Love: Wrapped in Feelings

A lot of us talk about love without ever really understanding it.  One of the major sticking points of a spiritual life has been the mandate to “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”  Right now I’m got a neighbor that really makes that difficult.

A lot of people make that difficult.  On Friday there was a little old lady who didn’t like giving me the right-of-way at a four-way stop.  I could see her shaking her finger at me in my rear view mirror.  I think to myself, “Geez lady.  Should you be driving?”  Irritation wells up in me like as easy spring.  I shake my head to let it go and look up to see her scowling face and shaking finger.  Obviously she wasn’t letting it go and she wasn’t even in the right.

Ok, Lord, just how do I love people like this, the people I don’t like, the people who reject me and say bad things about me?  People can really make some stupid choices, me included.  How do you do it, this Love thing?  How did you send a part of yourself to die for this sorry bunch?”  No answer flashes in my head.  I am left to allow my irritation to run a quick course and switch my thoughts to something more pleasant.  This is a skill I have countless opportunities to practice.  The introvert in me often returns home feeling like the world has given me a beating.

This morning, I awoke and decided that it was the perfect time to pray.  I wanted some answers.

One of the people I follow on the internet, Teri Goetz,  suggested a ritual to dive into one’s inner wisdom.  The prayerful question to ask:

“What do I need to know right now?”

Asking is the easy part.  Listening to the answer, allowing it to come is the hard part.  I spend a half hour trying to resist my own desire to answer the question for myself.  Slightly frustrated I get up, start a pot of coffee and turn on the computer.  Suddenly, in my head I hear,  “You are a child of the most high God.” Since this isn’t the normal way I talk.  I pay attention.  I think about arguing for a second and then settle in to a warm fuzzy feeling.

The other person I follow daily is Mastin Kipp over at The Daily Love.  In my inbox is Kipp’s blog post for today.  In it, he writes:

The Uni-verse is a diverse place and when we celebrate this diversity instead of condemning it, we become more spiritual – that is to say, more Loving. And we begin to hate others less when we hate ourselves less for feeling what we feel. The other way to say it is that we Love others MORE when we begin to Love ourselves and our feelings more.

Feeling your feelings and not judging yourself or others – this is a place of spiritual mastery. Can you do it? What feelings are you avoiding feeling? And why?

Feelings good, bad, and indifferent are a portal to the spiritual life.  They are what make us uniquely human.  They are what they are. Being annoyed with my grumpy elderly driver was human and okay.  I didn’t turn my car into a battering ram and I certainly didn’t give her the finger.  Maybe that didn’t feel loving to me but it was.  I often have this unrealistic expectation that doing the right thing the loving thing is always accompanied with this saintly feeling of goodness.  I’ve been kidding myself.

Some times the loving thing to do is to walk away and feel the hurt and rejection.  Allowing people to experience the impact of their own choices, giving them a chance to take the responsibility for their lives  and to travel a path without you is the loving thing to do.  And some times it’s not.

Wanting answers doesn’t mean they will magically appear in my time frame.  They always come but I often have to wait, and wait and wait. In the mean time, I muddle through.  I make mistakes and feel angry or sad and a thousand flavors in between.   When I allow the feelings to run their course, to fully experience them and persevere in the challenges daily life throws at me, my spiritual being grows and expands to show me the path I need to walk to become a more complete human being.

 

 

Jesus Take the Wheel

(Thanks, Carrie Underwood and Youtube.)

The small god of electronic and electrical devices works overtime in our house.  This is not a benevolent god but a capricious sprite with a terrible sense of humor.

The fan in the old PC sounds like a jet engine on approach to PDX.

The stove won’t ignite but will collect lethal and explosive levels of gas.  Don’t even think of trying to use it.

The microwave above the stove stores my Dutch oven and collects kitchen grease like no body’s business.

Our dishwasher is a dim memory.  (Its physical remains have been dissected by the boy and I and used to host a tomato plant in years past.)

Things break and fall apart on a regular basis  in our house, people included.  I often threaten to attach the latest broken item on the end of a rope (always inanimate objects) to the bumper of my van and give it a spin around an empty parking lot.  In my mind, I imagine my latest hated appliance on a rope smashing into as many parking bumps, curbs and poles as possible.  All the while, I  laugh, a giddy laugh of vengeance and destruction.

