Jesus
-1
archive,paged,tag,tag-jesus,tag-815,paged-2,tag-paged-2,stockholm-core-1.1,select-theme-ver-5.1.7,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.0.3,vc_responsive

Rising with Christ

Affirmation: I know by meditating on Jesus throughout
my day, I am in union with the Divine, miracles are created and without
struggle my life is transformed in ways beyond my imagination.

Lent is upon us. As I write this Ash Wednesday has passed. Lent is
one of my favorite times of the year.  In
the Catholic tradition, ashes are smeared on one’s forehead in the sign of a
cross with the words, “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt
return.” Genesis 3:19.   It is a
reminder of our mortality and of the promises of Christ of our life to come.
Lent in the Catholic faith is the time to prepare for the death and most
importantly, the miraculous resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Wow!
What a story! And, we are called to travel with Him on His journey. We are
called to stay present to the time, the season, the death and the rebirth. It’s
a time that takes many of us out of the depths of “winter” and into the
fullness of “spring.”

One of the challenges offered to us during Lent is to make it a
time of sacrifice. We are encouraged to deny ourselves and to do works of
mercy. Oh, I don’t think it has to be any great effort but we are called to do
something so that we are more aware of the 46 days; so we stay more present to
the Lenten season. It’s a gift we give ourselves.
 

If you grew up with this concept of Lent, you know the first
question most people are asked about their Lenten practice is, “What are you
giving up for Lent?” While I understand it is a season of fasting and
abstinence, it’s also a time to rest in the Lord, to take time to listen to
God’s voice, to the voices of our Angels and Guides. It’s a time to share those
things that are truly precious to me; my time, talent and treasure. It’s a time
to plant some seeds and to tend to them so they may produce the flowers and
fruits of love and joy. Now, that is something that takes quite a bit of
guidance. What needs to do be done to create such a bountiful harvest?

Several years ago, Father Emmanuel from Africa gave the Ash
Wednesday homily. He had a very eastern approach to Lent. He said he had
watched our American culture take on more, do more and struggle more during
Lent and he wondered if maybe we shouldn’t consider “doing less.” Doing less!!
Oh my, now that’s a self-discipline I might find very difficult to embrace. I
like to “do.” I like to be busy, busy, busy. I like to think I’m making a
difference in the world. I’m contributing; I’m making the world a better place
to live. And now, I am being challenged to do less.  At another time another visiting African
priest also presented the concept of doing with less.  This time he suggested we fast not only from
food but from the internet, the TV, radio and newspapers.  Instead of focusing on worldly events, he
suggested we use all that free time to connect to God.

How can denial and service be a gift we give ourselves? Well, it
takes 40 days to develop a habit and this type of exercise can be seen as an
opportunity. I know many people who use the Lenten sacrifice as a time to diet.
I can’t count the number of people who have shared with me that they give up
chocolate or sugar. Maybe that’s worked well for them. Perhaps every time they
have that craving, they find themselves more present to Christ and his
sacrifice. But, besides a restrictive diet, we need to take up the badge of
service, find something we can do for another. There are so many in such dire
straits right now. How can I be of more service than I already am? Maybe I need
to go through the house and give up a few coats and other items of clothing.
One of my dear friends is always reminding me that someone else could be using
the items I have left untouched for months and in some cases, years. Perhaps,
it’s a time for me to be a prayer warrior. How can I add more prayer to my daily
practice especially for those most in need? Maybe I can send a note or make a
call once or twice a week to friends I haven’t touched base with in a while? I
can pray for them, offer up a day for them, and send them a visible sign of my
love, like a note or a card, even an email might work. I’m sure you can think
of many other ways to give back.
 

And, what can I give up? What new habit can I develop over the
Lenten season that won’t simply reduce my waistline but will add to the quality
of my life, my life and hopefully the lives of all those I touch? I decided to
give up ingratitude. Ingratitude is defined in the dictionary as “forgetfulness
or poor return for kindness received.” A synonym is “thanklessness.”

