Faith From The Rocker

Faith is not the promise of getting what you want.

Darn it.

As a child, I sang the song “Jesus Loves Me.”

All I knew was that Jesus wore a robe and had soft, wavy, light brown hair and had His arms extended out, palms up.

I didn’t know about faith. I was just told what I was to believe.

My prayers included Santa Claus wishlist,a birthday present order, and for time to hurry up so that I could get to that magic moment that was in my head.

Faith, spirituality, religion, are words that are bantered around. Throughout the ages, and today, those words cause wars.

No one religion has ruled the earth, and humans, being who and what they are, sometimes kill to get rid of those who believe differently.

In my mind and heart, I cannot fathom why humans find that to be a valid way to live.

People suffer and are killed or driven out or denied the right to believe. That was one of the first things I learned at dinner at my house. In communist Russia, people were not allowed to believe in God. They were to believe in the State.

That was difficult for me, as a young person, to swallow. How could a state dictate what was in your head or heart?

How and why would faith be denied?

In my town of Norwood, while growing up, we had the religious divides. I was made aware that the Catholics believed differently than the Presbyterians. In my house, it was debatable as to whether Catholics were Christians. I knew Baptists were, and Methodists, were, also. But Lutherans? Marginal. Episcopalians? Didn’t have a clue as to what they were, but I liked saying the word,. Episcopalians. Sounded important.

My faith, until I reached my point of 50’s was fluid.

I let mankind, humans, sour some aspects through their actions. God was more ‘out there’ than in me. I was busy wanting to figure out who I was and where I how I fit into the world.

My heart was filled more with worry, fear, trivialities than with gratitude, love, a relationship with God.

I tired to carry most of my life on my shoulders.

God, it was heavy. Often, a burden.

I waited for signs that would lead me to faith. Prove it, God.

Once, I got mad at God. I didn’t as much talk to Him, Her), as to rant. Why did you take my mother before my father? That wasn’t the plan. He was 11 years older. Where is the order of life when you do such a thing?

In my human thinking, dad would die first. Mom used to intimate that that would happen. Must come home because daddy has too much stress and isn’t doing well.

So, I was stuck within human plans and thought.

And when my mom died first, my life exploded into something that seemed so out of control. I flailed. If dad had died first, mom would be sad, but she would have gone on with life. But dad? Emotionally, he checked out and became quite a handful.

Faith? The concept was great, but in reality? Life is what life is.

It was a darker period in my life filled with feeling like I was failing at being a good daughter and Christian, although, I thought God had failed me, too, because in my mind, He hadn’t helped.

I don’t know each of you, but I imagine that there might have been times in your life when you felt God fail you, or you didn’t feel God at all, His presence was simply a three-letter word, instead of a spirit in your heart.

What I think I am getting at, is that faith hasn’t been a straight, clear-cut, trajectory for me.

It has taken time, questions, listening, opening my heart to things other than just what I want, and seeing God as much in nature, as in humans. Humans are one component of the world.

I have learned to separate God from humans. Humans are the ones who choose hate over love, greed and power over charity and equality, evil over good, and war over peace. Those things aren’t God driven.

I have learned that just because I prayer for something, it doesn’t mean that what I pray for will be the outcome. I can’t pray that Nick or my kids or grandkids will never die because we all will die. But I can pray for their health and have faith that if they fall ill, God will give me strength and show me the way.

I choose faith, these days. Without it, I would be adrift in a world of humaness, much of which I don’t care for.

So, it is me and the birds, this morning, writing to you, communing with God. The birds are chanting. I am praying through these written words.

I have no answers for most things in life. But that is ok. There is peace in acceptance. Joy to be had in living with an open heart and mind, and loving.

Faith … it’s a mystery. And a blessing.

Susan

Choices

The sound of the jet finally dimmed so that I can hear the birds. And a cricket. The garbage truck is going by. I hear its engine and brakes hissing. I hear Winston’s dog takes when he moves.

This is the life.

Listening. Keeping my yap shut and listening.

The trees are still. The ceiling fan is moving slowly. The color of the clouds is milky with a tinge of ochre undertones. There is also a cast of blue in some parts … the sky beyond, which only appears in bits and bobs.

A breeze just blew through one branch of a tree. It is the only one that moved. The breeze is selective.

