Yesterday I Knew so Much

What was it I thought I knew?

“I have to risk teaching and writing what I must trust as the universal wisdom of God, and not just my own ideas. I have no other choice. In doing so I must be willing to be judged wrong by others more intelligent, wise, and holy than I.”   This is from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation from the Living School for Action and Contemplation…and I echo his claim.

Richard adds, “We all constantly draw wisdom from the ongoing evolution of consciousness…God is very patient.”  In Creation is Evidence of God’s Brilliance, I state that

God is in no way threatened by science or technology. Quite the contrary, God is giving us the guidance to learn more about His universe…and more. God reveals Himself to us and empowers us to learn more about Him as we are capable and prepared to know Him. For example, the Holy Spirit is not computer illiterate; God is in control and has led man to develop such technology and inspires men, like you and me, to use it to distribute knowledge, wisdom, and guidance to people all over the world.

Okay, do I know this for a fact?  No.  How can I?

Is it plausible?  Yes.  It is a theory…and a theory is good until it is proven to be wrong.  As Richard Rohr states, “If it is true, it must always have been true.”  The concept that humans are coming up with technology that is beyond God’s creation is preposterous; if we have the knowledge, He had it first.  He invented it.  Was such technology ‘known’ or conceivable at creation?  I say, “Yes, and more.”  Conceivable by God…not producible by man.

And now we are back to what I ‘know.’

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I am in the process of expanding my knowledge, particularly as it concerns my spiritual beliefs and practice.  I intend to write more on this as I learn.   Something I think I have realized is that where I believe I am spiritually, can be reached by other more formal ways.  I am learning about these other ways…and those paths are apparently ancient.

The good news is, I am not alone.  The questions I will be pondering are how to get from my path to one of those other paths…or even, should I?  If God has been directing my steps thus far, and I trust He has, why should I leave the path He has constructed for me?  But then, He also directed my attention to these other ways.  I sense I must trust and be open…inquire and…

Besides, I intend to not only expand my knowledge but also my practice…which includes ora et labora … prayer and work, both alone and with others.  Perhaps by spending some time on one of these other paths, I might find opportunities to pray and work with other like-minded seekers.

 

Thanks be to God and to God be the Glory.

(The image at the top is provided by NASA through the Huffington Post.)

See the full, original post of Richard Rohr’s meditation for January 8, 2017.  You are invited to sign up for Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations here: https://cac.org/sign-up/

The Purpose of ‘Bad’ Things

I have recently weathered another perfect storm:  exhaustion and self-doubt met with unjust accusations, betrayal, inquisition, and ambush.  Did I mention I have weathered that storm….I came through it in one piece.

When a dear friend asked me today why these things always happen to me, I did not elaborate on my beliefs, but Jackie, I will now.  My opinion of why such things always happen to me is 1) difficult for many people to accept and 2) my opinion and I am entitled to one.

When people think about ‘bad’ things happening to good people, their concept of ‘bad’ is not my concept of ‘bad.’  Other people’s list of ‘bad’ things include things like car accidents, cancer, abandonment, birth defects, premature death, etc.  To me, ‘bad’ is being so unconnected with God that you wonder if you need to introduce yourself when you start to pray.

I will clarify my definition of ‘bad’ by defining the opposite, namely ‘good.’  ‘Good’ is unconditionally loving God.   Walk with me closely here because I am not saying that we should respond to ‘bad’ things by loving God; it’s a little more involved (and possible) than that.  When ‘bad’ things happen to me, I can often see how the ‘bad’ thing is connected to (or pointing to) something that is distracting me from God.

I will add another very controversial concept:  God lets dark forces interfere in our lives for a purpose.  Ask Job.   When the dark forces are on me like flies, that is my opportunity to once again declare to Whom I belong.

