Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Lens Through Which We See Life

The lens through which we see life is formed early in our lives. We pick up the attitudes of our parents and all they try to teach us. We absorb the cultural goals for us. We see through the attitudes of our peers in school and whether we are accepted or not. The pain and suffering in our lives also form the lens through which we see life. As we grown into adulthood, all these experiences solidify our own personal lens through which we see and assess and judge and welcome or push away everything that happens to us. Our personal lens can greatly restrict how we see others, affect what we consent to or not, color the truth to how we want it to be and so much more.

 

Our self-image is often formed through the reactions and opinions of others about us, especially our parents. We learn to be impatient with how we are and how we do things. We wish we were like someone else. Or that we could do or be in another way. This is probably the hardest part of our lens to overcome.

 

Our inability to see what is real and true is probably the biggest effect our personal lens has on our life. We celebrate those who agree with us and feel confident in our opinions when others share them. We avoid or ignore those who don’t agree with us. And there we are safely encircled and confident that we are right. The facts don’t matter as much as our attitudes and opinions do. So we can live in a state of unreality.

 

 

We can form opinions about other people just by the way they dress or their race or other superficial means without getting to know who they really are. We can miss the richness of knowing a lot of different kinds of people, whether they agree with us or not, and fail to find out maybe why their lens is so different from ours. Our lens can blind us to so many things. I was talking to a woman the other day whose husband was regretting that he had never studied engineering. And she said to him, “Why don’t you go back to school?” And he responded,” It’s too late, I’m just turning 40.” His lens on life was telling him that he should ignore a desire he had had for a long time, because it was too late.

 

And that’s where our personal lenses can dampen our natural talents and abilities; we can choose the “prevailing wisdom” instead of something that is so natural to us. We dampen our own desires to fit into the cultural norm. And we can’t imagine what joy there would be when we are doing things that totally serve our own inclinations. We choose what is safe and acceptable, instead of what is most natural to us.

 

As followers of Jesus, we are to be growing into our created selves, into what God created us to be and to do, as we grow into our love for Him. We are to be developing a lens on the world and the people in it that is true and embracing, forgiving and merciful, just like Jesus’s lens on us. If we are still thinking the way we have always thought and doing what we’ve always done, we are not following Jesus. It is in our interactions with Him and His suggestions to us that we follow, that we begin to see the limitations of our personal lenses, of the culture we grew up in, of our family’s attitudes and points of view, which have limited who we are and who we can be. Jesus will reveal our truer selves and our purpose in life and how we are to accomplish it. And in His healing and transformation that takes place in us, we begin to experience real joy as we express who we really are, not the momentary happiness that our culture would have us seek in material things.

 

As our lens grows and expands to see things in truth and love, then we are seeing as Jesus sees. We are seeing other people for who they are and what each has to offer. We no longer live in judgment of others. We are seeing the way the world is and the way God wants it to be. We are seeing our purpose and how we are to achieve it. And we are living in peace and joy and love, because we are no longer attached to the world’s ways. Thanks be to God!

Leaving Your Negative Self-Image

3.15.21

 

We absorb so much from our culture and our families. I’ve read that before the age of six, we have absorbed what our parents are trying to teach us. Then, add to those instructions any abuse or trauma or illness or suffering in the young child and the self-image of the child is set in those early years. Our guilt and shame from these early years are hidden from us. Our tears and grief get buried deep within us. All of these early events form our self-image and the lens through which we view ourselves and others and God. For myself, the hell-fire-and-damnation church of my life up to the age of thirteen, led me to fear God above all, and to look at myself with doubt and fear, knowing I would never feel safe and accepted. It took years for me to step back from the effects of this church and to see that its teachings had nothing to do with me, but it was a long journey to get free of the capricious and vengeful God.

 

Fortunately, God was right there with me, guiding me, leading me, even when I was totally unaware of His presence. Eventually, I came to see that there were many different interpretations of the Bible passages and that I could come to love a wholly different kind of God—one of love and forgiveness–from the one I had been stained with. Eventually, I gave my life to Christ and since then, much has been done to repair my self-image and how I treat and think of myself and others. Much has been healed in me and today I live my life in gratitude for God in my life and I am at peace, no matter what happens to me.

