One of the things we may often have to learn the hard way, is that the hard way is the only way to achieve success.
Palanca, earning our peace, and purgatory are some names it goes by. Sacrifice, perseverance, and patience are virtuous actions we can take in that regard. Basically it all amounts to the "supernatural" trait of accepting suffering, which helps us to transcend worldly circumstances and ways by a leap of faith.
If you don't earn money, you don't value it much. If you don't have to work hard to achieve the greater things, how can one truly appreciate their value, their worth? It comes from seeing the lack of something that one is moved and motivated to do something about it. It is by being exposed to those in need that we take on the role Jesus set an example for us to do: that of serving God through helping our brothers and sisters, all adopted children of God the Father.
There's no way of cleaning up my life except by eliminating any dirt, any distraction, any sin, in order to get to the core purposes and important things underneath.
My first book in the To Dreamers series is a book of traits that are important. This is my list, and may be subjective, and may just be my interpretation of the scriptures, of amateur philosophy, and amateur Apologetics (Apologetics, in Catholic faith, are the Catechist doctrines that explain what the Scriptures mean in clear form, for which I hope to eventually devote more time to in the future as I grow in faith). Take them with a grain of salt in reflection so that you can do deeper independent study of Scripture in learning faith.
Anyway, once you're ascertained for yourself what the most important things in life are, you can eliminate anything not related to them, thereby earning the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially inner peace. This cleaner lifestyle makes for a much healthier experience of everything. And helps develop the actions, words, and thoughts that determine your destiny, and get your direction on course for your life fitting into The Plan.
The Plan? God's bigger plan is beyond our smaller scale of vision and includes suffering as a means to the appreciation of life. It involves heavenly rewards of eternity being better than worldly temporary pleasures. It involves feeling good about one's self and one's place in the world. It involves a feeling of safety inside that cannot be touched so long as the faith stands firm. It is about miracles happening when one believes in the power of good and of love. It is something of old magic, of God's magic, though He doesn't call it magic, He calls it miracles. It is about God making us feel valued, which is why He sacrificed His most precious gift, His only begotten son, in a total way.
My brother-in-Christ Julian Sepulveda once used a metaphor of the sailboat parts and the wind in how we go through life. God is the wind, but we cannot use God's gifts of the wind to get where we are best to go unless we set forth with a mast of the studied rules God has given us to live with integrity by, and we must have the outreaching sails of faith to catch that wind and hold firm to those rules in order to direct it correctly. I may not remember the exact manner of the metaphor, but I am paraphrasing on memory.
I had been alone for a thousand years or more. (The feeling is more real than the metaphor). The woods echoed, streets quiet, wind rushed without a human sound. Nor were there the electronic noises I had been accustomed to for the time growing up. Actually, it was in a basement apartment, where I had sought solace on purpose to dwell on the lost feeling I had that the so-called perfect match wasn't in love with me. The distance I put between me and my parents and the one that I had tried to love in the first relationship were mere distractions from my all-consuming sadness. But one day, I met the true match.
I had been on a dream quest, and I had prayed about it, and then, one day, out of the blue, with my most passionate love poem ready to go to a deaf and blind audience, suddenly she appeared and there was someone who I really, truly, wanted to hear. She was the One, and I knew it right when I noticed the gentle look in her eyes, the manners, the voice, the way she dressed, the way she stood, the words she said, the fact that she had been drawn to this cultivation of independent arts and written spoken words at the poetry meeting at the perfect place at the perfect time, it all started. I was no longer alone. I never was alone, she was waiting, part of God's unseen plan there all along, an answered prayer, an answered wish, a sign of destiny being an actual reality for the first time confirming that I had a purpose in life.
I was not alone. My wife with me, in this journey through life. My God with me, through all the strife. My loved ones reconnected through giving some faith. A world with a direction, not lost from hope. A dream of a dream, as CS Lewis put it. This was a real dream, a reality that was as high as that floating, glowing lights drifting, perfect focus on the inner feeling, that moment when it all fits into place and has a unified reason to be. It was life with meaning, understood. The miracle of life in its mystery, become one with my thoughts, and become part of me.
