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You Are Loved, But You Can Bet Your Sweet Bippy, Bad Choices Still Have Bad Consequences

Just because God loves you, doesn’t mean that whatever God is won’t let you suffer the consequences of bad choices. And I would put money on the reality that God is not a Wizard of Oz with a carrot and a stick. Consequences to choices are simply built in. And, if you keep on ignoring consequences, you can bet your sweet bippy, they will become worse until you learn. Life is about learning to love. And love may not mean having to say you’re sorry, but it sure means you better be sorry enough to change, when your actions hurt others. And unfair as it may seem if you are now, were, or ever will be parents…..the way you treat other people will come back to bite you even through and on your children and your children’s children. I have seen this and suffered it.  It’s a law of nature. It’s built into the system. It’s Universal. Smart/Inspired Hebrews figured that out and tried to pass that information on down. Unfortunately, we are too soon old and too late smart.  Even though genes may in some way be related to patterns of behavior, that is not a “get out of consequences free” card. It simply means most of us have either inherited or chosen new ways to try to escape the normal pain of living, instead of going through it and learning from it. This is addiction! And it has to be overcome. The sooner the better, because addictions quickly acquire their own pain on top of what we used them to dull temporarily. This is the core course in the school of life. Learn it or weep, cause nobody’s sure there’s a do over.

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Anatomy of Addiction

Why do some people choose self-destructive addictions?

Some people are just born unsettled, ill at ease with themselves, expecting so much that eventually they just throw in the towel. The pain of failure is too great.

Any addiction in some way lessens our sense of inadequacy. Extreme-housecleaning or obsession with becoming the absolute best in a sport to the detriment of the rest of our lives gives temporary relief; pleasure such as food, drink, sex, escapist reading or watching TV all can deflect us from facing our fears about ourselves. Some of us become addicted to drama by overreacting emotionally to anything even slightly alarming as an excuse to curl up emotionally in a fetal position and expect others to rescue us from any real or imagined dangers.  And any of these can move from just a way to relieve stress or feel better about ourselves to a need, an automatic response to unease or pain or fear: an addiction.

Some psychological addictions can be as hard to break as ones that develop a physical component. Some of us simply have addictive tendencies and may just have to work to find one that has the least self-destructive side effects and has the least negative fallout for others.
We can find relief in many acceptable ways to keep our demons at bay. I simply don’t know if we can get perfectly free of them.

One thing I have realized is that some of us not only feel basically inadequate, we fear that we are literally broken and live with a sense that we may at any time fall into the pit of despair or insanity.

Even alcoholism seems preferable to that, because there’s always a hope that you can manage to quit drinking, but you are not sure that you can quit being crazy once you get too out of control. Sometimes the only way to get past that is to go down into your inner bottomless pit and survive. Then instead of Jell-O at your center, you find a rock to stand on. Some of us call that God.

Saved or Loved? Need or Love?

More retro posts…..Sometimes I need reminders….a touch of spiritual Alzheimer’s?

Laughter: Carbonated Grace

Words have such different meaning for each of us. I’m not very comfortable with “saved.” For one, it sounds like I’m finished, so why am I stuck here? For two, it sounds like now I belong to the in crowd, instead of the rest of the human race. I never was much on being with the in crowd, because it seemed to require trading my individuality for a false sense of pride or security.

To me the message of Jesus was: Humanity is loved unconditionally. Loved unconditionally means you are of eternal value…..it is not a short term thing.

If I’m loved unconditionally, then why wouldn’t I just do whatever I feel like doing?

Because once I experienced that kind of love that is beyond human understanding, it changed everything. Nothing else comes close to that joy….no pleasure, no fame, no drug, not even a parent or spouse’s love. Life…

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Never Wanted to Go to Heaven

I never really wanted to go to heaven; just wanted to make sure I avoided going to hell, if there was one.  The problem was that my personality likes diversity and change.  I just couldn’t imagine any kind of heaven I would enjoy for eternity.  (Eternity sounds like a very very long time.)

After a conversion from agnosticism complete with an experience of the unlimited, no conditions love expressed in Jesus, I felt pretty sure there was a heaven that would work for everyone, even me.  But I still couldn’t imagine it.

