<![CDATA[3rd Spaces - The Sunday Blog]]>Thu, 19 Nov 2015 02:09:55 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[What I Learned in 44 Sundays]]>Sun, 22 Jun 2014 10:42:24 GMThttp://www.3rdspaces.com/the-sunday-blog/what-i-learned-in-44-sundays"A year later, I can't say that I've done the quest justice. What I can say is that with each post I wrote came invaluable lessons I could not have imagined."
I counted, and since Sunday, June 23, 2013, when I have personally written 44 blogs for 3rd Spaces. The whole idea for 3rd Spaces and The Sunday Blog bubbled from this place of wanting to discuss, share, look at how Christianity is "changing." How religion is shifting. I wanted to address things like, "Where's the church headed in this century," and "Are we truly living the vision of Jesus?" Questions like, "How do we use our God-given creativity to enhance life and our relationship to Christ?"

And a year later, I can't say that I've done the quest justice. What I can say is that with each post I wrote came invaluable lessons I could not have imagined. As I close out this year (yep, I'm taking the summer off from blogging to bask in the sun, relax, and listen to God for what's next), I wanted to share my top five beautiful lessons God reminded/taught me through 44 Sundays of blogging:

1. As much as we are individuals, we need each other
Thank you so much for sharing your comments and impressions on the posts. When I write, I can only hope and pray that what I'm sharing is inspiriting someone. Your emails and comments helped me to keep going! And those who have been vulnerable to share your faith story through The Sunday Blog have graced readers with your own uniqueness. God has given us each a gift and a purpose, and The Sunday Blog has helped remind me that it takes someone to receive it in order for that gift to come alive; and that we indeed need community!

2. Staying focused is the reward
When the desire is to be used by God and be pleasing to God by being true to whom we were created to be, then what the ego becomes concerned with loses power. The accolades, the numbers of "fans" on the Facebook page, etc. become irrelevant. Sure, there is appreciation (going back to #1) but when we are used as vessels then we know God's plan will come to fruition in God's time. Staying focused and on the path is the reward in itself. Life can take us away from what we commit to, especially when it's an internal commitment. Our spiritual practice (like writing) helps us find our way to what is true. Agree?

3. Push-ups build muscles
We know by now that the more we do something the stronger it and we become. Still, I have to recognize that writing weekly about my spiritual impressions and experiences has strengthened my spiritual walk. Taking the time to listen and create and share, without judgment of myself as a writer (whew), has helped me listen more deeply to God. To surrender my expectations of what's to come next so that I can be used without me interfering in that process. The more we practice (listening, praying, writing, surrendering) the stronger we become, right?

4. No room for excuses
I will be honest, there have been some Sundays when I thought I could not write anything. Weeks where I was beyond busy and "didn't have time" to write. Weeks where I felt it wouldn't matter if I missed the "deadline" because "Who's reading this anyway?" Weeks when I just wasn't "feeling it." It's easier to make excuses than to push through fatigue, anxiety, doubt. But isn't that what a spiritual practice is all about? Doing spiritual push-ups? We hear "no" so much from the outside world that with The Sunday Blog, I just wanted to say "yes." Even if it meant getting a little less sleep or becoming frustrated because I had no idea what to say. Being open to this unknown element is what gives our walk texture.

5. God does not color inside of the box
Speaking of this "unknown element…" As we grow in our relationship with God we tend to have a sense that we know God. This is great! God wants to be known. I believe God's deepest desire is for us to commune with Him/Her. At the same time, I don't think we can fully know God. Who God is is too much for our mind to hold, let alone comprehend. The creative process helps us to see God move in ways we could not intend but we must be cautious to not expect God to always move in a particular way. Yes, God's nature is the same towards us but God cannot be predicted. And yes, God is a God of order but... not our order. God doesn't follow our rules. Think about it. If God did, the sky would not be vast and limitless, would it? 

I believe 3rd Spaces, the home for The Sunday Blog, is just beginning. We're just finding our voice and place. We're still figuring it all out. I don't know what God has in store for me, us or this vehicle, but I will admit, I am completely excited about being on the journey and whatever is next and! 

