Archive for the ‘Silver Linings’ Category

When prayer became my primary vocation, in all honesty, I saw it a my default operating system. No longer able to withstand full time employment or even to responsibly and consistently volunteer, I began to see prayer as the way I could justify my existence. Was I in for a surprise! God has provided for my every need, including a husband who cherishes me and a retreat-like home condusive to prayer, meditation and healing. Then God brought into my life teachers and friends to support my new life as a Christian mystic and contemplative. I have come to see prayer as not only aligning myself with the Kingdom of God but as an essential foundation for God at work in time and place. My heart has become filled with joy, cradled with peace and empowered in Christ-conciousness. All I can say is “Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you!”

Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.

-Mohandas Gandhi

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Brain Fog

One of the most annoying aspects of my primary health challenge is my impaired brain, not so fondly called “brain fog” by my fellow sufferers. Perhaps being 60 has something to do with it but most days the Oz song “If I Only Had a Brain” is the background music to my life. At one time, I did have one. A brain that is. I miss it.

Today I’ve been trying to learn to download a book through Dropbox and trying to understand what the excitement about the Higgs Boton is all about. These two things are equally baffling. I think I remember a time when I could figure things out but then I remember the grade I received in Pysics 101. It was a “C” and that was a gift. Maybe I never was as smart as I remember being. Humbling thought.

Thank God for friends whose brains still work. Mike walked me through the Dropbox and told me it wasn’t necessary for me to understand the Higgs Boton thingy. Such understanding would not improve my quality of life in any way.

Do you ever feel left behind in this ever evolving technological world? I’m thinking that maybe it’s okay as we get older to not be on the cutting edge. Perhaps the world needs something else from us like taking the time to think, and communicate, and ponder, and to stay calm in the knowledge that all things will pass. Even when my brain feels like a vat of glue, I still can listen and occasionally be wise. I’m thinking this world needs the wisdom of it’s elders even more than it needs me or any of us non-scientists to understand electromagnetic fields and that thingy called the Higgs Boton.

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September is National Pain Awareness Month (probably along with many other things). Pain is such a subjective experience and certainly not one to be embraced but rather endured. I recently read through my journal and found this reflection on suffering. I’d been in a flare-up of chronic pain about a year ago when I wrote this. Trust me – I do whatever I can to treat and avoid pain. However, it is my daily companion and this is a personal reflection on that experience.

“This causes me to reflect on the meaning of pain in my life and the suffering of Christ. I think this can only be understood in the mystical sense. We are told that when we suffer for Christ’s sake, we share in the glory of Christ. I never have understood this. It was taught to me as a form of hope in the afterlife but I think that misses the point.

When Christ is understood as the second person of the Trinity and not merely Jesus of Nazareth, when Christ is understood as God’s reflection in Creation and as the realization of living fully human and fully divine, then this suffering of the physical body is a share of Christ’s suffering. Each of us bears what is our lot for the sake of eternal purposes beyond this individual life. Truly one does not know divinity in this life except through the pain of being sculpted through life’s experiences for God’s purposes.

It is in this sensed that I understand my own suffering which is truly minimal compared to the need for it. The balance of dark and light, joy and sorrow, good and evil, the poles necessary for creation all require a modicum of suffering. And so I endure this pain for a purpose unknown to me but glorious just the same. It is an acceptance that comes from lifelong love of Christ.

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This is a quote from a man who started New Hope Ministry in a little baptist church here in the Southern Tier of NY state. “I believe God doesn’t waste a hurt” says Ray Kuhr. His program is an expansion of 12-step programs and is aimed at all addictions. I have long thought that the modern term for sin is addiction and that the remedy is the same.
I continue to slowly read the Bhagavad Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda. I spent a week pondering this segment beginning on page 256

Ignorance (born of cosmic delusion) is the greatest sin because it eclipses that divine Self and produces the limitation of ego or body conciousness, the root cause of the three-fold sorrow of man – physcial, mental and spiritual. “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) The unspiritual man living in the sin of ignorance experiences a living death – denied the life-breath of truth realization, he is a dream puppet dancing on the strings of illusion. … The devotee must rather demonstrate to the glory and honor of his true Self – the “son of God,” the image of God dwelling in the flesh – his immortal kinship with the beloved Father-God…..he who dishonourably relinquishes the fight against temptations experiences a living death.

