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Are you so tired and burned out that you feel life is running you instead of you living it? Have you lost faith in yourself, in your life, and in God?
In God, Are You Listening? Elizabeth Hutchinson provides the inspiration you need to find meaning and purpose in your life. She shares her own story of how the stress and strain of her responsibilities propelled her toward a ...
Are you so tired and burned out that you feel life is running you instead of you living it? Have you lost faith in yourself, in your life, and in God?
In God, Are You Listening? Elizabeth Hutchinson provides the inspiration you need to find meaning and purpose in your life. She shares her own story of how the stress and strain of her responsibilities propelled her toward a life-threatening case of burnout. She describes in accessible language the process she undertook to arrive at what she calls "heart consciousness."
Elizabeth draws on a number of techniques from psychology to spirit-centered disciplines bringing all aspects of mind, body, and spirit practice together to form a comprehensive healing path. She shares insightful stories that help build self-esteem and self-worth, she illustrates the power of word therapy, and how being in nature or listening to music can contribute to therapeutic growth. And a good deal more. At the end of each chapter, she provides exercises for further study.
Elizabeth writes, "Be gentle with yourself and know that you will still have some 'bad' days. You will snap at your spouse or your children or have limited patience with the sales clerk or you may feel lonely. Old patterns are difficult to break, but the more you persist the easier it becomes. As soon as I give it over to God I find instant peace."
In God, Are You Listening?, you will find a thoughtful and encouraging teacher who will help you to find the joy, love, and peace each of us deserves.
The Song of Moses
Deuteronomy 32:1-3 (New International Version)
Listen, O heavens, and I will speak;
Hear O earth, the words of my mouth.
Let my teaching fall like rain
my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants.
I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
God, are you listening? We have heard the old saying that prayers are always answered, but not always how we want it. Is that true? Some people believe prayers do not always get answered or are never answered.
It is easy to go to God with the big things like illness, death, etc., but it is the everyday things we forget about. We believe we can handle or manage the day-to-day. Maybe it is because we think we should not bother God with the daily grind or maybe it is because we think we are supposed to be able to handle the small things ourselves, but whatever the reason, we fail to bring our struggles to God until it "really counts" and then we expect immediate attainment like Tinkerbell waving her magic wand.
When we encounter the big things in life we often reach out to God, even if we have proclaimed ourselves to be nonbelievers. During that time of crisis we bargain with God because, after all, we do not ask for much because we usually deal with things on our own; or we inform God we have been good Christian folk following his ways. Sometimes we rage at God because if He were just, how could He allow this horrific incident to occur, and while we rage, we expect miracles because, after all, Moses parted the seas, Jesus turned water into wine, and all we ask for is for God to remove an illness, repair a relationship, or bring someone back from the verge of death. We are not asking for much and in return we will do whatever is necessary to get our needs met. Even when God brings the loved one back from the brink of death or cures the illness, very few people praise God or remember the promises that were made during the cry for help—until the next crisis and the pattern repeats itself.
I have worked for more than eighteen years with people in crisis, and they tend to move from one crisis moment to the next. During that time of struggle they are willing to move mountains to change their circumstances, but usually within seventy-two hours, once the initial shock has worn off, they go back to the old ways of doing things; no longer is there an interest in making changes.
By the time we ask God for help, we have made such a mess out of our lives that much untangling must take place to rectify the matter. I am not saying that God does not perform instant miracles, because He does, but usually there is a need to start untying the knots and untangling the rope we have bound ourselves with. As God starts to untangle our mess, we decide that we no longer need God and we take our concern back and we "deal with it ourselves," and we slam God for not answering our prayers. The awesome thing about God is that He gave us Free Will and he allows us to take things back and create more knots and tangles. He does not ask for praise, but continues to show us loving kindness and engulfs us in love even though we have turned our backs on Him. He knows we will be back and He waits with wide-open arms to accept us in a loving embrace, just like healthy parents when their children leave home. And although parents know their children are not able to deal with all life situations on their own, they know it is time for their children to learn and grow, but they also know the door is always open and when their child is ready he will return home for the love that is needed to help repair whatever hurt the child has encountered.
Parents do not expect payment for loving and supporting their child and we know a child will very rarely ever utter the words, "You were right" to his parents. Children know coming home is the only answer and that they will not be turned away. I have witnessed some healthy families in action, but more often than not during my career and personal life I have encountered dysfunctional families. However, for the most part when a major crisis moment occurs, the family will step up and help—unless, of course, the family itself is the crisis. This example is like God, always waiting, always loving and ready to help, but we need to allow God to be there always in all ways.
It is easy to reach out and ask for help during an emergency. I have never encountered anyone at a car crash tell the emergency crews, "Go away and leave me alone; I will figure out how to get myself out of this car." And we do not tell the emergency crews, "She got herself into this car crash and now she can get herself out." Sometimes we are armchair specialists when rescue operations are happening, like when skiers go missing because they went out of bounds on a slope. We will watch the news and rant about the money it costs, the danger the rescue crews are being placed in, and say the idiots that disobey danger signs should be left to their own devices. But when it is us or our loved one who has gone out of bounds, we rage at everyone around us, demanding they do more to save us or our loved one. No one can do or does enough to help—not the police, doctors, nurses, teachers, friends, or family, and especially not God.
It is my belief that we have become a society that no longer looks to God for help, but expects others and material possessions to fix us. When we do look to the professionals for help and they do not provide an instant solution, we rant about the useless service our hard-earned tax dollars are paying for. We are loath to hear we need to do the work and maybe we need to look within and repair some of the damage, and while doing it reach out to a higher source for guidance and support.
As a professional working in the mental-health field, employed by or contracted by the government, I cannot mention God on the job, and if I do it must be in a passing comment like, "Do you belong to a faith group? If so, you may want to reconnect, and if not, is that something you've considered?" The government has just reasons and it is attempting to protect clients who are vulnerable. If you are self-employed in the mental-health field you can have sessions that speak openly about God, angels, and anything else that you may want to explore.
I provided psycho-educational information about self-esteem, assertiveness, boundaries, exploration of childhood beliefs ... the list goes on and on, but I never asked the client to go deep within and discover who they are spiritually. For a number of years I facilitated psycho-educational material and I do believe that it is important, but that alone will not make you happier.
It is only when you look deep within that you discover the light or the spirit that was meant to shine brightly—that is God. When you develop a relationship within—with God—you can look out and really change the world around you. You will be joyous; you will have better boundaries, be more assertive and have higher self-esteem because you cannot have a deep meaningful relationship with God without having these characteristics. It is impossible.
The formula is Love yourself/Love God = Love the world.
How to Get There
Here is the really big question—How do you you get there? The path is not easy, but nor is it difficult. Sound confusing? Well, it really is not.
Looking within is just like cleaning house: it takes effort, but at the same time it really is not very strenuous. Typically, the issue about cleaning the house is a lack of motivation. If we waited to get motivated to clean the house, my guess is that it would never get cleaned. Eventually, we decide that we must get up and just begin and as we do the work becomes easier than we had imagined and before we know it the work is complete and it was virtually painless.
Just like cleaning house, when going within you must take action. It will never happen if we just wait for it, and like cleaning house we often put it off until the timing is right or company is coming. Ever notice how we can be on our best behavior when company arrives (that is, if we really enjoy the visitors), and once they are gone we fall back into old patterns? Why is that? It was not difficult while they were visiting and in fact it was often enjoyable to put our worries on the shelf, to laugh and forget about the day-to-day issues that usually bring us great annoyance. Is it because we are being our authentic self or is it because we want to project our best self? A by-product of going within is being authentic and projecting our best self, but here is the best part: it can stay longer than the company.
Now you may say, That is all well and good, but the house gets dirty again and it needs to be cleaned; and you are correct—it does and so do we. The willingness to look within is act one. The second act is doing it, and the third act is continuing to do it—three easy activities to resolve a lifetime of chaos. Now you may ask, If it is so easy why isn't everyone doing it and why are we living with war, famine, and family violence? And you know what? God asks the same question.
When we look at these activities, we can become over-whelmed very quickly, just like when we look around the house and see that it needs to be cleaned. When we start to clean we often decide to clean one room at a time so it does not seem like such a huge task. We may decide to clean the house a room at a time over a period of days, and once completed we take a moment to appreciate our handiwork and start all over again. Starting to see the pattern?
Now let's start cleaning....
This is a story I have told many times. I remember first reading it in Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit written and compiled by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. This particular story is about Jack Canfield's personal experience.
Near Bangkok there is a temple that houses a ten-and-a-half-foot, solid gold Buddha. A group of monks from a monastery had to relocate a clay Buddha from their temple to a new location to make room for a highway. When the clay Buddha was being lifted it started to crack and the rain began to fall. The head monk, who was concerned about the Buddha being damaged, decided to wait until the rain stopped. He covered it with a large tarp to protect it from the rain.
Later that night the head monk went to check on the Buddha. As he put his flashlight under the tarp the beam of light revealed something shiny. The monk got a hammer and chisel to chip away the clay. As he knocked off pieces of clay, the Buddha became brighter and brighter. Many hours later the monk stood face to face with a solid-gold Buddha.
Historians believe that several hundred years before the monks' discovery, the Burmese army was about to invade Thailand. The monks covered the golden Buddha with clay in order to keep it from being taken by the army. It appears that all the monks were killed and the golden Buddha remained a secret until that historic day.
I remember that Jack Canfield's realization from the story was that we are all like the clay Buddha. We are covered in a layer of hardness created out of fear, but underneath it we have a 'golden Buddha', a 'golden Christ' or a 'golden essence' waiting to be discovered. Our golden essence or spirit got covered up and like the monk our job is to uncover it.
The journey of self-discovery is like mining for a hidden treasure and when we uncover our extraordinary precious gift of the spirit we are in awe of the splendor, just like the tourists that visit the temple. This story had tremendous impact on me and over the years I have read and retold this story many times. When I was working as a Life Skills Management Leader with groups of abused women, this story was often the stimulus for lessons on building self-esteem. As a gentle reminder to the women throughout the duration of the course, I would remind them of that Golden Buddha shining inside.
The Power of Words
"Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill."
Words are very powerful; they can inspire a nation to challenge injustice; they can make us laugh hysterically or cry uncontrollably. When working with victims of domestic violence and hearing their stories, I was told countless times that the bruises and bones heal, but the verbal onslaught is an open wound that runs deep for a very long time, much longer than the bruises and broken bones. Think of how quickly a bruise will begin to change color and fade; the whole process is usually over within a week or two. Broken bones may take months to heal. And words remain longer and the wounds are deeper. Why?
Bruises and bones are physical and visible, whereas words are spoken in the air, and we cannot see them. Contrary to the old childhood rhyme "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me," anyone who has felt the sting of harsh words knows that words can be very painful. In criminal court, the system looks for physical and financial evidence because it is tangible. It is very difficult to prove a crime of verbal abuse. If a person has received a death threat, a case may be made, but again many hurdles will have to be overcome. In a case of verbal abuse it is very difficult to obtain charge approval and to get a conviction. But when speaking with victims, it is clear that verbal abuse is often the most damaging.
What is the difference between words that we can allow to slide off our back and words that penetrate deeply? It can depend on the tone of voice, the language used, and what type of relationship we have with the person using the words. If a stranger calls you stupid while walking down the street, you may ignore the person. (or you could believe the stranger and think, Wow, even a stranger passing by can see that I am stupid). But if your spouse or parent calls you stupid, you may hurt for days or years.
Very early in my career, I was working every Friday with a group of women who were still living with an abusive spouse. From Monday to Thursday another facilitator focused on the cycle of violence and because I facilitated on Friday, I did not want to focus on violence with the weekend fast approaching; I wanted the women to have an opportunity to fully absorb the material and debrief the information before spending the weekend with their abusive partners.
I had discovered a gem at the library, a videotape called Self-Esteem & Peak Performance by Jack Canfield. I watched the video and I was inspired. I thought his message was clear and easy to understand, and there were simple steps that created immediate results.
When I had the opportunity to facilitate that Friday, I knew immediately that the videos would be an ideal component in my curriculum. I informed my coordinator of my plan and was told that it was a mistake because there was no way the group would be able to stay awake to watch a video at the end of the week, but she had not seen Jack Canfield in action.
I reached a compromise with the coordinator and she gave me permission to show the video in segments over several Fridays. The first day I presented the material the ladies did not want me shut the video off; they were hooked. I stopped the video every time Canfield suggested an activity. For example, in the muscle-testing activity one person holds out their arm, saying something that is true, like "My name is Elizabeth," and the other person tries to lower the arm. The person talking must try to resist the arm being lowered, and the arm will remain locked in place because the statement is true. Then you do the same action but say something that is not true, "My name is Fido," and again you resist, but the arm will easily lower, thus demonstrating the impact of our thoughts on our consciousness.
Each time I facilitated the group, I would caution the women to be careful about their new skills when interacting with their spouse, because I was concerned that their partners would see the changes occurring and hurt or kill them. I explained that because they were in tune with their partners, any change would be easily recognized and their partners may feel threatened and lash out. Safety planning was a major component of the curriculum each week. This information pertains to anyone in abusive relationships, men included. Many men experience violence, but it is not always acknowledged.
I often shared the national-average figure for people leaving abusive relationships, but would multiply it by one hundred to account for how many times they left mentally. Often people judge victims as being passive and not doing anything to stand up for themselves, but that is not true. Every time a person is verbally abused and they think that the other person was wrong or they think about how the abusive person was behaving and that they are projecting their actions onto the victim, they are fighting back.
Excerpted from God, Are You Listening? by ELIZABETH HUTCHINSON. Copyright © 2012 Elizabeth Hutchinson. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Chapter 1 Unanswered Prayers 1
Chapter 2 Embracing the Gifts God Gave Us 19
Chapter 3 Meditation 51
Chapter 4 Forgiveness 59
Chapter 5 Love 73
Chapter 6 Blessings 81
Chapter 7 From Fear to Freedom 93
Chapter 8 Letting Go 103
Chapter 9 Faith 115
Chapter 10 Resistance 139
Chapter 11 Discernment 145
Chapter 12 Patience 155
Chapter 13 Discipline 163
The End and the Beginning 169