I’ve yet to do it, of course.  Not many church or store parking lots are going to welcome me with open arms.  In my fantasy rampage of destruction I see broken plastic and computer components laying in haphazard streams of glorious garbage which signifies a liberation of the soul that I will only meet in my dreams.

This image is so satisfying that when things break or quit working,  I take a quick moment to visualize the process of parking lot destruction and my frustration dissipates.  After all,  it only a thing: a broken thing but still a thing.

This morning I suddenly realized that what I like best about my destructive fantasy is that I’m in the driver’s seat.  Most of the time, I tend to feel like the thing tied to the bumper.  Ouch.

Acceptance is one of the central issues of a spiritual life.  Religions vary as to the ratio between acceptance of God’s will and the role of an individual’s free will.  Thinking about it makes my head hurt.  Theologians and angels dancing on heads of pins may debate it but when you’re driving the car or being drug behind it, your position in the universal scheme of things is the difference between sitting in a comfy seat or being covered with road grime and gravel as your life is quickly extinguished.  Perspective — placement—is everything.  How you feel about it and how that feeling fuels faith, is everything else.

When I’m behind that vehicle wearing gravel like body glitter, I need God in that driver’s seat.   In extremis, nothing else matters but having a ghost of a chance at salvation.  I, however, am not an easy appliance to save.  I’m headstrong.  I like to argue with God over who gets to drive.

Figuring out what I can control, what I can do something about isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Maybe because I’m such a stubborn case and tend to cloud the issue with talk of driving and glorious streams of haphazard garbage.  Fortunately God is patient and kind.  He allows me to flop around in the gravel or occasional take the car out for a spin so I can learn to get my priorities straight.  Every day is a new opportunity to learn to allow God to take the lead.  I’m tired of the view from the back.  I want to be riding alongside the driver.  The seat is warm and ready for me.  There is an amazing road trip in my future.

The Calling

For months, I’ve been trying to escape the obvious.  I dance all around the issue.  I procrastinate. I avoid.  I know in the fiber of my being that I need to write about spiritual things.  I need to have the courage of my convictions and publicly commit to a belief in God, to write about my reluctance to allow God to have center stage.  I am ashamed to admit that belief in God often feels embarrassing to me, like I’m some ignorant back woods peasant.  I’ve been afraid to be ridiculed for my profound belief, so I’ve tried to ignore it and down play it.  It’s just not working for me.

To those people I love, who question religion, who challenge God’s existence, I have no intention of insisting we believe the same thing.  After all, I am rational enough to know that I can’t prove the existence of God and that it is possible I am wrong. (For the curious, consider Thomas Aquinas’ arguments for the existence of God if you enjoy theological mind candy.)

My life may end in an exhalation of breath and the energy that was me, will return to the earth and become part of the soil in centuries hence.  I’m really okay with that.  In the meantime, my belief is grounded in something as solid and ephemeral as my personal experience with God.  If it’s fiction, then I am delighted with the illusion because this Divine Illusion is the only thing holding my life together and giving it meaning.  I love the God-Story. . . believing I am infinitely loved by a Creator. . . believing I am saved through no merit of my own.

Trying to ignore God’s place in my life has really gotten me in trouble.

Who am I kidding except myself?

Did I really think that I could ever remove God from center stage given my history?  Can a leopard really change its spots?  Can a simple girl from a German Catholic town enter a convent and then leave without giving God a second thought in all the years since? (Insert an emphatic, NO!  I CAN’T. here, Carol.)

My understanding of God has certainly morphed over the years.  I’ve had lots of experiences.  I’ve tried to elude “The Hound of Heaven” but the biblical references, theological asides and my personal belief keeps creeping through my life and my words like veins in a body.  And like veins in a body, this belief is my life blood.  It’s time to get real.

Yes, I know that I’m not the ideal spokesperson.  Yes, I know that I’m a fallible, often crabby, cynic.  I’m certainly not always kind or understanding. There are people, some close to me, that I don’t get along with and don’t even want to.  I’m hopelessly human and maybe that’s what makes me uniquely qualified to enter the realm of the spiritual.  God knows I have the inclination, the desire.  God knows I love words and have a bit of the gift of the blarney (even though I’m as German as a potato pancake.) God also knows that I’ve been very busy trying to avoid following the calling of my own heart largely out of fear.  No one wants to look like an idiot and feeling like one is even worse.  Looking like an idiot because I have a conviction that God is calling me forth is so scary that I haven’t wanted to go there.

