Saturday, September 29, 2012

Someone Else

I posted this about a year ago, not realizing at the time it would speak to me again under almost the exact circumstances. Isn't it interesting how God orchestrates such coincidences? Isn't it also interesting that life keeps repeating? Is it because we haven't learned the lessons? Or is there some other reason?
(One note: at this moment the job situation is undecided.)


Someone Else 
Originally Posted 10/8/11

At times life seems to be one disappointment after another, and I blame it all on Someone Else.

Someone Else got the house my husband and I fell in love with.

Someone Else got the job I applied for and really wanted.

Someone Else is driving the car I've always wanted.

Someone Else is celebrating a mile stone wedding anniversary that I will never have.

Someone Else is thinner, younger and more attractive.

Someone Else’s list of blessings far out weigh mine.

This morning God shook his finger at me and said, “Shame on you!”  

Through my devotional, Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman, God reminded me not to be anxious over anything. Do not worry over what I am to eat, wear or drink. He knows I have need of these things. In other words, don’t worry about Someone Else.

I could hear His voice. “Haven’t I given you everything you really needed? Haven’t you always had a warm house, food, clothing, friends, and a loving spouse? Does it matter that I chose to give you those things in a manner you didn't expect, or necessarily chose, as long as I provided them? And if you will only admit it, haven’t my choices been far better than yours? Have I not exceeded your expectations?”

I bowed my head and mumbled, “Yes, Lord, you have."

"And?"

"You have sent many gifts and blessings. You paid my car insurance when it was impossible to do it on my own. You paid off debt in ways that were impossible.”  I giggled. “And, I will never forget the time you put the turkey in my sink just in time for dinner."

"Continue."

"I remember the rainbows you sent during the storms to remind me of your love and promises. I remember the lilies you sent to remind me not to worry or fret over my well being. I do remember these things, Lord, but I am weak and sometimes give into doubt.”

"Continue."

"Well, now as I reflect, I realize what I do have.”

"I do have a comfortable house filled with treasures accumulated throughout my life. I have always had jobs, and although they might not be ones I would have chosen, each has given me the opportunity to increase my knowledge and skill, and has provided for my family. I do have a car, not the one I dreamed of,or even wanted, but it is certainly serviceable – and paid for. I have celebrated wedding anniversaries, maybe not the milestones Someone Else has, but each one was indeed a celebration of time spent in wedded bliss with a man I truly love. I have a healthy body showing only a few ravages from my many years upon this earth. It may not be as thin, or young, as Someone Else’s, but I’ll take it and its few aches and pains over Someone Else’s devastating health issues.

"I must admit, I have as many blessings as Someone Else, and in some cases, more. And Lord, I must admit one more thing, none of the above matters as much as my relationship with you. It is through You that I exist, and will continue to exist here on earth and in eternity.  You will never forget or abandon me. Even during the darkest moments, you shower me with encouragement, compassion – and hope. 

"So, Lord, I lay all of my worries and concerns at your feet. I choose to float on wings of faith rather than sink into the depths of worry and despair. But, there is just  one more thing, Lord. When I leave this room I am going to see Someone Else with all the before mentioned blessings, and I’ll need your help not to forget mine.”

Today, September 29, 2012, I can only add, "Amen."




Sunday, September 23, 2012

Misbehaving

My head hangs in shame. The ugly person I thought I exorcised years ago came roaring back.  I have misbehaved and God has called me on it - quickly.

The Set Up: It was a stressful week at work, one of several. I felt the stress level rising, could see the signs, but thought I could handle it. I prayed. I meditated. But none of it touched my heart where it made a difference, except for maybe an hour or so. Even my dreams were stressful and work related.


The Added Crises: A job interview with a long back story, which had me in tears a year ago, resurfaced. It was going to take all of my courage to face the new challenge, and in spite of my newly developed strategy of concentrating on God's will and not mine, in spite of everything I learned and practiced this last year, I was caving in to fear and anxiety. However, I had not yet crossed the line to misbehavior - until the final straw:  the coffee pot. Don't laugh. It isn't funny - yet. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week or month - or maybe next year.

The Final Straw: I decided to take a rare Saturday and not bother fixing my hair or putting on make up. I remained in comfy clothes, relaxing and trying to recoup my physical and emotional reserves. It worked until that evening.

With all the stress, my craving for carbohydrates has increased. I have fought the craving, remaining true to my oath to reduce my intake in order to lose weight and eat healthy. Recently I discovered a fresh cup of coffee would diffuse my desire to dip into the crackers, the bread or the sweets, and there was something emotionally comforting about the hot beverage as well.

I went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and discovered the brewer flashing the word, Decalcify. Groaning, I dug out the instruction booklet and read the warnings and the steps. The instructions stated ignoring the decalcify warning was like disregarding the add oil light on the car.

