Deepen your ability to BE

The new normal.  I’ve heard that phrase so many times in the past month.  Living now on the outer rim of a pandemic that included some major chaotic social and political upheaval means it can be hard to find a comfortable place to land.  Just when I thought I could breathe a bit deeper, two of my sons experienced some injuries, one from a dog attack and the other from an intruder on their property.  We also had our second son, Ben, get married last weekend.  So much has happened that when I went on a long walk this past week I felt I could exhale for the first time in a very long time.   I hadn’t realized how much I had been holding…physically and emotionally.  What a relief it was to relax into the arms of God and receive the comfort I needed.

This week I have had a bit more time to enjoy God, to relax and nurture my relationship with him.  How about you?  Are you finding those times?  Summer is here and things are changing and I find it a good time to think about how I want to live my post-pandemic life.

I recently listened to a podcast by Pete Scazzaro (Emotionally Healthy Spiritually) about flourishing.  That is not a word I would use to describe the last year and a half.  Surviving, holding on, coping are the words I have used. Maybe now is the time to move on.

In my Spiritual Direction work my philosophy comes from an underlying ‘doing from being’ approach. Living out of the overflow.  Pete was speaking about the same idea and has much better words than I have to express it.  He suggested we ‘deepen our ability to BE before we DO’.  If I feel myself striving and feel burdened or experience pressure and stress it is an indication that I need to sink into the heart of God.  Don’t skim on the BE.  In order to live out of the overflow I need spiritual nutrition.  I need quiet stillness sitting with God.  I want to live out of a cup that overflows, not one that is scraping the bottom. Just think about all the beautiful images in scripture about water.  Life-giving, overflowing, refreshing water.

Before we start back to all the ‘doing’ I would encourage you to deepen your ability to BE.  What does that look like for you?  A disciplined Centering Prayer commitment?  A second sit?  Daily scripture reading?  I would encourage you to try prayer practices that nurture your inner life and help you experience the delight and embrace of God.

I am looking forward to moving on and flourishing.  That will come as I ‘deepen my ability to BE’.

Cathy Mann Christiansen

Nebraska Contemplative Outreach Coordinator

Devotion and love…

“Oh, Lord, let me feel at one with myself. Let me perform a thousand daily tasks with love, but let everyone spring from a greater central core of devotion and love.” ~Etty Hillesum

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes. “. ~Etty Hillesum

Etty Hillesum was a Dutch author and contemplative. In 1943 she was deported and killed in the Auschwitz Concentration camp.

Welcome, welcome, welcome

I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and His healing action and grace within.

Image result for thomas keating quotes

We rarely think of the air we breathe, yet it is in us and around us all the time. In similar fashion, the presence of God penetrates us, is all around us, is always embracing us.

– Thomas Keating 

With One Voice

WONDERFUL FILM. Watch again and again and again!  ~patty

Never before have mystics from the world’s great spiritual traditions come together in one venue to share their personal experiences…until now.

With One Voice is a compelling, life-affirming documentary that addresses the profound questions about the meaning of life and love, the existence of God, the path to spiritual awakening, and the way to true peace in the world.

With One Voice brings together mystics from fourteen different spiritual traditions to share their perspectives on the unifying truth that transcends all religions. In this seventy-eight minute documentary, these awakened teachers address profound questions about life and love, the existence of God, the path to spiritual awakening and the way to true peace in the world. Through their words and compelling presence, they ask us to look within our own hearts and listen deeply, so we too can join the conversation and speak With One Voice.

You can view the whole piece on YouTube:

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Labyrinth Summer – part 3


Tuesday, June 6th 

I forgot to add a little stop I made at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church.  On the south side of the church parking lot is a small Cretan Labyrinth with a stone path.  Unfortunately I picked a hot sunny day to stop.

The labyrinth was a bit over grown so my tendency was to pull weeds as I walked.  This got me thinking….

How well am I caring for my soul?

Am I pulling out the weeds in my life?

Am I allowing myself time to just “BE”?

Not only am I worth the time….God certainly is!!

Wednesday, June 21st

I walked the labyrinth painted on the parking lot of St. Paul UMC in Papillion…maybe not the best thing to do on a very hot day!   This project was done by a Girl Scout troop this past year.

My reflections:

The urge to go fast is ingrained!  Even when there is no need to hurry, that’s what I tend to do.  I had to keep telling myself to slow down.  On the longer curves (without turns) my tendency was to pick up the pace.  “Make up lost ground”…from what?

