brian j plachta
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by brian j plachta on December 31st, 2020



“Look!” My son-in-law Kyle pointed toward the night sky. Joy splashed across his face. “Can you see it? It’s the Christmas Star.”

I gazed up at the heavens. There it was. Beaming big as life.

Kyle, the engineer in our family, told me about the science behind why the star is now appearing.

The Science

“Jupiter and Saturn are aligning. It’s known as the 'Great Conjunction.’ The two planets are so close in the night sky they appear as a single shining object. It’s also called the ‘Christmas Star’ because this alignment was probably the one the Wise Men saw two thousand years ago.”


A Spiritual Message?

“Wow! I wonder if beyond the science, there’s also a spiritual message,” I said. “It’s been an unprecedented year. Just like the chaotic times into which Jesus was born, we’re experiencing much social, political, and physical upheaval. Maybe God knows we need a sign of hope, and he’s saying something to us. What do you think his message might be?”


Do You See as I See?


The words from the Christmas song, Do You See What I See? played in my head.

They rose up in me like the soft flutter of a flute. But there was a twist to the words as I held them in my imagination.

Through the brilliance of the starlight, I imagined God was singing to all of us, Do you see as I see? Can you see the world through my eyes? The words danced in my heart.


The Invitation

Maybe that’s the message—the invitation.

For the wise men to follow the star to Bethlehem, they had to read the signs of the times. They had to connect the physical world with the spiritual world. They pieced together in faith what God had promised in scripture. They believed the star would lead them to the Savior.

And so they journeyed, and the star led them. The physical world connected to the spiritual world that drew them. They had inner vision to see the world through God’s eyes.

Like the wise men, we also live in a three-dimensional world: physical, relational, and spiritual.  And perhaps we’re being called by God to let the Christmas Star lead us and awaken us to a deeper understanding about life.


The Interior Castle

Saint Teresa of Avila, in her classic 14th century book, The Interior Castle, wrote about how God led her soul up a staircase of faith through the rooms of an imagined castle. Each room represented a deeper level of spiritual growth and understanding.

As she climbed the steps into each room, she progressed to new levels of consciousness. Through each of the stages of spiritual growth, she awakened to self-knowledge, humility, and detachment, and ultimately experienced union with God.

Her description of how we move through unique levels of spiritual growth is an invitation for us to see as God sees.


A Glass Elevator

I like to imagine the levels of spiritual growth like riding a glass elevator through three floors: the street, balcony, and rooftop.


Street Life—The Physical World


At the street level, we experience the world through our senses. We touch material reality through our skin. We see life through our physical eyes. We recognize the ability to see, taste, touch, smell, and hear are gifts.

But, far too often we’re bombarded with news and information that attempts to inform and influence our perspective about politics, human suffering, and triumph. We get stuck in the material world and seek deeper levels of pleasure to crowd out the street level noise of confusion and negativity.

At the street level, we try to understand the meaning of life only through the lens of science and our intellect. Technology becomes our savior. Survival becomes our battle cry. Politics becomes our new religion.

There’s nothing wrong with living at the street level. It’s an integral part of being fully human. But, it’s only one part, and by itself, it doesn’t connect us with our souls.

Like Teresa of Avila, we’re drawn inward to discover if there’s more to life than the physical world, and so we move to the second level of spiritual awakening: the balcony.

The Balcony—Sipping Tea with the Creator

From our spiritual balconies, we view the world and ourselves from a higher perspective. We desire to integrate our physical and spiritual worlds. Our attempts to think our way to God have floundered. We now want to experience God in tangible ways like we do with loved ones.

On the balcony, we pull up a seat each day and sip tea with the Creator. We may hear the Creator whisper, “I’ve been waiting for you. I’m glad you’re here.” And we might respond, “Me too.”

Meditation, nature walks, spiritual reading, and quiet times with God become the spiritual foods we feast upon. They feed our souls. They deepen our unique connection and experience of the One who loves us and wants what’s best for us.

We might develop nicknames for God as our relationship with the Divine grows more familiar. We recognize God knows us better than we know ourselves. And so, like wise men and women, we seek Him.

Even the suffering we experience becomes our Teacher as we ponder the world through our spiritual lens.


On the balcony, we move into our heart space. Like Saint Teresa and the Magi, we hear God speak to us in ways that surpass human understanding. We experience our lives through our Spirits. We progress into deeper levels of awareness. We taste the fruits of inner peace and wholeness.


Up on the Roof


Have you ever stood on the rooftop of a tall building? Gazing at heaven and the stars, your body surges with gentle waves of awe and wonder. Looking down at the streetscape far below. The magic of people and lights fill you with mystery. Where are the people going?  What are they doing?  

