Category Archives: Reflections

Introspective moments designed to support healthy interaction with God, self and others

Grace Is. . .

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girl cries

. . .Crying all the way home from school

with a sealed note from the teacher for your parents to sign,

then finding out she reported a good thing you did that day

instead of the bad.

girl happy mom

©Joan T. Warren

This new mini-post series, “Grace is. . .,” is an impromptu, occasional, free-style offering of random kindness. Feel free to share your thoughts on grace in the comment section below! Spread the joy. ūüėČ

Grace Is. . .

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. . . finding a long lost love whom you had hurt

and learning (s)he forgave you a long time ago.

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©Joan T. Warren

This new mini-post series, “Grace is. . .,” is an impromptu, occasional, free-style offering of random kindness. Feel free to share your thoughts on grace in the comment section below! Spread the joy. ūüėČ

Tips to Finding the Door to Narnia

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Incredibly gifted writer, Seth Adam Smith, reblogged here to share with you this encouraging thought for the day:

Seth Adam Smith

Haven’t you always wanted to find a door that leads into Narnia?

After watching a cartoon version of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe at the age of six,¬†I was constantly on the lookout for any possible portals into the world of Narnia. Being an expert at finding where my Mom hid our Christmas presents, I thought finding the entrance to an entire world would be a cinch. Closets, laundry doors, dangerous trap doors under stages‚ÄĒall were potential candidates. Constant¬†vigilance!

But after twenty years of searching, I never discovered a portal to a magical world. And yet, a few years ago I had an awakening so powerful it was almost like finding a new world.

While living with a host family in Moscow, Russia, I went to see the movie Prince Caspian. The cinematography was stunning, and while watching the movie I could feel that familiar, childish longing…

View original post 383 more words

Part 3: Excuse me, but, um, They’re Killing People!

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Perhaps the silence is breaking. In the last few weeks, cbsnews.com, foxnews.com and washingtonpost.com reported violence toward Christian and non-Muslim targets in Syria and Egypt. I still haven’t heard a word of it on the morning news, but at least ¬†three mainstream media sources are touching on this serious human rights violation.

If you’ve been following my recent posts, you know I’m grappling with just how to respond to these atrocities. In part one of this series, I covered some personal background regarding¬†author, speaker, activist and theologian, Brian McLaren. His recent blog posts (click here and here) discussed the issue, its relative silence in media and churches,¬†and our responses to it. In part two of this three-part series, I delved into Brian’s first post, in which he posited six possible reasons for silence on the issue. I shared some of my concerns and posed many questions.

In this last installment, we will review¬†Brian’s second post, in which¬†he suggests six courses of action Americans, particularly American christians, should take. This is the post I’ve been looking forward to the most since beginning the series. After all, when people are being murdered just for having different beliefs, it doesn’t make sense to just sit on the problem, not doing anything to prevent future violence. Yet in all this time the most I could come up with actually doing about it, from here in my suburban life in America, is to write this series. I took some time to think about it, to read more, to develop ideas and share a bit at a time because, well, it wasn’t as though I could board a plane over there and step in the middle of it to break it up. Even if I could take the time and spend the money, my presence would only become another statistic, and probably not even make the news.

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Borrowed from donkeyphilosphy.tumblr.com

So, let’s take a look at the six courses of action McLaren recommends, and my responses to his framework. Again I invite you to join me with your responses. Here, again, is the link to Brian’s post; please refresh your memory and give it a read:

Muslims, Christians, Jews and Peace (2)

The first of Brian’s six suggestions makes perfect sense to me:

“We must join together to condemn human rights violations whenever¬†they occur and upon whomever they are inflicted. We must become vocal advocates for the rights of religious minorities. . .”

