Thank you for visiting, and may Peace be with you!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Seeking: Light

With so much winter gray and cold, I am – I’m sure, like you -- obsessing on light and warmth.  (Heat, actually – 99 degree heat.  Just for a day or two in order to warm up!)

I’ve been thinking about light, and came across an old, tattered Tarot card in a parking lot the other day.  It was of The Hermit – a wise seeker who holds a lantern as a beacon of light and understanding.  This arrived the same day I was finishing my spiritual autobiography for my next possible venture in life. (Funny how that happens, isn’t it?)  Below is an excerpt from that autobiography that describes a point in my life where “all the lights went on.”

“From ages 16-20, I read through every religious textbook I could find. I took college courses on Comparative Religion. I studied Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism, Wicca, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and every mainstream Protestant denomination you can name. I particularly began to focus on Hinduism. This was a spiritual turning point for me.

To this day, Hinduism informs much of my belief in the nature of God. It took a bit of work reconciling India’s caste system’s influence on its reincarnation teachings, but once I got past that, I grew to love the Song of God – the Bhagavad Gita – with its mythical stories of Krishna and Arjuna illustrating the struggle of man to accept and trust in God. I agreed with its open embracement of all life, and how it accepted and revered Jesus…and Buddha…and Krishna, and other avatars who embodied the Divine. I loved how it taught that every single thing in existence was sacred, and was to be honored as such. It felt correct to me how it taught that God – Brahman – answered to many names, and that human beings were truly on an evolutionary spiritual path, where Oneness with God could be achieved over countless existences. This certainly gave me a great deal of comfort in light of Christianity’s insistence that we “get it right the first time” during this life, or face eternal damnation (which felt like way too much pressure on us poor human beings!)  

And so, because of my love newfound understanding of Life through Hinduism’s eyes, I experienced a personal paradigm shift. I found myself becoming more gentle and respectful of all life, including all people. I became a vegetarian, and became interested in organizations dedicated to preserving the natural world. I began an intentional spiritual journey to understand Creation, and to work to change myself from within in order to allow God to, in some way, work through me.

I began to meditate on a daily basis. I was thrilled to find a book entitled “The Art of Christian Meditation,” which brought both of my religious worlds together. I was awestruck that I could allow myself to meditate and focus on Jesus as well as a nameless Great Spirit that has many names. It was at this point, when I began to blend both religious traditions – Christianity and Hinduism – into my spirituality, that as they say, ‘all of the lights went on.’”

It is always a joy to pause and reflect on how God has led you.  Take some time and think about it.  And once you find your light…remember Jesus' call to...

“…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, 
and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  ~ Matthew 5: 16

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Seeking: Free Time

And so it hit me:  Little Miss Incomplete hasn't updated this blog since January.  January.  It's June.

And then I began to think of all the projects I have lined up either on my end table or in my mind...all the things I haven't done that I think about doing all the time, but never have (make?) time to enjoy...such as:

  • Reading more than three pages a day.  I have 12 books next to me, all of which I've been reading for waaaaay too long.  Horoscopes and the Weather Channel don't count.
  • Crocheting.  I have 5,678,389 patterns in my sewing bag with yarn, crochet hooks, etc.  Not seeing a lot of happy hooking going on here.
  • Cooking!  Yes, I cook a lot ... but they are the "old reliable" recipes than I can prepare in my sleep.  How about those yummy looking recipes I've been jonesing to make since 1994?
  • Prayer.  Go ahead and laugh.  I've wanted to spend more time in prayer, meditating, being aware of my own breath.  Someday I will apologize to God for all of the half-prayers I said before falling asleep.
  • Traveling/vacationing.  The road to the beach is paved with good intentions.  I'm hearing a lot more about other peoples' trips than telling stories about my own.  (Except that trip to the car wash last night - what a hoot that was!)
  • Spending time with family and friends.  That is unquestionably the worst omission of all.
  • Blogging.  Covered that.
...and unfortunately, a lot more stuff. 

Where does the time go?  We all say that.  Does it disappear in your life as it does in mine?  Am I so preoccupied with work, practicalities, errands, etc. that I'm too busy to enjoy my own life?  A popular Mormon quote is "Men are, that they might have joy."  And Kabbalah teaches that we are to share in God's "delight."  Joy and delight...do you have enough of those?

