Sex and Jelly Doughnuts or the Face and Voice of God? That is the Question.

It’s easy to lose sight of God in our lives and when we do, we become vulnerable to idols. These days an idol isn’t a golden calf, it’s anything we become dependent on, other than God. In the book of Jeremiah, God warns that not only will we suffer if we choose worldly idols, but so will our children and even our grandchildren. That part about grandchildren really gets me where I live. Though I don’t hear this as punishment, but rather as a natural consequence.  So, let’s consider some modern worldly idols.
A very popular idol is pleasure, which isn’t bad in itself, only when we turn to it instead of God. Pleasures we turn to when feeling insecure or unhappy can vary from sex to jelly doughnuts, but if they become a dependency they lead to adultery or diabetes or other equally bad consequences.
Another potential idol is financial affluence and while there’s nothing wrong with being successful, it can grow into a need that becomes the focus of our lives to the point of destroying our relationships.
An even sneakier idol is an attachment to social acceptance that leads us to surround ourselves only with people just like ourselves, which not only gives us a warped view of the world, but isolates us from those in greater need.
How can we protect ourselves from idols? It’s a discombobulating world and sometimes I feel like the child of Christian friends, who when told to wash his hands muttered: “Germs and Jesus, germs and Jesus! That’s all I hear about around here and I can’t see either one!”
One thing that helps me, I call putting on “God Glasses.” That means consciously working to see God in everything.                                                                                                                                                             Surprisingly, the beginning step can even come through finding God in the hard things.
When heart break or pain has kept me awake all night, the first glimpse of morning light coming through the window often brought relief. Recently, after finally getting over several weeks of insomnia from the pain of a broken shoulder, I would wake up momentarily at sunrise each morning remembering that feeling of relief and thanking God with quiet joy that morning had come again and yesterday’s sorrows were behind.
Ever since an ice storm left us without hot water for eighteen days some twenty years ago, whenever I feel that first marvelous spray of a hot shower, I treasure it for a few moments while thanking God profusely.
Some months ago, our hearts were heavy when a beloved grandchild stopped chatting and smiling because she sensed family conflict. Last weekend, she kept me awake once again cheerfully chatting about her favorite books and beamed with glee at trouncing Granddad at UNO. Now, as I go to sleep each night, I cup those memories in my heart with tears of joy and thank God.
Please, while you can still hear birdsong, stop and listen with your heart and thank God for it. Thank God not only for flowers, but the strength to water them and even to cut the grass. Thank God for the joy of that first taste of morning coffee or tea. Age can take all these away from you. Enjoy them now and let them bring you to God. Thank God for faith to pray. What a wondrous gift that is. And definitely thank God for laughter, which will be your saving grace in old age.
Watch, listen and thank.  All these small things are the face and voice of God. And more and more you will experience the deep joy of finding Him in each moment. Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God. And joy trumps idols every time.

The day of my Spiritual Awakening was the day I saw, and I knew I saw, all things in God and God in all things.      A quote from an unknown Author:

Longest Password

During a recent password audit by a company, it was found that an employee was using the following password: “MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofySacramento”
When asked why she had such a long password, she rolled her eyes and said: “Hello! It has to be at least 8 characters and include at least one capital.”

You laugh, but her password was very safe!

