All I Need to Do is Show Up (Reprise)

Well, this is fate! …What do they call it when everything intersects?”   “The Bermuda Triangle.”  (wonderful lines written by the late Nora Ephron and spoken by Jay and Sam in the movie, Sleepless in Seattle)

A favorite fellow blogger wrote recently about letting God be God.  I responded that she was absolutely right and that all I needed to do was show up.  (I keep stealing her best words.  Sorry, Donald, I don’t think you do have the best words, but I won’t get into that now.)

While I was in North Carolina, recently, I encountered several people who already had their ‘dukes up’ when I entered the room:  sales clerks, buyer’s agents, and even a beloved friend.  Driving home with the top down on my little blue wonder car, I felt like I was “getting the hell out of Dodge.”  As I breathed deep and emptied my mind of the bits of discordant conversations, the scripture words “shake the dust off your feet,” came to mind.

Now, I am aware of the potential punishment due one who alters or disagrees with scripture, but when I look at the whole text,

If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city…

…I am disturbed.  These words are from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus sends out the twelve apostles “with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.’”  Now, maybe it is because they are to try to reach out to the Jews; but this does not sound like the Jesus I know.  I am reminded of the parable of the shepherd who goes out looking for the one lost sheep.  Jesus does not tell me to judge someone as “not worthy” and therefore to “take back my blessing of peace.”  Sure, there are swine who are not going to appreciate pearls but convincing them, much less judging them as unworthy, just isn’t my job.  Let me explain what I mean…

In the verse, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet,” I see that as wisdom for my psychological health.  In a previous essay, I wrote about the techniques used to keep oneself safe when attempting to help others; I wrote about how healing ministers have a special prayer they pray to cleanse themselves of residual attachment to the pain, evil spirits, or even pride in having helped Jesus to heal someone.

However, I believe the process of acting as ambassadors for Christ does not end just because I have not been well-received; God’s work is far from over.  If I give to someone a blessing of peace, I have planted a seed or embedded a grain of sand.  I may walk away, but circumstances outside of my knowledge can, and likely will, cause that seed to germinate and, maybe years from now, will grow into belief and faith.  I think of the seeds in the desert that lie dormant until the rains come.  The image at the top of this essay was published in October 2015, in the Daily Mail .  The picture is of the Atacama desert in Chile, “the worlds driest desert,” in late spring after heavy storms took place in March.  In the words of the writer, “a magical transformation brings the area to life.”

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3294865/Blooming-marvellous-rain-falls-world-s-driest-desert-jaw-dropping-phenomenon-takes-place-year-s-display-spectacular-18-years.html#ixzz42z6FNd6z

Atacama desert dry

This image above may be what I encounter on a daily basis, but my blessings are like a seed tossed out into that sand.  Sure, I will shake the dust from my feet because I do not want to dwell on the rejection or seeming lack of acceptance of God’s love, but my job is done.  Now, it is up to God…who will be God.

I would like to add that sometimes I am met with true rancor; I usually have no idea what is the reason behind it or the source of it, but I can bet I have touched on something that needs God’s healing touch.  Again, it is usually none of my business and, therefore, it is not my job to try to fix it.  Furthermore, in cases such as that, I have likely planted a grain of sand that, God willing, will irritate the hearer until a pearl of wisdom is formed…but this can take years, just like within an oyster; I don’t need to see it happen.  I believe and have faith; I move on.  What happens over time is God business.

A young blogger recently indicated that he was concerned about the state of the salvation of his friends as they were facing college; my advice to him was to remember that their souls were in God’s hands and that his job was to love them, be kind to them, be there to answer questions, but to try to not judge or criticize them; God is not done with them and paths of their lives will be as diverse as the flowers of the world.

This same blogger, only weeks before, had expressed dismay over his own doubts and waverings of faith.  When I replied with some of my personal experiences and with teachings and practices that have helped me, he responded with much self-righteous criticism and condemnation; he said some of my beliefs and practices were”Satanic.”  Before I lashed out in self-defense, I had to remind myself that he is probably no more than 20 years old and, certainly, God is not done with him, yet, either.  However, it would be prudent for me to give the topics mentioned in his attacks at least a cursory look… Balaam’s ass and all that.