Absolutely! There is power in numbers and unity. The only word I stumble on is the word “must.” As a recovering child of an alcoholic, there are a few words I am wary of, due to their power to subconsciously constrain me to live up to law instead of freeing me to live under grace, in free will, with choices. “Must” is one of them, along with its buddies, “should,” “ought to” and “have to.” I always try to replace those words in my mind with words like “can,” “it would be good if,” and “let’s.” Rephrasing this statement then, in my mind it becomes “We can join together. . . It would be good to become vocal advocates. . . ”

Having made this freeing distinction, I suggest we need specific means to help¬†translate this into reality. How do we join together?¬†Do organizations exist working to this end? What can we do to become vocal advocates for the rights of religious minorities? Is it enough to engender discussions around the dinner table, at the golf club or in the workplace, or does it mean more than this? After all, people are being slaughtered, shot, blown up, raped, imprisoned, tortured, their necks slit! Do we just timidly raise a hand in a meeting and whisper, “Um, excuse me, but they’re killing people over there?” If it were happening to me, or to someone next to me, I wouldn’t hesitate to shout it out, call for help, make a big deal out of it until someone intervened. How do we do that in this situation? Is our advocacy vocal only or shall we physically fight back?

The second point McLaren makes is a huge task, one which births more questions in my mind: Read the rest of this entry

Excuse me, but, um, They’re Killing People! Part 2

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“. . . writing from heart to heart toward healthy relationships and living, involves both personal lives on a small scale AND global relationships. After all, we are all individual people on this earth, and we are one humanity.”

Welcome back! This is part two in a three-part series. In part one, we learned some background information that is crucial to understanding this portion. Here is a link to part one:

Excuse me, Part 1

After reading Brian McLaren’s articles addressing the need to speak up about extremist Muslims targeting Christians for death, I shared some background with you on my history of personal experience with author and activist Brian McLaren, and initiated this series as a means to personally respond to his suggestions and to invite further discussion and thought on the matter with you, my readers. This series of three posts can serve as a platform where we can begin to speak about the rising tide of religious violence, and engage in meaningful conversation that has the potential, given form and shape by its partakers, to become a profound and guiding philosophy in our present day challenges.

Personally, I had many questions and concerns while reading McLaren’s articles. I hope that in sharing them here, our mutual engagement may advance my own thinking as well as, perhaps, our global consciousness. Here are my responses to part one of Brian’s article:

First, I must say that I agree with Brian’s assertion that the persecution and murder of Christians and other non-Muslims by extremist and terrorist Muslims is appalling. I agree, too, that the lack of reporting, discussing and acting upon these matters is also abhorrent. As Brian explores possible reasons for the relative silence on the matter, he suggests six possible reasons. Here, I review four of the six that, in my view, need further exploration.

First, Brian suggests that people are silent perhaps because we fear being counted as extremists, but that the resultant silence aides and abets extremism and is in itself evil:

“But wrongly and unwisely – many simply remain silent. In so doing, they aid and abet extremism in both Christian and Muslim communities. As Powers stated, quoting Bonhoeffer, ‚ÄúSilence in the face of evil is itself evil.”

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Bonhoeffer

On this point I struggle.  Read the rest of this entry

Excuse me, but, um, They’re Killing People–Part 1

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Excuse me, but, um, They’re Killing People–Part 1

A Little Background

A friend from the 1970’s is now a well-known writer, activist and speaker. When I first met him, he was probably about twenty years old. He was remarkable, even at that age, in his charisma, warmth, dedication, musical talent and ability to reach out to and relate to nearly anyone in an authentic and meaningful manner. He was the first person I met whose life called me to rethink my oh-so-well-informed-19-year-old-critical-judgment that all Christians are hypocrites.

imageBack then, remember, young people were idealistic. We were peace-loving activists who believed we could change the world. Brian exceeded all the other I’d-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing-type activists I knew, as he embodied the notion of love and purity, doing his best to live as Jesus would in present day. No pot-smoking, let’s-all-love-each-other-but-I-really-mean-let’s-go-to-bed-sort was he. No, he was idealism at its best, and I loved him for it. I followed. I joined his family’s home church, meeting in an elementary school on Sundays and in their home on Wednesday nights. They meant to create a new testament church, similar to what the apostles in the early church experienced. We met in a circle, facing one another, talking about how we were doing, sharing a Bible verse that we felt encouraged by that week, praying for each other, singing songs together, breaking bread. I pretty much devoured every word, soaking up the lessons and applying them to my life as if they were the cure to all that ailed me. It was really quite wonderful, while it lasted.

