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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.

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

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By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

As a child growing up in a Christian family, I had a belief in Santa Claus that was a fun and exciting part of the Christmas holiday. When I had children of my own, I enjoyed seeing the excitement on their faces as they heard the story of magical jolly fellow who lived at the North Pole and delivered gifts on Christmas Eve to all of the good little children. All of this he did while riding on his magic sleigh with eight tiny reindeer! What could be better? One day my eight-year-old son, Charles, and I were taking a walk with our dog when he asked me, “Dad, is God like Santa Claus?” I had to pause for a moment. The last thing I wanted to was explain away the wonderful childhood fantasy of Santa Claus for him.

The reasoning that led Charles to ask this question is very easy to understand. To him, it seemed completely logical that God should exist in exactly the same way as a character like Santa Claus. Think about it. A child never actually sees Santa, although children do see Santa’s “helpers” at the department store. Children are told that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and keeps a close eye on kid’s behavior, rewarding the ones who are good and disappointing the ones who are bad. As the words of the ever-popular children’s Christmas song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, say:

He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”

At approximately the same age that children are told about Santa, they also begin to learn about God. To a child, God is also explained as someone with seemingly magical powers. Children are told that God is watching over us from heaven, a place that seems as remote as the North Pole. They learn that God is also someone who cares about them, knows everything about them, and wants them to be good. Children learn that God’s helpers are called angels, who are all around but never seen. Santa’s workers are called “elves,” and we can’t see them, either! And just as with Santa, we never see God. It is little wonder why Charles asked me if God was the same as Santa.

At some point, we need to grow beyond a child’s understanding God. Our relationship with God must grow and evolve with us into adulthood or it will cease to contain meaning, just like our relationship with Santa. Every meaningful relationship grows and changes or it simply dissolves. Our relationship with our parents is a good example. A small child sees his or her parents as all-knowing, all powerful beings. If our relationship with our parents is a healthy one, it evolves as we grow into adulthood. It is then that we are able to see and appreciate our parents for what they really are, human beings.

What determines if a relationship grows or ends? The difference is communication. With Santa there is no real two-way communication, because there is no real Santa. With God it is different. Growing in the awareness of God’s presence in our life and becoming aware of God’s constant communication are what is meant by learning to live a contemplativelife. For our relationship with God to be meaningful and real as adults, we need this awareness of God’s presence and recognition of the many ways that God communicates with us.

The transition from believing in a magical, Santa-like God to growing in relationship with the Living God happens in ways that are as individual as we are. Each person’s relationship with God is different. Personally, my exposure to the monastic tradition, especially the writings of Thomas Merton and other contemplative authors, has had a profound impact on my own spiritual development.

One of the greatest gifts that the monastic tradition can bestow upon a person is what I refer to as the development of a contemplative mindset. By a contemplative mindset, I am referring to the realization that God comes to us from within creation, indeed from within our very selves. God isn’t “up there” somewhere, removed from this world. God is present within the context, the events, of our everyday lives. It is within the events of our everyday life that God desires to meet us, guide us and heal us. The awareness that all of life is Sacred, that all of God’s creation is good and the place where God dwells, is a profoundly healing realization. It is the fruit of attentively waiting upon the Lord through the events and the circumstances of our lives. When you see God in this way, it is impossible to think of God as a Santa Claus like figure, somewhere far removed from us and looking down. No, God is very close, indeed an in-dwelling presence.

Connecting Point: Your image, the way you think of (or see) God, should grow and evolve as you journey through life. Do you think yours has? Ask God in your own words to place in your heart the desire to grow in that relationship.

Prayer: Lord, help me to grow in relationship with you, the “Living God.” Direct my heart that I may wait patiently upon you to reveal yourself to me. May I become increasingly aware of the many ways that you communicate your love and presence to me every day. May I respond sincerely through my life with others and in the solitude of prayer. Amen.

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This article is from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time

 Buy it on Amazon.com only $14.95! http://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X

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Have you ever wrestled with a personal issue and felt as if you wanted someone else to make a decision for you? That’s how I was feeling.

By Charles W. Sidoti, From: “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time”

Thomas Merton once compared living a spiritual life to standing before a field of fresh fallen snow that you must cross, his advice: “Walk across the snow and there is your path.” Being a trailblazer through the fresh fallen snow, as Merton puts it, involves walking your own unique, untrodden path. As good as Merton’s advice sounds, it can be difficult to put into practice. Many of us would much rather walk familiar, well-trodden paths. Yet it is precisely the walking of a unique, untrodden path that each one of us, individually, is called to do in our life if we truly desire to grow in our relationship with God and others. Reflecting on what walking your own unique path would mean in your life can make all the difference in the world.

