Thursday, January 29, 2009

Spiritality and Psychotherapy--What are your ideas?

Strange week. Monday, yes, normal. But Tuesday and Wednesday were full of ice and freezing rain; David and I both stayed home and worked from here. Today we all awoke to freezing fog. Weird. By mid-day it was gone and it became a truly lovely day.

Tomorrow I'm up super early...seeing someone for spiritual direction in City to the East at 8:00 a.m. Leading the HeartPaths group--we're praying according to different functions of the Meyers-Briggs this month. Last week was "Feeling," tomorrow is "Thinking." Then another spiritual direction session, a doctor's appointment, and a couple of counseling clients.

The doctor's appointment is a "pre-op" appointment. I'm having surgery on my left wrist Monday to alievate this pain from carpal tunnel. It's just gotten way too painful, waking me up at night, etc. Ugh.

All of a sudden, I feel like I'm up against a wall with everything I have to do. I found out that this class I've been asked to teach on "Spirituality and Psychotherapy" is just a title that one of the faculty members at the seminary came up with--she knew the Dean was going to ask me, and she knows of my interest in these subjects, so she suggested this title. Which I very much appreciate--I am passionate about this kind of thing and am looking forward to the whole process here. But the class is brand new; I have to create it from scratch. So I have a TON of research and creative thinking to do in order to get the Prospectus ready by mid-March. I have some good ideas already, I think, but I'm just wondering....

If you saw this class listed, what would you want it to be?
What are your ideas?

For My Mentor, "A"

A former professor of mine, someone I now consider a friend, has received a diagnosis of cancer and is recovering now from surgery. He faces chemo and radiation in the near future. This man means the world to me. I was never one of his clients, obviously, but his encouragement, honesty, sense of humor, and care for me while I was in seminary (10 years) healed me in some profound ways. I have been in constant prayer for him and his sweet wife since I heard this news.

This blessing from John O'Donohue goes out to both of them.

For Light

Light cannot see inside things.
That is what the dark is for:
Minding the interior,
Nurturing the draw of growth
Through places where death
In its own way turns into life.

In the glare of neon times,
Let our eyes not be worn
By surfaces that shine
With hunger made attractive.

That our thoughts may be true light,
Finding their way into words
Which have the weight of shadow
To hold the layers of truth.

That we never place our trust
In minds claimed by empty light,
Where one-sided certainties
Are driven by false desire.

When we look into the heart,
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.

That the searching of our minds
Be equal to the oblique
Crevices and corners where
The mystery continues to dwell,
Glimmering in fugitive light.

When we are confined inside
The dark house of suffering
That moonlight might find a window.

When we become false and lost
That the severe noon-light
Would cast our shadow clear.

When we love, that dawn-light
Would lighten our feet
Upon the waters.

As we grow old, that twilight
Would illuminate treasure
In the fields of memory.

And when we come to search for God,
Let us first be robed in night,
Put on the mind of morning
To feel the rush of light
Spread slowly inside
The color and stillness
Of a found word.

~ John O'Donohue ~

(To Bless the Space Between Us)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Asked to Teach

Freezing rain. Icy roads. YIPPEE! A FREE DAY!

Time today to do some work on my United Church of Christ History paper--I need to get that into the Committee on Ministry so that the UCC can make my ordination one of theirs (so to speak).

Time today also (I hope) to do some initial planning on the class I've been asked to teach at the university seminary from which I graduated. Guess you'll be able to call me an "Adjunct Professor" in the Fall. I'm pretty excited about being asked to do that. They want me to teach "Spirituality and Psychotherapy" for the Fall, and either the "Intro to Pastoral Care" class or an elective class next Spring.

I'm looking forward to the experience of teaching as an extension of my ministry. I'm even looking forward to preparing the classes--I'll learn a lot, I'm sure!

It's not a sure-thing yet. I suppose that if we can't work out a time in which the class will meet that fits my schedule, the whole thing could go ka-put! But my church is pretty flexible, and I can get my part-time hours in by working on Thursdays (my normal day off) if need be.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dr. Watkins' Sermon

Sharon Watkins is the President and General Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the denomination in which I am ordained. Here is her sermon, preached at the National Prayer Service attended by President Obama and Vice President Biden on January 21, 2009.

