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Grief

This morning at church, as we entered the “praying” part of the service, the young priest said, “And we offer prayers for those who are in ‘a Season of Sadness.’” He gave a name to something I’m experiencing; a Season of Sadness.

A season to journey through. To accept as a stretch of time, but not to define the rest of my life. Like a spell of bad weather, something to endure, to get through, in anticipation of other seasons.

My husband would have turned 64 on Friday. Today we would have celebrated with our children and friends, as we have done for years. Homemade cake, BBQ in our back yard, obligatory photo-op … but this year is birthday passed in quiet remembrance of what we’ve lost. A few texts and phone calls, but that was it.

Husband, father, uncle, friend. Quick to laugh and quick to fall asleep. Perfectionist to a fault, yet generous and eternally optimistic. His presence is missed, and his absence cannot be avoided.

I could never imagine my life without him, without his warmth, without his ideas, and without HIS strong opinion. My arms are empty, and my bed is cold. We struggle as we adjust, yet he is at rest – peace. The peace he could not find here; demons, history, regrets, failures, all plagued him. Yet in our eyes he was wise, kind, and generous to a fault. Ever present and always ready to do more. My mind drifts to the things we never said, and the missed opportunities. It all makes me very sad.

I’ve heard it said, “It is easier to escape a presence than an absence.” I have found this painfully true. For there is always the grief, thick and inescapable. A cloud that lingers, a mist, or perhaps an aroma. A sudden familiar smell or a favorite color … grief is a thing that defies words, for words are feeble, thin, constricting.

Yet there is a strange comfort in the presence of constant grief – it is a thing you know. It must be invited it into your life, for it will accept no rejection. There have been days where grief has been my only companion. Something “other,” yet my very “self” at the same time … how this is, I cannot explain, I only know this has been my experience. Yet, in deep grief I have found hope, a thing that is also something “other,” yet NOT myself. Hope is a thing that is as equally explainable as grief itself.

Each April, Blogger.com offers writers the opportunity to write an “A to Z” about a topic. You take a letter a day, and blog about it. This year I’m thinking about writing an “A to Z” about grief. A close friend asked, “Really, is there enough to write about grief?”

Oh, yes, my dear friend, there is more than enough to say about this dance between grief and hope. I don’t mean to depress with my writing, I merely want to express my experience, so that another might read and say “Yes, this is my experience too.” And through this connection find peace in knowing that you aren’t alone.

What about you? What is your experience with grief? Have you found hope in the depths of your grief? Send me an email, tell me about it. Together we can create a body of work that will help someone through their own “Season of Sadness.” Thank you for support and I look forward to hearing from you.

~ lisa

It’s Not Even Thanksgiving!

Over the summer I took on a part-time retail job. The benefits are great, and honestly, I’m enjoying the diverse nature of humanity that crosses my register. I haven’t worked retail since I was a teenager. I’m having fun.

Working retail has also forced me to deal with something – the all too early push of the holiday season. In my shop we put up a quaint recycled cardboard Christmas tree on Halloween! November 1, we were selling Christmas Tree ornaments and yummy treats destined gifts for teachers and stockings.

Our Pandora playlist hasn’t served up any Christmas songs – yet – but I’m sure it won’t be long before it does. Through this all, I’ve been musing

“What if I let Christmas come early?”

What if I let go of my judgmental seasonal attitude and embraced on onslaught of Holiday commercialism geared toward my world? What if I let Christmas come early?

I guess there are theological implications for an early Christmas, and the dangers of not being prepared. But, what is wrong with anticipating the joyous birth of Christ a month [or two] earlier?

Historically, we all moved into Christmas together through the “Advent” season, giving proper attention to all the “in-between” thoughts and implications. But now we live in a world saturated with immediate gratification, all that “waiting stuff” is seen as passé. Even to many Christians.

Can we force waiting on a culture that doesn’t see the value in it? Probably not. And still I wonder, can we do both? Can we enjoy the earliness and still appreciate the value in waiting?

