The Golden Thread

In ministry and life I’ve seen a some hard things. Some have been difficult things for me personally so many others have been the excruciating things other people have had to endure.

I could name them all from work to relationships to financial troubles to church woes, or our mental and physical health issues, but you know what I’m talking about. You’ve experienced the same or watched others do it.

Loss and illness happen to everyone but it is so much harder when death and sickness come calling personally on your family and friends.

I’m wading through something now with someone that has been unfolding for over a decade. It is a thing that is not only tough but it is filled with all kinds of messy emotions, overflow and backwash. I’m sure you have something similar. It will never go away. It is a chronic painful messy situation. It hurts.

Once again, the words of Sarah Young surprised and comforted me this week. In Jesus Always she writes these words as if Jesus was speaking, Ask Me to take this dark, ugly thing and transform it into something lovely. I can weave bright, gold strands of Glory into the most heart-wrenching situation.

When I read this, I physically took an extra breath. It hit me suddenly that I needed to look for bright gold strands of Glory in the tough places in life.

I even wrote down a few dark situations I have been through and started identifying the golden threads. Sometimes it is easier to see the thread shine after the fact than it is when we are slogging through something.

Consistently, faithfully the gold thread was there. Moments of comfort. Rock bottom times with new life on the other side. Grief, unbearably smothering that found a way to keep breathing. Joy, laughter, grace, in spite of troubles and worries. Lessons learned. Lives changed.

Everyone is going through something. Take a moment today and find a shiny bit of golden thread glinting in God’s Light, and give thanks.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor.  

  

 

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School Goals

I am the little girl climbing the pole. I was in kindergarten. I remember that pole being a whole lot taller. Also, this was the peak of my athletic career. Who knew I would bloom athletically so early?

I look at that little girl and see her face filled with fear, pride and determination all at the same time. I was trying to reach a goal for the first time I guess. I wouldn’t have been climbing that pole except that it was a school thing. School inspired me to do all kinds of things I would not have done on my own…from climbing that pole to receiving a doctorate degree lots of years later from TCU.

When I close my eyes, I can still remember starting school and my mom and I buying my school supplies. If I breathe deeply I can smell manila paper and freshly sharpened pencils. I remember the joy of a new bottle of glue and a fresh box of crayons. I was the one with the green handled left-handed scissors which never helped me cut anything. I always had something new to wear on the first day of school and felt ready to learn.

I didn’t know it then, but I was a lucky little girl. Not everyone gets to begin school so prepared. Some students show up with no supplies on the first day of school.

For the last seven years in the Grapevine Colleyville ISD, our entire community has come together to insure that all students have a chance to start the school year prepared. With one in four students here falling in the Economically Disadvantaged category, our numbers have forced us to think big and to utilize all resources in order for all students to be ready to learn.

I wish you could see the faces of the students when they arrive at our GCISD Connect Back to School Fair. Their smiles are broad as they see their teachers, principals, counselors and school administrators greeting them. None of the school staff gets paid to be at this Saturday morning fair. Then, there are hundreds of community volunteers from service organizations, businesses, faith groups, fire and police departments providing resources and one-on-one guidance as the children and the families walk through the fair.

The parents, who seem worried and overwhelmed at first, begin to relax as they experience the warm greetings and see their children’s faces light up. The first stop is the backpack table where everyone picks a new backpack to fill. GRACE http://www.gracegrapevine.org brings packs of clothes for every size of child. Those in need of clothing receive school clothes right there. Families wind through the vendors receiving snacks, information and resources. They sign up for school transportation and have eye screenings.  The last stop is the school supply table where the Grapevine Chamber Women’s Division http://www.grapevinechamber.org members hand each child a full grade appropriate pack of supplies. Joy, relief and pride in learning seem to be the words of the day.

It takes all of us to make such a big miracle happen every year. This year 1400 students are pre-registered to attend. We need you too. If you can volunteer the morning of the fair Saturday August 11 from 8:30-noon at Grapevine High School, sign up here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0b4eaeac23a5f49-7thannual. We will train you the morning of the fair to be comfortable in your role. You can donate new backpacks for all ages until August 9 by dropping them off at GCISD Central Office at 3051 Ira E. Woods Avenue, Grapevine, TX 76051, Monday-Thursdays. You can donate money at Grapevine Colleyville Education Foundation, PO Box 292, Grapevine TX 76099 (mark your donation Connect) or donate at Grapevine-Colleyville Education at Facebook.com.

