Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Walls of Self

More than walls of brick or thorn
our walls of silent words unborn
still keep us from becoming one.
Our walls of pride leave us remote
as if we wore a buttoned coat
of our own selfishness.
Until, ashamed of loss of heart
we seek, in faith, the grace to start
to risk ourselves once more.
To heal the hurt with words of love
and find a way to rise above
the lonely walls of self.

American Nightmare

Bulldozer ravaged land
violated
into sun scorched nakedness.

Mangled tree corpses
buried live
and bullied into corners.

Nature, God’s glory,
trash heaped
for cheap expediency.

Close Encounters with Innocence

When I first moved to our small rural town forty-one years ago, it was in ways both positive and negative, a culture shock.

A friend from church, originally from near New York, decided to start a community theater. One of our first endeavors was taking a humorous version of Cinderella to the elementary schools. These children had never seen live theater. I played the elderly, somewhat flaky and forgetful, fairy-Godmother.

At the first school, which had fifth and sixth grade classes, when I asked everyone to close their eyes, I was supposed to find someone with their eyes open. I couldn’t find anyone, even the teachers, with their eyes open. It threw me for a minute, until I caught the principal opening his and could scold him.

At one of the schools out in the country with second and third graders, after talking about what Cinderella would need to go to the ball, I asked everyone to close their eyes and wish. Then I asked, “What are we wishing for?” A tiny girl with her eyes squinched tight, shouted with all her heart in her voice, “A bicycle, a bicycle!”

But the most disconcerting experience came with kindergartners and first graders. At the conclusion of the play, they spontaneously stormed en mass onto the gym floor to try to capture my magic wand. At five foot-two, I was in danger of literally being knocked down and trampled and had to be rescued by the prince and the king. It was actually scary.

Such is the vulnerability and power of belief without the balance of  understanding.

Letter to Teachers Struggling with Disillusionment

People do make a difference and things do change. Racial integration is a prime example in my life time.
But the path to change is never fast or easy and often involves people losing their livelihoods or even their lives for the cause. And when the perceived goal is actually achieved, it’s never anywhere near perfect. It’s an imperfect world filled with imperfect people, including us. So there’s always a gap between the vision and the reality. This is hard for those of us, who are idealists and visionaries.
A change in law or even a change in government can seem to happen overnight, but the change in people happens in tiny increments and takes a long time to become perceivable.
I have realized that I, personally, expect too much. But, I have grown in my ability to persevere and to keep the faith that God is alive and well and involved in our becoming whom He created us to be, both as individuals and humanity.
I still feel frustrated when no one shares my vision. And it’s a hard reality, that being by nature an agent for change does not make anyone popular, no matter how kind or pure of heart they may be.  The prophets were God’s agents of change and they usually got killed for their trouble.
Another pitfall, for those of us wanting to make a difference, is that it can become an idol. The heart of the challenge is finding the grace to persevere, when we not only can’t see results, but experience both rejection and feelings of failure.
Pace yourself, and as best you can, accept the reality of bureaucratic insanity as the thorn in your side. And most of all, find ways to renew your spirit or you will burn out.
When we get to whatever heaven is, we will probably be surprised that the things we did that actually touched lives and rippled out from them, aren’t even the things we remember doing.  But that’s okay. We aren’t God. And He can actually use even our screw ups, if we keep giving ourselves to Him.
What is the scripture?…..All God asks of us is to…… love justice and walk humbly with our God.
The older I get, the more I realize that the most important virtue is humility and the most important strength is perseverance.

Small Town Kindness

Joys of a small town. I needed to get emergency oil to get my car to Nashville Volvo,  which is about fifty miles from here. Went to an auto repair/gas station that I never use.  It took 4 quarts of oil. I had only a credit card and $7. After getting the oil, I discovered they weren’t set up to take credit cards and the bill was $10. The owner said, “No problem, just drop it off when you get a chance.” I pulled out my $7 and he said, “No, I don’t want to leave you without any cash.” I said that I would probably stop by the bank on my way to Nashville.  He said, “Ok, but just call it even with the $7.”

I was dressed up, so I don’t think it was charity, just kindness! I’m headed to the bank and then back there with $3 today.”

Fatty, Fatty, Five Foot Four – Can’t Get Through the Kitchen Door ( or I’m Heavy from All Those Stones I’ve Already Thrown at Myself)

With some hesitation, I am entering the fray started recently by someone’s criticism of an overweight television personality.

A couple of years ago, I lost about twelve pounds, because of knee problems, surgery, and a slow recovery due to my pain being prolonged by Fibromyalgia.  The simple fact was, I was bed-ridden, sleeping a lot, and couldn’t get to the refrigerator on my own.  Encouraged by this, I went on the Adkins diet and lost thirty-three more pounds.  I looked so much better that some people didn’t recognize me.  I felt so much better that my whole pattern of life changed.

