Saturday, August 13, 2016

Catholic Hermit: Progression

When one has a major God-pivot in thoughts, there is progression.  When we pray for that which God wishes for us, there are answers in movement, in shifts of the soul.  Also we will experience alterations in our relationships and temporal circumstances.

A cousin on my father's side has asked me to write recollections of his life.  Her mother, my aunt, recently passed at nearly age 97; she is delving into old photos and plans to write an online book of family history.  Her mother had shared and jotted down information on her parents, cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles but had not shared that much of her siblings--two brothers.

While I had to put off the request until after a daughter and grandson came to visit and help me with some manual labor here at Te Deum Hermitage (most don't know the name or if do, need to remember; God knows and you anonymous readers know), I have pondered some of my dad's life.
I initially wrote just a segment to my cousin, of a pivotal time in my dad's life that I find yet today to be inspiring and helpful.

However, I think my cousin took it as negative, or more suffering from my life.  (I had also shared with her that I was stopping the negative thoughts in the first waking moments and stretching into an hour or two depending upon severity of pain.)  She wrote back that her mother always told her to never think back on memories or worries for they will strip us of energy.

That is true; it can do that.  Especially memories that we perceive as negative, and unless we can forgive and see some positive aspect to what was past.  Often, we struggle to truly find positive in downright horrible situations of our past days and years.  But if we can locate the positive or even come to a point in our thinking that those situations really were inspirational or prepared us for greater accomplishments and a far richer, deeper life experience, then looking back can empower.

When the daughter and grandson arrived here after a long journey, we had two nights and two days of sharing and working.  They stayed in a tent which ended up being rather an interesting experience; it gave a new "look" to this old farmhouse and property.  It added an element of color and fun, and also of sacrifice.  Their sleep mattress had a slow leak; and their was so much dew one morning, the grandson and his shoes had to dry out.

We got the rest of the vaulted ceiling installed.  This required more cross-boards nailed every couple of feet or so between the ceiling joists, plus I had to stuff in another layer of insulation so that the entire result is R-49 insulation factor.  Then we had to one-by-one, fit, tap in, and trim nail each board.  The exterior wall tends to lean out slightly in some areas; there are light fixtures that need careful measuring and cutting boards to fit around openings.

Up on ladders, each of us working hard, the grandson handing us the nail gun or boards.  We climbed up and down so many times and craned our necks so often--especially when we had stubborn boards of which we had frequently.  Some were warped a bit, some bowed.  We took a few breaks, of course.  This old nothing consecrated Catholic hermit pushed the body for time was of essence in having help with a ceiling that otherwise I could not at all do alone.

During one rest break, the daughter reflected upon the progress made in this house.  She encouraged by pointing out we had two-thirds of the ceiling boards in.  She then admitted that she really did hope that somehow I can finish the place.  She said it would be quite an accomplishment as well as could be quite a charming house.

We discussed the various hardships in all the work done here, often with her and her husband's help, the little grandson assisting--and always, always the various obstacles that we'd encounter in here.  (The place does need to be blessed; the priest remembers yet has not called to set the date.)  But we also mentioned how we'd overcome each obstacle, frustrating as they have been and on-going at a rate far higher than what could be ever considered typical.

Then I mentioned my dad and the request to write a bit about him.  And of all the marvelous aspects of quite an impressive human being--a most handsome gentleman, intelligent, calm, loyal, faithful, patient kind, tremendous smile and sense of humor, solid Christian, WWII veteran, great provider and protector of his family, excellent golfer, man of many long-time friends as well as always new friends--I had been thinking of his drinking problem.  Alcohol had a tremendous grip on his existence.

At age 46 he quit drinking. I recall him calling me into his room and very seriously and quietly telling me he was sorry he had a drinking problem, and he was stopping.  He had joined Alcoholic's Anonymous.  He showed me a small coin he was given with AA on it, plus showed me the Serenity Prayer, and he told me he was never going to have a drink of alcohol ever again.  He never did.

The problem was nothing we ever discussed outside our family and never discussed it with him--we children did not.  We all had prayed, though --aunts, uncles, my mother, grandmother, and we children.  He just stopped it--quietly, resolutely, and forever.  Never another drop did he drink.

I told my daughter during our ceiling-work rest break that I had stopped my negative thoughts upon waking as well as my struggles of wanting to be out of all this work, this hardship, this overwhelming task of what I'd gotten myself into:  a real estate mess of a house mess.  

