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Didja ever read a headline and think, someone, somewhere is pulling my chain?

Like this article, that nearly sent me into a Sarcasm Spasm. It’s about a study that shows that more people will survive a tsunami if they – wait for it – walk faster.

This fine post said “Lakewood Grocery Store Closes, Disappoints Shoppers.” Well, sure, especially if you’re actually in the store. I guess you’d be stuck there forever, banging on the door to be let out! At least you’ve got Cheetos to live on.

Then there’s this gem: “Big Mistake When Posing as an Officer: Pulling Up Behind the Real Thing.”

It makes me want to commission a study to prove that you’ll live longer if you stop reading ridiculous news headlines about things that everyone already knows!

Some things really are as plain as day, and we usually know the truth when we see it. But once in a while, we still need a reminder.

Fear, lack, uncertainty… these things are tiny blips on the radar screen of your life.

If news headlines were really telling it like it is, the news would be much more encouraging.

Life seems to be spiraling out of control? Headline of Truth: God is Still in Charge and Troubles are Always Temporary.

Feeling down and alone in the world? Headline of Truth: You are Loved Like Nobody’s Business and Have Never Once Walked Alone.

Things didn’t go well today? Headline of Truth: There’s Always Tomorrow, and Guess What? God’s Got Your Back.

This message brought to you by your aunt who always encouraged you to do your best, your friends who would bail you out of jail at midnight on a Monday, and the One who brought you here to this blog today. Godspeed!

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“We live in the midst of alarms; anxiety beclouds the future; we expect some new disaster with each newspaper we read.”
― Abraham Lincoln

When I moved into my humble home some twenty years ago, the previous owners had cleared out all of their belongings except for a clock over the refrigerator. It doesn’t keep time properly and I wanted to get rid of it, but the cord had been built into the trim in the kitchen. So if I want to get rid of the clock, I’d have to take apart the kitchen molding. I kept thinking I’d eventually take care of it when we renovated the kitchen, but that didn’t happen. Meanwhile, that clock has been running all these years, showing the wrong time.

Sometimes I’d look at that clock and it would loom large over my head, even though it’s a small object. It would bother me that I couldn’t get rid of the darn thing. That would lead me to worry about all the other little annoying things in need of repair around the house. Before I knew it, I’d spent hours thinking of things I couldn’t resolve and it had left me in an agitated state. Certainly not in a place of peace.

So often, we wear ourselves out working on things that don’t serve us. The way I see it, anxiety is a full-time job for most of us. It’s like running in place. We expend a lot of energy and end up getting nowhere.

In a previous post, I wrote about a spiritual writer named Bhagavan Das, who said, “Worrying is praying for what you don’t want.”

In a spiritual sense, prayer is a panacea. It covers everything and opens the door to God’s grace when a situation has been concerning you.

But on a practical level, I believe that prayer is a team effort. A two-part process.  We ask, then we act. If there’s a goal that’s important to us, we know God gave us two feet for a reason: to walk toward it, and to the best of our ability, to get it done.

Maybe it’s actually three parts, now that I think about it. The last part is the hardest. It’s… letting go.

Once we’ve prayed about a problem and done everything we can to make it better, that’s when it’s time to release it into God’s hands. Ask for what you want. Act to make it happen. The only thing left to do is to release it and send it on its way with a hearty, heartfelt: Amen.

Mayor DeBlasio of New York City was interviewed about residents still re-building two years after Superstorm Sandy. He said they’d sent out 100 checks to families in the Build-it-Back Program, as compared to none earlier this year.

It made me wonder. Sure, if you compare your tiny accomplishment to nothing, heck, it seems to be something. I think we need to set the bar a skooch higher.

On a bottle of juice, there were the words “20% less sugar!” and I thought, as compared to what? A big bag of sugar?

Paula Deen was embroiled (pun alert!) in controversy last year when she revealed that she’d developed diabetes. This celebrity chef made meals with tons of fat and sugar, but she seemed to feel it was unrelated to her health condition. Once, she put a whole stick of butter in a recipe, saying to the camera, “This time we’re cutting back on the butter; normally I use two sticks!”

I guess it’s all about your frame of reference.

And isn’t it true sometimes that we pray, not really expecting God to move on our behalf? It’s possible we’re unconsciously comparing Him to people, some of whom promise things and never deliver.

I’ve got a theory. I think we actually receive answers to our prayers every time we pray.

The answer is either:

□It’s on its way

-or-

□Something better is coming

After all, winning the lottery might not actually provide you with what you truly seek:  happiness. God knows you’re not asking for this specific thing, but what you believe it will bring.

The beauty of praying to the One the Bible calls “the Most High God” is that you’re not praying with your hands, you’re praying with your heart.

So I say, you might as well aim high with your prayers. You might be surprised at the blessings that come your way.

kids' book cover image

Living in the past isn’t just a weight on the soul, it actually puts your present on pause so that, in a spiritual sense, you’re neither here nor there.

