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Immanuel

Immanuel

Whew! The holidays are over; I made it.

Since my mother died three years ago, celebrations and festivities are not the same. My emotions become so stirred up that I have difficulty hearing myself . . . I lose my way. I enjoy and dearly love my family and friends, but the additional “noise” and flurry of activity makes remembering the peace in my soul arduous if not impossible.

There were moments of temporary calm amidst the commotion . . . a remembrance service with a friend where those who have lost loved ones gathered in candle light to share love and memories . . . or a midnight church communion service on Christmas Eve that celebrated what I feel is the true essence of the Holy Day . . . or a conversation with a neighbor.

The doorbell rang rather late. My neighbor, who had been playing catch with her dog in her yard, came over to retrieve the ball which had accidentally landed in our backyard. We exchanged pleasantries about the holidays and from her response I could tell that even though she said everything went well, she was still dissatisfied.

A single mom, with three children—one in high school, one in middle school and one in kindergarten—with a little prompting, she shared her frustration over the commercialism of the times. While describing herself as spiritual she said she identifies most with Christianity, but was puzzled by the importance placed on Christmas to the seeming neglect of Easter—“that’s the real holiday, isn’t it? A dead tree and gifts have little to do with why he was born in the first place.”

I really could not disagree. But rather than interject or speak up, I sensed my purpose was to listen, which I did.

We shared a hug before she returned home, and though I said little during our conversation, I felt right then that I had truly experienced Christmas—Immanuel, God with us.

“For wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them.” Matthew 18:20

Leviticus 26:11-12 says it this way . . .

“I will put my tabernacle among you, and I will not reject you, but I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”

My pastor pointed out in a recent message that the two most repeated commandments from God in the Bible are “Do not fear” (or “be not afraid”) and “I am with you.”

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

. . . any sacred or holy moment that reminds us that we are not separate . . .

Immanuel!

Why Me

Why Me

Why me?

Do you ever ask yourself this question?

I do. I did, just yesterday, as I was driving to pick up my grandchildren from the bus stop. I was in full-on pity party mode which, fortunately, passed quickly once in the comforting presence of my grandson and granddaughter.

This morning, in the bathroom, I asked myself the same question. However, this time my blessings had overwhelmingly grabbed my heart and I was feeling profoundly grateful.

There is no answer to that question in either context except possibly, “why not me?”

This may have been what Paul was talking about in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where he says:

In everything give thanks, for this is what God wants from you who are united with the Messiah Yeshua.

Jeffrey, 40ish—a homeless man and food pantry regular, has the most cheerful disposition. Being around him is like watching birds bathe in a bird bath or puddle of water. There is just something so whimsical and joyful about the way birds splash, shake and flutter as they clean their feathers.

Abused, abandoned—he has experienced his share of physical, mental and emotional health issues and near-death experiences which he freely shares with anyone willing to listen. Yet this man inhabits gratitude and thankfulness as playfully as birds immersed in bathing.

Freely occupying a space of awakened Trust, this beautiful soul does not feel sorry for himself and graciously praises God with every breath.

I hear your doubts, “it’s just an act to get you to feel sorry for him;”he’s in denial,” or “he’s just crazy.”

No. While driving around town, unbeknownst to him, I have seen him walking and there is a spring in his step and a genuine expression of peace and contentment on his face.

Is he a sunny side optimist?  I do not think so.  My impression is that he makes the choice to be thankful in all his life’s circumstances and only he knows how difficult that decision is from one moment to the next.

“In everything give thanks . . . “

Simple, to the point . . .

. . . thank you, Jeffrey—your example is what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Breathe

Breathe

Every now and then some little something will grab my attention and spark a bit of creative energy. Each wee tidbit, however, does not have enough substance on its own for a full post. Yet, when all these small sound-bites, sightings, feelings, happenings, etc. combine, they become a journey of sacred moments.

Today was a day chock full of holy occurrences.

As my five-year-old grandson’s Kindergarten class was settling, preparing for me to read aloud, one little girl said: “I like your hair, it’s changing color. Some of it is white.” Precious! Then after picking up my grandchildren from the bus, there was a brief respite where the three of us were languidly lounging in a huge, purple beanbag chair with a sleepy puppy. Heaven! A friend called to see if I would be interested in being a judge for some school projects—I wasn’t, but thanked her for thinking of me. To which she responded, “I think of you a lot.” Loved!