I’m not sure, but I’m going to give it a try.

I looked at the calendar this morning, and it’s only SIX weeks until Christmas is here.

So, I’ve decided to set aside my cranky desires for the world around me to WAIT until the proper time to celebrate Christmas.

I’m going to adopt a cheerful attitude.

I’m going to say, “Merry Christmas” as soon as I hear the first Christmas carol over Pandora.

I’m going to be thankful that I still live in a world where I can celebrate the birth of Christ in an open and public way.

Want to join me in this experiment?  I think it will be interesting to discover what happens.

 

 

Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict

I’m a huge fan of St. Benedict! That’s a picture of me in front of the ancient arch way of his Abbey in Montecassino, Italy. I visited in 2006. It was amazing. Their website is amazing too: www.abbaziamontecassino.org

I’ve studied and tried to live by the tenants of Benedictine Spirituality for over 13 years. It has changed me, my understanding of God’s expansiveness, and finely tuned my awareness of His constant presence.

His famous “Rule” became the foundation of western monastic life. Based on the teachings found in the Gospels, it is still a powerful code of living.

“Listen,” is the first word of the Rule. Listening is a lost art in this age of information. We think we listen, we certainly “hear” a lot of stuff, but hearing isn’t listening.

We need to spend more time listening to God, to one another, and to our own inner voice. I believe that listening is the beginning of humility. Take a minute a think on that idea … a simple idea for a complex time.

To celebrate his special day, I thought I’d come clean about the beginnings of my association with the Benedictine way of life. If you’re curious, you can read more here. Confessions of a Benedictine Oblate.

Last week I received confirmation that in 2018, I will be leading two weekend retreats and three Saturday retreats at St. Andrew’s Benedictine Abbey in Valyermo, California. More information to be released on that in September. I hope you’ll find some time to join me in this amazing place.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Benedictine Way of life, I’ve got some great book recommendations here.

I hope you are enjoying your summer, it sure is beautiful outside. Keep your eyes up and your ears open, God longs to speak with you.

~ lisa

Summer Gatherings … to Listen

So, something you may or may not know about me, God speaks to me. Weird … I know.

Many people think God stopped speaking in Bible times, but He didn’t. Sometimes His voice is audible, sometimes His voice is a thought in my mind. He speaks to me through the Scriptures, the words of others, and through the physical world around me.

Occasionally, the conversation takes place out of the blue, but most of the time He speaks when I am seeking Him. If you’re curious about our conversations, I’ve written a bit about them here.

Sometimes I’ve wondered, who am I that God would talk to me? Yet, His communication confirms His love for me. I wasn’t designed to independently, go it on my own. I was designed to be in regular conversations with Him.

God speaks to me because I seek Him. And the seeking is an active thing, as the word implies. There is no real secret to hearing God’s voice, and there are tools to help.

In my own Spiritual life, I have practiced visio divina (sacred seeing), and lectio divina (sacred reading) too. Click either link to read about my experience.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about these practices, so this summer I’m gathering a group to practice listening to God. We’ll meet in north Orange County on Thursdays from 7 – 9pm.

If you are in the area, and you’d like to join us email me and I’ll send you the address. If you aren’t in the area, but you are still interested, email me and I’ll share my resources with you. You can gather your own group!

I cannot encourage you strongly enough to give this a try … God loves spending time with you; there are things He’d like to say. He is just waiting for you to be quiet. These summer gatherings are the perfect opportunity to get the conversation started.

Check my Facebook  Events page for more information.

Threadbare Words – LOVE

My earliest memory of the word LOVE, is listening to my mother sing along with singer/song writer, Jackie DeShannon. “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. No, not just for some, but for everyone.”

This song, released in the mid-60s, was a plea for something that was missing in the culture –love. The United States had just become involved in the Vietnam War, then Robert Kennedy was assassinated. This song became a sort of audio vigil for a country shaken by political violence. A Los Angeles radio station played the song again and again for over 24 hours. It was an old-school “social media” instrument that pulled a mourning country together.

