And I Woke Up

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I remember years back I got a text message from my friend D. She said her husband, F, was rushed to a hospital because of a very severe headache. F was diagnosed to have a subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding from a damaged blood vessel in the brain. We were on prayer brigade for days. And then I had a dream. F was seated on his bed, with a white bandage around his head. He was smiling, his left arm outstretched as if reaching for something. He looked well. I told D about the dream. We waited, exchanged text messages and prayed as F underwent invasive diagnostic procedures.
Studies show that about 10% of people with spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhages die before they even get to a hospital and over a third die within the first four weeks following the bleed. Survivors can have significant impairments due to brain damage. And then D broke the news. F didn’t need surgery anymore! He will need medication, however, to prevent his condition from becoming a life-threatening one. Oh, Sweet Jesus, thank you!
I intimated to D that at some critical moments, God speaks to us in dreams. I shared to her that even as a young girl, I was drawn to matters about God.  When I was in college I had this strange dream. I was crying at the feet of a Christlike image when it moved, embraced me, and consoled me. I felt the warmth and the love! I woke up, dazed from that dream. The strong feelings lingered for days. And then on another occasion, I had a dream. In my dream was an interior of a church. On the choir loft I stood with others, singing. I wore something casual while others were in long gowns. Few years later, I attended a church with an interior and a choir loft which looked very much like the one I saw in my dream. And I actively sang in the choir! However, it took me quite some time to notice that. And when I did, I was filled with unspeakable joy! I was actually awe-struck. I didn’t know the significance of those dreams until I read in a book that dreams are the “language of the soul.” When Daniel said to King Nebuchadnezzar that dreams will help him understand what’s in his mind (Daniel 2:30 JB), these innermost thoughts are what modern psychology calls the unconscious. Dreams are part of our body’s regulatory system, operating by a compensatory quality. If our conscious self is ignoring or unaware of some fact, [the unconscious] through dreams may hold it up to get our attention as if to say, “Don’t forget this part,” (Jean Dalby Cliff, Core Images of the Self).
While dreams may be helpful, a lot of information regarding the state of our inner thoughts and feelings to help to know ourselves can also be obtained through quiet, regular reflection on our daily experiences, relationships, examination of our actions and reactions, and prayerful meditation on Scripture. But dreams are unique and are often a very appropriate and helpful part of soul care dialogue (Dr. David Benner, Care of Souls). According to Dr. Benner, the most significant dreams are those that have an incongruous element or puzzling quality to them or sometimes described as “numinous” dreams because they seem to partake of an autonomous spiritual reality that transcends our own personal nature. The clearest numinous dreams are those involving a direct encounter with God or his angels which are frequently associated with deep and remarkably powerful feelings of wonder or awe. Their vividness often lasts a lifetime.
While there are various approaches to dream work, there is no comprehensive theory of dreams [as yet]. But there is a general consensus on the basic principles and techniques of dream. The most promising ones for dream work conducted within the contest of Christian soul care are mentioned in Care of Souls (pp.173-183)*. But before considering these techniques, Dr. Benner identifies eight basic principles for the use of dreams in Christian soul care dialogue:
1. Welcome dreams as a gift from God.
2. Recognize that some dreams are more profitable for dream work than others.
3. Recognize that, with the help of God, the dreamer is the one best able to discern the significance of the dream.
4. View the dream as offering questions rather than answers, advice, or prophetic revelations.
5. View dreams as parable.
6. Pay particular attention to repetitions.
7. Recognize that people and objects in.dreams usually are best understood as representing parts of self.
8. Undertake dream work within a context of the Christian disciplines and community.
My dreams were part of God’s messages to me, a representation of my spirituality, of a personal encounter with our personal, living God. I know I shall dream again. And when strong feelings stay with me for sometime after awakening, I shall write them down and share or dialogue with a spiritual friend, a mentor, a fellow learner.

*Care of Souls: Nurturing, Supporting, Healing, and Restoration in the Church by Dr. David G. Benner. Dr. David and his wife, Juliet Benner are residents of Vancouver Island in Canada. David is an internationally known clinical psychologist and author of more than 20 books on psychology and spirituality. He was a Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Spirituality at Psychological Studies Institute (Atlanta, USA). He was also the Distinguished Author in Residence at Carey Theological College, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada), and serves as a consultant in spirituality and health to a number of organizations around the world. Juliet is a spiritual director with a special interest in the use of religious art as a resource in Christian contemplation and spiritual formation. She is a consultant in art and spirituality for the Carey Centre at University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada). Dr. and Mrs. Benner’s lecturing and consulting works have taken them to South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. When they are not working they enjoy jazz and choral music, hiking, sailing, cooking, and conversation with people about their journey. I had the privilege of attending retreats with Dr. David and Juliet Benner as Retreat Directors.