I live a life full of abundant blessings. I am a very lucky woman.
I am loved by my family and have many wonderful friends. I need and want
nothing. I am beyond lucky and extremely grateful. I am safe, secure, and
healthy. But, every so often envy slips into my psyche. I’m admitting it. I can
still find myself listening to or watching others and wonder what I did wrong.
Why didn’t I make that choice; why didn’t I travel that path; why do their
lives appear so easy, so full? Sometimes it’s little things that I find myself
dwelling on and other times, it’s some major issue. But, that doesn’t serve me
or anyone else. Whether I give credit to God, to fate or to my own hard work
for the life I now live, being ungrateful is plain wrong. By giving up
ingratitude I found myself noticing when I undermine my own happiness and I
stop and let it go. Perhaps by letting go of ingratitude for 46 days, I’ll
develop a new habit. Maybe by the end of Lent, I will rise too, to a new
awareness, a new way of thinking about my life; a way that brings me and those
in my life, a sense of greater peace and joy.

I have accepted the challenges presented to me for this season and
have decided that with my “free” time, I will pray more and I will listen
harder. I believe that with these steps in practice, I  open myself to God’s grace and move forward
in whatever direction I am led. I’ve decided not to be in charge but am hoping
that by focusing on my faith, on my relationship with Christ, I will be led to
that place where it’s not up to me how I use my time, treasure and talent, but
up to God and that with the guidance of my Angels and Guides in those quiet
moments, I will be used as their instrument.

This is my Lenten practice.

Celebrating Christmas

Affirmation:
I
know by meditating on Jesus, throughout my day, I am in union with the Divine;
Miracles are created and without struggle my life is transformed in ways beyond
my imagination.

As I
write this we are in the final week of Advent. 
It is that season when many are preparing for Christmas. Christmas! What
emotions does that word stir in you? I must admit many times throughout the
season, the one emotion I feel is panic. But, I love the season. I love the
music, I love decorating the house (It looks so warm and inviting with the tree
and the lights.) I love sharing stories via cards, I love buying gifts for my
family and friends, I love the opportunity to give to some who are less
fortunate than I. I love the cold, because I snuggle in, wrap up, eat more
soup. I love preparing for the miracle of the season, Christmas day.

Christmas
is the time of year when we celebrate one of the most widely recognized
holidays in all the world. For some, it’s simply a secular holiday: time off from
work, time to be with family and friends, a time with some sort of rituals that
hopefully bring comfort and peace.

But,
for me, it’s about the birth of my savior.

For
others, however, it is a time of sadness, loneliness, or perhaps a time of
emptiness.  In some of the conversations
Ive had during Advent the word “hate” has actually come up along with
the word Christmas. Some have shared they hate the pressure, they hate the
shopping, they hate trying to meet other people’s expectations, they hate being alone, or they hate being with
everyone.  For them, it’s too much or too little and they’d just like it to go away.

What
do you think? Is it good to recognize that you hate something?  What do you do with that emotion?  How does it affect your spirit, your whole
being? You certainly don’t want to disregard how you feel about something but
how can you use it to improve you life? 
Once you recognize it, would it help to reframe it into something more
positive? And then, how do you do that? What if this has been a horrible time
for you in your life? I’m sure you can think of difficult experiences you’ve had that have taken place at certain times of the year and that
you carry in your memories and your cells. But, can one turn that around? Can
you go from acknowledging the pain but eliminating the suffering? How would one
do that?

I must
admit when it comes to my faith I seem to have more questions than
answers.  I need and seek out experiences
that affirm my faith as I see it and that encourage it to deepen, to
strengthen. I decided to dedicate Advent as a time to do just that. I have made
a conscious decision to invite Jesus, the Blessed Mother, my Angels and guides
to join me, to stay with me, throughout my entire day. I believe, actually,
that they never leave me, it is I in my busyness, my attention to worldly
activities, who leaves them. But, for this season, and hopefully going forward,
I have made a conscious effort to pray unceasingly. What does that look like?
Well, it includes morning and evening prayers. It includes readings from some
book I read before I journal like, In
Conversation with God
, and it includes taking a deep breath throughout the
day and simply saying “Jesus.” It’s a perfect prayer to go with a
deep inhale and a long exhale and I feel like it brings me back to that place I
so desire to be; in the presence of God.

