Tag Archives: abundance

Check your ego at the door

I once belonged to a networking group of about a dozen people, all leaders in our field. One of the ground rules for our networking sessions was to “check your ego at the door.” We all claimed to be “servant leaders” which would imply that our egos would be kept in check, but the reality was that when two or more successful people got together, a game of one-upmanship often ensued.

Some of these people had international reputations; others were leaders in our local community. The “ego” rule made it possible for us to meet as equals. If someone started name-dropping or praising their own achievements, another member would gently recall the rule. It got to the point that only one word was needed to rein in an inflated sense of self. “Ego,” someone would say.

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I have often thought of that rule, especially when working with nonprofit boards which are usually made up of successful community leaders. I gently remind them that the most important thing about nonprofits is the mission, and I invite them to stay focused on advancing the mission of the organization rather than focusing on their individual contributions.

I am fortunate that my dad was not into hero-worship; he often said that everyone “puts his pants on one leg at a time.” No one was any more important than anyone else in my dad’s eyes. His attitude has stayed with me, and I think it has served me well. (I do have to admit, though, that I was somewhat starstruck the time I was standing next to Ray Charles at JFK Airport and when I was sitting just a few feet away from the Pope.)

Competition is a cornerstone of capitalism, and it is common to encounter successful people who love to tell you how they built up their company or scored some big deal. My eyes tend to glaze over during those monologues; I am much more interested in those who praise all the people who made their success possible.

My friend Ted was one of those people. He was a successful lawyer, well-known in his field and treated like a big deal at his work. He was very generous with his resources and often donated to the nonprofit where I worked—always requesting anonymity. “Don’t let your right hand know what your left is doing,” (Matthew 6:3) was one of his favorite Bible quotes.

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I think all of this has come to mind because I am leaving my profession to embark on the next chapter of my life. When I told my boss I was leaving, she repeated something she has said to me several times since our two nonprofits merged a few years ago—she is amazed that I gave up my job as executive director and set aside my ego for the sake of the mission.

Perhaps it is unusual; for me, though, it was remembering to stay focused on the mission and to check my ego at the door.

On retreat–I had hoped

On the sixth day of my retreat, my spiritual director suggested I pray with Luke 24:13-35, the Road to Emmaus. The story is that two disciples are walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem after the crucifixion. They are sad and disappointed.

Then Jesus is walking along with them, but they don’t recognize him. He asks what they are talking about, and they relate what has happened in Jerusalem and what happened to Jesus. “We had hoped…” (Luke 24:21) they said.

Those three words jumped off the page at me, and I repeated them a few times. “We had hoped.” Then I personalized it to, “I had hoped.”

What had I hoped?

I had hoped…

  • To be loved, cherished, valued and respected;
  • To stop the negative messages in my head;
  • To go to college after high school;
  • To visit Poland again;
  • To live in l’Arche for the rest of my life;
  • To reconcile with a friend from Winnipeg, and on and on.

It turns out I had a fair number of dashed hopes. Like the disciples who were feeling let down, I also had hoped and been disappointed.

After a few hours of creating a list of my unfulfilled hopes, I went back to my Bible and finished reading the Road to Emmaus story in Luke.

Jesus says to these two disciples, “How foolish you are and how slow to believe…” and then he explains what happened to him from a different perspective; he reframed the situation.

What Jesus says to these two disciples on the road to Emmaus is that their hopes and their vision were too narrow, too small. The resurrection was bigger than anything they could have imagined or hoped.

Jesus says the same thing to me, too—my vision is to narrow, my hopes are too small, and what I need to do is broaden my vision, to get a different perspective. I need to think big thoughts, to focus on God’s abundance and to remember all the good things that have happened to me.

I thought back to the litany of blessings I had done a few days earlier and how I call myself “the luckiest girl in the world.” It is true that I have had unrealized hopes and dreams; it is also true that I have had opportunities beyond my wildest hopes or dreams.

God’s vision for me is much bigger than I could ever hope or imagine.

More than enough

During my morning prayer on Christmas day, I asked, what is being birthed in me? Where is God inviting me to grow? In what ways am I being called to live more fully alive?

I went through a list of new projects I am pondering for the future or already working on, of my dreams to visit distant friends and my hopes to travel in Europe for an extended time. I thought about my writing and considered attending a workshop on writing a memoir.

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As I let these ideas play out in my imagination, though, another thought popped into my head: Heal your need to please others.  

What? Is this the secret to my being able to live more fully? To give greater glory to God? Do I need to move past my fear of disappointing people and my need to please in order to give birth to my true calling?

