Saturday, August 8, 2020

Don't Worry, Seek God's Kingdom

"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you."

Before Jesus spoke these famous words, there was a discussion about how God takes care of all the needs of the natural world as well as those in our lives. There is no need for us to worry about having the food and clothing that we need, when our heavenly Father already knows our needs before we know them. He anticipates those needs and makes arrangements for those needs before we are even aware of them.                                                            

God also knows there is a pandemic at play in the world around us. He was not taken by surprise by this virus that has spread around the world. He knew it was about to happen before China even had become aware that something bad might be happening. God knows how many will die from this virus worldwide. He knows how many will get it and survive. He knows it all. We can worry all we like, but our worrying won't change one thing about it. What will be will be. Not because God has foreordained people to die from the Coronavirus, but because we humans are constantly making decisions that impact not only our lives but also the lives of those around us. God is not surprised by our decisions, but neither does he makes us do what he wills unless we agree to abide by his will. He does, however, know whatever changes will take place because we chose to do one thing and not another. He knows who will be affected if we wear a mask as well as who will be affected if we don't, but he doesn't make us do one thing or another.                         

This is where free will and social responsibility intertwine. We get to choose, but our choices will have consequences and we will have to answer for those consequences one day.  If this virus teaches us nothing else, it should teach us how much our actions impact those around us, even if we don't find out until later. People might not drop dead on the street instantly if we don't wear a mask, but someone you interact with may pass it on to you. You may never know you were carrying it and obliviously pass it on to someone else who has a mild case that passes as nothing more than a cold, which isn't enough to make them think that they have Covid-19, so they go to work at a restaurant that has delivery only. Everyone wears a mask at work and washes their hands frequently. Only when this man with the virus is alone in the restroom, he takes off his mask while he's washing his hands, just to get some fresh air and cool off a minute. Only he suddenly sneezes without warning just before a coworker enters the bathroom, and while those droplets are still dancing across the space between them, this coworker drops his mask too just to cool off for a minute and he inhales the virus via the droplets infected with Covid. He doesn't know anything about the sneeze or his co-worker's mild cold. He thinks that since he got negative test results yesterday, he is clear and won't be any danger to his grandmother, who has been invited to his father's 60th birthday party tomorrow. He attends this birthday party and hugs his grandmother, whom he loves dearly and has gone months without seeing her in person, because she has been self-isolating just in case.  Next thing he knows, his grandmother is in the hospital and has died of Covid-19. He certainly didn't mean to kill his grandmother, but since he tested positively recently at work and his father with diabetes is also in the hospital fighting for his life, he realizes that something happened that connects him to his grandmother and his father's illnesses, even though he doesn't know why or how.                                                                                                         
This young man is puzzled how all of this transpired, yet our heavenly Father knows and understands everything. He knows that even the most innocent of actions can result in death and suffering because nothing ever happens in a vacuum. All of our actions have consequences, positive or negative. Even those actions that are not deliberate. The young man didn't murder his grandmother. She died as a result of someone else's careless actions. Someone infected with Covid-19 transmitted it to someone else because neither of them were wearing masks. Ultimately the virus reaches a vulnerable member of our population and she dies suddenly. The family is both surprised and grief stricken, yet God is not surprised because this faithful believer is welcomed by all her loved ones who have passed before her. All the worry surrounding the grandmother is wasted energy. The prayers weren't wasted because those praying drew closer to heaven by those prayers, just as they will draw closer to heaven and the family will draw closer to each other in their shared grief. This is part of the cycle of life. Eventually, the person who has been spreading the disease becomes painfully aware of the suffering all around him. Several members of his family die, several more get very sick and are impacted negatively for months. Finally, he tests and turns up with antibodies, even though he has no recollection of ever being sick.                                                        
Someone else's free will choice had repercussions in the lives of many people. Their free will choice has intertwined with social responsibility and changed the lives of many. Nothing we do is done in a vacuum. Some things we do have very few repercussions in other people's lives. Others have far-reaching consequences that reverberate throughout our home town, our families, and even our country. At few times in our history has this truth been made more real and more dire, and yet people will continue to shun masks, much as some continue to shun condoms when having sex, even though they have a sexually transmitted disease. These people view their personal freedoms as more important than the well being of those they infect.
At no time in history is it more important for us to weigh personal freedoms against social responsibility. In a day when food shortages are very real for the financially vulnerable, we have to consider our actions closely. if we have not been negatively impacted by the pandemic in the area of finances, we need to look around us and see the needs in our community around us. There are people in this rich country who are worried about food and drink and health care. We need to see how we can help. Those who need help  need to be open to receiving it from neighbors and even strangers because all help is ultimately from our Father in heaven, who knows before we do what we need. Our job is to cease worrying about it and start seeking God's kingdom first, discerning what we can do to meet the needs of others during this time of Coronavirus.              
"25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles strive after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:25-34)                             

So while it may be difficult not to worry, try focusing instead on ways you can relieve the suffering of others. Relieving the suffering of others is always a way to follow God's righteousness. It's a way to couple free will with social responsibility. Just remember to wear a mask and maybe a face shield too. And for heaven's sake, wash your hands and the rest of your body while you're at it. Oh, and you might want to refrain from removing the speck in your brother's eye as well as the log in your own because, you know, that whole need to keep your hands away from your face, as well as someone else's face.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Human Shield, Part One

I have always had this “thing” in my life. I didn't really know where it came from, but it has always been there--beneath the surface or flashing brightly in the sun. Until now, I didn't understand why. I originally thought that it was simply a human trait. That everyone had a similar feeling, but experience screams otherwise. The "thing" to which I refer is a sense of being a human shield to those who can't defend themselves. I have always, always defended underdogs. I think that's where my soft spot for animals of all kinds arises. I think it's why I always defended kids in school who were picked on by bullies. I think it is why I still defend adults even who are bullied. I never viewed it as anything as grandiose as a hero complex. It was just a sense of needing to stand up for those could not or would not stand up for themselves. Only when I'm the one needing an advocate to stand up for me, I haven't always been there for myself.

I have come up with various analogies to try to explain this feeling of needing to be a human shield to others to myself. I have used metaphors like being a mama bear protecting her cubs, only I'm protective of anyone I perceive as an underdog. An example of this is when I was on a public bus near Seattle, and I encountered a group of teens who were picking on this grown man with a bag of groceries. The man was probably in his twenties. Apparently he was giving off a scared rabbit vibe because these teens rather blatantly swiped a bottle of wine out of his grocery bag and refused to put it back. The guy was clearly outnumbered by the teens and overwhelmed by their bully energy. I suspect he had been bullied as a child and a familiar scenario was taking over his will to stand up for himself when he was outnumbered. Had someone not stepped in to help him, I suspect he would have gone home one bottle of wine short.

