Tag Archives: God

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Night Verses Light

Our daughter has always had fun with words. She twists them, turns them and creates new ones that make more sense. When she was about three she told us she smelled a “Stunk”.  Skunk is a great word but, my goodness, stunk is better. No wonder she grew up to be a very good speech pathologist.

When she was young, she would tell me things her “Sleep Brain” was telling her. Not dreams really but crazy, untruths. She somehow knew, even as a girl, that her awake brain and her sleep brain had two different points of view.

Because of her use of language, I’m able, even now, to examine a thought or perception that happens in the night as just my “sleep brain” talking. Every once in a while, in that state between wake and sleep my brain will be insightful, useful or come up with the answer to a problem from earlier in the day. “Oh, my headphones are in my hoodie pocket!” “Her name is Mary Ann!” I always marvel at my brain to work on something long after I forgot to think about it anymore.

But most of the time my sleep brain is not logical. She magnifies and distorts reality. She makes me worry and dream about pointless problems. Because I gave my heart, soul and career to the church for thirty years, my sleep brain still does a stunning amount of church work even though I let that go almost two years ago. I’ve spent many a night trying to organize sermon notes, make it to the sanctuary on time and find my clergy robe.

Basically, there is a huge difference between night thinking and light thinking. I try to keep my thoughts exposed to the light of day. I journal every day so I can be real with myself. I write down night thoughts and dreams. Sometimes I’ve even recorded my “Night Thinking” and listed right beside it my “Light Thinking.”

The Bible is redundantly about light. Ephesians 5, selected verses from The Message translation, You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer, you are out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get with it! The good, the right, the true–these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours….Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busy work, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham that they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on…the darkness…see how attractive everything looks in the light of Christ.

Night verses Light. Which one do you choose?

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and a breast cancer survivor who loves God’s Light.   

      

Delight

Have you ever followed a toddler around? I think everyone should. It is a crash course in wonder and emotions. In the past week, I spent lots of time with a soon to be two-year old and he does not miss a thing. He notices super small feathers and the tiniest of snails. He brought me a withered spider and a thankfully deceased giant bumblebee carcass.

He lives near cows and a couple of donkeys and is transfixed in place by their sounds. He notices birds, airplanes, trains and helicopters. And tractors, oh my, he’s in love with tractors.

He delights in having a task to do, like feeding the dog, making a tower out of blocks or taking his diapers to the trash can. He’s learning to color but coloring directly on the table seems the most fun.

He is a dramatic one with melting falls to the floor when the tower doesn’t come together like he visualized. He will knock it down and cry “Oh No” before collapsing in despair. In remind him that he did the knocking down and ask what is he going to do about it. Problem solving quickly follows.

But most of all, I love his delight. He’s getting a sense of humor. I love to trigger it. His hat on my head is hilarious. Me pretending to drink his milk is super funny. When he hides in plain sight and I find him, he throws his head back and belly laughs.

His baby brother just received a new super soft blanket. When we laid it on the floor for the baby, big brother had to delight in it first, stretching out his arms for that first good long feel of softness.

Delight. The Bible is full of delight. In some places it is actually a commandment. God delights in us when we are grateful, aware and when we acknowledge our needs. God wants us to delight in creation, people and places. God invites us to a life of delight and mysteriously through that, promises to give us everything we need. Delight yourself in the Lord and God will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Wow. If I delight, I’ll have everything? Money, security, good looks, eternal youth, no problems? No, I think it means delight, savor, notice, be grateful and joyful…that is everything your heart needs.

I’ve noticed joy in the strangest of places, in mothers who’ve lost children, in people living in poverty, in those in the midst of the worst kind of trauma. You’ve seen it too. Laughter at a funeral, the tiniest ray of light in an otherwise dark night, music in a hospital room.

Toddlers know how to delight. They do it in between and throughout all the other emotions of the day. Help me, God, to be like that.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. She is currently enrolled in a course on delight, taught by her grandson.            

FaithWaiting

I enjoy making up words. I loved word play with my children. We now have several words only our family knows. Today I made up this one: FaithWaiting.

FaithWaiting is different from regular waiting.

All waiting is pretty excruciating. Waiting for admission to that certain college. Waiting to turn 16. Waiting for the wedding day. Waiting in traffic. Waiting for the biopsy results…or really, almost any results. Waiting to hear if you got that job. All kinds of hospital waiting is agonizing.

In our family we are waiting on a baby to arrive.  Pregnancy is so long! There are so many unknowns. My daughter is now down to the baby-could-come-at-any-time part of pregnancy. She and I are planners and we are having trouble with our plan making because we DO NOT KNOW WHEN THIS WILL HAPPEN. She is going to the doctor weekly now. Last time I asked her if the doctor said when this will happen and she reminded me rather sternly that they do not tell you WHEN.

I am planning to be there when this impossible-to-know thing happens but I live 5 hours away so how do I plan? How do I wait? How do they wait? How does anyone FaithWait verses plain old anxious waiting?

A few tips for FaithWaiting:

Do what you can. In my case that includes keeping gas in my car, suitcase mostly packed, making lots of casseroles to fill my daughter’s freezer when I get there, keeping my phone nearby.

Remember what you know. God is faithful. All will be well. You are not and never were in control. You are in God’s hands. Waiting is a gift, a discipline and an exercise in faith.

