Today has been an interesting day. The plans for our trip are changing daily. I may stay home part of the time. Family may stay here. We will just take one day at a time.
Someone that I read today said that learning to turn ourselves off in prayer or meditation is an ego-ectomy. To do either we have to let go of ourselves and place ourselves in the unknown or the hands of god. We let our own thoughts and the clutter of our minds drift away. I used to be able to do that. I can remember being able to let go to the point that I felt “out of body.” I was lifted up off the floor. I long to have that experience again. I am trying to get back there but it does take time and practice. When you start out thoughts crowd in and want to take over. With time, the ability to “center down” (Quaker expression) becomes easier.
It is so easy to go off the deep end about something that is really not important. The fact that I can’t walk through my office is insignificant at this moment. My bed will get made and the laundry will get done. Eventually. There will not be anyone coming in to inspect. One day at a time is all we have to handle. Remember that!
I worked for a Lutheran church and I now go to an Episcopal church. I love liturgy. It has form and function. In the midst of a chaotic world it continues an age old pattern. That gives me comfort.
We are now in the season of Advent. Advent arrives in the darkest time of the year. Where I live it has been gloomy for the last week. We have had cold and rain. The sky is gray, the trees are gray…it feels as if the world is gray. The weather at this time of the year can be really depressing.
We are at the time of the year when a lot of the world is preparing for the (dare I say) Christmas holidays. Hanakkuh is also being celebrated. Even people who have no religious background or affiliation get into the season. It is hard to resist lights, trees, and presents. The commercial world is pumping out enticing ads and people are binge watching holiday movies. For most people the mood is bright.
However, this can be a difficult time for some. Think about those for whom this time of year is hard. For the homeless it is just cold and miserable. We see them huddled on the streets and in cardboard boxes cringing away from the cold. Those who have lost loved ones during this season struggle with their loss. There are so many memories. People who are without family or friends see the season highlighting their loneliness.
This can be a wonderful time. Anticipation can be joyful. It can also be devastating. Look around you at those who suffer in Advent. What is coming for them can be sad and lonely. Do what you can to help.
As I read the blogs in my reader and explore the writings of those who read my blog I am struck by the wideness of differences in our lives. Yet, we are alike. Something written has caused us to connect in some way.
The view of lives in far away places and close to home expands my understanding. I see the simple, everyday moments people experience and I feel a kinship with their thoughts. The writing is a window into other lives. We are more alike than we are different. Most of the joys and sorrows are the same. Most of us encounter love and hate. Most of us have seen grief in some way. Most of us long for a better, more loving world.
Surely this glimpse into another life, another world, will draw us closer together. Understanding blocks hatred. The desire to reach out and draw closer will surely open the path to deeper relationships where hatred has no home. We can give love the chance to grow and encompass those around us.
This morning the pastor at our church said in her sermon…spoken to God….“Let me not confine you in the narrowness of my mind.” This is a very profound statement.
Whatever your belief, if you espouse any God, this tells us where most of us want to be. We want a God who is like us. We want to create God in our image instead of the other way around. We want a God who thinks like us. We want a manageable God.
If God is like us then God has the same bias, the same prejudice and the same belief system. Then it is easy for me to point fingers at others and scoff at their beliefs. It allows me to pick and choose what God thinks. Aren’t I amazing?
This God can occupy a nice closed box in my mind and I will only let out what I deem appropriate. However, God is tricky and sneaks out of the box in and plants ideas that I don’t want to consider. He/she is constantly challenging me and widening my mind, calling me on prejudices and making me rethink my ideas.
It is abundantly clear to me that however much I could live with God in a box that is not going to happen. And in reality it would not be something I want.
I see a God who is infinite and intimate. I see a God whose mind I cannot comprehend. I see a God whose thoughts are so far above mine that the universe can’t contain them. Maybe this is not at all comfortable but this, for me, is God.
One of my word press reads talked about having a 26 hour day. It reminded me of the book about Alzheimer’s with that name. Living with someone whose mind is slipping away moment by moment is excruciating. It is hard on those who are losing themselves day after day but it is harder still on those who are watching it happen. Losing the person you love until they no longer know you is beyond terrible.
I have worked with families dealing with this crisis and it is so difficult and painful. It is so hard to cope when the muddled mind changes reality. Caregivers want so badly to correct the thinking and this exacerbates the situation. We want so much to bring them back to who they were and caregivers have to learn to live into the persons reality. I used to visit someone who thought he was living his 20 year ago life. When we talked I had to accept his viewpoint and talk with him about life as he was living it. This is much more difficult for the caregivers.
As the disease progresses management at home can become impossible. Frequently the patient has something called “sundowners.” This means that they are alert when everyone else needs to sleep. A friend of mine’s mother climbed out a window in the middle of the night to “go home.” How can the average family cope with someone who could leave the stove on starting a fire or turns on the bathtub faucet flooding the house? Caregivers are stressed and exhausted.
In the USA the other problem is the cost of care. Many people have to manage care at home with little help. Their day becomes the 26 hour day. Be kind and compassionate for those who are care-giving someone with this illness. Help where you can. Their life is disintegrating one moment at a time.
One of the most important things to accept and understand is that each of us is loved. I am not talking about the love of another person but the love that surrounds us. For me, there is a love that pervades the universe. We learn to accept that each of us is unique and as such never to be again. Our time on earth is a gift. We have to make choices about how we use that gift. We didn’t seek that gift. It was given freely and without expectation of some sort of return.
If we can accept that we are loved then we have love to give away to others. Not just people but also to the earth that we inhabit. There are times when we don’t feel any love directed toward us. We feel alone, alienated, and abandoned. We must learn to pull away from this idea. Regardless of how unimportant or unnoticed we feel we must accept the fact that we matter.
To me this feeling of being left out, ostracized and without meaning is insidious and can trap us in depression. Sometimes it is hard to believe that love surrounds us. You can see it as God, or whatever form you accept but it is there.
When you are in a bad place and can’t see your way remember the love and know that you can reach out and find a way out of the darkness. There is always a way.
On my route to town I pass a colony of homeless people who have set up a camp underneath an overpass. There are tents there and open areas to congregate. There are trees and a forest-like setting. Basically they have formed a community. They have been there for a good while and are law abiding. The police don’t bother them and have actually helped at times. A porta-potty company has put and potty there which they empty at their own expense. An Episcopal priest has formed a church for them and most attend.
This is a thriving community. Most of them don’t work except for odd jobs. They don’t pander on the streets or beg. Some of the churches in the area offer meals. On the whole they do ok.
Often I have heard people ask why these homeless don’t seek more that the community has to offer? Why they want to stay where they are? For the first time today I had an aha moment. They have found a place where they are understood and feel welcome. They are a bonded community. They help each other and form friendship. They are accepted.
I finally got it. I understand. They have found their safe place. It may seem a poor choice to us but to them it is a home. No wonder they don’t want to leave.