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Believing in Angels

Affirmation: I choose to believe in Angles.

 

angle-2Do you ever think about angles? Not the LA baseball team but the ones that appear in mythology and theology. They are a part of all the major religions. Do you believe in angels? Do you think they all have wings? Are they male and female or gender neutral? Do they ever appear in their true form or do they take on human characteristics? Do you think we really have guardian angels? What if you did believe, truly believe that there was a powerful spiritual presence hovering over you, advising you, and guiding you? How would that feel? Would it make you feel calmer? Would you become more conscious of your choices?

There have been many movies made about angles. My favorite is very old. It’s the black and white version of The Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young. There was the TV series that ran from 1994-2003 called Touched by an Angel and of course, Hallmark loves stories that have an angel theme. I’ve also read several books about angles. There are stories about people who see angles, talk to angels, and receive guidance from angels. One of the books I read many years ago offered a journaling process to help you “hear” the wisdom of the angles involved in your life. And, of course, there is the ultimate angel book, the Bible.

The whole salvation story begins with the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she is to be the mother of the Messiah. They go on to announce the birth of our Savior to the shepherds and then continue to guide and protect the Holy Family throughout the beginning of the New Testament. Was that it? Did they stop visiting after that?

angel-104-2For many years one of my affirmations has been, “I have a very active guardian angel.” I don’t know when I began to truly believe that she (yes, she) was actively looking after me but looking back on my life, I completely believe that someone very powerful was helping me make decisions that were to my benefit rather than my detriment. There has always been a greater force in my life planting thoughts and ideas that led me along a path that has resulted in the life I now relish, a force that was not recognizable, not tangible. I look back and I am in awe of how I’ve been guided. I mean let’s face it, we all have those moments when if we went left instead of right, we know without any doubt that our lives would have been much harder, maybe even shorter, had we gone in that perilous direction. I simply look back and feel blessed. I know it has been my Guardian Angel, Saranna.

I’d been talking to her, Saranna, for many years when my dear deceased friend and massage therapist, Valerie Kelly, one day announced that there was an angel in the room with us. She took a deep breath and seemed quite startled. I was not surprised. Then she asked me if I wanted to know her name. I had named my angel many years before. Someone told me it was a good idea. I had named her Anna. It seemed like a nice angel name. Valerie stopped and listened for a moment and then said, “Her name is Saranna.” And so she is.

I call on her guidance quite often. I invite her to lead the way or to pave the way. Sometimes, I request that she speak with her fiends who are my loved one’s angles and ask them to smooth the way or direct the way. I know if you are a realist and don’t believe in the spiritual world, you probably have stopped reading by now. I know if you’re a therapist without any faith in a power greater than us, you have diagnosed me as someone with a problem or at the very least an overactive imagination. I haven’t heard the angels and sadly I haven’t seen them, in their natural state but I know they are here. I simply know it.

My husband, Sandy, will not pass a homeless person without giving him or her money. He always tells me that they could be an angel in disguise. The weekend of April 25th, 2015 was the twenty first Angels Among Us Walk for the Preston Robert Tish Brain Tumor Center at Duke. They open the walk with the song, “Angels Among Us” and the survivors lead the way for several thousand walkers who are there to raise awareness and money for brain tumor research. This year they raised over $2,094,000. Two of the first patients treated with the new polio virus technique led the way. They are cancer free of glioblastomas, an unheard of accomplishment until the last couple of years. I didn’t “see” any angles that Saturday but I am sure there were many, many of them present.

JeanDuke2-2

Archangels-2In May my friend and massage therapist invited me to be part of a chain begun in 2000. She explained to me that I would be inviting the Archangels into my home for five days and when they left I would invite three other friends to host them. Why not? I followed the directions and set up the little welcome station that had a candle, a white flower, three slips of paper with a personal request, a family request and a community request and an apple to absorb the blessings of their presence. They arrived at 10:30 PM on the date I was told and as far as I was concerned they were using my home as their base for the next five days. Were there any unusual happenings? We’re there any miracles? Did I see or notice anything unusual? No, no and no but I felt difference. I had a sense of peace and comfort that was beyond my normal. Just the thought that they were blessing my home and family gave me comfort. They are “gone” now but I’ve decided since I’ve opened my home to them, I can now consider them to be close friends and when I have a pressing need, they will return.

