brian j plachta
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by brian j plachta on February 20th, 2020

“Why don’t you put your books away, go outside, and play with your friends?” my mom would prod during summer vacation. Why don’t I? I wondered. Was there something wrong with me? Why did I enjoy sitting alone reading more than hanging out with friends?

The answer came years later, and it’s pretty simple. I’m an innie, not an outie.

“Know thyself and you will know the universe and God,” said the Greek philosopher Pythagoras. Self-knowledge is key to Truth and Inner Wisdom. As we seek a deeper understanding and relationship with God, we also learn more about who we are and how we’re wired.

Just like some people have belly buttons that protrude outward and others have ones that project inward, people are made with two types of personalities. God creates some individuals as extroverts—they’re outies. He creates others as introverts—they’re innies.

One way of knowing ourselves better is to determine if we’re an innie or an outie.  

What’s an Innie?

In her book, Insight—Reflections on the Gifts of Being an Introvert, Beth Beulow explains
an introvert gains energy by being alone. Their energy drains when around too many people. Their insight about life comes from within. They recharge by taking time for solitude.

Innies need time alone. At a loud party, they may need to step into the bathroom for a few minutes to reconnect with themselves and to quiet the chatter of the world.

Their challenge is to avoid isolating themselves from others—and to stop thinking there’s something wrong with them because they’re different from the extrovert majority.  

According to Beulow, “Introverts are internal processors. Their primary source of information and point of reference comes from within themselves. This doesn’t mean they are self-absorbed or oblivious to others; they simply rely first and foremost on their inner thoughts to guide them. When an introvert receives information, she takes it in and flips it this way and that in her mind until it’s right-side-up enough to be shared with the world.”

What’s an Outie?

Extroverts gain energy from other people. They’re outgoing. They’re revitalized by being with others because they process life by discussion. Their energy comes from outside themselves. Outies are enriched by dining with friends, dancing at parties, and discovering new people.

Beulow writes, “Extroverts rely more heavily on external stimulus to inform their views and choices. They tend to be verbal processors; rather than spending lots of time in quiet contemplation, they want to talk it out. When confronted with a challenge or decision, the extrovert will pull in people for brainstorming or discussion.”  

Outies’ invitation is to balance the outward excitement they thrive on by meditating, spending time in nature, or taking long walks. This reconnects them with the deeper spiritual perspective we all need to gain wisdom.

How Do I Know If I’m an Innie or an Outie?

God planted both types of people in the garden of humanity. Neither of these personality traits is better than the other. God balances Creation through the ying and yang of innies and outies.

Years ago, a Myers-Briggs test suggested I had traits of both an introvert and an extrovert. Confused by the results, I asked the professor how to determine my personality type.

She solved my dilemma with a question. “When you’re exhausted, when life has drained your energy, what recharges you?” she asked. “Sitting alone in the quiet or calling friends to go out for dinner?”

My answer was clear. I recharge in solitude. My mantra—which I hope my wife will engrave on my headstone—is “Quiet Time solves everything.”

By asking ourselves how we recharge, we can discover whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert. As we do so, we can better understand ourselves so we can continue to grow into our truest self.

Below are two charts that help depict the unique needs of innies and outies.
This week, ask yourself how you recharge. Determine which personality type best describes you. Then honor and nurture your uniqueness.

Also, consider the personality styles of your loved ones. Are they hard-wired differently from you?  If so, enjoy and respect the ying and yang of these two delicious ways the Creator has balanced the Universe.

Celebrate the gifts of innies and outies.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on February 14th, 2020

A smile curled across my face as I cradled my newborn grandson in my arms. Swaddled in a blanket, peacefully sleeping, he cupped his hands together on his tiny chest as if praying.

He was like a precious pearl. Beautiful. Innocent. Glowing.

His parents will teach him much. They will let him know he is loved. They will sing lullabies to him, rock him, and hold his tiny body next to theirs as three hearts beat with joy and laughter.

