Archives for posts with tag: expectations

 

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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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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.

Spring Daffodil

Image courtesy of Jonathan Fitch,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I read this morning of a woman who tells others “to have enough”—-not to “have a good day” or “God bless you”—-what she gives others is just the wish for them to have enough. Now, being the addictive personality I am, I found that wish a bit hard to comprehend. But I’ve thought a lot about it today, and I realize it is a philosophy I need to adopt. If I realize I have enough, I will stop seeking more. And more. I will change my focus from acquisition of things “outside” myself and focus instead on nurturing that which is already “inside me”—-my inner being which is the soul God gave me.

If I realize I have enough and that I am filled with God’s spirit and love, I won’t always be wanting to “fill” myself with drugs, alcohol, or food. I won’t need to find a “fix” because God created me already “fixed.” All I have to do is realize it, consent, and carry on content with what I have and willing to share it with others so I can  “keep it,” as they say around twelve step tables.

So, for me, I need to answer the question “when is enough, enough?” Each person, unfortunately, or fortunately, needs to find his or her own answer to that question. I didn’t used to perceive enough until I was miserable and doing a nose-dive towards “hitting bottom.” Gratefully, God has taught me in recovery to start realizing I’ve had enough before I get so dangerously close to hitting bottom.

Of course, there are times of suffering and pain that cannot be avoided in this adventure we call life, but I must remind myself I need to experience those times so I won’t take the gifts of life and love God has given me for granted.  I need to be able to appreciate the positive in my life and to realize each moment is for only a moment, this moment. There are no guarantees that anything will be here beyond the present moment. In terms of recovery, I am talking about cultivating an attitude of gratitude. In terms of Ram Dass, I am talking about “Being here Now.”

I seem to be avoiding answering my own question. It is simple, really. Enough is enough as soon as I realize and accept my reality for what it is.  When I consent to letting God be in charge and stop trying to control and fix everything, then I can start to appreciate being in the midst of “enough.” It is a relief really, not trying to always compete, be better, be perfect, be the best, be right. It is liberating to realize I am enough just the way God created me. I don’t have to earn God’s love or God’s gifts. So, my answer is:  today I have enough because God is in me and I am in him. May God bless and keep you.

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Image courtesy of Sailom/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A couple of days ago I read a meditation about dualistic thinking and how it is a type of “stinking thinking”—–a term used by those in recovery to refer to a way of thinking that creates problems and does not support living in “the solution.” I was reminded how easy it is for our mind to automatically categorize everything we encounter as all “good’ or all “bad.” Living in that way of thinking is like living in a land of black and white images with no color to brighten the landscape or add truth and clarity to our vision. If I am walking into a public building and I have to step over a fecal donation left by a dog I can immediately think “How rude, can’t people have the decency to carry baggies with them and clean up after the dog they are walking?” This judgmental thought keeps me from having a mind open to other interpretations of my reality. Perhaps the fecal donation was left by a stray dog who needs rescued. The latter interpretation leaves my heart open to love and positive action while the first does not.

Okay, I get the picture. However, much as I hate to admit it, insight does not change how my automatic thoughts work. So,  yesterday I tried to notice when my  mind “jumped” to dualistic thinking. The first example I noticed was my reaction to seeing  an American flag left hanging in the cold, wet rain in front of the National Guard building that  I drove by on my way give a friend a ride to church. My mind “jumped” into the adolescent mind set about the proper way to show respect to our country’s flag; I learned in Girl Scouts how to hang the flag, take down the flag, fold the flag, and when not to “hang” the flag. It is not to be hung in the dark or in rain.  Or so my judgmental brain remembers being taught. So, based on something remembered from over fifty years ago that may not still be true, my immediate dualistic thought was “The military should know better! I can’t believe they left the flag out in the rain!”

The second happened when I was at church between Sunday school class and the church service. The priest walked up to me while I was reading book titles in our book case and asked me to grab my purse and said, “come with me.” My dualistic mind jumped to the conclusion that either something really bad had just happened or that I was in trouble. As the moment unfolded, I found out that the truth actually was he wanted to show me the Icon that had mysteriously disappeared had been successfully repaired and replaced, and from the conversation that we had I began to understand and appreciate the time and effort he put in to fixing the Icon. Since I do not have a mind that can fathom such procedures, had I even noticed the Icon being back in its place without it being shown to me, I probably would only have thought “Oh, the icon is back.”

The third happened when I read something last night and began to close my mind to the way I perceive the person about whom I had been reading. This was the most worrisome case of “dualistic thinking” I caught myself in yesterday. I still do not know the true context of this situation, but thanks to prayer and confidential counseling from a friend I am now able to see that dualistic judgmental thinking can block my mind from the truth and keep me from being a channel for God’s love and God’s will.  I need to keep my mind and my heart open so I can discern the truth without judging my fellow humans. Judging others and knowing “absolute truth” are clearly in God’s domain rather than mine.

