only to lead small, mean lives.  My experience has not led me to be surrounded by that type of practitioner.  My experience, especially that of living here in NC, has been one of support and kindness and compassion from the people who are actively participating in their faith.  Perhaps, I’ve just been lucky because even some of my friends who don’t belong to an established religion are loving and compassionate. Could it be, however, that the God energy of this area has permeated more souls than elsewhere?  It’s a nice thought.  It brings me comfort and hope.  Maybe mindfulness in itself encourages people to live lives of caring and service.  Supposedly there was a study done many years ago that showed when a Transcendental Meditation seminar was being held, that section of the country had less crime.   
Lent is my favorite time of the year. My part of the world is gray and wet and soft right now but I know that in just a few weeks everything will be in full bloom, the Dogwoods, Azaleas, and Daffodils to name a few will come forth and brighten and color our entire area.  It goes from dreary to delightful.  It’s slow and deliberate and if you pay close attention, you can see the metamorphosis taking place.  That’s what I like to imagine is happening to my inner life too.  Lent offers me the opportunity to grow and blossom, to go from dreary to colorful.  It’s up to me how I use the time.  For me, it’s a more deliberate time, an opportunity to be even more mindful, than any other time of the year.  I always hope the changes I’m making stay with me, as I move into the rest of the year, and hopefully some of my Lenten practices do just that and that’s exactly the reason we are called upon to set aside this time to develop more self-discipline and to be of greater service.  We are called to pray more, give alms and to practice acts of denial.  We are called to be more mindful, more intentional about our lives.  It’s a practice we could use every day not just during Lent but with Lent comes the deliberate intention to grow our inner lives, to make us and our world kinder, gentler and more compassionate. 
The main question at Lent is, “What are you giving up for Lent?”  I know I could give up wine or chocolate or some such food item and have the added benefit of reducing my waistline. In 2014, however, I chose a more difficult practice. I decided to give up doubt and now, in 2018,  I confess I still have “work” to do.  I must say, I feel I am now stronger in my faith than in the past but for me, it seems to be the work of a lifetime. When Oprah interviewed the famed televangelist, Joel Osteen, she asked him if he had ever doubted his belief in Jesus Christ.  He emphatically answered, “No.”  I am still not a Joel Osteen.  I am more of a Thomas.  After all these many years of practicing my faith I still have my doubts.  Let’s face it, it’s quite a story! That however, is not how I want to live my faith, the promises are too great.  I want to believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ is God incarnate and that I can have a personal relationship with Him that will enhance my life and lead me to a place where I reach out to others with pure love.  I want to believe that with Him, not only will I and my loved ones have eternal rest and peace, but that this life will be a more rewarding experience.  I haven’t yet had any direct messages from the spirit world that would allay my doubts but I don’t care.  This is how I want to live my life and for me it seems to require practice and Lent, my favorite time of the year, offers me that perfect opportunity.  “Loving Father, help me to better know and love Your Son.  Amen.”

Affirmation:  I pray unceasingly.  

Do you pray?  How do you pray?  Are your prayers silent or out loud?  Do you only pray when you go to church?  How about before meals?  Maybe you only pray before meals in your home, never out in public?  Maybe your prayers are only in the evening before bedtime, like many of us were trained to do as a child.  Maybe you make up your own words, or maybe you only use the rote prayers of your faith.  As you can see there are many forms of prayers, some might even say their best prayer is when they are on the golf course or watching a football game.  “God, help me get over this water!”  “Lord, please be with our team today.”  Some wouldn’t even use the name of God.  Perhaps, their faith won’t allow that or perhaps their faith leads them to only a universal concept like, the Divine or the Universe.  Of course, we also have those people who don’t believe in prayer at all and think it a waist their time.  This may not be the blog they will want to read.  That’s ok.  I think they are praying every time they send their energy out into the world with their thoughts, or into their bodies with their intentions.  
Recently, I read, “Ron DelBene’s Breath of Life Series: A Simple Way to Pray (The Jesus Prayer). To tell the truth, I didn’t expect to learn much from this tiny book but I am presently in the midst of training to become a certified spiritual director at the Haden Institute in Hendersonville, NC (I mentioned it In my last blog, Walking the Camino.) and I have a list of monthly assignments.  This was one of the suggested.  As usual, I was wrong; wrong, wrong, and wrong!  
If you’ve been following this blog, you already know I am a prayer warrior.  I pray all day and I have lots of tools to help me with that.  I have all those memorized prayers most Catholics learn as children and several I’ve memorized as an adult.  I have the one I wrote myself that I occasionally use before I journal.  I have the Rosary which I always say as I walk the lake and if not then, during some quiet time in the afternoon.  I have Sunday Mass.  There’s grace and my ujjayi yoga breath to which I add the name of Jesus.  So you see, I’m pretty immersed in a prayer life but I know there is always lots of room for me to improve my relationship with the Lord.  It’s my life’s primary focus, especially now as I move closer to meeting Him. 
  

