The Morning Process: Mourning in the Morning

morning (mawr-ning) noun 1. the first part or period of the day, extending from dawn, or from midnight, to noon; 2. the beginning of day; dawn.

mourning (mawr-ning, mohr-) noun 1. the act of a person who mourns; sorrowing or lamentation; 2. the conventional manifestation of sorrow for a person’s death, especially by the wearing of black clothes or a black armband, the hanging of flags at half-mast, etc.

In a 2013 article titled, “The Sacred Experience of Grief and Mourning”, Amy Brown, a R.N. in Gynecology-Oncology shares her experience of losing patients and sheds light on the grieving process. She expands Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s linear five-stage model of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and explores the Four Tasks of Grief and Mourning introduced by Dr. J. William Worden. The task model differs as it is non-linear and the tasks may be worked through simultaneously. The new model includes the following tasks:

  1. To Accept the Reality of the Loss
    1. This first task involves facing the reality that our loved one is gone and reunion with them (in this lifetime) is impossible.

When I awoke this morning, I had finally accepted the reality that reconciliation with my once and former beloved was highly unlikely.

  1. To Process the Pain of Grief
    1. There is both physical and emotional pain involved with grief. This experience is different for everyone and is deeply rooted in attachment theory.
    2. Attachment Theory, developed by John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst, attempts to understand the intense distress experienced by infants who have been separated by their parents.

The past two weeks have been devoted to my processing (emotionally and physically) the fact that my beloved had ended the commitment. I have processed with hypnotherapy, with singing, with writing, and with talking (candidly with friends and family).

  1. To Adjust to a World Without the Deceased
    1. The three areas of adjustment after a loved one dies are external, internal, and spiritual. External adjustments involve everyday function; specifically, how the griever will adjust to day-to-day life without the deceased…Internal adjustments involve the sense of self…there will be challenges to one’s self-esteem, self-definition, and sense of self-efficacy…The third area of adjustment is that of spirituality in terms of one’s beliefs, values, and assumptions about the world. The death of a loved one can challenge our fundamental belief systems. Many people search for meaning in the loss of their loved one and in the process, they may leave their church or seek out a church or spiritual discipline for the first time in their lives.

Over the course of the past two weeks I have done my best to not “insert myself” into my beloved’s life, but more and more often I have found myself sending him emails and text messages in an effort to remain connected. Since we have never seen each other daily, I haven’t been too overly bothered by not seeing him. I have however been adversely affected by not hearing his voice. I broke down and called him last Saturday as a result. In terms of the internal adjustments I have been reciting positive confessions each day in an effort to redevelop my self-esteem and self-worth. I have also re-submerged myself in The Word in order to see myself as God sees me—which also serves to realign my spirituality.

 

  1. To Find an Enduring Connection With the Deceased in the Midst of Embarking on a New Life
    1. This task involves emotionally relocating the deceased so that the griever remains connected with them but at the same times goes on with life…When people are able to incorporate the influences, values, memories, and inspirations of their deceased love one into their new patterns of living, the transformation can be very endearing and humbling.

Because my beloved is not physically deceased, I have had to emotionally “relocate” him into a place where I cannot easily access him—out of sight, out of mind.

Not all deaths are those that consume the soul of the physical body; some deaths are those of the relationship variety. Yesterday I wised up and cut off all communication with my once and former beloved. After finally accepting the truth of his actions (inaction actually), I determined that it was time to sever ties and truly move forward with my life. In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz cautions his readers on the issue of lies as they relate to the second agreement, “Don’t Take Things Personally”:

Don’t expect people to tell you the truth because they also lie to themselves. You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not to believe what someone says to you. When we really see other people as they are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do [don’t say or don’t do]. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They are lying to you because they are afraid. They are afraid you will discover that they are not perfect…If others say one thing, but do another, you are lying to yourself if you don’t listen to their actions. If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make right choices.

Last night I deleted every email, text message, picture, and I “unfriended” him on Facebook. When I awoke this morning, I began my morning (mourning) process. After two weeks of emotional torture, I had drawn the conclusion that this man had no intentions of reconciliation. While a recent email response gave me a glimmer of hope with his “Maybe. I just need time to heal and clear my head [,] so maybe one day I can forgive;” his inaction said something else completely. When I finally listened to his actions a day later, they didn’t match up.

(Me) Your comment about forgiveness weighed heavy on my heart.

This morning I wrote an article about Forgiveness on my blog.

Here is some of what I wrote…

(Beloved)

Maybe once you forgive all of the folks that hurt you in your past

[it] may free you for your future.

Not hold all that inside.

(Me) I don’t hold any ill-will towards anyone.

If I did, I wouldn’t be able to write as much as I have lately.

(Beloved) Ok.

(Me) But have you forgiven me?

(Beloved) Most certainly.

