Archives for posts with tag: prayer

 

Wolves (2)

“Completed Jigsaw Puzzle” photo courtesy of  K. Farwell

This morning I was reminded of how action, any action, is what is needed to “become unstuck.” That word gave me a small, but significant, “aha… moment.” I suddenly realized I have been stuck for about a week as I first reacted to and then started recovering from a bit of dysfunctional family type chaos that temporarily threw me off balance.  My soul felt bruised, and I’ve been coasting and letting myself “take it easy.”  Now I know what I must do to return to equilibrium so I can “move forward again in balance.” I have to start writing again!

In my “break” from both writing and crocheting, I have been taking solace in playing an on-line jigsaw puzzle game that takes concentration and cultivates patience…..and keeps my mind from obsessing about whatever happens to be bothering me.  In working these puzzles, I have discovered that when I think it is hopeless and I will never solve the puzzle, there are three things I can do to “start moving.” First, I can quit trying and push the computer button that makes the puzzle go away. Secondly, I can just keep doggedly trying even though nothing appears as if it will ever fit together, and eventually, slowly, piece by stubborn piece, it does. The last “technique” I use to solve these puzzles, and the one that seems to work the best for me,  is to put the puzzle on “pause” and come back to it later. When I return the remaining puzzle pieces seem to magically fall into place. It is as if I am seeing the pieces from a totally new and helpful perspective I never would have gained if I’d stayed bogged down in trying to force the pieces together.

As I wrote those words, I realized my life is like that. Sometimes I just use denial to “turn my problem(s) off.” Sometimes I doggedly keep trying to “force my problems fixed” all by myself because my stubborn ego or false self is running the show. Once in a while that works, but the stress associated with “stubbornly doing it myself” is harmful.  The best way I handle my life’s problems is to temporarily “put them on the back burner” as I pray about them and ask God for guidance. Sometimes, I have to seek confidential help from friends who can also listen and suggest various actions that might be helpful. In facing last week’s challenging life problem, I waited almost three days before I took action beyond praying and turning my problem over to God. I realized, with this new perspective I’d gained by “pausing,” that sometimes besides turning things over to God, I must also actively do something to help God’s will unfold. It is often something I don’t want to do, and I also frequently do not know what the outcome may be. It is at that time that I must move forward “on faith”——I must get my “problem pause” unstuck.   Then God and I can move forward in partnership once again.

I am not a religious scholar like many of my friends, but I believe it was the Methodists who stressed the importance of having to combine faith with works. For me that is true. I can spend years asking God to solve my problems, but there comes a time when I have to take some personal responsibility and take purposive action before positive outcomes can be achieved. This action shouldn’t be random, it should have a specific purpose. This action should be guided by God.  Using this approach has given me thirty-three years of recovery one day at a time, and I am learning this is how all aspects of my life need to be approached. God bless and keep you.

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girl and tablet

Image courtesy of yingyo/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sometimes I think I’ve never grown up—-that I can get lost in the land of play and stay for hours. Sometimes that is exactly what my soul needs to rejuvenate itself.  Last night I downloaded a free game on my KindleHD, and I played it for about thirty minutes. It “sucked the juice” out of my Kindle, and I had to stop playing and recharge “my toy.”  While it was charging I got on my laptop and purchased the PC version of the game —–then I stayed up until almost 1:00 AM playing the new game.  When I went to bed I immediately fell asleep, but one of the images I remember seeing right before I woke up this morning was an image of the new game’s screen.

So, am I caught in yet another addiction? If so, as long as it does no harm, I am not going to worry about it. If it becomes all I do, if I stop loving and feeding my dogs, if I stop eating, exercising, drinking fluids, etc. so I can continue playing “the game” then I am in trouble! If my game playing starts to interfere with my functioning then I am approaching the land of “disorder” as it is defined by those who work in mental health.

I must admit, though, that my childhood games were healthier for me. They involved no electricity, and they taught my mind to be creative and introduced me to the land of imagination. I did not have any other children to play with on my isolated farm, but that didn’t stop the fun. There were trees, moss, baby birds, frogs, terrapins (Latin and “hillbilly” for land turtle), fireflies, and June Bugs to play with, and the games got my body  moving and exercising right along with my brain. If I encountered a snake, wasp, spider, or scorpion I knew to keep as far away as possible.  It was another day and time, and children could play freely without fearing abduction or worse.

I need to go back to analyzing what is happening when I get deeply engrossed in playing an electronic game.  One of the ways I cope with anxiety or stress is to engage in “comfort activity.” In the past that has been drinking alcohol and compulsively eating. Both of these activities are turned over to my Higher Power now on a daily basis, so I think the allure of last night’s game was a direct response to my not so healthy co-dependency needs to control and fix other people. Yesterday I wrote about a friend’s terminal addiction to alcohol, and I think my deep excursion into electronic game playing last night was a means of escaping into a “comfort activity” so I would stop worrying about something I cannot fix.

