Archive for the ‘Endurance’ Category

I am not usually a procrastinator. I am far more likely to cross my bridges before they come to me. I was given an assignment of documenting where I see God at work. This did not sit well with me and so I procrastinated. Though I journal often, I don’t do it quite in this way. I well remember asking others to do the time when I was their pastor. I wonder now what they thought then. Now it is I who resist. It seems like an assignment to dissect the numinous and therefore almost sacrilegious, even blasphemous to do so. For me, God’s workings are impossible to categorize at this point in my life although it was not always so.

I have been most aware of the presence of God in the depths of my sorrow but I can not put that into words. And I am not in those depths of pain these days though I am quite aware of the brevity of life. I hear my mother’s antique school clock ticking the seconds away of her life (and mine) as I listen to her day each evening by phone and I am aware of the finite nature of each breath we take. Mom laughs as her cat jumps on her lap and demands attention. Her voice changes as she tells this lithe and furry creature of her love and I thank God as my own fat and fluffy cat sleeps soundly on my own lap. God loves.

An old friend sends a post to me in jest but between the lines I learn that my words and my posts have led him to a bit of healing of his chronically depressed spirit. “To be a vessel for God’s grace” has been my lifelong understanding of the purpose of my life. It sounds like delusions of grandeur when I write it now but it has been my talisman for decades. I know that this is what my life is about but the words cannot match the awesome reality or the essence of this when I find out this poor vessel did pour holy oils on troubled waters.

A friend entrusted us with the care of her 11 year old son for the weekend. We adore him. We are the surrogate grandparents – our own live hundreds of miles away. My husband and I were both single parents at one time and we see the stress in younger single parents and their children as they traverse this chaos. Yes, God is clearly in that chaos as he carries us through and comes to us with skin on. I loathed the chaos in my life but oh God’s presence was sweetly felt even then, deeply then.

The clock chimes 1 pm. I have an hour to spend in prayer and meditation. An hour in the silence when I intentionally dwell in God’s presence. It is in this silence that I have come to know that I too am God’s dwelling space. Where is God at work? God is always and everywhere, in all things, even the most ghastly of things, even in moments of horror. God is.

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I found this beautiful poem among my clippings.  I do not know exactly where it came from but found it too beautiful not to share.  It’s origins are noted at the end. I share it because for me accepting my physical and often unlovely, uncooperative body as something meant for holiness has been a life long and continuing journey.  But somehow God has used my impairments more than my momentary beauty for holy purposes.

We awaken in Christ’s body,
As Christ awakens our bodies
There I look down and my poor hand is Christ,
He enters my foot and is infinitely me.
I move my hand and wonderfully
My hand becomes Christ,
Becomes all of Him.
I move my foot and at once
He appears in a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous to you?
–Then open your heart to Him.
And let yourself receive the one
Who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body
Where all our body all over,
Every most hidden part of it,
Is realized in joy as Him,
And He makes us utterly real.
And everything that is hurt, everything
That seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
Maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged
Is in Him transformed.
And in Him, recognized as whole, as lovely,
And radiant in His light,
We awaken as the beloved
In every last part of our body.

Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, pp. 219-220

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Although I have blithely gone through life thinking I knew how to ask for forgiveness and to sincerely apologize, my adult children have attempted to correct this delusion. They tell me I am terrible at apologies. So I have searched for some direction in this matter to no avail – sort of a “if you don’t know I can’t explain it!” What no win situation. And yet, God answered their prayers today when I received a recmendation from another blog
And here I quote the salient points:

1) I’m sorry for…: Be specific. Show the person you’re apologizing to that you really understand what they are upset about.

Wrong: I’m sorry for being mean.
Right: I’m sorry for saying that nobody wants to be your friend.

2) This is wrong because…: This might take some more thinking, but this is one of the most important parts. Until you understand why it was wrong or how it hurt someone’s feelings, it’s unlikely you will change. This is also important to show the person you hurt that you really understand how they feel. I can’t tell you how much of a difference this makes! Sometimes, people want to feel understood more than they want an apology. Sometimes just showing understanding– even without an apology– is enough to make them feel better!

Wrong: This is wrong because I got in trouble.
Right: This is wrong because it hurt your feelings and made you feel bad about yourself.

3) In the future, I will…: Use positive language, and tell me what you WILL do, not what you won’t do.

Wrong: In the future, I will not say that.
Right: In the future, I will keep unkind words in my head.

