30 years ago…

By Dr. Linda Seger, author of 15 books including The Alphabet Prayer, co-authored with her husband Peter Le Var.

This article was posted in Book Fun magazine this past Spring for our wedding anniversary in April. We recently attended a Quaker Wedding and it reminded us of our wedding. Thought we’d repost this for those who didn’t read it in the magazine.

Peter and Linda

April 12th, 2017 was our 30th wedding anniversary – 30 years married to Peter Hazen Le Var. Many people talk about their romances and spouses in terms of “love at first sight” and “we’re soul mates.” That’s not how I think about my dear Peter.
Peter and I met in Quaker Meeting May 3rd, 1983. Peter saw me across the crowded room and decided he wanted to get to know me. He thought I was cute. After Meeting, I met him briefly, and then quickly forgot I had met him. The next week I saw him in at Quaker Meeting and introduced myself, as I often do, with new people. He reminded me that we had met the week before. Clearly, he made no impression on me.
A week or two later, I invited him to join us for the Sunday brunch I usually had with my friends Cathleen and Linda. Perhaps we were all wondering if he’d be interested in one of us. After brunch, he asked me if I wanted to go out for breakfast that week, and I said “sure”, thinking he wanted to talk about Quakerism since I knew he was new to Quaker Faith and Practice. I was surprised to see we were talking about many other things, and somewhere during the breakfast, Peter said something that instantly caused me to respect him. I can remember the moment of experiencing this depth of his character.
We began to date, but more as friends. After six weeks of some dinners and movies, I wondered if I was interested in him in more than a friendly way. I finally asked, “Are you ever going to kiss me?” I figured if he kissed me and it was so-so, then I’d figure this was a friendship. If it felt good, then maybe it was more. He asked, “Do you think it’s time?” I replied “yes”. After all, it was six weeks – yes, it was time. And it was good!
And yet, there was one problem that still existed between us. In many movies, we often see the rather plain woman with glasses. She takes off her glasses and turns into a ravishing beauty and then the man falls in love. Well, Peter had these Henry Kissinger type glasses that made him look like a nerd, and detracted from his attractiveness. I was having trouble getting past the glasses. Finally, one day I said, “I know this is really superficial of me, but I’m not sure I can fall in love with you with those glasses.” Now, most men at that point would have figured I was superficial and not worthy of another date. But Peter asked, “Do you want me to get new glasses?” I said “yes” figuring that would be the proof of whether I liked him, or loved him. He got new glasses and I instantly fell in love. (And I’d be the first to admit that was one of the most superficial moments in my life.)
His first sort of proposal came in the middle of the film, Witness. During the barn raising scene, he turned to me and asked “When we get married, could we have a Quaker Wedding?” That was the first time it changed from “if” to “when”. The Amish from Witness and the Quakers are sometimes confused, but Quakers once wore Plain Dress like the Amish, and they have similar beliefs in terms of Pacifism and Simplicity. But we Quakers are modern – yes, we use electricity, and I am certainly not all that good at Simplicity.
Now, it’s more than 30 years later. Peter is the most caring person I’ve met. He loves to do things for others. He’s kind, supportive, sweet, and thinks I’m prettier than Annette Benning (I told him no one is prettier than Annette Benning but he insists! Who am I to argue with that?) He is also very direct and I’ve learned from him not to be so shy about asking questions or being direct. He’s not afraid of people’s problems -perhaps because he’s a massage therapist and acupuncturist. If someone is hurting, or limping, or clearly having problems, rather than shying away from talking about it, Peter will take an opening and give them safe ground for their response.
A few years ago, one of our fellow Quakers was dying, and clearly in the last days of her life. Peter asked what she was thinking about as she neared death – a very direct question. Kathy told him that nobody asked her that question, but she was very grateful that she could talk about it with someone.
Many years ago we were visiting my friend Susie and her sister. Susie had told her sister that Peter was direct, and the sister voiced some concerns, because Susie was small and petite and the sister was not. She expected Peter to comment on her size. Instead, Peter said, “you have the most beautiful eyes.” She didn’t expect direct could also be a very direct compliment – which Peter often gives.
Before I met Peter, I decided I wanted someone calm and comfortable – someone who wasn’t overly dramatic, didn’t make a fuss, didn’t fly off the handle, didn’t always have to have the spotlight on him, wasn’t controlling or dishonest or manipulative and supported what I felt was my Calling. That meant that Peter wouldn’t get upset because I was off to Moscow or Dubai for 2 weeks, and would care for me if I needed help – as I expected to care for him (and we’ve both had to take care of each other through various medical problems through the years.)
My love song to dear Peter is the chorus of one of Joni Harm’s Western songs:

