Weird Prayer Thingy

Over the last couple of years I’ve really been focusing on my prayer life. I kind of got on this kick after a discussion about prayer in our old life group. Everyone in that group had been a believer for 20+ years at least. During the discussion that night 3-4 people said in some form that they felt sometimes like they were praying to a distant God. Everyone there believed in the power of prayer. Everyone there believed in God and that he was indeed not distant. So why?

I proposed that maybe it’s possible that we focus so much on Jesus in the South that we just don’t see God and the Holy Spirit as close. I didn’t grow up in the church and made sure that everyone understood I was not throwing Jesus out. Just a thought.

Totally unplanned, my reading lead me to contemplative prayer. I don’t remember how I first became acquainted with the practice, but I’ve really enjoyed it and it makes sense in so many ways. I’ve been reading mostly Thomas Merton but others as well.

I still “vocalize” my prayers as I’ve always done but with a different perspective. I’m trying not to ramble but pray from my heart. But in addition to that, I’ve added contemplative prayer. I’m learning to sit still and quiet and listen for God. Like a child sitting quietly in his Father’s lap.

I won’t get into the details of contemplative prayer other than the main thing is to not allow your thoughts to go anywhere…just be quiet. When you realize you’ve ventured away, you use a centering word or phrase to return from your thoughts. There’s no particular words required. I just use what comes to mind that morning: Jesus, grace, love, peace, repeating the Jesus prayer. Something very simple. It’s also strongly suggested that you don’t stop for any new seemingly important thoughts. If God has brought something to mind he won’t let it slip away, right?

I’ve noticed that over time God has brought some really powerful thoughts, memories, sin, and tasks to mind regularly during these times. They seem to come out of nowhere. The weird thing is that when it happens, it is so shocking that I literally open my eyes wide, and immediately start worrying or processing the thought in my own power. I’ve just been going with it pretty much as if it must be something God wants me to deal. I recently decided to focus on not doing that and staying quiet as intended during that prayer time. Like I said, God called it to my mind so it won’t easily be forgotten.

Overall, I believe that’s a sign that I’m progressing in prayer and just have a new hurdle. I’m growing. I hate to even call it progressing or growing because I honestly feel that God honors our time devoted to him whether we feel like it or not.

I highly recommend looking into and practicing contemplative prayer. Not necessarily as a replacement of anything else. As a believer, Christ is in you. You have been anointed with the Holy Spirit. It shouldn’t be scary to attempt to let Christ in you speak! Also, in these days of fast paced life with social media and the barrage of information, it’s just good to learn to sit quietly.

anxiety over nothing to be anxious about

I’m an anxious person. I will be 60 years old this year and have always dealt with anxiety. I’m not always anxious but I have the potential at any time. Sometimes I can readily recognize what is making me anxious. Other times I have to do some deep diving to get to the bottom of it. Being on medication for a couple of years helped me be able to do that.

For example, something can come up at work or my personal life that causes me to be anxious. I’ve learned that I just need to process what is making me anxious and work through it rationally instead of just ignoring and plowing through the first warning flag. Sometimes it’s not so obvious. For instance, one time something came up with work that bothered me and made me anxious. I was quickly distracted by something else that I spent some time resolving. Once that was done, I was still had that feeling of anxiety but I couldn’t figure out why. I had completely forgot about the first work issue and never properly processed it. I’m not saying any of this process makes me anxiety free but it gives me a sense of peace.

It helps for me to remember the verse that says we should “take every thought captive”. The verse to “not be anxious”, is not helpful in itself but tell someone you’re anxious and you’ll get it square between the eyes. Truth or not.

Several times in the last week I’ve woke up during the night and haven’t been able to go back to sleep because of what feels like severe anxiety attacks. They’ve been so intense that I feel like I need to get up and run around the block to work it out of my system. The weird thing is I have no idea where they are coming from or what they’re related to.

A small disclaimer: I have prostate cancer. BUT, it was caught very early. I KNOW when my anxiety is related to that I believe. But other than that, my life is pretty solid. I’ll be 60 years old this year and have had time to resolve stuff in life. So I feel like I’m anxious over not having anything to be anxious about now. Maybe it’s comes with turning 60. Is my body so used to being anxious that it just goes into anxiousness-mode for no reason now? I don’t really even won’t to Google it to find out.

I’ll just sit on it for a while and continue to work through it.

Professional Work from Home Guy

I’ve been working from home almost 20 years. I used to be in an office of sorts but my company closed it down and told us to work from home. At that time, I just had an internet connection and our company software. I wasn’t completely connected to the corporation. Nowadays, I’m on VPN and have a phone system connected through our main office. Things have changed a lot in 20 years with technology.

I’ve been reading all these stories about how to handle the work-from-home environment and have no sympathy at all. We’ve got doctors and counselors trying to prepare and help all these poor workers. Bunch of rookies. The analogy I use to make my point is that if you were a ditch digger and had to work from home, you would still dig a ditch in your backyard the same way you would anywhere else. You have tasks and responsibilities, you just learn to make them happen from a different location with different obstacles.

I’m trying to sympathize with these rookies, so I took a few minutes to recall some of my struggles from when I initially started working from home. These are the things that would have been helpful to be prepared for beforehand.

*My little kids didn’t understand why they couldn’t go in the playroom to see dad when he was working. They’re all  grown now and I’m happy to report they weren’t severely damaged by that experience.

*My wife never knew when I was working or just playing on the computer. I had to declare “I’m off work” sort of.

*As my kids got older, I became the person that just handled stuff during the day because of my flexibility with work. However, it slowly became that they just acted like I didn’t do any work(wife included) and was at their beckoning call. “Dad, I forgot my lunch. Can you bring it?” again. And who wants their kid to starve to death at school?

*I had to remember to shave/shower/brush teeth/put big boy clothes on.
*Don’t sit down all day.
*Don’t stand up all day.
*Take breaks and lunch or you’ll just work all day if you’re that kind of person.

I can’t name anything that really stumped me on day one. I just did it and over time all the little nuances began to pop up.

The only real sympathy I have is for people who look and sound very different at home and at work. They live two(or more) different lives. When they were told to work from home, they freaked out like George Castanza’s world theory. “IT BLOWS UP!”

Castanza’s Two Worlds colliding

Now quit reading blogs and get back to work.

Virtually Loving Others?

I’ve really opened a can of worms for myself. I’ve been focusing on what it means to love others. What does that really mean or look like? I love my wife and kids even with all their flaws. That’s about it. As I reflect on all other relationships outside my family, all the loving I do outside my immediate family is really on my own terms and is completely dependent on what I get out of it to be honest. I am a sinner no doubt. I am trying evaluate myself and “get right with God” so to speak. After all it’s part of the greatest commandment “love others as yourself”.

Here’s what revealed my internal struggle: people who constantly post pictures of just themselves. Again, and again, and again. Like they are models but they’re not. And not selfies. I’m talking about a completely posed picture. THEN, all the people that “like” the pics and ooze appreciation of sharing this with the world. That really moves me to anger and hate.

I hate all those people. Or do I?

I know who these people are and some are related to me but I don’t hang out with them and haven’t seen some of them in 10, 20, 30 years. Can I hate someone I don’t know? I don’t comment on the pictures I just seethe inside every time I see them. I want to comment “I notice you are by yourself again” but as an act of love I don’t even point this out. So I’ve got that going for me. Of course this type of “discourse” is only on social media and the internet. Can you imagine if this was a normal…a real life practice….whipping out hard prints and showing people pictures of yourself?

Maybe it’s not exactly “loving others” that I struggle with but the idea that I can’t just be happy for somebody who enjoys posting pictures of ONLY themselves. I feel VERY unloving toward them. To me, that person is entirely self absorbed and deserves no recognition but why should I care?

I heard a quote the other day “you can dislike someone and still give yourself to them”. That’s actually a very true characteristic of loving someone. You give yourself to them no matter what.

The problem is SOCIAL MEDIA ISN’T REAL. This is not real life but we’ve made it as though it is. You can’t “give yourself to them” online. Maybe if I really got to know this person I’d recognize that they internally battle with insecurity.

I think the problem is that social media has trained me to judge people without knowing them. I judge them, don’t comment, resent them, and now feel like I have a problem with them when I actually haven’t had a face to face conversation with them in five years! So I’m associating my ability to love others based on a feeling I get when I see what equates to a news report about them and written by them. Talk about a bias!

Anyway, I quit Facebook and Twitter(kind of) last October. I jump on once a month just to catch up but I refuse to post anything. As I’ve noted before, I grew tired of seeing the events of life as posts.

It’s amusing that the same people are saying/posting the same things from month to month. Very little variance. My life is not that stable.

I hope that makes sense. I will now post and not reread any of this.

Til Death Do Us Part

It’s the last phrase in the old, traditional wedding vows. The couple claims to do a bunch of stuff to keep their marriage going and then finally swear they’ll do it until death separates them. It’s a pretty remarkable claim. The checklist covered in the vows is never checked again or referenced for the rest of the marriage. In the twenty years I’ve been married, we’ve never dragged those vows back out to remind one another what we claimed we would do. When we run into trouble and go see a counselor, he or she never asked for a list of our vows and then asks how we’re doing.

Now that I think about it, I think if I could go back, I would add some more practical vows for my wife to say to me like “I promise to not wake you up when you’re snoring at 800 db at night -TIL DEATH DO US PART- “. If my wife would have made me say “I promise to adore you when you haven’t shaved in a week, have your hair in a bun, and haven’t used makeup” -TIL DEATH DO US PART-“, I would have to consider on a more realistic level what I’m committing to. Those kind of things would make people think twice when they’re saying them or thinking about saying them. No one cares about committing to the “for richer or poorer” part when all they’re thinking about is warm and fuzzy marriage(sex}. Throw a commitment to bad breath in there and you got a survivor challenge. The challenge of a relationship lies in the day to day details and not so much the definition.

It doesn’t matter what you claim, the deeper meaning of any vows you come up with is that you’re in it for the long haul…”for better or for worse”.

My wife’s mom and dad have been married 60+ years. Her mom is coming to the end of a decade long struggle with Alzheimer’s. She will pass away in the next day or two. Death will divide Robert and Wanda until they see each other again in eternity. They have completed their vows. They have both not only succeeded in doing all that stuff they vowed to do, they should receive awards on their style in making it. My wife and I have only been married for 21 years in May. We’re rookies in comparison with Robert and Wanda. They been great models throughout our time together.

This week is going to be tough on our family, but it will be especially hard on my wife. She has already lost two sisters over the period of time her mom has had this dreaded disease. I have horrible memories of her sisters’ deaths because I was not very helpful or supportive of my wife when they died. Not because I’m a coldhearted ass but because I am mentally and psychologically unable to properly handle death. I’ve seen people die, I’ve seen dead people, friends have died, my mom and dad both died. A friends wife died of cancer and I never went to see her. It was a long time ago but I regret that to this day. I can’t tell you why I did that. It’s very confusing, shadowy area of my life. Oh, and I do not do viewings at funerals. That’s a big nope. (The funeral process is a whole other blog post). I’m not scared of death for myself. I believe that Jesus Christ died for me and everyone else on the cross and I don’t worry about that.

I dived into facing this newest scenario. I went to see my mother-in-law twice now since she’s become completely incapacitated. It is incredibly uncomfortable for me. The first time, I had to walk out of the room. I stood in the hallway staring out a window thinking about Wanda. There was a big field outside the hospice window with green grass, trees, flowers and a big fence. I thought, she will soon be enjoying those things again very soon and I’ll still be on this side of the fence. I felt the presence of God while I stood there.  I almost said out loud “You are with me though”. I then felt God impress upon me that I need to be there for my wife on this side of the fence. I need to be present for her every moment.

I’m understanding now that death is really a nuclear blast where the ripples from the blast can go on forever and their directions are unpredictable. It is was not God’s normal plan for us. It should be an uncomfortable reminder of how we are a mist in this world. We can’t plan for the aftermath. We can only be present for one another until we get through it. I don’t have to respond perfectly or fix anything. I can cry, sit down or laugh. I can’t escape it so it is foolishness to hide and hope it goes away. I have to be present.

Robert and Wanda will successfully finish their vows. Stacey and I will live to see another day(God willing) and one day finish our vows as well.