I always started school ready. A quality education made a huge difference in my life. I’m so grateful our community wants that same gift for all children.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and pole climber.    

Soften Something

I learn something every time I practice yoga. All of it applies to life. I’ve said before if I could only figure out how to take notes while doing yoga, I would have it made. Because my hands are usually trying to hold me up, I’m left to apply only what I remember.

Over and over our teacher instructs us to soften. Maybe we are bending over, bent in half and she will say “soften.” She means stop trying so hard, stop being so tense. She means relax, allow the stretch to unfold, allow your body to release.

Sometimes she tells us to soften our face or our shoulders. Sometimes it is a tinier body part, “soften your mouth, your eyes, your forehead.”

I’m always amazed that no matter how relaxed I believe I am, there’s always more softening I can allow. Always.

Now I’m learning to apply softening to the rest of my life. These days politics cause me to do the opposite of soften. Recently someone asked my opinion on something political and I actually said, “If we talk about that I know I will scream loudly or cry hysterically so let’s not.” This is not an example of one who is softening.

With some people, I’ve had to actually say to myself, “Cindy, soften.” Stop being so angry, judgmental, tense and guarded. Soften, forgive, give grace.

With certain situations, I’ve had to do the same, let go, relax, soften, trust God.

Do you have any of those life situations that you can’t control but they seem to be making you rigid, tense, harsh? Practice the art of softening.

Dr. Will Cole is a physician I follow on Instagram. He posts often about all kinds of health and wellness. Recently he shared this, Stick with the people who pull the magic out of you and not the madness. I took a screenshot of this great quote. My life is filled with both kinds of people. I treasure the ones who pull magic out of me. With the others, I’m going to practice the art of softening. I’m going to be kinder, gentler and less guarded.

Truth comes in many forms…yoga, Instagram and even in scripture. The Bible has been talking about softening all along. We are cautioned against having a hardened heart. One of my favorite verses is Ezekiel 36:26, And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. God specializes in helping us have softened hearts.

Politics? People? Difficult situations? Body parts? Soften something. It will feel like grace.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and yoga enthusiast. 

Gaze or Glance?

Problems are part of life. We have them in our families, jobs, country and world. We have health problems-mental, physical and spiritual. We have neighborhood problems and church problems. The problem list is long.

I have a tendency to glare at the problems that come my way, usually angry, frustrated and dismayed that they are happening. I over analyze them. I then bring my best resources to the eliminating of those problems. I’m a good fixer.

Just this morning as I walked, I mulled over the Problems of the day. I played out different scenarios and solutions. I pictured myself addressing and repairing what seems broken. All this a familiar and comfortable pattern for me. I was in my element.

The only difficulty in what happened today was that I had just read a devotional from Jesus Calling Evening by Sarah Young. Yes, I read the evening entry in the morning. I’m a 100% morning person.

Sarah Young’s writing always cuts to the core of my very real issues of the day, surprising and sometimes convicting me. Today’s words: Gaze at Me; Glance at problems-this is the secret of victorious living. I have called you to live supernaturally, and I have empowered you to do so. Ask My Spirit to help you fix your gaze on Me. p. 395  And this, 1 Corinthians 4:18 We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.

As I walked, I kept thinking about the Problems. And then I refocused. I kept having to repeat the mantra and asking myself, “Are you going to gaze or glance? What are you going to focus on?”

I found myself complaining internally because this gazing verses glancing directive was hard. Then, I realized that’s why it requires God’s supernatural assistance.

Gaze at God? Glance at Problems? or will you Gaze at Problems? Just Glance at God?

Problems are a part of life. Where we focus is the secret to everything.

My prayer today: God, I need your help. I cannot, on my own, keep my eyes off my problems and on you. Help me to refocus so my gaze is on you. Amen    

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and part-time problem solver.

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A Voice, Crying Out

People ask me sometimes how I write. Where do your ideas come from? Is it hard? Does it take a long time?

Every day, when I journal, read scripture and devotional materials, ideas usually flow freely. I jot in the back of my journal different blog ideas. Ideas also come to me when I walk each day. Or, I might set out on a walk with a tiny idea and along the way it blossoms. I consider this to be divine inspiration. Then, when I sit down to write out a fully blossomed idea, often it morphs into something quite different which always surprises me, pleasantly.

I try to just yield to the whole strange, uncomfortable process. I’m always paying attention to current events and news items that touch me and others.

Sometimes, I hit an empty patch where no ideas come.  I just let that be and pause, sometime skipping a weekly blog entry. Sometimes I just need to let something simmer and not try to express it.