Yes, I
can understand that some people suffer through the holidays.  Some people don’t need to wait for a holiday
in order to suffer, they suffer through all of life.  You’ve met them.  They are grumpy and dissatisfied with
whatever happens, like Mr. Wilson in the Dennis the Menace cartoon.  Everyday we get to choose.  We get to choose how we are going to think
about our day, our lives.  A powerful way
to neutralize your suffering is to find at least one thing every day that
brings you joy, one small thing and let yourself absorb it? If you can
recognize the blessings that come at this time, you’ll feel differently about
the season.  You’ll feel better about it
and about life.  If you find the
blessings, your heart will soften towards that day of hope which will
inevitably arrive. 

Christmas!
Christmas Day!  A day to celebrate, to
celebrate the birth of the Christ child; a day to celebrate the miracle of God
becoming man.  Every year we get to
relive that day more than 2000 years ago when Jesus entered this world to save
us from ourselves.  Christmas, a day of
blessings then and today if you choose to focus on the miracle that took place
then and continues to present itself to us forever more. 

Why God Allows Evil

Affirmation:
 I fully trust in God’s loving care for me and for all those who ask for
it even in times of unbelievable tragedy.

The answer to “why” do such horrific
events happen will never be within our grasp here on this earth.  I did
find Brian Stiller’s enlightened view, however, into the Christian theology of
the presence of evil in our society and especially about the evil present this
week in Newtown, CN. to be very insightful. Therefore, this week I share his
essay on “Why God Allows Evil.”

