Holy MOLY!

Be Humble Day

Today is “Be Humble” day! It is a day to stop and practice humility and kindness. The definition of humble is, “subdued or brought low in condition or status, meek, mild, modest or humble in spirit or manner.” (www.thefreedictionary.com)

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less,” according to C.S. Lewis.

This is so challenging and counter-cultural in the “survival of the fittest” and “only the strong survive” culture we experience each day. We live in a culture that at times values the “rich and famous” over the humble and gracious. This culture is sometimes impressed by the most offensive noise makers.

According to Huffington Post, humble people are better leaders and most successful in the workplace because of their ability to put others first and work collaboratively. Humble people are also more pleasant to be around and to be in relationship with. Narcissists are just no fun for anyone! Huffington post writes that there are seven ways to tell if you are a humble person:

  1. You focus your energy on others.
  2. You’re conscientious and act on your compassion.
  3. Your moral compass guides your decision making.
  4. You see happiness as a journey.
  5. You excel as a leader.
  6. You know good things lie ahead and you are okay with waiting for them.
  7. You have strong and lasting relationships.

Living a life of humility is also Christian in nature. The scriptures are filled with reminders: “Be completely humble and gentle; Be patient; bearing with one another in Love” (Ephesians 4:2). The beatitudes are very specific about a life of humility as shown in Matthew 5:3-10. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These are beautiful words of encouragement and wisdom that apply every day of our lives to guide us in a humble approach to life.

So today celebrate that beautiful core of your soul that always thinks of “the other” first. Be blessed by the inner peace that comes from loving unconditionally and forgiving those who wrong you. Know that your compassion is a gift from God. Enjoy a day of practicing random acts of kindness and the comfort that brings. Be humble . . . be blessed . . . .

Posted in Kay

Canine Inspiration

I saw part of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this past weekend—the Super Bowl of well-bred dogs. I am always drawn to the whippets, the Italian greyhounds and the miniature pinschers, as well as the large Russian wolfhounds. Apparently I like the small and chic as well as the big and shaggy.

The Westminster Kennel Club “pre-dates the invention of the light bulb, the automobile, and the zipper.” The show was started as a way for hunting enthusiasts to show off the dogs that they bred for sport. The show led to the founding of the AKC and the writing of the “breed standards.” The breed standards are the ideal against which all dogs of a certain breed are measured . . . . The standards help those in the know determine which fox hound is the best fox hound and which golden retriever is the best golden retriever. These standards are what make well-bred dogs so exclusive and expensive. The standards are very strict and very specific, listing details about bone structure, temperament, color, coat styles and even eye shape. No mutt has a chance.  Read more ›

Posted in Stephanie

Restoring Through Intentional Rest

I live with a chronic disease. Some days are spectacular. Other days not so much. On any given morning I take several pills and have to monitor things like food, water intake, exercise and rest. If the weather is out of sorts, so am I. If any of the things I monitor are out of sorts, so am I.

When I was first diagnosed with this autoimmune disease four years ago, my world fell apart. My mind jumped ahead to “worst case scenarios” and for awhile I was paralyzed by “what ifs.” Read more ›

Posted in Katrina

Common Ground

I have watched with great interest the many marches that have been held around the country the last few weeks. I am encouraged that hundreds of thousands of citizens have invested their time, energy, and resources in order to exercise their right to free speech and to speak their own truth to power. I have had several family members and friends participate in these gatherings and they have my full support. For a variety of reasons I have been unable to join them but feel present in solidarity and in spirit.

Two marches of particular note have been the Women’s March on January 21st and the Right to Life March held on January 27th. I am so disheartened that some observers and media outlets have reported that these gatherings are diametrically opposed to each other and that one cannot be supportive of both efforts at the same time. Contrary to popular belief not every person who identifies as pro-life stops caring about children after they are born. Similarly, not every person who identifies as pro-choice supports abortion unconditionally or without reservation. Rather than identify the two camps as enemies of one another, I firmly believe we need opportunities to share the values that are held in common.  Read more ›

Posted in Anne

The Biology of Stress

In one of the white privilege discussion groups last semester, I learned from Dean Jablonski that there is a connection between prolonged or chronic stress and changes that occur in our cells. I have been fascinated by this concept and doing some reading. It makes perfect sense. Chronic stress actually alters our brains at the cellular level. Stress, and the anxiety, depression, anger and other emotions that travel with us in times of stress, affect us and our descendants far longer than I ever expected.

Stress changes the ratio of grey matter (the higher functioning and thinking part of our brain) and white matter (the connectivity and communication part of the brain). In other words, the brain becomes less predisposed to learning and memory, and more sensitive to anxiety and depression. The brain becomes less likely to contemplate and more wired for “fight or flight” basic responses. Not being a brain scientist, I will stop there before I get corrective emails or show more of my ignorance.

