Thursday, December 18, 2014

God's Not Dead

*spoiler alert*

Riley and I watched "God's Not Dead" a few weeks back.

After the viewing, I had post-traumatic stress flashbacks to the early 90's when I attended a "Heaven or Hell" production at a local Baptist church in town.  I went with my boyfriend at the time who was the same denomination as the church.  The show presented specific incidents where someone is facing death and if the person had not chosen correctly prior to that, their name was not in THE Big Book and they go to hell.    I poured an alcoholic beverage to help the tremors flow through.  I knew certain people had liked the movie.  I had a feeling that it would not be my cup of Christian tea.

My daughter wanted to watch the film as she heard about it from friends.  It was just the two of us and I said okay.  I watched it because she wanted to.  I thought I could handle it.

I couldn't.

In hindsight, my intuition knew better.  I should have told my husband to watch it with her, as he has no fundamentalist baggage.  Mine is a mile deep and an ocean wide.

Boundaries - I needed to uphold my boundaries even though it was something my child wanted.

The following definition would be helpful for you to understand what my viewing of God's Not Dead felt like:

Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis, or using loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented.

On a positive note,  it was filmed at LSU and the campus looked lovely but on a low note the plot was predictable, so very horribly predictable.  I can reach deep down and say some of the acting was good, I just didn't like the script.  Everyone who was an atheist was BAD,  everyone who was a Christian was GOOD.  Everyone was against the main character, the "Christian," including his parents and girlfriend.   It was so very black and white.  And the Christian was the victim.  And to put the shiny bow at the end of the movie, there was a death bed "come to Jesus" moment by the atheist professor who was hit by a car outside a Christian music concert.  There happened to be two preachers there on the street, one of whom could conveniently diagnose that the atheist's lungs were filling with blood and he was definitively dying in the next five minutes.   After a talk with one of the preachers, the atheist declared Jesus his savior just and he died on the street…

And that's the end of that story.

And special cameo appearancea by one of the Duck Dynasty couples whom I tried to block out entirely.

This movie pushed many of my fundamentalist baggage hot buttons. And it brought up all my fear roots and did nothing to bring up the abundant LOVE of God that I have been surprised and amazed by in the last few years.  And do you know what began healing my fundamentalist baggage?  Lo and behold, it was sitting in counseling with a Jewish therapist.   I had to strip away all of the misguided thinking that I had about God, myself and the world.  I needed someone to listen to me unconditionally.
Just like God does.

Abundant love is who God is and who we are if we can tap into it.   I had to change my very poor concept of God in order for the loving view of God to emerge because my thinking of God was just like this movie.  Simplistic, judgmental and out there. As long as you proclaim Jesus is King after you have been scared straight, everything will be all right.

That is just not what I've come to know about my Higher Power.

Deep down, way deeply down, I know that my snarkiness and anger is my pain coming out.  So many years, I lived in fear and my idea of God did not let me know that the Divine was within and abounds in love.

Not judgement but love.

I don't know why I never left the church, the pain goes so deep.  Well, yes I do know, I was too scared.
I think my fear of leaving was bigger.  Nonetheless, I have learned to listen to my intuition because if I can acknowledge it clearly, it is God talking to me.  I should have listened about this movie.  But that's okay.  I'm not perfect. Mistakes are made and learned from.

This blog has been sitting in my draft box for weeks. It's time to publish even if there is no bow to wrap it up, like at the end of this awful movie.  This is an ongoing journey for me to listen to the Divine within because that steers me on the path I need to be on.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Peace During The Chaos of Christmas

"At the still point, there the dance is." T.S. Eliot

It's the mad, mad Christmas season.  Way too much to do.

Way too much to do.

I now know myself that I need down time and quiet almost as much as I need oxygen.

I'm not kidding.

I have come to understand how very, very, utterly important it is.  It is when the best of me comes out.  (you know that thing… what do you call it? oh yeah- In touch with the Divine Inner Presence) That is when I feel peace and calm and everything feels right with the world.  I feel I can love the entire world and even those who are the most unloveable. (I find more and more that is myself)  It is when my creativity flows.  It is when I can cry and be sad or feel utter joy and gratitude or just sit and be.

And the way that it intermingles around those moments or hours or days of anxiety and fear that make the peaceful quiet moments even that much sweeter.