Heartbreak and Joy

Heartbreak and joy are the two sides of loving.
I woke up this morning heartbroken over my husband’s suffering. The last week has been much worse for him physically and emotionally. There is some hope that a procedure he has scheduled will give him a respite from the worst of his physical symptoms right now. But his symptoms may indicate that the end is nearer than we had hoped.
Intellectual denial and emotional denial are two separate stages of grieving. In the first you cling to the belief that medical treatment will relieve the worst of a condition. In the second you recognize intellectually that suffering and loss are inevitable, but do not let that knowledge set off an emotional response. Once you respond emotionally, there are times of deep sorrow and heartbreak. But also recognizing that while God may not take away this suffering, God is in it with you. And in the midst of heart break there are moments of joy.
I have several small daily devotional books I read most mornings. But with the stress now, my memory is getting even worse and I find I can’t keep the helpful thoughts in mind. So, this morning I decided to just randomly chose one book and repeat that teaching over and over to keep it in my heart and mind all day. This morning I chose “The Upper Room.”
Today’s writing was by a woman from Nigeria about her husband dying though she had prayed to God to save him. At the end she takes comfort from 2 Cor. 12:9:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I don’t believe my choice of what to read today was a coincidence. God is with us in this.
This weekend I drove an hour away to pick up a grandchild that we have not been able to spend much time with since the first of the year. She gets carsick and was pretty miserable during the trip. She had also been exploring the woods all day and it had set her allergies off. I was afraid that I had chosen a bad time to bring her to visit.                                                                                                                                                   Her parents are divorcing and she has become a very solemn and quiet child. My husband has been heartbroken that she never smiles anymore and I have missed the long conversations we used to have. She and I were sharing a bed and for the first time in a long time, she was very talkative. It was a lovely blessing and a sign that she is recovering from her world being shaken. But after sleeping a couple of hours her allergies became so severe, she was having trouble breathing. She hadn’t brought her medicines, but fortunately I found some Benadryl for children and it gave her relief and allowed her to sleep. The next day she and my husband renewed their long competition at cards. And after trouncing him thoroughly, she rewarded him with one of her brilliant smiles. His smile matched hers.
When you love deeply, you are vulnerable to heart break, but that love also brings great joy in seemingly small events. And when you have reached the end of your strength there is God.

Nothing is Permanent Except Change

Edited and renamed. About our new life challenges and finding blessings even in the scary ones.

Laughter: Carbonated Grace

One of Louise Penny’s characters, Myrna, who is a psychologist in the book Still Life, discusses a quote, “Life is loss.”
Myrna goes on to say, “But out of that comes freedom. If we can accept that nothing is permanent, and that change is inevitable, if we can adapt, then we are going to be happier people.” (My note: Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament emphasizes the same idea.)
Myrna explains a turning point in her career and life, “I woke up one morning bent out of shape about this client who was forty-three but acting sixteen. For three years he had always had the same complaints, ‘Someone hurt me. Life is unfair. It’s not my fault.’
For three years I’d been making suggestions and for three years he’d done nothing. I suddenly understood. He had no intention of changing…
Many people love their problems. They give them all sorts…

View original post 1,305 more words

Our God of Love, Energy, and Crazy Bouncy Lines in the Sand

Anne Lamott’s Face Book post:
You know the famous Footprints image, where, in heaven, a person sees their footprints in the sand? My pastor mentions the times where there are two sets of prints, where we’re walking with a power of Something–love energy, let’s say– and the times where there is just one set, where that love energy, carries us when things are too hard. But Veronica also mentions a third pattern, of crazy squiggly bouncy lines. The person, looking them over with God asks, “Oh, and what were those times? And God says, “Those were when we danced.”

Anne Lamott’s Autobiographical books are my number one favorite reading.                                                   Louise Penny’s Canadian Mysteries are my second favorite reading.

Both of these Authors’ bottom line is :It’s all right to be a weak fallible human being: we are loved.  Period.  No if’s and’s or but’s.

Nothing is Permanent Except Change

 

One of Louise Penny’s characters, Myrna, who is a psychologist in the book Still Life, discusses a quote, “Life is loss.”
Myrna goes on to say, “But out of that comes freedom. If we can accept that nothing is permanent, and that change is inevitable, if we can adapt, then we are going to be happier people.” (My note: Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament emphasizes the same idea.)
Myrna explains a turning point in her career and life, “I woke up one morning bent out of shape about this client who was forty-three but acting sixteen. For three years he had always had the same complaints, ‘Someone hurt me. Life is unfair. It’s not my fault.’
For three years I’d been making suggestions and for three years he’d done nothing. I suddenly understood. He had no intention of changing…
Many people love their problems. They give them all sorts of excuses for not growing up and getting on with life…… They spend their whole life waiting for someone to save them or at least protect them from the big, bad world.
The thing is, no one else can save them because the problem is theirs and so is the solution. Only they can get them out of it….but that is the grace.….the fault lies within them, but so does the solution.”

