Abundant Living

In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Big Picture

My niece and I had been trading off accompanying my sister to watch over my mom. On Thursday
Photo from America Explained
I left out the door and then came back to say goodbye to my mom.  It didn't even seem like she knew I was there; which may have been due to the morphine I'd been giving her as frequently as the physician's orders would allow.  I'd stopped by the store enroute to home; the entire trip from my mom's house takes a bit over an hour.  When I was almost home my niece called and told me that mom had just passed.  

All I could feel was gratitude.  In the early morning hours, when I'd watched my mom's body struggling for each breath she took, I'd prayed asking God to just let her go in peace.  I'd said that it was all too much, she shouldn't have it so hard.  So then, to hear she'd passed, was a relief.  I'm encouraged to know that the 1 Corinthians 5:8 assures me that those of faith are present with God when they leave these bodies behind.

I was talking with John today about how  I grateful I am for these past few months because I've been able to spend more time with mom.  I'd bring food over to her house and cook a meal that we'd share together. We'd hang out and visit.  She was still relatively healthy, and totally lucid, until the very end.  I'm so grateful that I had that time.  If I'd been working I would not have been able to spend as much time with her.  It's interesting because of course I'd been deeply disturbed when I was let go at my job.  In the ensuing months I'd applied for numerous jobs.  I'd interviewed for 4 specific jobs that I could really see myself in, knew I was qualified for, and felt I did well during the interview - but never got the job.

Looking at it now, I'm just grateful for the time I've had.  Time to be with hear when things were good.  Time with her during her last days.  There was one night during those hospice days at home that stands out in my mind.  She'd taken my hand and kissed it.  At that point she was lucid but extremely difficult to understand when she talked to us. I was surprised and touched when she did that because it was not something my mom would do.

You just never know what God's got planned.  I can only see what's right in front of me, but God's got the big picture.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Powerless

Roses are red, violets are blue  I wish to be numb, for a day or two  Take my heart, I don't want it today  But tomorrow is a different day:
Saved from Squidoo
On the good side, I'm not numb any more.  I'm not questioning inside my head if I'm capable of feeling.

It's just that I can't let go and let myself feel all the pain.  I have to put it aside for now and use my head so I can act wisely.  Seeing my mom right now - more than 2 weeks of not eating and the last 6 days of not drinking - seeing her gasping for air and the rattle in her chest.  It's awful beyond words.

All I can do it give her 0.25ml Morphine every 3 hours to ensure she's pain free.  Periodically reposition her in what would seem to be a comfortable position.   Occasionally hold her hand and say how much I love her. Sing the old hymns she so likes with the hope that it comforts her spirit.

I'm grateful that Romans 8:26 assures me that the Spirit of God helps me pray.  I have a few words to say but my heart is longing with more than I know how to say.  I don't really understand why my mom can't just die instead of going through all this.

I feel so powerless.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Transitions

We are all just walking each other home. -Ram Dass  we just talked about this quote in nursing and then here it is on pintrest :):
Photo from Pinterest page
To say that watching someone die is difficult is not accurate. For me it is a heavy feeling that weighs on the general numbness that has been my constant state for the past week.

A week ago we took my 91-year old mom to the hospital via ambulance. She'd neither ate nor drank for the past week despite our best efforts. After the first couple of days of trying to decipher what the doctor was really saying amidst her many words, I realized that my mom was entering into that last phase of her life. It took a few more days to convince my sister who lives with my mom to bring her home on hospice. My niece & I agreed to share being at the house so my sister won't be all alone with mom. My sister cries frequently & asks if I'm sure mom won't just "bounce back". As if this is a decision I'm making.

I'm okay with this all in theory. My mom has been clear her entire life that she doesn't want to die in a hospital with a bunch of tubes in her. She was clear in the hospital that she just wanted to go home. I want her to be comfortable at home, receiving the steady trickle of people whose lives she's touched who want to come hold her hand & express their love & gratitude. Although I'm extremely awkward/inefficient at it, I'm fine with doing all those "nursing tasks" surrounding hygiene & daily life for my mom.