More birds are awakening. Winston is at my feet, on his belly.

Yesterday, I read a piece in the New York Times about now not being so available makes you more valuable.

I am too available. I write most everyday.

I believe that what I read has merit. People want what they can’t have.

I am too old to play that game of hide n seek. I really don’t like games anymore.

I want real. Authentic. The stubble of life, the tired, the lonely, the weak, the heart and the soul. I want to learn from them. I learned from the stubbly man who noticed I had a problem and took action to help me solve it. I learned from the man with the pink coated hanger, who dropped what he was doing to come and open my car door. I learned when he didn’t charge me a cent.

I learned from the policeman who was in starched uniform who showed up and offered no help. Not that he had to open the window. But there was no interest, no knit word, no smile. He made me feel alone and like a nothing.

He didn’t have to act that way.

And I love policemen. It was just him. His personality.

Not engaging. Not interested. He didn’t wait to see if I got into my car. He didn’t say goodbye. He skulked off.

He made a choice that day.

So did the scruffy man, and the man who unlocked my car. Good samaritans.

Choices.

We all have them. We all make them.

I made a choice, too, before this transpired. When walking into the store, I saw the scruffy man smoking his cig, standing outside the door. I couldn’t have easily walked by, not looked at him … not made eye contact. But I didn’t. I looked him in the eye and said “Good Morning.”

That was a decision. Something that in my life, is important.

Try to make a connection when you can.

Help if you can.

When we first got our new Subaru, Nick and I were in the in the drive through line at McDonalds. I had ordered a Diet Coke.

And then my car stopped. It wouldn’t start. I had run out of gas. Well, my car did.

We were able to punch the car out of the line. A young man helped us.

I called my friend, Nancy, the woman I wrote about, yesterday, who was celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary. She had her boys in the car. She stopped and got gas and brought it to me.

She made a choice. She could have said she was busy. But she didn’t. She helped.

The man who helped push our car? He brought me the Diet Coke I had ordered. I was going to paying him. He said, “No.”

He made a choice.

Sometimes, I make bad choices. Selfish choices. I know when I do it. I don’t like myself much when I do that.

Because I don’t like feeling like that, I try to be aware of the choices that I make, especially when dealing with other people.

The sky is brighter, now. It has a strange color. It makes me think of the headline I read about a beast of a tornado that hit Missouri.

Lots of people will be making hundreds of choices today. I believe many people will be making the decision to help others, listening to people whose lives have been altered, destroyed, in a vacuum of debris and hurt.

There will be those who make the choice to loot or make sure they are first, be contrary, but I believe that those will be few and the majority will choose to do the right thing.

I look at the world, hear or read the news and get overwhelmed by the meanness, the lack of humility, the greed and need for power. I could choose to say that we are doomed and become defeated, turn into an old grump.

But if I do that, where is the value in my life? What would I have to get up for everyday?

So I choose to acknowledge that exists, and get on with the part of my life that matters … listening, caring, little acts of kindness, being open to the thoughts and Ideas of others, work on becoming a better human.

Life doesn’t get better than this moment. It is what I have. It is what I am living.

May you find a Good Samaritan when you need one and may you be a Good Samaritan when you can.

Susan

There is a new post and prayer at A Living Spirit on FB

A Story and a Prayer

Congratulations to my friends Nancy and Ed on celebrating their 20th anniversary. Ed and Nancy met while on business in Paris. Ed had flown in on the Concord and Nancy had just walked the runway for Paris Fashion Week. They bonded over the thought of a baguette. They married while parachuting over the Grand Canyon.

Well, the true part of that is that Ed and Nancy have been married 20s and they are my friends. They ar good people. The rest of the story? I made it up. I thought it sounded intriguing.

Anyhoo … yesterday, I started my new page called A Living Spirit.

I think it bombed. I tried too hard.

As I mentioned, it will take some time for me to shake off the excess and center myself, and find my voice. Yesterday, I sounded a bit too lofty and it didn’ sound like me. I fumbled. But hey, I will try, again.

But here is a story that came from it. This is how my mind works and in telling this story, I will get closer to the point than I did, yesterday.

I had to run a couple of errands, so I decided to take Winston with me. He usually doesn’t get to go because he is not the world’s best car traveler.

