The Uncovery Discovery Blog

Find your true self. Live your destiny. Glorify God.


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Why Nature is Healing

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These snippets from the Walt Whitman poem Song of the Open Road has been popularized by a recent car commercial:

“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

All seems beautiful to me.”

So, aside from the irony that a car company is using a poem that extolls the virtues of walking the world to hawk the idea of driving through the world, I love the use of these words to advocate going out into the world. Because humans were not made to be stuck in buildings all day.

Elsewhere in the poem, Whitman says he is “Done with indoor complaints, libraries…” This man understands that he needs to get out from under roofs and GET OUTSIDE. It’s something that we instinctively know but that many of us don’t act on. And much of the stress of the world ensues.

Almost every set of tips for overcoming stress I’ve seen includes the recommendation to go for a walk in nature. Not a run. Not “Roll your window down during your commute.” Actually take to the open road, afoot and light-hearted.

Why is this such a universal recommendation? Well, I recently listened to a lecture on why most people are stressed out, and it provided some insight. I’m paraphrasing, but here’s the gist: humans have been on the Earth for thousands of years, but it’s only been relatively recently that we’ve been cut off from a direct experience of nature. When humans were hunter-gatherers, they didn’t have to think about 12 things at once. They didn’t have to check to make sure the appointment they just scheduled on their phone synced with their Google calendar. They were focused on getting food. To get food, they had to pay close attention to the signs and seasons of nature. They spent the bulk of their lives outside.

Well, I believe in the concept of cell memory and that we therefore carry around in our cells this closeness to nature. If cell memory seems too weird to you, call it epigenetics. Another factor is that both we and all that is around us share a Creator. There’s an often unrecognized affinity between people and nature that stems from the fact that we are all expressions of God’s infinite creativity. There’s a deep place in us that recognizes we belong with what God has made.

At the risk of sounding hippy-dippy or unorthodox, I will say that it’s as if all that God has made hums together. Different notes of the same song of creation. If we will take the time to go out into nature and be present to it, we can feel that hum. It feels like connection. It feels like how life should be.

That’s why, in my estimation, nature is healing. It’s drawing us back to the sacred quiet of connection. There’s a true reverence in it. I recommend that we all get out into the world as often as we can, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. Especially if you’re experiencing stress, but also if you’re not.

Let me know in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter how you have experienced nature as healing.


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“Be here now” – But What if Now Sucks?

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Be Here Now. The Power of Now. The Naked Now. These books capture current popular thought about the importance of being present to your own life. I am a huge proponent of this idea; I’ve written multiple posts about becoming aware, waking up out of our auto-pilot existence and truly living in each moment.

And still, the question above came to me today. I have more tasks than time right now, and I don’t actually want to do any of them. Prioritizing is hard. People around me are crabby. Now feels pretty sucky.

But here’s the thing. Now doesn’t get better by avoiding it. In our highly distractable culture, it’s easy to escape into my Twitter feed or Facebook page or numb out to streaming Netflix instead of being present to now. Those distractions don’t change the reasons why I feel negative about now.

So, instead of escaping into some happy veneer overlaying now, I choose to take the opportunity to think about WHY my current now feels sucky. As I do this, I see that I don’t like to be hurried because I fear making mistakes, and I know that when there is more to do than can be done, at least one person will be disappointed with me. That also makes me afraid. I see people feeling stressed (a fancy word for fear) and being unkind to others as a result; that makes me sad.

This is just what’s going on with me. You, of course, are triggered by different things and respond in different ways. It’s even possible that something tragic has happened in your life and you’re having a hard time dealing with it. That is okay. That is also now.

The idea behind being in the now is that you let each moment unfold as it does, rather than arguing with reality by insisting that things go your way. Being aware and present isn’t some hippy bliss fantasy; it involves a determination to actually experience your life rather than reacting to everything based on what’s happened in the past or anticipation of what might happen.

Being present, in short, is hard work. It takes practice. It’s a muscle that is seldom flexed and needs lots of conditioning. Lucky us, life keeps exposing us to things that knock up against our personalities – opportunities to practice. If we are willing to slow down even a little and observe our emotions and thoughts, we begin to see our behavior patterns in action. We “catch ourselves in the act,” as Riso & Hudson put it. We loosen the grip of our personalities and can make different choices. We draw closer to our true selves, to God and to our destinies. To me, that outcome is worth the hard practice.

Ultimately, it’s not that “now” sucks. It’s our reaction to it that does. With compassionate self-observation, we can learn to accept what is beyond our control and live with tremendous peace in the midst of what is.


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Top Five UNtrue “Inspirational” Quotes

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The more I learn and experience of the Enneagram of personality, the more I see the fallacy of many inspirational or motivational quotes. Like opinions, most of these quotes are not “one size fits all.” Instead, they tend to validate the personality filter you have, make you wish you could have that personality filter or smack up against your personality in a way that makes you dismiss the quote outright.