That someone who stepped in was me, a thirty-something dyke, who looked more like a mom than law enforcement. Still this mom-like dyke spoke up after about a minute of their bullying behavior. I had been watching them, hoping that their better selves would override their bully selves and do the right thing by returning the bottle to its rightful owner. When that was clearly not going to happen, and no one else seemed inclined to step in, I told them to cut the crap and return the bottle they had stolen. They, in the form of a snarky teenage girl, denied that they had stolen anything. Being quite used to confronting snarky teenage girls from my years in social service, I said something like, "Come on. I saw you do it. Just give it back and leave the guy alone." Never doubting for an instant that she would comply, I kept my eye on her until she gave it back. Then she and her friends moved away from the guy and me. I guess all those years of working at an emergency shelter for teenage girls paid off. That authoritarian tone had not left me and the battle ended peacefully. The guy thanked me and that was the end of it.

It wasn't until later that it dawned on me that in this day and age, the punks could very well have had a gun or a knife and things could have ended differently, but they didn't. My angels were no doubt keeping them in line. They were just punk bullies, and someone older, with authority in her voice, and a strong mama bear energy in her aura stood up to them. It wasn't my fight, but neither was it right to sit idly by and let the bullying continue.

Related to this sense of being a human shield is the concept of being a Rescuer. To use archetypal terms, it's like being a knight in shining armor, or is my case, a knightess in shining armor, coming to the aid of damsels in distress. I'd say that at least half of my romantic relationships started out as rescues. That's not a good way begin a relationship unless you're talking about rescuing kittens. I think it was the Buddha who said that a relationship based on need will always be a needy relationship. My need to rescue and another's need to be rescued adds up to a needy relationship every time. Even when I've tried diligently to stop myself from acting out the Rescuer archetype, I seem only to postpone this scenario for a time. A few years at best. 

It has only been my shift into a role of being the one in need of rescuing that this theme of rescuing has abated somewhat. It's really hard to be both the rescued and the rescuer simultaneously, and yet I continue to try. Like the time a hawk zoomed down and snatched a squirrel from the magnolia tree in my front yard. Somehow the two of them ended up by the hedge in front of the house. Had I not been in a wheelchair, that squirrel would have lived to see another day. I would have run the hawk off and saved the squirrel. Instead, I had to sit in my wheelchair on the sidewalk and try to figure out a way to get the hawk to leave its perspective dinner alone long enough for it to escape.

I played great horned owl sounds on my phone in hopes of scaring it away by making it think that one of its few predators was nearby. Unfortunately, the sound quality was poor and it sounded too far away to be a threat. I prayed and grappled with this moral dilemma for a while, trying to scare it away by tossing an empty water bottle at it. Physics worked against me and the light as a feather empty bottle landed uselessly several feet away from the hawk. That effort yielded not even a blink of the hawk's eyes. Sadly after a half hour of being able to figure out nothing, I had to roll away and allow nature to take its course. That felt awful to me, particularly since a van full of ambulatory people sat in my driveway watching me, offering no help whatsoever. If I had been in that van and abler to walk, I would have jumped out and chased the hawk away in seconds. It was a prime example of how few people there are who will protect the underdog, or in this case, the undersquirrel.

I had to go inside  because I couldn't bear to watch as the hawk ate dinner, when dinner was a small creature, who had called the tree in my front yard home. I guess I've spent too many hours watching squirrels cavorting in the trees not to feel a kinship with them. I didn't know this particular squirrel, but neither did I know the man on the bus whose bottle of wine was stolen from him in the presence of a host of witnesses, who remained silent except for me.

There are other incidences when I stood up for kids in school, who were being bullied for one reason or another. I befriended them and sent would-be bullies on their way, mostly just with my presence. My presence at their side demonstrated that this victim was no longer alone. No longer prey to a bored bully with nothing better to do than pick on someone who was at a disadvantage because of a handicap, shyness, poverty, or some other trait that set them apart from others.

I've never understood bullying and my bully alarm goes off quite easily. Bullies make me angry. No matter what the circumstances, and I will stand up to them. The hawk was less of a bully and more just another one of God's creatures who just needed to eat to survive. No amount of discussion over the benefits of a plant-based diet was going to change that.  So I yielded to the higher intelligence of nature. That wasn't easy to do, but I had no other choice that I could see. I certainly had no intention of harming the hawk. It was simply following its hawk nature. Still I haven't forgotten the squirrel or this difficult situation, as this blog attests.

This story brings home the point that sometimes I am the only one who stands between the victim and the victimizer. I don’t try to be a hero. I am sometimes just forced into it by circumstances. I don’t particularly like the feeling of standing out there alone, being a human shield to protect someone who cannot or will not stand up for themselves. So why do I do it when I have nothing personal to gain from it? I finally reached the conclusion that it might either be something in my DNA or very early life experience. It could be both, of course, but I'll skip the debate between nature versus nurture. It just is what it is. I feel compelled to stand up to bullies to protect the victims. I'm less compelled to stand up when I'm the one being bullied but I am getting to that point too. 

Human Shield, Part Two

I am going to begin right away by explaining my theory of why I have always felt compelled to act as a human shield to people and animals, who are in need of protecting or rescuing. This theory is based on my life experience. It is based on my habit of asking hard questions of myself and others. It is based on a lot of inner work delving into my dreams and my psyche. I am not seeking to blame anyone. I am not seeking to excuse myself for shortcomings. I am seeking only to understand my experience on this planet as a human being a little bit better. 

When I was an infant, and most likely when I was still in utero, my mother was battered by my alcoholic father. My father was an intelligent and gregarious man when sober. However, when he was drunk, he turned into a violent monster. I have two older siblings, a brother and a sister, who were already sharing my mother's daily life with a man who was part human, part monster. I have no clear memories of this time with them. i was only six months old when my mom gathered her three small children and fled to a cousin's house for refuge. 

I tried a few times to ask my mother about time, but as often happens, her consciousness mercifully blanked it out. I let it be. Much later in life, I asked the angels to help me to understand what happened the day my mother walked away from the abuse. That night I had a dream, which felt more like a recalled memory because of my perspective in the dream. I was witnessing a fight between my parents. I couldn't actually see anyone. Only shadows on the wall above what must have been my crib. I didn't understand the words, only the harsh tones. I started crying. I got the feeling that what happened next was that my mother came and picked me up and held me. I felt comfort and peace for a time then suddenly I was aware of a palpable fear of violence. What followed immediately was a huge jolt. The dream ended there.

Fast forward a lot of years and a lot of looking back at relationships gone wrong. To this day, I can't stand fighting. I dislike conflict of all kinds. I want to be anywhere in the world, but in a house where someone is yelling. If ever a disagreement turns angry, it's a signal for me to disappear. I simply can't stand it. This makes some people even angrier, but I am beginning to see why I am like this and why I probably won't change any time soon, if ever. I appear to be hardwired now to avoid being in a vulnerable position where violent energy is likely to happen. I'm not talking about mere disagreements. I am talking about violent energy I can feel. I will do whatever is necessary to get myself out of a situation like that.

Although I have no distinct memories of the time when my father lived with us, I seem to have a body memory of how the atmosphere around me felt before angry energy morphed into violence, before shouting turned into physical blows. If my father ever hit me directly, I have no knowledge or memory of it. All I have is an understanding of the way anger—as words, energy, and tones—feels just before violence occurs. I have felt that energy only a few times in my life since infanthood, and I think that is because I avoid conflict if at all possible. I have no tolerance for extreme anger. I hate when it arises in myself. I hate when it arises in others. I try to resolve conflict quietly and logically. If I can't do that, I do my best to remove myself from the situation altogether. For me, it's a matter of safety.