Like an old pair of boots that slip right on your feet,
Or a stained up Stetson that shades ya from the heat.
My favorite things are broken in
they’ve been with me through thick and thin
and I’d never trade them in on something new,
Darling that’s the way I feel about you!

Bio:

Dr. Linda Seger comes from a long line of Lutheran ministers, missionaries and theologians. She has three MA degrees including two in Theology and one in drama, and a Th.D. in Theology and Drama. Linda is internationally known for her 9 books on screenwriting and 6 on spirituality. In 1970, she joined the Society of Friends (Quakers) where she met her husband Peter. Linda and Peter were married in 1987 in the Santa Monica Quaker Meeting and are now members of the Colorado Springs Friends Meeting.

 

The Success Prayer

From Linda Seger’s book, Spiritual Steps on the Road to Success

Chapter 3: Willing to Be Blessed – The Success Prayer

Before I started my business in 1981, I struggled with the “whys” about success. Why weren’t things going my way, in spite of preparation, experience, and willingness? I looked at all aspects of my life and even analyzed myself in case there were glaring faults within me or inappropriate behavior. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t dress funny. I was a reasonably nice person without any serious mental illness or character flaws. I had spent years studying drama-certainly I had something to contribute. Why, then, did success seem so far away?

It’s easy to believe the obstacles come from God’s side. We can blame God for our lack of success. If we’re prepared, is God withholding? Might it be we’re off-center? Perhaps  we’re not praying enough, or are forgetting to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Maybe we’re seeking in the wrong direction.

But what if the obstacles are actually coming from our side? If God wants to bless us, and we’re not receiving blessings, might it be that we’re putting up the barriers, not God? Might it be that the real problem is our fear of success, or our horror at becoming the greedy types often associated with success, or our unwillingness to do what is necessary? Are we more afraid of success than we are of failure? Is it possible there’s something in our own attitudes that is getting in our way?

After many years of small, dead-end jobs, and no sense my career was taking off, I began to wonder if the problems came from me, and if I needed help in resolving these problems. I finally said a prayer I later called “The Success Prayer.”

God, I’m thinking I’m creating the obstacles.

If so, I pray you would help me do whatever is needed to remove them.

Recognizing this may take courage, I prayed for courage. Recognizing this may take help  from others, I prayed for help:

I’m willing to look at whatever is necessary within myself.

If I need courage to look at these barriers, then give me courage. If I need help, then send me help.

I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to break down the barriers between me and success.

If I need a therapist to help, then I pray you send me a good one (who’s also cheap!)

I recognized it may not be in God’s best interest to bless me if I lost touch with God. So I added a “Promise Prayer”:

God, considering my relationship with you for the past years has been one of getting by, of dealing with my anxiety, of praying you get me through one more day, I realize success will change our relationship.

If so, I promise I won’t desert you.

I will continue to pray, worship, and read the Bible.

I will have faith our relationship won’t be lost, but will change to something even better!

After fourteen years of my living on the edge, success came within a year. And the cheap therapist? I found an excellent psychology student at the Jung Center in Los Angeles who worked with me for several years on a sliding scale. She was cheap, but good. I was also doubly blessed with a career consultant who just happened to also write scripts and who was willing to trade services.

Are We Hearing the Call Clearly

An excerpt from Linda Seger’s book, Spiritual Steps on the Road to Success

How do we absolutely know we are following the calling of God? We probably can’t. “Some who have heard ‘the call’ may have gotten the wrong number or at least a bad cell-phone connection.” (This quotation is not attributed.)