As I listen to the conversations on poverty that we are having in Lynchburg and hear about the overwhelming burden of generational poverty, I can’t help think about the biological effect of generational poverty. Twenty percent of Lynchburg lives below the poverty line, and that excludes the college students who increase that figure. Thirty-seven percent of our Lynchburg workforce lives in poverty. One in five children live in poverty –which means 20 % of our city’s children are having their biology affected by the chronic stress of living without food and housing security. When I ponder how alcoholism and abuse run in families, I wonder about the generational biological changes that occur in high stress environments.

I know many of you experience significant stress just in daily life. The car needs to be repaired. Homework needs to be supervised and dinner made. A family member is ill. A large medical bill needs to be paid. There has been a death in the family, or a divorce, or a loss of a job. And if it isn’t the “little” stresses of daily life, our country is in the midst of so much change. There is change, calls for more change, and rallying for different types of change. The divides between us politically are as wide as ever, and at the same time we try to be more welcoming of diversity. Many feel like their basic rights are at stake and that their own families are threatened.

In my biology reading I have also been reminded that the two practices that overcome stress are exercise and mindfulness. In other words, Body and Soul balance the Mind. This seems to be the challenge of modern living. I don’t have all of the secrets, and I am certainly not the posterchild for success at balance, but I needed to be reminded.

Prayers for a good semester and less stress in your living.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Love Remains the Greatest Gift

Years ago my spouse served on a church staff with Jay Hurd. It was Jay’s first staff position and second career. In his heart Jay was a poet and one year he penned these words:

Not richly wrapped; no foil or paper bright, in an unobtrusive corner, almost out of sight; lay a tiny package under the orphanage Christmas tree; when finally it was found, was the only one left for me. My heart fell with sadness; it was not fair at all. The others grabbed the large gifts, while mine was so very small.

Retreating to a corner, tears welling in my eyes, I didn’t want the others to see me as I began to cry. The paper was so crumpled, the ribbon seemed so old, but through the tear stained wrapping shone the glint of gold. Beautiful golden locket shaped into a dove, the note inside said, “For you child the gift today is love. For several years I’ve come to watch to find a child like you. One that didn’t push and shove the way the others do; Now you need to know me, the mystery to unfold, I wear a golden locket just like the one you hold.”

My eyes flew to the visitors who often brought us goods, a chain of gold around her neck, so elegantly she stood. Years it’s been since she took me home, but the lesson I recall; love remains the greatest gift, but it’s often packaged small.

One Christmas Jay blessed us with the invitation to share his poem with those we met along our journey. Over the years we have done that many times. This year, as my Hornet Family, ones I am grateful to tarry with along this journey, I share with you his poem as a reminder, regardless of how you celebrate this holiday season and whatever ways/traditions you bring to life during these days, of these words:

Love remains the greatest gift, but it’s often packaged small.

Joyous holidays, Hornet Nation!

Katrina

Posted in Katrina

Into the Darkest Hour

It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss-
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight-
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.

by Madeleine L’Engle

Normally I love the season of Advent, a time of prayerful preparation leading up to Christmas. Unlike the more secular emphasis on consumerism and spectacle this time of year, Advent invites us into a period of reflection, a time for contemplation and personal introspection. We light simple candles on a wreath, read daily devotions and meditations, and practice acts of charity and kindness. What’s there not to love about such a season.

However, this particular Advent I find myself struggling mightily to keep the spirit of the season.  I am saddened reading the news each day as tragedy and catastrophe fill the headlines.

I listen to students who carry deep and heavy burdens and for whom going home for the holidays is dreaded rather than embraced. I recognize within my own heart a tendency to be petty and critical, judgmental and cynical rather than open and loving, caring and forgiving.

And yet, and yet . . . something within me refuses to let the darkness of this time overshadow the light that still flickers within. Like the two candles currently lit on the Advent wreath on our kitchen table, there are still signs of hope around me. To borrow the image from Madeleine L’Engle’s poem, I see that many people are creating a stable within their hearts in order to welcome the Prince of Peace once again into their lives and into our world.

For me, some recent signs of hope include the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to stop construction of an oil pipeline on the sacred ground of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation after months of peaceful protests. Veterans groups joined the movement and asked forgiveness of the indigenous people for crimes committed against them throughout history. http://www.denverpost.com/2016/12/05/photos-standing-rock-native-americans-veterans/

Closer to home I find hope as I witness students serving those in need during one of the most busy and stressful times of the semester. I am inspired by Resident Assistants waking up before dawn to serve breakfast at the Salvation Army. I am encouraged by Bonner Leaders who presented a Christmas show with Puppets Alamode to allow individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities the opportunity to be creative through music and the arts.

I challenge all of us to not only look for flickers of hope around us during this time of year, but to be those flames of hope and encouragement for those around us. In thought, word and deed may we recognize that the stable waiting for the Prince of Peace to arrive can be found within each human heart.