I had been listening…but what I heard wasn’t making any sense to me. Why would someone who has supposedly forgiven me “…need time to heal and clear [his] head so maybe one day [he] can forgive”? That question wracked my brain. Immediately my mind returned to the words of Don Miguel Ruiz, “…listen to their actions”. His action(s)/inaction was saying very clearly that he was toying with my emotions and had no real intentions of reconciliation. While he may have sent intermittent text messages and random emails in the past two weeks, he had not once called me in the two weeks since pulling the plug on our relationship. And when I did reach out to him, he was emotionally distant and his responses tended to be short, vague and nebulous.

My movement through Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five-stage model:

Sunday, May 31st: Denial over the relationship’s end

Monday, June 1st: Anger and Bargaining with my Beloved

Everyday: Fighting depression

Saturday, June 13th: Acceptance of the relationship’s end

heart beat

Time of Death: 06/13/2015

Citation:

Brown, Amy. “The sacred experience of grief and mourning.” Journal of Gynecologic Oncology Nursing 23.1 (2013): 10+. Academic OneFile. Web. 13 June 2015.

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Forgiveness

Today’s piece was birthed from a short string of correspondence that I had with my beloved. Though emotionally and physically estranged from one another, we have maintained communication. And as a result, I haven’t completely been able to move forward because my heart longs for this man who made the decision that we should split. That being said, I wanted clarity. I know from the past that unanswered questions have the potential to drive me crazy, so I wanted to ward off a return to entertaining old strongholds. Nevertheless, in asking questions, I have also learned that we may not receive the answer we hoped to hear. So here is the message I sent to him just yesterday. Mind you, I prayed that God would help me accept whatever response was returned, and to move forward in peace and love.

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.06

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.15

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.21

While it wasn’t exactly the response I was hoping for, it wasn’t a “no”. At the present moment I am not sure that the “maybe” I received has brought me solace or more confusion. At any rate, what latched onto my spirit was my beloved’s statement, “I just need time to heal and clear my head so maybe one day I can forgive”. Forgive.

Forgiveness seems so very simple in theory, but the reality of the action can seem insurmountable for many. I heard somewhere that forgiveness isn’t for the other person (the one who “wronged” us), but forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. I agree with this logic because when we harbor feelings of unforgiveness, it is only stunting our growth and development. All too often those we feel have done us wrong may have no idea that what they said and/or did impacted us in such a profound way as to leave us crippled or damaged emotionally and/or psychologically. Words, which have the power to uplift or destroy, have lasting conscious and subconscious effects on our psyche.

As part of my healing process, I have immersed myself in the music of India Arie, a kindred spirit. Ironically enough, the lyrics to India Arie’s “The Heart of the Matter” rose with me this morning.

I got a call today, I didn’t wanna hear/but I knew that it would come/An old true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone/She said you found someone/And I thought of all the bad luck,/And all the struggles we went through/How I lost me and you lost you/What are all these voices outside love’s open door/Make us throw off our contentment/And beg for something more?

I’ve been learning to live without you now/But I miss you sometimes/The more I know, the less I understand/All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning them again/I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter/But my will gets weak/And my thoughts seem to scatter/But I think it’s about forgiveness/Forgiveness/Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore…

These lines capture the Sound Track of My Life. On the heels of healing from this recent break up, I do find myself missing my beloved sometimes. My thoughts are oftentimes scattered. My will to remain positive does often get weak. And I know with all certainty that forgiveness is at the heart of this matter of brokenness.

After I listened to the song a couple more times I sent the link of a live performance to my beloved. I’m not sure he understood where I was coming from, but I’ve recently decided that I won’t take anything personally. And that includes the lack of response. Afterwards, I went in search of scripture on the topic of forgiveness. Below are those that resonated with my spirit.

Forgiveness Scriptures

Matthew 6: 14-15 (MSG)

“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

Mark 11: 25 (MSG)

“If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (MSG)

“We certainly don’t look at him [people] that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!”

Isaiah 43: 25 (Amplified)

“I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions, for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Daniel 9: 9 (MSG)

“Compassion is our only hope…”

If we work with the logic that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, then Matthew 6: 14-15 proves that unforgiveness leaves us at a deficit with God—making it impossible for Him to send us the healing that will propel us to our “next level” experience.

Likewise, Mark 11:25 is also proof that we cannot receive forgiveness of our wrongdoings if we haven’t in fact forgiven others.

In the case of 2 Corinthians 5: 17 God is calling us to relinquish our view of the “old man” who “wronged” us. He is calling us to see each other with new eyes. When I woke this morning the following prayer sprang from spirit, out of my mouth, and onto the pages of my notebook/journal:

Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us. All too often when we look in the mirror the image we see is untrue. We see a fragmented, broken, incapable, unlovable person because of what has been said and/or done to us. But God, give us new eyes that allow us to see our [and other’s] truth—who we are through your eyes.