Or yesterday . . .

Wednesday is the day I volunteer at the food pantry. There were quite a few boxes to be broken down before they could be recycled, which I did with great enthusiasm.  I was thrilled that manual labor brought me such purpose and pleasure.  Exhilarating!

Even though I did not feel like it, I went to choir practice—it was dark and cold and I just wanted to stay home where it was warm and cozy. Afterward, though, I felt refreshingly enervated and woke up the next morning with my spirit singing. Joyful!

The day before that . . .

. . . was a day with absolutely nothing to do and I enjoyed doing it! I sat in my recliner rocking away, watching the birds and feeling so profoundly grateful for a cousin who would give me the gift of this website. My heart felt like it was bursting with pleasure in the silent solitude. Thankful!

By now you may be thinking, “But what about those days when life is not rosy and lovely?”

I get it. Sometimes it seems as if days can turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years of one hardship after another. This crazy world is filled with overwhelming unfair and undue pain, grief and suffering.

And yet gratefulness, here we breathe . . .

My mind wanders back in time to when I was in labor with my sons, and was told to breathe. Seemingly I am still giving attention to the intentional breathing practices I learned in childbirth class.

. . . just breathe.

My yoga instructor ended our session today by having us concentrate on our breath, the “divine energy that sustains life.”

Could this be what Paul meant when he said “pray without ceasing” in I Thessalonians 5:17? Some translations say “pray regularly,” “pray constantly,” “pray continuously,” or “never stop praying.”

Breathe . . . in . . . out . . . regularly, constantly, continuously . . . in . . . out . . .

. . . sometimes that is all we can do; and maybe it is all we need do . . . each breath–this very here and now sacred, eternal moment.

Visit the link below for a treatise on the connection between prayer and breath.

www.chaimbentorah.com/2019/04/hebrew-word-study-breath/

Palette

Palette

Autumn is my favorite time of year!

I love harvest reds, golden yellows and pumpkin oranges that appear as the waning chlorophyll finishes its job for the season. Then the leaves begin to fall and give way to a skyline highlighted by chocolate browns, burnished bronzes and dull silvers against a backdrop of mossy-green pines, azure skies and the tawny tans of harvested corn fields.

All of these hues and tones arouse my Taurus earthiness. Even as the tapestry of colors herald the beginning of a deep cyclical slumber, I am feeling vibrantly alive as if the Master Artist has created all of this just for me.

On my way to church recently it was as if the painting was being created right before my eyes—like a three-dimensional, interactive work of art in which I played a dynamic role.

A light fog hugged the rolling hills and hollows like a down comforter on a warm, toasty bed. Sunshine glimmered through the water vapor producing pulsating columns of sunbeams.

As I crested a hill, four large black birds gently swooped down just above and in front of me in precision formation. Their leisurely flapping seemed to pull my truck along like a Roman chariot through brilliant murkiness. After a short while, they gently broke free of the reins and calmly—almost as if in slow motion—swept up and away in balletic unity.

With their departure, the magical moment ended but left a feeling of Oneness in my being . . .

. . . the Creator and Created as One.

Our lives are the palette of colors and our actions are the brushstrokes coeval—synchronous– with, in, and through God.

This aesthetic knowing is something my Yoga teacher, Lisha, intuitively celebrates with each class she teaches. Leading her yogis through contemplative poses, our energy is meditatively yoked inspiring a harmonious pictorial of grace and peace.

What hues of prismatic light and what brushstrokes are you using in this universally creative process?

Whether it is singing or dancing or painting . . . whatever the creative process . . . we are more than labels, we are a Community of One.

Justice

Justice

In no other experience have I grown more in my spiritual journey than in and through my interactions with clients at the food pantry; which is why these encounters are a frequent topic of this site . . .

. . . as it is with this entry.

Homeless, diabetic, confined to a wheelchair due to the loss of a leg below the knee, missing teeth, hygiene issues and a food pantry regular. This 26-year-old man who had been a student at the middle school where I once taught died recently.

In school I did not have any direct contact with him because he was in the BD (Behavior Disorder) classroom, but I knew of him. He lived a difficult life, more challenging than I could ever imagine on my worst day.

