Category Archives: spirituality
Walls Getting Bad Rap
There is so much negativity around ‘walls’ these days due to Donald Trump’s excessive speech about them, plus the media and public’s misunderstanding or incorrect view of the value of walls.
Fact is we all live within ‘walls’ we wake up within ‘walls’, we work within ‘walls’ , we go to school within ‘walls’, we go to bed within ‘walls.’. Anything else we do? Oh ya, we are protected by walls.
Another more politically correct word for walls is BOUNDARIES.
In my coaching I encourage people to have healthy boundaries, or you could say ‘walls’. To protect them from people or situations they see as dangerous and toxic. Anyone disagree with that?
Let’s redeem the word in spite of Trump’s harsh view of it and the media’s twisting of the concept.
And because I don’t march to the orders of Donald Trump or Justin Trudea but to King Jesus, the king and true benevolent Lord of my life, I did a quick survey of holy scriptures mention of walls.
This is not exhaustive but it helped me see that we need to give ‘Walls’ a high five and stop damning right kind of wall building.
Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.”
Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit.
“I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.
It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.
Next time I will address bridge building. We need walls and bridges.
Advent Creates Anticipation for More Reality
On this second Sunday of Advent, waiting expectantly for the Babe in the Manger to show up mysteriously and gently into my life and the lives of my family and friends, I am encouraged by my favourite spiritual life guide, the late Fr Henri Nouwen.
Unlike many believers today who have capitulated to the secularizing of The Christian faith, I choose with Fr Henri to believe there is more than trying to make heaven on earth. There is another Reality I and millions of others long for as did Fr Henri and others who have departed this life.
Call me naive, call me a fool, call me whatever you want but I long for More than this life gives.
You On this second weekend of Advent I choose with Fr Henri to claim my identity as one of God’s beloved sons, and live fully today with a view to meeting Jesus face2face someday, and sharing the story of how my life and His worked themselves out over however long I am blessed to live.
Quoting Fr Henri on life after this life—
Even though I often give in to the many fears and warnings of my world, I still believe deeply that our few years on this earth are part of a much larger event that stretches out far beyond the boundaries of our birth and death. I think of it as a mission into time, a mission that is very exhilirating and even exciting, mostly because the One who sent me on the mission is waiting for me to come home and tell the story of what I have learned.’†
An Endangered Virtue–Respect for One Another
For any community to function there must be rules. Yes. Rules. We like to think we can function without them but unfortunately it seems to me the ‘rule of respecting one another’ is no longer, if it ever was, humans’ default in challenging relationship situations.
While at the Venice, Florida YMCA today I saw this photo.
What it said to me was that for our ‘Y’ to work exceptionally, we must all own these 8 rules.
As I read these I thought these would have been good for recent presidential election.
In a sermon a few weeks ago pastor Bill Hybels highlighted 10 rules he wanted to see restored in his community and our world.
In their community 1000s of people are engaging over these ’10 rules’ for treating each other with respect.
1. See People As Image-Bearers.
Every person who crosses your path bears the image of God. We have never locked eyes with someone for whom this is not true. All people matter to God. Furthermore, there is no person on earth for whom Christ didn’t die.
2. Differ without Demonizing.
Respectful people learn how to hold differences well. We must train ourselves to respect others while disagreeing rather than devaluing, diminishing, or demonizing them.
3. Believe the Best.
It is simple to judge people before ever meeting them. However, we are taught in 1 Corinthians 13:7, among other things, to believe the best of everyone. This requires an open mind and one without cynicism.
4. Don’t Interrupt or Dominate.
Respectful people genuinely want to hear the opinions and feelings of others and demonstrate this by listening rather than controlling the conversation. They are curious to know how others think so they might be sharpened themselves.
5. No Incendiary Words.
Those who show respect are very careful in choosing their words. Proverbs 15:1 states: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words make tempers flare.” It is the wise and respectful person who takes stock and decides to use words that will adequately reflect who they want to be. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us: “Let no unwholesome words come out of your mouth but only words that build up others.” Respectful people only use words that build up others, even when writing in the context of social media where it may be easy to be careless with words.
