Exploring the meaning of life…

Archive for January, 2012

God Can Find You Even in Nickajack Cave by S.L. Galletano

When my teenage friends were listening to the Beatles, we were playing Johnny Cash at my house.  I can remember putting those huge records in the record player and listening to Johnny Cash sing the Folsom Prison Blues and Ring of Fire.  Then, with technology, we finally advanced to 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, and at last, cd’s.  But I didn’t know the man behind the music until recent years, except that I knew he wore black.  I didn’t know the haunted man who would one day in 1967 crawl into Nickajack Cave to die.

Most people know the basic story behind Cash.  He was raised in poverty in Dyess, Arkansas.  He and his brother, Jack, helped their parents pick cotton as soon as they could hold the bags.  His abusive father always favored Jack over J.R., as he was then called, and blamed him for Jack’s horrible death when he was pulled into a table saw.  The pain and anguish of his childhood was never far from his thoughts, although he tried in many ways to bury it.  He left Dyess to enlist in the Air Force, his ticket out of the pain and dismal poverty of his childhood.  When he returned from the service, he moved to Memphis and the rest is history.  Sam Phillips of Sun Records signed him and the Tennessee Two on his label.                                                                                                                             

A few years of the lifestyle of touring  musicians took its toll on him.  He turned to booze and amphetamines, which were easy to get at the time, and eventually to barbiturates to bring him down from the uppers.  Johnny Cash was an addict waiting to happen and it didn’t take long for him to get hooked.  He loved the energy of the amphetamines, but they impaired his already radical behavior.  He began carrying guns and firing them for no reason.  Once he and Sammy Davis Jr. got thrown out of a hotel in Australia when they staged a gun fight in the lobby in front of guests.  They only fired blanks, but they scared everyone to death.  He chopped through locked doors in hotels with a hatchet to wake up his band.  He dropped a huge load of horse manure in one hotel lobby.  He and his tour started carrying a chain saw in the car and when they would roll into a town in the early dawn hours, they would find the nicest, neatest yard in town and cut down one of the trees.  There seemed to be no end to the mischief and destruction that he could do.  He ruined his career and marriage due to his addiction.  No one wanted to hear anything more about Johnny Cash.  He was no longer welcome in most country music halls.

When his pain and misery overtook him, he decided to end it all.  Drugged almost out of his mind, he went to Nickajack Cave in Marion County, Tennessee, to end his life.  He crawled for what seemed like hours on his belly and knees in pitch-black darkness until his flashlight went out, and then he laid down to die.  The man in black was as far away from God as he could get.  He had turned away from the light and embraced the darkness, almost begging it to take him out of the world.  To his surprise, he had a spiritual awakening there on his belly in Nickajack Cave.  God told him He wasn’t through with him yet and that his days as a drug addict were numbered.  Without a light, he crawled back out of the cave the same way he had crawled in and found his mother and June Carter waiting outside the cave for him.  His mother, who lived in California at the time, had flown to Tennessee because she had a premonition that he needed her.  In the next month he detoxed from pills and booze and recharged his career in music.  He focused his music on those people, who like him, had been through the darkness and wanted to find the light.  He sang at prisons and for presidents.  He understood what lay in the darkness because he had crawled every inch of it on his belly to get to the light.  He saw the souls of the prisoners and the down-and-out addicts, and he never forgot that kind of pain.

If you’re stuck in the mire of the darkness, listen to the man in black.  Crawl to the light and He will be there waiting for you.

Have a happy journey!

                                                                                

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God is never late..by S.L.Galletano

  

God is never late, but He has missed some really good opportunities to be early in my life.  Have you ever wondered about the timing of God’s answers to your prayers?  I have.  But God showed me that He knows when to act.  Here is my story:

Almost twenty years ago, I took my then four-year-old daughter roller-skating at a crowded, popular roller rink.  She didn’t know how to skate, so I held her left hand, and she used her right hand to cling to the bar around the rink.  The problem was that you couldn’t go all away around the rink that way.  At one end of the rink, there was a roller-coaster type contraption they called the “wave.”  The skaters, mostly boys, were going through it so fast that it took my breath away.   When they got to the end, they literally “flew” out at a rate of speed that made me dizzy.  Sometimes they turned the lights off and you skated to strobe-lights, which only made it more difficult to navigate.  If you didn’t go through it, you had no other alternative except to skate around it, putting you in the path of the skaters that were flying out of it.

