CENTER

| Anne Williamson | 

By the time anyone reads this blog post, I’ll have a new baby at home. She’ll only be a few weeks old. How will I feel? Perhaps lovely… baby is relatively easy, toddler is adjusting well, the “feel good” hormones are rolling, friends and family are near and welcome. Life is good. Or, maybe, I’ll feel awful… utterly exhausted by a colicky baby and distraught toddler, isolated and intentionally isolating myself in the throws of post-partum. Life will not feel so good.

Most likely, reality will fall somewhere in-between. My life will be both sweet and trying. This seems to be the way of things most of the time – especially in seasons of transition…and limited sleep.

What I believe, what I trust, is it will be how I react in the midst of the trying moments that will help determine how long they last and how deeply they’re felt....

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EATING WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

| Ashley Parsons |

When I was a massage therapist, I would ask my clients, “Do you treat your car better than your body?” When we buy a car, the dealer tells us to make sure we use the right gasoline, change our oil regularly, keep coolant in the radiator and make sure to go to our regular maintenance inspections.  What would happen if we didn’t? At best, our cars would stop running. Would we ever put anything other than gasoline in our engine? Not unless you wanted to replace your engine. Would you drive your car on a highway at 90 mph for days or weeks on end, without a break? Probably not. Yet, we (me included) do this everyday with our bodies. We go all day long, with no breaks, and we refuel with nutrient deficient foods. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t have a check engine light they can turn on, nor do we start smoking out of our ears or get a flat tire.  Our bodies do start to get run down and not function at their optimal levels. Our “parts” get overworked and worn out.

When it comes to food, the things we put in our mouth have changed tremendously over the past 100 years....

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THE DANCE OF DISCERNMENT

| Anne Williamson |

Whatever word to which you're drawn - vocation, purpose, meaning, work, calling, etc. - most of us believe its creation is at least a joint one. That is, our life is not wholly predetermined. If this is the case, then, how do we, as our vocation's joint, if not sole, creators, discern what to create?

There appears to be a common theme in the collective thinking around vocational discernment: it's a dance between being and doing, letting go and pursuing, listening and to borrow Martin's words in last week's reading, "[putting one's] butt in the chair." It doesn't matter whether we believe the inspiration is g/God's, our own, or some combination of the two; the dance is the same....

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THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR?

| Anne Williamson |

It's November 1. You're still tearing open Halloween candy and storing away spiders, skulls and pumpkins. Perhaps Thanksgiving plans have been set, but the day itself is a surprising three and a half weeks away. And, if you purchase a tree at all, most likely you won't consider doing so until after the turkey - or tofurky - has been cut. All this may be true, but so is this... the Christmas season is here. 

Turn on a TV tonight, walk in a store tomorrow, and you're almost certain to see it: red and green ornaments; white lights; a jolly old man and his elves; ads trying to convince you the product they're selling is exactly what you, or mom or dad, or partner Tom, or little Johnny needs. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, it assaults you. It cannot be ignored completely.    

This isn't necessarily bad. Many of us enjoy Christmas; I know I do. But, even if you don't or it's not your tradition's holiday, it's still worth asking, "Is this season as joyful as it can be for me? My family? Community? Is it really the most wonderful time of the year?" ...

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YOUR WHOLE LIFE IS SPEAKING

| Anne Williamson |

Recently, for an article coming out in October on WAYfinding, I was asked this question, "What's your ultimate goal?" My response: 

For me, one of the most interesting and important questions in life is: To what do you live faithfully?  Because, we all live faithfully to something. As theologian Paul Tillich would say, “We all have an Ultimate Concern.” You would think this would be a question we’d be encouraged to explore in school, at work, at home – since it impacts everything we do – but it’s generally not. Often, our Ultimate Concern develops and resides in our subconscious alone.  For me, this is no good. Our Ultimate Concern, that to which we live faithfully, needs to be drawn out and evaluated: Is it what you thought? Is it worthy of your whole life?

On a deep level, this is the point of WAYfinding: to help people discover an Ultimate Concern worthy of their whole life. And then, to help them learn to live faithfully to that Concern everyday, to learn to listen to it. This, to me, is faith, and it requires a kind of bravery and permission beyond the mandatory checking of certain belief boxes.

This, then, is why, in WAYfinding, our lens, our shared commitment, is not a statement of beliefs but a process. ...

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HAVE I REALLY STOPPED TO LISTEN? - TAKE 2 (OR 1,002)

| Anne Williamson |

A couple weeks ago, I was re-reading old blog posts for a sermon I'm writing when I came across this one...

October 7, 2014

On Sunday, WAYfinding folks and friends got together for a sensory nature walk through a local park. The kids involved received a scavenger hunt list - things to touch, hear, see and smell. One of these items was to hear a bird. As my daughter and I took off, we felt rough and smooth bark, saw light streaming through the trees, heard friends laughing, but no birds. I remember thinking to myself, "Well, this is too bad. It must be too cold for the birds this morning. None of the kids are going to be able to complete their list." 

We went on like this for maybe 25 minutes when a question appeared in my mind's eye, "Have you really stopped to listen?" I had not. So, I scooped my daughter up, used the universal sign for "shhh," and asked her to close her eyes with mommy. ...

