Monthly Archives: June 2013
Once again, a miracle: I, of the erratic memory, did remember to join in praying for peace this Sunday evening. I am unexpectedly peaceful about being a part of this. I decided long ago that inner peace is quiet joy. And that is exactly the gift this experience brought me. I got so caught up in prayer and reflection that I lost track of time. Prayer for both my own and others’ broken relationships stretched out as I thought of more and more needing healing. When I reached the stage of praying for peace for all people, because of my own recent experience of reconciliation, I actually felt hopeful that events small or large would begin to happen in the lives of every person to help them become a tiny bit more peaceful. It made me want to not only persevere, but to gather more and more others to commit to praying for peace on a regular basis.
This year, when Kozo, through his ‘B4Peace’ blogging project, invited us all to begin blogging about peace at least once a month, it challenged me to become more open and committed to the healing of some broken personal relationships. My most serious alienation happened about two years ago and had not only gone unresolved, but had caused complications with other relationships. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but if I was going to write about peace, I needed to at least start dealing with my own conflicts.
As I began praying for the grace to let go of my bitterness and allow God to heal the hurts that fed it, I was invited by friends to participate in a Spiritual Growth Class based on the book, Soul Feast, by Marjorie Thompson. I read the book and found it challenging and exciting, but one of the two facilitators of this class would be the man whose words had both wounded me and set off the very painful chain of events that resulted in more broken relationships. It hit me that this might be the answer to my prayer for grace and healing, so I joined the class, but chose a seat safely far down the long table from my adversary.
For several months, we managed to interact civilly, but cautiously. We tiptoed around anything relating to our controversy, while finding shared ideas on spirituality. I could tell that both of us were truly trying to apply the insights in the book.
Out of the blue, a conflict developed between my male nemesis and the female co-facilitator. He quickly became so defensive and verbally combative, that she left in the middle of the class. No one knew what to do, but when he began to just go on with the class, as if nothing had happened, I asked if we could pray for our friend who was hurting. I said that I didn’t believe any of us really wanted to hurt each other, but Christians or not, conflicts happened, and we all needed grace for healing. We said a simple prayer for healing of hurt and then we went on with the class.
Within two days time they had reconciled completely. He had called her after class. Though she didn’t take his call while she was still furious, by the next day, she had prayed her way through to understanding and forgiveness, and so had he when she went to see him.
As I witnessed this, I immediately realized that I should have gone to him soon after being hurt, explained how I felt, and trusted God to give us the grace to overcome our differences. But, I also recognized that I hadn’t, because he had unwittingly blundered into my worst minefield of insecurity. Now, in praying about and coming to grips with that particular personal demon, I finally experienced a greatly needed new freedom. Then, I was not only able to reconcile with him, but to share with our class how powerful seeing the human frailty of our co-facilitators being healed by their commitment to love was.
I don’t think any words in a book or sermon could have had that power. We really are called to flesh out the gospel for others, not by pretending to be perfect, but by our commitment to forgiveness. I am now praying and working on reconciliation of the other broken relationships set off by this one. Thanks again, Kozo for challenging me to do this.
Not long ago, one of my friends mentioned that she no longer had fingerprints. They had worn off. So, several others of us in our late seventies and early nineties checked, and discovered that ours had all pretty much worn off also. The thought that we could turn to a life of crime now tickled our fancy.
As we speculated about this, mental pictures of us attempting to rob a bank had us laughing helplessly.
Our scenarios varied from the image of us making our getaway on our walkers at a snail’s pace, to attempting to escape with one of us waving a water gun around, another holding the money bag, while the third struggled and had to ask the guard to open the door.
Another possibility got us howling. Since I’m the only one of us able to drive anymore, but am also known for distractibility and erratic short term memory, the others pictured themselves waiting helplessly outside the bank clutching the money bags, after I had been tempted away by a Sale sign and forgot all about them.
Another likelihood was all of us forgetting where we had parked the car. And we were pretty sure that we would be nervous and have to ask to use the bank’s bathroom before leaving.
We decided we had missed our chance for a life of crime, printless or not.
