Archives for posts with tag: surrender

Holy Cross July 25, 2013

 

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

This morning we had something different in our church service. Something I hadn’t seen done in over 20 years. It was a “children’s sermon”—-and instead of being a simple five minute show-and-tell type thing it was a real lesson. Surprisingly,  I was somewhat shocked and dismayed to find myself resenting this intrusion into my “grown up” world. I had, for a few moments in my head anyway, become the old lady who doesn’t like or relate to children.  Then, something happened—–something that should have happened from the very beginning. I found myself thinking, “Okay, self. What does this mean to you personally?”

The lesson was about the good shepherd tending his flock, and it illustrated how the good shepherd leads  and protects his sheep as well as how he goes looking for them when they are lost. So I started answering the question I posed to myself. First, I reminded myself that when I was a child I grew up in cattle country where sheep were not thought of favorably. Quite literally, I have always resented being represented as a sheep in this parable. And, of course, my people would have called the sheep pen a corral. Then I let my intellect delve a bit deeper, and I realized it didn’t matter what represented me in the parable—-the truth that has mattered in my life is that Creator has always been there to protect me in spite of myself and my bad decisions. Creator has indeed been there to protect me from evil—-and found me when I was almost overcome by evil and the consequences of my own choices.

In addition, during the children’s sermon, if I heard correctly, one little girl wanted to know what that white thing was that the good shepherd had wrapped around his neck. This question immediately reminded me of how I have spent a life time wondering why Christ had to die on the cross—–kind of like, why does his body, mind, and soul have to go through that torture and die that painful way just for mankind to believe in him.  In a way, the cross that is so prominent in our faith is like the white sheep wrapped around the good shepherd’s neck.  I realize now that there are times when the “good shepherd” has carried me completely—————otherwise, I would not be here today. Perhaps that smelly old sheep wrapped around Jesus’ neck is symbolic of Christ’s crucifixion on the cross—-there would be no resurrection or an unquestionable belief in eternal life in, of, and with Creator, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

The rebellious child in me, however, still has moments when it wants to remove that smelly, hot old sheep—-and that painful cross—–so that there is no tremendous sacrifice, pain, or discomfort. While I’m playing God, I’d like all of life to be like that too. Then I have to laugh, because I know it has been pain and perceived suffering in my life that has provided a firm foundation for my relationship with Creator.  I also must admit I believe Christ dying the way he did allowed God to have more empathy for our human condition. Without pain and suffering I am often not willing to let God lead or carry me. My false self thinks it should handle everything independently. I have heard many say “I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.” I am able to say that, and  I have come to realize I am also a grateful survivor of pain and suffering—–because regardless of the form each crisis took, they all made me “Let go and let God.” They all helped me know that God is there for me and is actually all that matters when the going gets rough. Thankfully,  I am making progress, and I am learning to let Creator be there for me, with me, and be the Higher Power that guides my actions when I am not in crisis.

So I want to “shout out” a big “thank you” to our new Rector for presenting this parable in a children’s sermon; it made me take stock of just where that good shepherd had been in my life and all that we have been able to do together working in partnership. God bless and keep you.

 

God Boxes Sept 26 13

Photo by author of God Boxes made in group she co-facilitates.

The ideas discussed in today’s blog were triggered by listening to Father Al Jewson tell a true story in today’s sermon about something that happened to him and his grandfather many years ago. The story was about what we in twelve step programs often call a “God Box.” In the twelve step tradition, such a box is viewed as a receptacle for concerns and problems that we deposit in the box to symbolize letting them go and turning them over to God. We put things (our problems) in this box and literally give them to God.

But in this morning’s story the box in question acted quite differently. It was still a receptacle, but this time it held the Spirit and love of God (God’s Kingdom) and people who are  gifted with such a box are held responsible for sharing the box’s contents with others and eventually passing the box on to someone else even though they continue to “keep”  and “share” the gift the box gave to them.  With this sort of God box we take from God and give to others rather than just giving to God.

So, here we have two boxes symbolizing our communication with God—-with one box, we send things to God so He can solve the problems here on earth. With the other box, we receive a gift from God —-and it is our responsibility to share that love and grace with others.  It is as if one box is saying “Here, God. I can’t handle it—-I have to turn this over to you to handle” and the other is saying “Here is my essence, the only tool the world needs to prevent and solve problems. Here is the solution, share it with others.” One is a taking box and one is a giving box.

However, like all true communication, there needs to be both a sender and a receiver. We actually are responsible for practicing both roles. We need to be able to receive God’s love and direction, and we need to be able to share that gift with others. We also need to realize that we are not God, that there is a power greater than ourselves, and surrendering in love to that power is often necessary if we are to survive to be able to spread God’s grace and love.

