How Do We Surrender? April 15, 2014

I can tell you that thousands and thousands of times I have wondered about the saying “Let go and let God.”  The first thing that comes to mind is, how in the world do I do that?  How does anybody do that?

But I have learned a few things during the last few years.  Our journey to the Creator is not like collecting.  It is the opposite.  We need to start shedding, taking off layer after layer of accumulation (and I don’t necessarily mean clothes!) until we are completely free of struggle.  In spirituality, we are struggling against ourselves.  How do we wrestle those demons?  Well, if we are struggling, it is usually because we have a feeling of being wrong.  Our hopes as well as our fears can be demons.  To begin, we need to look the fear straight in the eye and tell it we don’t want to fight it, we just want to release the shame of it.  When we tell our fear we wish to push it away, (this is very difficult because we have had to identify the fear) we are on the road to surrendering to Christ.

I remember not too long ago, I had a conversation with the Trinity.  It went something like this.  “God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, I am here now, I am listening, and I will be very quiet so I can hear that still small voice inside.  Please tell me………”  I will leave my petition private.

After awhile, I felt a noticeable shift in perception, and a voice in the depths of my soul clear as a bell, said, “Well, Judy, what is it that you really want?  I don’t deal in what you don’t want.”

Wow.  Makes us really think, doesn’t it?

 

Thank you, Jesus! April 6, 2014

It is Sunday. Today’s gospel reading was about Lazarus.  Most of us know he died and was raised from the dead by Jesus four days later.  Now there are those who argue about this miracle.  “Come on!  Jesus, the Son of God, brought a man back from the dead after FOUR days!  I don’t think so!”

Let us look at this story a different way.  Play ‘What If?’ with me if you will.  What if this is just a story?  After all, we know the Bible was written at different times by different people.  We call them scribes or redactors, people who were trained to write stories told to them.  These stories always had thoughtful messages.  Many of them are metaphors, symbolic stories about something else, written to make a point.

One thing is for sure.  Jesus wanted us to understand that there is something after we die.  Something wonderful, beyond comprehension.  We go on living!  Do as Jesus does and love one another and you will have eternal life.  The people of that era could imagine little more than living, and then dying.  So they needed a good story or a miracle – you choose – to understand that our experiences mean far more than we can imagine.

Imagine the joy and the celebration!  Lazarus gone and now he is back.  This happens only because there is a power bigger than you and me and the people in early Palestine got that.  As my great-grandmother, Bessie Lewis, would say, “Thank you, Jesus!”

The Mountain Of Too Much March 29, 2014

Many of us have a mountain of weariness that comes from the work that is still ahead.  The thing that seems to tire us the most is the anticipation of the work we still have to do.

I believe this is the time that we should take a deep breath and remember that what we have now – right this moment – is vital.  Right now is all we need.  Take another deep breath and let what is done go.  Acknowledge that this is the way life is now, and continue to press on regardless knowing that this too will pass.

Before we tackle that mountain of too much, we need to spend a moment with our Creator.  We need to tell Him how grateful we are for the burdens, whatever they may be, and thank Him for the beautiful day ahead.  Rest in God’s grace for another moment breathing in His love, asking Him to help us make something beautiful out of our mountain of too much.

 

Teannalach March 24, 2014

Teannalach is a Celtic word that is well-known in certain areas of Ireland.  People will say if they have it, but few will be able to define it.  When pressed, they say it means awareness.  It is a unique word that speaks to listening, to profound attention.  John O’Donohue calls it “the web of betweenness, a sacred area in which the individual enters into contact with the eternal.”  Our mind is not closed and processing its own individual impressions of the external, but is also open, lit by Spirit, and facing the eternal.

Those of us who sometimes feel outside ourselves, or distanced from our souls, could be in the process of life-changing discernment.  We might feel detached, far from God, out of sorts, or even hopeless.  It feels so bad that we can’t get out of our own way.  I call it TMI, Too Much Information.  We are bombarded by TV, those we love talking talking, electronic devices ringing ringing, dogs barking barking – you get the picture.