Awesome gift of hope for a rich adult life filled with love for those with severe Aspergers
My life raising kiddos has been full of excitement, as well as challenges. Steven has been my most difficult child to raise. The 7th child born to a woman who was mentally ill and addicted to crack cocaine and heroin, we took Steven home from the neonatal unit as soon as he was able to be released. He was unbelievably “messed up”. (Don’t you just love my knowledge of medical terms?) He cried constantly, his whole body twitching. Once I learned to swaddle him tightly in a baby blanket, keep the room dark, and talk in a whisper, he could tolerate my presence. To touch him lightly would make him scream in pain, but cuddling him strongly, the deep pressure somehow calmed him.
Whether due to the drug exposure, or just because his birth mom was mentally ill, Steven exhibited extreme symptoms of ADHD, autism, bi-polar disorder, sensory…
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Human beings are complex and we vary greatly in numerous ways from one another.
We come into the world different because of our genes, personalities, genders, types of intelligence, talents, birth order, parents, health, looks, racial and ethnic differences, and many more variables. A mother can name numerous differences noticed in their first six weeks of life between any two or more of her children, and a kindergarten teacher can tell quite a lot of differences between the children in her class by the end of the first week.
Most strengths have a corresponding weakness. Extroverts are naturally better at talking than listening. It’s the opposite for introverts. Some children will notice and remember details about things in a room, others will remember more about the people. Some people are more visual and others more verbal. Some are more concrete and others theoretical. None of these natural strengths are better than others, in and of themselves, but life requires us to develop survival skills in all of them.
In the early part of our lives we will tend to use and hone our strengths, but as we mature into adults, life will throw us challenges in our weaker areas. The hardest part is that to develop what might be called our inferior or weakest trait, we have to let go, even “die” to our strength. It resonates with the biblical call to die to self. When life throws us into situations requiring capabilities that are not only undeveloped, but unnatural for us, we become aware of an increased need for grace. Again, the sequence of traits needing development will vary from person to person at different life stages, but often in recognizable patterns.
When we reflect on the Spiritual aspects of traits (virtues) and the seemingly almost individualized pattern of development of them, we realize that most of us, if not all, will be immature (unfinished) spiritually in some areas even close to the end of our lives. And that where we need to grow may be the exact opposite of our spouse, friend, or even a mentor.
We grow more or less in a circle to reach wholeness or holiness. Our patterns of growth are so varied, that though we can learn from each other, no one is ahead on some sort of ladder of spiritual achievement. And sometimes the things we say sound so opposite that it’s hard to realize that both may be true. A specific decision based on rules may be the same as that decision based on values, but it can also turn out to be different. It helps, if we can learn to both articulate our reasons, and listen across the differences. Hearing across differences isn’t easy any time, but there’s more possibility later in life, when both decision makers have become developed enough in their weakest area to be able to value what once was foreign, even threatening.
When Jesus was ready, God sent people to challenge his assumptions, to grow and change even in his understanding of his ministry. Jesus was able to be open to the ideas of an unusual assortment of people, women without credentials, men from outside his ethnic or religious group, even those considered the enemy. We are called to be like Jesus, to not close our mind to the possibility that God is using an unlikely person to call us to a new way of seeing.
If Jesus was about anything, it was that every person matters, no matter how socially unacceptable, how sinful, how irritating, how foreign, how old, how handicapped, or even how sick and contagious.
Jesus just flat out said that whatever we do to anyone, we do to him.
He also said, that in the family of God, when one suffers, all suffer. When one is diminished, all are.
And when he washed the disciples feet, he made it clear that ministry is about serving, not power.
Being ostensibly “religious” is no guarantee that we are not missing the whole point of Christianity.
I was born lacking a sense of direction, blind to physical details, and inclined to value feelings more than logic and intuition more than facts.
The up-side of this is a gift for seeing creative possibilities and having the motivation to implement them for making people happier.
The down-side is having to always leave the house early, because you know you will end up taking a “scenic” route no matter how many times you’ve been there before and the odds are it will take at least fifteen minutes to find your car to get home from any parking lot.
When my friends and I began hitting retirement age, even those who were born with internal GPS’s and a penchant for noticing and remembering the exact number and level of parking spaces, seemed to be “losing” those enviable talents.
“Hooray!” I thought, “I can finally blame my inadequacies on age and won’t have to put up with my friends rolling their eyes whenever I get caught wandering about in my usual fog.”