Before long, the little church dissipated, dwindling away rapidly once Brian went off to college. It was he who was the main attraction, after all, in that time and place. Yet we who were impacted by those relational meetings remain bonded over time and space, even sharing a Facebook group today. Brian went on to an English degree, then became a pastor, and later a full-time author, activist and speaker.

Several years ago I stumbled upon him again, and found that he has not lost the ability to influence me powerfully. Through exchanging a few emails, reading a few of his books, his blog and Facebook page, Brian again spurs me to go beyond my working definitions in life, and out of my realm of comfort.

imageNot blindly, though: I am not a loyal follower of anyone like I was when I was 20. No, these days I’m more apt to think for myself. I’ve seen enough hypocrisy among Christian leadership to make me reconsider my 19-year-old-wisdom. I’ve met more dysfunctional, toxic and down-right scary folks in churches than anywhere else, and I’ve met some of the most sincere, authentic people-of-little-faith in the most ungodly ¬†places. ¬†So, now, when I read Brian’s writing, I don’t swallow it whole, but I certainly give it thoughtful consideration. Read the rest of this entry

Generational Torch-Bearing

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Coming home from a precious, short visit with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter this weekend, there was plenty of time alone in the car to think. As I considered some of our conversations, ideas emerged, in Haiku form–a short poem for a short visit. I love Haiku’s minimalist framework, as it presses and refines immense meaning into a mustard-seed shell. Without further ado, my offerings:

Photo by Denesia Christine (the missing middle member in this generation of three)

Photo by Denesia Christine (the missing middle member in this generation of three)

Generations here

heart to heart our stories share–

legacies of love.

Photo By Denesia Christine

Photo By Denesia Christine

*******************************

Rooted, solid, old

autumnal trees, mountains, me~

glowing as we fade

©JoanTWarren

Reaching Out With WordPress

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keyboard and penThe way I figure,

if this conversation

~blogging~

reaches even one person,

then it is worthwhile;

even if that one

is just you

or me.

Heart reaching heart,

relating,

encouraging–

this is life.

Note: The above poem is my offering to a fellow blogger’s event, in which one responds to three words offered and writes whatever one wishes. The three words today were figure, reaching and conversation.

My reflections were also partly inspired by thinking about the value of what I am doing as I spend many hours blogging, reading and following other bloggers. For example, Randall A. Golden’s “The Curse of the Follow Button”¬†helped me solidify my underlying feelings¬†(after putting a lot of work into some pieces and finding them hardly viewed), which in turn helped¬†me get beyond that emerging frustration and transition to acceptance and balance. After all, we don’t want to forget the main reason we’re here as we excitedly make new connections and catch Follow Fever (more to come about that later).

Also included in today’s offering is WordPress’ weekly challenge, to participate¬†in a Blog Event (as above) and incorporate¬†one of WordPress’ extremely-easy-to-access blog features such as using the Media Explorer to¬†¬†insert a tweet or YouTube video.

Here’s an example:

If you would like to participate in this fun and interesting challenge, follow the links below, where you’ll also find my official event:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/blog-events-listing/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/weekly-writing-challenge-events/comment-page-1/#comment-244525

https://joantwarren.com/2013/09/17/hope-joy-and-chores/

Thanks, and enjoy the process!

©JoanTWarren

stick around

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fifteen

heading up the street

 

toward heavy traffic

stroller with baby inside

thinking it should end right here

for her, for me, end the suffering

what if it fails

what if only  one of us dies

what if one is paralyzed

what about the person who hits us

will i kill them too

or torture them forever

what if it’s a whole family

or two

wiping the tears

calming the thought

turning around

i go home

i went home

as much as i hated it

the despair

stuck here

in this hell hole

no one cares

but

i found a way

i am so glad i stuck it out

i hope you will too

stick around.

 

JoanTWarren

In gratitude and response to this wonderful blog event:

http://frankenasian.com/reasons2live-project/

Hope, Joy, and. . . Chores? A Blog Event!

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153530199Surfing around WordPress and the blogging communities, one occasionally stumbles upon a pearl of great price. Pearls that delight the soul, engender camaraderie and inspire creative joy! One of the beauties of blogging is sharing these pearls. In that light, this post is a Blog Event, so that we can share pearls of encouragement with one another.

