Archives for category: love

Our Food Bank Truck

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

 

This is hard to write. Re-entering harsh reality after being on vacation, both mentally and physically, has been challenging. There are refugees all over the world desperately needing help; there are children fleeing live-threatening conditions  at our own borders who also desperately need help but are not getting it because they cannot technically be classified as refugees—————and we, as a people, cannot seem to view these human beings, these children,  as anything more than representations of our own political beliefs.  There are fears they will bring untreatable life-threatening illnesses into the United States; just as we did to the Native Americans when we immigrated into what was to become our nation rather than theirs mostly due to our own greed. I suppose we could send them all back home, protect our borders, and try to live with ourselves knowing we sent them back to violence, rape, and death.

I have been participating in several groups who are wrestling with the topics of suffering and love. Both are viewed by some as doors to spiritual transformation. I agree with that. There are some who believe the majority of our suffering is caused by our own need to control everything to combat our own feelings of being overwhelmed and afraid that we can’t control things. Twelve-steppers believe you have to hit bottom, get sick and tired of being sick and tired before you are willing to change your life by entering a spiritual transformation process.  I acknowledge that the suffering in my own life has, for the most part, been caused by my need to control things. I also believe that need for control was caused by being hurt as a child and learning to do whatever I could to avoid additional pain and hurt. Some of my avoidance behaviors were not healthy, and they did, indeed, create suffering.

However, I do not believe the children stuck at our borders hoping to be allowed to live in what for them is a safer, less violent environment are suffering because of their own control issues and consequent poor choices. I think they are suffering because they have left their families and loved ones and are trying to escape being hurt or killed. If I think their suffering is their own spiritual path and that I need to let them experience it without my interference, then I am not being loving or compassionate as my own spiritual transformation process is teaching me to be. Nor can I help myself or others by deliberately seeking   or causing suffering so they or I can be “more spiritual” or “closer to God.”

So, I see pain, sickness, war, jealousy, greed—–all the evils of mankind being manifested all around me. I have to wonder what can I personally do in response to this overwhelming cloud that hangs over us. The answer is, for me, I cannot control or solve these overwhelming problems myself. I must ask God to help me and all of mankind to love one another and  to be compassionate. I must ask God to show us how we can share his love rather than contributing to the evil that is alive and well in our world. To borrow one of recovery’s key phrases, I have to “let go and let God.” That does not mean I do not have the responsibility to do what I can to understand God’s will, to help carry out God’s will, and to treat others with love and compassion. We are taught to love one another as ourselves and to do unto others as we would do unto ourselves.  That is part of God’s will I already know about. I will continue to ask for knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out.

I am reminded of the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers” we sang so often in Sunday School as children. Marching off to battle seemed to be the main message. Now as an adult I cringe at the image of promoting battles and wars. So this morning, I looked up the lyrics to that hymn. Thankfully, God called my attention to the verse that says we are united in hope and charity. Perhaps that is a clue as to how we can begin to carry out God’s will.  God bless and keep you.

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“Three Flowers” Photograph Compliments of K. Farwell

 

Of One and Three

Today was my day to once again revisit the concept of the “Holy Trinity”—–you know, father, son, and holy ghost (or spirit, depending on your preference) as one united supernatural entity. Today was “Holy Trinity Sunday” at my church, and I’ve been thinking about “The Holy Trinity”  intermittently all day. This concept is the  embodiment of “Systems Theory” if you will in which the whole is different than and greater than the sum of its parts—-with the “parts” in this instance being God, the father; Jesus, the son, the Holy Spirit. Seen in this light, the Trinity would be both different and greater than Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit when they are perceived as separate entities.

I sometimes encounter people who feel very strongly about predominantly focusing their prayers and spiritual beliefs around Jesus rather than God or vice versa. Then there are those  like myself who do not believe it makes one iota of difference as Jesus and God can be perceived as part of the same entity (Trinity).  I tend to lean towards addressing “God” with the majority of my prayers as Genesis declares “in the beginning was God.” But, sometimes, I feel more drawn to communicating directly with Jesus because of the time he spent as a human on this planet—-in my mind, that has to give him a heads up on empathy over God—–but then God created us,  and who would or could understand us better than our Creator? It can all get very confusing.

