Remembering Your Belovedness (with Henri Nouwen)

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Dear friends,

The best way to value ourselves is to remember, and bask in, who God says we are and how much God values us. If we stay grounded there in that Great Love, it becomes less and less likely that we will devalue ourselves or allow others to do so.

This is an old talk by Henri Nouwen which I think will help you, as his words have helped me, to stay connected to who God says you are. It will strengthen you in all your inner and outer dealings in this world. I listen to the entire thing at least once or twice a year to refresh my memory and keep me strong.


In case you don’t know who Henri Nouwen is, he was a grace-infused human being who lived and worked among the L’Arche Community and said that these lovely people taught him more about God’s acceptance than anyone else. He said this was due to the fact that they did not know or understand anything about his degrees, his accolades or his accomplishments (let alone his failures and weaknesses), but only knew him by his heart.

Believe me, time listening to these words will be time well spent.

Wishing you God’s peace & security…

Monique

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CHRIST IS IN EVERY STEP

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I don’t think that we can strive our way to God. I think we can only rest and trust our way to him. In a culture that is obsessed with work, doing, achieving and debating, it seems counterintuitive to rest and trust, to be still, to step away from everything. But to live a contemplative, God-centered life, it is so needed.

This doesn’t mean that we should never do anything. What it does mean is that from this resting and trust, there comes a sense of peace that permeates everything else we do. Washing the dishes becomes meditative insofar as one approaches it as such. It isn’t just a chore to be hurried through. It is an act of awareness of divine Presence in the common and ordinary things. In those acts, one realizes that there are no ordinary moments, no ordinary things. All of life is extraordinary and drenched through with the marvelous.

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The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who was a good friend and ally of Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote a book called Peace is Every Step, which is full of lovely, calming thoughts. My spin on the title is that Christ is in every step and that is how there can be peace in every step. Not only in the sense of being accompanied, but in the sense of the wonder that surrounds us if we are attentive to it. Everywhere, everywhere we look, there is something to behold if we would only stop running, striving and overcommitting long enough to notice.

May he be in your every step…

Monique

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My Story of Healing from Eating Disorders (Podcast)

This will be part 1 of my story because there has been healing in so many areas of my life that each would require a separate talk. So I’m sure there will be more parts that I share on this topic in the future. But for now, I wanted to post the story I shared at church here in Berlin recently and my hope, as always, is that something I said might give hope and encouragement to someone listening.

There were moments of technical difficulty during my sharing…and a bit of nervousness…and a bit of crying. Our stories can be messy, so it’s no surprise that the telling of them can be too.

Click here to hear it.

It tells a bit about how I went from this:

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To this:

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I hope that if you, or someone you know, struggles with an eating disorder, or any kind of self-destructive behavior, that hearing my story will help you to not give up and to keep praying, keep hoping and keep knowing that God loves you no matter what’s going on and that healing and good things are possible.

Your life matters and you are needed here on this planet.

Blessings & peace,

Monique

p.s. If you need coaching and/or spiritual guidance, please click here to schedule an appointment for an introductory call with me.

 

 

Being Turned into Gentleness

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I’ve been reading Streams in the Desert for over 20 years and still, the readings are as fresh each time as if it was the first time. I’ve met others through the years that have attested to a similar experience.

Here’s the reading from today. I’m sure some will identify.

“So few are willing to undergo the suffering out of which thorough gentleness comes. We must die before we are turned into gentleness, and crucifixion involves suffering; it is a real breaking and crushing of self, which wrings the heart and conquers the mind.

There is a good deal of mere mental and logical sanctification nowadays, which is only a religious fiction…and such an one goes forth with a gay, flippant, theological prattle about the deep things of God.

But the natural heartstrings have not been snapped, and the Adamic flint has not been ground to powder, and the bosom has not throbbed with the lonely, surging sighs of Gethsemane; and not having the real death marks of Calvary, there cannot be that soft, sweet, gentle, floating, victorious, overflowing, triumphant life that flows like a spring morning from an empty tomb.”                       —G. D. W.

 

If you desire to deepen your spiritual and/or creative life, please feel free to schedule a 30 minute discovery coaching call by clicking here.