Some years into my spiritual journey I had an experience of such intense and enormous joy, that from then on I was much more excited about going to heaven and not so concerned with the details.

My brother and I were traveling together and the experience was so overwhelming that we each simultaneously asked God to stop it for fear we would actually explode.  I won’t go into much detail, because I think these experiences come about differently for everyone.  We both experienced a moment of great clarity in which we felt, saw, heard  and were a part of a crowd around Jesus singing praise in the presence of God.  After sharing with one another, we decided that what we had each experienced was very similar, but also realized that there was no way to measure or compare.  We both experienced as much joy as we were each able to bear at that point in our lives. So, whether it was an ocean of joy or a cup of joy simply didn’t matter.

Over the forty plus years since then, I have come to believe that the capacity for experiencing joy and the capacity for accepting suffering are linked. I don’t know if there is a cause and effect relationship or just some sort of spiritual law of balance.  My instinct says that joy is the grace that gives us the freedom to accept heart break without dulling the pain through anger or depression or an addiction (even one to doing good or working constantly.)  But my experience also has been that in accepting the painful darkness of sorrow, I find the peace that passes understanding. And that peace is quiet joy.

As the psalm says, “But then comes the morning, yesterdays sorrows behind.”

Born Anxious with Relapses

Many of us have had physical symptoms for decades without realizing they were caused by anxiety. Sometimes when I watched a rash start and spread before my eyes as I was dealing with a sudden, obvious stressor, I saw the connection between the physical and the emotional. Other times when getting short of breath and feeling like something was squeezing my chest, if I wasn’t in touch with the triggering emotions, I thought I was having a heart attack.
Self-awareness helps, learning calming techniques, learning to laugh at ourselves, and cutting ourselves some slack in certain situations can help. Understanding that many, many people experience physical problems without ever recognizing the emotional triggers, learning to talk ourselves through our fears, finding the right anti-anxiety medicines, all can help when we quit beating ourselves up for being born anxious.
We didn’t choose it, it’s undoubtedly chemical and genetic, it’s way more widespread than anyone realizes, but self-awareness and experimenting to find what helps us can minimize the negative fallout for ourselves and those that love us.
We aren’t to blame, but we are responsible for learning ways to minimize the crippling effects. And I can personally testify that love, joy, delight, pleasure, lots of laughter, worthwhile occupations, concern for others are all possible even for us born worry warts.
PS: The other day, I found a lot of old comic strips I cut out over the years that “spoke to my condition,” letting me know I wasn’t alone, and freeing me to find humor even in my inner chaos: Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbs, The Far Side, Ziggy, Kudzu, Cathy, Zits, Dilbert, Doonesbury,Arlo and Janice, and many more. Laughter is Carbonated Grace.

Hitting Bottom and Finding Gold

Religion begins with personal spirituality. Spirituality begins with the question: Is there meaning to life? If so, what is it? How does that play out in my own life? And is this life all there is? In seeking meaning in life, inevitably we come to the question of the reason for suffering. No religion seems to have come up with an easy answer to that, but many including Buddhism and Christianity have come up with similar ways for dealing with suffering. The core spiritual response to personal suffering seems to be acceptance in the sense of embracing it. Much of the time we are unable to bail out of the actual situation that causes us pain, but we can and often do seek the means to dull the pain or at least pass it on to those around us. A few of these escape attempts are emotional denial, depression, addictions, self-pity, resentment, anger, or the delusion that if we can somehow overcome a particular difficult situation, then our troubles will be over. Unfortunately, these responses to suffering will eventually cripple us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Acceptance/embracing is scary. It means going down into the snake pit of our feelings, into the black bog of our fears and sorrows and actually experiencing them, even feeling the overwhelming pain of them. But at that point, we find solid ground, the fire tested gold at the core of our being. And while we may go through the pain of this process many times in our life, it is no longer a terrifying free fall into the unknown. In letting go of our own will by embracing reality, we find God, grace, strength, peace, even joy, within.
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Passiondeathresurrection: Inseparable

I once heard a priest say, “Passion(suffering), death, and resurrection should all be one word.”
Somehow most of us in America have bought into the delusion that life is just for fun. And any discomfort, never-the-less suffering, starts us looking desperately for escapes.
Unfortunately, escapes can’t protect us from suffering forever, they just make us miss the meaning that can be found by embracing the whole of life.
I have always been a devout coward and have used many escapes over the years.
But finally, I began to realize that the greatest suffering would be to get to the end of my life and realize that I had missed the point.

