Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Set Aside Prayer

It seems AA has many wonderful steps to recovery. I have of course heard of the Twelve Step Program, but not this little prayer until now. My devotional, Living Faith, mentioned the prayer in conjunction with Luke 10:21: “…although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”

Jesus is asking us to let go of our preconceptions, our deceptions, and our play acting, to let our walls and barriers down. He asks us to trust him in all things, to listen, and to learn as a child with eagerness and openness.

As adults we so often stay locked in our judgments, unable to open up and see the truth about others and ourselves. We become distant in order to avoid pain, to avoid feeling, and we lose out, big time. By blocking out the unpleasant emotions, we also eliminate the pleasant. 

The Set Aside Prayer asks God for help to open our minds, changing our perceptions and thus our pre-judgments. 

“Dear God, please set aside everything I think I know (about myself …. [insert any addiction or undesirable behavior] and all spiritual terms, and especially about you, God) so I may have an open mind and a new experience (with all these things). Please help me see the Truth. Amen.”

I have edited the portion regarding the alcoholic’s addictions from the original prayer, but we all have them in some form. Perhaps not as devastating as alcoholism, but enough to influence our lives, particularly the tendency to pre-judge others based on flawed preconceptions. 

This prayer, coupled with the prayer of St. Francis, is the perfect step toward moving us away from our self-centered view of the world. The timing is perfect for the beginning of Advent, the joyful season. 

Experts say the best remedy for melancholy is to do something for someone else, ties right in with the gift-giving season. After all, a gift doesn’t have to be some kind of merchandise. One of the best gifts is the gift of self, caring for another in need whether it is a phone call, a visit, performing a task, or just being there without judgements or preconceptions, keeping our minds and heart open to another’s joy or pain. 

Yes Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. 

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb: and the leopard shall lied down with the kid: the calf and the lion, and the sheep shall abide together, and a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself

Franklin Roosevelt spoke those famous words during his inaugural address in 1933. Going back even further, in April of 1816, Thomas Jefferson stated in a letter to John Adams, “There are indeed... gloomy & hypochondriac minds... disgusted with the present, & despairing of the future; always counting that the worst will happen, because it may happen. To these I say how much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!”

Fear steals our present happiness. For the most part, very few of those disasters we obsess about, happen. Those that did, we obviously survived. But if we don’t, our Christian faith says we will enter Paradise. Yet knowing that, I still cling to the things of this earth as if there were nothing more. I succumb to wringing my hands and sleepless nights. 

An offhand comment during a recent conversation with my dad ignited another bout of anxiety. Evidently the state that pays my husband’s retirement is facing a financial disaster. I know from experience my dad has a history of seeing the worst. Is he reporting accurately, or is it another case of the sky is falling? 
I once told a friend going through a crisis, “Hard times are like staying one night in a bad hotel. They pass, and we move on.” She told me later that thought carried her through a divorce, and cancer. Several years later, a few weeks before her death, she told me Jesus stood at the foot of her bed, and said, “Do not be afraid.” 

So, why do we fear? 
Scripture tells us to fear only those things that can rob our souls of our chance for eternal life: hate, lack of forgiveness, doubt, and unbelief.

Once again, I pray the Prayer of Saint Francis. I cling to scriptural promises of God’s love and compassion. I strive to do my best, an hour at a time if need be, to make the world a better place where I am right now, not in some future time. 

In return, I won’t live in fear. After all, the troubles for today are enough, and God has them, and me, in his hands.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

My Nocturnal Life

Insomnia. We all suffer with it at one time, or another. I have rearranged furniture, cleaned the pantry, and as of last night, worked on landscaping projects. I have tried reading or playing Solitaire, but it seems physical activity gets me back to sleep faster, although not without some repercussions.

The night I rearranged furniture, I gave up half way through and went to bed. My husband thought we’d been robbed. Last night, my husband, and Cooper, thought we had a burglar stealing our landscaping brick. 

I know. Three o’clock in the morning is an odd time to be rearranging the flower garden. However, there was a good reason. Well, for redoing the garden, maybe not for doing it the dark.
Six-month-old Cooper is still in the let’s-eat-the-whole-world mode. Our raised flowerbed is filled with decorative rock, sticks, pine cones, and poisonous plants. This cornucopia of indigestible snacks sings a siren song to him. We tried lining the decorative fence with chicken wire. It worked, for a while, until our extraordinarily smart pup realized he could push out sections of the wire and feast. 

Le sigh.

Last night, around three a.m., the perfect solution hit me like a taser. I tried rolling over and snuggling back in for some additional sleep, but no luck. I envisioned the step-by-step procedure until I finally gave up. 

I slipped on sweats, grabbed a coat and a flashlight, and went outside. After several minutes of experimentation, I figured out the details. My plan was brilliant. Why hadn’t we thought of it before? By removing the top layer of decorative brick (all one-hundred-and-twenty of them), and tucking a portion of the chicken under them, we would have a stabilized retaining wall. Cooper couldn’t push the wire aside and nothing could slip through. 

I managed to do about ten feet of wall before I heard noises behind me.
My husband, obviously hastily dressed, and Cooper stood beside the back door peering in my direction. Not being the bravest member of the investigation team, Cooper barked and ran for the door. My husband held a defensive stance.

I finally found my voice. “Hey, it’s me!”

Cooper turned around, stretched in my direction to get a better scent, and then hit me like the ton of bricks I had just moved.

My husband didn’t move, and although it was dark, but I could read his thoughts. Seconds later, he clarified any misunderstanding in that regard.  

“What on earth are you doing out here in the middle of the night?”

“I figured out what to do about the flower bed.”

“Now? Can’t it wait until daylight?”

“I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d come out and try it.”

“Cooper won’t settle down.”

Which meant he woke my husband, desperate to get out of the kennel and confront the intruder in his yard. Okay, so he wanted my husband to confront the thief. 

Now that he knew I was up, he would not go back to sleep. 

Le sigh.

“Fine. Leave him out here with me. You go back to bed.”

The connoisseur of bark and rock would not cooperate with my landscaping efforts. He was determined to undermine (pun intended) all my work, and he was shivering. The grass was wet from dew, well maybe it was frost. I gave up. 

Not wanting to disturb my husband’s sleep further, I opted for a nap on the futon in my office, with Cooper. It was now five a.m., Cooper’s new time to get up since we turned the clocks back.  
However, with a little persuasion, he joined me. We also discussed eating my pillow and nesting in my blanket, but with the assistance of a collar and a short lead, I convinced him to stay put and sleep. Moments later, he stood on my stomach, faced the door, and whined. I heard it too. My husband was making coffee. 

Le sigh.