This week something unusual happened. Words usually come very freely to me when I sit down to write. I wrote a bit and then got very stuck. I left it. It stayed stuck. I prayed…still stuck. I walked…stuck.

So today, I’m sharing with you something very sputtering and partially formed. I think the problem is I cannot find my voice. I cannot put into words all I feel.

Politics aside, really, here goes:

Years ago, we had the privilege of flying on airline passes due to a relative working for the airlines. We took a short vacation within the state with our almost three-year old daughter. She had to have a real ticket, so she boarded with some friends who also had tickets but were flying on to another state. We were to get on the plane closer to departure time. Something happened having to do with the airline’s commitment to a ‘very on time departure’. While we waited, boarding passes in hand, the doors suddenly shut and the plane took off, with our two and half-year old on board, without us.

I had not anticipated in any way that this would happen. I cannot tell you the terror I felt. I had not explained to her this possibility. All she knew was we were not with her. I had no control over this, none. She was going to land in Dallas. Our friends had a connecting flight. I was shaking, crying, pleading with the airline personnel. Nothing helped.

This scenario worked out. I had parents in the area who left their jobs, rescued our daughter, fed her SpaghettiOs, let her swim and take a nap until we got there.

It was my only taste of my child being torn from me. I’m marked by it still.

Can you even imagine your child torn from you?

This is happening right now, in our country while we accuse each other of lying; while we try to justify who broke what law and who can fix it. People are citing scripture as to why this is good, proper and business as usual. Christians I know are on social media essentially asking what is the big deal, aren’t criminals deprived of their children all the time?

Breast fed babies are being pulled from their moms and their only known source of sustenance. Children are plaintively crying “momma, papa” while we debate whether these children are being incarcerated in prisons, interment camps, cages or simple fenced in enclosures. I’ve heard people say, don’t worry, the children are being fed and shown videos. Now we are being told there are whole facilities for babies. Really?

Statements are being issued by so many while so many others are strangely quiet. All living first ladies (where are their husbands?) and whole Christian denominations are making statements. Corporations are vowing to be a part of constructive change. And yet, this continues.

What is wrong with us?

I have scripture to share too. These two keep ringing in my head. God saying though the prophet Isaiah, Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the child of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Isaiah 49:15 God’s deeply entrenched love and connection to us being likened to a nursing mom’s physical, emotional and spiritual attachment to her nursing child.

And this, A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more. Matthew 3:18, quoting the prophet Jeremiah.

I’ve used this scripture at the funerals of children just to put it out there that there are some losses that nothing can help. Children being ripped from their parents is one of them. There is no consolation for that. There is no law, no wall, no political stance, no reparation or making it right.

My words do not flow today. I can’t find my voice. My mom’s heart, my pastor’s heart, my American heart is breaking. What is wrong with us, collectively, politically, spiritually?

There is no consolation for this.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and nursing baby Pace. She is a breast cancer survivor.

Soul Care 101

I’m currently immersed in a favorite topic of mine, Soul Care, as I prepare for another women’s event. About 15 years ago, I learned the stunning fact that my soul required care. Before that, I never thought about it and I’m a pastor. In seminary there was talk about Self Care. This was about taking some time for oneself for exercise, play, family time, study and quiet. We learned about balancing our days–not working morning, noon and night, for example. We touched on the Sabbath but not as much as you would think.

No, I learned about Soul Care the hard way through a series of Wake Up Calls that illustrated very vividly that my Soul was weak, sickly, pale, dehydrated and running breathlessly behind me asking if we might sit a while and take a breath. My Soul spoke so softly and breathlessly that she was very easy to ignore. After all, I had three children, a big job, a calling, a ministry I was passionate about and lots of people demanding my attention. I ran on fumes and it is a tribute to God that I ever managed to do anything spiritual at all in that state.

As I re-read favorite authors on the topic of Soul Care and remind myself again of what was so transforming, I thought I’d share some Soul Care tips in case you or someone you love is in need of a refresher course.

Plato and Socrates spoke of the Greek concept of therapeia of the soul which means either care or service. Socrates says it is like the care you’d give a horse on a farm: you feed it, brush it down, exercise it, give it water and clean its stall. Thomas Moore writes this is the model for Soul Care.  Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Every Day Life 

I’ve never had a horse but I have cared for children and dogs and I’m thinking it is the same. The idea is that our souls are living, fragile and in need of our attention.