6. Courteous to Everyone.
Respectful people are kind and inordinately courteous to others. They demonstrate kindness in seemingly little ways like opening doors for others and noticing people that might otherwise be overlooked.
7. No Stereotyping.
A stereotype diminishes the value of a person by categorizing them, rather than valuing their God-given uniqueness. Learning to respect others means to absolutely refuse to stereotype a person or people group.
When we have wronged another person, the right thing to do is to apologize. Respect is demonstrated when we apologize quickly because we recognize the other person, as a fellow image-bearer that we have slighted or harmed.
9. Form Opinions Carefully.
Respectful people practice the discipline of considering many viewpoints as they form opinions. They also prayerfully revisit an issue and consider changing their mind when new information becomes available.
10.Prompt and Faithful.
Those who respect others show up on time and do what they say they’re going to do. If someone is late, the message given to others is: I am more important than you. Honoring others’ time and following through with what you promised to do is a tangible way of respecting others.
Blessing One Another On US Election Day 2016
While in Venice, Florida for some work and vacation I, like many others, have become weary, even sick at the way people have ripped each other apart on various social media platforms, and to see the way the presidential candidates have not been able to rise above their inane accusations against one another, is also disheartening.
Can you imagine if Hillary and the Donald and all their surrogates and ‘handlers’ could be in a room together, graciously disagree, but still offer each other a blessing–to speak well of each other for only a moment.
As the adage says, speed of the leader, speed of the team.
I have relatives I am at odds with because of my inability and their inability to be gracious in our disagreement.
I need this soul medicine of blessing more than anybody. Our proclivity to insist on our rightness creates friction, factions, grudges and an overall incivility.
So how do we give a non religious but necessary blessing as a way of life? Listen to Fr Henri.
To bless means to say good things. We have to bless one another constantly. Parents need to bless their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, friends their friends. In our society, so full of curses, we must fill each place we enter with our blessings. We forget so quickly that we are God’s beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts. Therefore we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs. Whether the blessing is given in words or with gestures, in a solemn or an informal way, our lives need to be blessed lives.
Who needs your blessing today?
Bless them with words, thoughts or deeds, or all of the preceding before the day is done.
Dealing With Temptation to Settle in 2016
Just over one month into the New Year….with all the energy and hype well past us, I want to ask you, with some help from Steve Carter of Willow Creek, a big question–
“Are you moving or have you settled in to the familiar rut that has plagued you for months, maybe even years”?
“Many people are in a rut and a rut is nothing but a grave – with both ends kicked out.” Vance Havner
We’ve all had moments where we have ‘settled’……and not because we feel we are in God’s sweet spot for us…. but more because we have become comfortable. We know we are not living inspired lives, or living up to our God given potential.
If you are feeling that way, you are not alone.
The Old Testament recounts the story of the Israelites going on an 11 day journey that lasted 40 years after having left the enslavement of Egypt. By year 40 they arrive at a mountain called Horeb. They are camped out there for a year. It became a place that was safe and comfortable for them. They knew where to find water. They knew where to trade and get food. They knew how to deal with their issues. They created a “comfortable” lifestyle while camped out at the mountain. Life was good at Horeb.
Or was it?
In Deuteronomy 1:6 the Israelites got a ‘word from God’ via their ‘Coach’ Moses.
“ The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.”
In many ways we are so very similar. If not careful we will find ourselves “managing life” in such a way that keeps us comfortable. We “camp out” on our own “mountains”, and stay too long.
Consider these questions:
Can you name your mountain where you sense you have stayed too long?
Can you name where you have found yourself stuck? There is no growth. It’s just more of the same.
Your mountain feels familiar. It feels comfortable. Even though it may be spiralling you into bad habits or patterns, you try to manage it and control it. It’s not working and it is definitely not exciting.
I refer to this as the “Mountain To Get Over”. These are places and or attitudes where you have stayed too long.
I am indebted to Steve Carter of Willow Creek Church for this list of “mountains’ you and I may need to move on from in 2016–
9 Mountains To Consider:
Mountain of Overstaying. Have you have stayed in your role too long. Is it time to move?
Mountain of Overtime. Are you are working too much? Are you always accessible to your phone?
Mountain of Over-spending.