That tragedy, and a whole generation, confronted our country for its lack of love. I believe we still need to be confronted for our lack of love, because the whole world is crying out for want of it!

Not the mushy, emotional, thing we think is love. The thing that demands, “Be this way, or that way. Be what I need, so I can love you.” No, what the world needs is real love, love that has no demands, makes no claims, and is marked by an outward focus.

The meaning of real love, or agapé, as the Greeks called it, encompasses the attributes of acceptance, equality, tolerance, and respect, yet is uniquely focused on the other. Love does not demand these things for itself, it extends them to the other. In its highest expression, true love is selfless love.

Thinking more about the needs of the other person elicits a change in me. As I begin to release my expectations of who the other person should be, accepting them as they are, I am able to really love them.

After all, this is how I want to be loved, as I am. Isn’t this the way God loves us? With. Out. Condition.

Yes, we should always strive to be the best version of ourselves, but love needs to be expressed along that process. The greatest gift you can give someone is to love them as they are, not as you think they should be.

Everyone loses as we continue to tout the importance of personal preferences, and promote the good of the individual, over the good of the whole.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love. But love that is extended, through acceptance, equality, tolerance, and respect. And this love is not just for some, but for everyone.


Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.


If you are enjoying this series, please spread the love, and share on your social media channels with the links below.

Threadbare Words – FAITH

It’s no wonder this word is ambiguous for us today. Once, if you had a faith, you were different, you stood out. Now everyone has a “faith.” I was recently contending with an atheist, (as I enjoy doing) and when I pressed him on some of his vaguer reasons for choosing NOT believing in God, he said, “Well, you know, somethings require a bit of faith.” Yes, I suppose they do.

As I look at a dictionary definition I read: faith 1) an institution to express belief in a divine power, 2) a strong belief in a supernatural power, or powers that control human nature.

Not sure that faith is believing in a power that can control human nature, that kind of negates free-will, but I digress.

So, faith, with a capital F, as in “I’m a Christian” or “I’m a Muslim.” Easy, Faith is an identifier, connecting one with an institution. I think it’s this second part of the definition that we’re after, faith as a “strong belief in a divine power. A divine power that is trustworthy, firm, secure, stable, and certain.

As I’ve spent time contemplating this word, I realize faith, that is a “strong belief” in a divine power, resides in two places. It resides comfortably in my soul, an anchor for me when times are hard. There is an element of trust in this aspect of faith. It is based on my experience with God, and my knowledge of who He is.

“I trust God to bring about a good result, because He has before.”

I feel an emotional sigh almost. The comfort of being dependent on someone stronger than myself, a divine power.

But it has been my experience that faith must also reside in the WILL. There is an element of intellectual ascent that must be present, I must decide to trust. This trust is also based on my experience and knowledge of God, but it does not rest on my feelings.

There are situations where my feelings have betrayed me, or have not been present. In these situations, I must say “I decide to trust that God will help me through this, although there are no signs that this is actually true, yet will I set my mind to believe that I will not be overcome.”

My mind leads, my heart follows.

I thank God for the times I feel uplifted in my trust, and I thank God for the times when I don’t. God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on my feelings or my thoughts. He is always faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.  And it is in this truth that my faith is grounded.

I encourage you to examine your own faith in God. Does it reside in both your heart and in your mind? Can you join your voice to the psalmist’s?

“Nevertheless, though I am sometimes afraid, yet I will put my trust in Thee.” Ps 56:3

In 2010, I struggled with this issue of deciding to trust. I wrote a longer piece that appeared in our faith community magazine. You may read it here. http://dailypax.com/deciding-to-trust/


Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.


Threadbare Words – Integrity

Integrity is both a “now and ongoing” kind of thing. Something that we should strive for NOW, and something that is part of our sanctification. 

I think we’d all have the desire the live a life of integrity, even those on the fringe of our culture. But this idea seems ambiguous at times, and judgmental at other times. What does it really mean, to live a life of integrity? Walking the Talk? Being morally upright? Or just right?

