Archives for posts with tag: hope

Our Food Bank Truck

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

 

This is hard to write. Re-entering harsh reality after being on vacation, both mentally and physically, has been challenging. There are refugees all over the world desperately needing help; there are children fleeing live-threatening conditions  at our own borders who also desperately need help but are not getting it because they cannot technically be classified as refugees—————and we, as a people, cannot seem to view these human beings, these children,  as anything more than representations of our own political beliefs.  There are fears they will bring untreatable life-threatening illnesses into the United States; just as we did to the Native Americans when we immigrated into what was to become our nation rather than theirs mostly due to our own greed. I suppose we could send them all back home, protect our borders, and try to live with ourselves knowing we sent them back to violence, rape, and death.

I have been participating in several groups who are wrestling with the topics of suffering and love. Both are viewed by some as doors to spiritual transformation. I agree with that. There are some who believe the majority of our suffering is caused by our own need to control everything to combat our own feelings of being overwhelmed and afraid that we can’t control things. Twelve-steppers believe you have to hit bottom, get sick and tired of being sick and tired before you are willing to change your life by entering a spiritual transformation process.  I acknowledge that the suffering in my own life has, for the most part, been caused by my need to control things. I also believe that need for control was caused by being hurt as a child and learning to do whatever I could to avoid additional pain and hurt. Some of my avoidance behaviors were not healthy, and they did, indeed, create suffering.

However, I do not believe the children stuck at our borders hoping to be allowed to live in what for them is a safer, less violent environment are suffering because of their own control issues and consequent poor choices. I think they are suffering because they have left their families and loved ones and are trying to escape being hurt or killed. If I think their suffering is their own spiritual path and that I need to let them experience it without my interference, then I am not being loving or compassionate as my own spiritual transformation process is teaching me to be. Nor can I help myself or others by deliberately seeking   or causing suffering so they or I can be “more spiritual” or “closer to God.”

So, I see pain, sickness, war, jealousy, greed—–all the evils of mankind being manifested all around me. I have to wonder what can I personally do in response to this overwhelming cloud that hangs over us. The answer is, for me, I cannot control or solve these overwhelming problems myself. I must ask God to help me and all of mankind to love one another and  to be compassionate. I must ask God to show us how we can share his love rather than contributing to the evil that is alive and well in our world. To borrow one of recovery’s key phrases, I have to “let go and let God.” That does not mean I do not have the responsibility to do what I can to understand God’s will, to help carry out God’s will, and to treat others with love and compassion. We are taught to love one another as ourselves and to do unto others as we would do unto ourselves.  That is part of God’s will I already know about. I will continue to ask for knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out.

I am reminded of the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers” we sang so often in Sunday School as children. Marching off to battle seemed to be the main message. Now as an adult I cringe at the image of promoting battles and wars. So this morning, I looked up the lyrics to that hymn. Thankfully, God called my attention to the verse that says we are united in hope and charity. Perhaps that is a clue as to how we can begin to carry out God’s will.  God bless and keep you.

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snowy chapel

Photo courtesy of Joshua Burgard

 

The sun is out; at least it was. It is getting close to dusk, so it will soon be history for today. My feet are finally warm. I gave up and got my heating pad out. My asthma won’t let me have a fire place or wood stove in the house. My father and I talked today; we could not remember it being this cold over such a large area this far south before. He is 92 and I am 64, so, to me, this “cold spell” is truly remarkable, cold and dangerous. Of course,  our combined memories are not guaranteed to be accurate.  I have never  even heard the term “polar express” until now. Had I heard it this time last month I would have thought it was referring to some new and fancy express delivery system set up by Santa Claus.

Days like today force me to encounter myself. Sometimes, the encounter is not so bad, and other times it is not quite so easy. Today I was lucky to find a poem that touched my soul. I found it  on another person’s WordPress site (http://begayjay306.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/working-it-through-by-jeremy-blackwater/). It reminded me of the power our faith has to give us hope, and that having such hope is instrumental in our survival. I think I still have “hope” on my mind from last Saturday’s centering prayer group experience, but I don’t mind.