But I have to be still to feel it.  I have to be in the present moment.  Not worrying about the next thing.  Not worrying about what did or did not happen in the past. It has taken several years of a conscious shift in my thoughts to begin to do this on a regular basis. It takes so much practice, practice, and more practice.

To be in the present moment.

I treated myself and Mallory to a pedicure on Saturday afternoon.  I had been wanting to have my feet "worked on" for several weeks.   The family had gotten up and 6:00am that morning on a Saturday for Mallory and George to participate in the Girls on the Run race.  I lost my good $$ reading glasses on the field.  George and I had two Christmas parties to attend that night (an introvert's first world nightmare).  Mallory had a birthday party to go to in an hour and a half.  There was laundry out the wazoo that needed to be washed or folded or put away.  There were more Christmas presents to buy.  There were outside decorations to be put up.  There were more ornaments to be put on the tree.  There were boxes to be put away.  The house was (and is) a mess.  There were more Christmas cards to be addressed.  I had no idea what I was going to wear that night.  My hair had not been washed in several days.   There were more thoughts to be had in my head to figure out logistics, etc…and you get the idea…

And the Christmas music was blaring. (and it was not a soothing instrumental)

But as I sat with my feet soaking in the water and being tended to, I was so enthralled in the moment.  I put my head back, closed my eyes, ignored the crappy music and breathed deeply.  I had looked forward to this moment for several weeks.   It was a peace orgasm.  Even amongst the chaos, my mind settled down and I was IN THE MOMENT.  Many months ago, I had a FB acquaintance write about her first ever pedicure experience and the description of it was so detailed and her enjoyment and pleasure of the experience was eye-opening.  She was ecstatic at something I took for granted.

I can enjoy and be at peace with most anything I have to- if I change my thoughts about whatever it is.

Thoughts are so powerful.

If we can be in the present moment, the exquisiteness of being alive is overwhelming.

(And my toes are the prettiest shade of red.)


Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Stress: Part 2: (Relearning Who God Is)

I love that what struck me on FB yesterday was from Aha Parenting and essentially all about being in the present moment with your kids (not the shiny presents from Toys R Us)  It was fantastic advice.  And today, Father Rohr says what I have been coming to learn over the last 5 years - consciousness leads to God being right in front of me or rather God in me, in the present moment.

This is Father Rohr's meditation from today.  What I really like is bolded.

God Is Here and 
Thus Everywhere
Thursday, December 11, 2014

The last words Jesus spoke to his apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane were “Stay awake”; in fact he says it twice (Matthew 26:39-41). I believe the work of religion is, more than anything else, to keep you awake, alert, alive, conscious. Consciousness comes from a wholehearted surrender to the moment. If you’re conscious, you will experience God. I can’t prove God to you. But people who are present will experience the Presence. It’s largely a matter of letting go of our resistance to what the moment offers us.

To be here now is the simplest thing in the world and the hardest thing to teach. In many ways it is the very foundation of all religion and all spirituality. You cannot get there by any kind of worthiness contest whatsoever. You cannot get there; you can only be there. I am convinced that the purest form of spirituality is the ability to accept the “sacrament of the present moment” (as Jean-Pierre de Caussade called it) and to find God in what is right in front of me. At that level, there is almost nothing to argue about. In fact, argumentative religion proceeds from not being present.

It seems we all start out thinking of God as “out there.” Yet we also need to believe, even spatially, that God is “in here.” We must know that deeply before we can take the Now seriously. The reason we can trust the Now so much is because of the Incarnation and because of the Divine Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Christians have been given the promise that the Word has become flesh, that God has entered into the human, and the human soul is the temple of God. This is Paul’s discovery (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and it is repeated through various metaphors by every Christian mystic.

Father Rohr's teachings are a balm to my soul.  My idea of God was so battered that I cringe when I hear the word Christian.  My idea of a Christian for several years now has been that of one of a right wing fanatic with whom I disagree on about everything.  So I've had to step away from anyone who talks about Jesus too much.  I've had to step away from the Bible.  When the word, Jesus, pops up too many times it feels like propaganda.

I am relearning God.

This truth of being in the here and now, I understand.

It's Christmas and there is way too much to do. Christmas stress kicked in two days ago.  I thought I was going to keep the anxiety at bay but my old friend came back.  In years past, it came in late November, so the fact that it didn't kick in until December 9, is pro-gress!!  I have moments where my thoughts are all about the future - presents, cards, tasks, errands, events that need to be attended or attended to.  