And something deep within you touches your heart like a gentle stroke from the Divine Artist’s paintbrush. In that moment, you sense you’re One with the heavens and all of creation. You can’t put words to it, nor do you need to. You’re simply connected with something beyond your human understanding, and you know beyond a doubt you are One with God.

That experience of life on the rooftop, of being One with the Source of our Being, is what I bet the Magi and Teresa of Avila experienced.  It’s also the nameless something I experienced that night gazing at the Christmas Star with Kyle.

Those rooftop moments are fleeting, yet they are real—and the memory of them stay with us forever. They are the moments we cannot explain with words, but that we feel deep within our beings.

God’s invitation is to know we are One with Divine Love always and forever. We simply need to open our hearts and let the Star lead us.  

In those moments, we see as God sees.



The Promise is Real



Like the wise men whom God promised the star, Christ promised us we could see with the eyes of God. He said, “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” (Matt: 13:9-16).

Maybe the Christmas Star is a reminder of God’s promise to us. It’s an invitation to stop and listen—to see as God sees.


How about you?  Do you see as God sees?


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net


by brian j plachta on December 27th, 2020



Who would have guessed when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2020, we were in for the upside down ride of a global pandemic?

Had we known what was coming, we might have jumped back into bed, hid beneath the covers, and whispered, “Wake me up when it’s all over.”

Fast forward. We now stand at the threshold of a new year.

Whether you’ve suffered from COVID, lost loved ones, experienced financial setbacks or endured the 2020 ride with minor scrapes and bruises, we can proclaim together, “We’ve survived.” Our resilient spirits have endured a great trial, and with the grace of God, we now have a vaccine being brought to us at warp speed.

A Pot of Wisdom


Whenever I pulled through a rough time, my Irish mother would ask me to look into my rear view mirror and ponder what I’d learned. Mom said that by looking back over our lives, we can discover what we’re made of—what life has taught us—so we can move forward with greater insight and courage.

“Like a pot of hearty Irish stew,” she said, “when we savor the morsels of meat and potatoes life has served us, we find out who we are. We gain wisdom.”

Spiritual Food for the Journey


In light of Mom’s sage advice, I asked people on social media to share their response to this question: “What wisdom did you learn in 2020?”

Here’s a smattering of what people said:

•To rely on my faith in God even more.
•Money can’t buy health, happiness or love.
•Only God can fully love and protect me. Thank you, God.
•Life is much like an obstacle course race. Sometimes you need a boost from others to get over an obstacle, and you’ll never make progress if you don’t accept help.
•Sometimes you gotta jump in the mud even if it wrecks your shoes. And when you’re tired and out of breath, you gotta put on some good music, keep your willpower up, and push through the pain.
•Love—when we give it a chance—is ready to make all things new.
•Fear melts when I seek calm and silence.
•There’s something good in every situation.
•That in which I place my trust is not a thing.
•I’ve learned not to be judgmental of those around me—walk in another's shoes before I criticize.
•This year, so many people chose God, their families, country, and communities that it gave me hope—and proved love can prevail.
•Control is the grandest of all illusions.
•Looking back is a great idea—unless you’re driving a motor vehicle.  
The Inner Light of Love

As I seek my own answer to the question I posed, I’m reminded of the story of the Siberian Husky, Balto.

In 1925, during an outbreak of the diphtheria pandemic, Balto led a team of Alaskan sled dogs through a blinding blizzard 800 miles from Anchorage to Nome to bring the villagers a vaccine that stopped the spread of the disease. Balto’s courage and determination in the face of deadly odds brought the “good medicine” that saved the villagers’ lives.

In the song, Reach for the Light, Steve Windwood captured Balto’s spirit with these words:

Reach for the light
You might touch the sky
Stand on the mountaintop
And see yourself flying
Reach for the light
To capture a star
Come out of the darkness
And find out who you are

Somewhere in you
There's a power with no name
It can rise to meet the moment
And burn like a flame
And you can be stronger
Than anything you know
Hold on to what you see
Don't let it go
Don't you let it go



Reach for the Light


This year, scientists, business owners, politicians, and health care workers rallied for the common good. Like Balto, they pushed hard, searched for the light, and are now bringing the good medicine we need to put an end to this pandemic.

But “good medicine” is more than a drug, writes Native American Jamie Sams in her book, Medicine Cards. Jamie teaches that good medicine is anything that improves our connection with the Great Mystery and brings healing to the Earth Mother and to all God’s creation.

