Memorial Day …. Remembering those who spare themselves from remembering.

“The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; he saves those who have lost all hope.” –Psalm 34:18

hardships

My brother Mike was a highly decorated Vietnam Vet. Among his medals, his highest honor was the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart with “V” for acts of valor and heroism.

From the start, God had generously gifted my brother with brilliance and qualities that made bystanders stop and stare. Unfortunately, he had experienced a rough home life. In his teenage years, solace arrived in form of alcohol that turned its thieving head, stole his free will and enslaved him for the rest of his life.

After graduating high school, he signed up for the military, hoping to escape. Little did he realize that he left the home of hell only to saunter into a corridor of despair that lead to a door of destruction and death. Serving two tours of combat, with a six-month stint at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., in between.

When he left home to Vietnam, Mike was broken in half. Upon his return home, he was a shattered man. My brother, who bore the soul of a gentle giant, with nine fingers on two hands–one lost in battle–lived a life of soul sickness and hurt, a walking PTSD statistic. Faith alluded him as if it was someone else’s shadow.

“What is the meaning of life?” I asked my older brother on numerous occasions.

His answer, short and sweet. “Survival.”

His answer flat, his macabre (Is that all there is?) slant on life apparent.

I know he believed in God, but did Mike have faith in a greater good? I do not have the answer to that question. I do know, however, between the war in Vietnam and the war he lived through in civilian life, his wounds ran deep.

Fortunately, in his later years Mike found peace in nature. In a tiny cabin alone in the woods, he found predictability in his sunflowers and vegetable gardens.

Shorty after Mike experienced a stroke, I looked into his eyes, and saw what felt like the opposite of infinite. Through my prayers and tears, that was all there was.  A few days later, at 55 years old, he finally met the peace that alluded him his entire life.

On memorial Day I especially feel his presence. I visualize him again the last time I saw him 15 years ago. Standing with his dog tall and proud like the tree behind him. I picture myself waving good-bye to him as I had on that last day, saying how I loved him, wanting so desperately to twist the emptiness out of him like a sponge and in its place sop up abundance. Goodness. Joy. Peace. Instead, I met his empty but forgiving eyes and accepted him as his own man with his own faith; knowing you cannot present faith to someone like a medal. Fortunately, if you love with faith, you will discover endurance even in the bone dry pieces of the heart.

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

true Christian faith

touched by an angel

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I met a vet

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4poppy-field

I met a vet. I met Frank two days ago at a business function, 18 days before Memorial Day. We were two strangers dressed in business suits. Business topics connected us until the divine spark in our hearts led us to a more personal level. I learned Frank had a 10-year army career; three combat tours. After his discharge from the military, he then entered the corporate ranks until he decided to live his true passion and work as a counselor assisting small businesses procure new contracts. In his spare time, he is founder of a non-profit that helps black-owned business enterprises grow.

Frank’s career background, including a master’s degree under his belt, is impressive but it is not what I carried home with me after day’s end. What inspired me and imprinted my heart most was a photograph he showed me. The year: 1991. Two 19-year-old army soldiers happily nested in a jeep. I couldn’t see the photo on his phone clearly, but I espied a pair of military dog tags on the white guy, Frank’s best bud in the army. In fact, they were so apparent to me, a proud sister of two army veterans, I could hear their ting in my mind.

“It’s my birthday today. That’s the day he was killed. Every year on my birthday, I send this picture of us to everybody I know,” Frank explained.

For over two decades, Frank celebrates his birthday by celebrating his friend’s memory. Not his friend’s death, mind you, but his life.

In-Flanders-Fields

“We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.”

Season after season, Frank’s ritual has ensured that his friend is not forgotten and accents his short life with meaning

Even though I only spoke to Frank for less than a half hour on his birthday, what impressed me most was his loyalty. His courage. Most of all his faith. Despite experiencing trial and anguish in his young life, Frank’s pilgrimage is gallant and glorified. I am certain, he has felt shattered a million times over, stumbled and fell, but always managed to pick up and re-bandage the pieces of his heart if only to bring promise and hope of a new day to others.Poppy-1jzy3h8

And what of his friend? His friend is alive, always young, brimming, too, with a promise and hope that tings from heaven. He is relishing in every glorious breath Frank has taken in all the years that have passed since the early 90s; all along whispering to Frank: “Soldier on.”

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

true Christian faith

touched by an angel

“All there is is love!”

