Spiritually Speaking

Posted by on Aug 11th, 2011 and filed under Religion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

I am a senior citizen who prays every day for God to guide the leaders of our country. Sometimes I think God doesn’t hear my prayers. I also am on a limited income. The budget crisis really frightened me, because if I don’t receive my Social Security check, many bills will have to go unpaid. I did praise God when the agreement among our lawmakers was reached. How, though, can I have faith, even when things like this affect me directly?
– Frustrated Senior

Dear Frustrated Senior,
As a senior citizen myself, I can certainly understand your concerns, particularly in light of the recent financial upheaval over the budget and debt ceiling for our country. Prayer is a valuable resource to help us calm our fears and move ahead with greater confidence. So I am glad that you are praying daily to support our government leaders. I hope you are also praying for strength for yourself and others who are anxious about their circumstances.

But we must remember that we have all been given free will when it comes to the decisions we reach and the choices our government officials make are based on what they believe to be true. So we must communicate our concerns to our elected representatives directly. We must be the ones who speak to them through our phone calls, letters and other forms of communication. Ours may be the only voices they can hear in such tumultuous times.

Another thing that we can do is to join with others who share our difficulties with limited incomes and potentially overdue bills to pay. Often gathering with others, particularly those in our houses of worship, can make us all feel stronger. Some of those people, including our clergy, may also know about resources that are available to help those of us who may be in need in such times as these. Remember, we can achieve more together than any one of us can accomplish alone.

I wish I could say something that would set your mind at ease. Unfortunately, that is not within my power. What I can do is to encourage you to find strength in your belief in God, your prayers and the people who share your life. Those are the forces that can sustain us.

My heart is with you as you face your fears and I offer my blessings to you in these difficult times.

Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills
La Crescenta

Dear Frustrated Senior,
I truly feel for you as you face the challenges of living on a limited income. It must be extremely difficult to constantly worry about the basic
 necessities of life instead of enjoying your “golden years.” These later
years of your life were supposed to be a leisurely and pleasant time when
you could rely on your investment in the supposedly unshakable institution of Social Security to help support your basic needs. And you can be sure that you were not alone in feeling distressed by the events that unfolded in Washington as officials debated the debt ceiling and the budget deficit.

First, some practical advice. I find it hard to believe that your Social
 Security check –or anyone else’s – was genuinely at risk during the recent budget crisis, nor do I think that these payments are in danger of being stopped during your lifetime. What may happen in 30 years or so could potentially be a different story, but I have complete confidence in the American economic engine and its ability to roar to prosperity once again. I feel that it is extremely irresponsible when politicians mention Social Security as leverage during budget debates since it accomplishes little politically and all it really does is scare senior citizens like you.  It is shameful whenever our politicians generate an atmosphere of panic or fear around an issue, but unfortunately this is a tactic used all too often by both parties.

Regarding your comment about faith, it is precisely during challenging times like these that we need our faith more than ever. We have done our part by democratically electing individuals who we felt were morally upstanding, 
 intelligent, and honorable. Now we need to have faith in God that he will properly guide those in whom we have entrusted the great and sacred
 responsibility of guiding our republic. Every single one of those politicians in Washington made an oath promising that he or she will do what’s best for our country and its citizens – “so help me God.” Let us hope that faith continues to guide them and ensures that they steer our nation properly and keep her safe from any harm.

Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center

Five years ago, my husband lost his life in a boating accident, leaving me with three children – all girls – who are now ages 11, 14 and 17. The oldest was her daddy’s girl, and has never gotten over losing him. All of us have been in therapy, and I thought we were doing much better until I found out my “daddy’s girl” has been drinking and using drugs. I’m at a loss of what to do. If I put her in a treatment center, she’ll not be able to go back to school for her senior year.
Actually, I’d like to avoid a treatment center. Although we believe in God, we don’t attend church.
I welcome your spiritual advice.
– Sad Mom

Dear Sad Mom:
Let me answer this question with spiritual, psychological and practical (as a mom myself) advice. First, please clarify to yourself what “drinking and using drugs” means exactly.  I am only assuming it is severe as you mentioned a “treatment center.” If it is that serious – and addiction, harm, lifelong maladaptive patterns of coping, or loss of life can occur – then safety trumps a senior year. What I mean by this is parents often either underestimate or overreact to the severity of many things: drug use, drinking, depression, sexual behaviors and the like. Underestimating can hinder a pinnacle choice parents need to make to get their kids the help they need and save them from great harm. On the other hand, overreacting usually causes emotional distance with kids.

An example of this is when a teen tries a drink or cigarette and a parent freaks out to the point of isolating themselves from their children’s trust. The difference takes discernment and is not easily answered through a column without more information from you. But for the sake of the venue we have here, let’s first assume your daughter is abusing drugs and is possibly dependent on them: get her help. Once she is 18, you will have no more power to intervene and perhaps save your daughter. A missed senior year is a small price to pay; and you would realize this if something were to happen to your daughter.

Now, let’s assume you caught her drinking or smoking pot recreationally but it is not interfering too much with her responsibilities. This is different and really does not constitute a need for in-patient treatment. All this said, err on the side of safety and stopping maladaptive coping mechanisms. Christian or not, your daughter is grieving and perhaps using substances to comfort herself and that can lead to serious consequences.

Kimberlie Zakarian
Marriage and Family Therapist

Dear Sad Mom,
Even though you have done therapy as a family, I would suggest that “daddy’s girl” go into private therapy to share her own feelings of loss and to consider joining a teen support group for alcohol and drug abuse. If she continues her self-abuse, it will be publicly known at some point by her possibly progressively worse behavior.  Better to get help now versus when it could be even worse and too late.

Certainly getting spiritual support can benefit your family as well.  When we are reminded about the Truth of our spiritual perfection, and given hope for making better choices in our lives, things can turn around. Learning to trust and believe in oneself creates a sense of positive empowerment and life improves.

If you are not comfortable with going to church, then find positive books to read with your family. But becoming part of a spiritual center and feeling loved for who you are, being encouraged to make good choices and know that you do have that power within you, helps you see the light at the end of what now seems like a dark tunnel … and you won’t feel so alone in dealing with this situation. That’s why having an active spiritual source in your life is so important.

I do encourage you to find private therapy for daddy’s girl, to get her into a teen support group and to find a church with messages that are uplifting, encouraging and supportive in a positive way for your family.

Laney Clevenger-White
Religious Science Practitioner
Center for Spiritual Living – La Crescenta

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