I have recently had the privilege of making a new friend—let’s call him Vernon.  Vernon is a well-traveled, well-read, and retired neurosurgeon who led the field of neurosurgery for much of his working life.  He is truly a scientist down to his toes and everything must have a rational, scientific explanation…even if science hasn’t caught up to articulating it yet.

So, imagine my surprise when he started asking me questions about GOD!  In these his later years, he is searching for he knows-not-what.  His very busy mind is driving him crazy because he has not been able to align his rational thinking with this deep question mark that seems to be hanging over his head.  Having traveled around the world and enjoyed much of the finer things of life, he finds himself asking, “so what?  Is this it?  Is there more?”

Of course, questions like these are right up my alley.  Our spirituality is nothing if it doesn’t somehow respond to the questions of meaning in our lives.  Questions like WHY AM I even HERE?  As we have talked more about this subject it struck me that Vernon never spoke much about how situations or circumstances or even people made him feel.  He had a myriad of thoughts about these things, but no feelings about them.

If you are living the human experience, and you are if you’re reading this reflection, you have feelings that are reflections of the emotive experience of being alive.  All of life is energy and emotions are simply energy-in-motion.  That is why Fear…a strong emotion has a self-conscious and reflective side to it which can be articulated.  If we find we cannot express our feelings, we are allowing these strong emotions to get stuck within us which have been shown to make us physically sick or sicker.

As Vernon and I have spent time together talking about this GOD-thing even more, I have come to realize that life’s experiences are to be felt as well as considered with the mind or thought about.  In other words, to block off our feelings shuts off a part of our aliveness…and dare I say it, separates us from GOD.  You and I are meant to both think and feel.  It is who and what we are.

So, what do we do with difficult feelings like fear, sadness, anger, guilt, or shame to name a few?  We certainly don’t pretend they are not there.  Try this. We can close our eyes and discern where in our body this feeling sits; cradle it with compassion and love; and watch its transmutation.  It will change.  Try it and see. Learning to process our emotions in this way is very calming to our nervous systems and is overall beneficial to our lives.

Vernon and I are learning together that we can experience GOD through our feelings more deeply than we can through what we can intellectually speak about GOD.  The Divine, after all is to be experienced in this school of LIFE.  At the end of the day, it is about learning to express gratitude for the experience of being alive—right here and right now.  So how do YOU feel today?

Holding You in LIGHT!

Freda Marie+

The British rock band Queen and singer David Bowie teamed up in the eighties to write and release a song called “Under Pressure”:

Pressure: pushing down on me,
Pressing down on you, no man ask for.
Under pressure that burns a building down,
Splits a family in two,
Puts people on streets …

That’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about.
Watching some good friends screaming,
“Let me out!” …

Most everyone I know, these days, and for awhile now, is feeling Under Pressure, to the nth degree. Whether it’s a personal situation or family issue(s), or simply the general state of our city, nation and world amidst our ongoing global pandemic, the pressure, anxiety and stress are over the top.

For many, this feeling of pressure has morphed into a feeling of despair. How is this ever going to get better? When will things finally change for the good? How long, O Lord, how long?

Several weeks ago, we heard a lesson from Hebrew scripture, telling the tale of the prophet Elijah and how he fell into despair. Fleeing into the wilderness and finding himself under the shade of a solitary broom tree, he throws in the towel: “This is it,” he claims before God, “I’m done, it’s over. Take my life. It’s hopeless. I’m without hope.” Millenia later, poet W. H. Auden would give voice to this sentiment:

… The stars are not wanted now; put out every one:
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods:
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

And it is here, in this place of deepest despair, that Elijah becomes aware of a messenger from God. And God’s message?

“EAT! Get up and eat!!!”

Reminds me of my former Italian neighbor Marcella, who used to say to me: “Mangia! Mangia! Si no, serai mangiada!!!” “Eat! Eat! Or else you yourself will be eaten!”(A more passionate version, perhaps, of the British notion, “Come now, and have a cup of tea ….”?)

