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Being Worthy

Affirmation: I am worthy.
What determines the worthiness of a human being?  In 1997 the movie Gattica came out staring
Ethan Hawke.  It was a sci-fi film about
genetically altering the human fetus towards a specific occupation.  A child who was born without this alteration
was considered “imperfect” or “inferior” and that human was
deigned useful only for menial jobs. 
Ethan was one of those children born without the advantage of the
sophisticated science of the time.  He
was not happy with his pre-determined role and the movie revolves around what
he needs to do to give the illusion of being one of the perfect people.  As we all know, the science fiction of today
has often become the reality of tomorrow. 
With genetic testing widely available and with the mapping of the Gnome,
the theme of Gattica may not be too far removed from the very near future. 
When I’ve facilitated programs about creating affirmations people
are encouraged to create phrases that do not have any negatives in them.  A few years back, however, I had one person
who had had a very difficult childhood and she decided she was going to use
“not” in her affirmation because it was the best phrase to help her
feel better and so she did.  Most of the
time when we use a negative in an affirmation, our brains ignore the negative
and we wind up doing or feeling exactly the opposite of what we had intended.
She decided she did NOT need to do anything more or be anyone other than who
she was to be of value.  When she shared
her affirmation it was obvious to everyone present that it was going to have a
powerful impact for her even with the word “not” as part of it.
Recently I was involved in an activity that was more than
humbling.  I was actually embarrassed by
what I perceived as my poor performance. 
(If you’ve been following this blog you can probably guess what I was
doing.) I then became annoyed with myself for judging myself so harshly.  For me this was another experience that made
me wonder, what determines the value of a human being? 
When someone is asked, “What do you do?” the answer
generally generates a visceral response in both the questioned and the
questioner.  Have you watched the
physical response of both parties as this question is presented, have you
observed yourself?  I’ve seen the persons
being asked sometimes “puff-up”, stand taller, perhaps their
shoulders go back.  I’ve watched some
people slump over, maybe step back as if they’re preparing for battle.  Then there’s the person’s response when the
answer is given.  For example, if the
answer is, “I’m a brain surgeon” most people would probably have a
different response than if the answer was, “I’m a trash
collector.”  We generally judge and
many times value an individual based on what they “do.” 
I am fascinated by society’s value determination of occupations.  As far as I’m concerned if people were
financially rewarded for their services based on how they benefit society,
sports persons would not be making millions of dollars while teachers eek out a
living.  Movie stars would not be some of
the richest people in our country while those who care for the sick and elderly
barely make minimum wage. 
Where am I going with this? 
I want everyone to feel valued simply because they are a human
being.  My friend was right.  We don’t need to do anything more or be
anybody special to be worthy.  We need to
value each person simply because they are a creation of God.  If we don’t do that it would mean that the
sick, the infirm, the elderly, the mentally ill are of no value.  It will mean that someday society will allow
science to genetically alter or design a human being and those that don’t come
out “perfect” will be relegated to a subservient place or even worse
destroyed.
My faith, the Catholic Church, promotes the sanctity of life from
the womb to the tomb.  I know this is not
a popular concept and I understand how people because of dire circumstances
sometimes want to be in charge of who lives and who dies and when, but it seems
to me it’s a slippery slope towards devaluing the human being and life itself. 
Several years ago I was invited by a dear friend, Ann Baucom, to
join her and a group of women in developing a personal “charter of
compassion.”  I came up with six
steps: Pray, Embrace Silence, Listen for God’s voice, Affirm what is important
to me, Release it into God’s care, and Love, non-judgmentally, non-graspingly
and unconditionally.  When I shared this
charter with a friend, she thought it was too self-centered and not enough
other-centered but I feel I can’t affect
any change in the world until I change myself. 
Each human being is a masterpiece, no matter what the flaws.  The flaws can add color, depth and
texture.  We are each a precious treasure
and with that concept we should know that we are worthy; worthy of respect,
worthy of love, worthy of all the good and prosperity of a Divine
creation.  Once we believe in ourselves,
we will posses the wherewithal to give back to the world.
We can be of service by simply knowing God is always with us and
She is leading us and guiding us.  If we
are listening we will do it with love and honor and compassion.  We are of service if daily we rise with the
intention to bless the world in our thoughts and words and deeds. We can impact
the world regardless of what we do or, are unable to do if we simply hold our
fellow man or woman in our thoughts with blessings and love. I am a perfect
being created by a loving God regardless of what I do or don’t do and so are
you!

