Archive for the ‘Influencing Others’ Category

What are you holding on to today – that has you caught?

This article is an excerpt from, “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” by, Charles W. Sidoti

Living a life where trust is the guiding principle will ultimately require that we choose to trust. I have noticed, however, that at those times when I have asked God to increase my ability to be trusting, the request is usually answered with increased opportunities for me to practice trust. That really wasn’t what I had in mind. I was assuming that God would answer by zapping me with more trust, after which I would suddenly live in a more trusting way, worrying less and relaxing more. I am now convinced that it isn’t going to happen that way.

Learning to trust in God involves acceptance. It means accepting things, people, and life in general, without always feeling that I need to change everything to the way I think it should be. On the other hand, trusting God will always involve my participation. Living with an attitude of trust is not a passive thing, where we sit back as spectators and think, “God will take of everything,” so we need do nothing. It involves living out the wisdom and balance of the Serenity 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.”

Acceptance almost always involves letting go of something. It may be letting go of a fear or worry, or an obsessive desire for a life situation to be different. Or it may be a need for someone to respond to us differently. I once heard a very helpful story about letting go. The story posed the question, “How do you catch a monkey in India?” It explained that the way people catch monkeys in India is to glue a baby food jar onto a stump or large rock, put a few peanuts in it, and leave the lid off. When the monkey comes along, wanting the peanuts, he slides his hand into the small opening of the jar. Grabbing the peanuts, he closes his fist around them. Once the monkey makes a fist to grasp the peanuts, his hand will no longer fit through the opening of the jar, so he cannot pull it out. He is caught, and very upset.

What is so ironic in this story is knowing how easy it would be for the monkey to free himself and go back to enjoying his life. All he needs to do is simply let go of the peanuts. But he will not.

When I notice myself preoccupied with a desire or need to have something be a particular way, I reflect back on this story. I visualize myself like the monkey, with my fist in the jar, holding on to what I desire. This imagery has helped me to let go of my particular desire and enjoy life again. It sets me free.

Connecting Point: What is your “fist full of peanuts?” What are you holding on to today – that has you caught? Try to imagine yourself letting go of your peanuts (your situation or desire) and moving on with your day in peace.

Prayer: Lord, often I am so convinced about what I think I need. I have my fist wrapped tightly around a particular desire. Help me to loosen my grip and to eventually let go so that I might enjoy the inner freedom that comes with knowing myself to be a child of God. Help me to desire that which will really bring me peace, and to trust that you will fulfill that desire in your time. Amen.

View it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X

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In the face of the suffering we experience in our lives and see our world it is perfectly natural and fitting to ask “Why?” Our “Why?” however, needs to eventually evolve into a different kind of question.

Written by Rabbi Akiva Feinstein and Charles W. Sidoti, BCC,

Seldom does a week (or even a day or an hour) go by when we are not confronted with the question “Why?” Why are lives devastated by illness, hunger, and devastating loss? Why financial crisis, abusive and broken relationships? Why car wrecks and plane crashes? Why do children need to die? Our generation is also challenged by global “whys?” There are catastrophic natural phenomena:, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, war, and events like 9/11, to name but a few. Tragedy eventually leaves its mark on all of us, and it is the cause of much suffering. To each of us, it seems that our own affliction is the most painful.

The modern world is a place of constant searching for answers, and very often answers are found. Yet for this most basic of questions there is no easy answer. Moses himself asked God, “Why?” and was told, “You will see my back, but my face may not be seen” (Exodus 33:23). This verse has been interpreted to mean that, as humans, we cannot possibly comprehend the events that unfold before our eyes because our lives on earth are but a split second in the evolution of the universe. The span of a human life is simply too brief to achieve any meaningful understanding of the ways of the universe. Just as we cannot judge a movie by arriving in the middle and leaving before the end, we cannot judge God’s master plan for us or for the world. It is only with the passage of significant amounts of time that we could hope to gather even a measure of illumination.