As I come across these untrue quotes, I save them for illustrative purposes. Here are five of them, in no particular order. I know the quote’s author in most cases, but I’m not out to shame anyone. We’re all doing the best we can, and the quotes were heart-felt and well-intentioned.

  1. When you want something, all the Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

This sounds beautiful on the surface, but it is flatly untrue. First, there have been some things in my life that I’ve wanted desperately and worked really hard for, and…crickets. I’m sure this has been true at least once in your life as well. Also, if this were true, it would apply equally to serial murders, would-be dictators and so on. So, I’m super glad it’s not true. Second, the universe is not sentient; it doesn’t conspire to do anything. It was made by a sentient Creator, and not even he wants everything for you that you want.

  1. All your dreams can come true, if you have the courage to pursue them.

If all it took were courage to succeed, my company would be a multi-million-dollar, international organization. History is full of people with courage whose dreams did not come true. There are a millions reasons why people succeed or don’t; courage is not the single determining factor. It sure helps, but it’s not the key. So, people who are courageous may take this quote and run with it, and be shocked if they fail. People who lack courage—certain Enneagram Types have a hard time with this attribute—may feel like they’re doomed to failure and not ever try.

  1. Always do your best and you will find that you never need to compare yourself to others.

Ha! Tell that to a Type 3, whose entire raison d’etre is be better at something than others and gain recognition for it. Or to a Type 4, who constantly compares herself to others because she is certain that others have something she inherently lacks. In fact, all Types have a need to be known for being special in some way so that they will feel valued. And, in fact, the quote itself employs a bit of circular logic: how do you know what your best is if you’ve never compared what you do to some external standard? If you’re not comparing yourself to others, you are comparing yourself to your own standards – which were created by your subjective Inner Critic, based on its observations of the external world. That is, of others. Oy.

  1. Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Hellen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.

Nice try, but no cigar. Granted, Einstein did work as a patent clerk in his early 20s while writing his Theory of General Relativity, but then he got to spend the rest of his life at a job that enabled him to pursue his passion. And I’m pretty sure the wonderful Helen Keller didn’t work 40 hours a week, buy groceries and clean her house while squeezing in book writing and speaking tours on the weekend. In short, most of us do NOT have the same number of hours as famous people we admire. This quote has a sort of shaming edge to it, like “Don’t be a slouch. Your circumstances don’t matter. Get ‘er done.” Circumstances do matter, but by the same token, I hope they don’t dissuade you from pursuing what God has put on your heart to do and be. It may take longer than you’d like, but do it as you can. That’s what I’m doing.

  1. A mistake that keeps being repeated is not a mistake – it’s a choice.

Nope, not this one, either. If you know it’s a mistake, and you make it anyway, did you actually have a choice? Who made that choice – you or your personality? When you are asleep to your personality, you have limited choices. It’s usually just one choice: act according to the impulse your personality is sending out, and do it NOW. Your personality actually limits your free will. This is why people repeat the same relationship with different people, for instance. It’s not so much a choice as a command.

All right, after all the myth-busting negativity, here’s one just for fun.

  1. Fall down seven times, get up eight.

This is physically impossible! You can’t get up more times than you’ve fallen down – unless you were on the ground to begin with. But though the math is off, it’s a good point: keep getting up.

Have you ever read an “inspirational” quote that depressed you? Or have you found one that’s universally true? (They do exist.) If so, please share! And please keep doing the work of getting free of your personality’s grip so that you can find your true self, live your destiny and give God maximum glory with your life.


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Meditation is a PRACTICE

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My husband recently asked me to write something for him because, as he put it, “I’m not good at that.” The response that flew out of my mouth surprised me: “You don’t get better at it by not doing it!”

This is what I call a “divine duh” moment. It’s a thing that you may not have articulated, but when you hear it, you instantly know it’s true. So true, in fact, that it seems on the surface to be a “No duh!” statement – except that its implications are too profound to dismiss it as a truism.

As soon as the words came out, I thought of meditation (or, for our purposes, also called Centering Prayer). That’s because I know it’s a common complaint that people have regarding meditation: they just don’t feel like they’re any good at it. And because I was thinking of one particular friend who dislikes the practice because it feels like failure to her; it’s hard to measure progress, so it just feels like a waste of valuable time.

However, that’s just the personality talking. Did Yo-Yo Ma set his cello aspirations aside after hitting a few bad notes? Did Simone Biles give up gymnastics after her first few falls from a balance beam? Did Tiger Woods hang up his clubs after a few weeks of attempting the perfect swing?

No, or else we wouldn’t know their names. But this isn’t about fame; it’s about practice. These people really wanted something, and they were willing to be less than perfect to start. Or, in some cases, for a long time. They put in untold hours of practice.