Living an Intentional Life

Affirmation:  Everyday I
get to choose how I want to perceive my life experience.
Mo Martin won the Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale in
England this July, 2014.  When she was
interviewed she mentioned her “intention” was to win the
tournament.  At the time she was ranked
99th on the tour and it appeared no one had her listed as a potential
champion.  She ended her win and her
final hole with an eagle, which means she had three shots on a hole on which a good
golfer would normally have five shots. 
As of this writing, I am lucky enough to be in the mountains of
North Carolina and once again I find myself playing golf.  If you follow this blog you know that golf is
not one of my gifts.  It’s something at
which I have to work very hard in order to play somewhat decently and to tell
the truth, I only work on it for the few weeks I’m up in the mountains.  I do, however, love the sport.  I share the time with my husband, Sandy.  He’s an amazing golfer and many times my son,
Joey, is with us.  Sometimes his
beautiful wife, Belen, comes along.  It’s
beautiful up here and the course we get to play on looks like a post card.  It’s so exhilarating when I actually hit that
little ball and it soars away down the fairway towards the pin.  I love it when I putt the ball and it rolls
along and plops in the hole.  I actually
love to watch someone else make a long difficult putt. It almost seems surreal
to me to finally have that tiny ball fall into that tiny spot on this huge
expanse of lawn.  I think a big part of
the excitement for me is that I’m so surprised and delighted when things
actually go better than I even imagined. 
I don’t intend to have a low expectation of my performance but after
years of playing I have come to recognize that I will probably remain a below
average player unless I decide to play more than just the month of July.  However, I always set an intention to do
well, for me, and to enjoy the day.   

The first time I heard the phase “take an intention”
was at a yoga class many years ago.  The
teacher did not provide any other guidance. 
She simply told us to “take an intention for your practice”
and then left us to figure it out.  I
remember it clearly.  The word
“gratitude” popped into my mind and so I embraced it and let it sit
with me for the hour.  Interestingly it
didn’t leave me at the end.  I found it
was with me as I went into the day and here I sit many years later still embracing
gratitude, every day.  When I teach I
always follow that same example.  I
encourage everyone to chant an “ohm” and to bring their palm together
in front of their heart and with their thumbs touching their heart I say
“Take an intention for this time you’re giving yourself.   Any word that comes to mind is
fine.”  And then at the end of our
practice, we repeat the chant and I remind the participants to recall the
intention they took at the beginning of class and encourage them to take it
with them into their day, and perhaps into their lives. 
That simple instruction so many years ago has had a very powerful
impact on my life.  I found myself taking
an intention each morning for the day. 
As I journal and pray in the morning, I wait to see what word or words
come to my awareness and I let them sit with me as I finish my quiet time and
then bring them with me into my day. 
It’s very seldom that something doesn’t come to the surface.  If not, I just let go for the day.  I decided also that I might as well take an
intention for each year.  I only began
this two years ago but it’s been a wonderful gift to give myself.  You may remember that my intention for 2014
is to, “connect to the Divine.” 
It’s been quite a journey so far and I’m looking forward to what the
rest of the year will present. 
When I listened to Mo Martin’s interview, I found her expression
of intent to be of interest.  I assume
she’s a yogini.  Maybe yes, maybe no, but
yogini or not, she has a remarkable attitude. 
She “took an intention” to win!  Yeah, Mo! 
Go girl!  Why not?  She set herself up for success.  She knew it was possible she wouldn’t win but
once she set that intention, she recognized that she could very well achieve
her goal.  She also said even when she
wasn’t playing well, when she wasn’t winning, she still woke up everyday with a
smile and a sense of excitement about being able to play. 
By living an intentional life it means you’ve given thought to
what you want your life to look like.  I
would imagine if you’re reading this you already are someone who is choosing
how to live your life but don’t assume that’s how most of the world lives.  Unfortunately, many people are faced with
such dire challenges they don’t have the energy to focus on choice. Others
simply have chosen not to choose but to let life and fate just play itself out.
Once you begin “taking an intention” you may find your day and
therefore you life takes on a richness that makes you feel like a winner no matter
what challenge life presents or at the very least, you wake up each morning,
like Mo, with a smile on your face and a sense of excitement about being able
to play, the game of life.

