MJ Reflections

Monday, May 30, 2011

Choosing Compassion

Compassion. The first time this word ever came into my consciousness was when I was married to an alcoholic. I was attending a 12 step program in order to learn more about the disease of alcoholism and what I could do to help improve my marriage which was being torn apart by this disease. I ended up learning more about myself than I had anticipated going in - why I made the choices I’d made throughout my life and how those choices contributed to the circumstances I found myself in at that point on my journey. Never did I think that I would learn to have compassion for the very people who had caused me the most pain in my life!

An abusive father, peers who rejected this shy little girl, boyfriends who couldn’t make a commitment, and husbands (two of them) who were either emotionally abusive or unavailable - all make up a short list of those who brought me nothing but heartache and made me feel worthless as a human being. What I didn’t realize is that I had choices. Choices I didn’t even know existed! And part of that was learning to understand that people who abused, rejected, couldn’t commit, or were emotionally unavailable all had pain of their own they were dealing with. Who knew? And my choice was to recognize their pain and feel compassion for them, or to continue allowing myself to be hurt by them. The compassion didn’t come easily at first. Believe me, I wanted them and everyone else to know how much they had hurt me, and in order to do that, I had to continue hurting. When we are deeply wounded, the last thing we want to do is feel sorry for those who wounded us. It seems wrong somehow, like we’re letting them off the hook. But once I allowed myself to be open to another way of thinking and being, I was surprised at how healing it was for me.

When thinking about my father, I realized that I really didn’t have a clue about what his life had been like for him. There had to be something that caused him to take out his irrational and extreme anger on an innocent and helpless child! Anyone who had been raised to feel loved and cherished would not do that! (The very thought of this still makes me weep for him!) This eye-opening realization allowed me, for the first time in my life, to feel true compassion for the man whom I believed was the cause of all my troubles. It’s true that his treatment of me was wrong - compassion does not excuse inappropriate behavior. It only understands that there is more to any person than what we see on the surface. And it allows the one who feels it toward another to be released from the bonds of victimhood. I no longer see the perpetrator as an all-powerful being who holds the key to my happiness, but as simply another human being on this journey called life… right alongside me! In this reality, we are equal. I don’t have to love them or even like them, but I can feel compassion toward them for whatever their pain is without feeling responsible for causing it or fixing it. And this frees me to be all that God intended for me without being weighed down by self-pity.

So, remember the next time you find yourself making a judgment of another human being based only on what you see on the surface, you don’t really know the whole story. You don’t know the pain or the guilt or the suffering that this person may have been through - or the negative influences that have affected who they have become.

I often think about this in relation to Michael Jackson and all the people who took advantage of him or used him or treated him with disrespect because of his fame and money as well as his kindness and generosity. Although I realize there is a lot about Michael and his circumstances I do not know, there is one thing which I DO know for certain - and that one thing is that Michael Jackson showed compassion toward those who were suffering and he treated people with respect and dignity. Those were his highest priorities. And that is the bottom line for me. He was an impeccable example of compassion and love for all of humanity. I can only hope that I will be able to live up to his example during the remaining years of my life here on earth.

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May we find it in our hearts to have compassion for those who have hurt us or others we care about, understanding that their actions are a reflection of their pain. When we open our hearts and minds to the idea that others’ hurtful behavior is really a cry for Love, we see it from an entirely different perspective. Compassion becomes possible when we can set our own egos aside and realize that every man and every woman was once an innocent child, and only longs to be loved and understood. We are all God’s children on this spiritual journey together, connected to one another in spirit and in love. Our Source is one and the same. In this way, we are no different, really. We’ve all been given a map to follow. Some have lost their way. Some have never strayed. And others have found their way back to the path that God intended. Whenever we feel contempt toward another of your children, dear God, may we be reminded that we can choose compassion. Amen.

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For anyone interested in reading a poem I wrote about my father last fall entitled "Daddy Dear", you can find it in the November posts on this blog. I think of it as my compassion poem for him... and for me.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why Me?

Sometimes I feel so alone
Like a stranger in a strange land
This thing that’s come over me
Nobody understands

Why me?