I looked up the mythology revolving around the Archangels. It seems there are somewhere between three and seven. I don’t know how many were here during their visit. I know Michael, Rafael and Gabriel were here for sure. I attend St. Michael the Archangel Church. I live off of Rafael Drive and have several people in my life named Gabriel. It’s all a mystery, isn’t it? I am comfortable with mystery at this time in my life. I don’t have to understand everything that I believe. That’s what faith is all about, believing the unbelievable. I choose to believe in angels. I choose to believe there is a higher, compassionate, wise power that wants to lead us to a better, more fulfilling life and with that belief, for me, it brings peace and comfort and hope.

Embracing Mystery

Affirmation:  My faith is
stronger when I allow mystery to have a place in my life.
In Rachel Remen’s book The Will to Live and Other Mysteries,
she offers up the opinion that most people are more concerned with mastery than
with mystery.  She goes onto give
examples of events she and others have experienced that cannot be explained
with science or with logic but if one is open to believing in the unbelievable,
the events not only take on meaning; they become powerful examples of spirit
alive and at work in the world and in our lives.
My Christian faith is grounded in
mystery.  At some point I had to decide
to believe the unbelievable.  Let’s admit
it the whole story of Jesus Christ’s birth, death and resurrection is pure mystery.  If I were to assume that my limited
intelligence or anyone’s, even that of the brilliant, is able to understand
God, I would not only be arrogant but stupid. 
For heaven’s sake we may one day completely understand our own bodies
but we will never be able to duplicate them. 
Only Divine power could have created a human being.  We may one day be able to travel the Universe
but will we ever reach its outer limits? Sir Arthur Eddington, British
astronomer, physicist, and mathematician of the early 20th century said,
“The universe is not only stranger than we imagined, but stranger than we
can imagine.” and David Finkelstein, a brilliant physicist said, “We
haven’t the capacity to imagine anything crazy enough to stand a chance of
being right.”  We are human and so
we are limited in our understanding but we are also spirit, made in God’s image
and likeness and therefore we can tap into, connect to the unknown and perhaps
even rest in it. 
I have discovered that in order for me to be at peace I need to
embrace the mystery of my faith and the mystery of life.  I choose to believe in a personal God, one
who can work miracles in my life, one who is listening to my dreams, concerns
and petitions and even the whispers of my heart if I stay close, open and present. 
I am not aware of any personal acquaintances that have experienced significant miracles. I wish I
were. Certainly, I have read about others who have and when my husband and I
visited St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal, I was stunned by the
hundreds and hundreds of crutches hanging on the walls that were left by people
who had come there for a miracle and found one. 
I recently googled “miracle locations” and one site, ListVerse.com,
listed the top ten recorded miracles. 
You may recognize some of the more well known, Fatima, Lourdes, Our Lady
of Guadeloupe, and more recently Padre Pio. 
All of these places and events are known for the unexplainable.  Lourdes, the site of the appearance of the
Blessed Mother to St. Bernadette, has 68 “official” miracles but
thousands of unofficial healings.  
Are the healings simply the result of the power of positive
thinking?  People really believe it will
happen and so it does? Could be, so what? 
Something miraculous occurred. 
Maybe that’s the secret to miracles; if we are open to them, if we truly
believe, “even as a grain of mustard seed” our beings are transformed
into receptors for miracles. 
Notice I have a tendency to focus on the illogical positive experiences
that happen to people, this is after all a site for creating positive
affirmations.  I avoid focusing on the
occult or unsettling things one might hear about or see in the media.  Those don’t help me in any way to feel
hopeful, peaceful or grounded.  It’s my
choice on that which I focus. I know there is evil in the world. 
The news coming into my life these last few weeks has been very
unsettling.  There have been multiple
requests for prayers for the suffering and struggles of friends and friends of
friends.  In two cases acquaintances that
did not appear to be very ill were diagnosed with cancer and given less than
three weeks to live.  I, myself, had a
scare during my annual mammogram when a lump was found and I was sent for an
ultra sound.  It turned out to be normal
tissue but it shook me to the core. 
Besides deciding to eat French fries and a cookie, “Carpet Diem!”
I needed, I need a way to find peace with the whims of the world and so I did
what I have been practicing, I rested in my faith.  I not only don’t know what the future holds
other than death and I don’t understand most of what life is about but once
again, if I connect to the Divine, to my God, I find I can simply allow life to
be and allow myself to be at peace with all as it is, at lease for this very
moment. 
When I went through my yoga teacher training we were invited to
“rest in the inquiry.”  We were
encouraged during our practice not to try to figure everything out, but to
simply let our asanas unfold. I’ve taken that practice into my faith. I’m doing
my utmost to shed Divine light on life and into other lives, perhaps even into
the world. I’m offering us an opportunity to let go of our egos, especially
mine and to allow my Loving Father, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His Holy
Spirit, our Blessed Mother, my guardian angel and all those unseen entities who
want to guide me and you to a richer, peaceful, blessed life the opportunity to
do so.  For today, for now, I am allowing
Spirit to inhabit my heart, soul and body. 
I’ve invited it in and I am choosing to simply rest with it.  I know I don’t know and that’s ok with me in
this moment. 