If we died today, would we look back on the past few years and say we made good choices with our time?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Seeking: Sand

“Wu wei" is an important concept of Taoism (Daoism), that involves knowing when to act and when not to act. Another perspective to this is that "Wu Wei" means natural action - as planets revolve around the sun, they "do" this revolving, but without "doing" it; or as trees grow, they "do", but without "doing".  Thus knowing when (and how) to act is not knowledge in the sense that one would think "now" is the right time to do "this", but rather just doing it, doing the natural thing.” – Wikipedia 

I have been reading Stephen Prothero’s God is Not One, which I have greatly enjoyed as comparative religion reference tool.  Each chapter focuses on a major religion – and a couple of belief systems that we in the West would consider minor, such as the Yoruba religion of Western Africa, which has millions of adherents. 

One chapter focuses on Daoism (Taoism), and in particular, its integral concept of “wu wei” – natural action.  It basically means this:

Riding a wave, instead of struggling against it.

(Ancient Chinese secret, huh!?)

This is so against everything we are taught in Western society.  You are to "grab a hold of your life" and direct it as much as possible in order to be successful, prosperous, respected and happy.  Anything less, and you are classified as a "hippie" in the worst sense of the word:  an aimless dreamer with no value, no worth.  And some of us struggle to live up to a high standard even thought we aren't "built" for it.  No letting go and letting God - that takes way too much, well, faith.

Are you like me?  Do you struggle against the waves in your life?  Do you try to micromanage every last detail to prevent an undesired outcome?  Are you exhausted from all this!?  So am I.  It is ultimately a losing battle, since life will unfold as it will unfold.

In order to overcome this constant floundering, as Billy Joel would say – it’s a matter of trust.

I am reminded of Peter being urged by Jesus to focus on Him in the middle of the turbulent sea; to stop trashing about, worrying, struggling against the ebb and flow, and as a result, sinking.  Just focus on Him.  And trust.

Ironically (or is it?), Daoism is translated as “The Way.”  I believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  So it’s time for me to stop struggling.  I need to catch a wave and ride it out, trusting that the ocean’s Maker will eventually place me on the correct sand bar. 

Any other surfers out there?  How do you ride the wave?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Seeking: Peace at Christmas

I have a tendency toward nostalgia, and a penchant to truly enjoy an event in retrospect, rather than “enjoying the moment.”  I should say – I used to feel this way; thankfully, in the past several years, I’ve been focusing on being present “here and now,” and I’m finding life to be a lot easier to handle because of it.

Christmas is an especially challenging time for me each year.  My mom died of lung cancer on January 6, 2002.  She struggled with chemo and radiation for a year beforehand, and for one entire month during that summer, the doctors could find no trace of cancer in her body.  It was a gloriously happy month; one that we enjoyed immensely, even though we both knew the unspoken truth – that this cancer would return, and with a vengeance.  There wasn’t much time.

My mom fell seriously ill for the last time on Christmas Eve, 2001.  And so, for the past nine years, I have grown to loathe Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve reminded me of hospitals, grave looks on doctors’ faces, nurses getting me a hot cup of tea.  And my dear mom, my best friend and only close living relative, slowly slipping away from me – utter despair.

And last year, I remembered something.  The very last time Mom was able to communicate with me was on that Christmas Eve.  When I was a child, we held hands when shopping together, and she would always look down at me, smile, and squeeze my hand three times to silently say, “I (squeeze) love (squeeze) you (squeeze.)”  On that last Christmas Eve, that was the last thing my mom ever did for me – squeeze my hand three times, before drifting off where I could not follow.

“I love you.”  There are no better parting words.

So, on Christmas Eve this year, I held that memory close to my heart.  The Birth of Jesus Christ is, to me, the most outrageous act of love ever shown in all of time and space – that the Creator of the Universe would flesh out for us, to heal us, teach us, love us, and show us The Way.  God squeezes our hands three times in all we do as we journey through this life.  We are blessed to have many Heavenly Parents!  And for all of this world’s sadness and loss, we still have the ever-present love of a Wonderful Counsellor- a Prince of Peace.  Thanks be to God.

May Christmastide and the New Year bring you abundant blessings from our beloved Creator.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Seeking: God vs. Doughnuts

I joined Weight Watchers this week. 

Life is so unpredictable at times…you can live for ten years without any major upset, and then, bam! Within a year or two, all hell breaks loose.  That’s how my life has been for the past couple of years. 