Thank you for being a part of this with me. Thank you for your prayers and support. Thank you for your contributions. Thank you for being present. 

Now, let's meet for lemonade and talk awhile! :-)

Happy summer!


<![CDATA[A look back: a previous post, my dad & poetry]]>Sun, 15 Jun 2014 12:52:09 GMThttp://www.3rdspaces.com/the-sunday-blog/a-look-back-a-previous-post-my-dad-poetryI wrote a post in October, "What I'm Learning About Compassionate Healing." In honor of Father's Day and as a tribute to The Sunday Blog's almost one year birthday, I wanted to share it again -- with some tweaks. I hope it blesses you. Peace.   Picture
When my father died suddenly of a heart attack on our way to return a rental car, I knew my life was forever changed. I was 23 and my father was just 53. Our birthdays are one day apart and was my best friend. My last journal entry before he passed posed the question, "I wonder if your Dad could be your soul mate?" When he took his last breath, my world -- and that of my mom and brother -- had changed in a "twinkling of an eye." 

That was in 1996. The years that followed were dark and heavy with an occasional glare from the sun. It was hard for me to understand how God could take from my family the one who loved us deeply and the one who served Him greatly. Life no longer made sense. Everything had been turned upside down. 

It was poetry that provided a space for me to be with my pain without judgement. Perhaps it was my third space on my grief journey. It was where I could be honest and angry. It was where I could be authentic to my experience and honor the relationship I had with my Dad. Looking back, I can see that poetry was God's way of showing up all those tear-filled nights when I thought maybe He just didn't care enough. 

Each of us has our story of pain and heartache. Whether it's a death of a loved one, a divorce or end to a relationship, or another great loss like that of a job or home, we can all relate to the sharp cuts that create our wounds. Our stories are not the same but we each, in our unique way, know suffering – ours and others.  

So how do we move pass our wounds and our brokenness? How do we begin to build our life again? I’m asked those questions often as I facilitate poetry writing workshops, and I’ve been known to ask those questions too. But I don’t think the issue is really about getting over something as much as it’s about getting through something. We know how to act when we’re over the pain, but what do we do when we are dead smack in the middle of it?!

These are some of the questions we’re dealing with in the Deep Healing class that's part of the course of study at the Servant Leadership School of Greensboro. As people of faith, how do we life this life when we are hurt and broken? 

Here are four thoughts I would like to offer based on my experiences and what I’m learning about compassionate healing. 

1. We have to want to heal.

For us to make a move from pain to wholeness we must first want to be whole. We don't have to know how we are going to get from the pain to the victory (and it may take years) but we do need to desire healing and wholeness. I believe we all do somewhere deep inside and that we all know, in that sacred place within us, that healing is ours. We must accept, regardless of the situation, that God wants us to realize our healing, and to experience our divine wholeness. We may experience heartbreak but that doesn’t have to be our identity. For us to be used as a vessel for God we must not be perfect but operate from a place of love. When we are unhealed we are operating, often, from a place of pain. 

2. We need support.

Community is essential. Pain and wounds have the uncanny ability to make us feel we are all alone. This is a side-affect and not the reality. When we are mourning and grieving, we must do it with others who will allow us to bear witness to the pain. This isn't the same thing as having a pity party  but rather it's a place of knowing that we are supported in a nonjudgmental, healthy way. We are communal people. This doesn't change when we feel the sun will no longer shine. Get around people you love and who love you, folks whose shoulder you can lean on just for a little while. 

3. We have to befriend the suffering.

We have to "welcome" the pain/loss (and the wound that the pain left) in order for it to transcend us and the experience. I know, this one is tough! Who wants to welcome what hurts? Our natural response is to reject that which is painful. This is part of the ego’s job – to tell us what it thinks will kill us, and "pain" falls in that category. We guard ourselves against it. Fight or flight. But, according to Henri Nouwen, when we step toward our pain without shame, fear and anger stopping us, we are able to see and feel God's presence in a deeper way. I believe there’s wisdom in that. It doesn’t mean to take on the attitude of being a martyr but instead to ask the pain what you are to gain from the experience, what it wants to show you. It doesn’t mean pain comes to teach us a lesson but we can use it to help us grow. 