They will teach him about God. They’ll gaze together at star-sprinkled skies, touch blades of grass to his fingertips, and lift his nose to the fragrance of Spring lilacs. And my grandson’s heart will fill with wonder and joy as he experiences the magnificence of the Divine.

Together, my son and daughter-in-law will teach their son how to play in nature, how to pray, and how to connect with the Creator.

Like a pearl that’s shaped and molded within the shell of an oyster, my grandson will learn layers of truth as he ages. His body, mind, and spirit will expand as he discovers infinite oceans of life and love.

He will also learn untruths. Someone will tell him he’s bad. The schoolyard bully will taunt him, poke fun at his glasses. His heart will break when a loved one dies or walks away. Layers of hurt and pain will cover the shell of his pearl-like life.

Like us all, when my grandson becomes an adult, he will need to learn how to unlearn so he can learn.

One-by-one the sand-like irritants—the falsehoods that shroud his heart—will need to be exposed, sanded, and removed to let the innocent pearl within my grandson’s soul shine with time-worn brilliance. He will need to replace the untruths with truth so he can grow in wisdom.

The falsehoods he must unlearn are universal. They are adopted through life experiences. Here’s a handful with which I’m still wrestling, with the corresponding truths I hope to learn and pass on to my grandson:
•God is a tyrant, ready to bop us on the head and throw us into a fiery pit of damnation unless we worship him
. No, dear Grandson, God is love. He’s here to guide and hold you. He’ll protect you. He’ll never let you go—even if you forget him. Like your parents, the Divine Parent wants you to be happy.

•You are bad, flawed, and broken.
No, Grandchild, don’t believe the lies. You are good. God made you in his Divine Image. The Holy Spirit dwells in and through you. You are not God and you are not other than God. Remember what you knew as a tiny infant as you cupped your hands and prayed: God is good and so are you.

•You need nobody, especially God.
That’s not true, Grandson. It’s another crusty layer we develop to protect our hearts from pain. But God did not cause the pain. People did. God never left you. He’s always there as your life partner. He co-creates love within and through you. If you throw him off your team, you’ll be incomplete and you’ll experience more suffering through misguided choices. Let God in. Seek him. He will guide you.

•Grandson, remember this truth: “Quiet time solves everything.” As your world fills with busyness, responsibilities, and stress, the cure for life’s chaos is found in quiet solitude. As Jesus did, take time daily to sit and listen to the Father. He has a Voice—a Soothing Whisper like the wind—and you can learn to hear it again. The Holy Spirit will teach you. The Voice of Love is your Wisdom Guide.

Your parents and grandparents will not likely be with you all the days of your life, but God will be with you forever. Let the Creator help you unlearn the falsehoods and relearn the truths about yourself and life.

As you grow, learn how to unlearn so you can learn.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on February 7th, 2020

“Your face is going to crack if you don’t stop frowning,” my dad used to tease Mom.  “Why don’t you put your happy face back on? It looks so much better than that scowl.”

Mom puckered her lipstick-red lips and forced a tooth-filled smile across her face. My parents would burst into laughter.

My siblings and I called Dad the “smile police.” If he caught us with a grumpy look, he’d coax a grin out of us.

Dad said something magical happens when we smile. But what was it, we wondered?

The Science of Smiling

According to an article in, when you smile, the brain and bloodstream flood with the feel-good chemicals dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These natural painkillers relax the muscles in our body. They also work to reduce stress by lowering our heart rate and blood pressure. We feel happy.

Babies seem to instinctively know the value of a smile as they fill the room with oodles of coos. Their giggles become contagious.

As we move from childhood into adulthood—with the increased stress and strain of responsibilities—we often forget to smile. Maybe if we practice what Dad preached, we might avoid becoming a grumpy old goodger. But how?

Smiling as Meditation Practice

Ray, a friend, recently told me he likes to keep his quiet time with God simple. So, he uses smiling as a meditation practice. After he gets his morning cup of coffee, lights a candle, and sits in his favorite chair, he closes his eyes and smiles for ten to twenty minutes.