God doesnt’ waste a hurt….I do believe that absolutely everything that happens in this mortal world is a part of God’s redemptive plan. If we could see from the perspective of eternity, we might find the sorrows of this life a noble participation in the divine cosmic plan. We bear these things for God’s sake, for the sake of that divine image for which our bodies have been made. If we bear our sorrows as God’s sorrows rather than as some personal divine “gotcha”, perhaps the hurt we so dearly feel will be for a much higher purpose. Rather than seeing our selves as worthless sinners, if we see ourselves as divine souls living this particular human experience for God’s sake, than each hurt will be redeemed.

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I haven’t been able to post much the past few days. Travelling does me in. Insomnia and other sleep disorders are par for the course with Fibromyalgia. I have developed an adverse reaction to Ambien and Lunesta – I sleep walk and sleep eat to the tune of a 30 pound weight gain…and I needed to lose more than 30 pounds before this all started. So no medications, just giving the herbal remedies a try. This means I am unable to get to sleep until 5 or 6 am and then only for a few hours. Which means the pain I have raises to the level of tranisiton labor pains. Fortunely these pains move around from one muscle insertion point to another so I don’t get bored and I have relief in the area the pain has left.
If you are still reading this and are not totally bored with this list of complaints, I have found a way to redeem this experience. About five years ago, I learned several chants – Hebrew, Latin and Sanskrit. They are all prayers to God for clarity or mercy or disolution of delusions. Because I have practiced them so many times, they come to my mind automatically. So when the sleeplessness persists, my mind automatically goes to the Jesus Prayer “Om Jesu Christ” and then a few hours later to the Gayatri mantra (the most ancient prayer known to us) or to the Shema (the ancient prayer of the Hebrew people). As these prayers sing through my mind, I am lifted out of myself and into the presence of God. There I remember all the people who have asked me to pray for them. And I bring the battlefields of our earth to God’s attention. I remember the terribly disfigured and emotionally racked veterans of these most recent wars and I imagine their spirits to be healed. By the time the sun comes up, I am usually very relaxed and able to rest deeply with a sense of peace that is so full and abiding that it brings tears of joy to my eyes. I have no words to describe this. I can only say that I will gladly, fearlessly, welcome the sleeplessness and pain to reach this place of heaven on earth.
I offer you this prayer that has helped me re-imagine my own burdens: “O Lord, sculpt thou me according to thy desires.”

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The nativity story as you have never seen or heard before! By Linda C. Stafford

My husband and I had been happily (most of the time) married for five years but hadn’t been blessed with a baby. I decided to do some serious praying and promised God that if He would give us a child, I would be a perfect mother, love it with all my heart and raise it with His Word as my guide.
God answered my prayers and blessed us with a son. The next year God blessed us with another son. The following year, He blessed us with yet another son. The year after that we were blessed with a daughter. My husband thought we’d been blessed right into poverty. We now had four children, and the oldest was only four years old. I learned never to ask God for anything unless I meant it. As a minister once told me, “If you pray for rain, make sure you carry an umbrella.”
I began reading a few verses of the Bible to the children each day as they lay in their cribs. I was off to a good start. God had entrusted me with four children and I didn’t want to disappoint him. I tried to be patient the day the children smashed two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor searching for baby chicks.

I tried to be understanding when they started a hotel for homeless frogs in the spare bedroom, although it took me nearly two hours to catch all twenty-three frogs.

When my daughter poured ketchup all over herself and rolled up in a blanket to see how it felt to be a hot dog, I tried to see the humor rather than the mess. In spite of changing over twenty-five thousand diapers, never eating a hot meal and never sleeping for more than thirty inutes at a time, I still thank God daily for my children.

While I couldn’t keep my promise to be a perfect mother – I didn’t even come close – I did keep my promise to raise them in the Word of God. I knew I was missing the mark just a little when I told my daughter we were going to church to worship God, and she wanted to bring a bar of soap along to “wash up” Jesus, too.
Something was lost in the translation when I explained that God gave us everlasting life, and my son thought it was generous of God to give us his “last wife.”
My proudest moment came during the children’s Christmas pageant. My daughter was playing Mary, two of my sons were shepherds and my youngest son was a wise man. This was their moment to shine.