When we consider Isaiah 43: 25 we find the absolute TRUTH about forgiveness. God himself “blots out and cancels” the remembrance of our wrongdoing(s). And it isn’t for our sake because He says, “…for My own sake…” There you have it right there. Forgiving others is truly something we do for ourselves–for our healing, growth, and spiritual development.

And finally, in Daniel 9: 9 we find the simple solution to the “woes” of humanity, compassion. When we express compassion for our fellow man we are doing what God sent us here to do, love one another as He loves us. When we are able to extend compassion for another person we are essentially freeing ourselves from the bondages that would otherwise keep us from the greater life God has prepared for us. Compassion is a gift, like forgiveness, that we give to ourselves and to others.

beloved 3.0

The 4 a.m. Epiphany

4 am epiphany

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” –James 1:2-3 (New American Standard Bible)

I didn’t fully understand this scripture until recently. It didn’t make a lick of sense for anyone, me especially, to respond to trials and tribulations with joy. Yes, joy. Joy God?

Joy has such positive connotations and synonyms: happiness, elation, satisfaction, and glee. On the flip side, the word trial is synonymous with tests and assessments—words that can, an often do, send school children into a tizzy (some teachers too, but that’s another post for another day). To be quite honest, it seemed utterly asinine to respond to a single trial with any semblance of joy. But trials, plural? Really? I kept thinking: God? Are you serious? How could someone who was “taking a beating”—emotionally, physically, psychologically, etc. muster up the strength to smile? How could someone find the fortitude to express elation? How in the world could someone graft the grace to be gleeful?

After enduring the pain of heart break again and again, I asked God a simple question. Why? His answer: because you’re strong. Quite vehemently I replied. What? I’m strong? Well, there you have it. So, we should “consider it a sheer gift” when we are tested because it is a sign of what God sees in us, our strength to endure. That’s right, with each test and tribulation God is testing our ability to trust in Him. And when we don’t lose hope in the midst of these trials, we are gifted the ability to endure (the next eighty-two trials and tribulations).

We were each placed on this earth for a specific purpose. God, who is omniscient (all-knowing), knew (in the beginning) which of us would be able to handle the weight of life. His omniscience is evidenced in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-29, Amplified Bible).

For it [the kingdom of heaven] is like a man who was about to take a long journey, and he called his servants together and entrusted them with his property. To one he gave five talents (probably about $5,000), to another two, to another one—to each in proportion to his own personal ability. Then he departed and left the country. He who had received five talents went at once and traded them, and he gained five talents more. And likewise he who had received two talents—he also gained two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those talents returned and settled accounts with them. And he who had received five talents came and brought him five more, saying, Master, you entrusted to me five talents; see, here I have gained five talents more. His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys. And he also who had two talents came forward, saying, Master, you entrusted two talents to me; here I have gained two talents more. His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys. He who had received one talent also came forward, saying, Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not winnowed (the grain). So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own. But his master answered him, You wicked and lazy and idle servant! Did you indeed know that I reap where I have not sowed and gather (grain) where I have not winnowed? Then you should have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent away from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given, and he will be furnished richly so that he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does will be taken away.

And what does this scripture prove? I’m glad you asked. Here is what we must focus on in order for us not to lose hope (and express joy) in doing good for the sake of God (2 Thessalonians 13).

  1. The all-knowing God (like the Master in the parable) knows what we can handle
  2. God gives us that which we need in order to succeed/prosper, talents (literally and figuratively)
  3. We (God’s children) develop those talents
  4. God honors/blesses us for doing His will (being faithful)
  5. God doesn’t bless us when we operate out of fear and/or doubt His power and faithfulness

As I heal from this most recent heart ache 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (KJV) brings me joy.

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God.

Live blessed because you are!

Hurt People, Hurt People

While under the tutelage of Pastor Paula White I recall having heard her say (on several different occasions) that “Hurt people, hurt people.” The two clauses are profound. The first clause is fragmented and merely describes the collective’s condition; the second clause, while independent, succinctly expresses the actions of the collective. The irony is in the structuring of the statement; people who are hurting (those who are emotionally fragmented) inflict on others what has been done to them—perpetuating a cycle of dysfunction and proving that misery does in fact love company. Sad and yet true, I have come to realize that I am in the healing stages of being one such individual.

Let me first say that I don’t think that people intentionally act out for the purposes of hurting others, especially those with whom they are closest. However, hurting others does happen in the crossfires of their attempts at making sense of their world (or the collective “dream” that Don Miguel Ruiz references in his best-seller The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom). Having recently finished a second reading of the text at the suggestion of my hypnotherapist (yeah—I’ll be getting around to her later), I have come to the conclusion that:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”—Lao Tzu

 As one transforming from the emotional hurt unintentionally inflicted upon me, I earnestly believe these practical words from the esteemed Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu. If one who has been hurt no longer wants to hurt others, it merely takes one conscious step to begin the journey of recovery or transformation.