These thoughts speak to my stage of life and current challenges. My life has changed drastically since the beginning of this year.  But what I am experiencing is that while there are sorrows in life that have no physical solution, we can change how we see them and find the gift they bring.

Just last fall my husband and I traveled with one of our sons around the South West of France.  This is Middle Pyrenees’ country so it involved quite a bit of uphill walking and stair climbing. My husband wants to explore every inch of Castles and ruins. We recently turned eighty and seventy-nine, so it was a challenge, but we managed it using a walker in some places and taking lots of Bistro breaks. He still designs on his computer in his home Architecture office and I cook and clean, do his bookkeeping, and chauffeur grandchildren and friends to malls, museums, restaurants and even the zoo. I also lead worship once a month and began at seventy-five doing some stand up comedy on aging. So, though no longer young, we had interesting and purposeful lives.

Until New Year’s Eve.

Then I became ill with a respiratory infection and ended up bedridden for three weeks. The day after I got well enough to grocery shop, we were shut in by snow and ice for two weeks.  The next week, I tripped carrying laundry down our hall and broke my right shoulder in three places.  The two weeks waiting for surgery were unbelievably hard for both of us.  I was totally helpless and in excruciating pain even with pain medicine, so my husband had to do everything for me around the clock. But his tenderness and constant concern for me brought us to a whole new level of intimacy and love. I had never felt so cherished and tenderly and totally loved by anyone except God. Even in the worst pain I had ever experienced, there was joy.

But after my reverse shoulder replacement surgery, it was obvious my husband was too exhausted to continue taking care of me. So I went to a nursing home for physical therapy for two weeks to get over the worst of my pain and helplessness and give him time to recoup. After the first few days, I actually enjoyed the people I met in therapy.  Even the therapists and nurses were kind and laughed at my jokes.  The food was amazingly good, and my room was filled with beautiful flowers. Friends and family came to visit bringing treats. I didn’t have to clean or cook and aides even helped me shower and dress.  After eating in my room a few days until I could manage it left handed without baptizing those near me, I went to the beautiful sunny dining room for meals. The first day, since dressing took help, I was in my slightly scroungy clothes for Physical Therapy. So I felt seriously intimidated when I realized the other women were dressed in elegant suits with matching jewelry.  I soon relaxed however when a caregiver came around and put large terry cloth bibs on all of us.  Bibs are a great leveler.  I confess there were times after I returned home that I missed my vacation experience.  As I left the facility the therapists and nurses asked me to return to do some stand up comedy for the people living there.

When I came home we managed well with lots of help from our son and daughter-in- law who live near by and friends at church who fed us frequently for two months. My husband drove me to out patient therapy and we celebrated each bit of progress such as the red letter day I could use my right hand for eating and brushing my teeth. Becoming able to shower and then finally even dress myself  were momentous events. With each small accomplishment I felt like an Olympic winner.

But, then my husband, who has had lung problems previously, came down with the respiratory infection.  After three weeks in bed none of the steroids or antibiotics had helped and he was fighting to breathe and almost too weak to get to the car.  He was hospitalized for two weeks while the increased steroids and antibiotics not only didn’t help him, but gave him thrush in his mouth and throat and a yeast infection in his esophagus. A bronchoscopy finally showed that he had serious permanent lung damage from Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, which is incurable and progressive. They sent us home with my husband too weak to walk, unable to get up from a chair without help, and still having trouble breathing when sitting up or standing. Fortunately, I had been cleared to drive the day before he went to the hospital and even our children who lived in other cities and states rallied and helped get us through the first hard weeks. About mid-May my husband began to go to therapy with me to build up muscles in his legs. We were managing fairly well with two walkers and a new to us larger car we had just gotten at Christmas.  Good timing once again.

We found many people our age and even younger with problems similar or worse than ours at therapy.  And we bonded with them and laughed together more and more. We went to therapy three days a week and it became the highlight of our week.  We both improved enough that when I ran out of Medicare for therapy, he was able to continue on his own. When we were able to go back to church everyone applauded and welcomed us back with hugs, which I managed to turn my left side toward.   Grace abounds in community, whether of shared challenges or shared faith.