 

What saved me? It was becoming an observer of my thoughts—stepping way back from their impact on my life, so that I could see the source of that repetitive programming in my mind—the “shoulds,” the “ought-tos,” and the “have-tos.” At first it was difficult to sit with my thoughts in the quiet. I wanted to run from what they were saying(and had been saying since I was very young) about me. But I realized the necessity of sitting in the quiet and could begin to sit and think about the thoughts that drove me crazy before. I could identify the source of each one after a while: my Dad for any impatience, my Mom and Dad for being on time, my Aunt Grace for not spending any money unless you had to, and so many more. As an observer, I could see that they had been with me all my life, “old friends” in a strange way. But I no longer was upset about them, nor did I do what they were trying to get me to do.

 

I had hoped that they would go away over time now that I could just observe them, but not involved with them emotionally. But they stayed. Now I just smile at them when they occur and I think that they will continue until the day I die.

 

I am able to sit in the quiet no matter what I am thinking. Those old thoughts are pretty loud in my mind, but I have come to know the “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 KJV) of God that resides in me beneath all the clamor of these learned responses to life. Now I just listen to God and willingly do what He suggests. And my life is full of purpose and joy and fulfillment as I walk through life totally accompanied by God. It is a miracle, given where I started from. A blessing. And grace.

 

You, too, can walk away from the self-image that these early experiences froze in you. Try it out. Write down the “shoulds,” etc. in your life and think about the source of each one. Step back from them and see what anxiety or fear or anger they produce in you when they come to you loud and clear. See them as old friends, but no longer formative of who you are, and watch God step in with His “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12 NIV).

 

Then continuing the quiet, listen for the soft and gentle voice of God: suggestions not harsh law, guidance not “have tos,” love and forgiveness not orders from headquarters. Then follow those suggestions and see where He leads you. You’ll go deeper and deeper into the self that He created you to be, and you will feel more and more fulfilled and loved and forgiven! It’s an amazing outcome of just being still. Thanks be to God!

 

Prayer

2.22.21  Prayer

 

Prayer is a broad spectrum of practices that keep us in touch with God. From memorized prayers like the Lord’s Prayer to any dialogue with God to silence in His presence, the ways of prayer are varied and rich. Prayer is asking God for help and healing for ourselves and others. It is lifting up our sins to God and asking for forgiveness. It is asking God what He has in store for us this day. It is listening to God for what He is saying to us in this Bible passage today. It is hearing from the Holy Spirit what God wants us to do now, with this person. Prayer is the whole gamut of the relationship we have with God.

 

It includes acknowledging His grace and presence. It is gratitude for all that the Lord does for us. Prayer is the way of walking in God’s presence every day and in every way.

 

The one kind of prayer that doesn’t come easily to us is the prayer of silence, of contemplation. Years ago, when I first tried to meditate, after a few minutes of listening to the mumblings of my mind, I would run from the chair as fast as I could. A few months later, acknowledging that this was an important practice for me to learn, I began to be able to sit with my thoughts quietly and without running away. How did I do that? I learned how to step back from being engaged with them and letting them upset me or make me anxious–how to become an observer of my thoughts.

 

What thoughts arose in me? All the shoulds! But when I began to step back from their influence on me, I could see the source of each thought and acknowledge the person(s) who taught me how to think like that. From my parents, the major lesson was to be on time, if not early for everything. From my parents and my Aunt Grace, don’t spend any money that you don’t have to. From my Mom, have poise in every situation. And so on. There were also all the society’s rules of behavior and, mainly, conforming to society’s goals for me. As an observer I could look on all these early influences on my life with distance and interest, rather than nervousness and upset.

 

As an observer of these thoughts, I was able to sit in peace, to not let them distract me. For many years I sat in meditation or Centering Prayer for an hour each day. The more I was silent, the more I could hear God’s “still, small voice” [1 Kings 19:12] throughout my days. And then I was able to surrender to whatever He was telling me. My spiritual practices evolve over time, so right now I am no longer meditating daily. I keep a daily gratitude journal at night and read the passages from ”Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young and “Face-to-Face with a Holy God” by Kay Arthur and Pete De Lacy on Isaiah in the mornings. In addition, I have followed two journaling guides that I produced, one on the Two Great Commandments and the other on the Beatitudes. These practices keep my life centered on God and aware of His presence throughout the day.

