I and Thou: The Labor of a Shell

Do you ever wonder about seashells? How they form? How critical they are to our environment? After reading a few articles, seashells are very important. They are mostly calcium with a sprinkle of protein and form from mollusks. Who knew? In fact, they are so vital that it is against the law in some countries to remove them from the ocean. When I think of a seashell, I can imagine the length of refining it took for what it became rather than how it began. And that sure sounds like labor.

A friend recently posted on lifelong labor, retirement, and the meaning of life. It was a great post – so feel free to check it out.

https://www.facebook.com/robertmullinswrites

Photo Credit: Carol Leigh, “South African Turban Shell” fineartamerica.com

I commented “life is about finding meaning and the worth of existence. The word retirement needs to be thrown out the window and replaced with refocusment (I made the word up) or, perhaps even better, refinement?

Which got me thinking about what refinement might look like. Could it possibly be the process of discovering ourselves in the bigger scheme of existence in relationship to others? If we put others first, a basic tenet of Christianity, perhaps labor would feel less like labor.

As I muddled through life, I performed an array of odd “labor.” I cut lawns, lifeguarded, and babysat so I could pay college tuition. I worked at a sporting goods store for three years too. Then, I was lucky enough to earn a college degree and start my first full-time professional job. What they didn’t teach in college was that a degree in psychology and working in education would never afford you to have any real discretionary income. But it was enough to provide food and shelter. Then, I found my knight in shining armor, or so I thought.

I had been blessed as a stay-at-home mom for nearly ten years while I raised my two boys. Most honest parents will tell you that raising kids is no picnic. But not having to dress in a corporate suit and wear heels every day was lovely. Then, I hit a rough patch of another ten years where it seemed that working was all I was doing. It sure sounded like Joseph telling the Pharoah that seven years of famine would follow seven years of abundance. (Genesis 41). I worked at a grocery store and taught pre-school to pay bills and have food on the table. At the same time, I was trying to launch a consulting firm. I did manage (by the grace of God) to pick up a few consulting gigs at fascinating places – and the best part? I didn’t have to wear heels. And then the money started to flow. My college degrees were finally paying off. I can’t imagine people who have to work to survive over the long haul.

During this almost penniless, having three dollars and forty-three cents to my name timeframe, I had to work with little time to refine. Yet perhaps that whole time spent piecing together four part-time gigs was part of the refining process. I certainly would not be the person I am today; had I not had the experience of being thrown down into a deep dark tunnel only to climb myself out of it with the help of others. Not that I wish that experience on anyone, but it was undoubtedly a testimony to my grit.

It took a village to support and encourage me to take a leap of faith—a leap to Arkansas, where I found peace and my tribe. And, if you are being pulled in a specific direction – take the leap of faith! I miss my tribe dearly – but I know they are all within me and part of the refining process. Kind of like the shell, taking years to form from cells, calcium, and proteins floating in the ocean. Yes, it takes a village; sometimes, it is one person, and at other times, it may be many people. What does your village look like?

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I and Thou: Knock, Knock

Knock, Knock

Crying out to the Lord,
Where are you, Sir?

The Lord of the universe,
Hello, anybody out there?

Crying out again to the Lord,
Why must I suffer this profound loss?

Bowing head in reverence,
Asking to change hearts and minds.

The Lord of the universe,
Where are you, Sir?

Are you listening?
Can you hear me screaming?

Anguish, hallow, pit,
Drip, drip, drip.

Insides swirling and twirling,
Lamenting, questioning – a crisis of faith
.

Don’t you care?
Where are you, Sir?

My child, you are most precious to me,
I am right here, beside you.

Go ahead and put your head on my shoulder,
It is okay to cry and be heartbroken.

And, in all of this deep despair,
A gentle voice whispers, “I love you.”

Graphic Credit: The Perseus Galaxy Cluster greatbigcanvas.com

I and Thou: A Parent’s Prayer




A Parent’s Prayer

Our Creator who art above the firmament,
hallow our inner spirit.
Thy wisdom come.
Thy will be done,
on the path we walk each day.
Give peace to our sons and daughters,
and forgive us for what we did not know,
as we forgive them for what they did not know,
and lead us not into a dark tunnel of gloom,
but deliver us from the stronghold of estrangement.
For you are the Creator of all wisdom, forgiveness, love,
and acceptance forever and ever. Amen

– Ruth E. Walton

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Image Credit: Pray for You: Found on Pinterest – Artist Unknown

I and Thou: 3 Spirit Pearls of Wisdom for You

Watercolor by: Jose Trujillo

Fall into The Bible – Part 1

Choices.

When the Spirit of God falls on you, there is a choice. Do you accept it? Or deny it? If you choose the Spirit, then the Spirit will enter the very depth of your soul.

So, how do you think that happens?

In this blog post, I have taken the liberty of looking at random phrases in The Bible where the word “fall” is used. I will focus on “fall” and the personal pronoun “you.” Go ahead and read each of them:

Fall on you – Deu. 31:29

Fall upon you – Isaiah 47:11

Fall within you – Ez. 28:23

Fall away on account of you – Matt. 26:33

Now, reread them slowly. What themes come to your mind? The themes of Spirit and relationship come to my mind when I read these phrases collectively. For the sake of clarity, let’s call Spirit the voice of God. For me, the Spirit can fall on me, upon me, within me, and away on account of me.  Relationship, for this blog post, refers to two people who interact at some level. They can be couples, family members, friends, and colleagues. Like the Spirit, relationships can fall on me, upon me, within me, and away on account of me. Let’s further explore – shall we?