4. We must bless the pain and the experience.  

Can you imagine, looking back over the pain you have felt, if you placed your hand over your heart, and without trying to understand, defend, justify, ignore, or shame the pain, you just simply acknowledged it? What would happen if, while your hand is on your heart, you said, as Tara Brach shares in her book Radical Acceptance, "I care about your suffering?" Would that be enough? I believe it is. In the moment of our pain what we need most isn't for it to go away but for it to be cared about. What we need in our moment of suffering is to experience great love and we have the opportunity to give that to our heart and spirit. The moment we do that has the opportunity to be a compassionate and holy moment.

I’m thankful that I’m surrounded by people who talk about and share what it means to be healed by self and God's compassion. I believe when we experience this level of compassion for ourselves we can’t help but to share with others that God’s love really does cover all things. Pain will come. It’s a part of our journey as a human being. But, our spiritual nature knows healing is available as well. 

Love yourselves, Beloved. Speak kindly to your pain. When we are healed, the world heals. 

In closing, here's a poem I wrote, inspired by my healing through my father's passing.

broken ritual

“A broken soul is not the absence of beauty, but a cracked and torn soul 
                        reeks of the sweet incense it contains.” – C. JoyBell C.

Hold this up
        as a cup your lips
do not touch
and offer it to the heavens --
        sacred memory 
slipping through thin moments.
This, lift up
higher than your thoughts
or ego or desire
       as a sacrifice
and let the space be left 
Let dry air fill it
       if it chooses 
but no other memory.
Lift this above 
       the whirling dust 
to which we will 
soon enough return. 
       But the memory itself --
let it ascend or simply be

Jacinta V. White
(from broken ritual)

<![CDATA[Spiritually Thirsty]]>Mon, 09 Jun 2014 00:39:59 GMThttp://www.3rdspaces.com/the-sunday-blog/spiritually-thirstyPicture
When we are thirsty or hungry there is a danger that we will settle for anything in hopes our desire will be filled. Think about it. Skip a meal and you're more likely to grab a bag of chips or candy bar, or hop in the McDonald's drive-thru. Anything will do as long as we eat "something." Well, what about when you're spiritually longing?

Take this as example: I recently met someone and when I found out he was a minister I became overly eager and excited to engage in a conversation about religion. Now, unfortunately, he took this "interest" the wrong way. I know you're not to (usually) begin any type of friendship talking about religion or politics, but because I was spiritually thirsty, I was there before I knew it. I bypassed getting his name and wanted to know his denomination and if he grew up in the Christian faith.

Now, because this guy told me he was a minister I thought it was safe to talk about religion, but when he told me that I was "moving too fast" with that conversation, it hit me: I was spiritually thirsty (and scratching my head about why a minister didn't want to talk for a moment about religion…). I was thirsty to dig into scripture and conversation. Thirsty to explore sacred text and art and opinion. Thirsty to bypass the small talk and to find a sense of spiritual community. But I learned, this is sacred intimate ground, not to be entered lightly or without invitation. 

I know the church provides community. However, it's not so simple to just go to church for that. Not every church is open to authentic dialogue. Not every church is taking on the mind and spirit of Christ, even. If we are honest, not every church is friendly. Still, the church is an avenue.

But in between that, how does one quench their spiritual thirst? I think it's by spending more quality and intentional time with the Spirit. We cannot live by bread alone, scripture says. And there comes a time that what you've learned (in the church) is not enough to sustain your spiritual growth. 

After my brief encounter with the guy who didn't want to engage in this type of conversation, I began to think about what it means to be spiritual thirsty, and what I've come away with is:

1. No one can fill your thirst.
We can often become enamored by someone who seems to be where we want to be spiritually or by someone who we hope will help us grow spiritually. People do come into our life, I believe, to help us grow but we must be committed to walk our path fully. If even alone.
2. We have signs.
The Holy Spirit often gives us signs of when we are running spiritually on empty. Our sleep pattern may be off. We might be cranky for no reason. And, we often feel hungry (or empty) even when we've eaten. We've got to pay attention to the silent signs and triggers. 
3. There is beauty.
It's a good thing when we recognize there is a thirst. It's our way of knowing that there is room and a desire for more Spirit to show up and love us and express itself through us. That God is calling us deeper along the path and that we are noticing we truly want to go.
4. Daily dosage necessary.
We become thirsty when we neglect to daily hydrate. Just as there are daily rituals for our body, like bathing, there are daily rituals needed to feed our spiritual body. We must love ourselves enough to feed both our body and spirit with what gives us life energy. It's not enough to rest and feed the body. We must nurture our spirit, without apology. Our emotions and opinions change like the weather but our spiritual body is what is strong and unshakable. 

