Archive for the ‘Influencing Others’ Category

Written by Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

The greatest movie I have ever seen depicting the life of Jesus is the controversial 1988 Martin Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Christ.

The following is a theological reflection inspired in part by this amazing film:

From error to error, one discovers the entire truth” – Dr. Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychologist (1856-1939). Could Jesus, while he walked the earth, identify with Freud’s statement?  If the words are applicable to the human condition it is reasonable to assume that the answer is “yes.” For Christians, the great mystery of Jesus is that he was truly human and truly God. A Jesus without the truly human aspect leaves only the divine, which would mean that he wasn’t really like us at all. The New Testament refers to how Christ lived while he walked upon the earth. It reminds us, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

As human beings we can learn from our mistakes. They are an opportunity to learn something about ourselves, about the way in which God works in our lives, and to grow, as Jesus did, “…in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). One of the most important things Jesus taught is the need to be open and to learn from life experience. It may seem unusual, even challenging to think of Jesus as being someone capable of making a mistake. It is important to note that sin involves intention; making an innocent error is not sinful. It is an inescapable part of the human condition. Again, the fact that Jesus was truly human is a fundamental truth of Christianity. “We believe…true God and true man…not a phantasm, but the one and only Son of God” (Council of Lyons II, DS 852). This doctrine was more recently affirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which emphasized,

The new relationship in which the Word, in taking on flesh and becoming human like us, has initiated himself with every human being. By his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man and woman. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin (GS 22).

Truth was essential to Jesus. He spoke about it just prior to his death as he stood before Pontius Pilate, “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (John 18:37 – 38).  In response Pilate uttered the infamous question, “What is truth?”

When reflecting on Jesus’ words to Pilate we might ask, “To what aspect of his being was Jesus referring? What is the truth to which his life gives testimony?” It is a question well worth pondering. And further, “How did Jesus come to know that truth?” The likely answer is that the truth in Jesus’ life was revealed to him gradually as his life evolved and unfolded. Since he was human, this necessarily included learning from his mistakes. This is important because as followers of Christ, we will discover the truth about our own lives, and who we are in relation to God, the same way.

Only a humble heart can be guided by the wisdom of Freud’s statement.  Jesus’ earthly life provides a most excellent model of humility for us to emulate. His humble way of life is a path on which he invites you and I to follow, “…learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29).  But what is behind the humility of Christ?

Jesus being “humble of heart” epitomizes a human being’s relationship with God. Although it does not always receive the amount of attention as his divinity, Jesus’ humanity was the same human nature, and God’s grace, that you and I have to work with in the pursuit of truth in our own lives.

The greatest movie I have ever seen depicting the life of Jesus is the controversial 1988 Martin Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Christ. The following summary of the movie is taken from Wikipedia:

Based on an earlier novel by the same title, the film depicts the life of Jesus Christ. Its central thesis is that Jesus, while free from sin, was still subject to every form of temptation that humans face, including fear, doubt, depression, reluctance and lust. This results in the book and film depicting Christ being tempted by imagining himself in sexual activities, a notion that has caused outrage from some Christians. The movie includes a disclaimer explaining that it departs from the commonly accepted Biblical-portrayal of Jesus’ life, and that it is not intended to be an exact recreation of the events detailed in the Gospels.

This film dares to depict a Jesus that has real human feelings and emotions. He was depicted as a person capable of imagining, even desiring, a life different than the one he was being called to live. In the end despite the powerful temptation to choose another way, he chooses to be true to himself and to whom God was calling him to be: the Christ. Until seeing Jesus portrayed in this way I never realized how important the human part of his being is to my personal belief in him.

For the most part, traditional “Jesus movies” are film adaptations of the Gospel. Moving from one biblical scene to the next they show a very compassionate, heroic, courageous, yet tragically misunderstood Jesus. The portrayal of a Jesus who is always brave, always in the role of the teacher, a Jesus that is apparently filled with nothing but wisdom, is not a Jesus that experiences what it means to be human. While no film or book is comparable to Sacred Scripture, which is the written word of God, it is important to realize that the Gospel accounts of Jesus are skeletal at best. Jesus’ life and personality while he walked on earth involved infinitely more than the few scenes and words recorded in the Bible.  Experiencing a film like The Last Temptation of Christ can be helpful. It presents aspects of Jesus life not revealed in scripture in a way that, while fictional, portrays a fuller version of what his personality might have been like from a human perspective.

