Real Life Spirituality: What works for you?

Last year, I started this blog project after the election. I’d been working on a book about my family and it was killing me (no surprise). I found myself asking: How do people not die in this world?

How do we pay attention to the beauty and the pain of the world, both? And then how do we not die with all this mess and despair around us? How do we pay attention, but not go under?

So many of us want and need something but we’re not sure what. 

I grew up in a family where they dropped us off at church. And I was glad to go. It was like visiting a wealthy, well-organized foreign nation. Like Canada.

Read More

The Most Overlooked Spiritual Tool Should be Your First Go-To

Lately, the idea of dying my hair keeps coming up. My hair started to go grey early, before I was 21, and I dyed it for years.

I stopped dying my hair five years ago. I was helping care for my father as he died, and I didn’t have time, and I didn’t want to anymore. I wanted to know that time was passing. It felt important.

But lately, I’ve been thinking of starting back up and getting EYELASH EXTENSIONS and I wonder, Is this a mid-life crisis? Please, God, no. I had one of those already, four years ago. It was gnarly. A very rough process of getting myself “back on track” to the life I wanted to live.

I learned a lot during that time, though, and part of what I learned is this: signals of the soul are not to be ignored.

Lately, I’ve been dreaming of rest.

Read More

Not Falling for It: Giving Up on the Trap of New Year's Resolutions

It’s the New Year, and I’m feeling overwhelmed at all the articles telling me how to “crush it!” this year. I feel this sinking feeling that no, nothing is going to be different.

I’m still going to be worrying about my cursing and have all these Christians insisting that I’m going to hell for my mixed up idea that God is available to all of us, no Jesus required. I’m still going to have a messy house, with a bedroom that’s too small. It’s all going to be the same. Nothing is going to be different, I worry.

I feel empty and tapped out and I feel worried about anyone listening to me, or looking to me, for anything.

Ugh. Well.

What to do with that?

Read More

How to live on a need-to-know basis with God

I don’t believe the Bible is factual in the way a newspaper or a science textbook aim to be factual. I believe it’s a story, an important story in our culture, and I look at the stories there and wonder, where am I in this story of Jesus’s birth? Who would I be?

When I look at the Jesus story, the truth is, I want to be Jesus. It’s me, I think, I’m the savior! I have a big job! But the truth is, I fear I’m more like Mary. Remember, Mary wasn’t born looking like the saint on the wall of all the Catholic churches you’ve ever seen. Instead, she was just a teenage girl from a poor neighborhood.

Think of the poorest neighborhood in your city, then think of the teenagers there. Think of the girl at the bus stop looking at her cell phone, drinking a big plastic bottle of soda, or the kids at the food court at the mall, or the noisy teenagers in the grocery store right after the high school gets out. Mary was one of those kids. Regular.

And that’s what I was like. I wasn’t the hero of any story. I was more like Mary, the teen mom, the one no one expected to amount to much, and yet, and yet, and yet, in this story, God comes to Mary (who’s not yet Mother Mary, the saint, just regular old teenage-girl Mary), and, through an angel, God says, “Mary, I’ve got a project for you.

We’re going to save the world.”

Read More

What if Jesus really was God, in human form?

I was at the dentist earlier this week, and I have to say, it kind of sucked. I don’t have any cavities, but still, the high pitched scrubber thing, the scraping, the woman holding my mouth open too wide, all of that was basically horrible. The whole time I was worried about whether the hygienist’s scraper tool would slip and cut my gums.

And I thought well, dentistry – Is dentistry a gift from God?

Read More

What's the point of God when you're not sure you believe?

I’m not sure what to make of Jesus. Or the Bible, or Christianity in general, much of the time. And that’s ok. Yet, here I find myself, in this mostly Christian culture, in a country that still usually means the God of Christianity when it uses the word God.

And we are deeply divided in this country on what is even going on with Christianity. To many, it means love and trustworthiness. And to many others it means the exact opposite -- it means judgementalism and hypocrisy and, seriously, something to be avoided at all costs.

Even many Christians are wary of what someone means when they say they are a Christian.

Read More

How to Admit Defeat: Letting Go of the Search for the Perfect Spiritual Practice

It’s all too easy to think that in order to have a spiritual practice, the FIRST thing we need to do, is go online and buy a meditation cushion. Then we need to set up an altar, preferably with crystals, and little objects that are special to us, or holy images. Then get a prayer bracelet, or learn some new prayers, or start chanting. You’ve gotta have the right incense and a clean and quiet house and the right amount of time.

But none of this is true.

Read More

How to Feel Better When You Want to Die

Depression is characterized by hopelessness and low energy. Depression is the low-low-low energy that makes it feel like I should just sleep forever and then maybe just cease to exist. And people in our lives don't know what to do with it, so they give us advice that often sounds more like judgement. 