 

I know in today’s world this is a path less chosen but my
intention for this year is to “connect to the Divine.”  My intention for my life is to strengthen my
faith.  With those intentions in place I
have chosen to focus on mystery and to release myself from trying to understand
all things.  Once I adopted that approach
even the unexplainable became meaningful and God’s presence became more real.  Along with this gift I’ve given myself, even
the great unknown, the future and the greatest unknown, life after death has
become less fearful, less anxiety producing and I find I can still breathe and
live peacefully, at least for these few moments.

The Bigger Picture

Affirmation:  Because of my relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ, I let go of fear and anxiety and fully trust in His loving care for me

Have you heard the story about the farmer who lived in ancient times?  He had a lovely farm and one son and one horse.  One day they found the gate to the corral open and the horse was missing.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh no, you poor man.  You’ve lost your only horse, how terrible!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  His son then borrowed a horse and went to look for their missing animal.  In
a while, his father looked up and saw his son coming towards him riding
the missing horse and behind him was a whole heard of horses.  He opened the gate and all the horses ran into the corral.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh, you lucky man.  You’ve not only found your horse. You now have a whole heard of horses, how wonderful!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  His son began taming the wild horses and one day he fell off and broke his leg.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh no, you poor man.  Your only son has broken his leg and now he cannot help you with all the work on your farm, how terrible!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  While his son was recuperating, the local war lord and his men showed up.  They were conscripting all the eligible young men to fight in their war.  Of course, they could not take the farmer’s son because of his broken leg.  Once again, all his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh, you lucky man.  Your only son has been saved from fighting for the local war lord, how wonderful!”  I’m not going to tell you his answer.  I think you already know it.  

How
many times have you had something happen to you and you judged the
quality of the experience as good or bad and then, later, sometimes much
later, you saw it in a different light and realized you didn’t have a
clue at the time it occurred about how it was going to affect your life?  It’s so easy to fall into the pit of despair, anxiety and depression.  According to quantum physics negative energy resonates at a lower level than positive energy.  That makes it easier for us to connect with it and more difficult to tap into the positive.  We have to work harder to find the positive.  I’m sure you have many examples of events that created openings into opportunities of which you never dreamed.  In our family alone, we have experienced job loss that led to a new and better opportunity.  We’ve witnessed the sad disillusionment of a marriage that later led to a new, healthier, happier family unit.  We’ve seen so much suffering and struggle that in time brought reward and accomplishment.   Of course, that’s not always true.  But, doesn’t it bring comfort that it can work out for the better?
That’s not to say we shouldn’t allow ourselves our feelings.  Not only should we allow them, we need to experience them.  There is no short cut through grief; there is only the direct path through it.  If you try to skirt around it, it will catch up with you when you least expect it.  And, grief comes from many different types of loses, not just from death.  One
can experience grief over the loss of a dream; perhaps the dream of a
perfect marriage, a perfect job, what one thought a perfect career
should look like.  One can
experience grief over the loss of health, money, youth and even less
recognized events like that of thinning hair or a thickening middle.  It’s all part of our lives.  It’s important to acknowledge how we feel about loss and then move towards recovery.  But, it’s also important to realize nothing is stagnant.  Life
is always changing and whatever is causing you distress will change too
and it might just be the one thing to open a door to something
marvelous.  Why not simply watch and see how it works itself out?
We are only capable of seeing a small part of the picture.  Only God can see the big picture.  The
question is can you trust enough to believe He/She has your best
interest at heart; that that which was meant for your harm, God will use
for your good?   Garth Brooks has a country song entitled “Thank God for Unanswered Prayer.”  In it he tells the story of a man who meets an old flame, the one woman he prayed to God to make his wife.  It didn’t work out and now as he walks away from her, he realizes how lucky he was.  He’s married to the real love of his life and so he remembers to “thank God for unanswered prayer.”  It’s another example of loss and grief and an experience that led to something better.  I’m sure he couldn’t see it when it happened.  He had to wait to recognize the blessing that came from the breakup with his first love. 