This is my fervent prayer today: O Lord, allow us to release ourselves from the prison of past pain.

There really is no warden, no actual iron bars. Just the notion that we can only go as far as this confined space because of things that have happened to us.

Just the imaginary lines that hem us in and hang us up.  We think:

  • If we’ve been hurt before, by anyone, perhaps no one can be trusted.
  • If we’ve tried to pursue a long-cherished dream, and it didn’t work out, maybe that was our only shot. No point in trying again.
  • If we’ve been told we’re too – fill in the blank – □ old □ young □ sick □ poor □ fat □ thin □ ethnic □ timid □ hyperactive □ quirky…we have nothing to contribute in life.

We limit ourselves with labels to the point that we no longer even try. But there’s no need to set down roots in a patch of poison ivy.

So let’s dig into this thing that happened to you. You must know in your heart that you didn’t deserve that. Whatever it was, it wasn’t your fault, so it’s okay to let it go.  It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs in the past, where it can’t hurt you anymore. It belongs to God, who is “close to the broken-hearted and … those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18. It belongs in the sea of forgetfulness, so drop it in and let it go.

Free up space for God’s grace to enliven your life and settle into your soul. Free yourself from the prison you’ve never felt at home in anyway. Release the pain of the past, open your heart to what’s possible, and you’ll find yourself. Free.

Like so many other people, I’m going through a divorce, and the process has really been slow-going. The other day, I went to the Family Court office to pick up some papers and sat next to a lady who was in obvious distress.

Her stomach growled and she said, “Oh! Excuse me.”

I told her not to worry; “It happens to all of us.”

“Especially to moms,” she nodded.

And she paused, leaned toward me and added, “Especially to worried moms.”

Normally, my modus operandi is to encourage people and listen to their stories, but I had a recent realization that there are some things better left in the past.  Sometimes you can’t move ahead until you release the baggage holding you back.

My usual response to this woman telling me she was a worried mom would have been to say, “Oh, dear.  Are you worried?  Tell me what happened.”

My new approach was dramatically different. “Oh, dear.  Are you worried?  Don’t worry; it will all work out.”

She looked at me sharply, almost annoyed, responding with a disbelieving, “mm-hmm,” as if to say, no it won’t.

Up until recently, I’d let people tell me their troubles, thinking it might be cathartic for them.  As it turns out, when we commiserate with others, it actually prolongs and perpetuates problems.  It doesn’t help to tell everyone you meet a long list of your cares and woes.

Luckily, I got a leg cramp and had to walk it off, and strategically stepped away from this lady, but I overheard her talking to the woman on the other side of her.  There was a very long and sad story with graphic details. They talked intensely for twenty minutes and even exchanged phone numbers and emails.  In a way, they’d made a pinky-pact of sorts, to sit together and pick at soul-scabs until they bled again.

I was so glad I had stuck to my policy: I don’t commiserate anymore.  I’ll co-joy with you any day, but I won’t willingly co-sign your agreement to marinate in misery.

It took me years to learn this lesson, but now I know it in my bones. The only way to solve a problem is to do everything that you know will help and then release it, completely entrusting it to God. Traveling light and partnering with Providence is the only way to go.

What I want to talk about is (a) special quality of my people.

I believe it is the most important.
It is our most unique gift. It is perhaps the greatest gift we can give.
In our language this quality is called dadirri.

It is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness …

When I experience dadirri,
I am made whole again.
I can sit on the river bank or walk through the trees;
even if someone close to me has passed away,
I can find my peace in this silent awareness.
There is no need of words …

It is just being aware …

Our Aboriginal culture has taught us to be still and to wait.
We do not try to hurry things up.
We let them follow their natural course—like the seasons.
We watch the moon in each of its phases.
We wait for the rain to fill our rivers and water the thirsty earth …

We wait on God, too.
His time is the right time.
We wait for him to make his Word clear to us.
We don’t worry.
We know that in time and in the spirit of dadirri
(that deep listening and quiet stillness)
his way will be clear.

Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann – Aboriginal Elder

Meteorologists have recently come up with a phrase you may have heard: “weather-aware.” They’ll show you the forecast and say, “It might be a passing front, but you should always be…. weather-aware.”

Sounds kind of ominous! But really, most of the time, it means: umbrella, yes; flip-flops, no. In some ways, it seems like meteorologists want all of us to see the world through the same lens that they do. All weather, all the time.

On the radio, I heard that New York City had introduced its public bike-share initiative. “We’re just in the final phases of the Citi-Bike program, and we’re rolling it out slowly, trying to build momentum.” Rolling out bikes slowly? Was that pun intentional? Does the spokeswoman see the world as one big bike path?