Several of the things I’ve read today led me in a hope-related direction of thought. I have been reminded how important it is not to be overly self-critical of myself for not doing something, anything, or everything perfectly…..that what I have become and what I am becoming is a work in progress. I have been directed to compare myself only with myself, to look at where I’ve been, and at how far I’ve come. In doing that, at least for me, my hope is strengthened. After all, I have survived talking people out of guns and knives, my own alcoholism, having uncontrolled type 2 diabetes (I no longer have to take medication), and multiple partial bowel obstructions.  I have survived earning three nursing degrees and working in multiple nursing jobs in positions ranging from nurses’ aid to Director of Nursing in private, state, and federal psychiatric hospitals. I have survived teaching in three universities, and I have survived two divorces. In looking at my past I cannot help but realize my God has brought me this far, and that our relationship is real, tangible, and reliable.

And that is the thought I want to leave my readers with on this cold, dreary, and darkening day in January. This moment may not seem special, but when it is compared to what has been or what it could be, one cannot help but be grateful for what one has been given.  The reality of surviving one’s past gives us hope that we will continue to receive God’s grace and love. However, I always have to remind myself of what I hear around recovery tables:  “I can’t keep it if I don’t give it away.” To me, that means I have to do what I can to share God’s grace and love. Doing so has already given me some of the best moments of my life. May God bless and keep you.

 

Sun Breaking Through2

Image courtesy of Joshua Burgard

Today has given me the magical gift of a wonderful centering prayer experience that occurred within the context of a community of well loved and trusted friends. My first thought from that experience that I want to write about is the beginning thought I had as I entered the sacred prayer space by focusing on my breathing. I realized I was breathing God’s spirit and love in, feeling it spread throughout my body, and then breathing God’s spirit and love back out into “community.” Then I realized my soul floats on every breath,  and when I take my last breath it will float out on the last breath I release into a new “community of existence” contained within the embrace of God’s love.  With that image of death I was able to release some of the fear I have surrounding my father’s aging process as well as my own. My father’s  soul will be released into the spiritual realm of “breath” in the embrace of God’s love when he releases his last breath—-and, in eternity, my soul will reunited with his .

The second major “insight” that came from today’s centering prayer experience happened because I was somewhat successful in quieting my “committee meeting” of random thoughts that always compete for my attention when I am involved in centering prayer. As a result, and quite unexpectedly, during my prayer time the visual image of a word came out of the darkness and moved towards me in my mind’s eye. That word was hope. I am certain it was God’s way of telling me to not forget to “hope.” I am not one who is used to experiencing free-floating hope. I generally attach my thoughts of hope onto a particular outcome, like ” I hope we don’t get the ice and snow our winter warning is telling us is on the way” or “I hope this upcoming semester will be a pleasant one for me and my students.

The skill of open-ended hoping is something I seemed to have lost somewhere between my childhood and now. I am going to make a conscientious effort to take a deep breath and remind myself to “hope” several times during today and the next few days. I am going to try practicing the skill of open-ended hoping. Yes, I still hope and pray for peace, and I still hope love will overcome evil. In other words, I still have specific hopes. However, I think God was reminding me this morning that I need to strengthen my soul’s well-being by making a paradigm shift from a intermittently hopeful outlook or attitude to one that is consistently hopeful.

For me, my life outcomes are strongly associated with my expectations. My mind is a powerful thing, and whatever I feed my “mind energy” into is often likely to happen. For instance, when I was in the second grade our county health nurse would visit our small rural school room periodically in order to keep us all up to date on our immunizations. I quickly learned that if you had a temperature she would not give you any shots. I usually managed to “think” my way into having a slight temperature elevation by the time she got around to me. Looking back on that, I realize what I took for granted was actually a pretty impressive accomplishment because my normal temperature is always considerably lower than what is considered “normal.”

So, I am entering this new year with an expectation or attitude of open-ended hope. Developing or renewing this skill will be an expression of the level of trust I have in God’s love. I hope that this open-ended hope based on trusting God is a concept my readers will find helpful. May God bless and keep you.