The closing of my last post referenced Romans 12:2 and serves as a springboard for todays. While many people prefer the King James Version of the bible, I myself, prefer The Message version for it’s simplistic language. So I will share both with you in an effort to be accommodating.

“And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (KJV)

“(1) Don’t be so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. (2) Instead, fix your attention on God. (3) You’ll be changed from the inside out. (4) Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. (5) Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (The Message)

Yes, The Message version, while written in “plain English”, is longer, but is easier for me to digest and appropriate in my life. So let’s break it down.

  1. Sentence One: is imperative in its function. It is a command or request that cautions us against an uncontrolled mind and “running with the masses”. In her national best-seller Joyce Meyer notes in the introduction of Battlefield of the Mind, that:

Our actions are a direct result of our thoughts…[and] So many people’s problems are rooted in thinking patterns that actually produce the problems they experience in their lives…; [therefore] The more you change your mind for the better, the more your life will also change for the better.

All that said, we have been mandated by God to transform our thoughts in a manner that will lead us to a place of freedom and out of bondage.

  1. Sentence Two: also imperative in function, calls us to fix our attention on God. No, I wouldn’t say that our every thought should be about God (the being or spirit), but of the things of God, namely His word. I cannot tell you how much I have struggled to keep my mind on God (not so much in a literal sense, but in the sense of doing the great command—loving those as He loves us (unconditionally).
  2. Sentence Three: informs us of the benefits of such actions. In it we see the effects. If we are non-conformist to popular culture and thinking, and our thoughts are God-ward, then we shall be changed internally. And as we are being changed internally, our actions will be the evidence of those changes.
  3. Sentence Four: is a return to the imperative, and urges us to be cognizant of what God desires of us and to urgently take action.
  4. The Fifth and Final Sentence: serves as a reminder of the difference between those who are bound by their “unenlightenment” and those of us who are being transformed. With knowledge of the truth we (the enlightened) are developing a spiritual maturity that sets us apart from those who lack the knowledge to be the best version of self.

So where am I going with all of this? In the words of Bishop T.D. Jakes, “I’m glad you asked!” Today I had my first hypnotherapy session (told you I’d get around to this). It was marvelous, freeing, therapeutic and enlightening. Because I am by nature inquisitive and curious, I quickly decided that this form of psychotherapy deserved a “look-see” after I stumbled upon an advertisement in a local magazine less than a week ago. Given the fact that I have hurt people as a hurt person, I knew that I needed to make changes in my life. As one who grew up in a religiously spiritual family, I was taught at a young age to “pray about it.” But just praying about my mental and emotional dis-ease hasn’t yielded the breakthroughs that are necessary for real transformation. Yes, in years past I have made efforts at renewing my mind, but again, my previous efforts haven’t brought me to a place of sustained peace; thus my desperation for trying another alternative, hypnotherapy. Regardless of your personal belief system, I know that prayer alone was not going to get me to where I have desired to be, in perfect peace. And since faith without works (action) is dead (James 2:17), I have chosen to engage in this alternative form of therapy so that I can:

“Be the change that I wish to see in the world”—Mahatma Gandhi

The session began with us talking about the book (The Four Agreements) that she (I’ll call her Sarah) suggested I read during the consultation three days prior. I got out the journal I had purchased specifically for thoughts related to these therapy sessions, and I went to town talking about my “take aways” and the quotes that “spoke to my spirit”. Intermittently, Sarah shared her insights as a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. I appreciated her listening ear, but more so appreciated her candid honesty about the conscious act of re-reading the book about every six months. I was immediately taken aback by her statement. As an English teacher I understand the importance of rereading. I urge my students to read and reread as an act of becoming a better reader, a more conscious analyzer, but I haven’t always walked the walk. Don’t get me wrong; there are some books (You Can Pull Down Strongholds And Break Old Habits by Pastor Casey Treat) that I have read upwards of four times. I suppose I was in awe of Sarah’s statement because I have tended to pull the previously mentioned title off the shelf when “I’m desperate for a change”. Her act of purposefully rereading The Four Agreements every six months is a conscious act of continued transformation, and that has seemingly been lost to me in years past. Our talk continued as I mentioned conversations I had had with friends the past week. I told her about the notebook I’d created with positive confessions that I recite. And I even shared with her how I had allowed myself to be vulnerable in front of my students by writing them individual heart-felt letters that I distributed to them on the last day of school.

“Wow! You’ve made a great deal of progress in a short amount of time.”

“Yes. I’m serious about this. And I’m excited about it too. I don’t want to waste this experience.”

And that’s when we got down to more serious business. Calmly, she asked me the following question, “So where do you want to begin?”

I took a deep breathe; “I think the best place to start is with my self-loathing tendencies”.

