Archives for posts with tag: centering prayer

 

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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 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.

 

Red Door

Image courtesy of  Pixomar/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today at a centering prayer meeting a question came up about why a particular church is often referred to as the “red door church.” The answer was that the women who often attend twelve step meetings there started referring to it as the “red door church” because it was easier to say than “Christ Episcopal Church.” From there, the conversation turned to the historical symbolism of “red door.” It was mentioned that historically, in England where Episcopal churches originated, a red door meant the building you were in was marked with red blood over the doorway to protect those within—–as when the angel of death spared a home during Passover. It was also mentioned that a red door is a sign of welcome in England and that perhaps in the United States this may have been misconstrued as also designating a house of “ill repute.” I searched the Internet for symbolism of a red door, and found out it meant “welcome,” sanctuary, good luck, and marked by the blood of Christ.

Obviously, depending on the culture, place, and time in which a “red door” is observed, the meaning can be varied. However, a common denominator seems to be it is a place where you are welcome and safe. So, today, my blog topic is “red door.” For me, I enter a place of welcome and safety whenever I go within to my “secret place” of spirituality—–that place where I meet God and consent to allowing his love to envelop  me. So, it makes sense that in that internal space I would feel welcomed and safe, and near to God. Symbolically speaking, I do not visualize entering a red door when I retreat into my spiritual core; however, I do often see pulsating patterns of varying shades of purple. I do not know why, but that has always been a symbol to me of entering “my spiritual space.”

Perhaps the entrance into one’s spiritual place, and particularly the color of the entrance,  is not what should be important to us. Instead, what should be of most importance to us is the fact that we are consenting to enter that spiritual space.  Period. Entering there, going there, being there, allowing love, wisdom, peace, and serenity to permeate our being———and realizing those qualities are always there in our inner being even when we “leave” that safe place and venture back into the reality of our external world is important. Once I am able to accept that, I am able to relate to my entire existence in a more spiritual manner. It becomes easier to see God in all that is around me and to react in a consenting manner that allows God’s love to exist, hopefully in a way that allows others to experience the love of God.

I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful “spring day” and that the memory of it will carry you through tomorrow when we once again are supposed to experience “snow”——which I heard referred to as the new “four letter word” this morning. God bless and keep you.

toolbag

Image courtesy of  Gualberto10 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

Sanctuary Window at Centering Prayer 3_3_14

Photograph courtesy of Bob Towner

Yesterday a good friend rescued me from my “stuck in the house” doldrums. I was able to put attachable cleats on my shoes, walk across the snow and ice to his car, and then to walk out of his car and into the church for our centering prayer session. I felt like God came down, fitted me with wings, and let me fly out into the light again.

I tend to take my friends for granted, and it is not until times like this that I realize how much they mean to me. That same friend was able to use my cell phone to take a beautiful photo of God’s light streaming through one of our church’s stained glass windows right before our prayer session started, and the result was a photo I will treasure always. It will remind me not only of God’s love but the love that my friends have shared with me.

God has been working on me to more strongly anchor the concept of “willingness” into my heart.  He did this yesterday  by giving me lessons about my own willingness as well as how to introduce others to the concept of willingness. Yesterday my lessons led me to accept favors, to ask for help when I needed it, and to grasp an arm held out and offered for support in case I should start slipping on the ice. Yesterday also offered me opportunities to begin sharing my concept of willingness with another friend who is considering trying to use AA’s twelve steps for the first time to enter into recovery from carbohydrate addiction.

In looking back at yesterday, I have to wonder, once again, why is it so difficult for me to let others help me and so easy for me to focus instead on helping others? I am forced to admit it must involve my “false self”—my ego-centered pride. And below that layer of the onion is  my more deeply centered issues of trust. Yesterday I trusted cleats, a friend, and God not to let me fall on the ice. This particular friend and God have been with me through many trials and tribulations; they have more than proven their trustworthiness. Why do I still have trust issues? I am like St. Peter who walks on water until he begins to be afraid. If I am not careful, I will allow my fears and insecurities to build a fortress that not only protects me but also imprisons me from the love and kindness of others. My fear, if fed, can even shut God out.

Happily, I learned yesterday that trusting God and friends can make all the difference in the world—and in my eternal reality. I got to be with other people of faith yesterday, and discussing our beliefs reaffirmed my faith and what it means to me. Had I stayed at home, my dogs would have continued to offer me unconditional love as they always do, but they cannot talk to me about matters of faith. It is even hard for them to let me be without interruption long enough to practice centering prayer. So, I am dedicating this blog to thanking my friend Bob, my other friends at Centering Prayer, my friend who let me talk about willingness, and, of course, God for freeing me from my self-imposed prison. May God bless and keep you.