In other words, good medicine is the healing power of love—the divine light within us. The Creator has placed within our hearts the good medicine of healing love. It’s the “power with no name” Steve Windwood sings about in his song.

Like Balto, we’ve had to dig deep this year, push through the blinding darkness of fear and suffering, and embrace our inner light.  

There we found dwelling within our hearts the healing power of the love that sustains us. As we found that light burning like a flame, we shared it with others so their lights could burn brightly too.

We don’t know what 2021 will bring.

But we do know, we can reach for the Light to find the good medicine of healing love within us.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Light burns in our hearts like a flame. And as we lean into its Divine Love, we rise to meet each moment. We’re stronger than anything we know. We hold onto the Light that shines in the darkness.

Reach for the Light—the Inner Light of Love.

Don’t let it go.




Spiritual Practice

Find a quiet place to sit.  

Click on this link to the song, Reach for the Light.

Listen.

Ponder: What wisdom did you learn in 2020? How will carry that wisdom into 2021?



—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net



by brian j plachta on December 18th, 2020


“We won’t be home for the holiday,” my daughter said. Her voice quivered with sadness. “It’s too risky with COVID. We don’t want to infect you and Mom.”

Her words shot like a dagger into my heart.

Pushing past the gulp in my throat, I responded, “How about we do a Zoom call, so we can still be together?”

“That sounds great, Dad. I love you.”

“I love you too, sweetie.”

In one way or another, we’re all feeling a sense of loss this year. COVID is the Grinch that threatens to steal Christmas. But can it?  Can the COVID-Grinch steal Christmas?


I wonder how the Whos in Whoville did it? How did they rise Christmas morning, see the presents stolen from underneath their trees, and when the village bells rang, gather round to sing songs of love and light?


Fah-who foris, dah-who doris, welcome Christmas, bring your light.
Fah-who foris, dah-who doris, welcome in the cold at night!
Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand!


They must have pierced the darkness to discover the Light. They must have experienced what God promised in the Gospel of John: the light shines in the darkness and the darkness can‘t overcome it.

This Christmas, you and I are faced with a choice. Will we let the COVID-Grinch steal our Christmas? Will we let the losses we’ve experienced push us back into our homes and huddle with fear, anger, and disappointment, or will we muster the inner strength to discover the true spirit of Christmas—love?

The Light still shines in the darkness, even this year. We might have to look through tired eyes and wearied hearts, but if we look deep enough, we’ll see eternal love twinkling.

The Spirit of Christmas is alive and well. You can see it through the hands of health care workers risking their lives to serve and heal those stricken with COVID. It sparkles with an outpouring of compassion and encouragement to those who’ve lost loved ones.  It’s in the bond of families who don’t care so much about material presents, but realize the true gift is in the Presence of each other, whether face-to-face or via Zoom. And you see divine hope in the men and women who raced with warp speed to develop a vaccine.

I will not let COVID steal Christmas from my heart this year. I will dig deep to find the courage within me, light the candle in my heart, and continue to believe God is with us. He always has been and always will be.

Like the villagers in Whoville, when the bells ring on Christmas morning,  I will rise and sing songs of hope as this year teaches me lessons of love.

Will you join me? Will you dig deep and ask for the grace to see beyond our losses and let your Light bring hope to a world hungering for true love?  

You are the Light. I am the Light. And when we join our lights, the world becomes a brighter place.

There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love.

And even the COVID-Grinch can’t steal Christmas because love endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7)—and long after this year’s Grinch has been remanded to the history books, Christmas will still continue to thrive.

The Spirit of Love always wins.

    —brian j plachta
Merry Christmas.  


by brian j plachta on December 5th, 2020



“How many days until Christmas?” I asked Mom as I stared at the gifts underneath the Christmas tree.

“It’s already here,” Mom replied.

“Goodie! We can open  presents!”

You are the present,
” she declared as her face lit up with a warm grin. “Christ has already come into the world and placed the gift of Divine love in you, in me, and in each of us. We celebrate Christmas as a reminder that God continues to birth compassion into the universe through our very lives.”

I didn’t understand what Mom meant back then. I was ten years old, and just wanted to open presents. But as I matured, her wisdom revealed itself through these words of Meister Eckhart, a Dominican friar born in 1260:

“What good is it for me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God 1400 years ago and I don't give birth to God's son in my person and my culture and my times?”


It’s time to embrace this truth: we are the incarnation of Christ. We have been gifted with the DNA of divine love so we can birth compassion into the world through our hands and feet—our lives. Like Mary, we are pregnant with God, filled with the Holy Spirit.  



