Create in Me a Clean Heart and a New Blog Post

Today’s post is by Kimberly Borin

I said “yes” to writing a blog. At the time, writing a blog about something I loved seemed like a piece of cake. I could instantly see all of the prayers I would include, the artwork, the inspirational music videos and more.  I was excited to create the blog until I actually started writing and wondering how I would fill its approximately 50 blog posts.

The topic was Lent and all of the days leading up to the magnificent Easter celebration. In the midst of creating the posts I was thinking about my own Lenten journey. I was praying for perfect words and a clean heart so that the posts would be holy and a blessing.  I was trying to get it just right and was feeling very overwhelmed.

Then, I realized, it made sense that I felt a little frightened. I was writing about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, his resurrection from the dead, and his hope and love for all of humanity.  I wanted to capture the essence of the angels and their message of courage and love, too. I asked myself, “How could I possibly capture any of the hope, joy, suffering, humility, sacrifice, and love in any of my small blog posts?”  I felt defeated and felt afraid to try.

At the same time, I was also excited and decided to just begin. I gave myself permission to be a Child of God, just doing the very best I could with the very best intentions. I humbly started writing, added photos, art, inspirational music videos, and poetry. I had hopes that some of these might capture the glory of God and His love for us. It was a humbling undertaking to say the very least.

While working on the blog I could hear myself say, “Create in me a clean heart and please just one more blog post.”  It was a strange juxtaposition of creativity and spirituality.  I had arrived somewhere between the garden of suffering and learning how to upload just the right photo. I felt inadequate on more than one occasion and prayed that it would offer people the hope or comfort that they needed.

The creation of the blog became a prayer in itself. Offering only what I knew how to do and trusting that God would just fill in the rest. It was (and is) a walk of faith and I am hoping that God will offer whoever reads the blog just what they need on their own Lenten journey.  I trust that the blog is just a simple bridge for love and grace that only God can bring.

And so once again I pray to God, “Create in me a clean heart and please just take care of the rest.”  If you’d like to check out the blog posts, they began on February 10, 2016 (https://becomingthestorywetell.blogspot.com ). This is a part of the ministry of my church, The Church of the Holy Spirit, Episcopal Church. I am wishing you and all those you love a most magnificent Lenten journey and the abundant joy and peace during the Easter Season.


kimberlyborin

Dr. Kimberly Borin is a School Counselor, Retreat Leader, and in training to be a Spiritual Director in Nurturing the Call: the Spiritual Guidance Program of the Shalem Institute.  She believes that we can find peace and grace in simple ways, each moment. She has been a teacher and counselor since 1989 and holds a doctorate in Education, a master degree in Educational Leadership and one in School Counseling.  She is an Ananda Yoga Teacher for adults and children and the author of the Laughter Salad series of books. You can learn more about Kimberly at: www.TheEncouragingWorks.com.

Are you a clergy person who would like to deepen your inner life, as well as bring a contemplative dimension to your congregational life? Shalem’s Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership Program is taking applications right now! Early bird registration deadline is March 1, and final application deadline is April 1. Learn more about this respected program here: Going Deeper.

Prayer Circles for Peace

Today’s post is by Patience Robbins

Right now there are about two billion Christians on the planet. If a significant portion of them were to embrace the contemplative dimension of the Gospel, the emerging global society would experience a powerful surge toward enduring peace.
-Thomas Keating

“I am a cosmic citizen, a planetary being who lives in the Americas in the United States.” This was a line shared by a teacher I had one summer. It sure blows open any narrow attachment to a certain country or geographical place and calls forth a whole new perspective on who I am related to and where I belong. This ties in so well with what I have been learning (and thus teaching) in my own life–the interconnectedness of all.

For years I have been quoting a line from Thomas Merton: “We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. What we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.” As I grow in the contemplative life, I continue to notice and experience the truth of these words–unity with others and the earth. In fact, now I am praying the question: How do we live out of this interconnectedness, especially as I notice that I often act, think and live as though I am separate, independent and self-sufficient?