It was seven o'clock in the evening and one of the few TV shows I enjoy was due to come on, and that night was the one episode I truly wanted to watch. Our Brittany, Scout had shown some disturbing aggression toward me earlier that week which was very unusual for him, and for the breed in general. That night the program, The Dog Whisperer, was actually going discuss the same behavior issue, and I really wanted to watch the segment.

Now, back to the coffee pot. As you well know, to decalcify a brewer takes time. I was willing to forgo my coffee with the program, but if I wanted coffee in the  morning, I had to clean the brewer that night. We had no vinegar, which meant a trip to the store.

The Final, Final, Straw: My husband said,  "Do what ever you want." No offer to assist, or at least go to the store so I didn't have to go through the fifteen or twenty minute ritual of get dressed, going out, and missing my program. I stewed while the clock ticked. And then it happened. I snapped.

Granted, I didn't say a word to my husband, but I didn't have to. My body language screamed plenty loud as I stomped into the  living room, turned off the TV, stomped into the bedroom and dressed, which of course included a touch of make up (eye brows, which my vanity will not allow me to be seen in public without), pulling my unsightly hair into a ponytail,  putting on a baseball cap to hide still unsightly hair, fussing with socks and shoes, and finally stomping out the door to the car.

Momentary Pause: There were other options available, but I saw nothing except red, refusing to stop and think a moment. That's about when things got a little worse.

Back to the Final, Final Straw: After following all of the instructions, including leaving the brewer soaking over night, I rose at 5:30 am, ran the machine through all the suggested rinse cycles - and the machine still flashed decalcify.

The instructions stated if the build up is bad enough, it may take two cleanings for the machine to work. I bought only one bottle of white vinegar the previous night. Now, I had to repeat the whole process of getting dressed, going to the store and then cleaning the machine, all at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning. Nuclear explosion is a mild  description. Added to all of that, my husband was still blissfully sleeping, which was good - and bad.

To assuage some of my anger, I decided to purchase a cup off coffee at the grocery cafe and at least have a small Sunday indulgence. It was not to be. Their machine was in the process of being cleaned and there wasn't any coffee available. I eschewed driving further in search of that now very elusive cup of coffee, took my vinegar and went home.

I repeated the cleaning process, save the hour long soak. Then, finally at 7:15 am,  over twelve hours since  whole drama began, I had a cup of coffee. And you know what? It didn't taste good. My anger and resentment left such a bitter taste in my mouth I couldn't enjoy my hard earned cup of coffee.

It was at this point God grabbed this rebellious child by the ear, sat her down, shook His finger at her and said, "Listen!"

My devotional, Good Morning, Lord, by Joseph T Sullivan pointed out that God could punish us immediately for our sins, but He doesn't. He is patient, lovingly waiting for us to stop stubbornly insisting on having our own way. How dare we refuse to be repentant, making God wait on us. When we finally do return as prodigal sons and daughters, He receives us with outstretched arms. The author added a final note and prayer: it takes time to become a loving person, and "Lord, reach out and touch me."

I lowered my head and mumbled, "Amen."

God wasn't through with me just yet.

My second devotional reading emphasized how precious and precarious human life is. We must respect and nurture that life, ours and others'. My behavior only nurtured my selfishness and anger at not getting my own way.

The chastisement continued in my next reading, St. James 3: 17 - 4:3:

For where envying and contention is, there is inconsistency, and every evil work. But the wisdom, that is from above, first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation. And the fruit of justice is sown in peace, to them that make peace. 

St. James goes on to admonish those who war and offer contentions among themselves due to concupiscences - basically selfishness, giving into strong desires for something other than God.  Ouch.

My readings went on with Mark 9:30-34. The disciples argued among themselves as to who should be the greatest, and Jesus told them: If any man desire to be first, he shall be the last of all, and the minister of all. Double ouch.

Streams in the Desert emphasized we can have plenty of grace coming in, but if we do not share it, planning our life around greater service, being a blessing to those around us, then we will find our spirits uncertain and troubled [or angry?]. Triple ouch.

The Moral of the Story: His outstretched arms. Even though I have misbehaved, acting out after being tested with some stress and inconvenience, He received my contrite heart with open arms. He gave me forgiveness, and strength and courage to step up to the plate and try again. He is indeed the God of second, third, and endless chances. Amen. AMEN.



Saturday, September 22, 2012

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

Finally, after 30 plus, and almost another 30 plus years, I  know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a Kingdom Person. 