To be “full of grace” is to give birth to God’s unconditional love and power, to know we don’t have to be perfect, and to realize our imperfections are part of the heavenly plan that molds our human hearts into sacred hearts.


Christmas is a time to reclaim ourselves as God’s gift to a world that waits for us to be light bearers through our daily words and actions.


It’s often easy for us to see God in others—the poor and downtrodden. Yet we get uneasy when we focus on the divine spark in ourselves. It seems sacrilegious to say, “I am the light of Christ.” But that’s who we are—we are made in the image and likeness of God, called to bring peace, love, and joy into an unfolding universe.


Until we claim Divine Presence in ourselves, we have difficulty seeing it in others. Rather than working on fixing our self-esteem that ebbs and flows like ocean waves, maybe it’s time to focus on letting God continually birth the Great Self that dwells within us. As St. Teresa of Avila says, “Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon God in yourself.”


This Christmas season I want something deeper than pausing for a day to open gifts and thinking “Hooray, Jesus was born this day!”—and then after the holidays going back to the world of making money. I want to live into the reality of  how my own humble labors can give birth to divine compassion.


Perhaps living each day letting the grace of God’s unconditional love flow in and through us is what Mom and Eckhart mean when they talk about giving “birth to God’s son in my person and my culture and my times.”


Maybe we are pregnant with God, and if so, we are part of the second coming of Christ.



—brian j plachta
brianplachta. net




by brian j plachta on November 27th, 2020


Don’t push the river. Let the river flow,” Gloria said. She was twisted pretzel-like in her wheelchair—hands, arms, and legs crippled with cerebral palsy. Her frail frame wrapped itself around a forty-three-year-old soul—one filled with a lifetime of wisdom—the kind that comes from great suffering transformed by Divine Love.

Gloria was part of a hospice support group I attended when I was thirty. Like me, Gloria had lost a parent when she was a child. As I listened, her words spoon-fed my tired soul.

When we are born, we have a child-like innocence,” Gloria told the group of ten who’d gathered for our weekly support meeting. “We have a perfect relationship with God. We experience being loved unconditionally by our Maker. But as we grow into adulthood, our relationship with the Creator gets clogged. Fear, self-doubt, and the daily struggles of life choke off our connection with the One who made us and wants what’s best for us. If we don’t clear the blockage, life can become unmanageable. We get confused. Anxious. Overwhelmed.”

Gloria directed her eyes toward me. “Is there a time in your past when your life flowed naturally like a gentle river---when you had a sense of being connected, safe, and whole?”

I paused and pondered. As the group waited in silence, a childhood memory appeared—one of me as a five-year-old unclogging leaves in the street gutter after a rainstorm. For an instant, I was a kid again. As the memory flooded my imagination, I felt whole. Safe. Peaceful. One with myself and the Creator. A smile blushed my time-worn face. My heart softened. My lungs opened wide, tasting fresh air.

As I closed my eyes and savored the moment, my heart pleaded to the God I’d forgotten, “Let my life flow again.”

That meeting with Gloria was the beginning of my journey to rediscover the child-like flow I’d lost as an adult. From that point on, I paid attention to flow. I studied it. I named it as such when I experienced it. When I was out of the flow, pushing the river or lost in life’s whirlpools, I increased times of solitude to shake off the world and unclog the connection between myself and God.

Several months after meeting Gloria, I entered a spiritual direction training program. As part of the coursework to become a spiritual director, we studied a bunch of saints and spiritual masters, including Saint Benedict.

Benedict, a fifth-century monk who started the first monastery, wanted to give his monks a template for finding balance between daily work and prayer (ora et labora). He called it a Rule of Life. The monks had to create an individual Rule that became their guiding principle, a framework for finding inner peace and balance in their daily lives. Today, we might call it a personal mission statement.

As part of our three years of spiritual direction classes, we were tasked with the assignment to create our Rule of Life. As I pondered, I looked to the spiritual giants we studied. I noted how each man and woman—Saint Benedict, Saint Francis, Julian of Norwich, Saint Teresa of Avila, Jesus, and others—had four common lifestyle practices that shaped their lives.

First, they took daily time for solitude, to be alone with God—time to meditate and listen for the Whisper of the Holy Spirit.

Second, they read the scriptures and writings of spiritual masters to gain insight and learn wisdom.

Third, they surrounded themselves with people who inspired them to grow, people who encouraged them to take another step outside of their comfort zone.

Finally, they did the inner work necessary to discover their unique talents and gifts, to figure out what made them come alive. They then used those talents in life-giving ways for themselves and others.

