Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

Spiritual Mothers

In Church, creativity, Learning, spirituality, women on May 9, 2018 at 10:01 am

I don’t observe Mother’s Day and not only because I am not a mother and don’t have one. If you want to know why read Anne Lamott’s piece on Why I Hate Mother’s Day. So for the next few days, I will be acknowledging and celebrating several women who have helped me grow into the woman I am for better or worse.
Today I start by thanking the women who have helped my spiritual life. By the way, although I am calling them my spiritual mothers, every one is younger than I am.

Rev. Dr. Betty Jo Bradford—my first pastor. I was delighted to find a church with a woman pastor, and in many ways, she was a perfect fit for me. She welcomed all my questions and invited more, taught me many lessons, and opened my eyes to the fact that church is a volunteer organization. As a minister, her “thing” was teaching while mine has always been learning.

Rev. Kerry Greenhill—a beautiful, creative mind, she showed me that worship comes in many forms. One of my favorite pieces she wrote was a spoken word chorus several of us performed one Mother’s Day. Always a quiet and calming presence, she writes, sings, composes music, makes crafts and shares her creativity without fanfare. She also introduced me to Facebook and Pinterest, which she may now regret.

Pastor Ashley Hawkins—a young rebel and nonconformist and a member of the United Methodist Queer Clergy caucus, she shows her love of God by toiling through good times and bad with a luminous smile. She regularly makes me laugh and that’s always a good thing.

Rev. Mariah Hayden—Like Kerry, Mariah came to my church while still a student at Iliff School of Theology. A tireless crusader for social justice, she taught me that church means being in community with others and that serving God can be done in the pulpit, the front office, or even an urban farm.


Morning Prayer

In Learning, spirituality on April 18, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Dear Lord, please surprise and delight me today. Help me to be a blessing to someone.
This what I pray for every morning, not because I believe there’s some old white guy with long hair and a beard sitting on a cloud waiting to hear my prayer and grant my wishes but because I believe in setting my intentions for the day.
While I may not consciously think about it again for the rest of the day, somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice encourages me to seek surprise and delight, urges me to show kindness to the people I encounter.
I don’t look for any grandiose results. In Anne Lamott’s classic advice for writers, Bird by Bird, she explains that she keeps a one-inch picture frame on her desk. When she starts feeling overwhelmed, she reminds herself that all she has to write is what she can see through that tiny frame. I’m looking for results through that one-inch frame.
A nice surprise could be a package I’d ordered arriving earlier than expected or a text from a friend asking me to lunch. Delight me with flowers blooming in the snow or sparkling lines in the book I’m reading. My blessings to others, likewise, are small–a compliment to the store clerk on her fingernail color or a like on Facebook.
You probably see me only in my guise as a crotchety old biddy and never suspect I’m trying to locate my inner Mother Theresa.
Most days, I don’t even come close to my ideals, but I pray the same thing again the next day and the day after that and the day after that. On rare days for a brief and shining moment, I see a tiny bit of progress.
As Annie Dillard observed, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” On my last day on earth, I’d like to look back and say I spent my time enjoying all the wonders the world offers and doing my best to contribute to good side of the scales.
It could happen.