 

Prayer is an expression of the all-encompassing nature of our lives lived in the presence of God. It is rich and varied depending on the person and what God is asking of you right now. Mostly, it expresses the ever-deepening nature of our relationship to God in our individual lives.

Adapting to Life As It Is

1.18.21  Prayer in troubling times

 

It has been ten months since Covid-19 disrupted our lives and brought so many changes to us. Ten long months of isolation, of lack of social contacts, of time on our hands that we had not experienced like this. We humans are designed to be adaptable, but, sometimes, we get tired of adapting. I’ve been at peace all these months until the daily changes have just seemed to pile up. I’ve been experiencing shock at the smallest changes. I have had to sit for a while to settle down again and then adapt to whatever is being asked of me.

 

Here’s how they have piled up. 1) my daughter had her 3rd surgery in six months right before Christmas. Two weeks later, while she is recuperating from major surgery, her husband was hospitalized overnight with some sort of heart problem. Meanwhile I am trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, driving some of their kids to and from school, running errands and such. So I was driving four times a day since school started back up. Then our county announced that all school should close last week until February 2nd, suddenly my days were clear of driving. Except the next day, one school that their kids attended reopened. And now it seems to be day to day changes. The other school is still closed and trying to figure out what to do.

 

My work had pretty much been on hiatus since my daughter’s problems returned around the middle of December. [By the way she is recuperating and her husband is okay, too.] Now in January I was just getting back into the routine of things and all these changes happened. It felt like each one was a door slamming in my face. So what I found was to stop and relax, to pray, to ask God for help in dealing with these changes. A little while later, I would be at peace again whether it meant more time or less time to work, more interruptions or fewer.

 

He is my mainstay through everything that has happened in my life. And He comes through for me in a variety of different ways, but they all work on my behalf and on the behalf of the work I am doing. What would I do without Christ in my life? I know for sure how I lived before I gave my life to Christ: I would be anxious and fearful. I would be outer-oriented, looking to our culture and to other people for how I should be. I would stay in the background, living my life in the wings, not on stage for sure.

 

He has brought peace and fulfillment to me. He has given me back my life as He designed it to be. And I am slowly recapturing my real, true self. Taking my true self back from the conditioned self, who I thought I was, but no more. Just this week He revealed to me that I am not the ENFP on the Myers Briggs or a #6 on the Enneagram, that those describe my conditioned self. Now that was a surprise to me that I am not who I thought I was. These describe the cultural overlay that I took on as I grew up and experienced what life for me would be like. So now I am awaiting for what He will unveil in me as He reveals my real, true self. I can’t wait!

Become an Observer of Your Thoughts

12.14.20  If we really want to grow into our true selves as God created us to be, if we really want to be able to love God with all of ourselves, we first have to understand who and what we have become in the years we have spent on this earth. To do this we have to take a deep look at what we think about all the time—our preoccupations, the inconsistencies between our ideals and our actual behavior, the dichotomies between our outer behavior and speech and our inner judgments and prejudices. We will want to bring our inner and outer selves into harmony.

 

The first step in this process is to be totally aware of how we think and what our judgments and prejudices are. If we sit in silence or try to, all the thoughts that bother us will arise to the surface as we try to sit quietly. I know that when I first tried to meditate, I would run kicking and screaming from the couch where I sat, because I couldn’t stand those old repetitive thoughts. They had been with me from childhood and I hated them. A few months later I tried again, and this time I was able to sit with them, because by then I could understand the value of meditating. It really does help us to begin to sit in peace—eventually—with all that goes on in our minds. I learned to become an observer of my thoughts, to think about the source of each one, and to be able to see them for what they are—the shoulds or judgments about us that we first heard in our childhoods—and no longer react to them emotionally.

 

For me, there were the ones about being on time—from my parents. Also, from my parents and from my Aunt Grace (who couldn’t stay on a long distance phone call for more that 2 minutes no matter who was paying), there were all the admonishments to save money.  There were all the criticisms of me—about my dress, my manners, my behavior. And much more. As I began to name the sources, I began to see that little of what I thought about myself was really relevant today. It belonged in the past. It was rooted in my failure as a small child to follow what my parents were asking of me. And the more that I could just observe those judgments of me and just treat them like old friends, the more I could rest in God’s presence and let them be.