But I’m still addicted to food.  It’s just that since I like meat, fish, eggs, cheese, leafy green vegetables, and nuts, I can now pretty much eat all the time and gain weight slowly enough to have some control over it. (However, my husband dislikes most meat and all green leafy vegetables, so my grocery bill has almost doubled.)

Goodies and baddies.  Baddies and Goodies.   A reality of life: there are no unmixed blessings or troubles.

Long ago, I recognized that I have a tendency to become addicted to pleasures, because pleasure temporarily deadens emotional pain.  God helped me recognize this in time to head off serious alcoholism in my late twenties, avoid temptations to adultery in my thirties, and finally stop smoking three packs a day at age forty-eight.

Unfortunately, by fifty-five I ended up in physical pain and in a wheelchair,( but fortunately allergic to most pain killers.)  Friends, grace, and prayer helped me get through about six or seven years of this, but the delight of good food also played a significant part.   When not able to exercise, while dulling both physical and emotional pain with the only pleasure left, I gained eighty pounds. I jokingly, but truthfully, say that I didn’t quit smoking, I just switched to smoking food. I am actually five foot- two inches tall and after my fourth child weighed one hundred and four pounds.  Do the math.  I became seriously obese in my sixties.  I am still overweight for my small frame and height, just not grossly so.  But, the need for the pain killer of food is still my current challenge.

Certain personalities are susceptible to emotional stresses in different ways than many others are. They are not only over-sensitive to slights or criticisms of themselves, but imagine others are also, and take on everyone else’s presumed pain.  I remember getting stomach cramps every time a teacher got onto any pupil.

 Also, some people’s ability to visualize wonderful possibilities, makes them idealistic and inclined to judge themselves and others as falling short.

The positive side of this is that when they have enough talent and brains, to actually gain influence, they can make a difference and make life better for many.  But, the need to make a major difference in the world, produces a chronic sense of failure for many, while also tending to make them unsatisfied with the lack of vision and achievements of organizations they are involved in. Thus alienating them from others and creating an even greater sense of failure.  Some of us “do not work and play well” with others in organizations or even religious institutions.

There are obvious addictions, some more destructive than others.  But many go unrecognized or appear harmless.  An addiction to shopping doesn’t do much harm, if you are rich, but can destroy solvency and relationships, if you are not.  An addiction to judging others can pass as righteousness, when it actually simply serves to distract us from our own unrecognized pain over our failure to be the person God has created us to be.

 Not only is nobody perfect, but nobody ever manages to become perfect.  We are all different. And the areas, that we each are being called to grow free in, will not be on the same life schedule as someone else’s. In the gospel of Matthew we are called to be perfect only in forgiveness, of ourselves and others, which requires ongoing admission of failure and repentance on our part, until our last breath.  And paradoxically, I believe that takes knowing we are loved totally.

An addiction to cleaning house can seem virtuous, unless it makes life miserable for everyone else, or requires time that is needed for something else God is calling us to do or be.  Workaholics frequently end up divorced.  Addiction to affirmation leads people to be chameleons, who then have a difficult time discovering whom God has created them to be.  The list goes on and on.  Whatever need controls us, no matter how positive the results may seem, is an addiction and will keep us from becoming the person God created us to be.

Working with the elderly, it’s become obvious that many are unable to accept help and can’t find peace, when they can no longer do for others.  That may sound virtuous, but it’s not, when that is no longer whom God is calling us to be.  When we are being called to be still and not only KNOW that He is God, but to be empty enough to be filled with Him, to become one with Him, then even just hating not being able to do for others, will defeat finding that which is actually the pearl of great price we all seek.

We cannot get rid of our addictions by ourselves and we can’t get rid of them all at once.  There are seasons of life and there are times we are called to new freedom in specific areas. It takes recognizing our own addictions, however subtle or harmless seeming, so that we can accept the grace to get free.  In other words, we have to work to cast the log out of our own eye, before we even think about judging someone else.  Self-awareness is the basic need for ongoing conversion, for letting Jesus truly become Lord of our whole selves.

I am still finding that is a full time job at seventy-five, even though I accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord at thirty.  Letting Him be Lord of our whole self, even the parts we don’t want to see, is a lifetime job and only He will know when we’ve become the unique, loved, but still imperfect person, that He created us to be, so we get to go home.

The Spirituality of Age

Here are a seven books published by Upper Room Books that have been very helpful to me in both finding God and purpose in aging, and also in helping those in nursing homes, or others having loved ones dealing with the losses and frailties of age.

Three books by Missy Buchanan: Living with Purpose in a Worn-out Body, Aging Faithfully, and Talking with God in Old Age.

Two books by Jane Marie Thibault, A Deepening Love Affair, and Ten Gospel Promises for Later Life.

Kathleen Fischer: Winter Grace

Richard Morgan: With Faces to the Evening Son

Missy Buchanan’s three books and Richard Morgan’s one are designed for daily meditation and prayer and make very good gifts for the elderly.  They are all realistic, not saccharine, but uplifting and motivating.