The thing that is getting to me is watching the effects of dehydration; the dry lips and sunken facial features. I constantly apply lip balm & swab her mouth with a wet spongette to help. But nothing can totally ameliorate the effects

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Practice

Photo from Even Rocks Cry Out
I've "tried" silence and solitude twice now.

In our bedroom, on my side of the bed, I routinely take time out first thing in the morning to praise & thank God as well as engage in my prayer list.  I also read some from the Bible and reflect a bit on what I've read.  So I've now inserted time for silence before I get into the Bible reading.

Right now I'm a bit mechanical in my approach.  I set my phone timer for 5 minutes. This time amount most likely would seem paltry to most people; but for me this is where I am at, the most I can do at this time. (I have a thought that some day I'll become one of those people who takes out long stretches of time such as half a day, an entire day, or a weekend to give God their undivided attention.  But I'm not there yet.)  Five minutes of me not talking.  Five minutes of me trying to silence all those thoughts in my head.  I start by just saying "I'm yours Lord".  I end, after the timer rings, by thanking Him that He would want to talk with me.  So far I just have thoughts bouncing all over in my head as I try to quiet down.

In Invitation to Solitude and Silence Barton writes about how it can be more beneficial to acknowledge disruptive thoughts rather than try to ignore them.  She writes about how fears, concerns, and repetitive ideas can be a glimpse into our interior selves.  She encourages the reader to bring them to God.  So far, for me, it's not really like that.  It's just that my mind is all over the place.  Being silent does not come naturally to me.

I figure that I just need to do it daily. Get myself into the routine, and eventually more will come  At the very least I think that my "time with God" each day is too much about myself.  I'm praising and thanking and asking for - which is all fine and good.  But when do I listen for what God might be wanting to say to me?  Certainly my time in the Word is that...but I think there might be more.  So, I'm thinking that God knows my heart and sees that I'm trying to set things up so that I give Him my complete, undivided attention each day.  From what I know of His character, I believe He will honor this desire.  I don't know how this will look, but I'm expectant.

After silence today I read from a devotional that I've been going through.  Then I took some time to review a book that we're going to be facilitating at church for a women's Bible study starting next month.  As I was glancing through the Bible study workbook my attention caught on a page with a photo of a woman who leads a prison ministry.  When I saw that picture a voice in my head said I want to do that. I certainly have the time right now; and even when I'm working again, I can take a few hours one evening a week or on the weekend to do something.   I have been blessed in my life to have a few people, who at various stages in my life, invested in me.  I've had some times in my life when I've been able to invest in others, but not as much as I'd like.  My heart always wants to be there for others when they are going through tough times.  But it does not naturally happen for me that I connect with people in this way very often.

So I went online and happened upon Prison Fellowship ministries.  I've been peripherally involved with them in the past through Project Angel Tree; when my children were little, some years we would buy presents to donate to Angel Tree as our family Christmas service project. I remember, years ago, reading about Chuck Coleson and his vision when starting this ministry.  As I looked through ministry opportunities on the website today I was drawn to opportunities to mentor a female prisoner directly prior to and/or following her release.  I thought about how tough it is for people to get jobs once they have a prison record.  I reflected on how some people in this situation don't have a healthy support system. I know that life is hard.  No one can take away life's hardships or pain.  But, in my experience, having someone to come along side and go through the hard times - not being alone - can be very powerful. I want to do that for someone. So I completed a very brief application and I guess I'll be contacted.  We'll see what happens.

I don't know if the silence time and this opportunity to serve are related. I do know that over the past few years I've been trying to implement what I call "immediate obedience". This is the immediate obedience thing, theory and my practice, in a nutshell:

I've often encountered Christians writing or talking about hearing God tell them stuff.  I've never actually heard a voice.  But sometimes there are thoughts in my head, that sound just like all the other thoughts, that I think are the voice of the Holy Spirit within me.  You know how when you're listening to the radio sometimes the station doesn't come in clear and it's all static-y?  Sometimes the God thoughts are like that for me.  I can't really hear them well.  I've noticed that when I spend time praising God, being thankful throughout the day, being aware of God, reading the Bible, reading books related to God, listening to uplifting Christian music, etc. that it's easier for me to hear what I think are the God thoughts. Under those conditions, these thoughts seem to come in more clearly.  Another thing that I've noticed makes it easier to differentiate the God thoughts from my own thoughts is what I call immediate obedience.