The purpose of this life is not peace, joy, success, prosperity, abundance, health, blah, blah, blah,…  And conversely, hatred, misery, failure, etc. are not ‘bad’ things.  The purpose of this life is to give us an opportunity, in the midst of battle, to locate and adhere to God.  God wants one thing: our constant awareness of Him.  The bad things that happen are God-given opportunities to perfect that.

Remember, this is my opinion and I hold it very stongly…and I can because it plays out repeatedly in my life; each time I weather this kind of storm, and prove my loyalty and faith, my bond with God becomes stronger.

In Shadrach, Meschah, and Whatshisname, I give my battle cry, “I’m with them.”

I serve God, through Jesus, with strength and conviction from the Holy Spirit and in the Name of Jesus, saved by His blood by the Grace of God.  I look to Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the very Father God to protect and save me.  But if He does not, I will not turn from God nor will I stop drawing close to Jesus and neither will I stop turning to the Holy Spirit for guidance and protection.  I will not worship anything else.  Are there any questions?

I feel I must point out that holding this belief is easy for me because, unike the rich young ruler and most other people, I don’t have much left to lose.   I’ve done this a good bit; I know the drill.  That is not to say the battle is over.  I have not died yet.  I’m sure things can get worse.   But I pray for the strength to remain steadfast and that I continue to show up when called upon to do so.

Protecting Cherished Hopes – My own teachable moment

In his book The Lifestyle of a Prophet, James W. Goll describes my own barrier to effectiveness.  Goll writes:

What will I look like if I do this?  What will others think of me?  How well will I perform?  …if we allow ourselves to be held back by the fear of rejection or the fear of authority or the opinions of others, eventually we will become people-pleasers, strangled by the anticipation of their opinions.  …Fear can paralyze us while authentic faith propels us forward.

I already know the truth of this and when I feel myself becoming self-conscious, my best response is to get out of God’s way, say what I am given to say, and move on.  (See All I Need to do is Show Up and Jesus, Keep me busy.)

But I find I have another barrier to true effectiveness…and true healing:  protecting cherished hopes.

For the past two years I have been releasing worldly attachments:  careers, possessions, reputations, dreams, aspirations, hopes, resentments, fears, illnesses,…

Last night, I wrote a letter to a person from my past.  Seems I have been holding on to a hope…or rather, I have been reluctant to give up on a lost opportunity.

When I met this person shortly after becoming a single mom, over 25 years ago, I was immediately overwhelmed by a desire to be close emotionally, physically, spiritually and so much so that I could not behave normally.  My fear of rejection was so strong that I could do nothing but create a situation that begged for it.

I have become aware, recently, that I was protecting this small cherished hope like a bar of chocolate tucked between two books in a bed side shelf…well-hidden and sweet.

But, in light of all that I have been able to shed these past two years, and in light of the clarity and strength of my connection to God that I am blessed with as a result, I felt the need to let this one go, too.

However, I am still human.  The sealed envelope that sits on the table, stamped and ready to be put in the box, contains a weak and flawed attempt to let it go.   How it is weak is how I am essentially asking if there is any similar feeling of regret on his part.  How it is flawed is in how I failed to mention to this person just what my life is all about now.  Like Peter during Jesus’ passion, I have essentially denied Who it is I follow…Who it is I serve…Who it is I love above all else and above all others.

For the most part, I am in a good place emotionally and spiritually.  From that good place, I felt the strength to get this wrapped up and done.   The writing of the letter, researching addresses, recalling events and feelings, however, opened small but unhealed wounds that have a bit of foul odor.  There is still pain.  It still hurts.  I’m still disappointed.  I still have tears to let drop.  Jesus is the only one who can hold me now.  and He does

 

The Christmas Condom

Okay, that’s a crude title…

…but no more harsh than what we say to friends and family over the holidays.  Therefore, I suggest that, as part of our morning ritual, we slip on an extra layer of skin, this one lubricated with the Holy Spirit.