Are you consistently living outside of your means? Are you over stressed because you have little to no margin? How do you spell relief for your time and money – B U D G E T!
Mountain of Over-commitment. Are you unable to say “NO”? Do you have so many plates spinning that you are unable to offer your very best?
Mountain of Over-eating. Perhaps you have an unhealthy relationship to food and eating. And perhaps in moments of stress and feeling alone and sadness, you turn to food.
Mountain of being Over-revved. Perhaps your RPM’s are out of control and you are amped up and on high alert all the time. Are you driving yourself and the people around you a bit “crazy”? What it’s like being ‘on the other side of your ‘reved-upness’?
Mountain of Over-reacting. Do you have irrational responses to things that don’t meet your expectations? Are people tip toeing around the chaos you create, walking on egg shells, afraid that you might lash out at them?
Mountain of Overwhelm. Are you a person who constantly feels overwhelmed? To be overwhelmed can look like this: Stressed + Lack of Resources (perceived or otherwise) + Feeling pressure+ Not enough time.
Mountain of Left Overs. Are you living off of what God has done in years past but there’s nothing new. You haven’t been connected to Jesus in years. Has your connection to Him gone stale, almost non-existent? Does it feel like you are just going through the motions? Is your most boring hour of the week at church.
If you want to make 2016 something remarkable, it begins with naming your mountain where you have stayed too long.
Here are some helpful words that God tells the people through Coach Moses.
“Break camp and advance into the hill country…. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land….” Deuteronomy 1:7-8
Football coach Jim Harbaugh offers this advice for ‘breaking camp and advancing’,
‘Attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!”
One of my mountains for 2016 is my compulsion to Over Commit. I am discovering that this mountain, is in part, driven by my need to be ‘liked’, to receive the approval of others. I am currently working on this.
So let’s get off the mountain and move out!! Are you with me?
A Maverick Application:
Take a few minutes to go through the list of ‘overs’. Which ones can you name for yourself? Are there any ‘overs’ missing here that you still feel you are stuck at?
What mountain needs your attention right now? What ideas are coming to mind about how you can step into this ‘over’ in your life?
Moses had Aaron and Joshua and a few others to support him. Who are the ‘Aarons and Joshuas’ that you can enlist to support you, as you look to tackle those mountains in 2016?
Amy Morin’s 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do
Grateful to the insight of Amy Morin for this strong list of attitudes and actions to get rid of if we are tipo be mentally tough and effective at life and work.
13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do
~by Amy Morin, LCSW
MEntally strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong.
1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves
Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.
2. They Don’t Give Away Their Power
They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.
3. They Don’t Shy Away from Change
Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.
4. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control
You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over lost luggage or traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.
5. They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone
Mentally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time. They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary. They strive to be kind and fair, but can handle other people being upset if they didn’t make them happy.
6. They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks
They don’t take reckless or foolish risks, but don’t mind taking calculated risks. Mentally strong people spend time weighing the risks and benefits before making a big decision, and they’re fully informed of the potential downsides before they take action.
7. They Don’t Dwell on the Past
Mentally strong people don’t waste time dwelling on the past and wishing things could be different. They acknowledge their past and can say what they’ve learned from it. However, they don’t constantly relive bad experiences or fantasize about the glory days. Instead, they live for the present and plan for the future.
8. They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over
They accept responsibility for their behavior and learn from their past mistakes. As a result, they don’t keep repeating those mistakes over and over. Instead, they move on and make better decisions in the future.
9. They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success
Mentally strong people can appreciate and celebrate other people’s success in life. They don’t grow jealous or feel cheated when others surpass them. Instead, they recognize that success comes with hard work, and they are willing to work hard for their own chance at success.
10. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure
They don’t view failure as a reason to give up. Instead, they use failure as an opportunity to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right.
11. They Don’t Fear Alone Time
Mentally strong people can tolerate being alone and they don’t fear silence. They aren’t afraid to be alone with their thoughts and they can use downtime to be productive. They enjoy their own company and aren’t dependent on others for companionship and entertainment all the time but instead can be happy alone.
12. They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything
They don’t feel entitled to things in life. They weren’t born with a mentality that others would take care of them or that the world must give them something. Instead, they look for opportunities based on their own merits.
