Wayne Dyer in his Ten Secrets of Happiness tells his readers that one of the secrets is to affirm, “There are no justified resentments.” That means we are called on to forgive every action that has bothered us, intentionally or unintentionally. How are you at doing that? Have you ever thought you were “over” something and then it reared its angry head when you least expected it? For me, I can nurse an injury to death! It can be years after the perceived hurt has occurred and the name of the offender will cause me to sit up straight and grimace and re-live, perhaps even re-tell, the horrible act committed. Boy! That will show that person. I will be justified and they will suffer because of my anger and my indignation. The truth, however, is there is only one person suffering, it is I and I have created it myself.
I was discussing with a friend that several of her dear friends had not reached out to her and her husband after he had undergone surgery. She was angry. I understood. When I was treated for breast cancer, some of the people with whom I was closest never sent a note or picked up the phone. Hundreds (and I am not exaggerating) of people reached out with such caring and generosity. It was healing and affirming but every now and then, I’d wonder about those few people who hadn’t taken the time to even send me an email. When I thought of them, I’d feel resentment. I wondered why I would chose to focus on those that appeared to ignore me and not the amazing people who showed such love and care? Why is that?
We are presently in the season of Lent. I love Lent. I’ve felt this way for many years. It’s a time of quiet. It’s a time for additional reflection, a time to really focus on what is important to me in my relationship with God and others. It’s a time for me to develop a new good habit or two. It’s a time of hope. It is the dormant time before the rise of the flowers and blossoming of the trees. It’s that time when I wait with joyful anticipation Spring and the resurrection of Christ. It’s a time when my heart feels full with what is to come.
Lent has taken on a very different meaning for me over the years. As a child we would be encouraged to give up some favorite food and also to fill a small paper box with coins for the hungry children of a far off country. I’m sure I tried to honor the requests. I’m sure I didn’t do too well at it either. Then, as a young adult I rebelled. I decided all those rules and regulations were silly. What purpose did it serve to give up anything and how much of a difference did my small contribution make to the poor and destitute of the world? The thing that helped me recognize the wisdom of my church’s traditions was staying connected to my church. This is my home and one of the many gifts has been learning to honor our Lenten tradition.
I’ve taken two intentions for this 2015 Lent. The first is to dedicate each day to one person. Their name goes on the top of my journal page and I write a small prayer for them. If it seems appropriate, I send it to them. I tell them that on this nth day of Lent I am lifting them up in prayer for the entire day. I tell them how they have blessed my life and how much I treasure their friendship and I end with wishes for a day filled with love, peace and joy and many times, improved health. I sit, first thing in the morning to see who comes to mind and I make that my person for the day. Today, someone “appeared” with whom I’ve had quite a bit of struggle. I didn’t want to offer up my day for that person. I don’t really want to think about that person at all, no less keep her on my thoughts for an entire day. I felt myself retreat from the idea and see for whom else I might pray. Certainly, many other people deserved prayer more than the person I resent.
The February 24th reading in Spiritual Insights for Daily Living begins with a quote from the Mayo Clinic; “Three-fourths of our patients are passing on the sickness of their minds and their souls to their bodies.” It goes on to say, Be careful of the beliefs you hold and the thoughts you repeatedly think. In Proverbs (6:27) the writer asks, “Can a man take fire unto his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” More specially, we can ask: can a man (or anyone) take fears, doubts, hated, resentments, worries into his mind, and his body be unaffected?
The Buddhist saying is, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” The teacher appeared in my reading and Jesus told us, “Forgive.” How many times? “Seventy times seven.” Mathew (18:21) At a recent Pink Ribbon Yoga Committee planning meeting, Nancy Hannah, one of our dedicated gifted yoga teachers had us take the pain and suffering of others, surround it with love and then breathe it transformed back out into the universe. I’ve been struggling with the suffering of our world. This year’s news of twenty-one Coptic Christians being beheaded, people being put in cages and burned to death and the stories of the girls and women being kidnaped and abused has left me feeling weary and sad and powerless. What can I do to help the world?
In the USA today on February 23rd of this year they had a marvelous story of a women, Nareen Shammo, who gave up her job as a reporter and has tirelessly worked towards the freedom, the salvation of any woman being held hostage. She’s succeeding one woman at a time. I don’t feel I have that kind of power but perhaps here on this page as I share my concerns, I can encourage and enlist those 30,000 plus people who have opened this site to join me in praying for them, praying for an end to war and hatred and religious intolerance. Use a rote prayer, make up a prayer, breathe prayerful energy into this world but do something!
