Fruits of the Spirt: Self-control

When I think about awakening joy, I must say, self-control is NOT the first thing I think about. In fact, it would be pretty far down the list. But James Baraz made me think of it differently.
The book I’ve been using for these messages, Awakening Joy, is mostly a book about mindfulness. “Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different, enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will), and being with the unpleasant without fear it will always be this way (which it won’t). With greater mindfulness, we become less reactive, more interested and more attuned to what’s really going on inside …. Mindfulness is really the art of appreciating the moment just as it is.” pg. 33
I think we all, adults, youth and children would all like to bring more joy into our lives. If you are and are ready to do something, just a little something about it, let’s begin:

Again, this is about setting an intention, which is simple but not necessarily easy. This is a nice visual exercise as well as one that helps all of us focus on moving from the negative to the positive, and it’s this easy:

On a piece of paper draw a line from top to bottom in the middle of the page. On the left side write the things that you don’t want in your life and on the right the things that you do want in your life for example:
Things I don’t want:
Being tired
Things I do want:
If you are working with a child, give them real examples from your own life, things that they would understand, so they know it’s ok to be honest and vulnerable. When you have completed you list/s draw a line that connects each negative to the positive. This is a skill that is worth developing, it helps us realize that we are not stuck in the negative and shows us a path to the positive. It also helps us learn to name what we are feeling…another thing many of us are not very good at.
The next step is to literally cut the two side apart. You keep the “do want” list. The “don’t want” list will be not just be let go of but DESTROYED! It could be eaten by a shredder, or if it works for your situation, you can burn them, or if neither of those is possible tear it up into tiny pieces and go outside hoop, holler, jump, stomp and let those negative things GO. Then start to work, with intention, on moving from the negative to the positive.

Small things done with great love.


Fruits of the Spirit: Peace

When I was a little girl peace meant the absence of war. As I got older, I learned that there are many ways people use and sometimes misuse the word peace. Peace means different things in different parts of the Bible too. Sometimes peace does mean the absence of war. Sometimes it means Shalom – peace as well as hello and good-bye. And, sometimes it means Eirene, which though it does mean peace is more like rest or tranquility. Let’s continue our discussion of mindfulness with an exercise to develop personal peace. Like the other exercises we have learned this one comes from Awakening Joy.

“During mindfulness sessions … the children lie on the floor wherever they wish.

I ask them to slowly relax and tune into their breathing.

I ask them to imagine a cute, cuddly puppy coming into the room.

I tell them that when they have wild and crazy energy, the puppy will get wild and

crazy too.

I ask them to relax enough that the puppy would come onto their laps.

They imagine the puppy’s soft fur and gentle breathing that we can feel in the puppy’s

tummy as the puppy calms down.

I tell them that like their minds, the puppy will wander off, and when they notice the

puppy off their laps, to gently bring him back with lots of love and compassion.

Finally, I say that the puppy might turn into an animal that they know, an animal they

love, or a forest creature, and encourage them to just bring the softness of the

concentration to that animal while they watch its breathing.”
Peace, like joy, is another thing we all want in our lives. Here is a simple way to find peace within, way to slow yourself down enough to be able to hear God and be in God’s Shalom.
Simple things, done with great love.


Fruits of the Spirit: Generosity

When we think about generosity we usually think about “things” today I’d like you to open  that definition up a bit. We also usually think about being generous with others, today I’d like you to open that up a bit too and include you being generous with yourself as well as others. 
James Baraz’ first chapter in Awakening Joy discusses the concept of setting a daily intention for yourself and your family. It’s a very simple concept, and far less intimidating than a lot of these sorts of things. It really and truly means just inclining your mind in a direction – no timetable, no agenda, you don’t have to feel like you let yourself down if it doesn’t happen – just try.  
For instance, let’s imagine your intention is to be happier. Apparently just saying to yourself, “I am going to be happier”, helps it happen! 
Here is the practice I want to share: imagine that your intention is indeed to let more happiness into your life, what are three things that would make you happy? Think of simple everyday things, this is not the time to set yourself up for disappointment.   

Then imagine a teacup. Then imagine three things that would fill that cup with happiness: 

  • A very long walk at sunrise 
  • Time to read for fun 
  • Talking with a friend 


Now here is the crazy part, have all of the members of your family do the same thing and share those teacup lists with each other. Maybe help your family members to realize their list and encourage them to help you realize your list. We all think we are good at telling other people what we need, but I bet none of us are. Here is a way to be generous with both yourself and your family members in a simple but deeply meaningful way, a way to awaken joy. 


Simple ideas done with great love.   


Pentecost: An Amazing Mystery!

Pentecost is so big, such an amazing mystery that I decided to devote the next several blogs to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was surprised to find that there is a controversy regarding how many fruits of the Spirit there are!
In Galatians 5 nine fruits are listed, though in many other places (primarily Catholic) there are 12, apparently there was a fairly heated debate back when the Vulgate Bible was translated and that’s when the protestants went with 9 and the Catholics 12. Everyone essentially agrees on the 9: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control though the Catholics define things differently and that seems to be where things get mixed up.

Not surprisingly I am going to start with Joy. Actually, with the practice of Awakening Joy in ourselves and in our children, many of theses ideas we have covered in the last several weeks but now we are going to take a slightly different approach and I will be referencing:

The concepts are really very simple. Adults for example are encouraged to take a couple of minutes (seriously, like 3), close your eyes and in your mind’s eye see something/someone for which you are grateful. The object of your gratitude doesn’t need to be anything huge, in fact probably the smaller the better – for instance like how good your coffee was this morning. Take those few minutes and truly appreciate it. Remember with your whole body how much you enjoyed that coffee and how grateful you are for the experience.
We are encouraged to actively teach our children the art of gratitude. Again, the activities are quite simple, such as taking some time dinner or before bed to talk about something/someone your child was truly grateful for that day. Help them think about they felt when they were realized they were grateful for that person, that experience or that thing; then help them savor that feeling again; help them deeply appreciate that for which they are grateful.

Simple things, done with great love and gratitude.


Faith at Home: Pentecost Edition

This week’s blog is brought to us by Traci Smith and her Faith at Home newsletter.
Traci explains in her article, Pentecost is a celebration of the Holy Spirit, a day we set aside to appreciate all the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Church that grew from that first experience. We don’t talk about the Holy Spirit nearly as much as the other two parts of the Trinity, I think because to our western, rational brains the Holy Spirit is a little too insubstantial a little too poetic. But anyone who has ever felt as strong gust of wind, you may not be able to see the wind, but you can most certainly feel it and see its effects – the Holy Spirit is like that.
I hope you enjoy her article as much as I did.