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

Open Minds … Open Spirits

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
—Jeremiah 29:11

I have a question for you. Do you have an open mind? Or is your mind set in its ways, thinks it knows everything it needs to know, therefore, you are unteachable?

The saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” might be fine for dogs, but it is not good for humans.

How wants us to be teachable, coach able, open to learning more and walking closer to Him. You can’t do that with a closed mind and heart.

The walk with God is like being reborn everyday, holding His hand like we used to hold our Parent’s hands. Because of the depth of what God has to offer, and the breadth of what He has to teach us, we must rid ourselves of some of the detritus, the detrimental and closed minded thoughts we have, in order to make room in our head and heart for Him.

That is not a burden. It is a relief, isn’t it? Make our hearts full of love, joy, hope and peace, instead of having them choke on fear, regret, ego, poopy-thinking.

The amazing thing is we don’t have to wait for a coupon, for God’s love to go on sale, or for another human to give it to us. It isn’t that we have to be elected Prom Queen to get the blessings bestowed on us. It is with us for the asking.

There was a time in my life when it was about others … what other people thought of me, what others said, how other people acted. I made too many things important, that just weren;t. I gave people power of me and what I thought.

To let other humans have that much affect on my mid, led to conflict, a search for peace that was illusive, and me, not being me.

When I learned that I had the ability to change my thoughts, to open my mind to a new way of thinking, right then, at that moment, it was powerful.

So just think what it is like to let God into your heart and mind and have Him rearrange the furniture. Goodbye anxiety! Adios negative thoughts. Sayonara trapped mind and heart.

I love the thought that God wants us to have an open mind and has a huge carrying case of wonderment. God also comes with complete with forgiveness, so we can ditch guilt and use that mind-space for better things, like being stewards of God. Walk with joy. Talk with kindness. Feel lighter with hope. Feel freer with forgiveness.

I live as a faulty human, but I aspire to be blessing. With God, that is achievable to all.

Susan

Vitamin L … A jumbo dose of Laughter

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A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

—Proverbs 17:22

Thank God, God has a sense of humor. And he wants us to have one, too. Nope, I am not going to tell God jokes. I can’t remember a jokes. And I am not sure if God meant to make jokes about him. I will have give him a ring or send him a text. I am sure he has a smart phone.

But I believe that God wants us to laugh and have joy. He does’t want us to carry all of the world’ problems on our shoulders. I tend to carry more on left shoulder than on my right, because my left shoulder hangs lower.

Oh, that’s my purse that I hang on my left shoulder.

I can tell you this. I used to carry the world’s burdens on my shoulder. I thought it was my duty. I was in charge of world problems. In that frame of mind, I also mean other people’s problems that they told me about. I put them in my problem satchel and toted them with me.

No wonder I got heavy.

Well, I am still heavy, but not with burdens. Yes, I have my share of what shall I call, concerns, but my heart is much lighter. My head is more sorted.

I take my trash to the dump. I now take and gladly give my concerns/problems, to God. He has a very large carrying case.

In doing so, I can be, in spirit, much lighter. I can laugh at myself, my weirdo thoughts, my self-important moments, with abandon.

As difficult as life can be, my sense of humor has gotten me through. It can be a guttural snort parade of laughs, or a chuckle I give to myself … what an elixir that is.

When out and about, especially in little restaurants, I love to hear people laugh. It makes me laugh. When I hear good laughter, I think to myself, wow, that person is taking a good dose of God’s medicine.

I am not talking about evil or mean laughter. Hurtful words that are said as jokes. Have you ever had someone say something hurtful to you, and then when you tell them they hurt your feelings, they say, “I was JUST kidding.”

Nope, they probably weren’t. Some comments just aren’t funny or kind and calling them a joke does not make it so.

God knows the difference between good laughter and humans being mean-spirited.

Yesterday morning, before we left for Ohio, I wrote a post for my Susan Hipkins DeBow page that updated people on why I was putting my time into writing this page. I thought it was pretty good. It said good things, or at least I thought it did. I saved it toward the end. I did a select all and copy. I usually email it to myself so that if I lose it on FB, I can have another copy.

But yesterday, I went to a different page to copy the Bible verse, and when I went back to FB, my post was gone … bye-bye … hasta la vista. But I wasn’t to see it later.

I wanted to swear, but since I was writing about spirituality and how studying for this writing, it has helped me, I thought swearing was probably not the best response. I skulked for a nano second and told Nick that I had lost my post. He said I could rewrite it in the car.