Sermon: Harmonies of Liberty
Isaiah 58:6-12, Mt 22:6-40
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins National Prayer Service; January 21, 2009
Mr. President and Mrs. Obama, Mr. Vice President and Dr. Biden, and your families, what an inaugural celebration you have hosted! Train ride, opening concert, service to neighbor, dancing till dawn...
And yesterday... With your inauguration, Mr. President, the flame of America's promise burns just a little brighter for every child of this land!
There is still a lot of work to do, and today the nation turns its full attention to that work. As we do, it is good that we pause to take a deep spiritual breath. It is good that we center for a moment.
What you are entering now, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, will tend to draw you away from your ethical center. But we, the nation that you serve, need you to hold the ground of your deepest values, of our deepest values.
Beyond this moment of high hopes, we need you to stay focused on our shared hopes, so that we can continue to hope, too.
We will follow your lead.
There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom:

One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces. "There are two wolves struggling inside ]each of us," the old man said. "One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear... "

The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love..."

The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: "Which wolf wins, Grandfather?"

His grandfather replied, "The one you feed."

There are crises banging on the door right now, pawing at us, trying to draw us off our ethical center - crises that tempt us to feed the wolf of vengefulness and fear.
We need you, Mr. President, to hold your ground. We need you, leaders of this nation, to stay centered on the values that have guided us in the past; values that empowered to move us through the perils of earlier times and can guide us now into a future of renewed promise.
We need you to feed the good wolf within you, to listen to the better angels of your nature, and by your example encourage us to do the same.
This is not a new word for a pastor to bring at such a moment. In the later chapters of Isaiah, in the 500's BCE, the prophet speaks to the people. Back in the capital city after long years of exile, their joy should be great, but things aren't working out just right. Their homecoming is more complicated than expected. Not everyone is watching their parade or dancing all night at their arrival.
They turn to God, "What's going on here? We pray and we fast, but you do not bless us. We're confused." Through the prophet, God answers, what fast? You fast only to quarrel and fight and strike with the fist... Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice... to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house . .? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly...
At our time of new beginning, focused on renewing America's promise -yet at a time of great crisis - which fast do we choose? Which "wolf" do we feed? What of America's promise do we honor?
Recently Muslim scholars from around the world released a document, known as "A Common Word Between Us and You." It proposes a common basis for building a world at peace. That common basis? Love of God and love of neighbor! What we just read in the Gospel of Matthew!
So how do we go about loving God? Well, according to Isaiah, summed up by Jesus, affirmed by a worldwide community of Muslim scholars and many others, it is by facing hard times with a generous spirit: by reaching out toward each other rather than turning our backs on each other. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "people can be so poor that the only way they see God is in a piece of bread."
In the days immediately before us, there will be much to draw us away from the grand work of loving God and the hard work of loving neighbor. In crisis times, a basic instinct seeks to take us over - a fight/flight instinct that leans us toward the fearful wolf, orients us toward the self-interested fast...
In international hard times, our instinct is to fight - to pick up the sword, to seek out enemies, to build walls against the other - and why not? They just might be out to get us. We've got plenty of evidence to that effect. Someone has to keep watch and be ready to defend, and Mr. President - Tag! You're it!
But on the way to those tough decisions, which American promises will frame those decisions? Will you continue to reason from your ethical center, from the bedrock values of our best shared hopes? Which wolf will you feed?
In financial hard times, our instinct is flight - to hunker down, to turn inward, to hoard what little we can get our hands on, to be fearful of others who may take the resources we need. In hard financial times, which fast do we choose? The fast that placates our hunkered-down soul - or the fast that reaches out to our sister and our brother?
In times such as these, we the people need you, the leaders of this nation, to be guided by the counsel that Isaiah gave so long ago, to work for the common good, for the public happiness, the well-being of the nation and the world, knowing that our individual wellbeing depends upon a world in which liberty and justice prevail.
This is the biblical way. It is also the American way - to believe in something bigger than ourselves, to reach out to neighbor to build communities of possibility, of liberty and justice for all. This is the center we can find again whenever we are pulled at and pawed at by the vengeful wolf, when we are tempted by the self-interested fast.
America's true character, the source of our national wisdom and strength, is rooted in a generous and hopeful spirit.
"Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,...Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me..."

