Monday, February 28, 2011
This is not about the show or a missing purse.This is about the feeling of being without an anchor or a place of belonging.This is something in your gut that is churning because you don't see that life has any purpose.An empty space in your center.
I left my Church on that warm June day in 1969 while walking over the bridge that traverses the Belt Parkway in Queens,N.Y.The priest at St.Clare's had just asked for prayers to change the hearts of the communists in Vietnam and I thought,"That is ridiculous.That will never happen.Look around,what has prayer ever changed?"As I walked alone,hair blowing in the warm breeze,cars zooming down below me,I liberated myself from superstition.I felt free,very smart and courageous.My intention from then on was to throw off anything that didn't fit with what I experienced and not to believe what others told me.I floated home,a new me.
When I was 8, my sister 11 ,our parents went out for the evening.In our boisterous play, we broke a juice glass by rolling it down off the top of the sofa.Terrified of the out-of-proportion scream fest we would have to endure, we knelt down and prayed,as we were taught, that it would be whole by morning.It wasn't.Well,now.
A few years after my Queens liberation,my family of four lived in California.I was still doing my own thing and one morning I woke up and felt this terrible,gaping hole inside me.Something essential to me was missing.I am so grateful I didn't look in all the wrong places before I uttered a simple prayer;"Lord,if You are there,help me."
I am not going to make something up and say I saw a bright light or even at that moment received great peace.What I do remember 40 years later is that I felt I had taken a step of some kind although I wasn't sure what it was.A few weeks later, I casually picked up a book in a store and found it was on faith.As if the words were highlighted,they spoke to me. That began a journey that has brought peace,joy,purpose and great hope to this one life that I have been given.
As to answered prayers?Out of many answered, I think of two, said many years ago.The first was about a boy that I adored in my neighborhood.I prayed when I was fifteen that he would be in my life and after 50 years he is,still.The other was about that broken glass.We prayed,not because we cared about the cheap glass, but because we didn't want to get into trouble,and looking back,miraculously,we didn't.
All prayer is answered, in my view.That's why I keep a journal;to keep track of what my Lord is up to and how He answers in His time and way.
This journey has not been without twists, detours and grave challenges but I have
never felt alone or without purpose.
I had to write this after I saw the attached picture on another website.Yes, the gentle shepherd had nothing else to do on that December day in California in 1971 but reach his warm hand down over the edge and take this small lamb into His loving arms.I can never express my gratitude in the language we have been given.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
It is so easy to lose sight of what is important:to let the dreary weather,chest congestion, cold fingers and feet become the the focus of much fruitless musing.I know that a grateful heart is a happy heart but why does this wisdom hide behind the next corner,out of sight so often.How can I hang on to gratitude and praying without ceasing ?Prayer has value,worrying does not.
Within the last several weeks many mysterious and good things have happened.So I want to focus on these tonight and indulge in metanoia, a turning from where I have been.
I bought a wonderful painting a few weeks ago that jumped into my hands and insisted I take it home.It has a scripture verse,snow,a small tan dog and colorful angels hovering in the trees.If you have read my blog you know that God has ,in my view, used snowy trees, angels and a tan dog to speak to me.As if this God revealing painting isn't enough, I have met the artist,who just happens to live in Georgia, in cyber space,thanked her for her gift and basked in the kindness of her e-mails.A new friend and a blessing.
The other day, my son took his eight year old daughter to a Father-Daughter dance at her school.He ,looking like a movie star with a great suit,silk tie,she in a red dress and fixed curly blond hair.On the way home,she thanked him for a lovely evening. How blessed to see how much he invests in his fatherhood.She will never forget her first Valentine dance.
In January, I had lunch with a high school friend that I had really liked but we had lost touch.I think I laughed more with her than anyone.She was humble,smart and a bright spot for me in my senior year.After fifty years, we embraced with tears and laughter.We had lunch and deeply,deeply connected.It was not an accident, but the Spirit who arranged this meeting as just another great gift to me.
I have faithful friends who never fail to encourage my writing and without them, I would have folded up the artist tent in the beginning.They take the time to read my stories and never a discouraging word.There is no price that I can put on that support.
In January,my husband and I went to his Army reunion and there I connected again with one of his buddies who had made me howl with laughter at the one we attended in Atlanta,fifteen years before.This time we shared our faith and that usually lifts me a few feet off the ground. He is my friend and I look forward to seeing him again.He does woodworking as a hobby, and I can see him in his shop in Indiana,bent over his lathe, planing wood for a table and praying as he works.That scene pleases me.
How delighted we would be if these things were our focus.Gratitude for sight and the colors of Van Gogh.Hearing;the sound of a baby laughing on YouTube.Children and talking to them on the phone about important things.Family;a sister-in-law who turns seventy soon, who has always,always made me feel welcomed in my husband's family for 46 years.The list is endless,it goes out into the firmament,if we think of it.
This must be God's biggest disappointment.He gives us wonders in abundance for our happiness but if we don't see them,focus on them in thanksgiving, they are wasted.This must be why scripture enjoins us not to worry.Fear and worry drop a veil over the wonders and they might as well not have happened.
What have you stopped being grateful for or have forgotten?Please let me know.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Photo by Kris-Puerto Rico
In the Fall of 2002,I was part of a team that welcomed and prepared people who wanted to join the Catholic Church.I recall walking into the first meeting and seeing about 15 new faces.Most were in their twenties.Off to the side was an older quiet couple who sat by themselves.I admit that I was drawn to the tables with the younger people,I could feel their joy,their energy.However, I sat with the older couple and introduced myself and admired the woman's reddish hair.She smiled and said,"That's what my hair used to be like,this is a wig".She told me that she was receiving chemotherapy and the prognosis was uncertain.He husband looked so unhappy but she seemed to be very peaceful.She said that she had wanted to join the church and now seemed like the right time.I was impressed with her serenity.
After Easter, when this group had been confirmed in the church,my new friend Linda volunteered to share her experience with the larger congregation one Sunday.Calmly she described her journey,including her uncertain future.With great courage she said that either outcome was O.K. because she belonged to God.
One morning in August of 2003,the phone rang and it was Linda's husband;he wanted me to come to her hospice room and pray the rosary with her.She had asked for this.He mentioned that he didn't have a rosary.I grabbed two that I had and went to be with him ,his daughters and a few friends to circle her bed and pray.I took the black rosary and pressing it in his palm said,"This is yours."Through his tears he nodded.
Linda's wig was gone and she was puffy but still seemed glad we were there.Every so
often,this gallant ,wonderful woman would apologize because she had to interrupt us to ring for pain medicine.As we prayed,her husband cried but when we were finished,he seemed very grateful for our presence.The next Sunday, Joe appeared at church and told me she had passed that morning.We held onto each other though the mass.
The second rosary mentioned has small wooden beads and after each ten, there is a small silver engraved rose.My very favorite.These two rosaries travelled from a pawn shop to the hands of a girlfriend of my son's and into mine on Easter of 2002.Kris made sure to tell me that this was not an Easter gift,she just thought I would like them.
Kris is now engaged but we pass each other in cyber space occasionally and she has a way of being that blesses me at unexpected times.The first story that I wrote was from a heart that was full of joy because of a wool scarf that she took the time to knit for me.Greenish-blue and so warm,I treasure it.
My young friend is a vibrant,energized person with many friends who she loves deeply as she does her family.She is successful in her career and is a conduit for beauty and good in the world,as I see it.
The picture attached of these colorful saints inspired me today.I thought of the goodness of Blessed Mother Teresa, the humility of St.Clair;of Lent coming up and what that will look like.
The reds,blues yellows are in sharp contrast to the February greys and browns of Georgia.Kris posted this photo she took on Facebook from where she is in Puerto Rico.
She had no idea what musings her posting would engender and perhaps not just in me.
That's what people who inspire us do.Is there someone in your life who does this for you and how do they do it?