The tense muscles in his face ease. His jaw unlocks. Eyebrows soften. His spirit lightens. Scattered thoughts settle.

He basks in the feeling of relaxation. Whenever his thoughts run rampant like scattered mice, he gently returns attention to his smile.  
Ray carries his smiling practice into the day, he says. When stressed while driving or at the office, he takes a “smile break.” It lightens his mood. Compassion flows through his body. These smile breaks allow him to reconnect with himself and God. And the self-love he experiences spills over into how he treats others during the day.

Some say the magic of a smile is the Holy Spirit’s healing energy within us. It’s the Divine Spark of Love that triggers the relaxation response in our bodies and floods our emotions and spirits with compassion and wisdom.  

Tao Master Mantak Chia teaches the Inner Smile Meditation. While meditating with eyes closed, he suggests we draw attention to our vital organs—the heart, eyes, lungs, etc., and simply smile at them, thanking them for the on-going job they perform to sustain and enhance our lives. In doing so, we touch the healing power of inner gratitude. We thank the Creator for the gift of our very lives. Perhaps the Creator even smiles with us.

What’s a smile worth? It’s the priceless wealth of a life lived increasingly aware of Divine Essence—the Presence of God—in each moment of our lives. And it bears the fruit of inner peace that surpasses understanding.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on January 30th, 2020

Remember as a kid when your parent pointed an index finger at your chest, looked at you with eyes that could cut steel, and proclaimed, “You’re grounded!”

It usually meant you’d done something wrong like hitting your brother, toilet papering your neighbor’s trees, or staying out past curfew.

But, being grounded as an adult has a different meaning. It’s a good thing.

Michael Daniels, in his book, Shadow, Self, Spirit, says that groundedness refers to “a sense of being fully embodied, whole, centered and balanced in ourselves and our relationships.” It’s also a deeper connection to the authentic self. He suggests groundedness is associated “with an experience of clarity, wholeness, ‘rightness,’ and harmony."

According to Diane Raab, PhD, when you’re grounded, you’re in touch with your mental and emotional self. You’re not easily influenced by others’ opinions or actions. You shrug off life’s bumps and grinds. Raab writes, “If someone cuts [a grounded person] off in a traffic circle, they may give a shoulder shrug, and think, ‘Oh, well, they must be in a hurry.’ Chances are, they won’t become overwhelmed by, or reactive to, the incident.”

It’d be nice to be a grounded person all the time. But, that’s not realistic.

I notice when I’m not grounded, I feel like a flying squirrel jumping from one tree branch to another. I’m anxious. Overwhelmed. I feel like I’m spinning.

To get out of those lofty tree branches and get back on the ground requires two things: first, an awareness of being ungrounded; and second, creating gentle practices that reconnect us with our bodies.

God made us complete with the trinity of mind, body, and spirit. When all three are working together, we typically experience inner peace, balance, and wholeness.

But often we get trapped in the mind, thinking about the future—the “what if’s”—or the past—the “how comes.” The mind then takes charge and heads straight into the flying squirrel syndrome, bouncing from one thought to another.

So how do we get out of that feeling of being ungrounded that can make us feel (and act) a little nuts?

Here’s a way. It’s called spiritual grounding.

According to an article in Discover Healing, spiritual grounding is a practice that connects your body to the earth and brings physical and emotional balance and strength. When you learn how to ground yourself, you become present to yourself and God. You integrate mind, body, and spirit as One.

Since our minds can think only one thought at a time, the quickest way to quiet the mind is to reground ourselves in our bodies.

Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth century Christian mystic and theologian, called spiritual grounding “body prayer.” She wrote, The fruit and the purpose of prayer is “to be made one with God and like God in all things."

After suffering immense pain, Julian got in touch with her physical body as one pathway to connect with the Divine. She created a body prayer as a simple way to pray without words and integrate mind, body, and spirit.

Here are the four postures of Julian’s body prayer: Await, Allow, Accept, and Attend.