One of my favorite people is Julia Butterfly Hill, who lived in a redwood tree in California for two years in order to bring attention to the destruction of the forest. In her book, The Legacy of Luna (which is about her tree-sit at the age of 25), she records a very inspiring transformational experience in which she gave over her life to God. She was willing to surrender her life, for good, for Love, for this deeper call she knew within her being. During this transformative time, she started noticing and experiencing her oneness with the tree, the ants, the birds, the people who were attempting to force her to leave the tree so they could chop it down as well as all the people who were supporting her. It is a very moving story of what can happen when we live out of our deepest self, available to God and experiencing ourselves as part of one living organism.

It is out of this conviction and reflection on this oneness that I woke up one morning with an image of “prayer circles for peace.” These would be opportunities to gather in community, recognizing our interconnectedness, intentionally praying for peace, and encouraging one another to claim and live out this vision of peace in our hearts, our communities and our world. I was reminded of Gandhi’s line: “My greatest weapon is mute prayer.” Thus our deep desire and longing to embrace the gift of peace is what creates that possibility for ourselves and our world.

I have begun a variety of these circles over the years. As we gather to sit in silent prayer, it may not feel or look like we are doing anything to aid the suffering and ease the hatred, violence, and destruction in our world, but there is a profound sense of holding the world and each other in a loving and compassionate way, of BEING love and peace for all that is.

So I continue to have hope and an ever deeper commitment to world peace along with a bubbling joy. I invite you to join me in acknowledging our oneness, being a loving presence for our world, and claiming and living into this vision of peace. Perhaps you, too, would like to start a “prayer circle for peace” in your neighborhood?

Article from Shalem News, Fall 2006 issue.

openhands_image1This New Year, journey with Patience Robbins for Open Hands, Willing Hearts, a  6-session eCourse series, beginning January 10. In this course, we will explore with the questions: Why am I here?  What is mine to do? Who am I called to be? And what can I contribute and offer to the world? Register here.


Patience Profile PicPatience Robbins is a graduate of Shalem’s Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program and has been a spiritual director for 30 years. She was the Director of Shalem’s Living in God: Personal Spiritual Deepening Program from 2003-08 and the Director of the Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative from 2013-2015.  She is the author of the booklet, Parenting: A Sacred Path.

Banner photo by Susan Etherton

Open and Available [audio guided meditation]

Today’s post is an audio guided meditation by Patience Robbins (from the December 10, 2014 Wednesday Noon Prayer session). Feel free to tune in on your iPhone or mobile device, and find a quiet place to listen. Click the orange arrow above to listen.

“It is a great gift to have the time and space for this quiet prayer, open and available for the Holy One within us, among us, and around us. During our time together, we will have a brief centering exercise, some prayer intentions, and a reading that will lead us into a time of silence. We will end with a closing prayer.”

Join Patience each Wednesday at noon, or tune in to past meditations.


Patience-RobbinsPatience Robbins, Director of Shalem’s Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative, is a graduate of Shalem’s Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program and has been a spiritual director for over 20 years. She was the Director of Shalem’s Living in God: Personal Spiritual Deepening Program from 2003-08 and is the author of the booklet, Parenting: A Sacred Path.

Above the Clouds

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef.

The red seatbelt sign combined with the sense of forward thrust told me we were about to take off. I briefly set down my Kindle—along with the drama of Russian intrigue, romance, and battle as depicted in Tolstoy’s War and Peace—to gaze out the window. A cold, clear day in Washington DC. I had just arrived only a week ago, and now I was taking off again.

A microcosm, perhaps of our recent experience of moving to DC from Michigan for twenty months, and then moving back much sooner than expected.

It was my first trip back to DC since we moved this past July. It was amazing how easy it was to get back into the rhythm of city life: taking the Metro, hitting favorite coffee shops and micro-brew serving establishments, going to work in the office at Shalem, and seeing old friends and neighbors. It was a delight to be back.

In between the fun there was certainly nostalgia as well. The saddest moment was walking in our old neighborhood, wandering into the quiet neighborhood park after dark, sitting on a cold bench, and envisioning all the fun our family had there—whether playing baseball with my oldest two boys, pushing my youngest two on the swings, or getting neighborhood kids involved in a game of wiffle ball.

This week was also a busy time at Shalem as we hosted the Contemplative Voices Award benefit on Sunday featuring Cynthia Bourgeault, had a board meeting on Monday, and a full day of training for our new website on Tuesday.

