Love 🤍 Lives Here

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Every time I see a lawn sign: “Love Lives Here,” I think of Geraldine. She was decades older than I was and has since relocated to another state, but was my support group mentor for two years when I was in my 20s. Geraldine was a budding artist married to a world renowned architect. The couple lived by the sound in an area known as the Gold Coast, an affluent part of western Connecticut.

We spent a good amount of time driving around the area, deep in conversation about the messy sides of love and life. Every now and then, I espied a particularly luxurious house and the green-eyed monster would rear its ugly head, leading me to ask with a sneer, “Why can’t I live in a house like that?”

Geraldine’s response was always the same. “Don’t make assumptions. Facades are built to impress. We forget they are not real. The people inside are real. We do not know them. They can be poor in spirit. Sick with cancer. The facade you are looking at right now could be a cover up for domestic violence or child abuse.”

Geraldine taught me not to accept things on face value, examine beneath the surface of what appears to be real and discern the truth. It only makes sense that whenever I drive by a lawn sign, “Love Lives Here” (or any of those other saccharine signs), I immediately wonder if the sign merely conceals what is really going on inside — disease, death, destruction, dread and despair — suburban hunger and poverty.

So, this brings me to last week’s Thanksgiving holiday. We were fortunate to spend another Thanksgiving Day with my dear friend Anna and her family. The family consists of mostly well-educated, affluent medical doctors. They had invited their neighbor’s caretaker, Jose, to join us. He lives in the basement of his employers’ mega mansion. The family he works for were away for the holiday, and he was alone. In fact, this was the case last Thanksgiving when Anna and her husband also invited him to join them, taking proper precautions since it was during the pandemic’s mandatory quarantine.

It just goes to show, Anna doesn’t need to display signs of love on her lawn. You will find all the love you can imagine behind closed doors.

I had never met Jose before, but I knew he feared returning to the political and civil upheaval in his Latin country. When he arrived at the door, he wore a polyester beige top, chocolate-colored, loose-fitting trousers, with his head lowered. He grasped a burgundy wool knit hat. The skin on his hands resembled the surface of a cracked asphalt driveway. His indigo hair was sleek, straight as a piece of construction paper and held that just-brushed appearance. I would estimate he was around 50, but, maybe, the life lines covering his hardened face masked his true youth.

Realize, too, Jose does not speak a lick of English. Fortunately, Anna’s husband is fluent in Spanish, and he translated our conversations. Before our meal, Anna asked Jose to recite the prayers that he grew up with in Mexico. He willingly obliged. The words came easy like a well-worn, comfortable melody, softened with grace and elegance. I did not have a clue as to what he was saying, but I understood every word, because the language of love is universal. It tears down walls and barriers and connects us in all things good, pure and holy.

Rising above my own grief and sorrow, Jose’s eyes revealed secrets of his own sorrow as he prayed. Our connection of despair actually made me smile. We were unicorns that felt solidarity built upon a foundation of truth and faith. I realized how much I had to be thankful for, and I didn’t need a billboard to figure out that the meaning of Thanksgiving stretches to every day of the year when it is engineered with the grand and noble emotions of the human heart.

Faith Muscle

Pink Elephants

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.  The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and religious freedom have always been nonconformists.  In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist!” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King

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Over 20 years ago, as an “art in a cart” lesson volunteer, I tried to teach first-graders to draw pink elephants, but failed. By first grade, I realized these children couldn’t think beyond gray elephants and resisted coloring them in any other hue.

Don’t get me wrong, gray elephants have merit, but with an abundant palette, why not risk using an “unconventional” color?

As a writer and appreciator of art and culture, I have a penchant for asking the “Whys.” As a matter of fact, I was expelled for a day from sixth grade for “asking too many questions.”

Most people, myself included, are conformists who work in the framework of norms and respective boundaries. As I’ve grown older, I aim to find the courage to target the time when it is necessary to speak out, not freak out and act out disrespectfully and become the disciplined non-conformist.

Rep. John Robert Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and civil rights leader, who died last week is a prime example of a disciplined non-conformist. May he rest in peace and may we live up to his legacy.

My daughter illustrated another perfect example of a disciplined nonconformist. She was traveling in the Pennsylvania back roads and she spotted a sole white male holding a “Back Lives Matter” sign. He soldiered alone in his mission and, perhaps, in this particular area, risked his life doing so.