Immediate obedience is when I do what the thought is.  For example, the thought may be to go give that homeless person I see some money.  Or it may be to write an encouraging email to a specific person.  It can be all kinds of things.  I'm not absolutely sure that these specific thoughts are from God - but I figure if the thought is to do good for someone, it can't but be good to do it.  I've  also noticed that those specific types of inclinations or thoughts are typically the easiest for me to ignore.  Because I'll counter those thoughts with ones like Oh I'm too busy, or, my little bit of money won't really help the real problem, or some other reason not to do the thing.  It's very easy for me to get caught up on my own agenda for the day and the flow of the tasks for daily living. But I've found that when I think it's a God-thought for me to do something, and I do that thing right away (what I refer to as immediate obedience), that I can hear the God-thoughts in general more clearly.  When I engage in immediate obedience, there is less static in my head.









Thursday, February 9, 2017

Realizing powerlessness

rope You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope with less of you there is more if god and his rule:
Photo from Makeover
One of my favorite scriptures is the portion of Jesus' famous sermon on the mount that we refer to as the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12. I'm especially delighted by the way Peterson paraphrases the first verse in The Message: 

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you  there is more of God and his rule.

My first marriage was to an alcoholic.  I became rather crazy trying to  control that poor man's drinking.  I finally got myself into Al-Anon. I'll  forever be grateful for Al-Anon because it was there that I learned about 12 step programs.  The first step that they talk about is accepting the fact that you are powerless.

The importance of recognizing my own powerlessness is the foundation for life.

When speaking of solitude and silence Dallas Willard once said that "it is a fallacy to think that one just needs more time. Unless a deeper solution is found, "more time" will just fill up the same way as the time we already have.  The way to liberation and rest lies through a decision and practice. The decision is to release the world and your fate, including your reputation and success, into the hands of God."  Willard goes on to observe that "Sin, Paul tells us, "was in the world", even before the law came. It forms us internally and pressures us externally. Hence we must learn to choose things that meet with God's actions of grace to break us out of the system. These things are disciplines of life in the spirit, well known from Christian history but much avoided and misunderstood.  For those who do not understand our desperate situation, these disciplines look strange or even harmful.  But they are absolutely necessary for those who would find rest for their soul in God and not live the distracted existence Pascal so accurately portrays. Solitude and silence are the most radical of the spiritual disciples because they most directly attack the sources of human misery and wrongdoing.  To be in solitude is to choose to do nothing. For extensive periods of time. All accomplishment is given up. Silence is required to complete solitude, for until we enter quietness, the world still lays hold of us. When we go into solitude and silence we stop making demands on God. It is enough that God is God and we are his. We learn we have a soul, that God is here, and that the world is my Father's world."

I appreciate Ruth Haley Barton's comments concerning the practices of solitude and silence.  In her book Invitation to Solitude and Silence she talks about her inner demons of the desire to perform, to be seen as competent, productive, culturally relevant and balanced as major obstacles to the practice of solitude and silence. I struggle with these same issues.  To "do nothing" seems crazy.  I feel anxious even thinking about it.  I get busy thinking about it to avoid doing it.

But...the desire for more is still there.  The fact that I can't seem to work out what to be doing in my life right now exists.  In my application for 150 different jobs that have not resulted in employment, I see the fact that I'm not making "it" happen.

Seeking Solitude and Silence

I really like this one. It seems lonely, but its how it was supposed to be.:
Photo from gentleman essentials
Blaise Pascal noted that "all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own room", he found that the reason for this inability is "the natural poverty of our feeble and mortal condition, so miserable that nothing can comfort us when we think of it closely". Pascal said that people turn to diversion to distract us from ourselves.  He explained that "Hence it comes to people so much love noise and stir; hence it comes that the prison is so horrible a punishment; hence it comes that the pleasure of solitude is a thing incomprehensible".