By the time I got on the plane I was pretty wiped out. My mind and heart were in various places all at once. I thought of all the work I had to do, the daily realities of life I was returning to. I reveled in the joy of reconnecting—gathering with friends at the pub to talk theology, celebrating a friend’s book release with an improvisational cooking session, enjoying an amazing house concert in my old neighborhood. This busyness and joy mixed with the bittersweet sensation of feeling so at home in a place where I no longer live, and once again feeling that I was leaving too soon.

The plane sped quickly down the runway, and we were flying. It was a full flight, and I wondered about what was happening with all the other individuals seated about me in the cabin. Were they coming, or going? Filled with hope about a new venture? Regretful about something that had already passed? We all sat strapped in, facing forward, regardless of our inner state.

After reading a few more pages of War and Peace, I again looked out the window: houses, roads, and cars had grown miniscule. A few wispy clouds soon turned to a peaceful and soft down blanket upon which we floated.

We passed several states in such fashion, and as we flew in that clear, tranquil space—the bright sun shining on us, the soft white canopy over the world below us—I felt a nudge to exhale. To trust. To rest in the ambiguity. To know that distance might shift relationships, but it does not need to end them. To know that there is a larger whole that I often forget. To remember there is One who invites me to trust that this floating sphere, with its ongoing drama, is loved.

In this liminal space we flew. And I was at peace.


Bryan Berghoef is a pastor and writer who helps curate Shalem’s social media content and provides technical support for Shalem’s online courses. He lives with his family in Holland, Michigan. You can follow Bryan on Facebook and Twitter.

Image via WikiMediaCommons

Soul Assignment

Today’s post is by Susan Rowland. This is a transcript of her audio testimony highlighting her experience in Shalem’s Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program. You may also listen to her tell her story by clicking on the video above. Listen to stories of other graduates here.

My experience with the Shalem program, Leading Contemplative Prayer groups and Retreats, was unique in so many ways.  At the residencies, we were among a circle of talented people, gathered with the intention of deepening their life and leadership in contemplative practice. The breadth and expression of faith was so rich.   Small groups provided a safe opportunity to try out different prayer practices in an open, experiential, supportive space. I will be forever grateful for the emphasis on simple explanations of prayer practices so that the Spirit is “free to move about the cabin” of the gathering.

What made that possible was the Shalem program leadership, modeling something so beautiful and authentic in all that they offered.  I have been to programs where they teach by telling you what to do.  At Shalem, the leaders revealed their personal passion to us through each teaching. Their words and presence were alive – resonating and bouncing off all of our hearts– together, we laughed, we walked, we played with art, we talked a lot over meals.  They truly entered into the community with us.

In the past two years since I graduated from Shalem’s program, those experiences still nourish me. My Shalem book shelf, formed by the rich reading list, is consulted weekly and continues to encourage and inspire me.  I am just finishing my third contemplative group for the year, and I lead a monthly day of silence called Soul Space, I am also on the Board of a rich ministry through The Contemplative Center of Silicon Valley. The mark of Shalem is on each of those endeavors that I am involved in.

Each year, I spend a week of solitude on the coast of Maine.  So many years have been spent there wondering about my “soul assignment.” With such joy, this year was different.  I am amazed to see a dormant dream in my heart for 20 years alive in action and expression.  The balance of clinical life and contemplative ministry is now gratefully present in my daily experience.  Having just finished my group preparation for tomorrow night, the time seemed right to say “Thank You, Shalem” for all you have shared with me that I daily delight in passing on.


susan rowlandSusan Rowland is committed to creating spaces of stillness and quiet for deep listening, and delights in encouraging those interested in developing personal contemplative practices. She has a private practice in Marriage and Family Therapy in San Jose and serves on the board of The Contemplative Center in Silicon Valley.

Is the Spirit drawing you into deeper personal prayer and meditation? Does your experience of this inward deepening enliven your desire for authentic spiritual community? If your answers are yes, then the Spirit may be calling you to create contemplative community by leading groups and retreats. To learn more about Shalem’s 18-month program: Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats, click here.

Photo by Heidi Sandvik

What Does it Mean to Be Beloved of God?

Today’s post is by Juliet Vedral

It happened at the last day—the last hour really—of the 2013 Shalem YALLI kick-off retreat (Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative). As our ragtag group of contemplatives wrote down on paper the blockages we sensed to living lives connected to the Spirit, we placed them in a bowl. We were then asked to come up, take a few of the slips of paper, hold them up to God, then return them to the bowl with a prayer: “I am the Beloved of God.”