I shaped my Rule of Life around the ancient wisdom of Benedict and the other spiritual masters. The following became my Rule, the guiding principles I rely upon to seek inner peace, balance, and wholeness:


Solitude—taking quiet time each day to connect with my inner self and God


Spiritual reading—studying the writings of others further along on the spiritual journey to discover the wisdom and guidance they offer


Community
—surrounding myself with people who inspire and nudge me to grow


Contemplative action—taking a spiritual gifts inventory and doing the inner work to discover my unique talents and gifts and then using them in life-giving ways for myself and others.


I call the above Rule of Life Finding Flow. I define flow as being one with the Divine Spirit who opens our hearts, allowing us to experience inner peace, balance, and wholeness.


The above four spiritual practices are tools that help us stay in Divine Flow. When we pattern our lives around them, we rediscover and reclaim that child-like flow we often lose as adults.

If you’re looking for a life-rhythm—a lifestyle that offers more balance, peace, and wholeness, consider adopting these spiritual practices. Think of them as exercise for your soul—a way of finding Divine Flow.



—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net

PS---the above reflection is an excerpt from the book I’m writing for Paulist Press, titled, Finding Flow—Doable Spiritual Practices to Reclaim Inner Peace, Balance, and Wholeness. Look for it in Fall 2021.






by brian j plachta on November 22nd, 2020


“These are chaotic times,” my friend, Chris, texted the other day. “The COVID surge is affecting friends and families beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. A cloud of doom hovers over us as anxiety, fear, and hopelessness darken daily life. Is there a way to find comfort in this global pandemic?”


I put down my cell phone, closed my eyes, and searched for an answer to Chris’ question.


“Have you heard of Julian of Norwich?” I texted back after several moments. Lady Julian—as she’s often called—was on my mind after an online workshop I’d attended that week.


“Who’s she?” Chris responded.


“I learned about her at a workshop. Some call her the patron saint of pandemics.”


We continued texting, sharing tidbits about Julian’s life and timeless wisdom.


The Patron Saint of Pandemics



Julian of Norwich was an English mystic who lived in the fourteenth century during the time of the bubonic plague—a viral pandemic that killed 50-200 million people. Often called the black plague, the virus wiped out sixty percent of Europe’s population. It’s regarded as the greatest catastrophe in recorded history.


Little is known about Julian’s personal life. Some speculate she was married, and her husband and children died from the virus. At age thirty, Julian also contracted the disease. On her death bed, staring at a crucifix held by the priest giving her last rites, she experienced sixteen spiritual visions.


After a miraculous recovery, Julian moved into a room adjacent to a local church and became a hermit, devoting her life to prayer and spiritual counseling with those who sought her wisdom. Because of her steadfast devotion to God in the midst of unimaginable adversity, many look to Julian as the patron saint of pandemics.


All is Well. All Shall Be Well.


Julian recorded her visions in the book, Revelations of Divine Love. Her most quoted words, I told Chris, spoke powerfully: “All shall be well and all manner of things will be well...for there is a force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go."


“The words are comforting,” Chris texted back. “But, on a practical level, to believe ‘all will be well’ flies in the face of reality, given the devastation and despair all around us.”


“You’re right. Like Julian, we’re in unchartered waters, for sure. I also struggle to keep a positive attitude. But, I wonder if Julian’s words might comfort us in two important ways?”


We’re Loved. We’re Safe.



“From a spiritual perspective, all is well, since we’re in a divine relationship with God, who loves, guides, and protects us. The Creator comforts and walks alongside us through our joys and sorrows. If the worst happens—we contract COVID and die—we’ll journey to the Other Side and spend eternity in heavenly bliss.


“Physically, all is well too—at least in our corner of the world. You and I have enough food, shelter, and people who love us and whom we love. Our basic survival needs are met. We’re safe. And as we move beyond fear and embrace the truth that we are loved unconditionally, we become the compassion of Christ so we can encourage and support others who are suffering and afraid.”


I didn’t hear from Chris for several hours. Later, he texted these words:


“Life’s a mixture of suffering and joy, and everything in between. I can’t deny the suffering of this pandemic, but I refuse to let fear overtake me. Like Julian, who endured horrific loss and pain and turned to God as the source of her strength and hope, I turn to the Source of my Being and proclaim, ‘I am safe. I am loved. All is well. All shall be well.’”


Tears rolled down my cheeks as I read Chris’ words. He and Julian became my teachers with their words of comfort and hope.


There’s no denying these are tough times. But as we lean into God, we discover we’re stronger than we imagined. Our faith and love deepen.





