Hurricane Harvey

Jeremy Rutledge at one time was a pastor here in Houston. He is now in South Carolina but he still considers Houston his home. He wrote a poem about this flooding event that has gone viral. Here is what he says about what he wrote: “Yesterday afternoon I wrote a few lines to my old hometown of Houston. I made the post public and this morning it has 2.2K likes and 1.6K shares. I was surprised how many people thought what I wrote was a prayer. It wasn’t a prayer - it was a poem to a place and people I love. My real prayer is the donation I made this morning. I invite you to do the same." Here is the full text of his Hurricane Harvey poem.

 

to pray for Houston
you have to pray
in her way
pray like Beyoncé
when she was
at HSPVA
or Billy and Dusty
shooting pool
at Rudyard's
pray like you're
sitting over soup
at Spanish Flowers
or pho at Mai's
steaming your glasses
pray like the kids
playing soccer
on the east side
or mutton busting
at the livestock show
pray like the runners
in Memorial Park
lacing them up
or the researchers
in the medical center
looking into microscopes
if you want
to pray for Houston
you have to pray
as quietly as
the Rothko Chapel
or Houston Zen Center
and you have to pray
as loudly as
the old scoreboard
at the Astrodome
after a José Cruz
home run
you have to pray
sitting under
a live oak tree
or standing next to
an azalea bloom
while your skin
clams in the heat
if you want to pray
for Houston
you have to pray
without pretense
this ain't Dallas
and in a neighborly way
as friends come out
to check on each other
in the rain
and those
who are far away
watch screens
and wipe our eyes
if you want to pray
for Houston
raise a bottle of Shiner
to the gray sky
and say that 130 mile an hour winds
and 9 trillion gallons of rain
are no match
for a city of such life
and diversity
you can fill up our bayou
but you will never rain
on our parade

 

Not the Tomb but The Womb

For many people these days seem like dark and troubling times. Of course, another, and significant portion, see these times as hopeful and encouraging. They are finally being heard and having a voice. Either way, our country and our world seem as divided and divisive as I can recall.

A friend of mine sent me the writing of a Sikh spiritual director. I was impressed and want to share it with you:

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

In our tears and agony, we hold our children close and confront the truth: The future is dark.

But my faith dares me to ask:

What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?

What if our America is not dead but a country still waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor?

What if all the mothers who came before us, who survived genocide and occupation, slavery and Jim Crow, racism and xenophobia and Islamophobia, political oppression and sexual assault, are standing behind us now, whispering in our ear: You are brave? What if this is our Great Contraction before we birth a new future

Remember the wisdom of the midwife: “Breathe,” she says. Then: “Push.”

Now it is time to breathe. But soon it will be time to push; soon it will be time to fight — for those we love — Muslim father, Sikh son, trans daughter, indigenous brother, immigrant sister, white worker, the poor and forgotten, and the ones who cast their vote out of resentment and fear.

Let us make an oath to fight for the soul of America — “The land that never has been yet— And yet must be” (Langston Hughes) — with Revolutionary Love and relentless optimism. And so I pray this Sikh prayer: 

Nanak Naam Chardi Kala,

Tere Bane Sarbat Da Bhalla

“In the name of the Divine within us and around us, we find everlasting optimism.

Within your will, may there be grace for all of humanity.”

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh 

She returned to the same bold and prophetic question in a talk that she gave, and I invite you to watch the fire of the spirit pouring through her: 

“Yes Rabbi, the future is dark, on this watch night,

I close my eyes and I see the darkness of my grandfather’s cell.

And I can feel the spirit of ever rising optimism

(in the Sikh tradition ‘Chardi Kala’) within him.

So the mother in me asks,

‘What if?

What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb,

but the darkness of the womb?….

What if this is our country’s great transition?”

Thanks be to God for giving us these stars on these dark nights of the soul.

May we breathe, and may we push, through the darkness of the womb, and witness the birth of a new America. May we be the midwives and mothers of an America that does not exist yet, but we must give birth to.

Let us breathe, and let us push…

Optimism as a Step Into Hope

Recently, in one of the weekly "life talks" I offer I spoke to the matter of hope. You can check that talk out by going to www.ordinarylife.org under the podcast menu. The title of the talk is "I Only Want to Hope You."

Had I had the time and space I would have contrasted hope with optimism. They are different. Perhaps, if we know more about what optimism is, we can have a platform to step off into the realms of hope.

What makes people optimistic? What are the behaviors and beliefs of those who are optimistic?