While there is certainly more to the session, I will save the rest for another time. What matters most is that I have reached a place, emotionally and psychologically, where I no longer desire to hurt people with my words and actions (you know, those things that originate as thoughts), I have taken the first steps in the journey of my transformation (personal evolution). I live in the reality that this journey may not be easy; it may at times be uncomfortable and arduous. And for these reasons, I have to remind myself of wise words that I coined just a few days ago:

“Maturity is about doing what must be done despite one’s obvious desire for something less ‘confrontational’”—Me 

My transformation “cocktail” includes (Please know that I use the word “cocktail” with utmost respect):

  1. Prayer
  2. Positive Confessions
  3. Reflection
  4. Reading (and re-reading books)
  5. Hypnotherapy

Undoubtedly, our words have power and impact those around us. And as such, we are charged with spreading love and not hate with them.

“Your word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic.”

Don Miguel Ruiz

from The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

I Lost God; He Didn’t Lose Me

People lose all sorts of things: keys, money, books, track of time, socks, memories, games (contests), their minds, etc. Funny thing (in an ironic sort of way)—I seemed to have lost God somewhere over the past year. I know it sounds like an extremely strange statement, but it’s my truth. I’ve never spoken with someone who claims to have lost God, but I’ve had countless conversations with people who have lost one or more of the aforementioned items. Nevertheless, over the course of a year I have lost God—lost my ability to talk to God, to feel His presence in my life, to believe in/have faith in God, to pray to/speak to God, to meditate on His inspired word, to commune with other believers, to trust His word(s)—in short, I’ve simply lost Him.

 

And yet here I am wondering: is it even possible to lose God? Seriously, if we take God’s inspired word, The Bible, as Truth, then perhaps I’m delusional in thinking that I’ve lost God. But bear with me as I attempt to rationalize my current situation. In The Message translation of the bible, Deuteronomy 31:6 states:

 

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them [doubts, circumstances, setbacks, shortcomings] a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”

 

If God, my God (because at one point in time I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior), is striding ahead of me, is right there (here) with me, how can I have lost Him? But I’m being real here, being completely honest and transparent.

 

I have lost God.

 

If I accept Deuteronomy 31:6 as Truth, then God hasn’t left me, hasn’t lost me—I’m the one in this relationship who has lost Him. And yes, it is a relationship. Despite the fact that I cannot touch God like I touch/feel other human beings, cannot have a conversation with Him as I do other human beings, cannot see Him like I see other human beings (or can I?), that doesn’t necessarily negate His presence, nor his being real. Yet and still, therein lies my dilemma. I want to believe God’s word. I want to believe that the words of the “Good Book” are true, but much of what I have seen and/or experienced over the course of my existence on this planet has left me questioning the truth of His word.

 

Let’s get back to business. If God is all and in all, then God is everywhere. And if God is everywhere, how can it be that I have lost Him? Again, let’s look at what His word says. Colossians 1:16-17 in the King James Version (KJV) reads:

 

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

 

Again, let’s break this down. If God is the creator of all things (present in heaven and earth, visible and invisible), then He exists in all things and that means that God is more than a “presence” one feels in a church (house of worship) and there is more than one way to feel him, see him, commune with him, to know Him.

 

But I have lost God.

 

Seemingly out of nowhere, I broke down in tears this afternoon in the midst of a conversation I was having with a close friend (in her car of all places—I guess where shouldn’t matter, but it was just odd how it all happened). She was sharing her walk with me when the flood of tears escaped my eyes. We were reflecting on life, being raw, being honest about our feelings when I simply allowed my truth to come out. I said:

 

“I’ve lost my way; I’ve lost my peace and I don’t know how to get it back.”

 

My friend looked me in the eye and said something that touched my heart more than she may ever know. She said . . .

 

“We all have to find our own way to God.”

 

Such simple words, but words with such a great impact. She went on to say that she has found God in nature and in a fiction book. She told me about this book that she had once read. The book, The Shack, by William Paul Young, had forever changed her relationship with God, had changed her life. And it was then that something inside me “broke”. All my life I had been trying to find the magic formula to make situations and circumstances in my life bend to my will. I would look at a person and try to figure out why things had seemingly come together for them and pattern my attempts at life after theirs. Still yet, I would gaze upon another and try to emulate their formula and all to no avail. My friend was right; we all have to find our own way to God. We all have to find our own path to peace and perhaps that peace doesn’t come instantaneously, or after a confession to a priest, or after our first, second, or ninety-fifth prayer to God. Perhaps our path to peace, our path to God happens after a lengthy uphill trudge full of stops and tasks along the way.

 

So here’s my truth: I’ve lost God. But I’ve heard that it only takes one step to once again find him.