In the past two years, I have developed health issues, dealt with particularly difficult challenges at work, have been completely heartbroken, and saw the decline of two people very close to me.  I purchased a home and a car all within a few months, which is been a bit financially stressful, as I’m sure you can relate, especially in this economy!  Other issues had arisen, too, leading me to wonder about the expression:  “Don’t worry.  God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  As if God is there, delightfully handing out pain and misery to us to see what our breaking points will be. 

And, unfortunately, I am a foodie. 

So in order to cope, I did what I always do – eat.  I am an emotional eater.  When things get this bad (such as the death or severe illness of a close loved one, a lost job, etc.), instead of letting go and letting God, I let go in the kitchen and scarf down as many Doritos and M&M’s as my mouth can hold.  Instead of offering it up in prayer, and getting my mind off my own misery by helping others, I earn my very own booth at the local Chinese buffet.

And why?  Where is my trust in God?  “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” Jesus promised.  So if I truly believe that God is always with me, refusing to abandon me when things get rough…why do I strive to look like Delaware?  Why do I look for solace in food when the Creator of the universe keeps gently prodding, “Come to me, and I will give you rest”?

In my case, it’s to find absence from pain.

We can talk about using food or other things as pacifiers.  I’m sure there is much validity in understanding ourselves through such psychological explanations.  What we are all looking for is a release from pain and struggle…a brief moment of “hakuna matata,” when we are free from all worries. 

But to be free of struggle is to be dead.  And I don’t know about you, but as much as I love my God, I’m enjoying it here, and would like to remain for as long as God wishes me to.  So, struggle it is.

I’ve put down the pizza.  Granted, I’ll pick it back up again (briefly!), but I’m going to focus more on growing old with God rather than growing…in other ways. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Seeking: A Love of Waiting

“We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway,
And I wonder if I'm really with you now
Or just chasin' after some finer day…

Anticipation, anticipation

Is makin' me late…
Is keepin' me waitin'”

I heard Carly Simon’s Anticipation while I was stuck in traffic in the middle of a December hurricane yesterday.  If life came with musical accompaniment, this would have been playing in my background the entire day.  (Of course, it also reminded me of ketchup, but you need to be of a certain age to realize why…)

It’s Advent, and here we are - waiting.  We usually hate to wait.  Waiting requires patience, and in our busy, high-tech world, we are accustomed to instant gratification – texting, emails, Keurig coffee in less than 30 seconds.  To wait seems to indicate that something must be wrong – the Internet service is down, there must be an accident backing up traffic, it must be the cashier’s first day on the job, and my doctor is overbooked.  And where the heck is my quarter-pounder with cheese!?

But…can waiting be a good thing? I mean - really?

Jesus’ mother, Mary, waited.  She trusted God, and she waited.  Mary had no idea what was to come in her life, but with tremendous faith and obedience to God, she quietly waited in prayer to see how her life, and her child’s life, would unfold.  And given the unusual circumstances surrounding her pregnancy, there must have been times where Mary was anxious, and perhaps even a bit worried…but she continued to trust.  And wait.

Mary has been a wonderful model for me in my life.  When things become uncertain, when I lose faith and trust, when I just don’t want to wait for an answer – I think of Mary’s faithfulness, strength, and patience in waiting for the Lord.  It gives me a tremendous amount of relief and hope.  I have learned to take the experience of being anxious in waiting, and to let go of that anxiety, and focus on prayer and other ways of communion with God.  In doing so, I’ve learned that life events will happen whether I worry and wonder about them or not.  The waiting period has helped me to draw closer to God, and strengthens me in countless ways, spiritually, mentally, and physically (lower blood pressure!).  I have learned to accept - and actually embrace - waiting as a gift.  Sometimes it is just what I need.  And God knows that.

“All good things to those who wait.”  Peace to you as we wait for the best gift of all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Seeking: True Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is but two days away, and let's face it -- it's about more than turkey dinner, football, and after-dinner walks with the family.  It's even more than about finding the loosest stretch pants in order to cope with the 4,000 calorie meal (though this is extremely important.)

There is a very funny piece written by Woody Allen called "Notes from the Overfed."  I think of this essay every Thanksgiving.  Woody writes in the first person, discussing his uncontrollable eating habits and obsessions   It all begins when he realizes that if God is in everything, then He is in food -- and the more he eats, the more closely connected with God he could become... unfortunately, culminating in the fact that his stomach "crosses the state line by itself."   "Abbondanza", over abundance, blessing upon blessing!