 

These thoughts, I am convinced, are with us until the day we die, although for a long time I hoped they would go away eventually. At least, after some time, they ceased to cause any emotional response in me. Now I just see them as parts of me that belong to the child that I was. As an observer of my thoughts, I see what I’ve been through, but I know that it has no relevance any more.

 

Now years later I am aware of another level of influence these thoughts had on me. I was so self-conscious and shy as a young adult that I downplayed who I was, content to stay in the background while my husband performed before large audiences and even appeared on TV and radio during the time we were fighting nuclear proliferation. But in spite of that shyness and self-effacement I really did wish to be seen for who I am. It has come up again lately as I seek to publish two more books, when I have been unable to sell the two books I had already self-published. The trouble with my wish to be invisible and my life as a writer is that they don’t go together. It’s not that I want to promote myself as a writer, but I do want to promote the ideas I’ve written with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So I am having to confront my inclination to stay in the background with my need to promote the ideas I’ve written about.

 

It’s not easy to change after all these years and yet I think that is what God is asking me to do. So I am giving up my reluctance to be in the public eye, knowing that it doesn’t serve my purpose, while at the same time keeping the focus on God, not on me. Only God can heal those age-old habits of mine; and then He will show me how to promote the ideas and not me.

 

What thoughts linger in you from your childhood that are clearly not relevant today, but still bother you? Pray to God for help in distancing yourself from them, so that you can just observe them and not react to them. And then, watch how over time He will change how you relate to them. And, as you are freed from their influence, you will notice that God will be asking you to revel in that freedom in some new way! You can be sure of it!

 

 

 

 

The Real Challenges of the Life in Christ

There are very real Challenges when we follow the teachings and leadings of Christ. Because of our very human nature it might take some time to really live through the challenges.

 

  1. Dealing with Doubts

Doubts are bound to arise about God, about whether He loves to punish us or to love us, equating Him to our parents. It is the way our mind works. But I think doubts can also be God’s way of leading us beyond where our beliefs and experience have taken us to far. Doubts can be the opening for more devotion to God as we drop some of the narrow beliefs about God and embrace a bigger, truer concept of God. What I am saying is that God himself can be the source of our doubts. Above all we want our concepts and beliefs about God to grow and change as we grow in our faith and drop some of the God-in-a-box thinking that makes Him sound like just a bigger-than-human, but still HUMAN deity. I’m not sure that our limited human minds can really entertain the whole of who God is and what He does. But the doubts we have can lead us to greater truth about God.

 

  1. Surrendering self, our expectations, to leave the world behind

Are we really willing to give up all of who we think we are, our desires that life would go the way we want it to go? Will we lay our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits on God’s altar? Will we give over every single area of our lives from family to work to leisure time to friends to dreams and longings? Will we walk hand-in-hand with God through every single thing in our lives and obey Him in all that we say and do?

It is not easy to leave the world and embrace God as the sole source of guidance. We’ve lived in the world all our lives and don’t often realize the extent to which it has trained us how to be, how to live, what to desire and how to get it. Standing apart from its influence is a great, huge step in trusting God.

 

  1. Seeing God as a loving God.

Are we afraid of God as described in all those angry passages in the Old Testament or are we in awe of the enormity of a God who created this entire universe, this planet with its projected 7,000,000 to 8,000,000 species of plants and animals? Are we afraid of His punitive nature or embraced by His love? Are we captivated by the beauty of this world that He created? Do we live in gratitude for everything that He has done for us and continues to do for us? Jesus taught that God is a loving, forgiving God, like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. [Luke 15:11-32] That He sends His rain to fall and sun to shine on everyone equally. [Matt 5:45] That he cares for the needy, the poor and the foreigner. [Lev. 25:35][1]  That He is all about justice and mercy.[Micah 6:8]

 

  1. Actually feeling God’s love

To me this is the greatest challenge, because we can “know” from the Bible that God loves us and yet never feel His love for us or see His love for us or anyone else. Most of us are still holding God at bay because we have never felt worthy of His love. Our own self-images and all that the culture has taught us about ourselves has us holding God at arm’s length. The first step towards the God of Love is to think that if God can love me, then surely I can love myself. That I could actually look at myself and my life with God’s eyes of love. And when I do that, then I can embrace myself as I am sure that God does; then the walls I have built around me start to crumble. I am then more and more aware of His presence. I can feel His presence, His inspiration, His help and guidance. I begin to live in total partnership with God in which it is hard to distinguish where God ends and I begin.