Await—with cupped hands extended at the waist, we stand waiting for the presence of God

Allow—reaching up with our hands extended toward the sky, we seek deeper awareness and wisdom

Accept—standing with hands held cupped to the heart, we accept ourselves and others unconditionally, and receive the insight God offers

Attend—with hands extended and palms open, we move into the world to do the work God has given us this day.

Click on this link for a short demonstration of Julian’s body prayer.

I use Julian’s body prayer at the beginning of my morning meditation and before I hop into bed. During the day, when I feel the flying squirrels taking over, I stop what I’m doing and practice body prayer for two or three minutes. It’s amazing how it re-grounds me and allows me to experience a calming presence.

There are many ways to find spiritual grounding through the prayer of the body. We can focus on our breathing for a few moments, plant our feet firmly on the floor to feel the energy and stability of the earth, or wash our hands and face as a way of shaking off the world’s noise. Placing our hands on our heart and feeling its warmth and gentle beating can also bring about the inner peace we seek.

This week, try a body prayer practice such as Julian’s to spiritually ground yourself. Notice what changes you experience. Find your pathway and get spiritually grounded.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on January 24th, 2020

Sam was drinking again. Heavily. My stomach churned as I texted with him.

Me:   Where are you?
Sam: In a motel.
Me:   Which motel?
Sam: Who cares?
Me:   I care, Sam. Where are you?


Me:   Sam?
Sam: I’m so ashamed.
Me:   You’ll be okay. Where are you?
Sam: Look, man, I got to do this.
Me:   Do what?
Sam: Let the whiskey take me.

Chills ran down my spine. I understood his meaning. He wanted to die.

Me:   Sam, God is good and so are you.


I didn’t hear from Sam for several days. I prayed for him, looked for him, but couldn’t find him. Maybe he didn’t want to be found. Maybe he’d accomplished his plan.  

Then one day, I got a text from him. “Will you take me to the detox center? God is good and so are you. God is good and so am I.”

My heart leaped. Sam was alive! And he had claimed the Truth about himself and God. He was on the path of recovery.  

This time he made it. He reached out. He broke free from the false belief he was bad.

So many of us walk around with that negative view of ourselves. It comes in different shapes and sizes. It packages itself in various words and phrases. But it has the same theme: I am bad. I am broken. There’s something wrong with me that needs fixing.

But it’s not true. It’s a lie.

Like Sam discovered, God made us all in his Divine Image. We are Divine Love made real.

God dwells in us as us.

We just need to discover that truth. We need to dig deep within our souls to let go of all the falsehoods we’ve told ourselves to find at the core of our Being who we are.

Maybe our stories aren’t as dramatic as Sam’s. Maybe we’ve never holed up in a flea-infested motel trying to drink ourselves to death. But, I—like so many others—have told myself repeatedly the same lies that dragged Sam into that prison of despair: “I’m bad. I’m not good enough.”

But it’s not true.

This is the Truth:

God is good and so am I. God is good and so are you.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on January 18th, 2020

As a writer for my college newspaper years ago, the most important—and often most difficult—task of putting the student press together was composing the headline. After our stories were written and edited, we often sat around the news desk into the early morning hours trying to get the headline just right for each story.  

The headline had to be clear and concise. It had to summarize the truth contained in the story. Usually, after numerous attempts, an idea would form, and, finally, the perfect headline popped out and soon flowed onto the newsprint.

It’s the same thing with our lives. We walk around with headlines in our minds—words and phrases that underscore the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.

Some headlines are blatantly negative and untrue. They suggest we’re separated from ourselves and the Source of our Being.

I’m a bad person.
God’s disappointed in me.
I’m a failure.
I can’t do this.
I’m overwhelmed.
I must be going crazy.

Other times, the words and phrases we carry around in our heads are positive and true. They lead us into deeper awareness of who we are and why we’re here on this planet.

God is good and so am I.
The Creator and I are One.
I am a part of God’s story of Divine Love made real in and through me.
I have been blessed with the power of the Creator in mind, body, and spirit.
I am God’s prayer.
I am God’s Beloved.