Ugh, I sighed. It is so much easier to work on external projects than to deal with my old nemesis, that voice inside my head that tells me that I am bound to disappoint people, that I am not enough and that whatever I do is not enough.

It is a message I heard from early childhood through my teens, this idea that I am not enough. For many years, I have worked on erasing that message and replacing it with more affirming words, reassuring phrases that shift parenting from my mom to God or to my adult self, changing the messages in my head to ones that remind me that I am not only enough, but that I am more than enough—I am plenty.

But every once in a while, my you-are-not-enough button gets pushed. It happened just before Christmas when two people made demands on me that I could not meet.

Their needs were real, but I was already taxed by other responsibilities and could not do what they asked of me.

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My internal critic spoke up, telling me that I was not enough, because if I were enough, I would be able to do what these people want.

I was in a snit all day and night, feeling guilty and angry. The next day, after talking it out with a friend, I got a different perspective.

That is the thing about those old messages—they are powerful and can take control in a blink of an eye.

Maybe it is time to tape up affirmations around my house and read them multiple times a day to remind myself that I am enough. Things like:

I am good enough.

I am loved.

I respect myself.

I honor my own needs and desires.

And perhaps it is time to return to Scripture passages that affirm that I am precious to God, that remind me that I am wonderfully made (Psalm 139) and a royal diadem (Isaiah 62:3).

Maybe I need to create a screen saver that says, I am an exquisite gem, and God delights in me.

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Opt in

Joy

Gratitude

Peace

Resilience

Abundance

Generosity

Hope

Trust

Acceptance

Faith

Forgiveness

Contentment

Movement

Dream

These are my words.

I want to live into them and

out of them.

Breathing in their fullness and

letting go of whatever blocks the way.

Every moment of every day matters, and

I want to make a choice

to live

fully,

in every moment.

Life is too short…

Life is too short to drink cheap wine,

a friend used to say

as he sipped his favorite red wine.

He died young

but enjoyed lots of fine wine

in his short life.

What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver asked.

She, too, knew the how fragile life could be

and the urgency of embracing the moment.

Even if we live for

eighty years or ninety,

is it ever enough?

Is there not one more thing to be done,

one more place to see,

one more goal to accomplish,

one more person to forgive?

Say yes to the invitation,

accept change,

act on impulses,

be kind and generous,

eat good food and

drink good wine.

Live each day as if it were your last.

Insights from isolation

In Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr wrote, “If you are walking around…saying in your heart, ‘What an idiot he is,’ you are living out of death, not life.” (page 81). That book was published in 1999 so Richard could not have known that I would be reading his book during the pandemic of 2020 and would be convicted by his words.

During the past two months, I have been perfecting my look that conveys the message, “What an idiot you are,” a look I give to people who are not social distancing or practicing other safety measures. And there is Richard Rohr, calling me out.

If Richard is correct, then I am living out of death, not life. Living out of life means to be loving—and thinking of others as idiots is not very loving.

Last year, in her book Surprised by Fire, Martina Lehane Sheehan introduced me to the phrase, If you spot it, you got it—the idea that every time I see some fault or character flaw in another, I am reminded that I probably recognize it in another because it is also in me. And if it is something I am criticizing, it is probably a character trait I don’t like in myself.

This idea is not new to me; I learned it when I lived in l’Arche.

Community living was the perfect environment to see flaws and faults in others.

In l’Arche, we were invited to reflect upon the idea that what I am criticizing in someone else often has as much to do with me as with the other person, and when I find myself criticizing or judging someone else, I need to turn the mirror toward myself to see what in me recognized a flaw in another.

If you spot it, you got it is a catchy way to capture this truth.

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My reflection on the writings of Richard Rohr and Martina Lehane Sheehan reminded me of something Henri Nouwen wrote about l’Arche and living in the house of love or the house of fear.

The invitation is always to become more loving, and this time of isolation is giving me the space to look at instances when I am not loving and when I am living out of fear or scarcity (instead of trust and abundance).

Sometimes living out of fear is easy to see—like the shopping panic at the beginning of the pandemic. Lots of people were afraid of running out of all kinds of things.

Other times, though, living out of fear or scarcity is not as obvious.

My theme for Lent was Be Holy, and my prayer was, Turn me toward you, God. My question was, Am I limiting God by holding onto what feels safe?

These days and weeks of isolation have turned into an extended Lenten reflection, a sort of mini-retreat, where God keeps showing me how I turn away from God when I am not loving and how I limit God when I am fearful.

