Hungers of the Heart by Richard Watts

WHEN LOVE BREAKS THROUGH, WE ARE SUDDENLY ABLE TO ACCEPT OUR WEAKNESSES AND FAULTS WITHOUT COMING UNGLUED.

“Hungers of the Heart” by Richard Watts.

 

Watt quotes David James Duncan, who tells about his search that finally brought him to hollowing out a place in his heart about the size of a thimble. Duncan continues, “When I was twenty, in India one day, I turned to God with embarrassed sincerity and said, ‘ Would you care to fill this little thimble with anything?’ and instantaneously, -almost absurdly really, – an undeniable, unimaginable, indescribable lake of peace and love landed on my head in reply.”

Watts continues: “This experience that Christians call grace breaks into the anxiety, confusion and self-doubt that trouble us and frees us to journey along a path toward becoming a real self. ….It need not be as sudden or dramatic as Duncan’s. We need not be “born again;” we live in God’s grace simply by virtue of having been born. Whether for us a breakthrough comes as we look up to the stars, ponder the mysteries of DNA, find someone who loves us, help heal another’s hurt, take a risk for justice, (recognize our limits and helplessness, hit bottom, are forgiven by someone we have harmed* my additions) the experience of being accepted restores us to our real selves.

The paradox is this: that when love breaks through, we are suddenly able to accept our weakness and faults without coming unglued.

We come to accept that even our best impulses are tainted by self-interest, that we pretend to know more than we really know, and to “have it all together” when we really don’t. We begin to see that our strengths are really also our pitfalls: ambition that enables us to achieve can result in a stunted personal life with little time for love and friendship, the pride that allows us to walk in dignity may also keep us from acknowledging our mistakes; the charm that opens doors for us may lapse into shallowness on which we depend without seeking deepening, growth and newness; the intellect in which we trust may mask a denial of the emotions, which one day erupt in us in discomfiting force. (Our tendency to respond to life emotionally may help us understand and reach out to those who are suffering, but since emotions are short term, we may make our choices based on them with consequences that are destructive in the long run.* my addition )

The wonder of grace is that we are increasingly able to see ourselves as we really are without despair.”

And that is the first step to becoming free to grow and change in ways that give us more balanced, appropriate and grace-filled responses to life.

 

Ode to Those that Climb the Mountains of Disabilities

A granddaughter and a great-grandson graduated from different high schools this weekend.  They each beamed with pride as did I.  It has been a long and arduous journey for both of them.  One suffered the confusion of spoken language that Autism brings and the other the confusion of written language that Dyslexia causes.

They were blessed because they each had caring parents and grand-parents, special teachers and even therapists. But ultimately the challenge was theirs and no one else could do it for them.  They made it because they persevered.

I never was sure that the hours I spent trying to help them made anything easier for them, but it formed a bond for me with them that will always keep them in my heart in a deep tender spot soft from tears unshed and I pray that I will always be in theirs, even when I’m no longer here.

Their journey isn’t over and neither are the challenges they face, but their graduation days mark an accomplishment that few can understand.  Often it has meant struggling with things that seemed simple to others, so their amazing achievements went unnoticed and unsung.  And because their differences set them apart, they often walked alone, unnoticed and unaffirmed.

But those of us that have shared their journey know that while others jumped small hurdles, they climbed mountains to get to the same goals.

We saw and heard the fears, discouragement and frustration they overcame, so we celebrate their achievement as unsung Olympian Medalists in courage, determination and perseverance.

Faith and Reason: Gifts of God

Do not let your reason limit your faith, but also do not let your faith limit your reason. God gave us both to use in an ongoing, open-ended dialogue. It is hubris to think we know enough to limit any possibilities. But it is total rejection of the gift God gave us, as those made in His image and likeness, to not use our intellect to explore His creation and to grow in our understanding and appreciation of it and Him.

Empathy vs Lack of Borders

One of the struggles in life is discerning the fine line between empathy and lack of borders. Some of us seem to be born without borders.

That often leads us to acts of kindness, but it can also simply overwhelm us from needlessly taking on everyone else’s pain.  If we can’t find a way to separate their suffering from our own, we may reach the point where we finally begin to avoid even loved ones who are suffering.

Empathy allows us to understand their pain and comfort them with that understanding, but doesn’t require us to take it on.  Empathy frees us to care without judgment. It is a paradox that part of becoming whole is developing a sense of self independent of others, while recognizing that we are all of equal value in God’s eyes.

Jesus both suffered and died for us. He knew the pain of being human:  the emotional pain of rejection, abandonment, being a victim, humiliation, experiencing failure, physical pain from torture and a painful dying. He lived in our humanity and walked in our broken world. He saved us from the permanence of death, but not from suffering. He said, “Pick up your cross and follow me.”

He didn’t say, “Here’s your get out of suffering free card. But neither did he say, “Carry everyone else’s cross.” Even though there are moments, when like Simon of Cyrene, we can help others carry theirs, we are not called to take on theirs, only our own custom made one. Suffering just comes with being human though our choices can increase our personal suffering.

Sometimes, after I have repeatedly and futilely tried to save someone I love from the consequences of their bad choices, I begin to avoid that person.  I need to escape both my own addiction to playing  savior and the overload of their pain on top of my own.

My challenges are: to accept suffering as part of becoming whole, to develop a sense of self as separate from even those I love, yet to recognize that we are all one in God’s eyes, and finally, to fully accept that removing the consequences of another’s self-destructive patterns of behavior simply rewards and reinforces it.

We can comfort and love others without judging, but we can’t save them. They may need healing or even deliverance which takes repentance and grace. Ultimately those are between them and God.

Does God Still Do Miracles? Part Seven: A House and a Can of Oil

I grew up living in apartments in large cities. From eight years of age until thirteen, I actually lived on the seventh floor of a ten story apartment building near downtown St. Louis. After I met and married a Tennessee boy at Rice University in Houston, Texas, we moved to Nashville where his parents had both a downtown apartment and a large weekend country house in a neighboring rural county.

As our own family grew, we spent more and more weekends at Birdsong, their lovely hundred year old log house that now had all the modern conveniences, but still radiated the warmth and charm of a by-gone era. It was on a two hundred acre rural setting of both woods and fields with a river sized creek complete with waterfall and swimming hole. It also had fields of peonies, horses and barns, a pond, a replica of Fort Nashborough built for the grandchildren to play in and a historic ruin of a real civil war powder mill.

At first I followed my mother-in-law on excursions into the woods to look for Jack-in-the Pulpit and tiny delicate wild Iris with a city dweller’s fear and trepidation. “Snakes and ticks and poison ivy, oh my!” But after my awakening to the reality of God, I began to fall in love with His creation from its obvious glories to its fascinating hidden world of tiny treasures.

When I was expecting my fifth child by Caesarian section along with a scheduled hysterectomy, my in-laws decided to sell Birdsong. They offered to trade us the main house, barn, the tenant house, pond and the thirty- five acres of creek front woods and fields in exchange for whatever we could make from selling our house. Not only did I covet Birdsong, but this was an incredibly good financial trade for us. Our house was a pleasant traditional two story, four bedroom house in walking distance of an excellent public school, but Birdsong was twice its size, historic, beautiful and unique in a wonderful thirty-five acre setting on a creek. There was even a tenant house that we had been remodeling. After prayer and discussion, my husband and I decided this was the chance of a lifetime and we put our house on the market a month before Thanksgiving when our baby was due.

While I was in the hospital recuperating from my C-section and hysterectomy, our house sold with the agreement that the buyer could have possession by January 1st. To say the least, the move was a daunting prospect at Christmas time in my post-operative condition with a new baby and four other children under ten. But, it seemed like a miracle to sell so quickly for the price we were asking. Besides, I wanted Birdsong more than I had ever wanted anything. To top it off, my husband’s oldest brother had hired a baby nurse to stay with us for the first two weeks I was home. This was a perfect baby gift that would help us considerably. The move just seemed meant to be.