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that emphasizes the importance of having a Right View—a correct perception—about life, ourselves, and God.

The proverb states, “Be careful where you’re going, because you might end up there.”  

If our underlying assumption about ourselves is that we’re broken and in need of repair, we continue to get the headline wrong about who we are. We might just end up living a life of confusion and despair—or in a counselor’s office trying to undo the faulty thinking that got us there.

Those nasty untruths nag us as we grow. They come from verbal attacks and from those who tell us we’re bad. Our religious institutions can add to the intellectual suffering we experience by overemphasizing sin and fear of damnation. Often we become our own worse critics, chastising ourselves with every mistake we make.

The headline pasted on the front page of our newspaper foreheads can soon become, “I’m messed up—separated from myself and God.” And so, we run from ourselves and the truth that could set us free.

What if we made it a regular practice to reassess the headlines we tell ourselves? Would this ease our mental suffering? Would it help us realize we are the only ones who place limits on ourselves? Would it help us awaken to God’s Loving Presence?

According to Christian author and mentor James Finley, our perception of who we are in relationship with God shapes and molds our worldview. It triggers our inner dialogue.

Finley writes, “Although I am not God, I am not other than God.” 

He suggests we are One with God because the Creator is the source of our very lives. If God is love, which is true, then we’re the human expressions of Divine Love. We can never be separated from our Source because it is the essence of who we are and how we’ve been created.

As we come to understand the Truth about ourselves, we realize we honor the Creator and experience inner joy by receiving God’s unconditional love.  

So, how do we correct the headlines in our heads?  

Our intellect alone can’t get us there. Jesus proved that after being baptized. When the Holy Spirit said, “You are my Beloved, in whom I am well pleased,” Jesus seemed to have been surprised and confused. Was it true? How could it be?

In response, Jesus went to the desert to be alone with the Father and figure out who he was. (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1).

During forty days and nights in the desert, Jesus had to reject the false headlines that tried to dissuade him from becoming fully who he was. He learned how to listen for and hear the voice of God. Through direct experience, he deepened his relationship with the Divine. He discovered the importance of solitude, prayer, and meditation as pathways to understanding who he was.

When Jesus returned from his mountaintop retreat, he continued the daily practice of solitude. He set aside time each day to be with his Father so he could learn more clearly who he was and tap into God’s on-going guidance.

We are not God. And we are not other than God. As we allow the Spirit to teach us that truth, perhaps we can toss away the untrue headlines and discover who we really are: God’s Divine Love expressed in human forms.

It seems there are three core practices Jesus and many other spiritual heroes teach to develop this mature understanding of ourselves:

1. Connection with the Creator through daily meditation and contemplation.

2. A teacher or spiritual mentor to help us discover the loving movement of God on our life’s path; and

3. Spiritual reading of scripture or other books of wisdom to show us the way, the truth, and the meaning of life.

By regularly practicing these three habits, we learn to let go of the false headlines we’ve told ourselves. Our thinking and daily experiences become filled with an awareness of God’s Presence. An explosion of joy often accompanies the realization that we’re part of God’s Divine and Loving Play. There is nothing to do, nothing to achieve, other than to fully embrace the divine powers that seek to unfold in and through us.

This week, set aside time for solitude and try this practice.

•Take a blank sheet of paper and make two columns: one for the negative false headlines you tell yourself, and the other for the positive truths about who you are.

•Under each column, write down the words or phrases that often rise up in you as you listen to the story in your head.

•Then cross out the false headlines.  

•Highlight those that are true.

•Return to this practice whenever you need to be reminded of who you are.

With the help of the Infinite Source of Love, we can get the headlines right.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on January 9th, 2020

Missy is a dear friend. We stood side-by-side at the opening liturgy at a mountain retreat in New Mexico.

