Me, God, and the Moon.

“At night, I open the window and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine. Breathe into me. Close the language-door and open the love-window. The moon won’t use the door, only the window.” – Rumi

When I was four, I would sit in my bed and gaze up at the moon and feel God see me.

It is said the sun sees our body, but the moon sees our soul. When I was that very small girl, the light of the moon woke me up to the fact I had a soul, and it could be seen and known, by me, and by God.

And it, and I, and God, were good.

All my life, my spirituality has had its source in the silent, joyous conversations I had with God as a tiny child under the light of the full moon. I never doubted the conversations were real, nor doubted God was. I did not grow up in a believing or church-going family. I was not churched, nor did I know how to pray. But I knew how to believe, and so I did. Believing God was, and that I was loved and seen, right through to my little white bones was as natural as breathing.

Spiritual searching and yearnings of my heart and a need to belong led me in search of God-people. I had many years, most very happy, amongst those tribes. But then, to my surprise, I was led behind the safety and security of the tribes into the wilds, a place I’d never know, a place I feared God would not follow me.

But the moon, ever my brother, mother and teacher, taught me a precious truth. Just as the constant moon in the night sky can be found ever at my shoulder, no matter where I turn, so is my God in my sojourn through with wilds.

And just as I do not despair on moonless nights, so I don’t despair in seemingly Godless ones. For like the moon, God never truly disappears or leaves us. God is simply out of our sight for a time. If we are patient, and prepared to sit with a little darkness, God appears to us once more, and ever after.

No one can make me believe there is no God. Don’t try. I was convinced of God before I knew the earth was round, that I needed oxygen to live, before I could read, and way before I knew there was such a thing as the Bible or shame or heaven or hell.

God saw me when I was but a few days along the road in my spiritual journey, and said, little Small and Pure, you are Very Good.

I am, still. Always was. Always will be. So are you. We are born good, and God always sees us this way.

When I see the full moon, it reminds me the spiritual journey is all about believing that with all of our heart again.

Selah, my friends.
Jo xxx

You are Sublime.

The truth is, we are sublime. We are filled with strength, beauty and knowledge. We are wiser than we have been led to believe. We are capable of incredible feats of grace, and of greatness. We can learn everything we need to know. We can command our own soul, and guide others into truth. We thrum with the breath and beat of life that has always been and will always be.

We can hear the very voice of God.

On ducks and rows, and what you really need to be praying about.

Here’s something I was thinking about over cooking breakfast this morning.

Once, when Ben and I had good, steady paying jobs with a regular salary, when we could budget because we knew how how much we were going to get paid each week for the foreseeable future, when we had a mortgage on a house we would still own now and which would be worth three times what we paid for it if we hadn’t sold it, back then, I used to lie in bed and panic about money. I used to cry from the stress of it, and constantly worry about having enough and being broke, losing everything and having it all go to shit. I prayed all the time to get what I didn’t have, to get more, to have more, money, things etc. I was obsessed with it. I know now what I wanted was feelings of safety and security. But no matter how much I prayed to God to give me as much as I needed to feel like I had enough, like I was safe, like everything would be all right, He never did. I never got all the things I thought would stop me feeling stressed, anxious and like I needed more. And so I went on being anxious, afraid and manifesting intense lack and poverty in my life for quite some time.

Oh, I always knew I needed to be grateful for what I had. But I spent probably one eighth of my prayers saying thank you for what we had, and the other seven eighths praying for more of what we didn’t. More money. Better, bigger house in a better area. Better pay. Fatter back accounts. Lottery wins. Gifts from relatives. I begged God to gimme, gimme, gimme all the time. And whenever something did happen, like a tax return or a gift of money, I always thanked him. But I wasn’t grateful. But it was never enough. I always expected more, wanted more, needed more.

I’ll be grateful, God, I promise, I would pray. I’ll be the most grateful Christian ever. I’ll tell everyone just how awesome you are and testify to your generosity and provision. Just give me more. Please, give me more. I’ll do ANYTHING.