The guy left without me getting his name (I laugh about it now) or him getting mine and I count this all as part of the spiritual path that keeps us learning and growing.  

If you don't mind me asking, where are you on your spiritual journey and what are you doing to keep from becoming spiritually dehydrated? How do you quench your spiritual thirst? Where does community come to play in that for you?

<![CDATA["Still I Rise" -- Remembering Maya Angelou]]>Sun, 01 Jun 2014 08:13:47 GMThttp://www.3rdspaces.com/the-sunday-blog/and-still-i-rise-remembering-maya-angelouI believe "Still I Rise" was in Angelou years before she wrote it. I believe it was deep inside of her when she was being sexually abused and when she stopped talking. I believe those words were somewhere within her when she was finding work as a single mother, when she was living in poverty, when she had days of feeling lost and hopeless.
Did you ever notice how tall Maya Angelou seemed to be? How it looked as if she towered others? How it felt like her words flew right above your head? 

I'm not sure how tall she was physically, but I am sure that when she stood straight, her head touched heaven. She was like a tree bringing forth fruit because waters came from the sanctuary; the fruit for food and the leaves for healing. (Ezekiel 47:12).

But her statue in this manner was not always the case. I recently read in a blog following Dr. Angelou's passing last week that, "born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, MI. in 1928, she would experience sexual abuse and rape at a young age. This subsequently led to her becoming mute for nearly five years. It was during her years of silence Angelou discovered her love for literature and the arts, immersing herself in the writings of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe.

At the age of 14, Angelou dropped out of school to take up writing while working a series of odd jobs. She would later return to school at 17 to earn her high school diploma just before giving birth to her son. Angelou’s second autobiography, Gather Together in My Name, recounts the struggles of being a single parent and the slide into poverty, which forced her to work as a Madame, restaurant cook and prostitute. It is no doubt that these unique experiences were the preface to what we now know as her iconic writings" (The Legacy of Maya Angelou).

Can you imagine having such a childhood and young adulthood, and becoming a woman of great stature? Perhaps you can. Perhaps this is reminiscence of your own story. Perhaps it reminds you of women we've read about some of the women in the Bible. 

Though last week's blog isn't the first I read of Angelou's story, it always blows me away to think of how far she had come. How determined she was to be fully present and alive as she grew into her true calling and nature. We may never know what someone has gone through to get to where they are. We cannot be so certain that our own life's story can't and won't get better. It reminds me of the popular quote, "What God has for me is for me."

When I was young, I was very quite and I was considered a slow learner. But, in church, preparing for our Black History Month programs, I memorized a number of poems for recitation. It was in college, however, that I found the words of Maya Angelou to strike my heart. There was a boldness in her writing that called me to it. As part of a drama organization on campus, I memorized "Still I Rise" and recited it at a few performances. 

I believe "Still I Rise" was in Angelou years before she wrote it. I believe it was deep inside of her when she was being sexually abused and when she stopped talking. I believe those words were somewhere within her when she was finding work as a single mother, when she was living in poverty, when she had days of feeling lost and hopeless. 

Sometime back when she was down, the words, "but still I rise," reverberated in your soul. There was a faith in her that would not shrink. And at some point later, the words to the poem, came flooding out of her onto the page and into countless others who needed to see and know, on a soul level, what it meant to rise higher to be who God created them to be. I  was one of those who found my third space in between the lines of that poem.   

May you know with conviction that, no matter what, with God, you will rise! 

