Wednesday, June 21, 2017



Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of LifeFalling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm at a place in my life and spiritual journey where this book meant so much to me and was so very helpful. I'm sure it also helps that my theology/spiritual beliefs seem to be closely aligned with Richard Rohr's; I found myself wanting to underline just about everything in this book!

A wide summary; this book discusses the purpose of the 1st half of life/first journey/first task, what life should be like when we've moved into the 2nd half of life/second journey/second task, and those things that must occur in order to move from 1st to 2nd half (note to those who are looking for a quick "self help" guide: this is not something you can control, sorry!)

Some (ok, more than some) highlights for me:

*We are summoned to it, not commanded to go...because each of us has to go on this path (towards the 2nd half of life) freely

*We are led by mystery or grace into spiritual maturity

*Those who walk the full and entire journey are considered...Elders

*The way up is the way down; the way down is the way up. Sacrifice of something...some sort of falling, necessary suffering...is programmed into the journey

*We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. The demand for perfect is the greatest enemy of good

*The opposite of rational is not always irrational. It can also be trans-rational (bigger than the rational mind can process)

*You cannot walk the second journey with first journey tools

*We all need some successes, response and positive feedback early in life or we will spend the rest of our lives demanding it, or, bemoaning its lack from others

*2nd journey people both transcend and include 1st journey people. Jesus was a 2nd half of life man who had...the task of trying to teach and be understood by a largely 1st half of life history, church, and culture

*Most of organized religion is still living inside first half of life issues

*We can and will move forward as soon as we have completed and lived the previous state; by grace, and the old agenda shows itself to being insufficient or even falls apart

*You need a very strong container (constructed during the 1st half of life) to hold the contents and the contradictions that arrive later in life. You ironically need a very strong ego structure to let go of ego

*The only real Biblical promise is that unconditional love will have the last word

*The voice of our Loyal Soldier gets us through the first half of life safely...our Loyal Soldier cannot get you to the second half of life. You must discharge your Loyal Soldier = death of False Self, but the very birth of the Soul

*We will need authentic "soul friends" (Spiritual Directors, Elders, Truth Speakers, Contemplatives) to guide us across...to the 2nd half

*Life is both loss and renewal, death and resurrection, chaos and healing at the same time. Life is a collision of opposites

*The tragic sense of life is ultimate and humiliating realism, which demands a lot of forgiveness of almost everything. Faith is simply to trust the real, and to trust that God is found in it

*God comes to you disguised as your life

*Jung: Neurotic behavior is usually the result of refusing legitimate suffering. Refusing this necessary pain of being human brings to the person 10X more suffering in the long run

*Your True Self is who you are objectively from the beginning in the mind and heart of God. "The face you had before you were born"

*God excludes no one from union, but He must allow us to exclude ourselves in order for us to maintain our freedom (free will)

*Either God is for everybody and the divine DNA is somehow in all creatures, or this God is not God by any common definition

*Without Elders, a society perishes. Socially and spiritually

*In the 2nd half of life, if you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect, you can now do it for just about everybody else

*Our (spiritually) mature years are characterized by a kind of bright sadness and a sober happiness

*You do not fight these things anymore...you learn to positively ignore and withdraw your energy from evil or stupid things rather than fight them directly. You fight only when you have been directly called and equipped to do so

*The Beatitudes speak louder to you than The Ten Commandments

*The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better

*Persona = diligently constructed in the 1st half. Not true; it is manufactured and sustained unconsciously by your mind

*Shadow = what you refuse to see about yourself and what you do not want others to see

*The movement to 2nd half of life wisdom has much to do with necessary shadow work. You never get there without major shadow boxing. Shadow work = Falling Upward

*Soulful (2nd half of life) people temper our tantrums by their calm, lessen our urgency by their peace, exhibit a world of options and alternatives when all conversation turns into dualistic bickering

*Soulful people are salt, yeast, light

*If your politics do not become more compassionate and inclusive, it's doubtful whether you are on the second journey

*(embrace) both and thinking...you no longer need to divide the field of every moment between up and down, totally right or totally wrong, with me or against me. It just is.

