Archives for category: peace

Week of Daddy's Funeral Oct 22 14 021

Photograph courtesy of K. Farwell

Funny how you can have one dream—or a similar variation of the same dream—over and over again. For about a year now I have been having a repeated dream involving trying to live in the home of my childhood leaving it to find another place to live. The characters in the dreams are sometimes my parents, sometimes my ex-husband, and always friends whose names I cannot remember.

This morning I had an “ah-ha” moment when I finally realized what these dreams have been trying to tell me. I was on the way to pick up a friend to take to church with me when I realized I was singing along with the radio, and the words I was  singing  were: “I’ll be home for…..” . That is as far as I got. I couldn’t finish singing the song. I realized I no longer have a home to go home to for Christmas or any other time. My dreams have been trying to tell me I am truly “emanicpated” from my childhood. I am an adult; I have no living parents.

Instead of being sad, I started smiling. God has been kind to me; I now have a home…..my own home…..and I don’t have to go any further to “feel at home.” I can stop looking for the “dream home”—-the home of my childhood and/or the mystery home I have been seeking in my dreams. Realizing I am exactly where I am meant to be—-that I am finally home is like taking a deep breath and relaxing. I don’t have to “go out and seek my fortune” or pursue any other material goal. I am home. I can rest. I can take time to nurture my soul. I can be at peace. The antagonistic characters in my dreams are just figments of my imagination who no longer exist in my current reality.

Have I come to the end of the “fairy tale?” You know, the part where you live happily ever after? I doubt it. Accepting where I am as I am is a bit more realistic than believing I can find the perfect person and/or the perfect place to make my life complete so  I can “live happily ever after.” My happiness is my own responsibility, and I know I will continue to have “good days” and “bad days.” However,  I am very lucky indeed to have a comfortable home, good friends, a church family, and a loving God  to walk with me through those days. May God bless and keep you.

 

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Photograph courtesy of K. Farwell

Finally. Time to write again. Have been going through an emotional wringer——one of those life passages that grabs you, kneads you, and reshapes you, hopefully, into something better. This is about life after death—–my life after my father’s death.

My father died on Oct. 22 at the age of 92. As I like to think of it,  he left his “shell” behind and entered  into what I’ve come to call the “cloud of unknowing”—-that place where we all are in close relationship with a God that loves us. I have caught glimpses of it during prayer and meditation, and once with a chemically induced ticket. When I focus on centering prayer, I slowly die to what is around me that holds me to this plane, and that is what I watched my father do for months. Unfortunately, they were months that were physically and emotionally very painful for him.

Dementia is not a fun process to watch or to experience. It would be different, I think, if you just woke up one morning and had no memory, could not think clearly, and could not participate in conversations because your mind no longer could keep up with things. Instead, for my father,  it was a slow process that grieved my father until the end because he was aware of what he was losing and had lost. The greatest sacrifice dementia demanded from him was his independence. First, he allowed caretakers to enter his home several times a day to help him with meals and medicine. …and operating both the television remote and the telephone.  But as his dementia progressed, he needed more and more assistance.  It wasn’t until the last few months of his life that we confiscated the keys to his vehicle. To him, I know, that symbolized one of the final straws in his fight to maintain his independence.  When his last surviving sibling died, his younger brother, he voiced his realization that he was ready to die, and we gave him our permission.

Shortly after that, there were multiple hospitalizations for a variety of physical conditions, and I was privileged to spend time with him during most of those times. I am grateful I got to feed my father and to hug him and say the Lord’s Prayer with him as we embraced—-something we did several times a day during his last long hospital stay. Those were special moments for us. In the end, he was too sick to go home, even with care-takers. When he left the hospital in September, as health power of attorney and with his permission,  I admitted him to a facility that provided rehab services.