Unfortunately, shortly after we got home from the hospital, we discovered that our baby, who was miserably unhappy both night and day, needed surgery for a painful strangulated hernia. Our wonderful baby nurse and I prayed together for healing for him. But instead, at the hospital the night before his surgery, an intern discovered that our baby also had a heart valve defect. It was obviously his first examination of a baby boy, since he didn’t think to protect his new Christmas tie from a tiny fountain of pee. Shaken by his discovery, but hoping his lack of experience had allowed him to be misled, I called my pediatrician, who managed to get there in fifteen minutes.  After emergency tests, the surgeon and our pediatrician agreed that the heart defect didn’t appear life threatening and since it was the type that sometimes closed naturally, they went ahead with just the hernia surgery. It was a scary, stressful time of tears and exhaustion, but with many people joined in prayer for Tommy.  After the unscheduled surgery there was only room for us in a four patient room.  The spoiled princess part of me was distressed over having to be in a room with three other mothers and their crying babies, all of us sleeping on cots literally under our babies in their high metal cribs. But, I had hardly had any sleep since my surgeries, so when Tommy awoke  hungry the first time in the wee hours after his surgery, I didn’t even wake up when he cried. The kindness of strangers touched me deeply, when I finally woke and discovered that the other mothers had fed him, so I could sleep. It was a humbling glimpse of how false my priorities were.

The day we brought him home from his surgery, my in-laws came to visit and announced apologetically that they had accepted an offer for Birdsong, including the whole two hundred acres and all the smaller buildings . I was devastated.  My heart felt literally broken and I gradually recognized that coveting really is different from just wishing for something. Eventually,  I  accepted that God was trying to set me free.

But ending up two weeks before Christmas having no where to go after the following week was pretty much of a  shock. At that day and time there were no condos or apartments in our neighborhood. Checking the papers and calling local realtors turned up nothing to rent while we tried to figure out what we wanted to do. I didn’t want the children to change schools mid-year, in case we decided to make the change to living in the country somewhere else than Birdsong.  Available houses were as scarce in our school zone as apartments. After I had called the last realtor, I sat on the couch with tears flowing down my cheeks. The kind baby nurse, an older black woman with seven grown children, sat down beside me and put her arm around my shoulders.
“What do you need exactly?” she asked.
I thought about not being able to drive or climb stairs for over four more weeks and answered, “A five bedroom, one story house in walking distance to our school to rent for nine months. That will give us time to decide where we want to live without our children having to change schools.”
She responded immediately with a smile, “All right, we’ll pray for exactly that and a can of oil.”
“A c c can of oil?” I stuttered.
“Yes,” she said, “We have to take the baby back to the doctor’s tomorrow and I’m not comfortable driving your car and mine needs a can of oil.”

I tried not to look incredulous, as she began to pray very specifically. When she finished and we said, “Amen” together, she smiled cheerfully and went to get me a cup of coffee. As I sat there stunned, the doorbell rang. It was Sarah, a woman that I knew from the school’s Parent Association.
“Eileen,” she said,” I’m sorry to bother you. I hope I didn’t wake up the baby, but my car gets eccentric sometimes and it has stopped at the end of your driveway. Can I use your phone to get my mechanic to come?”
“Sure,” I replied, “If you’ll ask him to bring a can of oil.” After making her phone call, she joined me for coffee while we waited for the mechanic and the can of oil.
“I hear you’ve sold your house and are moving to the country,” she said.
“Well, yes and no. The move to the country fell through and I’m in something of a panic. I don’t want the children to have to change schools until we figure out where we want to live. And right now there is nothing available to rent around here.”
Sarah’s eyes lit up as she asked, “Do you know about the Keck’s house?”
“No, where is that?” I responded.
“It’s one street over and two houses down from you. You can see the back yard from here. They are going to the Philippines as missionaries for nine months. They are supposed to leave the first of January, if they can find a renter. They aren’t advertising, because they will be leaving their furniture and possessions and don’t want to rent to complete strangers.”
Breathless with my heart racing, I asked, “What is the house like?”
“It’s a one story with four bedrooms and a study, and a large den. It also has a wonderful yard and patio.”
I actually gasped almost in disbelief. “That would work perfectly for us and we have a large basement storage area at our office where we could easily store their things. That would probably be safer for their belongings and happier for our kids.”

It turned out that we had many mutual friends with the Kecks, so they were happy to rent to us. Dr. Keck taught theology at Vanderbilt and had a library of books that I read hungrily in the months we lived there.

So, three weeks later we moved a block away and after several months of looking for land in the country, we bought our own ‘hundred acre wood’ with a creek and hundreds of tiny wild Iris all along the banks. That fall, we moved into a marvelous house my husband had designed very specifically for us and in a county with a much better school system than where Birdsong was. Eventually, my husband started his own business here in this county where we still live and work forty-four years later.
One of the best parts of this memory is the woman who prayed with me. She had raised seven children in serious poverty and mostly by herself, due to her husband’s dependence on alcohol. To her, I must have seemed like a spoiled affluent weakling, yet she cared about my problems and believed God would help me just as He had her when she needed it.