This snarky, snide former Pastors’ Kid (yes, that’s two pastors) rolled the eyes of her heart. What did that prayer even mean? But then that question tugged at me: what does it mean to be the Beloved of God? It seemed to be the question I had always been asking. Could that really be true of me?

I’ve always loved John’s gospel the most, primarily because of his audacity to define himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” What a claim, right? Yet it seemed the journey that the Spirit was inviting me to take as we left the retreat was to be able to claim for myself, for my core identity, “the Beloved of God.”

2013-06-23 09.02.12Flash forward 10 months. I am on a work retreat with the messaging team and Anne Grizzle, my mentor through Shalem’s YALLI program. I had suggested that one of my projects to incorporate contemplative practices in the workplace was to have this team take some time to learn how best to listen to the Spirit and each other. As we did some listening and discernment, I shared about my life and how I felt as though I have been on a pilgrimage in the darkness and not sure to what end.

To my surprise, two of my colleagues said that they believed I was “blessed” and that perhaps the season I was in was less about me and more for others. It was not what I’d hoped to hear. Still, it struck a chord in me—as in, it caused all the notes that had been playing in my head and my heart for months to harmonize.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, Life of the Beloved, writes that being the Beloved of God means that we are taken, blessed, broken, and then given to others. As Jesus was blessed, broken, and given to us, so are we to the world. It is at once a beautiful and terrible thing to claim about oneself.

As I contemplate certain areas of my life that feel broken, I recognize that perhaps I’m missing the “slow work of God” because change isn’t happening fast enough. Perhaps the challenge of being the Beloved is having the eyes to see that this life is about God and God’s work in this world.

A co-worker recently referenced a sermon she’d heard a few years earlier, about being in the river of God. As we wade deeper into that river, we are carried to places we may not have willingly gone.

Right now I feel that I am at a place in my life where I would not have willingly gone. I am a single (off of a recent, perplexing break up), 33-year-old, childless woman with a great job, but not in her vocation, far from home. All of these aspects of my life make me feel as though I am not Beloved, as I would prefer to be married, with children, living into a vocational calling and near my family. There is a powerful temptation to feel purposeless and “cursed” by God when looking at my life through the lens of a self-centered world that tells me I am barren because I am alone and childless and not “living my dream.”

And yet the One whom God proclaimed a beloved child that pleased the Divine, was “like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53: 3b). In this upside-down kingdom, Belovedness looks broken. It looks low and impoverished, without “beauty or majesty.” That’s quite a depressing image, right? Who’d really want to sign up for that?

On my birthday I joked that this was my “Jesus year.” Well, here was another 33-year-old, alone, without any descendants, unrecognized for the work he was doing, far from home. So when my colleagues said back to me something I couldn’t hear—the voice of God saying “this is my Beloved Daughter in whom I am well pleased”— it was transformative. To be considered “blessed” despite feeling otherwise showed me how much farther I need to go in embracing all of God’s love towards me. Not just the warm, fuzzy parts. But the real life parts of being broken in front of people and letting them see God heal and restore.

Isn’t that the reason we claim “the Beloved of God” as our identity? I am my father and mother’s beloved daughter even when I don’t always feel it. When I was a child and they didn’t give me what I wanted all the time and they disciplined me to be a kind, thoughtful person, it was because they loved me. As the author of Hebrews writes, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” (Hebrews 12:7). This discipline is not punishment but instead is teaching me to know my worth to God. I am Beloved even when it doesn’t feel like it and through this process being made more and more like Jesus. And like him, may I continue to be chosen, blessed, broken, and given to those who need to see the slow—yet powerful—work of God.


Juliet Vedral is a member of the YALLI class of 2015. She is the press secretary for Sojourners and the editor of a literary magazine called The Wheelhouse Review. You can follow her on Twitter.

Cultivating Discernment in Community: Another Chapter

Today’s post is by Lois A. Lindbloom

This is a season of grieving for me and throughout the college town in which I live.  Jennifer, a beloved campus pastor, died at the age of 47.  She was wife, mother of two young children, daughter, sister, friend to neighbors and colleagues, active supporter of children’s activities and concerns for the care of the world in addition to having a listening ear, prophetic voice, and liturgical grace on the campus.  A year and a half ago she learned that an aggressive, cancerous tumor had established itself in her brain.  That is what took her from us.

