Learning from a Cat

Today’s post is written by Lisa Nofzinger:

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34)

In December 2012, when I moved to my apartment in Eagan, I looked on petfinder.com to find a feline companion.  My previous cat had passed away in April 2011 of kidney disease and I missed him.  I looked through the pictures and stories.  I considered getting a one year old female cat, but the one I was most interested in was moved to a foster home two hours away.

So I kept looking, and I felt a pull toward Mr. Jingles, a 6-month-old kitten who had been a stray, and came into a vet’s office after getting a parasite, possibly from eating a diseased crayfish.  He was severely underweight, but had been treated and was available for adoption.  I called and made an appointment to see him.  On December 17, I brought him home.  The first few weeks he ran around and knocked over lamps at night, and then he started sleeping with me and eventually became a lap cat. Jingles cat --IMG_0133

I do not know anything else about Jingles’ history.  I do think he had contact with people at some point.  He is almost three and has calmed down a lot, but still can be wild on occasion.

I believe that Jingles has learned to trust me.  I treasure the time we spend together, sleeping side by side or me watching TV while he is on my lap.  He enjoys being petted on his terms, and looks to me for food.

As I write this, I am on a medical leave from work.  It is expected to last several weeks and may go longer.  I exhausted paid leave so am unpaid.  I do worry about money, and look at my savings, and then I remember how much Jingles trusts me.  The Bible tells us that we can trust God to provide for our needs one day at a time.  God wants us to come with our needs as my young cat comes to me.

 

Lisa Nofzinger attends Easter Lutheran, works for the state of Minnesota, and lives in Eagan with Jingles. 

 

Jake Stole My Blanket

Almost a year ago I joined a small women-only gym in Rosemount. After a long bout of illness I wanted to see what my body could achieve again. Inactivity over time made me feel like the filling in a Twinkie; soft and mushy, trapped in a spongy shell unable to move freely. Dizziness and joint pain caused me to distrust both my physical and mental body. What was once taken for granted now challenged me.

Three times a week, I committed to a weight training and cardio regiment. Jake, my personal trainer, pushed my physical limits more each day causing me weeks of muscle soreness and fatigue. Had I not prepaid for the 6-week boot camp style class, I would have have quit. Jake’s stories and lessons, jokes and dancing kept me distracted as I worked out. Friendships were formed with other women; each with their own comeback story.   As the 6th week approached, my sense of accomplishment was palpable. My new workout buddies and I agreed. There was no way we could leave this place, each other, or Jake.

As the months passed I gained strength. I quietly worked, sweated and listened to stories shared. One morning as I struggled IMG_0751with  bicep pulls, Jake stood to my right. He pointed to a small bulge in my wrist. “Look how strong you are Jean.” Unsure how to respond, I said nothing but found great satisfaction in watching that tiny band in my wrist pulse and twist as I worked.

The only one in my group working out one a snowy winter morning, Jake handed me a medicine ball and a mat. “Do a plank balancing on this ball with your hands.” The circuit that morning was 90 seconds. I held on. My body trembled then shook. I wanted to stay up, to hold straight in my plank. “Breath Jean!” I gasped, blew out of pursed lips and closed my eyes. “Yes! Go someplace else! You can do this!” Kneeling next to my mat Jake cheered me on slamming his fist on the floor counting down the time left. A recorded woman’s voice announced the end. Rolling off the ball I collapsed on my belly, red-faced and shaking. “I did it Jake.” He nodded as if he knew I would all along. Leaving that morning, we fist bumped our good-bye. “You believed in me more than I believed in myself. Thanks Jake.”

More weeks passed. While pulling down enough weight to lift me off my seat, Jake whispered firmly, privately in my ear, “You are not sick anymore, Jean. You are strong and well! But you are never going to be able to move forward unless you can see that for yourself.” My silent eyes locked on his. His words pierced a target in the center of my forehead penetrating my brain. It felt like he ripped a warm, protective blanket off of me on a frozen winter morning. I suddenly saw the person I used to be did not exist any longer. The wellness I worked so hard to achieve had arrived. Chilled to the bone, seeing myself in a new light, I could not speak. Somehow, Jake had whispered directly into my soul.

People speak of experiencing God in a prayer, a song, a child’s first cry, a loved one’s last breathe, wind rustling leaves or the call of dove. I now listen for God’s guidance in less likely places; in the tired eyes of a grocery store clerk, in the frustration of rush hour traffic, in the pain of a headache, the scrape of my shovel on a snow covered driveway, the bulging of a growing muscle in my arm and the encouraging words of my personal trainer.IMG_0746 What can I learn from this person, this experience that can guide me on my current path or to a brand new one? What might God be trying to teach me?

I believe I received an amazing message in that otherwise ordinary moment. I could no longer hide behind the blanket of illness, weakness or pain. It was time to stand up, step out into the world again. I was given another chance to be well and participate fully in this beautiful world. It was time to acknowledge and embrace this God given gift with the gratitude and enthusiasm it deserve. I woke up in that moment suddenly knowing my work is not finished yet. God, it seems, has something more planned for me!

1 Samuel 3:10 NLT

And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

Dear God,

I am humbled in the knowledge that you care about me enough to reach out, to guide and teach in such personal ways. As I continue to listen, learn and grow in faith, help me to recognize your voice in both the usual and unexpected places. Speak to me God! I am listening! Love, Jean

Jake Del Pino II is the Head Trainer at Get In Shape for Women in Rosemount, MN, Co-owner of Snap Fitness in Red Wing, MN, and Founder/Owner of Lamb II Lion Fitness – Faith based fitness for churches and corporations in the South Metro.

Illuminating the Masks We Wear: An Important Part of the Spiritual Journey

One morning a few weeks ago, as my husband, Kent passed my office on the way out the door to work, he saw a strange sight. It was 7:30 in the morning, the sunlight was shining through the stained glass window in my office onto the mask that I have hanging on the opposite wall. The mask is one that I made as part of a class recently to symbolize the transformation of becoming our authentic selves.

Stained Glass Window     Mask_Regular

The sun was illuminating the mask in the most profound way. It was odd enough that this happened once, but when it happened again the next day, I concluded that this was too much of a coincidence to ignore.

 Mask Illuminated

I found myself asking these questions. Is there a message that the Holy Spirit is sending that I am supposed to pay attention to? If so, what is the message? Who is the intended recipient of this message? Is it for me because it’s my office, my mask? Is the message for Kent because he is the one who witnessed it first-hand? As I contemplated this, I have come to believe that the message is for each and every one of us. Illuminating the masks that we wear, that cover up our authentic selves, is an important part of the spiritual journey.

As part of the inner work that I have done over the past couple of years to become an effective energy healer, we learned that as humans we unconsciously create masks to portray an image of ourselves to the outer world. It’s what we think we need to do or be in order to be loved or to feel safe. The masks are really covering up feelings of inadequacy, fear, pride, will, anger, judgment, or criticism. These masks are a state of inauthenticity– it is not who we really are.

One mask we might wear is the “serenity mask”. The message we portray to the world when we wear this mask is, “Let’s not talk about anything bad. Let’s just be nice, whatever you want to think, say or do is okay with me. I don’t ever get hurt – ever”. When we wear this mask we avoid uncomfortable feelings of anger, grief, fear, and pain and the conflicts or confrontations that might occur if we express these real feelings. We wear this serenity mask because deep within us we are hiding the fear of aggression; so we may seek safety through isolation.

Another mask we might wear is the “power/will mask” that portrays to the world, “I can do anything. I will not say ‘No’. I am capable of everything and anything and I will push my way through it so that I don’t disappoint anyone. I will endure.” We wear this mask when we are unconsciously covering up our terror of feeling inadequate.

Another mask that is very common in spiritual communities is the “love mask”. We wear this mask to draw people in through an artificial facade of love. The way that this manifests is portraying to the outer world that we love everyone and everything, and we deny that we have any thoughts or feelings that are undesirable. “I love everyone. I have no ugliness in me. I walk in only bliss and peace all day.” This love mask hides the terror of hatred unconsciously within us.

Have you ever worn any of these masks? I know that I have. I think there are many times people feel that they need to wear these masks in order to be good Christians. Jesus demonstrated authenticity. He expressed feelings of anger driving the Money Changers from the Temple (John 2:13-17). He expressed anguish when he said to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “ My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father if it is possible may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:36 – 39). When the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus saying that the law commanded them to stone her, Jesus said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” When they all walked away, Jesus extended mercy to the woman and said, “Has no one condemned you? Then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:3-11).

A recent example that I believe beautifully demonstrates authenticity is how Pr. Kris and her sister Kim so vulnerably shared their thoughtful responses to the question, “How are you doing?” upon the recent death of their mother Karen on Karen’s Caring Bridge site on October 13 and 15, 2014.

They could have chosen to wear the “serenity mask” and not say anything that would make anyone uncomfortable and only shared how they may have been blessed by this experience. They could have chosen to wear the “love mask” and sugar-coated and covered up the pain that they are experiencing. They could have chosen to wear the “power/will mask” and given a message that they will push their way through this, they will endure no matter what.

Instead, they honestly shared about the pain that they have experienced as well as the blessings. They shared both the challenges and difficulties they experienced, their palpable grief from the loss of someone whom they loved dearly, and how it has impacted their lives and the lives of others who knew and loved Karen. They were not speaking through a mask when they wrote their responses to that question. They were honest and authentic, and I respect and admire them for the courage and vulnerability that this requires. Pr. Kris did not portray that she has to embody a super-human strength just because she is a pastor. It helped me to connect with her on a deeper level, as a human being who is on this journey along with the rest of us.

So as I look at that photo of my mask being illuminated by the light shining brightly upon it, I am reminded that God is calling me to become consciously aware of the masks that I wear. The Holy Spirit is gently nudging me to look underneath these masks to discover the fears from which I might be hiding. Why might I feel inadequate? Why might I be afraid of someone being aggressive towards me? Why might I be terrified of feeling hatred? The spiritual journey invites us to look deeply within and get in touch with these things so that they can be healed. And when we do, our core essence of light and love is able to shine through us effortlessly and we will be empowered to share our true, authentic selves with the world.

Thank you God, for the difficulties and blessings we experience on this spiritual journey. May your Holy Spirit illuminate the masks that we have created in order to feel safe, or to be loved. Be with us as we find the courage within us to seek to heal the fears that lie underneath these masks. And as we do, may we experience the abundance of your divine essence flowing through us and become more of our authentic selves that we are called to be. And so it is.

Excerpts taken from Rukha® Academy of Healing Arts and Science – Living With Consciousness™.