The year 1988 was a difficult time for me. It was a time when I was personally struggling with depression, fear and confusion in my own life. After seeing the movie with a couple of friends I came out of the theater feeling renewed and filled with hope.  For the first time I was able to see Jesus from a different perspective, a human perspective. Seeing him portrayed as a real human being, as someone who could make mistakes and learn from them instead of as a deity pretending to be one of us was eye-opening.  I felt that I could relate to this kind of Jesus and equally important, that he could relate to me. The movie helped me to realize that Jesus truly walked in my shoes and that he had to experience the same kind of darkness and inner struggles that I do and, obviously, much more. The moment I realized that he lived his life without possessing some unfair advantage that I don’t have, that he was really human, I was able to open my heart to him at a more meaningful level.

So then, what was Christ really like when he walked upon the earth? No one really knows but long before his birth the prophet Isaiah had this to say,

He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem (Isaiah 53:2-3).

As human beings we need a God that we can relate to and a God that can relate to us. The fact that Jesus experienced the fullness of humanity is critically important. If Jesus were anything less than truly and fully human it would mean that the only possible relationship between God and us would be a pie-in-the-sky relationship with a God that looks down from afar. Thankfully, this is not the case for, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

The Book of Proverbs instructs us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight” (Proverbs 3:5).  Jesus lived these words while he walked on the Earth, and he did it as one of us, within the limits and confines of the human condition. Jesus shows us, by example, that it is possible to evolve from living a life that is dominated by fear to living a life that is centered on trust. This is an important part of the truth to which Jesus’ life gives testimony. A careful read of Scripture reveals that it was necessary for Jesus to trust in God, whom he called Father.

Humility opens our eyes to God’s presence. It was true for Jesus and so it is for us. Our humility and trust in God’s presence makes it possible for us to keep our minds open when things in life do not seem to be going according to our plans or as we would like them to go. Richard Carlton’s very popular (1997) self-help book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: and its all-small stuff, contained a powerful reflection titled, Get comfortable Not Knowing, in which he addresses the need for us to keep an open mind especially in the face of adversity. The main point of the reflection is that sometimes we may interpret a life event to be something bad when in hindsight we are surprised to discover that it led to something good.  The reflection ends with the following words:

The moral of this story provides a powerful lesson. The truth is, we don’t know what’s going to happen – we just think we do. Often we make a big deal out of something. We blow up scenarios in our minds about all the terrible things that are going to happen. Most of the time we are wrong. If we keep our cool and stay open to possibilities, we can be reasonably certain that, eventually, “all will be well.”

Learning from our mistakes as Freud’s statement, “From error to error, one discovers the entire truth,” suggests will require authentic humility.  “Staying open to possibilities” when things seem to be going wrong requires trust.  We need to trust that God is present within whatever situation we might be facing to guide and direct us. Trust helps us to get through the situation and to grow spiritually through the difficulty in a way we never imagined.

The title of Carlton’s reflection suggests something that is very difficult to put into practice. It suggests that we, “get comfortable not knowing.” This is one of the great challenges of the spiritual life. Jesus trusted that the Father would provide a way for him in the midst of his own trials and tribulations. He needed to trust when he could not see that way for himself, without knowing how his father would provide for him. As followers of Jesus we will need to do the same; we need to become “meek and humble of heart.” In so doing, with our lives grounded in trust, we will eventually discover the entire truth; and our lives will testify to it.

The Common Thread:  Reflect upon Jesus’ admonition to be “meek and humble of heart” in relation to the circumstances of your own life. 

This article is from “Simple Contemplative Spirtuality – View it on my blog:https://sidoticharles.wordpress.com/

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By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC, Blog: https://sidoticharles.wordpress.com/

The Wizard of Oz is widely recognized as a story which, on many levels, relates metaphorically to our own life journey.

I have experienced enough of life to realize that there are definite personal advantages to becoming a more patient person. I have made it one of my lifetime goals. I call it a lifetime goal because it may take that long for me to actually become patient. There is nothing wrong with that; it won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, I have made what I consider to be a giant step forward by realizing the great truth that patience is not passive. This powerful spiritual principal is contained in the words of sculptor Auguste Rodin who said, “Patience is also a form of action.” It may be one of the most powerful forms of action we can take. The statement “Patience is also a form of action” represents a radically different way of understanding the meaning of the word “patience.” When someone reminds us that we “need to be patient,” it can cause us to feel frustrated. Being told to “be patient” seems to force us into passivity, a helpless, hopeless desert of waiting. The desert of waiting is created from the erroneous belief that absolutely nothing will happen with regard to our situation unless we personally do it. If I believe this to be true and have reached the end of what is within my control to do, regarding something or someone that I care very much about, then frustration is a completely logical emotion to feel.