Why God
Allows Evil?
“The Cry,” Munich’s
painting of a young woman’s primeval scream standing on a bridge in a sunlit
day came to mind as I witnessed unbelievable horror and tried to feel the
unimagined suffering of parents as they raced to the elementary school in
Newtown Connecticut to find their children.
Questions about “who”
died quickly shifted to “whys.” Why this town? Why this school? Why my child?
Syrians in a refugee camp asked me weeks ago what millions through millennia
wonder, “Why does God allow evil?”
I know attempts to
answer will not bring back a child, erase memories of a shooter blazing away at
little children, extract justice for the community or ease the fright of a
possible reoccurrence in another school. Even so, a framework for discussion
(called theodicy – why God allows evil and suffering) matters for those in
Newtown and us on the sidelines, as we grieve and wonder.
There are two paths down
this road of a theodicy: first are questions of logic – how is it that God who
is sovereign and good doesn’t or can’t eliminate suffering? Secondly, we follow
the biblical narrative – the Jewish-Christian scriptures leading us through
generations, learning over time what God is doing about evil. The first is
humans examining God, questioning him in the courtroom of human reason. The
second is a story of human life in its genesis, often devolving, yet given a
lifeline from its seeming inevitable slide into chaos.
The first path is logic:
Why doesn’t God who is loving and all powerful eliminate evil? Hume (18th
century philosopher) asked, “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then
he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both
able and willing? Whence then is evil?” On neither score God wins. But what if
we explore beyond Hume’s two options (if he is willing, but unable he is weak;
if able but not willing, he is not good) with another: He wills to allow
choice, and thus is both sovereign and good.
Or what if we posed
this: Could God create a world in which there is free choice but only one
choice and that to do good? The counter argument would be, “But that’s hardly
an exercise of free will. It sounds more like angels.” Which in turn begs the
question, is there something God cannot do? Can he make a world in which humans
have the freedom to choose for themselves, but only allow one choice in their
choosing? Logic disagrees. So there is something God cannot do which is to be
self-contradictory.
We do know that being
made in his image – imago Dei – we are wired with choice. Augustine, 4th
Century theologian put it this way:
“Such is the generosity
of God’s goodness that He has not refrained from creating even that creature
which He foreknew would not only sin, but remain in the will to sin. As a
runaway horse is better than a stone which does not run away because it lacks
self-movement and sense perception, so the creature is more excellent which
sins by free will than that which does not sin only because it has no free
will.”
God, who is both
all-powerful and good, gave human will space to choose good or evil. Keep in
mind that the biblical story describes our human parents in a state of
innocence, not perfection, and it is within their innocence they made their
choice to obey either their Creator or evil. Philosopher Alvin Planting sums up
the heart of the argument: “God can create a more perfect universe by
permitting evil.”
A second path of this
theodicy begins with the Hebrew Scriptures as we search for an explanation of
God’s dealing with evil. Here a narrative of people, events, choices,
interventions and consequences answer to evil. Beginning with creation we learn
of the Divine and human, its subsequent unraveling of relationship and
generations of disasters interspersed occasionally with flashes of brilliance
and goodness.
Here, let me insert a
comment on the notion of evil itself. 20th century wisdom tended to discount
evil as real and substantive, making it an effect (what happens to someone)
rather than its own reality (what causes something to happen). Instead
dysfunction and brokenness in life and society, it was reasoned, was due to
many factors – social decay, chemical imbalances, genetic malfunctions,
hormonal roller coasters, and the explanations go on. Surely much of what we
know today as medical and psychological was in the past categorized as evil.
Even so, American psychotherapist, Scott Peck, an atheist came to Christian
faith in part because he saw a larger force at work in some patients, a factor
he called “evil” which he outlines in People of the Lie. 
 We feel the
tension in the Divine’s offering of freedom, sometimes taken and creatively
managed, but most often dissipated by greed, anger and lust. Abraham, father of
both Jews and Arabs, accepted the promise to beget a nation, yet lied about his
wife to an Egyptian Pharaoh and distrusting the promise of a son, bred another
and in the end was called on to sacrifice his son, ending with two people
forever at loggerheads with each other, as Israel and Gaza demonstrate.
We see in many stories a
maneuvering of human will to exercise freedom, at times leading to doing good
but often exploring the deep places of moral depravity, all the while wrapped
in fig leaves to camouflage the Divine from knowing.
How then does God
wrestle with his choice to give humans freedom to be good or bad? The constant
double thread woven through the old and new Testaments promise presence – God
is with you – and promises of future – the coming Redeemer who will recompose
the human heart and destroy cosmic forces of evil.
Jesus of Nazareth fills
out that narrative – he enters as king of creation and child in a stable. The
fusion of Divine and Human – we call it “incarnation” – brings together the two
and in course of his mandate in death asks what parents of Newtown asked last
week: “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
And his answer? I’ve
come so you might have life, with abundance. Evil – the prince of this world
(John 16:11) – is defeated and will be no more. While the good of God wrestles yet
with evil, the triumphant Easter morning declaration of Jesus rising declares
that evil, an earthly constituent, is defeated. The Christian hope puts the
finality of that defeat in the future, but in faith, that too is assured.
The arguments of logic are
feeble at best. Yet they frame a wider picture of our world in which God gives
us the right to choose. For parents in Connecticut, Syria or Afghanistan, that
won’t fill the emptiness of a child gone. But it reminds us that each has the
right to make choices. The cause(s) of the killing rampage need not go
unaddressed. We can rise the next day and make changes for good.
The promise is thus: in
the midst of suffering, Jesus of Nazareth lived under the strains and burden of
evil. Twenty children in his village
of Bethlehem were killed by a ruling mad man, within months of his birth.
Violence he understands. Then it was through cruelty of death and breaking out
in resurrection that evil was overcome. So in today’s moment, we find comfort
knowing that death is not all there is to dying. One only needs to listen to
the songs and words of the many funerals in Newtown to know that the promise of
life, free from evil, is really, just around the corner.
Brian C Stiller
Global Ambassador
The World Evangelical Alliance
December 2012

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.   