My sisters and I hung on to the fantasy that his strength would return and he could return to his home. This never happened, and rehab became skilled nursing care. And I felt very, very guilty because one of his strongest desires was never to be in one of “those places;” he was always adamant about wanting to die at home. In less than two weeks after transferring to skilled nursing care he was admitted to a hospital with a diagnosis of pneumonia; he died the next day. I was driving over 300 miles to be with him, but he died before I got there.

My grief has been fed with unrealistic self- expectations and guilt. I am a nurse. I was supposed to help him get better. In spite of everything I did, that did not happen. My dreams have been filled with thinking of things that would “make Daddy well”—-only to wake and realize he was already dead.  But I think I’ve finally started getting better. A friend helped me realize my dreams of repeatedly trying to save my father’s life are actually my way of trying to “re-image” myself as a “successful savior.” With that insight came the realization that I have been trying to do God’s job, and now I am starting to let go of what happened and my need to constantly re-play it and fix it in my dreams. I have been using an Anglican rosary to pray to “Almighty and Merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to bless us and keep us, to have mercy on us, and to grant us peace. It is working. I am starting to accept and move on. Those prayers are saving my sanity and restoring my ability to engage in living my life once more in a way that lets God drive the bus. May God bless and keep you.

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Photo of “small pebble” courtesy of K. Farwell

 

I think it is time to write again. My emotions have been dashed about by forceful waves of fate these days. There have been almost constant reminders of suicide and the importance of reaching out with compassion to each other. Yet, at the same time there have been acts of violence, fear, and frustration erupting in my own state and all over the world. My spiritual studies have told me to hang on—-to “rejoice” in the moment , to go within to reach God’s peace and sanctuary so that I can, hopefully, share that with those who inhabit the world around me near and far.  Wisdom through the ages has taught “as it is within, so it is without.” It makes sense, then, that I must focus on creating a “within” that is worth sharing and then find ways to share it so that it can influence my outer world.

I must admit at times, this seems like an impossible task. At others, it feels like a “pacifist cop out”—-it seems too easy to “hide within” when part of me wants to actively fight for what is right and good. But, you see, that is what most people spreading violence and hatred among one another believe they are doing—-fighting for what is good and right. At times like this I find solace in words of wisdom I find in the Psalms and in the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Both focus on harboring and reverencing a “God within”—-and using that “Higher Power” to direct one’s efforts in working on improving one’s own character defects and bad habits so that one can be aware of, willing,  and able to carry out God’s will. There are strong messages of reconciliation in both books—-an emphasis on the need change our own behavior and to make amends for our own wrongs before we judge others or lash out against others.

So, today I must remember that I am a small pebble in a big ocean and that my mission, today and always, is to focus on improving my relationship with God and so I can radiate love, compassion, and peace to help build God’s kingdom on earth one molecule at a time. May God bless and keep you.

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.

Peace Symbol

Image courtesy of digitalart,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today has been an unusual day. Sleet has been falling from gray, overcast skies. There is a sheen of ice visible on walkways and roads.  Droplets of water are frozen on my clothesline. Through all of this winter mess, an occasional soft roll of thunder can be heard overhead.

I turned my television on this morning to check the weather report, and after a brief presentation of the weather, all I heard was “Crimea this” and “Crimea” that. I always thought Crimea was a place in history books where Florence Nightingale actually practiced nursing for a few years. Now it is a word that is a bit too real in the present moment. With the word “Crimea” other words are being spoken:  words  like “war” and “aggression.” I pray daily for peace, but I think a collective effort would be more productive. Perhaps our world needs to step back and take a deep breath and re-direct its energies to peace for all.

Naturally, my thoughts turn to what I can do to promote peace. I can continue to focus on developing a strong spiritual “inner core”—–and I can share that with others with whom I come in contact. I need to share God’s love so my actions radiate peace and concern rather than anxiety and resentment so I can cultivate calmness and peace rather than discord and stress in my interactions with others.