Emma Lazarus' poetry is spelled out further by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,: "As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy... I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made."
You yourself, Mr. President, have already added to this call, "If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child... . It's that fundamental belief - I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper - that makes this country work." It is right that college classes on political oratory already study your words. You, as our president, will set the tone for us. You will help us as a nation choose again and again which wolf to feed, which fast to choose, to love God by loving our neighbor.
We will follow your lead - and we will walk with you. And sometimes we will swirl in front of you, pulling you along.
At times like these - hard times -we find out what we're made of. Is that blazing torch of liberty just for me? Or do we seek the "harmonies of liberty", many voices joined together, many hands offering to care for neighbors far and near?
Though tempted to withdraw the offer, surely Lady Liberty can still raise that golden torch of generosity to the world. Even in these financial hard times, these times of international challenge, the words of Katherine Lee Bates describe a nation with more than enough to share: "Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain..."

A land of abundance guided by a God of abundance, generosity, and hope - This is our heritage. This is America's promise which we fulfill when we reach out to each other.
Even in these hard times, rich or poor, we can reach out to our neighbor, including our global neighbor, in generous hospitality, building together communities of possibility and of hope.
Even in these tough times, we can feed the good wolf, listen to the better angels of our nature. We can choose the fast of God's desiring.
Even now in these hard times let us
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,...
with the harmonies of Liberty;
Even now let us Sing a song full of hope...
Especially now, from the center of our deepest shared values, let us pray, still in the words of James Weldon Johnson:

Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light,
Keep us... in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Possible Gift of this Economic Downturn

I heard a podcast recently of Krista Tippett interviewing Parker Palmer.

Palmer suffered terrible depression in his 40's. His therapist finally said something like, "Parker, is it possible for you to view this as a gift, something that will push you down, down, down, so far down that you finally hit the ground that supports you?"

In the interview and in Tippett's subsequent comments, this is likened to American's current economic downturn.

America, could it be that these tough times could be the gift that pushes us down to the very Ground that supports us?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oh Wow. It's really happening...,

Oh Wow. I mean, WOW!

I just realized that I can finally take down that gadget about the Bush Administration: "Countdown to the End of the Worst Administration I've Known"


Felt like this day would never come.

A beautiful prayer


Isn't this a beautiful prayer?

O secret Christ,
Lord of the rose of dawn,
hide me
within thy silent peace,
that, through the turmoil of the day,
I may abide within the quiet of the daybreak.



(From a compilation by Angela Ashwin. Used in the chapel at Laude Abbey. Source unknown.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Social construction, epistemology, narrative theory: FREEDOM

When I was 8 or 9 years old, one of my little neighborhood friends was Charla. I remember one day at Charla's house, she and I were sitting on the floor by her bed. I don't remember exactly what we were doing -- maybe we were playing with dolls or some kind of game or something. I remember suddenly thinking something like: "Wait a minute. How do I know that what I mean by this doll is what Charla means? I'm seeing this doll and it's real to me, but how do I know whether the same thing is really real to Charla? I'm locked inside my body, and I can't look out and see the world from her eyes."

I didn't think about that experience again for 30 years--not until I took a philosophy class in seminary, and we read about epistemology. Whew! Suddenly that memory hit me like a ton of bricks!

How do we know things? How do we know anything?

Modernist thinking would say that we can know what really exists -- the table is real. Scientifically I can tell you what it's made of. Scientifically, we know what the human body is made of, and how we're put together. Freud said we are a combination of ego, id, superego and we function in certain ways because of certain drives inside of us. With modern thought, there's a certainty about the world, about reality itself.

Postmodern thought, on the other hand, would remind us that, after all, the ideas we have about the world, the language we use to communicate our ideas about the world, are not actually the world. They are merely our interpretations of what's real. Epistemology, that question of how I can know anything, begins with the fact that we are embodied creatures, with physical senses and a brain--a brain that takes in the raw data of experience from our eyes, ears, etc. and interprets it. We interpret everything.