My five-year-old shepherd had practiced his line, “We found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.” But he was nervous and said, “The baby was wrapped in waddling clothes.” My four-year-old “Mary” said, “That’s not ‘waddling clothes,’ silly. That’s waddling toes.”
A wrestling match broke out between Mary and the shepherd and was stopped by an angel, who bent her halo and lost her left wing. I slouched a little lower in my seat when Mary dropped the doll representing Baby Jesus, and it bounced down the aisle crying, “Mama-mama.” Mary grabbed the doll, wrapped it back up and held it tightly as the wise men arrived.
My other son stepped forward wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown, knelt at the manger and announced, “We are the three wise men, and we are bringing gifts of gold, common sense and fur.”
The congregation dissolved into laughter, and the pageant got a standing ovation. “I’ve never enjoyed a Christmas program as much as this one,” laughed the pastor, wiping tears from his eyes. “For the rest of my life, I’ll never hear the Christmas story without thinking of gold, common sense and fur.”
“My children are my pride and my joy and my greatest blessing,” I said as I dug through my purse for an aspirin.

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The Shape of Living: Spiritual Directions for Everyday Life by David F. Ford utilizes the concept of being overwhelmed as a way that we are spiritual formed by the events in our lives and how we respond to those events. He calls these “overwhelmings” which got me to thinking.
We’ve had some overwhelmings in this part of the country – literally covered with a flood. Fortunately for us, we are fine – just lost a hunk of property to erosion from our creek that is usually 5 feet across and a few inches deep. Last week it was 35 feet across and about that deep, a raging river.
That makes me think about what it is really like to be overwhelmed when there is nothing to hang on to. I remember many times like that in my life, the last time being when I became too ill to work about five years ago and have since been in unremitting pain. I keep returning to the first chapter of John and to the 23rd Psalm, going deeply into meditation on phrases from those scriptures.
We’ve watched houses floating down our rivers, homes completely lifted off their foundations. It is no wonder that when people are overwhelmed, they dip into the darkness. Sometimes it appears that the darkness is all there is. Certainly I have had times when that was all I could see. In those times, it was only God holding me that saved me but I certainly was not aware that I was being held in the moment. Like those homes and pieces of homes swirling down the flooded rivers, there are times we have no choice but to just wait until we land and hope we don’t drown in the process. There is no ability to hold on to anything during those times. The floods move too quickly and unexpectedly.
We may not turn to what appears as darkness (whether it be drugs, sex or alcohol) but we might shrink back into being judgmental or clingy or angry or completely insecure or any number of other attitudes that are equally destructive. For myself, I have found that anything that I have judged negatively in someone else, I end up finding in myself at some point in time. Life just seems to me to be an adventure in one humbling experience (one overwhelming) after another with moments here and there where the light shines brightly and peace overwhelms into depths the darkness cannot reach.

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A little over two years ago, we had a fire in our townhouse. The Christmas decorations were still up which meant that most were either smoke or fire damaged. Fortunately, I had decided to decorate the tree in brass and white that year; “fortunately” because brass does not get smoke or fire damaged and “fortunately” because the ornaments that held memories of my adult children’s childhood were packed away in a smoke-retardant container.


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This is a four-day weekend of traditonal family gatherings in the United States. Meant to be a time of reflection and thanksgiving, it has become a weekend of football watching, movie going and over-eating, not to mention a time of creating memories. Every year, our family, in all it’s manifestations, looks forward to time with family. And every year, it seems the event itself disappoints. It’s the memories that are the glue that binds us.

Clement of Alexandria has some profound observations of the limits of memory:

“If any man thinnks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. For the truth is never mere opinion. But the supposition of knowledge inflates and fills with pride…but love edifies….if any man loves, he is known.”


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At one time, the only songs sung in churches were the Psalms and the liturgy of orthodox chanting. A bit restrictive to our age’s way of thinking and yet, it is scripture set to music that is easiest to remember. In my youth, Psalm 100 was popular. It is a fitting Psalm for this Thanksgiving week here in the United States:

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD,

all ye lands.

Serve the LORD with gladness:

come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the LORD he is God:

it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,

and into his courts with praise:

be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his truth endureth to all generations.


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