Yes, it is true that some measure of genuine wisdom can, and often does, come with age. However, that wisdom, when it comes, normally teaches us to abandon our personal need to understand why things happen. It helps us to allow ourselves to be led by the wisdom of God instead of relying upon our own understanding. With such wisdom the question “Why?” is still present, but it gets integrated into our lives in such a way that we are able to live with it. Its negative power is replaced by trust and the realization that we are not God. It is important to understand that if our only response to something bad occurring is to continually ask “Why?” insisting that we are made to understand the reason why God allowed it to happen; we run the risk of becoming bitter and cynical toward life. It is perfectly natural to ask “Why?” but our response needs to evolve from there if we are to grow spiritually.

It is common in Jewish study to seek clarification on any given subject by returning to the literal meaning of that concept in the Hebrew language. The Hebrew word for suffering is sevel. There are two other words that share the very same root, and yet have totally different meanings- sabal, porter, and savlanut, patience. The connection between these three words became very clear to me (Rabbi Feinstein) one day many years ago, when I was observing the activity at a busy outdoor marketplace in Jerusalem. A merchant finished with his day’s selling noticed that he could not carry home his large load of unsold wares and called upon the services of a sabal, a porter. To my surprise, I noticed that the porter was not upset at the vast amount of wares that he was being hired to carry. On the contrary, he was delighted. Instead of viewing the large load as a burden and a hard job, he seemed to be saying to himself that the heavier it was, the better, for he could charge a higher price.

It occurred to me then that our own suffering, if we could learn to accept it in some measure into our lives, could serve a similar purpose for us. Even as the sabal (the porter), cheerfully carried his heavy load knowing that he would be compensated, we can be buoyed by the knowledge that our sevel (our suffering) is not in vain. We can live with confidence that our suffering has a higher purpose and represents an opportunity for growth, even though that purpose and opportunity may not be apparent to us. Another helpful translation is found in the Hebrew word for crisis. The word ismashbir, which translates into English a birthing stone. This translation suggests that if we can learn to live with patience (in Hebrew, savlanut) turning our hearts to God, who is present in the midst of our crisis, new life can come forth.

Crisis always involves something over which we have little or no control. For example, we cannot control the harmful and destructive actions of those who unjustly wage war, murder or terrorize others. We cannot prevent extreme weather such as tornadoes, or other types of natural disasters from causing terrible devastation around the globe. Our response to crisis is something different: We control and choose how we will respond to these events. Our personal response to suffering is our responsibility, and we do have a choice.

I once heard it said that there is a greater question that presents itself in times of personal suffering and crisis. It is, “Now that this terrible thing has happened, what will my response be?” After asking “Why?” we need to eventually take the next step, asking, “What can I do to ease the suffering of those involved? What is the loving response?” How we choose to respond to situations is sometimes the only thing that is within our control.

You may be old enough to remember the very popular TV sitcom All in the Familyfrom the 1970’s. I recently watched a documentary about the making of the show. The producer, Norman Lear, was describing each character and how each personality was an important ingredient in the show’s success. When describing Archie Bunker’s wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), who was frequently referred to as a “dingbat” he commented that Edith always responded to a situation from “a place of love.” That is indeed a very accurate description of her character, and it provides an example from which we can learn. Edith always responded out of love to whatever the circumstance or crisis. The cynicism of Archie (Carroll O’Connor) was used to rub up against Edith’s innocence to create much of the humor of the show. Although she was referred to as a dingbat, Edith’s loving, honest, and innocent way of responding to situations was always shown to be right in the end. Perhaps she wasn’t a dingbat after all.

Edith always responded to situations from a place of love because she was filled with love. But we can, and often do, respond from other places, such as fear, jealousy, blind ambition, or resentment, if our inner space is occupied by any of these. That is why paying attention to what is going on inside us is so important. Whatever occupies our inner space, most of the time, will often be the place from which our responses come. It is important to ask God to help us welcome love, peace, tolerance, acceptance, and a healthy sense of justice into our hearts. In that way our response to personal crisis or the suffering of others will more often be born out of love and compassion. If we learn to pay attention to our inner world, what is going on inside of us, it will be a great help toward our goal of growing into the person God is calling us to become. Why God allowed this or that to happen will eventually become less important than the greater question, “How is God calling me to respond?”

Connecting Point: Our response to the suffering in this life, whether it is our own suffering or that of others, must eventually involve more than our asking the question “Why?” and insisting on an answer. Suffering is an unpleasant part of life, but it is, nevertheless, a part of life. If we can learn to accept suffering as a mystery in our life, not seeking it out, but rather allowing it to be a part of our experience, God will use it to bring about a newness of life within us. We will discover that, although in a different way from joy and happiness, the suffering that naturally comes our way has its part to play in our spiritual growth and in our becoming the loving person that God is calling us to be.