As we approached it for the first time, I heard in my soul: “Remember Glenda.”  Glenda, a childhood friend of mine, broke her arm at the roller rink as all of us watched helplessly.  When I heard that, I stopped and changed sides with my daughter, just in case if something happened at the wave, it would be me that got hit and not my daughter.  We skated around that way for a couple of minutes and then it happened: a boy coming out of the wave hit me, knocking us both down.  If I hadn’t changed sides with my daughter, she would have been hit instead of me.  I broke my right arm so badly that they had to call an ambulance to take me to the hospital.  I think it was the most pain that I have ever experienced in my whole life.                                                                                                

At the hospital, the doctor told me that it would most likely require surgery to repair.  They put a temporary cast on it, and I agreed to see an Orthopedic Surgeon the next day.  For purposes of anonymity, I will call him Dr. Jones for this story.  Dr. Jones had a reputation for  ungodly, arrogant behavior – brilliant- but arrogant.  He xrayed my arm the next day and gave me the devastating news – I would never have the use of my right arm again.   He put on another cast, and I left with no hope.  I was a nurse and a single mother – how could I make it without my right arm?

Months later when the cast came off, he sent me to therapy three times a week.  My arm still felt broken, and I could not straighten it.  I worked at an orthopedic facility and had therapy there.  The therapists told me that when I could hold a gallon of milk with my arm, it would be healed.  I couldn’t even hold a small one-pound can of green beans without horrible pain.  At the end of each therapy session, one of the therapists would try to straighten my arm out a little more, and I always cried.  These therapists were my friends and co-workers, and they hated to see me cry.   After a couple of months, the therapists advised me to go back to the doctor because I had made no progress.  I went back to see Dr. Jones.  He xrayed my arm and told me we had to start all over again, which meant he would have to surgically rebreak my arm, recast it and then go through therapy again. 

When I walked to my car, I felt helpless again.  I just knew I wouldn’t be able to stand that again.  I started driving home, crying, and pleading with God.  I had prayed that He would heal my arm from the very beginning, but it didn’t happen.  I told him I didn’t think I could go through it all again and begged Him to heal it.  I felt a sudden rush of heat and tingling go all through my arm.  As if by magic, my arm straightened out perfectly.  It seemed so magical that I  looked around for fairy dust.  Amazed, I watched my arm straighten out with absolutely no pain.  When I got home, I ran to my refrigerator and held a gallon of milk with my right arm.  My arm was painless and strong.  I cried with joy. The next day I went back to see Dr. Jones.  I didn’t know what I was going to tell him.  As I said, he was arrogant.  I thought he would make fun of me if I told him God healed it.  All my sources that knew him well told me that he didn’t believe in God. 

When he walked into my room, I showed him my arm, which was now perfectly straight.

“What happened?” he asked me in disbelief.
“God healed my arm,” I replied.
He took my arm and moved it around, something he couldn’t do the day before without me crying out in pain.
“Let’s get an xray,” he said.

We did the xray, and I waited in his office for him to come and give me the results.  When he entered the room, he had my chart in his hand.  He did not say a word, but sat down at his desk and started writing.  When he had finished, he handed me my chart to read.  This is what he wrote:

“Miraculously healed.”

He stood up, smiled and offered me his right hand.  No more words were necessary.

If God had healed my arm in the beginning, Dr. Jones and my therapy team would not have been able to be a part of this miracle.  With God in charge, this miracle affected many people.  He is never late.

Have a happy journey!

Soul Dreams by S.L. Galletano

   Dreams can be wonderful and perplexing.  Some people say they never dream and others have spectacular dreams every night that they can remember in great detail.  But what about our dreams for our lives?  If you asked people on the street what their dream is most would reply something like – I want to be a movie star, or I want to play in the NFL someday, or I want to be rich.  But what if your dream was to go to bed without hunger?                                                                                             

I live in Memphis only a few miles from one of the poorest zipcodes in the United States.  The school programs here offer children supper as well as breakfast and lunch.  On Martin Luther King day, I think it is good to note that there is some progress on the fulfillment of his dream.  To help children do well at school and graduate, sometimes you have to eliminate the effects of poverty before these children are going to care about their future.

Sometimes you have to teach children how to dream.  It is not something that comes naturally when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from.  Dreams of college don’t figure into their minds.  So if we are going to teach children to dream, we must teach them to dream BIG.  We all need to learn how to dream BIG.

But is that realistic, you say?  Absolutely, and I will tell you why.  We need to learn to dream so BIG that the only way we can get there is through God.  Of course we need to have confidence in ourselves, but it is more important to have confidence in God.  Unwavering.  Beyond any doubt.  Complete and total.  With every fiber of our being.  That is how dreams are achieved.

Have a happy journey and dream BIG!

                                                                               

The Battle of the Mind and Metamorphosis by S.L. Galletano

Years ago, I went to hear a young revival preacher.  I found myself nodding off and unable to stay interested.  Then, he said something that I wrote down, which has impacted my whole life:  All the battles of life are won or lost in the mind!  That is one of the most powerful truths that I’ve ever encountered.

The Bible has much to say about the mind.  My favorite is Roman 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

So, how then do we renew the mind?  What kind of metamorphosis is needed?  I like what writer Martha Beck has to say about the subject:  “I used to think I knew how some caterpillars become butterflies.  I assumed they weave cocoons, then sit inside growing six long legs, four wings and so on.  I figured if I were to cup open a cocoon, I’d find a butterfly-ish caterpillar, or a caterpillar-ish butterfly, depending on how far things had progressed.  I was wrong.  In fact, the first thing caterpillars do in their cocoons is shed their skin, leaving a soft, rubbery chrysalis.  If you were to look inside the cocoon early on, you’d find nothing but a puddle of glop.  But in that glop are certain cells, called imago cells, that contain the DNA-coded instructions for turning bug soup into a delicate, winged creature – the angle of the dead caterpillar.”

We go through many changes in our lifetime, some good – some bad, and each time we are given the opportunity to learn and transcend something, usually a problem we faced that seemed to rob us of all joy.  But the key is to allow this metamorphosis to complete itself.  We don’t go from caterpillar to butterfly overnight, and maybe not even in our lifetime.  The trick is to learn the lesson that has resulted from the “problem,” renew our minds, and go on to the next issue that comes our way.

If you’ve ever read Kafka’s Metamorphosis then you know that Gregor, the protagonist of the story, wakes up and has been totally transformed into an insect.  Hopefully, that will never happen to us.  But, sometimes, life presents us with problems that seem even worse than Gregor’s fate.  We can’t see anyway out – we feel hopeless and doomed.  It seems that our world is crumbling before our very eyes.  Sometimes, we just need to step back and be still for a moment or as long as it takes to see that a metamorphosis is taking place in our lives and in our minds.  If we can listen long enough to hear God’s voice, we can trust that He is in charge of this whole metamorphosis process, and if we trust long enough, we will see the “butterfly” that is emerging.  We can renew our minds and prepare for the next stage of our growth.  And, for as long as we are alive, this metamorphosis will continue until one day we realize it is time to meet our Maker.

Trust God’s voice and have a happy journey!