For me, this is why I practice my faith.  I don’t want it to be all about life after death.  I
want to live this life with the trust that God really does want only my
best and that if I practice that, if I trust, all will be well.  It may not be the way I expected.  It
may not be anything like what I had asked for but if I believe that
whatever is happening is exactly what should be happening, think of the
peace I experience.  I must confess it’s not an easy process, simple maybe, but not easy.  It takes work.  It takes staying connected to the Divine at every possible moment.  I have a wonderful meditation tape by Belleruth Naparstak.  At
one point in the tape she speaks about all the angels and guides who
are surrounding the listener and then as they begin to fade away they
say, “Remember, we are always with you.  It is you who comes and goes.”  What comfort that brings me.  If I can stay focused, if I choose to stay in the presence of God, God will always be with me.  That’s
my choice; that’s my meditation; to remain in the presence of God and
with all my angels and helpers as often as possible and to trust in
their divine protection.  Then,
when faced with a challenging situation instead of labeling it ‘good or
bad, lucky or unlucky” I can simply watch it and think “maybe yes, maybe
no.”

Growing in Faith

Affirmation:  Something wonderful is about to happen.

On
Belleruth Naparstek’s chemo tape she has a phrase she uses about getting a
sensation that something wonderful is about to happen and about how you may
have not felt this sensation in quite a while but right now you do.  Have you ever had a sensation like that?  That sense that something marvelous is coming
your way?  I wonder if that happens when
we are preparing for an event or a trip or maybe a change in our career.  Perhaps, it’s that feeling when a loved one
and you are to be reunited.  I know a
change and new things can also bring with them a feeling of anxiety and maybe
we get anxiety and excitement mixed up. 
But, when Belleruth describes this marvelous feeling of expectation, I
know it; I feel it. I fully recognize it even though I can’t remember when I
last felt that way and it feels good!

For
the past several months I have had a growth in my faith experiences.  As I’ve shared before I have been
“working” on my faith for many years ever since I met my evangelical
neighbor, Shaun McLean in Cincinnati, Ohio and when shortly thereafter my
father died.  When Shaun showed up at the
back gate of my new home she proceeded to become a constant thorn in my
faith.  I am so grateful to her for that
nudging. She was so certain about her relationship with God and with Jesus
Christ and I was a cradle Catholic who didn’t feel sure about anything. I
didn’t envy her but I did find myself questioning, questioning, and questioning
even more.  What did I truly
believe? 

Let’s
admit it, the story of Jesus Christ, his birth death and resurrection is quite
unbelievable.  It defies natural
law.  I for one have had my doubts.  I have not been a compliant subservient
faith- filled follower.  I wanted
proof.  I’m sure if one searches for
proof that the “Good News” is not factual, one will find answers
supporting that premise but I chose to go the other way.  I’ve chosen to seek out reasons to
believe.  I have also found that at some
point if one is to truly have faith, one must set aside disbelief and just
decide to have faith in the mystery.  I
decided to believe. 

I’ve
watched movies about the “facts” of His life and ministry.  I’ve read the bible and listened to lectures
and homilies.  But, the reason I believe
is because I want to believe.  I want to
believe He came to change the world.  He
came to teach us to love.  He came to
eradicate sin and evil.  He came to show
us, to show me unconditional love.  He
came to prepare a place for me in the afterworld and to show me that this life
is not the end.  This life is simply a
transition before the next, before I can finally rest in a place of peace and
pure love.  I want to believe this and so
I do and once I made up my mind to accept this belief system amazing events
have taken place to support my journey.   