For one thing, optimists are seldom surprised by trouble. They know that life is not the way it’s supposed to be. Life is the way it is. The way we cope with "what is" is what makes the difference. This doesn’t mean that optimistic people go around giving themselves phony pep talks.

Optimists seek for something to do about their situation because they know that there are no hopeless situations in life. There are only people who grow hopeless about situations in life. That is to say, optimists are people of action. They don’t look for perfection because they know there is no such thing.

Optimists believe they have control over their future.

Optimists allow for regular renewal. Without regular periods of rest and renewal, re-creation, meditation and prayer — call it what you will — we simply aren’t going to experience life at its fullest.

Optimists interrupt their negative trains of thought. Life is not in what happens to us. Meaning in life is in the interpretation we give to what happens to us. Optimists have learned to latch on the to affirmative and eliminate the negative.

Optimists heighten their powers of appreciation. An attitude of gratitude does so much to affect the way we experience life. For those of you who do spend some time in the morning, or in your day meditating, let me offer you a hint. Begin that period listing the things, the people, the events, the experience, the possibilities you are grateful for.

What about the suffering in life? Don’t try to avoid it. You can't. Indeed, find ways to be with those who are suffering. Let’s awaken ourselves and others to the reality of suffering in the world. Though life is filled with suffering, life is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. Simply to focus on suffering is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. It would be a pity if we are only aware of suffering.

The bad news, so called, is the common soil in which men and women raise the works of civilization. All significant greatness seems to come from pain. The bluebird of happiness sings on a compost heap.

Is that Pollyanna? What if it is? Which is better — to see the glass half full or half empty?

Optimists use their imaginations to rehearse outcomes. This is about creative visualization. This is one of the most powerful keys to your ideal day I know.

Optimists are cheerful even when they can’t experience happiness. Cheerfulness is something we can control. We can choose to behave cheerfully in unhappy circumstances — this is partly to sustain our own strength and partly as an act of courtesy to others.

Optimists believe they have an almost unlimited capacity for stretching. Regardless of their age, they have a stubborn belief that their personal best is yet to be.

Optimists build lots of love into their lives. Love is the ultimate answer to the ultimate human question. Having loving relationships is the hallmark of the successful human.

Optimists like to swap good news. Their social exchanges aren’t full of “ain’t it awful?” stories.

Optimists accept what cannot be changed. The art of contentment is an inward thing.

I honestly believe that if we consistently practice these things about optimism, our lives will be dramatically different. I also honestly believe that optimism isn’t the same as hope.

The Cosmic Egg

One of the matters that concerns me is the amount and degree of divisiveness that exist at all levels all over our world.

Several years ago, in my work with Richard Rohr, I got introduced to the notion of "the cosmic egg." I am including an image of this with remarks below to stimulate your own journey toward psychological and spiritual growth.

If each one of us can work at being more inclusive of all of who we are, we can contribute to an inclusive atmosphere in the various places where we go on this planet.

Scroll down and look at the image carefully. Study it. Then scroll down below it for my commentary.

Here is what I would say about this very useful way to understand psychological and spiritual growth.

1. My story

We are living for the first time in history when people have been allowed to take their private lives and identities seriously. There is a wonderful opportunity for the individual here but also diminishment and fragility if that is all we have. In this first dome are all the things we think that make us special. It is precisely this that must be let go of in spiritual and psychological growth. Many people now live their whole lives at this level. They are what they have done or what has been done to them. Here we search for meaning through power, prestige and position.

2. This is Us (Our Story)

Most people are members of multiple groups. If a person does not have this level of meaning, they are autistic. This dome of meaning give us our myths, cultural heroes, groups, symbols, flags, special food, ethnicity and patriotism. The loyalties at this level have driven most of human history up until now. People have given their lives for their group. Much of religion is a "belonging system" more than a search for intimacy with Sacred Mystery.

3. The Patterns That Are Always True (Universal Meaning)

This level assures and insures the other two. It holds them together in sacred meaning. Our world will be saved by those who can live at all three levels simultaneously. This level of living saves us from the illusions of "we" and the smallness of "me."

Healthy spirituality honors and combines all three levels - the personal journey is raw material, communal identity is the school and training ground.

True Transcendence frees us from the tyranny of the "I Am" and the idolatry of the "We Are."

Liberals tend to get trapped in the first dome of private meaning and educated explanations.

Conservatives tend to get trapped in the second dome of group and tribal loyalties.

Both liberal and conservative thinking can be ways to avoid the great Mystery of Self and Other.