The Butterfly Effect

In creativity, Learning, spirituality on March 29, 2018 at 10:47 am

Think of it as your own personal butterfly effect. A small change in one part of your life could blossom into major changes elsewhere.
Some experts claim that committing to doing one small thing around the house, like scrubbing the sink every night or making your bed every morning will eventually lead to keeping the whole house clean. If anybody out there has tried this, let me know if it works. I have my doubts.
However, like compound interest, things do add up. Writers who write one page (about 300 words) every day will have 365 pages at the end of the year, equivalent to a whole year. Walking an extra block or climbing an extra flight of stairs every day can result in lost pounds and improved fitness pretty quickly.
One writer suggests that developing a new habit should start with the smallest possible step. For example, if you want to start flossing, commit to flossing only one tooth a day. After preparing the floss, it seems silly to stop after a single tooth, so you will likely floss them all.
The Broken Windows theory once proposed that visible effects of crime, such as broken windows, encourages further disorder as well as more serious crimes, and that targeting minor crimes prevents more serious ones. While the theory has been questioned, nobody disputes that living in a clean, well-maintained environment is more pleasant. Presenting an orderly appearance communicates that disorder will not be tolerated. In other words, take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves. It’s why cities work so diligently to paint over graffiti as quickly as possible.
From my own playbook, one day last August I was bored and decided to check the comments on my blog, a small thing which I never do, and found a three-month-old message from my 1966 college boyfriend. To quote Robert Frost, “that has made all the difference.”
Remember that butterflies are the final phase of life that starts will an egg and spends some time as a lowly caterpillar. Maybe that’s the real butterfly effect: that we can grow and develop and change throughout our lives.
Like a butterfly, maybe we can even learn to fly.

Going to Church

In Church, Denver, Learning, music, spirituality on March 16, 2018 at 3:19 pm

“Sometimes,” she said, “you just want to sleep in on Sunday and not go to church.” In the sixteen-plus years I’ve been going to church, that has never happened to me. Okay, I’ll admit that sleeping in is a foreign concept. My circadian rhythms wake me reliably at 5 a.m. (6 during daylight savings time), every day, and should that ever fail, I have a cat as a backup system.
During these years, I have missed very few Sundays, usually only if I’m sick or we have a bad storm or my car dies.
I like going to church and look forward to it every week. It’s the highlight of my week.
It isn’t because I’m devout.
Part of what draws me in is the social aspect. I like to see my friends. Church is also where I connect with younger people including children. We have a great crop of about 50 little kids, two to three dozen of whom attend each Sunday.
With no kids or grandkids of my own, I have precious few opportunities to meet and make friends with young people.
I like singing although apparently not enough to join the choir.
I have always prayed privately, and I’ve learned that there is something powerful and humbling about praying in a group.
I like the sermons, which always push me to be a better person, even when I don’t agree with them.
The best part, though, is knowing that I’m part of a source of good in our little corner of the world.
From our preschool to adult study groups; celebrating Pride Month as a liturgical season to gleaning unwanted fruit and vegetables from neighborhood gardens to feed the homeless; providing shelter while a family secures permanent housing to making sack lunches for the homeless in Civic Center Park, we’re a very active church.
I came to church to develop the shriveling spiritual part of myself and learned, much to my surprise, that it isn’t all about me.

Darkness Descends

In spirituality on March 9, 2018 at 3:54 pm

Generally speaking, I’m pretty happy with my life. I have everything I need including the love of a good cat, shelter, food, friends, books, and a little money in the bank. Sometimes, though, despite those things, I sink into a pit of despair. Today was one of those days.
I can’t really pinpoint the cause. Maybe it’s a delayed reaction to the funeral last Saturday for a mom and her two little kids, killed in an accident on a foggy road while driving to school. Or our current events group who met Monday morning and discussed sexual harassment. We’ve been meeting every other week since the 2016 election and have yet to find a single positive event to discuss. Or it could be spending two hours on Tuesday touring my beloved church with two police officers who told us in minute detail all the ways we were vulnerable to an outside threat while assuring us that the possibility was minuscule. Maybe it’s the return of hay-fever season.
Anyway, the cause doesn’t really matter. What I needed to do was rise out of the dark and find a little light in my life.
Before you suggest it, chocolate doesn’t work.
God knows I tried but only ended up feeling worse because I know I shouldn’t be eating it. Bad Dixie.
My old standby reading doesn’t help when my brain is racing around that same negative track over and over again.
Listening to music or podcasts doesn’t help if all I hear is my little monkey mind singing, “Baby, you’re no good.”
So I was reduced to trying the things conventional wisdom always recommends: Exercise and nature.
Okay, I’m not much of a fan, but I laced up my magic walking shoes and headed to Clear Creek. I followed it west to a small lake where I sat on a bench and watched the wind blow tiny wavelets toward me. Maybe it blew a few of the storm clouds out of my head.
When I got back to my car, I felt a little better.
It’s a start.