I truly believe my sense of being a human shield is tied to this early time in my life. In talking to my mother over the years, I learned that up until the day my mom took the three of us and fled, my father had not physically struck us. I think there was enough humanity in him, even when drunk, that kept him from hurting us. As long as this ounce of humanity was present, we and my mom were relatively safe. Standing alone, my mother was a target for his angry violence. Our presence was like a protective barrier against violence perpetrated against my mother, just as her presence was a protective barrier for us. I believe that somehow my infant body absorbed this understanding of being what kept my mom relatively safe. Not because I was a threat to him in any way, but just because of my siblings’ and my presence. The day that psychological protection was lost, when my father crossed the line and threw my mother against the wall while she was nursing me, the protective spell was broken and my mother realized that her children were in danger of being battered as well. 

That was the day she walked out from under a lock of her own hair and took her children to the safety of an older cousin’s house. My father,  in trying to stop her, grabbed a fistful of her long hair. Determined to get her children to safety, she kept going, leaving that captured hair behind still entwined in his fist. This resulted in a bald spot on her head that was still there when I was a teenager. I don’t know if she ever lost that bald spot. My brother might know since he cut her hair for years. 

At any rate, I think I somehow absorbed the sense of being a human shield that, at least for a time, can protect others from being a victim to someone who is attempting to bully them. I would not be surprised to find out that my siblings carry a similar sense in their psyches. I know we are all fiercely protective of my mom, protecting her even from news, whenever possible, that would cause her pain or worry.

Thus, this sense of being a human shield to protect others is deeply ingrained in me. So is my loathing of violence and bullying. It isn’t in any way heroic. It’s more of a compulsion, and it’s something that has stayed with me even though I am now disabled and feeling vulnerable myself. Despite my disabilities, my instinct is still to protect those more vulnerable. It causes me great anguish when I can’t help them physically. When taken by surprise by human or animal suffering, I frequently burst into tears, knowing that there is no way I can rescue them from their fate. Chafing at my limitations, I have taken on the role instead of a prayer warrior who seeks to protect others via prayer. I elicit angelic help to aid and protect others in their time of need. I may not be able to help others physically, but I can pray. I can always pray.

In your time of greatest need, I pray you will reach out your hand and find the aid of beings who can physically shelter you from harm. I know now that it has always been the presence of angels who have provided protection to those in vulnerable circumstances. If my presence has helped others to feel safe and protected, it is only because I have added my angels to theirs just by being there. I am not nor ever have been a hero who can rescue others. I am but one person who understands the power and protective nature of angels, and I am willing to allow the presence of my guardian angels to team up with theirs and thus make us both safer because of it. I realize that some of you may not believe in a Divine Being or angels, but if you ever are in desperate need of help, I implore you to ask for their assistance. You don’t have to use flowery, liturgical speech. A simple “helps, angels” will suffice to summon them to your side. They are, after all, always there waiting for you to reach out to them for help. They are not restricted to one religion and appear in many faiths. They are embodiments of love. They can and do act as protective shields for the vulnerable. They are a lot more effective at that than I am, but I will continue to do all I can to comfort and protect those in my path who need it. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Hunkering Down in Florida

I get a kick out of language and the humorous side of difficult situations. Since we are currently watching and waiting to see what Hurricane Dorian is going to do, this is a perfect time to look at all the catch phrases that leap out of our mouths when a really bad storm is threatening our way of life. 
I don’t know how many times I’m encouraged to “batten down the hatches,” “hunker down,” and “ride out the storm.” Last I checked, hurricanes aren’t horses. I’m not sure I can hunker in a wheelchair. I’m pretty sure I don’t have any hatches to batten down, and I am not sure how to go about battening down anything, much less a hatch. Despite my asking people what this means, I have so far garnered only puzzled looks from the speakers of these phrases. They are as clueless as I am, so I decided to do some research in between the battening time and the hunkering time. 

Now I know the phrase “batten down the hatches” is a nautical one. According to the Oxford dictionary, it refers to securing a ship’s hatch-tarpaulins in preparation for a storm. So when a storm threatens, everyone in the US, including those in landlocked states, turn into a bunch of shipmates, using nautical terminology that otherwise stays locked away in Davy Jones’s locker (Google this if you don’t know what Davy Jones’s locker is. I don’t have time to explain jokes while I’m preparing to hunker down. Hint: It has nothing to do with a late British pop star of Monkees fame.). I’m rather surprised we don’t go buy macaws to sit on our shoulders and start sprinkling our conversations with outcries of “har!” and “ahoy!”

So once we’ve battened down our hatches, we have to await the arrival of bad weather so we can start hunkering down. One definition of hunkering is to squat or crouch down low.” I know I can’t do that so I will have to improvise in my wheelchair. Another definition is to “apply oneself seriously to a task.” College students, when someone tells you to hunker down, this is what they mean: “Study hard and don’t waste that money I’ve spent a lifetime saving!”

If you’re going through a bad storm, you need to crouch in a defensive position. Face it, you’ll be better prepared to bend over a little farther and kiss your arse goodbye, which is particularly appropriate if you’re in the path of a Category 5 hurricane. 

Now that we’ve battened down our hatches and are prepared to hunker down, we just have to “ride out the storm.” This idiom is explained by the Cambridge Dictionary thus:

ride (out) the storm. to manage not to be destroyed, harmed, or permanently affected by the difficult situation you experience: The government seems confident that it will ride out the storm.

What is particularly disconcerting about this definition is their example of usage about the government. I’m not so confident that our country will not be permanently affected by our current administration. Nor am I confident that we will all ride out Hurricane Dorian without being permanently affected. At least one family in the Bahamas will certainly be permanently affected by the storm. Their seven-year old boy has drowned.  

So while we bandy about these otherwise unused phrases, let us pray for those who are already being adversely impacted by the storm, figuratively and literally. Peace be to all and mercy.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Healing at a Snail’s Pace

“Even a snail makes progress if it keeps moving.”—me

I suppose it seems a little vain to quote yourself, but I truly say some of the darnedest things sometimes. It’s like every once in a while, my Higher Self sneaks in and drops a shiny pebble along the path to get my attention. I stop and pick it up, rolling it over and over in my hand, marveling at its simplicity and beauty. I tuck that shiny pebble into my metaphorical medicine bag. Then when I need it most, the pebble tumbles out of my medicine bag and brings healing to some broken part of me or someone else.

Thus above words are for a heart that is weary of needing so much help. I had been making slow progress up until I got my new wheelchair. Then for several different reasons, transferring got tricky again. First I had to have the leg pads removed because they were making it difficult to impossible to step out over the footplate upon transferring. Then I quickly discovered that the footplate was far too long for me to pull it up out of the way without scraping it along my calves, causing blisters and scrapes.

The added difficulty of calculating the exact positioning of every molecule in my body, the dimensions of the new chair, and the precise trajectory needed to execute successfully eight different transfers, proved to be too much. After scratching and scraping my legs for a few days, I was able to get a couple of friends to put the footplate of the wheelchair I had been borrowing onto my new chair, making it much easier to transfer. While things went much better after the footplate switch, I was sporting several new open wounds as a direct result of the new chair. 

