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“It was so disheartening to see miles of litter on the Interstate on our way to the Arlington Wetlands—plastic bags matted together, wads of bleeding paper, food remnants in Styrofoam containers, beer and Pepsi cans, even face masks. What’s got into people to trash our world like that?” asked my friend as she stirred the quinoa in the pot while reducing the flame underneath. “It sure messed with our enjoyment of hiking once we got there.”

Her complaint recalled my annoyance, years ago, while paused at a stoplight watching the truck driver ahead of me flip a lit cigarette through his opened window onto the pavement. I wanted to retrieve the butt and ask him to dispose of it properly—perhaps in the ashtray of his truck. Then, I thought better of it, and the light changed.

Yet, littering a solitary cigarette butt suggests mindlessness, malaise, loss of élan, even varying degrees of depression. Such indiscriminate trashing also seeps into psyche and dumps indigestible particles that fester in generations-long resentments.

I know what this feels like because I’ve been there—but not for long, once I got into 12-Step recovery. Retaining “conscious contact with Higher Power,” per Step XI, is difficult, but doable. Within His grace, we thrive, no matter that Covid-19 issues lurk around us. Scriptures challenge us to emerge from within the fire—the First Letter of Peter 1 :7 and shine with care.

February is already slipping into its second week of colorlessness.

True, a splotch of red will play with Valentine’s Day but then recede into blandness, one that enervates imaginations, yet unleashes insatiable longing.

And winter’s ferocity still stings bare calves, still evokes watery eyes, still demands snow shovels—all bound to induce shivers like frosted prods piercing our psyches and forcing consciousness lest we perish. Life appears inhospitable, as we tear off our boots for the warmth of slippers and a cup of hot chocolate.

But is it inhospitable? For those acquainted with February’s lessons, there is much to learn: subtle colors in blandness, snow tracks of furry creatures, icy-wet fingers sluicing windows, silence on the roads, and most of all, critical moisture for root systems.

Such lessons also correlate with the psyche’s need for resting in the Sacred, a resting toward intimacy with the Heart of God, during contemplation or a solitary nature walk. Thus exposed, we cannot but be touched by intimacy and breathe anew and look for opportunities for service.

Such renewal sparks any season, even our own.

I sit in my wing-back chair, the Jerusalem Bible upon my lap. It is morning, another day of global infection: Its potential for calamity looms, its tentacles of poison sicken, its withering of lung cells horrify and shorten lives—the numbers mount. Smidgens of fear brush my mortality, already primed by my terminal disease.

Still, I am prone to the sludge of sloth, to distractions of the latest reports that roil my depths. If unaddressed, only panic ensues, and I choose not to go there.

Instead, I enter within the psalmist’s imperative, Seek his face—a redirection toward Spirit where, alone, wiggle-room-faith unwinds and stretches tall.

Like gardeners harvesting seeds of spent flowers in bags, I collect my scattered energies and focus upon the present moment in which grace abounds. No longer do my self-imposed limits stifle my breathing. Today, I pray to be teachable, to live with the unfamiliar and the unpredictable as they unfold.

There’s always more to learn. Why am I surprised?

 

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