My
faith journey has led me many places.  It
is not just about things related to my church. 
I was reminded this week by Sister Judy Hallock one of the women who
facilitate A Place for Women to Gather that our lives are interconnected with
our faith.  If we are truly faith-filled
people we cannot separate our mind, body and spirit.  Every aspect of our lives, every single one
of them, is affected by our faith. 

 
I
am on a continual search for a deeper, richer relationship with God.  I want to feel that peace that I believe
comes when one connects to spirit but even more importantly when one develops a
relationship with a personal God, not just some ethereal concept.  This last week I have been feeling that sense
of expectation that I have not felt for a very long time.  Something wonderful is about to be
manifested.  I haven’t a clue what it is
or how it will come or from whom but I can feel it.  The feeling is palatable and I am simply enjoying
it and waiting to see what or who appears.

My
faith journey this year has taken me to some amazing destinations.  I’ve shared some of them with you here in
this blog but as the holidays approach and the end of the year comes closer, I
find myself thinking about all that has taken place.  One of my affirmations is, “When I stay
connected to the Divine, miracles occur and without struggle my life is
transformed.”  I think that’s
exactly what’s been happening.  I don’t
know why I’m so surprised.  I’ve never
created an affirmation and focused on it where it hasn’t worked.  Never! 

 
Several
months ago I discovered a new prayer that I’ve incorporated into my nightly
prayers.  “Come Holy Spirit, fill
the heart of Your faithful.  Enkindle in
me the fire of Your love.”  I found
it to be a comforting prayer and truly the desire of my heart.  I think the Holy Spirit has accepted my
invitation.  I’m always a little curious
about where my faith journey will take me. 
It shouldn’t surprise me that it has brought me further into the fold of
the Catholic Church.  I’ve gone off
looking for alternatives many times but I’m always led back to the church of my
birth.  Certainly, I have kept an open
acceptance of other modalities. I’ve studied Reiki.  I practice yoga and I love the insights
afforded me with the Enneagram.  I
facilitate Artist Way programs and have attended many mediation sessions with
leaders of different faiths.  I read many
different books about different spiritual concepts.  All of these experiences have led me to a
deeper faith and a greater awareness of a personal god. 

This
year, however, has brought with it the additional gift of several new female
friends who are practicing Catholics and it has been a wonderful, heartwarming
experience.  We certainly are not all in
the “same place” in our faith journey but there’s no judgment.  We simply are accepting of our different
stages, accepting and yet still supportive. There are many studies showing the
healing qualities associated with belonging to a support group.  I feel like I’ve discovered a gift with the
friendship of these women, the gift of being supported in my faith journey and
I am grateful that this new community has added to this feeling that something
wonderful is about to happen.  Now,
there’s an affirmation I can focus on and wait for it to come to fruition,
“Something wonderful is about to happen.”  The really cool part of this affirmation is I
have discovered that that Something Wonderful is having this feeling of blessed
expectation and that that in itself is just marvelous.

Let Go of Worry

Affirmation:  I let go of worry.
She just announced she’s going to Cuba.  It’s not her first trip.  She’s gone there before.  My first thought is “She is so brave.”  My second thought is “I hope she has a safe trip.”  My third thought goes to my greatest fear, “I hope she’s not abducted by a band of rebel guerrillas and made to traipse through the jungle where she gets all wrinkled and dies ugly.”  Worry.  I’m already worrying about her safety and for that matter, my safety and I’m not even going.  

My mediation reading this morning was about worry.  It said worrying about something was akin to having a headache and banging your head against a wall to get rid of it.  I can be an active headbanger but I have decided to stop worrying.  I have decided to give up worry for Lent. Do you think that’s possible?  

The famous comedienne George Burns once did a whole routine about worry.  He said he gave up worry when he realized how futile it was.  “It serves no purpose to worry about something you can’t do anything about and if you’re worried about something you can do something about, well just go do it!”  