But I couldn’t. Sometimes, I can almost do it. But yesterday’s was not one of those. I had to turn to what I have learned and say, well, let it go. God must not have thought it was that swell. And I laughed and let it go.

That, my friends, is big. And you know what? It felt so good. It wasn’t meant to be.

And I laughed. I laughed at thinking I had gotten to the point that I would not make such an error. I laughed at myself the day before yesterday when I came out of Walmart and looked at the cars and thought, oh no … where did I park, and I ended up using my key to unlock the car door and then lock it so I could hear the horn beep. I did that about three times, when like a hound dogs with the scent of liver, I sniffed out my car.

I could have gotten irked with myself, but I laughed. I am a human nutjob.

Yessirreebob, life throws problems in our way, situations that give us the opportunity to learn or see what we are made of, but life is also about living with joy, laughing, making others laugh and not carrying around them around our necks as if they were yokes and we were oxen. That is a good yoke.

And so, before I accidentally lose this post, I am going to select all, cope and share.

And I hope we all get to share some laughs today. It is the best vitamin there is.

Susan

Comparisons, Judgments and Forgiveness

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“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

—Luke 6:37

Oh, goodness, we can be a judgmental lot. We judge everyone from politicians to our friends. Yet, we would prefer not to be judged.

I know that I can be judgmental. It isn’t one of my better traits.

In my mind, I can get confused about the concept and context of judgement. I can also justify my judgment. Humans love to justify their actions to edge the sin away.

Another action that I have read that God says is not good is comparing yourself with others. I think that for me, that began early, when I tried to determine if I was ‘normal’. I would notice that I was taller than most, or that I was not as pretty as, or smart as or not as nice as … you know the drill … especially girls.

There was judgment in those thoughts, those comparisons. Better than. Less than. Where did I fit into the categories that I thought I had to fit into. Those weren’t Godly thoughts … they were the thoughts of humans, youth, and a society where judgement was how we made people feel worse and made ourselves feel better.

I guess that comparison is a form of judgment, isn’t it? It separates us from each other at the cost of our spirit. Do we have to think less of someone to make ourselves feel better?

God does not judge us by human or societal standards. We do that to ourselves.

We do a lot of things to ourselves that God must shake his head at and get a bit sad about.

It is though I have spent much of my life trying to live in the human world, the one with countries, states, societies, wares, judgments and fallen spirits, when I could have been enjoying life more by, as the country song says, letting Jesus take the wheel.

What is in my mind and heart this morning is the last line of the verse, above. “Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

In my life, I have been the last person that I have forgiven. I can etch my mistakes/misdeeds/bad decisions,in my head and heart. And I can say that I have forgiven others, but have I?

What is real forgiveness?

Is it whisking away the behavior, totally forgetting about it? Is it loving the person in spite of the transgression? Or is true forgiveness involve ridding ourselves of our judgmental thoughts and behavior and letting God be our judge and the judge of others?

If we rid ourselves of comparison and judgment, except, perhaps, when we are buying a washing machine, wouldn’t we feel better about others, and ourselves? Wouldn’t that be a great gift to us, and a tribute to God?

For the next few moments, I am going to think and turn more of my heart and thoughts over to God.

God lessons our burden bundles through forgiveness. I don’t know why I have fought that concept for so long.

That actual thought makes me feel lighter, blessed and forgiven. What a great way to start the day.

Peace, love,forgiveness, and Amazing Grace.

Whose God is it Anyway?

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In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

—Psalm 5:3

As a human, I have felt alone, been lonely, even amongst other humans. It is a sad feeling.

But when I am alone with God, it is joyful.

People tend to make a lot of noise, surround themselves with noise, noise pollution, I call it. You go to many restaurants and there are televisions to distract, music blaring loud so that conversations are difficult, people answering cell phones … a cacophony of noise.

I love to bop into a carryout, but they are noisy. The bings and bongs of cash registers, the sounds of motors cooling things, and outside, at gas pumps, many places have music. We can’t hear ourselves think, much less listen to the lyrics fo God’s silence.

Yes, the lyrics of silence … the time when we slow down enough to hear and see something beyond the reality of modern society.

It can be illusive.

Having a relationship with God, I have found, is an act of participation. It is not a spectator sport, where we sit on the sidelines and watch.

I love user-friendly things in my life. I like my Apple computer because it is user friendly, machines that I can figure out without reading a 38 page instruction book written in 5 languages. I like to work with tools that function simply and I can count on.

God is user-friendly. He is my best and most steadfast tool. All day, all night … better than a convenience store open 24-7, except on Christmas. God is who I can talk to no matter what time it is, where I am, or what I am doing … I know God’s number. Unlike cellphones, God is never out of the service area.