It’s not like that any more, in just about every respect. We have had our miracles, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t have anything like what I used to, in terms of material security and physical wealth. No house. No salary. No home, in fact. A few possession in a trailer, a couple of appliances in a storage unit. No investments, barely any superannuation. The idea of living like this, two decades ago, would’ve horrified me. This is the exact situation I begged God to help me avoid, at all costs. And whilst I’m mostly okay with it now (I still get a little worried at times) this was the sum of all my anxieties back then. Not only would I have felt like God abandoned me, but I would’ve felt deeply ashamed. How can I show others – my friends in church, the “world” outside the church walls – that God exists and takes care of believers, if I as a believer don’t have physical evidence He has “supplied all my needs according to His riches in glory”? When I don’t believe He has helped me, because I still FEEL this way?

I honestly thought I’d know when I had enough or what I wanted, because I believed I’d stop feeling anxious about having more of it. Silly me.

While we can say I was just young, immature and materialistic then, and I’ve grown up, there’s something else going on here. I didn’t really know what I was asking for, when I was praying for God to give me more stuff. I thought I NEEDED more money because I deserved it (I’m His child!) and could always use it, but what I really NEEDED was for to God to fix my negative feelings about poverty, to repair all my phobias about how having less is being less, to allay my concerns about how Gods love equals me being comfortable financially, to take away my terror at being unsafe and unprovided for, by giving me a big pile of money, without me having to do anything else about having more money but pray about my negative feelings, voice my terrors, express my concerns and tell God about my phobias.

In other words, I believed that expressing my abject fears to God would activate His giving to me the things I thought would take my fears away, in this case, more money and security.

How often are our prayers not really about getting help to attain things we need, but come from a place of not wanting to feel uncomfortable, afraid, insecure or anxious about the way things are for us?

I have come to believe that when we pray, we are often praying for God to fix circumstances for we won’t have to feel or think anything we don’t like, far more than we are praying about finding a real solution to a real problem. Sometimes, it ain’t actually broke, and doesn’t need fixing. What’s broken is our thoughts and emotions, not our circumstances. I prayed for more money, not because I needed it (we had more than all we needed at the time) but because I wanted relief from my feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, fear and insecurity.

It was ironically when things actually took a turn for the truly catastrophic that things – and when I say things, I mean I – began to change.

When I had cancer, it started to become clear to me I had no idea what I was doing when I prayed to God about stuff. Of course, I prayed for the cancer to go away, to be healed, especially at first. But after a while, I thought to myself, this is dumb. Either it will go away or it won’t. Either I am going to get better, or I’m not. My feelings about this change every day. And who knows which way it’s going to go? I had seen enough to know even if I prayed, I had no guarantee of the result I wanted. I worked out it would be better to pray that God would help me deal with my feelings about dying, and my feelings about living. That way, I’d be ready for whatever happened. Then, I began to feel less afraid of dying, because I felt like if it came, I would be able to deal with it. The less afraid I felt, the less I prayed about being healed.

Thank God, I didn’t die from the cancer. But here’s the next point I want to come to. How grateful am I to God for not dying, if I never prayed actually about not dying? Did I get an answer to prayer by not dying? I didn’t pray for that. I prayed that whatever happened, I’d be able to cope. And I got an answer to that prayer. And I’ve been praying it ever since.

Friends, sometimes I think when we pray, we forget to meditate on why we are praying for what we are praying for. Are we praying for God to fix a situation, simply because we cannot tolerate our own emotions and thoughts concerning that situation? Do we think God can be coerced into giving us what we want simply because our feelings of anxiety surrounding that thing are extreme or intolerable to us? Like a tantrum in a two year old? A wise parent takes a tantrumming child aside and helps them ride out the emotional crisis, and when sanity returns, counsels the child about the reality of the situation, reassuring them they are safe and secure, and helping them see what is actually going to be good for them. Given the opportunity, because God won’t force it on us, God will work with us to do the same.

I still pray for God to help us get by. But instead of praying for a huge pile of money in the bank because that’s going to help me sleep at night, I pray we will see opportunities to bless others, and not miss opportunities to provide well for ourselves. I still pray God will help me deal with whatever comes, and then I trust Him concerning whatever comes, instead of trying to get Him to give me what I want to come, because I think a particular thing will make me feel less afraid and anxious and insecure.