How can we be sure we’ve received the call clearly? In his book Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order, Lloyd Lee Wilson discusses several different tests we can do to study the call and help ourselves discern if we’re on the right path.

Test the call by waiting first.

Wilson recommends we first quietly wait and not feel rushed: “The first thing to do…is nothing at all. One simply sits with the incipient leading, tasting it in the silence of one’s personal worship and devotional time, waiting to see whether it feels true and if so, how it will develop. This is a time to be, rather than to do: to be listening to the Divine voice, to be quiet in one’s worldly activities, to be ready to hear and obey.” (Footnote 8 here.) God is not in a rush. God is not frenetic. Meanwhile, the adversary to our call wants to get us in a tizzy, running in all sorts of different directions, wants us to be confused, and hopes we misinterpret the call. Waiting centers us. It gets us in tune with the Spirit and with the still waters rather than the rushing rapids.

The call will reinforce the gospel.

A call will not contradict the essential gospel message; “True leadings guide us in ways that are in harmony with the Spirit that gave forth the Scriptures and with the clear teaching of Christ,” says Wilson. (9) And he says a call will not contradict the paths we’ve taken before that have seemed in tune with the Spirit. “A true leading should feel like a continuation of other movements in our spiritual life that have proven to have been Spirit-led and Spirit-fed.” (10)

The call will express spiritual gifts.

A call will manifest and express the gifts of the Spirit – such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. (11)

A call would use our spiritual gifts. St. Paul lists a number of gifts we might have, such as the gift of wisdom, of healing, of prophecy, of discernment, (13) of teaching, and of service. (14 )

A call brings us into harmony with God, and brings us a sense of peace, release, relief, and clarity. Quakers sometimes use the words “to be at ease” with a decision. Others might describe it as being comfortable, or as a kind of knowing that feels solid.”

Our call can be discerned by others.

To test the call, some might turn for advice to spiritual people they trust, who they believe have a gift of discernment.

Many callings seem to prove they are right by the effectiveness of the work.

And sometimes we don’t know for sure. All we can do is to be obedient to what we discern our calling to be; and to move, step by step, along the path; and to keep listening to the Spirit, which may often be only a still small voice. We follow the light we have, hoping for a clear “yes” to continue, or a clear “no” to stop and turn in another direction. We try to commit to manifesting the Spirit in the world, knowing our steps and our work may still be flawed.”

Footnote 9: Wilson, p.185. (Wilson, Lloyd Lee, Essays on the Quaker Vision for Gospel Order, Philadelphia: Quaker Press, 1996.)

Footnote 10: Wilson, P. 186.

Footnote: 11: Galatians 5:22-24.

Footnote 13: 1 Corinthians 12.

Footnote 14: Romans 12.

The Theology of Blessing

From Linda Seger’s book, Spiritual Steps on the Road to Success

Chapter 3: Willing to Be Blessed – The Theology of Blessing

Blessing is a word of considerable power. The first chapter of Genesis tells the story of Creation. Again and again we are told, “…and God saw that it was good.” It is possible to argue that this is the unfallen condition of the world: that of living in a natural state of blessing. Blessing is to be given, and received: one does not bless without investing something of oneself into the receiver of one’s blessings. Can one truly receive blessing if one is ignorant of the gracious giver? If it is true that all creation flows from a single, loving source, then surely all of creation is blessed, and is itself a blessing.

The  power of blessings is “not the power of control or the power of being over or being under, but the power of fertility.” Blessing makes things bigger. It expands. It is a sign of blossoming, of great grace, of extravagance. It is an image of overflowing, of great pleasure, of great gifts-a banquet of abundance.” Many Bible verses about blessing use words like “flourishing,” or say that all our undertakings and labors are blessed, or speak about receiving peace and prosperity. There is a sense of overflowing and abundance.