Yes, I’m serious.  Despite our best efforts to rid our psyches of past traumas and wounds, people…particularly those we grew up with…have an amazing ability to push well-hidden buttons.

Shirley MacLaine once said that she had life all figured out…her life and everyone else’s lives…and then she went home for Thanksgiving.

We all have our infections…some more deadly than others…and just like practicing safe sex, we all should do the right thing and practice safe inter-actions.

And, just like with safe sex, it may not feel the same; it may not be as much fun; but that nasty barb or snide remark will infect and cause as much harm as syphilis.  (By the way, syphilis causes blindness; did you know that?  Nasty remarks that keep old wounds full of germs and puss will blind ‘loved ones’ to your virtues…and vice versa; did you know that, too?)

Remember, condoms protect both parties.  Before you press the doorbell, if you ask Jesus for the blessing of a Holy Spirit ‘condom’…and make sure it is on you, snug and secure…then you will be protected and protecting.

Happy Holidays

 

In Thanksgiving for life…

(Dictated into my cell phone on the evening of January 19, 2016)

I’m driving through Travelers Rest, watching the gas gauge because I am just about out of gas. I have about a dollar seventy five to my name and I’m making plans.

There’s a gas station at the Green River exit on 25 and I’m thinking of offering to clean the bathroom in exchange for two gallons of gas.

I’m recording this because I’m thinking about what it’s like to live like this…for the people who live like this every day of their lives, and can’t get out of the downward spiral.

All of my life I have come across people who live this way, hand to mouth. I have to admit that I have very often thought that they somehow deserved to live this way,  either because they were wasteful and stupid or because they had an entitlement mentality; by that, I mean they were so used to social programs that there was no other way to live. They didn’t seem to know how to take care of themselves.

God was I wrong. There is no dignity in this.  Yes, I have been stupid and wasteful.  But, I believe it takes more strength to hold your head up, survive this, and ask for help than it does to work a hard, paying job.

I will make it through this. I know I will. I’m having to convince my daughter that she, too, will survive this because she, too, is overdrawn and facing rent day. But I’m also having to teach her that this is a God lesson in humility. This whole scenario is destroying my pride. And that is a good thing…a God thing.

To identify with the people who live on the streets or in their cars or in 60 year old house trailers with the floors falling in… it’s a good place to be.

God, forgive me for all those times when I have felt superior to people who have nothing. Forgive me for making them feel bad by looking the other way or not smiling, for not looking them in the eyes, or not offering to help.

And for all those empty-headed idiots who say people who live on the street do so because they want to…I can’t think of a curse strong enough for them.

Well, I did it.  I stopped at the Green River exit and asked the attendant if I could clean the bathrooms for two gallons of gas.  He deferred to the manager/owner. First, she calculates how much two gallons is going to cost her, asks me where I’m going, and how many miles I get to a gallon.  She then tells me she’s already cleaned up and they close in 10 minutes, so, “no.”  I wait.  She waits back.  So I leave, with no gas.

I drove 40 to 50 miles on an empty tank, like the miracle of Hanukkah, all over again.

I’m now at my daughter’s apartment where it’s warm.  It’s 19 degrees outside and I’m thinking about the people broken down by the side of the road, or ‘sleeping’ under bridges, or in their cars, or even in shelters.  I beg God to bless them, if not in this life then in the next one.  And, please, if they sleep, may they know in their dreams that someone is sorry, very sorry, that someone cares for them even if there is nothing she can do to help, and that she loves them.

Response Ability Requires Power to Respond

This morning, the minister at First Presbyterian Church in Greenville related an insight I had not heard before, concerning the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat:  a thermometer reflects the environment; a thermostat assesses the environment and responds. He went on to challenge his congregation to be like thermostats; don’t just reflect what is going on around you and in the world.  Assess what is going on but respond in a way that improves the climate.

