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Angels and Demons, Part 2

spoonflower.com

spoonflower.com

I remember once when my parents invited this visiting priest to our house for lunch, my mom was relating this incident in which she didn’t have an alarm clock and prayed to God to wake her up at 6 am. And he did.

At the time I thought that was ridiculous. It’s not that I didn’t believe in God. I just figured he was too busy to care about things as mundane as whether or not my mom woke up at 6 am.

But then, as I mentioned in a previous post, I read this near-death experience book called My Descent Into Death. He spent an entire chapter talking about angels. I had never really given much thought about the role of angels. I wasn’t even sure I had a guardian angel. But after reading his book, I thought about angels a lot more.

Now I can feel their presence. Every day.

One day last week I spilled my coffee just as I was about to head out the door to leave for work, as I sometimes do. And I was pissed off about it, as I usually am. But as I was cleaning up, I said a prayer. God, if somehow spilling my coffee is supposed to protect me from something, then thank you.

Which was bizarre. I had never thanked God for spilling my coffee in my life and had no idea how that could be helpful in any way.

A few minutes later, as I was driving to work, a car pulled out in front of me and was driving on the wrong side of the road, heading straight towards me. I was aware that there was a car to the right of me so it was a little tricky to get out of the way.

Had I not spilled my coffee, I probably would have been drinking it at that moment. Or I would have at least been holding the mug. And even if I had successfully been able to swerve out of the way with one hand on the steering wheel, I probably would have spilled coffee all over myself.

And it was only as an afterthought that I remembered the prayer I had said earlier.

On the flip side, I am also more aware of demons. I used to be the kind of person who never wanted to see the bad in people. I thought I was being judgmental if someone made me anxious and would ignore the warning signs that I should stay away. But after reading The Gift of Fear, I trust my gut feeling that someone isn’t safe.

I am also more aware of my inner demons and how insidious they are, because they sound like me. They have my voice. They are not ostensibly telling me to do anything wrong. They are just saying things like, nobody cares about you. You’re not important. Which seems plausible.

Even when I’m feeling good about myself, it only takes the smallest opening for these thoughts to creep in. A poor night’s sleep. The slightest rejection. Extended periods of isolation.

It seems like it should be obvious which voice is the angel and which is the devil, but sometimes it isn’t. Because most of the time, it’s not a debate between big moral issues of right or wrong. They are small choices that potentially lead you to harm or turn you against yourself.

Things like, you’ve proven you can stay sober. Go ahead and have a drink. One drink won’t kill you.

Or, nobody wants to hear about your problems. Don’t bother calling anyone. You’re just setting yourself up for rejection.

For some reason, my demons are easier to believe. But lately I’ve been trying this experiment where I try to believe the loving voice. The one that tells me that people care about me and that I can have faith in myself. It’s hard to have faith in that voice, because what if it’s wrong? What if I am just setting myself up for disappointment?

So far that hasn’t happened. And it’s a much more peaceful way to live, listening to my angel.

Angels and Demons

spoonflower.com

spoonflower.com

I thought of something I can say to the part of me that tells me I’m undeserving. In fact, I say it all the time. It’s “Shut up demons! You don’t know me!”

People usually think of that little devil on our shoulder as the part of us that tells us to do something bad, like “Go kill that person!” Plus some less extreme things, like “Call that ball out! You’ll win the game!” From a mental health perspective, the devil tells clients to do things like “Get black out drunk instead of staying in to study. And then miss your therapy session so you don’t have to talk about it.”

Sometimes that little devil will disguise itself as the angel and will try to make us believe that we are doing something good when we are actually hurting ourselves. Things like “There are people starving in the world, and here you are eating all of this food that someone else needs more than you. You really shouldn’t be eating at all.” Those are the most insidious messages of all.

When I was depressed I went around yelling at my demons all the time. They were constantly telling me that I should kill myself for stupid reasons. But I didn’t want to die. I knew it wasn’t coming from me. So I would literally go around the house telling the demons to shut up. Which I found hilarious.