What words from Julian and Chris speak to you? Where do you find hope and comfort in the midst of this pandemic? Can you proclaim, “All is well. All shall be well.”



—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net

by brian j plachta on November 6th, 2020


 
“I tried for years to flip off the negative-attitude switch and click on joy,” my friend Paul told me. “I read books and memorized scripture passages about the joy of the Lord. I even posted a choose joy sticker on my refrigerator. But it wasn’t until I practiced gratitude I finally experienced joy.”
 


“How do you practice gratitude?” I asked.
 


“Every morning before I get out of bed, I cocoon in my  sheets for five minutes or so and bring to mind at least three things for which I’m  grateful.” His smile sparkled. “I call it my ‘gift of gratitude’ ritual.”






 
“Looks like it’s working.”

 


“I list the things I’m grateful for—such as the simple fact I woke up that morning, or the gift of my spouse, children, and friends. Gratitude for God and faith are often on my list as I greet the morning.” Paul chuckled. “This simple practice jumpstarts my day better than morning coffee.”

 






Brother David Steindl-Rast, in Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer—An Approach to Life in Fullness, says that joy is the offspring of gratitude. Practicing gratefulness is our raison d’etre. Like a bell is made for ringing, our human hearts are made for praising and blessing everything with which we’ve been gifted. He writes, “Suddenly everything is simple. What brings fulfillment is gratefulness, the simple response of our heart to this given life in all its fullness.”
 



Maybe Paul and Brother David are onto something. Inspired by them, I began an attitude of gratitude ritual the next morning.
 



As I snuggled in my bedsheets on that wintry November dawn, I was thankful for my dad, who fought in World War II, and all the other veterans and military men and women who’ve served and continue to preserve our country’s freedom. I put health on my mental gratitude list, and my wife, children, grandchildren, and friends. God’s continued guidance and faithfulness rounded out the list.


 




Now each morning when my alarm rings, rather than grumbling, “Ugh. Is it really morning?” or jumping out of bed in a cold panic, I give myself the gift of five minutes to practice gratitude.
 



During the day when life’s challenges try to rechain my heart to negativity, I return to my gratitude list and feel the glowing ember of joy rekindle in my soul.  
 




Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is good medicine for our souls. It focuses our thoughts away from the negative brain drain that crowds out joy. It’s like celebrating Thanksgiving all year round.
 



Tomorrow morning before you get out of bed, give yourself the gift of five minutes to snuggle in your sheets and make a mental gratitude list. As the day ages and drains your energy, pause and bring to mind what you’re grateful for. At the dinner table, share your gratitude list with loved ones and invite them to name the things they’re grateful for also.
 


Then pay attention and watch as joy takes root in your heart.



 



Give yourself the gift of daily gratitude. It nurtures boundless joy.
 
 


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net





 
 
 

 _______________________________________________________
 
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by brian j plachta on October 31st, 2020


"What's that cedar box in your living room?" I asked my aunt.

"It's my hope chest," Auntie responded. Her eyes lifted, filled with memories. "I store all my pretties in it—Grandma's sterling silver, Grandpa's wool blankets, and photo albums of loved ones."

Come to think of it, my dad had a special box too. It was his toolbox. He filled it with handy screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, and wrenches. And as a child, I had a toybox where I stored my baseball mitts, Tonka trucks, and Raggedy Andy.

Each of these vessels contain treasures. We place in them the things we cherish. Their touch, smell, and images bring inner peace. Comfort.


Our Spiritual Vessels


It's the same with our spiritual lives. Our hearts are the unique vessels God has gifted us to store life-giving memories, images, hopes, and dreams.

What we place in our hearts shapes and forms us. They become an inner guide.

And we get to choose what goes into them.


It's All About the Image


According to an article in the online magazine, Imonomy, our image of ourselves, God, and other people greatly affects our identities and belief systems. Because we retain the memory of pictures and metaphors for long periods of time, these images shape and mold us, from the choices we make every day to the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.

It's important to step back and look at what we place in our hearts so we can hold onto the life-giving images, and replace those harmful to inner peace and growth.


Spiritual Toolboxes


In my book, Life's Toolbox—Blueprints Included, I describe some of the spiritual tools necessary to maneuver the ups and downs of life. They include:

Our Image of God. What image of the Creator do you carry in your heart? Is your picture one of love or fear? Is God a friend, a judge, or someone else for you? If your heart were a treasure chest, what picture of the Creator would you like to store there?

The Image of Ourselves. What's your image of your authentic self? What would you like it to be? How does the inner photograph of yourself impact how you live?