You can read the powerful poem, "Still I Rise," here.
<![CDATA[Getting Ready to Go]]>Sun, 25 May 2014 11:20:52 GMThttp://www.3rdspaces.com/the-sunday-blog/getting-ready-to-go"I've learned from my domestic and international travels that it's best to pack light. If I can't carry it myself, then I have to make the decision of what goes and what stays. Same with life. Sometimes we need to 'pack light' even when we're staying in with a good book."
The other day, I was talking to an acquaintance who is also a very good listener. We've talked several times before in great depth but it was in the most recent conversation that she says to me, "You sound like a traveler."

I smile, thinking of all the trips I've taken and the ones yet to be planned, but I knew she was responding to me telling her that I don't know exactly where I'm going (professionally, relationally, etc.) and that I'm learning to enjoy the discovery. She adds, "I think you see life as a journey and you enjoy traveling it, while others may be more at peace by staying where they are."

I had never thought of it like that. It's true that I love to travel, literally. And, the truth is I am more at home as a traveler (also in my internal and spiritual life), though my first inclination was to disagree. Isn't it "wrong" to travel professionally, let alone spiritually? Doesn't that mean, if you're a traveler, that you're never satisfied (and isn't it somehow blasphemous to not be satisfied with God)? Shouldn't you just stay put and settle down, particularly after you reach adulthood? 

Much of our lives we try to fit in. To be accepted. To follow the norm. We all want to feel our place in our families, communities, churches. We were born for community. It is vital for our survival. But there comes a time in life, thankfully, when we realize that's just too much work to try to be accepted for someone we are not; and we realize we want to fit in more with ourselves. We become self-accepting -- our idiosyncrasies, our shadows, and all. 

So, instead of pushing away my friend’s discerning reflection, I found myself smiling and nodding, fully embracing that part of me that at times had me embarrassed: "Yes, I am a traveler." I exhaled deeply as if I was somehow making more room for myself in this world.

Being a "traveler" and accepting that doesn't mean I'm going to take a year to go backpacking (I'm not that kind of traveler) or that I don't love being home (which I do). But it does mean that a sense of clarity, purpose and acceptance allows everything else to line up. Example: I've stared cleaning out my closet. Something I've been thinking about for months, but it was my saying aloud and to somehow who was listening "I am a traveler" that sparked me into action. 

Sounds simple, right? Wrong! I keep everything in my closet and have more than enough clothes and shoes and handbags for one person. But who wants to travel through life with all that stuff? I've learned from my domestic and international travels that it's best to pack light. If I can't carry it myself, then I have to make the decision of what goes and what stays. Same with life. Sometimes we need to "pack light" even when we're staying in with a good book.

Whether you are a "traveler" or not, life requires us to move in some direction. In all directions, really. Travel lightly. Take only what is necessary. Only what is needed, what is beautiful or what is deeply meaningful. You will need the space for the surprises God has in store. The ones yet to be revealed. Now, let's get ready to go!

A Traveler 

<![CDATA[The Gift of No Agenda]]>Sun, 18 May 2014 04:22:32 GMThttp://www.3rdspaces.com/the-sunday-blog/the-gift-of-no-agendaPicture
Yesterday, I woke up and had nothing on my to-do list. It was the first Saturday in a while I didn't have anything "important" to do or anywhere to be. I stayed in bed passed 8:00 a.m., wondered how I was going to spend my day, prayed for direction.

A couple of hours later I decided to visit a craft exhibit in the town where I live. On the way, I noticed a police officer directing traffic for a different event at the botanical garden. I followed his direction and the other drivers, parked, and walked into a space I had always passed but never visited.

As I sat alone, under a tree (see picture), on a bench in the garden, with the sun on my face and the breeze against my cheek, I thought, "So, this is what God wanted me to do today. To come, find this third space, and just be. To let God love me in this way and for me to be still long enough to recognize and accept it."

Let's be honest, our days are filled to the limit with activity that it's hard to imagine having space for down time. It's just the way of life, right? There are meetings, errands, taking care of others, maybe exercising, and always work. Leisure time in our culture has been restricted to a one-week vacation maybe once a year. 

When I woke yesterday with no appointments on my calendar, I wondered if God would be pleased with me doing "nothing" all day. But, do we always have to be doing something in order to please God? Or better yet, is God more pleased with our works than our desire and effort to spend quality time developing and nurturing our spiritual self? I don't think so though the world does all it can to prove otherwise. 

