“Like the miracle of Hanukkah, all over again”

Two years ago, in January of 2016, I dictated the following into my cell phone.  I was in the process of moving from North Carolina, where I had lost my job and was having to vacate my house, walking away from the mortgage, to South Carolina where my brother was letting me move into a vacant 60-year-old house trailer of his:

I’m driving through Travelers Rest, closely watching my gas gauge because I am just about out of gas…the orange empty-tank light is on.  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, when I have come across people who live this way, hand to mouth, I have been skeptical; I have thought that they somehow had a choice and chose to live this way,  either because they were lazy, wasteful, and stupid or because they had an entitlement mentality…used to someone bailing them out…so used to social programs that they knew no other way to live. They didn’t seem to know how to take care of themselves.

God was I wrong. I find no satisfaction in this.  Yes, I have been wasteful and at times, stupid.  But, lately I have exhausted myself in trying to survive, wrestled with ways of working things around to make it through the month, the day, the next hour.  And I almost made it.  But now I need just a little bit of help.  And that is so hard.  I believe it takes more strength to hold my head up and survive this…and to ask for help…than it did to work my 9-to-5 government job for 22 years.

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 live on the same level 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, and 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…it makes me…well, it makes me mad enough to cry.

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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.  First, she takes her calculator out to figure how much two gallons is going to cost her, asks me where I’m going (Weaverville, NC, is 61 miles from Travelers Rest), and how many miles I get to a gallon (Honda Fit, 34 mpg.).  She looks up and 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 61 miles on an empty tank, like the miracle of Hanukkah, all over again.

I’m now at my daughter’s apartment in Weaverville where it’s warm.  But, outside, it is 19 degrees 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, God, if they sleep, let them 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.

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That was two years ago.  My life still hovers quite close to the ground but, thanks to my brother, my home is warm and snug…even snuggier than before becasue my daughter now lives with me in this 60-year-old house trailer.  Try as I might, it remains a constant battle to stay afloat financially.  But we are fine; we are doing okay…okay enough to pay a small token forward.  I have put a small amount of money…enough to buy two gallons of gas…in a red envelope with instructions for the gas station attendant to hold onto this envelope until someone comes in, needing just a little bit of gas to get home.

God bless them.

The Gift of Hard Times

Trauma raises consciousness; darkness reveals the presence of God; Loss removes the stuff that has kept God hidden all along.

Children who have been abused, neglected, or tormented learn to watch the signs to know when to move and when to duck. That skill serves them for the rest of their lives. That sight enables them to find their way by noticing hints and clues.

Ii is only when we are in the dark, that we search for light. If we run in terror, searching for a way out of the darkness, we hit walls and break toes. It is when we are still and our eyes adjust that we can see the shapes of our own making and know that all else is what is eternal.

In that darkness, when the shapes of our own making are most clearly defined, removing them one by one or all at once, reveals more of the eternal. It isn’t the job or the relationship or the dream that takes up the space, it is our terrified clinging…our attachment to those things. It is our hoarding of attachments that take up all the space.

If we don’t toss this stuff, life will. We can release our attachments now or do it when our bodies wear out; either way, it is going to happen…and the benefits of eternal life start once we do. If you are blessed (and we all are) these attachments can be tossed for us, ready or not. Our choice is whether to immediately fill that space in with another attachment or whether to pause and breathe and allow our eyes to adjust further to see God standing there. We have been God all along.

I am, you are, he she it is manifestation of God…covered over with stuff. All of us. (Yes, them too.) We are not separate from God. We’re just God covered over with tarnish, scars, scales, agendas, paperwork, … attachments.

If only just for a moment, peel that stuff away and let the God part of you breathe.

(I write this prompted by the injury of Deshaun Watson. Deshaun has very little ‘stuff of his own making’…very few attachments. He was not raised with abuse or neglect but with love; his faith has been nurtured through hard times, however. He will demonstrate this faith as he heals and reveals the presence of God he holds up for all to see. Watch him and learn. See how faith reveals God.)

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

 

 

This is Why (Reprise)

All of my life, I have carried rhetorical questions around on my shoulders like a yoke:

Why did my parents resent that I was not a boy and repeatedly set me up for shame and rejection when I was young?

Why was I born with bipolar disorder?

Why did my husband not love me?

Why have I not been able to support myself with my God-given talents?

Why was I not appreciated by my co-workers and managers during my 22-year career and forced to retire in disgrace?

I now know why.

Had I not been raised with neglect and abuse, I would not have learned to watch the signs and I would not have needed the kind of spiritual healing that has enabled me to release wounds, scars, and resentments and be open to God.

Had I not suffered with mental illness, I would not have the patience and understanding I now have for others who suffer in such a way…nor would I have an appreciation for the gifts of such an illness.

Had I not been left to raise two babies on my own, I would not be as strong as I am now or as compassionate toward other single mothers.  Had I remained married, I would probably not have sought reconciliation with God.  Had I built the dream we shared, I would be selling a business now, not living alone, writing, praying, blessing, and consoling others.