Ingratitude is the opposite of faith, but those who put their trust in worldly pleasures and measures of success, are often blind to this.
The thankfulness we show toward God results in spiritual gifts that affect our inner peace, miraculously.
In God we trust.
I once was, twenty years ago, hitting rock bottom with depression. I had no close friends and I had distanced myself from my family. I hadn't connected with anyone relationship-wise, and when I did it ended in tragic all-or-nothing type scenarios. I had lost what I had of faith, and if I had ever found it, it was in the untested sort in which the simple living a normal life was too little for my expectations to be happy with, to cope with, or to be confident around.
All that changed with a couple, actually more than a couple, leaps of faith in my life.
The first of these most notable leaps of faith was to reach out in my first relationship around 1999. I had to make mistakes to learn from them, and I did greatly. I learned the romantic notions I had of a "perfect list" type love was ill-conceived. I learned that one cannot make someone love you, and that one should not try to love without being willing to love back. I learned that the relationship was, after all, not something to control or be a leader of, but to be a partner in. I learned by heartbreak after a six month engagement that I was too immature to handle it at that time.
Three years later I met my future wife, and knew as soon as I saw her that it was meant to be, if I could only make the impression right. The feeling, the KNOWING in the heart more certain that one knows that one is experiencing life, that she was--and is--THE ONE. I had before that made a mold for someone to fit, but this time I had the fit already, and I became the one to mold to fit it. That was in November 2002, at the Caffeine Den, in Stockton, California, at a poetry reading, in which I talked about in a previous blog post here.
In the further journey, I found faith again in the struggles of learning how to love and let myself be loved, and to compromise and still have dreams, when I was in another moment of insecurity. I had not felt I was worthy, had given up on the relationship because I had felt that I couldn't bear to argue over things that one or the other of us wasn't compromising in. The love we had was passionate and intense, but at the same time we were both proud and had our lines drawn in the sand. I had broken up with her and attempted an overdose, but not before praying for a way to resolve it whatever that way was that I could not see but God would know best, over ten years ago that was, and after a few minutes threw it up and called for help.
Since then things grew better and better gradually. I learned how to live and how to love. I learned about faith and worship. I learned about peace inside being the only thing, and the circumstances of worldly things around being seen and changed by how you see them. I became Catholic, married, and involved myself in the Cursillo. There are infinite steps on our ladders, each of us not to be judged by our place along them except by God. The steps, those levels, can be improved and we can help improve each other. It just takes a leap of faith to get past the negative side of things, and to see the light.
Most of us can agree that confidence is a positive trait that leads to success, along with perseverance through the bad and good.
What many don't connect with this in their thinking is how looking at the positive side of things is the motivation for confidence AND for perseverance.
When it comes to describing the point of view that takes everything equally, both positive and negative, you can look at that view in itself in two ways: that of describing it as objective, in which you give fair value to everything, or alternatively in taking it as indifferent, in which it doesn't take enough of a stand on what one values and believes in and puts faith into, and puts hope into.
What I'm saying that objectivity, when it comes to viewing the bad and the good attributes of any given situation, is less effective in creating motivation that we need to succeed than the alternative of having an outlook of seeing the positive light in a situation.
The opportunities for improvement and making a difference are there either way, it's just a better more effective approach to look at the sunny side of life when living it.
Being upset over what you cannot control is not a heroic thing. It is not an even powerful thing. But our human selves hold onto what we want or what we think is the most just way of doing things.
And that's Okay.
It's Okay to hold onto what you want, what you dream of, what you know is right. That is who you are.
What you have to let go of is the assumption that we control more than our own decisions on what the one person that is our individual self does in any given situation.
By facing our challenge without assuming the right thing will work out, just being who we are and not assuming success by worldly terms, is what faith is a big part of, and is what gets us through the downs in the ups and downs of this roller coaster called life.
I'm learning not only to be mindful of what my inner focus is, but also what I am mindful of in the sensations around me, such as opening my ears to the sounds of nature.
Like a barrier was lifted this morning when I was walking to work, when I turned my attention from the steps I was making and the thoughts about things I could do productively, towards the purposeful listening to the birdsong and sounds of nature and critters all around me that were not noticed just moments before.
The world is out there, and noticing them is the essence of what stopping to smell the roses means, not just a cliche or expression, but an action. God's blessings to you all.
I'd once always wanted to refuse John Lennon's line "There are no problems, only solutions," when I heard it sung. There were times when I wanted to be strong as Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela, in their resolve and patience to change the world. There were times when I would wish I had the relationship that was in perfect harmony without arguments and brief separations--now I've resolved those issues for the most part, as much as any human can. I realized a fundamental truth.
If I don't have inner peace, if I'm not happy with all of my circumstances in my worldly life, then I have no one to blame but myself.
We don't control other people, or even the things that happen, and can never expect to. To attempt to do so is insanity, and the source of all unhappiness, all problems, and all arguments.
So the solution is to simply accept everything we cannot change, like that old adage from ages old, that serenity prayer. If we ask God to grant us the wisdom, and simply realize that we cannot change anything around us, we can only change that Man In The Mirror (as Michael Jackson put it), then we will achieve happiness and all that we could ever hope for, because we have at that point let go of worldly purposes that are futile, and given ourselves fully to the spiritual purpose--that God has us in His great plan and that we just need to take that leap of faith and trust in it, and move on.
In mathematics if one has two things one notices as a pattern, one can combine them as variables in an equation in order to solve for one variable (in this case how to find joy).
If one were to use these equations...
God's will, including work such as suffering for others (is greater than, not equal to) My will
God's will is the source of all good
Good is how I find joy
My will is not equal to enough for joy,
God's will is much more likely to bring joy than my will
What we need to redefine is what replaces poor quality thought habits with good ones.
Don't worry, instead think of your good dreams, your precious moments of life. One can't both worry and imagine joy at the same time.
Repeat to yourself that you are being taken good care of, it's a big mysterious plan.
Inner peace will transform any experience.
I heard somewhere that the rich have more in common with the poverty-stricken homeless than they have in common with the middle classes. That makes sense when I look at it recently.
To be at a point where you've nothing to lose, and to be at a point where you have everything to lose, both have attachments to the situation the person is in, possessions in emotional and physical worldly investment that one feels entitled to and obligated to take care of. The world is on their shoulders, for both types.
I've been on the poorer end for a while now, but have always been able to provide for the basic necessities (thanks be to God) and have been able to take small comforts that have led to an appreciation that I've nothing that I want aside from what I can have (thanks to the American lifestyle of technology, of convenience, of freedoms, and of protections).
The comforts I have from a small apartment in California where the weather is mild (relatively) and the beautiful places are just a two hour drive away, outweigh the fact that our living costs are going up over the course of each lease renewal and living costs of everything raising with inflation. I have been able to keep up with these, with minor setbacks, with a ladder rung at a time of blessings that Jesus provided us with in response to open prayers. And we know and trust with our faith, me and my wife, that He has our best interests in mind and will provide for us a good future in this life with a safe haven in the next when our gifts, including our stewardship of time here on Earth to serve Him, has been used up as it inevitably will one day.
To give my everything over to God as I did when this long upswing from the depths of depression started towards the perfect peaceful harmony with my life of now, to give that 100% in faith (or as close as humanly possible through the Graceful presence of God in our hearts) I am given everything I could ever want, without needing any worldly materialistic shallow measure of success in career, finances, possession, security, or guarantee of future (aside from that in the most important thing, our Spirits). The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
In our lives we have grown accustomed to thinking of a higher value in "caring" about things, i.e. worrying needlessly and having strong negative emotions when things go wrong as if we had to. That is what brought me to the depression depths in the 1990's and early 2000's, and which is now replaced by the much more important value in Joy (which is obtained through gratitude from faith in God and His purpose).
Joy is much better than to be caught up in the feelings of hurt. Forgiveness, letting go, meditation, and leaps of faith are all the release from the worldly value that clings to a false sense of justice, in lieu of the real justice, God's right and wrong which stems from values of the Spirit and not of worldly possessions and conflicts.
The secret to meditation is minimized thought, on some known good.
I am focusing a little of my thought now on a book and a movie, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which I grew up with long before this digital age kicked in and the overabundance of media drowned my direction for the while that it had.
The focus of that book becomes metaphorical and lets me philosophize on a deep wisdom spiritual level the meanings of the Bible in real life, through looking at it slightly distanced from the traditional viewpoint of first hand scripture. CS Lewis seems to have weaved into the story much of the underlying conflicts we have about our faith and the true meaning of the sacrifice of Christ, of our human obligations, of the laws of life and of right and wrong, and other truths both light and heavy.
I recommend going back and reading it from cover to cover, or reading it for the first time if you have only seen the movie.
It's got some truths that hit me on the second time around seeing the movie right after reading parts of it. Like the reflection on taking responsibility for our impact on others, and how it's really easy to blame but when we are honest we realize the real reason for each other's falling is because of our own coldness or indifference, and how we wish we could go along with Jesus in His journey but there is only so much that He can have us bear that weight with Him.
Another truth that CS Lewis, or else the movie directors, put into the book, is the confession being a clearing of the past where you start over fresh without the sins being your downfall any longer, like in the movie scene where Edward goes before Aslan (symbolic of coming before Jesus or to God through another) in a penitent manner giving himself to him. That is one thing I think is important in my decision to be Catholic, having the sacrament of confession, aside from the Eucharistic rites being handed down.
God bless you, and the world, and all Praises and honor to God.
My conversion to faith and the perfect peace all started with prayer for God to shape my life, an all surrendering leap of faith that led to Him finding my love of my life for me and bringing me to a course in the direction of heavenly closeness to God.
I want to let God know we praise Him, for He is the source of all good.
Yesterday's homily dealt with it being the Lord's day, not ours.
Today the Lord showed that He knows when to put trust in us for His greater purpose.
To be brief about today, me and my wife happened to be at the place we needed to be for someone to get help sooner than she otherwise had after a terrible fall she had. An elder woman, as she was walking to her car, started to fall and catcher herself but hit her head on the car, nose bleeding everywhere, on the ground, I called 911 while my wife knocked on their door where the injured lady said her daughter would be, the couple with their young child came out to the scene and said they would take her to emergency so we ended the call. They are all in our prayers tonight and at the moment, and we ask that everyone that reads this say a quick Hail Mary or else a longer prayer for them. If she had been alone when she fell it might have taken longer to get her to help, so we think that, as horrifying as it was to witness it, that God put us there to help it from being worse. That is one of the strange, troubling mysteries of faith.
On another subject.
Earlier, last night after watching the movies A Star Is Born (the new version), and As Good As It Gets, I had thought that perhaps knowing what we will and won't regret doing in life, that destination that we need to aim for, needs the context of looking back and imagining that we are looking back from the perspective of our last elder days after having lived a full life... that perspective they show in near-death experiences that never quite has the impact as it being of one's own life, when one is faced with thinking that one must leave behind the rest and hope the things one accomplished are enough. Imagining that unwillful mortality being eminent, one sees in that context the people and one's soul are what one wants to care for the most, without any regret for those unfinished careers, unfinished records made, unfinished temporary achievements of creating or doing... it's only the actions that affect people, how they feel, and what they make of their lives, that matters. Given that context, I would say that optimistic faith is the only smart thing to do.
I met my wife back in 2002. I saw her for the first time across the room at the Arthur Miller conference in Stockton at San Joaquin Delta college, as part of an English class I was taking.
I had thought that she was unusual and interesting, and had a soothing voice. She had skin the color of a crème brule and eyes like night, smile like melted chocolate fondue. I had been silently praying for a new love in my life during that time in that auditorium. It seems God put me there for a reason.
I didn't think of her again, and didn't see her again, until a few months later in November I met her for what seemed to me to be love at first sight, at an Open Mic poetry reading where we were reading around in a circle in the basement of the Caffeine Den in that same town on the Miracle Mile of Stockton, California.
That night I had noticed her beauty and her presence as angelic, because not only was she beautiful and had kind eyes and smile, but she also was dressed in comfort and arts. She wrapped herself in the poetic style and the words were so soothing again.
I had prepared some poems romantically for that night without knowing that someone would be there to make a first impression to, but I was glad that I did.
I had at that time in my life been in and out of crushes and looking and praying for someone to love. In my past was one long crush and half a dozen small crushes, and only one real relationship at that time, a six month engagement which had ended three years before, with all my pride getting in the way but finally being put aside for love because I was learning from a broken heart and alone time what the value of love is.
Back to this night at the reading. The basement of the Caffeine Den, a coffee shop on the Miracle Mile, was where I had been reading my passionate dreaming poetry, sometimes impromptu but mostly off the page, and had met poets in which I had collaborated and co-edited in a book (poetry and art anthology) I was at the end of that night to give to my later to be wife, titled Darwin's Children.
The poem I read in the circle of poets was about kissing in the rain, with a desperately intense love which I idealized and had no one to connect with, but which I inflected my voice and posture towards her as I read without being too direct.
I knew the Open Mic host through our taking turns hosting, an immigrant from the African continent who had Egyptian royal ancestry who played bongos and occasionally did other events. He invited me to contact my later to be wife at an email address that she had given him to give to me to talk, perhaps noticing the chemistry. Evidently she felt a connection too. Through that mutual friend we built our future, and my peace of mind through God answering prayers with series of miracles, some much more clear after seen with eyes of faith. A few emails of intense heart stories later, we met at my apartment. After a time or two there I found out about us both being at the Arthur Miller Conference.
The meaning of life.
How do we follow the greatest commandment, the rule to live by and which all follows from, to love our God with all our heart, all our mind, all our being, all our spirit, all our soul?
How we do that is by valuing and appreciating the spirit life in each of us, every one of us, as equals on different levels in our path set by God in their due course, with the right moments destined to come.
This is the last of what needs to be said, now to revise and get the words right to spread God's message as one of His infinite servants.
I don't often remember what I dream about after I wake, but when I do it often means something important.
I've had a couple times where dreams felt important enough to look up the meaning for, and in those cases the meaning helped me avoid some severe situations (like taking a different route helped me avoid being on the sidewalk where a car that day crashed into the fence all along the sidewalk I would usually have taken). It's likely we each have one, maybe more, guardian angels assigned to us that speak to us in dreams. Those dreams show us the dangers and choices we face, and how to deal with them.
This means that the future choices we make will be faced as a matter of fate or destiny... but it doesn't mean that what our choices in those situations are made ahead of our choosing them. It means that we have free will, but it means that we will be faced with the choices which are meant to be, so that our personal story of growth will be to God's greater glory.
On another topic, we sometimes stereotype that the ideals we dream about when growing up are just for that stage of life, that we tend to forget those dreams and get caught up in life when we grow up and know who we are going to be. But that doesn't mean that the limitations we imagine are concrete, and it doesn't mean that we have to be limited (for why limit the gifts God gives us by our lack of faith!). What we should do is keep dreaming big, at any age, and let those dreams be reachable. That is how we make a difference. That is how we change the world in the right direction. That is how we have faith that moves mountains and that is how miracles have happened, in my life and in countless others.
When things get chaotic, troubled, or just plain busy, we often will revert to habitual responses to our problems and stress, worry, fear, or even panic. The right response that leads to being in the eye of the storm is to be accepting that it's God's will whatsoever the consequences, and to trust that those situations will be OK no matter what the results, at least in the bigger picture. Once you've achieved that faith, the peace of mind from the interior transforms your situations into much better ones regardless of what those situations are.
I just had a dream that my parent's dog's spirit was visiting me, whining and longing to be loved and given attention.
The truth about life, is that we will regret any part of life that is imperfect when it comes our time.
The truth is that when we lose someone all those missed opportunities become real because there is no future chance to make up for them, those opportunities to serve our God in loving others. Same when we miss the opportunity to give a fetus a longer life. Same when we lose a pet. Same when, in our last moments, we are losing the chance to serve ourselves and our dreams.
So I ask, for your sake and the sake of all you care about, to take the time to love each other, to say the good or comforting or kind things or truths that all need to be said, to do the kind acts that we are given chances to do, while we still have this infinitely precious and very limited gift of time to live and use our choices for God's glory of love.
Isaac Asimov may have seen patterns in history, or may have only seen illusions of patterns.
In his Foundation novel series, popular in its time and generation and a continued epic by the authors who have been able to procure permission from his estate to continue the series afterward, is where Isaac explored out his concepts in hypothetical scenarios of the far future.
History repeats itself, it's true, but it's always changing, in the ways that it repeats itself it becomes a mathematical formula too complex for current computers to predict. Human behavior being the main factor which dictates our future path, in particular psychology of mass or mob size groups, is the concept Isaac introduced with the series, with a hypothetical future in which computers had not only predicted the course of history, but also had noted the key actions that would trigger a greater probability of survival, done by necessity out of a separate leadership that was unknown.
Perhaps you could visualize God's plan in some strange way to be shaping the course of history, not too unlike Isaac's foundation group that brought a quicker revival from a predicted fall of society's structure and preserved a great amount of the sciences and knowledge that had been collected from the damages of the fall into anarchy. God has given our society a sense of unity which may not only prevent our falling into chaos with large scale events, but also lets us have hope to hold us to a sense of rules of right and wrong in any life choices we make. So even if you're an atheist, please consider the value that God and religion has given us in discerning that there are more important and useful ways to live than in independent focus on one's own self interest. The interests of the whole, while they still consider the interests of the individual, are beneficial to the individual beyond any power one would hold over one's circumstances without said unity.
So I thus disagree with the media's focus on trying to criticize leadership when it's imperfect, for it is at least focused on protection and on the betterment of our financial situation.
I've seen a loss in communication skills with the technology generation.
In one of the aspects of this loss, is the overconcern with whether one's doing something for one person or doing it for another person or doing it for the better of all.
It shouldn't be about entitlement where one has to concern oneself with what goes to whom, that's just shallow nonsense that we grow out of when we get mature enough.
What I'm saying is that we should have a genuine compassion, a genuine Jesus-inspired love for one another, an unconditional agape-style love in which you give of yourself for the other person and don't concern yourself with what they think or what your motives are. That's what community should be like, ideally, to me, and that's what I've found in my own mindset for finding patience in any circumstances, a patience that transcends worldly circumstances.
So one part of this is the over-concerned conversational control, not just in politically correct assumptions, but also in thinking that one is "one-upping" on another person's statement when they relate their own experience to the other person. What this generation sometimes thinks of as trying to compete for attention in the spotlight, I actually see as being able to share one's self in a way that can actually reach someone on a connection level, something that should not be put in a negative light like the term "one-upping" does.
For example, one person relates something to the conversation in a personal way. Yes, one should still acknowledge that the person has a unique perspective, which is so obvious that it may seem taken for granted, but one should also be free to let that person know that they are not alone in that feeling (within the obvious limits of human experience) without having to feel that one is "one-upping", because we need to connect with one another and not have to feel that one's identity is threatened by people trying to understand one another, even if it's technically not possible to 100% understand without being the same person.
So I wouldn't feel threatened in my emotional identity and validity by hearing that it's something others think they feel too in their own ways, and I would hope you all wouldn't feel that my own relating of similar experiences when I talk with you would be anything negative for you either. We are all human and need to understand that we can relate to each other in a human, imperfect but vulnerable, way.
Often we try to make everything work out right on our own, without realizing we need to pray to the one in control.
A simple re-focusing on God with prayer makes any situation better than without such prayer.
Donald R. Anderson. Aspiring writer. Amateur philosopher and amateur writer of Apologetics (i.e., the Catholic reasonings). Faith-driven kindred spirit.