God’s word is at once instructive and practical, down to earth and grounding, while also clearly conveying: “You may be done with life but Life isn’t done with you! God … Holy Mystery … is not done with you! So hang on, have something to eat, and then take just the next step before you. And remember: I AM with You.”

***

Missionary, author and speaker Elisabeth Elliot, who died in 2015 at the age of 88, had a radio program years ago called Gateway to Joy. On it, Elisabeth told of her deep despair, when her husband Jim was murdered in Ecuador, where they were serving together, leaving her alone with an infant daughter.

“When I went back to my jungle station after the death of my first husband, Jim Elliot, I was faced with many confusions and uncertainties. I had a good many new roles, besides that of being a single parent and a widow. I was alone on a jungle station that Jim and I had manned together. I had to learn to do all kinds of things, which I was not trained or prepared in any way to do. It was a great help to me simply to do the next thing …. I’ve felt that way [other] times in my life, and I go back over and over again to an old Saxon legend, which I’m told is carved in an old English parson somewhere by the sea. I don’t know where this is. But this is a poem which was written about that legend. The poem says, ‘Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliantly, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing His hand who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing, leave all resultings, do the next thing.’ Sometimes life is so hard you can only do the next thing. Whatever that is just do the next thing. God will meet you there.” https://www.crosswalk.com/family/career/just-do-the-next-thing.html

Here’s the poem (anonymous) below. May it give you some hope and courage, as you and I, together, simply do the next thing.

~ Cristina

 

From an old English parsonage, down by the sea,
There came in the twilight a message for me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
It has, seems to me, God’s teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring,
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt has its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus. DO THE NEXT THING.

Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing Christ’s hand
Who placed it before you with earnest command,
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings. DO THE NEXT THING.

Hurricanes and tornadoes. Evacuations and refugees. Floods, fires and pandemics.

As I sit and write in what we call “the blue room” of our home, the sun shines brightly outside and the air feels a welcome and refreshing cool. The storm has passed. And amidst the brightness of this new day, I am acutely aware of …

… folks in Louisiana grappling with loss and devastation once again …

… individuals and families, having left all they’ve known in Afghanistan, seeking refuge in new lands …

… adult friends grieving the death of their parents, and other friends recovering from surgery …

… a young man struggling with addiction and another man searching for employment …

And … I am also aware of …

… children and youth returning to school and our friends at Govans Elementary School enjoying the glory of their new 21st century school building …

… the grandchild of a friend discovering the wonder of a dryer ball and a young woman in college jazzed about her courses and professors …

… a colleague celebrating a birthday and another embarking on a new degree …

… a new program year starting here at Redeemer …

Endings and beginnings. Grief and hope. Heartache and heart exultation. Life in ALL its fullness. I wonder: how do you ground yourself, amidst the Fullness of Life and all it holds? What life-giving practice(s) do you have in place, to anchor you as the winds blow and the waters pour down?

Perhaps you’re a runner or a walker. Perhaps it’s time with scripture or time in meditation and prayer. Perhaps it’s sitting with a cup of coffee or tea and gazing out the window. Perhaps it’s playing with a child; knitting, crocheting, or painting; talking with a trusted friend. Perhaps you’re still searching for such a practice … or are so pressed for time that you can’t imagine taking the time to do any of the above …

Over the summer, I did a deep dive into my yoga practice, becoming certified as a yoga instructor. I cannot with words do justice to how meaningful and life-giving this practice has become for me; I can only tell you that it has, and that it is, and that I realize I am just at the beginning of a journey. And that I am excited to begin to share with you the fruits of what this journey holds.

Each of us … you and I … are temples of the Living God. You may not feel like a temple of the Divine, right now, and/but you are! And the world, our precious world, deeply and desperately needs each and all of us to awaken to this truth … live into it … and fully embody it.

So stay tuned for more … and in the meantime … Inhale … Exhale … again … and again … deeply, mindfully and fully … God’s Breath is Breathing You …

~Cristina