Had I been successful selling my photography, paintings, and writing, I would not have had to sell my home and move into a 60-year-old house trailer and be able to see life on ground level with other people who struggle day in and day out, figuring out ways to buy gas and feed the animals.

Had I been supported and encouraged by others in my career, I would probably hold a high level government position now…not doing ‘God work’ and helping others figure out how to tell the truth about climate change and to serve the poor and needy when and if the bureaucracy is destroyed.

I know what it is like to be abused and neglected…and to abuse and neglect. I know what it is like to look back on my life with guilt and horror.  I know what it is like to be lost, confused, and full of anger, doubt, and resentment.  I know what it is like to fail.  I know what it is like to look to God and imagine Him turning His back…looking remarkably like someone else I knew when I was a child.  I know what it is like to want to die by my own hand.

I know what it is like…to live this life…

…and that is why.

“Inner Yes is All it Takes”

This morning, I asked, “Is there a way to pray the shallow into being more deep?  Is there a way to pray the transformation of others?”

I’m finishing up The Wisdom Way of Knowing by Cynthia Bourgeault.  Re-reading the paragraph I finished with last night, I read just now

…once your being has become inwardly gentled and peaceable, those qualities of aliveness will flow out to others as a spontaneous healing and delight.

Bingo: Divine Compassion.  (As always, thank You.)

The rate at which I have matured in my faith and knowing over the past year is a bit scary. Does it signal the end times of my life…or the end times, in general?  Regardless, I am blessed…deeply and profoundly blessed.  I am not done, however, but being open to this divine education is such a different place.  All of my life, I have been guided along this path with bread crumbs of wisdom.  I can look back now and see where I drifted (or bolted) off of the path…and why.  But I am here, now…intentionally present…and available.

In order for the cosmos to function properly, human beings need to grow into their own hearts.  An inner yes is all it takes.  Once the willingness to begin takes over in you, whatever you need will come to you.  And you’ll be able to recognize it.   

There is no bad place to begin.  Simply open your heart and ask, trusting that the gift will come.  Do what you can where you are.  And be alert for the next step.  However it leads you, your heart will know the way home.

Can it be that Sanity will enter the White House through the Garden Gate?

Many of us have been praying and struggling to pray for our president…courageous, heart-grinding prayers.  See Susan Irene Fox’s wisdom on the matter.  I think our prayers have been answered.

This morning through NPR: First Lady Melania Trump has decided to keep the garden Michelle Obama started as part of a campaign to encourage kids to eat vegetables.

 

Look, dams can break from a crack in the wall.  Windows can be opened by placing a seed under a screw and adding a bit of water.  The behavior and demeanor of a wife will influence the husband.  And there is nothing more grounded in reality than a woman with garden soil on her hands and knees.

Let’s all pray for Melania.

 

photo and further info from the Washington Post

“Man, Ain’t this Fun?”

Just a moment ago, I stepped out onto my back porch and took a deep breath.  It’s a delightful 69 degrees and sunny.  My first thought, after the breath, was to all of the gazillion things I think (thought) I need to get done.  And then spirit spoke:

this one moment is what it is about

I am…life is…we all are…creation is…perfect in this moment.

My panic and striving is because I know I spent 59.8 years of my life working on MY agenda and, now that I intend to be working on God’s agenda, I feel the need to get as much done as quickly as possible because I don’t know how much time I have left.

My next thought was to my new watch-word:  Allow     It refers to a new intention to allow others to be in a different place from me spiritually.  It refers to a new intention to allow others to make different choices for their own lives…even if I know those choices will set them back.  It refers to a new intention to allow imperfection…even in myself.

So, what was I left with?  Awareness.  Awareness that…in this moment…it is all perfect, on time, playing out, and in God’s hands.  And I giggled:  Is this fun?

That’s when I remembered those words, spoken to his team…while taking a moment…“Man, isn’t this fun?!  Is this not fun?  This is what it’s all about!”    (the second video of the interview with Dabo Swinney.  But, I recommend listening to the first video, too.)

This IS what it’s all about.  It took me 59.9 years to realize that marketing myself and my talents was NOT what is was about.  Now, after having cleared all that major clutter out of the way, I am working on small pockets of clutter that remain (small resentments, expectations, fleeting goals,…) and strengthening my awareness…my ability to hear the reminders and nudges to stop…take a moment…and acknowledge:  ‘Ain’t this fun?’

(Thank You.)

 

(I borrowed the image above from http://www.seattlepi.com.)

Boggles the Mind…

…but causes the heart to giggle.

Has anyone else experienced what I have just experienced:  having released the frustration of not having the money to buy the books I think I need to read right now, I go to my own bookshelf and find them…all of them…except the one that is just now released, one that is not yet released, and two that I have only recently learned of.

Let me emphasize, even after pulling them off of the bookshelf, I do not remember buying them.

Life-long truth:  when I go to a book store looking for wisdom, I usually buy 4 books:  the one I went for, one I need to read right then, and two I will need later.  Thank You, Jesus.

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.