I believe God wants us to feel safe, but He does this by helping us confront and examine what makes us afraid, and by guiding us through an education into our own condition and thinking, not by taking away everything that frightens us. If you’re still praying for God to fix your life so you don’t ever have to feel scared, poor, judged, anxious, nervous, or like you’re going to die, may I gently exhort you to consider that maybe your life works just fine, and doesn’t need fixing, and it’s actually your emotions and thoughts that need healing. Instead of asking God to make all your ducks line up in a row so you never have to be out of your comfort zone, you’d be better to pray instead about whether ducks were created to stand in rows, and why they make you feel so bad when they run around the place, after all, they are ducks for crying out loud.

I believe faith is trusting that God wants us to be safe and happy. I also happen to think faith is the spiritual discipline of learning to feel safe and happy in Him, regardless of what circumstances come our way.

Selah.

Blessings, my friends,
Jo xxx

Ps – as always, your thoughts welcome.

Pps – Having said all this, if someone in your life is abusing you, physically, mentally or emotionally, don’t just pray about it, or ask God to help with your feelings about it, unless it’s to help you have the courage to get the hell away. Leave, now, and seek support and even legal advice.

Felt it needed a caveat, friends

I want to say you’re going to be okay.

Ben is in bed asleep, and I’m once again sitting in my car in the dark on Windy Hill, trying to imagine all the very hard things you’re all facing at the moment, pouring all my energy and love into making words in all the right order for you.

I think about you, and think back to a year ago, two years ago, three, four, even five, to a time when I can say my life was as hard as it’s ever been. When my husband didn’t want to be married to me any more, and had drunk himself into a deep, dark hole I refused to follow him down. A time when I still felt the dank, metallic shadow of cancer following me everywhere. A time when I had both divorce papers and a will kit on my desk. When I wondered which horrible thing in my life would overwhelm me, or outright kill me, first.

Oh God, I thought I’d never get through it all, really I didn’t.

But here I am, five years later, that same man who would’ve rather drank himself to death than stay married to me is the same man asleep in my bed down the hill in that little house. And the same heart that eleven years ago was being smothered by a lymphoma in my chest still beats, still burns, still blazes with life and love and lust for all of it – all that this mad, brilliant world can give me.

This is why I sit in the dark and write to you, tapping away on my iPhone with the car engine running. Because I want you to know you’re going to survive this. I want you to know others have, I have. I want you to know it won’t always be like this, and you can be okay, and will be, and life will be all right and more than tolerable – it can again be wonderful. I know this. And I want you to believe it, somehow, being hope, if you can, if you just can.

Don’t give up, sweetheart. Don’t, just don’t you dare. Do your nights, one after the other, and do what you need to do to get through. Eat good food. Don’t worry about being too fat right now. Sleep when you’re able. Stay away from the bottle and the wine glass, if you can. Read, read, read. Keep good friends close. Buy well-fitting jeans and a great swimming costume. Also, the best bed sheets you can afford. A book a month, at least. There’s your prescription, you’re welcome. Take two and call me in the morning.

I know it seems like there is no hope. Be angry if it helps, but not all the time. Be brave when you can, but you can’t always be brave, I know. It’s all right to be a pain in the ass, to cry, to tell people it’s unfair, you did your best, and be shitty and a bitch. Just not all the time. Remember how staggeringly heroic you are. Tell yourself your story so you remember what a saga this is going to turn out to be, imagine how it ends and tell yourself that story over and over. Fall in love with people and let yourself include them in a future of your imagining. Just remember it’s pretend. All this is training wheels on hope.

Oh, and forgiveness. Don’t worry about it. That can come much later. Just leave it for now.

That’s all I got for you honey, right now anyway. Just know I’m thinking of you, holding your phone there in your hand in the dark, looking for answers, begging the universe for a sign. This is it.

I know. Me too.

You’re going to be okay,

Love you.
Jo xxxx
…………

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Facing your resistance to change is BRAVE.

You know it, don’t you? You feel the pull towards change. You know it’s coming. You know it’s necessary. But still, somehow, you resist. You’re waiting until you no longer feel the fear before you do it. You’re waiting for safety and for certainty.

Change is hard. And you think you’re alone in this. But you’re not alone.