When something like that niggles my soul, I am wise to reflect on the situation.  I am not exempt from receiving seeds and sand from others who are unknowingly (or knowingly) acting on behalf of God.  My beloved friend’s screaming at me that “Now, you’re just being contrary!” has merit; I am by no means a saint.  I can be contrary.  I can be mean-spirited.  How do you think I recognize so well the mean-spirited ways of others ?!?  I can only thank God, and my friends and family, that there are such things as forgiveness and understanding.

The point I started out with is simply this: my job is to show up.  Jesus is not physically here to plant seeds and sand; I am.  I am not equipped, or emotionally or spiritually healthy enough, to give appropriate correction to others.  However, I can obey Jesus’ commandments to love God and to love my neighbor.  The only way I know how to love my neighbor is to show up, be kind to them, to set a good example of what ‘love of God and neighbor’ look like, to not judge or criticize them, to allow them to be where they are spiritually, and to forgive them and have faith that God is not done with them, yet.

Addendum:  As I learn more about the Law of Three, it occurs to me that as I ‘show up’ with seeds and sand, I may, in fact, be acting as Third Force…just a thought.

To God be the Glory

 

 

Creation is Evidence of God’s Brilliance (Reprise)

A fellow blogger is concerned about evolution; he believes the concept that life evolved from a single-celled organism dismisses belief in God and devalues human life.  This is how I respond:

I disagree that what we are learning, and continue to learn, dismisses belief in God or devalues human life. God, even as documented in the Bible, has revealed Himself to man in ways that man can understand Him…in ways that man can handle…emotionally, conceptually, and intellectually. When He appeared to Abraham and to Moses, it was in glimpses and even then the men were dramatically affected by the experience. God, the Father, sent Jesus in human form so we would be able to receive Him and accept Him and listen to Him without the shock of His divinity; when he presented simple displays of His power in healing and changing water to wine or feeding the thousands, these simple examples were difficult for people to understand and accept.

The writers of the Bible wrote about God in ways that made sense to them…in ways they and others could handle and understand; they wrote in terms of what they knew…and even then it was mysterious and marvelous. The more we learn about our world, our universe, and ourselves, the more we learn about how amazing God is. God is so much more than what we know and are aware of. If God created us by a method starting with single-celled organisms, the whole concept is mind-blowingly creative and brilliant. The elegance of the processes involved are evidence of the masterfully-artistic mind of God.

Evolution, in no way, devalues human life. Man is special and unique among all of the creatures God planned: Man writes poetry, for example. All other creatures do what they do to survive. Poetry is not necessary for survival. Man seeks communion with the Creator. Do other creatures do that?

God is in no way threatened by science or technology. Quite the contrary, God is giving us the guidance to learn more about our universe…and more. God reveals Himself and creation as we are capable and prepared to know. And, the Holy Spirit is not computer illiterate; God nudges man to develop technology and inspires people, like you and me, to use it to distribute knowledge, wisdom, and guidance and to heal people all over the world.

God created this world and it is still a good creation. There is much wrong going on and God is aware. God loves.  God wants reconciliation and gives us ample opportunities to do that..and to help others see that.  God is excited…just as we are…as we continue to learn how magnificently and beautifully executed His creation has been…and continues to be.

Thanks be to God and to God be the Glory.

Celestial Navigation

On my former blog, The View from 5022, I wrote about making necessary adjustments to one’s life and efforts by using the analogy of sailing.  The post is titled “Coming About.”  A few nights ago, I performed the equivalent of pumping out the bilge, trimming the sails, and charting a new course.

To continue with that analogy, since the end of last year, I have experienced stalls, squalls, and I’ve run aground a few times.  But more recently, there have been breaks in the clouds and a freshening breeze.  When I crawled into bed Monday night, I knew there was much to be thankful for but, because of all of it, I felt a bit battered.  I grabbed a pen and the closest thing to write on, a prayer and praise journal (which was fitting), and made an assessment of the gains and the losses.

