Archives for posts with tag: acceptance

 

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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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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

Oh, my God, we’re all old! I am not proud, but this was my spontaneous gut level reaction when I looked up at my television screen this morning to see Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones on CBS This Morning as the y were being discussed in regards to their dispute over boycotting Israel. The men on the screen were old with white and/or graying hair. Of course, Mick was strutting around on stage as usual, but he was obviously not he Mick I remember. My automatic appeal to God was an acknowledgment of His allowing me to arrive at this point of “elderhood” even though I sometimes approach it kicking and screaming.

Once in a while reality just hits you in the face when you least expect it. I have been moping around the house for three days now with a miserable cold that won’t go away…..coughing up stuff that I know, as a nurse, means I need to make myself go to the doctor. But, you see, I am stubborn, and I want to believe that I can fight off any infection and that I don’t need a doctor’s help. Just like I want to believe I am not aging all that much…..until I realize I can now count the several white hairs highlighting my brown hair—-or really look at my “smile wrinkles.” I’ve written before about accepting my own aging process, but not about how I deal, or don’t deal, with being sick.

When I am honest I have to admit I basically seem to take an “all or none” approach to illness—–I usually deny being ill and needing medical help until I can no longer deny it or I over react and worry about every little itch and twitch. Somehow, it seems to me, I need to find some middle ground here. When would a reasonable person seek medical attention? When would that same person decide just to “keep calm and carry on” while waiting for “this too shall pass” to finally happen?

After stopping and taking as deep a breath as I can thanks to the gunk in my lungs, I find myself wondering, “Okay, self, what spiritual lessons are you supposed to be learning from this?” Patience comes to mind. Accepting God’s care and comfort come to mind. I have been gifted with all three,  but there are times when I want more—-I want to be instantly cured, completely healed, right now, on my time line rather than God’s. Guess what?! Life just doesn’t happen that way; never has and never will. Nothing is ever on my time line….and it is always on God’s, only God is not hampered by the concept of time as we mere mortals are.

I am still answering my own question about “lessons”—-and I suddenly realize I am supposed to learn discernment. In this case, for me, that means attaining the ability to determine when it is appropriate to seek medical assistance and when it is not. Given someone with my age, my asthma, and my history of lung problems, it would probably be prudent to seek medical assistance. So, when I quit writing this in a few minutes I will phone my doctor’s office as soon as it opens up.  For those of you who are wondering what on earth today’s photo has to do with today’s topic, please note that the plant depicted in my photo badly needs watered, and this photo is meant to depict noticing when discernment and decisions need to be made.

But there is a bigger spiritual lesson to be learned here—-one that is bigger than wanting to do things my way or knowing when to seek medical attention. For me, that lesson is one of being still, quieting my mind, quieting my intellect, and letting myself quietly and reverently listen for God. After all, that is how and where I should always seek direction and help with discernment.  Period.

So, wherever you are today, whatever you are doing…..remember, you don’t have to make decisions or do things all by yourself. Allow God to direct you; accept and consent to His love. God bless and keep you.

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Photograph:”Easter Sunrise;” courtesy of K. Farwell

How many nudges do I need before I start doing the things I know I have to do to be healthy? So far, I’ve had foot pain, back pain, headaches, clothes fitting tighter, and now…..my fasting blood sugars are starting to creep up 2-4 points above what they should be. My blood pressure and pulse are fine, and I am not experiencing any pedal edema. But I think I recognize this road I seem to have detoured onto. I’ve been on it before…..only then I tried to deny how bad I felt or how big I’d gotten. That time I didn’t know I was developing diabetes. That time I had to be hospitalized with my lungs filled up with water and the scales tipping over an unmentionable poundage before I realized how seriously ill I had become. Years ago I let go of the fantasy that I could ever drink alcohol like “normal’ people……but it seems I am still hanging on to the fantasy that I can eat like “normal people.”

I’ve been telling myself if I just eat what I know to be healthy foods with no flour or sugar listed in the ingredients that I should be able to maintain both my weight and my health. There is something about having to weigh and measure these “healthy foods” that my stubborn “I want to be normal” ego resists—–and keeps resisting.  I delude myself into believing I can accomplish adequate “portion control” without the aid of scales, measuring cups, or measuring spoons. I seem to have been seeking a “middle way” that was easier than totally disciplined eating and yet healthier than compulsively eating unhealthy snacks whenever I desire to do so. I am a slow learner, but it is beginning to sink in that, for me, there is no “middle way” when it comes to what I eat.