Let us take time to nurture our soul and listen to our Spirit.  If we don’t like what we hear, there is something wrong with our listening.  Let us develop Teannalach.  Again, John O’Donohue,  “True community is an ideal where the full identities of awakened and realized individuals challenge and complement each other.  In this sense both individuality and originality enrich self and others.”

As we begin to feel those longings that make us smile inside and feel the wind in our faces, do not be dissuaded.  Our souls are too great to ignore.  Follow the call.

 

Meaning Versus Pleasure March 17, 2014

Freud analyzed the human psyche to death and came to the conclusion that the object of man was to seek pleasure.  Well, duh.  We are all familiar with the person who feels bad so they shop too much, or eat too much or drink too much.  If probed, the person says that it just makes them forget their problems – even if it is just for a short time.  Sometimes those things we seek can completely do us in – like death from a narcotic overdose.

The year I was born – and that was a LONG time ago – a book was published by a renowned psychologist from Vienna, Austria named Viktor Frankl.  The name of the book is Man’s Search for Meaning.  This book is a repository of many gems, but it challenged Freud because Frankl said,  “When a person cannot find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure…When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Dr. Frankl came up with a three-point system called logotherapy.  First, we distract ourselves with a worthy pursuit.  For instance he suggested that we make a list first thing each day of things that need to get done and tackle them.  Next, take a look at our community and friendships.  If any part of our community or friendships are weighing us down or distracting us, or making us feel bad, get rid of them.  We need to build our own loving community and stay away from unhealthy people.  His last point is the most important.  It is, find a redemptive perspective on our suffering and challenges.  Now this is very tough.  We need to look hard at the challenges we face in life.  We must ask ourselves, have I been blessed by some of these grievances?  If not blessed, have I become more humble, or more tender as a result of these challenges?

Nothing new happens overnight.  But it does give us a place to start -  by getting things done.  This gets us away from dwelling on the stuff we hold in our head.   We slowly examine our surroundings and find people and things that are worthy of our love and generosity.  At last, we become grateful for what we have learned.  Before we know it we are teaching by example.

Ah, thanks be to God.

The Virus Of Perfection March 8, 2014

We never become vulnerable until something happens to hurt us.  We then close ourselves off to anything that might open us to the risk of that hurt again.  We close the door on vulnerability and begin to push ourselves toward a perceived perfection.  Where have our ideals gone?  Western culture with its political and religious corruption have taken them from us.  But no society can endure without a sense of honor and dignity in its set of ideals.  I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said that we needed a Revolution every few hundred years or we will destroy each other with tyranny.

In our personal lives, a sense of personal ideals encourages us to discover what is best in us.  We might reach beyond our perceived limitations and find something new and surprising emerging.  We can awaken a passion that brings out the best in us and we know it.  Suddenly the dream of excellence can become a reality.

John O’Donohue says, “The beauty of the true ideal is its hospitality towards woundedness, weakness, failure and fall-back….people can allow themselves no ease until they come close to the cleansed domain of perfection….This puts them under a great strain.”

We all work so hard trying to appreciate, accept and forgive others.  Once we learn how to do that for ourselves, we can understand our essence and the beauty of the flaw.

 

The Importance Of Prayer March 1, 2014

I have read, and I believe, that God works by order, by law, and by method.  He has shown us how to pray – think about the “Our Father.”  But He has also shown us that as important as prayer is, we cannot drag down His divine operations to the level of our desires.  Prayer is a method that gives us the ability to lift our will into correspondence with God’s methods.

God has stores of blessings intended for us.  But we must earnestly correspond with Him by prayer in order to receive them.  I believe that prayer is as important and as necessary as a job that pays for our earthly needs.

Praying fails because we have already prepared and told God what we want.  The hard part is adjusting our desires and our will to His will.  So before you start to pray, ask God to help you adjust your will to His will.  Tell Him you want to fully surrender to Him and you need His help to do so.