What is it that your soul needs to thrive?

Your soul needs space. Space to breathe, to rest, to pay attention to unseen things.

Your soul needs solitude. It does not matter if you are an extrovert and get your energy from people. Your soul is not. She needs alone time.

Your soul needs to inhabit your body. That means your body needs to be rested, hydrated, fed, exercised and open. Emily Dickinson said the soul needs to stand ajar, ready to receive inspirations.

Your soul needs people. A soul needs to be connected to a family and a community. Thomas Moore writes, The soul prospers in an environment that is concrete, particular and vernacular….nothing is more suitable for care of the soul than family because the experience of family includes so much of the particulars of life. 

Your soul needs beauty. Sunrises, sunsets, nature’s vividness, art, music, creativity. When you see or feel beauty your soul is fed.

Your soul needs alignment. My yoga teacher speaks about alignment often. She tells us to adjust our alignment many times in each class. Your soul needs to align with God. This, to me, is what prayer is: aligning our will and thoughts with God’s will and thoughts. My soul is capable of getting off track. She needs to adjust her alignment often.

Your soul needs laughter and play. The soul has a child’s heart. My favorite almost-two- year-old has a fun sense of humor already. He thinks lots of things are funny, like putting a sponge on his head and calling it a hat. I love being silly with him and making him laugh. I can tell it feeds my soul.

I believe our world would be a better place if there was more Soul Care happening.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the needs of the world and the hurt and trauma all around me. In my better moments, I refocus on caring for my soul so at least what I toss out into the universe comes from a place of grace, God, centeredness, health and wholeness.

Jesus had his own way to advocate for Soul Care. He said, What good will it be for a person to gain the whole world but lose his/her soul? Matthew 16:26

Soul Care 101, a must-do for summer 2018.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, writer, speaker, breast cancer survivor and one who tends to her soul.

 

 

 

We Have This Spirit

I walked into worship this week with my emotions swirling. On Friday, there was another school shooting. These shootings cause me to be unable to breathe or even to string my thoughts together. This time, the shooting was in Texas. This time, it was in the high school in Santa Fe, Texas where our daughter served as a Speech Pathologist in the past few years. This time, it was the halls she walked, the students she knew and her colleagues that faced the unthinkable.

Our youngest son is going into the military. I am worrying in advance for his safety. On Friday, I realized I need to worry equally for my daughter, my middle son and my husband because they all work in schools. Could this really be our reality?

On edge about that, I was also aware of the tender time of year it is with graduations and school year milestones, recitals, programs and stress. I was feeling, as well, the weight of  people’s stories: difficult diagnoses, grief, job angst, aging parent woes, struggles with mental health and more.

I sat in the pew wondering how in the world we could even bear it all.

Then, the children’s sermon reminded me. The children were asked what special day it was right now. No one said anything about the royal wedding (although wasn’t that a refreshing reminder of the power of love and new life?) No one mentioned the Preakness or the weekend’s golf tournament. The kids didn’t mention end of school or graduations, reunions or recitals. After a bit of awkward silence, just one child said softly “It is Pentecost.”

How that child knew that I have no idea. I’m sure the majority of the adults gathered probably didn’t quite know that. It is, to me, one of the hardest to grasp of the Christian days. It is the day we celebrate the gift of God’s spirit sweeping in to empower, change and embolden the Christian movement.

It is our yearly reminder that we Christians have this resource, this Spirit that helps us bear all things. As spiritual people, we are called to see what is not visible. We are asked to receive our power. energy and coping skills from some part of God that is more like wind and flame than anything black and white. We are asked to live by, in and through something no one can even see.

It’s so flimsy and hard to grasp that I even sometimes forget and I have been an ordained Christian pastor almost 31 years now.

We have this spirit, this manifestation of God that is always with us. This spirit equips us to face the unbearable. This spirit gives us the courage, the voice to make changes where there is evil, injustice and pain. This spirit calls us forward in big, new and surprising ways.

If we were left on our own, I do not believe we could go on. I do not believe we could find hope. If we were left to our own resources, we would be lost/hosed/doomed.

But, thank God, we are not.

Once, I spoke at a very difficult funeral. I did not know what to say so I shared this:  “I told God, I cannot bear this. I cannot. And God whispered back, ‘You can’t bear it. It is too much. Just hold it up to my Light.'” That whisper was the Holy Spirit, our resource. Come, Holy Spirit. We cannot bear this world alone. Amen 

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. This blog entry is written in memory of Lina Finau.