Sitting in the garden, with no place to rush off to, no deadline to meet, was a gift I would have ignored if I was stuck on having an agenda. When we're busy being busy we miss the beauty of life that God wants to give us. We go around complaining about what's missing when really it's right in front of us…if only we take the time to open our mind. When we are focusing on our list we miss the Light. 

Pathmates, we have to remember what's important and take time to check our priority list, if we're going to check any list. If we don't, work and the illusions of life will become what's most important to us and our religion (relationship with God) will become secondary or nonexistent. 

The experience in the garden filled my heart more than what good work can and it was the perfect reminder of what's essential as spiritual beings on this journey as human beings -- our quality time with God. I did make it to the craft exhibit but it was hours after my time under the tree communing with the Creator. 

<![CDATA[A Little Piece of God]]>Sun, 11 May 2014 12:26:28 GMThttp://www.3rdspaces.com/the-sunday-blog/a-little-piece-of-god"...knowing the womb is the center of our creativity, it's hard to think that energy is only for birthing a child, only. Wait. The womb can be the holding and birthing place for a mission, passion, dream, right?!" 
About a year ago, I was seriously contemplating whether God's call on my life included motherhood. Seems my prayers focused on if I was to stay in the relationship I was in (he has children and doesn't want anymore), if I should freeze my eggs for the next "Mr. Right," or if I needed to accept at age 41 that biological children weren't in my future. 

That season was a heavy one. I think anytime that we can't see clearly, we can easily become consumed by doubt and darkness. We pour ourselves over scripture looking for clues. We lay prostrate under the sky as a sign of our desire to hear God clearly. We fast and we pray. Still, sometimes, there is silence. Or maybe crickets. The sound that nothing is coming and that this will be a long waiting period (like labor, perhaps?).

But when our "biological clock" is ticking, patience is an unheard of attribute. And the more impatient we are and the less rational we become, the more we "blame" and question God. 

We ponder, "Isn't this something God wants me to have clarity about? Surely, He/She doesn't want me to walk around here aimless!" Even if it's not about being a parent, I imagine you've shared these sentiments at some point, with something. I think questions like these are posted in neon color on some of the roadblocks we encounter on our journey.  

Thankfully, at those roadblocks are also friends waiting with a glass of water. I remember talking to one of mine about my desire for clarity on motherhood. I was confused and frustrated mostly by what seemed to be God's lack of concern about my situation. I was jumping up and down trying to get God's attention (and answer) and, out of breath, I simply said to my friend, "Where is God in all of this?"

Her answer surprised me, and I can still her the calmness and smile in her voice when she said, matter-of-factly, "God is right there. Right in your ovaries."

I had to sit with her words and find out what they meant to me in my time of discernment. An answer didn't come out of the sky about if and when I would become a Mom, but I embraced, on a fuller level that it is God who created my body -- biological clock and all -- and beautifully so. And just as there are seasons externally there are seasons internally. There's no judgment to that. It's just the way it is. It's a part of God's masterful design. 

The truth is, there is a little piece of God in each of us -- wombs included -- whether we have children or not; whether we have wanted children or not; planned to have children or not. Knowing the womb is the center of our creativity, it's hard to think that powerful, creative energy is only for birthing a child. 

Wait. The womb is also the holding and birthing place for a mission, passion, dream, right?! Nothing replaces a heartbeat and the love between a child and a parent, but there is also more ways to look at God's creativity. 

We will never know or understand all the answers to our life questions, but when we surrender knowing that God loves us and wants to give us the Kingdom, then we can truly say, "not my will but your will," without attachment. That's having faith -- trusting God when you don't have what you want or think you want. 

I may not experience a Mother's Day as someone's mother but I am thankful to know on this Mother's Day how deeply God loves me, even down to my ovaries and beyond. I'm also thankful for my own mother who loves me deeply, and for all the sisterly love I receive from so many on the path that gives me wind for my wings. We are called to love like mothers even if we do not have children -- to fully embrace and protect that which has been give to us be it our creativity, the planet, other's children...