Saving the World

Affirmation: I believe that my prayer to help someone in need is
always answered and is supported by God in amazing ways that I cannot even
imagine.
In the book The End of Life Book Club by Will Shwalbe, he
tells the story of his mother’s life. 
The story revolves around her battle with Pancreatic cancer and their
journey through her treatment and as you can figure out from the title, her
death.  They are a two person book club
with either the advantage or disadvantage depending upon your view, of not
having to provide food for the attendees. 
There is a long list of books they read and discuss over the two year
period of her treatment.  It appears they
have always been a two person book club but didn’t “officially”
establish it until they were sharing her final challenge.  It’s cleverly written in that with each book
read, he not only writes about the book but about his mother’s life.  I’ve made a list of each of the books with
the intention of reading some of the ones they shared. Some of them I’ve
already read.  I already know, however,
that I’ll be skipping some of his recommendations.  They are way too disturbing for my
taste.  Just listening to the struggles
of the protagonists on their reading list was enough to remind me of how cruel
the world and fate can be.  He is a
publisher at the beginning of the book. 
His mother is an activist and a heroine. 
She’s in her seventies at the time of her diagnosis and has been a
“first” for women in many fields and areas. For example, she was the
founding director of the Women’s Refugee Commission. 
She was an advocate for
women and children refugees all over the world and she’d traveled to many of
those areas. You can Google her or read the book if you’d like more
information.  Her final project was to
build a library in Afghanistan and she wasn’t going to die until that was
accomplished.  It was built.  I guess she was a lot like Angelina Jolie,
just not a famous celebrity.  I also have
the impression she didn’t have the protection, guidance or ease of travel given
to a famous movie star.  She was in the
trenches with those who most needed help. 
Mary Anne Schwalbe was a courageous and compassionate woman.  Her whole life regardless of the danger of
difficulty, revolved around being of service to others.
This has been a good book for me. 
I live a blessed life of comfort and the older I get the more I seem to
gravitate towards being comfortable. 
That includes an element of safety. 
I have not traveled to “dangerous” places, at least as far as
I believe.  I know sometimes going around
the block can sometimes be dangerous.  I
have, however, been working at seeing the broader, worldwide picture of those
in need.  I know there are people
suffering in ways I cannot even imagine and don’t want to imagine.  My husband, Sandy and I sponsor several
children in different programs around the world. We’ve always contributed to
our church’s appeals and those of nations who suffered natural disasters and we
make every effort to reach out whenever we are directly faced with a need we
can assist.   
Our church, St. Michael the
Archangel, has a sister parish in Honduras and we support that and more
recently we reached out to a charity in Tanzania presented to us by St. Bernadette
Church in Linville, NC.  We’ve also
supported Oie Ostercamp’s Share Fish organization which does work with the poor
in Honduras. Last year, after I read Fr. Albert Haas’ Catching Fire,
Becoming Flame
in order to do something more, I added praying the Rosary
for those “most in need of God’s mercy.”  It allowed me to stay safely in my comfort
zone and yet to become more sensitive and aware of the world’s plight.   I’m sharing these examples to illustrate
that I’ve really tried to be more “world conscious.”  I try to stay informed but not overly
concerned because I feel I only have so much energy and some days just caring
for myself and my family is all I feel I can do.  Let’s face it, the world is a very big place
and here I sit, one of billions of beings. 
What kind of a difference can I make? Yet, when I read about people like
Mary Anne Schwalbe, I wonder what more can I do?  What else can I add to my efforts that might
bring comfort, peace, hope and even joy to those suffering on this planet?
Then recently, one of my study groups began Anthony DeStefano’s, Ten
Prayers God Always Says Yes To.
  One
of the first prayers he offers is, “Please use me to help someone in
need.”  I hesitated.  My initial reaction was to back away.  I fully recognized this was a prayer God
would not deny but what would be required of me in order to follow Her
will?  Would I be asked to travel to a
third world country undergoing revolution or that had just experienced a
devastating weather event?  Would I be
asked to give up all I now have, like the young man in the New Testament and
follow God to poverty and perhaps martyrdom? 
Perhaps even worse would be if more and more was added to my already
full plate and in an effort to do be of greater service to the world, I became
neglectful of where my true service lies, my family and my community.  I could immediately see all the pitfalls of
such a prayer and yet, I felt ready to step out in faith.  I said the prayer.  I’ve been saying it now for several weeks and
as I’ve journaled I found myself relaxing in the prayer, relaxing in my belief
that if I’m called to do God’s work, to be of more service to those in need,
that God will provide the support to do just that.  I am stepping out in faith.  I believe that through prayer not only will I
be of greater service but that I will be given the discernment to know which
requests are from God and which are of my ego. 
Deep breaths, quiet time and prayers from the depth of my heart will
lead me where I am most needed.  Yes, it
could be to some third world country.  I
trust God will come with me there too. 
It could also be to a place I haven’t yet examined, a place within,
which takes me to a marvelous place not so far from where I am now but enables
me to see it in a different light, a light of service right here and right
now. 
 
What do you think?  Are you
willing to step out in faith?  Go ahead,
say it, “God, please use me to help someone in need.”  I hope you’ll let me know what you discover.