In fact at the Haden training this last weekend we were handed a picture of a tree and the title was “Contemplative Practices.”  There are several branches: stillness, generative, creative, activist, relational, movement and ritual/cyclical.  It would appear according to this diagram that almost any form of activity can fall into a contemplative category as long as one is wholly present to their actions.  I’m sure that’s true but I still feel most of us will benefit from finding a way to silence and stillness.  It’s a busy noisy world out there and “in here” and to take some time and just be, can be life changing.  In fact, it has now been scientifically proven that the part of brain that deals with stress changes with meditation and we respond with less tension and anxiety. 

Ron DelBrene’s book was for me like discovering a magic lamp, with a genie inside.  The genie popped out and I was asked to make a wish, only one.  Oh, what was so important to me that I would want to focus on it all the time?  Ron suggests you find a short phrase that you use as an all-day prayer.  He recommends it be around six words or so.  You then repeat it throughout your entire day.  You can say it at a red light, standing in line, waiting in a doctor’s office, walking to you employment, in the shower.  Anywhere, anytime is the perfect time.  You “rub the magic lamp” and you actually ask, “God, what prayer would best serve our relationship?”  You take some of that quiet time I just mentioned and you listen.  What phrase comes to mind?  For now, that’s the prayer.  Sure, you can change it.  You can tweek it but for now, own the words that you have been gifted.  Breathe in, deep breath and let them settle into your heart and your spirit.  Give the prayer a few days to take root and then be prepared for when it begins to blossom.  That’s when you’ll know the “genie” has heard your one wish and it is being manifested.  The prayer isn’t for anyone or anything other than yourself.  Selfish, you think?  Remember the Prayer of Saint Francis?  “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  Until we change ourselves to be centered in the gifts of the Sprit; love, joy, peace, hope, compassion and generosity, nothing outside of us will ever change.  Let God take up full time residence within, you only need ask, and then throw away that lamp because now the miracle of finding God within will bring about the miracle of revealing God without and I believe life will never again be the same.  

Give it a try.  If you like, write me and share your prayer and anything else that manifests from your newest practice.

“Holy Spirit, fill me with Your pure love.”


Walking the Camino

Susan & I beginning the journey

Affirmation: Even though the walk along the Camino has ended, the journey continues.

It’s said that the Camino journey continues even when you’ve finished walking the path.  Perhaps that was the whole theme behind the movie, The Way.  A few days after walking the Camino, my friend Susan Auman and I re-watched the movie together.  Have you had that goose-bump feeling of watching a film and remembering the places you’ve visited?  That was our experience as we watched the film a second time.  I have been hesitant to write this blog summarizing my Spain adventure.  I can’t find all the words I would like to use to tell you about it.  People ask me and I find myself stuttering, smiling, shrugging.  The feelings are still here with me and we came off the path over a month ago and to be honest, I don’t want the feelings to go away.  I’m thoroughly enjoying being in a state of awe and wonder and gratitude.  

Roads Scholar Camino Tribe, May 2017


I attempted to share a bit of our trip on the local Camino blog site in case someone else was interested in going with Roads Scholar but the conversation quickly turned to how much more it cost to go with a tour than it would cost to go on one’s own.  I don’t think the people who commented had a clue; I don’t believe I would have ever gone “on my own.”  I almost didn’t go with the group. Yes, it cost more than a solo hike but for me, it was worth the expense. I had many moments beforehand of wondering what the heck I had signed up for.  We walked 60 miles in 10 days.  We walked up mountains, through forests, through small villages and in the 
rain and through the mud. We didn’t get a certificate and we had a lot of guidance, thank God!  But I left with a wonderful sense of accomplishment and an amazing storehouse full of memories that will last me a life-time. 

One of the many highlights was when we attended the pilgrims’ mass on our first day in Santiago.  We had just finished a guided tour and we were told that the swinging of the incense, the Botafumeiro, was only done periodically and no one knew when that would happen.  I know I was very disappointed by that news and so was Susan.  We decided to get to the mass early so we were assured of a seat.  When we arrived there was a special ceremony going on and we were delayed admission.  Finally, they let us into the church and as we began to take our seat, five robed men moved into the center of the sanctuary and filled the Botafumeiro with incense and began the swinging.  If you’ve ever seen this done, you will know how goose-bumpy it is.  It moved me to tears.  Then the mass began and when it ended they again swung the Botafumeiro.  Twice!  We experienced this rare, unique blessing twice in one day.  We then discovered it was the one-hundredth anniversary of the miracle of Lourdes and not only did they honor it with the incense swinging but with a procession through the streets honoring the Virgin Mary.
St. James Cathedral, Santiago

Other highlights included stopping at several churches along the way where we were blessed by the local priests and in one of the churches, a visiting Italian choir broke out in melodic song but for me, the most moving event took place, once again in Santiago.  After the pilgrims’ mass, one of my fellow walkers shared with me that she had just come back into the Catholic church.  Her adult son had died with ALS and before he died he had asked her to return to the church but she hadn’t felt moved to do so until she walked into Saint James Cathedral in Santiago de Compestella.  She had actually gone to confession there (the priest didn’t speak English, so he took out a little book of “sins” and had her point to the ones for which she wanted forgiveness) and she had received communion.  She glowed from her experience and I glowed with the honor of her sharing with me her amazing act of courage.  These are just a few of my favorite memories.  Of course I kept a journal and if I were to share all the highlights, I’d have a book written, not just one of my longest blogs.