Then, there is the Holy Spirit component of the Trinity to consider. What, exactly is the Holy Spirit? Is it a ghost floating out of the woodwork of an old church? Is it that “hair raising on the back of my neck prickly” feeling I sometimes get when I know the Holy Spirit is near? Or is it in the tears that come to my eyes while singing specific words and phrases in a well-loved hymn? Well, I am not even going to try to answer this one except to say that, for me, the answer is “yes” to the latter two…..that and more. I perceive the Holy Spirit as the more feminine aspect of the Trinity—-that part that speaks to me without words and seems to be intuitively linked to my soul. For the most part, I visualize the Holy Spirit as a thread of energy binding me with a direct connection to the other two components of the Holy Trinity. When I partake of communion, the connection between myself, my God, God’s Son, and the Holy Spirit seems to grow stronger in me, and I often leave the church service feeling energized to spread God’s love and compassion as I live my very ordinary life. Thankfully, I often feel more “at one with the Trinity” after spending quiet time in centering or contemplative prayer. It seems to be contingent on my willingness to take a deep breath, quiet my mind, and allowing myself through consent, to being open to God’s love. And, yes, in doing so I believe I am relating to and being linked with the Trinity as well as its three components.

I would very much like to hear my readers’ thoughts on the meaning of the Holy Trinity and the part it plays in your life. Thank you for allowing me to try to articulate my own thoughts in relation to this topic. May God bless and keep you.

 

Clearing Up

Photo entitled “Clearing Up” compliments of Joshua Burgard

It has been a week of drinking lots of fluids and taking antibiotics religiously every 12 hours—-but last night I finally woke up in the middle of the night and “coughed” the gunk out of my lungs. I know now I am going to be alive and well again.

The sun just came out —-and it is not raining, thundering, blowing, or too hot or too cold. I literally have no complaints, and I welcome the feelings of gratitude that are seeping into my awareness. They are so much better than feeling bored, tired, out of breath and questioning whether you feel tired all the time because  you are sick or if depression is rearing its ugly head again.

Last night, I read the scripture I am supposed to read in church Sunday, and although I did not have the breath to read it all out loud, the words brought comfort to my heart and tears to my eyes. The words reminded me that the presence of our creator is in the midst of all this wonderful and sometimes painful  mess we call life. The bible verses I was reading was about creation…..you know, the one about   “in the beginning was God.” As my breathy, croaky recovering voice read the beginning of these words out loud, hearing them and feeling them brought tears. It was as if God hugged me and said, “See, I am still here. I am still in charge. I still love you.” Sounds a bit childish, I know, but I needed to feel loved—-and although I know God and his love are always there sometimes I do not let myself be receptive to that love. I am letting myself be on the receiving end again and the love is flowing. Soon I will have “recharged” my love reservoir and be able to more actively share that love with others.

Well, that’s it. I simply wanted to try to explain how comforting knowing God is surrounding you with love can be when you set aside your intellect, your self-absorption, your worries, etc. for a moment and let yourself  really feel the love in every fiber of your being.  My experience cannot really be put into words, but seeing  blue sky and sunshine after days of storms provides a metaphor for where my soul has been this past week. It has been trudging through cloudy, gray, gloomy places feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired. Now things are clearing up,  and  my soul is basking in the sunlight of God’s love. It feels good to be back.

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

Last night at a meeting a friend gave me a card with a few brief words typed on it. These words were originally hand-printed on a piece of paper slipped in between the pages of a book that had been bought second hand at a thrift store—-one that is used at meetings when a  member needs a book so he or she can follow what is being read and discussed.

Somehow the simplicity in these words by an anonymous author spoke volumes to me, so I want to share them with you today:

“My Higher Power/God:

-Wants my highest good

-Wants me to be my best

-Wants me to live to my potential

-Loves me unconditionally

-Is an unending source of love, support, and energy”

These words describe how I perceive God, and I feel a direct kinship with the person who wrote them. I particularly appreciated the words because every 12 step meeting I attended in the past two weeks seemed focused on turning our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him, and I can’t help but think that perhaps the enlightened soul who wrote these words had sat through similar meetings.  Wherever that person is today, I hope he or she still carries these beliefs in his or her heart.