In considering how to follow Merton’s suggestion, it is necessary to realize that it involves a paradox. None of us walks through life completely alone. We live out our lives among other people. We have all heard the saying, “No man is an island,” by the great Christian poet John Donne. Hopefully, the relationships we have with others are mutually beneficial in helping us to grow and develop. On the other hand, it is also true that we are at times quite alone. Our personal moments of loneliness remind us of this truth in no uncertain terms. Taking the first step onto our own field of freshly fallen snow involves realizing this paradox and accepting it into our life. Just realizing and accepting that these two things, loneliness and our feeling of being connected with others, are a natural part of life can be helpful. There is a natural rhythm that exists between these two feelings, and at different times one of the feelings is dominant.

It is very helpful when we discover the relationship between our aloneness and our connectedness with others because the two work together in our lives. The relationship was explained to me in a most interesting way on one of my visits to the Abbey of the Genesee, which is a Trappist Monastery and retreat house located in Upstate New York. During a conversation with my spiritual director, Brother Anthony, I asked his advice about something I was dealing with at the time. I remember wanting him to just tell me what to do about the situation. Have you ever wrestled with a personal issue and felt as if you wanted someone else to make a decision for you? That is how I was feeling.

His answer to me contained wisdom. He very kindly said, “Chuck, you know its kind of like making a loaf of bread. You can find a recipe in a book and follow it. You can ask others about how they bake theirs, learn about other interesting ingredients and get advise about how others do it. But in the end, everyone must bake his or her own loaf of bread.”

After this conversation, I realized that I would not want anyone else to bake my loaf of bread – make my decisions, live my life. It is our involvement, our interaction with life, and the decisions we make that keep life fresh and alive. Once we reach the age of reason, no one can really make a decision for us. When you think about it, would you really want them to? Our lives are unique, just as we are, and therefore our relationship with life is meant to be unique. Seek out the wisdom others have to offer, yes, but realize at the same time the precious and exciting opportunity you have in your life to bake your own loaf of bread.

Connecting Point: Can you see a rhythm in your life between feelings of aloneness and a feeling that you are connected to others? Sometimes it is the aloneness part that needs attention, so that aloneness may eventually evolve into the positive state of being, called solitude. You can do this by seeking out a little bit of time alone each day just to be quiet or pray. Through this time, you will discover that you are never really alone.

Prayer: Good and gracious God, place gratitude in my heart for the gift of life. In times of difficulty, I don’t always see it as a gift. Sometimes it feels like a burden, especially in times of loneliness. Help me to make decisions that will lead me to the peace that you desire to give me. Place in my heart the desire to bake my own loaf of bread – with you. Amen.

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Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” – Traditionally Published

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“The art of being wise is in knowing what to overlook” – William James, American psychologist, philosopher and physician.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

The above quotation penetrates to the very heart of the way in which God sees us, which, over and above all else, is with an attitude of love, “…for God is Love” (1 John 4: 8). It is important to realize that an inseparable ingredient in that love is mercy. In mercy God patiently overlooks many of our faults. Rabbi Akiva Feinstein, contributing author in my first book, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time, explains:

“During our relatively short lives, God is patient with us. A particularly strong proof of God’s patience is the fact that our lives are sustained even when we do wrong. Imagine a universe where there is absolutely no margin for error, where punishment is instantaneous and total. Thankfully, that isn’t the world we live in. God is graciously patient and merciful with us, preserving our lives even when our actions hit way off the mark, so we have time to come to deeper realizations, make amends, and return to a straighter way.”

God’s patient way of interacting with us has the effect of being generative. Like the sun that draws life from the earth, God’s love nurtures and draws us forward, encouraging our spiritual growth and healthy human development even when our actions “miss the mark.” I once heard it said that at least part of what it means to love someone is to “will what is truly best for them.” Sometimes this means our overlooking their faults and having a generative attitude toward the other, like God has toward us.

In one of the Eucharistic Prayers used during the Catholic Mass the priest says, “Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us your forgiveness” (Eucharistic Prayer I). Perhaps more than being a request, this prayer is an acknowledgement of the way in which God relates to us. The following verses from Psalm 103 beautifully describe God’s loving attitude toward us:

“The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger for ever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust”(Psalm 103: 8-14).