Saved or Loved? Need or Love?

Words have such different meaning for each of us. I’m not very comfortable with “saved.” For one, it sounds like I’m finished, so why am I stuck here? For two, it sounds like now I belong to the in crowd, instead of the rest of the human race. I never was much on being with the in crowd, because it seemed to require trading my individuality for a false sense of pride or security.

To me the message of Jesus was: Humanity is loved unconditionally. Loved unconditionally means you are of eternal value…..it is not a short term thing.

If I’m loved unconditionally, then why wouldn’t I just do whatever I feel like doing?

Because once I experienced that kind of love that is beyond human understanding, it changed everything. Nothing else comes close to that joy….no pleasure, no fame, no drug, not even a parent or spouse’s love. Life is about learning and growing, but particularly it’s about being emptied so we can be totally filled, full to bursting with the joy of that love.

Whether I am a thimble, a tea cup, or an ocean won’t matter, because I will be full.

We learn to love, when we discover that we are not only loved, but that we are of eternal value, so we aren’t limited to a life span. We don’t have to grab all the toys, pleasures, friends, fame, success we can in our limited time on earth. They are here to enjoy, but they are only snacks, not the main course. They are the junk food of life……and though on any given day, in our humanness they may help us temporarily get through a scary place, if we don’t regroup and once again turn to that Love Beyond Understanding, that we call God, we become addicted and make them our whole diet and then there is no room for the joy of love.

Loving others, not just as we love ourselves, but as Jesus loved us, is what makes room for joy. It involves letting go of the bling, of the snacks, so we can be filled with the joy of loving.

I don’t think we can love someone we need. If we need them to be a certain way and they can’t, what happens then?
If we are weak, we are needy. Weak is not being afraid, but being controlled by our fear of pain or suffering. There are a million addictions, probably a hundred per person, that we use to blot out pain, whether the small and shallow or the overwhelming and deep.

But to be controlled by fear of pain means never risking loving someone, because love doesn’t fear not being loved, it fears hurting with the one we love, when we are helpless in the face of their pain. Love increases our vulnerability a hundred fold. Love means letting our fortress walls fall to ruin because it is not the enemy they keep out, it is love itself, the caring more about another than protecting our tender inner self.

The Gospel of the Poor

From Simplicity: The Art of Living by Richard Rohr
Jesus says he has come to preach the Gospel to the poor since, in fact, they’re the only ones who can hear it. They don’t have to prove or protect anything.
We always have to ask: In what sense are we ourselves rich? What do we have to defend? What principles do we have to prove? What keeps us from being open and poor?
The issue isn’t primarily material goods, but our spiritual and intellectual goods……my ego, my reputation, my self-image, my need to be right, my need to be successful, my need to have everything under my control, my need to be loved…….
The words of the Gospel never let us live in self-satisfaction. Rather they always make us empty. They always repeat the truth of Mary’s “Let it be done to me according to your word.” They allow us to keep our wounds open so we can receive Christ in us.
It seems we are quite incapable of welcoming Christ, because we are so full of ourselves. The real thing we have to let go of is our self.

Fatty, Fatty, Five Foot Four – Can’t Get Through the Kitchen Door ( or I’m Heavy from All Those Stones I’ve Already Thrown at Myself)

With some hesitation, I am entering the fray started recently by someone’s criticism of an overweight television personality.

A couple of years ago, I lost about twelve pounds, because of knee problems, surgery, and a slow recovery due to my pain being prolonged by Fibromyalgia.  The simple fact was, I was bed-ridden, sleeping a lot, and couldn’t get to the refrigerator on my own.  Encouraged by this, I went on the Adkins diet and lost thirty-three more pounds.  I looked so much better that some people didn’t recognize me.  I felt so much better that my whole pattern of life changed.