A Lesson in Miracles by S.L. Galletano

I am honored in my career as a nurse that I have been able to witness a number of miracles.  About twenty years ago, I worked in the Intensive Care Unit of a small hospital.  An elderly woman had been in the ICU for a number of weeks, comatose after a heart attack.  The physician advised the family that they might want to consider turning off her life support and letting her go since there were no signs of recovery.  The family looked crushed when they heard the words of the doctor.  They asked that the doctor and I join them at her bedside as they prayed.  We all held hands as the family prayed and told the patient that it was OK for her to go to her heavenly Father.  After the prayer, the family went in tears to the cafeteria as we turned off all of the life-support machines.  We agreed that I would page them when she passed away.  I sat at the desk watching her heart on the monitor.  The room was very still and quiet.  Then, suddenly, in a loud voice, I heard someone say, “Where’s my teeth?”  I turned to find the patient sitting up in bed, looking around for her dentures.                                                                                                               

She seemed to sense my amazement and said, “What?  Can’t I have my teeth?”

“Of course you can,” I said, handing her the dentures.

I went back to the desk and paged the family to return to the ICU.  I knew they would think that she had died, but I had no other way to communicate with them.  I will never forget the looks on their faces when they saw her sitting up in her bed as if nothing had happened.

She went home the next day.  I lost track of her after that day, but I have never forgotten her or the miracle I witnessed.  How do you make sense of something like that?  You don’t even try.  God is just God – all the time.

Have a happy journey and keep your mind open to a miracle!

 

Chaos or Divine Order? by S.L. Galletano

Not Chaos-like, together crushed and bruised,
But, as the world harmoniously confused.
Where order in variety we see,
And where, though all things differ, all agree.
Windsor Forest – Alexander Pope

Most of us as rational human beings would prefer order to chaos.  We equate order to harmony and chaos to madness.  Is it possible that in our faulty perception of the world, we can’t see the order in the chaos?

Author Joseph Campbell points out what German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer penned about chaos:  “Schopenhauer…points out that when you reach an advanced age and look back over your lifetime, it can seem to have had a consistent order and plan, as though composed by some novelist.  Events that when they occurred had seemed accidental and of little moment turn out to have been indispensable factors in the composition of a consistent plot.  So who composed that plot?  Schopenhauer suggests that just as your dreams are composed by an aspect of yourself of which your consciousness is unaware, so, too, your whole life is composed by the will within you.  And just as people whom you will have met apparently by mere chance became leading agents in the structuring of your life, so, too, will you have served unknowingly as an agent, giving meaning to the lives of others.” – Joseph Campbell.                                                                                                                

So, if your life seems to be in a state of chaos right now, don’t panic!  Perhaps in the chaos, an aspect of your being is under construction.  Sometimes we require a breakdown of some part of ourselves in order to bring change.  Love yourself, bear with yourself, and forgive yourself.  There is a Divine Purpose in your life trying to get through to you.  Be still and listen.

Have a happy journey!

What is the best New Year’s resolution?

Persius

“Learn what God has willed you to be
And find your place in the human world.”
Persius, Satires, III, pp. 71-73.
 
While thinking about what would be a good New Year’s resolution, I found these words  penned by Roman philosopher and poet, Persius, who lived in 34 AD.  At the time, I was thinking – what would be a good New Year’s resolution?  These words totally changed my attitude of the yearly pursuit to formulate a resolution for the coming year.  I could think of many – weight loss (ugh) or more exercise (really any exercise would be more truthful).  Then, I realized what a waste of time and effort I would expend in choosing either one of these goals.  Not that they are poor goals, it just occured to me that I needed to resolve something that would matter in the context of the world.  This may sound lofty, but everything we do changes the world in some way.  So, if I feel the urge to focus my resolve in a certain direction, then I want it to matter. 
     Persius summed it up for me – why not resolve to learn what God has willed me to be and find my place in the world?  Finally, this is something that is worthy of my day-by-day, moment-by-moment pursuit.  For me, it is the only thing that really matters.  I want to focus my life to discover what purpose I have on this earth.  It isn’t something that can be discovered quickly or without effort.   But I resolve to head that way.  I may not know exactly where I’m going, but I will know I’m headed the right direction.
 
Where are you headed?
 
Have a happy journey!

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