Archives for category: love

 

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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.

 

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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.

color wave

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.

toolbag

Image courtesy of  Gualberto10 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have two uncompleted afghans, two uncompleted scarves, one uncompleted dishcloth,  an uncompleted shawl, and numerous other crochet projects that have been on hold for so long I no longer know what they are or where the pattern is I was following when I was working on them. I often get “hooked” (no pun intended) into crocheting a new pattern just for the thrill of creating something different, but when the newness wears off I sometimes abandon the project. Novelty must be one of my life’s strong allures, and, in fact, I think that attraction played a part in the relationships I have explored during my lifetime. It may even have played a part in my constantly seeking and exploring various religions.

I think I may just be trying to justify all my “unfinished business.” At the same time, however, there are benefits associated with prioritizing variety and new challenges over confining yourself to following a set way of doing the same thing forever and forever, amen. Seeking variety has introduced to new ideas, new ways of doing things, new people, new insights, and new experiences that I would have otherwise missed. The key issue here, for me, is discerning what is of value that I need to keep with me as I journey on to explore new avenues. It is almost as if I have spent my lifetime on a “scavenger hunt”—-a scavenger hunt in which the goals are not predetermined. Therefore, I don’t know what I am looking for until I find it and try it on to determine if it is a “comfortable fit.” If it is, it gets put in my “tool bag” and carried with me to future adventures.  Along the way, of course, I find I have outgrown some of the “tools” in my bag and I exchange them for a newer, more effective “tool.”

Through the years I’ve collected tools like the ten commandments, the beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, and Christ’s commandment to love one another and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Later, that latter “do unto” belief was bolstered by the Wiccan  belief that whatever you do to others comes back to you threefold as well as by the concept of “karma” that I also stuffed in my tool bag. Some of the tools I have discarded are beliefs taught to me by fairy tales: that love is forever and that you will live happily ever after. I have discarded many beliefs I developed during childhood: that everyone is honest, that a spoken promise or commitment is better than a written contract, and that I should not question authority or be assertive or aggressive. And, of course there are the “big tools” I have discarded that almost killed me: the beliefs that drinking alcohol and eating were fun activities that “felt good,”  and therefore, I should be able to drink and eat what I wanted, as much as I wanted,  whenever I wanted.

Here are some of the new tools I’ve put in my bag: It is okay to say no, it is okay to express my own feelings and meet my own needs, not everything has an “ending” and some things you thought would never end do end. I have learned that pain and “being wounded” by some of life’s experiences are not necessarily bad things—-that they often lead to growth and newer, better outcomes. Pain can bring spiritual clarity, and being a wounded survivor can give you strength, insight, empathy, and heighten your ability to help others. Of course, over 32 years ago, I put AA’s 12 steps in my tool bag, and they are still there. However,  I take them out periodically and refine them so they continue to be “new and useful” tools. My newest tool is one I  find extremely useful: centering or contemplative prayer in which I consent to quietly seeking and receiving God’s unconditional love.

It took me all these words to realize what I am trying to say is life is not so much about “finishing something” as it is about evolving—-it is about process and not perfection. It is about the journey and not the destination. What tools have you discovered, picked up,  or revised in your tool bag?  What ones have you discarded? May God bless and keep you.