 

Maybe I’ll find him in the midst of meditation (another suggestion from my great friend), maybe I’ll find him in His word, maybe I’ll find him in nature, maybe I’ll find him in a work of fiction, maybe I’ll find him in the spirit of another human being. Right now it matters more that I find Him and not so much where it is that I find him. Today, I’ve made the decision to seek Him; won’t you do the same? Isaiah 55:6 (The Message) urges us to:

 

“Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand.”

 

So despite the fact that I’ve lost God, I am going to do everything possible to find him.

 

One last thing. Before my friend drove off today she said that we (she and I) were going to commit to verbalizing His word even when we don’t completely feel it with our whole heart. Though I seemed to have lost God, I’m going to try and find my way back to him through His word. And if that doesn’t lead me to him, I will try another route. Truth is, I’m determined to find my way back to him and I won’t give up until I’ve found the peace that is associated with knowing Him.

 

I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but I’m trusting that:

 

“. . . the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your [my] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (KJV).

Hear My Call

On Jill Scott’s Light of the Sun CD is a track titled “Hear My Call”. It spoke to my spirit during a recent morning jog. It begins:

Here I am again asking questions,

 

A few Saturdays ago I awoke around 6:20 a.m.  No, it’s not exactly normal for a Saturday. But then again, I’m not exactly “normal”. Still dark outside, I attempted to go back to sleep for at least another hour or so. But something kept me up. So I began talking to God, praying for those near and dear to my heart, and asking God questions: Lord, why do I keep compromising? Why is it that I seem to be unable to stay the course? How is it that I find myself backpedaling? Why do I keep settling for men whose intentions are temporal and not directed towards permanence? Why do I move so quickly? Why can’t I hold out? When God, when?

Once again I wondered how I had found myself in a situation that I had sworn I’d never return. It’s amazing how life provides us with exactly what we need despite our best efforts at fleeing and evading the lesson(s).    

Waiting to be moved.
I am so unsure of my perception,
What I thought I knew I don’t seem to

 

There seem to be too many instances when I thought I knew what I wanted or needed. I thought I knew better than God who and what was right or wrong for my life. And then a revelation would come and I would once again realize that I was deluding myself, or worse, delaying the inevitable—and perhaps delaying my destiny.

 

 

Where is the turn so I can get back to what I believe in?
Back to the old me and

 

I am yearning to get back to the old me. I long to be that woman who wasn’t afraid to ask for exactly what she wanted. I want to once again be that woman who was bold enough to stand alone—confident and secure in my womanhood—with or without a man in my life. I yearn to be that woman who didn’t allow life’s circumstances to callous and harden her spirit. I want to get back to the old me who smiled more than frowned—the old me who laughed so robustly and without regard. I want to get back . . .

 

[Chorus]
God, please hear my call.
I am afraid for me.
Love has burned me raw
I need your healing
Please, please, please.

[Verse 2]
I am such a fool
How did I get here?

 

There have been too many instances when I’ve played the fool—by my own hands mostly. I cannot in good consciousness blame others for my shortcomings. Sure enough, they played a role in the “experience”, but inevitably, I have to own up to my own actions. I, like Jill Scott am asking, “How did I get here?” Yes, here! Here as in–a place where I complain more than count my blessings. Here as in—a place where I allow life’s setbacks to disrupt my mood.   Here as in—a place where I stopped believing in my dreams and my ability to actualize them. Here . . .

 

Played by all the rules
Then they changed
I am but a child to your vision

 

It seems that I too “Played by all the rules [or at least what I thought were the rules]/Then they changed”. The dynamics between men and women have drastically changed. One minute I question whether I’m too aggressive; the next minute I can’t decide if I’m not aggressive enough. And here I am though. Here I am persevering. Here I am fighting against adversity. Here I am–desiring more than the life I’ve been living. Here I am God. Here I am . . .  

 

Standing in the cold and the rain
Lost here in the dark
I can’t see my foot to take a step,
What is happening?
Oh, this hurts so bad. I can hardly breathe.
I just want to leave so…

 

When it comes to this “dating” thing I am standing in the cold and the rain—wondering.   And then sometimes it seems like I’m lost in the dark and I’m questioning what is happening. What aren’t things working out despite my best efforts and intentions? And again God, “What is happening?” The sting of disappointment hurts so bad I want to leave the pain behind. The result: I’ve lost my ability to breathe. And again . . .

 

[Chorus]
God, please hear my call.
I am afraid for me.
Love has burned me raw
I need your healing
Please,
God, please hear my call.
I am afraid for me.
Love has burned me raw
I need your healing
Please, please, oh, please, please.

 

God, if you’re there, please hear my call . . . I need to feel your presence; I need your healing.  Please . . .

Got Faith?

“Yes, I’ve got to have faith . . .” are the words that end the popular 80’s song “Faith” by George Michael. These are telling words, prolific words in fact.  I too have got to have faith. But it seems that I’ve lost my way . . . lost my faith?  My faith has been, and may always be, a questionable matter (and that pains me). In the past decade or so my endurance in this race has been challenged in a number of ways, on a number of levels, and a number of times.

