I recently had a horrible dream. It was the night before a new treatment started and over a series of very odd events in which scenes were short, intense, and highly charged. In very quick succession I experienced paralyzingly fear, violent rage, crushing grief, and generally amounts of confusion. And then the strangest thing happened.
In the final part of the dream, there were dozens of people in hospital gowns awaiting radiation treatment. With each patient there were one or two family members or friends. Then we were in some sort of assembly. I was by myself, barely aware of what was happening as I was totally depleted and hopeless. And then one man began to sing a song of worship.
As the song began I wasn’t really aware of it, and the crowd began to join in. Then I found myself quietly joining in with a harmony line. As we sang I felt my spirit return, lifting me back up, and calming my emotional wounds. The worship reached a huge climax with the same man leading.
In the silence, I began to sing a simple prayer of hope. The very act of the worship had led me back to hope.
I often have very vivid memories of my dreams, and this day was no exception. The events and images from the first part of the dream continued over the next couple days, and yet as much as they were disturbing to me, the hope remained. This can be the power of worship and prayer in our real lives as well, and for that I am profoundly grateful to God!
Before I get to the actual story today I think some back-story is necessary. There are two things you need to know about me to truly appreciate this. First, I hate flies! Second, I am a fly magnet! When I was in my early teens I was camping with my parents at Kedji National park in nova Scotia. Almost every day we went for hikes. One early evening we were out for a hike and I saw my first deer fly ever. In fact, I saw many, many deer flies! I have to say I was totally freaking out about the flies; swatting and jumping and begging to go back to the car. My father, in his wisdom, told me to stop complaining and that I was making a big deal out of just a few flies. I did survive the evening and we finally turned around and went back to the car and home to tent-sweet-tent. Years later Dad told me that it was a good thing I couldn’t see my back, as I was totally covered!
After supper tonight I walked the Labyrinth at the Tatamagouche Center. As I began the walk I was greeted by a few late season mosquitos. The idea of the walk is as meditation so I took a moment, while brushing off the flies, to decide if I would go ahead even knowing that where there are a few mosquitos there will soon be many more. I persevered. Hands in the pockets of my hooded sweater and the hood up to protect the back of my neck I set out.
I am happy to say that, other than not spending any time sitting on the bench at the center, I completed the walk at a good leisurely pace with my mind focused on questions of wanting things I don’t need. What I noticed was that the structure of labyrinth freed my mind from thinking about where I was going. The focus was on that next step God had laid out for me without looking longingly at the goal ahead. This is something I have not done enough in my life, and I suspect this is the case for many of you as well. If we can ignore the buzzing and biting flies and keep our focus on God’s path as it lights up ahead of us imagine the barriers we won’t even notice.
As most people on the Eastern seaboard know, hurricane Irene has been developing and then moving northward for several days now. In her wake she has been leaving destruction, cancellations, power outages and deaths. They have been broadcasting warnings to prepare for emergency survival for days now. In areas used to hurricanes and tornadoes I imagine everyone takes the warnings very seriously. In New Brunswick, where the storms are almost always downgraded and getting tired before they reach us, I think a lot of people talk about the upcoming bad weather but then don’t really do anything much to prepare. Boaters take precautions to ensure their boats are neither smashed against the docks, nor set loose from moorings. One of my friends on Face Book said we are supposed to be making 72 hour survival kits and practicing escape routes, but I only heard of one person actually stocking up on water and groceries.
This reminds me of the story of Noah’s Ark (Genesis 6-9). God had warned people that they needed to make changes, repent and live according to His laws. They didn’t. He warned of consequences. They ignored Him. Only Noah listened and took the directions God gave to prepare for surviving the storm. Everyone else went about their everyday lives, taking time out to gossip and laugh about Noah and the huge boat he was building in the middle of dry land. As you know, however, Noah and his family were the only ones to survive the flood of which everyone had been warned! Why didn’t the others listen? Why do most of us still not listen when we are given advance warning?
Clearly Irene is not a storm of the magnitude of the one which caused the Great Flood! It is not going to rain for forty days, and forty nights. If we are ignoring the warnings about this storm, though, what greater warnings may we likewise be ignoring? Are we so comfortable and complacent that we don’t realize the dangers our souls face in the midst of our modern societies? If you have been hit by hurricane Irene (or tropical storm) I pray that you are safe and unharmed and surrounded by your family. For those still in the path, take reasonable precautions and then maybe take some time to watch the rain and the trees swaying in the wind, remember that we have been warned, and pray that we are ready to hear and heed your warnings about upcoming storms in our lives so that we may, like Noah, be prepared and, with God’s help, survive!