The second intention I’ve adopted for Lent is, “I let go of resentment.” It means I have to dig deep within and forgive those I have struggled with. It means I must pray for not only those I comfortably hold in my heart but for those I don’t want to embrace. It means I have to pray for my enemies and even the terrorists. Perhaps, through the power of prayer, a heart will soften; maybe many hearts and the torture and abuse of the innocents of our world will decease. It all begins with me. It all begins with you. We must be the, “change I wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.
My friend works
out with a trainer. I knew this personal
trainer when he was having terrible back pain and when I saw him again I asked
him how his back was doing. He said it was
fine. Then he told me he was pleased
he’d had the bad back experience because it made him a better trainer. It made him more compassionate.
Twenty five years
ago Rachel and Saul Schanberg lost their young daughter Linda to cancer. Before Linda died she asked her mom to make a
difference in the Duke Cancer Center. She
asked her to help people feel cared for and not just cared about. Rachel began the Duke Cancer Patient Support
Program with herself and four volunteers in an office the size of a
closet. Today her efforts have created a
program world renown for their care of cancer patients and their loved
ones. It’s all free. Most hospitals wouldn’t consider supporting a
program that doesn’t bring in any revenue but because of Rachel’s passion and
compassion, we have over 300 volunteers and the most amazing services you can
imagine. The impact the program has made
on the new Duke Cancer Center can be seen in the center’s warm, inviting
I am an ardent
believer in the power of prayer. I don’t
know how it works but I believe it does.
I keep a list in the front of my journal of all the people for whom I am
currently praying. I always add “And,
especially for those who most need Your mercy.”
Since practicing compassion requires one to “do” something along with
experiencing feelings of empathy, I can pray.
If there is no other way for me to bring help and solace to those I am
concerned about, it gives me great comfort to know I can offer them up in
prayer and to believe that God is blessing them in ways beyond my
comprehension. Truly, that’s how I want
to see myself; that’s the person I want to be.
If when I die my obituary refers to me as compassionate, I will rest
with the satisfaction of a life well lived.
I get to begin my day before I even rise with a prayer of thanksgiving and with the invitation to God to join me throughout my day & to bring blessings and favors on all those for whom I have promised to pray. I pray for my spouse, my children and grand-children by name and then go on and list my siblings and their families. Next, I include all my “dear, dear friends” and especially those who most need God’s mercy.” I try to recall each of those special people by name who I know need extra prayers. I can usually remember them. If not, I do keep a prayer list. After my friends I include all “the special intentions of those in my Small Christian Community.” I then go on to add “all the support people in my life, seen and unseen and their loved ones.” I so value all those people who make my life so much easier and richer because of their hard work. I include our “fighting men and women and their families” and finally I pray for “wisdom for our world leaders and peace for this world.” Then, it is time to rise.
Prayer changes lives. The greatest challenge is believing in its power; believing that it really can have an effect on the situation. The second challenge is believing that it will be a positive effect, even if it’s not the apparent answer for which we prayed. Prayer and the belief in it and the ability to tap into the Divine do not remove our difficulties but it can make our difficulties, our challenges, easier to bear. It can bring us a sense of peace and hope believing that there is a kind and loving Supreme Being who wants what’s best for us, especially if we’re willing to ask and then to listen.
When we first moved to North Carolina I said a prayer that God would lead us to the best house and neighborhood for us. And, then I asked for a “sign.” I asked for some sort of burning bush. Yes, I was testing. Well, we drove everywhere and I never saw that bush. We finally settled on a lovely house in a new neighborhood and I let go of my search for the perfect place for us. I actually loved our new home and our new neighbors, so all was good. Several years later, we were taking my in-laws around showing them the area and we saw a beautiful house that was for sale. We were able to tour it on the spot and I loved it! Soon, we had sold our other house and moved into the new one. One day, I was walking with someone who knew a lot about shrubs and he was telling me about the different bushes around the house. I stopped dead when he pointed to the bushes at the bottom of the driveway and told me they were called Burning Bushes (Euonymus). There were six of them! Was that answered prayer? As far as I was concerned it was.