Love is Your Only Job

There
are many asanas (poses) in yoga that are designed to help one open their
heart.  For example, any sort of back
bend will put you in a position where your chest is raised towards the sky.  Even a slight back bend opens the heart as in
Fish pose.  In the book Eat Pray Love,
Liz Gilbert tells a story about a man she meets in the ashram in India who
shares he’s been seeking an open heart. 
She asks him what motivated him to come to the ashram and he tells her
he kept asking God to “open his heart.” One day he had a heart attack
and his heart was literally opened.  One
need not have surgery to create a more open heart.  There are many more gentle ways to accomplish
this worthwhile trait.

Many
years ago when my children were younger I found myself struggling with one
particular incident.  I felt very hurt by
this episode and was sharing it with a good friend.  It really wasn’t such a big deal looking back
on it but at the time I was upset and I felt I was justified in my complaining.  So, there I was moaning about the
situation.  She listened and then gave me
some of the best advice I have ever had in my whole life.  She said, “Remember, Jean, your only job
is to love.”
As
a journaler who has written three pages every morning for the last 20 years, I
have many many journals boxed up.  Every
time I begin a new journal I transfer a few things to the front paper pockets
and the beginning pages.  I transfer my
intentions for the year, my daily prayers, my list of people I am presently
praying for and my positive affirmations. 
I also write on the inside of the front cover, “Remember, Jean,
your only job is to love.” 
I
believe that with all my heart.  It’s the
main message Jesus Christ came to give us. 
When he was asked; Mt 22:36 “[Jesus], which is the great commandment in
the law?” He said to them, ‘’You shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and
first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as
yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” 
Why
do some people seem to have a greater capacity to love than others?  Do you think it’s because of their DNA or is
it because of their upbringing?  Is it
“nature” or “nurture”? 
It’s probably like most of our traits, it’s a combination of both.  But, can we learn to love more, love greater?  Can we be people who can love no matter
what?  You’ve heard the stories about
people who forgive their worst enemies. 
Can you learn to love an enemy? 
Can one learn to separate the sinner from the sin?
I’ve
been very lucky in my life.  I married a
man who has a huge heart.  I believe he
was genetically predisposed to being a loving, kind man and then, he had the
additional advantage of having amazing parents who showed him by example
exactly what unconditional love is, especially his mother. I have never heard
my mother-in-law say anything, ever, that was derogatory about another human
being, and especially about someone in her family.  My husband teases that if we had a bank
robber in the family his mom would say, “He’s the best bank robbed
ever!”
On
my travels through Ecuador, I was kissed in three weeks more times than I have
been kissed in three years.  Almost
everyone I met gave me a kiss on the cheek and a warm hug.  One day we went to the soccer practice of my
consuegra’s (my daughter-in-law’s mother) granddaughter.  Six of us sat in the bleachers watching her
practice, her three grandparents, her aunt, my son and myself.  When the girls were finished practicing the
entire team came up to the stands to greet us. 
I watched these teenage girls start down the row kissing and greeting
all the grandparents, then they kissed the aunt.  I thought they’d stop at that point and was
amazed when they continued on to kiss my son and then me, two people they
“didn’t know from Adam.”
I
know it was a cultural response to greet us all in that manner but at thispoint
in my travels I’d been greeted like this for several weeks.  Greeted and welcomed into people’s homes,
lives and in some cases into their hopes and dreams.  As far as I could see these people in this
culture responded with more affection and respect than I normally experienced.  I had the honor of being hosted by my consuegra
and I can share with you that the hugs and warm daily greetings and goodnights
were freely shared with anyone who happens to be in her home.
When
I first received the directive to love no matter what, I remember thinking,
“I can do that.” But, I must admit it is easier said than done.  There are many in my life that I find very
easy to love and there are some I struggle to love.  Some days I feel like my heart is closed and
hard.  When I am aware of that state, I
engage my breath to help me open up.  I
take several deep breaths and visualize my heart expanding in my chest, like a
red balloon.  I’ve also done many other
“open heart” mediations.  These
mediations usually involve inviting loving thoughts and feelings into one’s
heart.  First, you invite those who you
find easy to love, then you invite someone you may be struggling with and
finally, you invite yourself.  You take
the time to allow each person to rest within the warmth of your bosom and then
you release them and yourself out into the universe, full of light and warmth
and wonderful energy, a release that blesses you, them and the world.
I
believe we can learn to love more fully, more deeply, unconditionally.  But, I think there’s a secret.  I don’t think we need to be born into a
family of warm blooded Latinos or Italians. 
It’s nice if we’re born into a loving, affectionate family.  It probably makes it easier but the secret is
to learn to accept love, to believe you are worthy of love, to believe that you
are truly loved, loved for who you are because you are and not for any other
reason.  We need to believe we are loved,
loved first and foremost by God.  We need
to know without a doubt that we are amazing wonderful beings who deserve to be
loved.  Once we can fully embrace that
concept, we can open our heart to receive and then to give that which we have
received.  If we don’t accept it, we
can’t, it is impossible, to give it out. 
It’s like filling up the car with gas. 
If you don’t open the gas cap and let the gas flow in, you won’t be able
to go anywhere.  You’ll be stuck in one
place, empty and dried out.
What
if you approached everyone in life with the thought, “Remember, (your
name), your only job is to love.”? What kind of an effect would that have
on your relationships, on you, on your life? 
What kind of an effect would that have on our world? 