This unadorned, simple list makes me think of the assignment many sponsors give to those they sponsor when it comes to working this step—–and that is to write a description of the God you want to be you Higher Power. Many members come to 12 step meetings with feelings of unworthiness, shame, and anger at a God who has abandoned them or at least turned his back o them. Many were taught God was stern, punishing, and vindictive when people failed to please him.

I have heard many people who start working the steps  remark that God never left them—-that it was they who left God, and it took involvement in a 12 step program to bring them back to God. A key component of that reunion, I think, is the ability to perceive God as all-loving and always present. When we perceive our Higher Power as loving and as accessible, it is much easier to form a trusting relationship with that source of power. It is possible to form a close relationship that carries us through the challenge of day to day to day living and whatever the future may bring. We become the recipients of a profound gift. Our spirits are renewed and our sense of spirituality blossoms——-much as leafless trees do when spring arrives.

One of the miracles of working AA’s 12 steps is that when one begins to feel loved and accepted by a Higher Power, one can begin to love and value oneself—–and then, and only then, do we have the ability to pass our experience, strength, and hope on to others who need to establish a vital connection with a power greater than themselves if they are to survive the disease of their addiction. It is all pretty much about loving, trusting, and passing it on to others. So, thank you, Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous for leaving your simple yet powerful message in your book for those of us who were to follow in your footsteps.

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

In my pocket are two things: a quote from  Hafiz saying “I have enough of loss, enough of gain; I have my Love, what more can I obtain?” and a coin celebrating  33 years of recovery that reminds me to be true to myself. Today is supposed to be a day of rest between Jesus’ crucifixion and Christ’s resurrection, and I thought my “soul wrestling” was finally ready to rest for a bit.

Then this morning I was confronted with words I did not want to hear, and my “soul wrestling” started all over again. I listened to well-meaning words that made me face my own character defects and unrealistic expectations of fairness that always get me in trouble.  I was reminded rules are needed to set boundaries and those of us in recovery need rules to help us maintain those boundaries.  I was reminded that suffering is meant to bring me closer to Christ and that every day I have a choice to let suffering do that or to let it come between me and Christ.

The dialogue going on in my head is painful. One voice on the committee keeps saying “I understand the issues underlying rules, but God’s people should be trusted to live ethically without having to abide by ‘rules’—-especially when living ‘by the law’ does more harm than good in my opinion.” Another says, “Christ did not always follow rules either.” The recovering alcoholic two year old inside my head chimes in with his two cents worth and urges me to jump up and down, curse, and just have a plain old “temper tantrum.” A still small voice of reason reminds me to “be true to yourself and don’t let your character defects separate you from God’s love.”  And then Hafiz reminds me, “it is all about God’s love. Period. ”

In re-reading the above paragraph the real problem jumps out at me. There is that single letter “I”—— “I” am the problem. I have to admit my own operational definition of “fair” means “my way.” And when things aren’t my way, I don’ like it,  and I get my feelings hurt.  I have a hard time letting that hurt bring me closer to God. And yet, just this morning, I told a group that “atonement” to me means “At One with God’—————–so why is it so hard for me to accept what I consider to be unfair so that I can be “At One” with God?

So,  this pain is my own fault. I need to accept life on life’s terms just as I need to accept the crucifixion on God’s terms. As long as I am connected with God’s love everything else is just “stuff.” I can choose to “lounge on the pity pot. ” I can choose to do something passive aggressive to enlighten authorities about how “stupid”  their rules are. I can choose to pursue a geographical cure from the site of my spiritual dilemma. I can choose to indulge in one or all of my addictions.

But, most importantly, I can choose to be true to myself and stay connected with God’s love. If I allow my character defects of wanting things to be fair (my way) and resenting authority block the current of love that flows between God and I, then I am the one creating emotional upheaval in my soul. I need to stop trying to “obtain” and just stop and appreciate what I have, the love of God, as all I need. Today I choose to stay connected. May God bless and keep you.