Unfortunately, everything has been blocked due to my reluctance to follow my heart, the heart that God holds in his/her hand.  So, what the heck!  It’s time to go out on that limb, that limb of conviction and know that it might get sawed right off.  Nothing is more important to me and my life than the spiritual, than the belief I carry in my heart that God is love and that my primary calling is to explore what that means and to be willing to share that journey with others.  It doesn’t mean I’ll always live up to my end of the bargain.  I will fail at Love more times than I’ll succeed just like I may fail at becoming a more spiritual person and an occasional spiritual writer (but my instinct is telling me this won’t be so.)

I’ve failed enough over the years at a lot of different things to know that failure, while grossly unpleasant, won’t kill me.  Failure has been the most effective teacher for this potato pancake.  Bring it on, God.  You’ve got my full attention.  I’m on that limb and I’m holding the saw.  It’s up to you, Lord.  You win.  I cave.  Show me what to do, what to say, which way to go.  I’ve got some failing to do and Your Name is going to be all over it.

 

 

From the Ragamuffin Gospel

Some time this last year I read a book by David Timm entitled The Power of Blessing.  In that book, Timm references a quote from Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel.  Manning was a priest, author and wrote candidly about his struggles with alcoholism.  Manning’s humble realism and poetic soul appeals to me.  I copied the following down from Timm’s book which quotes Manning on page 19.  The piece of paper on which I wrote these words is passed around from pile to pile.  The edges are starting to wear down.  I reread it often because I can’t help myself.  I especially love the line, “unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.”

I know exactly what that means.

Lately, it’s been hard to write.  I’m afraid too.  Opposition, criticism can really eat away at one’s self esteem, one’s courage.

Life is also crazy busy.  I am drug behind the freight train of life struggling to climb aboard.  This isn’t the way I imagined it would be.  There are lots of moments of joy in between moments of grave disappointment.  The cheese on my cracker is Swiss.  Joy is the cheese.  Disappointment are the holes.  Manning reminds me that this is as it should be.  He gives me hope that even though I’m a scalawag with slipping cheese, I am loved beyond imagining.

This is the essence of the Christmas message.  The Nativity Story is the story of simple people, a simple God, and the most humble of beginnings. Love was born into this world in a barn. Imagine the smell of the animals, the flies, the little rodents who love to share spaces like these.  Imagine no snow in the Middle East.  Imagine hot manure.  Imagine a helpless new born baby beside it.

This Good News is the Ragamuffin Gospel.

“The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up, burnt-out.

It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other.

It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together and are too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.

It is for the inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.

It is for the poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents.

It is for the earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.

It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment.

It is for the smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.”

 

I can recycle that scrap of paper.  I write the Ragamuffin Gospel on my soul.

Thanks, Fr. Manning.  I’m beginning to understand the true joy of Christmas.

Prophet in a Strange Land

Some times it seems the harder I try, the worse things get.   I flopped around my week like a fish out of water.   This last week when I listened to career counselors tell high school students how college prepares them for the job market and a better future, I thought of how my degree is helping me now.  I’d be in much better shape if I’d become a mechanic.  While I have no doubt that my degree has increased my quality of life and that at one time it did open doors to jobs I’ve held, it is now basically irrelevant and that was exactly how I was feeling.

At home, as I boldly tried to connect with old and new customers and kept getting voice mails and the occasional live no, I felt irrelevant.  Over weight and out of shape, I felt exhausted and again irrelevant.  I sorted through the past and found things to blame but couldn’t indulge in blaming . Again, the default emotion: irrelevance.  It’s much harder to be a nobody than a some body and I’ve been working too hard at just that.

Negation cripples.  It blocks love and compassion.  My life felt like a land slide on a road no one travels.

This morning, I stumbled to the shower like I usually do.  That transition phase between sleep and wakefulness is an odd territory.  The landscape seems barren yet comfortable and familiar.  There on the plains of my mind, God often speaks.

This admission makes me grossly uncomfortable, yet, here I am again writing about my shower revelations. Over the years, I’ve listened to many people speak about God, His work in their lives, what God wants of us, what we need to do.  Often their words did not match their actions.  They are often blessed with confidence and committed to the conviction that God is speaking through them.  And, often, He  is.  Yet, the God they talk about so easily, is not Someone I know.  I am not like them.

The God, I know, is infinitely confusing.  He/She surrounds my life with ordinary miracles that I usually miss because I’m feeling rather lost and often more than a wee bit worthless.