My children have always said that no one will notice if I am losing it, since I never had it together.
I can still drive, while two friends, who were there for me when my life was in crisis years ago, no longer are able to drive. One lives with her daughter out in the country. Her daughter works full time, so Barbara is house bound all week.
My other friend, Hilde, lives fifty miles away in a very nice nursing home. Her daughter also works, so she spends most of her time reading in her room alone.
I have felt so blessed that I have the chance to be there for them by taking each of them out to lunch, window shopping, to a botanical garden, or art museum at least once a week. Both of them need to use a walker and I sometimes also need one for walking very far. Because of the distance between their residences and the complication of so many walkers, I usually take each of them out separately on different days each week.
Last week was shortened by a holiday with family and a trip out of town, so I decided to attempt taking them both out to the delightful Aquarium Restaurant in a huge mall about sixty miles from my house.
Whether from delusion or the onset of senility, I decided that I would be able to find it easily since I had been there several times before. NOT!
I parked close to what I thought was the mall entrance closest to the restaurant.
We just took their two walkers, because I wasn’t having any pain that day.
Naturally, I had mixed up the entrances and we found ourselves with a longer walk than we usually attempt. Since it wouldn’t take much longer than going back to the car, reloading and then unloading the walkers again at the next entrance, we made our way slowly through the crowded mall, with a few pauses to get our breath. But our two hour lunch made it worthwhile. The food was delicious and the fun of watching all the unusual fish was an interesting change from our normal days.
To save my friends from the longer walk, I positioned them seated on their walkers at the nearest exit, while I walked back to get the car. About the time my hip began to protest my pace, I realized that I had turned the wrong way and needed to retrace my steps back to where I left Barbara and Hilde and then go on to the next exit where we had parked. By the time I got back to Barbara and Hilde, both my hips were protesting painfully, so I just went on without stopping to tell them what I had done. A big mistake.
As I headed back through the mall, the pain became so severe that I had to find a chair and sit down for a few moments. Neither of my friends has a cell phone, so there was no way to let them know this was going to take a much longer time than we expected. The pain would let up and I would start walking again as long as I could bear it. Then I would find something to sit on for a few minutes. I finally made it to the right exit and went bravely out into the hot sun. No car anywhere. I felt sure I had parked very close to the door and in plain sight from it. By now sweat was running down my face and my hip pain was tempting me to sit down on the pavement until someone offered to help. As usual I had waited until I despaired to begin praying.
As I finally prayed, it occurred to me that a large SUV had pulled in between my car and the entrance and was completely blocking it from view. Thanks be to God! I made it to the car and turned it toward the exit where I hoped my friends were still waiting.
I thought I remembered a Mexican Restaurant at that entrance, so I watched for the sign. And drove and watched and drove and watched and drove and watched, until I realized I had no idea where I was or where my friends were. I turned around illegally, then noticed the police car stopping across from me. I just kept going, driving slowly and praying desperately that I could find them without having to call in the police. I finally spotted them still waiting inside the doors to an entrance next to a Macaroni Grill, not a Mexican Restaurant.
Well they both start with an M.
They wheeled out to the car at warp speed, asking anxiously if I was all right. I threw the walkers into the back and sped off, determined to put distance between me and the police. As I described my adventures, my friends nodded empathetically.
I asked Barbara what she would have done, if I hadn’t returned when I did. She said there was a security policeman near-by and she was getting ready to give him my cell phone number and ask him to call me. I breathed a sigh of relief. The oldest of us three, Barbara at ninety, still had her wits about her.
Of course, when I finally got home, I realized that I hadn’t turned my cell phone on that day.
The challenge now is to convince their daughters that I’m not losing it. I’ve simply never had it together, but somehow I’ve always managed to get us all home safely as long ago as Hilde and my adventures getting lost consistently in our twenties and my doing the same with Barbara in my fifties.
If they think I’m senile, our days out may be cancelled. No more using age as an excuse for natural flakeyness.
God does not need our praise or even our worship. Rather, we need to praise and worship God. Praise and worship lift our hearts and minds beyond our tiny selves. They open us to the glory of God; infinite beauty, truth, power,goodness, tenderness, and love.
As we grow in our ability to focus on God, we simply overflow with the love of God for others.
This is not only the point of worship, this is the purpose of our lives.