*Non-dualistic wisdom = contemplation

*Great people come to serve, not to be served

*It is the freedom of the 2nd half of life not to need

*Being totally received as we truly are is what we wait and long for all of our lives. We who are gazed at so perfectly can pass on the same accepting gaze to all others who need it

Amen and Amen!


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Life Lesson




Meet Our New Addition to The House of B
Hesed Lucille


Life with a puppy is a good reminder of life in general. A few steps forward followed by several steps backwards, always an adventure, and don't forget to chase butterflies and smell the flowers. 🐕🐾🦋🌺


Mrs. B

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Renovations



It seems I’ve spent the majority of my life in a stage of renovation. It began at twelve, when I morphed, ostensibly overnight, from a pudgy and picked-on child, into a slender, long-legged teenager with bedroom eyes.  I wasn’t, and have never been, a conventional beauty; but as my best friend used to assure me, I was exotic; a hot house flower held up against the delicate loveliness of, say, a rose.  For a while, this was pretty much all that mattered to  me as I played the part of a Southern California party girl.  Yet, it was truly a role.  I had smarts, savvy and, thanks to my parents, a decent enough college education (if not the highest GPA in the world, because, well, the party girl thing routinely got in the way of my studies). 

It took several years, the onset of maturity, and the humiliation of realizing that my Father felt the best he could hope for would be for me to land a secretarial job at a good company and marry my boss, that finally motivated me into shedding that happy-go-lucky persona and focus on evolving into someone my parents could be proud of:  an independent and reasonably successful career woman.  Along the way, I got slightly side-tracked by my first husband, whose job he felt it was to turn me into someone else; mainly, someone who idol worshipped him. Still, during the ten or so years of our marriage, I managed to further my career. Eventually, I and the (ex) husband went our separate ways and  I entered into the subsequent revamp:  DWF/mid-thirties/corporate director/living “the life” in  Los Angeles.

Anyone who believes that this was glamorous  has never lived it because it wasn’t.  It meant routine sixty plus hours in the office and many others working from home.  It meant a lot of travel with the majority of it being to nowhere in the least bit exciting.  It meant countless meetings, presentations, problems to be solved, company politics to contend with, stress-filled days and nights, difficulty sleeping, and loneliness.  Ah, the loneliness.  I could buy all the Jimmy Choo shoes I wanted and I drove a sweet little BMW, but I was lonely. All of my family had moved back east of the Mississippi.  I did have friends in California, but most of them lived several hours away.  The few people from work that I’d somehow managed to bond with were just as busy as I was, so opportunities to get together were infrequent.  This left me, in the rare times that I was not absorbed with projects and deadlines, floundering about; and, as the song goes, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”  So, on the outside I had it all; in reality, I didn’t have much at all, except my two aging cats.

The fall of 2001 ushered in an extremely dark period.  One incident after another sent me into a tailspin of behavior which can only be described as risky at best, dangerous and life threatening in reality; eventually culminating in what was the absolute worst night of my life.  Although what occurred that night and its aftermath consumed me for many months to follow, it’s not what happened that matters so much as that it defined my next renovation; the one that would completely change the trajectory of my life:  I decided that I would leave my job, go to Italy, take a total immersion language course, and see what happened next.  That’s it.  That was my blueprint! 

Despite how glorious and brave it may have seemed to those I left behind, those living vicariously through me and hoping for “Under the Tuscan Sun”  or “Eat, Pray, Love” movie moments, the truth of the matter is, my six weeks in Italy were a mostly lonely and painful experience.  My “newly sprung from the prison life of career” self struggled daily with who I was now going to be; and I questioned myself and my sanity.   A lot.  Why did I, at only age 39, abandon a prestigious job, uproot myself and go half-way around the world to learn a language that I’d probably never use again (I haven’t), and live in conditions (a rented apartment) that were reminiscent of my starving student college days?  I didn’t take any trappings of my former life with me to Italy; no French tip nails, only one small suitcase of very serviceable clothes (which I promptly loathed after seeing all of the beautiful Italian fashions), and no BMW (I walked everywhere).  No one there knew who I was, least of all, me.  But, there were moments of fulfilment and flashes of realization that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, even though I didn’t know exactly what that was.