Eventually I fell again in the bathroom twisting my knee and slicing back several layers of skin on my right foot.  I bandaged my foot but later that same day, I tried to transfer and my knee gave out, being too weak of a link to support my iffy transfers. I had the EMTs take me to Celebration Hospital in Orlando. I spent four days there letting them bandage my wounds and allowing my knee to heal. I went home four days later weak from the down time but with a mostly healed knee. 

It took four days to regain my strength, even though I had not yet completely regained my stamina. That took several more days. Once I was back up to par for me, I noticed that I was having spells of feeling weak suddenly when I transferred in the bathroom. I wasn’t sure what was happening but I knew something wasn’t right and I suspected that it was related to my blood pressure. In talking to a nurse yesterday about it, she suggested that I might have orthostatic hypotension. Many times I have wondered if I needed to be on medication for hypertension when my blood pressure is nearly always low when I get it checked either at the hospital or at home. Only sometimes when I go to the doctor does my blood pressure register high. This sudden drop in blood pressure is, I suspect, the reason I fall sometimes. 

It’s exhausting to have to figure all this out on your own or to tell your doctor only to get a quick diagnosis of this or that, which someone else has already ruled out via tests and observation.

After another hospital stay of eight days, they finally approved some home physical therapy to help me in strengthening my body so I can successfully transfer consistently. I am showing signs of improvement on days I don’t have to push myself to keep going. If I push too hard, I feel the sudden fatigue and my transfers are iffy at best. I have had to call Fire Rescue three times since I have been home. That’s so discouraging but I do feel that PT is helping. They are supposed to evaluate me this week to see if I am benefiting from the PT. I see a distinct improvement when I am not experiencing one of those sudden weary spells. 

I sometimes wonder if there is something else I need to learn before I can finally turn the page and finish this particularly long and difficult chapter in my life. I am getting better and stronger but most of the time my improvements have come at a snail’s pace. I’m not happy about that. To use the tortoise and the hare analogy, I’m usually the hare. I don’t like being the tortoise. It is not my style. Or at least it didn’t used to be. Right now I guess it is until enough healing occurs so I can begin to walk then run finally. I look to Isaiah to remind myself that it’s not a bad thing to wait on someone else’s timing. 

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 41:31

I’m ready any time now to mount up with wings as eagles. I’m ready to run without weariness and walk without fainting. Any time now. Until then I guess I just have to wait and watch, since I have already been told that God is doing something new and I need to pay attention to it (see earlier blog entitled, “Behold, Something New” at my Mystic Angel Healing website). I’m still not sure what the new thing is, but I am still watching and waiting. Although  I do admit to some drumming of my fingers while I wait. I am human after all. 


Friday, July 12, 2019

Facing Grief

(Reprinted with permission from my Slices of My Life blog.)

I had a very long talk with a chaplain yesterday because I have been having a hard time emotionally lately. It has been difficult to maintain emotional equilibrium. I was surprised when our conversation came around to the fact that losing my nephew, David, was still bothering me so much. It has not been that long, and I have always been close to my nephews, so it shouldn’t have been surprising. However, the depth of emotion was a bit of a shock. My siblings’ children are as close as I will get to having children of my own. Of the four I have had the joy of knowing and loving, I have had to say goodbye to two of them already. Both were sudden and unexpected departures. 

As much as I want not to be hurting still from the loss of David, I had to realize and accept that the loss of this precious young man has been stalking me all year. I am angry that my current state of health robbed me of being able to see him more frequently at a time when I knew he was hurting and feeling a little lost himself because he went from having Ben’s two children in his and his father’s care to being an empty nester. I had talked to him about it at my house when he was there a few months prior to his passing. I wanted so much to be able to spend more time with him, but my lack of mobility has hindered me from going anywhere except the doctor.

After the loss of a loved one, life moves on, only a piece of the puzzle of our lives is missing. We can try to pretend that it isn’t missing, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is a gaping hole in our hearts where a person who once resided on this plane is no longer there. 

When we lost David’s twin, Ben, we were all forced to move on immediately. As soon as we got home from the family gathering after Ben’s funeral, we became aware that Hurricane Charley was barreling our way. We were jerked from grieving mode and thrown into survival mode instantly. 

When David died abruptly at the end of last year, it was like losing both of them all over again. The grief from the loss of Ben had been pushed aside in order to make sure my mom and my sister were going to be safe during and after the hurricane. I knew their hearts were broken and I tried to make sure that we were all going to be ready and as safe as possible when Charley came knocking at Mom’s door, where we were all three huddled together. I clearly recall standing next to my mom going through an emergency preparedness list that is permanently tattooed on my brain from spending so many years in earthquake country. After a careful inventory, Mom and I went off to buy bottled water since that was all we needed to be as ready as you can ever be for a hurricane. The quick shift from grief to survival mode grated on the heart, shredding it a bit because the shifting of gears was done without having time to use the clutch.

I am angry that my current state of health prevents me from driving to my mom’s house every other weekend to spend time with her. That is what I was doing from the moment I moved back to Florida in 2010 until I had to give up driving when I nearly crashed my buddy’s car because of back spasms that periodically rocked my body, forcing my right leg to go ramrod straight. That isn’t a big deal in normal situations, but it’s downright scary when you’re driving and the leg that loses control is the one pressing the gas pedal. 

I had to make a quick lane transfer to keep from ramming into a car that was stopped in front of me. I managed to make it safely back to Jan’s house with the help of a host of traffic angels. I went in, hung up the keys, and told Jan not to let me drive again until my back stopped causing my leg to do that. 
It’s been five years since the woman who drove across the continent a dozen times hung up her keys. When my Washington drivers license was nearing expiration, I got a Florida ID card instead. Thus ended my regular trips to visit my family. After moving 3500 miles back from Seattle so I could spend more time with my family, I had to ground myself. Since that time, my condition has made it nearly impossible for me to make the hour long trip even if someone else drives me.

Not being able to visit my mother at this time in her life is infuriating and another kind of loss and grief. Yet it isn’t something under my control right now. If will power and the desire to go were all I needed, I would be there with her already. I need my body to cooperate with me and heal so I can get around again on my own. 

The chaplain and I talked about how humbling it is to have to ask for help. Having to ask for the level of help I have needed for the past five years is downright humiliating. I know that I am a burden sometimes even though I’m told that I am not. I sense the anger and the frustration about having to worry that I am okay and not on the floor somewhere, and I understand it. It is difficult to have to be constantly aware of someone else’s safety. It’s stressful and I know it. It’s stressful and frustrating for me too. The loss of independence is yet another source of grief.

I have been very independent over the years. I moved across the country from central Florida to the Seattle area. Short of going on up to Alaska, something I considered doing when the Wasilla Waldenbooks store became available and was offered to me, I couldn’t have gotten farther away from the family nest. Ultimately I decided to stay in the more moderate Western Washington climate. Yes, i have had to ask for help at times in the past, but it has always been a last resort and an act of desperation after every other avenue had been explored. It has also been only for a short time rather than year after year of varying levels of dependence.