I added that perhaps someday the grandson would come to a point in his life in which he had a major decision to make or some personal dilemma or issue within, affecting his life and attitude.  Maybe he would think of me and remember how I persevered, how I changed my attitude, how I did what I could with what I had, including with severe pain.

There is progress when we can look at some aspect of the past and find strength in what otherwise could be viewed as negative.  I have two siblings who see the negative of their childhoods often enough, and the negative remains yet.  My own thoughts have been negative far too long, and I am convinced that since the Lord had my will die and replaced it with HIs, He also has shown me that my mind is in the way of His Mind.

I suppose I had hoped that He would replace my thoughts with His Thoughts in some easier way than my having to simply stop my thoughts--the negative ones to being with.  The ones that rile against the physical pain and desire death or desire to not have to face the work load here, to have it easier, to be rid of the burdens.

But no, progress requires perseverance and sometimes just stopping something we are doing, thinking, feeling.  Just stopping it, telling ourselves "No!  Knock it off!"  Change the thoughts or shove them away, and do a major God-pivot.  Frequently in the midst of obstacles on the tongue-in-groove ceiling project, I would pray within for help in figuring out how to get the wrong-gauge nails from being jammed in the trim nailer gun.  

Or I'd ask Him for help with a ceiling board that would not go in, and another and another would not, either.  My daughter figured out the problem!  The Lord answered the prayer by utilizing her ability to solve the issue!  And then I'd lose some tool in the mess in here, amidst my rising pain level which always fights for space and power in my brain--and I'd pray asking Child Jesus to help me find the lost object.  And then praise Him when it would be found.

Those are little, every-day God-pivots.  But the major one has brought the greatest progression and shift in my soul, and that is of the thought alteration.  The thoughts are gradually (and with effort, though, for God is not going to sprinkle magic dust in my brain any more than He had the death of my will be painless) shifting to positive, and each morning it is easier already to not at all have negative thoughts first thing, or wish daylight had not come and I could somehow be on the other side, out of my suffering body.

When my daughter admitted that she hoped, deep down, that I could finish this place she explained that it would be so amazing and would prove other people wrong--people she said who doubted it could be done, that I could actually do it.  
I shared with her the day I went outside so wanting to be away from it all, and I asked the Lord if I should just bail out of all this--and His voice said to me, quite clearly:  "What miracle would there be in that?"

It is true, there would be no miracle in that.  Nor would there be any miracle or God-pivot if I did not simply stop my own thoughts and allow God to have sway and dominion over my mind.  Why bother asking Him to replace my thoughts with His Thoughts if I am not going to clear space in my mind for Him?  How could He possibly get a Word in edgewise if I make no room for Him in my mental "inn"?

What miracle would there have been--and indeed what lasting legacy of human strength and life-altering perseverance--had my dad not stopped drinking?  Remembering that aspect of his life and the particular turning point is what has augmented my own determination to simply stop the negative awakening thoughts and the discouraging and despairing thoughts about being stuck in such hardship.

I had to confess to my daughter that the most difficult part of stopping my negative thoughts are when the pain rises; that is when I tend to lose a grip on it all.  She said that is to be expected, for how could that be easy?  And it is not, and yet it was not easy for my dad to stop a habit that is actually physiologically and psychologically ingrained, involving brain chemistry (new research on dopamine levels being low) and emotional hurts and how such can become quite addictive.

But, the Lord steps in, always.  As soon as we pray for spiritual progress, as soon as we are shown and are able to see for ourselves some aspect that would be better, would bring us closer to Him even if we mis-see it more as temporal improvement--the Lord provides the strength necessary for the progression to commence, for the God-pivot to be successful.

We have no idea how the Lord will utilize the legacy of whatever God-pivots we make in our lives nor of how many or which people might be affected for the better--even long after we are freed from our mortal bodies.

There is a chain-reaction, though, of circumstances and effects once we begin.  I could sense it with my daughter and grandson--the shift the Lord is providing within me is affecting them.  The cousin who wrote back did not realize that my sharing of what some might consider negative was quite positive, and that I no longer need to be considered in terms of sorrow and tough situations one after another.  

I can see that when my thoughts begin to be replaced with God's Thoughts, and I am increasingly freed of my old thoughts, that it will take awhile for others to become comfortable with and used to the God-pivot effects.   They might need to shift, themselves, for their way of relating with me will change.  Those who can, will.   It is a form of letting go of ourselves as "possessions."  For what we possess can often possess us, and that includes ways of being and perceiving.

God bless His Real Presence in us! Little children, we are; and little children progress and grow, from one phase to another, cyclically, in love of one another and of God above all things.

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