That was 15 years ago now; when I did what a therapist (whom I’m convinced now was an angel in disguise, or at least channeling his inner Glinda from “The Wizard of Oz”) suggested:  “Get off the hamster wheel and walk out of the cage you put yourself into.  No one is stopping you but you.”  I think, in hindsight, that I chose to abscond to Italy to be in neutral ground for this battle between my old  and  new selves.  I enrolled in  the immersion course because that part of me that will always be me had to be doing something productive.  The challenge there was not to let learning the language get in the way of learning who I was to be.  Italy, as it turned out, was  the bridge from one life to the next. 

Was I whisked off by a wealthy Italian man? No, I was not.  I went back to California, sold my condo, and moved to Durham North Carolina simply because my brothers lived there.  Within two months of arriving, however, I met my now husband of 12 years; not an Italian Adonis, but a New Yorker and a CPA. I’ve dabbled in various self-improvement and volunteer activities such as teaching English as a second language and did some consulting work (more as a favor to an old friend than any other reason). I’ve never really re-entered the rat race. I am, however, a minority partner in my husband’s tax and accounting firm and support him; I suppose you could say “work for him”,   during tax season.  I think of my Father’s fear from so many years ago that the best I might do would be to marry my boss, and the irony of this makes my toes curl in delight. 

The truth is, we almost always have before us opportunities  to renovate ourselves.  We use whatever resources we have at hand to do so,  and we ask for help from those nearby when we can’t do it by ourselves.  Sometimes a renovation begins from a clear personal vision, other times the opening falls into our laps a la “When the student is ready the teacher appears”; and  still other times it emerges from a period of darkness  and confusion.  Yet, it emerges. 

I mentioned my experience in Italy was painful because growth is painful. However, I was not always unhappy, because one cannot be in such a beautiful country and be miserable 100% of the time.  There were moments when I would stumble across something so simple yet incredibly beautiful that I’d just have to stop and take it in.  These “simple things of beauty” had also existed in my life in Southern California,  I was just too empty there to see them. 

After Italy, I believed, wrongly, that I’d never be confused or at sea again. In reality, there would be many more renovations to come.  However,   a poem I wrote while wandering and wondering through Italy has  served  to remind me that, regardless of what chaos may be going on around me in the midst of a messy remodel,  I  always have the choice to embrace serenity and see the beauty in it all.

The Simple Things of Beauty

I used to go so fast
that I never stopped to see
the simple things of beauty
that were there in front of me.

I was on a frantic path,
rushing through each day
the simple things of beauty
were just annoyances in my way

Then one night fate intervened
I thought it was a curse
when my life changed direction
it seemed from bad to worse

Yet it was not misfortune that forced me to reflect
on an existence where all appeared sour
it was a well-timed dose of reality
administered by a higher power

Now I’ve found the determination
to cease the insanity
and to explore with new found courage
the person that I should be

Although each day brings challenges
so many obstacles are still there
my heart is open to the simple things of beauty
and I see them everywhere

Mrs. B

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Praying the Psalms


A few months ago, I posted about praying using the ACTS "format".  As a refresher, ACTS represents Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  I shared one prayer I'd composed utilizing a variety of scripture, primarily from the Psalms.  This morning, I feel called to share another.  Peace be with you all.

Mrs. B

I praise you Lord because you guide me, you speak to me when I am most in need of you and you keep me from harm.  I know that you are near to me at all times, and, because of this, I can stand firm. I will seek you and your strength, I will seek to always be in your presence. Whenever I find myself in doubt, I will remember your wonderful works, and that whenever my feet were slipping, your constant love held me up; when the cares of my heart were many, your consolations cheered my soul.