So, in closing, I think the “take home” thought from this comparison of “God Boxes” is that we have a give and take relationship with God; we work in partnership as our lives unfold.  We let him “drive the bus” and we, in turn, receive and share his gifts with each other. We don’t try to run and control things, but we do help establish his kingdom on earth by being living messages of God’s gift of love and grace.

IMG_0564

Photograph:”Easter Sunrise;” courtesy of K. Farwell

How many nudges do I need before I start doing the things I know I have to do to be healthy? So far, I’ve had foot pain, back pain, headaches, clothes fitting tighter, and now…..my fasting blood sugars are starting to creep up 2-4 points above what they should be. My blood pressure and pulse are fine, and I am not experiencing any pedal edema. But I think I recognize this road I seem to have detoured onto. I’ve been on it before…..only then I tried to deny how bad I felt or how big I’d gotten. That time I didn’t know I was developing diabetes. That time I had to be hospitalized with my lungs filled up with water and the scales tipping over an unmentionable poundage before I realized how seriously ill I had become. Years ago I let go of the fantasy that I could ever drink alcohol like “normal’ people……but it seems I am still hanging on to the fantasy that I can eat like “normal people.”

I’ve been telling myself if I just eat what I know to be healthy foods with no flour or sugar listed in the ingredients that I should be able to maintain both my weight and my health. There is something about having to weigh and measure these “healthy foods” that my stubborn “I want to be normal” ego resists—–and keeps resisting.  I delude myself into believing I can accomplish adequate “portion control” without the aid of scales, measuring cups, or measuring spoons. I seem to have been seeking a “middle way” that was easier than totally disciplined eating and yet healthier than compulsively eating unhealthy snacks whenever I desire to do so. I am a slow learner, but it is beginning to sink in that, for me, there is no “middle way” when it comes to what I eat.

If I compare pros and cons it seems logical that weighing and measuring what I eat is a small price to pay for being healthy and feeling good…….and staying alive. I am writing these words this morning because for the first time in months I weighed out 2 ounces of meat, 1 cup of fresh sliced strawberries, and 1/4 cup of cottage cheese for my breakfast. Having a fasting blood sugar of 94 scared me into “following the straight and narrow” pathway to my own health once again. Then after I slowly ate this delicious breakfast, as is my habit, I began perusing what my friends had posted on Facebook.  Here I encountered these encouraging words Bishop Charleston had posted this morning, and I want to share them with you because I think these words may help some of my readers free their minds from whatever trap has ensnared them:

” Like a beam of sunlight the energy of the Spirit can come to you, warm you and renew you, enlighten your mind with brighter visions for your future, bring you to life, lift you out of the shadows and give you strength to take the next step. Turn to face the sun. Do not look down into the same swirl of dark water that has captured your imagination for too long, but look up to see possibilities grow around you like a field of flowers. Even if your movement is limited, your mind can fly to any corner of reality. You are free, like sunlight, set free by the gift of the Spirit, touched by the mind that first dreamed when all the world still slept, made of grace and wonder.”

Did you get that? We are all set free by the gift of the Spirit——and we are part of God’s creation—-we are part of the grace and wonder. One day at a time I will, with God’s help, lift myself out of the shadows and be given the strength to take the next step. May god bless and keep you!

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.

building blocks

Image courtesy of  sattva/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last  night at a book study we were talking about what it means to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our Higher Power as AA’s Big Book instructs those who wish to remain in recovery to do. The group seemed to unanimously agree that it did not mean you turn everything over to God and then just sit there waiting for him to do everything. After all, we are humans who were given the gift of choice by God, and, consequently, that makes us accountable for our choices, actions, and  the subsequent consequences that occur. As a group, we agreed that when we let God’s spirit empower us we still have to do the footwork.

There are always, at least for me, a committee of rebellious “naysayers” having a debate in my head during conversations like this. One is saying, “Yeah, right. If I give up my life and my will nothing will be left.” Another is saying, “I gave up alcohol, cigarettes, compulsive eating,……why is it always about giving something up?”  Another is saying, “Yippee! Go for it! Let God run things, then you can do anything you want because it will really be God doing it—-anything you do will be God’s will.”

I could go on, but listening to my mind’s “committee meetings” can be tedious at best. Instead, I would like to try to answer my committee. I realize I will be defending my beliefs, much as I had to when I defended my doctoral dissertation to my dissertation committee when I was in graduate school. First, every time I have given something up, my God has given me much, much more in return. Relief, serenity, peace of mind—–all of these are inherent in realizing I no longer have to control everything and that it  is unrealistic for me to expect to be able to do so. What has been left for me at those times when I have voluntarily turned something over to my Higher Power is a strong faith that provides fertile ground for the growth of my emerging, evolving spirit. When I continue to let God be in control things go well—-or at least I am, with God’s help, able to handle whatever comes my way. However, when I “take back” whatever I’ve turned over to God,  things start building up into problems yet again. And again. Someday I hope to leave things in God’s hands permanently, and I am encouraged by the fact that I can now go for longer and longer periods without rebelling against the way “God is driving the bus.”

