In the Garden I Pray

A few weeks ago I was rushing back from the store to catch a Joel Osteen sermon on TV, but my little patch of yard in front of the townhouse caught my attention.  I decided to stop and pull weeds before going into the house. In the next hour, as I pulled weeds, so many thoughts crossed my mind I found myself in prayer right there in the dirt. Certain thoughts occurred.

 

“It’s best to pull weeds up from the roots so they don’t grow back,” I thought as I pulled carefully. Then I wondered, “What beliefs are my problems rooted in? Isn’t it time to uproot some of those old beliefs?”

 

I grew up in the 70s when Black power nationalist rhetoric had us not only questioning “The System,” but challenging it. This was necessary at the time. It afforded me opportunities to work, live, shop, and eat in places that otherwise would have remained off limits to me and other non-whites. But it is time I release some of that suspicion that everything about and everyone in “the system” is designed for my exploitation and early demise.

 

I considered beliefs I had about marriage that probably need to be uprooted. Beliefs I have about organized religion. It’s time to plant new seeds.

 

As I was pulling weeds, I remembered something someone told me about weeds: weeds can spring from seeds blown into your garden by the wind. I realized, too, that in my life new problems will occur, some of my own making and some brought in from influences, comments, and actions beyond my control. “Just be prepared to pull the weeds again,” I thought.

 

I stuffed weeds and the roots into a garbage bag, and stepped back to survey my handy work. I decided to plant pretty flowers around the bushes so weeds won’t be the only things catching my attention. I stood there in the silence of the Sunday morning and in my heart I prayed:

 

“God I thank You for making me aware that I must, as often as necessary, weed the garden of my life, pulling out the weeds of doubt (self-doubt and doubt blown into my consciousness by others).  Thank You for helping me weed out despair and disappointment so they do not choke the life out of my field of faith.

 

“God thank You for making me aware that I must intentionally plant the colorful flowers I prefer (the flowers of success in family relations, finances, professional pursuits). Thank You for reminding me to water and weed and fully appreciate the garden of my life.”

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Finding a Buck and a Quarter – Worth More than a Buck and a Quarter

 

 

 

Imagine that you woke up one morning with a serious jones for a jolt of caffeine from the nearby store where you can get your favorite shot for a-buck-o-nine.  You scoop up fifty cents you had left on your dresser, search your purse for two quarters and a dime you thought you saw there the day before, but you come up short. Your purse has only a quarter, two dimes, and three pennies. Not to worry. You are sure you must have a few coins left over in your other pocketbooks, so you go to your closet and frantically search all twelve of your purses. You find a penny. You are still short a few coins.

 

You wanted your morning caffeine fix, but now you really need it. You consider dipping into the digital coin bank you and your husband share, but you have agreed to the rule of never taking anything out of this bank until it reaches the $100 mark and you take these coins to the bank together to deposit them in your joint account.  You consider using one of the rare $2 bills you have received over the years on special occasions. You decide against it because you don’t really want to exchange a rare currency for something as common as a morning fix.

 

You decide to use the coffee you have at home instead of wasting more time searching for coins to get flavored coffee at the store around the corner.  After you gulp down the coffee, you feel satisfied, sure that the caffeine will kick in almost instantly. You dart out the front door for your morning power walk around the neighborhood. But first, you grab your iPod from your car parked out front.  As you exit your car, you notice a dollar bill on the ground. You pick it up and wish you had found it a half hour earlier when you were frantically searching for change for a morning cup of coffee. You feel like you are luckier than if you had found a penny because you have found a whole dollar.

 

You begin your power walk happily, then you notice something shiny on the ground. It’s a quarter. Now you have a dollar and a quarter that have been coincidentally dropped in your path for you to find. You have taken this power walk every morning for several years but never found any money. Yet, you found some this morning, of all mornings. The irony makes you smile. There must be a message in this for you.  You think back over everything that has happened this morning from the time you realized you needed a buck-o-nine for a cup of coffee until the time you found a dollar and a quarter. What do you think the God/The Universe was trying to tell you through this experience?

The Joys of Gratitude

One morning recently I woke up feeling particularly lousy, depressed, dreadful.  I had dreamt crazy, anxiety dreams all night and lamented the day ahead.  Then I was reminded that my grandmother used to tell me, “don’t look at what you don’t have. Thank God for what you do have.”

 

I began counting my blessings.  I thanked God that I could get myself out the bed rather than having to wait for someone to carry me to the bathroom. I thanked God for my health and mobility.  I remembered that a friend of mine is struggling to see, and thanked God that I do not have that challenge. I lay still fifteen minutes thanking God for many things. I got out of bed feeling much better, and by mid-morning I was actually excited about many possibilities for the day and for the near future.

 

As I showered, I began thinking about prayers long-ago prayed and long-ago answered. I felt even better. Throughout the day songs on gospel radio reminded me to “take the shackles off my feet so I can dance.”  I sat on my front steps and simply enjoyed the brightness of the sun and the sound of the birds.