In the bible there is scripture that points out that, “Knowing this, the trying of your faith works patience,” (James 1:3).  If this is in fact true, I have gained a great deal of patience over the years.  I am also familiar with Hebrews 11:1 which reads, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” There have been times in my life where I have been extremely hopeful.  There have likewise been moments when I couldn’t capture an ounce a hope to cup in my hands.  And finally, there is Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  Herein lies my true dilemma. As an individual who was raised to “fear God” (reverence God) I have struggled with this concept of faith for nearly all of my waking life.  Has my lack of faith or intermittent faithlessness displeased God?  On a conscious level I believe that God is real, but there are moments when I question His presence in my life.

Perhaps my problem is that I lack the diligence to seek God. If I think about my spiritual “walk”, I have to ask myself: have I been walking with God?  Do I commune with Him daily?  Do I seek His face with a heart and demeanor that desires nothing in return but the feeling of His love, forgiveness, and devotion?  Honestly?  I cannot in good conscience claim that I seek God’s face faithfully. There are, and certainly have been, moments when I have walked far from God.  And conversely, there have been moments when I have seemingly been in stride with God.  There are days when prayer is the last thing on my mind.  And then there are days when I am thrust upon my knees.  There are undoubtedly moments when I ponder God’s presence.

Why?  You ask.  I question if He is real because of all that I have ingested from the Bible, what I have heard from one pastor, preacher, evangelist, etc., and from what I have experienced in life. Take Psalm 37:4 as an example. It reads, “Delight thyself in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  If I take the logical approach, it seems that all I would need to do in order to actualize the desires of my heart is to delight myself in the Lord God.  But what does that really mean?  Does it mean that I walk around 24-7 spouting that I’m delighted to know God?  Or is it something more?  I’ve cross-referenced the KJV with The Message translation and this is how The Message reads, “Get assurance with God and do a good deed, settle down and stick to your last.”  Honestly, I’m even more confused.  How does one get assurance with God?  Is it through prayer?  Through communing with God? Is it through reading and confessing His inspired word?  The translation says to “do a good deed”, but what qualifies as a good deed? And is there a quantity attached to the number of deeds required before my heart’s desires are actualized/realized? Now if “assurance with God” comes through faith—this substance of things I hope for and the evidence of what I don’t see, then my faith must grow in order for me to please God and then receive the desires of my heart—at least logically that is the conclusion I have drawn.

So let’s take this conundrum a step further.  Let’s look at Romans 10:17 which reads, “. . . faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God.” Okay, in order for my faith to grow perhaps I have not heard enough, heard enough of God’s word. I’m torn again. I grew up in church. I grew up hearing some man or woman [of God] share his or her interpretation of the Bible which is “God’s inspired word to man”.  I grew up hearing my grandmother’s and mother read from their Bibles.  And I have heard, heard God’s words for all these many years, yet why is my faith, my faith in God, called into question time and again? Why do I doubt that He will give me the desires of my heart?  Why do I wonder if he has heard my petitions?  Why God? Why?

Today, I posed a question to a group of students who had been reading a book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, about a Rwandan woman’s survival of the 1994 genocides that rocked her country. Here is what I asked four 8th graders, “Does it take an experience like Immaculee’s (surviving genocide) in order to meet God face to face—grow your faith?” I too had been reading the book alongside my students. And while I had been reading the harrowing experience this woman went through, it seemed that my faith kept being called to the carpet.  One at a time they each shared their personal thoughts.  The consensus: perhaps it does take a life-altering experience for our faith to grow and develop.  I looked at one of the girls and said rather plaintively, “I would hope to never have to experience genocide in order for my faith to grow.” I went on to state that I wanted a spiritual experience like Immaculee Ilbagiza (the author of the book and genocide survivor).  “Here dream was so vivid,” I said as I recalled the dream Immaculee had regarding her murdered family after she had made peace with their deaths and forgiven their Hutu killers. Immaculee had great faith throughout her ordeal.  She prayed and sought God daily while hiding from Hutu tribesmen who sought to rid Rwanda of its Tutsi population.  And it seemed that her seeking God made all the difference for her survival amidst the genocide.

  • She sought God and He protected them from being detected in the Hutu pastor’s bathroom for three months
  • She sought God and avoided being attacked on the road by a throng of Hutu killers wielding machetes
  • She sought God and obtained a job working for the United Nations
  • She sought God and married the man she petitioned God for

 

I too want(ed) my faith to grow and expand to the point that it is more than positive thinking, but a deep-seated intrinsic “knowing”. As the group’s discussion transitioned, I found myself moved for two reasons. One, I was so very much impressed with the level of analysis the students had with regards to the text and the concept of genocide.  All too often we Americans take things (experiences) for granted.  But more importantly, these four young adults had made such poignant remarks about humanity that I was nearly moved to tears. And all the while I kept questioning my faith.  Where is my faith?  I’ve got to have faith!