Rainbow Sock

Image courtesy of dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today I wore my  purple “When I Become an Old Woman” sweatshirt (one of my “thrift store finds)  to a centering prayer meeting. A parody of the famous poem about growing old and wearing purple is written of the sweatshirt. Upon reading my shirt,  a friend suggested I write a parody of my own. So, here goes:

Now that I Am an Old Woman

Now that I am an old woman, I shall continue to wear purple as it is my favorite color, and I will wear socks of bright colors: some with peace signs and others with smiley faces.  I shall spend my retirement funds on necessities and luxuries when I can afford them. I will spend my money on  healthy foods, and I will take my prescribed medications. I shall go to meetings to support my sobriety and recovery, and I shall eat with healthy restraint. I will hoard pens; pencils; yarn; crochet hooks;  crocheted afghans, shawls, and scarves; and boxes and boxes full of “stuff.” I shall spare no expense in feeding and caring for my four beloved little white dogs. I shall consent to being immersed in God’s love, and I will try my best to share that love. I will forget some things and remember others. I will put things in safe places only to lose them, and later I will find them when I am not seeking them. I will re-direct my thoughts in a positive direction when my mind starts to dwell on negative matters. I shall exercise when I want, take naps when I want,  and stay up as late as I want. I will write for fun rather than publication, and I shall read books and  play computer games to my heart’s content. I shall greet each day by making conscious contact with God and turning my will and my life over to him. I will ask for knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out. At the end of each day I will be grateful for the day God has given me and for the mercy he has shown me my whole life through.

Wow, it felt good to write that! May God bless and keep you.

Sky View Cross

Photograph courtesy of Joshua Burgard

Today’s quote is very short, and it comes from Carolyn Warner’s  Treasury of Women’s Quotations (p. 243, 1992,Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall). Pearl Bailey is cited as saying ” People see God every day, they just don’t recognize Him.” This one, short, and simple sentence got me to wondering. “Okay, self where did you see God in the last 24 hours?”

I first saw him when I got up in the morning, let my dogs out and said my morning prayers. I saw him again when I read inspiring “posts” on Facebook. Then, when I taught my class, I saw him in the eyes and souls of my students as we role played how to encourage a depressed person to socialize with others.

Then, came one of yesterday’s “Big God Incidents.” This happened when I found a parking ticket on my car after teaching my class.  I immediately went to DPS on the university campus to have it revoked. The officer on duty revoked it,  but when asked if the policy he’d just explained was in writing anywhere he  said “no” and pointed out very authoritatively that the ticket was given because that was the way they’d been doing it for the twenty-six years he’d worked there. The old me would have “gone combative on him.” However, what I did do was not that much better—-I went home and immediately looked up the University’s Emeritus Parking Policy in the Faculty Handbook and found that, indeed, the policy did not read the way it has been enforced all these years. Here is where God comes in….rather than get my ego all involved in proving my interpretation of the written policy was correct and his was wrong, I just decided to let it go. Accept. Let God handle it. Take my “ego” out of it. I will send documentation of the incident to my Department’s Chair and leave it up to her discretion whether or not something should be done about clearing up the conflict between written policy and actual practice.

Then I met God again yesterday evening at Centering Prayer as His light filtered through the stained glass window onto those of seated in a prayer circle quietly consenting to receiving His love. After that meeting ended, I set up my last meeting of the day. It was an open twelve step meeting for beginners. People came from two treatment centers, and we had to pull out extra chairs. Last week there were only four of us, and then in this second “Big God Incident” of the day, God sent all of these people to be introduced to the seeds of recovery. I met God in what some of them said, in how they said it, and in the eyes and hugs of gratitude from the three who asked for a twenty-four hour “chip”—-a medallion that reminds people that God is with them helping them stay sober and clean one day at a time. I was ashamed that ten minutes before the meeting started I had complained to God that  I was tired and wished I could go home instead of setting up and leading a meeting probably  no one would attend. God had a purpose for me, and I thank him for helping me carry that purpose out.

Obviously, God was everywhere yesterday—-I am sure he was in many more places I failed to notice. It has been my “recovery life-time” practice to make a “gratitude list” whenever I feel depressed or sorry for myself. I’ll probably still do that, but I am going to start making my “where I saw God” list instead whenever I feel tired and question the path God has me walking. May God bless and keep you.