Praying helps me a lot with accepting and living with things I cannot change, but once in a while, escape into something that totally occupies my mind and gives me a “time-out”  from obsessive thinking about whatever is bothering me is extremely helpful. The “recovery guru” who sits in my head and facilitates the “healthier committee meetings” that take place therein has not failed, however, to remind me to be careful that whatever escape I find does not become just another addictive crutch.

Enough. I know severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes are forecast for our region today, so I wish all my readers who live nearby a safe and hopefully uneventful day.  Come to think of it, that is not a bad wish for everyone!  May God bless and keep you.

buoy

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My soul is troubled this afternoon. Someone I know is drinking herself to an early death. She has two choices: to continue drinking or to accept a spiritual life-line to recovery—-one that has been repeatedly thrown to her. She is periodically forced by circumstances to stop drinking momentarily and go through detox; at those times she tentatively grabs hold of the lifeline of recovery.  Inevitably, she soon lets go and once again returns to drinking. Is she weak willed? Immoral? Hopeless? Evil? Manipulative?  Perhaps and perhaps not. However, one thing is certain—— she is suffering from an illness and should no more be blamed for the symptoms of that illness than a child with a cold should be blamed for having a runny nose and a hacking cough.

Here’s what the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous had to say about the situation my friend finds herself caught up in:

“If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, we believe there is no middle-of-the-road solution. We were in a position where life was becoming impossible, and if we had passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, we had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help.”

Wilson, Bill; Smith, Dr. Bob (2011-07-21). The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous   (Kindle Locations 542-545).  . Kindle Edition.

This is exactly the dilemma my friend is facing—-she can continue drinking herself to death or she can accept spiritual help. For those of us who have chosen God’s spiritual help one day at a time and are experiencing the gift of recovery, it is extremely difficult to watch someone we care about consciously and deliberately choose to follow his or her alcoholic path “to the bitter end.”

I wish I could force my friend to “hit bottom” and choose living—–but I cannot. God gives each of us freedom of choice. I pray for my friend to want recovery bad enough to seek  it and keep it; and I know many others are praying the same prayer. The most supportive thing we can do now is “back off” and let her experience the consequences of her actions in the hope that they will motivate her to choose recovery.  In the back of our minds, though, is the knowledge that our friend might rather “drink to the bitter end.”  It is hard to stand by and let someone make that choice, but we truly have to release the situation into the care of God’s hands.

Thanks for letting me get this “all out on cyber paper.” Just writing it helps. I hope some of you can join us in praying for our friend to make the right choice this time and to continue making it. 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.

coffee2

Image courtesy of amenic181/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well, here I sit again in self-imposed isolation listening to the noise of the snow plow break apart the stillness that envelops the neighborhood. The school across the street is quiet and empty. My dogs have no children to bark at as they pass by our yard. Yesterday’s frozen precipitation is, of course, still hanging around and challenging outdoor movement from place to place.

In some ways, the quiet stillness accompanied by the “tick-tock” of the clock on the wall is like being in the presence of an old and comfortable friend.  This friend gives me permission to be lazy, to be productive, to be creative—-to be “me” in any way I choose. That brings a smile to my lips—-in typing that last sentence I realized I always have the opportunity to choose how I want to exist in any moment.

Today I choose to wrap myself in God’s love and to make choices that are healthy for me. I have no deadlines, no appointments, no obligations, and no list of things I have to do. I am left with the choice to do what I must to survive my reality—–and that is to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand him.  In the beginning of my recovery this turning things over 12 step stuff was just “a phrase often repeated.” Now after all these years and many miracles later this “turning over” comes from my heart, and  I enjoy releasing my will and my life to God. Of course, I still have times when I stubbornly hang on to my futile self-centered attempts to control, but even then I find myself begrudgingly handing things over to him.

I have started practicing a new ritual in my life. It is one of my early morning rituals, and it is much more meaningful than making coffee or cooking bacon.  I walk to my dining room, face the east, and look at a framed counted-cross stitch my mother did for me. I am looking at the words my mother so painstakingly spelled out:  1 Corinthians 13: 4-7. These special words describe God’s love for me and for everyone. Then I bow and release my “will and life” to God. In return, as I fold my arms in front of my chest, I literally feel God wrapping his arms around me and hugging me. Prayer and personal, private sacred words—-words that affirm and represent the love shared between God and myself—–are very important components of this early morning ritual. This ritual is both comforting and powerful. It puts my day “on track” and keeps my soul and heart open to God.  It empowers me to follow God’s will rather than my own throughout the day.

As I sit typing in this quiet stillness, I am not alone.  God is by my side; his presence is here. My four dogs are relaxed, warm, and sleeping, and I am happy.

diaster plan

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today is a day of irony. I was lecturing to my class about the role nurses play in responding to disasters, and I mentioned that one of the most important things we can do is try to prepare people about how to respond in a disaster/crisis situation by teaching them safety tips, etc. One of the examples I gave to illustrate this point was to remind them how important it is to keep fire exits accessible, and I mentioned that currently  the front door to the building we were in was  chained and padlocked shut, and if there was a fire they should not try to exist through that door.