Lord, despite all that you do for me, I remain yet a sinner.  I don't do what I should and I do what I shouldn't.  Even if my outward behavior is seemingly ok, my thoughts at times run rampant with discord, criticism, and judgement.  Oh Lord, do what you have promised and forgive me these sins for they are many.  Turn to me and have mercy on me as you do all those who love you.  Teach me your ways, Oh Lord, and make them known to me.  Teach me how to live according to your truth.  You are my God who saves me.  I'll ways trust you.

You are my strength and my shield.  In you my heart trusts, and so I am helped, and my heart is overjoyed, and with my song I will give thanks to you.  Your constant love reaches the heavens and your faithfulness touches the skies;  happy O God, are those who trust in you.

So I call to you when my heart is faint, O God.  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Answer me in the goodness of your constant love.  You are the one who created the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for you.

Lord of peace.  Give me peace at all times and in all ways.  Walk with me today, and lead me in The Way everlasting.

Amen

Thursday, September 29, 2016

He'll Meet You Wherever You Are


Note:  This is a consolidated re-posting of a series I wrote three years ago about our return to God. Today marks 5 years since we first walked into the doors of our church, Harvest United Methodist in Lakewood Ranch, FL.  It seemed fitting to share (again) today.

Two years ago today, my husband and I walked into a church for the first time for both of us (save for weddings, baptisms, and funerals) in over thirty years.  It’s something that still amazes us now; that we did this, especially in light of the fact that, up to this point of time when we made the decision to go, we’d never talked about God, or Jesus, or religion for any length of time at all.  Yes, we met via an online Christian dating company (eHarmony), and, yes, there were some spiritual questions that we answered as part of that process, but, it wasn’t something we spent time discussing during our first meeting, or subsequently.  We figured we were pretty darn lucky that we’d been matched up and that was about it. 

When we moved to Florida many years later, we were in the process of making some changes; many major, others slight.  I am coming to understand, in hindsight, that it is the small changes that have the potential to add up to something big.  What were some of the smaller changes?  We’d decided to be open to meeting new people, especially our neighbors.  Neither one of us are the most extroverted of souls, so, this really was a challenge, even if it seemed easy enough to do.  This meant saying "Hi" to people, talking to people, not doing the avert eyes thing when someone came towards us out on the street, all of that.  We also decided to get involved, somehow.  

Not too long after we moved in, our neighbor across the street approached us when we were out walking our dog (and since we’d decided to try and talk to people, we didn’t attempt to avoid her) and, after a few minutes of chit chat, asked us in a very friendly way if we’d found a church yet (she knew that we’d moved from another state).  I’m sure we gave her that sort of glassy eyed look of those who really don’t want to be standing on the street discussing something that we’d never even discussed amongst ourselves.  Truthfully, I can’t remember what we told her other than it might have been something like “No, we haven’t”.  End of statement.  She went on  to invite us to go to church with her and her husband one Sunday; something I’m sure, again, we politely made noises like “Maybe” and “Thanks” but with zero intention of ever doing so. All in all this was not a major encounter, and, she did not pester us about it, however, in hindsight, it was a small seed that had been planted; her invitation made us think about it.  Church.  Church.  Maybe this would be one way to get involved in the community and, what?  Garner clients for our new and fledgling business?  Perhaps. 

In any event, a few weeks later, a local toss away paper called The Observer (which is delivered to our driveway every Thursday whether we want it or not) ran an advertisement of sorts about a message series one of the local churches was doing.  I remember thumbing through this publication one night  and seeing the church's ad, “When Christians Get It Wrong”.  I quickly went past it, continued to glance at the rest of the paper, then, turned back to it.  I read the rest of the ad and realized that the series was centering on all the things that give Christians a bad reputation; you know  liked being judgmental, unforgiving, pious, holier than thou, disapproving of divorce, abortion, homosexuals, other religions, you name it.  In all honesty, probably the primary reasons why I’d stayed out of church for the past thirty years.   

Prior, I’d voluntarily attended a Lutheran church and been baptized and confirmed in it when I was a teenager, and yet,  I’d walked away for no real reason.  Probably, it just didn’t stick because I was a young girl who had other things on my mind than being a good Christian young lady.  Meaning no disrespect to my parents, I had very little support or encouragement from them to either remain involved with the church or  to have a relationship with God.  So, leaving didn’t seem like a big deal, and it wasn’t .