We tend to not even be aware that we are interpreting, but a story from Oliver Sacks is a great reminder. Here's my version of Sacks' story:

It's the story of a man named Virgil. Virgil was in his 50's, and he'd been blind since he was a toddler. He and Amy were about to be married, and she convinced him to see her doctor, a surgeon who told Virgil that he could restore his sight. So, the day came, he had the surgery. He goes back the next day to have the bandages removed, and what do you think happened? It was a successful operation! Do you assume, as I did, that Virgil's eyes were opened, the scales fell from them, and the blind man received his sight?. Amy write in her journal about that great day: "Virgil can SEE! The entire office was in tears, first time Virgil has seen in 50 years! Miracle of sight restored! Incredible!"

But the following day, she wrote about certain problems: "Virgil's trying to adjust to seeing. He has to think faster. He's unsure of what seeing means."

In that first moment, when the bandages were removed, Virgil later said he had no idea what he was seeing. There was light, there was movement, there was color, all mixed up, all meaningless, a blur. Then out of the blue came a voice that said, "Well?" Only then did he realize that this chaos of light and shadow was a face, the face of his surgeon, bending over him, wanting to know if he could see!

When WE open our eyes each morning, it is upon a world we've spent a lifetime learning to see. We are not given the world -- we construct our world through incessant experience, categorization, memory. When Virgil opened his eyes, there were no visual memories to support a perception. He saw, but what he saw had no coherence. His retina and optic nerve were active, transmitting impulses, but his brain could make no sense of them.

He would get confused by his own shadow. The whole concept of shadows, of objects blocking light, was puzzling to him.

Steps posed a special hazard, because all he could see was a confusion, a flat surface of parallel and criss-crossing lines. He could not see them as solid objects going up or coming down in 3-dimensional space. There was a step at the end of his porch, which he knew occurred after a certain period of time. He had to coordinate both vision and the time necessary to cover the distance; if he walked too fast or too slow, he stumbled.

He had a hard time distinguishing between his cat and dog, both of whom happened to be black and white. He'd look at the cat carefully, looking at its head, its ears, its paws, its tail, and touching each part gently as he did so…correlating, correlating…He could see each part, but could not see them all together; he couldn't connect them as a whole. Amy wrote that "you'd think once would be enough," but the visual recognitions kept slipping from his mind.

As Virgil explored and investigated the visual constructions of the world, he was like an infant moving his hand to and fro before his eyes, turning it this way and that in his primal construction of the world. Most of us have no sense of the immensity of the construction because we perform it unconsciously thousands of times a day, at a glance. But for Virgil (and for us as babies) this construction was a huge task of synthesizing, correlating varying appearances -- disconnected perceptions -- into a unified whole.

This story illustrates how this construction process is going on all the time. We have various pieces of raw data coming into our brains from our five senses, and we take all of that data in and then have to interpret them. We construct our reality.

This construction is part of the narrative task. When we tell a story, we select from among a wide variety of data. There's always more involved in any human action than can be told, after all. And we construct the pieces into a story that has order and provides meaning. Narrative theory says that consciousness itself imposes a narrative structure on the 'flow of our experience.' And this structure is, of course, interwoven with temporality:

  • Beginning, middle, end
  • Past, present, future
  • Memory, attention, anticipation
  • We were, we are, we will be
  • We're born, we live, we will die.
  • The birth of all life on the planet, the present historical situation, the end/death of history
  • The already, the present moment, the not yet.

So we set our experience inside this narrative structure that gives the experience some coherence and moves it through time.

Narrative theory says also that we maintain our sense of self, our sense of being a self, mostly through interpreting our lives as stories. Each of us has a story that is 'the story of my life.' That story embodies at least two things:

  1. The givens of our situation: we were born in the 20th century…these are our parents, our family, this is the genetic makeup we have…
  2. How we have interpreted and continue to reinterpret those givens, i.e., the meaning we bestow upon the givens, and on our experience

Several years ago I was an associate minister in a church in D_____. During the July Cabinet meeting we were talking about how the air conditioning in the church kept breaking. I was talking about how the Day Care Center at the church had lots of parents complaining. Next thing I know, one of the elders of the church verbally attacked me. Oh, he lit into me like there was no tomorrow. I was so shocked that I don't remember exactly what he said, but I do remember that he used the word "stupid." To me, it was completely out of the blue--a mean, ugly, angry outburst. I was devastated.