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Creating positive vibes

One of my neighbors used sidewalk chalk to create a “Positivity Path” on the sidewalk in front of her house and two neighboring houses. Each concrete slab presents a different image or quote encouraging trust and hope, with such messages as Stay Positive and You sometimes tend to think you’ve been buried. Perhaps you’ve been planted. Bloom.

I smile as I walk her “Positivity Path” every morning, pausing to read each message, grateful for the reminder to resist darkness and despair, to choose light and hope.

Her project reminds me of the paper hearts people are putting on doors and windows to show support for health care workers and first responders—those people who are putting their own safety at risk during this pandemic.

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Words of inspiration and hope also come to me in a daily email from Country & Town House, which usually focuses on travel and cultural events in the U.K. but is now sharing “Good News You Need Right Now”—stories of the ways people are showing support and having a positive impact during the COVID19 pandemic. I read each story and marvel at the thoughtfulness and selflessness of so many people around the world.

And then there are free webinars on mindfulness, meditation and prayer available online, plus free concerts from every music genre—all ways to help us remain grounded and hopeful.

Abundant generosity and kindness living side-by-side with the darkness of the coronavirus.

All those messages of thoughtfulness and hope invite to me to consider what I can do to show support and gratitude for people who provide essential services—and to create hope in my own community. They invite me to dwell in possibility instead of in panic.

I am not much of a sidewalk-chalk kind of person, but I would welcome any neighbor who wanted to add positive messages and pictures to the sidewalk in front of my house.

I can cut hearts out of construction paper to display on my door.

I can sew and will go through my fabric stash and make up some masks.

I can pray.

Perhaps the most positive thing I can do is offer support and encouragement in note cards, over the phone or on social media, especially to those who live alone and/or are facing the pandemic at the same time they are facing cancer or some other health issues.

My neighbor’s “Positivity Path” is a great reminder that this is the path I need to walk every day, in whatever ways I can.  

We can each create our own path of positive energy through acts of kindness, and beauty, and we can bring light to darkness and hope to despair. What are you doing to remain positive?

Remaining hopeful during difficult times

Last week, I got a new bike. My old bike was a twenty-year-old boy’s bike and swinging my leg over the bar had become increasingly more challenging. Last fall, I began researching bikes made specifically with older people in mind.

I found lightweight bikes and bikes with the pedals moved a little forward to accommodate aging hips. And then I found easy boarding bikes, with virtually no bar to climb over—just a platform to step across.

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When I ordered my new bike two weeks ago, I told the bike shop owner that I plan to ride this bike for the next twenty years.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized how optimistic they were. We are in the midst of a pandemic that is killing people my age. It has even been nicknamed the boomer remover because of how vulnerable my peers and I are to this virus.

And I am buying a bike I plan to ride for the next twenty years!

How do I reconcile these two realities—my optimism and my vulnerability?

I am an optimist by nature. In the face of reality, no matter how dark or hopeless the current situation might seem, I still see potential to learn and grow. I believe that every curse has a blessing, and the invitation is to find the blessing and to learn something from current circumstances.

In the midst of this pandemic, I feel the anxiety of the not knowing—how long the pandemic will last, how many people will get sick, how many will die, how close to home the virus will come—all the uncertainties of the situation.

There are many mysteries, I often say, things over which I have no power or control. I believe I am invited to accept that I am powerless over them. At the same time, I am invited to continue to live in trust and hope.

And that means not just being alive, but living fully, joyfully and gratefully.

Here are some practices that help me to remain optimistic and hopeful:

  1. Focusing on what I have instead of what is lacking. I am richly blessed by family, friends, a home, food, etc., and reminding myself of all that I have helps me see abundance instead of scarcity.
  2. [MB1]  grateful for what I have. Keeping a gratitude journal and every day, naming at least three things for which I am grateful (by writing them, saying them out loud or at least calling them to mind) reinforces how much good is in my life.
  3. Telling the people in my life that I am grateful for them—in person, via phone, email or snail mail—at least one person a day.
  4. Saying the Serenity Prayer every day to remind myself what I can control (me) and what I cannot control (most everything else). Keeping the focus on me helps me have realistic expectations and leads to greater serenity.

What helps you stay hopeful?

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 [MB1]

Giving gifts

Tis the season for giving gifts, or so I have heard.

Why one season? Why not give gifts in every season?

Unexpected gifts at unspecified times.

Give when inspired, even in March or September.

Act on the impulse to be generous.

Bake Christmas cookies in May and give them away.

Celebrate half-birthdays or bake a cake for no reason at all.

Celebrate this day. Celebrate every day.

Each one is a gift.

Whatever you give, whenever you give it, give it with love.