Sunday, June 17, 2012

Me First

In spite of my best efforts, recent events shattered my equilibrium and I allowed ego, fear, jealousy and resentment to cloud my vision, color my experiences and generally make me miserable. Not to the same degree as before, but it was clear I needed to find a better way of getting out of this spiral of emotions. But, I didn't know how to begin.

After prayer and reflection, God answered through the beautiful thoughts and writings of others.


Prayer of St. Francis


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.
I memorized this prayer as a young girl, but had a hard time putting it into practice. My ego always  seemed to get in the way, and yet, it is said, if you do not love yourself, you cannot love others. So, how do we love ourselves without being narcissitic and self- serving?

Richard Rohr offers some very good insight in how to do that from his book, The Naked Now.
  • If you want others to be more loving, choose to love first.
  • If you want a reconciled the outer world, reconcile your own inner world.
  • If you are working for peace out there, create it inside as well.
  • If you notice other people's irritability, let go of your own.
  • If you wish to find some outer stillness, find it within yourself.
  • If you are working for justice, treat yourself justly too.
  • If you find yourself resenting the faults of others, stop resenting your own.
  • If the world seems desperate, let go of your own despair.
  • If you want a just world, start being just in small ways yourself.
  • If your situation feels hopeless, honor the one spot of hope inside you.
  • If you want to find God, then honor God within you, and you will always see God beyond you. For it is only God in you who  knows where and how to look for God. 
The premise is simple. If I do not know how to love, forgive and nurture myself, how can I extend those virtues to others? This is the scriptural meaning of humility: to accept God's love and mercy as an undeserved, free gift, and in turn give it away to others - freely - without judgement.

 Yes, very simple indeed, but so very, very hard to put into practice, and that is the key - practice. The more I try, the easier it will be to follow these premises. As an aide, I copied the above onto a small card I intend to carry with me for a quick referral during my enevitable lapses.

This will be helpful, but I do not need to be overly anxious about remembering all of it. If  my heart is truly in the right place, God will do the rest. As I have mentioned before, it is not how many times I have failed, but how hard I try. It is the effort that counts, one step, one incident at a time - remembering when I do fail, God has already forgiven me. All I have to do is ask and then accept it.

What will all of this lead to? Joy, and peace the world cannot give. I am all for it. How about you?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Insurance


My Aunt once said, "Money can't buy you happiness, but I'd sure like to try it." I laughed, but secretly concurred. This world is a struggle without money to buy the necessities, and who doesn't want some of the extras? And, not only a few extras, but insurance against all kinds of calamities as well.

We are a nation of insurance. By law we must carry vehicle insurance, and right now our country is in a huge emotional and political turmoil over health insurance. We seek all kinds of means to insure ourselves against disasters, often going to great lengths to protect ourselves, when in truth, we cannot insure our lives against trials and struggles. They will come regardless of how protected we think we are.

Don't get me wrong. There is prudence in planing for future events, however, as Jesus said, "Children, how difficult is it for a man who trusts in riches to gain heaven?" It is our trust in these plans - insurances- rather than our trust in God that gets us into trouble. If we spend our entire lives focusing on acquiring enough money, enough insurance, enough things to be what we perceive as fully protected, we will end up like the rich man in Jesus' parable, never enjoying or recognizing the blessings we have right here, right now, waiting for that perfect moment in the future when we will have enough, and by that time it may be too late.

I had a huge lesson in this truth last week.

It started the moment I arrived at work.  I fought the sun shield for several minutes before finally getting it to stay in place, and then my lipstick fell out of my purse and rolled under the front seat as I stepped out of the car. I couldn't retrieve it without crawling through the back seat, standing on my head and reaching under the front seat almost to my shoulder. My once perfectly coiffed hair was disheveled, my clothes needed rearranging, and my extra few minutes I usually have before requiring to start work were gone. My attitude was in a downhill slide, and continued sliding as Murphy's Law went into full effect with everything I touched or did.

I left work feeling drained, exhausted and defeated, wondering how much longer my temp position would last, what would my husband and I do financially if it ended, and would I ever be able to find a permanent job in this economy. Topping it all off was a rejection response from one of my job applications. I wanted to sit down and sob, but for a change I didn't.

Instead I remembered all the times God rescued me from similar situations, the times He fed and clothed me, healed me, found jobs for me and even paid my car insurance: ( See: Lilies). I felt better, more confident, and went to bed with the belief the next day would be better.

My devotions the next morning included Streams in the Desert.  "Why are you still afraid? Do you still have no faith?" Mark 4:40. And, "Faith can change any situation, no matter how dark or difficult" Included also was 2 Timothy 11: "...what persecutions I have endured, and out of them all the Lord has delivered me." Along with: "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Hebrews 13: 5-6.

There is no insurance against suffering, except God's grace and our faith in Him. We must believe He will give us the grace and strength to endure our trials at the moment it is needed, not before, not after, but during. We cannot dwell on our past sorrows, or borrow from future ones. As Samuel Clemens once said, "I have lived a hard life, some of which actually happened."

 In truth, God has not always provided for all my needs - at least not all that I believed were needs. Some very important things - and people - have been taken away. Why? If I am to believe He will provide everything I need, why does He sometimes take them away?

My personal theory? God wants to be the only thing we cannot live without, and He sometimes takes away the things the world, and I, deem necessary: money, family, husbands, health, and sometimes even a church community in order to prove to me I can live without them, but not without God. That is true faith.

Abraham always comes to mind when I think of faith being tested. As scripture says, even the angels were awed with Abraham's faith, and God rewarded Abraham's faithfulness with the restoration of his son, the fulfillment of God's promise to him. Will He not do the same for me?