I had been struggling for months with a particular Canadian-born bank which had mismanaged my account and reversed a payment to the IRS, costing me hundreds of dollars in penalties, fees, and increases in interest.  The government consumer protection agency and the senator’s office helping me with the issue informed me Monday that the issue is being dropped.  To stay upset would only hurt me.  I tossed the issue over-board.

Inspired by the marches on Saturday, I enthusiastically volunteered my services to the senator’s office and was told someone might be in touch…at some point…maybe.  Issue tossed.

Since just after Christmas, I have written (actual letters on actual note cards in actual cursive handwriting) to 9 friends and family members.  None of them have responded.  Looking for addresses of others to write to, I came across an old phone list.  On it was the name of a former doctor who, earlier last year, had been enduring cancer treatments and surgery, a long time friend who, earlier last year, had been reeling from the emotional blow of retirement, and a former coworker, from 2001 time-frame, who was likely concerned about the future of her career with a governmental climate science agency.  I made the calls and was met with instant re-connection, filling my emotional sails with billowed hopes.

These issues and more were lined up down both sides of the pages like small fishing skiffs bobbing in the waves…but there was something else still disturbing me…

Last Summer, when preoccupied with my sister’s arrival from Alaska, I stopped attending the small Episcopal church on the other side of town.  Driving by there late last month, I saw on their marquee a notice about an oyster roast.  On Saturday, I noticed the date had been changed to this weekend.  I called.  I volunteered to help.  However, I was informed that the priest I had known there had died, suddenly, in December.  (I wrote about several of his homilies last year.  See “To the Extent that One is Forgiven, One is Capable of Loving” and “What I Didn’t Know.”)  He was one of the few people who has believed my inner experience of God.  (Father B: “You help me because you are able to hear what it is I am trying to say.”)  Recalling that he was now gone from earth, my enthusiasm was suddenly becalmed; I felt more alone on earth than I had before.

My faith and beliefs have come under attack, recently, by bloggers from opposite ends of the religious spectrum.  On the one hand, there are the bloggers who hold that all people should believe xyz, strictly and immediately.  (I respond that each person should be allowed and encouraged to be where they are on their spiritual path to God; at least they are on the path and God is not done with them yet.)  On the other, there are those who hold a larger view but accuse me of insisting that mine is the only way.  (I am out of words with that one; My way is MY WAY and I offer it as an example…nothing more.)

At the same time, ironically, I have discovered that there is a spiritual path…a Christian path…with followers who hold the same beliefs I do.  Although I have come to my beliefs, faith, and inner life the hard way, having found them, I sought to join them.  It seems, however, that although they acknowledge my interest, I have been excluded apparently because I lack the expected background and education.  So, I will continue on my own, navigating by the heavens and sailing ‘solo.’

The course I am left with is a simpler one, lacking an itinerary with specified destinations. It is more a way of sailing:  trusting in the guiding stars (Jesus and the communion of saints) and the breeze on my face.   Watching the tell tail, testing the wind, keeping an eye on the horizon (and the channel markers),…this is the stuff of life.

 

(I borrowed the image above from the web)

God in the Ordinary

A few days ago, I posted my thoughts on God’s interest in everyday, technically non-religious, and seemingly non-spiritual events like football games.

In this morning’s meditation from Richard Rohr, he does a better job of saying the same thing:

God’s revelations are through the concrete and specific.

We have created an artificial divide or dualism between the spiritual and the so-called non-spiritual.

Biblical revelation is saying that we are already spiritual beings; we just don’t know it yet

 

Here’s to our learning just that!

Richard Rohr’s daily meditations are found through his Center for Action and Contemplation website.

Protect what is True

(repeated and expanded here from my comment to an article in Sojourners)

Those of us who hold fast to truth and Wisdom must also hold fast and protect what we know of God, love, and justice. With Shadrach, Meschah, and Abednego, we know that God can deliver us, but if He does not, we will not bow down nor worship anything else…including fear, hate, or discouragement.