Watching the news this morning was not quite as bad as watching the Bay of Pigs crisis unfold on our family’s old black and white television. It was, however,  reminiscent of that scary point in time.  I’m not ready to go out and start digging a bomb shelter. I’m not ready to turn into “Henny Penny” and run around proclaiming the “sky is falling.” I am, however ready for peace on earth. I am ready for each one of us to realize that we are all one, and in fighting others who we call “enemy” we are fighting just other versions of ourselves. I am ready for the world to realize God’s mercy, grace,  love and compassion extend to everyone—–including our President, those who are killing each other in the Sudan, the man this morning’s newscasters are referring to as the “Russian dictator,” the children next door, the elderly lady two houses up, the homeless man or woman trying to keep warm, or even those who abuse others, be they human or animal.

My faith has repeatedly taught me not to judge others. If I am honest about all the wars my country has fought, I cannot afford to be judgmental about another country’s acts of aggression. I should not judge such actions even if I were a citizen of a country that had never been aggressive itself.

So, I am back to my question. What can I as an individual do to promote peace. I can pray for peace and love to prevail. I can live peacefully so the “ripple effect” from my little corner of the world will promote peace rather than aggression. The world’s situation is one of those things referred to in the Serenity Prayer that I cannot change, but if I work on changing myself and my actions, the only things I actually can change,  maybe that one little change will have a “butterfly” affect on the rest of the world. Maybe not, but at least I can live with myself knowing I have tried. God bless and keep you.

Jesus

Image courtesy of Naypong,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Everywhere I have gone today I have encountered the word “blessed.” Different meanings of the word blessed were talked about in our Sunday school class; those meanings included “happy,” “wonderful news” or “fortunate.” Then, once I had gotten home and eaten lunch, I read the material that had been electronically sent to those of us who participate in a Sunday afternoon 11th step focused study of Matthew’s “Beatitudes.”  Of course, it was information about the various meanings of the word blessed.

In the Sunday school discussion, the beatitudes were presented as a proclamation Jesus made of how he was starting to create God’s kingdom on earth by turning things “upside down,” and the author of the book we were studying (Wright, N. T.,2002, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1, Louisville, KY: John Knox Press) emphasized that these “blessings” were not something we are rewarded with in heaven after we die for having lived the “right kind of life.” Instead, Wright points out that these blessings are present-tense blessings and suggests we should try living according to these principles in the present moment.  He doesn’t specify how to do so, but I sure he means to live in a manner that helps create God’s kingdom in the present moment. I cannot imagine he means to purposefully become poor, hungry, persecuted,  or look forward to mourning the death of someone you love.

According to Bob Towner (2014), the convener of the 11th Step Beatitudes Study Group, the blessings Jesus was addressing in what is traditionally thought of as the “Sermon on the Mount” were actually an invitation to search one’s inner self in order to find peace and happiness—–even in unhappy situations like those specified in the beatitudes. Towner’s spin on the meaning of the beatitudes suggests Jesus is actually  “offering me [us] the choice of finding worthiness and benefit in attitudes and conditions which the world finds useless or shameful.” This  means I need to apply what I encounter in my inner searching into changing my attitudes and behaviors accordingly.

So, I am faced with considering two different perceptions of the message Jesus was trying to give those who were listening—-as well as to those of us who are reading the account of what he said. They both seem to agree that they are more “here and now” than future focused. They both seem to  agree that the “blessings” are in direct relationship with actions one must take to feel blessed in the present moment.  I have experienced peace and happiness within my inner being when surrounded by the very things mentioned in the beatitudes, and practicing the 12 steps has taught me that much of my inner peace depends on changing my attitudes and actions.

I think I just figured out my take on all this. Blessings are something God gives to me if I am willing to seek them in a spiritual manner. They are not concrete, measurable rewards to be stacked up in heaven or here on earth. I don’t have to do things to make myself miserable in order to receive them. However, I would be the first to admit there have been times in the past when I was only able to find such blessings because I was miserable enough to surrender my will and to actively seek God’s will.  Fortunately, I am learning to work on my “God seeking” skills, and I am much more able to realize and accept blessings now than I have been in the past; I am also fortunate that it doesn’t always take “hitting bottom” to motivate me to seek God and his blessings these days. Although I still work on changing my attitudes and behavior for the better, I still have lots of room for improvement.