Blessings,

Monique

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CELTIC PRAYER & THE IMPORTANCE OF BREATHING

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The past 24 hours or so, I was reminded again of the importance of simply breathing. The situation that can bring me anxiety, anyone who knows about it can’t blame me for feeling trepidation over. (Not to sound mysterious, but I can’t go into it here.) Inhale…exhale…deep inhale…deep exhale. Still, one would think it would come so naturally—to breathe. After all, we’ve been doing it since we were born. Yet in times when things appear possibly dangerous or frightening, we can easily forget to do the most basic thing of our lives: draw air into our lungs.

When we’re anxious or troubled, it’s like we have to remind ourselves to breathe. I’ve found though that while drawing deep breaths is good, drawing deep breaths while meditating on a short phrase about God is better.

Being that it’s St. Patrick’s Day, it seems a good time to mention how powerful and calming many Celtic prayers are simply because of their simplicity and the fact that they mention such seemingly “ordinary” things, such as wind, fire, water…air. All those things seem ordinary enough until we are suddenly without them. Being without breath due to fear or panic can be like suffocating on our own thoughts.

Granted, I don’t have this all the time, but I do at times have it when it comes to extreme circumstances (which the current thing would fall into the category of at certain times).

So here is a prayer that might help you should you ever find yourself in a time of needing to remember to breathe. If you never have a moment like this, then we’re all very happy for you. This is for the rest of us.

This is from the Breastplate of St. Patrick:

“I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation”

I hope this helps you, calms you, give you peace in times of distress and most of all, hope in God’s divine presence holding you and helping you.

For more ideas of wonderful short phrases you can repeat, that are easier to meditate on with your eyes closed, have a look at this link.

The beautiful calligraphy is courtesy of my dear and gifted friend, Karen Ables, who gave this to me as a gift. It is one of my great treasures. Please only use with permission.

Wishing you much peace, protection & strength this St. Patrick’s Day.

Monique

** To schedule a free 30-minute discovery coaching call with me, just click this link.

 

 

A BEAUTIFUL QUOTE BY FLAUBERT

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Hi friends…

Today I just wanted to share with you a beautiful passage I re-read today when I pulled my copy of Gustave Flaubert’s novella A Simple Heart off the shelf for no particular reason, except to see how many pages his novella has. I was struck again by the beauty of these words. I hope it will bless you too…

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“…Then she wept at the story of the Passion. Why had they crucified Him when He loved the children, fed the multitudes, healed the blind, and had willed, in His meekness, to be born among the poor, on the dungheap of a stable? The sowings, harvests, wine-presses, all the familiar things the Gospel speaks of, were a part of her life. They had been made holy by God’s passing; and she loved the lambs more tenderly for her love of the Lamb, and the doves because of the Holy Ghost.

She found it hard to imagine Him in person for He was not merely a bird, but a flame as well, and a breath at other times. It may be His light she thought, which flits at night about the edge of the marshes, His breathing which drives on the clouds, His voice which gives harmony to the bells; and she would sit rapt in adoration, enjoying the cool walls and quiet of the church.”

…Gustave Flaubert

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** Image credits: all artwork by Christian Schloe

 

 

 

ON BEING BRANDED

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This past weekend I went to an interview and Q&A that was part of a book release for a new book called Brandpsycho: Four Essays on De:Branding. It’s written by a man who is a Jungian psychoanalyst in training and is part of a project he co-founded in Switzerland called the Zurich Lab. I started devouring the book waiting for the talk to begin and I’m now fully engrossed. It’s a small, but deep book. 94 pages.

The author spent many years of his life working as a brand director which possibly led to this new part of his journey in analyzing the very world he formerly inhabited. The questions the book poses and the ideas it presents relate to the culture of branding that has developed in the last couple hundred years, but especially during the last 30-40 years of the internet age. This is a topic I’m really interested in because more and more we hear this word “branding” as if it’s so much par for the course in marketing. It’s become an accepted term in business and entrepreneurship. And it makes me uneasy.

My concern is that, like I said to the author, “I find the word ‘branding’ disturbing because, correct me if I’m wrong, it’s related to how cows and animals have been ‘branded’ for hundreds of years by having their fur and skin singed with a scorching hot torch to burn a name or brand into them. That way they could be quickly and easily identified as to who they belonged to and where they were going.”

“Yes, yes,” he said. “Branding comes from the Norse term for burning.”

It dawned on me: like the German word “brand” which means fire.