In terms of narrative theory and how we impose a narrative structure on the flow of experience, in the present I am sitting there at this Cabinet meeting, and I'm seeing and hearing this man's angry outburst directed at me. I interpret what's happening through a previously-constructed core narrative about anger. Core narratives are stories we have about certain aspects of the human condition.

As a little girl, I learned that I had to 'earn' the love of my parents by being 'good' and not doing anything that would bring down their anger on me. If my parents expressed anger, love was withdrawn, and I might not survive it. My future was threatened when my parents expressed anger at me. Basically anger was a kind of death to me. So, in the face of that kind of anger, even as an adult, the future closed down and I became what one of my seminary professors describes as "a quivering mass of protoplasm spread out on the floor." It took every ounce of energy I had just to hold myself together for the remainder of the meeting.

Let's just say that's a difficult place from which to see the future.

As it happened I was leaving the next day for a conference in Denver, and a friend of mine, Kathy S____ was there. Kathy's a counselor. I told her what happened and we had several conversations about it.

So, here are two people--Kathy and myself--people who in some sense are constantly constructing their sense of self and their sense of what's objectively real. Each of us has our own core narratives about anger. My story about anger is that 'Anger is Death.' The way Kathy has constructed her story about anger differs from mine. In the conversation, through our language, our narratives collide; they meet. She's wondering how my story about anger was constructed, what it means to me now, and the effect it has on my future. And interspered in that conversation are a few comments about her own story of anger. In the meeting of narratives my story of anger begins to loosen up a bit. There's the beginning of an Alternative Story of anger. My 'Anger is Death' story slowly starts to become an 'Anger is Survivable' story for me.

In this collision of narratives healing began. The future opened up for me in a new way. I picked up from the floor my quivering mass of protoplasm and eventually became a person who moves into the future a bit more confidently now that part of her identity is that "Anger is Survivable."

This story illustrates social construction and narrative theory which both hold that as we move through the world, we build up our ideas about our world in conversation with other people. These ideas can and do change as we encounter people with different narratives.

One more thing about this: In reflecting on what happened and how Kathy helped me remember how my story about anger had been constructed from past experiences, I was able to apply that broader perspective to the man who verbally attacked me. Through that narrative conversation with Kathy I remembered that there's a complex, 75-year-old story to this man's life. Kathy wondered about his future story -- is there a sense in which his future was closed down? What's his story about women in ministry? This broader narrative perspective eventually helped me be open to restoring relationship with him.

Just some thoughts on this Saturday night. (ha! not really. just kidding. I was going through some old files and found this. It was a lecture I gave a while back to a Pastoral Care Intro class, although I've rewritten it here. Still a fascinating thing to me, how we go through life constructing our own reality, and how malleable that reality can be. It's really all about Freedom, I think.)

Sacks image from GoogleImages

Kathy's New Blog

Awwwright! I have nagged Kathy enough. She's posting her beautiful artwork, lovely poems etc. again, but under a new name:

Back Home With Me

She's amazing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blogging Friends!


It's so funny (and wonderful) that I've been given a Blogging Friend Award by Jan and by Mompriest and by Jennifer at the very moment that my blog has been the vehicle to reconnecting me with an old and dear friend, KC, who (somehow) found MeaningAndAuthenticity and emailed me!

KC and are met at the oil company that I worked at for 14 years. She was the IT person assigned to support my department, and we just became fast friends. I can't remember how long she stayed with this company. She met GC and they married, and then moved to Austin where she worked for Dell. He had a great job, too and they were able to retire early and have now built a fabulous home in the Texas hill country. Wow.

I remember going to visit them once in Austin. We went to see a movie, Dead Poets Society--a movie which is always at the top of my list when the talk turns to favorite movies. That visit was so much fun; I remember talking politics and religion and music and movies--KC is one of those people who is just totally interested in life. I love that.

KC, I can tell from your emails that you still have that incredible "taking in" of life. So great. Your life just sounds wonderful--and I'd love to see your home someday.