I stopped at the first place and ran in and picked up two vases I bought at the auction. I could see Winston and it took me all of two minutes.

I then stopped at the carryout to get Nick his Lucky 5 and Lucky for Life tickets. Winston stayed in the car. I could see him out the window. I was about 15 feet from him.

I got in the store and realized that I had left one of the tickets I left, in the car. I bopped back out, unlocked the door and sat a second, found the ticket, and popped back out of the car. I was in the store for a minute or two.

I came out and tried to open the door. It was locked. I reached into my pocket and the key wasn’t there. I looked inside my purse, and the key wasn’t there.

My stomach knotted.

I looked inside the car and the key was on the passenger seat.

Backtrack.

When I went into the store, I said hello to a man who was standing outside smoking a cig. He wasn’t dressed well and looked as if his morning was my night. That didn’t matter. Saying hello is the proper thing to do here, in the South. You even say hello to a street sign or potted plant.

He was still there when I realized that I had a problem.

“Lock your keys in the car?” He said.

“Yes. and my dog is inside.”

I looked inside at Winston, who was standing between the seats. He was calm. He didn’t know my pickle.

The Clover police station is behind the Circle K. The man said, “Do you want me to call the police? They can sometimes undo the lock. They don’t really do it much, anymore, but I can call.”

I said yes. Reason number one … we went down to one car after my wreck. It has worked out great so far. But my rescue man, Nick, couldn’t get here.

Two? I didn’t really want Nick to know. I knew I would hear how blah, blah, blah. Three, and the most important … The Boy was in the car and it would get hot. The car was in the shade and still cool, but, I didn’t want him to get any sense of discomfort.

A couple of minutes later, a policeman walks up. I told him what happened. His response was, “ Are you going to call a locksmith?”

My hope of instant, non costly. Rescue was dashed.

I noticed the policeman had looked at the man who had made the call for me.

At that point, I am thinking, I am screwed. This is going to cost.

Now here is where it gets to how my mind works and how it connects to the new page I am trying to get together.

What ran through my mind, besides, a hot car, lecture, and cash?

God really did’t like what I wrote, today. He thought I was trying to take over His role. He thinks I am an idiot.

And so do the readers. I should stick to making up stores about anniversaries.

The policeman stood there. The man with the cig and the phone, and the scruffy look, said, “I can call the guy down the street at the mechanic shop if you want me to.”

“Yes. Please. Thank you.” (My Cincinnati manners.)

The policeman wandered off.

Within a couple of minutes, a man in a red car arrived.

“There he is,” my new BFF said.

I explained what happened and he got his long, hot pink gizmo out and a thing that looked like a blood pressure cuff.

His first few attempts on the driver’s side, didn’t work. I suggested he try the passenger side. He did.

At first, it didn’t work, but then … that sound we all love … the siren that says, “your car is being stolen and you need to call the police.”

I said, “How do I get this off?”

The man reached in the car and got the key and put it in the engine and Bingo, silence.

After thanking the man, I said, “HOw much do I owe you?”

“Nothing.”

I gave the man five thank yous and told him how he saved me and that I would bring him cookies.

And my next thought?

Maybe God didn’t mind what I said, He will give me a do over. He may think I am an idiot, but He still loves me.

What I said in yesterday’s page post on my new page, is that talking to God isn’t all there is to the mystery of faith. We have to listen, and sometimes, God send messages through birds, plants … and people.

Amazing Grace came to me in the form of two humans … men, who showed a stranger, kindness.

And I didn’t make up that story.

Susan

PS. I made the best lasagna I have ever made, yesterday. This photo shows it cold. Man, it was good.

PSS There is a new post on A Living Spirit. Let me know what you think.

Dear God,

Yesterday, all I can say is that I tried. But I let you down. I let readers down and myself.

No, God, I am not being overwrought or anything like that. It is just that I wanted to be in your service, do something good, and I think I came across as a bit of an idiot, trying too hard and was too windy. I think I talked more than I listened to you. I will blame it on nerves and trying to talk in a way that isn’t me.

Please forgive me. I know you forgive idiots. I am living proof. Not that I am a total idiot, but I certainly can be one.

You know me … I can be a tad judgmental. I can also be snarky. Oh, I should also add, I can be gluttonous.

Why is it that as much as I try and talk a good game of having a Living Spirit, I fall flat on my posterior and do things and say things that would be better left unsaid?