I put my faith in people with guts. People who are typically lone, unique voices.

This command not to conform comes not only from Paul but also from our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, the world’s most dedicated nonconformist, whose ethical nonconformity still challenges the conscience of mankind.

Everywhere and at all times, the love ethic of Jesus is a radiant light revealing the ugliness of our stale conformity.

In spite of this imperative demand to live differently, we have cultivated a mass mind and have moved from the extreme of rugged individualism to the even greater extreme of rugged collectivism.  We are not makers of history; we are made by history. ~

~ Excerpt from Rev. Dr. King from one of his sermons preached in November 1954 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

Here is another one of my favorite quotes from that sermon: “Or to change the figure, most people, and Christians in particular, are thermometers that record or register the temperature of majority opinion, not thermostats that transform and regulate the temperature of society.

Everyday for nearly 36 years, I’ve been grateful to consistently aim to live my life on a spiritual plane. I work very actively for this ambition through tools I’ve learned in the 12-Step Community. Basically, the first nine steps are known are ego-deflation steps. After we work the first nine and begin to shed our egos, life in the spirit begins (Steps 10, 11 and 12).

Here’s the benefit of living life in the spirit. You don’t HAVE to look like a paper doll in the chain. You don’t have to buy anyone’s faulty bag of judgmental goods. You have your own timeline. And you get to be straight, gay, trans, polka-dotted, black, white or absolutely no gender, race or religion, if it feels as natural as the finger pads on your hands feel. You are free to be who YOU are because you are free from the bondage of self (and the bondage of society). You are free from the Ego. In other words, YOU are free to draw pink elephants and like them even when the herd poo-poos them.

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Better yet, toss a few purple elephants into the mix and as you are mocked and feel mortified, realize you are on the trailblazing journey of setting the world on fire, and that’s what having faith is all about.

 

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Faith Muscle

Simple Path

 I feel acceptance is love and love is God’s will for us.

From the book Daily Reflections
Copyright © 1990 by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

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John C. was a burly curmudgeon of a man, a retired plumber, who raised five sons. On the calmest of days, he was an exploding firecracker with the power of a bomb. Hours after he discovered that his wife of over 30 years was having an affair with someone half her age, John’s hands were twisting the guys’ neck at the younger man’s place of work. Fortunately, the warring sides did not suffer permanent or significant injuries, and John’s friends bailed him out of jail the next day.

Beyond his bigger-than-life explosive personality was the purr behind the roar.

It’s all about love.

That was one of John’s favorite sayings. And, sure enough, beneath John’s crusty exterior was his willingness to help others, whether providing rides or lending a few bucks, that was his way. In the 20-plus years that I grew to know and love him, on numerous occasions, he provided a non-judgmental listening ear and never broke a confidence.

Though John is gone, his legacy of words also imprints my mind. Sometimes I hear them when I least expect them, at times and with people that really do a 180 degree turn on any sort of compassion.

Like when:

I found out about the venom-tongued woman who spat her unkind words at my son and helped pave the way to his final chapter.

It’s all about love, and I know HURT PEOPLE HURT

I heard that Landlord Joey wouldn’t budge and return my son’s security deposit money when my son desperately need to break the house’s least because he was despairing, isolated and lonely.

It’s all about love, and I remember the grit and courage of my 25-year-old daughter, a sister with a dead brother, interceding on her grieving mother’s behalf in an attempt to get the security deposit returned to us. No, the landlord denied the request, but she was a testimony of when one steps up to the plate.

Coroner Mary called me with the news that no mother should ever hear and, also, implied that I was responsible for my son’s death.

It’s all about love, and my dearest friend, spiritual sister Pat never left my side from the time of that horrific call to this very day as she travels alongside me and puts up with my tears, fears, anguish, anger, secular notions and sometimes plain nonsense.

The sheriff dropped the ball on helping me find the whereabouts of my son’s missing fave jacket and laptop computer.

I’s all about love, and the two young adults whom I had never met before in my life never dropped the ball helping us pack and sort through my son’s belongings.

Last, and probably most painful, his father showing up to see my son’s dead body after a nine-year absence in his life.