A few days before her death, I saw a health care provider in our community.  Through her own tears of grief she asked, “Do you know Jennifer?”  “Yes, she and I and two other women have been in a small group together for more than nine years, a spiritual direction group.  We meet for three hours once a month.”  Then the tears rolled for both of us.

Toward the end of her life Jennifer lost her ability to speak.  In our last meeting less than three weeks before she passed, her remaining word was “ya.”  She understood everything we were saying and offered her one word at appropriate times.  Our moments of silence together that day were some of the most profound I have ever experienced.  It seemed as though the rest of us were joining her in the silence that now was the only option available to her.

My grief is mixed with gratitude for these companions on my spiritual journey, each a unique manifestation of the Love of God in the world.  Our purpose together is spiritual discernment:  paying prayerful attention to one’s own life in order to be clearer about and more cooperative with God’s activity.  We each invite one another to listen prayerfully to the part of our lives we want to share; then we hold what we have heard in silence, observing what comes to us — what we notice, appreciate, wonder about — all to underline and encourage that which seems to be of God.  We offer aloud what came to us, and we hold one another in prayer.

We have asked ourselves what makes the group work or what is unique about it?  Gathering with the clear intention of spiritual discernment is one response.  Prayerful listening is another.  Willingness to speak honestly about one’s own life and concerns.  Refraining from advice giving or fixing one another.  Holding one another’s stories in confidence.  Allowing the holy ground of silence to nudge us away from “knee jerk” or “off the top of one’s head” reactions.  Continually honing our perceptions to pay attention to “that of God” in our own and one another’s stories. 

These conversations are confidential; the content is not talked about elsewhere.  Thus, a startling part of this week of grief has been the spontaneous responses about the group experience from others.  For instance, the husbands of my three friends have each referred to the importance of the group as an anchor, a safe place, a place of growth for their wives which in turn has had an influence on  them. 

Early on in our group Jennifer noted that her prayers were being widened.  She began by praying for each of us but found that her concerns were expanded to include all who were dear to us, whatever people and situations we talked about, the needs in the world that touched each of us.  Yes, the group is for us, and not just for us. 

Somehow this all sounds very serious.  In fact, humor, laughter, and birthday cards are important ingredients as we walk together and hold one another’s stories.  For my group, all of that is particularly cultivated during the first movement of each meeting — lunch together, provided in a rotating fashion which we call “lead and feed.”  The person who brings the lunch also brings an opening reading and guides us through the process, step by step.    

I am enormously grateful for the anchor and place of transformation this group is for me.  I am also enormously hopeful that this process, group spiritual direction, can continue to be a transformative container for many other participants and groups.

If you are interested in experiencing group spiritual direction within a prayerful community, Shalem is offering a Group Spiritual Direction Workshop Sept 21-24 in Lexington, Virginia. Deepen your contemplative grounding and expand your capacity to listen to God on behalf of others. Click here for workshop details.

If you are looking for an ongoing opportunity to practice group spiritual direction, consider joining a Sacred Listening Circle. Gather with others to practice deep listening, actively receiving the wisdom and deep stirrings of the Spirit in each person. We do this for ourselves, each other and on behalf of every person and our planet. A Circle is starting this fall, and will meet regularly in the Shalem library in Washington, DC.

Lois Lindbloom first experienced group spiritual direction with Rose Mary Dougherty and others at Shalem (www.shalem.org).  Learn more from Rose Mary’s books, Group Spiritual Direction:  Community for Discernment and The Lived Experience of Group Spiritual Direction and Lois’ booklet Prayerful Listening:  Cultivating Discernment in Community, all available at the Shalem store.  Lois’ booklet is also available via lalindbloom@earthlink.net.

The Blessing of Silence

2014-06-13 10.12.09By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog. You can see more of her writing atblessedjourneyblog.com.

I love silent retreats. Usually there are people who attend who have experienced the great quiet before and are hungry for more. And then there are people who are there for the first time. They usually express some trepidation about what is going to happen. Questions like, what do I do and am I going to be bored arise. But then there is the anxiety about the unknown that is about to be embarked upon that can be seen in their eyes.