•The Gift You Give Yourself.  What do you place in your life's toolbox to recharge? Do you allow yourself the gift of daily solitude to be alone with the Creator? The Divine Spirit desires to guide you and wants what’s best for you. How does the gift of quiet time each day center and ground you in God?

•Books. What books do you place in your hope chest?  Which ones do you read to inspire you, provide new insights, and lead you toward inner peace and wholeness?

•Heroes. Who are the men and women you look up to, those you treasure in your heart? What values do they model for you? How do you integrate those virtues into your life? Is there a mentor, spiritual friend, or soulmate you hold dear who nudges you to grow? If not, can you seek one?

Our hearts and souls are the precious gifts God has given us to store spiritual treasures and claim the lives we and the Creator imagine for us—lives filled with joy, passion, love, and inner peace. As we choose and cherish life-giving tools for the journey, we gain wisdom. We learn how to navigate this thing called life.

What tools are in your Life's Spiritual Toolbox? What images, daily practices, and people strengthen and deepen your relationship with God and your authentic self?

Fill your life with the spiritual tools that inspire you to grow, and see how inner peace, balance, and wholeness flow like Divine Water within your heart.

PS:  If you'd like to discover more spiritual tools for your life's journey, click on the link below to get a free e-copy of Life's Toolbox. You'll also receive the weekly Simple Wisdom for Everyday Living reflection in your email box each Monday.

Claim my Free Book.  


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net








 



by brian j plachta on October 24th, 2020


I’m going to be straight up honest with you. I’m scared—a lot.


I’m scared of roller coasters, bears, being late for work, criticism, crashing my car, loved ones dying, pandemics, getting cancer, having a heart attack, shark attacks, screwing up, and mean people. Just to name a few.


Sometimes what scares me most is being who I am—embracing my gifts, accepting my good and not-so-good qualities, letting myself be loved as I am by God.



I wish I had more courage. Not the “No fear” bumper sticker kind of courage. But true courage—the kind that acknowledges fear, but doesn’t let it cripple me; the kind of courage that lets me do what I have to do even though I’m afraid. If I had more courage, maybe those sunami waves of fear and anxiety that crash and roll inside me wouldn’t knock me over as I surf through daily life.


What’s Courage?


Merriam-Webster says courage is the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.


Mary Anne Radmacher puts it this way: “Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.”


I’d like to experience true courage the bulk of the time. I’d like to be willing to face life courageously with all its ups and downs and be the Light that Christ says we are.





Tapping Into the Inner Source of Courage


So how do we get there? How do we gain the courage the cowardly lion sought in the Wizard of Oz?


Luke Healy from Integral Christian Network says we can’t think our way to courage. We can’t flip a switch in our minds to move instantly from fear and anxiousness to inner bravery.


Instead, we have to have go deeper. We have to tap into our inner source of courage, which means learning how to embody courage.




It’s a Gut Thing




Courage is located deep within our guts, Healy suggests. It’s connected to vitality—the power to live and grow. When filled with vitality, we radiate with strength and energy. We receive a “jolt of life deep within.”


This vital courage, when physically tapped into, becomes etched within our muscle fibers. It penetrates our cells, lines our stomach walls, and our bodies remember its divine essence.


Courage becomes our natural state of being. Our sacred bellies become a place we can return to whenever we need to feel the inner courage with which the Creator has gifted us.


Practicing Spiritual Courage


We can practice courage by experiencing it deep within our muscles and bones, like spiritual muscle memory
. According to Popular Science magazine, muscle memory is real. It’s the memory stored in our muscles that lets us perform an action without our really being aware of it.


Like muscles, our souls have a spiritual memory. With practice and repetition, our spirits remember what it feels like to feel courage and other positive virtues so we can call upon them naturally as needed. By embodying courage, we embrace its power. We claim God’s spirit of divine love to be who we are. We experience and remember courage on the inside.


One pathway to experience inner courage is to open ourselves to God in times of quiet meditation, where we invite the Spirit to fill us with spiritual courage in every part of our Being.


Here’s some simple steps you can practice to touch and experience the depths of courage within you.