Unfortunately, there were plenty of people around me in the ensuing years who discouraged me from entering into a relationship with Him; either those who were influential in my life who refused to believe that He existed  OR (and actually probably worse) those who did believe, but were so strident about it that it totally turned me off.  Looking back, I see now that I wanted to believe, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be in a relationship with a God I thought  was hateful, prejudiced, biased, didn’t forgive, and probably didn’t want a relationship with me, anyway, because I’d really screwed up a few things in my life.     

Finally it simply became my habit not to think overly much about God; however, I never didn’t believe in Him, if that makes any sense.  


When my stepmother passed away in March of 2011, I recall calling my older sister and talking to her about her death.  I was, quite understandably, very upset and very emotional.  I was crying and I remember my sister asked me, “Do you believe in Jesus”?  I was gulping for air and I said I did; but, frankly, I was later mad at her for bringing Jesus up at a time like this.  Why?  Because I thought that she was doing so not because she really wanted me to know and love Jesus, but because she wanted to convert me.  Later, she did a few more things that totally pissed me off so that I found myself thinking “Ha, some Christian she is!” The thing is; her questions? They were another seed.

So, back to the message series at the local church (which turned out to be Harvest United Methodist). I showed the paper with the advertisement from the church  to my husband.  I told him this church was literally five minutes away from us and what did he think?  Didn’t it look interesting?  He took it, read it, and without hesitation said, “Sure, we can go if you want”. I don’t remember what day that was; it may have been a Friday, because we began discussing if we should go that coming Sunday.  We initially decided to go, but by Saturday night, I was already having second thoughts about the whole thing.  I mean, SUNDAY?  That’s tomorrow!  I don’t know, maybe I don’t want to do this? 

One of the great things about my husband is, he’s not a pusher.  Ok, maybe he wasn’t sure, either; come to find out he had his own very personal reasons for avoiding church, but, when I got cold feet, he didn’t argue with me.  So, we did not go that Sunday but I just couldn’t get that message series out of my head.  I WANTED to know what they were going to say.  I wanted to believe that there were people who believed in God who were not judgmental.  And, there was also the whole “getting to know people” thing that we’d promised each other we’d do.  And, in all honesty, I was beginning to wonder what exactly I was going to do with the second part of my life, now that I’d seemingly “done it all”.  So, I next told him I thought we should go to their Thursday night service.  An hour, was all.  Maybe it wouldn’t be very crowded, either; we wouldn’t have to deal with a lot of people and if we didn’t  go back, not that many folks would have seen us there.  I’m serious; this is what was running through my mind when we decided to try to go that coming Thursday! 

This time, we went.  Thursday September 29th 2011.  A bright, sunny afternoon and the parking lot at the church was relatively empty (whew, I thought).  We walked up to the doors of the church and before we reached them, they were thrown open by a man and a woman with big smiles on their faces.  “Welcome to Harvest!”, they said.  We were both a bit taken aback by their cheerfulness but (when we reflected on it later), it was genuine. It was pretty quiet inside the gathering area of the church; only a handful of other people there.  The lady, Nancy, asked us if this was our first time at Harvest because I’m sure all first time people have the same look in on their faces that we did; a mixture of uncertainty, shock, deer in the headlights, and resolve.  Yes, yes, we said and we spent a few moments with them telling them about us and why we were there (the draw of the message series).  They themselves were not attending that evening’s service but were helping out with one of the children’s ministries.  They introduced us to the youth minister/music coordinator and off we went with him.  From there, we happened to meet Steve, one of the Pastor, and chatted with him a bit before heading in for the service. 


