Grace of Faith

“It has pleased Thee to withhold from me a perfect knowledge; therefore deny me not the grace of faith by which I may lay hold of things unseen.” A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie.

I love this phrase: grace of faith.  I love that it has meaning to me because of personal experience, and I love that it is here in my morning time to remind me that I am not alone in need and facing what feels like fear of fear (future events appearing real).

Since my sister passed away earlier this year I have noticed that a new line of fears have emerged and teased for my attention.  I’ve noticed that in June and July, five or six months before the holidays, I am afraid of what my first Christmas will look like without Mom and Dad and Sis.  I’m afraid of being suddenly struck with a new and debilitating discovery that all the farmhouses and their holdings of family Bibles and 8mm film canisters are gone – disappeared – lost and no longer a two hour plane trip away.  And I’m surprised by how intensely I fear losing Les; what would I do, how could I survive if something were to happen to my best friend, my husband, my only* remaining family? 

Without too much resistance or procrastination, I mentioned these recent fear-based distractions to my friend.  She knows me well; she holds my story in trust with an objectivity that I can not recall or see.  She listened, nodded, and asked: are these fears the kind that can stay on the shelf?  “You know”, she continued, “the kind that are there, always present, but reserved for the most well-grounded, prayed-up times, and the ones that can usually be kept separate from daily thoughts or influence.”  What I’ll call “shelf-fears”.

What a great question. 

She also suggested that I have already come through what I had imagined would kill me, and I had in fact survived with an even greater faith.  She went on to tell me that there is no reason to believe any future event would be met with any less of God’s strength and love as has carried me before.

What a great reminder of trust.

With these tools of being heard and seen, and in the light of love, I can afford to examine and determine which ones are in my life for a purpose of being noticed and possibly resolved today, or of a nature that I can afford to notice but leave on the shelf?  And I can look back to my own past experiences of how God can re-shape fears into blessings with surprisingly positive outcomes.

So, I can’t help but wonder that in God’s perfect knowledge this Christmas may also hold a particular beautiful bit of Grace.  This passage, these questions to look deeper into the nature and limits of my fears, reminds me how I know that God can re-shape fears to blessings and set my feet back on solid ground and trust – at least for the moment.  And I can be in the day, this day.  This moment is where I can put my fears back onto the shelf and call to memory my own experiences of Grace of Faith.  And that too is Grace.

 *’only’ is not exactly true as I have my wonderful in-laws and cousins, but as many of us know, fears are not always rational nor accurate.

Take Heart

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Ezekiel 36:26-27 NKJV

Over the past two years the word “heart” has taken on significant symbolism for me.  In my vocation of Sacred Support the logo sprung from my imagination as two hearts connecting with a tag line to reflect the guiding principals of listening with our hearts.  Plus many of the readings, sermons and lectures including one my husband and I attended in Austin, with keynote speaker John Philip Newell, have been focusing around the heart of our natures as faithful, yet sometimes fearful Christians and human beings just trying to get along.

Whether all of these messages were truly centered on this subject – well, I’m not sure.  More likely I have been seeking, searching, recognizing and pulling heart from these many and varied sources as part of a greater synchronicity to bolster my own self-selected spiritual journey. Continue reading

A Discouraged Child

“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21

On Sunday I read Colossians, and one of the verses struck me – boldly affirming of how well God knows us and our natures, the immediate and lasting value of loving relationships, as well as the gift of finding new words in God’s timeless messages to us.

I was reading the verses around this one, the ones made more familiar by weddings and sermons; then when reading about parent/child relationships I heard consequences that God felt grave enough to mention it here for the ages: a discouraged child.

I know exactly what that looks like – in me, in those I love, and in the life of friends who experienced childhood abandonments (passive and not-so-passive) and it is not right. Enough not right that God chose these particular words (in this translation anyway) to vehemently call it out as a “don’t do”!

He could have said: don’t provoke lest your child will not turn out right, abandon you, shame you, be filled with demons or be burned up like dry grass. But He didn’t. Simply and concisely God reminds us of the generational consequences of our actions, and the importance of a parent’s role in protecting a child’s sense of encouragement in themselves, their purposes and their faith.

This Book is filled with God’s Word that strikes an ear with newness and love when I look for relatable issues and problems and loving support and suggestions. Today the main take away for me is: God does not want us to be, or become, discouraged – at least not as a result of a parent’s selfish/self-willed provoking ways.

That’s a gem worth looking for on a Sunday morning.

Why does it feel so wrong when we do something so right?

Today I had a bittersweet visit with a friend who had to say no to what at first appeared to be a promising new relationship. Darn it. I hated that it wasn’t going to work out for her, and once again I marvel at the courage I see in her saying “no” when “yes” would have been so much more fun.

At least for a little while.

It made me think: why do we get thrown these emotional curve balls when we are trying to change self-sabotaging patterns in relationships with food, with money, with others and with ourselves? And, why does it feel so wrong when we do something so right?

I believe it is common for the universe (and I don’t really mean God here) to deploy decoys during the early stages of going into a new direction; practicing new behaviors in old dysfunctional fields of habits. It’s a human, just-how-this-works kind of thing. When options come up that look like invitations to return or keep the old, like when an old boyfriend calls or a way too-expensive-for-our budget couch goes on sale, I don’t see it anymore as some maniacal testing of faith.

With faith in ourselves and the decisions we made in saner moments, these alluring teasers can be soulfully-lead opportunities to review and renew our commitment to our higher selves. And a time to ask again, “Is this what I really want now, and for the long haul”? “Is this a path to better ways or a course of choices paved in illusions of least resistance”?

The temptress becomes the teacher when we can pause in willingness to listen for the voice of our soul, and wage today’s discomfort against tomorrow’s peace.

After the initial exciting glee or disappointment, depending on what I allow my true self to hear, I have a chance of welcoming the “no” as practice and “yes” as a statement that I do choose the healthier option. The yes becomes a choice in reinforcing new ideals, where I want to be, and declaring to the universe and to myself that “Yes! This new path is what I want, and I am willing to risk and experience the uncomfortable feelings that may come with change!”

Where God comes in (and here I do mean God) is right beside me to help me first see the truth and value in saying no, then to bring on the power to actually say no, with comfort as Counselor of gentle assurances that something better is coming my way.

Something or someone even more loving becomes possible because I am willing to experience the pain of a no for the potential joy of the yes.

The saying “you are being dramatic” was used when I was a discouraged child in tears of disappointment, abandonment or disregard, or the artistic young woman in love who wanted to see New York City. Worse though was the silence that asked me to avoid and deny what was breaking my heart or what I didn’t understand. It didn’t work then, and now if I listen to the language of old it is the beginning of a death march towards depression and self-imposed denial of who and what I am.

So now when the old shows up, by invitation to say yes to a past that I know in my heart-of-hearts has not changed for the good, or suggestion to swallow feelings and stay silent and quiet when my heart is full of pain or joy, I am practicing saying no to the stagnant stillness, and saying yes to the whispering song of my Soul.

And when the yes to the good feels more wrong than the no, we can do this together with ideal in hand and God in our hearts.

Welcome to this space – a gathering place for the mind, body and soul.