 

  1. Keeping our attention on what we are called to do here on earth.

Let’s allow the Biblical teachings about what awaits us in heaven to recede as of much lesser importance than our calling in the here and now. We who are still living on this earth need to speak and act in God’s will, in His purpose for us to give to this world as He gives to each of us. We can be so excited about what awaits us in heaven and so ego-excited that we’re the chosen that we forget that we are to be love and peace and joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control(humility)—the fruit of the Spirit in this world, right now. [Gal 5:22-3]

 

All of these challenges, once laid on God’s altar with prayers for His healing, will be met by God. Any problems with trust in God or dependence on Him in our lives will be healed. That is what the bulk of the life in Christ is about: healing ourselves of all our rebelliousness and lack of integrity so that we can bring our whole selves to God in love and then live out our purpose here on earth. I have found that there is no end to the healing that can happen while we are here on earth, but that Christ knows us so well and the steps He would have us take to come to be able to love God, ourselves and others that we can, over time, feel how different we have become from the person we once were when we depended mostly on ourselves and on other people.

 

If you have experienced other challenges, please email me at patsadams@gmail.com. I’d love to hear how they went for you.

[1] There are more than 2,000 verses in the Bible that tell us to take care of the poor and needy.

Recognizing the Voice of the Holy Spirit Within

October 12, 2020

My blog posts at By the Waters the last week in September and the first week of October were about the Holy Spirit. To me He is the One who dwells in us and in the world around us, who communicates with us constantly whether we are aware of His voice or not. He would guide us to a deeper life in God, something that we cannot accomplish by ourselves when we try to move closer to God on our own power. It is only God through the Holy Spirit who can heal and transform us, guide and support us, and bring us to the fullness of who He created each of us to be. It is our job to get on board, to be willing to go where He would lead us, to surrender all of our pain and suffering to Him so that He can free us of all the burdens that we carry. Remember that Jesus said that His yoke is easy, His burden light. [Matt 11:28-33] He is inviting us to unload all that troubles us, all that enslaves us, all the burdens we carry that have nothing to do with who we are, so that we can be free to be exactly who He created us to be.

 

In my experience the one sure way to hear and to identify His voice within us is to become an observer of our own thoughts. I mean that we have to know ourselves so well and the way that we think that we can identify the source of most thoughts that we have.  All thoughts in me about saving money come from my parents and my Aunt Grace who had little money of her own. My parents were adamant about being on time, and I am still driven crazy by an inward push to rush to get somewhere even when I know that I will be early—so powerful was that training. My eagerness to judge other people, particularly other drivers on the road is always self-serving and fails to recognize that I am often at fault, too.

 

Being an observer of my thoughts means that in the midst of thinking them, I can step back from them and let them go. And I smile, because there it is again! And again! When we know our own thoughts so well, then we can clearly identify God’s voice within us.

 

It’s often the voice that is so different from our own, that we reject it out of hand: “Oh, I can’t do that!” God calls us to a whole different life, so what He suggests will be different from the way we think. He says things that sound out loud in our minds like these that I have heard:

“I have an agenda for my life.” This led me from asking, “What should I be doing?” to ask this question, “What do I really want to do?”

“How can I say I love God, if I can’t love my mother?” I tried to love her after I heard this, but I was still caught in my teenage rebellion, in my 40’s!. Finally, God surrounded us with a cloud of love on a railroad platform and that changed both of us to gratitude and love for each other.

“If I can just entertain all possible outcomes equally, well, then…” My husband was dying and I just wanted this whole thing to go away! As soon as I could do what He suggested, I was filled with faith in Him. I was able to support my husband, our adult kids and our friends through this passage. And I never resented his death, but just dropped into the grief after he died.

 

Then there are the nudges about, say, going a different route home, or about what to do next. Or what to read. There are suggestions coming from other people that resonate with us. He can highlight difficult situations from our past that need healing. And all we have to do is to assent to that healing; then the Spirit will make it happen.