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne

Three Hollow Core Doors as Sacred Space

The Prayer Wall has returned to Drysdale! What started out as a few “pins” on Pinterest about some cool ideas I’d like to try, was put into reality a few years ago by a liturgical artist. Then in the summer Drysdale coordinator Summer Spicer started to notice it was looking a bit tired. After a semester in the shadows she and her dreams have blessed the Prayer Wall with new life. It is truly a piece of art and an interactive space for prayer and spirituality on campus.

A few years ago one of our Pastoral Associates, Kay Higgins, shared her artistic gift with the Spiritual Life Center and painted a tree logo for us.  Summer Spicer used that tree as inspiration. The symbols of many world religions are on the tree (and also on the art quilt in the Chapel), making a public statement about Lynchburg College as a Disciples School for all faiths. (The symbol for the Disciples church is a red chalice with a St. Andrew’s cross.)

The Prayer Wall has space to share prayer concerns with chalk or to write a prayer on a ribbon and offer it on the tree. It has space to share upcoming Spiritual Life events and materials for meditative coloring. I hope to put some small project out as well as some meditation prompts along the way. On this campus we come from so many faiths and non-faiths, but I think this Prayer Wall gives us a way to find common ground. It allows us to share our heartfelt pains and our highest joys in our campus living room. About once a week or so, one of the Spiritual Life staff goes over to erase the chalkboard side and straighten up the space. Know that we remove those prayers as prayerfully as they are written. Many times the prayers are lifted up in Sunday mass and at our staff meeting.

Some people think that you have to pray in a certain way or with a certain formula. Some think you have to bow your head or kneel. Some think you should raise hands outstretched.  Some meditate and others sing or walk. Please use the Prayer Wall in whatever way makes sense to you and your tradition. Snidow Chapel is also open for prayer at most times, and after hours you can access the sanctuary space with an ID through the side ramp door. If you want something less individual and more community focused, give us a call, there is a lot going on almost every week.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Take Time to Breathe

In Jewish Mysticism, one of the seventy-two names of God is Kaf Hey Tov. It is said that if you meditate on these three Hebrew letters, you can diffuse negative energy and stress. In the post-election chaos, I have found myself meditating on these letters each morning.

The country seems divided, and people are scared. Many are angry. Many are rioting and screaming. Others are peacefully protesting, are grieving. Most of us are processing the division, the anger.

No matter your political affiliation/preference, it is important to take care of your mental health. If you need to take a break from social media, do so. If you need to go for a walk, walk. If you need a prayer group, find one or create one. If you need to write, paint, dance, sing, do it. Often the best art is created during times of stress.

It is also important to take care of each other. The wonderful poet Joy Harjo visited LC last week, and she reminded us that we are all one people. No matter what divisions are placed upon us, we are still one race—the human race. Harjo said that when our lives end, we will walk towards the door of the afterlife, carrying only our merits. In the end, all that matters is the good that we have done while here on earth. We must take care of one another.

If we truly believe that God created us all, then we must believe in brotherhood and sisterhood, and with this connection comes the duty to love one another and to pick each other up when we are down. We must stand up for one another when adversity strikes. We must demand that all of God’s children are treated with love and respect.

In closing, take some time to breathe. Focus on what good you can do. Be good to yourself, and be good to others. Regardless of political policies, this must be the law of our land.

With love, peace, and hope for a kingdom of kindness,

Jeremy P. Bryant

Posted in Jeremy

The Morning After

I’m wondering if years from now we may all look back and recall, “I know exactly where I was when I found out that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.” It feels like a watershed moment in history, regardless of one’s political affiliation.

To friends and family members celebrating victory today, I hope we can continue to love and support each other even as we respectfully agree to disagree on policies and ideologies. We have weathered this storm before. Hopefully, we will do so again moving forward, come what may.

To those who are grieving for themselves and/or for their loved ones, I would invite us all to lean into each other at this time. We may need to name and honor the stages of loss that we are experiencing right now, including denial, anger, and even some depression. We need to feel whatever we are feeling without rushing too quickly into an attempt at acceptance and resignation.

Personally, after the Facebook frenzy of the last several months, I found myself needing to slow down this morning and to limit my interaction on social media. I needed to press the “pause” button on my spirit in order to breathe. I desperately wanted to take a “time out” or ask for a “do over” or just stay in bed for the day in order to process mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But the words of a poem came drifting into my consciousness:

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”………..
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

from The Invitation by Oriah

I found myself deeply grateful to remember that we are in the midst of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. I remembered the students who have been sleeping outside all week and those who made breakfast at the Salvation Army on Monday morning.  I felt admiration for those who participated in the Poverty Simulation Monday night and gave thanks that the media covered their efforts. (Link) I look forward to the many volunteers who will show up to provide a meal to neighbors in need at Park View Mission tonight and to all who will view the movie “Out of Mind” Thursday night in order to learn more about efforts to address homelessness in our own community.

My hope and my prayer is that all of us, Republican, Democratic, Independent, or other, channel our best energies right now into positive actions on behalf of those in need. Surely we can agree on that much, remembering the words of Catholic activist Dorothy Day:

“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne