Monthly Archives: January 2016

Prayer


 

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. – 1 John 5:14-15

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. – James 4:3

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. – John 15:7

Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. – Hebrews 11:6

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that since the death of my friend, I have suffered from a crisis of faith. It got bad enough that I turned over my Sunday posts to the wisdom of Michael Dodd, because I could not find the faith to write an uplifting and inspirational post. Four things have helped me recover my faith. One, God never abandoned me. We may not have been on speaking terms, but he was still with me and in my heart. Two, John (The Closet Preacher) helped me to see that sometimes tragedies happen, but they aren’t God’s fault. I’d always believed that all things happened for a reason, but John helped me realize that sometimes there is no reason. Three, one friend told me that maybe God had brought my friend into my life to help prepare me for my move to Vermont and that he had served his purpose for God. While I don’t think that I was his only purpose, I do believe that God put him in my life for a certain period of time to help me. I don’t think I was ready to let go of that help, but God had other ideas and my friend is now there with the Heavenly Hosts and is still looking down on me and continues to help, which brings me to my fourth reason. The other day, I was going through some old emails, particularly those sent by my friend. The email below was from him (though I took a few personal paragraphs out). As I read it, I realized that my faith is continuing to grow and that my friend would be saddest by the crisis of faith that I experienced after his death.

So I thought I’d send you a couple of things I heard today at church. Just because they meant something to me and I wanted to share.

First thing he did was ask anyone with an iPhone to raise their hands. Then he asked how many of us use Siri. Then he posed this question. Why is it so easy to turn to Siri or Google for trivial answers, but so hard sometimes to turn to God in prayer to get answer to life’s most important questions or to get his guidance in our lives. Wow.

Then he talked about our approach to prayer. Is it more like picking up the phone, placing a take out order, then hanging up thinking that’s all we need to do or do we take time to meditate and think about the things we want to talk with God about? And he purposely used the word WITH not TO. He said we need to approach prayer as if we are engaging in a conversation, but respectfully because God is our Heavenly Father. He is our father so we can think about him that way and have a conversation WITH him. He also said not to worry if our prayers are clumsy or not perfect. God knows our hearts and will listen.

He then talked about receiving answers to our prayers. He said most prayers aren’t necessarily answered on our knees. Sometimes they are so we need to take time to listen during and after our prayers. But they often come thru other people or other means. And we will know that we received an answer because we will know it in our hearts and God communicates spirit to spirit.

Then he gave us three important things we need in order to receive answers to prayers

  1. Faith that we will receive answers
  2. We need to seek for answers not just ask and sit back waiting. He said we need to do our part. Asking is the first part, acting is the second. We should study scripture or other uplifting words, or meditate and study it out in our minds, and share our questions with others.
  3. Recognize how answers come. Listen to who might be inspired to give us direction. In all cases, we will receive a confirmation in our minds and hearts that we receive the answer if we are truly open to receiving answers regardless of what the answers may be. Sometimes the answer is no or to do things a different way.

Then we ended the meeting by singing “Sweet Hour of Prayer”. I’m guessing you know this hymn and may even sing it in your church. Anyway the song and words are beautiful and really meaningful.

Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your Sunday posts. They always get me thinking. And this time it got me to act. Thanks for your friendship and always being there to help, inspire and humor me. I feel very fortunate to call you my friend and hope that I am able to return that friendship back as much as possible.

And so I will end this post just like that preacher did about eighteen months ago. May God Bless you all.

Sweet Hour of Prayer
By William W. Walford

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!

The joys I feel, the bliss I share,
Of those whose anxious spirits burn
With strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
Where God my Savior shows His face,
And gladly take my station there,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!

Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since He bids me seek His face,
Believe His Word and trust His grace,
I’ll cast on Him my every care,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!

May I thy consolation share,
Till, from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height,
I view my home and take my flight.
This robe of flesh I’ll drop, and rise
To seize the everlasting prize,
And shout, while passing through the air,
“Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!”


Moment of Zen: Snow

 
Living up here in yankeeland, I’m probably not supposed to get so excited about the snow, but I do. I just love it. I’m not fond of driving in it, but as long as I don’t have to drive in it, I find it beautiful and relaxing.
 
 


Therapy

  

I’ve said before on this blog that I’ve been going to therapy. It was a way of trying to deal with the death of my friend. Well, yesterday I told my therapist that I wouldn’t be back. I had begun to dread going to see the therapist. I haven’t gotten over my friend’s death, but I also couldn’t keep dredging up such painful memories. I want to remember the good times we had and the closeness I felt with him. I do not want to continue remembering only his death and the pain I felt afterwards.