 

God has many different ways of communicating with us. That’s why it is so important to recognize the voice of the Holy spirit when it speaks to us. Otherwise, we are left with indecision, with insecurity and are basically stuck in all the old patterns of behavior from the past. We cannot live in the present, in the presence of God unless we are attuned to His voice, to His presence, and are obedient to His suggestions. He would lead us throughout our days, all day long, if we are attuned to his voice, His Spirit within us. Jesus called Him the Advocate. We could call Him our companion, our support, our friend, our guide to fulfilling our creation. If we are faithful and follow Him and His wisdom, then we will fulfill the promise of our lives.

 

Loving Everyone

            We don’t think of love as nonviolence. Or as compassion. Or valuing another person and all they’ve been through which formed them as they are. We don’t think of love as embracing our enemy, listening to them, seeing everyone as a child of God. We don’t look at the Ten Commandments as teaching us how to love all of mankind: no murder, adultery, stealing, lying, or envy. We don’t look at them as addressing our inner attitudes as well as our outer actions. But if we really follow these commandments because we love our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then we would not tolerate all the ways we mistreat others, we would not tolerate the differences between our actions and the judgments we hold about others.

            Here is how John Lewis, the Civil Rights activist, describes their training in nonviolence: “You don’t have a right to abuse that spark of the divine in a fellow human being…You never give up on anyone.”[1] They were trained in the 1960s so that they could respond with love to the police and other citizens along the march routes, no matter what happened to them.

            In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is clearly teaching us that we must treat everyone, enemies and friends, as we would want to be treated. [Matthew 7:12] And that whatever we would do as a child of God must be done humbly and without calling attention to ourselves. [Matthew 6:1-18] Humility and Love. Compassion and loving. It is a narrow gate[Matthew 7:13] that we are to walk through as we shed our very human responses to others—the judgments, the anger, the fear. And when we do we are so ready to love everyone, to serve as we are called to serve.

            So, the way to divest  ourselves of all these sins is to put ourselves totally in the hands of God, to ask for His healing, to align ourselves with His will for us, to offer all these very human tendencies–that separate us out from other people–up to God to heal, to change the very bases of our thinking and reacting to others. It is a step by step process in which God highlights some sin within us and we are to consent to His healing. This happens time and again as we come up against our basic issues that keep us in a place of not trusting God or others, that keep us judging, that keep us complaining about this person or that one, that keep us tied to the world.

            The amazing thing is for us to see how differently we react to others as God does all this healing work in us. We will see that we no longer have the same responses to others. That we are beginning to see them with the eyes of love, rather than the previous distortion. It’s a wonder-filled and alleviating process which changes the nature of our relationships–forever.

            Here are some questions for pondering/journaling that will begin to connect you to this healing from God:

  1. What are the issues, pain and suffering, in me—probably begun in my childhood—that I need to take to the Lord for healing?
  2. Who in my life do I need to forgive?
  3. Who in my life do I need to ask forgiveness for what I have said and done?

Just a personal note: I have found that the Lord highlights one issue at a time. Recently, for me it has been forgiveness, but, in the past, it’s been the need to love my mother, the need to follow the Lord and His suggestions rather than my own tendency to always look to others for what I need to do, the need to overcome the teachings of a hell-fire-and-damnation church. Those have been the major issues and as each one is healed, I feel so much lighter and able to love and forgive myself. Up until the time I gave my life to the Lord, there was no peace or love for me, only doubt and anxiety. Now when I look back on my life, I can see that I never would have become a spiritual director or a writer about the spiritual life, if I had not spent 12 years in that hell-fire-and-damnation church. I can clearly see the footprints of the Lord throughout my life, healing and leading me to this purpose. And I am grateful for everything in my life that pointed me in this direction. Amen.


[1] John Lewis in an interview from 2013 with Krista Tippett of On Being

8.19.20 Fruit of the Spirit

            I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years thinking about the fruit of the Spirit, the qualities that are ours to express in this world when we truly follow Jesus. The first three: peace, joy and love are the essentials in the life of the Spirit. Peace takes us out of the cares of this world and transports us to the kingdom of God. So that, no matter what is happening in our lives, we are able to surrender to it and to maintain a certain calm in the face of, for example, the coronavirus, while the world seems to be falling apart in fear and anxiety. The peace of Christ is such a gift to us who still live in this world.

