Archives for posts with tag: Love

 

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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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Photograph entitled “On Vacation”  courtesy of K. Farwell

Have been on vacation—–and working at remaining on vacation since I came home. Being on vacation when you are retired is a bit different than being on vacation when you are still employed. Many would ask, “What’s so hard about taking a vacation from being on vacation?” Let me try to answer that. First, you are forced to stop using Internet and cell phones because the almighty AT&T doesn’t work in your remote location. Being out of touch with calls, texts, and e-mail gives you a sort of freedom—–you know, the kind you had when you were a kid and none of those things were in anyone’s imagination yet except, perhaps, in the imagination of the author of the Dick Tracy comic strip. Next, you walk through numerous outlet malls and feel no compulsion to buy anything, but then you hit the local Salvation Army Thrift Store and you discover wonderful and affordable clothes. Shopping there is fun because you do not need to feel guilty about buying anything because all the money actually goes to support the needy and hungry in our nation.

Finally, you get to spend quality time with your father exploring family history and hearing stories from him of  experiences that have given shape and meaning to his life. Then you get to meet a charming gentleman from across the pond that is your father’s weekend caretaker….and you are delighted to see how he relates to your father and not surprised when the caretaker confides he has a background in counseling.

The real challenge is coming home and remaining on vacation. You only communicate with select people by phone, and you slowly start getting involved in Facebook again. You avoid all the meetings and volunteer activities you’ve been involved in—-at least for a few days.  You visit the local casino and support the local economy—–but don’t get a “2X Royal Flush” until you arrive home and are playing with computer money. You enjoy a summer storm until the electricity goes off for four hours but realize it is precisely that lack of electricity that gets you to open your windows, walk outside and visit with a good neighbor you haven’t really talked to since the last time the neighborhood electricity went off.

Well, today I go “back to work.” That means I get the privilege of facilitating a women’s craft group where we get to play with the creative process and communicate about challenges we are experiencing. I won’t call it  group therapy, but what we do can certainly be considered therapeutic.  I will begin going to meetings again and touch base with the people I sponsor.  I refuse, though, to try to straighten up and organize anything including the “lived in” theme that engulfs my home. I know exactly, well almost, where everything is located in all the chaos. I think my comfort with clutter is one of my last ditch efforts to thumb my nose at society’s dictates.

Today’s theme does not seem to be focused on spirituality or recovery—–but my day by day living is actually grounded in these concepts.  This foundation allows me “time-outs” whether I am on vacation or not in which I can pause, take a deep breath, and appreciate the miracles contained in the present moment. If I did not have those  moments, all that I do would eventually become meaningless and empty because I would be so self-absorbed I wouldn’t even be aware of the magic of creation or the love that empowers it. That would be a miserable place to be indeed. God bless and keep you.

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I awoke this morning from a very insightful dream.  In this dream I was once again married and being ignored by my husband. As in life, he was very self-absorbed. However, in my dream he had asked me if I “minded” something. I started to answer with a truly co-dependent response, “only about what it might do to you.” I caught myself mid-sentence in this scene and instead had the courage to tell him what I really thought without holding back so he “wouldn’t get upset.”  Of course, in this dream scene as I was talking my husband stomped off totally ignoring my answer to his question. In the dream I got angry enough to follow him around as he tried to evade me and  forcibly communicated my feelings and thoughts. Not surprisingly, they poured out of me——a veritable flood of emotions centered on abandonment issues and my anger and hurt over always be ignored.

You see, my life used to be like that. And this dream showed me, after all these years, the part I played in contributing to the sad state of affairs our marriage was in. I grew up in a family that taught me at an early age not to communicate feelings and to expect those around me to intuitively know what I wanted without me having to tell them because it was wrong to “want anything for yourself.”  This was the perfect upbringing to create a nurse who married a Viet Nam veteran with PTSD, depression, and a vast array of other “take care of me” issues.  I thought I was careful to avoid the role of care taker, but indirectly, and some times directly, I did so any way. I bought property in the middle of of the woods—-a cottage that was secluded and would feel more safe to him than a home in town would.

I started a pattern of living my life centered around meeting his emotional needs and neglecting my own. I got to the place where I wasn’t even able to acknowledge what I was feeling—-denial worked. I learned early into our marriage that I had to walk on egg shells and that the slightest comment or action that insinuated challenging what he said or wanted could trigger his anger. I was very afraid of his temper although he never struck me.

I am ashamed it has taken almost a decade for me to realize, thanks to this dream, that in never telling him what I was feeling or what I wanted I was setting myself up to be a doormat.  I did tell him sometimes, and fights usually resulted.  My childhood taught behavior of silent martyrdom was further reinforced. I have to take responsibility for contributing to and maintaining the dysfunctional communication patterns in our marriage.  Before this morning, I tended to blame him for all the problems we had, but now I can see I set the stage for what happened, and then I played my part well.

Where was God in all this? Definitely not at the center of my heart and being as He currently is but, instead, more on the “fringes of my soul” where I went to pray  automatically and superficially most of the time. At times, I viewed God as just another male authority figure that intimidated me. I am very grateful that as my life has unfolded I have discoverd that perception of God was totally wrong.

God is now with me every moment. God is a part of my being so interwoven into my essence that all I have to do is think the word “consent” and I know his love is engulfing me, guiding me, and is always there to help  me handle life’s challenges.

Those who knew me then and now know I am now much more assertive about saying what I think, feel, and need—–sometimes abrasively so (I’m working on my sarcasm). They also know the part my faith plays in my life now because I write, talk, and hopefully act in a way that reflects that.

So, the lesson I learned from this dream is no one can know what I’m feeling, needing, or wanting unless I tell them. God can, of course, but my fellow human beings cannot. If I want my relationships with other humans to be healthy, then I need to communicate my feelings and thoughts directly—-implying them or communicating them non-verbally with my facial expressions or tone of voice is not an effective means of communication.  Putting the needs of others first over my own is also a threat to building and maintaining  healthy relationships. When Jesus told us to love one another as we love ourselves I believe he was also telling us that we need to love ourselves. There is a lot of wisdom in the recovery slogan “to thy own self be true.” 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.

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.

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.

Breakfast

Image courtesy of piyato/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.