As I stood in silence before communion, my shortcomings and failures hit me like a tsunami. My impatience, the resentments I held, the people I’d hurt, those who had hurt me—and those I’d railed back at—or failed to speak to with love. They were all inside me like angry waves. I bit my top lip. Wiping my eyes with my fist, I pushed away the tears that drowned my face.

Then, as if an angel had nudged her, Missy touched my arm. She leaned toward me and whispered words that pierced my soul: “Don’t believe the lies.”

The words baptized me with truth. I felt free.

Missy was right. I’d become overwhelmed by my human imperfections. It was well beyond humility. The tsunami was shame. It told me I was bad. It turned my anger into fiery judgment of myself and others. But it was a lie.

Missy’s words became an aha moment—an epiphany—a lesson in self-acceptance. Years later, when my mind returns to shame, I often hear the words rise up in my heart again, “Don’t believe the lies.”

The Task of Self-Acceptance

Why is self-acceptance the hardest task of becoming fully human? Why does our self-acceptance meter range from somewhere between “I’m a superstar—a 10” to “I’m nothing but a failure—a negative 90?”

According to Professor Jennifer Crocker, Americans suffer from a low self-esteem crisis. In her article published in the Journal of Social Issues, Crocker states people often base their self-worth on external sources, such as job performance, academic achievement, the car they drive, the house they live in, or what others think of them. If we hang our self-acceptance hats on these external sources, we’re more likely to experience the ups and downs of low self-esteem and mental health issues.

Crocker believes external contingencies of self–worth—especially physical appearance—are unreliable as a basis of self-esteem. They result in stress, aggression, excessive drug and alcohol use, and disordered eating. These outside sources of temporary affirmation are often the cause of our ping-ponging self-acceptance meter.

The Inner Journey

But those who base their self-esteem on internal sources—such as being a virtuous person or adhering to moral standards—are more likely to experience higher levels of self-acceptance and inner peace, says Crocker. They don’t have to be right in the eyes of others to feel self-worth.

From a spiritual perspective, if we let others tell us who we are, we put on airs to meet their expectations—or, worse yet, attack others to protect ourselves and hide our shortcomings.

If we let the Source of Divine Being—God—tell us who we are on the inside, our self-esteem grows without being contingent upon others’ opinions or our accomplishments.

So how do we find healthy self-acceptance?

Meditation—a Pathway to Self-Acceptance

When we take time to get away from the noise and distractions, we enter a deeper inner space. We let our minds sink into our hearts. We connect with the Creator’s infinite wisdom and guidance. It’s as if we open a whole new pathway of listening for the Divine Whisper.

In meditation, our blood pressure lowers. We connect with our inner selves. We open our hearts. We experience love, inner peace, and wisdom.

Meditation doesn’t cost a dime. It’s a daily investment in ourselves. It’s the realization an Infinite Being loves and guides us, and we can connect with that Being. That Infinite Source of Love wants to communicate with us.

Tell Me Who I Am

It’s important to create an inner space for you and God to tell each other who you are.

Here’s a way:

1. Find a quiet place to be in solitude, alone with yourself and God

2. Light a candle

3. Close your eyes

4. Ask the Divine Presence to be with you

5. Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself.  Focus your attention on your breathing

6. When you’re ready, ask, “What is my name for God? What word, phrase, or image comes to mind when I consider who God is to me?”

7. After a time, ask the Creator, “What’s your name for me, God? What word, phrase or image comes to your Divine Mind when you consider who I am to you?”

8. Sit in silence for a few more moments, savoring what you experienced. Receive it as gift. Lift it up with gratitude. Perhaps write down the words that came to you.

This practice gives us an inner picture of who we are. It helps us let go of the false images of ourselves that drive us toward unhealthy extremes on our self-acceptance meters. When practiced regularly, we are baptized with Truth. We integrate Missy’s wise words: “Don’t believe the lies.”

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on January 2nd, 2020

When our car battery loses power, we often take out the jumper cables, open the hood, and jumpstart the battery to give it new life.  It’s the same thing with our spiritual lives—occasionally we need to step back, open the hood on our lives, and see if our spiritual life needs a jumpstart too.