So, when I close my blogs with “God bless and keep you,” I am not suggesting you just sit around and wait for God to drop blessings on your head. I am inviting you to actively seek those blessings and hoping you will find and express them in your attitudes and behavior. Although I would like my closing to be some sort of magical spell that guarantees my readers will be blessed and safely held in God’s arms, it is actually expressing my hope that you will actively seek, find, and share God’s love and the peace that “passes all understanding.” God bless and keep you.

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“If I’m not appreciated, that’s your problem that you don’t appreciate me. Unless I need your love, then it’s my problem. So my needs are what are giving you the power over me. Those people’s power over you to take you out of your equanimity and love and consciousness has to do with your own attachments and clingings of mind. That’s your work on yourself, that’s where you need to meditate more, it’s where you need to reflect more, it’s where you need a deeper philosophical framework, it’s where you need to cultivate the witness more, it’s where you need to work on practicing opening your heart more in circumstances that aren’t optimum. This is your work.  ”

accessed 1/17/14 at: http://www.ramdass.org/a-heavy-curriculum/

Well, this quote woke me up this morning! I’ve talked about self-validation vs. co-dependency for years, but that’s become old hat to me, and those words do not offer any thing new my mind and soul can use. Those words are about insight; they are not about action. Ram Dass’ words are about action, or at least that is where they lead my thoughts.

My own needs are what I need to work on—-the thing I need to think about, meditate about, detach and distance myself from by realizing my self worth comes from within and from Creator. If I am doing anything for the purpose of winning praise, recognition, or gratitude from another, then my motives are way off base. What Dass calls my “witness” needs to objectively observe my thoughts and actions so I can begin to be aware of doing this. I cannot change something if I am not aware of it.

Here’s an example from something I was involved in yesterday afternoon that shows me Ram Dass is probably right. I was teaching a crafts class in which three people were learning how to crochet. I had planned to first teach them to read the pattern, then how to do the chain stitch, and, finally, how to do a double stitch—-the only two stitches used to make the scarf that had been selected as a class project.  I thought it would take about 10 minutes to teach them to read a pattern, and about 10 minutes of practice for each stitch.

Things didn’t happen the way I expected. There is much more to crocheting than saying, “this is the stitch, this is what it is called, and this is how you do it.”  There were a multitude of nuances left out of both the printed instructions that were provided and the verbal and visual instructions I was providing. It seems that I have been crocheting so long that I’d forgotten many of the “little steps” that are part of the “bigger steps.” All of the sudden things were not going like clockwork, and I had a room full of confused and anxious people. Together we started breaking the process down into the “mini-steps” necessary in these two basic stitches. Things started working better, but things were still not going well.

Finally, a voice of reason was heard from across the room saying, “Why don’t we make the scarf with just the one single stitch?” I am so grateful that my friend was there to “witness objectively” what was going on and to make that suggestion.  When we did that, the whole room relaxed. Where there had been stress and performance anxiety, there was now more self-acceptance and less tension. Instead of frowns and throwing things down in exasperation, there were smiles and laughter. The class had become “we” instead of being divided into expert and novice. My own thoughts were no longer as focused on feeling like a failure as a teacher.  Slowly I let go of my  need to be a “good teacher” and became, instead, a empathetic facilitator. My  “needs” got out of the way—-and when that happened, people who had never crocheted began to crochet.

The lesson I learned yesterday was whenever I am feeling anxious to try to detach from the emotions  I am feeling so I can “witness” what is happening—-then my perception will not be as distorted by my own needs. It sounds simple, but I know it will take lots of work to develop awareness and healthy detachment. I am grateful to have taken this first step of acceptance. May God bless and keep you.