So, here is your challenge: Write about a time when you needed encouragement and then stumbled upon a pearl of great price. Try to stay within the¬†topics hope, joy and/or expressing love in the mundane (i.e., chores). Your comments should include your story (or a link to your story) and a link to the site that you feel is a pearl. The list will grow and we’ll have a read-a-fest that’s sure to encourage!

Here are a few blog posts ¬†that lit me up this week–just click on the orange links to read them:

http://reowr.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/the-treasure/#comment-5059

http://lenarigby.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/oh-afflicted-one/comment-page-1/#comment-3

http://belasbrightideas.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/making-the-bed/

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Shape.com and belasbrightideas.wordpress.com

©JoanTWarren

Faulty Fault Lines–When Bad Things Happen to Little People

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Janie smiled through her tears and put her arms around Stella.

‚ÄúHow do you do it, Stella? You always seem to find a way to help me put things in perspective when I get like this. I wish I had your confidence! I wish I could stay on top of things the way you do; you never seem to let people push you around, yet you‚Äôre not a bully either.‚ÄĚ

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Composing herself after at least thirty minutes of crying and talking, Janie now felt better. She sat back in her seat and picked up her coffee mug, her favorite mug, which she loved for its heft, its shape and its ability to channel those amazing aromas right where she needed them most. She felt now that she had some good ideas about how to tackle the problem. ‚ÄúReally, Stella, how DO you do it? Were you just born this way?‚ÄĚ

Stella sipped her coffee, too. She loved it when someone took the time to ask her deeper questions. Though she’d never broadcast her life or push her opinions, she felt deeply rewarded when she was able to help another. It was as though all her troubles were worth it.

Well, Stella divulged, ‚ÄúI wasn’t always as I am today. One of my old trademarks was that I used to think everything was my fault–and nothing was my fault!‚ÄĚ

I was quick to apologize for anything someone else was unhappy about, as if I were responsible for the world, but slow to see things that actually were my responsibility.

Rain on your wedding day? I’m sorry. Mad at your boss? I’m sorry. Lightning struck your Uncle Milford? I’m so sorry. You’re home from work early and hungry because you didn’t stop for lunch and I didn’t have a premonition about this and fix your dinner early? I’m sorry. Here, let me drop my work, mid-sentence, and get right on that.

Then, on the other hand, nothing that I really did was ever MY fault!

Oh, I’m late for work? Well, boss, it‚Äôs not really MY fault. ¬†I had to make breakfast for my family, get the laundry started, stop what I was doing every time someone couldn’t find their socks, walk the dog when everyone left without doing it, stop at the store so there would be coffee in the break room, and then drive my aunt to the dry cleaner–yes, she had an emergency apparel deficiency.

Geez, why can’t my boss understand that, doesn’t she have a family? I would think.

Stella smiled as she animated these stories. They were true for her, she had lived in that realm for so many years. She looked at Janie, who smiled back, waiting for more of her story.

Well, after about two or three THOUSAND people said I shouldn’t apologize so much, I slowly started to think maybe there might be something wrong with me (Oh, and I‚Äôve been sorry about that too, two or three thousand times).

But what could it be? I thought. What’s wrong with being nice? I’m empathetic, dedicated, loyal, helpful, sensitive, compassionate, considerate. . . What’s so bad about that?

Plenty! Well, actually, nothing, as long as that’s REALLY what you are. Peel away the nice facade, though, and what did I find? The real reason I had such a hard time recognizing what I was truly responsible for. . . the real reason I defended myself when I truly was responsible for doing something wrong. . . the real reason I tried so hard to be so nice, empathetic, dedicated, loyal, helpful, sensitive, compassionate and considerate. . . was my inner wretch!

Underneath it all, I felt completely ashamed of who I was. I was a wretch.

Wretch, according to Miriam-Webster:

a miserable person;

one who is profoundly    

unhappy or in great misfortune

 

II was miserable on the inside. I felt as though I were less than everyone around me.

Why would a young woman (yes, I was young once), with such admirable qualities feel so miserable inside? I was living out of a self-concept that was seriously flawed.