It’s all about love, and like I said earlier, HURT PEOPLE HURT

Now, in the national news the senseless death of George Floyd in which my heart goes out to Mr. Floyd’s family and friends.

It’s all about love, and I can reasonably assume that none of the police officers involved in the hideous crime sought to do God’s will anytime earlier that day.

In fact, I’d wager to say that the venom-tongued woman, Landlord Joey, Coroner Mary, the Sheriff and my son’s father didn’t ask for God’s will before they willfully said and/or did what they did and or/said.

And, I accept everything just for today because “acceptance is love and love is God’s will for us.”

And for today I select to walk the simple path as described so poignantly below by Saint Teresa of Calcutta. When I venture on this path, there is no stress, because there are no constrains or requirements.

The simple path: silence is prayer, prayer is faith, faith is love, love is service, the fruit of service is peace.

~ Mother Teresa, Founder of the Missionaries of Charity

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Faith Muscle

The Cure By Albert Huffstickler

When the pain of my grief becomes unmanageable, I read the The Cure by Albert Huffstickler. I especially refer to it when the clueless around me spew quick-fix mouth service like “Let it go!” “It will get better.” “He’s in a better place,” and all the sentences that begin with proper nouns like Jesus, God and Buddha.

This poem gives me faith that someday I will have “the faith that it will fit in.” One day I hope to frame the poem and display it prominently on the wall. I also think a framed copy would make a great gift for grief-stricken individuals. In the interim, I frame my painful heart with these words, and the poem holds the fragments together like a vase.

THE CURE
We think we get over things.
We don’t get over things.
Or say, we get over the measles,
But not a broken heart.
We need to make that distinction.
The things that become part of our experience
Never become less a part of our experience.
How can I say it?
The way to “get over” a life is to die.
Short of that, you move with it,
let the pain be pain,
not in the hope that it will vanish
But in the faith that it will fit in,
find its place in the shape of things
and be then not any less pain but true to form.
Because anything natural has an inherent shape and will flow towards it.
And a life is as natural as a leaf.
That’s what we’re looking for: not the end of a thing but the shape of it.
Wisdom is seeing the shape of your life without obliterating (getting over) a single
instant of it.

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Faith Muscle

Am I in the Right Room?

One grieving mom to another:

I just wait.
I know.
So do I.
I wonder what we’re waiting for?
Something.

The excerpt above is from a fellow blogger’s comments on one of my previous posts. It inspires further reflection.

What is this something? What do I wait for?

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Image by ravensong7 from Pixabay

Five months, two days ago, I COULDN’T WAIT to rip into the day, regardless of life’s circumstances. I leaped out of bed like a child who had no patience to discover what was inside the gift box under the Christmas tree. It sounds corny, but everyday was Christmas. Twenty-four hour segments flew by, and I darted behind each day as if I was trying to catch up to an Olympian runner.

Now, five months, two days later, I feel like I’ve been dumped into one of life’s empty waiting rooms without a clock on the wall. So, I wait. What do I wait for? The day I reunite with my son?

My mom used to say, “Day after day after day, ‘til the last day.”

Has that aphorism become my epic battle song that I sing now during the darkest chapter of my life until I arrive at the end of the book? Then what? I close the book, and a trumpet thunders and signals my long aWAITed reunion with my son.

“You’ve arrived!” In my imagination, I hear Alexa’s voice as an angel proclaiming the news.

Or, do I just wait for my son’s toothy white grin to be on the other side of the front door’s window? I expect to catch a glimpse of his eager face ready to enter what was once his home. I grow more impatient than ever since that youthful, solid and towering presence once crowned my world like the North Star and kept me from getting lost.

When my mom lost her oldest son she told me she always thought he was outside sitting on his favorite chair on the front porch. Numerous times, she found herself calling out to him. Of course, the front porch remained quiet and empty.

Admittedly, when no one is home I beckon in a familiar tone, “Marshall! Marshall!”

I wait and wait. In the deafening silence, I catch the familiarity of the maple tree’s drooping branches outside the exterior door’s window. Like the maple, everything has changed, but I remain standing.