Why am I the only one
for miles and miles
to see the true brilliance of the Sun?
Others around me are walking in the rain
without a clue,
dark clouds blocking their view
The weight of their pain
blinds them to the Truth…

The brightness of His light
that was here
and still remains
Why me?

Why am I no longer chained
to the pain of my past?
Why have I been set free,
chosen for this task?
To live in the light of His Love
and reveal the Truth
that’s been shown to me

Why me?

Thank God
There are others around the world
who see this brilliance of the Sun
I know I'm not entirely alone
But at home
I'm the only one
Everyone else is wearing a mask
They think it's me
who is different,
lost my way
But the light of the Sun follows me
and they're left standing in the rain
Which leads me to ask…

Why NOT me?

Yes, I am different
but does that make me wrong?
I have been called
to sing His song
I'm a stranger in a strange land
asked to run this race
My mask has been removed
and nobody wants to see my face!
The light of Truth which follows me
reflects their pain they cannot see
Acknowledging the pain
means change

Take off your mask
so I can see your face!
I AM a stranger in a strange land
Let me help you understand

Yes, indeed…
Why NOT me?

Copyright © 2011 by Charlene Burgess

This video reminds me of the lengths Michael has gone to and continues to go through to make us feel His Love. Too bad certain others don't get it! We are truly blessed!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

That Woman

Last night, as I left my office after dark, something entirely unexpected happened... a moment in time when I saw a true-life image that touched me deeply. It was one of those moments that can only happen when a synchronicity of circumstances and events makes you stop in your tracks from the power of it. A Divine message which reminds you of the interconnectedness of all of humanity and all of life. A moment of empathy and true compassion when you can feel the heart and soul of another and which sparks questions about the Divine order of all things.

It was a cool night with a dampness that lingered in the air from showers that had occurred randomly throughout the day - typical for a spring day in southern Oregon. As I approached my car which was parked across the street, I heard a noise behind me like the sound of someone stepping on a twig, and I quickly turned around to see what or who had made that noise. In the shadows under the branches of a large tree I saw a woman making her way down the sidewalk with her personal belongings in tow. I knew at once that she was homeless. She was bent over, limping under the weight of her load and she was moving very slowly. It was quiet all around us except for an occasional snap of a twig under her feet, and the scene was mystical... almost ethereal. The image of this woman as she slowly made her way down the street late at night, and the stark reality that she had nowhere to go, caught me off guard. I paused on that awareness for a moment before getting into my car and heading home.

I couldn't get this woman off my mind as I settled into my cozy little apartment, fixed myself some dinner and sat down at my computer for my nightly social networking and writing for my blog. It's not that I haven't witnessed plenty of homelessness in my community. It's all around me in plain sight nearly every day. The building where I work hosts a food bank and the property often attracts homeless people looking for a place to sleep, especially during bad weather. There was just something about this woman and what she represented that touched me at my core. It was an awakening of sorts - I saw in her something I had not noticed before which, in turn, made me see something in ME that needed to be awakened!

The next morning, after a good night's sleep, I awoke with the still-fresh memory of that woman on my mind, as well as a sense that something in me had changed. As the day wore on, words to a poem were floating in and out of my thoughts, repeating themselves often as this experience settled into my consciousness and would not let me be! So, that evening, using the words which had been given to me, I wrote the following poem as an expression of my awakening. I pray that I will always remember this feeling - this understanding of another's reality that used to be so foreign to me. May the compassion I feel today remain as I navigate through this life, and if I falter and forget, may I be reminded once again that we are all on this journey together as God's beloved children.

That woman…
Walking down the street alone after dark
Tattered clothes
Layered for warmth and convenience to carry
Her other belongings piled on her back
Or hanging from her arms dragging behind
She can barely walk under the weight of her load

There’s nobody else around for blocks, except me
On my way home to my comfortable space
I feel guilty somehow
Why me?
Why am I “worthy” of this luxury and not her?
How do You choose, God?
And if not You, then who decides?
What is our fate, our life’s journey, our destination?
Is it just chance, luck of the draw, or simply circumstance?