My paternal grandmother developed Alzheimer’s at a very young age.  She died at the age of 72.  I believe they first started to notice a change in behavior at the age of 55.  I now bring communion for my church to an Alzheimer’s unit.  Most of the residents are women.  I began worrying about getting Alzheimer’s when I first heard it could be hereditary.  I was in my early 30’s.  I even considered getting some sort of long term care health insurance.  I shared my concern with my young teenage daughter.  Her response, “Oh, Mom, that’s so silly.  By the time your that age, they’ll have a cure for it.”  I stopped worrying.  She was wrong, but it didn’t matter.  I was able to let it go.

Worry can permeate our lives like a cancer, slowly growing without our ever recognizing the detrimental affect it is having.  Not only does it undermine our sense of peace but physically it causes the body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. It is natural to be concerned about our lives but there is a difference between concern and obsession.  Once we become obsessed with a concern we are in a place that won’t allow us to clearly view our situation, we become muddled.  It truly is a useless exercise, waisting so much of our precious energy. Sometimes, however, all the positive thinking in the world will not decrease your anxiety.  There is a condition known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder and it is treatable with medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.  It’s not always just in our mind, sometimes it’s chemical and in order to turn things around, one may need some additional assistance.  

 

Last week a meteor, the size of a school bus, 10,000 tons with the power of an atomic bomb, landed in Russia.  A number of people died. There were numerous videos of it streaking across the early morning skies.  It appears all the cars in Russia have cameras on them to record any accident that takes place.  The cameras are designed to act as a third, impartial witness.  I couldn’t help wonder how many people that day were worrying about an asteroid landing on them? In my husband’s book, Humanity at Work, he tells the story of the fish and the pelican. There’s the fish swimming along watching out for the barracuda or some other predator when along comes a pelican and swoops it up, a creature from another universe totally foreign to the fish’s world.  We have no idea what life is going to present us with, a meteor or perhaps a pelican. I felt like a meteor landed on my life when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999.  I know I speak for many when I say that many of the physical diagnosis we receive come as total shocks.  Sometimes they are conditions we have never even heard about.  We may not even be able to pronounce them or perhaps we have heard about them but never considered they would affect us.  Truly, if we really wanted to worry all the time, I’m sure we could make up lots of stuff.  Actually, most of our worries are fantasy driven because we can never know what the future will bring, we can only guess. Let go of your concerns for the future, focus on the now.  

This is one of the wonderful side effects of prayer and mediation.  When we have a practice that brings us back to the present, we can use it in times of concern to recognize we have jumped off into the unknown and to bring ourselves back to the here and now.  Prayer and the belief in a benevolent God can bring great peace.

In Conversation with God, Father Francis Fernandez addresses the passage from Matt 6:34, Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. He goes on to say, “What matters is today. Worry magnifies the difficulties and diminishes our ability to fulfill the duty of the present moment. We can live only in the present. Anxieties almost always arise because we fail to put all our effort into the here and now.” If we believe we will be given the graces we need in order to contend with anything that crops up. We will be victorious! 

Perhaps with continued practice, I will let go of worry.  Perhaps I will even be able to celebrate in my friend’s trip to Cuba and instead of feeling anxious about it, send her along with heartfelt blessings and a vision of a wonderful adventure.   

