Archives for category: prayer

 

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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!

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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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Image courtesy of smarnad,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

I’ve been reading a bit lately about the power “one word” prayers have. According to what I’ve been reading,  one word erupting from the heart and soul with emotional force has more power to “reach” God than all of the flowery, wordy  spoken and read prayers. I don’t know about you, but this thought brings me a certain amount of relief. When I am feeling something intensely I don’t have time to stop and think about wording my prayers just right. There have been times in my life when I was in so much pain I could only think “God have mercy; Christ have mercy.” Or, most simply, the thought or word “God.” Since I am alive to write this, I know God heard and answered those prayers.

With this “one word” concept comes the need for caution….as in the old fable of the boy who cried wolf so many times that when he actually saw a wolf and tried to worn his village no one believed him. Out of exasperation and/or irritation, I often think or say, “God!”  This borders on taking the name of God in vain—–and it may be getting in the way of God hearing my “one word” prayers in times of desperation.

The spoken word has great power. We know our thoughts have great power.  A wise teacher from Mexico once taught me that when thoughts become spoken words they become even more powerful. I believed him, and to this day I don’t like to sing the lyrics about dying or to make angry proclamations  akin to ” I could just kill you.” Once released, words have great power—-and they cannot be taken back.

So, before I grow “too wordy” and what I am trying to communicate gets buried in an avalanche of words, please pay attention to my main point: Be careful about what you think and what you say. Our thoughts and words create our realities—-and if a strongly felt “word” or thought is what gets through to  God, let us hope it is one we would like him to “receive.”  I know God is aware of what is in my mind, heart, and soul even before I am—-and even without me having to “put it into words.” So, wouldn’t it be prudent, therefore, for me to work on “cleaning out my mind” so that the thoughts and words there are ones I would like to be in God’s awareness?” So, today, I am going to be aware of my thoughts and words, and try to bring them into alignment with God’s love and will. May God bless and keep you.

 

God Boxes Sept 26 13

Photo by author of God Boxes made in group she co-facilitates.

The ideas discussed in today’s blog were triggered by listening to Father Al Jewson tell a true story in today’s sermon about something that happened to him and his grandfather many years ago. The story was about what we in twelve step programs often call a “God Box.” In the twelve step tradition, such a box is viewed as a receptacle for concerns and problems that we deposit in the box to symbolize letting them go and turning them over to God. We put things (our problems) in this box and literally give them to God.

But in this morning’s story the box in question acted quite differently. It was still a receptacle, but this time it held the Spirit and love of God (God’s Kingdom) and people who are  gifted with such a box are held responsible for sharing the box’s contents with others and eventually passing the box on to someone else even though they continue to “keep”  and “share” the gift the box gave to them.  With this sort of God box we take from God and give to others rather than just giving to God.

So, here we have two boxes symbolizing our communication with God—-with one box, we send things to God so He can solve the problems here on earth. With the other box, we receive a gift from God —-and it is our responsibility to share that love and grace with others.  It is as if one box is saying “Here, God. I can’t handle it—-I have to turn this over to you to handle” and the other is saying “Here is my essence, the only tool the world needs to prevent and solve problems. Here is the solution, share it with others.” One is a taking box and one is a giving box.

However, like all true communication, there needs to be both a sender and a receiver. We actually are responsible for practicing both roles. We need to be able to receive God’s love and direction, and we need to be able to share that gift with others. We also need to realize that we are not God, that there is a power greater than ourselves, and surrendering in love to that power is often necessary if we are to survive to be able to spread God’s grace and love.

So, in closing, I think the “take home” thought from this comparison of “God Boxes” is that we have a give and take relationship with God; we work in partnership as our lives unfold.  We let him “drive the bus” and we, in turn, receive and share his gifts with each other. We don’t try to run and control things, but we do help establish his kingdom on earth by being living messages of God’s gift of love and grace.

 

rethink

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Sometimes you hear yourself telling someone else exactly what you need to hear. Last Thursday, I met a very nice lady who was very distraught because she was afraid her daughter had “lost her salvation” because her daughter died as an alcoholic. I found myself telling her God loves us in spite of ourselves and that God’s love and grace are gifts we do not have to earn. I even reminded her Jesus used to hang out with prostitutes and tax payers—–sort of his culture’s equivalent of our culture’s “addicts and alcoholics.” I explained to her I am both an alcoholic  in recovery for over 32 years and a diabetic and my God does not love me any more or less than anyone else  because of those diseases. I also hugged her and asked God to bless and keep her. I hope she found my words comforting.

I didn’t realize I needed to hear my own words until I was sitting in church yesterday and the rector preached about how we often feel unworthy, and how our thoughts about ourselves are actually quite powerful. He talked about the importance of replacing negative self-talk (thoughts) with positive self-talk. For instance, if  a  new crochet pattern I am trying out is just not working, I may automatically think,  “I can’t crochet this pattern,—–it’s a mess! I’m stupid, I can’t learn a new technique, I can’t  get this yarn to work, etc.” I should, instead,  think, “I’m doing the best I can. What else  can I make out of this “project?” I actually have several nice things I’ve crocheted that are the result of just such creative moments—-ones that changes dismay and anger to something useful that I actually like! Now I need to work on doing the same thing with the way I unconsciously think of myself.

I think part of my discomfort last week was based on realizing I was distancing myself from God’s love —–and later that  under that “layer of the proverbial onion” is an even deeper insight that I, quite frankly, do not like to acknowledge—-that at a very deep, inner part of my being is  an almost unconscious litany of self-talk that tries to convince me I am not worthy of God’s love or of loving myself.  I remember recently asking God to help me love myself as much as he does. I think that was my slightly different way of asking God to let me feel worthy, not just of his love but also my own love. I realize my old enemies of low self-worth and poor self-concept  (powerful thoughts) can invade and control my inner being and consequent outer behavior if I am not careful. But I have to love myself enough to want to be careful, to want to allow God to love me, and to consent to live my life in partnership with him.

It is sad when a psychiatric  nurse has to admit she has problems with her own self-worth. What I heard yesterday from my rector and from myself last Thursday, reminded me I am both worthy and loveable.  The scripture supporting this belief is from Isaiah 43:4: “You are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I love you.”  Now it is up to me to remind myself over and over again that I am precious, loved, honored, and definitely “worthy.”  God sent me two “Eskimos” last week to remind me, and he definitely is answering my prayer to help me love myself.

Just as God gives me the grace to make  something wonderful out of crocheting mistakes, I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he is helping me transform the mistakes and negative thinking in my life into a creation we can both love and value.