Many of us are used to the clutter and white noise that surrounds so much of society. When it’s gone, it is noticeable and a foreign feeling. We are so used to chatter of one sort or another filling our time and ears.

But, as John of the Cross says, silence is God’s first language.

I think it’s a matter of perspective. When I am introducing a silent retreat, I explain that the silence is not a time of doing without. It is not a time of not talking, it is a time of listening. It is a time of making space for the richness, the fullness that the Holy has to offer.

The silence is a place to deeply listen, fall back into it. Listen to the rustle of leaves, the exhale, the still small voice where we can hear God. Silence is a place of creation, a place of letting go, of emptying ourselves from clutter, of filling up with abundance.

In the silence we can come home to the fullness and richness where we can begin to feel it is safe to open up to your true selves. It is a place where we can be instead of focusing on doing.

There are times in my life that I actually hunger for the Holy Silence. When the world is too much, when the stress and strain ratio is too high, then there is nothing as healing as an extended, deep silence. Ahhh….what a relief!

“There is a huge silence inside each of us that beckons us into itself, and the recovery of our own silence can begin to teach us the language of heaven.”–Meister Eckhart

 

Originally published on Blessed Journey’s Blog.

Being a Companion

2013-02-15 13-1.59.36By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog. You can see more of her writing at blessedjourneyblog.com.

How does one support a dear one in your life who is torn apart by something you can’t fix or even fully understand?

There have been times in my life when a loved one has been struggling through an experience that I have never had and can’t totally fathom. I want so much to support this person, but feel encumbered by my lack of experience in the area of their pain.

At times, just physically being with them or carrying the tools of open-hearted listening and physically and emotionally being there are of some solace. No words are necessary, they wouldn’t help anyway.

But there are other times when the person is seeking active support. How do we do that?

I don’t know what suffering from depression, for example, feels like. I can’t think of ways that might help when they ask for it.

As I hold the suffering up in prayer, and hold myself up in prayer as a caregiver, I can feel the Light flowing into both of us. Sometimes that feels like enough. Sometimes their pain is so large nothing feels like enough but I take some solace in knowing they are not alone on this journey and neither am I.

Parker Palmer touches on this in his book Let Your Life Speak. He talks of one of his depressions where a friend was able to just BE with him. “He never tried to invade my awful inwardness with false comfort or advice; he simply stood on its boundaries, modeling the respect for me and my journey—and the courage to let it be—that I myself needed if I were to endure.”

This is “the kind of love that neither avoids nor invades the soul’s suffering. It is a love in which we represent God’s love to a suffering person, a God who does not ‘fix’ us but gives us strength by suffering with us. By standing respectfully and faithfully at the borders of another’s solitude, we may mediate the love of God to a person who needs something deeper than any human being can give.”

When times are scary and dark, hearing, “I am with you” can get us through.

The Blessing of Anger

cropped snakeBy Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog. You can see more of her writing at blessedjourneyblog.com.

It’s so easy to think of pleasant, lovely things as spiritual. But, what is the holiness of anger? What about jealousy, frustration, being curt? We all get there, we all experience that snap and realize we are in that painful, acidic place. So what is the purpose?

It can certainly be a red flag that we’ve got some work to do in an area. Is it a Holy nudge to work on the real issue at hand somewhere beyond the justifications?

Someone may have truly done something disrespectful or unkind to us, but what is our response? What is our part in the tension between humans? What is there to grow from in this fecund arena called relationship?

What if we are the brutish one? What is Spirit showing us?

I was talking with a friend the other day and they asked me to do something I really didn’t want to do. It wasn’t immoral or painful or anything, but I just really (really, really) didn’t want to do it. So, I said no. I need to actually mark that on the calendar, because that is an unusual event. I’m usually on the self-sacrificial end of the spectrum. The person “mentioned” something about me being selfish. I had a trigger response (body to mouth, no head) and said, “Yes, maybe I’m being selfish, but what I know is that I’m establishing a boundary.” I was angry at being called selfish, but what I realized was that the gift in this was that the anger helped me stand firm in my nascent skill of standing up for myself in this new way.

Hard emotions are not always pretty or clear, but perhaps if we remember that they can be a guidepost or a flag that says, “Pay attention,” we can not only get over that hump, but maybe even dissolve it all together. These too are gifts, reminders that God is with us here too if we are just open to it.