Between God And Me by Susie Duffy Buehler

Matthew 6:25

Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?


Ash Wednesday was on Valentine’s Day this year, and on a date celebrating both love and penance, the Deacon at the Lenten commencement service advised the flock to figure out what is standing between each of us and God. It’s a good Lenten message and the congregation is uplifted and motivated, left meditating “what is standing between me and God?”

I’m embarrassed when an answer presents itself immediately and with insistent clarity. What’s standing between me and God is worry, and more specifically self-absorbed worry about earthly goals, having security, and being in control. I haven’t been heeding the words of Matthew, and worried obsession is taking up too much head space. There is not enough heart space left over for God and others. It’s a humbling project for the next 40 days. How does one go about giving up worry?

Several years ago, the Dalai Lama spoke at the University of Texas in Austin. As he entered the stage at Bass Concert Hall, he settled himself into a big white easy chair, crossed his legs underneath himself, adjusted his yellow robe, settled more comfortably again into the chair, and then looked out across the assembly with a smile so peaceful and impish that the audience was spellbound before he said a word. And then his words were simple and profound.

“The secret to a happy life is to seek a still and quiet heart. And if you can do that, and only if you can do that, then seek to have compassion for others.”

His words echo those of Jesus who said pretty much the same thing when the Pharisees tried to trip him up by asking him which is the greatest of all the commandments. Jesus replied that first you must love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength. That’s a big all-encompassing endeavor. And on top of that he said you must love your neighbors as yourself. If we spent enough effort following just these two commandments, it’s pretty clear there would be little time left over for worry.

I’ve heard this message many times, in many versions. Years ago, Father Alan Oakes, in one of life’s best-ever sermons, said that the key to a peaceful spirit is to be quiet, let go, and serve others.

Be Quiet. Let Go. Serve Others. It’s a good prescription for do not worry.

I go to the beach in winter specifically to be quiet. Not the be-quiet of close your mouth and stop speaking, but the be-quiet of slow down, sit still, and listen. It’s an annual pilgrimage of solitude to let heal the wounds of a too-busy life. Listening to the waves and the air and the birds clears the static in my head. In quiet rest, you can hear God’s whisper. Listen.

Letting go is a little harder. An exasperated friend, working on her own obsession with being in control, once said in a moment of inspired brilliance, “I must let go of the vanity of assuming that everything is my responsibility!” Another friend, a Sufi, once told me his teacher regularly admonishes him “we start from here.” Let go of the past and start now at this one precious moment you have here at hand. Trust.

While at the beach my sister made breakfast for us all week. Beautiful green anti-oxidant bowls designed to calm and cleanse our bodies. It was a gentle service of nourishment. I cleaned the dishes, recognizing that service doesn’t have to be grandiose. No act of small kindness or service is ever wasted. Make a difference to one person. Be kind.

What is standing between you and God? Easter was on April Fool’s Day this year, and on a date celebrating both resurrection and playfulness, I’m glad God has a sense of humor. Forty days later I’m worrying less about worrying too much. But I’m also working on it, seeking that still and quiet heart filled with love and adoration, and seeking along the journey to have compassion for my neighbors.

Do not worry about anything, turn over your worries to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart.
Philippians 4:6

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

 

 


Susie Duffy Buehler is an Austin based writer regularly seeking to see people through God’s eyes. Sometimes the challenge is harder than others but there is no shortage of practice opportunities.

A Blessing In The Pocket Rots by Susie Duffy Buehler

I met an angel this weekend. It’s quite a story. It started with an ad on Craigslist: “Very comfortable old chair. Fabric is worn but has no rips or tears. Heavy, solid, well-made wingback. Free for pick up. Location near Central Market.” Within a half hour I had a text, “Hello. Saw ur CL and would like to get the chair. Available anytime.” I replied back “Hello there. Can you pick it up tomorrow?” Reply was “Yes. Or right now. Either one.” Since this was midnight on Friday I suggested 10:00 the next morning, and she replied “10 is perfect. See u then. I’m Bobbi by the way.” I explained the chair was a little too heavy for me, and on the second floor, and she might need to bring someone to help, and she replied, “My husband is just going to love being my surprise helper 🙂.”

At 9:30 I texted to confirm the pick-up and she said her husband was coming without her but he had a dolly. At 10:00 I opened the door to a well-dressed, sophisticated young man who held out his hands and said, “I don’t know if it’s your style but my wife makes leather purses so we wanted you to have one to thank you for the chair. I’m Bob by the way.” Touched by the purse gesture, and tickled by him and his wife having a common name, I thanked him and led him to the chair. He stopped to study it. “This is really beautiful, are you sure you don’t want it?” I explained I’d had it for 25 years, always meaning to recover it, had never gotten around to it, and it was time to let it go. He said he and his wife restore things really just for the enjoyment of doing it. “Tell you what, I’ll send you pictures after we restore it and if you want it back we’ll give it to you for free.” Surprised, I told him if I liked what they do to it I’d happily buy it back from them. He said, “No, my wife and I are incredibly blessed. We’d give it back for free. A blessing in the pocket rots.”

A blessing in the pocket rots. “Like fruit” he said.

He started to load the chair on the dolly and I commented on what I thought were carpal tunnel braces on his arms. “No” he said, “My wife and I caught an autoimmune disease while traveling the world. We’re disabled. We received a financial settlement which allows us to do the things that are important to us. The disease is terminal. We’re focused now on only those things that create joy.” As the conversation progressed he shared that they were in fact leaving Austin next weekend, their home all their lives, to retire to a very small town in the Pacific northwest. They both like grey cloudy weather so they had googled “dreariest place in America”, found and visited the dreariest small town, bought a house for $40,000 cash, and were planning to live out their lives as they wanted, whatever time they had left, without interference. “We’re moving from one heaven to another” he said.

He mentioned he’d prayed for patience, and God responded by sending him a lot of irritating people so that he’d learn patience. I told him I was at one time pretty satisfied with my life and had prayed for humility and God responded by sending me several humiliating experiences until I prayed “I got it, thanks”. “He’s a really good parent” Bob said.

He loaded the chair into his car and I asked if he meant Austin and the new dreary town when he said one heaven to another. “Yes” he replied. “We are so blessed; our regrets are so small.” By now I’m overwhelmed and tell him I’d like to hug him, and he lets me. It was such a blessing to meet him.

Chair secured, he held out his hand to shake mine and said, “I’ll see you in Heaven” and drove off. I know he meant Heaven on the other side. Not just Austin or the new town.

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

 

 

 


Susie Duffy Buehler is an Austin based writer regularly seeking to see people through God’s eyes. Sometimes the challenge is harder than others but there is no shortage of practice opportunities.