One of the things I remember the most about that evening, other than who we met, was my doggedness in refusing to take communion.  I told my husband that I wasn’t ready to do that and I felt it would be fake to get up there and take communion when I’d not set foot in  a church for 30 years.  Not that I felt my husband was being fake by deciding to do so; it was a very personal feeling.  That evening’s message centered on  when Christians say the wrong thing.  Oh, boy.  Catherine, the other Pastor led the service and I remember being extremely nervous and uncomfortable, but at the same time, totally interested in what she had to say.  Lastly, one of the songs sung that night was one I’ve come to love called “Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day and the line that stuck with me all the entire night was “He’ll meet you wherever you are”.  


After that first evening at Harvest, this is what I recorded in my journal:

“Went to church for the first time in ~ 30 years tonight. I saw an ad in a local paper for this church, Harvest Methodist.  They’re doing a sermon series addressing many of the areas about church/religion/organized religion that I’ve had problems with.  So, we decided to try it and it wasn’t awful.  Frankly, I think it’s a good place to start to re-explore…what?  My faith?  Not sure I’ve ever had any.  To find something?  That is probably more like it.  Certainly, it’ll be a way to get to know people, at the very least.  All I know is this.  I have to do something different.  I can’t live my life looking forward only to vacations and getting pissed off when things don’t go right (or my way).  I‘d like to be a nicer, kinder person, certainly, a better wife.  Well, we’ll see.  We went, and I think we’ll go back next Thursday”.

And we did go back the following Thursday (eventually switching to one of the Sunday services); and the rest, as they say, is history!

From weekly worship to gradually becoming involved in multiple Bible studies and other ministries, to volunteering to serve communion once a month to supporting other church activities, the two of us have most decidedly found a church home.  Not that it’s all been easy because at times it’s been very painful facing ourselves, some of the things we’ve done (or not done), and forgiving other people who we thought we’d never be able to forgive.

It’s also been a challenge interacting with people from our lives who, if not thinking we’ve gone totally off the deep end, are, at the very least, indulging us with symbolic pats on our backs and a “There, there, there; if it makes you happy, I’m happy for you!” Still harder for me has been what to say to THEM.  It’s true; those who are on fire for God, who’ve recently joined The God Squad; want to spread the word; want others to understand and feel the same way.  However, over time, I am learning that this is not really my job or responsibility;  I mean, I can share what I feel called to share, but in the end, it’s up to them what they chose to do with it.  I’ll leave that up to God and these individuals to work it out (or not).

I’m in the middle of a study now where the author is discussing how there can really be no transformation (in a person’s life) without there first being a revelation.  When I look back on all that’s occurred in the past two years, and, most importantly, meditate on who Amy was then versus now, I can see how all these little changes here and there have added up to a transformation. 

A while ago, a dear friend of mine, whom I was associated with in the years I was married to my first husband and therefore I was then not in any way, shape or form associated with God, asked me the following:

Amy, how did you get to the point you are right now spiritually? I know I'm on my way, but you seemed to get it right away. Maybe I am just too negative of a person. Any suggestions?

Ok, the fact she was asking ME this question in and of itself is pretty rocking amazing!  Here is what I said, and it’s what I’d say to anyone desiring a closer relationship with God:

Wow, what a question and a great one, too. I think the fact you are asking the question is a wonderful testament to your desire to grow in your faith. It's so interesting that you asked me this NOW, because I'm in the middle of a new study at church where we've been reflecting on exactly this; where we are today vs. "before". I think for most of us, as with most things, change/growth simply does not happen overnight. It begins with small adjustments and tweaks we make that at the time may not seem like much, but, when we look back, we can begin to see how they've built upon one another and grown to the point where we eventually are changed in significant ways. The author of the book explained it this way; "It's like watching a tendril of ivy as it starts out. If you stare at it, it doesn't do much, but if you go back every week or so to check its progress, you can see its growth. And, when you look at it a year or two or three later, it's totally taken over the wall". Speaking for me now, this was the right time for me to be planted. It's not that I never had the opportunity before to embrace God, I just chose not to. Two years ago was my time and I desired it. I think that's the most important thing. A person has to desire it. No amount of someone trying to coax you into it will help (I'm learning that, too!) YOU need to be ready. I am extremely blessed in that my husband was as eager as I to begin this journey. That's not to say someone cannot do this if their significant other (or family/friends) aren't coming along because I've met plenty of folks who attend church and yet their families do not. It's just easier, is all. Also, we found THE BEST church and church family. I can't stress how important this has been for us. THE BEST in every possible way. We walked in and have never left. For two people that hadn't been to church (save for life events) in 30 years, that's incredible in and of itself. If you haven't already, find a church where you feel at home. And GO. Yes, of course life happens and we can't always attend, but, try to go. Also, get involved in and with The Word. Go to Sunday School. Join a  Bible study or join another team that speaks to your talents. Attend some of the special events your church might put on, like Advent or Good Friday services. Serve. Help out at events, offer to serve communion. Join a ministry team. All of this, little by little, bit by bit, opens your heart, mind and soul to receive God's Word and do His will. And PRAY PRAY PRAY PRAY PRAY. However and whenever you can. Everyone does this in their own way and there is no wrong way. Even if all you do at first is recite The Lord's Prayer or read Psalms or recite back scripture you may have memorized, it's all praying/talking to God. One of our Pastors has a fantastic model to follow for growing in faith which he encourages all of us to try. 40.20.10. Be in worship 40 weeks out of the year. Read the Bible 20 days of the month. Pray 10 minutes per day. It's easy to remember and very doable. And remember, Christ desires perseverance, not perfection. Some days will still be not very good days; sometimes your attitude may not be what you want it to be. That's ok. Keep trying! As our other Pastor says, "Just. Keep. Swimming!" The fact that you are asking ME this question is just another wonderful example of how God works. 
  
And the revelation that had to occur before any of my transformation occur?  It came in the form of a toss away newspaper that I didn’t even look at most of the time.  God revealed Himself to me in a message series that spoke to MY heart; that addressed all of my excuses for not going to church; for not opening the door to a relationship with Him.  

God met me where I was, and He led me home. 


Mrs. B

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Unchosen



A week ago, I wrote about my childhood fears of scary things lurking in the closet or under my bed and of my persistent dread that someone would break into our house and harm us.  It wasn’t until my Father intervened with his unique form of reassurance that I began to let those worries abate.  Oh, certainly, there were (and are) still times when I feel unsettled and unnerved; however, now I do my best to turn those emotions over to my Father in Heaven.

A few days ago, I opened my Bible to  1 Peter 2:9 as I’d come across that scripture earlier and wished to memorize it.  As I wrote down the lines of the verse on an index card, images of another childhood anxiety washed over me; ones that I’m certain many others will be able to resonate with:  the fear of being unchosen.

I’d really like to find the person who first came up with the idea of putting two children in charge of picking who they want on their team and smack them up the  side of their head while saying, “What in the world were you thinking?”  Ok, maybe I wouldn’t physically assault them, but I would still question their wisdom in concocting a scheme that, over the decades, has tormented countless children and left so many of them emotionally scarred.  And those are just the ones forced to do the choosing.

On the off chance that some readers don’t know what I am referring to, here, in general, is how this typically played out.  A Physical Ed teacher gathers around a group of  kids  and picks two of them to be Team Captains.  Then, each Team Captain in turn selects someone from the remaining group of children to be on their team.  Back and forth, so it goes, until all children are picked for one team or the other.

So, yeah, the agony for those of us who were either clumsy klutzes with zero grace of movement (FYI:  that little ditty about “Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace…”?  I’m a Tuesday child.  Physical grace, um, not so much!) or who were at the bottom of the totem pole of popularity while we waited and waited and WAITED to be selected.  Even worse, the grimaces and groans and shrugs of resignation when one of the Team Captains got stuck with us.  Fun and games indeed.

The thing is, this fear of not being chosen can continue to haunt us as we progress through adolescence and well into our adult lives.  Some of us might be better at disguising this fear than others, but I’m betting that even those smug Team Captains of 3rd grade have had their moments of angst at some point or another.  As I’m writing this, my mind is humming with the memories of all the moments in my life where I’ve either been chosen, or not; or when I’ve done the choosing, or not.  Frankly, I’m not sure which feels worse now; remembering how it felt to be left out, or, remembering those times when I shunned someone else.  To quote our Pastors’ three year old daughter, “Oooooh, it’s too REAL!”  Nope, I don’t really want to go there. 