Enough. May we see today in bright and varied colors and not fall prey to dualistic stinking thinking. God bless and keep you.

Plums and Prunes

Image courtesy of Praisaeng/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Overheard around the tables this morning was an often repeated phrase, “Just take the next right step.” It is often used in connection with the phrase, “Let Go and Let God.” I had just come from a Centering Prayer Group where I had disclosed  that during our 20 minutes of silence my thoughts had kept vacillating between meditative silence and worry about my computer not working—-that it was just another thing I couldn’t control, just like my worries about my  aging father’s health. The group discussion then turned to how centering prayer lets us “exercise our ‘letting go muscle.'” I must admit that sometimes out of twenty minutes of “quiet time” devoted to centering prayer I spend about 18 minutes of that letting go of one random thought after another.  However, the good news is the exercise is starting to make it easier to let go of things in my life outside of centering prayer.

So after my two group sessions this morning, every time I caught myself worrying about my computer wireless connection not working I would tell myself to “let go of it”—-that the wireless disconnection had mysteriously occurred, and that God could just as mysteriously correct the situation.  I was gone for a little over three hours, and when I got home my computer wireless connection was functioning once again.

How many years, how many times, do I have to wear myself out trying to solve problems that are better left in God’s hands? Will I ever learn just to turn things over without causing myself undue stress by trying to solve my (or someone else’s) problem(s) all by myself until I “give up” and then turn things over?  When will I realize “taking the next best step” involves trusting God and carrying on with my life as God would have me live it?

I would bet money this letting go muscle of mine is going to need to be developed and fine-tuned one day at a time for the rest of my life. I am just grateful I am able to do it more quickly now than I previously could.

Here’s another “weird and way out analogy” that wandered into my head this morning. Our group was discussing scones and using the term “plum” and “prune” interchangeably. Without thinking, I commented, “A prune is just an elder-plum.” In retrospect, my life’s experiences and the progress I’ve made in turning things over to God over the decades I’ve spent in recovery have been turning “my will and my life” into a more highly evolved spiritual being. Just as a plum becomes chewier and develops more sweetness and flavor as it becomes a prune, perhaps this letting go business has helped distill my being into an essence that is more easily connected to God. God bless and keep you, plum, prune, or whatever.

Question mark

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A Face Book status posted by Bishop Charleston yesterday morning got me thinking about the simple, or not so simple, act of asking “why”—–something I do often, and not always with good intentions. As a small child I was reprimanded and punished for asking why, but it is something I continuously do even today decades later.  Because of Bishop Charleston’s words I am more certain than ever that I should have instead been encouraged to ask “why.”

Here is an excerpt from what Bishop Charleston had to say: “….our God invites us ever forward, following the endless path of why….Our faith, therefore, is not a law but a lab, a place of inquiry, a process by which we come to learn, and in the learning, love.”

Accessed 2/10/14 at: https://www.facebook.com/bishop.charleston

Reading these words freed my spirit to soar to the heavens…..vindicated, validated, and “right with my God.” Then I had to stop and think. What a relief it would be to have all my decades of “why” questions  justified! However,but in good conscience, I am not convinced my motives in asking why served to promote learning and love.  What I replied to the Bishop’s post was: ” I must confess I have a tendency at times to let this bothersome question of ‘why’ keep me distanced from God. At those times I think there is a degree of anger and resistance influencing my questions. With that type of ‘why’ question I am not open to learn and to grow in love. I am learning to temper my inquiring spirit with acceptance, faith, and trust. And, of course, I am still asking ‘why’ and gratefully learning and allowing love to grow.”

What did I mean by all those words? Sometimes asking why is my way of rebelling and saying “no….it is my way or no way” or “why didn’t things turn out the way I wanted them to?” Sometimes it is a criticism meaning “that’s not the way I would have done it.”  If you look closely, you can see the common denominator in all those “non-productive why questions” is “I”——my ego, my false self, or my self-will run riot, depending on which school of thought you use to categorize negative actions that are grounded in “self.” Twelve step recovery teaches that one needs to surrender this type of self-centeredness for God/Higher Power centeredness in order to enter recovery and survive life’s challenges.  As children of God we need a sense of identity, but we do not need to play God.

When I can ask “why” from an honest, non-critical place of wanting to understand, to learn, and to grow, then “why” is an excellent question to ask. It is one I will continue to ask. However, I will also continue to analyze my motives in asking the question. In doing so, I may find that I need to surrender my will to God and accept life on life’s terms.  When I am able to do that it is amazing how much simpler my life can be and how much my spiritual horizons expand—–and how many answers to “why?” I discover.  May God bless and keep you.