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

To Walk in the Shadows of Life … or Walk with God

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The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runners over.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

—Psalm 23:1–6

Though our physical bodies grow weary and show the signs of life on earth, out spiritual selves, our internal places that are not seen in the mirror, have the propensity to grow, bloom, give us joy and lighten our hearts and minds.

I do believe this.

This early morning, I walked outside and saw a large shadow of a zucchini plant that is in a pot on our patio. I marveled at the shadow. Light gave that shadow to me. Light gives that shadow to me, and the absence of light will take it away. Throughout the day, as the sun shifts position, the shadow will move, perhaps, disappear.

So it is with how we live our days. There are moments of light and times of shadow. Times that we feel God in our presence, and times when He is not.

Do you ever feel as though you are living in the shadow of your life? Do you have moments, hours, days or longer when all you feel is darkness?

The darkness often brings doubt and fear, anxiety, gremlins, uncertainty, and lack of perspective.

There are times when I have felt sad, for no apparent reason. Human emotions are strange bedfellows.

When we are in the shadows, listening to our own mind or the talk of others, we can feel lost. We ask ourselves big questions. What is my life about? What is my purpose? Why is my life like it is?

I watch the shadows of clouds. When the sunlight is blocked, the clouds become darker, more ominous.

I have learned to see the beauty in that, but it hasn’t always been so.

So many of our fears, the shadows of life, are our fear of humans or what humans can do. Humans start wars, steal, murder, rape, and do all sorts of dastardly things. That gives us fear.

But to live in the fear of such things, the human things, causes us to live in the shadows.

Or … we can choose to live in God’s light. We can live in the goodness of God, His amazing grace, His ability to salve our mortal wounds and heal our hearts.

Sometimes, it is hard. Sometimes, we will not understand. There are times when we will feel like God has let us down. Our plans and God’s plans for us, or others, are not always one in the same.

So … we have a choice. Do we live our lives in the shadow of darkness and despair, or do we choose to follow the Lord and walk with Him through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil, knowing that He is with us and letting go of the fears and letting our spirits soar?

We are called upon everyday to decide. God has granted us the ability to choose. Do we follow Him, or walk the path alone?

I choose to walk His path.

Yet, I stumble, everyday.

And I am forgiven.

Susan

A Cheerful Hear is Good Medicine

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

—Proverbs 17:22

Have you ever been so bummed, so conflicted, so dry of spirit that you felt it in your bones? Have there been moments when you thought you might never laugh, again?

Welcome to the club of being a human. I know that God will roll his eyes at this next statement. But as Bethenny Frankel told her fellow Housewife, the Countess Luann, this past week … life isn’t a caberet. She might have added a swear word, too.

Life is a big bowl of succotash. A mixture of highest of highs, lowest of lows … things going right and things going wrong .. the fabulously exciting and the mundane … babies being born and people dying.

When I was young, I thought life would be pretty easy. I did well in kindergarten. How hard could life be?

Well, I don’t have to tell you how life can get.

Messy.

And sometimes, we take ourselves so seriously, and carry so many of the world’s (or our children’s) burdens on our shoulders, that we forget to laugh.

Yes, God wants us to laugh. It is the music of angels, isn’t it? A good laugh is a God’s releas valve for us so we don’t implode or explode.

God loves us to laugh at ourselves. And it is much easier to laugh at ourselves when we let God carry our baggage … with or without wheels.

I know that if I try to solve things that I can’t solve, God wants to tap me on my thick head and say, “Yoo-hoo, Susan. Stop thinking that you can fix everything. Only I can do that. Relax, play, laugh … enjoy this life I gave you. Did you not check your bags at the check-in counter? Silly you. Let me carry those bags full of worry, fear, confusion and angst. I have the strength. You will just go around with stopped cloudless, and not enjoy this brief time you have on earth. I am always here for you and can lighten your earthly load. Enjoy me, instead of having to have all of the answers, which, you will never have. Laugh at your human folly and foibles … and spread laughter like whipped butter. Share laughter instead of angst. Laughter heals more than harsh words.”

Remember when your children were little and your heart filled with joy and lighteners when your children laughed? That is how God feels when we laugh.

When I hear people laughing when I am in a restaurant … it makes me smile. Sometimes, I hear a weird sounding laugh and that, in turn, makes me laugh. And don’t you feel joy when you make someone laugh?

As a human, I know that there are times when I forget that things such as laughter are gifts from God. Alone, life is tough and without direction, but walking with God, puts spring in our steps and allows us to do the Hallelujah Chorus in snorts … and crack-up ourselves and others.