13. They Don’t Expect Immediate Results
Whether they are working on improving their health or getting a new business off the ground, mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results. Instead, they apply their skills and time to the best of their ability and understand that real change takes time.
Fr Ronald Rolheiser’s 10 Commandments for Daily Life
i am an avid reader of everything Father Ronald Rolheiser writes. These commandments are excerpted from his book Sacred Fire, a phenomenal read on the various stages we pass through on our way to maturity in spirit, soul, mind, body and relationships.
COMMANDMENTS FOR DAILY LIFE–Fr Ronald Rolheiser
Almost thirty years ago, Daniel Berrigan wrote a little book that he entitled, Ten Commandments for the Long Haul. It was, in effect, a handbook of sorts on how to be a prophet in today’s world. It was Berrigan at his best, explaining how a prophet must make a vow of love and not of alienation. Anyone who is trying to be prophetic, from the right or from the left, might profitably read this book.
He ends with a number of Commandments, not ten but forty-seven of them. Here’s a sample of them (paraphrased), just to give you a taste of his insight, language, and wit:
1) Call on Jesus when all else fails. Call on Him when all else succeeds (except that never happens).
2) Don’t be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you think the trees feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter, most humans?
3) Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they’re growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth knowing.
4) About practically everything in the world, there’s nothing you can do. This is Socratic wisdom. However, about of few things you can do something. Do it, with a good heart.
5) On a long drive, there’s bound to be a dull stretch or two. Don’t go anywhere with someone who expects you to be interesting all the time. And don’t be hard on your fellow travelers. Try to smile after a coffee stop.
6) Practically no one has the stomach to love you, if you don’t love yourself. They just endure. So do you.
7) About healing: The gospels tell us that this was Jesus’ specialty and he was heard to say: “Take up your couch and walk!”
8) When traveling on an airplane, watch the movie, but don’t use the earphones. Then you’ll be able to see what’s going on, but not understand what’s happening, and so you’ll feel right at home, little different then you do on the ground.
9) Know that sometimes the only writing material you have is your own blood.
10) Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.
Alongside these commandments, I’d like to share a Decalogue for Daily Living that Pope John XXIII wrote for himself, his own Commandments for daily life. They reflect his depth, his simplicity, and his humility:
1) “Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
2) Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behaviour; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
3) Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world buy also in this one.
4) Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
5) Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
6) Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
7) Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
8) Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
9) Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world
10) Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours, I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.”
Post 2014 Christmas Encouragement
We all long for Christmas to stay longer, maybe even forever, don’t we?There is something so special and magical and mystical about Christmas. Maybe that’s because Christmas isn’t primarily about ‘something’ but about ‘Someone’. This year I had a revelation like never before. Being Italian, family–la familia–is everything, but what struck me is that as great as family is, Christmas is NOT family, Christmas is the contagious presence of the person Jesus. And it is He who makes our family functions meaningful, purposeful and happy.
I heard the following summary of the beauty of the Christmas season by Father Cedric Pisegno, that gave me just the boost I need to go through the next year with courage, confidence, hope and love.
It is the Christmas Season:
This Christmas many think, “What difference does Emmanuel make?”
For us believers, “What a difference Emmanuel makes!”
We celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”
Since God is with us, he makes all the difference in the world!
Because he is with me, I can:
Grieve well. Face the future. Let go of the past. Deal with difficult people. Live with peace. Have hope. Be strong. Face my challenges. Live with purpose and meaning. Forgive and live. Be spiritual. Love myself. Live with Passion. Realize my potential. Change, grow and become. Make a difference. Be reborn. Love others.
Emmanuel is born. The world will never be the same. We need time to embrace this truth and let it change us.
Turning Your Can’ts to Won’ts in 2015
Years ago in a book called Happiness is a Choice, I discovered the distinction between ‘can’ts’ and ‘won’ts’. Because I write from a Christian point of view, this brief summary of the distinction is designed to help anyone but particularly Christians, those who claim to possess the Spirit of God.
Can’t and won’t. Christians need to be very careful which one they choose. It seems that we prefer to use can’t.
“I just can’t get along with my wife.”