There are times when I simply say, “Thank you God,” or “God, help me.”

Those are the simplest of prayers … not long, but that doesn’t matter.

This morning, I thought about the call to prayer, that are done in the Islam religion. I decided to look them up and see what they are about.

I don’t know much about many religions, Islam, being one of them. But I have heard the call to prayer, and that fascinates me.

Briefly, there are five pillars of the Islam faith. Prayer is one of them. Muslims are called to prayer five times a day, the times dependent on the placement of the sun.

The prayers have different names and intentions.

  • Fajr: This prayer starts off the day with the remembrance of God; it is performed before sunrise.
    
  • Dhuhr: After the day's work has begun, one breaks shortly after noon to again remember God and seek His guidance.
    
  • 'Asr: In the late afternoon, people take a few minutes to remember God and the greater meaning of their lives.
    
  • Maghrib: Just after the sun goes down, Muslims remember God again as the day begins to come to a close.
    
  • 'Isha: Before retiring for the night, Muslims again take the time to remember God's presence, guidance, mercy, and forgiveness
    

It is easy for Christians and people of any faith, to believe that they corner the market on God, that their way of praising, thanking, talking to, and hearing God, is above all other religions.

I don’t believe that. It doesn’t work for me. I happen to have been born into and raised in the Christian faith, and have chosen believe in Jesus Christ. I also understand why people believe in and follow many other religions.

Reading about the Islamic prayers made me think of how I might make a more concerted effort throughout the day to remember God. Have God become my touchstone even more than my bottle of San Pellegrino water. (Yes, that calms me)

If we open our hearts to learn about the ways other people interact with God, the chances are, we will learn something. Our minds and hearts will open wider and our life will be enriched.

I think God wants us to do that.

I have often prayed for God to give me strength, but I now believe that isn’t HIs purpose. He doesn’t want me to walk through my trials, alone, even strengthened. He wants to walk with me, always, to never feel alone. It is God who is strong, and when I have Him in my heart, and walking in with me, I am strong, too.

Open minds, open hearts, and Amazing Grace

Susan

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The Conflict of Spirit

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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

—Galatians 5:22–23

This morning, a bird sang loudly, trying to get my attention. Instead of listening and then dismissing it, I decided it was chirping in such a way as to get my attention. So, I listened.

He flew off after I found a verse that gave me the joy of the birds calling. Because I think as I think, I believe it was Jesus calling.

If I were Muslim, it would have been Mohammad. I don’t know enough about other religions to go farther than that. It is just that the message, delivered in Galatians, is a message that I believe serves mankind.

It can get very hard, in this human world, to love, have joy in your heart, find peace, patience, offer kindness and goodness, be gentle, e faithful and use self control.

I see this as an inner conflict between our human, daily lives in this world that can sap our energy, sadden our soul, brutalize our thoughts, and make us weary of living.

Those things fight for space in our hearts, spirits and soul. They are much louder than God’s way, which is the part of us that wants peace, harmony, joy and love.

And so much of how we try to attain the peace, harmony, joy and love, is through human thingies. Yes, thingies. Material things. Human promises. Deceptive advertisers of if you do this, you will be happy … aka women’s magazines, false prophets and looking to others to bring us happiness … which in my mind, is a human word that is a bit contrived.

I have learned, in my 67 years, that conflict in my brain, heart and soul, create less than a stellar outcome. I begin grasping at things, thoughts, and paying more attention to what is going wrong, than what is going right.

I am slowly learning that life is so much more that about the steel, metal, noisy, hurried, competitive, power hungry, often greedy, world that man creates and operates in on a daily basis.

That world gives me the vapors. It unsettles my mind and lets in problems that I can’t solve. That life is a litterbug.

Yes, I know I have to exist in it and know how to rummage my way through, but I also know I can choose to not let it overtake me.

How?

By focusing on the Light of the world. God, which for me, comes in the form of nature. The mystical beauty of looking closely at a flower, listening to the variety of sounds that come from birds, marveling at the trees, having my heart feel the joy of looking at wind, an unseen thingy, that makes its presence known moving leaves, touching our skin, making a whirligig go round.

I am trying to let the space in my heart grow larger to hod mor of God’s plan than mans.

In the car, I used to listen to the radio of cds. Now, ninety-nine percent of the time, I have silence.

Instead of being an angry bird because the world is as it is, I try to be like the birds that chipper me up. And I try to chipper up the people I meet. Yes, God speaks at carryouts.