My belief in God doesn’t instantly make my life better.  The challenges remain and they keep coming.  It’s often enough for me to be more than a little angry at this God.  I’m still waiting for my “joy in the morning”  like a petulant child.  So as a weary morning me steps in the shower, I hear, “You are My voice, crying in the wilderness.”

“Great!  That’s just great!  I already feel like an irrelevant loser and now I’m a voice in the wilderness.  What a lousy job!  How is this going to help me dig my family out of the scary hole we’re in?

In my mind, God smiles patiently, silently, waiting for my little hissy fit to end.   It winds down into exhaustion.  There are some things that are best not to fight. Silent, invisible, smiling God of the shower is one of them.  And, yes, I know how crazy that sounds.

Belief is crazy.  It doesn’t make sense.  It isn’t rational or logical.  I’m often embarrassed to admit I am a believer because it seems so quaint and colloquial, like something evolved civilized people have outgrown, but I can’t deny what I believe to be true:  Some Thing infinitely more evolved than any of us or all of us combined, lies just beyond our rational knowing and this Some Thing loves us beyond our imaging.

This is what I argue with in the shower.  I’m arguing against some amazing, infinitely indescribable, Love.   How stupid is that?

Oh, I’m completely aware that this idea can be one of my own creation.  My desire to have something beyond to believe in might be so great that  in my limited mind and soul,  I may be creating this God as a figment of my imagination.    It doesn’t feel that way.  This shower God that speaks to me and passes on wisdom that pulls me out of my mental prison and opens the door to loving possibility in the midst of a life that looks pretty bleak on paper, is way too good to be a figment of my mind.  I’m just not that gifted.

I stop arguing.  “Ok, I’m a voice in a wilderness.  I don’t want to be.  I think it’s nuts and just out right depressing.  No body is going to listen to me.  Few people listen to me now.  I’m an emasculated Moses without an Aaron.  (I can’t resist an opportunity to be cleverly sarcastic.)

“You’re beginning to get the idea.  I want you to be a prophet.”  This I hear in my head with such clarity, I’m either schizophrenic or actually listening to Some One outside me.  There aren’t too many other possibilities.

“Wait!  This is way too egotistical.  I’m going to sound like an idiot if I ever admit this.  It’s way too arrogant not to mention impossible.  I’m no prophet.  I can’t even comfortably admit that You and I have a relationship.  Who is going to listen to me?”

The Silence that answers, gives me pause.

Can I fight this new level of crazy?

Yesterday,  I spoke with an adult who admitted that he/she is probably an atheist but that even that requires a committment not to believe in something and that wasn’t a place they wanted to go.  I felt sad.  I wanted to say, “I understand how you feel but I believe in a God of Love beyond us and that makes all the difference in my life between a life of meaning and purpose and a life of utter despair. I wish the same for you.  I wish you could know this Love.”

I didn’t say that.  I didn’t say anything.  I didn’t know what to say but I felt sorrow.  I felt like something was missing that God could fill  but I didn’t know how to help.  I couldn’t even share what I believed.  I was ashamed of my silly belief but I was even more ashamed for not sharing it.

No person or idea has been so abused over the centuries, as the concept of a God.  God has been used to justify war, punishment, and all the ills of the world.  Is it any wonder people can be turned off by the idea?  It’s the idea that has been abused and misused, not God.  All the nonsense, we humans toss out that clouds the picture, doesn’t affect who or what God is, was or will be.  It’s us humans that get it all messed up, royally messed up.

“I’m no prophet.”

Hello, God of the Shower, are You listening?  Are You?”

“Write about this, My voice crying in the wilderness.”

And I have.

Create

Following the Daily Love blog by Mastin, today I read a guest post by Chris Assad.  Read the entire article at the link posted posted below.  I’m also sharing a quote on creativity for all those creators out there.

http://thedailylove.com/show-up-for-your-creativity-and-it-will-show-up-for-you/?inf_contact_key=0391e96d470e0bba8339c4bbf5be7fd888f18986e2d4be4e26848f5f8cd3d9f8 

“The truth is that creativity flows when we show up at our instrument, at the blank page, at our mac (or PC), at our desk, at the easel, and when we make ourselves available for creation to happen. The truth is that creativity is one of the greatest gifts we humans possess and it’s available to all of us all the time if we’re open and ready to receive it. The truth is that creativity is magical but only in the sense that it’s one of the ways that the Divine expresses itself through us, not because we need to wait to be chosen or struck by lightning to experience it.”