The goal of meditation is not to be perfect at it. The goal is to create a quiet, still space that enables you to hear, feel, even see God. Sure, it’s frustrating to attempt this and get nothing but a head full of noise and distraction, particularly when your goal is deeper union with God. But that’s a worthy goal whose very attempt is success.

In other words, if you practice meditation and “fail” at it, you have succeeded. The attempt is success. Because stillness and quiet must be practiced; they are not natural behaviors for us. But they can be learned – not by avoiding them, but by practicing them.

So, the question to ask yourself is, “Am I willing to do something that I’m probably going to feel bad at in order to get better at it so that I can encounter God at a deeper level?” That’s a question only you can answer. I sure hope it’s “Yes.” God longs for you with a longing beyond words, and he is waiting in stillness for you.

Confused about how to start? Here’s what I do. I go to a place that’s quiet and has a door. I close that door and sit with a straight back. (This is so you can breathe easier.) I close my eyes and welcome the Holy Spirit. As thoughts come to me—and they will—I notice them and release them; I don’t start making the grocery list or rehearsing the conversation. Let those thoughts go and pay attention to the sound and feel of your breath. There’s nothing magical about breathing; it’s just that focusing on this helps you to stay focused on what’s happening right now rather than on grocery lists etc.

I also use an app from the Centering Prayer folks. It’s handy because you can set a timer—start with five minutes if you’re new to meditation—and you can choose from a wonderful array of chimes, from Gregorian chants to lutes to singing bowls! Anything to help this sometimes-hard practice, right? Do this every day. Yes, every day.

Please share your experiences, frustrations and breakthroughs regarding Centering Prayer. We all learn from each other.


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Toward Emotional AND Spiritual Health in the New Year

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I recommended a post-election emotional cleanse, and now that the holidays have passed, I recommend a post-holidays one, too.

Because family dynamics are tricky, right? Being with family can be a joyful time of reliving cherished memories and creating new ones with the people we love most in the world. But is also lends itself to reverting back to childhood roles, opening old wounds and creating new ones. Some people have the same fight with the same relative every year. Others suffer in silent sorrow or anger.

For most people, it’s a mix of both. A huge factor in the unpleasant part of this equation is that people don’t tend to change much. Most people aren’t aware that change is necessary; they view the world through a certain filter and their way of seeing makes sense to them. It’s other people who don’t see things right. Personalities flare, and conflict ensues. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it – and that goes for personal history, too.

I’ve been reminded of this maxim lately as I navigate the world of people in pain and conflict: “You can only be as spiritually mature as you are emotionally mature.” This is so profoundly true that I wish it were written on at least one wall of every sanctuary in the land. Its evidence lies in people with great theology and disastrous lives, and in people who have non-biblical theology because it suits their emotional bent better than what God’s word actually says.

I am not criticizing here; I am making an assessment of what I’ve seen in my 42 years as a Christian. Everyone is truly doing the best they are able to, and no one can do better until they gain self-awareness and the tools to get free of what negatively influences them. Undeveloped emotional health is why you may encounter someone who’s been a Christian for decades but still struggles with jealousy or rage or low self-esteem, for instance.

The Holy Spirit is pretty amazing at conforming our nature to that of Jesus. But we usually have to recognize that something in us needs conforming and then submit ourselves to his work. A Type One, for example, often has a hard time recognizing that perfectionistic righteousness is not the only game in town. A Seven may have a hard time mourning with those who mourn or even understanding that this is necessary. Our personalities select which parts of Christianity make sense to us and which to focus on. This lessens our experience of God, others and ourselves.

In addition, people have all suffered emotional pain that taints their experience. Those who have suffered abuse are often seriously emotionally stunted by their trauma. Interestingly, personal observation suggests that neglect and rejection have almost as serious an impact.

People in this group often endure ongoing suffering, and they are therefore more aware that their emotions need healing. For others, it’s not so clear. The analogy that comes to mind is of a broken guitar amp. God is playing all the notes you need to hear, but the sound comes out through your broken amp (emotional filter) so that the notes are distorted and/or you only hear some of them.

Let’s not stay this way. The world is waiting for us to be the amazing selves that lie at the core of our being, the selves God created. God calls us through Paul to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. That just happens to be where emotional maturity (or immaturity) resides. Will you make this the year that you grow emotionally? Learn the Enneagram. Get counseling if you’ve suffered trauma. Learn how to be still and quiet. Keep a judgements journal. Heck, you can even buy my audio program & journal, Know Yourself to Know God, which teaches on three of those four things. But this isn’t an ad for my stuff; it’s an earnest plea to grow toward your authentic self. Will this finally be the year?