We found that we were still limited in how much we could do physically. If we did what used to be a normal amount one day, we were wiped out the next. My natural rhythm for work is to work in spurts and do something pleasant and sedentary in between, so it suited me to not over do. (In fact, it was sort of nice not to have to feel guilty about it.) But my husband just naturally works until a job is done or he is exhausted, so this was a difficult adjustment for him. Finding some TV series that were mentally stimulating on Netflix helped him accept the need to rest and increased our time spent together. For a while, I needed to do most of the house hold chores my husband used to do, like taking garbage out and filling bird feeders and watering outside plants.  After his devotion to me when I broke my shoulder, it was a joy to have the chance to do things for him.  He had always preferred cold cereal while he read the paper undisturbed early in the morning, so I used to sleep in (I tend to want to talk). Now I managed to get up four or five days to fix hot breakfasts that he needed and now began to enjoy. He even started reading bits of things from the paper to me and we discussed them or laughed about them.  More and more we have begun to see the humor in even frustrating things.  These are new blessings for us.

To be continued…………Learning to Live One Day at a Time.

 

 

 

 

 

Most important: Intelligence, Kindness, or Humor?

I used to think intelligence was the most important trait. Later in life, I decided kindness was.
After this election year debacle, I suspect both are equally important and that a sense of humor probably is way up there with them, because it can free us to see ourselves honestly. Age doesn’t automatically bring wisdom, but it often brings humor which can be the beginning of self-honesty.  And once that happens, you empty your pockets of all those stones you are tempted to throw at others. And that’s the beginning of wisdom.
Kiddos! We ALL see through the glass of our limited perception darkly (imperfectly)! Quick! Get rid of the temptation of those stones before they come back to haunt you.

Our Historical Era: Post-Christian or Pre-Christian?

Scholars say we live in the Post-Christian era. I say we still live in the Pre-Christian era. To me Jesus represents a turning point in human growth(evolution) from survival of the fittest to sacrificial love for the weakest. And anyone with eyes to see, can’t help but recognize that we haven’t gotten anywhere near to the kind of spirituality that God calls us to through Jesus. Perhaps, by finally giving up the warped worldly view of Christianity as “top dog” by force, we may finally be entering the bare beginnings of a true Christianity.  That is, a Christianity which doesn’t focus on winning or controlling, but on learning to risk loving instead. The worst set back Christianity has experienced was when the Emperor Constantine converted and made it the “state” religion, a religion of privilege instead of sacrifice.