Doing inner work that achieves meaning required daily disciplines, increased personal responsibility and group courage.

The person who lives within the total cosmic egg is the mystic, the prophet, the universal man or woman, the saint, the whole one.

Relationship Toolkit

Four times a year my beautiful bride, Dr. Sherry Beeman, and I offer a relationship seminar. It is designed to convey a lot of information to couples about the skills involved in building and maintaining a good relationship. My intention is to post here soon the audio version of that seminar. At the moment I'd like to offer you a list of the resources we offering to couples. I think you will find this list very helpful in all of your relationships.

To download the list of resources click here.

Gaining Mastery in Life

 

Having Life — the Way You Want It

 

 

 

In order to have mastery in life we must have a long term focus.

So many of the difficulties people have in life come from short term focus.  For example, a lot of people don’t take care of their physical instrument — they overeat, take drugs of one kind or another, don’t exercise — because they focus on immediate pain or pleasure.

Deciding to commit yourself to long-term results, rather than short-term fixes is as important as any decision you’ll ever make in your life.  Ever.

Decisions, not conditions, determine your destiny.

If you want mastery, develop a compelling future in the areas of loving relationships, time, money and life purpose.  The difference between knowing about something and knowing something by experience comes from the drive that only a compelling future can give your life.

An essential skill in having mastery in life is knowing about goals.  With goals and beliefs and plans the only things between now and your having what you want in any area of life is time and space.

So — have goals.  In every area of life.

As long as you and I structure our lives in a way where our happiness is dependent on something we cannot control, then we are going to experience pain.  I’ve noticed that successful persons, when they have difficulties in life, do not choose to see those things as permanent or pervasive.  Nor do they take them personally.

If you have beliefs that hold you back in some area of life, change those beliefs.  Since you can’t change something you don’t know about, it is important to take time to live reflectively.  Beliefs are absolutely arbitrary.  Create beliefs that work for you. A strong mental attitude is built in the same way physical strength is built — by repetition.

Also, have specific plans.  If you want to make a change in the way you feel about some specific goal — take action.  We don’t take action on things because we are afraid. Fear is only a feeling. Not a fact. The decision to live — rather than simply exist — is demonstrated by what we do.

Have goals, have useful beliefs, have specific plans.  A major secret to having a successful life is to write these things down.

What follows is a short course on how to set and achieve goals.

Identify the goal.  You have to have a clear idea of what you want and a commitment to that end.

By when?  Write down a date.

List the obstacles between where you are now and having that goal.  Develop plans for doing something about each obstacle.

Write down the people you need to be with to support you in your goal accomplishment.  Write down the people you will need to stay away from in order to have what you want.

What skills do you need to develop that you don’t have now to help you in reaching the desired outcome you have set for yourself?

At least twice a day, have a way and time to visualize and evaluate what it is you are going for.

Develop a time-dated action plan.

When you do get what you want, throw a party even if you are the only one you invite.

Please understand, however, that getting goals isn’t what life is about.  It is the quality of life you have along the way that matters.  So many people get caught up in making a living that they neglect making a life.  Your life is about freedom and love.  You are to live your making in the process of making your living. That’s what is most important.

Don’t go for any goal in your life in order to achieve happiness.  It won’t work.  Don’t achieve in order to be happy.  Happily achieve.  A commitment worth developing is to live each moment of your life as fully, productively, joyfully as possible.  Commit yourself to health, wealth (this has almost nothing to do with money) and happiness — not out there somewhere but right here and right now.

© Dr. William C. Kerley

www.billkerley.com 

Top Picks for Personal Growth

A fiend and colleague of mine, Dr. Linda Webb, recommended “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business.” It is about how habits make us who we are personally and professionally and how we both form habits and can change them. A good and valuable read.

Another friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Bill Martin, former professor of sociology at Rice University and highly respected observer and commentator on the current scene and who currently consults with the Baker Institute, recommends a book for understanding the current divisiveness in our country. The book is “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided on Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt. About the book Bill writes, “It’s an intelligent, readable book that warns both conservatives and progressives about self-righteousness.”

If you would like to read a review of this book that also functions as a summary click here.

The clients of mine who have or are reading this book rate it highly: “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work” by Shawn Achor.

I teach that both the content and process of spiritual and personal growth is developing the capacity to see “what is.” A wonderful book that is “eye-opening” is - “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts.” Highly Recommended!

“The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them” by David Richo.

“Finding Meaning In the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up” by James Hollis.