The importance of God’s merciful love communicated to us in this Psalm cannot be overstated.  It is very important for us to remember that God’s way of looking at us is very heavily weighted with mercy, loving kindness, and forgiveness. God interacts with us in our lives in such a way that “…mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2: 13).

An inseparable part of living an authentic spiritual life is that we increasingly learn to treat others in the way that God treats us. In other words, we are to love others as God loves us. Jesus is very clear in regard to how we can accomplish this. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6: 36 – 37).  If we are to be compassionate as God is compassionate, it is critical that we reflect upon our own image of God, our own understanding of how God loves. If our intention is to imitate God, then our understanding of the way in which God behaves toward us will be reflected in our treatment of others. What type of behavior is it that we attribute to God that we wish to emulate in our own lives? What do we personally believe about God? In regard to the words of the referenced quotation, do we really believe that God overlooks our faults? Or do we have a different way of understanding God? Donald P. Gray in, Jesus the Way to Freedom, challenges us to think about what we believe about God when he asks:

“Do we really believe that God is love? Or have we learned to fear this loving and gracious father? Have we come to see the Son as love and the Father as the one who settles accounts, the one who demands that justice be satisfied, the one who works his wrath? Jesus is the revelation of God’s love and graciousness. He came to show us the Father’s compassionate care for us. “He who sees me sees him who sent me” (John 12:45). The Father is not justice and wrath and the Son love. The Father’s love is revealed in the Son.  The Son was given to us by the Father’s love so that we might give up fear. There is no fear in love. Jesus came into the world because we are so wrong about God and because that wrongness is destroying us. The father is not our enemy. If we think that we are wrong. The Father is not intent on trying, testing and tempting us. If we think that we are wrong.”

Gray explains so well that, for Christians, Jesus is the revelation, the incarnation, of God’s love. It is a love that, to use Rabbi Feinstein’s words once again, “patiently overlooks our many faults so we have time to come to deeper realizations, make amends, and return to a straighter way.” The way that Jesus looked upon and treated people during his life on earth is the way in which God, whom Jesus called Father, looks upon us.

I once participated in a very practical and eye-opening spiritual exercise that can be helpful in getting at least some sense of how our love compares to God’s love. You may be familiar with it, as it is commonly used in retreat settings and in homilies. It is to read the selection from 1st Corinthians that speaks about the excellence of the gift of love, substituting the word love with your own name. It would read like this.

Chuck is patient and kind; Chuck is not jealous or boastful; he is not arrogant or rude.  Chuck does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Chuck bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1st Corinthians 13: 4-7).

When we experience the merciful, abundant love of God in our own hearts it is that same love that will be communicated in our relationships with others. We will then, more consistently, as it is written in the Prayer of St. Francis, be an “instrument of God’s peace.” We will see ourselves differently as well. Able to be gentler with ourselves, we will finally begin to love ourselves as God loves us. The spiritually enlightened person, realizing how God overlooks his or her own faults, knows intuitively that while some things demand our immediate attention, at times even our correction, the art of being wise, more often than not, is in knowing what to overlook.

The Contemplative Connection: The unfathomable wisdom and mercy of God is revealed in that God overlooks so many of our faults throughout our lifetime. Ask God to help you extend that same merciful love toward yourself and toward others.

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This article is a sample from my newest book “Simple Contemplative spirituality.” Click below to view and / or purchase on the publishers websitehttp://amordeus.com/giftShopProductDetails.aspx?itemID=520 

Visit my blog “Finding God in Daily Life” to read more articles: https://sidoticharles.wordpress.com/

I came across this beautiful, thought provoking reflection.  It brought to mind 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 which begins: “Love is patient, Love is kind…

It’s message, though different than that of 1st Corinthians, certainly seems to be connected.  I thought others might find it meaningful as well.

love is blind

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via Daily Prompt: Disagree

This morning my wife, Tina, surprised me with a wonderful metaphor.  She needed to sew on a button.  After getting the needle and thread from her sewing basket she said, “Isn’t it funny how with all of the technology available, when I need to sew on a button I still reach for a needle and thread?”We reflected together about how personal relationships, at certain times, require the same kind of attention from us that sewing on a button does, in that you need to be “present in the moment.”

There is technology that can sew on a button.  But when it comes to the most important aspect of life, our relationships, technology will never replace personal, focused attention, and active engagement.

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Charles W. Sidoti is the author of, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time, with Rabbi Akiva Feinstein:

Read the Introduction, Table of Contents, and a Sample Chapter on the Twenty-Third Publications website:  http://store.pastoralplanning.com/liatgospiing.html

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