Faith or Fear, You Choose

Affirmation:  I let go
of fear and anxiety.
The paper the technician handed me read, “We are pleased to inform you
that the results of your recent mammogram show no evidence of cancer.” I
had dodged another bullet.  I had escaped
death once again.  I could breathe a
little easier for another year.  It had
been over a decade since I was treated for cancer but somehow it didn’t matter
on the morning I had my appointment. 
It’s usually been a very early appointment.  I have an hour’s drive and I have trouble
getting out of the house.  I know
why.  I have the same trouble getting to
the dentist on time.  I was afraid.  I was nervous.  Mind you, I am not planning on getting cancer
again.  Of course, I wasn’t planning on
getting it the first time.  I know a lot
of people who carry around the worry of a cancer diagnosis, especially if
there’s a family history.  My elderly
aunt had breast cancer and my father died of a brain tumor at the age of 62 but
I took really good care of myself.  You
know, I ate right, I exercised and I monitored my thoughts.  I never dreamed I’d have breast cancer.  I was truly shocked when I was told the
diagnosis.
I have since discovered it’s not an unusual reaction.  Many many people are simply rolling along
when they receive this diagnosis.  The
truth is we should be less surprised to not receive some sort of health
challenge at some point in our lives rather than the other way around.  One man who is a patient at the Preston
Robert Tish Brain Tumor Center told a group of us that he had a headache and
surprisingly woke up from it in the hospital. 
He was a very robust man with an abundant amount of energy and a big
personality.  He heard them saying,
“You have a brain tumor, a glioblastoma.”  He laughed and said, “You’re talking to
the wrong person.  You’ve made a
mistake.” But, they hadn’t.
These diagnoses are like terrorist’s attacks.  One day you’re walking down the street and
BOOM, a bomb goes off.  There might have
been a warning sign but many times there is not. One of my physicians
graciously told me that the cancer wasn’t anything I did or didn’t do; it was a
“random act of violence.”  In
one way, that gave me a lot of comfort. 
I didn’t need to find blame either within or without but it meant that I
was vulnerable to the whims of the world and with that thought, I found I felt
unsafe.  It left me fearful.  I wondered what else was going on inside my
body that I was totally unaware of?  And,
I was afraid.
Fear can be a debilitating disease. 
It can rob us of our joy, of some of our happiest moments.  It can steal our whole lives from us if we
let it but how do we deal with it?  When
I was invited to join my daughter-in-law on a trip to Ecuador, I didn’t
hesitate to say yes but I want to confess I was afraid.  I have read many stories of people being
abducted in third world counties and taken off into the jungle, or worse and
being held for years and years.  I knew
this fear of being kidnapped was irrational but was it?  Maybe I simply wasn’t listening to my
spiritual guides who were telling me not to go? 
But, I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity, so my guides and angels
had better step up and protect me.  I was
also extra vigilant and extremely careful. 
As I sat on the steps of the Virgin de Panecillo at the top of Quito
looking out over the evening lights of the whole city, I cried.  I thought, “Fear might have kept me from
having this experience.  How horrible
that would have been.” It wasn’t the first time I shed tears on that trip
and it wasn’t the last.  It was an
amazing journey. 
So, on that early Friday morning when I was heading off for my yearly