It is always worth remembering that we are constantly being overfed by God.  You don't think so?  Look around you.  We live in a beautiful world.  We are given bodies, souls, and multiple senses with which to enjoy, absorb, learn, and grow.  We have the ability to truly rejoice in our world, and in those around us.  We are given countless ways to express our gratitude to the One who loves us more than we could ever possibly imagine.  Our God is constantly bestowing the blessings of His presence upon us, His love, His unending mercy.  Our relationship with God is "all-you-can-eat"!

In Hinduism, many devotees offer "prasadam" -- food offered up in gratitude to God.  In Christianity, we have the Eucharist, which literally means "thanksgiving" - given to us by Jesus in order to remember Him, and strengthen us as Christians.  In so many faiths and cultures, food and gratitude are somehow, in a variety of ways, inextricably linked in our expression of love for God, and "communion" with Him.

So this Thanksgiving...we all need to step away from the turkey and take a good look around us.  Here we are.  And here is the One.  That is reason enough to say "thanks be to God!" 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Seeking: Intermission

We interrupt this blog for perfect wisdom from St. Patrick:

As I arise today, may the strength of God pilot me, the power of God uphold me, the wisdom of God guide me. May the eye of God look before me, the ear of God hear me, the word of God speak for me. May the hand of God protect me, the way of God lie before me, the shield of God defend me, the host of God save me. May Christ shield me today...Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit, Christ when I stand, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. Amen.

~ Saint Patrick of Ireland, Bishop and Missionary

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seeking: Hands

I could never let go of the side of the pool.

My mom started dragging me to swimming lessons when I turned 5.  The Hartford YWCA was my first swimming school.  Wonderful, large, heated pool, with three or four other little girls who were chomping at the bit to dive in and learn how to survive in water.

I stood there, admiring the (seemingly) blue water, thinking how nice it would be to dangle my feet over the side -- then have my mother promptly scoop me up and take me out of there before the water filled my lungs.

Hi - my name is Marie, and I am a YWCA swim class drop out.

Over the next few years, I failed the Town of Bristol and Town of Newington swimming classes.  Then Newington High School - my swimming instructor was never so disgusted in his life by the fear in my cow eyes and continual nail biting.

I almost dislocated my shoulder by jumping in the deep end (under force, mind you) and grabbing on to the side of the pool. 

And why?  No trust.  No trust that I would bob back up to the top, despite my instructors' (increasing irritation) in telling me that I would.  No.  I was convinced I would sink, sink, sink...and either end up dead at the bottom of the pool, or sucked into one of those filter vents and wind up on the Dark Side.
And this was all because, as a kid, my dad misjudged and didn't catch me, as promised, as I came down a waterslide into an amusement park pool.  I remember the bubbles, and lack of my father's hands as I sank down to the bottom.  (Yes, he eventually did pull me out and dealt with my predictable hysterics.)
Trust.  Do you have trust issues, too?

My biggest trust issue which I have finally won is my trust in God.  This is after 40+ years of praying, studying, and observing how God works in my and others' lives.  Psalm 37 tell us to "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act."  I finally believe it, and by doing so, I am free.  Free to explore life; free to live, free to die, challenge myself, experience all the good and bad that life has to offer; free to risk letting go of the side of the pool. 

I still can't swim. But if I fall into water again, I know my Father will catch me.  Do you know that God's hands are there for you, too?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seeking: God in Dreams

Leave it to my wonderfully profound friend, Dennis, for posing the fascinating question...

...have any of us experienced the presence of God in dreams?

I have a recurring dream that began when I was a child -- I have this dream about once a year.  I am walking down a beach, alone, and off in the distance, I see Jesus walking ahead of me, with His back to me.  His pace remains calm, measured, confident in faith, and purposeful.  I, on the other hand (as I often do in real life), am running like a maniac, tripping the sand, falling down, scrambling, just trying to catch up with Him.  I can hear my voice shouting His name over and over again, begging Him to stop, or at least slow down.  The faster I run, the slower He walks - until He turns around and within a blink, he is directly in front of me.  He smiles, takes my hand, and we silently walk together to an unknown destination.

I love this dream.  It never changes, and it has a lasting effect on me for weeks and weeks afterward.  Is it really the presence of Jesus?  I like to think so.  Friends of mine will point out that it could be the result of a somewhat older tuna salad sandwich from the night before. 