A tool we can use to evaluate our spiritual lives is called Finding Flow.

Years ago, while studying to become a spiritual director, as part of the coursework, we learned about 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 which 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, Martin Luther, and others—had four common characteristics that shaped their lives.

•First, they took daily time for solitude, to be alone with God—time to meditate and listen.

•Second, they read the scriptures and the work of spiritual teachers to learn wisdom.

•Third, they surrounded themselves with people who inspired them to grow.

•Finally, they discovered their unique talents and gifts and used them 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 principle we can use to evaluate our lives so we can find deeper inner peace and balance. I offer it to you, so you can incorporate it into your daily life.

1.Solitude: establishing rituals to spend daily “quiet time” to deepen our relationship with God

2.Spiritual reading: delving into books that teach and inspire

3.Community: surrounding ourselves with people who nudge us to grow

4.Contemplative Action: discovering our unique gifts and talents and using them to make the world a better place

When put into regular practice, these guideposts form healthy habits that help us experience abiding joy. We can take Benedict’s wisdom, even if we’re not monks, and find unique ways to translate it into modern life. We can look at our lives through the lens of these guideposts to find balance. Wholeness.

For shorthand, I call this  Rule of Life, “finding flow.” Flow means being one with the Divine Spirit who opens our hearts, allowing us to experience inner peace, balance, and wholeness.

Finding flow involves adopting spiritual practices to exercise our souls, just like going to the gym or taking daily walks to help maintain strong healthy bodies.

Consider taking time to look at each of the above four pillars to assess your spiritual life. Check your spiritual battery by giving each of the four a ranking from 1-10 to discover which ones are full and which ones need your attention.

When all four guideposts are fully charged, it’s amazing how God deepens our relationship with him as he invites us daily to find flow.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on December 27th, 2019

It’s customary in some cultures for a groom to carry his bride across the threshold of their home, taking her into the new life they will share.

Traditionally, Polish families place a cross above the inside front door of their houses hoping everyone who passes through will be blessed by God’s grace.

At funerals, it’s typical for the officiating minister to remind us our deceased loved one has not left us—they have simply crossed the threshold to the other side.

Thresholds symbolize the passing into something new. To do that, we must let go of what’s behind us and step into the mystery of what’s ahead. Thresholds signal change. Thresholds are signs of hope.

High school or college graduation unveils the departure of the academic world and the entry into the marketplace where we hope to earn our daily bread. The birth of our first child marks the threshold into parenthood.

After long years at our jobs, retirement marks the entry into a new season of our lives, possibly through the doorway of what some call an “encore career.”  We move from earning our daily bread into following our passions, finally arriving at the doorstep of freedom, so we can use our gifts and talents unhindered to make the world a better place.

Other times, we find ourselves at unplanned thresholds. A sudden illness, the death of a loved one, losing our jobs reminds us we are not in control of the universe. Walking through these doorways can be especially scary, but we don’t travel alone. The Holy Presence invites us to enter this new phase of our lives. Excitement and thrill fills our hearts. Yet there is also fear as we let go of the familiarity of life in exchange for the mystery of change.

Perhaps the best way to hold the tension between letting go and beginning anew is to stop and ponder the evidence of how God has led us in the past. Often when we look into the rearview mirror of our lives, it’s amazing how all the puzzle pieces—the people, events and circumstances—unfolded and fit together in a way we could not have planned. It’s obvious the Creator gently led us, putting together the pieces until we were once again whole and in a new safe place.

I am entering a new phase in my life. After thirty-six years of being a lawyer—something familiar, something I do every day—I am leaving behind life as I’ve known it and crossing a threshold into an encore career writing books and teaching spirituality workshops. I will continue practicing law, but part-time.

Excitement and fear summon me. I hold these two emotions in my hands, allowing them to co-exist.

God comforts me by whispering in my heart, “See how I have been here with you? Always. Even when you were not aware or didn’t wish to pay me any attention, I have held your life in the palm of my loving hand. Take my hand again. Let me walk with you across this threshold. I make all things new and beautiful.”