I would add only this point to his wisdom:  the only way the thermostat is capable of doing more than just reflecting the environment is because the thermostat is hooked up to a power source.  One’s ability to respond, and not just reflect, depends on one’s clear connection to a power source.  The quality of one’s response depends on the quality of the power behind it.

Last night, after Clemson defeated Wake Forest, Dabo Swinney commended the team members on their response to the previous week’s defeat.  He praised “these young men” for HOW they responded.  Dabo is right:  It is not important what happens to us in this life; what is important is How we respond to what happens.  Those “young men” responded with quality character traits:  courage, poise, optimism, strength…because they were clearly connected to a quality power source.

Good power source…good response.  Flawed power source…flawed response.

I commend Dabo Swinney, most beloved inspirational speaker, for demonstrating, and guiding those young athletes to their own discovery of, the best source of power there is.

“We still control our destiny”

After Clemson’s heartbreaking loss last Saturday night, I looked forward to hearing some wisdom from a most beloved inspirational speaker, Dabo Swinney.  But when I heard Dabo remind his audience that “We still control our destiny,” I thought, what about God?

I have seen Dabo and the team members acknowledge God when entering the stadium and after making a touch down. I knew Dabo was known for his faith, so I did some research.

I will direct you to an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 24, 2013, in which the author describes the spiritual climate at Clemson, particularly as it is fed by the faith of Dabo Swinney and other members of the staff. I quote from the article, With God on Our Side,

At Clemson, God is everywhere. The team’s chaplain leads a Bible study for coaches every Monday and Thursday. Another three times a week, the staff gathers for devotionals. Nearly every player shows up at a voluntary chapel service the night before each game.

The players all know the coach’s favorite Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: “Run your race to win, don’t just run the race.”

“I’m a Christian,” Coach Swinney tells Clemson recruits. “If you have a problem with that, you don’t have to be here.”

The article goes on to describe how players have been baptized on the field, dedicating their lives to Christ, with team mates as witnesses.  Coaches and staff members address all aspects of a player’s character, not just the player’s catching or running skills. Dabo and the rest of the staff and team turn to Christ not just to thank Him for a win, but also for wisdom when they lose. After a painful loss, Dabo prayed, “Lord, help us learn from this. We take glory in everything You do, win or lose.”

In my introduction to this blog, I describe what I mean by a teachable moment and I point out that athletic coaches have a unique opportunity to make an impact on a young person’s life; athletic events are teachable moments by their very crisis nature. By setting the focus of each athletic competition and the focus of life, as a whole, as being a spiritual race run with Christ, Dabo demonstrates how one controls one’s destiny. Setting one’s life to be Christ-centered, Christ-focused, and Christ-worthy is the best possible strategy for one’s life and one’s destiny…temporal and eternal.

Ebenezer (Ebo) Ogundeko, a freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y., picked the Tigers over Alabama, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, and other programs. One of his reasons: “I felt like coming to Clemson would bring me closer to Jesus,” he told The Chronicle. “Most dudes on the team, they take their religion very seriously, and their relationship with Jesus Christ. They’ve encouraged me to move closer and closer to God.”

I believe that what our Creator wants is our reconciliation with Him. To encourage a young person to move closer and closer to God…through dedication, through prayer, through sharing, through outward demonstration…affects one’s destiny, in the best possible way.

Dabo was right. We all control our destiny.

When dark clouds are on the horizon…

Many many people are in a panic because of the outcome of the election.  I empathize and would be in a panic, too, except that over the past few years I have found my refuge.  I have needed to go there frequently because of a variety of disasters, catastrophes, and onslaughts.  If Viktor Frankl can survive Auschwitz concentration camps by going to his refuge, so can we.