The journey continues. The Love of God is our guide. 

<![CDATA[So Much Jesus Everywhere!]]>Mon, 05 May 2014 00:11:50 GMThttp://www.3rdspaces.com/the-sunday-blog/so-much-jesus-everywhereEvery first Sunday, we are honored to have a guest blogger. This month, Anne-Barton Carter is our feature. Her brief bio is below.  PicturePhoto credit: Rhett Power
The best Easter sermon I’ve ever heard arrived in the form of a Facebook post. A friend shared the wonder and excitement of an Easter morning through the eyes of her preschool daughter. The four year old perfectly summed up her delight in flower draped crosses and baskets of candy eggs and chocolate bunnies by exclaiming:  “So much Jesus everywhere!” Indeed, there is so much Jesus everywhere. So much promise fulfilled, so many miracles. What then keeps my eyes from recognizing Jesus?

On a recent trip to Panama, I found myself in a boat bumping along over the clearest water I’ve ever encountered. Below me lay hectares of various coral species, but to my great disappointment I could see no fish swimming in that tropical garden. After fumbling with the flippers and snorting salt water into the mask, though, I finally managed get a good look around. Immediately, I saw two iridescent fish the size of my arm. I’d barely registered them before an entire school of yellow and black striped sergeants parted to let me swim past. I even saw a barracuda (Caution: singing while snorkeling is ill-advised).

So much Jesus everywhere!

Later in the week, my alarm rang very early one morning. Very, very early. I followed my Panamanian guide (did I mention I don’t speak Spanish?) up a spiral staircase 40 meters into the air and found myself above the canopy of the rainforest. I saw miles of green treetops and very little else. With time, patience and lots of gesturing, however, amazing things materialized. There were entire flocks of brilliantly colored toucans (Yes, the Froot Loops bird!), woodpeckers, hummingbirds, even parakeets and parrots. IN THE WILD! There were even howler monkeys swinging from the branches.

So much Jesus everywhere!

I concede that vacation time and the luxury of an exotic locale made seeing all this wonder much easier. I arrived back in Greensboro, though, to a city that had bloomed in my absence. One glance at the new green leaves, the pinks and whites of azaleas and dogwoods, even the abundance of yellow pollen, reminded me that I needn’t look very far to experience awe for the magnificence of a living, breathing, ever-resurrecting creation.

So much Jesus everywhere!

It turns out that “not seeing” is less about what there is to see and more about what I expect to find. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I get too caught up in what I think is in front of me or what I expect to be in front of me to really give my full attention to seeing. Couple that with a lamentable tendency to be inwardly focused or rushing from one thing to another, and suddenly I’m blind to the nuance and subtleties, the multiple layers and stories that are awaiting discovery. My presuppositions, my distractions, my expectations all keep my eyes from recognizing what I see. I need to remember that it is entirely possible that’s not just a woefully uninformed traveler walking the road with me. It’s likely Jesus.

So much Jesus everywhere!

ANNE-BARTON CARTER holds a B.A. in Religion from the University of the South, an M.T.S. with a concentration in Ethics from Vanderbilt University Divinity School, and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Duke University.  Currently a partner with Healing Ground Retreat Ministry, Anne-Barton also teaches Servant Leadership in the middle school at Canterbury.

<![CDATA[I'm Beginning Again]]>Mon, 28 Apr 2014 02:42:49 GMThttp://www.3rdspaces.com/the-sunday-blog/im-beginning-againPicture
For two months I've been engaging in a writing prompt, "begin again," but not in the way you may imagine.

The first of this year I volunteered to lead an effort in the Triad area called One City One Prompt (OCOP). This global initiative to get folks talking, creating and sharing has been lead by the Transformative Language Arts Network. As a member, I brought it to my community, and week after week I've been working with groups to spark conversation and creativity on this year's OCOP theme -- "begin again."

Before getting started with the OCOP workshops in March, I shared with a childhood friend, with enthusiasm in my voice, what I was about to do. His response was a question: "What are you beginning again?" Silly question.

I told him that this wasn't about me but about getting others to think of their answer. Little did I know that with each session -- whether large or small, for women or both genders, old or young -- I would dig deeper within myself to discover how I might "begin again."

