“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.

Get It Done

 

Forgive everyone for everything…including yourself.

Detach from of all of your issues.*

Reacquaint yourself with God.

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*What I find helpful is to envision Jesus with a wicker hamper at his feet. As issues come up, I put them in the hamper, say Thank You, and back away. If I find I’m carrying that same issue around with me again, I put it back in the hamper and back away…again. I do it as often as it comes up…seventy times seven times…plus 1, if necessary.

When I find myself carrying on an argument in my head with my boss from 15 years ago, it goes in the hamper and I back away.

If you are being bullied, put it in the hamper and back away.

If you are fearful of tomorrow, put it in the hamper and back away.

If your obsession is to be an actress, put it in the hamper and back away.

If you hate Trump, put it in the hamper and back away.

Tired of being ‘Politically Correct?’ Put it in the hamper and back away.

Seeing a white man with a black woman together makes you angry? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Sick of hearing about billionaires and their tax cuts? Put it in the hamper and back away.

You are Bipolar? Put it in the hamper and back away.

You fear your boss has Bipolar Disorder? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Ashamed that your daughter is pregnant? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Feeling guilty that you are spending money you really don’t have? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Feeling good about meeting your budget and giving to the church? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Want to kill your father for groping you? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Grateful you’re not fat? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Wish you were skinny? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Always thinking about consciousness? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Love that your house is so beautiful? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Hate Coach K? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Afraid you are pregnant and you don’t know whether to be happy or scared? Put it in the hamper and back away.

In constant pain? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Hate the Jews?  Put it in the hamper and back away.

In need of forgiveness?  Put it in the hamper and back away.

Can’t tell fake news from real news? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Counting on them getting theirs on Judgement Day? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Afraid for your children? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Proud of your accomplishments? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Lost your faith?  Put it in the hamper and back away.

Your wife is leaving you?  Put it in the hamper and back away.

Dying of cancer? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Wish you had said then what you have been practicing and rehearsing in your mind for the past 10 years? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Obsessed with posting memes that insult Liberals? Put it in the hamper and back away.

Wishing you had a laser to blow the tires out on that damned truck that just cut you off in traffic while the driver flipped you the bird and all you can do is glare because you’re driving a Gremlin and the horn doesn’t work……put it in the hamper and back away.

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This does not mean you do not work toward your dreams, stop someone from abusing you, be an activist for the disabled, build your business, or save money for the future.  You do the work but you release the anger, the fear, the regret, the urgency, the resentment, the pride, the arrogance,…    You detach from the need, the desire, the obsession.

All these emotional attachments are covering over the God Part of you that wants to breathe and have expression in the world.  We all have identities we cling to:  I am a single mom. I am bipolar.  She is clairvoyant.  He is a Republican.  They are Hispanic.  You are wealthy.  He is a Trump supporter.  I am a Christian.  I am a recovering racist.  You are a Humanist.  I am old.  She is smarter than you.  I am an adultress.  She is crippled.  He is a Yankee.  She is a cocaine addict.  They are Holocaust survivors.   He is a Vietnam Veteran.  I am a Tiger Fan.   If we can lay our identities to one side just a bit and let our God Part be what we present to the world, peace will come.

The Embassy and Best Practices

Followers of Jesus were instructed to be ambassadors for Christ. (That’s in Corinthians.) A gathering of such followers, therefore, could be considered an embassy.  I’d like to think of it as the most important of all embassies, therefore, I would call it The Embassy.

If I were to open a branch of this Embassy, I would make things simple and just ‘borrow’ the best practices of other similar entities, for example:

  1. Kneeling – It is a good posture to get used to and well familiar with; it is difficult to cop an attitude while on your knees.  Children pray on their knees.  Surrender, its value and purpose, is revealed when one prays on one’s knees.  I have found that spiritual meditation is quite potent when done on my knees.
  2. Silence and meditation – I have heard centering prayer or spiritual meditation  likened to sitting on the porch with a loved one…just being present; no talking necessary.  To be honest, I cannot hear Christ if I am always talking or thinking.  By the way, mindfullness meditation has a different purpose and is not the same thing as spiritual meditation.  Both are good for you.  Do both.
  3. Confession and repentance – I sometimes forget that Christ is always present in me; I tend to pile stuff on top of Christ…stuff like hurt feelings, fear, anger, wants, obsessions and thinking that I am ‘all that.’  Listing all that stuff and choosing to let go of it, works.  Plus, it’s realizing that God is not ‘out there’ or ‘up there’ somewhere but in and throughout me.  Repentance is getting back to that right thinking.

These are just some of the best practices.

This Following Jesus Business

Jesus came into the world without the generational issues that we have to deal with.  Therefore, He was aware of… and showed… full Christ presence from the very beginning of His ministry.  He did not have traumas, neuroses, and complexes that got in the way of His knowing His Father’s will at all times. Nothing hid His being Christ.  We, however, need to do the hard work of stripping away the issues and distractions to reach that clarity.

I have known people who have died without reaching a clear awareness of Christ.  I have known people who never even tried to address their issues at all, unaware that working out their own salvation is theirs to do.   I have also known people who have reached that clarity and were able to live the last years of their lives in full Christ presence and in full service of the Father.

We have been given the means to do the hard work of shedding all of the interfering stuff.  The Holy Spirit has blessed us with knowledge of dealing with addictions, resentments and hate, illness and diseases.  We have psychology, spiritual healing, prayer, AA groups, solid advice on what to eat, how much exercise to get, the importance of spending time in nature, deep breathing, and good sleep.  All of that knowledge and help has been provided to assist us in shedding our issues.

While working out our salvation, we can spend precious and protected moments in silent prayer and meditation…becoming familiar with that clarity.  With enough consistent practice, we can carry that grounded Christ presence out into relationships, crisis moments, and the world.

But we must still do the work.

Jesus spent His life psychologically whole, unattached to possessions, and undistracted.  He spent time in prayerful meditation to maintain His clear awareness of God.  All other times, He was open to the people around Him and present, in the truest sense.  He was attentive, aware, and conscious.  Follow Jesus’ example.

It is not necessary for us to be crucified on a tree in order to die to our distractions and issues.  But what Jesus demonstrated was that once we choose to, after a time of grief, darkness, and confusion, we awaken full of Christ and ready to serve.

Follow Jesus.