Falling on you and falling upon you are interchangeable and simply means the Spirit is with you. Falling within you refers to an inward flow of the Spirit through you, and falling away on account of you seems to me to imply a divide or separation. How about you?

When the Spirit of God falls on you, there is a choice. Do you accept it? Or deny it? And, when there is a falling away, what prompted it? A behavior. An action. A word. Or, perhaps sin!  

For me, Spirit and relationship intertwine, and I can’t have one without the other. For me, it is about faith. Faith in God. Faith in myself and faith in others. If you surrender yourself to a higher power and open your mind to new possibilities, I believe the Spirit within you will attract others who may need or want you to be in your life. And, that may be a greater purpose is being fulfilled. And, how awesome is that?

Spirit Wisdom – Global Level

How often do you ask God to help people? Feed the hungry. Give to the poor. Shelter the homeless and support meaningful organizations. I call these global needs – praying and meditating on the world as one family. One humankind. One connection. Humans connecting through shared needs. I would venture to say that the majority of us have asked God to help others. Whether it has been for a sick loved one or to comfort a family in losing a loved one.

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, he refers to the most attainable need as “physiological needs,” what I call” shared needs.” For example, how food and water sustain life. He refers to the least attainable need as “self-actualization” as the highest level of psychological development where the personal potential is fulfilled. I call this “being the best human you can be.” And, how can you become the best human you can be? 

What if you flip this thought process upside down and connect to all the people in the world through the Spirit, focusing on shared needs and replacing personal potential with collective potential? What do you think? For me, it is similar to the concept of “it takes a village.” It is collective potential that makes the world a better place. One family under God. Global!

Spirit Wisdom – Personal Level

As you tap into the wisdom of the Spirit, you have every human right to bring your personal thoughts and requests forward. Pray. Meditate. Bring value to yourself and to others. Open your heart and let God hear you!

Keep in mind that seeking wisdom from the Spirit enhances yourself, your relationships, day-to-day issues, and decisions. In contrast to the global level, the personal level encourages you to see yourself through the eyes of others. How do others perceive you? What type of personal work do you need to do on yourself – for yourself? How are your compassion, empathy, servant leadership, and acceptance levels? Do they pass the test of time? Or, are you like me, and you have to work at being more compassionate and accepting? There is time to change. Always! So, what can you do to make yourself a better person?  

Jesus! Do you ever wonder about Jesus and His life on earth? His childhood? What types of food He liked? What or who comforted Him? I don’t have a clue. I do know that Jesus took an interest in others before, during, and after He received the Spirit as the dove descended upon Him while being baptized by John. It is this same Spirit that can enter you. What are you waiting for?

Jesus loved, healed, and offered eternal life and knew He was unique. He knew He was a part of God – from the beginning. And during his life, He consistently prayed to God. Being the best starts with understanding your unique place in the world and balancing yourself in a relationship with others. Just like Jesus did. With Jesus – it is personal!

Spirit Wisdom – Relationships

For me, relationships can fall on me, fall upon me, fall within me and fall away on account of me. Relationships that fall on or upon you are those where people cross your life path. To help you for a season or more. Take siblings, for example. You grow up with brothers or sisters, or both, and typically have a relationship with them for your entire life, whereas others come and go throughout your lifetime. 

Relationships that fall within you are those relationships that tug at the core of your being. It could be how you talk to God. Do you talk to God? Or when you marry. Or when you have children. Falling within means the person takes up residence in your heart, and these relationships take time, energy, and if you really want it to work well, financial resources. Sure, you can love someone and spend time with them doing activities that don’t require money, such as playing frisbee in the park, taking turns reading a good book, and walking on the beach. Yet, at some point, you will have to eat and sleep. For me, money equals trust. That has been my experience time and time again. Just ask me! 

When a relationship does fall away, ask yourself, was it your behavior, an action, or a word? If a relationship divides or separation occurs, perform an introspection. Ask the Spirit to reveal what may have caused the rift. Sometimes, relationships fall away and have nothing to do with you, or your behavior, action, or word stressing the relationship. In some cases, people fall away for their own reasons. Whatever the case, be sure to seek wisdom from the Spirit. Reflect on yourself, make changes when and if appropriate, and follow the call of God.

Your Choice

When the Spirit of God falls on you, there is a choice. Do you accept it? Or deny it? If you receive it, the Spirit can guide you globally and personally in all of your relationships by tapping into its wisdom!

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I and Thou: Divine Valentine

Is Valentine’s Day your favorite holiday?

It is mine!

Much of it has to do with the gratitude I have in my heart for life itself and where I am today. It is the realization that this love comes from God. Agape love is divine love – a pure love between humans and their Creator. A Christ-like love can only exist within the context of faith. An illustration of agape love is in John 3:16.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16
It is this agape love that lives within each of us. And, it is up to us to know what to do with it. We show others this love through simple actions. A warm smile. A hug. A thank you. Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to think of how you can offer your love to others each and every day.

Valentine’s Day is often thought of as a holiday for lovers. It is so much more than that. In my mid-twenties, I was not in a romantic relationship on Valentine’s Day; so, my friend Wendy and I decided to go to Atlantic City for the weekend. Wendy had a friend who had a condo in Brigantine, actually an island, the city right over Atlantic City’s breezeway. The closest casino at the time was Trump’s Castle. So, off we went. I remember the inside of the casino looking majestic and castle-like. It was quite stunning. The point in this story is that Wendy and I had a great time. It was a time and place where I realized that I didn’t have to be in a romantic relationship to enjoy the love in the air on Valentine’s Day. So, for this Valentine’s Day in 2021, I wish all of you agape love. The love that will never fail. The love of our divine Creator.

Happy Valentine’s Day!