Did you ever know someone in whose presence you felt connected, peaceful and refreshed? We literally are healed by such people. We draw strength from them. When we walk about life alone, or trying to do it all ourselves this may work for a while. But gradually we loose our life force and begin to whither on the vine. Conversely when we open ourselves to healing presence in others, life takes on new meaning and it’s as if our spirit comes alive with this new food. “Not by bread alone do we live!” We need the “food” of others in order to live well in this life.
Some of us, because of past hurts, tend to crawl into our shells, afraid to depend on others, afraid to open our hearts or even ask for simple help. Perhaps this initially feels the safer way to go about life; but gradually we begin to die, perhaps not physically, but our spirits begin to whither. Is this any way to live?
It’s no accident that creeds, mission statemets and the 12 Steps begin with the word “we.” None of us can do it alone. Yes, in opening ourselves to others, to groups, to churches, to lovers – we may indeed get hurt. But what’s the alternative? A safe, but lifeless existence?
Who are the people from whom you can draw healing and strength? How are you called to be healing presence for others?
Luke 6: 27-38
“Give and it shall be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together.”
The spiritual path is all about giving, becoming generous people who have a sense of God’s care and Life’s abundance. Knowing that God is abundantly giving, we increasingly become less concerned with holding on to things because we know we will be taken care of. When we let go and give of our time, our money or our talents it is amazing what happens. It’s not so much a sense of expecting repayment, but life begins to blossom within us in new and varied ways.
This is the kicker though. We are told to be generous, giving people, even to those who have hurt us, to those we don‘t like! “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you.” This sounds so poetic and wonderful, . . . until I begin to think of a specific person who has hurt me deeply. When I think of him and then read this everything in me says: “You have GOT to be kidding!” But this is the key to healing deep hurts. Doing good to those who have hurt us. Thinking well of them instead of holding them in contempt. In 12 Step programs they recommend the following action in order to get rid of a resentment: pray for the person everyday for two weeks. AND, they recommend that we not only pray for them, but pray that THEY have all the happiness and blessings that WE would want! Sounds absurd, but when we are able to do this, then we will find ourselves to be truly free people! When we do good to this person, it shows great strength and power, for we stop allowing the hurt or the person to affect our day or the person that we want to be!
It reminds me of my Mom who used to always say: “Kill em with kindness!”
Hmm, maybe Mom was right!
Am I growing in the knowledge that God will take care if I but let go and share what I have and what is within me, even to my “enemies?” Give what you have and what is within you, and watch what happens!
“If a person is virtuous, does what is right, . . . he/she will have life!”
See Ezekiel 18: 1-10, 13, 30-32
In 12 Step programs there are various catch phrases which quickly call to mind the principles of the program that lead to a good, happy, productive life. One of these catch phrases is “just do the next right thing.” Sometimes that’s all it takes, just doing the next right thing, not worrying about tomorrow, but what is before us. And, doing the GOOD AND RIGHT thing.
Some people are like that. They do the right thing . . . simply because it’s the right thing to do. They don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s just the way they choose to live. Such people have a sense of serenity in them that is obvious. They don’t live with a burden of conscience or with wonderment as to whether their life had a good impact on this world. By doing the right thing they store up an account of serenity.
I have a friend who is like that. I received a text message from him out of the blue yesterday just quoting a line from the song “On Eagle’s Wings.” “He will raise you up on eagle’s wings and make you shine like the sun” (Michael Joncas, New Dawn Music, OCP Publications, Portland Oregon). That’s all his text said. He does this once in a while. A simple message to show his thoughts and concern. I am convinced he expects nothing in return. I have seen him out in public and am touched by his kindness, sensitivity and attention to people’s needs.
Am I doing the right thing today? Would I be considered a “virtuous” person?
Mark 9: 14-29
“If you can do anything, please do! Jesus said: ‘IF YOU CAN??’ Everything is possible to the person who trusts! The boys father exclaimed: I believe. Help my lack of trust!”
Isn’t this true of most of us? We believe and yet we don’t believe. At times we are confidant and at other times, it – whatever “it” is – just doesn’t seem possible and we loose confidence.
It’s humorous how Jesus responds to this distraught father, almost as if he’s offended. At the least it seems that Jesus is frustrated, exasperated and, out of love, pleading for people just to believe! “IF YOU CAN? What do you mean, IF YOU CAN? Don’t you believe? Don’t you see that if you just trust and believe amazing things can happen??”
So much conspires to convince us that things won’t happen. Our work must be to remind ourselves daily that the impossible CAN be made manifest! We need to take time everyday to re-program our minds, our hearts and our spirits – which are programmed with limitation, negativity, scarcity and fear. It helps to hold before our mind’s eye exactly what we want for ourselves, those we love and the world and to keep our focus there – no matter what is going on around us! People who have done amazing things have often done them despite great obstacles. However, they were able to do amazing things precisely because they did not concentrate on the obstacles, but always kept before their eyes their vision of what might be. This, and this alone, is what motivated them. Perhaps that’s why Jesus gets so frustrated sometimes. He KNOWS amazing things can happen; but is sometimes surrounded by people who try to convince him otherwise. But there is no convincing him otherwise! He keeps the vision of what can be before his eyes and the Universe, Divine power, Grace – whatever you want to call it – lines up to bring the vision/the thought into form reality.
