Saturday, April 14, 2012

Finding Truth

During this time of griefwalking, I've been reading a great deal...all non-fiction, my go-to choice under stress. (I know some people escape into fiction, but I prefer to have the groundedness of non-fiction when I'm feeling ungrounded myself.  Fiction is just too intense!)

I'm reading various things from histories to self-help, but my current spiritual reading ranges from old classics like My Daily Bread and Introduction to the Devout Life to best-sellers like Tolle's the Power of Now.  I've had some people question how I can read both very traditional spiritual works and New Age material, sometimes at the same time. (Well, not the EXACT same time since I can't read two books simultaneously, but I do put one down and pick another one up.)

It's because of something I was taught many years ago by a very wise spiritual mentor: As long as I am secure in what I believe, in what I know to be my experience of reality, finding truth in new places is like picking up an atlas after having used google maps. The place I'm looking at hasn't changed.  The only thing that has changes is the lens through which I look.

In short: take what edifies and ignore the rest.

Take Tolle's the Power of Now for instance.  He has his own interpretation of Jesus and his teachings, along with some uniquely Tollean ideas about Buddha and other spiritual teachers as well.  I don't read his words as gospel (all puns intended), but I did find his underlying teaching, about the important of being in the present, in the "now" to be valuable: "Wherever you are, be there totally".

In fact, it sort of reminded me of Brother Lawrence who tells us to find God in the pots and pans and our daily activities:
Men invent means and methods of coming at God's love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?
 Both of them remind me that as long as I try to live in either the future or the past, I'm going to be unable to find peace, surrender or the touch of the Divine. The rest of the examples of either a French religious who lived several centuries ago and whose life doesn't resemble mine at all or a New Age guru who hobnobs with Oprah and whose life doesn't resemble mine at all I just ignore. 

I take what edifies and leave the rest.

And that's how I can have wildly divergent spiritual authors sharing my nightstand!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The "Icon-ic" Life

A French friend of mine shared this iconographer's prayer and I find it particularly meaningful right now.

Come to my assistance;
May my life be an icon reflecting You.
Guide what I think, inspire what I do,
Direct where I go, illuminate what I see,
Put your Word in my mouth,
So that for You my life will become an art work,
a sacred work;
So that whomever looks at me will recognize You.
Blessed are you, Lord, to have made me your brush,
O You, who are the artist of my life.

Incidentally, I have "written" a few icons in a past life.  This one of John the Baptist is my favorite.

(Perhaps one of these days I'll finish the one of Mary Magdalene that I've started.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Third times the charm?

This is the third post I've tried to write today.  The other two just went so far and then slumped like a punctured popover.

I tried to write about how much I've journaled since Mother died, but it just sounded silly.

I tried to write about how much fear I've experienced these last two months, but it sounds rather whiny and self-indulgent.

So this time I'm just going to say that while I still want a bona fide miracle like I wrote about yesterday, I'm more resigned to the idea that, for whatever reason, a bona fide miracle isn't going to least not anytime soon.

There still are two major areas in my life where I can do absolutely nothing to affect the outcome.  All I can do is wait on someone else's free will.  And that just plain sucks.  Not only the waiting, but the fact that the other people involved have free will.  They can do whatever they want and I have no choice but to accept their decisions. Did I mention how much that sucks?

In both cases, I do believe that what I want is in God's will.  Both involve restoration, a giving back of what the locust has eaten.  In both cases, I've done my best to say, "Your will, not mine," to God and mean it.  But I could be deluding myself that they are what God wants for me.  I've deluded myself before and I probably will again.

But I continue to pray that if these really are God's will that he will enter in and create the miracle that seems the only way out.

But nonetheless, having the decision lie in someone else's hands and having to wait and see what they decide sucks.

Yes, it really does.

Facing Fear

 I've always been a journal keeper, but since my mother's death, I've written pages and pages, more than any other time in my life.  Oddly enough, they aren't in a journal, but on scraps of paper, yellow pads, backs of envelopes...whatever seems to be near at hand.  The other odd thing is that I have always been nearly compulsive about writing with black ink, but every word I've written in the past two months has been in blue.

I don't know what that all means, if it means anything at all, but it is something I've noticed.

I've also been reading in great gulps, washed down with more journaling.  My reading list includes everything from spiritual classics like My Daily Bread to modern best-sellers like Tolle's The Power of Now, books on grief, books on new life, on change, on fear, on anxiety, on transformation, on change.  I prowl through the library listings, ordering titles to be sent to my branch library, downloading eBooks, visiting the hospice center bereavement lending section.  The volumes cascade along the sides of my bed, tuck beneath my pillow, slip under the seat of the car, back up on my Kindle. And always, along with the books, are the pieces of paper and the blue pen.

Today I took some time to go back and reread some of the pages.  One of the constant, reoccurring themes is an intense, at times almost overwhelming, sense of fear.  It drips off the pages, in the same way that it saturates my life right now.

Right this moment, there are no wild animals gnawing on my feet; no notice of foreclosure has been posted to my door; my refrigerator has bread, eggs and fruit enough for a meal and the electricity is still on, so I'm not in any actual danger.  The reality is that I am afraid of what might be coming next. 