 

Now we come to the setting of the sun

Image courtesy of Kathryn Farwell

There is something about Holy Week that has always ranged from mildly uncomfortable to extremely unsettling to me——and that is the direct result of wrestling with my own mind and soul. My instinct is to question how any father could allow his son to die such a painful death. Then I realize we–you, me, and others  are the ones that killed him and keep on killing him with our selfish and cruel actions over and over again. That realization is not pleasant either. I find myself wondering “why?” Sure, I know without death there would be no resurrection and without that miracle many would not accept Christ into their hearts. But couldn’t there have been an easier, more humane way of nurturing our faith?  God is patient, God is kind, God is love. God allows his only son to be crucified and to spend six hours in agony while he slowly dies. And, lastly, God allows his son to feel abandoned.

When I peel away my intellectual resistance to this whole Easter thing I realize it is the parts of me that suffered abuse in childhood and abandonment in adulthood that are really angry at God for letting it happen not only to Jesus but also to me. At the core, my strong reactions to anything, sadly enough,  seem to be “all about me.”

The good news is God is patient with me. He sent me some answers yesterday that I am going to try to share in a way that makes sense. First, I attended a presentation by a motivational speaker that I had not known was going to happen until less than an hour before his speech was given. Some of the answers God sent me were in that man’s story. He told us about being in a near-fatal accident when he was a first year college student and about what has happened to him because of that accident. One of the biggest messages he gave was that the most powerful gift you can give another is the gift of presence. He received emergency care that saved his life. He could not talk or see, had to breathe through a tube, was in traction, could barely move, and the only sensory message he was aware of was periodic intense pain. But the memory, the thing, that stood out to him through all those hours of agony was the hand that would intermittently squeeze his and he would squeeze back as a caring voice said, “I’m here.”

The second answer God sent me yesterday was during  a book study session following centering prayer.  One of the topics discussed was that suffering is a gateway to strengthening our spirituality. It is through being broken and wounded that we are connected to God’s presence. His presence is always there, only sometimes it takes something drastic to get our attention. Leonard Cohen’s  song “Anthem” was discussed in regards to the lyric about cracks letting the light in  meaning that it is through being wounded and/or suffering that cracks occur in our perception so the light of God’s spirit can enter into our awareness.

So, you may be asking, where are your answers in all this? Well, I think God was trying to tell me yesterday that yes the crucifixion was painful, yes it is painful to think about it, and, yes it may involve perceived, but short-lived, abandonment—–but you, Kathy, have to seriously consider this event in your soul at least once a year so you can realize God’s love and presence. You need this painful reality to sink in so you can let the light of his spirit to illuminate your soul. He seems to be telling me I should accept the pain of the crucifixion and move away from “why” to “what are am I going to do about this event. God seems to be reminding me that the alternative is to completely miss the gift/miracle inherent in this event by getting bogged down and stuck in my own insecurities, anger, and judgmental questioning.

I have spent an entire career suggesting people stop asking “why” when they contemplate their own addiction and instead, ask , “what can God and I together do about it?”  Yesterday, God directed me to ask that same question to myself in regards to Holy Week. I heard loud and clear yesterday to stop getting stuck in my judgmental head and start asking “What can God and I do together about this?” I  know now that God doesn’t want me to miss this gift and that he wants me to take this love and share it with others instead of questioning the gift. And the next time I want to cry because of Jesus’ pain and perceived abandonment I am going to replace that image with one of God squeezing Jesus’  hand and saying, “I’m here.” God bless and keep you.