Ask any addict who has overcome an addiction and they will tell you that amazing things come to happen when you “come to believe that a Power great than yourself can restore you to sanity!” Step 2
Allow me another gardening metaphor.
A few years ago I bought some Knock Out Roses. I planted some in the backyard and some in the front yard. The ones in the front didn’t do too well. Not enough sun. I KNEW this, but each year I kept them there thinking that maybe this year they’ll start growing. . . .They didn’t. This past winter I had to have a huge oak tree cut down in my backyard. It was a very difficult decision to make, but as it was dying and becoming unsafe, it had to come down. As Spring neared I suddenly realized that those roses in the front would probably do much better around the stump of the old oak. So I finally transplanted them and in a short time they’re growing much more than they ever did in the previous years.
Sometimes we need to transplant ourselves in order to wake up and grow. We need to be placed in a new area where we can get some good light and good nutrition from the soil. Oftentimes though we stay in our ruts, doing the same thing over and over; and then we wonder why we feel lifeless? Carlos Castaneda, author and mystic, speaks of the fact that most of us live in a room of daily awareness, disconnected from the Source Energy that is all around us. 12-Step groups talk about doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results – and we don’t get different results. The Christ spoke of the seed that falls on good ground and bears good fruit.
Sometimes we get in a rut in our spiritual lives, our love lives, our work, etc. If we’re in a rut, perhaps it’s time to transplant ourselves somewhere where we’ll get more light and better soil. This doesn’t mean that we have to leave our partners or our jobs (although for some, it might mean the risk of a major life change). It just means that we need to do something different. Do something out of the routine, out of the comfort zone even. Read a good book, develop a new exercise routine, go to a different coffee shop, go to a different social event, go to a lecture, go to a different place of worship, etc. Whatever it is, do something different today! In the process we will find ourselves waking up to new, fuller life.
Also remember that sometimes Life throws something at us that uproots us and forces us to wake up. Sometimes we are transplanted against our will. But even there, can we see an opportunity for new growth that perhaps before this we had never imagined?
What transplanting needs to be done in the garden of your life? What transplanting needs to be done in the garden that is our world?
I had a physical trainer once who said to me: “A little exercise done consistently is much better than a lot done sporadically.”
After a late Fall and Winter of being a slug – physically at least – I have, of late, been slowly getting back into my exercise routine. The older I get, the harder I find that it is to get back into a routine after a time away. It helps me tremendously, though, when I remember what that trainer said. When I realize that I only have to do a little consistently it helps motivate me. On the other hand, when I think that I have to do a lot I get a bit paralyzed and chances are I won’t do anything.
This is a good metaphor for life.
Sometimes we get paralyzed when we think of everything we’ve got to do or should be doing. The thoughts get so daunting that we sometimes end up doing nothing. Whether it be working on a relationship, a project at home, time taken for spiritual growth, dealing with an addiction, caring for the poor and less fortunate of our world, or whatever it is that we feel Life is asking of us – it helps when I just think of doing a little bit consistently. Those recovering from addictions talk of taking things just “one day at a time.” The thought of not doing something the rest of my life is too much. But the thought of just not doing it today is more palatable and motivating.
What is the nudge that you feel from Life? What improvement for yourself or others is it asking from you? Just do a little bit today. . . . Then tomorrow, do a little bit again. “A little bit done consistently is much better than a lot done sporadically.”
Acts 14: 5-18
I was flipping through the channels yesterday afternoon and came upon an airing of the Mass that the Pope was having at Yankee Stadium in New York City. When the Mass was over and he was walking out, people kept reaching out, some shoving their way to the front, to touch him. This struck me. Fifty some thousand people screaming and cheering and reaching out to touch this man as if he were a god.
Why is it that we have a tendency to look outside of us for what is Divine?
Look at this reading from Acts. Notice that is was not Paul who healed the man from Lystra. Paul simply noticed that the man himself had faith, the man himself had come to believe and now was the time to stand up and walk! When he does, the crowd goes wild and they begin to look at Paul and Barnabas as if they are gods. Paul and Barnabas then desperately try to convince them that they are simply human! What happened to the man could happen to anyone, . . . if they just believed!
The Power is within us. Each of us is a spark of the Divine, a word spoken in time and we do not walk alone! There is a Power within us that can lift us from that which may paralyze us.
What is holding you from living fully? What part of your life is paralyzed? Do you believe that there is a Power in you which can free you to stand up and walk? There is a Power within us which is able to remove that which holds us from living life to the full. We need not look any further. We only need to surrender to that Power and believe that we can be freed. Imagine it! See yourself as you want yourself to be! See our world as you want it to be, . . . and believe that it can be!