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Healing the spirit means embracing the shadow

Let me begin with a little Scripture that many of us learned in Sunday school: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures He leads me beside the still waters He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I will fear no evil... (Psalm 23, in part) I became very dearly acquainted with the Valley of the Shadow of Death shortly after losing a son in 2003.  It was the darkest night of my soul and my place of deepest grief.  Until that time, I had never experienced darkness quite like this.  I was ready to die at any moment.  I felt that I could sweep my hand to the side and brush aside the thinnest veil that rests between now and eternity.  It's a shadow that now rests on my life.  And as I was going through that Valley, I recognized (with confusion) that the line right before this one says that the Lord will lead us in paths of righteousness.  Certainly, i…
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Our profound interconnection

Nonduality is the awareness that we are all interconnected.  There is no I-You.  We are One.  And isn't this was Jesus prayed that we would understand?  That we are One together with our Source, that is, God?  Think on this.
Every Monday morning, I drive two hours to work three days at the state psychiatric hospital.  My work is exhausting--mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining.  Every evening after work, I sit alone in my hotel room and practice my energy cleansing practices--chakras, mindfulness, prayer...sometimes sage.  But this morning, I decided to prepare myself during my morning drive.
Typically, it's a long, boring drive in which I occupy myself with music and podcasts.  Today, however, for the last hour of my drive, I decided to practice mindful driving.  I put on some calming music and tried to stay present in the NOW.  I succeeded for roughly ten seconds.  Immediately, my thoughts jumped to the past or the present and I found myself lost in…

Three questions we are always asking

"Spirituality is a force, or an idea, that challenges us (as a community) to be inward and outward looking simultaneously--a journey that regulates agency with the broader collective." (Gamble & Beer, 2017)

I love this definition of spirituality.  It at once recognizes that each individual has a spirit, that it is connected to others, and that it is always simultaneously looking in and out (subjective and objective) and seeking connection.  As a therapist that has my roots deep in Attachment Theory, I believe that this is true from the very moment of our existence.  We are always seeking secure attachment.  First, with our primary caregivers and then out into the world with peers, lovers, friends.

But we are also constantly seeking connection with other things as well--nature, animals, our work, entertainment, art, beauty, etc.  We want (and I would argue need) to know who we are, to feel that our life is meaningful, and to feel connected to the world and to others.  I c…

A Thanksgiving Story

For Thanksgiving this year, the young woman pulled her box of china from under the stairs.  She had often heard other women say that china should be used regularly throughout the year but this china was special and she had children with slippery hands.  It was a lovely little set.  Off-white in color with a delicate wheat pattern and each plate, cup, and saucer was rimmed in gold.

She removed the three plates, bowls, and cups from the box and washed them gently.  Three.  One for her and two for her children.  This was the first year since her divorce and she noticed a slight ache in her heart--a small nagging of guilt and pain and "what if?"  She had always said that she would never get divorced and felt pain for her children although they both seemed remarkably well-adjusted.

The marriage relationship had turned abusive through the years.  She had tried everything that she knew to do but a time had come when she had to leave for the health of her children.  Plenty of peopl…

To "speak the truth in love" does not mean "reprimand"

"...speaking the truth in love..." Ephesians 4:15
Notice the "dot, dot, dot," before and after that phrase?  But how many times have you heard it as a full sentence?  Speak the Truth in love.  As a full sentence, it loses all context.  And how often is this phrase used as an excuse to reprimand another "in love" and tell them about their multitude of sins?
The New Living Translation has a completely different take on this phrase.  It states, "we will hold to the truth in love."  Now, that changes it a bit, doesn't it?  That makes the action about me and not about me acting on another.  
In context, Ephesians 4 is talking about the Body of Christ and how we must work to grow up and mature in the Lord.  "Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe..."  The work is for each of us to grow up and cling to the Lord's love.  
And what Truth are we clinging to?  It is the truth that we are d…

Trauma is like a bee in the sand

My professor was teaching on the power of language- the power words have over us- when he used the example of the beach. He told us to remember the last time we were at the beach. The warm sand, the relaxing sounds, etc...

It took me back to Mazatlan. I left the resort pool and walked down the small steps to the beach where vendors were selling dresses, sunglasses, jewelry. The sand was warm on my bare feet and I walked quietly through the dry sand, my face to the sun, the wind in my hair... When a pain shot up through the ball of my foot into my ankle. I looked down to see a bee still stuck in the flesh of my foot. I was immediately angry. I looked around to see hundreds of bees in the sand. They had built a nest nearby in the base of a rock and a hotel worker was trying to kill them by covering them with sand... Not a great plan.

As I thought about this in class, I remember that it felt offensive. I was enjoying the stillness, the relaxation. True, I stepped on the bee so technical…

What it means when a narcissistic pastor says, "I love the church"

I ran across this article while going through a rough place in my life.  It had profound meaning for me in dealing with some of the individuals in my life that have narcissistic traits. The article highlights the fact that when a narcissist says, “I love you,” he really means that he loves the way that you (fill in the blank): take care of his needs, focus your energy on him, submit, etc. Individuals that have been in relationships with narcissists often admit to feeling crazy, not recognizing the abuse while it was occurring, and to keeping secrets to cover for his abuse, infidelity, etc.  I wonder if this is what many people are recognizing in the #exevangelical movement.  Because as I was going through this article again, I began to realize that many of the narcissistic traits could be applied to the many pastors and men in church leadership that I have known through the years. Being in church ministry for twelve years, I became proficient at silence and lies to cover the behavior…