 

In the evening, I got a few good laughs from a sit-com I had long-ago labeled sheer buffoonery, “Sanford and Son,” which my grandmother loved. Around dinnertime, I realized I had a wide variety of meal choices. I could pull food from the fridge or freezer, or go to one of more than a dozen restaurants within a five-mile radius.  I could go to one of more than five grocery stores or one of the half a dozen fast-food places nearby. And, as broke as I felt, I had enough money in my purse to eat anything I wanted. I could even go to a seafood market and order fresh shrimp or crabs. I was satisfied with a salad I made from ingredients I already had.

 

Why couldn’t I appreciate the richness of my choices? Why shouldn’t I appreciate the various manners of richness I already have (spiritual growth), rather than bemoan the riches (financial abundance) I still crave?

 

After dinner, I retreated to the deck with my journal and decided to begin sorting through the thoughts that made me sad or left me feeling defeated.

 

I began acknowledging lessons learned from failures. How much longer would I measure my happiness by the amount of cash on hand or the amount of money I was making on a job? Why had I become so angry and anxious that angry and anxious thoughts ran rampage through the night draining restfulness from my sleep?

 

Being unemployed, I realized, means I have a wealth of time on my hands to apply for jobs, in the process becoming clear about my strengths and weaknesses, and beginning to fully appreciate the skills and experiences I have mastered over the years.

 

I labeled a section of my journal for recording blessings only, determined to jot down notes of gratitude frequently.

 

My grandmother planted those seeds of gratitude in my youth. I am now noticing flowers I had been overlooking in my constant rush for the next best thing.

 

Let’s share some gratitude today. What are you grateful for today? Tell us the first thing that comes to mind.

Correcting a Corrupted Moral Compass

 

One Sunday I was in line at a Safeway when I overheard a teen telling his mom to check the receipt because he thought the clerk neglected to ring-up a particular item.

 

“That’s very honest of that young man,” I thought.  When I heard the mother telling the store clerk about a blackout they had at church earlier, asking if the store had experienced a power failure too, I made the connection. “Oh, they just came from church. It figures.”

 

The next morning I was leaving a Food Lion when I greeted a stranger pushing his son in a cart with a kiddie car attached to the front. The man smiled kindly. As he reached down to pull the little boy out of the car, I smiled and greeted the boy, apparently two or three-years-old. As the small boy steadied himself on his feet I noticed a new bag of toys he was holding. His father looked away.

 

“Oh, you got new toys,” I said, still smiling. I remembered hearing of mothers hiding stolen objects in their babies diapers, and remembered stories of parents walking their children out of a store wearing stolen shoes. “Some of their moral compass will be off the mark,” I thought. “Their sense of right and wrong will be different from the norm.”

 

I walked home thinking about the individuals who’s moral compass was corrupted generations before they were even born. Grandparents who lied, cheated, and stole – and justified it – for instance, certainly might raise children with those same survival skills and beliefs.  Parents who raise their children with “anti-government-screw-the-system” sentiments also are likely to raise kids with out-law sensibilities. Knowing right from wrong gets a little tricky when your primary provider has justified wrong-doing, and even made it a way of life.

 

I hailed from a tradition of flouting convention, challenging the system, and establishing new traditions. But I had a girlfriend who trained me better. I remembered walking through the grocery store with my best friend, sampling fruit or opening a soda. She would say I was being trifling and if I got arrested she would not stand by me. Her mother, although not a churchgoer, was adamant about following rules and obeying the law.

 

I outgrew that trifling habit, conceding that sampling cherries against store policy was hardly worth the risk.  So what if the store might be selling me sour or tasteless cherries made to look sweet to fool me into buying them.  Never mind that the store was making me pay 50 cents for a soda it probably paid 30 cents for. In my mind, this was out-right exploitation of my purse. Stealing, so this reasoning went, was a mild form of defiance against a corrupt system. It was a swipe at Capitalism.  I always paid my taxes – to the best of my ability, but my accountant, whose mindset was the same as mine, happened to believe that the system taxed us poor people harder than it taxed the rich. So, we should take whatever license we could to pay as little as possible. She managed to zero out all my income one year, telling me that’s how the rich white folks do it.  I realized the rich white folks had attorneys to fight the IRS. I did not. I began taking my tax work to a professional service.

 

It would take years for me to recalibrate my moral compass, scraping off the rust of my elders’ resentment against “the system”, and clearing away their disdain for convention.  Admittedly, their experiences with the system, convention, and traditions had been harsh, confining, confusing.  My experiences were different, and once I realized this, I realized I could adjust my internal compass accordingly.

 

I ended up moving to a neighborhood where sampling is the norm. Some stores set out samples around the store (Whole Foods and Fresh Market). To keep up with them the Safeway manager in this community assured me that anytime I want to sample anything to just let someone know and they would open it for me.