Yesterday I sought help from a chaplain because I knew I needed to talk to someone who was outside of the situation. I knew something was wrong and that I wasn’t figuring it out on my own. I’m so glad I did because it helped. Have my circumstances changed? No, but I think I can stop beating myself up for feeling so down. No matter how much we want grief to go away and leave us alone, it has its own time schedule. We may make ourselves busy and push through to survive the devastation, but that doesn’t mean that the waves of grief have washed us ashore to a new place in our lives, where we can stand and take those first faltering steps forward. Until that happens we can only try to keep the waves from overwhelming us. We must allow the waves of grief to wash over us until they subside into ripples in shallow water. Only then can we move on to a new place.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Why-not Wednesday

(Reprinted with permission from my Slices of My Life blog).

Today is Why-not Wednesday. Is that a thing? It is now. This is one of my (now deceased) LL Bean Adirondack lawn chairs. I used to sit outside in my chair and just be. Sitting in my chair outside was inspirational. I wrote many a poem from this seat. I watched the sometimes noisy, idyllic world act out its drama from this place. 

I came up with lots of good ideas while in this chair. Some have been carried out while others have fallen by the wayside. I was sitting by Hood Canal one night in one of my two identical chairs when I spotted a UFO and got the holy bejeebers scared out of me. I do NOT wish to repeat that experience even if it does make for a good late night scary story. I did a lot of good thinking, resting, chilling, sleeping, listening, and writing while in this chair (or its twin). Now the chairs are gone. They rotted in the summer rain and heat of Florida when I was back in Washington during the summer of 2012, mostly chilling back in my old stomping grounds on the Kitsap Peninsula. 

Even though the chair is no longer with us, what this chair represents is a time and a space carved out in the midst of the maelstrom of life where I let myself just BE. I didn’t have to prove anything. I didn’t have to produce anything, even though I did write a number of poems during my being time. I had a very demanding job when I first started using my chairs for quiet reflection in nature.

I was managing a rapidly growing Waldenbooks store in nearby Silverdale, Washington. I was in the process of creating my online bookstore, Bookshop Without Borders. I was working part time for my then publisher, learning the various aspects of book publishing. I created a syllabus for an independent study for a friend of mine, who was attending Evergreen College. I was actively practicing conscious living and being. 

Even just thinking about being in my chair is giving me some good ideas for creative projects. Let’s see where these ideas might take me. This is my first Whynot Wednesday and I am asking myself “ Why not?” Why not do something new? Something different. I am already doing that in a lot of areas in my life. What other things can I do? 

Do you have a place and time where you can ponder the big picture and ask unanswerable questions, listening quietly to see if anything comes back to you? If not, you might want to create such a place and start dreaming big dreams then asking yourself why not? You might be surprised by the responses you get. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

New Affirmation

"I have all the resources I need to accomplish everything I want and need to do."

So many times in the past few weeks, I have thought and sometimes even said aloud, "I don't have enough time for this." Or, "I don't have enough energy to get everything done." It really felt that this reality was growing exponentially. Finally today, when I was reading a book about manifesting (I'll reveal this title at a later date wen I'm finished with it), it dawned on me that this feeling of not having enough time, energy, or money to do what I needed to do had arisen from thoughts along this vein that had become their own mantra. I was manifesting this reality increasingly, and it was making my life much more difficult than it needed to be. This is not a new concept for me, but I guess I needed a serious reminder. Today this lack mentality stops.

I created this new affirmation this morning so I can start getting everything done that I need and want to get done. As I align my thoughts and words with the reality I wish to create, then my feelings will begin to playing the supporting role I need them to play. Feelings are very important in helping us to  create the reality of our daily lives and, for the most part, they are under our control. They arise from the thoughts we entertain. If you don't like how or what you're feeling, then change your mind. Point your thoughts in a different direction. Focus on something else for a change. Even just watching an engaging movie or reading a captivating book can redirect your energy away from whatever negative scenario might be playing in your head, thus making you feel bad, sad, hopeless, or whatever.

Now I realize that some thoughts are fleeting and are not given the chance to create reality. This is a good thing. You don't want to manifest instantly your every passing thought. Trust me on this. It might be great if you are thinking about winning the lottery, but not so great if you're thinking about something negative. If you're going to manifest things in your life that you want, you'll have to focus on the outcome of what you want to manifest. It's the difference between a sideways glance and an intense stare. How will it feel if you were to regain your health, find a new job, run your own business, buy a new house or car, or maybe find a life partner you can trust and spend your days
enjoying their company? How would this change your life for the better?

Be specific about what you want. Don't be specific about how you want it to come about because that puts limits on an infinite universe and may delay the arrival of the manifestation.. In other words, your perfect mate might not be who you expect it to be from where you're standing today. But perhaps that will change in the near future. Or you may want newfound wealth to come to you in the form of a lottery ticket when it may actually be about to arrive another way, through a promotion or an unexpected inheritance. Visualize the experience of your dreams coming true, but don't limit the conduit of this dream. See the end results;.It's like staying and watching until the movie is over, savoring the feeling of satisfaction you got from it. You don't have to sit there watching the credits roll, unless you want to, but you do want to see the end and focus on that feeling of completion and happiness.

Probably the hardest part of manifesting is figuring out what you really want. We may think we know what we want until we really start focusing on it and living the feeling of it through our emotions. We might think we don't want to work another day of our lives, when what we really want is greater job satisfaction and better pay. Without visualizing it happening, we wouldn't know that endless days of being a couch potato wouldn't be as great as we first thought it would be. Maybe huge piles of stuff wouldn't be as cool as simply having enough of the right stuff. Too much stuff can morph into hoarding and clutter quickly and neither of those things is beneficial to our well being.

So as I work on my new affirmation, I will also work on being more specific about what it is that I want and need so the universe can supply the resources for it. You can start working on what you want and need too and start believing that the resources you need to manifest those desires will appear as you need them so you can take the next step along on your journey towards fulfillment.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Accidental Gardening Project

Here’s my new accidental gardening project. Not long after we moved into this house, I bought a big bag of raw sunflower đŸŒģ seeds to eat. I had gotten to eat maybe a handful of them before they mysteriously disappeared. I looked for them periodically, but never found them. A couple weeks ago, Beth found them on the top shelf of the pantry when she was looking for something else entirely. 

Now if you want to hide something from a person confined to a wheelchair, put it on the highest possible shelf and put something else in front of it. Voila! You’ve just made it disappear completely as far as that person is concerned. I can’t even see anything on the back part of the top shelves of the fridge or freezer. Forget the pantry.

Anyway, they were out of date and not smelling or tasting too fresh so I decided to toss them out to the birds, only I kept forgetting to do it. Finally I remembered one day and flung the entire bag out handful by handful until it was all gone. That night it started raining and didn’t stop for a few days. I felt sort of like I was back in Seattle, only it was about 20 degrees warmer. Unlike Seattle, the winter is our dry season so this nonstop rain in winter was quite the anomaly.