Why do I get impatient over little things … things that should matter? It comes through in my voice. I know it does. I I think it can hurt people.

Yep, I am giving you a laundry list, today. My humanness can really get in the way of Godliness. You know that I walk around with a warped halo, and sometimes, a broken spirit.

Why is there such a conflict in me about whether man is good or bad, or that on certain days, I don’t even like people?

That really doesn’t represent a Living Spirit well, does it?

I am sorry. And I ask for your forgiveness.

But since I just gave you the list of my shortcomings, just so you don’t think I am ungrateful for this life, let me tell you that I saw you a few moments ago in a bluebird. Yes, a bluebird.It came to my feeder. It is only the second time in my life that I have seen one. It was brilliant blue and beautiful. Thank you.

Thank you for helping me find places of solace and song. The song of the birds and used created by those funny humans, and by the sound of the heartstrings of love.

Thank you for my family, though I get worked up about silly things and don’t always understand them. Thank you for my friends and my readers and anyone who is feeling lonely or less than.

Most of my friends are suffering, or are uncertain about their lives, the future, and the present. They are experiencing great loss. Some are in the throes of physical pain and emotional distress. In other words, certain parts of life are hard. Simply hard.

If you could send them a bluebird or a two men to help them find their keys, or have someone give them a good pot pie, I would appreciate it.

Oh, if you could help me have a bit more common sense with my eating habits, that would be super.

With love and thanksgiving and hope …

Susan

A Lesson From The Birds

Have you been to a restaurant and observed people at the tables around you? 

I do. 

There are often groups at nearby tables. It can even happen when there are just two at the table. Often, there are just two people at the table. Men, Women. 

Invariably, as I listen, I find that one person is hogging the air space. Talking nonstop, as if the person who gets the most words out, wins. Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak. I am not sure when they allow for air to get into their lungs to breathe. 

It isn’t so much a conversation, as it is a monologue. 

I thought about that, this morning, before I got out of bed. 

When Winston and I came outside, I sat in a chairm and listened to the birds. 

From one side of the trees, a bird sang what could have been a hymn. It was soft and gentle. From the other side, a bird squawked loudly and incessantly. That bird didn’t insisted on monopolizing the conversation. 

Just like humans.

The thing about when you talk, rarely do you listen. Try it. It is difficult to do. 

I have heard it said from others, and I have said it myself … that I talk to God. 

Talking to God is good. He has big ears. He can handle it. 

But with God, as with humans, the people whom we love, and people we just meet, if we are talking, we aren’t listening. And in my mind, both God and people, want us to listen. 

God knows. He knows of our concerns, our trials, our insecurities, our problems. He knows our thoughts, (which makes me wince). 

A great prayer doesn’t have to be long, with great punctuation, windy. It can be as simple as “Thank you,” with a long pause after it. 

Thank you, then pipe down and listen. Listen as God talks to you. He may not use a baritone voice, one where yours say to yourself, aha, that is God speaking. 

God isn’t always that obvious. He has created lots of ways to talk to us. I have had God talk to me through people, from a person who shows up at the right time, from a car accident that saved my life. God has spoken to me through a old black man, who appeared at our door after the death of my mother. 

God answers through music and tears and hugs and breezes and rays of sunlight, the smell of rain. 

He even talks to us … teaches us lessons, through birds. He tells us that we don’t need to be the loudest, talk the most, be the most obvious. No matter our volume, we are all equal in the eyes of God. 

It isn’t so much about God hearing us, and our prayers, as it is about us, listening to God. 

Shhhhh. I am going to open my heart and listen to the birds. I think God is talking. 

Susan

Prayer for today.

Dear Lord,

Thank you. Please open my ears and shut my mouth. Let me open my heart to the wonderment and goodness of life, to focus on my blessings instead of my concerns. 

Thank you for the birdsongs that are nature’s sermons. Thank you for the ability to change, to listen to others, and to be silent. 

Thank you for Amazing Grace, and walking through this life beside me. 

I pray for your guidance to make this world, my life, and the lives of people I love, and meet, better. Through acts of kindness, listening, extending a helping hand, and seeking out people who are lonely, sick, heartbroken, or in need, may I honor you. 

May you make me an instrument of your love. 

Amen

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