And, oh by the way, I’m not the only one in the universe whose mind is dwelling on this whole “chosen” thing; I started writing this post on Saturday August 6th.  The meditation in The Upper Room for Sunday August 7th was entitled, “Chosen” and the referenced scripture was, you guessed it, 1 Peter 2:9 (if you’re thinking that I must have somehow seen the meditation and subconsciously absorbed it and copied it, then you don’t have a clue as to how totally incredible our God is).

So, here’s the verse:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  1 Peter 2:9 (NRSV)

We are chosen.  God chooses us.   God chooses ALL of us.  Yet, unlike those moments in childhood where we were picked by a Team Captain and then forced to play a rip roaring game of kick ball with our two left feet, we have the option to not join God’s team.  It’s called Free Will, folks; and people certainly exercise that option.  Yet, God wants us to join in, He always has.  He said to the Israelites long, long ago as they were about to finally enter the promised  land: 

I call heaven and earth to  witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Chose life so that you and your descendants may live.”  Deuteronomy 30:19 (NRSV)

Thousands of years later, He sent THE ultimate in Team Captains to go about the business of picking everyone for God’s Team; His son, Jesus Christ.

Join the team and you’re good to go. 

But, wait.

Anyone who has ever been on a team knows what it means to be a team player.  You can’t laze about, watching your fellow team members carry the day while you cheer them on from the sidelines. You have to contribute. And you have to perform; but, you do so not necessarily for your glory, but for the greater good; so that the team will succeed.  There’s no “I” in team”, and all of that. 

Join.  Contribute. Perform for the greater good of the team; of the Kingdom. 

The good news is, you’re chosen!  You can trade in all of those fears and anxieties of being alone, never being good enough to belong.  Yet, you don’t get saved and just sit there. In other words, there is significant responsibility involved with responding in the affirmative to God’s offer to join up.

And herein lies the dilemma for many folks, myself included.  What, exactly, does this really mean?  And, does it always mean the same thing?

When I rejoined God’s Team in 2011, it was, initially all about practice; soaking up the grace that I so desperately needed, getting back into the groove of weekly community worship, beginning to seriously delve into the Bible, and developing the discipline of daily devotion time and prayer.  As the months went on, I stuck my toe into the stream of service, of active participation; serving communion, helping out with packing sacks of weekend food for low-income children, and assisting with the church’s annual Hanging of the Greens program.  Five years on finds both my husband and I considerably involved in leadership roles and a variety of other servant opportunities such that we are either at our church or out in the community several times a week. 

Yet, despite this, I still wonder if I’m contributing what God desires of me.  The majority of my fears and anxieties are gone (heck, I don’t have time to be afraid) only to be replaced by a sense of being, not so much underutilized, as MIS-utilized. 

An illustration:  When I was in high school, I played on a girls’ softball team for several years.  We were pretty good; we even made it to a few championships.  However, in the first season we played together, the coach put me at second base and, as a leftie, I totally sucked in that position.  After a few dismal games, someone finally got wise and moved me to first base and sometimes pitcher, where I (and therefore, the team) performed more effectively.

I’m wondering now if I’m in the right position on God’s Team.  Am I performing in the roll of second baseman when He really needs me to be the short stop?  Or, the pitcher?  Or, the manager?  Or, the bat boy? 

So, to prayerfully consider this (among other things) and hopefully to discern some answers as to my purpose and direction now, I’m heading to a 3 day (mostly silent) spiritual retreat next month. I’ve been writing this series as a way to both prepare myself; and, also, to ensure that I hold myself accountable to myself and actually GO.

I apologize (somewhat) for the seeming randomness and rambling of my postings, but this is the road I’m on now, folks.

Which calls to mind a  poignant verse from the Prophet Jeremiah:

“Thus says the Lord:  Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it and, find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

That sounds good to me!


Mrs. B.