Oh, Great One
Conductor of souls
Composer of this symphony of life
You Who have choreographed this dance of Creation
What makes one life more blessed than the next?
Why am I so fortunate when others must suffer so much more?
I have a home
I eat every day
I sleep on a warm soft bed in a cozy little apartment
Modest by most standards but blessed nonetheless
I have a job
I pay my bills
And I don’t have to beg for my next meal

That woman…
Walking down the street alone after dark
She begs every day for a morsel of food…
to stay alive!
For what?
To sleep in some alley on a cold rainy night
And wake up the next morning to beg again…
just to survive!
What kind of life is that, and what keeps her going?
What unimaginable strength she must have inside
To carry on each day and into the night
Does despair ever win?
Does hope ever die?
Is hope even within her scope of thinking?

I feel so helpless
What can I do?
I spent most of my life detached somehow
I didn’t even notice
That woman…
Walking down the street alone after dark
She was there
But I was not
I turned away and pretended she didn’t exist
Now that I see, what is my part?
How do I make a difference
To that woman…
Walking down the street alone after dark?

I lift my head to look at her
I nod, I smile, I say hello
I acknowledge her existence
At least it’s a start

That is my part
To pay attention
Don’t turn away and pretend she doesn’t exist
Understanding her pain, her struggle to survive
May give me the courage to take the next step
More than a look, a nod, or a smile
Will stir her heart and lighten her sorrow

Maybe next time I’ll be able to say
What is your name?
May I help you somehow to carry your load?
Come in out of the rain and allow me to take your coat
Dear woman…
Walking down the street alone after dark

Seeing God in her, I gain respect
This child of God has met many challenges
that I couldn’t even imagine
Who am I to judge and look the other way?
Compassion moves me to share my light
And do what I can to make her life just a little bit brighter
To carry her through the night
and give her strength to face the next day

To me
With my comfortable life, it doesn’t seem like much
But to her
It may be the very thing
that makes her feel her life is worth living
Not only that…
When I do my part
It makes Love real
For that woman…
Walking down the street alone after dark

Copyright © 2011 by Charlene Burgess

Compassion lives in the night and day
Compassion is Love's best way
Compassion brings together great and small
Compassion is the light which unites us all.

Compassion is the highest expression of human love, and a keynote of our spiritual evolution. As Compassion flows from our hearts, Balance is gained, and Harmony among opposites is achieved. Compassion, Balance and Harmony create Freedom and Liberation, and from this place and space, Compassion unites us all.
~ Author Unknown

Prayer of Compassion from Mother Teresa
Lord, open our eyes
that we may see You in our brothers and sisters.
Lord, open our ears
that we may hear the cries of the hungry,
the cold, the frightened, the oppressed.
Lord, open our hearts
that we may Love each other as You Love us.
Renew in us Your spirit.
Lord, free us and make us one.

Artist Heidi Hansen, formerly homeless, painted this artistic representation of hope after homelessness. The original painting bears her dedication “When we reach our darkest moments, we can choose to act out our despair, or do something extraordinary.” This piece was one of 28 of her paintings which she donated to be sold at an art auction to benefit a homeless shelter and to raise awareness of homelessness in Vancouver, Washington. Hansen is a survivor of domestic violence and mental illness who received services from Open House Ministries and Share, Inc.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Endless Grip of Longing

Deep longing

Never goes away
It remains in the heart
Perhaps held at bay
Only to surface
On another dark day
The journey to wholeness
May seem endless
When you’re feeling hopeless
Lost and forgotten
Your dreams have escaped you
What now is your purpose?

Deep longing

Be gentle with yourself
When in its grip
Be kind
Take your time
And try to understand
This pain will guide you
To a new place and time
Where a light is hiding
Waiting to be found
It was placed in you at your birth
It is the expression
Of your beauty
Your gift
Your true worth

Deep longing

Grief and sorrow over what is lost
Must be honored first
Whatever the cost
The tide of emotions
Inevitable pain
Creates a void
Leaves a space
For something else
To take its place
Trust that the answers will come
Filling that space
That hole in your soul
Your Godself awaits
Joy and passion
Will find expression
Igniting the light
That’s been hiding within

Deep longing

Always remember
The emptiness inside
Make a vow right now
To never forget
Not to dwell
Or stay in the darkness
But to find compassion
And share your light
When others are held
In its endless grip

Deep longing

Comes full circle
Its purpose revealed
When Love is shared
Given away
This Gift of self
Dims the pain
Glowing heartspace
Returns to you
Sustained by Love’s everlasting embrace
Its promise yields

Deep longing...

