Archives for posts with tag: God

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.

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.

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.

Opening Door

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I have been sad the past couple of days because we had to close a twelve step women’s group due to lowering attendance and lack of women with long term recovery to lead the meetings.  Part of my mourning is fed by  my feeling guilty because I didn’t step up and try to rescue the group. Not that it is all about me, but I helped keep it afloat for years and had to stop due to health reasons. Now I want to jump in and try to “save” it, only I know I can’t over extend myself or I may be back in the hospital again. There are other groups, and recovery can be found in all of them—— it is just that this particular group was formed by women helping women and it lasted for longer than twenty years.  It was my lifeline when I first moved to this area.

As I get older, it seems to me that life is trying to teach me that a big part of life is letting go of things. I don’t think it ever gets easy, but perhaps I am supposed to learn that all things “pass away” except my soul, the souls of others, and God’s loving spirit. But I don’t know what my life would be without “attachments”—-and I don’t mean the kind  attached to a document. I mean the kind that are people, places, and things that are important in our lives. Right now I have a small white dog nestled close to each side of me as I type. I have a very strong and loving attachment with all four of my dogs, but I know we will not always be able to be together. I have buried both sets of grandparents, one parent, a step-son, and numerous friends, relatives, and pets. I know death is part of the cycle of life. Obviously, there is just part of me that does not want to accept that.

Oddly, I do not fear my own death. I have been surrounded by God’s love numerous time when I was close to dying. I always felt a calm, welcoming love at those times that left no room for anxiety.  At those times when all other reality is swept away, it is easy to realize what matters is our soul and being embraced by God’s love. But now, today, my dogs bring comfort. I depend on my friends and family. Their love and support keep me going—-just like the unconditional love of my dogs keeps me going. I am not saying that kind of dependence is wrong or bad. I am just saying I need to realize any or all of it can be gone in a  moment.

I’m beginning to think what is going on here is my life-long struggle of wanting to control and fighting the realization that I have no control. I have to accept that God is in control.  When I do, at those times of surrender, I find  a great deal of comfort to in realizing God has had control all along and will  have control for all eternity. I have learned that if I stop fighting God’s control I find  things turn out much better than they would have if I were still trying to control them. It is just a matter of exercising my “faith muscle.”  I have to believe my dogs, my family, my friends, and my world will be just fine without me and I will be just fine without them when time or circumstance parts us as long as we are all connected by God’s love—–a love which cannot be bound by time or place.   God bless and keep you.

Questionmark2

Image courtesy of Master isolated images, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I just saw a video on Facebook that depicted a young man wearing “Christian Regalia” on his person and who had Christian symbols on his car. This same young man talking on his cell phone walked by a woman who had dropped her groceries without noticing the woman’s distress—and, of course, not stopping to help. I shared the video on my timeline because I thought it had an important message. Then I had to stop and think. When am I the “young man” talking on my cell phone oblivious to my fellow human beings and their needs?

Frankly, this line of thought makes me nervous. As a child the “Good Samaritan” bible story was my favorite. Yet, here I am afraid to stop to pick up a hitchhiker, afraid to roll down my window in my locked car at night when a man of color taps on my window, reluctant to give money to strangers who ask for it because I don’t want to support their drug or alcohol habit…..these are all things I do. Or don’t do, in terms of reaching out to others. Am I prudent?  Or am I failing to do as Christ would have me do?

Granted, I am immersed in what I think of as “my mission”—-spreading spiritual ideas in meetings, in most of my actions, and in writing. But there are still those times when another human being may or may not be in need of my help, and I don’t notice or I look the other way.

Last night in a meeting, I said that in recovery we have to help ourselves before we can help anyone else. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we will have nothing to share of value with others.  I would like to think the times when I look the other way are instances of taking care of myself so I will be able to help others in need.

But, what about the other times when I am so wrapped up in my own situation that I don’t even notice someone may need my help or a listening ear? It is at times like this when I am thinking these types of thoughts  that I am glad I can ask my God for forgiveness for “things done and not done” over and over again. When I was feeling prideful not too long ago, I asked why repeating the same prayer for forgiveness several times a day was necessary. Wasn’t doing so a sign that I wasn’t serious about my prayers or about keeping my word to God?

Now, when I am able to practice humility and get my “ego-I” out of the way, I can admit that I sin and don’t even know it. Sin to me is anything that separates me from God’s love.  And when I am so wrapped up in myself that I don’t notice what God would have me do, then I am definitely guilty of “things not done.” I need to ask God to forgive my oversight and help me be more aware of what he would have me do. I also ask every morning for the courage to carry that out.  I still don’t know if I will have the courage to roll my window down or open my door to a stranger, but I have a feeling there are lot more things out there God wants me to do than things that might endanger my safety.

Enjoy this beautiful day. Take a deep breath. Thank Creator for both the day and the breath. 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.

Plums and Prunes

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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

Image courtesy of patrisyu/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Breakfast

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I never thought I would feel moved to write about a text from Isaiah, but then I never know ahead of time what I am going to write about. This is what caught my attention in church today:

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”

Isaiah 58: 6 (NRSV)

Until this morning I never thought about God expecting anything but literal fasting from fasting. This revelation that the Old Testament God would prefer we fight for justice, let the oppressed go free, feed the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless amazed me. It was written way before the time of Christ, and yet it speaks to what our world needs each of us  to do in our daily lives, right now, today!

I have had this bad habit of looking at God dualistic-ally, almost as if I have a Borderline Personality Disorder. Folks with this diagnosis perceive things as “all good” or “all bad” with very little wiggle room perceived between the two opposites. I have tended to see the Old Testament God as the “all bad, all punishing, overly- strict, judgmental God” and the New Testament God as a “loving God” who manifested in human form to gain empathy for our human condition and to extend unconditional love and Grace to us. Now, for the first time, I am starting to realize the Old Testament God was and is also a very loving God.

Fasting, for me, traditionally serves to help transport one’s mind into the spiritual realm. I am not belittling traditional fasting because it does serve an important spiritual purpose. But I am delighted to know my God prefers action to spiritual contemplation. This type of fasting has a much stronger potential for serving humanity in a concrete, here and now, heaven on earth manner. I never thought Isaiah would resonate with my soul, but today he did.

Looking at the word fasting from this new perspective would give our common word “breakfast” a brand new meaning! Instead of attending to our own physical hunger needs it would mean breaking out of our self-centered focus on our own needs and focusing instead on meeting the needs of others.  Now. Today. Every day. If I could do one of the things mentioned in Isaiah once a day as my new form of “breakfast”—-what sorts of things could I do? I could donate food or money to food banks and homeless shelters. I could get involved in or support programs that focus on teaching people to help themselves so that they can escape the oppression of poverty. I could try to address the needs of the spiritually hungry or oppressed.  I could donate clothing and other goods to the Salvation Army.  I really can’t list all the possibilities here, but just trying to makes me realize there are thousands of small ways that would let me do one thing on a daily basis to “break my fast.”

It sounds a little like “pass it forward.” In this instance, the “it” is God’s love being shared with others. My God wants me to be open to accepting his will and his love so I can, in turn, share love with others as I go about practicing this preferred  type of “fasting.” This is not to say I’m giving up on eating a traditional breakfast every morning—–I am just going to try to think of it as my “morning meal” and to address  “breaking my fast” in my morning prayers to God—–the ones that turn my will and my life over to him and ask for knowledge of his will for me and the power to carry that will out. Today, God has helped me get a better understanding of what his will is for me; God sometimes answers my prayers in wonderful, unexpected, and exciting ways. God bless and keep you.