As others await the end of this pandemic so they can return to their ordinary lives and do things like reset goals and “arrive” at new careers and new milestones in life, I have arrived in the waiting room of life before and during the pandemic. Going forward, I believe, this is my last stop. Fortunately, the space is not noisy and crowded. It’s not stressful. I am not afraid. I crave nothing.

Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s profound words frame the room, “This is it.”

So, that’s it. Waiting. The question is, does faith live here?

Is this the right room

Image by Mylene2401 from Pixabay

Maybe the answer lies deeper in the same grieving mom’s additional comments on my post:

I am not going to say anything,
about how beautiful your son is,
and his mother.
Love to both of you.

Speechless, there is no response to those words because they are the words of hope, and their beauty cannot be contained under gift wrap. Subsequently, without faith, there can be no hope. Sometimes in the crux of waiting is the crux of our search. This is it.

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Faith Muscle

Abracadabra Prayers

Abracadabra!

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I will you give you a powerful prayer to create magical results in your life:

Name your intention:

  • Prosperity
  • Health
  • Employment
  • New Love
  • Friendship
  • Improve Personal Relationships

Once, 4 months, 26 days ago specifically, my life was based on prayer formulas. Without fail, I prayed a host of specific intentions to God. For urgent matters, I assigned a particular job to a particular saint to intercede. Eagerly, faithfully and patiently I waited for my prayers to unfold. My prayers were clay. God was the sculptor.

I witnessed masterpiece miracles. God’s handiwork studio space was divided in three sections.

  1. Work-in-progress prayers (For instance, a friend narrowing in on a new job!)
  2. God’s handiwork creations. (Houses spared from foreclosures. Jobs landed. Lonely singles finding mates, and so on.)
  3. Dry clay. You get the pic with that image, but, remember, if you sprinkle water, you can give dry clay life again. Right? So, hope underscored this section.

Reflecting back, section 2, God’s handiwork creations, consumed anywhere from 75 to 90 percent of the studio space. I was deliriously happy living in this studio. Faith beautifully wallpapered every turn and corner. Faith-filled tile fell beneath my feet like lemon drops, and life was magical.

And then one frightful Tuesday arrived, and the studio had to accommodate a new area: Bone Dry Clay. Undeserved. Unwanted. The section has no number. No prayers answered here.

In this dark dungeon, there is no God of anyone’s understanding to whom I can turn and beseech to awaken my son, if only long enough to see, his long, slim fingers with clean nails that formed hands that created magical mechanical parts. There is no expert saint to intercede who will nudge a supreme being who’s napping, and doesn’t realize that my 26-year-old son had a lot of work to finish in this life before his exit.

Now, this bone dry, nameless area, takes up the studio space now. There is no hope for any kind of sculpture, never mind a masterpiece. Sadly, I think faith means hope, and hope does not live between these walls.

So, I am left with no prayer, never mind powerful or magical. My faith is tested, and I have no faith at this moment. Or perhaps, for now, I am on a pause in my faith journey. Paused in the faith library researching things like prayer.

If my prayers are answered, am I worthy of the outcome? If my prayer petitions fall on deaf ears, am I unworthy? Or are prayer requests just a masquerade for magic? And if this is true, maybe the faithful have no prayers in need of answers since if you are faithful, you accept everything all the time, even the unacceptable, the unbearable, the noncomprehending. Maybe, you don’t mess around with God’s handiwork. Maybe you surrender your superhuman costume and just become an objective observer as the sculpture unfolds.

Do you pray? Why do you pray? Do you pray for certain things? Do you pray in general terms? Do you think prayers are magic? Do prayers help you, and if they do, what kind of prayers do you pray?

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Faith Muscle

Faith Fotos

Living in a new normal, I am still alive on this journey by flying on the wings of a small, select tribe. They hold me up when my legs turn to rubber. They stand firmly beside me despite the days when my words are thunderous and moods storm. When I am surrounded by dark, they are my light switch.

They infuse me with oxygen and hope. Faith has been called “the substance of hope,” and that is what my tribe extends to me the most.

In those first futile days, days after my world turned pitch black, my friend sister Anne, an amazing photographer, sent me the most glorious photographs that looked so polar opposite to the despair I was experiencing. As it turned out, they were part of my faith-fabric that sewed my unraveling world together.

 

Faith Foto2

Photo Credit: Anne Yoken

Faith Foto1

Photo Credit: Anne Yoken

 

“The sun always rises no matter how dark the night.” This is what my friend sister wrote along with her photos.