If you said I was pretty, I‚Äôd say, ‚ÄúYeah, pretty ugly.‚ÄĚ

They both chuckled.

‚ÄúI know what you mean,‚ÄĚ Janie offered. ‚ÄúI never in a million years would have guessed you felt that way about yourself. You‚Äôre beautiful, and you seem so confident.‚ÄĚ

Thanks; it’s true, though. I felt ugly on the inside because I bought into some seriously wretched lies about myself when I was a girl.

Where did those lies come from?

What it boiled down to, after digging deep into the soil of my innermost thoughts and feelings, is that the lies came from trying to figure out why bad things happened to me.

READER WARNING: From here we will talk a little about those bad things. If you’re feeling brave today, click for more–

Read the rest of this entry

Pope Francis: A Consumerist’s Confession

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This is not one of my humor pieces.

This is serious:  I have a confession to make.

It is ¬†extremely difficult to admit. I feel ashamed of myself and I want to change, and though I’m not Catholic, Pope Francis has something to do with it.

What are you thinking? Is it akin to what’s-his-name¬†texting naked chest pictures? Lying, cheating, adultery? Plagiarism? Greed, avarice?

Actually, its worse:   Read the rest of this entry

A Delicate Strength

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Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Above the tree line, frigid wind, snow and ice sever all but the most adapted life forms.

In this harsh environment, against all expectation, alpine wildflowers paint the rocky terrain with vibrant hues of pink, purple, white and yellow:

National Park Service, Rocky Mountain National Park Alpine Flower
Rocky Mountain National Park Alpine Flower

Colors we typically associate with femininity–

certainly not our definition of rugged.
 
 
Courtesy Andy Baird, Travels with Gertie
Courtesy Andy Baird, Travels with Gertie

Though the largest clusters are one to two inches tall and less than a foot in diameter, most are miniscule–those pictured here, just an eighth of an inch! These tiny beauties have the power to attract attention despite intense competition from endless mountain views and pristine open skies:

Miniature stature we typically deem picayune–
certainly not our definition of majestic.

Sometimes needing several years to produce their brilliant best, they bloom as long as they’re able, which is sometimes just a day, a week, perhaps a month at most, then rest for the long winter. If damaged by caribou, moose or tourist, it may take years to recover the wound.

This level of productivity we might typically judge as insubstantial, flimsy–certainly not our definition of efficient or prolific.

Yet who among us could survive the throes of an alpine home?

Rocky Mountain National Park – National Park Service

How is it, then, these dainty fairies thrive amidst frozen, barren, wind-torn and rocky terrain? Read the rest of this entry

Life, Death and Grains of Sand

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We never know how long we have. We don’t know how long we have with the ones we love. Read the rest of this entry

Deeply Rooted

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Deeply Rooted

There’s something about one’s heritage that runs deep. ¬†Be it genetic memory, collective unconscious, morphic fields, ¬†or some other forthcoming mechanism, I believe we encounter¬†intangibles like values, interests and talents with innate responsivity that tends to override our conscious efforts.

When I was a child my family joked about our heritage, blended as it is, saying we were mutts or Heinz 57. Mostly, though, my ancestors were Read the rest of this entry

Song for the Unsung

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This weekend we took a quick trip to visit Randy’s mama, Louise, as she recovers from hip surgery in a small town in western South Carolina. After spending the day with her, we hugged family goodbye, knowing someone was there with her as she fell asleep for the night. ¬†We enjoyed dinner with some family and headed to mama’s house to sleep. We fell asleep in freshly changed sheets, comfortable yet painfully aware that her battle is not over, and grateful that so many provide so much for her each day.