Blessings are reciprocal. We bless others, we bless God, and, as the psalmist says, “May these reflections of mine give him [God] pleasure as much as Yahweh gives me!” We ask for blessings for us and for the next generation, and if we experience the blessings, we lose our sense of being deprived and our ever-widening empty spiral of acquisition. We  don’t have to get and get some more, because we are blessed, first and foremost, and it is the most basic of God’s gifts to us. It predates sin and it is what our relationship with God was meant to be.

The Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann says he sees blessing as “the capacity to transmit energy and power for life from one to another.” When God blessed creation, it became fruitful in Genesis 1. Human persons can give blessings as in Genesis 27. Brueggemann sees blessings as circular, “but not just ‘back again,’ but out beyond to others.” He says, “I think blessings move in concentric circles rather than a closed circle.”

The German theologian Claus Westermann says most blessings mentioned in the Bible involve salvation and deliverance, and are not just horizontal but also vertical.

If we believe blessings are just about getting good things, we have missed the boat. It is not enough to just get good things so we can become better consumers and be more respected and live a more comfortable life. Of course, we see plenty of evidence of people who seem to be blessed – with the things of the world – but since it is God who gives blessings that sustain us, if we’re closed to God, and not in a relationship with God, we’re missing the vertical part of the blessing – the part that goes far beyond having nice things. The vertical dimension includes the things of the Spirit that enter into the good things – a greater awareness of God’s love for us, of peace, fulfillment, empowerment to do good for others, and the multiplication of our gifts.

Blessing must be reciprocal.

Blessing is not just about entering into a more comfortable life on earth, but about entering into the Kingdom. Since the Kingdom is broad and wide and eternal, there are no boundaries to blessings. They are meant to keep rippling out, causing things to mature and grow and prosper and make everything bigger than it would be without the work of God.

If there isn’t an inner transformation within us as a result of the good that has come our way, we have only received the horizontal part of the blessing and missed the connection with the Holy Spirit. So, as we bless others, it also means “to invoke divine favor upon them.”

We may find it easy to think of blessing for ourselves as personal fulfillment. We may love the idea that the contributions we make bless others through building their self-esteem through our encouragement, helping them get a job by dropping their name or endorsing them, and thereby prospering them. But we are also asked to bless God. Blessing God may be a new thought. How do we bless God when God seems to have all the blessings He needs? How do we bless the Inner Spirit and the transcendent Spirit that binds our world together?

The Temptation to Struggle

From Linda Seger’s book, Spiritual Steps on the Road to Success

 Chapter 3: Willing to Be Blessed – The Temptation to Struggle

In First World developed countries, many believe we achieve success through hard work and through the hard climb to the top. We learn that “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well!” And doing something well takes time and energy and work. We have heard the saying, “You can do it fast or do it well,” and we believe doing it well means a long time of struggle. We presume we’ll encounter difficulties and obstacles along the path to success.

So we prepare ourselves for the obstacles, and clench our teeth and gird up our loins and go, once more, into the breach. We believe success only comes as a result of scratches and bruises and falling down and getting up again.

We also tend to believe that if we work hard enough and long enough, the blessings of prosperity and a fair amount of wealth and respect will naturally follow-provided, of course, we’re willing to make the big effort. We tell ourselves, “I’m such a good person, I deserve success!” And we are shocked if things don’t go our way.

In the West, where I live, we’re told to “cowboy up” –  when you fall off the horse, you cowboy up and climb back on again. And we expect to “cowboy up” again and again and again.

Our temptation to struggle may actually be a hidden desire to prove our determination and self-worth. We believe: The harder the struggle, the better the result. If we show our struggle to the  world, the world can easily believe our task is, indeed, difficult, and our work is, indeed, important. The world admires our great perseverance and tremendous commitment to the goal. We become known as the one who never gives up, even when everyone else seems to have fallen by the wayside. When taken to the extreme, there can be an addiction to suffering, and a belief that success only comes from great struggle. Deep down, some of us, in a very subtle way, make take pride in our struggles and difficulties, and in the amount of time it takes to do well. There are some hidden pay-offs.

It is possible, for some, there’s an obstacle to success that lies with our temptation to struggle, rather than our willingness to be blessed.