Richard Rohr in today's daily meditation from describes a  Kingdom Person  as a surrendered, trustful person who has given control to Another, which paradoxically allows them to calmly be in control. This gives them the ability, and freedom, to do what they need to do with joy. This behavior encompasses the "best of the conservative and the best of the progressive types." (For more go to: The Center for Action and Contemplation )

I want to be like that, to live in peace, trusting God in every situation, not necessarily physically happy, but joyful in spirit. As St. Paul so eloquently stated in his epistles, what others find as gain, he considered loss. He suffered incredible physical suffering, eventually dying as a martyr, but in his eyes he gained everything. 
For too much of my life, I have been concerned with external beauty,obsessing about numbers on the scale, and the size of clothes I wore, how many of the newest gadgets I possessed, and  how much financial security I acquired
Granted, I need to follow healthy practices, taking care of this earthy body God gave me to use, and it isn't a sin to have possessions or some savings, but they should not be my life's focus. Our society bombards our senses with its models of  beauty and security and it is a constant battle not to be sucked in, relinquishing what I know to be better truths. 
By becoming a Kingdom Person my focus changes from physical comfort to matters of the heart, giving control to Another and  finally gaining the peace and joy St. Paul exhibited even in the worst circumstances, and I finally understand what I want to be when I grow up. 



Saturday, September 15, 2012

Who's Pulling Who?


In one of Richard Rohr's daily meditations, he makes this observation: As soon as you make prayer a way to get something, you’re not moving into a new state of consciousness. It's the same old consciousness. “How can I get God to do what I want God to do?” It's the egocentric self still deciding what it needs, but now often trying to manipulate God too.
This is one reason religion is in such desperate straits today. It really isn't transforming people, but leaving them in their separated and egocentric state. It pulls God inside of my agenda instead of letting God pull me inside of his. This is still the small old self at work. What the Gospel is talking about is the emergence of “a whole new creation” and a “new mind,” as Paul variously calls it.

That really hit hard. I do spend too much of my prayer time in negotiation. And, Richard Rohr is right. There are a great number of Christians who believe that because they believe, they will gain prosperity, health and every worldly pleasure. That is a great deception. We do not exist to gain this world. We exist to be in spiritual union with the Divine.  

By the world's standards, spending time in a contemplative state is not considered productive. It doesn't minimize our To Do List, it doesn't accomplish anything, except open our eyes to more closely see the world as God does, a mixture of the beautiful and the ugly, the joyful and the sorrowful, neither entirely evil or entirely good. 

In order to do that, I must let go of my agenda, even things I think are good in God's eyes. I  must step back from the world and get rid of the To Do list, replacing it with a To Be list. This becoming will change my  thoughts and the good deeds and the compassion for others will automatically emerge from that union.

I am refocusing my early morning devotions from my usual I Want/ I Need Prayer. God already knows what I need. Rather, I will start my prayer time with being thankful for what I already have instead of concentrating on what I don't have.  From this state of thankfulness, I will enter into a contemplative reading of His Word.   With a more open, non-critical, judgmental mind,  my self centered prayer will become a Seeing Prayer, and a closer union with God. 

This New Creation will have a more open mind with which to hear, and follow, that  inner voice nudging me to take seemingly trivial side trips which upset my best laid plans, but later prove to be the most powerful moments of my life. 
Dear Lord, lead me to see the world, and myself, as you do, and not through my judgments or perceived needs.  Amen. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Discipline

The word discipline has been on my mind a great deal this last week after I realized a lot of my stress is of my own making. I lack discipline in too many areas of my life.

The first area is diet. My doctor put me on a total of 100 grams of carbohydrates a day in order to balance my blood sugar issues. I am not diabetic. I am the opposite. I have hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, which can be a precursor to diabetes if not treated.  Basically, carbohydrates are not good for me. This includes carbs from all foods, not just the decadent temptation on the right.

 It is hard. Once something is forbidden, we by our nature crave it all the more. My sister put it so well, I have plenty of will power, just not enough won't power.


There are other areas where I fail besides diet. I put off getting ready for work. I putter on the computer, linger over another cup of coffee, chat a little too long with hubby, play with the dog and the list goes on. None of these things are bad or wrong, until they make me rush. Then I blame the slow driver planted in the lane in front of me, the long light, the heavy traffic, anything but the real cause of my running late - my lack of discipline.


Well, God stepped in and took this little lesson to a higher plateau. In my devotion, Living Faith, author Kevin Perrotta lists four sins an ancient Jewish writing lists as the most serious: idolatry, incest, murder - and gossip. Gossip being the most serious of the four.

Okay, so what exactly is gossip and how does that tie in with my lack of discipline? My personal conclusion: speaking about another without respect, with the soul intent of tearing the other down or complaining about another to a third party are easy traps to fall into and it takes a great deal of discipline not to join in a gripe session with friends. How do I expect to resist this temptation if  if I can't even manage to stay on a simple diet?

I now understand the purpose behind the biblical practice of fasting. Occasionally denying the body pleasures strengthens the spirit, and with a little more discipline in my life I'll be better off. It won't feel quite as hectic if I am not rushing to make appointments. I will feel better without the extra weight, and most importantly, showing more respect to others will improve my personal and professional relationships. Life will definitely improve.

They say it takes thirty days of effort to forge a new behavior. Taking small steps, one hour, one day at a time I can make that change.

How about you? Any areas where you need more discipline?