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IMAGINE... FOR YOURSELF & THE WORLD

| ANNE WILLIAMSON |

In lieu of my usual blog post, this week I offer you my sermon from WAYfinding's Community Christmas Service. I hope it sparks your imagination, helping you imagine a more peaceful, joy-filled and compassionate life and world.

I also wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, as I'll be taking a two-week hiatus from posting.

Out of what's stirring in you, imagine... What is the thing you most need to imagine for yourself this Christmas and beyond? And, what is the thing you think the world most needs you to imagine on it's behalf? Write down your imaginings. Share them with s/Someone. Pray for guidance and the courage to begin the hard work of making your imaginings realities.  

 

A MORE JOYFUL CHRISTMAS

| ANNE WILLIAMSON |

We all want a more joyful Christmas. This doesn't mean it comes easy. The season carries with it a hefty dose of "have-tos," "shoulds," and "we've always done it this way." Some of this is unavoidable and thus acceptance is the sanest response. Much of it, though, is a choice. We can choose to celebrate the season in ways that bring real joy.

Why don't we, then? Experience has shown me two big stumbling blocks. First, tradition. Traditions can be lovely. I imagine all of us participate in cherished traditions each year. They also can be stifling - metaphorical elephants on the chest rather than practices that open our heart. The trick is knowing the difference. You'd think this would be obvious, but it's not. Lousy traditions successfully hide, even from ourselves, all the time. The reason why is the second stumbling block: we don't take the time to listen for what really brings us joy. Thus, culture, habit, guilt, fear, decide for us, and we find ourselves simply repeating last year.

This need not be the case. A different way is possible. We simply need to give ourselves the space to listen for what brings us and others real joy, and the gradual permission to let the rest go.

We'll be doing just this at two upcoming Sample WAYfinding Nights: this Wednesday, December 3, and next, December 10, both 7:00p - 9:00p. It's a great opportunity to experience what WAYfinding is all about and meet folks currently involved. I hope you can join us for this laid-back, meaningful Christmas discussion. If you're interested, have questions, contact me (anne@wayfindinglife.org). 

LEARN, LISTEN, LOVE...

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HAVE I REALLY STOPPED TO LISTEN?

| ANNE WILLIAMSON |

On Sunday, WAYfinding folks and friends got together for a sensory nature walk through a local park. The kids involved received a scavenger hunt list - things to touch, hear, see and smell. One of these items was to hear a bird. As my daughter and I took off, we felt rough and smooth bark, saw light streaming through the trees, heard friends laughing, but no birds. I remember thinking to myself, "Well, this is too bad. It must be too cold for the birds this morning. None of the kids are going to be able to complete their list." 

We went on like this for maybe 25 minutes when a question appeared in my mind's eye, "Have you really stopped to listen?" I had not. So, I scooped my daughter up, used the universal sign for "shhh," and asked her to close her eyes with mommy. And, there they were: the beautiful trills and chirps of birds high in the trees. It was a graced moment - one all too quickly interrupted by my daughter tapping my face and saying "no sleepy" - but a moment full of grace all the same. I simply had not stopped to listen.   

Does this ring true for you too? How often do we think we're listening - to our friends, kids, partners, even God - when, in fact, we're not? Because we haven't truly stopped... the external movement and noise, and internal chatter. LISTEN, LEARN, LOVE...

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LISTENING TO DEATH

| ANNE WILLIAMSON |

I'm not someone who generally thinks a lot about death. But, lately, I've been thinking about it more. Having a child started the ball rolling, with its accompanying SIDS and baby proofing and writing of the will. Then, a young family friend died suddenly, and I officiated the wedding of another family friend whose father almost died. Neighbors have or are in the process of saying goodbye to their beloved dog, and shootings are rampant in the city. Death is here; it is an unshakable part of life. 

Maybe, then, it's worth thinking about. Not all the time, but sometimes and not just when it is thrust upon us. I don't wish for death - for myself and more so for the ones I love, for the ones anyone loves. But, I also don't want to live in fear of it or miss its lessons. LISTEN, LEARN, LOVE... 

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CENTERING PRAYER

| ANNE WILLIAMSON |

Returning from vacation is never easy. It's been especially hard for me this week. I've been emotionally chaotic and physically stagnant; the worst of combinations in my book. Sure, it's also brought about some blessed conversations and insights, but I can't help thinking, if only I'd taken the time to center and listen, I could have kept the "a-ha's" and skipped the drama. 

Hence, my offering to you today is what I offered myself this morning: Centering Prayer. LEARN, LISTEN, LOVE...

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STILLNESS IN DECISION MAKING

| ANNE WILLIAMSON |

You may or may not be familiar with last week's World Vision news story. To summarize: World Vision works to end poverty and injustice around the world, most visibly through child sponsorship. On Monday, March 24, World Vision (US branch) announced it would begin employing gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages. After intense criticism and dropped sponsorships from conservative evangelical Christians, on March 26, WV reversed that decision.  

Now, as a person unapologetically in favor of comprehensive equal rights for LGBTQ individuals, there are a myriad of reasons I'm anti WV's reversal; but, honestly, the biggest has to do with timing. Sources tell us WV spent 2 years in prayer and discernment around employing committed LGBTQ folks. They took just 2 days to reverse that decision! 2 years of listening amid normal daily life versus 2 days of mind-racing amid a media frenzy and disappearing contributions. If God "speaks," how does God "speak"? How do we decide to trust what it is we "hear"? LISTEN, LEARN, LOVE...  

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