mammogram, I recognized the visitor who had arrived with the ringing of my
alarm clock.  Fear was here. I recall the
first time I heard the phrase; Faith or fear. 
It was in a sermon at a church I was visiting.  It was one of those moments when I felt a
light go on.  I knew exactly what the
priest was talking about.  I had a
choice.  How was I going to live my life?  Well, I decided right then and there, I was
not going to have my life’s choices dictated by fear.  And, I have been deciding that every day,
ever since.  I have had to make it a
meditation.  There are days, like on that
early Friday morning of my appointment when I had to decide moment to moment to
stay centered and calm.  Deciding was the
easy part; making the choice, putting it into practice, well, that’s a whole
other story. Once again, I was faced with finding a way to live with Faith and
to let go of the fear.  That’s when I
created the affirmation:  “I let go
of fear and anxiety.”  It’s evolved
over the years.  I now not only focus on
the letting go of those emotions that don’t serve me; I now focus on
strengthening my Faith.  I have several
affirmations that I say to increase my sense of well-being; to make me believe
that no matter what is happening, I am alright because my Faith is strong and
helping me stay in a good place.
I am now officially a “cancer survivor.” You actually get to
claim that title whenever you want. 
There are no hard and fast rules. 
A few years back my breast oncologist approached me with the concept of
creating a Survivorship Clinic which women like myself, women who were out of
treatment for several years and appeared to be doing well, would visit for
their yearly appointment, instead of seeing him.  I agreed. 
My visit at Duke this Friday morning was to be in this clinic with a
physician’s assistant who specialized in breast cancer treatment.  It included an hour group session, the
mammogram and a full exam.  Well, I
really didn’t need a group session. 
There wasn’t really any more information I could gather.  I was fine. 
Right! 
There I sat with six other people, only three patients and a
nutritionist, a breast oncologist and the PA. 
The topics quickly turned to how to stay optimally healthy, what effect
a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment has on one’s long term health and what
our best choices might be.  It was a
delightful morning, informative and empowering. 
The other people in the group were very interesting.  The information they shared was extremely
helpful. I invited a dear friend to join me for the mammogram appointment.  We had a nice visit.  Actually, I had a really good time.  I was given that wonderful paper announcing
my cancer free breasts, I learned some new things, I had a wonderful exam and I
visited with a dear friend and met a few really interesting new people.
My daily affirmation to deal with the uncertainties of life focuses on
my faith in God.  One, I tell myself
that, “When I stay focused on the present, my life is peaceful.”  And, along with that I tell myself, daily,
sometimes moment to moment that, “Because of my relationship with my Lord
Jesus Christ, I can let go of fear and anxiety and fully trust in His loving
care for me.” 
I made it back from Ecuador without being kidnapped.  I made it through my yearly breast
appointment without a cancer diagnosis. 
I know I will experience other challenges in my life, things I may not
even be able to imagine but with my focus on Faith, by letting go of the fear,
I hope that whatever life brings, I will have at some point in the experience
tears of joy and be saying to myself, “Fear might have kept me from having
this experience.  How horrible that would
have been.”