Chapter 13: Living under the Gift of Grace

Once when I was particularly stressed, I internally intuited, “Play with me,” from whom I perceived to be Christ.  Also, “Don’t lean on me so hard.  You will knock me over.”  Now I can imagine “playing” with the Holy Spirit in thus this way.

Following His guidance takes a flexible attitude, but it doesn’t have to be somber.  Actually, the hallmark of Spirit-directed living is the joy that it elicits.

As the Course says, “Salvation can be thought of as a game that happy children play.”  Therein lies a total abandon that is tremendously liberating.  The real universe is not nearly as ponderous a place as I have sometimes imagined.  When I take myself too seriously, I project this outward.  But the light touch wins out every time.

I’m still trying to justify my existence by doing “spiritual” things–like writing this book.  Although I enjoy my job at the library, it seems so tangential to true loving service to others.  I’m careful to take time for people (including other staff members) at work, but that isn’t enough to quell this void in me either.

What is God trying to tell me?  I can quiet myself only by the knowledge that He will tell me in His own time and in His own way.

Once I developed a huge “floater” in one eye and wondered one long, stressed-out night (before going to a physician the next day) if I were going to lose my eyesight.  I realized then that if this loss happened, I would spend a tremendous amount of time in the darkness in meditation and prayer.  I also realized that I’d probably never spend that much reflective time with eyesight.

And it occurred to me that in centering and loving God, in companionship with Him, I’d be doing far more what God might want than my ceaseless, off-the-mark “good works.”

In the long years when God’s will seemed irrational to me, I prayed, “Lead me to want what God wants for me.”

Now that I have studied A Course in Miracles and appropriated its tenets unto myself, I know that my real understanding, coming from the Holy Spirit, would assert that God’s will and the will of my higher Self are identical.

It is the ego’s madness to believe that my will can only be asserted when in rebellion against God.

I can right this madness by quietly discarding the ego in every situation where I can identify egotistical motivation.  But a frontal attack won’t work because the force field of madness will only seem stronger.  Just gradually withdraw support from the madness that is the ego, and it will slink away.

In our overly busy world, it is hard to find time to stop and smell the roses.  If we don’t, though, we begin to feel that we are on a treadmill.

I have an idea that the human mind and spirit were not meant for the speed of modern-day life.  We all have a need to reflect, to center our minds—and for many that takes the form of prayer and/or meditation.

When I was a child, I sometimes lay across my bed during the daytime, with the sun stream-ing through the windows, for at least a couple of hours at a time.  I called it just “thinking.”  But it was truly nourishment for my soul.  I had found a solution to a fundamental need of living that made all the rest of my hours worthwhile.

Those lazy days of childhood are a thing of the past.  Now I look for chunks of time during the day that can be made free just to think, and I try to resist (not always successfully) the urge to open a book to read.  The Holy Spirit needs to reach me directly, too—not always does He want the mitigating presence of another’s words (however spiritual those words may seem to be).

My greatest regret is having verbally attacked another when he didn’t express the love that I wanted.  I certainly played out the role of the shrew that needed taming.

But it was left to God Himself to soften my rough edges—God working through Norman Vincent Peale and Catherine Marshall and Jesus himself (A Course in Miracles).  And the one I attacked?  He, by example, led me to the healing touch of deep prayer.

Seeking through reading, finding through prayer—a combination that in the most pragmatic (as well as idealistic) sense works.

Psychic pain has brought me closer to God.  Sometimes I think I chose this pain to show me the Way.  Certainly my moments of greatest peace have come in the deep prayer that sets aright my little window on the world.

I sometimes believe that physical spaces have vibrations as real as any encounter with a living human being.  Twice I have experienced overwhelming peace while spending time in an area previously occupied by a sincere practitioner of prayer—one, a nun; the other, a seminary student.

The nun had sublet her apartment to me, but the seminary student had rented the upstairs room in my great-grandmother’s house fully 50 years previously (and it had been largely unoccupied since).

By contrast, for the most stressful year of my life, I lived in an apartment previously occupied by a couple conflicted by abuse and violence, and who separated at the point of moving out.

In the first house that my husband and I owned, the previous owner left bright and shiny copper pennies in various places.  It is pleasant to think that her expression of good luck got our residence off to a happy start and colored all the joy that followed.

I don’t think I have always, throughout eternity, been a very religious person.  I am more comfortable with expressing spiritual truths in secular terms.

If love, wherever it is found, is good and true, I don’t think that worship in the traditional sense is a requirement of right living.  As the Course says, praising God hardly means to tell Him how wonderful He is.

Surely He does want us to commune with Him, and there is a sweetness and peace about contemplative prayer that we can experience no other way.  But then we return to a very secular world not ready to hear religious truths in the manner of an all-encompassing world view (contrary to the Middle Ages).  We have to express our truths in the language that our generation is ready and maybe even eager to accept.

Confessions of someone struggling to meditate:  “I’m not yet experienced enough in medi-tation not to feel bored by it.  But it works!  And its efficacy will get me over the boredom.”

One of the best techniques I’ve ever run across to observe spiritual growth is Catherine Marshall’s “prayer log.”  She and her husband, Leonard LeSourd, described and dated each dilemma in daily life, then recorded and dated the answer when it was received.

A prayerful reading of the entries in a prayer log, accompanied by writing down ideas that come as intermediate steps, leads more easily to the receptive mind that can accept God’s answer when it arrives.  If sincerely listening, you may not have to wait long!

God’s answer is always ready to come immediately, but you will hear it only when finally prepared fully to listen.

Journal writing is a form of prayer as well as a cathartic release.  What I write is intensely reinforced in me—the Course’s definition of teaching what we would learn, but to an audience of one.

Blessings are powerful catalysts.  I once prayed for someone in a very forgiving spirit—something I had not always been able to do, and this time it was truly genuine.

Within the hour, I had experienced an epiphany that assured me that God wanted to help me in my life; I didn’t have to struggle all alone to prove anything.  God would smooth the way.  It was like Coleridge’s great poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”:  I blessed the water snakes and the albatross fell from my neck.

Dream work:  What you pray about just before going to sleep will very frequently be illumined by a dream in the morning just before awakening.  And this dream will be easily recalled.

On struggling with trust:  “The Holy Spirit always works things out better than I would myself.  So why do I still resist?”

I’ve been thinking that “just” turning an issue over to God doesn’t work well if, in effect, I “give up”!  That “giving up” may be a crucial point.

I had wondered why relinquishment seemed to turn out badly for me.  I need, with God’s help, to “work with” the problem.  If I truly give up, I may have already failed and know it intuitively.

Then the inexorable law of cause and effect may inevitably force bad repercussions.  Only if I act to cooperate with the miracle awaiting me will I know peace.

Is life really a dream, as the Course says?  I feel very strongly sometimes the divine in and through me.  Partly this is remembering the flow and sparkle of the world when I am in vulnerable states of mind.  But there is absolutely no way to communicate in words what this experience is all about.

Once lived through, though, there is no turning back to an agnostic view of life.

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