But God (or higher power or divine presence)  is in the moment.

It's okay to get off track and my stomach will turn and my thoughts will spin.  I am human.  I find that if I am able to get quiet, the fears dissolve.  I also say, "All will be well, even if it's not."  It has taken several years of a very conscious mind shift to employ these techniques.  I don't want to live in fear and anxiety like I did for the first 40 years.  I needed this shift.   This is the second half of life.   I am so grateful for this shift of consciousness.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Stress, Part 1

It's that time of year.  Christmas stress.  Fa la la la la, la la la. Yuck.

It's the most wonderful time of the year…


I tried to keep it at bay.  I tried to say, "oh no, not this year." I'm going to remain calm and let it roll.  And it worked up until yesterday.  And then I felt this tension and irritability creep in.

Oh my gosh, there is TOO MUCH TO DO.

I sat down to start to write the annual Christmas letter.  It takes much drafting and tweaking.   I have been writing them for more than a decade.  It's a tradition that I love.  I have all of our old cards and the letters in chronological order in a Christmas album - and I don't usually have anything finished like that.  I thought, I just want to send my cards out,  do I have to write a letter?  My cards have been sitting in a box for over a week, waiting.

I have been working hard to keep it simple.  There is no perfectionism anymore.  I realized a few years back to let go of perfectionism.

In addition to the Christmas errands and duties which are multiplying right before my eyes.  There are other things that need to be taken care of.  And when I feel there is too much to do, or I get anxiety, I freeze.

That is not helpful for the to do list.  See I'm writing a blog instead of writing the letter.

To be continued

Sunday, November 30, 2014

If Only Christianity Could Be Like This

Not much else to say here.  Yet it's all open to interpretation.  I believe it's all about LOVE.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

They Know Me, They Really Know Me!

The family and I play a game called Say Anything - Family Edition.  Each of us reads a question card and the rest of the players answer the question in the reader's opinion.  

The question I picked was In My Opinion...I just wrote a book.  What's it called?
Mallory answered "Living with Sisters."
Riley answered "I just need space with no one in it"
And George answered "Finding your True Self(ie)" (he gets points for creativity!) 

My family really does know me.

They get me, they really do. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What A Pan of Cornbread Dressing Really Means

This was the first ever Thanksgiving meal I prepared on our own after George and I got married and were living in Buffalo.  This was the late 90's.   George came home and helped at some point probably on Thanksgiving day as he was working round the clock in residency.  We enjoyed this meal at our home with several of his fellow residents (all bachelors might I add), and they didn't offer to help clean the dishes.  Not that it stuck in my craw at all...

Well, I had no idea how to cook the big dishes of that meal.   I called home several times and my dad talked me through how to do so.  I did not connect with my dad on a multitude of levels but this time I needed help and he was the man for the job.  This included "the dressing."  My dad's dressing was one that he had perfected over many years from what he remembered his grandmother had made.

On this first holiday without him, I went back and forth about whether to cook the dressing.  I haven't made it myself in years and it's an ordeal, containing cornbread, rice and turkey meat. And this year,  I was cooking everything else for the entire meal as well, which is quite the undertaking and sometimes simpler is better.

But it won't seem like the holiday without having it.  So...

Yesterday, I pulled out the sixteen year old piece of paper I had written down the instructions on all those years ago and began the process.  Two trips to the supermarket later and twisting of my children's arms to help with some other sides and voila.  I also broke the rules and used chicken we already had frozen in broth which was a fantastic time saver for me.

Here is the dressing, ready to be put in a dish and baked - except for the green onion that I still need to add.  I will admit that I ate a small bowl just to see if it tasted right. {smile}


This year, I'm sad that my dad is not here but I feel his presence around this dressing.  I feel connected. I felt it cutting and chopping and the blending of all of the ingredients. It brings a warm feeling even with all of the effort.  My children will tell you I don't always cook mostly because when I try something new the kids don't eat it.  Aarrggghh.

The jury is out to see if the girls will ever like it as much as I do.  Sometimes it takes time for appreciation to kick in. And then there is George who grew up in the North with the bird stuffed and different food traditions and he wants to make his own stuffing with sausage in it.  The poor man has had to eat our Southern cuisine for all these years. {grin}

Leftovers, anyone?  We will have them. And I look forward to making some turkey and sausage gumbo after as well.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  May the tradition that warms your heart be yours on this special day.