The Truth does not depend on whether or not you believe it. 💙
I have defined myself as a helper for most, if not all of my life. From an early age, I wanted to always help others, and to give them gifts and special things. It isn’t something that I necessarily thought about, it just felt as if it lived in me as part of who I am. This giving and offering applied to my family, friends, and strangers. As I got older, it felt like a longing that meant that I wanted to choose a career in which I could offer myself to others. To me, that meant social work. And, although I have loved what I have done as my career all of these years, I don’t seek so much of myself in it as I used to in the past. As a social worker, and a counselor, I have come to find it quite normal to always focus on what others need, or how they are not capable of taking care of themselves, and require my assistance. I see humans as much more capable than I used to, so I feel less needed to provide a service, but rather, see in them the ability to help themselves.
Another aspect of who I have been in my life, is that I rarely have asked for help for myself. Not only do I offer to do almost everything that may be required in a given situation, I rarely ask for others to actively help me. And, if I am in a bad situation, it is often not my comfort zone to ask someone to assist me.
One area that I find it interesting is in how prayer has been present in my life as I have grown. When I was a child, and even in college, I would enjoy going to church, participating in the structure and tradition of it all, with prayers and song. I loved that I knew the prayers by heart, and would enjoy reciting them in unison with others in the church. I even prayed at night, or various other times, to God, as I knew of it at the time, for help for others. I never, ever asked God for help for myself. To me, to ask God for something that I wanted, or needed, was selfish. Was me asking God to give me something that I should be able to take care of myself. In other words, God was not responsible for my happiness or relief; I was.
Letting go of the belief that I am solely responsible for the happenings of my life, without the need for others to assist, has been a challenge for me. Mostly, in the area of where God, or Spirit, fits into my life. I would rarely remember that God, or Spirit, is always with me, and I am always part of it, and it is there as the purest form of who I Am. And, there to assist, guide, and support. Yet, I am beginning to understand how important that is right now for me. Being able to say to Spirit, please, help me, to see this situation as it is. To let go or surrender. To remember that I am resting always in the Peace of God. That this is just a dream. That the form does not matter. These are the parts of my daily living that feel most challenging, and yet, I still believe that I need to solely rely on myself to remember.
Most recently, with life form situations that have happened in my world, I have remembered with more frequency to call upon Spirit for help, when I am in a moment that does not feel peaceful, yet I am longing for peace. I am aware that I am not choosing Peace, and yet, need some assistance in choosing Peace. That is when Spirit is right there, for me and with me, to hold me up and remind me, gently and lovingly, what Peace feels like, and that I always have help in choosing it. That I am not in ever in this alone; that I am always held by and watched over by Spirit. That all is well. That Peace lives within me. And Forgiveness. And Love. And when I cannot remember to choose them, it is a beautiful comfort to know the help that exists to help me choose.
To Ruthie. With Love.
Many of my friends are experiencing a deep loss today, at the passing of their friend, Nora. I only met Nora once, yet her spirit and strength filled the room that we were in. From what I hear of her, she is kind, open hearted, loving, funny, and full of life. Tonight, she flies freely after a battle that she fought hard and long.
The more that I age, the less scared that I feel about death. I don’t know if it is because of the aging process itself, or more because I am growing wiser and more balanced about my life and how I want to, and intend to, live it. I want to live in the now. I want to live fully and passionately, drinking wine or eating pizza, or saying yes to dessert. I want to watch Grey’s Anatomy for hours, or walk by the lake with my love. Whatever I am doing to participate in my life, I want to show up fully and enjoy myself immensely.
It seems that is how Nora lived, and how she died as well; living every day to the fullest, right to the end of her days. I may not know what is in store for me when I leave this world, but I feel certain that tonight, Nora’s spirit is flying free, all around us. I feel joy for her, and I feel full compassion for all of those who love her, and will miss her each and every day.
This week, I traveled to New York city with my love, and we went to see Amma. Amma is the woman from India, who is known as the Hugging Saint. In her lifetime, it is said that she has hugged more than thirty million people. Her motivation is love, and compassion for living creatures who are suffering, or who are seeking comfort.
Although I have heard and read many things about her, I was never really sure of what I thought of her. Is she a guru? Is she a human doing godly work on this earth? Is she truly a saint? My curiosity never felt intense enough for me to want to experience her, until recently. When I realized that she was coming to New York, which is a yearly event, I thought about going to see her, to experience her presence.
As the days passed, coming up to when we were to go see her, I didn’t feel any sense of excitement or anticipation. I felt pretty neutral about it. Then, when we arrived in New York, and had to receive our token, which designated what grouping we would be in for our hug, I started to get a sense of overwhelm; there were so many sights and sounds, all of which were inviting and peaceful, yet together, it seemed almost like too much.