With all that has happened recently, I find myself in an almost constant state of anxiety about the future.  It's not entirely paranoid, given that from the time my mother broke both her legs and that midnight hospital trip until now, almost every phone call has meant something new and painful that I have to deal with. I've been in a state of high alert for nearly two years and that much adrenalin pouring into my body all the time has to create the ideal petri dish for fear and anxiety.  I find my mind racing, trying to out think whatever new dread might be lurking, as if I could somehow outwit the future if I just imagine all the possible awful things that could happen.  And let me tell you.  I can imagine  A LOT!!

Now here's where a person who is a good example of faith would insert an uplifting lesson involving some pithy experience.  But as I admitted a few days ago, I'm really not a very good example right now.

There are a couple of things I can say, however:
1. Sometimes just getting through a day is enough.
2. Breathing is really important.  The more stressed and afraid, the more important it is to breathe.
3. Fear can be a great tool to dieting.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Bad Example of Faith

Sometimes I feel like I'm a bad example of what a person of faith should be.

I read other people's inspirational works...heck, sometimes I even reread things I have written in the past...which are filled with positivity, faith, hope and a "Isn't God GREAT!" attitude, and think, "Is that what it means to be a person of faith?  To pretend that things are just spiffy whiffy wonderful when it's patently obvious that they aren't and things are pretty sucky?"   And because I'm not feeling like I can be all happy and perky and cheerful about my life, I'm a bad example of what a person of faith should be.

Now I do believe that God is Great.  I do believe.  I do have faith...waxing and waning, stronger at times and weaker at others, but I do have faith.  However in this season of my life, I am finding it extraordinarily difficult to be gushing about miracles in my life and how I sense God's presence with me all the time.

Because I don't.  

That's why I say I'm a bad example of what a person of faith should be.  Take today for instance.  I suppose I could write about how I saw a lovely flower in the median strip as I was waiting for a red light and how overcome I was with the absolute miracle of life springing up in the midst of concrete and lifelessness.  I could wax poetic about the sweetness of the blossom amid the pain of life and go on about how it was such a profound example of looking for miracles that I was moved to spontaneously sing songs of praise.

I could, but I won't because that's not what happened.

I saw the flower--a dandelion--and thought, "Why is it that 'weeds' are more tenacious than flowers?" and then the light changed and I was on my way.

What it comes right down to is that I want a realio, trulio miracle in my life right now.  Not one of the "if you look hard enough you'll see a miracle" kind of miracles, but one that makes my heart stop with the sheer shock of it all.  Not a small, everyday, seek and ye shall find miracle, but the kind of miracle that makes me say, "Wow! Nothing is impossible with God!!"

I know I should be content with the miracle of dandelions in concrete, but the truth is I want more.

I can't help it.  I just do.

I want a miracle.

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Growth Chart of Life

When we are younger, or perhaps I should say, when I was younger, I saw life as a sort of growth chart, in which the natural progression was for things to get bigger and better.  What was difficult today would be easier tomorrow.  The latter part of life was supposed to be the "Golden Years" where a lot of the struggles of daily existence were finally at rest.

The last couple of years of my life have pretty much wrecked that operating theory. I never, even in my most driven nightmares, could have imagined that I would be experiencing the kind of challenges at this point in my life. It has been, without exaggeration, the very worst years of my entire life.  In fact, if you put the "worst-ness" of these past few years on a scale against all the rest of my life combined, these years would tip the balance.

To be brutally honest, I don't much like it.  A friend said today that God must love me very much and think I'm very strong to give me so many challenges.  I didn't say it, but I thought, "I'd just as soon he didn't love quite so much, thank you very much."

The hardest thing about the challenges...and they have ranged from the long journey to the end of my mother's life to a major betrayal that I'll talk about once the criminal aspect is made public (and it will be soon) to finances to health and a whole lot else is that the accumulative aspect makes it hard to have hope for the future. And that's what my mental concept of the "growth chart of life" had been about--the idea that even when things were static or negative, it would get better.

Now I find myself wondering if things will ever get better. And fearful that they just might get worse instead.

I've read (and written) enough inspirational material to know that this is the place where I'm supposed to  give some uplifting anecdote about how God has answered a prayer recently and hope has risen up in my soul.  Yes, God has answered prayers for me, but the darkness is still thick and the struggles have not abated.  I'm still in the Dark Night and there are no streaks of light that indicate dawn anytime soon.

Perhaps, in a few weeks, months or years, I will be able to look back and say, "There was growth after all.  And things really did get better."

Until then, all I can do is take a deep breath and be grateful for "One more day. Just one more day."

Sunday, April 08, 2012

First Time and Sunday Gratitude

This was the first holiday I have ever spent in my entire life without being with someone I was related to.  It was both harder than I anticipated and yet, perhaps because it was Easter, filled with a certain grace as well.

So today I am grateful for friends who allowed me to share their Easter with them, even though I was probably not very good company.

For ham for dinner.  I love ham, but don't fix it for myself.

For three daffodils that survived the snow storm.

For a chocolate bunny.  In an Easter basket I was given!!!  Dove chocolate bunny.

And for Elijah, who will be six soon, who came and sat on my lap and said, "Deene," very softly and touched my heart.