If your goal is just to be right, and feel right – go for it. True integrity involves more than this. It encompasses both moral soundness and innocence.

I remember parenting during those lovely teen years. Oh, the struggles I had with my children. Their rebellion and disrespect touched broken places in me. My pain was activated, and I lashed and behaved very poorly, hardly living a living a life of integrity. My goal was NOT to be innocence. I was right and I wanted to win!

My husband would ask me, “Why do you fight with them? You don’t need to take their behavior personal.”

Don’t need to take it personal? Wait, wasn’t it personal? Felt personal to me! It was a stressful season, and my anger and furious raging made an already bad season, worse!

Exasperated, I realized that the answer lay with me. I remember God telling me, that the situation would never get better, until ONE person STOPED. And since I was the adult, I was chosen … To. Stop. Fighting. A simple answer to a complex situation.

Interesting that the word “simplicity” is found within the definitions of the term Integrity. Moral soundness, an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality, wanting nothing. Wholeness, simplicity.

In this unsettled world, many of us are not behaving with integrity. Let’s admit it – life is complex, and nuanced. The “old school” right and wrong don’t appear to apply anymore. We are all so very attached to our opinions, we treat them as truth. Behaving with integrity sets us apart from the world. The goal of integrity is not to be “right,” the goal is to be like Him.

Here it is in the words of Isaiah: “Listen to me, you who pursue integrity, who seek God – consider the rock you were hewn from, the quarry from which you were cut.”

WHO is the rock we were hewn from? Christ. He set the example for us! He was kind, forgiving, and always 100% present to each person He spent time with. He was extremely gentle with those living in the lowest ranks of their community, and patient with those who had deep questions and those who held conflicting viewpoints. The only people He treated harshly and judged, were the religious leaders who were misusing their power and authority.

Integrity, is more than being right, it is remembering the example of Christ. Our goal is to emulate that example, remembering the Rock we were hewn from, and the Quarry from which we were cut.

Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.


Threadbare Words – BLESSED

What is it about this idea or word? For many, the use of the word BLESSED, scratches someplace inside. I’ve spent some time this weekend reading and contemplating why the phenomenon exists, and why many of us struggle when we hear others use the term.

Maybe it’s because it sounds like bragging? Or that it implies that an abundance of material possessions is a measure of God’s favor, and by extension, a scarcity in material possessions a measure of God’s … non-favor … hummm. It gets a little confusing and the logic breaks down.

I think when people say they’re BLESSED, they really mean they feel good.

“I’m blessed at my job.” Means, “I like my job”
“My children are a blessing to me.” Means, “My kid is doing well in school.”
“God blessed me this week.” Means, “I have an abundance of money or things”

Saying “I’m BLESSED,” is a way to say, “I’m happy,” or “I feel good.” But these are modern ideas of being BLESSED don’t really match the concept of BLESSED in the Bible. I’m not really sure that “good feelings” came into play much.

Abraham, was BLESSED! And in Him all nations were/are blessed! Not because he had great wealth, or even wisdom, but because although his marriage was childless, God would bring about the promise of a great number of decedents. Yet, he experienced many struggles, and I’m sure didn’t “feel” happy most of his life.

Jacob, was BLESSED! Because of his diligence in work and planning, his household expanded. Even to the point of flowing over to his extended family and neighbors. An abundance of material possessions, but Jacob’s own life was full of struggles, and frustrations. Exiled, he lived in fear for years. And there was a lot of strife within his large family.

Mary, was BLESSED! The only one in Scripture to claim blessedness for herself. “All generations will call me blessed.” Chosen to bear God’s Son, but oh, the sorrow and deep anguish. A mother’s deepest sadness, to watch her child die.

Jesus taught about real BLESSEDNESS. He tells us what type of people ARE blessed, and what is the highest best in the human condition.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, those that mourn, and the meek.
Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Blessed are the merciful, pure in heart, the peacemakers, and
Blessed are those that are persecuted for righteousness sake.

