Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sunday Morning Freewrite

 The SUN just started to shine through the window on what, at the beginning of my Centering Prayer time (20 min) was only gloom and fog. What a great end to a more focused Centering time than I have had over the last two weeks. I found myself being very distracted during Centering Prayer by all the Pilates videos I have had to make. I owe the University 30 hours of work because I was furloughed for one of my classes and not the other. I didn't find out about it until November. I couldn't start the videos until my biopsy for melanoma healed because it was on my bottom, and I could not do the three rolling exercises in the Pilates routine. So, I started the adventure on November 27th. I have done 14:40 so far. I will need to do 5:20 more. The other ten hours are given to me for the uploading and descriptions attached to my videos. It is doing 12 weeks worth of a Pilates class in four weeks (due date is December 31). 

The silver lining: I am getting back in Pilates shape. It is one thing to do it on your own at home and another thing to be in shape to do instruction for an Advanced Pilates class. I did that yesterday, and I always say that the level between Intermediate and Advanced goes up ASTRONOMICALLY! So, I was so tired yesterday. I had the family go shopping for gifts and cars (Michael's car was totaled, and Paul has not gotten around to getting one since he works so close to home) for three hours so I could have uninterrupted time in videos. Sadly, someone dropped in on me texting me and calling me to tell me they were in my driveway. Another friend called after not hearing from him for probably two years. So, I had to do my video in two parts and then put it in a movie editor and trim and put them together. I do love learning new things, but it prolonged my time, and I had a limited amount with them gone. 

All that said, when they came home they were ready to go get our Christmas trees. I had a moment in the kitchen where I could feel myself about to burst into tears and crawl into bed from the stress of this whole thing and the tiredness of my body when I CAUGHT MYSELF IN THE ACT! It was the coolest thing. (The sun is shining more and more. God always speaks to me with the sun breaking through clouds and shining into windows - So I am going with this freewrite.) I didn't stuff it, but there was this overwhelming sense of God's presence with me. God's protection of me - my body, my soul, my mind, my spirit. I wasn't "stuffing it and sucking it up and gutting it out for the family." Nor did I get emotional and crawl into a hole hoping that my family would understand. I could have done that, and they would have understood. We could have postponed but rain was on the horizon for the only other day we could do it. But there was this shift. There was an acknowledgment of how tired I was, but there was this shift to wanting to go. I was standing there in the kitchen on the verge of losing it and then I wasn't, but I didn't stuff it either. It is hard to explain. 

In the car, filled with joy, I whizzed down Walnut Blvd. with the people I am most in love with and bring me the most life, noticing the gorgeous color of the blue sky meeting forested hills, listening to Kenny Rogers' rendition of "Children Go Where I Send Thee" (man, it is GOOD), and just enjoying life STRESS-FREE. 

Our 23rd Trip to Donovan's Tree Farm was filled with the 23rd installment of life-giving joy. I asked about Mr. Donovan, and as I did, he drove up on an ATV with a hearty hello (he knows us after 23 trips) and gave us a personal tour of his latest pottery pieces, and I bought a bowl with the deepest and most beautiful color of green I have ever seen.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sunday Freewrite

Fifteen minutes and counting!

I love freewrites, but I have not been very good at them lately. My life is FULL and FULFILLING! When I told George that I would not be teaching at OSU this fall and wondered what I would do, he said, "I have no doubt that you will figure out what to do with your time, Carol." 

And he would be right. :) Well, one thing is that my spiritual direction (companionship really) ministry has really taken off, and I LOVE IT! I meet with 18 people regularly, either once or twice a month (the ones going through the Exercises meet twice and a couple of others who want to meet twice who are doing regular spiritual direction). I have 1-2 meetings a day, and that is about all I can handle as I spend time in prayer before and after. I LOVE IT (of dear, I already said that) because it really more like being in prayer the whole time as I listen to God and listen to people at the same time. So, because I am not teaching Pilates, I have had more time to devote to this budding ministry (www.bodyandsoulcompanion.com).

Well, when I say "not teaching Pilates," it was an illusion because I found out that the paperwork was not filed in time. So, I owe my boss 30 hours of work (my time had been reduced from 60 hours for the term to 30 hours with the lower enrollment, but then they decided to cancel the class all together and put my students in with the other Pilates classes that were not filled), but the paperwork didn't get filed. So, I found out in November, after half the term was over that I need to make a bunch of videos. I could not start until this week because of the healing of my bottom biopsy for melanoma. It was good that I did not have this hanging over my head while I was adding more and more directees. Now I am sailing with all of them (I think I am at max capacity now), and I made my first two videos over the Thanksgiving extended weekend, and I had SO MUCH FUN! I think I have missed teaching. These videos will be for the faculty and staff, but I will use them for my students in the future too, and I will be able to add them to my www.bodyandsoulcompanion.com collection. Eventually, I want to add Prayer and Praise Pilates videos, but these are the basic building block Pilates videos that people need to learn before they can go on with the routines. So it is all good.

All that said, I feel like the extra time I had also helped me to devote more time to the care of my own body. When I get busy with setting up my classes in the fall, it is more stressful and I tend to not do as much cardio (Pilates burns about 120 calories an hour, and walking burns about 400 per hour). So I can sometimes pack on the pounds during the fall. Then I head into Christmas and add a little more. It is my typical pattern. This fall, I definitely got the word to focus on my eating, and I lost 10% of my body weight. I was only "technically" 4 lbs overweight for my height, but I got down to where I am most comfortable. So I head into the holidays with a balance between body and soul! (Practicing what I preach).