Lighten Up

In Church, creativity, Learning, Lent, spirituality, women on February 20, 2018 at 9:00 am

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen wrote it, and it’s my favorite song lyric of all time. I’ve been broken in so many places and so many ways over my lifetime that I must be stuffed full of light by now.
That makes me wonder how the light gets out. How do we share our light with the world?
The Gospel of Matthew (5:15) says, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” But that is, in fact, what we do. We hide our talents out of fear of squandering them or being ridiculed or, worse, ignored. The world can be cruel. Sometimes we send out a little glowing gem and people swat it away.
Inevitably, though some of our light leaks out of those cracks. We pick up the pieces and move on creating a life from the brokenness.
We wail and moan and, if we’re wise, make something beautiful out of the destruction, sometimes more successfully than others.
Last May, a massive hailstorm smashed some of my church’s cherished stained-glass windows. Our pastor picked up the shards and gave them to Sue, a gifted artist and craftswoman in our congregation. From those fragments, she made the glorious mosaic cross pictured above.
The British would call it brilliant, and it is, but not in the annoying sense they tend to call anything they like brilliant. It is brilliant because it is shining and full of light. It showcases light inside that Sue shares with the world through her artwork and serves as an inspiration to the rest of us.
It reminds us that art is a way of life. We can use whatever blows our way to create something good and share it with the world. Even if the world doesn’t appreciate it, it’s always smart to put more light into the universe.
If you show me yours, I’ll show you mine.

Ambient Light

In Friends, Lent, solitude, spirituality on February 14, 2018 at 4:18 pm

When you reach my advanced years, chances are good that you will need to get up at least once in the middle of every night. I try to avoid turning on a light, and usually, my condo is plenty light enough to keep me from bumping into furniture, stubbing my toe or stepping on my cat. Yeouw! I have many tiny lights on various appliances that indicate that the power is off or on plus a Beatles nightlight, and these provide a bit of light, but most of it comes from street lamps outside that leak in through my closed blinds.
I’m thinking about light because our Lenten theme this year is “Sharing the Light Within: Reclaiming and Restoring Our Beauty in the Darkness.” Sharing our light with others may be the most important thing we do in this life and I’ll get back to that in future posts. Right now, however, I want to herald the light others emit that helps to light our way.
I’ve pretty much always been a loner and I’ve written several times celebrating the art and science of being your own best friend. That never meant being without friends, only that I enjoy and need time with myself.
Today, I want to celebrate you, my friends and family, who add joy and comfort, encouragement and support to my life. You walk with me and laugh with me and sometimes cry with me, too. You make it possible for me to live in a perpetual glow. You are the ambient light that rescues me from despair and keeps me from stumbling around in the darkness, and I thank you for that.
I can only hope I brighten your days as you do mine. Shine on.

Walk On

In Arvada, Denver, Learning, solitude, spirituality on January 25, 2018 at 8:59 pm

When I lived in Highland I walked two miles around the neighborhood almost every day. Then I got sick with bilateral pulmonary embolisms and could barely walk across the room on my own. Not long after that I moved to Olde Town Arvada and have never really gotten back into the habit of walking. I’m trying to re-establish that habit.
It’s harder than I expected. One of the reasons I chose Olde Town as my new home was its walkability. My condo is roughly two blocks from the shops, restaurants and services in town and also roughly two blocks from several big box stores and more restaurants in what is officially called New Town. We also have a hotel and a 14-screen movie theater, currently under construction and set to reopen this spring. The only thing not in walking distance is a grocery store and I like to whine about that although there is a King Soopers and Walmart just a mile or so west on Ralston Road.
Still, I don’t walk much.
I have a lot of excuses. It’s one of my superpowers.
My old neighborhood had history and diversity of people and buildings with plenty going on all the time and, therefore, plenty to look at. Not here. It’s boring.
People tell me how much they love Olde Town, but I don’t shop or go out to eat much, and I use the library in Denver (long story), so the only thing I do in Olde Town is walk past places.
Although we have four (count ’em) coffee shops, most of the restaurants are really bars and I don’t drink alcohol or coffee.
Most of the sidewalks here are narrow with many driveway cuts, which make them hard to walk on.
I’m older now with arthritis in my feet and ankles and bad knees.