            Joy is the second gift of the Spirit. There is joy in being connected to God/Christ/Spirit. Whatever the Trinity sends us that awakens us to their presence—that is a joy. There is joy in loving and accepting who we are, in forgiving our sins, just as God has loved and forgiven us. We will find joy in anything that happens to us. For example, one of my inspirations during this time of isolation has been to learn the names of the tress here in the Charlotte area where I now live after years of living on the West Coast. I have an app that photographs and then names each species, so I have been learning the names/leaves/bark of many species. And there is joy in learning their names and in recognizing them again and again. Joy is a huge companion on our journey.

            And love…love is the root of everything in the universe, it is God’s most telling attribute. Along with love go forgiveness, mercy, justice, anything that would straighten out our lives. Love is what drives the rain to fall and the sun to shine on everyone, [Matt 5:45] both good and evil. Love is the embracing of all creation and God’s desire to have a personal relationship with each one of His people. To me, the last six fruit of the Spirit are all expressions of love.

            Patience without love is impossible. Goodness, kindness and gentleness are the true expressions of love. There is no judgment, no putting ourselves above anyone else with love. We are all truly heirs of God when we turn back to Him—again as a result of love. Faithfulness is impossible without love. Why would we even want to be faithful to God without our love for Him? And humility—that’s what I think self-control means—how can we see all other human beings as our peers, if we don’t have love?

            Love is Christ’s message to us in everything He taught. And love impels us to treat others as we love ourselves—the Second of Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. We can’t love others if we don’t love ourselves. For how could God’s love, unacknowledged, be expressed in the world if we can’t feel His love for ourselves, His forgiveness of who we are, His desire to be our loving companion? Only when we can apply His love to exactly who we are—all that we have been—can we then pour His love out to others.

            The fruit of the Spirit is a gift to us and to all human beings. Love is the message and the vehicle for that love.  

7.27.20 Are You Bored Yet?

I’m bored! is something I’ve come to acknowledge in this isolation period after four months. I do about 3 errands a week including two trips to the grocery store. The other might be a hair or doctor’s appointment or a trip to the pharmacy. I don’t go out to lunch with friends any more. I don’t “go” to church a couple times a week, because it’s all on-line. I have plenty of work to do, but that certainly doesn’t fill my days. I live with my daughter’s family, so there are people in my life. But… I’m watching more TV.  It’s not like before when I was engaged with people and loving all that I did.

 

For the first few months, I was dying silk scarves, but eventually I couldn’t see any reason, like a craft sale, where I could sell them as an incentive. So I’ve taken on a project of learning the names of the trees in North Carolina, at least right now the deciduous ones. And that has been very interesting to me. As I sit and work on my sofa or take my morning walk I have an app, PictureThis, which will identify any plant that you photograph. And so, I am learning the difference between Red Maples and Silver and Trident Maples and Sweetgum Trees, between White Oaks and Chestnut Oaks, and many more.

 

I love the trees in North Carolina; they provide so much beauty year-round for me. But that hasn’t been enough to offset the boredom, so now I am calling a friend every day, usually here or in California where I lived for 40 years, to keep in touch and to feel connected. And that is really working. My hunger to “see” my friends is satiated when I talk to them either just on the phone or on FaceTime.

 

How are you handling the boredom? The trees and the friends are the suggestions of the Holy Spirit which have really worked for me. What works for you? I find I turn to God so much more often throughout my days now seeking His sustenance and ideas. I am so grateful for the book I am writing about the Beatitudes and becoming unattached to the world. That major project is the sustenance of my life which these other hobbies and connections really supplement.

 

I think often of my grandson, Jack, who wants to be a chemist. He would be a junior in college this year, except he’s not interested in learning on-line. So he has applied for an internship this fall to carry him over to when his college decides to open in a more normal way. He has several hobbies which have kept him going for years. He loves to cook/bake and to play the piano; he does both daily. He grows potted plants. He is also learning computer programming and building a portfolio of programs he’s creating that he thinks will help him get into grad school. All-in-all he’s a well-rounded young man whose interests will serve him for years.

 

We all have talents and interests that we may have not pursued for many reasons. They help us express the whole of who we are, not just our profession. Now might be the perfect time to start one up, as there now seems to be no end to this long period of isolation. Blessings, peace, joy and love, Pat