 

Stained Glass Window

Image courtesy of artur84w,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, sitting in church, a bit of wisdom being read from the bible flew straight into my heart as if it had been launched on an arrow meant only for me. It was from the fourth chapter of John, and the reading was about when Jesus had been given water by a woman who was drawing water from a well, and he, in turn, offered her the water of eternal life. I was familiar with that part of the scripture, but what caught my attention was what Jesus said to his apostles after the woman went to tell her neighbors about her encounter with the Messiah.
With the brief transition of “Meanwhile,” John next describes how the disciples urged Jesus to eat. The answers Jesus gave them astounded me: “I have food to eat you do not know about……My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”
There it was. Words in black and white. Ancient words. Words full of wisdom. The words I need just now, just this moment to energize my efforts to eat only that which is healthy for me to eat. I have spent sixty years, give or take a few spent indulging my addiction without restraint, on one diet or another. The words describing my efforts at healthy eating may have changed over time from diet to food plan or from calories to ounces, but I have learned the only ingredient that gives these tools life and makes them effective is when I turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand him.
So, when people offer me something to eat, always with the best of intentions and with caring hospitality, and I decline their offer, I will probably say, “No, thank you, I’m a diabetic and I can’t eat sugar or flour” or just “No, thank you”—–but I will, I hope, think to myself, “I have food to eat you do not know about.” And, if I am spiritually fit that day, my thoughts will add that the focus of my life is doing God’s will.
When I allow myself to feel the love of God within and around me and quiet my thoughts so that my ego surrenders to that love, I am never hungry. To be honest, when I am practicing contemplative prayer, my stomach may growl or I may have a fleeting craving for one food or another, but those thoughts are allowed to immediately “float by” and are quickly replaced by my link to God’s love. And, as they say, that is “Priceless.”

Spring Daffodil

Image courtesy of Jonathan Fitch,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I read this morning of a woman who tells others “to have enough”—-not to “have a good day” or “God bless you”—-what she gives others is just the wish for them to have enough. Now, being the addictive personality I am, I found that wish a bit hard to comprehend. But I’ve thought a lot about it today, and I realize it is a philosophy I need to adopt. If I realize I have enough, I will stop seeking more. And more. I will change my focus from acquisition of things “outside” myself and focus instead on nurturing that which is already “inside me”—-my inner being which is the soul God gave me.

If I realize I have enough and that I am filled with God’s spirit and love, I won’t always be wanting to “fill” myself with drugs, alcohol, or food. I won’t need to find a “fix” because God created me already “fixed.” All I have to do is realize it, consent, and carry on content with what I have and willing to share it with others so I can  “keep it,” as they say around twelve step tables.

So, for me, I need to answer the question “when is enough, enough?” Each person, unfortunately, or fortunately, needs to find his or her own answer to that question. I didn’t used to perceive enough until I was miserable and doing a nose-dive towards “hitting bottom.” Gratefully, God has taught me in recovery to start realizing I’ve had enough before I get so dangerously close to hitting bottom.

Of course, there are times of suffering and pain that cannot be avoided in this adventure we call life, but I must remind myself I need to experience those times so I won’t take the gifts of life and love God has given me for granted.  I need to be able to appreciate the positive in my life and to realize each moment is for only a moment, this moment. There are no guarantees that anything will be here beyond the present moment. In terms of recovery, I am talking about cultivating an attitude of gratitude. In terms of Ram Dass, I am talking about “Being here Now.”

I seem to be avoiding answering my own question. It is simple, really. Enough is enough as soon as I realize and accept my reality for what it is.  When I consent to letting God be in charge and stop trying to control and fix everything, then I can start to appreciate being in the midst of “enough.” It is a relief really, not trying to always compete, be better, be perfect, be the best, be right. It is liberating to realize I am enough just the way God created me. I don’t have to earn God’s love or God’s gifts. So, my answer is:  today I have enough because God is in me and I am in him. May God bless and keep you.

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Image courtesy of Sailom/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A couple of days ago I read a meditation about dualistic thinking and how it is a type of “stinking thinking”—–a term used by those in recovery to refer to a way of thinking that creates problems and does not support living in “the solution.” I was reminded how easy it is for our mind to automatically categorize everything we encounter as all “good’ or all “bad.” Living in that way of thinking is like living in a land of black and white images with no color to brighten the landscape or add truth and clarity to our vision. If I am walking into a public building and I have to step over a fecal donation left by a dog I can immediately think “How rude, can’t people have the decency to carry baggies with them and clean up after the dog they are walking?” This judgmental thought keeps me from having a mind open to other interpretations of my reality. Perhaps the fecal donation was left by a stray dog who needs rescued. The latter interpretation leaves my heart open to love and positive action while the first does not.