Does God Still Speak to Us?

My husband is a very good man. But he didn’t really “get” my kind of relationship with God. To him God was a judge, not a friend. Religion was about following the rules. As long as your “do right” list was longer than your “do wrong” list, you’d be okay.
But he sometimes envied me for my sense of God’s presence and the joy I experienced because of it.
So one day as he was driving to work, he decided to pray. He said, “God, Eileen says you talk to us if we listen. I’m listening. Say something.”
At that very moment he heard a siren and saw a blue light flashing in his rear view mirror. Then the policeman pulled him over for speeding. As the policeman took his license and went back to his car to write out the ticket, Julian thought, “Oh, boy. I can’t wait to tell Eileen about this answer.”
Then the policeman came back to him and said, “Mr. Norman, I am going to tear up your ticket. You were going forty-three in a thirty miles per hour zone, but while I was writing your ticket almost every car that went by here was going as fast or faster than you were. Try to be more careful from now on.” And with that he tore up the ticket.
Julian is a visual concrete thinker, not a words or theory person. What a perfect concrete visual illustration this was of the Scripture in Romans 3:23
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But they are now being justified by his free grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.”
Thanks to Jesus Christ, God tears up our ticket.

However we came to God, we have each in our own way given our lives to him. But I’m afraid that when I told God to take my life and make me into the person he wanted me to be, I was sort of hoping it was going to be the kind of person I wished I could be. Like maybe, thin. Thin is good. And certainly confident, instead of a wus. But God seems to have his own priorities and so far thin and confident don’t seem to be on his agenda.
Because of my preconceived ideas, I think I often miss what he is trying to do in my life. But there are some experiences that even I recognize as answers to that prayer.
When our five children were still young, my father-in-law gave us a side of beef for Christmas each year. One year we had friends who were starting a new business. They had seven children and money was in short supply. So, we decided to share some of our beef with them. I loaded a basket with hamburger, pot roasts, short ribs and even a couple of round steaks. But every time I started to reach for the sirloins and rib-eyes and T bones. I drew my hand back. I dearly love steak and there were many years in my life when I couldn’t afford the good ones. I rationalized that with seven children steaks just weren’t practical. The other cuts would stretch further. So I didn’t share any of the expensive steaks.
The very next weekend we were getting a work related free stay in one of the cabins Julian had designed for a State Park. I left the garage door up about a foot, so the cat could come and go to get his food and get out of the rain. When we returned two days later, all seemed to be just as we had left it, until I went to the upright freezer in the garage to get some meat for dinner.
The bottom two shelves, where all the expensive steaks had been, were completely empty. Everything else was still there.
Believe me. I got the message: Share your best, not just the things you value least.
I asked God’s forgiveness, but also admitted that I would really, really like to know how He did it.
A couple of days later, a neighbor who lived a block downstream on the creek that ran through our back yard, told me excitedly about all the mysterious steaks her dogs were happily devouring in her yard. She exclaimed in dismay, “My dogs are eating sirloins that I can’t even afford.”
Later that same day my next door neighbor casually mentioned that Michelle, the three year old from across the street, had been playing in our yard and crawling in and out of the garage while we were gone.
Evidently frozen steaks make great boats to sail on a creek and only the expensive ones were in her reach.
I was so relieved that she hadn’t gotten trapped in the freezer, that I no longer begrudged anybody, even the dogs, the best steaks.
Some years later the nuns at the rural school where I taught protested that I needn’t have given them such nice steaks in their Christmas basket. Hamburger would have been fine. I assured them that I really did need to give them some steaks with their hamburger.
Sometimes it takes more than just Scripture for me to get the message.
.

immortality

we all cling to the hope
we can pass it on
leave something behind
whatever it is we value
or even just a whiff
of ashes riding the wind

it doesn’t really matter
we don’t just disappear
we split into a million
imperceptible shooting stars
faster than the speed of light
bouncing back off
the edges of the universe….

what a ride!