Copyright © 2010 by Charlene Burgess

"One thing I've learned, as a good friend once told me, 'God doesn't waste a hurt.' I don't believe God causes hurtful things to happen to us; in fact, I believe He's right there with us in our darkest hour crying as deeply as we are over our pain and suffering. I do believe God provides opportunities for us to find and receive His Love in the midst of our deepest sorrow. And He also brings us to healing solutions and discovering ways we can use our experience to help others." ~ C. Burgess

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Love Is the Answer

"LOVE is the answer" painting by Marjolein *
When all the world
Seems filled with gloom
Its soul consumed
With tragedy and disaster
Love is the answer

When hate fills the space
Where love was once commonplace
When words sting
Instead of sing
Love is the answer

When others don’t understand
Why you’ve taken My hand
Your new light reveals
Their darkness concealed
Love is the answer

When your patience is tested
You feel not at your best
When life doesn't seem fair
Just breathe and say a prayer
And remember...
Love is the answer

When hard times descend
Upon foe or friend
When eyes that once sparkled and shined
Become blind
Love is the answer

When land and sea
Send out a plea
Mother Earth cries out
Destruction all about
Love is the answer

When the children are forlorn
Their little souls tattered and torn
Abused, neglected
Hopeless and dejected
Love is the answer

For only Love can turn darkness to light
Blindness to sight
Giving hope to the hopeless
A friend to the friendless
New vision and a dream
Can be all that they seem
When we remember
That Love is the answer

Copyright © 2011 by Charlene Burgess

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This poem appeared in the May, 2011 issue
of Dot to Dot online magazine
published by
Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait

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* Artwork by Marjolein
(posted here with her permission)
Thank you, Marjolein!
Visit her website "Spread the LOVE... my way:"

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pathways to Peace

Peace begins in the heart of each individual. When you center yourself in divine love and focus your thoughts on peace, you create a sacred place within your heart, dedicated to experiencing and expressing the love of God. As you then begin to let divine love radiate out from you to those around you, you take the first step in generating peace in your life and in all circumstances. When you extend your thoughts of love and peace to others, you create an atmosphere of peace that embraces and unites every heart.

Be a Peacemaker

Think of the great peacemakers throughout history, including Michael Jackson. How are they able to inspire people to follow a path of peace? How has Michael inspired us to be here today on this mission of spreading love and peace to others in his name?

The answer lies within—the great peacemakers of the world remain centered by turning within to “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). The world responds to their inner glow of peace. You may create your own glow by thinking peaceful thoughts, speaking words you'd like to hear, and treating everyone with kindness and compassion, just as Michael always did.

Have you ever noticed the ripple effect created just by smiling at someone? Try this experiment. Smile at people and see how many smiles you receive in return. You'll be amazed at how far kindness can travel in just a short amount of time. Your inner peace is reaching out to others and the ripples of love and understanding are spreading outward in a never-ending circle.

Now visualize the peace of God encircling Michael’s family, extending out to all those who were closely involved in Michael’s life, and beyond that to all of his fans around the world. You are a part of that peace because you're on a spiritual journey—a pathway that includes peace in your day-to-day living. Just as with any journey, you can pack for the trip. Carry with you an attitude of peace, enfold yourself in God's love, and always, always have generous amounts of concern and caring ready to share with others.

When you pray, remember to enfold everyone in your faith-filled thoughts. Even those who may evoke anger and resentment - especially those. Envision each person divinely guided in finding the way to live with integrity in love and peace and truth with others. Although distance may separate you from these people, prayer bridges the gap toward unity and harmonious relationships. To love in God's way is to let it flow freely, not withholding it from anyone.

Make a covenant right now to dedicate your prayers and your thoughts to the fulfillment of love and peace in all you do.

Copyright © 2011 by Charlene Burgess

Click on the link below to view a guided meditation video, "Song of Peace":

"We are peacemakers, one in the love of God.
With hearts united, we establish harmony and peace in our lives and in the world."