In therapy, we had also talked about my hidden pains, which was a realization that I found very helpful. The picture above reminded me of what therapy was like. When I look at this picture, the first thing I see is a nearly naked man. He is the center of the pictures focus. The yellowish light around him focuses your eyes there. Then you notice the darkness and the city lights beyond. That’s how I felt in therapy. It was mostly me talking and the therapist listening, which was what I needed at first. It was completely centered on me, but as I talked more, I didn’t want to keep going over the same difficult memories time and again without knowing of a way to,deal with the pain. I needed someone else in the picture to help me deal with the issues I was dealing with. I know there is a darkness surrounding me, but that there is an abundance of light beyond the class that holds me inside.

Once I realized that I absolutely dreaded going to therapy, I knew it was time to stop. The other thing that I realized is that it was after therapy that I was experiencing panic attacks. Honestly, I didn’t realize that until this afternoon. You see, I haven’t had a panic attack in nearly two weeks, and since I’d skipped therapy last week because of a headache, it had been two weeks since I’d been to therapy. I realized thought that talking about some of these issues and the dark cloud that seems to surround me that was one of the causes of my panic attacks. Last night, I had an attack so bad that I had to take a Xanax just to be able to calm down. Panic attacks are one of the worst things to me. I feel like I have not control when I have one, and they also cause a period of intense depression. The Xanax eases that ever so slightly.

So goodbye therapy. I may seek other types of counseling, but for now, I feel better that I won’t be going back. I needed there to be more than just me doing all the talking. I hate for the focus to be just me.

  


Sleepy

  

I was so sleepy all day yesterday. In fact, I think just about everyone I talked to was just as sleepy as I was. So I came home and took a nap. Of course, no bap,would be complete without my mother calling and interrupting it. She called to ask about a B&B here in Vermont. I gave her the information and since I couldn’t fall back to sleep, I decided to get up and fix dinner. Then I sat and watched the news. All they really wanted to talk about on the news was that Bernie Sanders went to the White House, and Donald Trump was skipping the debate. After the news, I turned off the TV because it seemed like nothing good was on last night. So I went to bed early. In bed by 9 pm and lights out by 10:30 pm.

Hopefully, I won’t be as sleepy today. Even my Tazo Awake tea didn’t do its job properly. I could still barely stay awake.


A Hot Bath

  
Last night I decided to take a long hot bath. It had been in the low 40s yesterday, and my apartment was pleasantly warm. It was the perfect time to take a bath. When we were younger, we often had toys in the tub with us, as adults we have our on built in toys, but I digress… The main thing was that I was in a good mood. As I said in yesterday’s post/poem, I was in a somber mood on Sunday and Monday. To lift my spirits Sunday, I took a drive. I decided to drive somewhere that if never been, which could be almost anywhere up here, but since the Snowmageddon (Winter Storm Jonas, Snowzilla, or whatever they want to call it) was to my south, I drove north. I don’t yet have my enhanced driver’s license so I couldn’t go into Canada yet, but I did drove up to St Albans. There isn’t a lot to do up there in the winter, and besides, I just wanted to see the town where the northernmost battle of the Civil War took place.

So that was Sunday. To lift my spirits last night I took a long hot bath to relax and enjoy some quiet alone time. After that, I decided to watch Teen Wolf on MTV. I’ve been hesitant to watch it because it was something that my late friend and I had done together. We always watched it together and talked about it as we watched. I thought it would make me sad, but as I watched, I just continued to talk to him. We lived apart, so we used to text during the show, but this way, I just talked to him while I watched. I hope he was with me and could hear what I said. I always know when his spirit is near because I have a happiness and contentment. I know he must be near because I don’t feel an overwhelming sadness when I think of his passing, but I feel a sense of “I’m still here; I won’t abandon you.” This may seem silly, but I look forward to the day when I can sit with him on the streets of heaven and check out all the hot angels as they go by. It’s a natural progression, we talked about the hot guys on a Teen Wolf, and you know the angels will be drop dead beautiful.


Mourning and Loss in Poems

image

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

 

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)

Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 – 1950

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

 

Forever

Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1872 – 1906

I had not known before
Forever was so long a word.
The slow stroke of the clock of time
I had not heard.

‘Tis hard to learn so late;
It seems no sad heart really learns,
But hopes and trusts and doubts and fears,
And bleeds and burns.

The night is not all dark,
Nor is the day all it seems,
But each may bring me this relief—
My dreams and dreams.

I had not known before
That Never was so sad a word,
So wrap me in forgetfulness—
I have not heard

 

All the Names We Will Not Know

Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

(for Adriana Corral)

Before dawn, trembling in air down to the old river,

circulating gently as a new season

delicate still in its softness, rustling raiment

of hopes never stitched tightly enough to any hour.

I was almost, maybe, just about, going to do that.

A girl’s thick dark hair, brushed over one shoulder

so regularly no one could imagine it not being there.

Hair as a monument. Hovering – pitched.

Beloved sister, maker of plans, main branch,

we needed you desperately, where have you gone?

Here is the sentence called No no no no no.

Come back, everything grants you your freedom,

here in the mire of too much thinking,

we drown, we drown, split by your echo.

 

Mourning and Loss in Poems
Joe, 1977

I had a poem that I really liked,
But I was in a somber mood last night.
I searched for poems of mourning and loss;
Some I kept; some I tossed.
I decided I’d go with Robert Frost.

I’ve always loved the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,”
Then I read Sonnet XLIII by Edna St Vincent Millay.
She talks of kisses and boys who are gone.
Then Dunbar says, “That Never was so sad a word,”
And all my moods could clearly be heard.

I chose one last poem by N.S. Nye,
Because I wish I could have said goodbye.
He was a friend I cannot forget.
My mind races and runs and I am aghast,
For “I love you” we’re the words he said last.


Pretty Picture

  

I fell asleep last night without writing a post because I had a bad headache, so I am posting a pretty picture instead.


A Beautiful Life

image

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. Luke 10:33-34

A Beautiful Life
By William M. Golden, 1918

Each day I’ll do a golden deed,
By helping those who are in need;
My life on earth is but a span,
And so I’ll do the best I can.

Refrain:
Life’s evening sun is sinking low,
A few more days, and I must go
To meet the deeds that I have done,
Where there will be no setting sun.

To be a child of God each day,
My light must shine along the way;
I’ll sing His praise while ages roll,
And strive to help some troubled soul.

The only life that will endure,
Is one that’s kind and good and pure;
And so for God I’ll take my stand,
Each day I’ll lend a helping hand.

I’ll help someone in time of need,
And journey on with rapid speed;
I’ll help the sick and poor and weak,
And words of kindness to them speak.

While going down life’s weary road,
I’ll try to lift some trav’ler’s load;
I’ll try to turn the night to day,
Make flowers bloom along the way.

This song reminds me of my friend who passed away. I think everyone who knew him thought he’d be gone far too soon. He was too good for us to keep forever. He struggled with issues that few people understand. One of the reasons we both seemed to click so well is because we both suffered from depression and anxiety. I still do, but he’s now in a place where there is no setting sun. He had a beautiful smile and it was infectious. He was a beautiful life.

He strove each day to do a golden deed. His golden deed might be telling someone good morning and have a great day, or it might be picking out a greeting card that he thought was perfect for someone he cared about, not for a special occasion but because he wanted to “give you a little happy” as he’d call it. He gave so much to so many. Those of us who knew him felt the love radiate from him.

He wanted to be a child of God. He succeeded because his light shone far and wide. He brought joy to so many and while he himself was a troubled soul, he worked to lift the weary load of other troubled souls. I can remember many times this past summer when I was searching for a job, when he would tell me that God had a plan. When I’d get a rejection letter, he’d say it was because God knew it wasn’t the right job for me. He always had an encouraging word.

While my friend may no longer have an earthly presence, he lived a life that will endure, because he was “kind and good and pure.” Each day he did lend me a helping hand, and I’m sure he lent a helping hand to many others. He was a genuinely good person.

When I needed someone most, he was always there. The only times that I didn’t receive a rapid response to a call for help was when he couldn’t give one. The last time I reached out to him and begged him to respond and let me know that he was okay, he couldn’t answer because he’d already left us. He always helped when I was sick, and he’d help the poor often by giving anonymously. He never wanted credit for his good deeds.

He journeyed down life’s weary road and took on the burdens of others. He believed his own load of worries was too much for anyone to bear, but he’d add on more worries from those who needed help the most. He always could turn my night to day. When I was in my darkest moods, he knew exactly how to cheer me up, and I’m sure he did that with many other people as well.