Oh, Lord, my human self can have a busy time of it … getting snarky, confused, and pointy-headed. But I am trying to check myself when that happens, and let things go. But, I still can dwell too long.

I am not sure that is is Godlike that I just shooed a squirrel away from the bird feeder.

I just did it, again. Bad squirrel. Bad.

Although God has walked with me all these years, I haven’t always walked with Him, or let’s say, that I sort of hogged the trail. And that doesn’t have to do with the sized my butt … but the space I allowed in my heart. It was full of worldly woes.

But I am reversing that, shifting spaces, thoughts … opening up more room for what God has to offer than what amazon.com does.

So, this long-winded post is coming to a close. The birds are telling me to wrap it up.

Should everyone die at 75?

I received an email last evening. It had one line. A question.

“Do you think people should only live to 75 to make room for the up and comers”

That got my attention.

It was from a person I love, who had turned 75 last week, and if you didn’t know she was 75, you would not have a clue. She is vibrant, a go-getter, active, a thinker and a doer. And she is still learning.

My thoughts stumbled for a second. When I was thinking of interesting books or movie ideas, I had thought of one about, what if when you turned 75 or 80, you were put to death … by the government. Mandated to die. I thought the moral dilemmas of such a situation would be very interesting. Pulse, looking at the lives of people who knew that their lives would be over on a certain date, how would they live?

The woman who sent me the question, also sent me an article that she had read, whose title was, “Should you hope to die at 75?” It was written by a 57 year old man named Ezekiel Emanuel. I am attaching it to this post.

I am 67. With that premise, I have 8 years left before I would be mandated to die. Eat one last cheese coney and leave this world and my parking space to another life.

Ezekiel’s argument is, basically, you are over the hill at that age, your value to society is gone, and you are an expensive burden.

The article I read, which was a rebuttal to Emanuels essay, was written by DamonLinker, and its title was, “Should you hope to die at 75? Absolutely Not”.

Yes, there are days when I am so tired or feel the world caving in, that I have thought, okay, Jose, put a fork in me, I am done. But after a night’s sleep, morning comes, and I am raring to go … take on life and create some joy.

After reading Emanuel’s essay, I felt awful. He picked apart and focused on the aspects of aging that, in his mind, made life not worth living. He saw sickness, dementia, frailty, ugliness. He saw nothing good. It was obvious he thought old was ugly. Useless. And he didn’t want to ever be seen like that.

There is a part of that that I understand. I have thought, mostly about movie stars like James DEan, Natalie Wood, Marilyn Monroe, etc, that they will be remembered as young, vivacious, full of life. Yet they paid a price for that. They didn’t get to live into old age. They are set in society’s mind as the ideal.

Society. That often sick word. The group setting of what is construed as what individuals should aspire to please.

Especially, in this country, old age is not honored. It is shunned. Billions of dollars are spent on trying to make ourselves look younger, feel younger, think younger.

Society and much of the media focus on how great youth is and with each age we achieve in our lives, they devalue us a little more.

Yes, there are many things about aging that are difficult, down right hard, and icky.

But there are a lot of things about youth that are difficult, down right hard, and icky.

Life, at any age, is hard.

But it is also, a gift.

To have the mindset that any age of being alive has little value, is a mistake.

Yes, healthcare of the aging population is expensive. But so is trying to keep a premature baby alive.

You can argue, but at least that premature baby has a future, can contribute to society, but that is no guarantee. And to say that an old person has no value to family or society, is not necessarily true, either.

Is not giving love, telling the stories of life, showing a child that the raised veins in your hands are a roadmap of the life you have lived, valuable? Does talking to an old person or taking an old person to a doctor, not teach us kindness, humility, and the circle of life?

Not to mention, many people who are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, are still on the learning culver of life. They are curious, inventive, add color, to a culture that has increasingly become one dimensional.

Am I comfortable with my age? Eh. It just is. I am still me. Still learning. Still thinking, creating, finding joy in smaller things and trying to bring a light to the world, by sharing.

Yep, I sag, I stoop, I have weird skin thingies, I move slower, yet, I still see myself as having value to my family and to this world.

Will there come a time when Ibecome more of what is considered to be a ‘burden’?

I don’t know. I hope not.

I have my own mandate for dealing with heath and treatment issues as time goes by. I don’t not want to live forever. At least on earth. But to have a government mandate the date on which I will die?

Uh, you’ve got to be kidding. I don’t trust governments farther than I can throw them.

The end of my life will come when God or gravity decide.

Or when I run out of cheese coneys.

Susan