Trust. Today’s entry in Jesus Calling reminds us of God’s word to us, Waiting on Me means directing your attention to Me in hopeful anticipation of what I will do. It entails trusting Me with every fiber of your being, instead of trying to figure things out yourself. Waiting on Me is the way I designed you to live: all day, every day. 

Pray. Pray for peace as you wait.

Keep your routines and rituals. Sometimes keeping a schedule is an act of grace that calms us down and reminds us of God’s presence in the daily routine acts of life. Eat, exercise, work, rest, repeat.

I’ve preached and written before about how hard it must have been for the followers of Jesus on that day of waiting between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. How did they bear it? Can you imagine the sorrow, angst, worry, uncertainty and pain they must have felt? The Bible says very little about that Saturday but I believe it is one of the most important times in the whole Bible because it was a whole day of not knowing when all they could do was FaithWait. I imagine time just painfully crawling that day, oozing with despair.

Waiting is what the Christian life is all about. We do not know the plan. We do not know what the future holds. Most of the time we barely know what God wants us to do.

The difference is we wait as those who have hope. That is FaithWaiting at its finest. Psalm 33:20-22 offers this prayer: We wait in hope for the Lord; God is our help and our shield. In God our hearts rejoice, for we trust in God’s holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you. 

Casserole by casserole, I FaithWait.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, Mimosa to Keller and his soon to arrive baby brother and one who waits with hope.

Heartache and Light

Seven years ago today I suddenly, unexpectedly lost a friend, a colleague, my boss, the senior pastor of our church. In that one day, many things changed for many of us. For me, it began a seven year journey of challenges that are best described as a series of gut punches.

As today dawned, I remembered. Some things you do not forget. Some hurts stay etched on your soul.

I reached out to those I know who are hurting more and remembering today too. That helped a little.

In my journal, I noted that my feelings surprise me. In seven years,  it seems I would be more healed from that loss. But, today I can feel an actual physical pain in the same broken place in my heart where this grief lives. It feels gently healed but ever-so-tender, like new pink skin is growing there, very thin and delicate. It feels like I should shield it.

I don’t know what to do on a gray and achy day like this except to honor my feelings. To name them. To bathe them in prayer and in God’s Light. To say, “Yes, that happened and it really hurt, really mattered and really changed me.” A mentor once told me that our tears baptize our feelings. Today, my tears are at work in the Holy act of baptizing this loss once again.

God is a God of healing and so much healing has happened in these seven years. I celebrate that. I see it. I live it every day.

The entry in Jesus Calling today, February 19, says, You need to remember who I am in all my Power and Glory.  What a Word this is. Even before this loss, God’s Glory has of course been on display. In the midst of it and in the years since, God has continued to shine.

Creation shows us this all the time: Pure darkness, then the first light of dawn. Heavy, angry storm clouds then a rainbow. Moonlight, starlight on a previously black night. God saying, Yes, you’ve had darkness but remember who I am in all my Power and Glory.

Today, I remember. I remember my friend. I recall the deep loss. I revisit the tender ache of it. And, most of all, I remember who God is.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, a wife, a mother of three, friend and colleague of Dr. Ken Diehm, breast cancer survivor, Mimosa to Keller. 

J.T.’s Footwear

I enjoyed last night’s Super Bowl but was distracted by Justin Timberlake’s footwear. I like Justin Timberlake and believe he is a very gifted true artist. I’ve watched him grow up from his Mickey Mouse Club days to N Sync to his very cool current status. I especially love it when he performs with Chris Stapleton.

J.T. wore a nice pair of comfy white tennis shoes and they distracted me because I was picturing all the female artists who do all the same moves on 5 inch heels. As long as men get to wear shoes like that while women don’t, I’m going to claim that the world is not yet just.

Men get to wear comfortable undergarments, boxer type swimsuits and flat shoes. For some reason, they have no make up expectations, very few hair worries and only have to shave their faces.  The only thing I can see that might cause them discomfort is a necktie and they have control over how that feels. They don’t wear Spanx that I know of.

A couple of weeks ago, while shopping for a black tie event, I saw that they now have Spanx for arms. I nearly collapsed in despair right there in front of the display. A very rich woman named Sara invented Spanx and I have bought plenty and been quite grateful for their power to spare people of my lumps and bumps. But arm Spanx? No.

Is it not enough that we are smashing our thighs, tummies and rear ends into submission? Now, our arms too?

I can just picture us in all our Spanx, falling off our 5 inch heels, our carcasses exploding out of our Spanx like busted cans of Southern Style biscuits, while we lay there mumbling, “This is not the look I was going for.”

So today, I say no. If J.T. gets to wear comfy tennis shoes while dancing, so do we.

When my baby grandson was born, I had a ringside seat. I am freshly aware that he came into this world shoeless, Spanx-less, perfect, 100% fearfully and wonderfully made.

Scripture reminds us that we are created in God’s image, all of us, male and female. (Genesis 1:27)

We are enough just as we are. We are good. We reflect the divine. Maybe it is time to dress like we believe it.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, writer, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and breast cancer survivor. Today she is wearing comfy tennis shoes and no Spanx. You can hear her speak this week at The Well event for women on Thursday evening, February 8 at First UMC, Grapevine, Texas. Meal tickets are sold out but program-only tickets are available for $15 all week at http://www.fumcg.org/cindyryan.