You may at times be physically isolated from others. You may also at times feel like the people you’re with don’t understand you, or see you through a predetermined filter, of have made up their minds about you before they really know you. You may even feel like you’re the only one on earth who thinks and feels like you do.

But that’s a lie.

Who is lying? Who is this voice who constantly narrates all your brave little efforts to break free with commentary about how alone you are, about how broken and faulty you are, about how nobody else feels this way, about how change is dangerous and risky and not worth it? Who is that, exactly? That voice in your head?

Is it really you? Is it really true?

Here is some truth for you, my darling.

You, my love, are in charge of a small tribe of little orphan “feelings”. They have no mama, they have no papa, they have only you. And this little gang of orphan feelings at all times and in all places want to go home. They do not know where home is, in fact, the place they yearn to go to be safe only exists in their imagination. They don’t know if it’s a place in the past, or a place in the future. Your orphan feelings only know and believe with all their little beings that one place they will feel safe IS NOT HERE.

And so, as you drive your emotional minivan along the road of life, your gang of feelings in the back are constantly whining to be taken anywhere but where you’re going, because for them, fear of being hurt, being abandoned, being tested or challenged, being isolated or starved or alone in the dark is their overwhelming motivation.

Whenever you write something, play something, start something, end something, meet someone, leave someone, climb something, come down from something, in fact, whenever you do something which isn’t staying perfectly still and doing exactly what you’ve always done before, the chorus from the back of the minivan begins.

“Argh! What are you doing?!”
“Why are you doing that?”
“Why are you going there?”
“Why would you say that?”
“Why are you telling them these things?”
“Who do you think you are?”
“STOP! You’re scaring us! It’s too much! You’ll fail! You’ll be judged! We’ll all be killed!!! Argh!!!!”

Poor little babies. All frightened you’ll be hurt, they’ll be hurt, again. Scared that if you tell your truth, if you open your heart, if you stay or leave or grow or simplify or add complexity, if you take responsibility or defer responsibility, if you write or dance or stand up or walk away or do ANYTHING other than breathe that they will be exposed to harm or judgement or to the possibility of failure. Those poor little honeys, all buckled in back there with no way of making you stop scaring them half to death, except to nag and barrage you with constant begging and pleading to never go anywhere, never do anything, never change, never risk, never grow.

But you know. These fears have been deciding your direction for a long time now. You’ve been obeying those voices and listening to the fear for so long, you think that’s your own voice, don’t you?

But it’s not your voice. Your voice is wise. Your voice is courageous. Your voice is confident, and still, and certain. Turn, place your finger on your lips and gently tell those frightened babies, “Shhhhhhh……..”

Then, listen.

Hear it? Your intuition. Your inner compass. Your gut. Your know-er. She’s telling you where you need to head to. She’s showing you the road ahead. She’s giving you the co-ordinates, and all the other information you need to move ahead, isn’t she?

Mama, now, get back there and check your little feelings are strapped in well. Give them all a sweet kiss on their forehead, and a warm, smiley hug. And you say, hold on little fear, little feeling, don’t you worry about a thing. I’ve got this, and I’ve got you. Everything is going to be all right.

And then mama, you get back behind the wheel, steer this puppy back on the road, and hit the gas. Out there? That’s where you are headed. That’s where you’re going. Your fears are coming too, because they are a part of you, but you’re in charge, you’re the mama, you’re the peace-maker, the comforter, and the nourisher of your soul.

And you have places to go.

So honey, what do you think?

I’ll see you on the highway.

………………………………..

Why the answer to your prayers is letting go.

We’re all praying for something, right? We’re all holding on to something, hoping it will come right, work out, be fixed, healed, restored, returned, changed or… God, just something, anything would be better than this.

I know what you mean. I’ve prayed for and about a heck of of a lot of things. And I’ve had my miracles.

I’ve also had my complete catastrophes.

And sometimes they are the exact same thing.

I don’t know about those magic prayers which are said to get you just what you want from God, and never anything bad, unpleasant or unwanted. I only know those times I received an answer to my prayer was when I let go of what I knew in my heart I needed to let go of.

In every instance, while I prayed for a miracle, I was holding on to something I thought I absolutely needed to survive with sheer desperation, thinking if I could keep it all together, I could keep it all, and everything would be all right, and I would get what I wanted, and nothing bad would happen to me or anyone else, and everything would be okay.

God, I held on. To my fear of risk, of change, of the disapproval of others. I held on to my bad behavior, my habits, my addictions, and I held onto the people in my life I blamed for causing those things.

I held onto stuff, places, ideals, ambitions and tribes. I held onto the limelight. I held onto my hiding places. I held onto what others told me I should hold on to, even though it didn’t fit me, and I became someone I wasn’t and never could be.

I held onto my shame, my pain, and the stories which defined me. I held onto my past success, and the identities I adopted for myself and others put onto me. I held onto being good, being a rebel, being dumb or smart, being up front, being invisible. I held on with all my might to things I thought were the cure, but which turned out to be the disease, all the time praying to be healed.

I prayed to be saved, forgiven and redeemed, whilst doggedly clinging to my victim stories and the deep, seemingly immovable belief I was worthless, bad and totally useless.

I prayed for God to heal my cancer, while holding onto the life I’d made for myself which led me away from self-care, truth and authenticity. I prayed I would survive, but I did not want to give up living to please others and proving I could be clever, independent and good and not too much trouble.

I prayed God would heal my marriage, but I would not give up my husband, not to the journey he needed to go on to heal and become whole, and not to the alcohol he was killing himself with.

And then, after almost dying from holding on, and almost witnessing the person I loved most in the world self-destruct, also from holding on, I realised that holding on was not facilitating the miracles we needed not just to heal, but to actually survive it all. Holding on was not all it was cracked up to be.

We needed to let go.

I lost the life I built for myself out of holding on. And so did my husband. And we even lost each other.

For a while.

There is a miracle awaiting you in the letting go. Learn it, teach yourself to do it. And practice it often. The world tells us we must own, accumulate, conquer, build, possess and at all costs be right, but this isn’t how miracles are made. Empires, addictions, exiles, vices, wars and debt are made this way. But ownership, wealth and power won’t cure your cancer, restore you to your children, heal your relationships or bring back the years you wasted rehearsing your deepest fears.

For His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Your miracle is born in the crucible of your surrender. It will be terrible, and it will be painful. But you know in your heart there is no other way.

Trust. Everything is going to be all right.

Let go.

Love, Jo xxx

The other side of fear.

They say, “everything you want is on the other side of fear”.

Which sounds reasonable. Except they don’t tell you the fear you’ll feel on the way to everything you want won’t feel like something you can just walk over, like a bump in the road you’ll just address with “Yep, there’s that fear they warned me about. I’ll just step over this and be on my way.”

The fear you’ll feel when you’re on the journey toward everything you’re purposed for feels like dying. It feels like terror. It feels like insanity.

It’s trying to keep you safe. It’ll do anything to stop you taking risks, from going somewhere where you can’t use your past experience, skill and wisdom. It doesn’t want to learn anything new or be scared out of its wits. It doesn’t want to starve or freeze or be told it’s an idiot, what the hell, you can’t do that, what are you thinking?

Your fear really, really doesn’t want those things. So it will have you sobbing in the shower while your belly hurts and your knees buckle, all the while begging you to stay the same, or go back to how things were, or stop being a fool, or leave, or stay, or take that person back, or make that person go, or give up this mad, insane path you’re on, because who does this? Who do you think you are? And God isn’t real and miracles don’t happen and where’s your common sense, you fool?

Fear. Yep, it’s a small, scared orphan. And I’m the driver of this minivan. I’m the driver of this minivan.

Your minivan is doomed! Were all going to die!

Oh, fear. You need a cookie and a glass of milk and an early night, I think.

No, fear doesn’t sound like the still, small voice. The fear standing between you and everything you want is a screaming, crying, thrashing and very convincing big, loud voice.

Yesterday, I stood in the shower sobbing, while fear had it’s way. And I didn’t step over it. I had to go through it. And it made me ill, and have crazy dreams, and it gave everyone around me a bit of a scare too.

And then, there was you.

Friends reached out their hands and prayed for me to break through. I broke down, and crawled a few inches forward, and held my ground, which is kind of the same thing. This morning, I got up. Coffee, breathe in, breathe out. My belly hurts.

But this time, I’ve woken up on the other side of that fear standing between me and everything I want. It didn’t feel like I thought. I can still smell the mess it left. My ears are ringing from the screaming. As I go further away from my security, the guns get bigger. But so does my faith in the still, small voice.

Thank you God for sending others to speak the still small voice to me when fear had me sobbing on my knees. And thank you for letting me get out of the shower before you sent help, because finding me like that, I’m sure I’d probably have woken up in hospital today.

Which I think came in at about plan D.

Another day, another preconceived idea of what living by faith really means.

Have a quiet day. That’s today’s plan A.

Love, Jo xxx

Petulant Conversations With God #1

*Petulant Conversations With God*

Me. “God, I am extremely stressed out. Don’t feel good. I think I’ll have a nervous breakdown today. Go to hospital. Lay about in a catatonic state for a while. That sounds like something I could do at the moment.”

God. “Really.”

Me. “Yes, REALLY. This is hard, this living-close-to-the-edge stuff. I’m really STRESSED OUT. I think I’m going mad. Like, crazy-mad. I want to go over the edge instead of just mincing about. I’m halfway crazy as it is. Who does this kind of weird stuff? Who does this? Yep. Right. Over. The Edge. Then maybe I’ll get some rest.”

God. “Rightio.”

Me.”Yep, I really NEED A REST.”

God. “From what? You don’t have a job.”

Me. “Oh, that’s it, rub it in. And you wonder why people blame you for the whole ‘religion slash god slash guilt trip’ stuff.”

God. “I don’t wonder. So, tell me, what would it be like if you had a nervous breakdown? How would life be different?”

Me. “Well, I wouldn’t have to worry about – you know – stuff. Money, and … stuff. About what might happen further down the track.”

God. “Right.”

Me. “I mean, I could just lie around. Only do what I need to do right now, the next thing in front of me. When you have a nervous breakdown that’s about all you can cope with, I think.”

God. “Okay.”

Me. “I could just live in the moment. Just do the next most important thing, like “I need a sandwich.” or “I need to wash the dog.” and no one would blame me, because that’s about all I could deal with.”

God. “Right.”

Me. “Because people who are over the edge get to live like that, and nobody expects anything more than that from them, and I think I’d like to be able to be like that. Just living moment to moment.”

“Right. So, lets see … to live moment to moment, and not look too far into the future, and not worry about what might happen down the track, to let perhaps things just take their course, to just do the next thing in front of you, you need to give yourself a nervous breakdown.”

Me.”Um …yes?”

God. “____”

Me. “You were saying?”

God. “.”

Let go.

The difference between me today and me ten, twenty, thirty years ago, is only my capacity to let go.

And my life is so much better for it.

It took years to learn to do it. I’m still learning. But I’m better than I was. Holding on was responsible for some horrible turns of events in my life. Learning how little control I truly had saved my sanity, my family and probably my life.

Learning to surrender helped me with everything from having cancer treatment to letting my marriage disintegrate. It helped me when I lost my way in my parenting. Giving over helped me leave the tribes I needed to leave, abandon my beliefs and break my identity down into pieces. It all sounds shocking, but the alternatives were far worse, although I’d never have believed that at the time. Letting go was very, very good for me.

Accepting loss – even death – as part of life is against everything we’ve been taught. But holding tightly, even to our life, is a waste of energy. We kid ourselves about the control we have. We don’t have control – not of others, of our future, our past, what others think of us, over our being born or over our passing. All we can do is choose, right here, and just now. That’s all.

If I could go back to my teenage self and give her two words, I would say, “Let go.” It’s all I needed to know.

At the core of me is a fire burning, a light leading me toward my truth, a thread leading me like breadcrumbs through those dark, confusing years when I thought I was wise and autonomous. I wasn’t. I was driven by fear. Losing everything I was holding to taught me all I really need is in me, and can’t be stolen, lost or burned up. All that falls away was never mine. All that stays is who, and what, I really am.

Let go. Look for the small, steady flame inside you, that’s your guide. Release the people around you. Loosen your hold on the things you think you need to survive. Step back from all you think you need to prove. Let go of it all, honey. It’s nothing, and you are everything. Trust yourself. And in God. He doesn’t have control, and one day, believe me, that thought will give you no end of comfort.

For you, today.

Love, Jo xxx