Posted in Reflections
Tagged Bible, Christianity, faith, God, hurricane, Irene, listening to God, prayer, preparations, problems, reflection, storms, survival, warnings, worry
A while back I went out for coffee with a good friend. During the course of the conversation we touched on many subjects. She was sharing with me that she had been going for Reike treatments (is that the correct term?) for a while and she said she had an amazing experience at her last session. She shared the following story with me, and asked as well that I share it with you;
My wish is to have peace and taking part in a Reiki experience has given me this sense of peace and serenity.
My last two experiences have been quite different from my earlier sessions. During these session I encountered my angel. Initially, I saw two glowing lights moving around each other as if they were playing joyfully with one another. I felt happiness and an immense sense of joy, an almost childlike sense that only the present moment mattered. From the lights, a presence developed as an outline. The outline gradually became more visible until I could see a hooded figure there with me. I could not see his/her face. During this time I could see part of a wing that was a vibrant white in color. The energy that was present was very strong and real.
I can’t remember much else regarding this encounter but the feeling that I wasn’t alone. It was as if I was at another level compared to the earthly one. The message that came from this was to enjoy life, have fun and laugh. And more importantly, that I am not alone because my angel that is a very strong one at that is with me at all times. This in turn gives me strength during my spiritual journey called life. Is it possible that this other level is the spiritual parallel place of holiness?
Angels, are they real? I’ll look into this in a future post with help/reference to Calvin’s Institutes.
Photo credit to Miemo Penttinen, miemo.net
Posted in Faith, Prayers, Reflections
Tagged angels, Christianity, faith, God, help, Holy Spirit, Jesus, kindness, love, prayer, promise, quiet, reflection, reike, spirituality, stress, survival, time, worry
I am supervising exams this week at my school. Right now I am covering another teacher’s class while he has a break. This is a grade eleven math class, and if they have questions I will be of no use to them at all. I did pass math in high school but that was a very long time ago now.
What I see in front of me is a group of twenty some students with calculators, papers, and pencils. They glance back and forth between their exam, the calculator and the booklet. Some are looking off into space as if praying for divine inspiration or intervention, others are hunched right over their desks. There are looks of determination, fear, and the occasional wry smile as we briefly make eye contact. There is near silence, papers turn, pencils scratch and feet shift on the floor, but there is no talking.
When you walk into an exam room, prepared or not, you know that in the next two hours your work will be judged. If you have a good day and a following wind, your exam mark may raise your over-all grade but you know that it is more likely to go the other way. On the up side, when the hours are over, so is the course and in June that means summer break!
Many of our life evaluations, however, do not take place in a classroom and are not neatly scheduled and limited to a two-hour block of time. We are often not even aware that we are being tested; that a customer is forming judgments about our competence or friendliness; that a student is deciding whether or not we are trustworthy enough to ask for help; total strangers may be deciding whether we are doing a good job raising our children. We will never know the results of most of these tests. Unless a customer goes to complain or compliment we won’t realize that they don’t return to the store or that they avoid our check-out. The student who decides against us will just walk away, and we almost certainly will not hear the strangers opinion of our parenting.
Whether or not we have any right to evaluate the people we meet and work with, we do it naturally. Unless you are a person’s supervisor or they do something hurtful to you, I see no reason that we should share negative feedback with them. Neither do we need to share with a person the nasty thing we heard someone else say about them, though we might want to defend a friend with the person doing the criticism. What I think we do need to be doing, however, is telling people when we think positive things about them, or when we hear someone else making a positive comment about them.
We don’t hear enough positive feedback. Certainly we don’t tend to give ourselves positive feedback, we tend to focus on our flaws and our failures. This does little good, and contributes a great deal to our level of stress. It may be as little as a smile or the like button on Face Book, or as big as nominations for awards or letters of thanks, but we need to praise more, encourage more, love more!
Posted in Reflections
Tagged choices, compliment, distractions, evaluation, exam, feedback, high school, improvement, love, prayer, quiet, stress, students, survival, teachers, test, testing, time, worry
There is something special about those first few days in the spring when you can drive with your window rolled down. It isn’t the same as later in the summer when you “need” the air conditioning on in order to be comfortable in the car and it is certainly nothing at all like the dead of winter when even with the heat full blast you shiver in your seat!