At one time I said to myself “let’s get this done”.  Yet I had nowhere I had to be.  I like walking labyrinths and there was no reason I had to “get it done”.  Why was that in my head?

I wonder why I want to go so fast?  Where does this originate?

What am I missing along the way when I hurry through my day/life?

I need to think more about the discipline of “being present”.

Saturday and Sunday, July 8th and 9th  – Fayetteville Arkansas

A trip to see my son and his wife gave me an opportunity to walk some fantastic labyrinths! I had done my homework and chosen a few I wanted to see and had printouts of the labyrinths.

The first one was at Unity of Fayetteville.  The picture was beautiful but when I got there it was unkept and overgrown.  It was a sand path and the wind had left parts bare with other parts thick. Kinda made me sad and of course I felt the need to pull weeds.

My reflections:

Weeding is a normal part of life.

Left unkept, weeds will sometimes block the way.

It is still worth the walk.

The center was spacious enough to walk around and had a tall stake that said “May Peace Prevail On Earth”.    Yes, Amen.

The second labyrinth in Fayetteville was at my son’s church, First United Presbyterian Church, and wasn’t even on my list…a bonus!

This Cretan labyrinth was behind the church and made of small brick interlocking pieces with small stones as the path.  It was on a bit of a hill so it seemed to have levels, which was a nice change.

I am getting used to labyrinth walking so I was thinking how nice it would be to have one to walk before and/or after church, as a regular practice.  I am learning labyrinths are something you do for your soul.  It gives you a path to walk…something to “do”, while giving yourself time to “be”.  It’s a beautiful convergence.

My third labyrinth was my favorite and the most unique labyrinth I have walked.  Terra Studios is an artist community very close to my son’s home.  They have a stone labyrinth that is beautiful!  Rock slabs jet out of the ground to make the walls of the path.  The slabs fit together like puzzle pieces creating a wall about as high as my knees.  This had to have taken time to build!

The walking path is made of small clay stones so it is comfortable to walk and the labyrinth has a very earthy feel.

In the center is a stone bench and as I sat there I really felt IN the labyrinth.  It was a very safe, secure feeling.

It is the first labyrinth I have walked that has height.  It becomes more 3-D and gives it a feeling of an actual place.

I was vey captivated by the uniqueness and the feelings it evoked.

The fourth labyrinth was on the grounds of the regional hospital.  It is the first 8-walled Roman labyrinth I have walked and I liked the change.  It has a concrete path and 10 tall trees surround the center.

Sitting in the center with tall trees surrounding you makes for a very intimate feeling.  I sat for a long time.  I felt the need to take off my shoes and walk out of the labyrinth barefoot.  Because it was concrete it was easier on my feet.

My reflections:

Labyrinths get you out of the ordinary path of life.  You have to decide to go to a labyrinth and it’s an intentional walk to the center.  Staying in the center long enough to process the experience is important.

These different labyrinth experiences made the trip to Fayetteville especially meaningful.

Cathy C


Whitsunday, 1961

I don’t know Who – or what – put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone – or Something – and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.

From that moment, I have know what it means “not to look back” and “to take no thought for the morrow.”

Led by the Ariadne’s thread of my answer through the labyrinth of Life, I came to a time and place which is a catastrophe,  and to a catastrophe which is a triumph, that the price for committing one’s life would be reproach, and that the only elevation possible to man lies in the depths of humiliation.


After that, the word “courage” lots its meaning since nothing could be taken from me.

As I continued along the Way, I learned, step by step, word by word, that behind every saying in the Gospels, stands one man and one man’s experience. Also behind the prayer that the cup might pass from him and his promise to drink it.  Also behind each of the words from the Cross.

 – Dag Hammarskjôld, Markings.

Centering prayer and Kenosis


I want to share with you a few of my own reflections on kenosis and why it is so important for our spiritual journey.  So your first question is, what in the world is kenosis?  Kenosis is found in the Apostle Paul’s admonition to his readers in his letter to the Philippians.  “Let this same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who . . . did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. . . .”  (Philippians 2: 5-7)

The phrase “emptied himself” is the English translation of the Greek word “kenosis.”  It is the opposite of the word “cling.”  In everything Jesus did, he lived and breathed kenosis.  He did not cling to his life or to any self-importance, not even his divine nature.  In his living and in his dying, he let go without resistance.  That self-emptying humility was the mind of Christ into which Paul invites his readers and us.  The mind of Christ is one of profound trust in the Divine Indwelling and that trust invites our consent and our surrender.  Surely this self-emptying kenotic mind of Christ informed his prayer life as well.