This brings me to the second question, why is it always about giving something up? For me, the answer is because I have spent a life time building an identity/ego that defines, in my mind, who I am. My inclination is to hold onto that identity tenaciously, no matter what. So naturally, I am reluctant to let go of anything that I feel is necessary to “stay who I am.” Again, in my case, many of the “blocks” I have used to build my identity are faulty. These faulty “blocks” cause continual problems for me, yet I hang on to them because I think I will not be me without them. For the sake of brevity, I have found that I have to let go of these faulty blocks gradually over time, and sometimes I have to do so more than once.  For me, it is about “giving something up” because I need to do so to not only survive but to build a better life. The good news is, I really like the new “me” who is evolving because this new identity realizes it is not all about me—-that it is about God’s love and sharing it.

And to the last committee member that thinks turning things over to God offers an invitation to “party hardy” I have to say, “In all due respect, Mr. Committee Party Man, you are a remnant of my ‘stinking thinking’ that got me into most of my life’s messes in the first place. I am still accountable for how I do the footwork and carry out God’s will—-and if I start practicing my old bad habits yet again, it only means I have purposively divorced myself from God’s guidance and help.” Perhaps this response is a bit harsh, but this is the point where I need to be hard on myself. I seem to think I can turn things over to God and take back bits and pieces of what I’ve turned over because “I’m better, I’ve changed, things are different now, and now I can handle it.” This is the type of thinking that always brings me back to being enmeshed in self-created problems.

Wow! I did not mean to write for so long this morning. If you have stayed with me and plowed through all this, I thank you. May God bless and keep you.

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Why

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Asking Why

“Don’t let your will roar when your power only whispers.”

—– Thomas Fuller

(accessed on 12/5/13 at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/thomasfull151926.html)

That quote brought an uneasy chuckle to my lips and had me shaking my head more than once. I hate it when some quote hits me between the eyes like this one did. It means I need to listen. I need to pay attention.

This one made me think about all the times I’ve wasted in my life being willful and repeatedly trying to do or fix something  all by myself when I actually had no power to do so. I’d like to think I’ve “grown out” of this character defect, but the truth is I still can get caught up in my own stubborn self-will more often than I like to admit.

In two meetings I’ve participated in this past week, the topic of “asking why” was a topic of discussion. I often enjoy asking why and trying to figure out what makes something do what it is doing. And, yes, I can use asking why as a smoke screen to keep myself from focusing on what I’m going to do about a problem rather than wasting my time analyzing it to death.

Somehow understanding something gives me a sense of control, of being “safe,” if you will. If I understand the answer to why, maybe I can avoid encountering the same problem or situation again in the future. This line of reasoning, comes from my upbringing because I always wanted to know why I was getting in trouble and why what I was doing was wrong. I was scolded for “talking back” when I would ask why, so now, being the emancipated elder adult that I am—–I still love having the freedom to ask why. Actually, when I was a small child, my “why question” may have been the safest way for me to disagree or rebel. So when I ask why in the present sometimes I can get caught up in asking why because of my allergy to authority.

That last sentence brings me back to today’s quote—–when I feel my power is threatened  (especially by an “authority” outside myself) I often  explode in “self will run riot”. My response is very much like whistling in the dark with my “roaring will” to cover up and/or hide from myself the fact that I am feeling powerless threatened. I know in my soul God uses my feeling powerless to make me teachable and right-sized. It can force acceptance and initiate healing.  But knowing this can, for me,  be far removed from actually letting God do His magic. I have to focus on “feeding my willingness” to surrender, let go, and let God. One of the ways I do this is by reminding myself of something I’ve been telling clients for years—-“knowing why is not as important as figuring out what you are going to do about it.” Real wisdom comes with the realization that “what I’m going to do about it” is turn it over to God so he and I can work on it together.

I am slowly learning to trust God rather than getting bogged down in intellectualizing, asking why, and otherwise rebelling. I am learning to trust what God is creating in me when I am willing to release a character defect—-which, in this case, is my willingness to stop rebelling against my lack of control/power, to willingly ask God for help, and to accept that help. I am learning to trust that when I give up something has always been one of my problematic ways of reacting to life God will create something better to take its place. When I can practice surrender and acceptance rather than rebellion, worry, and fear it is amazing how much more easy and peaceful my life is!

I hope all these meandering words will make sense to my readers. I hope some of you will comment about the role “asking why” plays in your life. May God bless and keep you.