How about any of you?  Do you sense God's presence in your dreams?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Seeking: Missed Call

I’m 47, so it’s “mid-life crisis” time…and like most people my age, I’m doing a lot of reflecting on the past thirty years of my life.  Like you, I look back fondly at some choices I’ve made…and want to jump into a volcano when I remember others.

One event that happened to me at age 16 haunts me to this day.  I’m a cradle Catholic, but when my parents divorced when I was 8 years old, they had an unfortunate conversation with a priest who refused to grant them an annulment.  That was the end of their Catholic lives, and if not for my maternal grandmother, it would have been the end of mine as well.  Grandma whisked me to Mass when no one was looking…more to give me strength and peace rather than to “save my soul.”  She was spiritual and practical, and her actions helped to give me faith and hope.

The big event was preceded by three years of discerning whether to enter religious life.  Not a soul on earth knew I was praying about and considering this, but I took it very seriously, and kept wondering what God was possibly calling me to do.

Finally, one day, I said, “Lord, I don’t usually go this route, but I need a very direct, clear sign from you soon – are you inspiring me to enter religious life, or do I just have more issues than Readers' Digest?”  Doubting, I hopped into my pajamas and went to sleep.

The next morning, I woke up, and opened the front door to get the morning paper (something we had in the old days.)  No newspaper… just a paperback book.  Puzzled, I picked it up.  It was a book about religious life.  I opened the front cover, and there was an address label from a sister in the Midwest.  I nearly dropped the book.  I had no idea where it came from, and never found out.

And I was so frightened that I dropped the whole thing.

Missed Call?   Strange coincidence? 

I have faith that “God writes straight with crooked lines.”  I believe that, if we remain close to God in prayer, God will guide and direct our days, even if we try to take a shortcut and wind up on the wrong road.  God will always bring us around.  However, I can’t shake the possibility that God was still speaking…and I hung up on Him.

My mantra ever since is “listen.”  Shut up, and listen ~- and listen more.  You can’t have a conversation with your Father if you do all the talking.  You might miss something quite important.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Seeking: Apocalypse Now

In perusing through my personal library last night, I came across The Late, Great Planet Earth, written by Hal Lindsey in 1970.  It was the non-fiction bestseller of the 1970’s ~ the first Christian prophecy book published by a secular book publisher, long before any of us were threatened to be Left Behind.  I remember copies of that book in the back seat of people’s cars, on coffee shop tables, book bags - everyplace.  Part of my family has been born-again Christian for decades, so this book was discussed every time we saw them…

“Wow, Marie is growing up so fast!  Marie honey, are you planning to go to college?  The Lord is coming back SOON, so you might not want to go to college in NYC or anyplace where there might be intense nuclear explosions, causing you to melt from the inside out.”

(And I thought…the Second Coming of Christ involves His bringing nuclear bombs?  Did I somehow miss this in scripture?  “I’ll be baaah-ck”?)

“I’m not counting on retirement,” said another cousin.  “When Jesus returns, He’s gonna snatch me out of thin air, and I’ll retire in the Heavenly Kingdom!  It’s gonna be SOON!”

(“Hey, Rocky – wanna watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat?”)

Well, here we are in 2010, and as of yet, no deus ex machina.  Can we imagine what the Second Coming of Christ be like?  Will it be a literal return of Jesus?  Will it be an intensified and inspiring Spirit descending, a la Pentecost?  Or – can we perhaps focus on the fact that Jesus is already present within our hearts right this moment?  Maybe we don’t have to wait for the Kingdom of God after all – it’s right here, right now.  And if so…what shall we do in the Kingdom today?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Seeking: Shared Experience

Thank you for visiting my blog!  My name is Marie, and I live in central Connecticut.  I’m in my 40’s (*sob*) and have worked in Catholic and Protestant church administration for the past thirty years.  We are all seeking something in life – it could be love, wealth, social status, career advancement, children, family, etc.   I am a bit of a spiritual nomad in searching for a clearer understanding of God in the many forms in which I believe God reveals God’s self to us.  First and foremost, I find a limitless well of love and understanding within Christianity, and most of all, within the heart of Jesus.  I also love exploring other faiths and spirituality in order to gain a broader and perhaps deeper understanding of the One who created us, loves us, and wants us to love in return.  I'd love to learn more about your spiritual thoughts and experiences. 

Oh, and where to find the best Indian food.  I do have my priorities.

 May God’s love be with you!