KC's email reminded me of the importance of relationships. And the great vehicle afforded by blogging for renewing and making friends. For most of my blogging 'career,' so to speak, Jan and Linda were my only IRL friends...now I have several others, and I tell ya, it's so much fun! Anyway, here is the Friends Award info:

The Friends Award isn't about being the most popular blogger or having the most read blog. It is just because you consider the author a friend. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind of bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

OK, so here goes, (not including Jan or Mompriest or Jennifer):

RJ
Linda
Purple
Jen
A.V.
Serena
Gannet Girl
Steve

Kathy, if you'd ever post again, I'd name you,too !!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Little Giddy at Happy News

We've had some absolutely WONDERFUL news this weekend:
Young Man with Integrity is getting married!!

He's marrying J, the Inherently Irrational Rationalist (title of her blog), whose little two-year-old is Little M.

David and I have called ourselves grandparents of Little M for a while now, but I guess we can look forward to a "more official" grandparenthood.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!YIPPEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The wedding will be later this year sometime, and they have asked me and David to officiate. David just wants to do a blessing at the end, so I'm more than delighted to be able to perform this role for my wonderful stepson and his soon-to-be wife. They are a good match. Readers of this blog know that Young Man with Integrity is brilliant, sensitive, uniquely his own person, kind and caring, hardworking, and one whom I fully expect will one day contribute powerfully to making this world a better place. He majored in political science and plans on law school. Girlfriend and soon to be daughter-in-law J is, at 23, one of the deepest thinkers I know. I love reading her blog...she's painfully honest, the kind of honesty that always gives birth to spiritual growth. She's funny and strong and able to love deeply. Young Man with Integrity has chosen well.

I am just SO excited! When they told us yesterday I admit to getting a little giddy. Oh! Let's make this dinner together tonight an Engagement Celebration Dinner! Oh! Where's the good china? Candles...Centerpiece...Let's open a bottle of champagne! Let's toast them! (3 times) Let's find out what they want for an engagement present! Where do you want the wedding? How big do you want it to be? On and on and on I went. I know I just about drove them crazy. As they were leaving, walking out the door, Young Man with Integrity says to me, with this kinda bemused, kinda happy, kinda teasing, but also worn-out look on his face: Don't make me regret this, Katherine. ha!
image from freerangecards.com

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Discernment: Learning to Love

Many times I've heard people say something like this regardig discerning their calling to ministry:



Oh, I didn't want to do it, but God kept at me. God was pulling me along, but I didn’t want to go, I really didn’t, but God just kept bugging me and wouldn't let me alone.

I think we need to be very careful about this kind of thinking. God is found in our resistence, too. Yes, we must learn to trust God, but we must learn to trust ourselves, too.

Discernment is not really about making a decision or solving a problem. Discernment is living a life that moves toward authenticity. It's all about learning to love ourselves~the true self, that is. It's a process of developing self awareness such that we can finally see how our deepest desire is also God's desire for us. God's will for us does not differ from our own deepest desire. And I believe that our deepest desires always come down to Love.

Most every advance in discernment carries with it a cost, the cross of self-knowledge. As we learn who we truly are, so much of who we thought we were must die, and that is often quite painful. Developing self-awareness is a waking up process, a birthing process, a movement from what is small and dark and prison-like to that which is terrifyingly enormous, vibrantly light, and freeing.

To discern we must identify the obstacles to the Image of God within us, and then take action to remove them so that we can increasingly become the authentic beings that God created. It's the imago Dei that truly knows, actually sees.

I think we can liken the process of removing the obstacles to the imago Dei within us to learning to love. Love and fear cannot stand together. Love casts out our fears and anxieties so that we can be transformed and ever more receptive to love. The more we’re receptive, the more we can change. It is in being LOVED (not loving, although that's a natural consequence of allowing ourselves to be loved) that the imago Dei is clarified, enlivened, and empowered. We are desirable because we were created by desire, God's perfect desire.

It's difficult, allowing ourselves to be completely loved. It's both passive and active--we simply allow it, we let go, surrender to this great power of love. But there's also some active discernment necessary, some real agency involved in this surrender. In my experience it doesn't just happen~we must work at it, practice listening and being receptive and trusting. Oh my. It's not easy.

And ALL this transformation is for the sole purpose of LOVE – to LOVE the world.

Just some thoughts this Thursday night.

flickr image, "inner light"