Today I ran out at lunch time to get something to eat. It was so beautiful out that the first thing I did when I got in the car was get all four windows rolled down. I use the term rolled down even though with power windows it is no longer representative of what we actually do. I got the picture above through creative commons from Alex Garcia on flickr.com as it is difficult, if not totally unsafe, to take a picture of your own arm out the window while driving. That short drive with the windows down was so refreshing that it was almost as if I was already in the middle of my summer vacation!
When you think of how much we often struggle with stress in our lives it is amazing to have such a stress-relieving benefit from something so simple. I was even happy with listening to the car in the next lane’s booming bass from the stereo instead of considering it to be sound pollution. At your earliest opportunity get out there for a drive with the window down, the sun roof open, or the top down and marvel in the wonder of a simple sunny day!
Posted in Reflections
Tagged car windows, driving, fresh air, reflection, stress, stress relief, summer vacation, sunny day, vacation, windows down, worry
A good friend of mine teaches Sociology in our high school. One of the projects her students do is called “Who Am I?” This is intended to take them beyond their looking-glass selves, past what they think other people see in them, to their real selves. The projects are quite amazing and I always think that I have no idea how I would answer the question myself. Today, while sifting through my “junk drawer” in my desk, I ran across a note which I wrote while at a seminar on stress. The title? Who Am I?
I think that what I answered that day is pretty accurate. The part I want to talk about today is, “I don’t really feel like a grown up most of the time, even though I have three kids who are growing up.” If I don’t feel like a grown up at forty-six years of age, when will I?
Have you heard the song “I Won’t Grow Up” from Peter Pan?
Are you ready for today’s lesson?
Listen to your teacher. Repeat after me:
I won’t grow up,
(I won’t grow up)
I don’t want to go to school.
(I don’t want to go to school)
Just to learn to be a parrot,
(Just to learn to be a parrot)
And recite a silly rule.
(And recite a silly rule)
If growing up means
It would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree,
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up
I won’t grow up,
(I won’t grow up)
I don’t want to wear a tie.
(I don’t want to wear a tie)
And a serious expression
(And a serious expression)
In the middle of July.
(In the middle of July)
And if it means I must prepare
To shoulder burdens with a worried air,
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up
Never gonna be a man,
Like to see somebody try
And make me.
Anyone who wants to try
And make me turn into a man,
Catch me if you can.
I won’t grow up.
Not a penny will I pinch.
I will never grow a mustache,
Or a fraction of an inch.
‘Cause growing up is awfuller
Than all the awful things that ever were.
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up,
Let’s look at that a bit. “If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree,” I can not remember the last time I climbed a tree but I do remember spending hours reading in the maple tree in our front yard. Thinking about it now I can feel the gentle swaying of the branches in the breeze. Why don’t I climb trees anymore? I don’t think it has anything to do with dignity but possibly opportunity and the fact that I’m not at all sure my body is up to it anymore. I have found the gentle swaying of my hammock both more accessible and equally satisfying.
As for penny pinching, moustache growing and gaining height, I did reach my full height, I hope I never grow a moustache that leaves penny pinching. It is interesting that Peter associates penny pinching with being grown up. I wonder if he means the constant challenge of making the money we make stretch to accommodate the needs and perceived needs of our families. This is certainly one of the big stressors in adult life and in relationships as well.
Where Peter’s logic comes crashing down is when he sings, “Cause growing up is awfuller than all the awful things that ever were.” This is the image that we tend to give kids, sometimes directly and sometimes inadvertantly. I know some kids who have already gone through more awful things in their first eighteen years than lots of adults. Children who are abused, abandones, bullied etc. often fall into despair from our message of, “you think you have it bad now, just wait until you are an adult.” It is little wonder that the teen suicide rates are what they are!
I guess by Peter’s standards I am grown up. I shoulder the burdens of responsibility and while I make every attempt to do it with good humour and placing my faith in God, I’m sure I often wear the worried air to which he refers. But being a grown up is really awesome! The freedom and opportunities open to us as adults are amazing and I would not for a second want a young person to feel they need to avoid being grown up. At the same time, though, I still spend hours wondering what I will be when I grow up. My career as a teacher is nearing its natural end and I think a lot about what I will do then. In the meantime I plan to not take myself too seriously, and if a nice low branch offers itself I just may climb up a tree with my Kobo and settle in to read a bit!
Posted in Reflections
Tagged bully, burdens, choices, God, growing up, penny pinching, Peter Pan, promise, quiet, reflection, stress, students, teachers, tree climbing, worry
Posted in Reflections
Tagged affirmations, change, faith, forgiveness, help, improvement, kindness, problems, promise, quiet, reflection, survival, time, worry