If I compare pros and cons it seems logical that weighing and measuring what I eat is a small price to pay for being healthy and feeling good…….and staying alive. I am writing these words this morning because for the first time in months I weighed out 2 ounces of meat, 1 cup of fresh sliced strawberries, and 1/4 cup of cottage cheese for my breakfast. Having a fasting blood sugar of 94 scared me into “following the straight and narrow” pathway to my own health once again. Then after I slowly ate this delicious breakfast, as is my habit, I began perusing what my friends had posted on Facebook.  Here I encountered these encouraging words Bishop Charleston had posted this morning, and I want to share them with you because I think these words may help some of my readers free their minds from whatever trap has ensnared them:

” Like a beam of sunlight the energy of the Spirit can come to you, warm you and renew you, enlighten your mind with brighter visions for your future, bring you to life, lift you out of the shadows and give you strength to take the next step. Turn to face the sun. Do not look down into the same swirl of dark water that has captured your imagination for too long, but look up to see possibilities grow around you like a field of flowers. Even if your movement is limited, your mind can fly to any corner of reality. You are free, like sunlight, set free by the gift of the Spirit, touched by the mind that first dreamed when all the world still slept, made of grace and wonder.”

Did you get that? We are all set free by the gift of the Spirit——and we are part of God’s creation—-we are part of the grace and wonder. One day at a time I will, with God’s help, lift myself out of the shadows and be given the strength to take the next step. May god bless and keep you!

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I’ve had quite an interesting and challenging couple of days. First, I found out my ninety-two year old father had fallen and spent the night on the floor two nights in a row—–at least he was found both mornings lying in the floor instead of his bed. His confusion did not allow people to determine what had actually happened, and he did not have his lifeline necklace on so the automatic “subject has fallen” message did not get sent to the monitoring service.

Later that evening,  I had my house alarm set off indicating a burglary attempt,  and I had to rush out of a meeting I was chairing to meet the police and my “back up person” at my house. No one had been able to contact me directly because I had my phone turned off so it would not interrupt the meeting. I was extremely grateful that our church had installed a phone in our kitchen and that my “back up” friend kept calling that number until I got annoyed enough to stop leading the meeting, walk into the kitchen, and answer the phone so my friend could tell me my house alarm was going off.

Fortunately,  we were able to determine it had been a false alarm. Of course, all the noise and commotion had upset my dogs, and my most timid rescue dog saw an opportunity to escape out the garage door and did so. I called him; he ignored me. I headed out the back door to intercept him and, as I went around the house,  I spotted him barking at and “herding” a young boy on a bicycle. The young man was delightful—he told me “You’ve got a good dog—–all he did was walk across the street to a bush, pee on it, and then he came back to your front door waiting for you to open it.”  I should have known Boo would not leave me or the treats he craves so much, and I should have figured out he’d go to the door he is used to coming in when we go for leash-assisted walks.

That should have been enough excitement for one evening, but my aging body delivered the “crowning touch” to my evening’s adventure. Once I straightened things out with my monitoring company and got my dogs calmed down,  I realized it was way past the time that I should have had my supper. Missing a meal by hours is not a problem for most folks, but for a diabetic it can create problems.  So, as I was fixing my dinner, I noticed an empty plastic zip-lock bag had landed on the floor. I bent to pick it up, and on the way “up” got a muscle spasm in my lower back where I never even knew there were muscles.

Today I am navigating around the house using my cane to help alleviate the pressure on my lower back. All is well, and as problems go, I really have been lucky. However, I have noticed even minor problems like the ones I experienced seem to leave me feeling more tired and worn out than they used to and my pride and ego associated with being  “physically fit” keep being assaulted.

Yesterday I made a trip to the drug store to get some low dose aspirin, and while I was checking out at the register I propped my cane beside me on the counter. The cane fell to the floor and a kind gentleman waiting in line behind me picked it up for me. I thanked him and told him I had not figured out how to keep the cane from falling at times like this.  In my mind I thought my statement about the cane implied: “I don’t need this very often, and I am still not used to using it so I haven’t yet figured out how to keep it from falling.”  The gentleman suggested maybe putting some Velcro on my cane so I could fasten it to my person. This was a well-meant suggestion, and it was probably one that would work. But my still child-like ego heard, “You’re an old lady who needs to constantly have her cane with her.” Logically, I knew this was not what the man had said, but it is what registered.  Actually, I am having a hard time accepting that even simple movements such as stooping to get something off the floor (an almost continuously necessary action in my household) or lifting a small dog down from the bed to the floor can cause acute discomfort that sticks around for a day or two.