Surrender

I’m a better lover than a fighter.  Lately, I’ve been doing too much resisting.  Focusing on the lack and not the abundance.

So, this morning, I stumble toward the shower, shuffling like a stiff old man on Thorazine.  There, with sleep threatening to pull me under, I pray with words of desperation,

“God help me.  God help us.”

A groan may have provided punctuation.  I’m not sure.  I couldn’t remember washing my hair so I washed it twice and let the water wash over me as I struggled to figure out what do I do next.  The answer, clear and strong was simply this, “Give up.”

Wooooh.

“Are you kidding me?  This runs counter to everything I’ve been reading and what I’ve been told.  I can’t just give up.”   Inside my head the words came quickly.

“I must be losing my mind.”  I think to myself.

“That would be a cop-out,” I hear in response.  “Oh, and giving up doesn’t mean you stop trying,” the voice adds.

I’m starting to feel annoyed.  “Alright, I’m a little confused.  You’re going to have to clarify this for me. I don’t have a clue where this is headed.”

Silence.

Maybe clues are reserved for those who are more awake.  I go back to trying to figure out where I’m at in my shower routine .  Oh, time to shave my legs.  The razor hits the shower floor not once, not twice but three times.  I sigh.

“Stop focusing on the outcome.  It’s all about the process.  Not everything depends on you.  You certainly can’t figure everything out.  You’ve got to let go of all the mental energy you pour into things.  The end result doesn’t define your worth.  Most things in life have too many variables.  You’re not enjoying the process and you’re making yourself miserable.  You’ve got to give up!”

As I put the end back on the razor, I understand.  I respond in absolute silence.  The warm shower feels good.  I stop worrying about the routine and what needs to be done and tell myself that no matter the outcome, I’m going to do everything I can to enjoy the day ahead.

So far:

I’ve prayed in the shower while I shaved my legs (Yeah! multi-tasking!)

I’ve had a wonderful visit with an old friend.  (R.  I love you!)

Got some valuable information from a dear newer friend.  (Love you too, L.)

Had a nice conversation with a neighbor.  (Miss you when you move, N. )

Made cupcakes and lunch.

Wrote a blog entry.

I’ve spent too much of my last few weeks making myself miserable because of all the things I wasn’t doing and how things just aren’t working out.  I focused on what was wrong.  I whined.  I complained.  Playing worse case scenario made me miserable.  Being angry at other people just eats me up inside.  These are the things I need to give up.  I surrender.

Is It a Problem or a Gift?

Homework, specifically my son’s homework; that is the problem.   My son has an appointment.   In the waiting room,  I read and grapple with the problem of the homework.  The Voice in my head says, “It’s not the homework that’s the problem.  It’s how you are perceiving it.”

I reply enthusiastically, “I’m the problem.  I am my own problem.”

The mental challenge of a good puzzle grips me and I start to think of creative ways to re-frame this picture.

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Arise

“Arise, pick up your bed and walk.” (John 5:8)

These are the first words that pop in my head as I open the page to write.  In the background, Mumford and Sons sing, “Awake, my soul.”

The timing is too perfect.  Obviously, the Universe/God is trying to  tell me something this cloudy Sunday morning.  Under a cloudy, stone-colored sky, my cathedral forms, the houses in the neighborhood: the flying buttresses, the clouds the spires.  The sounds of morning become the hymns.  Mumford and Sons become the morning preacher.  They tell me something I need to hear.  Their voice merges with my own.  How can I add more?

Lyrics to Awake My Soul :

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know
My weakness I feel I must finally showLend me your hand and we’ll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I’ll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep, totally free
Har har, har har
har har, har har

awake my soul…
awake my soul…

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know
My weakness I feel I must finally show
Har har, har har
har har, har har

In these bodies we will live,
in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love,
you invest your life

In these bodies we will live,
in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love,
you invest your life

awake my soul…
awake my soul…
awake my soul…
For you were made to meet your maker

awake my soul…
awake my soul…
awake my soul…
For you were made to meet your maker
You were made to meet your maker

 

I am the person behind the words printed here. I write because my heart will not allow me the option of NOT writing. It has taken me half a life time to discover this basic truth, but now that I have, writing is as natural as breathing. This is where my breath takes the form of words.

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The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
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