Answered Prayer

Affirmation: 
I believe in answered prayer.
Faith, what does that look like to you?  My husband says it’s “trust on
steroids.”  It has also been said the
opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty. 
I am not certain.  I have listened
to others talk about their faith and their relationship with God or for Christians
like myself, with Jesus.  I have heard
the stories of the “born again.”  Many
times I am filled with envy and always I am filled with quite a few questions.  My faith journey has been slow and steady,
climbing up, slipping down, ever hopeful that I don’t slip below my last
starting place.
I have not found it easy to be faith
filled.  I have to work at it every
day.  I appreciate being told, “It’s the
work of a lifetime.”  I hope, too, that
my lifetime is long enough to get me to a place where I can fully trust in
God’s love and care for me and for my loved ones.
I love to read and hear the sermons about
God’s bountiful love and care for us, His or Her children.  There are many preachers who see God as this
entity that only wants what’s best for us. 
And, they lead me to believe that His/Her best is also my best.  There is where the difficulty lies. I keep
wondering where martyrs fit in this picture of divine love and care.  On February 22, 2011 a group of four
Americans were captured and killed off the coast of Somali.  They were
sailing around the world since December 2004, on the yacht of Jean and Scott
Adams.  The Quest was their home, this couple from California.  The
two other Americans on board were Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle,
Washington.  When I first heard about Jean and Scott, they had been
captured by pirates and were being held hostage.  They were then
surrounded by the US navy and other helping vessels but, before they could be
rescued, they were shot dead.
I
was truly inspired by their adventurous spirit when I first heard the story of
their mission.  I know there must be many
people who have the same spirit and I just haven’t heard about all of
them.  But, Jean and Scott were in their 70s and they were sailing to
remote parts of the world to share the word of God.  Yes, I know a lot of
people are missionaries and I am usually in awe of anyone who lives a life so
far out of most people’s comfort zone.  They were not what I consider
young and here they were so far from their support systems.  What would
they have done if they got sick, or injured, or needed a dentist or as a friend
commented to me, “If Jean needed a massage, or a facial?” 
Obviously, their mindset was very different than most people.
But,
if they died doing God’s work, as have so many martyrs, why should I believe
that Jesus will take care of me?  Oh,
yes, I would like to believe that.  We
don’t get everything we ask for, sometimes it seems like someone isn’t’ even
out there.  Thankfully, sometimes we get
something even better than we could have imagined.  I can recall several specific times in my
life when I was praying in general for one thing and something so much better
came along.  It can take my breath
away.  When my oldest daughter, Melissa,
was a single parent we, her father and I, prayed daily for her well-being.  We didn’t know exactly what that would look
like but we knew we didn’t want her and her children to endure undue
hardship.  We were there for them in
every way we could be but we wanted her to be able to care for herself and her
children.  We wanted her to be
independent and self-sufficient in every way possible.  Our prayers were answered beyond our wildest
expectations when she met Larry.  Not
only did she find someone amazing to share her life with but along with him
came two wonderful new grandsons.
One
day I was overcome with worry about my mom. 
I was at a loss about how to help her and she was not capable of helping
herself.  I was so overwhelmed with the
responsibility that I simply turned it over to God.  I prayed, “Lord, I do not know what to
do.  Please send help.”  Then, I waited.  It wasn’t long before the phone rang and
right after that my family arrived, called and accompanied me to my mom’s
home.  A new “on call” physician arrived
and before I knew it, mom was feeling better. 
I hadn’t even had time to stop and thank God for His/Her response.  As I reflected later, I began to see the
blessings that had been sent and then I had to choose.  Was it just the universe stepping into
support us?  Would it have happened even
if I didn’t say a prayer?  Maybe, but I
did pray and it gave me great comfort to believe the help we received was
answered prayer.  I want to believe in
answered prayer.  I know I will never
understand it but I believe with every fiber of my being that prayer makes a
difference.  If I can tap into the belief
that my prayers are always answered, in a way that only benefits me, think of
the peace that can be mine.  It has been
promised, you know, Mathew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you
will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
I believe God never leaves me, if I ask
Him/Her to be with me.  It is I who comes
and goes.  I believe that through my
faith, I will be able to deal with whatever life throws at me.  And, that whatever that is, through faith, it
will be miraculously transformed into something good, maybe something great,
something beyond my wildest imagination. I need to believe.  I have chosen to believe.  I have chosen the theology and doctrine that
I grew up with.  It’s not perfect but it
enables me to live life with less fear and anxiety than I could without
it.  I believe it because I want to
believe.  That’s what most of my affirmations revolve around, what I want
to believe.   Yes, a loving caring God.  I know this question
has been asked and examined many times around topics even more horrendous than
what Jean and Scott endured.  Topics like:  war, famine, child abuse,
cancer and other life threatening or debilitating diseases.  Perhaps, it’s
not what happens to us, no matter how difficult; perhaps it’s how we perceive
what happens to us?  Perhaps if we practice trusting God, we can go to our
death with dignity and grace regardless of the circumstances, knowing that this
life is temporary and because of our faith, because of my faith in Jesus
Christ, I will share in the glory of heaven.  My faith and trust in Him,
will secure me life everlasting, with Him and all the Saints and Angels. 
That’s why I believe and why I am still working on it.   