Now let’s practice using positive language. It’s hard at first, but you’ll get better. Can anyone think of a positive way to change these incorrect statements?

Wrong: In the future, I won’t cut.
(Right: In the future, I will go to the back of the line.)

Wrong: In the future, I won’t push.
(Right: In the future, I will keep my hands to myself.)

Wrong: In the future, I won’t take your eraser.
(Right: In the future, I will ask you if I can borrow your eraser.)

4) Will you forgive me? This is important to try to restore your friendship. Now, there is no rule that the other person has to forgive you. Sometimes, they won’t. That’s their decision. Hopefully, you will all try to be the kind of friends who will forgive easily, but that’s not something you automatically get just because you apologized. But you should at least ask for it.

As a teacher, I know that asking for forgiveness puts the offender in an uncomfortable and vulnerable place of humility. However, this seemingly obvious yet widely underused phrase is very, very powerful for both the offender and the offended. It is the key to reconciliation and often the first step in restoring friendship.

I also know that the second item, “This is wrong because…” is powerful in changing the longer-term behavior of the offending child. Forcing the child to put themselves in another’s shoes will increase empathy and help them understand better how they have hurt someone else. This exercise in trying to see themselves from someone else’s perspective can be very powerful.

I don’t know about you, but now that I have read the directions. I have a whole lot of phone calls to make and letters to write. I wish I knew this 40 years ago! Thank you CuppaCocoa.com.

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Through out my life I have had a tendency towards depression. In part, this is likely due to my genetic and biochemical make up. I remember my Dad’s dark moods and often overwhelming sadness. The tragedies of life can appear overwhelming and good reason to be mournful. But such habits of sadness are not only painful but useless and counter to the joy of the heart promised by the transforming power of Christ.

Somewhere along the line, I have learned that joy is a much better spiritual practice. In fact, it is our nature as children of God. The first lesson in this journey was becoming aware of my self-talk, the running commentary in my thought process. I was shocked to discover how negative I was, judgmental, expecting the worst, never satisfied. Who wouldn’t be depressed?

The second lesson was even more important than the first: the antidote. The Prayer of the Heart also known as the Jesus Prayer, practiced by monks and mystics, ordinary women and men, continuously spoken 24/7 in Ortodox Monastaries around the globe and most especially in the Holy Lands. It is quite simply this: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.” I started practicing this prayer a few minutes out of my day. Soon I found myself remembering to repeat this phrase whenever my judgements surfaced. It’s been years now and this prayer has become an unconscious constant in my thoughts. I wake up and this prayer is my first thought.

This isn’t because I am so holy or good. Truly I’m not! Rather this is the Grace of the Holy Spirit at work in my soul even when I am a grump or an idiot or a farce. Because you see this Joy of being at-one with God is a choice, a choice that requires practice. It’s not magic. It’s a miracle of grace.

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Maundy Thursday

I suppose it is weird to consider Maundy Thursday to be my favorite holiday but there it is. This is a day of contemplation, the moment before life falls apart but we somehow know that life is going to change and we don’t like it. We can’t see beyond to the chaos, the suffering, the gore that is to come but in our bones we just know something awful is about to happen. But not yet. For today we rest our head on Jesus broad and strong chest, knowing he loves us, that he calls us friend and sister or brother, tenderly caring for us, feeding us bread and wine. He doesn’t pat our back and say “everything is going to be okay” because in fact we are about to screw up royally. Our fear will overcome our resolve and we will run when we should stay.
Today reminds me of those times in my life when for all my good intentions, I got something all wrong and even betrayed someone or some value I deeply loved. So why is this my favorite holiday? I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps because my past often haunts my dreams and I want a do-over. Perhaps it’s the picture of those hapless disciples as Jesus washes their feet, tenderness his last act. I just know this day is one with which I am way too familiar. Remembering while knowing that resurrection and restoration will come. In the meantime, it is okay to just be honest in the company of my sisters and brothers knowing I am often a total mess masquerading as bravery and confidence. And God loves even that.

