How to Become a Hero c.j. hayden
   How to Become a Hero
   You Are the Champion the World Is Waiting For

   C.J. Hayden, MCC

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No atheists in foxholes 

I've been absent from blogging for some time now due to the mysterious neurological disorder I mentioned in my last post. It became quite serious and incapacitating for a couple of weeks, and has now finally returned to the status of annoying-but-not-disabling. The various health professionals I've seen have still not been able to determine a cause for my symptoms, but have run enough tests to tell me it's neither fatal nor an indicator of any known major disease.

There was a period of about a week when the symptoms were quite severe and the neurologist I saw was suggesting several rather dire diagnoses, none of which turned out to be the case. I was unable to work or do much of anything other than lie on the couch and attempt to distract my anxious brain with old movies. Looking for a silver lining in this very dark cloud, I thought I would take this opportunity to examine my attitudes about prayer.

According to the Wikipedia, the first recorded claim that "there are no atheists in foxholes" has been attributed to Lt. Colonel William J. Clear, speaking on the radio about American and Filipino forces on Bataan being overwhelmed by the Japanese during World War II. Clear was suggesting that men under fire find religion in their most desperate hour, and since that time his words have been echoed from many pulpits. For the record, atheists strongly dispute this claim.

I've never been an atheist myself. At various times in my life, I would have identified my religion as Christian, pagan, agnostic, or deist. These days, I'm closer to being a Buddhist than anything else. Only during my Christian days did I spend any time in prayer. In other phases of my life, I haven't been opposed to praying; I just haven't done it... except in times of extremity.

Faced with an incapacitating illness with no prognosis for recovery available, I decided to pray. They were simple prayers, not for deliverance, really, but expressing gratitude for my life so far and asking for guidance on how to become well again. What I found was that praying made me feel better.

Even without the confidence that my prayers would be answered (or even heard), it simply felt better to pray. It gave me a sense of relief and a lessened burden. On one hand, there was the intellectual acknowledgement that now I had really done everything I could do to get well again. On a quite different level, I experienced the easing sensation of "turning it over" to a higher power that those with faith often describe. I've sometimes thought that turning it over implied being less responsible for the outcome. But I was not in any way abdicating my responsibility to care for my own illness. What I was doing was asking for help in managing it.

On the path I've described to becoming a hero, Step 7 is "Seeking Guidance." Up until now, I've been thinking of this primarily as a necessary step to choosing the right direction and staying on course. But what I now realize is that it can also be a way to lighten the burden of being a hero. Receiving guidance undoubtedly helps the hero do the right thing. But the simple act of asking for that guidance can also provide the hero with the added strength needed to sustain his quest.

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