Love conquers all

Love conquers all

Do everything in love. ~1 Corinthians 16:14 

A bush of gray messy hair. Dusty work boots. Though he had a small frame, my friend John had a linebacker’s shoulders and a voice that could make an angel’s words sound mean.  A tough bird living a tough life, for many years he was a chronic alcoholic and as unapproachable as a rat in a gutter.

Fortunately, he did find recovery from the disease of alcoholism for nearly forty years. Don’t get me wrong, John did not travel the easy street of sober life. Demons always engaged him in battle, one in particular, an uncontrollable rage issue, threw him behind bars during his mid-sobriety.

Nonetheless, whether he was up or down, his all-around mantra was “All there is is love!”

I’ve had my own demons over these last 31 years. Though uncontrollable rage, fortunately, has not been one of them, at least not for the last 21 years, anger and resentment is another story. I have a collection of easy-to-reach injustices in the form of people, places and things. In fact, they are attractive and invade my mind dressed in fine jewelry and inflate my ego and puff me up to feel like I am PROactive and righteous; but the truth is, no matter how powerful they feel, anger and resentment undermine our lives and throw us in the chamber of darkness, cloud our vision and defeat our primary purpose(s) in life. To become stuck in destructive emotion is to kill motion. Without motion, there is no life.

Therein lay the legacy that John left me. If you are running out of faith, try Love first. Love is the pill that the pharmaceutical companies can’t compete with. Whenever I feel upset, I hear John’s words, “All there is is love!” The minute I hear those words, I breathe, feel at ease, accept. My blood pressure deflates along with my ego, and the road ahead is clear and manageable; not easy, mind you, but in the right frame of mind, gratitude unfolds its magical carpet.

Don’t get me wrong, don’t expect the uneven terrain to disappear; instead, a happy surrender means a cease fire to an unnecessary fight and only then can we allow our vision to move from the uneven terrain and, instead, shift our focus on the new flower shoots along the path.

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

touched by an angel

touched by an angel

HOW TO BE A PRAYER WARRIOR, ONE LINE AT A TIME–FINALE!

Today completes our daily spiritual inspiration, meditating on the long version of the Serenity Prayer, which breaks down to 6 lines of thought for 6 easy, but effective days of prayer.supremely happy

We are not moving in chronological order, so please join us as we continue.

Line 7, Day 7 is: *

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

During my adolescence, I discarded religion, leaped on the fast track of a sinner’s life and, finally, in my mid-twenties haphazardly tumbled into the spiritual Land of Oz. Right before the new dawn in my life, I became gravely ill, was rushed to the hospital and had a near-death experience. The slap of the nurse’s hand was a rude awakening back to residing in the bowels of the personal hell that I had built. You see, I had a positive experience clinically dying. I had entered a dimension where I had been freed and stripped of the confines of my physical and mental state; in other words, all pain, worry and necessity.

It’s been a long time since that slap back to the real world. Through the many decades of recovery, I now belong to a group of peers whose jam-packed history involves, among other things, the agony of playing hurt.

In fact, we have an ongoing joke, “Thank God we don’t have much longer.”

To an outsider, this statement may sound morbid. But to us, we’ve survived many trials, in addition to the world’s garden variety of evil; the stuff that double locking your front door forever is all about. Despite it all, we hobble forward, many times still tripping along the way. We are not victims, instead survivors. Advancing in age, we habitually pray to retire from the challenge of letting go and healing and, more so, for the ordinary life.

Whether we are a cursed bunch or a blessed flock is debatable, depending on the given day and circumstances. One thing certain, we are relieved to know that this world does not mark the finish line; meanwhile, dwelling here “reasonably happy” is the best blessing we can get. Innately we know, the spiritual Land of Oz is underrated compared to what awaits behind the gateway of our eternal home with Him.

Amen.

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

* Off one day!

HOW TO BE A PRAYER WARRIOR, ONE LINE AT A TIME

What God is

What God is

Today, I hope you join our community, if you haven’t already, in some daily spiritual inspiration as we meditate on the long version of the Serenity Prayer, which breaks down to 6 lines of thought for 6 easy, but effective days of prayer.

We are not moving in chronological order, so please join us as we continue.

Line 5, Day 5 is:*

Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will.

Ahhhh! Sweet surrender. To me, this is the stress breaker prayer. It defines the question, “What is spirituality?”

The proof of God is in the calming of my hyperactive thoughts. White flag surrender like sin has gotten a bad rap these days.

If you trust your higher power—God, Jesus—Good Orderly Direction, and feel He loves you, then isn’t it a practical move to allow Him, not you, the center ring in the watchtower that stands over your world? I cannot get into God’s mind, but I have to reckon with the fact that he IS God and sees the divine. I, within my mortal confines, only see a sliver of truth. I do not know why babies die or why floods wash away entire villages, but I do know that I reap my strength, comfort, courage and ultimate peace from Him.