As you might have guessed already, that rain beat the seeds into the moist ground where they germinated and sprung up in patches all around the yard. Ahem. I hadn’t meant to do that, but there they were everywhere. I decided to let them grow a few days to establish a good root system. After a few more days, Beth got on our heavy duty scooter and went around the yard pulling up sunflowers by the handful. I then potted the best ones in some clay pots and hoped for the best. My first two pots struggled a bit the first couple days after the transplant before becoming more stabilized and looking as though they might make it. 

When Beth told her brother about it, he asked if I could start some plants for him to place in the garden he started in memory of his wife who just passed in November. Naomi loved sunflowers. đŸŒģI was thrilled to start a new pot for him, so Beth grabbed some more “volunteers “ from the yard and I planted them. No first day struggling or anything. They are already getting cozy in their new bed. 

The more I have thought about this whole series of coincidences, including the fact that the mowers hadn’t been here in a couple weeks, the more it feels like Naomi is working on the other side to put sunflowers in her garden at her home on this side of the veil. I’m delighted to be her hands on this side helping to make this happen. The more I work on my “accidental gardening project,” the more sure I am that there is nothing accidental about it. There is a design and purpose behind it. Of that I am certain. 

Naomi’s pot of sunflower đŸŒģ starts is the single one in the photo. I had already put my two pots together. I am really looking forward to seeing how this works out. I bet that pot produces the best sunflowers ever! 

I love you, Naomi! Thanks for letting me participate in this project for you and thanks for the kitty and butterfly quilt you picked out for Christmas for me before you left this world. It made me cry. It is precious to me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Be a Helping Miracle

(Reprinted from my Slices of My Life blog at http://slicesofmylife.

You know, I don’t have a problem with ambulatory people. In fact, a lot of my closest friends are ambulatory. They are all welcome to use the mugs and plates in the upper kitchen shelves that I cannot reach, but could you please check back in a couple days, after I’ve had time to run your dishes through the dishwasher, to make sure that someone tall enough to replace those dishes has stopped by and done so? Otherwise the counters get cluttered with dishes that are too high for me to put away. I never use them, which is why they’re up high. There’s this one cup on my counter that someone got down a couple months ago and it’s still down. It keeps getting moved around the counter, but it’s still down. I’m ready to put a post-it on it now, asking for anyone who’s able to put it back up where it belongs. I think it’s been washed three times now since it was actually used. It’s beginning to be a bit of a game. 🙀

So, my ambulatory friends, when you’re visiting your wheelchair-bound friends, it would be really great if you could offer to do a few of those little things that they cannot do or would take ten times longer for them to do. It would mean a lot to them and would help them immensely. They might not feel comfortable asking for your help. Thank goodness I have a couple of friends who do this already. I keep hoping I’m not going to wear them out.

Most of the time when I ask for help, I feel like an annoying, dripping faucet. I used to be the person who helped people all the time. Now I’m the one who has to have help a lot. It wears you down. I mean it truly makes your soul weary to have to ask for help all the time. 

Count your ability to walk effortlessly as the huge blessing it is. It’s devastating to lose that ability even for a short time. Yes, eventually you adjust, and if you have unlimited funds, you can customize things. Plus, your upper body, if that part of you still works, gets really strong. I now have killer biceps, whereas, in my biking days, I had killer quads, calves, and glutes. 

If you haven’t lived it or been with someone who has, you probably wouldn’t think about all the ways people in wheelchairs have to figure out again how to do basic things. I know when I used to ride my bike to work near Seattle, I was shocked at how many curbs weren’t wheelchair accessible. I was delighted when King County changed that and went all out to alter every corner so people in wheelchairs could go out without someone strong to get them up and down the curbs. I bet most ambulatory people didn’t even notice. I’m not sure if it was my prescience that made me notice things like that or what. 

On my mountain bike, I just jumped the unramped curbs. Try that in a wheelchair and you’ll end up doing a face plant and not be able to jump up and pretend it didn’t happen. No, you’ll just be lying there, possibly bleeding, waiting for help. Me, I just don’t go out much. It’s too hard and too dangerous most of the time. What do I do if my motorized wheelchair breaks down? I do have a manual one but have you ever wheeled yourself around in one of those for hours on end? I wheeled myself around in one for hours on end for a couple of years. They’re slow, so crossing a busy street is scary, and they can break down too. Try bending a wheel and see how far you get. 

Not trying here to whine or complain. Just hoping to open a few eyes. There are people all around you who are in compromised health. Don’t wait to be asked for help. Offer willingly and with a smile, and if they say no the first time, make sure they really don’t need help. They might just be hesitant about accepting assistance. If they are still in an angry stage, they might push you away, but don’t judge. They have been through a lot and might not be willing yet to forgive the world for their current state.

Try to be a blessing wherever you go. No matter what your current ability or disability. You do have something to offer. I can’t do everything I used to do, and what I can do may take a really long time now, but I can do some things again. More things than a couple years ago. Hopefully two years from now, I’ll be doing much, much more. 

For now, I can write and read and edit. I can speak and listen. I can even do some housework. No, I can’t clean my house from top to bottom. Especially can’t clean the top of the house. But I can do some things. I may not have the strength to do a lot every day, but I keep trying to do more and get better at it. Much like anything else in the world. Do what you can to help others. You never know when you’ll be the miracle someone else needed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Behold, Something New

"Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19 (NASB)

The words of this verse were brought to my attention via the melody of a song written decades ago by an artist named Phil Keaggy. I have a lot of his old CDs, which were purchased to replace the LPs and cassettes that had worn out from excessive use. I had pretty much forgotten about these CDs because I hadn't played them for a very long time, as in decades. Probably three of them.

I was a bit surprised when this song entered my head and refused to give way. I have learned through past experience to stop and pay attention when this happens, for it invariably indicates that heaven is sending me an ethereal message, a true e-mail. So I stopped and listened to the words being floated through my brain via this melodic blast from the past.

Okay, so God is informing me that He's going to do something new and I need to be aware of this new thing. According to the passage, God is going to make a "roadway in the wilderness and rivers in the desert," at least metaphorically. I know that Spirit often uses the language of symbols, so I am not looking for a literal roadway in the wilderness or rivers in the desert. So now I need either to unlock  the symbology or I need to wait for God to reveal this new thing He is about to do in His own time.

In order for this to be a "new thing," it will have to be something that hasn't occurred before, at least in my life since the message was sent to me. Of course, the message could have been sent to Joel Osteen as well since he recently put a different translation of the same verse on a bookmark and sent it to a gazillion people. Ahem. Coincidence? I think not. This is not a common verse, bandied about by people in football stadiums, as is the case with John 3:16. I read his mailer, and it didn't even mentioned the verse on the bookmark.  His message seemed to be more about God not being done working on us or through us. His word of encouragement felt more like a confirmation of the ethereal message that had already reached me via that old Phil Keaggy song. The real tell will be if the message is reiterated again in a way that is personal to me. You may think that God doesn't send personal messages to humans, but that is exactly what God does do in our lives, if we're paying attention.