I continue to love doing Centering Prayer with Mercy Center, Burlingame every Sunday and Thursday. In fact, I just finished with them before this freewrite. I seem to do much better with accountability. 

I am looking forward to doing a six-day Advent Retreat with the Ignatian Spirituality Center starting tomorrow night. I cleared my whole schedule (one thing that I could not clear was moved to a week later - that was cool to see God clear the way). I will meet with a director for 30 minutes each day during the retreat. That will also be very nice. 

Well, I thought it was about 15 minutes, and I looked at the timer, and I had 30 seconds which just ended right now. 

66. Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

 

Centering Prayer and Inner AwakeningCentering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been growing (and benefitting from) more extended times of Centering Prayer for over two years now. Since June, I have been part of a Zoom group from California that meets twice a week (
Centering Prayer - Mercy Center Burlingame (mercy-center.org). I love the accountability, and we have been discussing Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel every other week. I think that book is a better introduction to Centering Prayer than this one. It is more practical with the "how-tos."  This one is much more into the theological and psychological implications. 

One of the leaders of my California group read from Bourgeault's book. So I read it. It expanded upon some things that I was wondering about when I read Open Mind, Open Heart, but it also got into all this other stuff in the middle of the book that wasn't what I was looking for (it was interesting but a bit too heady).

The end of the book had a thorough explanation of Welcoming Prayer which was just touched on in a CD lecture series I listened to on Centering Prayer. The CDs did not include the speaker's handouts. So I was a bit lost on the Welcoming Prayer part. This book had a detailed diagram about it, and I found that super helpful. So, this helped me like the book by the end.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Freewrite Fifteen

Here I go! I have not had a Freewrite for many, many days. I have been fairly full in my days, but today is a day for personal enrichment! 

I have no spiritual direction appointments. I was possibly going to have one with someone passing through, but it turned out that we had Valentina and Pieter here the whole time, and I thought it was going to be raining so we would have been inside with vacuum cleaners going. As it was, I had a very nice visit with them as they cleaned, and I had a pick me up as she commented on how well I have done at keeping my weight down! That was timely as I had gotten on the scale, and I have still kept my 10% weight off (from the gain during my Tibial Plateau Fracture), but it was at the very edge of that 10%, and I like to be about 5 pounds below that. So it was good to have the encouragement to KEEP IT OFF! 

With that said, I want to give a shout out to the new Weight Watchers. I had never officially done it before. I had gotten a book many years ago, and it was sort of a hassle. Now they have a great app, and you don't have to keep track of every single thing because there is a wide variety of Zero-point foods, and it psychologically does something to you to go for those foods instead of the really high point foods like ice cream and chocolate! I love how easy it is, and I love all the incentives and now they even have exercise videos built into the app! I think I will stick with them for another six months for maintenance. I think their maintenance is pretty cool because, at first, I thought, why didn't they give me more points to play with now that I have reached my goal? It seems like they didn't give me more points until a few weeks after my goal was reached (maybe four, but I am not sure). So maybe they want you to ease into it by giving you more points to play with as you prove you are keeping it off? I will have to read more deeply into all of this. 

I also made a good decision because I had switched from the blue plan to the green plan, and I just was not losing on the green plan. So I went back to the blue. It is fewer points, but they make lean protein options as Zero point foods. Anywho, it has been good. 

OH also, my back has not had tight problems (a precursor to there being a shift in my SI joint). The only thing I have been doing differently for the last 35 days is SQUATS. I do 50 squats a day in the morning, and I hear all these creaks. I think it "uncorks" me for the day. I am not sure. I told Dr. Myers that I want to break my record of 43 days. Actually, my real record was when I was teaching six Pilates classes a week (as opposed to only four). I think I went five months without seeing him then. 


Speaking of Pilates, I am going to make 20 hours of video content for the Faculty Staff Fitness because my boss did not submit the paperwork that said I have furloughed this term. I am looking forward to it, and it will be nice to have the video content for my Body and Soul Companion site. So it will be a win-win. I could not start doing it immediately because I had a melanoma biopsy on my bottom, and I had to wait to do Pilates until I got the stitches out after two weeks. I could not do the three rolling exercises with the stitches in. By the way, the biopsy came back benign.  I am happy about that.

I will start recording videos either today or tomorrow, and I have until December 31st to finish them.

Next week, I am doing a five day Advent Retreat. It is an "at-home" one, and they were not at all clear on their website about how we should go about doing this. So, I had four spiritual direction appointments, and when I called about something else, the lady was taken aback that I would have appointments. So, I called the director to find out if this was the case. I have no problem moving them, I was just seeking more information, and the director was so cold and "pithy." It left a negative impression in my mind of this group that I do not know much about. I have taken risks by joining groups "cold turkey" this quarantine season, and it has turned out great (thinking of the lovely people at Mercy Center, Burlingame, Albany CP group), but it made me wonder if I should do this retreat at all! I am still praying about this because I just did not get a good impression from either of the two ladies I talked to on the phone. I didn't understand why there was such coldness. So, still praying about it. If I do not do it, I will just have an Advent Retreat on my own since I moved all the appointments (except the one with the team I joined and have been waiting for for years - I cannot miss that one - no way). So we will see. 


I am going to IMAGINE today at noon. Then Teala is coming to visit. So it is a great enrichment Wednesday! 

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

65. Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer

 

Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as PrayerOpening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer by David G. Benner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this explanation of Lectio Divina. It gives the big picture of WHY you would do this. It is an ancient practice that has more recently become much more popular.

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

64. The Man Who Was Thursday

 

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (Illustrated)The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally, I read something by Chesterton! This had me engaged. I cannot say I fully understood its meaning though.

Quotes:
“Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front--”

“The Iliad is only great because all life is a battle, The Odyssey because all life is a journey, The Book of Job because all life is a riddle.”


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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

63. Travels with Charley

 

Travels with Charley: In Search of AmericaTravels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was enthralled. Gary Senise's narration is the best! It gave me a slice of life across America in September of 1960 (when I was the ripe old age of one year). It is humorous, but it is also quite poignant, especially when he witnessed first hand the "cheerleaders" of New Orleans who were gathered every day to ridicule little black girls who were attending an integrated grammar school. In light of where we find ourselves today, it was especially heartbreaking to read this.

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62. The Stars My Destination

 

The Stars My DestinationThe Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am not a huge science fiction fan, but I liked this book. It is about revenge and loosely follows The Count of Monte Christo story that I loved so much when I read it over 15 years ago. The narrator in this audio version was excellent.

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61. The Library Book

 

The Library BookThe Library Book by Susan Orlean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an absolutely, positively, fascinating book. The story thread throughout the book is the arson fire in 1986 of the downtown Los Angeles Library (https://www.latimes.com/books/la-ca-j... ) but is so much more. This author goes through the history of libraries in general and the LA one in particular. It also goes into issues the library faces today. I really, really loved this book. Highly recommended for anyone who loves the library!

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60. Under the Wide and Starry Sky

 

Under the Wide and Starry SkyUnder the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew nothing about Robert Louis Stevenson's life and love. It was fascinating. It is slow-moving at the beginning, but I stuck with it, and I am glad I did! It is a work of historical fiction from the perspective of Stevenson and his wife, Fanny. 

My heart and mind went immediately to the copy of A Child's Garden of Verses by Stevenson that my grandmother gave to my father on his 5th birthday in 1923. It is one of my treasured books, illustrated so beautifully. I went to a memory of me memorizing his poem "Block City" and acting it out at the end of my bed. So fun to have the context to his writing. I realized I have read three of his novels: Kidnapped, Treasure Island, and Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde.

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Thursday, November 12, 2020

59. Remains of the Day

 

The Remains of the DayThe Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a dear book. I loved it so much. I loved the movie too. It is such a delightful read. Especially since I am doing the same journey he took in the book on my virtual mission up the length of Great Britain. 

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58. Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

 

This book, written in the 40s, is supposed to have greatly influenced Martin Luther King and his philosophy of peaceful civil rights protest. 

It is refreshing to read something from a person who actually has experienced racial injustice rather than a white person pontificating about it. 

It is a gentle treatise. I look forward to getting the study helps from Renovare Book Club in the coming weeks. I am sure it will add to my comprehension of this book. 

56-57. Red Moon Rising and Dirty Glory by Pete Greig



I loved Pete's book How to Pray. I had never heard of the guy, but I have prayed in a 24-7 prayer room since 2009, but I didn't know it was part of Pete's group. When I held How to Pray up on the Zoom screen to one of my directees and also one of the leaders of the prayer, she said, "You're kidding right?" HAHAHAHA. I honestly did not know. Never heard of the guy. I just love to pray, but I don't always follow the latest and greatest leaders. 

I do love how he communicates, and How to Pray got a two thumbs up with our local Renovare Book Club. So, I thought I would read more of the history of the 24-7 movement.

I LOVE first-person memoirs, and Pete is a master storyteller, drawing you in with his wonderful and winsome style. So I ate each book up over the weekend while, at the same time, watching their Online Gathering20. So fun. 

I have been part of prayer movements over the last 30 years, and I think this one is legit and solid and balanced. 

If you love prayer and movement and humor. These books are for you. 

55. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

This is a satirical novel. So, it was not exactly my cup of tea, but I followed it well. I particularly found the introduction with the author's background to be telling. He wrote out of what he knew: a life of quiet desperation. Sort of sad life, really. This book is considered a classic and on the 1000 Books List. So, I dove in. It does have some funny parts.

Here is how Goodreads summarizes it: 

Although Kingsley Amis's acid satire of postwar British academic life has lost some of its bite in the decades since it was published, it's still a rewarding read. There's no denying how big an impact it had back then. Lucky Jim could be considered the first shot in the Oxbridge salvo that brought us Beyond the FringeThat Was the Week That Was, and so much more.


In Lucky Jim, Amis introduces us to Jim Dixon, a junior lecturer at a British college who spends his days fending off the legions of malevolent twits that populate the school. His job is in constant danger, often for good reason. Lucky Jim hits the heights whenever Dixon tries to keep a preposterous situation from spinning out of control, which is every three pages or so. The final example of this, a lecture spewed by a hideously pickled Dixon, is a chapter's worth of comic nirvana.

The book is not politically correct (Amis wasn't either), but take it for what it is, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Wednesday Freewrite

 

"Carol, I am so proud of you. What growth I have seen in you in the last three years. I think it is time to launch your own ship.

I love my spiritual director. She just cuts to the chase. 

I was viciously attacked yesterday by someone with whom I have had maybe one or two in-person conversations that were very pleasant. I communicated with this person in writing when I was asked to give a written evaluation of the program this person leads, and it was glowing. I loved what this person is leading.

So my interactions with this person were only positive until I, on the suggestion of someone in this person's program, asked about maybe joining this person's group because I love the program and love the community of people passionate about the same things I am passionate about. The person's reply was curt, but I went on my merry way for several months until it came to the surface in a prayer time as I was processing what I talked about in yesterday's freewrite. So I emailed about my uncomfortableness with this person's response to me, and the person said "I think I misunderstood what you were asking" and suggested a phone conversation. I assumed the person wanted to know what I meant by the question I initially asked.

So I thought it was going to be an innocuous conversation. This person would tell me what they thought I was asking, and I would clarify what I meant (which was that I love the program and would love to be a part of it and didn't think it was possible until one of this person's leaders suggested that might be a possibility).

How naive I was.

Instead, it started with a "Let's get straight to the point" monologue where the person laid some pretty heavy accusations against me based on my request to be part of this person's group. I was shocked. I really thought it was going to a "clarifying conversation." I listened for a while. Then I tried in vain to clarify the background behind my question. "I love what you are doing. I would love to be a part of it and be around other people who are passionate about it." I said I would not have thought it possible until another person suggested it.  The leader got livid and said, "He said what?!" I tried to defend the other leader. I got the other leader in trouble. OH NO! Then that person on the phone got angrier and attacked my character and making assumptions about me when that person does not even know me. I tried to clarify that I think this person's program is great. I never thought it was possible to be part of it, but it was suggested, and I thought how mutually beneficial it would be to learn from them, and I felt like I would be a great part of the team. (That made the person really sling an arrow of attack - how dare I have the confidence to think I could contribute to the group.) It went really bad, and this person was really angry no matter what I said. 

The person was going into another monologue because that person has learned to be "totally blunt," but I politely said that I think it would be better not to "be totally blunt" anymore because it was hurtful. I appealed to the person's compassion (because they were really starting to scare me - my picture was a pitbull attack), So I politely ended the phone call. I kept calm and did not attack back. WOW. Shocking turn. I really thought when that person said they misunderstood what I was asking that it would just be a clarification.

 I understand why I cannot be in the group now. It is a long process, and they are under restrictions from the people who are over them. But I didn't understand why my asking about being a part of it would be so offensive to this person, and that person felt the need to attack me. I really would not have asked had I not been encouraged by one of the leaders. DEAR ME!

I immediately thought I need to assess whether what this person said about me is true. What this person said was really brutal (and I don't really know the person), and I have such a hard time since this goes against the principles the group teaches. 

But I want to be teachable. It is either a "True Negative," and I will seek to grow from the experience, or it is "False Negative," and I will discard it (let it slide off like Teflon). 

I assess by the responses of the truth-tellers in my life who know me well. Of course, the best one is God. I did some listening prayer about the situation, and that was excellent. He continued to speak to me this morning! The human ones are:

1) My husband - "Do you think that person might be projecting? That is not you. Can I take you out to lunch?" (He took me to my favorite restaurant and bought me ice cream - what a guy.) 

2) My best friend - "Well, they obviously don't know you well. Could this be a dart from the enemy because it is Election Day? Praying the arrow bounces off.

3) Spiritual Director - What I said at the start of this freewrite,  "Carol, I am so proud of you. What growth I have seen in you in the last three years. That person was bullying you, and you disengaged." Later she said, "You are more than qualified. This confirms this person's group is not a good fit, and I think it is time to launch your own ship."  Then, we explored the pattern of me allowing the entry of bullies into my life, my continued desire to want to connect with people that borders on compulsion, and me thinking I am not competent yet or I might be missing something and need more and more training. 

By the end of my conversation with my director, the arrows had bounced off, but I know our brains are "Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good." So I will apply the HEAL principle to this situation in my Examen Prayer time. (I also took a long walk in Peavy Arboretum the next day and soaked in the experience of God's presence but linked it to this bad experience like the book Hardwiring Happiness suggests. I kept hearing God say, "Launch your own ship.")

 I think I am going to be OK. I should also say that everything around this conversation before and after was so life-giving for me. I was affirmed again and again by people whom I love and love me. I was also affirmed in my gifts and calling from an unplanned direction session with one of my directees who assumed we were meeting (even though we had not scheduled it). 

God is so good! YAY HIM! 

FOLLOW UP: 

I went to the Northumbrian Community Daily Prayer. I have it in a book. So part of it was to see if they were the same. They were not. I went on to pray about the above situation asking God, "Is your word for me to 'launch my own ship' as my director said to me?" This was the poem for meditation:

Today’s Meditation

Many a ship has sailed from port to port
with no interference from Me,
because Strong Will has been at the wheel.
Multitudes of pleasure cruises
go merrily on their ways,
untouched by the power of My hand.

But you have put your life into My keeping,
and because you are
depending on Me for guidance and direction,
I shall give it.

Move on steadily,
and know that the waters that carry you
are the waters of My love and My kindness,
and I will keep you on the right course.

Frances J. Roberts

From: https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/

It turns out this is from a book called Come Away, My Beloved! This is a book I devoured in my 20s! Since this, God has confirmed more and more that I need to "launch my own ship." I have no idea what that will mean, but he will carry me in the waters of His love and His kindness and keep me on the right course! 

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Tuesday Freewrite

 I am going to enter into my first Centering Prayer time after this fifteen-minute freewrite. I have been somewhat restless all morning. I got an email on Saturday that has unsettled me ever since, and I think a freewrite might help.

I am applying to be part of this thing. I won't go into detail about it because I don't want there to be any connection to the people involved. I applied, and the person picked apart my application. The person sort of parsed my words to where I was like, "What? Do you really want to be that picky about this?" My first thought was, "Oh my, this person must be stressed or something because this seems sort of ridiculous to take apart this." (especially since the "word" I used in my application is the same word they use in their advertisement for the group.) I wrote back and said, "I get it. What you said it is in your clarification is exactly what I thought it was." 

But it has bugged me ever since! It just smacks to me of exclusivity. So it made me think of another situation of exclusivity and another and another until I cried out to God this morning as I was watching the sunrise on the schoolyard. YIKES. 

So I feel like I have been spinning my wheels. I feel like this has not been good for me. It makes me wish I had never gone down that road of rejection once again. 

SIGH! 

Yet everything else in my life is so peachy-keen. Really and truly. I don't need this group. It just lined up with my values to the letter. Yet, I don't value exclusivity. I just like being part of something bigger than myself. I love being inspired by the journeys of other people. I have loved the books I am reading. I love being "in it" with others (even from a distance - which I always knew that is what it would be). Perhaps I like that too much as I do have a "compulsion for connection." 

On another note, doors that I have prayed to open up for 26 years seem to be opening. I have reconnected with someone I have not seen in 2 1/2 years, connected by the Spirit's nudge to send encouragement to someone doing the Spiritual Exercises who mentioned my name to another person, not knowing that that person knew me from a group we were a part of. I said, "OH yeah! He has the same heart too." So we talked last Friday, and it was so good. Same heart. We don't know how God is going to accomplish this whole thing, but I have an ally in this 26-year dream! Then I got this discouraging email less than 24 hours later.

Hmm... something is fishy here. I am going to go and pray against the enemy of our souls! I knew writing this out would cause me to connect the dots.

Even with the discouraging email, God sent me a message and gave me the name of someone else in the group that I did not know was in the group. That was a neat thing. So, it makes me think I am to persevere in it all. He is not exclusive AT ALL. I am just waiting for whatever comes my way. Writing always helps me clarify. 

So the enemy can go and take a hike! 

Friday, October 30, 2020

54. Compton Cowboys

 

The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America's Urban HeartlandThe Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America's Urban Heartland by Walter Thompson-Hernandez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a great book! This community is 20 minutes away from where I grew up, but it is a world away. I never even knew about the Richland Farms.

Here is their website: https://www.comptoncowboys.com/team

Their website says they are, "A collective of lifelong friends on a mission to uplift their community through horseback and farming lifestyle, all the while highlighting the rich legacy of African-Americans in equine and western heritage."

It is a beautiful book with very personal stories. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

53. Hardwiring Happiness

 

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and ConfidenceHardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating look at the science behind being mindful. The author proposes that our brains are "Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good." So we need to be intentional about dwelling on the good. It goes along with Philippians 4:8-9, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

From this book, you will . . .

-Understand biological wiring and predisposition to having a negative brain
-Learn how happy and sad thoughts are dictated by your brain and how you should respond
- Delve into the science behind why it is so difficult for us to really bask in the good things that happen, and why we immediately hold tight to the negatives
- Discover training for your brain that will teach you how to embrace the positive
- Develop a user-friendly tool kit to expand feelings of happiness while identifying and responding to positive input
- Learn to erase years of negative and traumatic experiences and overcoming fear
- Learn about the power of journaling, gratitude meditation, morning activities to set your brain
- Research about how to HEAL children and bring your own experiences to education
(This summary was from a course on the book here: https://www.hol.edu/courses/hardwirin... )

His acronym for doing this is H.E.A.L.:

HAVE a good experience -
1. Notice one you are already having.
- In the foreground of awareness
- In the background OR
2. Create one.

ENRICH IT - Open your self to it. Enriching makes the experience more powerful by:
-Duration
- Intensity
- Multimodality
- Novelty
- Salience

ABSORB IT
Absorbing makes memory systems more receptive by priming and sensitizing them.
- Intend and sense the experience is sinking into you.
- Imagery – Water into a sponge; golden dust sifting down; a jewel into the treasure chest of the heart
- Sensation – Warm soothing balm
- Giving over to the experience; letting it change you
- Letting go of resisting, grasping, clinging: “craving”

LINK IT - Feel it and let it soothe the negative parts of you (the things that have VELCROD to your brain.)

I read this because next month is a Gratitude month, and I am going to take one experience from the day and apply this!

This website has a wonderful podcast interview with the author:


The transcript is also on the website if you prefer to read it. 

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

52. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People


 

How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal PeopleHow to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People by Pete Greig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a delightful read. Even if you are established in your prayer life, it has great value in inspiring you and seeing your place in God's Kingdom coming. Greig is funny and insightful. I loved his analogies and stories from his own life.

I love that the book also refers to a simple and brief online "Prayer Course" and "Prayer Tools." This would be so helpful for many.

I had the special advantage of a study guide, article, webinars, and podcasts with the author offered through the Renovare Book Club (which I also heartily recommend).

This book is true to its byline A Simple Guide for Normal People.

Here are my answers to the Study Guide questions: https://carolhomeschool2.blogspot.com...

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How to Pray Week Six - Chapters 11 & 12: Spiritual Warfare and Amen

 

How to Pray Study Guide Questions: Chapters 11-12

Week 6 Yield (pt. 3)

 

Read:

Chapter 11 Spiritual Warfare

Chapter 12 Amen

Key verse: ““Deliver us from the evil one” – Matthew 6:13

Summary points

· The Bible is clear that we’re in a spiritual battle.

· Jesus was speaking into a culture of different world-views.

· Remember the armour of God.

· Pray it. Practice it. Preach it.

Questions

Q. How do you find that you approach spiritual warfare: do you relate to any of the world-views of the Sadducees, Essenes, or Pharisees that Pete mentioned?

Note: I am pretty sure this question is referring to the Prayer Course rather than the book (Session 8, 5:20 into the presentation). So here it is in brief –

·        Sadducees – Distrusted super spirituality of demons, angels, etc. Kingdom was sociopolitical.

·        Essenes – Out in the wilderness - Opposite of Sadducees – wallowed in spiritual warfare

·        Pharisees – Middle ground – believed in angels and demons – way to overcome Satan was to live a radically holy life and following the law. Rules fight the enemy.

C.S. Lewis quote in The Screwtape Letters –

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

When hassled by the enemy at night, Wigglesworth rolled over and said, “Oh, it’s only you,” and he rolled over and went back to sleep.

I have to say that I follow the model of Jesus! 😊 I am not afraid of Satan. I am protected, but he is real. I have had some pretty wild times of warfare, and it scared me a bit in my 20s. I got a lot of hassle. Part of it is the gift of discernment. Now, I know it is there, but I am not freaked out anymore. He is alive and real. BELIEVE ME! I have had people’s demons growl at me more than once. So weird when it has happened. Some of the people I was around in my 20s were more like Essenes, but most were pretty balanced.  I lived overseas where it is more blatant. Satan is alive here in America but more subtle. “There is more power in one drop of the shed blood of Jesus Christ than all the power Satan can muster.” I armor up daily and go out into the world.

The book that I read in Spain when there was great warfare and the people I was living with were more like Pharisees when it came to warfare, convinced me of the reality of Satan: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (here is a PDF summary of the book). Then I came back from Spain and worked with Tom White for ten years. (Tom was the one who was leading the workshop at Proclaim and asked me to come with him. So I told the women's retreat I would not speak for them and met George and went to Thailand. I mentioned this last week.) 

Q. How do we get the balance right between the reality of spiritual warfare and focusing on Jesus? “When we pray for God’s Kingdom come it’s because it’s not automatic… we have to pray it in.”

I think I answered part of that in the previous questions. I am so convinced of God’s power over the enemy. Jesus is the victor. I also see how Jesus combated Satan in the wilderness with the Word of God. So there is no reason for me to freak-out.

Q. How does this reality affect the way that we do spiritual warfare?

I do warfare with CONFIDENCE in the power and protection of God. I stand firm. I have Morning Affirmations that have a spiritual warfare component. I love Pete’s was of warfare: Know Your Authority, Know How to Fight (Wield the Word and Wear the Shoes of the Gospel of Peace, Standing Our Ground), and Standing Firm in an Opposite Spirit.

Q. What are the strongholds – greed, arrogance, etc. – in your home, work, or community context? How can you live in the “equal but opposite spirit” this week?

I think materialism is a real stronghold in our community. I want to pray more and discover more. I love praying for our city and the university that I work at.

Do It

Revisit the goals that you set at the beginning of reading How to Pray to grow in prayer and your relationship with God. Which one thing that you’ve learnt will you take away from this book study?

Most of this was review but a GOOD review and encouragement to “excel still more.” I am praying through the whole book of Psalms again, something I used to do on a yearly basis but have not in the last 10 years or so.  I would love to start a Corvallis Centering Prayer Circle that meets likes the one in Albany. I am also going to read Opening to God by Benner and reread Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. I really loved this book. Oh, and I also applied to be part of the Order of the Mustard Seed, but I have not heard a thing from the people in Oregon who are supposed to contact me. That’s OK though. 😊


Monday, October 26, 2020

51. The Buddha in the Attic

 

The Buddha in the AtticThe Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a quick read, but it was a big overview of Japanese wives who came to the West Coast in the early 1900s up until World War II. There were no real characters. Just a long list of people in different situations throughout the years. No depth. The Buddha in the Attic reference did not come until 84% of the way through the book, and it was just one comment in another long list. It made me want to read another book about Japanese internment during World War II, but this would not be one I would recommend for that purpose.

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 The Chicago Tribune says, "Read the book in a single sitting, and this chorus of narrators speaks in a poetry that is both spare and passionate, sure to haunt even the most coldhearted among us."[6]

The Washington Independent Review of Books says "Though Knopf, publisher of The Buddha in the Attic, classifies the book as a novel, it is more like a beautifully rendered emakimono, hand-painted horizontal scrolls that depict a series of scenes, telling a story in frozen moments."[7]

Saturday, October 24, 2020

50. A Full Life by Jimmy Carter

 



A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety
by Jimmy Carter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was absolutely delightful! It is a bird's eye view of his life. He doesn't go into much detail about all the eras of his life, but I liked that.

I was in high school when he came to be president. So when he got to his platform in his election, my memory went to my political science class where we had a "mock election," and I was a presidential candidate with "Win with Wardrop" as my campaign slogan (and Sue Brock as my campaign manager). I had to study all the policies of the two candidates (Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter), and debate my policies. (I won in a landslide, by the way.) I remember the gas lines during the energy crisis and the hostages in Iran. I really liked to hear his thoughts about the B-1 bomber since my dad was working on that project and lost his job when Carter came to be president. I liked hearing about his convictions about God, abortion, peace in the Middle East, etc. It was a super informative book. Loved it from beginning to end! He is a great man.

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49. Celtic Prayers from Iona by J. Philip Newell

 



Celtic Prayers from Iona: The Heart of Celtic Spirituality
by J. Philip Newell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a dear little book! I have been reading Pete's Greig's book, How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People, and he talked about Celtic Prayers. So I hopped on over to my library website, and this was the only one they had, but it is a simple little book with one week of prayers beautifully calligraphed and a different daily prayer focus of justice and peace, healing, the goodness of creation and care for the earth, commitment to Christ, communion of heaven and earth, welcome and hospitality. There is also a guide to which Psalms and Gospel to read for that particular day of the year. Lovely and simple.


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Friday, October 23, 2020

The "State of the Well" Freewrite Friday

 I used to do these "State of the Well" Freewrites years ago (mostly around the time of the State of the Union address), but I am resurrecting it for today. I started one of these on September 2, but here it is almost two months later, and I am just getting back to it. It will probably be longer than my usual "Freewrite Fifteen" though.

Well-Tuned Body

My back is doing great. I am going to Dr. Myers at 11:15 today, but it is just a bit tight after six weeks of no tightness. I don't let it get to the point of incapacity anymore. I listen to my body a LOT more. I do Centering Prayer and concentrate on relaxing my body. I also have this wonderful Apple Watch that reminds me to get up and walk around for at least a minute. It has also helped me to not do so much sitting in the morning. I would have my time with God (usually 2 hours) and then go on to work at my computer. Then I started teaching which got me out of the house and on my bike and doing Pilates for three hours. Since I am not teaching, I am making a point of having a reflective walk for at least 30 minutes. Sometimes I bring my tea with me and walk very slowly and just listen to God. That has really helped my back! Today, it is VERY COLD. So I am doing things a bit out of order until the sun comes up fully and I won't freeze. (I took a break and walked around the block with George with full thermal protection from head to toe. BRRR.)

I have been good about doing Pilates even though I am not teaching. I have been using Brooke Siler's CD. I am loving some of her cues. 

I have FINALLY, after a year, said good-bye to the weight I gained from my broken leg and broken toes (broke three of them at different times). I am down 10% and at 22.7 BMI. Weight Watchers is the bomb. I want to get down to 22 which is 4.7 more pounds away because this will give me wiggle room for a vacation splurge. I am hoping being on WW that I will do better at maintenance. 

When I found out I was not teaching, I was sad, but God has said that this is a time to focus on my health, and I have really enjoyed the weight loss and strength gain. Next week, I start back to more weights, maybe even going back to The Firm! Strength training is my weakest point. Cardio, flexibility, and bodyweight strength are ingrained. 

Well-Educated Mind

I am only going to read 5 out of 11 books for Book Babes Book Club this year. I was not really excited about the other choices. I realize I have freedom to not have to read ALL of them. Actually, if any of the five I am reading to not catch me in the first 40 pages, I will not read it. This is Nancy Pearl's rule of thumb for reading. Read the first 50 pages and put it down if it doesn't float your boat, but if you are over 50:
This rule of 50 worked exceedingly well until I entered my own 50s. As I wended my way toward 60, and beyond, I could no longer avoid the realization that, while the reading time remaining in my life was growing shorter, the world of books that I wanted to read was, if anything, growing larger. In a flash of, if I do say so myself, brilliance, I realized that my Rule of 50 was incomplete. It needed an addendum. And here it is: When you are 51 years of age or older, subtract your age from 100, and the resulting number (which, of course, gets smaller every year) is the number of pages you should read before you can guiltlessly give up on a book. As the saying goes, "Age has its privileges."
I just have so many books that I want to read. They are books on my 1000 Books to Read Before You Die list which, 90% of the time, has books I would never think of reading and am so glad I did! Most of the books this year in Book Babes just don't seem that interesting. I am pleasantly surprised by how much I love what is probably Jimmy Carter's last book. So, I will give most of them a least the 40-page courtesy. I am also not really big on the discussions we have. I have never felt really comfortable in the group dynamic of that group. 

There are SO MANY books that I have ordered or had in my queue that are of a spiritual flavor, and I am much more excited about those. But that overlaps into the next category. 

Well-Watered Soul

"Speaking of my soul, I love my life. I love the year He has me on as I have focused more on prayer this year. I have been reading rich prayer classics, and my favorite one this year has definitely been God Guides. Such a simple concept to "Listen and Obey," but as that sweet disciple in the Philippines says, "Some Christians don't get it" (he said it in a very cute non-native speaker way, but I cannot find what he wrote). I would say that is true. I will also say it is a spiritual discipline to stop long enough to really listen to the Lord. That is why I am trying to be intentional about sitting down with pen and journal and waiting on the Lord to speak. Then writing it down. "
I wrote this in 2014! I cut and pasted my last "State of the Well" so that I could remember my categories, and I laughed because you could say that same thing about 2020. I just recommended God Guides to my Renovare Book Club this morning and give it out like candy. My latest book I love on prayer is How to Pray by Pete Grieg.

Being a spiritual director has made me so happy. It is what I have been passionate about for years, and now it is my primary ministry! It causes my whole life to be around prayer, and eventually, I will make Praise and Prayer Pilates videos too! (www.bodyandsoulcompanion.com ) Sitting with people in direction is more prayer. I love it! So my soul is so well!

Well Adjusted Heart

So well adjusted. That thing in December was so uncalled for and such a case of projection. But I have worked through it and let it go. Emotionally, I could not be better. It helps so much to have the daily Examen to evaluate my days and keep me on top of my emotions. I think the Enneagram has also been so helpful for me to grow emotionally. 

I also just love my family. We are all doing well. I love that George is home. He is the best. We are doing more marriage mentoring these days, and one of the women said they wanted us because we are so happy, and we ARE! 


How to Pray Week Five - Chapters 9 & 10: Listening, Confession & Reconciliation

 

How to Pray Study Guide Questions: Chapters 9-10

Week 5 Yield (pt. 2)

Read:

Chapter 9 Listening

Chapter 10 Confession & Reconciliation

Key verse: “Give us today our daily bread” – Matthew 6:11

Summary points

· We are designed to walk and talk with God

· Slow down, Soften up

· When listening to God, remember ABC: Advice, Bible, Common Sense Questions

Questions

Q. Do you feel like your connection to God’s voice is like “wi-fi”, “cell phone” or “snail mail”?

Do you find it’s obvious when God is speaking to you?

I am not sure what the differentiation is between all those different connections. I find it obvious when God is speaking to me. It is a “movement of the heart” that is undeniable.

Q. Do you experience hearing God’s voice in a specific way? If so, how?

I find I experience it in all the ways that Grieg describes in the book: Scripture, dreams and visions (the wild dream about the man walking across the street with my coat on and then seeing him walk across the street the next day), counsel and common sense, personal reflection (loved what he said about doing something else and it comes together -thus why I have my best times of listening after my time with God and on a “reflection” walk around the block), and action (and it reminded me of the whole sequence of events in finding Steve Hawthorne at a church in Lake Oswego and going to Thailand as a result and getting to know George more deeply – all following that time of “silence” with God that I mentioned last week),  I believe God is CONSTANTLY trying to speak to us, but we don’t bother to listen. “Is the reason we’re not still/to hear you speak/because we don’t believe you will?” (lyrics from “In Stillness and Simplicity” by Michael Card).

Q. What practical actions could you take this week to make time for listening to God?

I try to have a “listen and obey” time every day. Lately, I have been doing a walk after my time with him stilling, and he speaks just as Grieg describes on page 161-162 giving my mind a “little space to wonder.” I loved that he said, “Cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist explain that these sorts of activities switch the brain onto its ‘default mode,” a state in which we are better able to access our subconscious, connect disparate ideas, and solve nagging problems…Overthinking is not productive. Intensity and earnestness rarely attract the Holy Spirit. We may well become more receptive to the whisper of God by occupying ourselves with less spiritual activities” (p. 161-162). I also find walking the labyrinth up at the hospital has been a great time of listening as I come to the center and “receive” what he is to tell me.

Q. How can we encourage one another to “keep our hearts soft” in the busyness of our daily lives?

Testimony of what God is doing in a through me with Centering Prayer, listening and obeying. Stories are always great. I also think creating space for others to listen with me. I do that when I sit with another in spiritual direction. We have a time of listening usually. Books: Hearing God and God Guides.

Do It

Practise the Lectio Divina. You might like to explore the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:13-16. Remember to:

· Read it – Familiarisation

· Explore it – Imagination

· Pray it – Conversation

· Enjoy it – Celebration

My Suggested Resources

Listening to God:

 

·   Hearing God by Dallas Willard is the BEST biblical case for God speaking today.

·   A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Eliot – great biography of Amy Carmichael – Hero of listening.

·   God Guides is a sweet book with 52 stories by a missionary in India who learned to listen and obey.

 

Examen Prayer

·        Here is the “Rummaging for God” mentioned on p. 173: https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/rummaging-for-god-praying-backward-through-your-day/

·        Podcast: Fr. James Martin Examen Podcast (He has a weekly message and intro to the Examen every time. The actual Examen starts about 3:20): https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-examen-with-fr-james-martin-sj/id1346804716

·        App: Reimagining the Examen App: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/reimagining-the-examen/id1065042173

·        My Day before Election Day Examen of 2016: https://carolhomeschool2.blogspot.com/2016/11/a-prayerful-review-of-my-day.html

 

 




Wednesday, October 21, 2020

48. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

 

 

I read a pamphlet by William in my 20s, thinking it was his whole book. Now I see it was only an edited version of that book that is over 300 pages. Renovare Book Club is reading this next year so it is forcing me to read the whole thing!

Written in 1729, it is a bit dated but has some great pearls of wisdom. I found him a bit "do this" "don't do that" kind of person rather than how I see the desire to do God's will coming out of intimacy with Him rather than behavior modification. Law wrote this in his early 30s, and he may have had more of an "overflow of the love of God" kind of mentality later on in life. 

This book is about the close relationship between the devotional life and practical service to others. It is about being "forever great in the presence of God" rather than the eyes of the world because the church of his time had fallen into mediocrity.  What I found interesting is that William Law's writings influenced William Wilberforce (one of my heroes) the Wesley brothers (although he was sharply criticized by John Wesley when Law turned to mysticism later in life), Gibbon, George Whitefield, and Samuel Johnson!

I found this had some real gems and some very slow parts. Overall, I am glad I read the whole thing! 


Tuesday Ten Minute Freewrite

I am going to go great guns for 10 minutes on this freewrite. I am meeting with a person (not sure if she wants direction - she just wanted ...