Generating Joy

January 17th, 2019

The third element of true love is the capacity to offer joy. When you know how to generate joy, it nourishes you and nourishes the other person. Your presence is an offering, like fresh air, or spring flowers, or the bright blue sky.

— Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Love, p. 20

Photo: Centreville, Virginia, April 10, 2010

The Choice of Empathy

January 16th, 2019

Empathy is a choice. And it’s a vulnerable choice, because if I were to choose to connect with you through empathy, I would have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. In the face of a difficult conversation, when we see that someone’s hurt or in pain, it’s our instinct as human beings to try to make things better. We want to fix, we want to give advice. But empathy isn’t about fixing, it’s the brave choice to be with someone in their darkness — not to race to turn on the light so we feel better.

If I share something with you that’s difficult for me, I’d rather you say, “I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just so glad you told me.” Because in truth, a response can rarely make something better. Connection is what heals.

If struggle is being down in a hole, empathy is not jumping into the hole with someone who is struggling and taking on their emotions, or owning their struggle as yours to fix. If their issues become yours, now you have two people stuck in a hole. Not helpful. Boundaries are important here. We have to know where we end and others begin if we really want to show up with empathy.

— Brené Brown, Dare to Lead, p. 142

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 15, 2019

Joy Across the Street

January 15th, 2019

Yet why are we so slow to appreciate, why do we even studiously ignore the very things that bring us deep joy? No doubt it’s because the moment we awaken to joy we feel (rightly) responsible to give it expression, to allow more opportunities for its release. This can be unsettling to our cherished routines. If driving in the country makes me happy, I may need to do more of it. If I love the colors of nature, why not spend more time looking? Do I esteem joy so little that I won’t cross the street to get some?…

Joy need not be sought outside of the lives we already have. No, it is right under our noses, often in the most ordinary experiences. If we spent the next year simply enjoying who we are and what we have, we’d be much further ahead than by striving for more. What we need most, more than something dramatically new, is a quiet realization of what already is.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 116

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 14, 2019

Returning to the Center

January 13th, 2019

The more you take things personally, the more you suffer. You observe it, hold it up to the light, release it, and move on. One can choose to let suffering be the elevator to a heightened place of humble loving. You adjust the knot on the red string around your wrist and find your center again.

Humility returns the center of gravity to the center. It addresses the ego clinging, which supplies oxygen to our suffering. It calls for a light grasp. For the opposite of clinging is not letting go but cherishing. This is the goal of the practice of humility. That having a “light grasp” on life prepares the way for cherishing what is right in front of us.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 105-106

Photo:  South Riding, Virginia, January 13, 2019

Liberation Time

January 12th, 2019

And yet, there is a resurrection that comes with loss. People can no longer see in us the person they saw before, true. But that is one of the gifts of loss. Loss frees us to begin again, to be seen differently, to tap into something inside of ourselves that even we were never really sure was there. But, whether we knew it or not, did badly want.

We can now — perhaps must now — be ourselves but in some very different ways. We don’t have to go on making a success of the family business. Or even being Mrs. Anybody. Or being called upon so often for the same things in life that we never get to show the world that we can do other things, as well. No doubt about it: Loss is liberation time.

Then we must begin even to know ourselves differently — as more than the mother or the son, the doorman or the doctor or the groundskeeper or the mail carrier. Now we have to dig deep inside us to find out what other parts of ourselves are waiting to be discovered.

— Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight, p. 103-104

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 12, 2019

The Gratitude Channel

January 11th, 2019

The world is full of things to appreciate and find beautiful. The challenge is to teach ourselves how to look. The forgiveness and gratitude channels remind us that even though we have been hurt, we do not have to focus our attention on that hurt. The love and beauty channels remind us that in each and every moment we have the choice to determine what we see, hear, and experience.

The one thing no one can take from us is where we place our attention. In other words, we alone control our remotes. If we have made a habit of tuning in to the grievance channel, remember that any habit can be broken.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Goodp. 113

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 9, 2019

Loving as God Does

January 8th, 2019

Our frightened selves want only for the gathered to like us, to agree with us, or be intimidated by us. I suppose Jesus walks into a room and loves what he finds there. Delights in it, in fact. Maybe, He makes a beeline to the outcasts and chooses, in them, to go where love has not yet arrived. His ways aren’t our ways, but they sure could be.

We have grown accustomed to think that loving as God does is hard. We think it’s about moral strain and obligation. We presume it requires a spiritual muscularity of which we are not capable, a layering of burden on top of sacrifice, with a side order of guilt. (But it was love, after all, that made the cross salvific, not the sheer torture of it.)

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 155

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 8, 2019

Tell Me a Story

January 8th, 2019

So when someone asks, “What is the gospel?” the best response is, “Let me tell you a story.” You might start with Abraham, Isaiah, or Luke. You might start with the Samaritan woman at the well. You might start with a story about your grandmother or a rural church camp or a dining room table surrounded by Woody’s chairs. At some point, you will get to Jesus, and Jesus will change everything.

There’s a story in Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels about a woman who anoints Jesus with a jar of costly perfume in prophetic anticipation of his impending arrest and crucifixion. When the disciples harass her for what they see as a waste of resources, Jesus defends the woman, declaring, “Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Mark 14:9). His response suggests that preaching the gospel means telling stories about the life of Jesus, not simply his death and resurrection.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 151-152

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 7, 2019

Power in Love

January 6th, 2019

There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live.

— Michael Curry, The Power of Love, p. 8

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 6, 2018

There Is Forgiveness

January 5th, 2019

The lesson here is that there is no fix. There is, however, forgiveness. To forgive yourselves and others constantly is necessary. Not only is everyone screwed up, but everyone screws up.

— Anne Lamott, Almost Everything, p. 62-63

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 5, 2015