How apropos that people are, like cattle, allowing themselves every day to be branded by their stuff. But perhaps not just by their stuff, but with their ideas, their images, and the very longings that they claim to have.

The author mentions Starbucks and Apple and addresses the power and control they, and other big names like them, have over people and yet how there is room to take the very narratives that have been used to manipulate society and turn them to help people tune in to their spirits and to who they actually are underneath all the façade.

So what would help humanity stop giving in to making purchases they don’t need or eating food that makes them sick only to line the pockets of billion dollar corporations? What would help people to stop being subliminally coerced by their appetites and wants and desires, most of which have been put on them from outside, and help them realign with what they would desire if they hadn’t been programmed with what to desire?

Well, from my point of view, the place to start is always the same. It has to do with a word I was happy to come across in the first pages of Brandpsycho. The word is imago. As in Imago Dei. Image of God.

What if, instead of people identifying themselves with a pair of jeans, or a handbag, or the latest iPhone gadget, or their bank account, or advertising’s images of happiness and love, they identified themselves with the image of God within them? How would it direct humanity’s purchases, needs, wants, desires, cravings? I think it would not only lessen them, but it would redirect humanity to an entirely contrary way of thinking about life. After all, Jesus was not on the up and up.

People can give all the arguments they want against why they don’t believe in God, Jesus, religion or whatever word they have for what they think it’s about. But in the end, doesn’t it really come down to the aversion to the primary example of dying to self that Jesus lived out? I mean, you can pontificate all day long as to the scientific reasons for why you don’t believe or how suffering proves there’s no God or how the church wounded you, but can we be honest here? It’s just too hard. What’s hard? Believing? Well, that too. But the daily believing. The daily dying to self. The daily command to love your enemy. The daily admonition to forgive an offense. The daily self-denial in holding your tongue when you’d like to tell someone off. The daily observations of people’s cognitive dissonance while you are called to love them anyway. The daily keeping a good attitude and sloshing on when you’re tired as hell. The daily commitment to stay true to something you cannot prove to anyone, but that you know is true. That’s the stuff that wears you down. Unless you’re being powered from something outside of yourself that has taken up residence within you.

G.K. Chesterton was onto something with these 2 statements:

  • “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
  • “Dear Sir, Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton.”

But we don’t want to admit there’s anything wrong with us. We’d rather spend hours going on about the evils of society or government or the annoying person we have to deal with than go within and go, “Hmmm, something ain’t right in here.” It’s not a comfortable place to be, especially not when you have to sort through shame and all the baggage since childhood that aren’t really your issues to begin with, but were somehow made your issues due to someone else’s unhealed issues. Regardless of why, the work needs to be done, so it’s best to get started with it sooner rather than later.

As uncomfortable as all that may be, it’s also not comfortable to live your whole life latching onto false images and icons when really, they’re nothing but idols. And idols aren’t there to be worshipped. They are there to be destroyed. Like Gandalf said in The Lord of the Rings, “There is only one Lord and he does not share power.”

Whenever humans try to put on some other image, I imagine it to be like putting on a cheap party store costume to cover up the fact that you were originally “branded” with the image of God. And when you put on your costume or the mask of your idols, instead of becoming more of yourself, you are actually becoming less of who you are. If Christ would allow himself to be seen in utter nakedness, vulnerability and humility, stripped of everything but love in order to reveal to us not only the face of God, but the face of the ideal human, then why would we think we can pile on layers of idols that bear images which try to rob from us our true identity?

The image of God is branded into the soul of every human being. But it isn’t there to coerce and manipulate you. The crazy part is that you actually get to choose what to do with it. That’s a huge responsibility and a massive call. And because it’s so massive, it might seem easier to cover it up, to try and ignore it, to find other things to focus on instead. But it will never stop whispering to you. It will whisper beneath your pain and struggles as much as in your joys and victories. It will be with you every breath of every day. And every day your life will tell, as much by your purchases as by your actions, whether you are choosing to reveal that image or whether you are choosing to cover up and hide that image.

One of Jesus’ most famous rhetorical questions is “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world yet lose his own soul?” Each day, every one of us gets to decide how we will answer that question.

If you’d like to work through questions like the ones posed here or would like to talk to me as your coach, you can always schedule a free discovery call with me by following this link to my calendar: https://www.timetrade.com/book/581CL

Blessings,

Monique

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