I’d tell anyone who had this opportunity to grab it and go.  Don’t miss this pilgrimage.  I think it’s life-changing. I know it’s been life changing for me and I’ve only been off the path a very short time.  How, you may ask?
The Rosaries in Finisterra

Remember the blessed Rosaries I collected?  I mentioned them in the last blog.  My first night with the group, I explained that I had been given a “message” to bring Rosaries and I knew that sounded weird but I had collected about fifty of them from a lot of different people.  “Please take one or two if you like.  If you don’t want one, that’s fine too.”  The rest of the Rosaries walked the Camino with me.  When I was finished, I again passed the bag around with the same instructions.  Between our group of twenty-three and the other people I met on my trip, I came home with 5 Rosaries.  I was in awe of how many people I met who wanted to talk about their faith. If that happened, I eventually offered them a finger Rosary and everyone accepted; the tapas tour leader, the taxi driver, the hotel receptionist, the German pilgrim in Finisterra. I didn’t feel any pressure to give away the Rosaries.  I just let it happen, and so it did, and it was so rewarding to share this small gift of my faith.  

The journey didn’t end in Spain.  The journey hasn’t ended yet.  The first Camino synchronicity that took place was about a week later when I arrived at my daughter’s home in London.  When I had visited her in March I walked to mass at the local church as is my practice.  As I was leaving mass a very nice lady introduced herself and proceeded to walk along next to me.  She was very gracious and said the next time I was in London, perhaps I’d like to come to her home for tea; she lived close by.  I contacted her when I arrived at my daughter’s and made arrangements to meet up.  I mentioned in my email that I had just come off the Camino.  As we walked along, I asked her if she’d ever walked the Camino.  “I have walked the Camino for three weeks every year for the last eighteen years.”  I had goose-bumps.  When we arrived at her home, she had all the original tour books for the path, before one had access to cell phones or computers.  She had them in English, German and French.  She also had a walking stick engraved with El Camino.  My new friend worked for the non-profit, L’Arche.  An organization that helped mentally disabled adults transition to independent living.  It’s a world-wide organization.  She then went on to tell me she had two American Gurus, Richard Rohr and Marshall Rosenberg.  As you may already know, Richard Rohr is someone I follow very closely.  He’s appeared in my writing quite a bit.  I didn’t know about M. Rosenberg but I downloaded one of his books and read it on my eight hour flight home.  He is the developer of the Non Violent Communication process. If that wasn’t enough of a synchronicity,  when we went to a communication session to help our grandson, one of the five recommended books was….you probably guessed it, Marshall Rosenberg’s NVC. 

I now carried a vision of the Camino path continuing along mosaic stepping stones.  Where would the next stepping stone be found?  Many months before I left for Spain, I had a trusted friend tell me about a local woman, Sherrie Dillard, who might offer some spiritual guidance.  My appointment with Sherrie was the week after I came home from Europe.  During my visit she told me it appeared I would be presented with an “opportunity “ sometime in the coming fall, a very intriguing prediction!  Was this another mosaic stepping stone?  Would I only know them after I had walked on them?

The very next day after visiting Sherrie, I was invited to attend a Soul Collage workshop.  Over the years, I had done a lot of collaging.  Our yoga-off-the-mat art activity at our annual Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat (.org) has often focused on meaningful art work, many of our projects were guided to help us create wonderful memorable pieces.  This workshop, however, took this art form to a whole different level.  It was designed to help one tap into those innermost places that are usually well hidden from ourselves.  When my two collage cards were complete, I noticed one part of one of the cards had a picture of a stone pathway.  The woman, Becky Hambrick, who led the workshop was certified in this process and was also a spiritual director.  She mentioned she trained at the Hayden Institute in North Carolina.  I invited her to dinner.  I was very interested.   
I’d seen Sister Judy Hallock at A Place for Women to Gather over the years for spiritual direction and I had a few friends who were also certified in this field.  I’d looked into the certification several times but the programs and the timing were never right.  I decided I’d take a few baby steps and see where this path might lead.  

It led me straight to an available slot in the fall session at the Hayden Institute for training as a spiritual director.  Yes, even when I’ve finished walking the path, the Camino journey continues.  This image that I now carry in my mind and heart leave me feeling excited, hopeful and awed.  It’s such a marvelous gift and I feel so blessed to have received it.  Thank you, Lord, thank you, thank you!


Additional Photos: