Archives for category: prayer

Now we come to the setting of the sun

This morning has been one of  “Facebook Connection with God.” Surprisingly, my Facebook experience this morning felt like getting hug after hug rather than being bombarded by negativity. The first, and perhaps biggest “hug”  I encountered was a post about the forgiveness ceremony at Standing Rock. This event is proof that after centuries of hurt by working together reconciliation and purposeful building of community can help us heal as a nation. It gives me hope that this united effort will continue to heal our nation and block negativity.

Another hug was a video of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra playing and children singing “Christmas Canon.”  This particular piece of music has always comforted my spirit,  and,  as I listened, I realized God was hugging me again.

A third hug was a posted contemplative prayer article that supported my efforts in practicing contemplative prayer. In a kind way the article reminded me how important it is for me to practice growing closer to God in purposeful moments when I quiet my mind and let Him fill the silence with His Love. If it had yelled “Practice, practice, practice!” at me I would not have bothered to read it

These past months have been full of nation-wide negativity and ugliness. On a personal level I fought a long battle with bronchitis and asthma, and I won. Truthfully, although all the medical intervention was integral in my recovery, so was the support and prayers of my friends. I could have easily ended up in the hospital as many of my friends have with this particular strain of bronchitis. Not doing so was a huge “hug from God.”

The biggest “hug” happened this past weekend. I began experiencing abdominal pain about 10 AM Saturday morning, and it seemed to worsen all day.  I tried to convince myself I was having a stomach ache as a result of the new antibiotic I was  taking. When I got home from a local craft show, I got out the antibiotic’s  pharmacy print out, and found, much to my dismay, that if your stomach hurt when taking this medication you needed to call your doctor. On a Saturday night, that meant calling my doctor’s “service.” The doctor I talked to was an angel from God. He helped me realize what I was describing was more than what is usually expected as a side effect of this medication, and when I explained my history of multiple partial bowel obstructions, he suggested I consider visiting an emergency room. He did a good job of breaking through my denial—- I drove myself to a local ER.

While there I got the usual IV, EKG, blood draws, and CAT scan. Based on what the CAT scan showed the ER doctor determined that my “dysfunctional colon” had started backing things up into my small intestine as it has many times before.  “Backing up” and the pain it causes are  generally the first symptoms associated with developing partial or total bowel obstruction. I was lucky—– the doctor decided he could treat me there in the ER with a humongous soap suds enema rather than having to send me by ambulance to Barnes Jewish in St. Louis. Now, in case something as old fashioned and “low tech” as an invasive enema sounds like torture to you rather than a positive outcome, I can tell you from personal experience an hour or so of intense discomfort is much more positive than having a NG  tube forced down your throat into your stomach, a catheter put in your bladder, and spending a week or so in the hospital with the threat of possible surgery hanging over you.

This positive ER experience outcome was intensified by the fact that the nurses who took care of me had been my students in the past, they both recognized me, and they both gave me excellent care. Sometimes it pays to have previously been a professor in a small town. By 4 AM I finally was able to go home and go to bed.

I’ve been able to rest a few days now, slowly building back to almost my normal activity level, and this morning when I was trolling Facebook to find a daily  bible verse and prayer for my church’s Face book page, I encountered the hugs spoken of earlier. Finding all those positive postings got  me to thinking about all the ways God has been kind to me these past few weeks and how grateful I am.

Thanks for letting my mind wander on about hugs.

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Church Earring

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I’ve been working this week on practicing making earrings—-a artisan skill two good friends of mine have been trying to teach me. I’m finding my vision, depth perception, and making my fingers work on small, precise tasks quite challenging.   Fine motor skills is something I do not have; I think crocheting is as close as I will get.

Working on practicing making earrings has been a good lesson for me in accepting humility and the fact that I will never make a perfect pair of earrings. It won’t be that hard to leave an intentional glitch in the finished product so that the “Great Spirit” will not be offended.  Through the years I have had lots of experience being forced to realize I am not God, and this is an excellent way to “hammer that message home” to my “wanna be” ego.

I am having the most trouble mastering the technique of wire wrapping—-you know, those coils of wire that go from the top of your “bead” to the place where the earring fastens on to ear wire. Probably because that is precisely the point  in the earring making process where hand and eye coordination are the most important.  My left thumb is full of small puncture wounds from “wire pressing.”  So much so that  I had to take  a break and not try to wire wrap yesterday.

I am fighting allergies and asthma today, so I am not attending church this morning. I decided to try making another pair of earrings. This time what happened was kind of different. I found myself placing the gem stones in an order representative of a church, steeple, and cross. My mind kept remembering how proud I was of myself when I learned how to do the “hand trick” that went with the words, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open up, and there’s all the people.” You place your hands together with the first, second, and third fingers intertwined  and bent inward  while your thumbs held together at the front become “the door” and your “pinky fingers” stick up and meet at a point to make the steeple.  When you open your hands up, your hidden fingers are the “people” spoken of in the rhyme.

When I was four, things were, for the most part simple. I found joy and pleasure in the smallest of things; there were no digital toys to play with, no television, and no elaborate toys. Pounding piano keys  was fun,  lying on your back in the yard looking up at the shapes made by clouds in the sky was fun, and blowing soap bubbles through a empty wooden thread spool was fun.  The plastic “deep sea divers” that came “free in the cereal boxes” that were fun because if you filled the kitchen sink up with water, packed baking soda into the base of the plastic figures and placed them on the bottom of the sink, the figures “miraculously”  came straight up to the top of the water.

The church game signified what would become the pivotal point of my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but my spiritual evolution would end up strongly anchored in just such a church. Granted, I had to find a church that would accept my liberal way of thinking and living.  Now I spend  part of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday  at my church doing various things that I hope will make a positive difference.  One of the things I have learned along the way is that “church” is not confined to being inside a building; in fact, in my opinion, “church” is occurring less and less in the confines of a building and, hopefully, more and more in the hearts and actions of people outside the walls of the church.

Enough rambling. Wherever you are I hope you experience love and peace. I hope that you can have a rest from “heavy and deep thinking” so that you can exercise your imagination and find joy in simple things. The good news is we don’t have to be children to do so. All of God’s creation is waiting for you, and you don’t want to miss it. God bless and keep you.

baby photo

 

Photography courtesy of K. Farwell

I have been working on this forgiveness challenge thing (https://www.forgivenesschallenge.com), and it is helping me look at what happened in my last marriage and divorce a bit differently.

Yes, of course, I felt angry, hurt, and abandoned at the time my divorce occurred. However, as a result of being freed from a relationship that was slowly killing both of us I was given a new life.  What I went through has empowered me to live life my life fully as a survivor. Most importantly, hitting that emotional “bottom” over ten years ago triggered internal spiritual growth that has given me a true relationship with God. It has given me the choice of viewing others with compassion rather than blame or the fantasy that they can do better if I just love them. I no longer feel the need to play God or to form any relationship that has an element of me addressing someone else’s needs and issues while  ignoring my own.

Today’s forgiveness challenge had participants going through a guided imagery exercise that instructed people to hold the person they are working on forgiving as a baby in their arms….a baby pure, unblemished, and  full of potential, love, and hope. It had them, if able, to hold that baby, to bless it, and to wish it happiness. And, lastly, having done this, it asked them to let the person go. I was able to wish my ex-husband blessings and happiness, and to raise my arms and release him to God.

The exercise felt very real to me. It allowed to view my ex with compassion and forgiveness…..and to let him  and my resentment towards him go.  I felt immense relief and gratitude.  After his abrupt departure from my life over ten years ago , I used the Big Book’s resentment prayer endlessly—-or so it seemed. And, yes, to a great extent doing so worked. However, those who know me will tell you I have a very active and sarcastic tongue when it comes to talking about my ex-husband. I am hoping the forgiveness work I am doing now  is changing that.

I am learning to look at situations a bit differently. I am beginning to view actions rather than people as bad. I am learning to try to view all people with compassion knowing I am in no position to judge because there is much in my life and actions that also needs forgiven. I am learning I can choose to re-direct my thoughts from blame and anger to ones of compassion. God bless and keep you.

Advent candle

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

It is time to write again. Everywhere I go I seem to run into what I think of as “Christmas Frenzy.” I have come to believe how we celebrate Christmas is more pagan and commercial than Christian. That is OK, I suppose—–but that just turns it into another commercial day off from work.

I grew up in a church that never used the word Advent. Now I am a member of a church that makes a big deal out of Advent. Up until now, I just thought it was all “pretty.” You know, the lighting of a different candle every Sunday, special music, a bit of greenery sprinkled here and there. But I always wondered why they made such a big deal out of it.

This time I get it. It is about nurturing our soul so that “Christ” can be born again in our inner being and manifested in our interactions with each other. I have been learning about the benefits of going inward and listening in the silence expectantly for several years now. Now I am able to see Advent as a way of celebrating this activity. I am grateful it is, for the most part, not commercialized. Sure, you can buy Advent calendars or sign up for online, expensive “spiritual” courses on the topic of Advent. But the real Advent is a recurring “Event” in our souls and in our lives. This particular season reminds me to give “God time” to my inner being so I can “feed” the “infant God-oneness” that I am allowing to become part of me so that it manifests “inside-out.” Meaning if I nurture God’s will in my inner-self, then it follows, I hope, that God’s love will manifest in how I think and how I behave.

That is all theoretically very impressive. But what does it mean, really? Does it mean remembering to  mediate, to  immerse myself in centering prayer,  and/or to practice yoga each and every day? Does it mean praying my rosary? Does it mean being friendly and giving to others—-considering all persons as my family because we are all one in God’s family?  I don’t have the answers, but I do what I can.

However, as for putting my newly discovered meaning of Advent into practice, I have to confess that I do not remember to nurture the “infant” within my soul as often as I should; nor do I let its trusting, child-like love manifest in my thoughts and actions as I should. But, at least I can toss out that word “should” and realize that whatever I do to feed and share that “infant” is progress.  That progress, however small, is my personal “birthing process” that will allow me to celebrate Christ in my life every day—–and yes to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas.  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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On CBS This Morning they talked about John Mellencamp—–and a life changing event in his life that happened not too long ago. There are those when they hear the story who will think the life changing event happened when he was a new born. Of course, it did because he had surgery for spina bifida  at that time that saved his life. His pioneering surgery was the first that a now 92 year old surgeon performed; he performed it on at least two other babies in those early days——one died on the table, and the other lived to the age of 14. John didn’t know about having the surgery until a playmate asked him what the scar on the back of his neck was from. CBS this morning also reported that John tells a story of something that happened to him when he was in his “popular prime” many years ago and a woman stopped him on the street as they were passing each other and asked him if he knew how many angels were surrounding him and how protected he was. He didn’t pay much attention to this incident until he talked to the doctor and found out, at age 62,  what a miracle it is that he is alive. Now he thinks maybe that woman was right.

However, more importantly, I think was an “eternity changing” event this same doctor had a part in when John visited him. The picture on CBS shows this wise looking elderly man reaching out and holding on to John’s arm while he emphasizes over and over again that John needs to pray. In this interview with CBS, John said he has never had any faith to speak of, but it is my hope he will pray and develop a close relationship with his Creator. This ground breaking doctor saved John’s life over 62 years ago, but he has now tried to save John’s soul. I don’t usually sing the praises of doctors, but I cannot help but admire this man who told John he needs to pray.

There are signs all around me that I need to pray. I participate in prayer groups twice a week, and I post a prayer on my church’s Facebook page every day. I attend several meetings a week where the meetings are opened and closed with prayer. I certainly pray when I attend church every week. I have found it harder to pray “spontaneous prayers from the heart” now than it was about a month ago.  I have been almost overwhelmed by my father’s emergent health problems  at home, in hospitals, and in rehab. The part of me that is a nurse and an oldest daughter feels helpless because I cannot fix my father’s health. He is 92, frail, and has several chronic health problems that he has survived when most people would not have.