My psychiatrist, on the other hand, did not appreciate my sense of humor. When I told him I had started yelling at my demons, he did that stereotypical psychiatrist thing where he just looked down and wrote something on his legal pad. Probably something like “She’s f@%ing crazy!” But whatever. It worked. All that warrior training paid off.

I was really tired on Sunday and Monday. I had been obsessing about my Halloween party for weeks because I have an anxiety disorder. I am in the midst of the busiest part of the semester and rarely have an hour to myself, unless someone doesn’t show up. I’m playing on two tennis teams and am captaining one of them. And the weekend before I drove 4 hours to watch my beloved UVA team blow another lead to lose the game, which was both tiring and depressing.

So for once, when I needed to sleep all day on Sunday and a good part of the day on Monday, I did so without beating myself up about it. Without trying to will myself to be productive. Without telling myself how pathetic I am for being so tired, when the average human being wouldn’t be. Instead, I tried to take care of myself. I would ask myself things like, “What do you need right now? Are you hungry? Do you need to go back to sleep? Would it help to take Advil? How can I make you feel better?”

Sometimes the little angel on our shoulder tells us not to do bad things. But more often, in my case at least, it encourages me to be more loving to myself. So I’m going to counteract messages about being undeserving with love. And by yelling at my demons.

Telepathy

I went though a period where I was really into books about Near Death Experiences. It started when I went to this training on positive psychology, and the presenter said that the book My Descent Into Death, by Howard Storm, is the only written account of someone who went to hell before he went to heaven.

I already knew all the stuff about positive psychology since that’s one of my areas of expertise, but the story about this guy got my attention. I had to find out what someone could have done that would be bad enough to go to hell. It was surprisingly innocuous. But I’ll save that story for another post.

One of the things that struck me the most in the book was Storm’s assertion that we are capable of communicating with other people without words and across space and time. I’ve always felt this was true–especially with people whom you’ve known. You know that expression about someone tugging at your heartstrings? That’s how I imagine it happens. Some invisible wire connects your heart to theirs when you meet someone, and you can communicate with them through this wire.

I actually tested this out last week. I was thinking about this guy and I texted him later to find out if he could feel it, and he said he did. He named the time of day and everything. And he’s not someone who would ordinarily be thinking about me.

Sometimes I’ve tried to communicate with people after a break up. Usually there are things that I want to say that I no longer have the opportunity to say. Things that I could never say in person, or that I didn’t realize at the time.

For the longest time I was mad at my first husband for ruining our marriage. But every now and then I’ll remember something about the way I treated him, and I’ll tell him that I understand why he had to leave. That I’m not mad anymore. It makes me feel better to think that I can still tell him things, even if we never see each other again.

This is also the book that went into great detail about how angels play a role in our day-to-day life. So when there are important messages that need to be delivered, I pray that God will send an angel to someone. My high school teacher and her daughter recently lost their husband/father, so I’ve asked God to send extra angels their way to surround them with strength and love. He can even take some of mine if they need more. Sometimes that’s what I do for clients, too, when I don’t know how else to help them.

You know that confrontation problem I mentioned in my last post? So far, the closest I’ve come to telling him that he needs to get on meds is to ask an angel to whisper it into his ear while he’s sleeping. Because if the message comes from God, he might believe it. If it comes from me, not so much.

Maybe I can even do the same thing I did with my friend: ask him if he’s gotten any messages from God lately. If nothing else, it could be a good opening for the conversation.

Angels

I’ve been thinking about writing a post on angels, but since I’ve been feeling down it didn’t really fit my state of mind.  But then “It’s a Wonderful Life” happened to be on last night, so I took that as a sign that I should go ahead and write the post.

For a long time I wasn’t sure what to believe about God.  I was raised Catholic, but a lot of the beliefs of the Catholic church were not consist with my idea of God.  Although Pope Francis is changing this, to some degree.

I read lots of different books to try to find God.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the books on Near Death Experiences (NDE) were the ones that were the most helpful.  For one thing, they are poorly written.  The authors have clearly never aspired to be writers, and often they didn’t want to write the book at all.  So writing a book about their near death experience didn’t seem like a ploy to get published.