I am ‘borrowing’ the following thoughts from a post I wrote several months ago…a post which probably now belongs to word press.  I am not implying that any elected official is evil.  I am addressing how I respond to situations that leave me feeling fearful and despairing.  I believe now, as then, it is a time to hunch up close to Jesus:

This morning, …I felt powerless, minuscule, and controlled.  But then I remembered, I have God…not that God is in my back pocket and that I can whip Him out at a moment’s notice and hack and slash at my enemy, but it is a similar situation as fighting evil.  I am called to do what I can to be vigilant and to protect myself and loved ones with prayer and condemnations of Satan and his minions in the name of Christ.

However, when I am feeling weak in the over-arching presence of users, manipulators, and terrifying possibilities, I am reminded of a sweet homily given at the funeral of an 18-month-old child.  The wise minister did not give the typical come-to-Jesus sermon to his captive audience; instead, he addressed our pain and confusion over why God allowed this to happen.  Try as he did to satisfy our non-understanding, the words I clearly remember were, “Now is a time to hunch up close to Jesus.”

There are forces and actions in this world that are just not understandable.  Taking on the forces of evil is less effective and more dangerous than tilting at windmills; one can get lost in the darkness and overwhelmed by it.  I’ve said it before, this is not heaven; this is the life before the afterlife.  The safest place for me to be is hunched up close to Jesus.  He has the power to control and defeat the users and manipulators; I do not.  When I try to, I weaken myself by becoming angry, fearful, anxious, and destructive.  Those attitudes open me up to being influenced by evil and I refuse to play into that.

Say what you will; I may be turning a blind eye to the users and manipulators but am I turning a blind eye to evil when I refuse to focus on it?  I don’t think so.  I am weak. I am vulnerable.  But, hunched up close to Jesus, I am as safe as I can be in this life.  When I can’t feel Him directly with His hand on my head or His arm about my shoulders, I hear His voice or see His sweet gentle smile.  If I am not aware of any of this, I read His words and focus on His promises, because I know that in His presence the evil one shrinks, cringes, and slithers away defeated.

There are, and always will be in this life, users and manipulators.  I can not defeat them.  But, God has His ways.  The Holy Spirit is not computer illiterate.  The more technology advances, the more vehicles the Holy Spirit has.  I am not afraid or in doubt as to Who will win this battle.  It is decided; it is done.  All that is left is for it to play out.  There will be casualties and there will be victories, but, again, this is not heaven.

Thanks be to Jesus…

And to God be the Glory…

What am I missing?

It has been a red letter day. My brother listed me with all the idiots he has to deal with, caught himself in the insult, laughed, but did not apologize nor retract; my sister dismissed the significance of my giving up my life to take care of her saying that it wasn’t much of a life, anyway, from what she could tell.
On the one hand, I am having to endure insults from someone to whom I am deeply indebted; on the other, I am enduring insults from someone who should feel an indebtedness to me.  I feel both blows in the solar plexus.
I recall many, many years ago lamenting how my efforts went unappreciated but instead of apologies, I got declarations that I wasn’t due an apology because I hadn’t been asked to put forth those efforts, in the first place.
I’m 61 years old and I haven’t learned a damn thing.
Time after time I take on a challenge or a need… thinking I am being called by God to do so, but when my efforts are rejected and the need is not addressed, what failed?
Was I wrong in my thinking that I was being called by God; did I just want to believe I was?
Was I called but just went about it the wrong way?  Did I do it wrong?
Am I having to relive this Groundhog Day of putting forth more effort that the person I am trying to help because I am failing to learn some lesson?
I am the common denominator; there is something I am doing wrong.
There is a wonderful scene in the movie “Rudy” in which Father Cavanaugh tells Rudy of the “only 2 irrefutable truths in life: There is a God and I am not He.”
There is a reason why my efforts to help others, fail. The good news is, I may be given time in this life to figure out what that reason is.
The bad news is, I must once again figure out how to peaceably co-exist with the people who throw my efforts back into my face, find a way to forgive them, love them, but be less willing to let them hurt me in the future.  Otherwise, I will bleed to death and be no good to anyone.
(Jesus, take the wheel…please.  Thank You.)