You need to exercise! You need to cheer up! And it's like, no sh*t. Don't you think I know that? I would if I could. Dang.

The problem is that this advice comes almost exclusively from people who have never been truly depressed. They have felt sad, circumstance-induced, appropriate sadness. They have not felt the terror at seeing that nothing is "wrong" and yet still you feel like dying. But I have experience with this. So, one depressed person to another, here's what I did to help myself come up out of depression. 

Read More

You don’t owe it to the world to be delighted all the time.

Thanksgiving is here. Some of you may be feeling so grateful for all you have, looking forward to the turkey, the family visiting, the stuffing. You may be delighted that Thanksgiving is starting off a whole holiday season, full of parties to go to and presents to wrap and unwrap. Others of you may be, well, not so much. This article is for you.

Read More

How to Do To-Do Lists Better

For a few months, I have been “pushing through” my to-do list. But that posture is failing me, lately. And what I find is something interesting underneath: Self-acceptance.

I used to make these long to-do lists. When my best friend moved in with me at one point, she had this raggedy notebook she carried around with her from room to room. When I asked her what it was, she answered, My to-do list. 

Her to-do list was not a page in a spiral notebook, mind you. It was the whole notebook.

It stressed me out just looking at it.

Read More

How to Really Love: An Interview with John Pavlovitz

From John Pavlovitz: "The heart of the bigger table for me, it’s not built on doctrine. It’s built on these four non-negotiables, these four table legs - hospitality, authenticity, diversity, and agenda-free relationships. And that’s the one that most people who grew up in a strong evangelical background have trouble with because the goal was always a relationship to save you or to get you to Jesus.

For me, the table is about being story learners and listening to stories. So there is no expectation that you’re going to convert someone. You just share life with them.

So when people don’t read the book because I’m a pastor or because I’m a Christian, that’s not what this is about. What this is about is when people met Jesus, they left with their dignity intact. If we can’t do that, it’s not about what our doctrine or our theology is. So that’s what the table is to me: You are received as you are."

Read More

4 Exciting Spiritual Writers Daring Us to Love Better

The most exciting spiritual teachers writing today are reclaiming religious traditions from legalism in favor of a love that can reconnect us with ourselves and with the world around us. It's no surprise that in a society as deeply divided as our current American landscape, spiritual teachers who argue the case for an unruly divine love over self-righteous dogma are met with cautious optimism, great relief and outcries of criticism and heresy. Here are four of the most exciting writers considering spiritual teachings today.

Read More

Good News: God Doesn’t Care - Success, Failure, and Unconditional Love

First, the fear.

I’ve been struggling with a project lately, really TRYING to “make it work.” But I’ve been slogged down, not exactly unmotivated, but afraid of failure and equally afraid of success. Paralyzed with fear. When I feel like this, I look to God, to my Higher Power, to my own internal guide. Whatever we call it, it's there, ready to help.

Read More

Look for the Good in the Midst of the Bad

I went to church a couple weeks ago for the first time since the spring and found I couldn’t stop crying. My husband wasn't even with me, so it was just me, crying in the pew by myself, trying to make sure my mascara didn't run. Weird times.

Something about church, and prayer, just showing up, ready and willing, listening for whatever, can bring things to the surface - stuff I didn’t even know was there, don't even know what it is.

Read More

Meeting God in the Disaster of My Life

When I was 31, I needed to stop drinking. I really, really, really needed to stop drinking.

I was blacking out four times a week. I smelled bad. I had given up on luxuries like sheets or box springs. Instead, I slept wrapped in a blanket on a sweaty, bare mattress like I lived in a flop house.

Only it wasn't a flop house, or at least it didn't look like one on the outside. I lived in a beautiful vintage apartment in Chicago, with dark wood around the windows that looked out on treetops. And I was cute! I was in art school, one of the best graduate schools in the country! I was fancy.

Read More

Michelle Tea: Punk, Parenting, and God

Michelle Tea is a dynamo rockstar who you are either totally amazed by or have never heard of.

She was an early DIY riot-grrl, so it’s not surprising that her approach to God, the Divine, and her spiritual life, has been pretty DIY, too.

Recently, I got the chance to talk to Michelle about her spiritual journey. Here’s what she had to say:

Read More

The Hazards of Talking to Anyone, about Anything

On Monday afternoon, I found myself sitting in my car on the side of the road in Nashville, crying, and wishing I could just spend a few relaxing days in a mental institution. I imagined the green walls soothing me. Someone else picking the tv shows. Me in a chair, not expected to talk. Just eating canned corn and apple sauce and taking a little dixie cup of pills then lying down for a nice long nap.

Read More