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.

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.

Bah! Humbug!?

So many Christians are real Scrooges about Christmas…expressing a great deal of rancor and nastiness because Christmas is not celebrated in the way they think it ought to be.  Well, guess what…they are wrong to do so.

First of all…and least of all…there is nothing wrong with having a dual-focused celebration; it is done all the time.  My daughter was born on Thanksgiving and we have often celebrated her birthday on that fourth Thursday when the family is together.  My beloved but departed friend Irene celebrated her birthday (December 29th) on New Year’s Eve…again when family are close together and spirits are high.

“But Christmas is not about a tree! or strings of lights!”

Well, actually, yes it is.  My second point is that during the Christmas season, many symbols are brought out and displayed because of their meaning and significance to a Christian’s life.  The Christmas tree, for example, has several ‘roots’ in Christian tradition, one of which is how “the temptation that brought sin into the world hung on a tree (the forbidden fruit), and the act that resulted in salvation from sin (Christ on the cross) hung on a tree. Furthermore, once sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, and all mankind, were no longer permitted to eat of the tree of life. However, in eternity, Christ’s work on the cross will give us ‘the right to eat of the tree of life’ once again (Revelation 2:7).”  (from Traditional Christmas Symbols – Christmas Trees.)

“Well, it’s not about presents, then!”

It most certainly is.  My third point is that while the giving of gifts has obvious roots in Christian tradition, i.e., God’s gift of His Son to the world, I believe there is a much more important reason to preserve the tradition of gift giving:  Christ NEVER commanded us to celebrate His birthday; He DID, however, command us to love our neighbor.

(Who is our neighbor?  Every one else.  EVERY ONE ELSE.  But that’s another post on another web site.)

No one quibbles about Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, or Flag Day.  They are important days because without such designated days, most Americans would go their entire lives without pausing to acknowledge their friends, family members, neighbors, much less strangers who have dedicated their careers, limbs, and lives to protect us, if not the world, from harm.  Having a designated day is a good thing.

By the same token, having a designated day to give to others is also a good thing.

It is often debated as to whether Christ actually said that “it is better to give than to receive,” so I will not use that as an argument…although it would be an easy one.  I will say that in order to follow Christ’s command to love others, one would be hard pressed to find a better or simpler way to start doing that, than by giving gifts to those one appreciates.  Sure, there are flawed motives, resentments, financial burdens that often result but Christ never said “Love your neighbor only if their are no problems or complications involved.”

Furthermore, those problems and complications actually introduce additional opportunities to obey His command:  Let’s say you resent having to buy a gift for your sister-in-law.  Were there no Christmas tradition of giving gifts, you could live out your entire life without having to face that fact.  As it is, your resentment raises its ugly finger once each year…presenting you with the designated day to DEAL WITH IT.

Has Christmas become crass and commercialized…and we, materialistic?  You bet it has…and we have.   But that’s easy enough for each of us to avoid and over-come.  Do not throw the Christ Child out with the sullied bath water.

Christmas as a gift giving occasion is a good thing…a God thing.  It forces us to think about each other…what the other person values and appreciates…and gets us in a position to love that person and express that love.   Without Christmas, such efforts would be rare, indeed.

So, Christmas:  Bah! Humbug?

No.  Baa…as in a little lamb.  The Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world.  God’s gift to the world.  Take Him and give Him as a gift to others this Christmas.  Pray over your gifts before delivering them or putting them under the tree…praying that the Holy Spirit of Christ go with the gift.  Or when you hand someone your gift, point out to them that you are giving them a gift because you are loved by Jesus and feel moved to share your joy.

The giving of gifts at Christmas is a way to obey Christ’s second commandment.  Celebrating His birthday is not.  Getting grumpy and chastising others for putting up trees, giving gifts, hanging lights, etc. is definitely NOT.

By the way, even the long lines and traffic snarls are ‘God sends.’ Talk about teachable moments!  If you were a good Boy Scout, you would thank God for such ‘God sends’ because Main Streets and shopping malls during Christmas present abundant opportunities to do a good turn…many in one day.  Looking for opportunities to practice patience and kindness?  Go shopping!

(God, forgive us for being so focused on defending Your honor and not recognizing Your-given opportunities to love one another, particularly on the designated day.)

 

 

If you would like to find out more about the Christian origins of Christmas symbols like wreaths, mistletoe, and lights, go to the web site about Traditional Christmas Symbols.