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Palm Sunday

I love Palm Sunday – I come expecting a parade of smiling children handing out palms to anxious adult hands. Adults smiling lovingly, grateful to be in the presence of innocence, remember their own long ago perfection, innocence and joy. A time before Good Fridays of grief, confusion, abandonment, and being paralyzed in the face of wrongful death.
Our pastor read through the entire Passion story according to the gospel of Matthew. This was not the usual paragraph or two we expect to hear from some gospel each Sunday waiting for the sermon to make sense of it all. This reading could not be so easily ignored. Nearly 3 chapters. Sometimes I close my eyes and just listen. Today, I followed along in the pew Bible and was surprised by what I have missed or forgotten or taken for granted.
Pilate’s wife played an important role. I never noticed. She had a nightmare in which she saw the consequences of condemning this innocent Saviour. She wrote a note that was delivered to Pilate as he questioned Jesus, The Lord of his wife, a clearly good and innocent man. He washed his hands of him but did not interfere in the consequences of an angry mob. Just hours later Jesus The Lord, Messiah, Innocent gives up his life on a cruel cross. And the dead, the Holy dead, break out of their tombs days before Jesus’ own ressurection. I can’t imagine this. I’ve forgotten the the spectacle of long dead holy men and women wandering in our cruel world. What did they do? Whom did they visit? Once again innocent as the babes who waved those palm branches. I want my heart, my presence, my intentions to be that of a resurrected holy person wandering in the midst of suffering and being an agent of light and hope and blessing. More often I feel the confines of a body on it’s way to the tomb. This week I want to remember our original innocence, that child-like joy, the lense of perfection and love through which our Creator God sees us, his beloved children.

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I haven’t been posting much this year for two reasons: 1) it’s been a rough winter physically. 2) I rarely think I have anything wise to say these days. I’m not depressed. I’m just getting older and much more aware of my own foolishness. This quote from a lovely book I am reading makes this point far better than I

QUESTION: How can we consider created matter to be better than us if God has endowed us with a rational mind and has called us His sons?
ANSWER: If you place your hand over your heart and are entirely sincere with yourself, you will realize that you are indeed less than many created things. Look at the bee, how diligently it labors! It gives of itself without reserve, unsparingly. The lifespan of a bee is a month and a half at the most. It often dies working, without going back to its home, the hive. And we? How we “pity ourselves and spare ourselves! Or, look at the ant who is never tired of dragging a heavy burden. Even when its burden falls down, the ant patiently picks it up and goes on with its work. As for us, we give up immediately if things do not go the way we want them to!”

Excerpt From: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives.” Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2013-09-26. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

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From the very young age of 10, when I first read the Bible from front to back, I decided that the book of Ecclesiastes would be (and continues to be) my favorite book of the Bible. Here are words to live by from chapter 3:

“I know God has made everything beautiful for its time. God has also placed in our minds a sense of eternity; we look back on the past and ponder over the future, yet we cannot understand the doings of God. 12I know there is nothing better for us than to be joyful and to do good throughout our lives; 13to eat and drink and see the good in all of our hard work is a gift from God. 14I know everything God does endures for all time. Nothing can be added to it; nothing can be taken away from it. We humans can only stand in awe of all God has done. 15What has been and what is to be—already is. And God holds accountable all the pursuits of humanity.*”

Excerpt From: Nelson, Thomas. “The Voice Bible.” Thomas Nelson, 2012-02-23. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

This year I intend to enjoy the “awe” just a bit more each day instead of trying to fix perfection.

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A Poem for the New Year

The God Who Only Knows Four Words


Has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does
Anything weird,
But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come dance with Me”

A Poem of Hafiz the Great Sufi Master from The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

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My Father was a veteran but minimized it’s importance because he never saw military action having joined the Navy and sailed off to the Philippines as the war was ending. Just today, I learned from my mother that he had joined the Navy rather than another branch because the Post Master in his hometown told him to saying: “in the Navy you will always have a dry bed to sleep in, good food and less chance of dying.” He joined before his 18th birthday by lying about his age (the only lie I ever knew him to tell – truly). He couldn’t swim but I don’t remember how he got around that one. I’m glad my father didn’t see action. He had such a tender heart, I don’t think he would have survived.
As a minister. I often did funeral’s for veterans. There were always other vets present. Many times, one would seek me out after the graveside service with tears streaming down their cheeks. In some form or other, I would be asked, “Do you really believe God can forgive me for what I did in the war?” My heart would break at the years of hell that had plagued them with these questions. I always assured them that God had long ago forgiven these horrors and that their tears were God’s tears.
My Dad didn’t see action but he did participate in the integration of the Navy. His memories of those days informed his commitment to move past and lead past stereotypes and prejudice. That in itself is an enduring and yet to be won war.

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