As you enter this new year, look into your rearview mirror at the thresholds of your life. Can you now see the fingerprints of God who stood with you as you moved into each new season?  

Then, look to the present moment of your life. What thresholds are you being invited to cross? What new seasons are you entering? Hold them in your heart. Invite God to walk with you. See how God makes all things new and beautiful as together you cross your thresholds of hope.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on December 19th, 2019

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is putting up our outdoor nativity. As the season of love draws near, I crawl into the basement storage, pull out the Jesus, Mary, and Joseph plastic figures, carry them outside, and construct a makeshift stable with wood, straw, and cornstalks. Christmas music from my iPhone fills the air, warming my heart and inviting a smile to crease my face.

When I’m in the flow of love and laughter, when everything is bright in my world, it’s easy to sing “O Come Let Us Adore Him” as I put up the manger. In those times, I see God’s Divine Love in my family and friends, in the gift of good health, and in the love of my dog Riley, who rolls in the snow as he watches me build the nativity.

It’s harder to see God’s Divine Love when my world is rocked with suffering and loss. My eyes get clouded by the squabbling of siblings, the crisis of a loved one’s heart attack, and the realization that some of my loved ones won’t be rocking around the Christmas tree this year. During an imperfect season, my heart laments, " Where are You, Christmas?"

During a “good” holiday season, we bring our joy and gratitude to God, thanking the Creator for the gifts we’ve been given. But, perhaps the invitation is to also bring our lament, our Where are You, Christmas? emotions to God when we can’t see Divine Love because our eyes are filled with pain and sadness.

This Christmas season has been challenging. I grumbled as I set up our nativity scene. “Go ahead,” I mumbled. “Put up your Plastic Jesus. No one cares. You’re a mess. The world’s a mess.”

Anger and sadness overwhelmed my heart. And during the midst of my pity party at the foot of Plastic Jesus, Riley ran off after the neighbor’s dog. Nothing was right. Not even my dog.

I wanted to run from my emotions. Or, better yet, flip an inner switch in my head and make O Come Let Us Adore Him my heart’s song again. But it didn’t happen.

The next morning during quiet time, I brought my lament to God. “We’re broken, Poppa. The world and me. Please, fix us. Or at least, give me the eyes to see your Divine Love in the midst of this imperfect Christmas.”

The lament felt good. I cried with Divine Poppa. I felt his sadness too. I wondered if he ever gets angry and impatient with our messiness. Was he disappointed that the first Christmas—-the one with Mary and Joseph—was filled with marvel and messiness too? Or is that the way God planned it?

Then something changed. “Look deeper,” came the silent whisper of the Holy Spirit. “Can you see my Divine Love in the presence of your family surrounding your father-in-law at Sunday Mass and brunch before his heart surgery? My Divine Love is there. Look deeper. Can you see my presence in the efforts of siblings learning to love one another better? I am there. Can you see my Divine Love in your grandchildren who sent a video from across the miles singing, ‘We love you, Grandpa. We hope you feel better soon’?

“See, I am not a plastic Jesus. I am a Jesus who lives in flesh and bones. I create Divine Love even in and through the imperfections of life. I know it’s hard. But I am here. That’s why I’m called Emmanuel, because I am with you! I am holding you. I feel your pain and sadness, and I walk through it with you, transforming you with the power of my love. Thank you for bringing it to me. Together, we can fix it.”

Those words from the Spirit echoed in my heart. The tears Poppa cried with me released the sadness and bitterness that had taken root in my soul. It’s as if God gave me a second set of eyes—eyes with which to see the presence of Divine Love.

This Christmas, whether it’s perfect or not, ask God to give you a new set of eyes so you can see the presence of Divine Love in tangible form, in ordinary people, and in experiences that become extraordinary because you see them with the eyes of faith, hope, and love. Ask God for the gift to see as Christ se

What’s right with the world? Divine Love.

—brian j plachta

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