I think I shall now snort the Hallelujah chorus. Please join me.

Susan

Faith and a Good Putter

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You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.

—2 Samuel 22:29–30

Just when I think I think that I have life in a place that I can handle, and my walk with God something that I thing I have the hang of, I trip, stumble and fall.

And it hurts.

Just when I get the notion that I have faith and peace and joy and God, within me on a pretty unshakable basis, I find that that notion can be as fallible as one making a couple of good shots in golf, and believing they are a great golfer.

Bogey.

Yesterday, I bogeyed.

Life issues swirled and the shadows of darkness and, of course, me not being in control or able to let go, crept over me like kudzu.

It was a collision of heartache, frustration, sadness and uncertainty. You know those human situations with someone you love? Ever have them? Honk if you know what I am talking about.

As it was happening, I tried to to let God come and speak for me because I was at the point where words, talking and listening, didn’t resolve anything.

I was left feeling alone. Even with God. My earthly, human flailing self, felt alone and thoughts of solution and resolution were no where to be found.

So, I got very, very quiet, and wondered if I was up to this challenge, a challenge that plays out somewhat regularly in my life.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I am at Dunkin. Last day before heading home.

The feelings weren’t good. I had God in my heart, but He was jockeying for space with angst, a feeling of failure and a sense of despair with this situation.

Trials. God says that we will get up every morning in HIs light, but we will face challenges, (a better word than problems). We will have to choose the roads our body, mind and mouth take throughout the day.

Let’s just say that my day was as bumpy as Deer Park’s roads.

By day’s end, I looked as though I was a deer in a Kleig light.

God is at Dunkin

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Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” 
—John 15:13–15

Tis a grey and drizzly morning here at Dunkin Donuts, my traveling sanctuary.  

It is much different than my screened porch, where I listen to birds and bits of silence, and commune with 
God. 

But yes, God here at Dunkin. He is having to speak a bit louder because rock music is playing at a pitch that the beat drums in my head, the whirring motors are loud, beeps of cash registers and the shhhh of steam fills the air. So concentrating is as easy as vacuuming, flipping an egg over on the stove and changing a lightbulb, all at the same time. 

But here we are. We have to be able to drown out the outside to hear the inside …God’s whispers. I think God just ordered a bagel with bacon and egg. 

Have you ever tried to impress God? Seriously. Have you said a lofty prayer that was a bit stilted, a bit too much of something’s but wasn’t really you? 

I have. 

I have tried to sound like a preacher, preaching my prayer to God, so that I might sound more faithful than I have been? You know, times when you are meeting new people and you want to sound smart and with it?

I have done that. Best foot forward, to guise who I really am. 

Guess what. God doesn’t desire that. He wants us o be our real selves. We don’t fool Him. He knows. 

And what He wants from us, is for us to be real with Him … we aren’t auditioning for apart in His universe. 

We are to see God as our friend, one we can be ourselves with. Do you think He cares if we have on diamond earrings or a jewel encrusted crown? Does God think more highly of that person than the poor, soiled clothed homeless man? 

Our outsides aren’t what God is interested in. That is society. 

God cares about your insides, your heart, spirit and your connection to Him.

I see God as my friend. A friend with the benefit of Amazing Grace, divine power and a plan for my life that I find out on an as-needed basis. 

If I project my future, my life, what I will do, or when it will end, God will goose me. Friends do that. They give you that tender tug or word when you are going a bit tilted. 

My mind has a tendency to thing God mostly sees my flaws. I know that I see them. But the cool thing is, God also sees our goodness, talents, things that we have done that please Him. He is our friend, when we are our own enemy. 

If we keep God center of our lives, He will lift us up to our greatest heights, and be there when if we stumble and fall. 

God is our champion! And He wants us to be His. Not necessarily with megaphones, but in quiet communion, or at a wooden booth in a noisy Dunkin Donuts. 

There are quite a few people around me now. One is stirring coffee oe is reading his phone. There is a man getting the. Subway shop ready to open in a while. 

Not one of them would know that I am tapping my toes and in good cheer because I am thinking about and thanking God. He is like having Harvey, the invisible bunny with me. 

How can I feel alone when I have God with me? That is the word God has wanted me to tell you for a long time. I have used my writing to help you not feel so alone. But the thing is, it isn’t my words that alleviate loneliness … it is God’s word. Find Him. Hug Him. And listen to Him. 

You are loved. Peace is yours. Your spirit can be filled. 

Susan

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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.