Grace, Healing, Free Will and Forgiveness

More and more I experience life itself and particularly my spiritual life as a work in progress. And I have seen that, when with grace I become more honest in self-awareness, I recognize that I have been trapped in repetitive loops with some of my more destructive behaviors. And it is sometimes necessary to travel backwards in memory to find the root of my compulsions.
This is not an attempt to blame past experiences or people for my behavior patterns. This is becoming free through grace to recognize broken places so that I can bring them to God for healing. Knowing I am loved unconditionally is a prerequisite for facing my brokenness. Facing it is necessary for getting healed. And getting healed is crucial for becoming free to grow and change.
I can admit to destructive frozen areas in myself without falling into despair and self-hate because I can see that I was not free to change before. But once I recognize these, I am responsible for seeking healing grace to change. Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin.
We are all imperfect and vulnerable children born into an imperfect family in an imperfect world. We all have wounds that we have covered over for protection. We have developed behavior patterns that have helped us survive, but that eventually need to be changed for us to continue growing into the people God created us to be.
We don’t choose to become victims, but we can choose to be healed and become free. If we were deeply wounded by someone, forgiving them will be part of becoming free. There simply is no way around it, however terrible the wound is and however long it takes.
I had a wonderfully warm and loving friend whose father had been an extremely abusive alcoholic. She had two brothers and three sisters. Her brothers grew up to be just like their father. Her sisters were competent practical women who married good men. My friend, Ann, was a loving, sensitive, caring woman. But she was attracted to men like her father even though she hated him and was happy when he died in a fire.
At forty Ann ended up on a respirator in an ICU. She was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and told she would never be able to breathe without the respirator. Ann did not belong to any religion and she asked to be taken off the respirator, but her children couldn’t bring themselves to agree to this. During the night a woman came to Ann in the ICU. Ann had never seen her before and never could find her again. But this woman told Ann that God loved her and had a plan for her life. Somehow, Ann believed her. The next day Ann was able to get off the respirator and went home three days later with no symptoms of lung damage.
Ann found a small church and joined it. The minister and congregation were mostly introverted intellectuals, where Ann was a people person who responded to the world from her feelings. She quickly became the heart of the little church actively building community and motivating the parishioners to do outreach ministries. She also became involved with renewal movements within the denomination and touched even more lives.
I was blessed to be a witness to her continuing spiritual healing and growth, such as recognizing that she had unconsciously resented her older sisters and rejected their love. It was wonderful to watch as she experienced the joy of new loving and close relationships with her sisters. During the next fifteen years of her life she suffered several very serious health problems requiring surgeries and hospitalizations, finally even losing a leg because of circulatory problems. But her loving spirit continued to be an incredible inspiration to many people through all of this. She opened my eyes to my own over sensitivity, that had led me to turn my back on friends who unknowingly hurt me, when she risked telling her friends that they had hurt her so they could work through it to forgiveness and a closer relationship. But, still she struggled with her hatred for her father.
I couldn’t help wondering why God had healed Ann miraculously only to let her go through so many medical traumas. Then one day, she came to me with tears of joy and told me that while cleaning the sanctuary at church, she had finally become free to forgive her father. Not long after that, Ann had a fatal heart attack.
God kept Ann alive miraculously and used her to heal others even while she was still physically and spiritually wounded. And finally when His love had healed her spirit and freed her to forgive the one that had wounded her the most, he took her home.
Grace, healing, free will and forgiveness are inseparable.

.

How Free is our Free Will?

A seriously spooky, but incredibly affirming and helpful tool for gaining a better understanding of both ourselves and others is the Myers/Briggs Type Indicator(MBTI).
I came across the MBTI several decades ago. My first response to my results from taking it was, “How could anyone possibly know all those things about me?” I hadn’t even recognized some of them myself until I read the MBTI’s description. It was amazing, but almost scary, how well its description fit.
It gave me greater self-awareness and both an appreciation of my strengths and an understanding of why some aspects of life were much less appealing and even difficult for me. And gradually, as I moved past learning about just my own personality, it explained the challenges in my relationships with people having a different set of both strengths and other aspects of personality that were less natural for them.
That was thirty-two years ago and I am still being helped by this tool in my relationships, particularly with my husband, whose strengths and subsequent ways of being in the world are the exact opposite of mine. In fact, understanding about personality differences  has probably been one of the most significant reasons our marriage has lasted and grown stronger over almost fifty-eight years.
Different personality types focus on different aspects and therefore actually “see” the concrete world differently. The information we take in on any given day, even in the same environment, will vary drastically. Also how we respond to it, personally or theoretically, emotionally or logically, will differ greatly.  Even our dominant focus, whether inward most of the time and only outward on a few people or locations close to us versus mostly outwardly and on the larger world including the future of the whole planet, will also be extremely different. An example: My husband will fight to save a beautiful old tree on a specific site, but isn’t particularly concerned about the rain forests in distant countries.
Personality differences have implications for every aspect of life, not just relationships. I became a consultant on the MBTI and gave workshops on its significance for Marriage Relationships, for Teaching/Learning Style Differences, for the Variety of Approaches to Spirituality, and even for Corporate Management Styles and Employee Responses.
At seventy-nine, I haven’t been professionally active in this for some years, but the MBTI seems to have stood the test of time in both the educational and professional worlds. And I am still discovering areas where it sheds light on our personal human journeys. I am not going to attempt to teach about type. The Association for Personality Type is the professional site for learning about type. However, there are many people writing about type on the internet without sufficient expertise in the subject, so take care in what you accept that isn’t backed up with some credentials.
One of the issues that the reality of inborn personality differences raises questions about, but also sheds some light on, is what degree of free will we have. I’ll begin to explore that in my next post.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 326 other followers