I know I’m being difficult, so I’m trying to think of ways to make walking something I want to do again.
Writer Leo Baubata says to establish a new habit, you need to start small, “Make it so easy you can’t say no.”
James Clear describes three steps to build a habit:
1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
2. Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)
3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)

A friend told me that he knew he had succeeded at quitting smoking when he stopped thinking of himself as a former smoker and started thinking of himself as a nonsmoker. I have to come to think of myself (as I used to) as the kind of person who takes a walk every day. It’s who I am.

Comfort and Joy

In Christmas, music, spirituality on December 4, 2017 at 10:03 am

My Secular Advent, Day Two

I’ve excised many activities from my Christmas calendar so I can focus on what’s truly meaningful, hope, peace, love, and joy. Gone are gifts and their attendant shopping, wrapping and mailing; parties, cookies and candy (well, I may make half a recipe of fudge. I’m not made of stone). What remains are my two four-foot Christmas trees and a few other simple decorations, about a dozen cards with my annual Christmas letter, Christmas Eve dinner at my brother’s, and the candlelight service at church.

And, of course, there’s the music. Every year I pick one concert of Christmas music to attend. When my friend Vera’s daughter Tricia sang in her high school choir I went to their Christmas program. She taught me that the correct lyrics were Deck the Hall, not Deck the Halls. When she graduated, I flailed for a few years, not from lack of choices.

For a few years, I sought out performances of bell choirs across the city. I do love bell choirs. Then I met Marla at church. She’s the musical director of the Arvada Chorale and also her own women’s chorus, Safonia, and enjoying their Christmas concerts has become my tradition.

Yesterday, they presented “Merry and Bright.” It was lovely and I’m sorry you missed it. You have another chance to catch Safonia performing with the Rocky Mountain Ringers on December 15. (http://www.rmringers.org/).

The program featured several traditional Christmas standards, including the most beautiful rendition of Jingle Bells I’ve ever heard. Yes, Jingle Bells. Even that little ditty sounds glorious when sung by 22 inspired women’s voices arranged and conducted by people who know what they’re doing. There were a couple of songs I didn’t know, which is fine. I like being introduced to new music, but I expect and appreciate hearing the familiar tunes and feeling them wrap me in their comfort and joy.

Light Up Your Face

In Learning, music, spirituality on November 29, 2017 at 5:18 pm

I went out for breakfast this morning and sat in a booth next to two women and a baby. The baby looked at me and gave me that wide open smile that seems reserved for babies and other innocents. I couldn’t help but smile back.

It lifted my spirits all day.

While smiles are not as contagious as yawns, they are infectious. As the saying goes, “Smile and the world smiles with you.”Nobody really knows why we smile, apart from some nonsense speculation that it’s a perverted form of baring our teeth to scare off enemies. We do know it’s not learned behavior. Babies born blind who have never seen a smile, still respond the same as their sighted counterparts. Ain’t science grand? Furthermore, smiling is universal, occurring in all human groups and for the same reasons. We smile because we’re happy and also to make ourselves happy.

That’s right. If we put on a smile, whether we’re genuinely happy or not, our brains will interpret it as happiness and our mood will change accordingly.
And it turns out your mother knew what she was talking about when she told you it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. I hate it when that happens. She was also right that babies smile sometimes smile as a result of gas until 6-8 weeks old. After that, their smiles mean the same thing ours do. Unborn babies even smile in the womb. That’s understandable. What’s not to like in a natural environment designed just to keep them happy?

Here’s a song from Nat King Cole to bring a smile to your face. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAjx0d-fda4)

Sing along, “Smile though your heart is aching, Smile even though it’s breaking” and tell me three things that make you smile.
Here’s my list: (1) Daffodils in the snow, (2) starting a new book by a favorite author, and (3) the full moon rising over a lagoon.