Prayer: Loving God, help me to welcome your spirit of love, patience, mercy, and kindness into my heart each day, so that I may more often respond out of these virtues to the suffering that I experience in my own life and the suffering that I see in the world. Give me the humility to accept that I may never fully understand the reason why bad things are permitted to happen. Instead of letting me despair over this lack of understanding, help me to place my trust and hope in you who make all things work for the good of those who love you. Amen.

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This article is an excerpt from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” written by Charles W. Sidoti and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein. Visit my WordPress Home Page to learn more! https://sidoticharles.wordpress.com/

There is a classic psychological question you may be familiar with that is related to our ability to wait on God: “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it still make a sound?”

This article is an excerpt from,Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time,” Written by Charles W. Sidoti.

When we pray the words of the Serenity Prayer (short version), “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,” we present God with three requests:

1) The first request is for the ability to accept the things that we cannot change. Here we ask God to help us to entrust those things that are outside of our control to God. And it right to ask for this, for we need to let God do God’s part.

2) In the second request we ask God to give us the courage to “change the things we can.” In this request we ask God for the courage to do the things that are within our control in order to change those things in our lives that need to be changed. It is right to ask for this, for this is our part.

3) In the last line, we ask God for the wisdom to know the difference between the two. It is in this final part of the prayer where peace is to be found, because it helps us to separate what is our part from what is God’s part. We need to do our part, and we can rest assured that God will do God’s part.

It may take what seems a very long time for the work God is doing to evolve to a point where we can perceive it. Often, it is only in hindsight that we can perceive what God has done. It is important to realize that there is an in-between time that we all experience in our faith life. It is the time that comes after I have done what is within my control to change my life, while still waiting on God’s part to be realized.

Living patiently with joyful hope in the in-between time can be one of the most challenging and yet most rewarding things we can learn to do. For an action-oriented person, the in-between time can seem like a time in which not much is happening, or at least not happening in the way, or as rapidly, as we would want it to occur. If we are experiencing a fearful or lonely period in our life, it can be especially difficult.

This in-between time can seem like an awful desert. We may quickly grow impatient and begin trying to implement changes ourselves. That is certainly not always wrong, but more often than not, actions motivated by our impatience don’t obtain positive or lasting results. We need to learn to become more comfortable living in the in-between period, giving God time to do God’s part. If we can learn to be patient during this period, we will discover that is is possible to find a balance between when to make things happen and when to let things happen. We will gradually come to understand that the in-between time that we may perceive as being a kind of down time is actually quite fertile. Things are developing and taking shape during this period, although we may be unaware of them.

The ability to let God do God’s part, to be patient during the in-between time, depends largely on whether we really believe anything is happening while we are waiting. There is a classic psychological question you may be familiar with that is related to our ability to wait on God: ”If a tree falls in the forest ant there is no one there to hear it, does it still make a sound?” To believe that a tree falling in the forest, without anyone there to hear it, truly does make a sound requires a certain level of spiritual development and trust. The answer to this question can be an indication of whether a person truly realizes that he or she is not God, or instead has a false, inflated sense of his or her own importance and ability to control life. It suggests a level of growth in which we are able to perceive God as “Other,” and that is significant. It means that we truly believe there is a Higher Power (referred to by many as God) who can and does act upon our life in ways that may yet be unknown or at least unclear to us. That belief, that knowledge, makes it possible for us to wait.

Neither making things happen nor letting things happen is right for every situation. There are times when it is appropriate to take action and other times in which waiting a situation out, allowing it to evolve, is the right thing to do. It is important to realize that both stances, both attitudes toward facing particular situations, are required of us at different times. It is in learning to discern which manner of approaching life is appropriate for a particular situation that inner peace is to be found. It can be helpful to ask yourself from time to time, in relation to whatever might be happening in your life, “At this time, should I be making things happen or letting things happen? Is what I am focusing my attention on now within my power to change, or is it outside of my control?” Trust that the answer will intuitively come to you, and allow yourself to be guided by it.

Connecting Point: Most of the time, giving a situation time to evolve is a good idea. Learn to trust in the slow work of God in your life. Although you may not be aware of it, trust that it is taking place, because it is. How do you want to spend your in-between time: fretting…or confident, trusting that God will do God’s part?

Prayer: Loving God, letting go after I have done what I can, and trusting that you are at work in my life in ways yet unknown to me is difficult. Help me to trust during my in-between time so that I may have the peace of mind of knowing in my heart that eventually “all shall be well.” Help me to realize that your work in my life does not depend on me always being aware of what you are doing. Grant that I may give you the benefit and the respect of trusting that you are doing your part. Amen. 

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For details about “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” visit: https://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X

An excerpt from,”Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time,” by Charles W. Sidoti with Rabbi Akiva Feinstein,- Learn more at: https://sidoticharles.wordpress.com/

As coordinator of spiritual care at the hospital I am sometimes called upon to conduct memorial services and other types of religious services for the hospital staff, patients, and visitors. Unless a service is specifically for a particular faith group, such as a Communion service for Catholics, my goal is to have it be an interfaith experience, where people from any religious tradition will feel welcome and included. Sometimes I work with members of the local community clergy in developing particular services. Most of them are very happy to participate in developing an interfaith service which always turns out beautifully.

There was one time, however, when the interfaith spirit was not present. A local church leader who wanted to conduct a city-sponsored, community prayer service in honor of the annual National Day of Prayer contacted me. She had already been in touch with several church leaders and was calling to invite me to the planning meeting at City Hall. At the meeting, I noticed that there were only Christian clergy represented. I listened to the ideas being presented about planning the service. It sounded like it was going to be a Christian service pure and simple. No one brought up that since this was to be a community event, it was only right to include clergy from the community’s other religious groups (non Christian) in the planning.

I mentioned that I had noticed there were only Christian clergy represented at the meeting, and that as a hospital representative on the committee, I needed to be sure the program would be a true interfaith event in order for me to participate.

The immediate response I received seemed cordial enough. One person spoke up, saying, “Yes, we probably should do that to be politically correct.” Someone else chimed in saying, “Okay, we will invite the rabbi and the imam to be correct, all of us are grounded in the truth. We all know what it’s really all about.” I felt like I was at a “Good Old Boys’ Club” gathering where it was assumed that everyone felt the same way.

I was quiet for a moment as I processed what I heard. Then feeling as if I was going to burst, I said, “I’m sorry but I don’t agree with that. I don’t think that we should invite them (the rabbi and imam) as a token in order to be politically correct but really not value them. I don’t see it that way at all. I feel that the participation of other faith traditions will enrich the program.” There was silence. I’m sure there were others who felt the same way, but no one else spoke up. At any rate no one challenged me.

It is not only Christians who can practice religious bigotry. This underlying attitude toward other people’s beliefs can be found in every religion. Most often it is kept hidden, harming the person who thinks that way more than anyone else. If you believe that your way, your belief, is the only way, and that everyone else is either wrong or misinformed, in addition to the ill will you create, you cut yourself off from the spiritual riches and wisdom that other faith traditions have to offer.

In my daily work as a chaplain, I work with many people, including religious leaders from several different faiths. If I am welcomed to pray with someone who is Jewish, whether it is a Psalm or some specific prayer from his or her tradition, or with a person who practices Islam, I am honored and humbled and consider myself tremendously blessed by the experience.

In my heart there is no barrier between me and another person who is reaching out for God’s healing and peace within the context of his or her own religious tradition. I have found that I do not have to know everything about a particular religion to be welcomed by a person who practices it. I just have to convey that I respect and honor them and their spiritual path. Honoring, respecting, and welcoming other people and their beliefs into my life is the key that has opened many doors for me with those people, and provided a wealth of spiritual growth as well.

Connecting Point: Today, consider how you really feel about religions other than your own. Do you believe that other religious beliefs have anything to offer that can enrich your spiritual journey?

Prayer: Good and gracious God, help me to live in your world free from the divisiveness that religion can create. Instead, help me to realize that other people’s beliefs lead them to you as the beliefs that I hold dear lead me. Grant that I may never tread upon another’s dreams or beliefs. Amen.