For much of the day, it looked like we might not get hugged at all. There were hundreds of people there, and our place in the sequence would not be for several hours, or so we thought. Then, we sat down and I started to watch her hug others. I felt myself overcome with emotion, watching her embrace children, men, and women. Take them into her arms and cradle them. It was absolutely magical and beautiful to watch. I felt disappointed that I might not be able to hug her after all.
We discovered that we were going to be getting our hugs, and that it would be soon. So, we followed the directives, to stand in line, then to sit in line, and to wait. As I got closer and closer to where she was sitting, up on the stage, I got excited and nervous. I had no expectations of what I would experience, and I was not wanting anything from it. I kept feeling tears in my eyes, and my heart felt so open. When I was directed to kneel in front of her, to wait for my turn, I had a necklace in my hand, a lotus flower carved from a coconut shell, that I wanted her to bless. When it was my turn, I was before her, and she was unclasping the necklace, and placing it around my neck. Then, she pulled me into her chest, my head lying on her, and she chanted, whispered, or sang in my ear. Then, in just a few seconds, I was being guided up from the floor.
What I felt in those few seconds, was complete comfort. I am a person who loves to hug others, and to be hugged. Yet, her hug felt like something that I had never experienced before, and not because I had lacked it my whole life. I have connected physically with other living beings many times in my years on this earth. And that embrace was one like I had never had before.
I won’t say that I had a spiritual experience, but what I felt was pure love, and comfort, like a mother to a child.
So, I am having what you could call a crisis of faith, I suppose. A period of time when what I had previously found through my church no longer seems apparent, and I am facing a decision about what to do next.
Organized religion and I don’t have the easiest of histories. As a child, my parents raised us as Roman Catholic, and although we did not attend weekly services on any consistent basis, we went for the high holy days. I prayed and confessed and received communion as any good Catholic should do. I felt a presence while in the church, presumably of God, and was always inspired by that even as a teen. However, I never felt part of that church community; maybe due to the size, maybe due to the fact that we didn’t consistently attend, I am not sure.
Fast forward to 1980; I interview and am accepted to a Catholic college in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Although the biggest reason that I chose that college was for the campus, and the academics, the fact that there was a strong faith base there would come to impact me in major ways. In my freshman year, I went to some of the services. I sang in the folk group for a period of time. And, for a few short weeks, I entertained the notion of becoming a nun. But, the biggest impact that the college had on me in terms of faith, was in strengthening my own inner faith in ways that I chose to express. So, even if I didn’t attend church weekly, I visited the chapel on a consistent basis, even in the middle of the night, when I needed to find safety and support, and the prayers that came were deep and meaningful. I asked questions about life and death and faith, which helped to guide my path.
After college, I left organized religion for a very long time. To me, church was not where I needed to be in order to feel close to God. So, I prayed on my own, I found my solitude and reflection by streams and in the woods. I had also come out as a lesbian, and knew that the church would not fully support me in that. I stayed away for a long time. However, my faith in a power greater than myself, and my gratitude and appreciation for the blessings in my life was constant.
Then, we had our family. I met the love of my life, and we had a child. And, after a few years went by, of both of us struggling with organized religion, we wanted to try to find a church where we could feel accepted as a family, and also, get some religious education for our daughter, so she could have an informed future to make her own religious decisions. We found that church in our town.
That was five years ago. We had her baptized in that church, and we officially joined it. The pastor openly embraced us, and led us through the complex road of religion, faith and being part of a community. We felt accepted by the church members and welcomed by many. Then, that all seemed to change. About a year ago, our pastor was moved, and we got a new pastor in our congregation.
The tone shifted. Although we as a family wanted to give this new pastor a chance, and try not to actively compare the two, the new pastor was drastically different. Not as connected. Keeping his attitudes and feelings close to the vest. Frankly, we didn’t know where he stood on many issues. At the same time, I came out publicly and openly in our church about my sexual orientation and our family, as a way to educate and grow our congregation. Although many persons in our church were willing to dialogue and open up their minds, many others choose to ignore the words, and do not want to view the issue of homosexuality and the church in any different way. And, our pastor won’t openly speak about it at all, whether he supports or has concerns about it. The membership has dwindled. The feeling of community, for us, is gone. I am the education director, I teach Sunday school there, I coordinate Vacation Bible School, and yet, I feel hollow and empty.
For us, church has once again become about organized religion, and not about community. So, the crossroads we find ourselves at is: stay and advocate and educate, in the hopes that we can open minds, hearts and doors. Or, save ourselves further heartache and disappointment, and find another church that is open and accepting, AND wants to and invites the dialogue. To me, that shouldn’t be something that is on a wish list, but something that every church, temple and synagogue, everywhere, needs to talk about to truly do the work of God.
To truly be called the faithful.