Okay, I get the picture. However, much as I hate to admit it, insight does not change how my automatic thoughts work. So,  yesterday I tried to notice when my  mind “jumped” to dualistic thinking. The first example I noticed was my reaction to seeing  an American flag left hanging in the cold, wet rain in front of the National Guard building that  I drove by on my way give a friend a ride to church. My mind “jumped” into the adolescent mind set about the proper way to show respect to our country’s flag; I learned in Girl Scouts how to hang the flag, take down the flag, fold the flag, and when not to “hang” the flag. It is not to be hung in the dark or in rain.  Or so my judgmental brain remembers being taught. So, based on something remembered from over fifty years ago that may not still be true, my immediate dualistic thought was “The military should know better! I can’t believe they left the flag out in the rain!”

The second happened when I was at church between Sunday school class and the church service. The priest walked up to me while I was reading book titles in our book case and asked me to grab my purse and said, “come with me.” My dualistic mind jumped to the conclusion that either something really bad had just happened or that I was in trouble. As the moment unfolded, I found out that the truth actually was he wanted to show me the Icon that had mysteriously disappeared had been successfully repaired and replaced, and from the conversation that we had I began to understand and appreciate the time and effort he put in to fixing the Icon. Since I do not have a mind that can fathom such procedures, had I even noticed the Icon being back in its place without it being shown to me, I probably would only have thought “Oh, the icon is back.”

The third happened when I read something last night and began to close my mind to the way I perceive the person about whom I had been reading. This was the most worrisome case of “dualistic thinking” I caught myself in yesterday. I still do not know the true context of this situation, but thanks to prayer and confidential counseling from a friend I am now able to see that dualistic judgmental thinking can block my mind from the truth and keep me from being a channel for God’s love and God’s will.  I need to keep my mind and my heart open so I can discern the truth without judging my fellow humans. Judging others and knowing “absolute truth” are clearly in God’s domain rather than mine.

Enough. May we see today in bright and varied colors and not fall prey to dualistic stinking thinking. God bless and keep you.

Antique heart

Image courtesy of  Serge Bertasius Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now I know why it is important to keep a disciplined writing schedule. It has been almost two weeks since I last wrote, and I am finding it most difficult to come up with a topic. Needless to say, during this dry spot I have had what I call a “bit of depression.” My sinuses have been fighting this awful “bug” that has been flourishing in this region, and they haven’t “won” the battle yet; however, progress is being made. I have tried not to bury myself in “should be doing” and, instead rested in “just be.” The result has been more self acceptance and less guilt. Guilt has been replaced by limited regret that I am not consenting or surrendering to God’s will and love—–at least not totally. Doing so only at a  “50%” level means the other 50% is being run on “self-will” which can be ruinous.

So far, during this past two weeks self will has let me eat two bags of pistachios, and it has allowed me to stop weighing and measuring what I eat. I can, of course, still consider myself abstinent because I am not eating flour and sugar.  Once again, I am finding that nothing “fills the void”—and nothing really tastes appealing. I know if I go back to “squeaky clean” abstinence by  weighing and measuring the food I eat it will once again taste good. Eating will once again become a pleasurable exercise in mindfulness, and it will be a pleasure to chew each bite mindfully.

Wow! I just got interrupted by a phone call, and when I turned my attention back to the screen, I re-read the above paragraph. It is literally screaming “Half measures availed us nothing!” Obviously, I know what I need to do, and I am close to willing. However, “close to willing” never got me anywhere except closer to “hitting bottom.” I need to stop “counting my yets” and start looking at the reality of what I am doing to myself. I am not allowing God’s love to envelop me, and I am not loving myself or caring for God’s temple as I should be. There is that word “should” again!

I am going to re-direct my thinking this morning from “should” to “let it be.”  Today, “let it be” will mean “let me be willing” and “let God’s love happen.” Each day in recovery is a miracle, and I need to once again be mindfully aware of the miraculous gift God has given me.

Hope all is well with my readers. May God bless and keep you.