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living-at-gods-speed-healing-in-gods-timeThis article is an excerpt from,”Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time,” by Charles W. Sidoti with Rabbi Akiva Feinstein,- $14.95 Learn more at:   https://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X 

 

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By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC, author of, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time, and Simple Contemplative Spirituality

As a hospital chaplain I am called upon to serve people from various faiths. My role is to help them to get in touch with their own spiritual resources, which may involve different religious practices and beliefs, and to help provide for those specific needs. My personal faith and religious formation is that of a Catholic Christian.

Far and away one of the most helpful things we can learn on our spiritual journey is to appreciate the religious beliefs of other people. One of the greatest blessings I have received as a hospital chaplain is exposure to religious traditions and beliefs of people that are different than my own. Sometimes I am invited to participate in those religious practices. These times have provided a priceless opportunity to learn about other faiths, thereby enriching my own spirituality by transcending the religious barriers that tend to keep people apart.

I recently heard a speaker use the term “Cultural Humility.” I had never heard it before and it immediately intrigued me. Cultural Humility is a term that was coined to describe a way of infiltrating multiculturalism by healthcare professionals. Going beyond the idea of Cultural Competency, Cultural Humility focuses on self-reflection, fostering mutual respect, and lifelong learning between cultures.

The concept of “Cultural Humility” reminds me of the following quotation which I think epitomizes the term (adjusted slightly to be inclusive):

Our first task in approaching another people, another culture,   another religion, is to take off our shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy. Else we may find ourselves treading on another’s dream. More serious still, we may forget that the Universal Creative Life Energy (referred to by many as God) was present before our arrival.  (Raymond Hummer)

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As human beings we must learn to respond differently to the people and situations in life that “turn our crank.”

This article is an excerpt from, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time,written by Charles W. Sidoti.

Believing that it is possible to change, that it is possible to become less fearful and controlling and to become more trusting and free, is an important first step toward inner peace. My wife, Tina, helped me to see this truth in a new and interesting way. She once made the comment, “You shouldn’t respond to things that happen in your life like a Jack-in-the-Box!” I immediately received a mental picture from her simile and recognized it as a wonderful way to understand the responsibility that we have as human beings to grow. I pictured in my mind the Jack-in-the-Box children’s toy, the familiar colored box with the crank on the side that plays music as you turn the crank until the top flies open and the “Jack” springs out and surprises you. The point is that when you turn the crank you get the same response from the toy every time. As human beings we must learn to respond differently to the people and situations in life that turn our crank. We are not Jack-in-the-Boxes.

The day after my wife shared her Jack-in-the-Box observation with me, the chief executive officer of the hospital where I work announced her decision to resign and go to work at another hospital. I had known the outgoing CEO for many years and knew that she valued my position as hospital chaplain. I was not at all sure that the new CEO would value my role in the same way. I was worried that I might lose my job.

As soon as I heard the news I went into the hospital chapel to mentally process the information. I felt the familiar sense of panic begin as I thought about all the possible implications for my job with a new CEO taking over. Then the Jack-in-the Box story popped into my mind. I literally found myself asking God to help not to respond like a Jack-in-the-Box. This helped me to open up and realize that there were many other possibilities that lay beyond my own negative thoughts about the situation. It freed me from the endless cycle of compulsively focusing on what “I thought” needed to happen. With the help of the Jack-in-the-Box imagery I was able to respond differently than I normally would. I decided not to panic, but instead to wait. I allowed the situation to take its course as I looked for evidence of God’s hand in the unfolding events. This experience affirmed for me that there really is a higher power at work in my life, a power that I can trust in, that remains in control when things happen in life that are outside of my ability to control.

Connecting Point: Think for a moment about your own responses to the events and people in your life that turn your crank. Do you often respond in the same way to them? Choose to live in the dignity that is yours realizing that you have a choice in the way you respond. Exercising your right to choose your responses instead of just going along with your same familiar knee-jerk reactions can be the key that unlocks the door to a whole new way of approaching life’s circumstances, and a whole new level of emotional freedom.

Prayer: Loving God, thank you for calling me to grow as a human being. I do not always live out the dignity that you have blessed me with by calling me to be your child. Help me to live in the freedom for which you created me by responding to the events and people in my life thoughtfully, and not like a Jack-in-the-Box. Help me, Lord, to believe and to trust you enough to wait and allow your work to evolve from within each situation of my life. Amen.

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