The Power Of A Single Step

Eileen:

Read and remember, all my grandchildren and great-grandchildren

Originally posted on Morning Story and Dilbert:

Morning Story and Dilbert Vintage Dilbert
May 4, 1994

He possessed a five-day supply of food, a Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress- his two treasures, a small ax for protection, and a blanket. With these, Legson Kayira eagerly set out on the journey of his life. He was going to walk from his tribal village in Nyasaland, north across the wilderness of East Africa, 3000 miles to Cairo, where he would board a ship to America to get a college education.

It was October 1958. Legson was sixteen or seventeen, his mother wasn’t sure. His parents didn’t know exactly where America was or how far. But they reluctantly gave their blessing to his journey.

To Legson, it was a journey derived from a dream – that fueled his determination to get an education. He wanted to be like his hero, Abraham Lincoln, who had risen from poverty to become an American president, then fought tirelessly…

View original 1,115 more words

Dad and Daughter shared Ice Cream

Eileen:

another moment of grace captured and shared so beautifully

Originally posted on Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane Blog:

ice-cream-bowl-clipart-k14833923

My heart has been very heavy lately, which is a feeling that I am very unused to. The fact is, as my children age, some into young adulthood, their problems are more real life problems, not just a tantrum in the grocery store. 2 of my younger children, with as many good traits and skills that they do have, do not having the capacity to be fully self-sufficient as adults, including incapacity to maintain a paying job. Yes, SSI is a possibility when they are adults, but even that provides only poverty level income. They are my family and my financial responsibility, which necessitates looking at the ability of our extremely diminishing finances to care for them during their lifetimes.

Although hubby and I both work, often 6 days a week, and are considered solidly middle class, our bank account does not reflect this. Every time Marie has a PTSD…

View original 524 more words

Freedom of Speech and Freedom from Listening on Face Book

Regarding homosexuality: I want to free any friends and family to un-friend me that are offended by gay marriage. Homosexuality runs in my family at least all the way back to my great-great aunt who was brilliant and courageous enough to manage to become a pediatrician in the 1800’s and loving enough to start a clinic for the poor, but was never mentioned in our family because she lived with the same woman all her life. I think the purpose of life, including the Christian life, is to learn to love unconditionally and to serve others. The best, though not the only, school for learning unconditional love is marriage. Living with another person and learning to truly love that person, even someone of the same gender, while also serving others meets my criteria for spirituality and I believe with all my heart that it meets God’s. I respect others’ opinions and do not want to offend their sensibilities. I will not be hurt by your choosing not to see my posts.

As to politics: I think any organization, corporate or governmental that gets so big that it is no longer able to be concerned for the individual, even the least of our brethren, will become demonic. There are corporations like AT&T, Banking Conglomerates, Insurance Companies, Oil companies and it’s beginning to look like, Obama Care,that are simply too big. I think the mildest of us has wanted to do physical harm to someone at times when we have had to deal with a bureaucracy of robots. The problem is that when a multinational corporation becomes more powerful than the government and richer than many nations, there are no checks and balances. Very few human beings can make a billion dollars and not fall into the trap of thinking they are above the law (in other words,  equal to God). The government isn’t the only entity that has become too big and powerful. The major problem that needs solving includes, but isn’t limited to the size and complexity of the government.

Regarding the role of religion: Christianity is about using our gifts for others, not about power over others.

I have no answers, but as much heartbreak as irresponsible sex can cause through unwanted and abused children, abortions, or deadly viruses that infect innocent unborn babies, greed is what is our worst enemy. Greed infects CEO’s, politicians, people on welfare, and middle class people who teach their children from childhood to feel entitled to everything anyone else has without any effort of their own. The external trappings of Christianity, such as public prayer, are not what is at the core of our faith. It is love and the willingness to not only lay down our lives for others, but as the very minimum, to be kind. I both respect and struggle with both polarities of political opinion, but think that is the exact problem, polarities. We push each other into extremes instead of working together to find the right balance between personal responsibility and government assistance, corporate or government growth and the value and rights of the individual, personal or corporate freedom and accountability. And finally, the reality is that the viciousness and misinformation used by both ends of the political spectrum do not help or change anyone.

I love and care about all my face book family and friends, but I simply cannot support or be a conduit for the kind of political expression many are choosing to use today. I will not un-follow you, because if I am not willing to print and publicize either the style or the content of your communications, you shouldn’t have to do that for me either. I will happily accept your un-friending me and will also feel free to do the same. I think this is an act of lovingkindness.

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