This morning, Randy walked through and around mama’s home. The place he grew up. A simple two bedroom-plus-den brick ranch home, still with its original bathrooms, kitchen cabinets and linoleum floor. The house is immaculate. The kitchen pantry efficiently shares its tiny space with the hot water heater. It is kept perfectly clean, stocked with all the usual basic needs, including the ever-present box of individually-wrapped raisin cream pies that countless grandchildren and now great-grandchildren scurry for when they visit. Which, by the way, is often. The refrigerator is neatly lined with their pictures and cards, one for “The Greatest Great-Grandmother in the World” hand-scribed in crayon. Out back, the chairs are neatly tucked ’round the patio table. Flowers bloom, those long-nurtured cuttings of red-hot pokers from his grandfather’s yard,

Mama's Red-hot Pokers

Mama’s Red-hot Pokers

transplanted here fifty years ago, accented by recent additions of assorted flowers in neatly lined pots along the driveway. The lawn is recently mowed, weeds at a minimum. Trees are groomed beautifully. A simple home, a precious place rich in memories, obviously well tended.

There is no way mama has been able to keep up any of this. Read the rest of this entry

Leaders, Followers and Fancy Footwork

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Do you aspire to leadership? Are you a leader?

Are you a follower? Do you hope to be a follower?

Leadership is highly valued in our society. Following–not so much. Just as we’d never set out to become a drug addict, we don’t set out in life to become followers. Is this right? Can we all be leaders? Should we all? Is there anything wrong with being a follower? Read the rest of this entry

Attention, please!

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Both in my work as a pediatric occupational therapist and in my personal life, the issue of attention surfaces daily.

I attend to all aspects of the children I work with as we engage in therapeutic activities. I attend to their physical status, such as muscle atrophy, spasticity, ¬†joint alignment, sensorimotor responses, coordination¬†and endurance. I attend to their emotional status through each activity–is the baby grimacing, averting her gaze or engaging and approaching with interest? Is the toddler afraid, uncomfortable, shy, angry, tired. . . or happily attempting the challenge I’m bringing? The environment gets my attention as well: Is the room too noisy, cold, hot, visually distracting? Does the environment support or hinder the child’s performance? I notice the posture and position¬†of the child, the furnishings, lighting, sound level, scents, and features of the materials we’re working with. All of this, and more, either support or hinder a child’s success. My attention to these details can help the child attend to the activity that, in turn, helps them meet developmental goals.
The child lives in a family. The family also needs attention. When working with children who have special health care needs, I’ve yet to meet a family member who didn’t need some special attention. Families need help as they adjust to, cope with and grow through parenting their special child. If I come into a home to provide¬†therapy for a child and fail to attend to the family’s status that day, I have missed an opportunity to not only help the family member, but also to better help their child. A family member who is overwhelmed, tired, lonely, afraid, or depressed is better able to connect with, enjoy and help their child when their personal concerns are addressed. A family member excited about their child’s new achievement enjoys having someone to share the good news with. If a parent feels uneasy with anything I’m doing with their child, their concerns merit my attention. If I ignore or slight their concerns, I’ve failed to respect the child’s greatest support system in life, the parent. If I give parents the attention they need, we can work as a team. The child benefits from this teamwork as much as we do.
At home, there is more to attend to. Each family member needs attention. The house, the yard, the dog, the laundry, the dishes, the food supply, the mail, the . . . what have I forgotten? . . . all need attention. I need attention too! I need to attend to balancing work, rest and play, tomake time to exercise, socialize, reflect and create (all things that rejuvenate me). Sometimes I get so caught up in noticing and attending to all the needs around me that I neglect my own needs. When self-neglect persists, it renders me incapable of helping others.
So, I’ve been thinking about this need for attention. The word attend finds its origin in the Latin attendere, which means to notice, to bend to. Sensory systems are designed to notice. Peripheral vision reacts to a flutter of movement: What was that? Notice. Tiny hairs respond to light touch with fight or flight reaction: Was that a bug on me? Notice. Auditory systems translate ¬†sound wave vibrations: Was that my child’s cry? Notice. Bend to: Living things bend toward that which sustains life. Tender shoots grow through rocks and bend toward light. Grandparents bend to greet grandchildren, arms open wide. Lovers bend on one knee, to plead ‘be mine.’ Worshippers bend in adoration and appreciation for spirit revival. To attend, to notice, to bend to, is a natural and life-sustaining act. I would venture to guess that most of us feel emotionally nourished when someone notices and pays attention to us. Needing attention is not a fault, it is human.
Why, then, do we view the need for attention in a negative light? Read the rest of this entry