Sunday, February 6, 2011
The other night, we went to see "The Rite",one more film about exorcism.As if the ever creepy "The Exorcist", that I saw in the 70s wasn't enough.I remember dreading every time the two priests would start to ascend the stairs to go back in the bedroom where Ragin,who was not herself in more ways than one,lay tied to the bed. That was based on a true story but the possessed had actually been a teen-aged boy who lived in Maryland.
Apparently,in these enlightened times,there is more need for exorcists then ever before.
The Rite of Exorcism has been handed down through the centuries and has specific prayers that are to be said but the heart of the ritual is the casting out of the demon in the name of Jesus.It is His power and only His that can drive the evil spirit from a person.Every time I have seen this ritual portrayed,the invocation of the Name brings tears to my eyes.The only other scene that does this to me is when a live birth is being portrayed.I don't know the connection but there it is.
The church is very hesitant to declare a possession and will seek every other answer for a disturbed person's behavior but when all else fails and certain criteria is met,they will take the case on.
The movie brought to mind something that happened a few years ago, in May of 2004.I was flying home from Connecticut and as we started to descend to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta,a two year old blonde little girl across the aisle started to howl.This went on for at least twenty minutes and I was getting very anxious.I had nothing to hand the Mother to distract the child.The folks around with ear buds weren't as disturbed as the rest of us.It was excruciating.In desperation,I prayed that Jesus would come into this scene and calm the child, especially for the poor mother.Immediately,the child quieted.I was stunned.Co-incidence? I report,you decide.
The plane landed and I asked the mother if I could help her in some way.She looked around and with tears in her eyes,apologized to everyone for the noise.I told her something like that has happened to all of us.I felt such love for her in that moment.That mysterious,sacred moment.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
A category 5 cyclone is pounding the East Coast of Australia,Queensland,as I type.The winds that accompany this storm are raging at 186 mph.Unimaginable.Since Europeans settled this continent there has never been weather like this,according to reports.I am not proud to admit that I know and care about this because my youngest son has just arrived in Australia to do two months of research.He is safe in the North near Darwin and the only wildness he has seen so far are cockatoos.
Many Americans who hear of this storm will think back to Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it left in the Gulf states.I wonder,if the destruction in Queensland is bad enough,will my son think about lending a hand.
In 2005, as the images of flooding,houses washed away,people on rooftops bombarded the air waves,my son was moved to action.He was working part-time at the Atlanta Zoo and he and a friend got piles of donations from co-workers to take to the coast.His older brothers were afraid for him and told him to send a check to the Red Cross but he was determined.
When he looked at the donations, he had to leave most of it behind because it was animal food and not much else.He and his friend went to Wal-Mart and bought bread,milk,canned food and off they went in his very old ,red Ford truck that has too many miles on it.
They found a state campground in Mississippi,parked back in the woods and set up a tent.After securing their spot,they drove to the local fire house in a small town and asked to be directed to whoever needed help.From there they went to a mobile home park that had suffered damage.The first small trailer was a rusted silver and green with trees and power lines down around it.An elderly black lady came to the door when she saw the truck and said,"Thank God you're here.My cat has no food."Well, that had been left in Georgia so off they went to Wal-Mart.The next trailer's owner was desperate for beer, cigarettes,and bread so the Georgia rescue team went back for that.They did this for three days and then headed home to go back to school and work.
I found out about this after the fact and I am sure I would have tried to discourage him.But now I am wondering if those few days aren't among his most precious memories.
Do the people of Australia jump in to help other parts of the country as we do here? I think they probably do.We met a couple when we were in Scotland.They live in Adelaide and insisted we come and stay with them should we ever find ourselves there.Lovely people.
There is guidance for this type of altruism:
"If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day and you say to them,""Good-bye and good luck !Keep warm and well fed,""but do not meet their bodily needs ,what good is that?So it is with faith that does nothing in practise.It is thoroughly lifeless." James 2:15-17.
I pray for the good people Down Under today.If my son can do more,I hope that he does.His heart will lead him.