Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for March, 2012

Ask and You Will Receive???

A sincere spiritual seeker once asked a renowned rabbi, “What is the most important prayer in the Jewish tradition?” Expecting the rabbi to state the Shema (Deuteronomy 6.9 – “the Lord our God is one” – the centerpiece of morning and evening prayers), he surprised her by replying, “It is much like the kyrie of the Christian tradition: Lord, have mercy.”

HELP!!!!!!“The most important prayer,” said the rabbi with a sparkle in his eyes, “is HELP!”

My six weeks of recovery from rotator cuff surgery have provided many opportunities to ask for help. I’m actually starting to like it. Last week I asked the acupuncturist who works down the hall if he had an umbrella I could borrow for a few minutes. He seemed delighted to run down to his car to check. When he came back empty handed, he apologized.  He was disappointed that he couldn’t help me!  How about that?!?

The instinct to help is deeply wired into our human nature.  Long before researchers began to study the psychological and evolutionary roots of compassion, Jesus was teaching about it.   In fact, all the great religions teach some form of the golden rule:  love your neighbor as yourself.  We provide our neighbors an opportunity to fulfill an essential part of their humanity when we ask for help. And we deprive them of that opportunity when we refuse to ask for help!

Help is available – both divine and human. Of course, we don’t always get the hoped for outcome. A wisdom teaching regarding prayer says there are three answers to our prayers:

1.) yes

2.) no

3.) I’ve got something better in mind!

When the answer is no, I choose to believe that number three is on the horizon.  In recent days I’m discovering that the outcome of my asking isn’t as important as the bridges of love — of our shared need to both love and be loved — built through asking. My neighbor didn’t give me an umbrella.  He gave me the gift of concern and care, the gift of love.

What kind of help do you need today? Have you risked asking God or your neighbor for help?

If the answer isn’t the one you hope for, trust that something better is on the horizon.  And open your heart to whatever bridge of love wants to meet you in your place of need.

Deuteronomy 4.9 – “But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life…”

The Lenten selection for today warns me about what neuropsychologist Rick Hanson calls the teflon-velcro brain.  The human brain is wired to forget the good and cling to the bad. He attributes the tendency to forget blessings and cling to adversity to the historical development of our survival brain.  In previous times, before locked doors, police, and external protections, our ancestors needed to stay “on alert” for danger, ready to defend themselves against human or animal threats.  Our neural pathways became primed to pay attention to danger as a way to survive.  If our ancestors didn’t know where the bears lived or how to listen for signals of intruders in the night, none of us would be here today.  On the other hand, there was no survival benefit for remembering the happy places or loving expressions from others. As the passage points out, our human tendency is to let beauty, goodness and truth, be it from God or human sources, “slip from our minds.

Sprouting My New Midlife Hairdo

I celebrated my 50th birthday this past weekend.  Three days, three gatherings of loved ones, three opportunities to bask in the goodness of my life.  How deeply I am loved.  How rich I am.

The list of all the good in my life could go on for pages.  One of my favorite hymns says that if all the oceans of the world were filled with ink, there wouldn’t be enough to tell the magnitude of God’s love.  Coming off of my weekend of birthday bliss, I can feel the vastness of God’s love pulsating through my whole being. I am basking in the ocean of love and don’t want to ever leave this happy place.

But, like all the human family, Israelites as well as my own Irish ancestors, I am prone to forget the good.  Good – God, love, care, right relatedness, compassion. My velcro brain carries a huge collection of negative emotions and memories that set me up to travel on what neuropsychologist Dan Siegel calls “the low road”.  This is where I went yesterday as I sat eating my breakfast, and saw how filthy the kitchen floor was.  My “danger” impulses activated, my mind flipped to my husband’s busy weekend in the kitchen cooking for my parties. Rather than remember the remarkable gift of his fours days of self-sacrifice on my behalf, my mind focused on how he failed to sweep up after his last round of cooking. Teflon-Velcro brain is working very well thank you!

The ancient wisdom of God’s instruction to the Israelites is for all people, for all times.  I must be careful and watch myself closely, lest I allow my survival brain to run, and ultimately ruin, my life.  I will follow the perennial wisdom of Israel that Jesus modeled when, in facing five thousand hungry people, the first thing he did was to look up to heaven (Matthew 14.19).  In the face of adversity or overwhelming circumstances, the God whose love would overflow all the oceans of earth invites us to a new way of beholding our lives. Rather than go with the default setting of letting the blessings slip from our minds, we remember God — the miracles, the divine interventions,the loving service of our spouses, the beauty, the goodness, the truth.

After Jesus looked up to heaven, he “blessed and broke the loaves.” Look to heaven, then bless, give thanks.  Before any other action or reaction, I must retrain my brain to first look to God and give thanks.

Rwandian Prayer Bowl - With Gratitude to the artist: Epiphanie

I received a new prayer bowl for my birthday, made by a Rwandan woman named Epiphanie. Her life testifies to the power of God’s love to bring good out of adversity.  With each need I place in my bowl, I will also offer an expression of thanksgiving.  I will find a way to believe, to trust, the infinite love of God is big enough, strong enough, vast enough to work good in all the circumstances of life.

As my great uncles Solanus Casey would say, “Thanks be to God ahead of time for the blessings of this day.”

May you and I look to heaven and give thanks today, come what may.