Never Less Than

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Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

—2 Corinthians 4:16–17

I just thought of this after reading and rereading this passage.

There seems to me, a correlation between my finally accepting the fact that my aging body, looks, abilities, are not at the level of my youth … and my desire to learn more about what is happening with my spirit, soul, heart and aspects of me that are unseen.

The hair dye has been capped, the shorter, easier hairdo is in place, my arches have fallen, hips widened, back a bit more stooped and if I look carefully, I see a bit of Spanish moss hanging from my chins, one or two.

I fought it for a long time. Until recently, really. And as I fought that, it took so much energy that I didn’t have much availability to focus on internal growth. My spirit … and the spirit that guides me.

Yes, my youth and middle age, are past. The body, the strong bones, flexible muscles, and yearning for human acceptance and appreciation has faded, too.

That could leave me empty. I think it does leave some people feeling less than, and on certain days, that overcomes me, too.

But what that verse has put into words for me, is that we are not just flesh and bones, strong our ear muscles, taut skin or wrinkles. We are vessels for a spirit. While our wrinkles frolic and skin befalls to gravity, our minds, heart and spirits … understanding of life and who we are and the part that God plays in our lives, can spring forth like an English garden.

We do not have do push-ups or deep knee bends to pray or be grateful. To find peace within whatever framework we are given, is the journey, our opportunity for enlightenment.

We were not born to be judged by society. Humans are not our judge.

God is. God doesn’t say, “No, your skin is saggy, you are stopped, you look old, I am going to forget you.”

As youth is taken away, wisdom, understanding, communion with love and peace, and conversations with God, can take its place.

So, no matter what age, in God’s eyes, we are always whole, divine.

Isn’t that a wonderful thought? In God’s eyes, no matter what state we are in, no matter our condition or affliction, we are never less-than. That is human thinking.

And for that thought, and for the words of that verse, all I see is Amazing Grace.

Susan

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

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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