The Big Picture

Affirmation:  Because of my relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ, I let go of fear and anxiety and fully trust in His loving care for me

Have you heard the story about the farmer who lived in ancient times?  He had a lovely farm and one son and one horse.  One day they found the gate to the corral open and the horse was missing.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh no, you poor man.  You’ve lost your only horse, how terrible!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  His son then borrowed a horse and went to look for their missing animal.  In a while, his father looked up and saw his son coming towards him riding the missing horse and behind him was a whole heard of horses.  He opened the gate and all the horses ran into the corral.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh, you lucky man.  You’ve not only found your horse. You now have a whole heard of horses, how wonderful!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  His son began taming the wild horses and one day he fell off and broke his leg.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh no, you poor man.  Your only son has broken his leg and now he cannot help you with all the work on your farm, how terrible!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  While his son was recuperating, the local war lord and his men showed up.  They were conscripting all the eligible young men to fight in their war.  Of course, they could not take the farmer’s son because of his broken leg.  Once again, all his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh, you lucky man.  Your only son has been saved from fighting for the local war lord, how wonderful!”  I’m not going to tell you his answer.  I think you already know it.  

How many times have you had something happen to you and you judged the quality of the experience as good or bad and then, later, sometimes much later, you saw it in a different light and realized you didn’t have a clue at the time it occurred about how it was going to affect your life?  It’s so easy to fall into the pit of despair, anxiety and depression.  According to quantum physics negative energy resonates at a lower level than positive energy.  That makes it easier for us to connect with it and more difficult to tap into the positive.  We have to work harder to find the positive.  I’m sure you have many examples of events that created openings into opportunities of which you never dreamed.  In our family alone, we have experienced job loss that led to a new and better opportunity.  We’ve witnessed the sad disillusionment of a marriage that later led to a new, healthier, happier family unit.  We’ve seen so much suffering and struggle that in time brought reward and accomplishment.   Of course, that’s not always true.  But, doesn’t it bring comfort that it can work out for the better?
That’s not to say we shouldn’t allow ourselves our feelings.  Not only should we allow them, we need to experience them.  There is no short cut through grief; there is only the direct path through it.  If you try to skirt around it, it will catch up with you when you least expect it.  And, grief comes from many different types of loses, not just from death.  One can experience grief over the loss of a dream; perhaps the dream of a perfect marriage, a perfect job, what one thought a perfect career should look like.  One can experience grief over the loss of health, money, youth and even less recognized events like that of thinning hair or a thickening middle.  It’s all part of our lives.  It’s important to acknowledge how we feel about loss and then move towards recovery.  But, it’s also important to realize nothing is stagnant.  Life is always changing and whatever is causing you distress will change too and it might just be the one thing to open a door to something marvelous.  Why not simply watch and see how it works itself out?
We are only capable of seeing a small part of the picture.  Only God can see the big picture.  The question is can you trust enough to believe He/She has your best interest at heart; that that which was meant for your harm, God will use for your good?   Garth Brooks has a country song entitled “Thank God for Unanswered Prayer.”  In it he tells the story of a man who meets an old flame, the one woman he prayed to God to make his wife.  It didn’t work out and now as he walks away from her, he realizes how lucky he was.  He’s married to the real love of his life and so he remembers to “thank God for unanswered prayer.”  It’s another example of loss and grief and an experience that led to something better.  I’m sure he couldn’t see it when it happened.  He had to wait to recognize the blessing that came from the breakup with his first love. 

For me, this is why I practice my faith.  I don’t want it to be all about life after death.  I want to live this life with the trust that God really does want only my best and that if I practice that, if I trust, all will be well.  It may not be the way I expected.  It may not be anything like what I had asked for but if I believe that whatever is happening is exactly what should be happening, think of the peace I experience.  I must confess it’s not an easy process, simple maybe, but not easy.  It takes work.  It takes staying connected to the Divine at every possible moment.  I have a wonderful meditation tape by Belleruth Naparstak.  At one point in the tape she speaks about all the angels and guides who are surrounding the listener and then as they begin to fade away they say, “Remember, we are always with you.  It is you who comes and goes.”  What comfort that brings me.  If I can stay focused, if I choose to stay in the presence of God, God will always be with me.  That’s my choice; that’s my meditation; to remain in the presence of God and with all my angels and helpers as often as possible and to trust in their divine protection.  Then, when faced with a challenging situation instead of labeling it ‘good or bad, lucky or unlucky” I can simply watch it and think “maybe yes, maybe no.”