This seems true of the world I see around me. In the culture around me I see a constant addiction to cell  phones and listening devices.  When I've traveled and shared rooms with people from work, I've found that it is common practice to never allow there to be any quiet; that people turn on the TV when they enter a room even though they're not watching it.  People tell me that they do this all the time at home.  This drives me crazy.  Aside from work or to obtain information, I don't use my cell phone much.  I adore long walks at the beach, or any beautiful outdoor place, without any kind of listening device.  I want to just drink in and enjoy the silence.

Pascal also observed that people are driven to diversion and develop the confused idea that rest is attained through excitement. He wrote that people "always to fancy that the satisfaction which they do not have will come to them if, by surmounting whatever difficulties confront them they can thereby open the door to rest".  I can see that in the frenzied vacation pursuits of so many.  Not that exciting vacations in and of themselves are wrong; in fact, that might be very right for some one.  It's just that I don't think these excitement laden activities will produce the peace, connection to God, and rest for the soul. As long as exciting vacations are pursued for what they are, they can be great.

Pascal believed that people have "another secret instinct, a remnant of greatness of our original nature, which teaches that happiness in reality consists only in rest, and not being stirred up". When I think about these words of Pascal I'm reminded of these Bible elements:
  • In Genesis we're told that man was created in God's image
  • In the Garden of Eden there was not sin and man had perfect communication with God
  • In the old testament I read about the sabbath and a rest.  In the Exodus story God provided manna for His people and they only collected enough for their daily needs.  But on the 6th day they collected enough for that day plus the sabbath rest day.
  • In the new testament Jesus made His famous statement in Matthew 11:28 - 29 about how He'll give us rest.

I  recognize that, although I'm not as addicted to the noise agents of my culture, I have my own barrier.  It's something I developed during my lonely childhood in my crazy family.  I write scripts in my head.  Sometimes it's about what could or might happen in my own life, but frequently it's a story about someone else in a life with such and such going on.  It's like I read a fiction book of my own making in my head while I'm walking, cooking, or engaging in some other life activity which doesn't require concentration. This thing that I do isn't bad in and of itself, but sometimes I use it as a barrier from the pain or questions in my head that I don't know what to do with.  Sometimes I use it as an escape.

 I think that Pascal, and all the other mystic and contemplative writers, were onto something.

So, it is with this in mind that I've determined to embark upon a quest to understand and implement what many refer to as spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Adrift

Explore petervanallen's photos on Flickr. petervanallen has uploaded 4362 photos to Flickr.:

Right now I'm a bit lost.

I'm jobless and looking.  I've applied to 150 positions, engaged in phone interviews for 9 jobs, made it to face to face interviews for 3 jobs, and mentally tried-on-and-got-excited about 4 positions that never panned out.

During this time I:
  • Completed 2 required courses for the MA program I'm working on
  • Came upon a free treadmill and started walking 4 - 5 miles daily while watching TV (mostly Taiwanese dramas)
  • Spent bunches of time cooking for, and visiting with, my 92-year old mother
  • Hosted all 3 of my sons + girlfriend + wife + girlfriend's daughter + grand daughter for the Christmas and New Year holidays
  • Been blessed to make numerous beach trips to HB that included long walks at low tide with John at Bolsa Chica or Sunset beaches
  • Read numerous fun, fiction, books
  • Visited my oldest son, wife, & granddaughter in Texas
  • Engaged in numerous discussions with my youngest son regarding his dreams, goals and future
  • Prayerfully tried to provide requested advice to my middle son regarding his relationship with his girlfriend and his finances 
  • Started learning Spanish using a free phone app (Duolingo)
  • Prepared to help facilitate the new women's Bible study at church
  • Engaged in lengthy theology and/or political discussions with John

I know that God has a plan and I choose to trust Him.  Sometimes my emotions are right there with me, and sometimes I struggle with feeling like a failure.  One thing I have noticed is that my job and my identity and way too strongly linked together.

Right now I'm especially feeling adrift because I only need 3 more courses to complete this MA program and none of them are offered right now. I feel as if I've applied for every possible job for which I can think of and am a bit lost as to what to do next.  I'm grateful that John's income makes it so that all our needs are met so I don't have a lot of financial pressure.

But I want more.......

I want to do more
be more
experience more
help other people more
and I'm unclear where to start

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