I know some people don't believe in God, much less a God who has a personal interest in our lives. All I can say is that my experience tells me otherwise. I'm not a Christian mystic, who believes in angels, because it is a cool concept. I believe in God and angels because my life experience confirms their existence. You may think me a fool to believe in a personal God who dispatches angels to help and protect us on our life journeys, but I would have to be a fool not to believe after all that I have seen and heard. I have no need to convince you that I am right and you are wrong. Each of us has our own life experiences and our own interpretations of those life experiences. Who am I to judge your conclusions? I  think we each have to work this out on our own. We may argue cerebral concepts, but it's futile to argue against life experiences.

What new thing is God going to do in my life? I have no clue. My job right now is to pay attention, to watch for heaven's next move. Rest assured that I am on high alert, waiting for that other rather large shoe to drop. I'm awake in the midst of these dark times, but I am not merely awake. I am awake and watching with a purpose. I'm not merely experiencing metaphysical insomnia. I have already received word about what I need to be doing while I wait and watch, but that is another blog to be written another day. Namaste!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Duck, Duck, Goose!

Okay, so this blog should really be entitled "The Power of Music" or something like that. However, the title I gave it is more likely to get attention if only to see what kind of nonsense I'm up to today. This blog is about our feathered friends. It is a true story about a day I rode my bike to a nearby pond with a mini guitar I could carry easily on my back while I rode. When I arrived at my destination, I sat down next to the pond to relax and commune with nature for a bit. I didn't bring any food with me, and I had no agenda except to enjoy a pleasant day off work. What I didn't expect is that it would turn into an impromptu concert in the wild.

When I first sat down, I watched the ducks, geese, and a few swans paddling around the pond, as carefree as could be. They were no more interested in me that they were in the clouds drifting overhead in the blue sky. In a few seconds, all that would change. I pulled out my little guitar and starting playing and singing some of the songs I wrote long ago. I immediately noticed a change in the pond activity. All the waterfowl in the pond (and there were dozens of them), paddled over and formed an audience in a half circle in front of me. They stayed there until I stopped playing and singing after about a half hour. Then the crowd dispersed as suddenly as it gathered. All my feathered friends went about their business once again. I was in awe of the moment because it felt so holy. That's the only word I can find to describe it. It was so clear in that moment, that we were all one. We were all God's creatures. Every last one of us.

Although the birds didn't join in and sing with me (they didn't know the words, of course), they did enjoy the concert. I can honestly say that it was best concert I've ever given. None of my fans have ever sat in more rapt attention. They weren't listening to the words, since I doubt they spoke human, but for a time my music became a language we all shared--the ducks, the geese, the swans, and me.

Friday, February 23, 2018

God is a Mighty Dragon! Wait...what?!?

"God is a mighty dragon!" said no theologian ever. Yet in Psalm 18:7 and 8, the Psalmist David (also known as King David), describes God in terms that seem very dragon-like. You'll never hear anyone preach on the dragon-ness of God. That's nowhere included in the study of theology. Still, there is this one psalm that describes God in terms that could have been used when JRR Tolkien was writing about Smaug, the dragon that terrorized men, hobbits, and dwarves (sic) alike on the mountainside and at Lake Town.

Those of you who follow my Facebook posts may have encountered my post for today on this very subject, but just in case you didn't, I'll share it here.

"Okay, I need to apologize in advance to those of you who think that God has no sense of humor because you’re going to take offense at this post. I am of the mindset that there is a lot of laughing that goes on in the divine realm. If humans are “created in the image of God,” then God has to have a sense of humor. So, there’s my lengthy, apologetic preface to my post. On to the actual post...
This morning, I was reading in the book of Psalms. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s in the Old Testament portion of the Bible. The Psalmist David (also known as King David), was describing God after one of his military victories. He writes: “Then the earth shook and quaked, and the foundations of mountains were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went out of his nostrils, and fire from His mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it.”
I had to stop and giggle because all I could see in my head was Smaug, the dragon, from JRR Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit. I suspect the angels were giggling right there with me over the picture in my head. I think there is such a thing as divine humor and hopefully you’ll take this post in that vein and refrain from lambasting me for finding it funny.
Now, please, have a blessed day.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Changing the Lyrics of My Life

 I had an interesting revelation recently about the timbre of my life journey. I realized that because of a heartfelt song I wrote decades ago, I had set the tone for my spiritual journey with the words and message of that song. Part of the lyrics read, “Keep taking me through those fiery trials, Lord. Keep the dross from collecting in my heart. Keep my eyes on the things above, Lord. Keep me, keep me set apart.”

While I definitely don’t want dross (impurities) from collecting in my heart, I need to write a new song/prayer that connects God’s purifying power to something a lot more gentle than “fiery trials.” I have had enough of those to last more than a lifetime.

My prayer now is that God will purify my heart with gentle, nourishing love. I’ve had a lot of that too in my life, but I definitely need to focus on connecting with divine love through quiet meditation and gentleness. Fire purifies, but so does water and it’s much more gentle and soothing. Maybe I needed fiery trials early on in my life, but what I need now is tenderness and comfort. I don’t want to live in stagnation and complacency, but I want to walk with God in a gentle way. Jesus said that his yoke was easy and his burden light, but like many fervent believers, I ignored that message and went along the hard path.

It’s time to embrace my journey with a 23rd Psalm perspective: “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

These words met me in a dream one night when I was enduring a very difficult psychic attack by a woman who claimed to be a Christian. The vicious nature of her attack proved to be darker than any energy I have ever encountered, definitely not at all Christ-like. These words came to me in a dream following the most vicious assault that occurred in a dream. I’m not one to have nightmares, but that night I had a nightmare that made me completely black out in the middle of it. When I returned to consciousness, it was with words of this gentle psalm reverberating through my mind.

At the time, I knew it signaled the end of those horrific psychic attacks both in the daytime and during the night. That has proven to be true. When I reached out in the moment and took God’s hand and let him lead me to a safe place, things began to shift in my life. While I have been through a number of “fiery trials” since then, they have been physical and emotional ones. Gone forever are the psychic attacks. I know this with a surety that comes only from having a divine connection.

Now I will continue to look to the gentle shepherd to lead me on the rest of my journey. I chose the “fiery trials” of my earlier life, but today I choose green pastures and still waters. God has always been waiting to lead me in the paths of righteousness by way of green pastures. It was me who chose the desert and fiery trials. I didn’t realize that until yesterday when the words to my song came back into my mind. I chose that path, but now I choose the route of green pastures and still waters. I choose the gentle life of a sheep with a kind and trustworthy shepherd who will lead me where he wants me to go —“in the paths of righteousness” — and I will be safe and protected and blessed.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thunder Shirt Comfort

I used to dogsit for a collie named Bess, who was a Hurricane Katrina rescue. I didn't know then about thunder shirts for dogs, but that sweet girl needed one for sure. If we had a thunderstorm while I was taking care of her, I had to sit on the sofa and hold her shaking body until it was over and she finally calmed down. Bess required a human thunder shirt to make it through the smallest thunderstorm, which are a daily occurrence during most Florida summers. I was glad to be her thunder shirt during those times when she was in my care. Even though the thunderstorms seemed like no big deal to me,  it was apparent that her life experience had been such that even the smallest reminder of Hurricane Katrina sent shock waves through her entire being. The more she trembled, the more closely I held her and spoke softly to her. 

