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Posts Tagged ‘Beyond Ourselves’

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Have you noticed that some seasons of life are filled with action, adventure, parties and people? Others are not. Over the past month I’ve been living the life of a hermit.  Winter has felt cold and grey, and I’ve caught the never-ending flu virus, which has led to quiet weekends and plenty of solitude.

Over this time my main companion has been Bobbie, my son’s blue budgie. Even when my voice is only a croak and my hair is beyond a mess, he is always delighted to see me, chirping along merrily with his ‘Hello Bobbie’, ‘Who’s a Pretty Boy?’ and ‘I Love You’s.  He’s always ready with his surprisingly gentle peck on the nose when I lean in for a kiss.

Bobbie’s companionship has sustained me through many lonely and bleak days, but despite his reliable nature, now and again he does disappoint me. Just as we are conversing happily, he catches a glimpse of his little blue face in his hanging mirror, and becomes transfixed by his reflection.   He is mesmerised by the gorgeous bird before him, and instead of offering his enthusiastic words and loving pecks to me, they are suddenly all directed at the bird in the mirror.  On it goes – ‘Pretty Boy’ and ‘I Love You’ along with his selfie-kisses, beak tapping madly on the mirror. Our conversation is suddenly over and I’m left talking to myself too.

Bobbie amuses me because his mirror-gazing fixation isn’t a trait limited only to budgies. People do it too.  Have you noticed?  Humans have their our own form of ‘mirror-gazing’.  It may range from a Facebook page populated heavily with selfie-shots, to an obsession with special projects and personal agendas, where little interest is shown in anything other than these particular projects and agendas.  A tell-tale sign I’ve noticed is a particular “glazed-eye look” which comes over a person which seems to prevent them from any shift in their focus. I’m sure most of us can relate to the Non Stop Talker in meetings, who ploughs on and on relentlessly, talking right over anyone brave enough to try to interrupt them. They are so focused on the reflection in the mirror that they can’t see or hear the people sitting right in front of them. Social media promotes this mindset, with all the: ‘Look at ME and all the fun I had today!’ mentality. There’s a temptation to turn away from the people right in front of us and gaze into our own little mirrors.   I fear that one day the human race may become so stuck in selfie-mode that we have with no connection at all to one another and the world around us.

Recently I met with two friends for morning tea. We had cups of tea in elegant yellow and black cups and saucers, rice paper rolls and delicious cake cut into little pieces.  Months had passed since the three of us sat together, and there was so much to discuss.  Each of us spoke in turn, sharing deeply about our struggles – laughing, crying and nodding in agreement.  The only thing that exceeded all of the talking was the quiet listening.  I felt listened to and heard each time I spoke, and spent a long time intently listening.  We each had our turn.  After three solid hours of free-flowing, authentic communication we held hands and prayed for each other.  Nothing banishes a mirror of self-interest like praying for someone else. It’s like emotional health food – building up our spiritual core strength and restoring the inner balance of joy and peace better than any Pilates class or detox shake.

Now I’m not too sure how Bobbie feels after a long session of mirror-gazing, but I know it leaves me feeling anxious and heavy-hearted.  The reflection in the mirror looks okay to begin with. Let’s face it, we’re all fascinated with ourselves to a degree.  At the start I’m like Harry the Mosquito in ‘A Bugs Life’, flying toward the bug zapper:  “I-can’t-help-it. It’s-so-beautiful”.  But once I spend some time gazing at myself all I can see are my failures, imperfections, problems and frustrations. Sometimes a coffee with a friend, listening, laughing and lightening up, or reading a chapter of a good book is enough to lift the heaviness. Other times I walk outside to look up at the wide expanse of sky and breathe in the cool fresh air.

Reflected in the mirror is a distorted egocentric world, but just outside our door are the wide open spaces, the big picture that exists beyond our selves –  painted by our Creator with humble love – a masterpiece of beauty, authenticity and promise.

 

 

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Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.       Henry David Thoreau

Dreaming can be costly.   Walk the streets of a large city and you’ll see the evidence of broken dreams.   On the way to a meeting last Friday I saw a homeless man huddled on a street corner, his threadbare belongings in a small bag and his body odour obvious to the well-dressed executives rushing by, doing their best to ignore him.   I glanced at his weathered face and clenched fists and my heart ached for him.   Did he once have a dream?  

Whenever I go through a rough patch in my life I turn to the writings of the late Catherine Marshall.    Catherine began her writing career after her husband, United States Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall, died suddenly in 1949 from a heart attack. Her book titled A Man Called Peter made it to Hollywood and became the best-selling motion picture in 1952.   Yet, it is her lesser-known writing, where she shares her pain and struggles, that have touched and helped me the most.   Although I’ve never met her, Catherine is one of my dearest friends.

A month ago I wrote an article about a dark time in my own life, when I was in hospital having cancer treatment and was lifted out of my depression by an unexpected spiritual discovery.   I sent my article to an American magazine which was founded by Catherine Marshall  and her husband, Leonard LeSourd, “The Breakthrough Intercessor” (www.intercessors.org).   Nervously I awaited a reply. 

This week I received an email accepting my article for publishing later this year, and it is a dream come true to be published in the magazine founded by my favourite writer and great ‘friend’.   I’ve reflected on the intensity of my feelings for Catherine and her writing and have tried to pinpoint one aspect of her work which has hooked me in.

A golden thread which runs through Catherine’s writing is her encouragement to dream big.   Throughout her own life, which was filled with challenges and impossibilities, she never accepted a situation or person to be hopeless, but held onto her faith that God could bring good out of all situations, and could heal every hurt.   This attitude is contagious.  I have read and re-read some of her books over twenty times, and each time my spirit is renewed and uplifted by her sharp intelligence, honesty, and faith which shines like a beacon in the shadowy uncertainty of everyday life.

It is Catherine who drew me to writing about everyday life, sharing my heartfelt emotions, struggles and fears, even though this can be costly and even quite excruciating.   My dream of being ‘a writer’ was birthed with Catherine as midwife, and it is her encouragement from beyond the grave that keeps me plugging away.  

Recently I’ve found another wonderful friend, also a gifted writer, whom I talk to about writing and sometimes share a coffee with.  She echoes many of Catherine’s words and ideals, and her enthusiasm and belief in following our dreams and relying on God affirms the words I’ve read in my browning copies of Beyond Ourselves, To Live Again, and Light in My Darkest Night.   Her friendship and guidance enrich my life.

Do you have a dream?   If you do, it was put in your heart for a reason.  God carefully plants dreams as a gardener plants seeds, and they will grow at the right time, with sunshine, water and patience.  Look for friends and mentors who will walk with you and cheer you on.   If you can’t find a real person, look out for your own Catherine Marshall.   Devour the words of books that bring hope and light to your path.   If the dream is there, it’s up to you to take the first step forward.   Take that step.   Who knows where it will lead you?

One of the most provocative facts I know is that every man-made object, as well as most activity in your life and mine, starts with an idea or a picture in the mind.  My mother first taught me this, and at the same time she vividly demonstrated to me the prayer that helps dreams come true.    Catherine Marshall, ‘Adventures in Prayer’ pg 39.

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