Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pain Can Serve

When our bodies are sick or injured, it's an opportunity to listen to them for a change. We make so many demands of our bodies, and they do what they're told, almost all of the time. I'm amazed when I think how God inhabits my physical self: setting my heart to beating moment by moment, conducting an orchestra of muscle movements for each step I take. This is not something I should be taking for granted.

Which of course I have been taking for granted.

With my recent running injury I see what a miracle it is that I've been walking, hiking, moving unthinkingly throughout my life, straining those feet down there, those slim tendons in my ankles and calves, those finely crafted heels.

A couple years ago I lost my voice, off and on for several weeks. After a number of doctor visits, my wise naturopath asked, "One more thing I need to ask you. What is it you're not saying?" My body knew that I was suppressing my voice - there were statements I wanted to make through my life and writing, but I was pushing them away. Not long after this awareness the laryngitis cleared up.

This isn't woo-woo hocus pocus. Peoples all over the world have listened to illness this way for thousands of years. Once we tapped into some science, though, we westerners became too smart for all that stuff. We shunned our Creator and all the wisdom intricately laid within these amazing earth-ships that carry us through the atmosophere.

Most of us don't cultivate appreciation for our bodies. But we do notice those parts that make noise and start to hurt. A little pain, then, can be a good servant if it leads us to listen to the truth - and to appreciate what we have. Least, I'm making that choice today.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Anybody Everybody

"If the gospel isn't good news for everybody, then it isn't good news for anybody." --Rob Bell

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Programs for Happiness

I love the wisdom of Father Thomas Keating as he talks about those things we strive to do and have, which we are convinced will make us happy.

I was reviewing my life and the latest of my own programs for happiness. There is The Thin Program. This program is all about calorie counting and careful discipline, and tells me that if I fit into my clothes well, I will be happy.

The Exercise Program is related to the above, but emphasizes how far and fast I can run, how fit I am, how much stamina I have. The program promises that if I am fit, I will be happy.

The Publishing Program. This is part of my Amazing Writer Program. A while after I get something into print, this program gets uneasy and cries, "More! More!" If I am published I will be happy.

The Fashionista Program. I do collect cute clothes. I adore interesting jewelry. I've been known to fuss over my hair. All these are components of the Fashionista Program, complete with the oath: "If I look good all the time, I'll be happy."

The Successful Offspring Program. This program started back when my children were precocious adorable babies, and I got their overflow attention when they did cute things. This program offers: If my kids are superachievers (or at least above average like the children of Lake Woebegone), then I'll be happy.

I've also got the Fulfilling Marriage program, the Impressive Career Program, the Witty and Charming Personality Program and the Beautiful House Program. Here's one beckoning me now: The Insightful and Well-Followed Blogger Program.

Oh! I almost forgot my favorite program of all: The Everything Program! This one says that if I can run every one of these programs, then I will be happy.

I want programs to distract me from the heartache of loss that living has brought. To make me feel good enough to earn God's favor. To distract me from my inadequacies and shortcomings and... my very yearning for God.

Our entire society is fiddling with its programs. But fulfillment comes from being, from living and loving - not from doing, earning and possessing. My happiness springs from the Eternal One, who doesn't require I perform, only that I acknowledge the Holy Presence.

I don't care how the inner programs lie to us, or how the external forces dazzle. Turn off these commercials, whenever you find them, and you will exercise true spiritual awareness.

Here's my prayer...

God you know my programs don't work. I strained something in my ankle while running, so there goes program one and two. My kids need my support and love, not my expectations of achievement. House? Dusty, in program ten while I'm striving over program eight. I'm here. You're here. You accept me just like this, and You are all I need. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Scared and Sacred

I noticed yesterday the word "scared" becomes the word "sacred," by moving the "C" one letter over. Step back from what you see ("C"), don't keep it so close. Take a broader view, and your points of fear can become holy moments. --Christi Krug

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

There Is No Getting Things Right

My friend Tamara shares today's thought, which was inspired by a conversation regarding Pema Chodron's book, When Things Fall Apart:

For the spiritual person, there is no getting things right or getting them wrong. Right and Wrong are simply two extremes. Life, with all its subtleties and experiences, doesn't fit into such categories. So don't think you're ever really going to get anything right--the only thing you can do is try your best and keep your heart tender. Hafiz says it well in the poem "Now is the Time:"

Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.

Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.

Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child's training wheels
To be laid aside
When you finally live
With veracity
And love.

Hafiz is a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a holy message upon.

My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?

What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?

Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.

This is the time for you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace.

Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is sacred.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I Learn How

In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.

You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,

but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.

No Starting Over. Again.

"Tomorrow I will start my diet." This is never true, points out my student Barb, who is writing a brilliant, funny book on weight loss. Same with the statement, "Tomorrow I will start my new book." These are just lies we tell ourselves. We aren't capable of starting over, because we never feel "new and improved."

There is a sense that we must be perfect now, or at least pretend to be perfect. And we think we could be, too. If only.

But it all flows into one. Yesterday is part of today, and yesterday's flaws were integral.

The failings and lessons and slippages of yesterday are beautiful in the light of redemption. To redeem means to recover, to offset. It's not about wiping everything out; what redemption does is transform the way we look at everything. Our lives can be just as they are, the rough spots, the smooth. We see how it's all offset by love.

Today's shortcomings are all right. No need to insist on a brand new tomorrow, a demarcation of day or hour.

We humans, too, can be recovered. Don't throw them out! Nevermind the flaws. They can be salvaged.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Telling God's Truth

For years I spent a lot of energy trying to perpetuate the lie that I was "perfect." It wasn't something I was conscious of, but I did work very hard at it. I was driven by a need to create this impression for family, church, and even for myself. I drove myself crazy.

I think of Jack in "The Importance Of Being Earnest," a terrific show I saw Friday. Jack's mythical identity gets in the way of his happiness - when those he loves find out he's been lying. He discovers how telling the truth is painful, especially when one has relied on false realities for an artificial sense of well-being.

I love the St. Augustine quote, "Truth belongs to (the) Lord, wherever it is found." When we get involved in the Truth, God gets involved in us. God isn't interested in our pretenses and defenses, no matter how convincing we play them. When we are brave enough to say, "This is how it really is," the curtain closes on our little playact, and life can finally start.