Since Hurricane Irma plowed through the state of Florida, and covered nearly the whole state, most of the residents of Florida have needed the comfort of a thunder shirt, both animals and humans.  We have all needed a little comfort and had only each other to give it. I know it took a toll on me. When I was finally able to go back to my usual routine, I started hearing more stories of devastation and power outages that still hadn't been restored. There are still piles of tree debris lining the residential streets, even though trucks have been rumbling through our neighborhoods for days. I am finally feeling less shell shocked now that our power has been back for nearly a week. I have stopped feeling the need to reach out to try to find anything that would serve as a thunder shirt for my shattered nerves. 

It is important in times like these to realize that even though we survived the same hurricane, we all experienced it a little differently. The hurricane was worse for some of us and not as bad for others. Some people are still without power, even though the majority of us have electricity again. Some lost homes, while a few lost their loved ones or their lives. No matter what happened to us or how we experienced the storm, we need to remember that sometimes the earth kicks up storms that frighten some beings and enthrall others. Sometimes life itself kicks up its own kind of storm even in the midst of a calm day. Everyone has their own experiences and it is important to remember that there are some who may need a thunder shirt at times while others can provide one. It is not always easy to tell which is which until the trembling begins. Listening compassionately to others will aid us in knowing when someone is in need of comfort. 

While I was saddened this year to hear that Bess is no longer on this earth, when I think about what Irma might have done to her, I am glad that there will be no more Katrinas or Irmas for her to face. Her gentle soul is at rest. I pray that I will always remember to be a thunder shirt to the ones (human or animal) around me who need one. Even when I need one myself, may I remember to be one.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

God's Timing in Our Healing

"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way."

(Psalms 139:23,24)

In my youth, I wrote music to  David the Psalmist's, words. There's no telling how the original music sounded, but I often used to write contemporary Western melodies to scripture verses. One day when I was reading the Bible, I came across this psalm. The words nearly leaped from the page, and the music flowed from my heart in response.

In recent months, all these decades later, I have been working on updating the recordings of my songs. This song has stuck with me amongst the hundreds of songs I've written over the years. Many of them have been preserved on cassette tapes. I had the tapes transferred to CD last year with only a relatively small loss of quality from the original (unprofessionally recorded) tapes. In replaying these old songs of mine, I was struck again both by the beauty of the words David wrote and the melody that came to me when I was reading that passage thousands of years after the lyrics were penned.

Today when I came across them again, it was only those two verses out of the whole psalm that were included in the mini Bible passage for the day. Simultaneously with the reading of the verses came the playing of the music in my head. I decided to read the whole psalm again. As I did, I felt and heard God speaking quietly to me, as he has before, with gentleness and love. It is not often that I have encounters of that depth, but when I have them, I am always profoundly changed by them. That I don't have them daily is my fault for getting so caught up in the urgency of the day that I don't create the space in my heart for those intimate moments to happen. Many times I have made the space in my head, but not in my heart. Many times I have allowed time and space for neither. I can't predict those times when I will hear softly spoken words from God, but when I do, I realize that God is always that close to me. It is me who loses sight of the close proximity, not God.

While I was focused on dealing with my physical frailties, God reminded me that I am "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139: 14). The vast majority of the times when my cells are damaged by illness, abuse, or injury, they restore themselves to health. Those that don't heal themselves quickly may yet heal themselves given more time and rest. Those that don't, may be healed through divine intervention. When they aren't healed quickly, or at all, there is a reason. You may discover that reason on this side of the veil or the other, but when you do discover the reason, you'll understand the wisdom behind the affliction and the delay in healing, if there was one. The trick on this side of the veil is to accept God's wisdom on the matter, be grateful for the teaching that is attached to the affliction, and trust God's timing as what is best for you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Take Aim at a Better Life by Taking Responsibility for It

(Reprinted from a now defunct web site of mine. Originally released October 11, 2011)

I started learning a lesson back in my twenties that has stayed with me through several decades. That lesson has to do with taking responsibility for our own actions and decisions in life. I was first exposed to this basic concept while I was working in an emergency shelter for teenage girls. It was a temporary shelter where the girls who had been brought there by county social workers were supposed to transition out of our facility within thirty days. So I met and bonded with hundreds of teenage girls during the years I worked there. Most of these girls had been removed from their homes because of abuse--physical, sexual, emotional--or the threat of it. Some were taken from homes where they had been greatly neglected. A few of the girls were considered status offenders, usually because they had run away from home to get away from the abuse they had been experiencing.

If anyone had a "right" to blame others for their lot in life, these girls certainly did, and yet I started learning then that the best way to help them (and myself too) was to encourage them to take responsibility for their own actions. That's when I started on that path, but somewhere along the way, I slipped back into old ways of thinking that someone else was to blame for at least some of the difficulties I was facing in life. While blame could certainly be attached to my father for giving my family a difficult start in life, now that I am an adult, I have to let go of that, heal it, forgive him, and make my own way. I have done this over and over and over again. That's the way it is with taking responsibility. You have to own up to your life and the events in it, and not just once. As many times as it takes, daily even, until you truly get it. Sure, there are a few things you might not be able to control or change, but most things you do control, not by controlling others but by acknowledging that you are the one who is drawing all your life experiences to yourself.

You may not be able to control the fact that someone in your life is an abusive person, but you do control whether or not you stick around for the abuse. If you stick around, you might as well be signing an approval waiver for that person, and anyone else for that matter, to treat you badly. If a person is so abusive that you feel that your life or the life of your child is in danger, then run to whatever helping hands are available to get yourself and/or children out of the danger zone. It's not your job to make someone else take responsibility for themselves, but it is your job to take responsibility for your own life and those who are in your charge who are incapable of defending themselves--children, pets, or invalids in your care. Get out and get to safety. Then you have to begin the task of building a life for yourself and your dependents that will better reflect what you truly want in your life. If you don't know what you want, then start by wanting the negative parts to change for the better.  You'll figure out soon what "better" means to you. Then you have to own the power you have to change your world. Don't worry about the rest of the world in the beginning. Get your own life to a better place before you start to try helping others get there. You will inevitably get to that point, but wait until you and your family are in a place of safety before you reach out a hand to help someone else. Otherwise you'll end up repeating the pattern of putting yourself last, which is how you got to a place of danger in the beginning. First get yourself and your family established then you can reach out to help the next person behind you.

So that's where you start. That's where we all start. We open our eyes to all the bad stuff, and good stuff too, in our lives and realize that we have the power to create something better than what we have. Once you became an adult (sometimes earlier), you were given the keys to freedom, whether you took them or not. They were there in your hands. The next part of your life is figuring out which key opens which prison door. That's where the responsibility kicks in. You can stay in your family-made, religion-made, society-made, or self-made prison, or you can choose to use the keys to freedom that are in your possession. Start with one key at a time until you find the right key to unlock the corresponding locks on your prison doors. You may have to try more than one, but one of them will fit and will help you walk into the freedom that awaits you. What are you waiting for? Now is the best time to start owning up to your participation in your imprisonment. Now is the best time to start figuring out what it will take to get yourself to a better place. Take responsibility for yourself. Let go of blame. Let go of shame. Take aim and go.