Overcoming Lust – The Third of the Seven Deadly Sins

Overcoming Lust: The 3rd of the Seven Deadly Sins, by Linda Seger

We often think of lust as sexual desire, sometimes leading to uncontrollable sex with one person, sometimes the constant desire and need of many partners. Although lust or lechery is usually equated with the excessive desire for sex, it is sometimes considered to be an excessive desire for anything. It is sometimes humorously asked, “How much sex (or anything else) is enough?” The answer may be, “When sex becomes more important than the loved one you’re having it with.”

Some years ago, my husband, who is both a massage therapist and an acupuncturist, told me he had a massage client who came in for his weekly massage, totally depleted. He had been having an orgy for a week. Peter said he had never seen anyone so totally exhausted – to the point where Peter thought he might become permanently ill, or even die. Peter explained that this kind of lust damages the whole body as well as the mind and soul.

Lust is a distortion of a relationship. Rather than focusing on the other person, and being a giver, lust is a taker. It wants parts of the person, not the whole person. It wants to get pleasure, rather than to give mutual pleasure. It is more interested in seduction than honesty, more interested in strategy than in sharing.

In our professional lives, lust can work on many different levels, all of them harmful to at least one of the partners. In an unequal relationship, lust becomes the bargaining tool. Sometimes the bargain comes from the more powerful, as the boss wants to take more and more from the less powerful, often insisting on a sexual response in order for the other person to keep the job. Sometimes it’s the bargaining tool by the powerless who are willing to sell themselves, in one way or another, to get the job, the money, or the material possessions.

Whereas love-making respects boundaries, lust crosses boundaries. Whereas love-making is a part of life, lust becomes the whole of one’s vision. In our professional lives, this deadly sin becomes disruptive of our goals. It’s difficult to focus on the job when the heaving breasts or the tight T-shirt are taking all of our attention.

Like envy, lust confuses us. We think we want something, but it’s not at all what we want. It keeps us from our goal of a well-rounded life where our love life and our professional life can integrate with balance.

Many women lust after a Clint Eastwood type, even though they have nothing in common with a High Plains Drifter or the silent gunfighter type. Many men lust after the modern Marilyn Monroe, in any of the various forms, even though they would have nothing in common with her. Many fall in love with a certain “look”, although there is no possibility of a loving relationship between them and the tall, dark, handsome manipulator or the beautiful, voluptuous woman who has seduced them with good looks and sweet words, but with nothing else.

Lust consumes us, rather than frees us. It narrows our vistas, rather than expands them. And it diminishes the human being to the person’s parts rather than to their full complexity.

Naturally, all of us have probably experienced lust in our hearts and our loins, and the desire and attraction for another person is a normal reaction. The spiritual discipline which can often help overcome lust comes from changing lust to appreciation. My Jungian therapist pointed out to me that those things we want can help us recognize what we appreciate if we don’t give them power over us. When we find ourselves attracted to someone who is clearly inappropriate (perhaps because we’re married, perhaps because the person truly isn’t our type), we might ask ourselves: “What do I appreciate about this person?” We can then see that part of this attraction is a good thing. Usually the person is attractive, but there’s more to it than that. The person might also be fun, kind, smart, generous, and/or caring – all qualities that are worthy of being appreciated. If we tell ourselves, “This is normal, there are good qualities here”, lust usually doesn’t want to stick around, since it has lost its power over us.

My spiritual director once said, when I told her about a very good-looking man that I worked with: “Well, there’s nothing wrong with someone who is easy on the eyes.” I laughed – and realized that a way to overcome lust (although I didn’t lust after this guy – but recognized he was gorgeous!) was through a sense of humor. Love laughs. Lust tends to be very serious and desperate.

Usually we meet envy, greed, and lust when we’re climbing the ladder and trying to get to the top. Rather than freeing us, they confuse us. We lose our identities, and often lose our focus because we don’t know for sure what we want and why we want it. They put everything in the world’s terms, and make promises that when we get what we desire, all will be well. So we continue to climb the wrong ladder. We get lost on the wrong path. Lust is excessive desire that fills up our whole vision and makes it impossible to focus, integrate, and balance our lives.