This asking everyone else and hearing their beautiful stories and reading their eloquent poetry and prose -- like the lady who wants to begin writing again after neglecting it after her divorce, the mom who wants to carve out more time for self-care again, the couple who is starting over after the loss of a child, the woman who wants to bring fire back into her marriage, the executive who has discovered the place forgiveness has in being a servant leader -- all had me pausing in a way I did not expect nor could continue to  ignore. 

After two months of listening, I could not sit in the role of "facilitator" and not take on the flavor of what I was witnessing. My friend's question, "What are you beginning again," kept coming to me. 

I think, when we feel our life is moving forward to whatever degree, we begin to think we don't need to begin again. We become complacent and comfortable. But the more we are silent and still and creative, the truth of our soul becomes clearer.

We hide behind fear and excuses and busyness but the truth is each day we are given the opportunity to "begin again." More than hearing my friend's question I could hear my adamant, defensive response. That was a trigger for me to sort through what I had been ignoring for years. I realized I was guilty of being comfortable. Stuck is another appropriate word.

This two-month OCOP series -- that fell during the Lenten season -- allowed me to find my way to my answer. And for me, it's a bold and risky answer. But beginning again is about that. I have seen in many ways that it's about  forgiveness of self and others. It's about cleaning of the slate, and I mean really cleaning it. It's about hope and faith. It's about having a vision and a dream. It's about believing that this time it will be different and it will be better. It requires not just saying these things to impress yourself but knowing and feeling them to be true. 

I thank God for this full and beautiful life. And I believe God is calling me to see and experience more, and in turn to give more ("to whom much is given, much is required"). Here I was thinking OCOP was for everyone else when truly it has been for me.

Here's a poem that I've written based on the prompt, "begin again."

Tears that once grayed
The cracked face
Present a mosaic

Around everyone stood, marveled
Its distinguished features
Attempted to interpret intentions

Everyone claimed a corner of the display 
Signed "anonymous"
Cracks hid beneath what the eyes could see

Broken pieces not fully fused
Beauty undefined and underestimated
The cost was too high to stay  

Then she turned her back 
Faced a haven miles away
Her waiting place

There she found the courage to look in 
Time touched her on the shoulder
Whispered when she least expected

"Let's begin again"

<![CDATA[The Cloth that Binds Us]]>Sun, 20 Apr 2014 10:56:40 GMThttp://www.3rdspaces.com/the-sunday-blog/the-cloth-that-binds-usPicture
Here we are, at Easter Sunday. The day we recognize the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. We have traveled through Lent, mourned during Holy Week, and we have come to this marvelous annual observance when we remember, repent, and give thanks for a savior that loves us more than we can imagine. 

As I reflect on scriptures and the story of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, there's a part that strikes me. Each year, there is something new that grabs my attention. This year, it's John's recording: "Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself." (John 20:6-7

How different the story would have been if Jesus, like Lazarus, needed help to be freed from his grave-clothes. What if Jesus got tied up trying to get free? The resurrection and the cloth being left shows that our hope is not lost and our God fulfills every promise. What a mysterious and mighty scene of Jesus conquering death.

We get tied up in our clothes, especially at that point of transformation. I don't mean literally but rather that we get caught up in our thoughts and false beliefs. In rituals that do not serve us. In fear and comfort. We get caught up in other folk's stories. We are like Lazarus and need help to be freed from the cloth that keep us bound. 

Jesus' resurrection is the pathway for our own. Not just after physical death but spiritual death. There is a way to bury that which wants to keep us bound in defeat, depression, and blindness, and Jesus points us in that direction. 

Yes, it is true, we must go down and under. We must let go of everything. We will feel like we are drowning, dying even, and in many ways we are. We must forgive and surrender. We must bare our souls. We must go deep within to find God there in order to come up. It's the only way. It's the divine nature of things.

As we reflect on the life, death, and risen life of Jesus, let's also celebrate that through the love of God we can experience the same. There is deliverance from that which we wear so closely we sometimes mistake it as truth. There is a way to become unbound from that which trips us. There is a way to our resurrection, today and when Christ comes again.