So I am posing a question to anyone who doesn’t mind answering.

 

How do I grow my faith?

The Power of Prayer

“Their minds had been infected with the evil [propaganda] that had spread across the country [Rwanda], but their [Hutu extremists] souls weren’t evil.  Despite the atrocities, they were children of God, and I could forgive a child, although it would not be easy . . . especially when that child was trying to kill me . . . That night I [Immaculee Ilibagiza] prayed with a clear conscience and a clean heart.  For the first time since I entered the bathroom [genocide “sanctuary”], I slept in peace.”

–from Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiz (with Steve Erwin)

I read the words and felt immediate conviction.  Perhaps my inability to sleep soundly (without waking at the slightest sound or movement) is directly related to my efforts (or lack thereof) in praying for others.  Sure enough I have a prayer life.  At times I have been more fervent than others with my prayers.  But I’m talking about praying from a deep place within.  I’m talking about praying for more than myself, the safety and well being of my friends and family; I’m talking about praying for those who have brought anguish and pain to my doorstep.

When I was younger I was often confused by the language found in my bible (King James Version), I sought to know The Word, but found myself struggling to make sense of the unfamiliar string of phrases.  As I grew older I found solace in the myriad of translations that were made available.  I still read from the King James Version, but now I find clarity in reading from the Amplified Bible as well as The Message translation.

Luke 6:27-28 (KJV) calls us to “. . . Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

The Amplified Bible translation of the same verses reads, “But I say to you who are listening now to Me: [in order to heed, make it a practice to] love your enemies, treat well (do good to, act nobly toward) those who detest you and pursue you with hatred, Invoke blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you, implore God’s blessing (favor) upon those who abuse you [who revile, reproach, disparage, and high-handedly misuse you].”

The Message translation of Luke 6:27-30 notes, “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies.  Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.  When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.  If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it.  If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.  If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.  No more tit-for-tat stuff.  Live generously.”

That call to action can seem like a pretty tall order when you are carrying the load of hurt, pain, anguish, hatred, and/or malice in your heart.  Just recently I began reading the book Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by genocide survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza.  Ilibagiza tells the harrowing truth of how she survived the genocide that ripped through her homeland of Rwanda in 1994.  The text is not typically one I pick off the shelf; decidedly so, I have been on a science fiction high as of late.  Nevertheless, I just began a unit of study with my 8th grade students on the challenge of social justice.  While the unit of study initially called for the students to form literature circles and read about the Holocaust of European Jews, my school’s media specialist and I made the executive decision to expand the readings to explore stories of global genocide (fiction and non-fiction).  We found half-dozen-or-so titles that cover acts of genocide from across the globe and spanning the past eighty years.  Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell is one of the books on my student’s list.

By now you may be wondering where I’m going with all this.  It’s actually rather simple.  When I reached part two of the text, “In Hiding”, I was confronted with a harsh reality similar to that of Immaculee Ilibagiza—a heart that contained hurt, hatred, and unforgiveness.  At this point in the text Immaculee is hiding in a small bathroom in the house of a sympathizing Hutu pastor in her village.  One of six women in the cramped space, Immaculee comes face to face with the reality that she must forgive, and pray for the souls of the Hutu extremists hell-bent to rid Rwanda of the Tutsi tribal minority they believe are out to gain control over the government.

The conviction hit me square in my chest.  How could I continue to harbor feelings of unforgiveness (hatred and malice) and not pray for those who have despitefully used me, when this woman who suffered a far worse experience, was able to do so in the midst of her turmoil?  Right then and there I put down the book and began to pray for those individuals who I felt had wronged me over the course of my life.  I prayed for God to forgive me for the things I had said and done to hurt others.  I prayed, not because I so desperately want a night full of peaceful sleep (earnestly I do), but because I want a life of peace.  We have been given life in an effort to make the world we live in better.  Each one of us has something to say and/or do that will leave this world better off, not worse off.

Despite the fact that Immaculee Ilibagiza went through a living hell in Rwanda, she has been able to use her experience to heal a country–a world that is fractured.  I have been moved by her experience.  Though I have not yet finished the book, I am looking forward to the additional lessons–morals that it holds for me.

Every book that I read leaves me different.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a work of fiction or non-fiction; I am never the same person after the book is finished.  The same is true about the individuals who bless us with their presence.  Every friendship changes me.  Every experience of love (breath taking and heart wrenching) has changed me. I firmly believe that we should take away something positive from every person, every experience we encounter—good and bad.

I’ve been challenged to live differently, to pray differently.

What “take aways” have you gleaned from acquaintances, books, enemies, experiences, friends, family, movies, songs, etc?