The most convincing of these books was “My Descent into Death,” by Howard Storm, because he went to hell before he went to heaven.  Who would admit to that?  Plus, throughout the book he continued to argue and complain to God and never seemed particularly pious, which made his account seem even more genuine.

Storm dedicates an entire chapter to angels at the end of his book.  I have always liked the idea of angels but did not realize they were so numerous and so involved in our lives.  I thought we might have a guardian angel and that there were a bunch in heaven, singing and rejoicing when we arrived, but that’s about it.

Storm says that angels always want to intervene and help us but aren’t allowed to do so unless God gives them permission.  And when people with NDE’s come back to earth and are depressed about it, usually because they have sustained horrible injuries from their accident that take years to recover from, angels appear to them to give them encouragement.

Even research shows that praying for other people helps.  My theory is that when we pray for someone else, God allows angels to intervene.  So now most of my prayers include angels.  If I’m having a really hard time, I ask God to temporarily send me a few extra angels to get me through. Or if someone I know is suffering, I tell God to send that person one of my angels so they can have extra.

And of course, when UVA is losing, I occasionally resort to prayer and ask God to send an angel to help them win.

The winter is always a hard time for me, because most forms of depression are affected by lack of sunlight.  Plus I am still getting used to being alone and having to be proactive if I want to see anyone, and I don’t have much energy to do so.  And this holiday I don’t have a lot planned to look forward to. Ordinarily, even if I’m feeling depressed, I can still get into Christmas.  But not this year.  I haven’t even bought my gifts yet, and usually I am compulsively early about everything.

But there’s still time, and I’m hopeful that at some point something will kick in and I will be able to embrace the holidays with the enthusiasm that I apply to all of the things I love.  At least that’s what I pray for.

And if you believe in angels, feel free to ask God to send a couple of extras my way.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Harvey Frye

The Uses of Prayer

I often wonder whether God responds to prayers about sports.

I remember watching this football game where Boston College and Notre Dame were playing, and it was really close and dramatic.  I can’t remember what year.  Some time in the ’90’s.  I’m sure there are sports fans out there who remember this game in more detail than I do.  Anyway, they showed the players of both teams on the sidelines, kneeling and holding hands in prayer.  I can’t remember who won, but clearly God could not answer the prayers of both teams.

Most of the time I try to pray for “noble” things when it comes to sports.  For example, before my tennis team plays, I’ll pray that everyone stays injury-free, that we play to the best of our abilities, and that we are kind to ourselves, our partners, and our opponents. 

And when I’m desperate, I pray that we win.  But since I’m ambivalent about whether this is a good use of prayer, it usually goes something like this:

I know you’re busy with more important things and you probably don’t intervene in things like sporting events, but if it’s OK to pray for, please let my team win.  I read that angels can intervene if you let them, so maybe you could just send one angel our way.  If you say no, I totally understand

It’s sort of a neurotic prayer, I know, but I’m a neurotic person, so what did you expect?

Today I really wanted UVA to win.  My prayer was sort of like a conversation with God during our last drive:

God, you must have intervened when Maryland completed that pass on 3rd and 23, so if there’s any way you can keep this drive alive for us, please do so.  Please let us get this one win.  We really need it.  In fact, if we win, I’ll make my blog about prayer today.

And I have to say, there were some pretty miraculous things that happened to give us a chance to win: calls that went our way, unexpected turnovers on Maryland’s part, penalties that helped us complete first downs.  Everything seemed to be poised for an upset.  In the end our 2nd string kicker had a chance to win the game with a field goal, but he didn’t make it, so we lost by 1 point. 

It was a heartbreaking loss, but I do believe my prayer was answered.  I think the most we can ask for is to be given the chance to make something happen for ourselves, and we had that.  The rest is up to us.

So I decided to write a blog on prayer, anyway.

P.S.  My friend who is a hard core ND fan knew what game I was talking about:
Nov. 20, 1993:  ND (#1) vs. BC (#17) in the last regulation game of the season; BC won 41-39.

P.P.S.  They just showed Texas A&M players kneeling and holding hands while Johnny Manziel leads them in prayer.  Their kicker makes a field goal with 4 seconds left, beating Ole Miss 41-38.