Archive for the ‘Endurance’ Category

Let nothing disturb you, nothing dismay you. All things are passing, God never changes. Patient endurance attains all things. God alone suffices.

-Saint Teresa of Avila

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A dear friend of mine texted the following to me this morning:

My morning mediation I decide to play something different in the background – so I dial up the mediation station in Pandora… Settle into my chair… Relax. Ahhhh
So I’m now about 15 minutes into this wonderful relaxing music and the message come through…”are you tired of waxing and shaving?….” Commercial message that is… Note to self. Don’t meditate to Pandora unless you buy the commercial free package.

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I’m home for the holiday this year….well, one of my homes…actually my Mother’s home built where our family garden and fruit trees once fed us. My husband and I walked through the neighborhood yesterday (he called it a forced march as he hates all forms of exercise). My running comentary was designed to distract him from his aches and pains. “That house was my grandparents where my mother grew up but it was a bungalow then.” My brothers and I practically lived there, grandma’s basement being a place of adventure and exploration. “There’s where the field and forest was that we played in, creating forts in trees and under their branches and climbing trees and having picnics.” It’s now filled with homes and there’s no creek where once we caught frogs and snails and crayfish. On and on, every space holds memories, wonderful memories of my childhood. The lot where Mrs. Russell’s house used to stand; Mrs. Russell taught me about Jesus in vacation Bible school and her joy made me want to know more. Not all the memories are so great. We walked past the grade school where I have more shaming memories than joyful ones. But all these memories, the dark ones, the light ones, and the shades of grey ultimately were divinely created for me to be formed, sometimes chiseled, into the human vessel called Peg. I am supremely grateful this Thanksgiving to be home and to remember who I am. I am thankful for these memories and for a childhood filled with Grace, both that from God and for my mother whose name is Grace and who allowed my brother’s and I to have such a blessed childhood.

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September is National Pain Awareness Month (probably along with many other things). Pain is such a subjective experience and certainly not one to be embraced but rather endured. I recently read through my journal and found this reflection on suffering. I’d been in a flare-up of chronic pain about a year ago when I wrote this. Trust me – I do whatever I can to treat and avoid pain. However, it is my daily companion and this is a personal reflection on that experience.

“This causes me to reflect on the meaning of pain in my life and the suffering of Christ. I think this can only be understood in the mystical sense. We are told that when we suffer for Christ’s sake, we share in the glory of Christ. I never have understood this. It was taught to me as a form of hope in the afterlife but I think that misses the point.

When Christ is understood as the second person of the Trinity and not merely Jesus of Nazareth, when Christ is understood as God’s reflection in Creation and as the realization of living fully human and fully divine, then this suffering of the physical body is a share of Christ’s suffering. Each of us bears what is our lot for the sake of eternal purposes beyond this individual life. Truly one does not know divinity in this life except through the pain of being sculpted through life’s experiences for God’s purposes.

It is in this sensed that I understand my own suffering which is truly minimal compared to the need for it. The balance of dark and light, joy and sorrow, good and evil, the poles necessary for creation all require a modicum of suffering. And so I endure this pain for a purpose unknown to me but glorious just the same. It is an acceptance that comes from lifelong love of Christ.

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“There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there too. But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath. Then God must be dug out again.”

– Etty Hillesum, from The Letters and Diaries of Etty Hilliesum 1941-1943

It is customary in our culture to look for any sort of fulfillment outside of ourselves. I am reminded of the words in our constitution guaranteeing our right to pursue happiness as an inalienable right, as if happiness were a thing to capture. We often are taught to seek God in this way as well. If we just found the right church, or read the Bible for long enough each day, or listen to this or that guru, or wait until we die and are rewarded with heaven….pursuing God. But this isn’t how God is found. God dwells within the deepest recesses of our being. God has already been “captured” so to speak within the holy walls of our human self, deep in our hearts. When we endure the silence of attending to this Presence, we can live there even in the most difficult of circumstances, even in the worst as did the writer of the quote above before she met her death in Auschwitz.

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“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit”. Psalm 51:12

I haven’t been very joyful lately. I have motherly worries that I do my best to change into prayers, with limited success. This has drawn me closer to Mary the Mother of Jesus in a rather unorthodox way as the tune “Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be!” plays gently on my mind.

I am truly, truly, truly terrible at letting anything be. I have this persistent delusion that anything that I perceive as wrong, or even troubling can be fixed…by me…with God’s help of course! This is a particularly distructive delusion.

The above verse is the last line of David’s psalm of repentance after he was called on the carpet for trying to fix his rape of Bathsheba by killing off her husband and then marrying her. His life went down hill from there. Some things can’t ever be made right.

However, a heart broken is the only fertile field for God’s grace. Mother Mary certainly knows about broken hearts and the joy that only God can grow

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Prayer for Holiness

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

Adapted from a prayer by St. Augustine

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Suffering for a Cause

On this Good Friday I have been contemplating the suffering of Jesus the Christ that we for some obscure reason call Good Friday. I bet he didn’t call it that. I know he didn’t welcome suffering. I know he felt abandoned in the midst of it. He cried out, perhaps as much from the experience of betrayal as from the agony of crucifixion. So I wonder where we get the idea that being stoic is Christ-like. I’m thinking of Jesus in the Garden asking God to find some other way for “Thy Will Be Done”. He sweat blood not to mention tears of agony just knowing what he faced.

So I hereby proclaim that it is not Christ-like to enjoy suffering! Or even to just shut up about it. Especially in prayer. Or in church. I’m thinking it’s okay to howl at the moon or the sun at the break of day when the need arises. And that God howls right along beside us.

Of course, for practical reasons, it is not helpful to complain all the time or to look for things to be wrong so we can complain, or howl. In fact, laughter is much more useful than screams. And bitterness has no use at all even when thoroughly deserved.

This is what I have found to be helpful when true suffering has come my way. First, to be honest about what is going on (for me this only comes after a lovely blanket of denial turns out to be a delusion). Then to just be with God in it whether that involves the prayer of talking out loud to The Divine (preferably when no one else is around lest more suffering come your way) or putting on soothing music (I like Daniel Kobiaka’s Timeless Motiion) or going for a walk with loud, complaining music singing in my ears through the iPod. And then to truly, truly remember that there is nothing that happens to us that isn’t designed to bring us closer to God-wakefulness. This has taken me decades to understand but oh the sweet release when I know this in my bones. Everything is designed to birth the Divine, or perhaps merely to resurrect what is already there.

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Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an
indomitable will.


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Be Still My Soul

The grinding wheel of Time doth mar
  Full many a life of moon and star
  And many a brightly smiling morn—
  But still my soul is marching on!
  Darkness, death, and failures vied;
  To block my path they fiercely tried;
  My fight with jealous Nature’s strong—
  But still my soul is marching on!

Paramahansa Yogananda

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