But I’m still addicted to food.  It’s just that since I like meat, fish, eggs, cheese, leafy green vegetables, and nuts, I can now pretty much eat all the time and gain weight slowly enough to have some control over it. (However, my husband dislikes most meat and all green leafy vegetables, so my grocery bill has almost doubled.)

Goodies and baddies.  Baddies and Goodies.   A reality of life: there are no unmixed blessings or troubles.

Long ago, I recognized that I have a tendency to become addicted to pleasures, because pleasure temporarily deadens emotional pain.  God helped me recognize this in time to head off serious alcoholism in my late twenties, avoid temptations to adultery in my thirties, and finally stop smoking three packs a day at age forty-eight.

Unfortunately, by fifty-five I ended up in physical pain and in a wheelchair,( but fortunately allergic to most pain killers.)  Friends, grace, and prayer helped me get through about six or seven years of this, but the delight of good food also played a significant part.   When not able to exercise, while dulling both physical and emotional pain with the only pleasure left, I gained eighty pounds. I jokingly, but truthfully, say that I didn’t quit smoking, I just switched to smoking food. I am actually five foot- two inches tall and after my fourth child weighed one hundred and four pounds.  Do the math.  I became seriously obese in my sixties.  I am still overweight for my small frame and height, just not grossly so.  But, the need for the pain killer of food is still my current challenge.

Certain personalities are susceptible to emotional stresses in different ways than many others are. They are not only over-sensitive to slights or criticisms of themselves, but imagine others are also, and take on everyone else’s presumed pain.  I remember getting stomach cramps every time a teacher got onto any pupil.

 Also, some people’s ability to visualize wonderful possibilities, makes them idealistic and inclined to judge themselves and others as falling short.

The positive side of this is that when they have enough talent and brains, to actually gain influence, they can make a difference and make life better for many.  But, the need to make a major difference in the world, produces a chronic sense of failure for many, while also tending to make them unsatisfied with the lack of vision and achievements of organizations they are involved in. Thus alienating them from others and creating an even greater sense of failure.  Some of us “do not work and play well” with others in organizations or even religious institutions.

There are obvious addictions, some more destructive than others.  But many go unrecognized or appear harmless.  An addiction to shopping doesn’t do much harm, if you are rich, but can destroy solvency and relationships, if you are not.  An addiction to judging others can pass as righteousness, when it actually simply serves to distract us from our own unrecognized pain over our failure to be the person God has created us to be.

 Not only is nobody perfect, but nobody ever manages to become perfect.  We are all different. And the areas, that we each are being called to grow free in, will not be on the same life schedule as someone else’s. In the gospel of Matthew we are called to be perfect only in forgiveness, of ourselves and others, which requires ongoing admission of failure and repentance on our part, until our last breath.  And paradoxically, I believe that takes knowing we are loved totally.

An addiction to cleaning house can seem virtuous, unless it makes life miserable for everyone else, or requires time that is needed for something else God is calling us to do or be.  Workaholics frequently end up divorced.  Addiction to affirmation leads people to be chameleons, who then have a difficult time discovering whom God has created them to be.  The list goes on and on.  Whatever need controls us, no matter how positive the results may seem, is an addiction and will keep us from becoming the person God created us to be.

Working with the elderly, it’s become obvious that many are unable to accept help and can’t find peace, when they can no longer do for others.  That may sound virtuous, but it’s not, when that is no longer whom God is calling us to be.  When we are being called to be still and not only KNOW that He is God, but to be empty enough to be filled with Him, to become one with Him, then even just hating not being able to do for others, will defeat finding that which is actually the pearl of great price we all seek.

We cannot get rid of our addictions by ourselves and we can’t get rid of them all at once.  There are seasons of life and there are times we are called to new freedom in specific areas. It takes recognizing our own addictions, however subtle or harmless seeming, so that we can accept the grace to get free.  In other words, we have to work to cast the log out of our own eye, before we even think about judging someone else.  Self-awareness is the basic need for ongoing conversion, for letting Jesus truly become Lord of our whole selves.

I am still finding that is a full time job at seventy-five, even though I accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord at thirty.  Letting Him be Lord of our whole self, even the parts we don’t want to see, is a lifetime job and only He will know when we’ve become the unique, loved, but still imperfect person, that He created us to be, so we get to go home.