· Sit in a quiet place

· Close your eyes

· Place your feet flat on the ground or floor

· Take a few deep breaths

· Relax your body

· Be aware of God’s Divine Presence

· Feel the Creator’s unconditional love in and around you

· Wiggle your toes and draw your attention to your feet

· Feel the strength and stability of the earth beneath you

· Be grounded in God

· Notice the vital energy that flows up into your body from the ground

· Imagine your feet have roots like a tree diving deep into the soil

· Draw energy into your feet, up into your legs, and into your stomach

· Bring your attention to your stomach

· Place your hands on your belly

· Feel the energy flowing from your feet into your gut

· Notice what that radiance feels like, then savor it, rest in it

· Invite God to fill you with the courage to be yourself—here and now, as you are

· Let spiritual courage fill your stomach with God’s strength

· This is your core, your authentic self. You are held by God in the depths of your stomach with divine love and empowerment

· When you’re ready, bring yourself back to where you’re sitting. Feel your body. Open your eyes.

Enjoy the gift of God’s divine courage within you.


Courage Boosts


You can come back to this practice for a few short minutes anytime during the day when you need a courage boost.


Simply stop for a moment, focus on your feet, and then draw the energy into your stomach. Placing your hands on your tummy, rest in the divine courage—the courage to be who you are—that God has placed there within you.


Guided Meditation


You can also click on the link below to listen to a 14-minute guided meditation I’ve prepared for you.

 Guided Meditation—the courage to be yourself:



Let yourself practice and experience the spiritual courage to be yourself.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net







by brian j plachta on October 17th, 2020

“Linda’s favorite t-shirt had the word nescio printed in bold letters,” Father Tom said at Linda’s funeral. “When people asked what nescio meant, she replied, ‘I don’t know.’  The acquaintance would then cock their head and ask why she’d wear something if she didn’t know its meaning. Linda would respond, ‘I don’t know.’ Eventually, she’d tell the person she was joking—it was actually a Latin word that meant ‘I don’t know.’”

That’s how Linda lived her life, Father Tom continued. She was open to surprise, awed by wonder. She didn’t try to fit God or people into neat intellectual boxes. She wasn’t trapped by not knowing. To her, life was Divine Mystery.

And rather than being overwhelmed by life’s uncertainty or trying to figure everything out intellectually, Linda had another Latin word she lived by: fiducia. Trust.

Linda trusted she was God’s bride, and he was her bridegroom. They had an intimate relationship. She trusted God more than anything else. She also trusted herself as she listened and followed divine guidance. The word fiducia captured the essence of their spiritual love affair.

As Father Tom spoke, I wondered what it would be like to see the world as Divine Mystery. Would I stop trying to figure everything out, including myself, and simply open my heart to receive the Creator’s unconditional love in all the amazing ways he shows up each day? The morning sunrise, the first cup of steaming coffee, the kiss on my wife’s cheek—all of these are the mystery of Divine Love made real. Tangible.

I don’t know, and I trust. Could that become the motto that calms my endless search for answers? Would that trust help me live life’s mystery, knowing we are guided by the Divine Hand?

Trusting the Three Faces of God


Paul Smith, in Integral Christianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve, suggests God has three faces, each of which we can learn to trust and understand as we dive deeper into our relationship with the Divine Lover.

The Intimate Face of God.

 This dimension of God is the Creator, our companion who walks alongside us through life shoulder-to-shoulder. “This God comes to us like a close and caring parent, Abba mommy-daddy,” Smith writes. We find this face of God in our hearts as we experience the radiant love planted there. We come to understand the Creator of the Universe is as close to us as our heartbeat, ready to embrace and guide us on life’s pathway.

The Inner Face of God.

This face of God points to the incarnation of divine love in the world through us. We are not God, yet we are made in the image and likeness of God. Our lives embody divine presence as we fill the universe with love, laughter, and hope. This face of God can be found in our gut as we experience God birthing in and through us, making the divine tapestry of love a reality.


God Beyond Us. 

The face of God beyond us allows us to be one with Divine Mystery far beyond human understanding. The Creator is infinite, beyond description and human comprehension. This face of God is found rising above our heads into the heavens. We’re awestruck pondering the immensity of how the Creator has structured a Universe we’re only beginning to explore and understand. This is the face of God that allows us, like Linda, to declare, “Nescio. I don’t know. Fiducia. And I trust.”


Trusting Not Knowing

Each week when I sit to write my blog, I ask God, “What do you want me to write about?” Then I ponder for a day or two to let the answer arise. The topic is usually what I’m learning or what a teacher I’m studying offers me—or what I’m struggling with as I try to learn and grow.

This week, I don’t know what I should write. I don’t know if I even trust what I’m supposed to write. But Linda’s life reminds me, I don’t know, and I trust.

Some things in life are beyond human understanding. That’s the stuff we call “mystery.” It’s the face of God beyond us. We don’t have to understand everything. We only have to trust.

Day by day, moment by moment, Nescio—Fiducia.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net








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