I have written in these blogs before about aging being devalued in our society. This week I’ve had to acknowledge that the problematic perception of aging is not just within  my culture at large—–I have internalized it.  I don’t know if it is thinking about my father lying helpless on the floor or anticipating that it will be myself on the floor at some point in time, but I am experiencing a bit of  free-floating anxiety that is telling me I have not transitioned to being retired and on Medicare quite as well as I thought I had.

As I recently told an old friend, “One breath at a time, one moment at a time….all will unfold in God’s time. God is guiding you through this wilderness, and he has also provided co-sojourners who can offer support along the way. Consent. ” Good advice—–I think I’d better follow it. God bless and keep you.

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I always come home from church with a plethora of ideas floating around in my head….and my intellect seems to think it is my job to somehow paste them together into a meaningful whole. Today I heard “energy” differentiated from the Holy Spirit, the scripture’s description of the Road to Amadeus scenario once again, and, finally, and perhaps most importantly,  a satisfactory explanation of my church’s policy regarding retired priests—-a policy, that quite frankly  has been a “burr under my saddle” for quite some time.

I think I shall call this blog entry “launching through the Holy Spirit.” Sunday school was full of talk about the Holy Spirit. The sermon following Sunday School added an explanation of the importance of imposing professional boundaries when a priest retires in a way that finally made sense to this psychiatric nurse without triggering my automatic response to resist and distrust authority.  It was suggested that Christ “fasted” from spending time with his  disciples after his resurrection so that there was time for them to digest and internalize the ideas and concepts Jesus had exposed them to and that this period of fasting was a means of allowing the disciples time to understand and to begin to apply the ideals they had been taught.

In the mental health nursing course I teach, we talk about  a similar process that occurs when a young adult leaves home. This stage,  “launching, ” occurs when young adults leave their family of origin and begin establishing their own lives and identities. If this stage proceeds correctly, the young adult is “emancipated” and “individuated” from his or her parents and siblings. This means the individual develops an identity independent of the family that raised him or her yet still maintains  ties with that  family. If  young adults are successfully “launched”  beliefs and values “planted” in them by their family provide a foundation from which they develop  principles that guide their newly found independence.

Of course, many of us, including myself, did not automatically “buy into” our families’ beliefs, and we had to rebel, resist, and develop our own version of  what was originally planted in our minds.  We discarded some “seeds” or ideas,  altered some so that they fit our own emerging value system, and created some new and independent ideas/values of our own.

You may be asking yourself what on earth this has to do with the Road to Amadeus, the Holy Spirit, and the church’s take on retiring priests. Here’s where I am going to share my own, and somewhat, original idea about how all of this is related. I apologize to those it offends, and I remind my readers it is only my opinion.

I think my church views parishioners as a family or children who need “family rules and mores” to ensure that the transition from letting go of a retired priest to accepting a new priest goes smoothly. I have found that concept somewhat disconcerting because I think it discredits the fact that many of us have enough values, mores, and inherent common sense in our repertoire of personal values to support and nurture a healthy transition without having to have rules mandating our behavior. However,  this morning’s sermon explained  to me another reason for having such a strict policy——it lets the parishioners have enough space and time during the transition for them to incorporate and  manifest what they learned from their previous priest into their own value system and behaviors.  This “growing space” does not offer any threat to the new priest that is coming; instead it sets the stage for independent, “launched adults” to welcome and support the person who will be their new priest. Much like the disciples had to have time to digest and internalize what Jesus had taught them, so, too, do parishioners need time to digest and internalize ideas and concepts taught to them by thier retired priest.

I’ll admit that when our previous priest retired  it did feel a bit like we were being abandoned. However, I realized that the best way to deal with his departure was to develop my own spiritual independence. That is one of the reasons I started writing this blog. I realized I am responsible for my own spiritual growth, and writing this blog has supported the growth of my own spirituality. Hence, “launching through the Holy Spirit” is my way of describing how losing a valued priest  helped emancipate me as a “spiritually young adult” onto the pathway of my own spiritual journey.

I hope all are enjoying this beautiful Spring day. May God bless and keep you.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Now we come to the setting of the sun

Image courtesy of Kathryn Farwell

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

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

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

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

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

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