So far, the sun has risen. Ironically, the brightest, reddish, orangey sunrise (and the only one I was up early enough to witness) was the morning we buried my son. I still picture its splendor and wonder if underneath its robust spirited color, one could unearth a stairway to heaven.

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Photo Credit: Anne Yoken

 

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Faith Muscle

Same thing, Over and Oh!ver

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Image by Prettysleepy2 from Pixabay

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 

Fueled with an entrepreneurial type spirit, I ventured into a website business that is now over two years old and hasn’t produced a dime. The roads I’ve encountered on the journey have been a pothole nightmare and at times dead men curves that took me into dark places from which I miraculously

Most recently, a stranger in the mix, who learned about some of the circumstances, said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Okay, Mr. Einstein, what do you think I do? Give up? Surrender? Close the book on the Great Idea?

Speaking of books, that’s another constant roadblock. My novel has been on a heck of a journey since 1996. Years of editing. Years lost to inactivity. The good news is, I landed a reputable agent in 2018; reworked the storyline; fleshed out the proposal, which now constitutes a series of books. The not-so-good news is, it sits unpublished.

Mr. Einstein, what do you advise I do? Throw the book out along with the series? A series that has the strong potential to revolutionize a certain segment of society?

So, is this constant creative roadblock insanity or is it a means to test my faith?

I just finished reading Guarded by Christ: Knowing the God Who Rescues and Keeps Us by Heather Holleman, and I had an epiphany.

Ms. Holleman writes, “Choosing to look for the “new mercies” of God each morning for me became a spiritual practice to build hope. I had to fight the despair. I had to find a way to stay afloat in hope when drowning in depression. It was that diligent and forceful daily preaching of hope to my soul. This practice corresponded with my desire to write again, and my friend Laurie first suggested my daily recording of new mercies in a blog format for others to read.”

Ms.Holleman continues, “But it felt hopeless to write. I had endured a decade of rejection letters from publishers. ‘You should blog. I would read your blog,’ Laurie said.

Hope rose up in my heart that stored so many words just waiting to get out….”

I feel Ms. Holleman’s hope and enthusiastically heard her literally. I decided to blog again on faith. Because one thing I do know, and it’s something I don’t have to wait for, and something that is in the here and now is I have a pretty impressive faith muscle.

I may not be a success in the world’s eyes. In the soul department, though, I do believe I’ve had some wins. How can I not? For the last 35 years, I’ve lived on borrowed time and during that time I’ve mended relationships with others as well as with myself, but most importantly with God.

For the last 35 years, I lift my eyes up and search for new mercies every single day, because I train on a constant basis in the marathon of the soul business. As long as my soul is stable, I can drive these crazy avenues and streets in the game of life, knowing freedom is not too far off in the distance on the eternal high road. It’s insane to imagine how refreshing the feathery wings beneath me will feel.

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Faith Muscle

Brick and Mortar 2019

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be always in my mouth.                                                           Angel4 Psalm 34:1

Brick Wall

During this past season’s midnight Mass, I found Christmas, but it wasn’t solely in the Mass. I found Christmas in a young father who sat in the pew in front of us. His eyes glowed in adoration of his special needs toddler. Despite the fact that the child squirmed, gurgled and occasionally jolted, for over two hours, the father cradled her with undivided attention and devotion. In the face of challenge, his face exuded peace, contentment and joy. His one-word response to his child: Christmas!

This upcoming New Year, when I am faced with challenges, I hope to respond in the same spirit of Christmas, no matter if it is in the dead of winter or heat of summer. In other words, no matter how my faith is tested, I have memorized my response that is so apparent in the father’s life that I encountered at church. “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be always in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1)

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Funny, how my relationship with God is sometimes one-sided, and I think He should ONLY bless me. Blessing the Lord at all times and praising him always is like laying a foundation of brick-like faith while the Lord spreads his love in the form of mortar.

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

 

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Faith Muscle

 

FAITH ”AN IMPORTANT PART OF LIFE”

I am re-blogging this fantastic post from BE BLOGGER (OFFICIAL) 

via Faith ”An Important Part Of Life”

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

 

 

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Faith Muscle