Norman Schwarzkopf once spoke to the press about a military operation, and he was asked by a reporter for specifics. “Sorry, son, I’m a general, and generals only speak generally.”

Doesn’t it seem as if we all see the world through our own particular filters? I know that my son sees every dollar as a potential video game. I see every food item in the store as a coupon waiting to happen.

And when it comes to prayer, I seem to see every moment as an excuse to give God a laundry list of things I need done. A “honey-do” list for the Maker of All Things! Why not? It’s not as if He’s holding the whole world together or anything! Surely He has time to help me with every little thing I need or even vaguely want.

I get so specific with God in prayer – asking about a particular bill, the leaky faucet, even my insurance co-pay – that I lose sight of the fact that God’s already on it. If I were to say what’s in my heart as I prayed, it would consist of: “Here’s what’s happening (as You know) and I’m just checking in to make sure You’ve got my back.” Isn’t that what we need anyway, from anyone in our lives?

Friendship, romantic relationship, even a co-worker. We want to be sure that our partners are on the same wavelength and that they’ll be there for us when the chips are down.

Could it be that God expects us to have His back too? I think we can make His job easier by actually releasing worries once we’ve prayed about them. Maybe even making a dramatic “jazz-hands” gesture as we unleash our troubles into the ether, certain that these problems now officially belong to God.  Poof!  All good.

Seeing the world through the filter of faith can really change the way you look at things. It can also take a load off of your back and lift a burden from your heart.  You’ve just got to leave the heavy-lifting in the Right Hands.

Last year was crazy/busy for me.  Some days, three writing deadlines fell on one day and my clients needed my full attention.  At the same time, my son was in distress and needed my full attention.  To boot, my dog was sick and needed my full attention.  Finally I realized, God was trying to get my attention.

With all the deadlines and life changes last year, God taught me how to work.  He showed me that it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you stop asking “why?” and simply keep going.

All the while I thought I was carrying everyone in the family and the weight of the world, and it turns out Someone was carrying me.

If last year was about learning to persevere, this year is about learning to listen for God’s leading.  Even though it doesn’t seem like an actual skill, now I’m learning how to wait.  I’m not sure where this path is taking me, but what God’s telling me is that in the interim, I should situate.  That is:  Sit.  You wait.  I’ll tell you when it’s time.  For now, breathe. Restore your soul.  Be in repose.  It’s not time for the next step yet, so wait on Me and pray.

So for now, I’ll hold my horses.  Cool my jets.  Put the car into idle.  If that’s what it takes to get wherever I’m going, it’s time to be still and situate.

The main thing I wish for you is this:
A rich, full life.
Even if you’re not rich.
Even if your belly’s not full.
The “for-now” -ness gets us all into trouble.
We say we’ll just take this job… “for now.”
Or stick with this relationship that’s a sinking ship….. “for now.”
For now is another way of saying, I accept less than I deserve.
So here’s the tricky part.  Be content but don’t settle.
Expect great things.
Blast off in a rocket to reach the stars.
Build an eighth wonder in your imagination.
How would you live if you knew you couldn’t fail?
What would you do if you had all you ever wanted?
Would you suddenly know how to be happy?
Mr. Right doesn’t do that for you.
Growing a third eye and seeing into the future won’t make it clear.
It’s already there, all wrapped up inside of you.
Ask God’s help.  Do it yourself.
Get on your knees and pray.
Get on your feet and walk.
Be about it.  Now move.

 

“Oh, Thou Maker of All Things….Please send locusts.  Far-reaching famine.  And a pox for good measure.  Amen.”  Nobody prays like this… do they?  Well, maybe we do, but we don’t realize it.  Sometimes it’s best to ask for “grace” – pure and simple.  Or to say, “Thy Will be done.”

Because at times, whether you realize it or not, you’re asking for trouble.  We’ve all been in that place where we’re asking God for something that really isn’t in our best interests.  Holding onto a relationship or a job that sucks the life out of you may not exactly be what God had in mind for you.

Life after my marriage ended wasn’t easier; it was better.  It’s better not to hold onto something that no longer exists.  It’s a relief not to have turmoil and tension in my home.  Sometimes we may even find ourselves nostalgic for what wasn’t working because we’re not sure what the future holds.  We might think, Well, this situation is toxic, but what will I do next?  How can I ….. fill in the blank.  Support my family.  Pay the bills.  Fix the plumbing.  On my own.

Now I know.  You have to leave the door open to whatever may come, and you have to remember you’re not on the road alone.

It’s taken some time to re-train my mind, but these days, I don’t pray for things I don’t want, like crabgrass, a goiter or a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.  I’ve learned to get into the groove of grace.  Please open the door for me.  Help me walk through.  Please allow me to work for what I want.  Then I’ll know I’ve earned it.  Please bless me with self-determination and focus, wide open spaces and cozy nooks with a good book.

After all, life is what you make it. Prayer is Who you know.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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