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Chasing A Father’s Dream

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A Reflection on Arthur Miller’s “Death of A Salesman”

After reading Miller’s classic play, I had mix emotions of anger, hurt, pity and disappointment. Angry because of Willy Loman’s stubborn refusal to accept the painful reality that his son, Biff, could not be the kind of man he expects him to be. Hurt because there was Willy’s love and concern for Biff yet it was a very confusing kind. Willy was a loving, responsible man who provided well for his family. Yet there was a devious element of manipulation in his attempt to get what he wants to see happen in Biff’s life. He held Biff in high esteem particularly when he made significant achievements in school as a football player. I once was a child and I know the satisfying feeling derived from the delight I saw in my father’s face whenever I perform well. To not perform well will make father unhappy or angry. Hence, achievement was my way to gain approval from father. Willy made Bill to perform in order to be well liked by everyone. And to be liked by everyone is a measure to success. And Biff had the makings of a good salesman or so Willy thought! Just like his paternal grandfather who was well liked and made good in his earnings from manufacturing and selling flutes. Selling was Willy Loman’s dominant goal in life. His concern was more of Biff’s performance, to be well liked by people, to lead people, so he could sell well. Sadly, Biff could not say what he wants, or what he wants to be for Willy never allowed to communicate what was deeply felt. Only what seemed to be acceptable or comfortable may be discussed. There were attempts to relate honestly how Biff felt when he flunked math, a requirement to his graduation. But that too had to be denied. Willy was quick to dismiss Biff’s disappointment, that it was alright. He could move on to get things done as planned. Sigh. And Biff believed his father’s passionless praises. It seemed love but I suspect Biff did not feel loved for he lived in trying to desperately gain a piece of his father’s heart. He lost himself to what his father thinks about him, who he is, or what he should be. As a result, he often gets into a verbal tassle with his father. Biff is trapped inside and does not know what to do with his life. Until Biff ended up in a very angry confrontation with his father. He finally resolved to become what he wants to be and not what Willy tells him or wants him to be! In brokenness, Biff pleaded his father to release him, to let go of his dreams. But Willy never cared about how he felt. For what Willy cared about was his all-consuming goal of becoming a successful salesman, to be on top. Willy had never been a high-earning salesman. So he tried to fill his personal emptiness through Biff’s achievements hoping that one day his most cherished dream (or frustration in life) will be realized. But when he saw he had lost control over Biff’s life, he felt shattered. Helpless, Willy became deeply depressed. Because he was someone who could not acknowledge deep feelings, he turned his contempt from Biff (for having failed his dreams) to himself. The play ended up with Willy losing his own self, taking his own life…

 Tragic, but I think Willy had “killed himself” long before he drove himself to death. He deadened himself from that unhealthy fear of defeat by trying to do what he thought was right. And when he could no longer do it right, his only option was [physical] death than face the terrifying reality that he was no longer in control, that he could no longer give orders for Biff to obey. He failed to see that he had a loving, supportive family and close friends to stand by him during difficult periods. What is more disappointing than someone who stubbornly refused to receive help and had given up hope! How heartbreaking.

 What do I feel moved to do? If Biff is a friend, and with his father’s “purpose for living” had ceased, I wished to him that he could talk to a trusted someone or a counselor or a spiritual mentor, who could gradually help him deal with his struggles. There are no guarantees that confronting life issues will not be painful. His father’s death may still haunt him for life. And grief may catch him unaware. And when he’s caught, he may seem unable to make sense of what was and what is yet to be. But in time, a small light shall flicker. And as the light emerges, I pray that Biff will begin to understand.

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“Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play by Arthur Miller and is considered a classic of American theater. Viewed by many as a caustic attack on the American Dream of achieving wealth and success without regard for principle, Death of a Salesman made both Arthur Miller and the character Willy Loman household names. The play raises a counterexample to Aristotle’s characterization of tragedy as the downfall of a great man, whether through (depending on the translator) a flaw in his character or a mistake he has squandered.

It was greeted with enthusiastic reviews, received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1949, the 1949 Tony Award for Best Play, as well as the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play. Death of a Salesman was the first play to win these three major awards, helping to establish Miller as an internationally known playwright.”- Wikipedia

I May Not Be A Mother

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I May Not Be A Mother

Straight from the Heart
by Kitt M.

A health condition prevented me from bearing a child. To a woman, losing her ability to bear children may feel like losing her womanhood. She feels she is no longer desirable. She has no more meaning in life. I remember the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. It must had been very difficult for women during Hannah’s time who were barren. Some perhaps who prayed and waited like Hannah had their prayers answered. Others their prayers were left unanswered and so their hearts bled. Their loneliness, their anguish were aggravated by the dominant thought in their time that a woman’s barrenness is a divine punishment. That would have pushed some of these women to the edge. Sad, really sad.

It was not easy for me at first especially after one physical condition to another. (I felt so cared for by my husband.) But later I realized womanhood is more than bearing or having children. It’s in the heart. If I believe in my heart that I am less of a woman, less desirable, I would still feel that way with or without a child. If we (women) keep seeking from men to give us meaning, we will only be disappointed (Marianne Williamson, “A Woman’s Worth”). We forget that men are as wounded as we are. We need to realize that they cannot give meaning to our lives, that they cannot take away the loneliness in our hearts. There’s only one we can count on and that is God. We can only find our worth in the living God whose great love for us never ceases. We are loved!

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. – Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

“Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby.
Fill the air with song, you who never experienced childbirth!
You’re ending up with far more children
than all those childbearing women.” God says so!
– Isaiah 54:1 The Message