Wow, doesn’t talk about material possessions as a demonstration of God’s favor, does it? Clearly, being BLESSED has nothing to do with feeling happy.

I struggled in a troubled marriage for several years. Someone (trying to encourage me) said to me, “Don’t you think God wants you to be happy?” I really don’t think God is concerned with my happiness. God is more concerned that I do what is right, and live my life with a clear conscience.

Being BLESSED is:
Having your Hope in eternal things,
Allowing the Truth to be a real comfort to you,
Understanding and practicing the reciprocal nature of Mercy,
Experiencing God, and living a life that demonstrates that relationship.

Next time you’re tempted to say you’re blessed, try saying what you really mean. Say, that you’re happy, or you feel good, or you’re thankful.

Material possessions will come and go. Good times will come and go. The ground of our “blessedness” is not tied to these things, the ground of our “blessedness” is tied to God.


Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.


Threadbare Words – HOPE

We don’t really use this word – HOPE – too much, anymore. I mean, we might hope to get into this school, or hope we land that job, or hope our health improves, or hope we meet that perfect person.

But the idea of real HOPE (a noun) is not something we think about, until we “need it.”

We’re relatively comfortable now, advancements in modern technology have eliminated most sources of suffering.

  • If I’m cold, I turn on the heat.
  • If I’m hungry, I head to the fridge.
  • If I’m sad, I take a pill.
  • If I’m lonely, I check my new feed … again.

But when my world is hit with something I can’t “fix,” then I call to mind this idea of HOPE.

I was forced to think about this concept when my teenage daughter was almost killed in a car accident. So many things were outside my control. Well, actually everything was outside my control, expect me. That first lonely night I sat at her bedside begging God to let her live. But in a all-too-familiar conversation, I knew that God owed me nothing. I also knew that preserving her life was not the measure of His love for me. God let’s those He loves die everyday.

I learned this watching my mother die, now I had to revisit it – this persistent concept of “letting go.” It is an irritating and aggravating concept, and one that does not go away.

HOPE, is the reality, that no matter what happens to me, or those I love … there is something more waiting for me and them.

Something that will not disappoint me, something that is true. A place where there will be no more crying or fretting or illness or sorrow. A place where all will be well.

I do not say this flippantly, as I have experienced many sorrows, and many losses. Through these experiences I have been confronted with the truth, that, no matter what happens while I live, I will not be overcome.

I may not get what I pray for, but I will not be overcome. Not an idea that makes me happy-clappy, but this is HOPE, the anchor of my soul.

HOPE is a thing, a noun. It is more than a feeling or an expectation. HOPE is a reality.


Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.


Want a stronger faith? There’s no app for that!

I remember after speaking at a women’s event, a gal approached me and thanked me for my time.

“I wish I had your faith.” She said.

I smiled and I told her,

“Growing in your faith takes more than wishing.”  

I’ve been working on strengthening my faith for a long time. It is not a quick process. It isn’t difficult, but it takes work. Unlike most of our lives today, you cannot get the most recent app and begin the process.

Thankfully there are others who have already journeyed this path, and have left us breadcrumbs along the way.

I’ve recently shared many of my thoughts in my April, A to Z of Spiritual Growth.

Summarized, the two main elements of Spiritual growth are Self-Knowledge and the work of the Holy Spirit. Self-Knowledge is the starting point, because that is where the work is done, inside oneself. Paul prays for this inner work as he encourages new believers in Ephesus,

“God may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being …”

That “inner being” is really our souls. There are so many things that hide that “inner being.” That part of us that the Holy Spirit wants to reach, and teach.

My mother’s death motivated me to begin this work. I was terrified. I’m thankful I wasn’t alone as I turned inward. On the journey, I found the breadcrumbs left by others. Their experiences provided just what I needed.

I know you have questions that you have not found the answers for. How do I know? Because I did too. You don’t need to struggle on this journey alone.

Visit my page on Spiritual Direction. It might be the thing you need to discover who you are, and how God wants to help you find the answers to the questions you have.