This song is based on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. You may know that the Samaritans were despised by the Jews, and vice versa. My friend tried to find a church where he lived. He’d wanted to worship God and be in his light, but at several churches he attended, he was told, sometimes in words, sometimes in deeds, that he was not welcomed because he was gay.

One of the lessons of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is that we should see each other equally and help out those in need, no matter who they are, what flaws we may perceive they have. The Samaritan didn’t see the Jew as a Jew, but as a man in need. Remember that a priest and a Levite, both holy men, had passed by the injured man, but it was the Samaritan, the outcast who’d helped.

We cannot turn our heads and ignore those in need, and we should strive to help others. We may not be able to financially, but there are always ways to lend love and support. Love and support are often worth far more than gold and silver. Imagine how wonderful this world would be if it were made up of people like my friend, people who followed the true ideals of Jesus.

My friend was not only a Good Samaritan but he also was a beautiful life.


Moment of Zen: Music 

  


Catharsis 

  

Writing is very cathartic for me. As a teacher, I hear many students say that writing can be painful and exhausting. It can be, but ultimately I believe that if you push through, the process is healing and exhilarating. —Francesca Lia Block

The word “catharsis” originates from the Greek language and means to cleanse or purge. In psychotherapy, catharsis refers to the process of consciously experiencing deep emotions that have previously been repressed, thus moving them to the surface and allowing them to come out. I use the term in this sense of emotional cleansing or clearing — a release of pent-up emotional energy through experiencing and expressing emotions.

Back when I was writing research papers, ideas would swirl in my head after I’d gone to bed, and if I didn’t get up and write them down, they’d be lost in the morning but then haunt me the next night. The same is true when I’m writing a story or my novel. The same is true when I have emotional issues, like those surrounding the death of my friend. I was writing an email to a friend of mine yesterday and realized that if gotten way off topic, so I put that aside and decided to turn it into a blog post. Once it was written, I shared it with a few of my friends but ultimately decided that it was too personal. It was just too close to my heart. What I realized most of all about the piece was that it gave me a sense of catharsis writing it.

Yesterday, I skipped my counseling session. I awoke with a headache and that was a good enough excuse for me. I doubt some of you who are proponents of counseling will agree with me on this, but I was doing just fine before my friend’s death. I could express myself in two ways: my friend and my blog. If there was something I did not want to blog about, I had him to talk to. We were both able to be each other’s counselors in times of need. No, neither of us was trained, but we could be completely and totally honest with each other about everything. I have never had that with anyone else and it was not an immediate thing with my departed friend; it developed over time. When I need someone to talk to that is when I miss him the most. 

Therefore, I sometimes write out my thoughts as a way to deal with them. Cathartic writing is like releasing the gauge of a pressure cooker. It enables you to ventilate and let the steam out, providing all important emotional release. Some people are reluctant to express their feelings on paper because they have been told that it is self indulgent or they feel that what they see on paper will not be very pretty. Frankly, what emerges in emotional writing can be far from pretty. The good, the bad and the ugly all come pouring onto the page when you write in a cathartic fashion. Often it feels like the writing is full of wailing and moaning.

When you write for yourself, and only for yourself, in a personal essay, you allow yourself to express feelings and thoughts that you might not want or dare to tell anyone else. One of the things about my friend who passed away was that we texted each other a lot and we could say things that we might not have wanted to verbalize. I might have written about things I hated to admit even to myself, such as, “I don’t really much like being Mr. Nice Guy all the time,” or “sometimes I question my relationships,” or “I feel like running away.” No matter what I wrote to him, he was always there with an encouraging word. He never criticized me, but always encouraged me to be a better person.

Writing my feelings allows me to air them. I used to send these thoughts to my friend instead of writing them for myself as I find myself doing these days. And so, rather than pushing these feelings down inside myself now and clogging my emotional being with pent up frustrations, fears, and doubts, I acknowledge them and write them down. And in so doing, I try to honor my friend and the relationship we had. I can still acknowledge and allow these feelings to have their full run.

When I write honestly and unreservedly, not only about the events in my life but also about my feelings, I unburden myself of emotions that bog me down and keep me from accomplishing what I want to accomplish or of being the sort of person I’d really like to be. Sometimes these writings become a blog post, especially if I think it might help someone else, but sometimes they are like the piece I wrote last night and are just for a select few eyes only, but sometimes for only my eyes only. When I write something though, I generally want to share it with someone.

Even if I do nothing else with my writing, but write my honest feelings, I can hope to experience the benefits of catharsis: cleansing, a sense of purification, and relief.


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