On my way out of the building after my class I stopped to leave a complaint in the Dean’s office about what a major fire hazard it is to have a fire exit locked. It was explained to me this was the only way they could get the door to lock and that, consequently, this was the only way they had to”secure the building.” I was also told that unfortunately, at this point, no one had a key to the padlock. I was nice. I exited the building without saying something I would regret later. There comes a time, I think, when it should become more important to secure the safety of people occupying a building than it is to secure the contents of a building.

As always, I am left wondering what I am supposed to learn from this—–what spiritual lesson is embedded in today’s situation at the university? I must examine my own “crisis readiness.” I must admit, I only keep a  limited supply of canned goods and bottled water on hand for emergencies. I have “Mylar miracle” blankets that are made to keep body heat in  should it become necessary to do so. It is my plan that my dogs and I can use these “throw away” blankets along with other blankets  if we are without power. Beyond that, physically speaking, I am not big on “emergency preparedness.”

I have endured and survived numerous health “crises” during the past several years, and I have learned my best strategy for preparedness is staying spiritually fit and keeping my connection with God strong. Then, in times of crisis, I am aware God is facing it with me. I have to practice “talking to God” when I don’t have “a problem” so that it is easier to instantly turn to God when I do. This type of spiritual preparedness is similar to what we teach new comers in 12 step programs. We teach them to practice calling their sponsor on a regular basis even when things are going good. This important practice makes it easier to reach out to a sponsor when one does have a problem. If I cultivate the habit of relating to God on a regular basis, then it is much easier for me to automatically turn to him in times of crisis.

And where does the locked door fit into all this? Well, for me, the locked door represents my false self. I consider my “false self” to be my self-centered ego. That “me and only me” place in my psyche has a tendency to try to run things without God’s assistance. When my ego shuts God out, my inner awareness of God is blocked, it is as if I am effectively locking him out of my heart and soul because I refuse to acknowledge his presence there and everywhere. I have to constantly work at surrendering my life and my will over to God so that my heart and soul are always open to God’s presence and love rather than being “blocked”  from them by my ego.

May our perception remain open so we are able to perceive and acknowledge God’s constant love and presence today, tomorrow, and always. May God bless and keep you.

For more on this topic go to: http://www.semissourian.com/blogs/farwell

bread2

Image courtesy of  -Marcus-/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I just saw a commercial where the narrator was proclaiming not only could you get 2X the points for using his company’s credit card, but,  if you did, then you could either eat or buy something that would “wake up your soul.” Unfortunately, I hadn’t been listening that closely, so I am not sure if the verb was “eat” or “buy.” It was a restaurant scene, so it probably was “eat.” Then, again, I may have heard “eat” because I have started a healthy eating regimen again . One where I turn my will and my life in regards to what I eat over to my Higher Power as I understand him. Put another way, it is a way of eating that is a gift from God that allows me to honor and care for my body as a temple/instrument meant to worship him and carry out his will on earth. Either way, my false self is feeling a wee bit neglected and miffed about no longer being in control of my eating. My true self, however,  is celebrating. I don’t know if anyone else out there ever feels guilty for eating what you want to when you want until you are able to determine you are setting up problems for your body, but it is an immense relief to let that guilt/shame go and to feel “happy, joyous, and free” (term from AA’s Big Book) in regards to freedom from the bondage of compulsive eating.

I actually did not start to type this morning in order to tell you about using the 12 steps to combat compulsive eating. What I really want to focus on is how ludicrous the idea is that you can eat something that will wake up your soul—–or even buy something that will. The concept of a major credit card company “going spiritual” is an excellent example of cognitive dissonance until you realize the God credit cards “worship” is money. Money and what it can buy does not wake up one’s soul. At least, it has not awakened mine. My “wake up calls” have all come from God. I am talking about the ones that had to practically “hit me over the head” before I noticed them and responded in a healthy way. And getting to the point that I was able to register the precarious position I had put myself in was, in retrospect, a very dangerous and self-destructive process. Thankfully, I have started learning to be aware of and to heed the “still small” voice within that comes from my spiritual relationship more effectively, and I no longer have to endanger myself before I am able to comprehend and respond to it.

I want to take a moment to try to relate what sorts of things I do think “wake up” my soul, a soul that is, thankfully, no longer buried in addiction. First, there is the joy of experiencing God’s creation. Then, there are the blessings associated with the wonderful relationships God has given me with others that not only help wake my soul but keep it awake. These are found in my church, my step study groups, my 12 step groups, my prayer groups, and in close, caring relationships with dear friends. Mediation, studying God’s word, reading spiritual writings, hugging my dogs, telling my father and my sister’s I love them when we talk on the phone,—–these are all examples of some of the wonderful gifts that wake, feed, and nourish my soul.

I had to think longer than an Episcopalian should before I could come up with an example of what one could possibly eat that would wake one’s soul. Then I remembered the strong spiritual connection I feel when I am administered the bread and wine that represent Jesus. At that magical moment  I literally become one with the body of Christ——and my soul is awakened  and empowered to go forth and share God’s love with others. I think through all my years of compulsive eating I was probably searching for that one food that could wake my soul. I am thankful I no longer have to do so. May God bless and keep you.