If I believe he is the sole proprietor of the reset button, after all, he created it, then why should worry riddle me? I truly am powerless. When I am sharing the bed with my control freak, the fix-it visualization is a tree branch stricken by a violent storm. If it bends in the direction of the wind, the branch will never break or crack. I visualize my spine, limber like Gumpy. Then I can hobble forward and attempt a proactive action.

When I surrender to His will, I release my position in the command center and the false sense of controlling the universe. I am aghast at how stupidly powerful I think I am. I feel best when I hand over the steering wheel to Him and my ego takes a respite in the backseat.

Through my adolescence into my early 20s, fighting, in a constant rage, I was like a cracked, splintered branch, totally useless in a hurt form.

“Surrender to win. Surrender to win.”

My dear friend George, who accurately interpreted my will of steel, persistently repeated to me whenever I saw him, which back then was on a daily basis. Some five years prior to my knowing him, he was involved in a near-fatal drunk driving accident, driving his automobile into a tree. After the EMT team resuscitated him, he survived in a coma for six months in the ICU at the hospital. Astounding the medical experts, he gained consciousness.  After years of living super glued to his personal agenda, this one-time marine commander woke up; healed from the soul out and the bounce of youth even lightened the limp in his left leg, a leftover war injury.

“Surrender to win. Surrender to win.”

With a buoyancy under his heels, he still proclaims, beaming, like a schoolboy, willing and ready, excited to take on the next challenge.

I had fought George for years on that one; I resisted and bulked. Finally, about ten years after knowing him while on my journey of personal spiritual change, I began to repair all the damage that I had done to the branches of my spirit, soul and body. Now, nearly whole, I am the first to surrender to the battle ahead. By doing so, I have instant access to the switch that opens up the parachute. I like floating around life held by Grace, soaring with dignity. Ahhhh! Sweet surrender. If I could bottle this stuff, I’d make millions; of course, I’ve already hit the jackpot along with a very selective few, winners like my friend George.

* Sorry, since my life is mostly in crisis mode, I had a few days of delays in our daily prayer.

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

Effective prayer made easy

onedayatatime

Spiritual Transformation

Need short prayer help?

I invite you to take a spiritual journey with me and meditate on one line of prayer a day.

A good tool is the long version of the Serenity Prayer. The second part of the long version of the Serenity Prayer breaks down to 10 lines for 10 easy, but effective days of prayer.

Line 1, Day 1 begins:

“Living one day at a time.”

Is this an overwhelming thought? For those living with personal loss and crisis, getting out of bed can be a victory.  Break down a 24-hour day into minutes; minutes into seconds. Can you live a second at a time? Can you wrap your head around one second? In other words, living in the now? Being mindful?

Here’s an example of the one-second-at-a-time lifestyle.

Bing! Bing! (alarm rings!)

  • Action: You switch the alarm off. Self-talk: I am now turning off the alarm.
  • Action: Feet hit bedroom floor. Self-talk: I am now getting out of bed.
  • Action: Head to bathroom. Self-talk: I am now on route to the bathroom.

 Easy, huh?

  • Action: I am reading my computer screen.
  • Self-talk: I am now reading a terrific blog called, WTF (Where’s the faith?). It is a post about prayer, and I think it might just help me change my life for the better.

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

How to pray short-shorts

Healing prayer

Healing prayer

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

When we live through loss or crisis, sometimes the foxhole prayer, when you turn to God in times of extreme trials, for example, “God Help ME!” is one of the most valuable assets we have.

I gravitate towards succinct foxhole prayers. To me, when those dark days pin you down under what feels like a tomb’s weight, lightening the day’s agenda, including in the prayer department, can help give you a sense of relief and control. Rather than not praying, condensing your prayer is a good option. Don’t get stuck on thinking that prayer has to be long, formal and dogmatic.

Take the Serenity Prayer. You can break it down to four words:

  • God
  • Serenity
  • Courage
  • Wisdom

Here’s an example of how we can use short prayer daily. Each day, reciting even a handful of words makes repetition easy, thereby providing us a channel of meditative prayer.

  • Day 1: “God, serenity.”
  • Day 2: “God, courage.”
  • Day 3: “God, wisdom.”
  • Day 4: “Wisdom, God.”
  • Day 5: “Serenity & courage, God.”
  • Day 6: “Courage & wisdom, God.”
  • Day 7: “God! God! God!”