Remember to delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

The Ecology Philosopher February 18, 2014

“Unhappily, the extensive moralizing within the ecological movement has given the public a false impression that they are being asked to make a sacrifice–to show more responsibility, more concern, and a nicer moral standard.  But all of that would flow naturally and easily if the self were widened and deepened so that protection of nature was felt and perceived as protection of our very selves.”   Arne Ness,  Ecology Philosopher

Grim determination or persuasion cannot serve our world, nor can preaching too much.  We probably can only save the earth–did you hear me?–SAVE THE EARTH–by loving it enough.  We become what we love.  Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so he is.”  We change our perceptions, and we change our world.

Look into this world seven generations from now.  What would you want to leave your future generations?  I want to leave them the powers of love and connectedness, and an earth that is clean and green and peaceful.  We need to start now, right this very moment.

May the Universe bless and keep you as we all walk this very difficult path.

What Do I Accumulate? February 10, 2014

This is a story about Francis of Assisi.  Francis was a rich young man, with high spirit.  But he was not happy.  He felt his life was incomplete, and he didn’t know how to fix it.  One day he was out riding and came upon a leper.  Dirty, loathsome, and very sick, he looked up at Francis and ask if he had something to eat – anything – since he felt so weak.  Almost immediately something came over Francis.  He left his horse, went to the man and lifted him, encircling him against his body, hugging him tightly.  He then looked into the man’s face and saw the face of Christ.

My dear friends, you probably will not remember who won this Super Bowl five years from now, but I’ll bet you remember a teacher who gave you her or his time and loving interest and made you feel good forty years ago.

This is a story about small things – not big things.  We need to accumulate lots of loving little small things because these are the things that make a difference.  The large HD TV will not last forever.  But a loving gesture given to one who needs it will last forever.

Recently a dear friend died.  She was quiet, sweet and always had a smile on her face.  She taught Sunday School to 4th and 5th graders for 60 years at the First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.  She never made much noise about what she did or who she helped.  But you would have been amazed to see the number of her students who showed up at her Memorial Service.

We are all connected by the great mystery of love.  What is our destiny?  We are supposed to take care of the small business that is in front of us and treat it gently.

Taylor Caldwell And Eternal Love February 2, 2014

I recently read a short story about author, Taylor Caldwell.  For those of you who are younger than I and do not know who she is, I will give you a short bio.  She was born in 1900 in the UK.  She began writing very early in her life and saved literally hundreds of manuscripts.  Her first book Dynasty of Death hit the New York Times best seller list and she was off and running, churning out at least a book a year through her hey days in the 1950′s and 1960′s.  She wrote historical romances and several books with religious themes.

Taylor Caldwell married four times.  She had two daughters by different husbands, and one daughter committed suicide.  She wrote for the John Birch Society, studied reincarnation, and for a time, believed in it.  She was estranged from her children saying that some women were not meant to be “Mommies.”  At various times she professed to be Catholic, Protestant, and Agnostic.  She had a temper and a great talent.

Now here is the story.  Her second husband was a man named Marcus Reback.  She was married to Marcus for 40 years until his death.  It was the happiest and longest of her marriages.  Marcus collaborated  with her on many of her books.

It has been said that when Marcus died, Taylor was overcome with grief.  His was a protracted illness and being prepared for it, Taylor pleaded with her husband to send her a sign if there is life on the other side and asked him to promise to do so.  He promised, and minutes later passed away.

The morning after his passing, Taylor went to her garden as she always did.  She cried out to her husband that her grief was so strong and her pain so wrenching that she feared she would die if she did not get a sign from him.  Her gaze swept over an area where an unproductive rosemary bush had lingered for thirty years, inexplicably now in full bloom.  She whispered a fervent ‘thank you’ to her husband.  She told interviewers later that rosemary means remembrance.

Given Taylor’s proclivity for imagination and great press, I cannot say this is a true story, although it was presented as such.  However, I do know that love pulsates with an energy that cannot be stopped.  God is always there whispering to us, “Awaken from your stupor to the love that is eternal.”