To understand how “having patience” can be a form of action, it is first necessary to realize that having patience is about being open to other possibilities regarding the outcome of events or situations in our lives as we stand before an uncertain future. It will require a letting go of the need to receive an immediate answer to our many questions. Patience, in a healthy sense, involves really believing in the existence of a power greater than me and trusting in that power enough to allow it to act upon my situation without my constant interference. To live patiently is to decide that you can live with the questions and let the answers come to you through the unfolding of events.

The classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz is the story of Dorothy Gale’s journey through the beautiful and magical Land of Oz. The purpose of Dorothy’s journey is to see the Wizard who will, hopefully, grant her heart’s desire which is to go home. The Wizard of Oz is widely recognized as a story which, on many levels, relates metaphorically to our own journey through life. If you have seen the film, you may recall the beautiful scene in which Dorothy, after just arriving in Munchkin Land, encounters Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Dorothy has just received instructions from Glinda on how to get to The Emerald City, where The Wizard of Oz lives. She is told to, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” Dorothy walks to the place where the Yellow Brick Road begins, and says aloud to herself, while questioning the strange directive, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road?” Turning to look at Glinda, she asks, “But what happens if I…?” At this point Glinda cuts off Dorothy mid-sentence and with a tinge of sternness in her voice says to Dorothy, “Just follow the Yellow Brick Road.” The Good Witch then floats away and disappears. Dorothy does indeed follow the Yellow Brick Road with her questions yet unanswered. She is able to set the questions aside for the moment. Dorothy is able to trust enough in the counsel she received from Glinda to place her feet upon the Yellow Brick Road and begin her journey through the Land of Oz. We know from the story that the answer to Dorothy’s many questions was given to her through the living out of that journey.

The dialogue between Dorothy and Glinda, especially Dorothy’s response, humbly accepting the directive from Glinda to follow the Yellow Brick Road, is worth further reflection. Dorothy’s response is analogous to that of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her response to the news of the Angel Gabriel that she was to become the mother of Jesus. Luke’s Gospel tells us that Mary was “perplexed” by the angel’s greeting, and further expressed that she did not understand how she could conceive a child in her womb, because she was a virgin. In the end Mary set aside her questions and trusted in a power greater than herself, a power that was beyond her ability to understand. “Mary said, ‘I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.’ With that the angel left her” (Luke 1:38). The answer to Mary’s questions came as she lived out her life’s journey, and in so doing became a central part of salvation history.

Mary’s patience toward getting the answer to her questions was also a form of action, a very radical form of action. Mary’s patience was an acknowledgment of the power of God to act in her life in an unimaginable circumstance. It was at the same time a most profound expression of trust that the word of God spoken to her would be fulfilled. In the same gospel, when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, part of what Elizabeth said to Mary included these words, “Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). Our lives contain a mixture of events, some of which are good and others that are tragic, that are beyond our ability to understand. God asks us to trust in the midst of these circumstances in the same way Mary and many other figures from Sacred Scripture were called upon to trust. When we choose to practice patience instead of insisting on receiving immediate answers to our questions or to know beforehand “how” God will work things out in our lives, our patience becomes a powerful form of action. The verse from the Book of Proverbs mentioned earlier also applies here, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The contemplative connection: Call to mind a situation in your life to which responding with patient-trust might be appropriate. Accept the anxiety of allowing your questions to go unanswered for now. Ask God to help you to move forward in trust, confident that the answers you seek will be given in the living out of your life. In this way your patience is also a form of action.

——

This article is from “Simple Contemplative Spirituality.” View it on the publisher’s website: http://vesuviuspressincorporated.com/simple-contemplative-spirituality/

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

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.

_____

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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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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living-at-gods-speed-healing-in-gods-time

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Contents: http://pastoralplanning.com/23rdBookParts/LivingGodsSpeed_TOC.pdf

Read the Introduction: http://pastoralplanning.com/23rdBookParts/LivingGodsSpeed_Intro

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