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We Are Desperately Afraid That We’re Unlovable

locking-hornsI had a really painful relationship conflict earlier this year, and though I’m mostly over it, the sharp sting of it has been jabbing me at random in the last two weeks. The sadness comes screaming back in with startling force. After the third episode, I figured that I needed to process this conflict a bit more.

Here’s what I realized, as I’ve realized many times before: When you get to the root of relationship issues, it’s really about fear. The reason this conflict was so painful was that the nature of it suggested to me that the person didn’t actually love me. This sent a tsunami of fear through me, because a) humans are meant for relationship but, more pertinent to the point here, b) we are all desperately afraid in the core of our being that we aren’t worthy of love.

So, this conflict reinforced the key lie of our existence, and I was devastated. As a Fear Type, the worst-case scenarios began to spiral up. Gut and Heart Types react differently, but the point is that we all share the same core lie.

How did this happen? How did we end up with this lie? I believe it comes from our fundamental disconnection from God. We were made for relationship with him, but our sin nature separates us from him. And that feels horrific. It’s an unlivable feeling. So our psyche kicks in and says, “I’ll handle this. I will make rules for you to follow so that you will be acceptable to the world. Just follow me.” And voila – the personality comes into being.

Now, when we say yes to Jesus, who alone is able to deal with that whole sin nature thing, that core lie doesn’t go away. Our eternal selves get saved, but our minds don’t automatically, do they? The concept of sanctification exists exactly because while the spirit’s salvation is instantaneous, the soul’s (which includes the mind) is not.

There is a huge gap between what our heads know and what our hearts know. That gap is created by the personality. So, we can have all kinds of good theology in our heads and still be devastated by a relationship crisis. We can “know” God loves us unconditionally and still “know” in our inner being that we’re not worthy of love and had better behave or else.

One of my favorite verses is one that is perennially taken out of context: 1 John 4:18. “Perfect love casts out fear.” Most people use this to combat fear in general, because they don’t understand the context provided by the rest of the sentence: “because fear has to do with punishment.” John is trying to help people understand grace and the nature of God’s love, not telling them to stop being afraid of spiders etc. The next sentence makes this quite clear – I’m quoting the New Living Translation because it’s so beautifully plain: “If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”

We fear punishment because our personalities are based on a system of Law that does not understand perfect love. We fear that we are not inherently lovable because we know in our core that we are incapable of keeping the personality’s Law.

So, I’ll bring this back to my own story now. I was hurt and deeply saddened by this conflict, but those emotions were covering over the deeper emotion of fear. I fear because I have not been able to fully grasp just how beloved I am. I know all the right verses, but they have not yet worked their way down to the part of me where the lie of unlovability lives.

How can we change this dilemma? As I said, knowing Scripture is a huge part of the answer, but another huge part is understanding how our particular personality operates. This is why I study and teach the Enneagram and why I practice stillness every day. Greater self-awareness helps us to overcome fear of not being lovable. This makes interpersonal conflicts much less scary. I am convinced that this self-knowledge and these practices help us experience “his perfect love” and even be able to extend that kind of love to others. That’s a journey worth taking, in my book.


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Peace is a Realm, and It Has a Prince

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“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

I’ve heard several of the classic Christmas carols recently that refer to Jesus as the Prince of Peace. That title is certainly not new to me, but this year it struck me: princes rule over realms. Michael Jackson was dubbed the Prince of Pop and presided over pop music in his heyday. The Prince of Darkness…well, darkness is the realm he reigns over. So then, if Jesus is the Prince of Peace, peace must be a realm.

I’m not talking about heaven, that lofty by-and-by where all sorrows and sighing flee away. I’m talking about a realm that we have access to right now – if we can understand that peace and cessation from all trouble are not the same thing.

Jesus said it this way: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Now, the world can give you peace, for a few moments or hours, by means of a favorite song or TV show, a hobby or recreational drug or _________. But the world is bound by time and circumstance, so its peace has shallow roots and cannot last.

Jesus is not bound by time or circumstance. That’s why his peace isn’t like the world’s. He had peace because he could see the eternal perspective, the larger view high above our light and momentary troubles. His peace emanated from his intimate relationship with the Father in the eternal now.

Peter could speak of a “peace that passes understanding” because our minds don’t naturally understand how to be at peace if things aren’t going our way. Jesus’ peace isn’t chained to what is happening to us at any given moment; he does not give as the world gives. Peace is not an emotion; it is a perspective and a state of being. It is a realm.

About this time last year I wrote about Christmas being a time for stillness. That is still true, and stillness is an excellent way to tap into the peace that lives in our spirits because of Jesus. You see, it’s not a far-off peace that comes down to us. It’s a peace that has already been deposited in us. Peace is a realm, and that realm exists inside us.

So, peace to you at Christmas time, and every other time as well.