It is my opinion that the best position (in addition to protecting and preserving what we know) is to rise up to take a God-perspective of our situation. ‘Bad’ things are sometimes necessary to bring about world-sized changes. There is much ‘good’ coming from this looming dark time: many people who would ordinarily be going about their business are putting more attention to their relationship with God. There is more praying, contemplating, and discussing.

This is a time to keep vigil. This is a time to bury the silver. This is a time to clarify and strengthen one’s own connection to God…and to do that with others.  These are dark times but also times of opportunity to focus on what truly matters.

I agree with Pope Francis; this is a change of era.  This is an era when seekers of God in truth can pray in silent unison while darkness builds around them.  Travelers on the paths of Wisdom, mindfulness, consciousness,… will find themselves walking alongside one another, humming the same tune, speaking the same language.  We see the same light.  We hold the same light.

Keep watch. Pray. Hold hands. Hunch up close to Jesus. Do not let the light die.

thoughts…at this new year

when things happen:  locate God and adhere

struggling?  fearful?  perplexed?  look from a different height and angle…like God’s

try Ditzler’s 10 questions.  start with:  what did I accomplish last year?  what were my disappointments?  what did I learn?

Life takes time…it takes a whole lifetime.

The past?  learn from it…quickly…then let it go.

Whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ Gods has it.

simple.  clear.  listen.

show up and serve…everything else is distraction.

let her talk

transparency:  the less you hide, the less you have to carry

prep work.  homework.  it saves a lot of embarrassment.

allow

 

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

 

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.

Let Them Talk

I’m all about ‘teachable moments,’ those special moments in time when we are given the opportunity to alter life.  I miss probably 95% of them so when I realize I have walked away from one of the 5% that I am aware of, I lament.

I was late in making the water bill payment and drove to the facility on Saturday morning to put the check in the night deposit box.   As I was looking around the front door for anything that might resemble a deposit box, a white SUV drove past the side of the building to a covered drive-through.  As I walked around the side of the building, I noticed that the driver of the SUV had his window down.

“Is that the night deposit box?” I asked.

“Yes, it is,” he replied.  He opened his door a bit and said, “I can’t reach it.”

I hurried into the space between us and offered, “Here, let me help.  You told me where to find it so I’ll put both of our checks in.”

“Thank you,” he said, handing me his envelope.  As I slipped both beneath the protective cover, he added,  “I’ve had a stroke and I’ve lost a lot of strength in my left arm.”

“Oh, I’m sorry…”

“…but I’m getting better,” he quickly added.

Seeing an opportunity, I prayed, “Thank you, Jesus.”

“You bet.  I’ll tell you, this stroke really saved my life.”

“Bless you, dear.”  I touched his arm; “You have a good Thanksgiving.”

“You, too.”

But I knew as soon as I turned to go that I had blown it.  That man had a story to tell and I cut him off.

 

Everyone has a story to tell.

Some stories are outrageous tales of abuse, neglect, and unbelievable mistreatment…or they start out that way.  Some stories don’t sound like stories at all, but rather as general complaints about politics, family members, illness, or the weather.  However, if given the opportunity, the complaints can morph into a sharing of the story teller’s  circumstances and experiences…often as an explanation of why the story teller thinks the way he does.

If handled properly (and if trust is built) the story teller may then be empowered to shift his position just a bit, less toward rancor and rage, and more toward patience and forgiveness…even toward a willingness to admit his own failings.  In, “What do people do, who don’t have Jesus?” I describe a day of meeting people, listening to their stories, and..in time…getting to the crux of life.

The gentleman at the water department wanted to share his story of how suffering a  stroke had saved his life.  It is probably a wonderful story; his stroke probably forced a change of life priorities or a re-connection to God.  By gifting him with the opportunity to tell his story, I could have strengthened the power of the transforming event in his life; I could have encouraged his willingness to share his story and life with more people; I could even have been blessing, myself, with wisdom from the Holy Spirit.

There are enumerable, but only positive, reasons for listening to another person’s story.  Truth be told, I would also be obeying Christ in doing so because several times a day He whispers to me, “Let her talk.”