Posts Tagged healing

The Ten Commandments of Joy – Rev. Susan Sparks*

1-Thou Shalt Not Worry

News flash: Life is not a holy contract in which God promises a calm passage; the only promise is a safe landing. Therefore, instead of asking God why this is happening TO you, thank God for being WITH you. Worry or believe—you can’t do both.

2-Thou Shalt Not Let Anger Steal Your Joy

The biggest thief of joy is anger. The classic example: Someone did you wrong, and you just won’t let it go. Fine. But be clear, to accommodate all that anger, your heart has to make room, which means things like joy get squeezed out. As the old saying goes, the one who has the most influence in your life is the one you refuse to forgive.

3-Thou Shalt Believe You Deserve Joy

Joy and laughter are the most important healing tools we have. Sadly, thanks to low self-esteem, high self-doubt, and negative people in our environment, some of us don’t believe we deserve to be happy. Do you? If not, why not? Is the reason true? If not, why do you carry it around? Who could you be without that excuse?

4-Thou Shalt Laugh with God

We were created in God’s image, and we laugh and feel joy. Therefore, laughter and joy must also be aspects of the holy. Bottom line? We are children of a God with a sense of humor. To be whole, we must be willing to share all of ourselves with God—the anger, the pain, the tears, and the laughter. It’s all holy.

5-Thou Shalt Pray It and Say It: I’m Grateful!

Start your day with a prayer of gratitude. Acknowledge your blessings. Then, act on that gratitude. Say “thank you” to at least three people during your day—preferably someone you don’t know. Share a kind word, a written note of thanks, a smile. Pray it and say it! Gratitude is the autobahn to joy.

6-Thou Shalt Laugh with Your Neighbor—Even if Your Neighbor is a Telemarketer

When we laugh with someone, whether family, friend, or telemarketer, our worlds overlap for a split second. We share something. It’s then that the differences fade, and the commonalities gleam through. Remember: You can’t hate someone with whom you’ve laughed.

7-Thou Shalt Laugh and Eat Chocolate and Chili Peppers

All three make us feel good. The increased oxygen from laughing, the serotonin in chocolate, and the capsaicin from chilis produce a boost of endorphins, nature’s own “happy pill.” You can also do an hour on the treadmill to get that same endorphin high, but I’d suggest laughing while nibbling on a chili dark chocolate bar.

8-Thou Shalt Be Like the Little Children

Children are said to laugh approximately 300 times a day and adults less than 20. Somewhere between cartoons and carpools, our laughter gets lost. Spend a few minutes watching a little child squealing with laughter, eyes full of awe at everyday miracles. When was the last time you laughed out loud or were awed by something wonderful? Start today.

9-Thou Shalt Lean on Laughter in Times of Trouble

Laughing in a place of pain is the most courageous and rebellious thing you can do. That pain does not own you. It is only what you are experiencing. By tapping into your ability to laugh, you are reminding yourself, and everyone around you, that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

10 -Thou Shalt Not Waste ANY Opportunities for Joy

To paraphrase Erma Bombeck, think of all the women on the Titanic, who, on that fateful night, said “no” to dessert. It’s easy to postpone joy in times of crisis or pain, but time keeps ticking. No matter where we find ourselves in life, it’s still life—it’s still a gift. And we must honor that gift in all we do.

*Susan Sparks is pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.

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Healing the Humbug – Rev. Susan Sparks

To add a little punch to this meditation,
grab a keychain or anything else that will make a rattling noise.
Drop it on a hard surface for a sound effect every time you encounter the word “CHAINS.”
One of my favorite Christmas movies is Scrooge. Not the newer versions. I love the one with the great British actor Albert Finney as Scrooge and Alec Guinness (Ben Kenobi in The Empire Strikes Back) as Marley, Scrooge’s late business partner. As you probably remember, the movie is based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

The story begins with Marley’s ghost returning to warn Scrooge about the dangers of ignoring Christmas, forgetting charity and joy, and wrapping ourselves up in want and worry.

His ghost stands in Scrooge’s bedroom, rattling his chains and wailing, “I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link. Yard by yard. I girded it of my own free will, and by my own free will I wore it.”