Somewhere along the line I need to acquire some acceptance and to stop feeling like I have failed to make things better. I find myself wanting to hibernate in my house like a dog licking its wounds. My prayers are short, and sometimes they are forced. I am lucky that God’s grace has stayed and is staying with me and that he knows my needs without me having to remind him. I am tired of not having any energy, and having to work at focusing on doing the next right thing and just moving forward one day at a time. However, my life is full of many  miracles, and I do feel better when I gently nudge my mind to focus on cultivating an “attitude of gratitude.” So, yes, I need to pray, and mostly these days my prayers are ones of gratitude that God can handle this thing we call “life.” I am also asking him to help me strengthen my acceptance of life on life’s terms so I will stop feeling like I’ve failed at fixing things for those I love. On an intellectual level I know I am not God and should not expect myself to “change things I cannot change.” My spiritual work right now is knowing and accepting that at a deeper, intuitive level so my immediate reaction to life’s challenges is not expecting myself to make them better or to fix them. My mission, what my God wants me to do,  is to love and to remember that loving oneself and one another as Christ role modeled “love” does not mean controlling, directing, or fixing things.

In closing, I would like to share some words written by a spiritual leader I greatly admire. These are words addressing the topic of prayer were written by Bishop Charleston on Facebook this morning—–they just happen to address the topic of prayer:

“When the power of love is released through prayer, it does not matter how the prayer is said, or who says the prayer, or what culture they inhabit. It only matters that the words, spoken or unspoken, rise from the heart of a longing soul to touch the intention of God. When that connection is made, when that ancient bond is invoked, then a force is released that cannot be denied. Prayer works. It changes lives. It restores the world. It heals and blesses. It opens doors to wisdom. Thank you all for your prayers. I am honored to stand with you as a people without borders: we care enough for one to pray for all.”

Accessed on 103/14  at https://www.facebook.com/bishop.charleston?fref=nf

I didn’t find those words until after I had written these words this morning. I needed to hear them, and I regard them as a gift from God.  May God bless and keep you.

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I was reminded today that powerlessness is a gift—-it is the spur that goads me into surrendering and consenting to receiving and sharing God’s love. Now, I admit, this is not an original idea. However, my mind ran off with it in a slightly different direction today. The article that was shared (one of Thomas Keating’s—-I don’t remember which one) talked about how this type of powerlessness coming from the wisdom of experience rather than through education. I laughingly commented that nobody ever brags about getting their PhD in powerlessness. But Keating’s article went on to discuss how it is through acceptance of suffering that we are brought to the spiritual path of acceptance—-of letting go of all that is so that we can be transformed into approaching and accepting our own death—-both “death of self” and our own physical death.

This article also talked about a sort of spiritual mindfulness—-one that directs our awareness to seeing and accepting God’s will/plan in all things. My mind immediately wanted to argue with this—-too many times I have used such thinking as an excuse to allow my own bad habits to flourish—–to accept them and let them be. Granted, eventually the resulting pain does move me in the direction I think God wants me to go, but I am slowly learning that I can both accept suffering in myself and others as a conduit to God and also simultaneously take action to do what I can to alleviate such suffering. The Higher Power of my choosing, God, does not want his beloved creation to suffer, he wants us to accept our powerlessness and to consent to drawing closer to him. However, when I draw closer spiritually I am also led to do all I can to transform suffering into being both loved and loving at the same time.

It is important to acknowledge I cannot alleviate the world’s suffering—-on our own border, in Syria, in the Ukraine, or anywhere to which  I do not have direct access. It is equally important for me to be aware that such suffering exists and that I need to do what I can to change today’s world by how I relate to my immediate surroundings and the people and situations I encounter on a one day at a time  basis——-and sometimes on a one moment at a time basis. This is where spiritual  mindfulness comes in; this is where I need to be aware of God’s will at work and what I can do to further his will. This is also where prayer and consent come into play. I need to ask God for knowledge of his will and the power to carry that out—for his will and not mine to be done.  Truly living this prayer is something I  strive to accomplish, but I often fall short. Writing about it helps me remember how important it is.

I am so glad my life is a work in progress and that my God accepts and loves me even though (or because of?) I never attain perfection.  May God bless and keep us—-in spite of ourselves!