These are just examples of “short-shorts,” but these few words can be a form of powerful prayers that work. What they lack in length they make up for by stamping out the negative thought process with a substitution of words of devotion. Ideally, these simple words can act as mind armor and help guard you as you navigate and tackle the complexities of the circumstances you face.

By incorporating a word or more into your day, you will likely be surprised to see how a powerhouse of prayer can be built on sturdy resolve, not rigid mindsets.

Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

Strive to be happy

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 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hears be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27
There is a very special non-denominational chapel at High Watch Recovery Center in Kent Connecticut where I spent a good deal of my younger years. In that very place, a mishmash of everything religious and spiritual, for the very first time in my life, a life filled with pain, desperation and sadness, I felt true faith because it came from within. One of the things that influenced me so much was what was printed on the wall…”Desiderata….Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” desiderata_by_striveforpeace
I left High Watch on a venture; to sing my unique song fully as my heart cried in despair; to fail in the eye of defeat—get up, fail again; to love without reserve, on an uncertain, sometimes unsteady path, step up, trudge forward, head up, eyes fixated on a mustard seed of hope.thCAHUMSUY
Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!
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What a wonderful world

 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 

thCAAS8R0T

A number of months ago, one of my dearest friends called my cell phone and left a message on the voicemail. The catch was, she forgot to hang up.

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin’ hands, sayin’ “How do you do?”
They’re really saying “I love you”
I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll 
learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Oh yeahanimatedRainbow

You would think my friend was an opera singer in her car, booming those words alongside Louis Armstrong. My tears were not only a response to her astonishing vocal abilities but to the fact that, she, a mother who lost her son at 18, only to become a widow shortly thereafter, was the epitome of what a wonderful world it truly is as long as we can find that tiny hint of sanctuary within ourselves that we can build when we make faith the cornerstone. Again and again, I listened to my friend on the voicemail, humbled.

In the face of injustice, who am I to question “why?”  Instead, I need to raise my eyes above the sins of the world, the Calvary of the journey, and fixate on God’s masterful creation of mountain tops, skis of blue, clouds of white, and all the things I may not be aware of, but are freely and generously the constant framework of my ever-changing world.

Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

Mind Confusion: Good for you?

dance_school-1280x1024 (2)Body confusion sounds bad but is good. As my yoga coach explained, when your exercise routine becomes routine, your muscles get bored and slack off. You can schedule the same exercise routine every week, but after awhile it becomes old hat, and your body does not benefit from the workout. In other words, you have to challenge—shuffle things around; in essence, confuse the body to keep it at its best. Challenges and new moves keep you in healthy grooves!

In this same vein, if the body slacks off, wouldn’t the mind do this also? Not to minimize the impact of a life crisis, but one thing it does do is shake you up and orbit you to unfamiliar places that may feel foreign and scary at the beginning, but later as the journey unfolds, recharges the imagination and ignites the creative problem-solving juices.

For instance, before our family’s personal crisis in 2010, I could have continued to hide under some fifty extra pounds of weight and allow myself to fade into the buttermilk color walls of my house, vaporizing behind my then husband’s emotional tailspins.

Instead, nearly four years later, “mind confusion” has kicked me into over drive. Tons of new challenges undertaken…daunting jobs, grubby courtrooms, and a longtime friend who threw me under the bus just when I was about to get my bearings! With the challenges, new joys have also unfolded…dating again since 1989, the last time I had a date; neighborhood kids who come to the door with shovels during a blizzard and a late-life love who surprises me with a kiss that transplanted me back to feel sixteen again when my high school’s gym class cheered me on as I did a tap dance atop the trampoline.

Thanks to the element of surprise, total mind confusion, I not only shed the pounds, okay, some of them, but I have also had a love affair—with my femininity, my individuality, my sometimes tragic, miserable, highly interesting, amazing life, and I learned that courage doesn’t come to me naturally, but that I have to have faith and work at it…not face danger and freak out and bolt, but face danger, freak out and stare it down—a little bit longer at each new perilous zone.

In the end, I still have “the bad” confusion in my life and I struggle as a single mom. It remains an everyday challenge to be stable and balanced, especially when the mortgage due date draws closer, every month, and my mind becomes a 24-hour melee in which I must battle it out with beasts that can and will flex their muscles to frightening proportions. Then there are those days when my body joints tell me I have been squeezed out of so much youth.

Through it all, I have learned to get my shine on and dance through life as if my experience on this earth has been a skip through a meadow of wildflowers and not a plunge into an abominable pit of hot coals, employing grace and dignity at all times when tears mar the vision, but faith carries me forward through the downpour.