“My husband and I can’t communicate.”
“I can’t discipline the kids like I should.”
“I just can’t give up the affair I’m having.”
“I can’t stop overeating.”
“I can’t find the time to pray.”
“I can’t quit gossiping.”
No, any Christian who takes the Scriptures seriously will have to confess the word really should be won’t. Why? Because we have been given the power, the ability to overcome. Literally!
One of the best books you can read on overcoming depression is a splendid work by two psychiatrists, Frank Minirth and Paul Meier. The volume is appropriately entitled Happiness is a Choice, “As psychiatrists we cringe whenever [Christian] patients use the word can’t…Any good psychiatrist knows that ‘I can’t’ and ‘I’ve tried’ are merely excuses. We use language that expresses the reality of the situation. So we have our patients change their can’t words to won’ts…if an individual changes all his can’ts to won’ts, he stops avoiding the truth, quits deceiving himself, and starts living in reality.”
“I just won’t get along with my wife.”
“My husband and I won’t communicate.”
“I won’t discipline the kids like I should.”
“I just won’t give up the affair I’m having.”
“I won’t stop overeating.”
“I won’t find the time to pray.”
“I won’t quit gossiping.”
Those without Christ have every right and reason to use can’t, because they really can’t! They are victims, trapped and bound like slaves in a fierce and endless struggle. Without Christ and His power, they lack what it takes to change permanently. They don’t because they can’t! It’s a fact…a valid excuse.
But people like us? Hey, let’s face it, we don’t because we won’t…we disobey because we want to, not because we have to…because we choose to, not because we’re forced to. The sooner we are willing to own up realistically to our responsibility and stop playing the blame game at pity parities for ourselves, the more we’ll learn and change and the less we’ll burn.
Recovering the Value of Leisure
(article originally written for Early to Rise (ETR)
Like you, I’ve spent a big part of my life doing and accomplishing things. It’s been both challenging and fulfilling, whether it was during my time as a high school teacher, a pastor, campus chaplain, or presently, as a life and leadership coach.
For over four decades I have been deeply involved in mentoring young people and in assisting business professionals to integrate spirituality and faith into their success formulas.
Throughout all of this, my wife and three sons were along for part of the ride. They lived in the shadow that I cast through my various roles.
Here’s my confession: I was young and didn’t know better.
In retrospect, there’s much I would have changed about my lifestyle.
Doing leisure and having fun for fun’s sake wasn’t in my plan back then.
ETR editor Craig Ballantyne has written his 12 rules he lives by. These are outstanding and I often forward them on to people who are seeking to get their bearings in life and productivity.
The 13th Rule
At the risk of offending Craig, I would add an all important 13th rule that states, “I will do leisure not as a duty but as a way of investing in my well being and the well being of those around me.”
(Craig notes: No offense taken!)
Leisure isn’t something limited to the summer or to your golden years of retirement, although many of us tend to live that way.
Working, and thinking about work all of the time is not optimal to your health or your work performance. William McNamara wrote, “Possibly the greatest malaise in our country is our neurotic compulsion to work.”
The ancient Greeks agreed. Thousands of years earlier they had developed a saying, “You will break the bow if you keep it always bent.” You need time away from your work to relax and recover.
The late Tim Hansel wrote in his classic When I Relax I Feel Guilty, “When work becomes a person’s all consuming interest, even if the work is good and necessary, it is idolatry.” Strong words, but words worth taking to heart.
If the words frantic, frazzled, and frenzied describe the pace of your individual life or your family life, take a moment of rest and reflection after reading this article, and write down your answers to these questions:
Do you feel refreshed and energized at your current pace?
What would happen if you just quit doing some of your activities?
Whose expectations are you trying to live up to with all your pursuits?
Do you have time to think strategically about your priorities, schedule, and sense of ‘calling’ to your big Rock Purposes?
If you could design your life, would it be this busy?
Which phrase would you use currently to describe your approach to life: 1) I am living by default, that is, whatever comes my way, I let that shape me, or 2) I am living by design, meaning, I am in as much control of shaping my life as I could be. I know what I am about and where I am heading.