I know how he feels. Maybe you do, too. Have you ever gotten out of bed and felt like you were dragging three hundred yards of heavy iron chains with you? Maybe you were dragging the chains of self-doubt. Perhaps you were straining and pulling the chains of worry. You might have slogged through some days with the chains of greed and selfishness. Other days, you might have clanked around with the particularly heavy chains of anger, resentment, and fear. Scrooge knew all about that.
After Marley visits Scrooge, three additional ghosts (past, present, and future) appear to take Scrooge on a painfully raw inventory of his life, his choices, and his changes—all in an effort to warn him off his destructive path before it is too late.
The first ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Past, shows Scrooge how he began to forget Christmas early on in his life. He chose work and money over love, family, and happiness. “Humbug!” he would say to these things. “Bah, humbug.”

The second ghost shows him that as the years went by, those choices changed him. Scrooge watches how he became withdrawn, sullen, selfish, and judgmental. Over time, he turned into a person who resented the happiness of those around him.
He became a person who couldn’t feel joy.

Then the scariest of all—the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come—arrives to show him that those changes will have consequences. For example, in this future world, Tiny Tim dies because Scrooge doesn’t pay his dad enough to get medical care. But the suffering isn’t only about others. The last thing the ghost shows him is a graveyard, where a cheap tombstone on an isolated, unkept grave bears his name.

We see Scrooge’s life as a chain reaction of choices, changes, and consequences, and in the end, Scrooge’s chain is far longer than Marley’s.

(CHAINS and add a “Humbug!”)
I’d like to say that we can leave that scary moment at the movie theater, but in fact, we forge the same chains in life. We all make choices, some good and some bad, and that’s fine. But when we continually repeat the bad choices, that’s when we forge the first link. And over time, that link becomes two links, then three, then ten, then fifty. And before you know it, you’re dragging one heavy weight.

It’s then that your mood and personality start to change. People around you begin to be affected. And to all things good and true, you say “Humbug!” As the great essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “[I]t behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping, we are becoming.”

Dickens was right—for Scrooge and for all of us. Every once in a while, we must take a “Marley test.” We must periodically ask ourselves this: If we were visited by the ghost of our Christmas past, the ghost of our Christmas present, and the ghost of our Christmas future . . . what would we see? What choices have we made over the years? What have we prioritized? And, most importantly, if we keep going down the same path, where will we end up?

These are sobering questions, but here’s the good news. The story doesn’t end at the cheap tombstone on an isolated, unkept grave. There is still a chance to heal the humbug.

Ultimately, Scrooge awakes with his arms wrapped around his bedpost and realizes that he has gotten his wish. He has gotten a second chance! And from that moment on, he lives differently, sees the world differently, treats other and himself differently.

The moral of the story? It’s never—ever—too late to change. I don’t care how old you are, how entrenched you’ve become, or how many chains you have forged. It’s never too late to alter a decision, change your mind, make amends, take a new path, pursue a long-lost dream, or find love again. Re-evaluating our choices and priorities is like adjusting the rudder of a great ship. The slightest movement can change its entire course.

Sometime today, set aside a few moments to take the Marley test. Look at your past choices, your present priorities, and the future consequences of both.

If you don’t like what you’re seeing, then remember it’s not the end of the story. We can find hope again. We can change our ways. We can change our life and thus change our world. All we have to do is tap into that place in our hearts that is full of good tidings and great joy.

All we have to do is heal the humbug.

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Morning Worship: God’s desire and intuition is to forgive, Hill says  

by MARY LEE TALBOT on   The Chautauqua Daily

“Please forgive the intrusive nature of this sermon. It is not my right to initiate a visit to the attic of your soul, and even to suggest the climb into the attic is rude,” said the Rev. Robert Allan Hill at the 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning worship service in the Amphitheater.

His sermon title was “Forgiven” and the Scripture reading was Luke 7:36-50, the woman with the alabaster jar.

Like Virgil with Dante, guiding the poet through the levels of hell, purgatory and heaven, Hill acted as a guide through the attic of the soul.

“The Gospel intrudes on the soul and truth steadily advances on us,” Hill said.

Hill walked the congregation, figuratively, up to the second floor, turned on the hall light and pulled down the chain that opened the porthole to the attic. Most of us, he said, had not been to the attic lately; there were mothballs and the coverlets of personal history.

In one corner was a uniform from World War I, a pair of bobby socks and an “I like Ike” button, three Beatles albums — Greatest Hits, Abbey Road and the White Album — a Jim Croce tape and photographs. Who are those people in those photographs?

“We will leave the wardrobe for another day because only lions and witches come from wardrobes,” Hill said.

Back in the corner is a small, low box tied with baler twine that no one else knows is here, but “you know, remember, understand and care.”

“Regret” is the word written on top of the box, “a short synonym for hell.”