The mind of Christ, that self-emptying humility, is very counter to our predominant culture, which prioritizes power, esteem, security, success, achievement, status, and wealth.  Values like self-emptying humility, generosity, vulnerability and service to others are in short supply.  If we’re lucky, the last five minutes of the national news may tell a story about someone who demonstrates those values, which of course serves to remind us how rare they are.

The mind of Christ invites us to let go.  But letting go is not our inclination.  Our inclination is to cling to our lives, to hang on, to keep ourselves safe and secure.  We resist making ourselves vulnerable.  It is only by God’s grace that we can begin to have the self-emptying kenotic mind that was in Christ.

And that mind is central to our spiritual journey.   You and I know down deep that if we want our lives to be full and rich, we can’t count on our achievements, or our success, or our wealth to deliver what we’re looking for.  It is only as we let go that our lives are transformed into a new way of being.  Contemplative practice reveals the paradox that as we empty ourselves, we are filled with God’s presence, God’s love, God’s grace.

Self-emptying, kenosis, letting go:  it is the path of Jesus.  As we follow that path ourselves, as we let our thoughts go without clinging to them, without commentary, as we let go of our attachments to our old ways and to what we think is so important, as we consent to the Divine Indwelling, something new is born within us.  Centering Prayer is a practice of self-emptying that opens us to the mind of Christ and creates space for humility, compassion, kindness, patience, forgiveness, service and justice.  Those are the fruits of a spiritual journey centered on the mind of Christ and that’s where true happiness is found.

In Centering Prayer we empty ourselves and wait in silence trusting that God will give us what we most need for our healing and transformation.  It is a practice that exercises the letting go muscle in our mind.  Our intention is to consent to God’s presence and action within and that consent is set in motion as we sit in silence letting thoughts come and letting them go.  And whenever we find ourselves engaged with a thought, or a memory, or a reflection, or a body sensation, or anything at all, we use our sacred symbol to renew our intention to consent.  That is our practice of kenosis, the self-emptying, that invites us into the mind of Christ and into the Divine Indwelling presence of unconditional love and grace, which over time, transforms everything we say, do, think and feel.

Simone Weil said; “Grace fills the empty spaces but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void.”  (Quote from a Richard Rohr daily meditation, May 27, 2017)

Grace leads us into the emptiness and grace alone fills it with love.

– Donald Bredthauer


Summer labyrinths continued..


June 4th I am again at First United Methodist Church’s labyrinth. I am reminded to slow down. My reflections dealt with our pace of life. Doing things in a hurry generally are not good for us: eating, driving, breathing, making decisions…

The only need for hurry is in an emergency: fire, police, EMT or in an ER room! Things take time: healing, sleeping, listening… Value going slow…be intentional about slowing down.

June 11th Creighton University Retreat Center (Iowa) has a beautiful labyrinth on the back of their property in a wooded area. It is a Chartres labyrinth made of white interlocking stones. I have walked it many times on my private retreats and it is one of my favorites. I startled a deer when I approached.

Here are my thoughts: Change direction when you need to. Sometimes you are close to the center, sometimes not. Go slow around the corners.

I am learning a bit about the difference between walking into the center and walking out of the labyrinth.

Right before I arrived at the center I noticed a small red pony bead. I went into the center and when I was ready to leave thought I’d take the bead with me as a remembrance. On my journey out I started to notice all kinds of little treasures I had walked right by on the way in.

There were 3 butterflies on the path I had noticed on the way in but didn’t think much of. As I walked out I stopped to enjoy the way they danced and played with each other. Another was a strange small, brown ball. When I picked it up it felt hollow. When I cracked it open there was a beautiful seed in the center with threads connecting to the sides.

I saw three different kinds of feathers, a perfect small acorn and a small red mushroom (at least I think that’s what it was). I felt like it was a little scavenger hunt God had for me. He delighted in me finding the treasures, and I delighted in the “finds”.

My labyrinth intention for the summer is growing in me an ability to enjoy the moment and not have to figure out or know “why” exactly I am doing it. I am sharing these reflections because I am enjoying the experience and you might too.

Cathy C.