In her Autobiography of a Business Woman, Alice Foote MacDougall keenly observed, that when work “becomes once a delight and a tyrant,” then “even when the time comes and you can relax, you hardly know how to.”
That was me.
In my mid forties and again mid 50s, I ran into two brick walls. One was intrapersonal in my 40s, and the other was interpersonal (with others), in my mid 50s. I believe the source of this was an inability to slow myself down long enough to become aware of what was going on in me. In short, I attribute these personal ‘train wrecks’ to emotional and physical exhaustion. Part of my path back to full health was learning to relax.
I could relate to the words of the band Alabama’s lyrics in the early nineties, “I’m in a hurry to get things done, Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really got to do is live and die. But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”
The “get busy” mindset has only gotten worse since the 90’s, let alone 1979 when Hansel wrote, “This is the age of the half-read page, and a quick hash and a mad dash; The bright night with the nerves tight, the plane hop and the brief stop, the lamp tan in a short span, the big shot in a soft spot, the brain stain and the heart pain, the cat naps ’til the spring snaps, this is our culture!
In response to my personal issues developed through a lack of leisure, I had to re-learn how to relax and not feel guilty about it, and to invest in genuine leisure in my life.
Getting to the root of words is helpful and sometimes can shed light for us as we try to move into a new arena of life. The word ‘leisure’ has an interesting etymology from the Latin. Leisure is licere, which means ‘to be permitted’. If we are ever going to install leisure into the hard drives of our lives, we must give ourselves permission to do so.
So how can we learn to relax and do leisure well?
For me, it includes taking care of myself in three areas of life—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Everyone achieves relaxation and leisure in different ways. What relaxes me might give you a tension headache.
Physically relaxing is the simplest to address. For me it involves regular downtimes—releasing the bent bow – putting limits on my work schedule and getting away for regular weekends.
I call it diverting daily, withdrawing weekly, and abandoning annually.
Let me explain using history as our guide.
Whether you consider yourself a spiritual person or not, it’s informative to look at the Hebrew idea of Sabbath. The way the Hebrews understood the concept of ‘Sabbath’ was that the Creator had built into our physical makeup a need—even a requirement—for a day each week for rest, play, reflection, worship, and change of pace.
Mental relaxation for me simply to put a hold on listening to self help books and reading leadership and business books that stirred me up when I should be relaxing. I taught myself to read and listen to fiction.
In the last two years I have read the amazing story Unbroken, as well as Pillars of the Earth, and been careful to watch movies that inspire me as well as make me laugh.
Everyone’s way of replenishing their mind is different, but it’s worth exploring what replenishes you mentally.
The last area, emotional leisure, is the hardest for me. It’s not because I am of Italian descent. I tend to be known as being overly enthusiastic and passionate which contributes to an up-and-down emotional state.
Worry, anxiety, trying to control others, anger, and resentment are major emotional leaks for me. There’s no magic formula for getting around them. Making peace to what cannot be changed helps relieve us to some extent.
I am learning to ‘house clean my attitudes’ by doing a daily audit of my emotional life. I call it having a DQT (daily quiet time) to alter my DRA’s (dirty rotten attitudes).
As a former pastor, when I have sought to take care of the spiritual dimension of my life, that has served me well in the area of having a healthy emotional life.
There are other great ways to attend to the spiritual dimension of our lives—yoga and other forms of meditation work wonders for many (including ETR’s editor, Craig Ballantyne). But whatever form of spiritual leisure we choose we should commit wholeheartedly to in order to get the most out of it.
As the adage says, “Whatever’s good for your soul, do it.”
In my mid 40s, when I began to actually practice what I was teaching others, I came across a beautiful prayer that I have used in my daily leisure and relaxation rituals. It is written by Wilfred Peterson and simply called, Slow me down, Lord.
Slow me down Lord
Ease the pounding of my heart
by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace
with a vision of the eternal march of time.
Give me amid the confusion of the day,
the calmness of the eternal hills.
Break the tension of my nerves and muscles
with the soothing music of the singing streams
that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking MINUTE vacations,
Of slowing down to look at a flower,
to chat with a friend,
to pat a dog,
to read a few lines of a good book.
Slow me down Lord
and inspire me to send my roots
deep into the soil of life’s enduring values
that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.