Hill told the congregation to open the box, untie it and let all that was in it fall out. He called it a “gutsy” thing to do. To have regrets is part of being human. Can you live with being human, of being a little lower than the angels?

“I know because I have boxes in my attic and I make this climb seldom,” he said. “I know about ‘if only,’ not just vicariously.”

Hill said that he asked to journey with the congregation to have the opportunity for healing.

“I truly doubt that anything in your box will surprise me; it is your regret, your attic, and it is different from mine,” Hill said.

He called the box a “box of impeachment brought against us,” but the laws of the soul don’t give way to “lawyerly cunning.” Even if we try to believe that we have never said a cruel word or had a myopic judgement, “the box does not lie, nor does the conscience or life.”

Yet there is a word that must be spoken.

“It is a God word, and only God speaks God words,” he said.

If you don’t remove what is festering, it will cripple you, Hill told the congregation.

“ ‘God forgives you’ is the divine promise and intuition,” he said. “Jesus taught us to pray for it. John Wesley asked his pastors, ‘Do you know God to be a pardoning God?’ ”

This is good news in the face of a box of regrets. It is sometimes hard to hear “God forgives you,” but if you know that God is a pardoning God, then God has known you in Jesus Christ.

Hill said there were several verses that the congregation should remember. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” When Peter asked if he should forgive someone seven times, Jesus told him 70 times seven. Paul wrote that Christians should be kind, tender-hearted, forgiving as God in Christ has forgiven them.

The second piece of good news is that other people are more willing to forgive than one might know or expect, Hill said.

“You may have to ask and say ‘I’m sorry,’ ” he said, “but most people, when confronted with a heartfelt apology, will willingly say, ‘Don’t worry, I forgive you.’ ”

But what might hold people back most from accepting forgiveness is the ability to forgive oneself.

“You have to let yourself off the hook; you are not 101 percent perfect,” Hill said. “Theologian Paul Tillich said that you have to ‘accept your own acceptance.’ ”

He asked the congregation to travel light toward a common hope. When in doubt, throw it out. Forgive yourself, take the box of regrets out to the curb and “let the heavenly garbage truck haul it away for good.”

“I forgive you, you forgive me,” Hill said. “As William Blake wrote in his poem ‘Broken Love’: ‘And throughout all Eternity, I forgive you, you forgive me.’

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Where Spirituality and Illness Meet: The Middle Ground – Rev. George Rossi*

Some people need to become more human.  Some people need to become more spiritual.

Wholeness is found in the middle ground.  It’s the place where the coastal sea water from the Atlantic Ocean meets the black soil of the South Carolina coast.  It’s a rich and fertile place where marsh grass thrives, shrimp populate the grassy reeds, and redfish troll the high tides for dinner. The meeting and convergence of water and land is much like the meeting of the physical and the spiritual.  It’s the place where one has to merge with the other and something magical and something important becomes reality.

As a minister my growing edge is on the “becoming more human” side of the equation.  Just recently I read an excellent tweet from Twitter that was trying to “normalize” (eliminate shame) the fact that humans become physically ill, experience terrible disease processes, and eventually face difficult medical challenges.  For some that happens very early in life as a neonatal baby, and for others in their 20’s, and the much more fortunate, those in their the 50’s and 60’s when one has to carry more daily medications in his or her briefcase just to take care of themselves one more day.  Here’s the point of the tweet I mention and my point now:  Having illness is “normal” because it is reality and we have to find ways to talk about it more and to recognize our humanness, our fragile bodies that depend on equilibrium and homeostasis.  Yet, sometimes we are anything from feeling even-keeled or living in a good equilibrium.  A recent prescribed dose of antibiotics confirmed my disequilibrium as my stomach rumbled and tried to cope with the antibiotics.

Honoring our imperfect bodies is a way to honor our deep connection with God.  It means looking to God for grace so that one can “gracefully age.”  Sometimes prayers and reading and reflection can help one “accept one’s humanity which does eventually include illness.”

I encourage you and me to find fellow strugglers who are able and want to live in the middle.  In my case, the goal is to accept my humanity, find true physical and spiritual wellness, and to live a balanced life.  Illness can send that balance out of orbit with one abnormal lab result for sure.    I think we need more ministers, more medical professionals, more people who can help others and themselves to “normalize” the experience of illness and give people space and time to make sense of it.  I venture that healing will happen as people balance medical challenges with an alive faith and in that find health and meaning and purpose for living.

GeorgeM Rossi* at 1:28 AM George is a counselor at the Medical University of South Carolina.

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