We had absolutely nothing in common and yet I am very grateful for his life!

I learned so much from him. Justice taught me what it really means to not judge someone. I do not know and cannot see what is in a person’s heart. Neither do I know the rest of his or her life’s story, nor do I need to know—God knows and that is enough.

In serving Justice, I got to serve Jesus and learn the real value and fullness of love. Matthew 25:40 says . . 

The King will say to them, ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!’

Loving one person is loving all people and loving all is loving One.

And . . . I thought I was a compassionate person—not even close! Thanks to Justice, I learned compassion like that of the good Samaritan . . .

But a man from Shomron (Samaria) who was traveling came upon him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. So, he went up to him, put oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he set him on his donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day, he took out two days’ wages, gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Look after him; and if you spend more than this, I’ll pay you back when I return.’ Luke 10:33-35

Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with each other. Their ancient enmity grew out of favoritism, abandonment, deception and wars. Prior to the Samaritan stopping to care for the Jewish man, two others—a priest and Levite, both Jews and both well versed in Jewish law—intentionally crossed to the other side of the road to avoid helping the victim of a horrendous crime. The man had been beaten, robbed, stripped and left for dead. This is one of the reasons the actions of the Good Samaritan are so remarkable.

Recognizing the suffering of others is not enough, one must take action. Actions that can be financially costly and possibly time consuming; not to mention inconvenient and maybe uncomfortable. Actions that are sacrificial. Actions that are more concerned for the welfare of another, than for oneself. Actions that look beyond the labels of race, religion, sexuality, politics–any ideas that serves to separate and divide. Actions that recognize suffering as universally endured.

One need not believe in God to practice this kind of empathy, kindness and mercy. We are all neighbors while we share this time and space on planet Earth.

Justice called this out in me and I hope you hear him calling it out in you too.

Fear

Fear

Within the last year or so, three beloveds–one being my father–have told me that they think I am courageous. Each time I was taken aback. I do not see it.

In fact, after a recent incident with a friend and her daughter, I was confronted with just how much of my life has been and is driven by fear. Fear of being judged, fear of disapproval, fear of confrontation, fear of displeasing people, fear of not being loved, fear of not being worthy to be loved, fear of making mistakes, fear of being helpless, fear of not being smart enough or pretty enough or good enough . . .

. . . my heart races, doubts assail me and I look for a way out by staying under the radar.

And so . . .

“Pray for my daughter. She’s walking to work.”

“That’s a long way, what happened?”

“She doesn’t have a ride and she doesn’t need my help.
I told her I would take her but I was going to tell her
boss she doesn’t have transportation. (Part of the conditions
of her employment is to have transportation.) She said no
and walked out the door.”

Imagining the worst that could happen to this beautiful and intelligent 17-year-old woman walking over six miles to work on shoulder-less roads and through sketchy areas, I hopped into my truck in search of her. Luckily, I found her not too far from her home and she willingly accepted a ride.

As we drove, she received a text from her mother, “Don’t come home.”

Even though my insides were in an uproar, I remained as outwardly calm as I could, so that I could support the daughter through this traumatic event. When I dropped her off, there were tears in her eyes as I gave her a hug.

After I got home, a text conversation with her mother made me realize how my fears had informed my friendship with her and how the advice I had given her over time was not completely truthful or helpful.

During some quiet time, I reflected on the gutsy girl who walked out of her house not knowing the outcome of her decision yet remaining true to herself.

And then, remembering some of my past . . .

“You better not get pregnant!”

I was barely 19 years old when my father called me to his office in the basement of our home and spoke those words to me–fearful himself, I’m sure.  I’d just started college away from home, was with my first serious boyfriend, and I was beginning to explore some alternative activities and ideas that were in direct contradiction to some of the conditioned ways I was raised.

My father’s stern and strict methods of discipline still left me fearful and confused but I was determined to “walk out the door.”

The rest, as they say, is history. (See my Home Page for some of the highlights.)

Gutsy and courageous? I don’t know, maybe. Will I still make decisions based on my fears? Probably, but hopefully less and less as I allow those fears to fall away in the light of God’s Love and Grace.

. . . it could be as simple as making the best hand with the cards I’ve been dealt.