Author Archives: Eileen
It seems impossible to forgive people like Hitler. But when the challenge comes from people like Archbishop Tutu and Corrie ten Boom, we know that with grace it can be done and that each of us is called to do this. Hard, but Jesus did it on the cross and calls us to follow him.
Grace for hard times comes in kindness, humor, and persistence.
I just saw in the obituaries that a very special person died. His name was Louie. I met Louie at a nursing home when I was staying there for the five months my husband was in rehab and then Hospice.
Louie was 89 then, but feisty! My first encounter was when I went to the rescue of Louie and his amazing daughter-in-law. She came every day to try to help Louie recover mobility and self-care skills. Louie was a challenge to take care of and he appeared to be purposely sliding down out of his wheel chair with her struggling to get him back up safely, so I came to her rescue. As I bent over to support him on the other side, he quickly kissed me on the cheek. His daughter-in-law was mortified and once we got him safe, apologized profusely. I laughingly assured her that in my eighties, it was a rare treat to be kissed sweetly on the cheek by an unknown gentleman.
My next encounter with Louie was when I was getting an ice cream treat for my husband and had parked my bright red rollator in the hall outside the tiny room with the refrigerator. When I came out, the rollator was gone. I looked up and down the halls and it was nowhere to be seen. Then I spotted the back of a wheel chair propelling itself rapidly down the hall and I sped up to get a better look. Sure enough, it was Louie propelling himself with his feet while he pushed the rollator at an amazingly fast clip. When I laughingly tried to re-appropriate it, he tightened his grip proving that the therapy on his hands was working. A nurse saw my problem and joined us, saying, “Oh, Louie, your hands look cold. Here, let me warm them up by holding them.” As she began to take his second hand, I could see Louie catch on to the trick, so I quickly grabbed the handles and took off down the hall!
Though I didn’t think Louie could speak, as I passed him sitting by the nurses station the next morning, I couldn’t resist teasing him. So, I stopped and said, “Louie, you stole my red rollator yesterday.” Louie’s eyes twinkled as he grinned and said clearly, “Yeah! I did, didn’t I?”
Louie had good days and bad days, but on his good days, I’d see him pushing his own black rollator rapidly across the parking lot making his daughter-in-law run to catch up with him. I often saw him working with a therapy block of things to twist, pull, push, and tie to regain dexterity with his hands.
Then, one evening when Louie was parked in his wheel chair slightly behind a man who had a support for his head and back attached to his own wheel chair, I realized Louie was working intently on loosening the screws that held the support on. I managed to put the other man’s chair with its back against the wall before I warned a nurse about the approaching danger from Louie’s successful rehab.
The last time I remember seeing Louie was a few days before my husband died. I had walked past him crying and when I came back past him, he said in a small voice with such a sad look on his face, “You were crying.”
I realize that if I had been responsible for Louie, I would probably not have such fond memories. But Louie helped me make it through a really hard time. After Covid came, I sent him a few cards kidding him about our encounters. I don’t know if he could read them or remember, but I hope so. I’m sad that I didn’t get to see him again.
The ocean swallows a grain of sand with each turning of the tide. It’s been happening for millennium. Progress is imperceptible in the blink of a human life span. It’s like the difference between watching a train go by from a mountain top or standing close to the tracks. But when we recognize our own oneness with the ocean it no longer matters.
During Advent each year, I pray daily, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Then I watch eagerly for special moments that help me recognize his presence.
Years ago, shortly before Christmas, my then almost four-years-old granddaughter spent the night with me. She had been diagnosed as having Autism at two. I asked God to somehow bless our time together. At that time, most words had no meaning for her. When we spoke to her, she either echoed what we said or resorted to a fast speed repetition of dialogue from a Disney video she liked. She could only express simple requests, mostly in sign language. This evening she set up her tea set on our kitchen table and to my surprise said clearly, “Have a tea party.”
So, she and I took turns pouring imaginary tea and saying, “Thank you” to one another. To break a long silence, I mentioned her little sister being sick. She responded by chattering incomprehensively to her image in the window, but then turned and looked at me and said clearly, “Cats go meow, dogs go woof-woof, cows go moo, and birds go cheep-cheep.”
I was both startled and touched, because she was describing the communication of others without language. And this was the longest understandable speech I had ever heard from her. Then, she yawned and a moment later smiled at me and said, “We go nighty-night.” Then she led me by the hand to our bed. There for the first time ever, she snuggled close and gently patted me saying, “Nighty-night.”
This amount of understandable verbal communication, direct eye contact, and her initiation of a physical show of affection and sustained physical closeness were completely new.
I thought of the Scripture in Second Corinthians where Paul quotes the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” With silent tears of joy, I recognized the presence of God and His grace within us. And my heart overflowed with love for my wonderful little granddaughter.
Here are the Blessings Beyond Measure that I have experienced in loving a handicapped child: Learning to love unconditionally. Recognizing that life is about becoming the person we alone were created to be. Wanting all others to succeed in their own journey. Experiencing sheer joy over others’ and our own small, but difficult achievements. Learning to live in the present moment. Finding freedom from living for image or others’ opinions. The gift of your own best self being called forth. Learning patience. Developing tenderness toward the vulnerable. Finding the courage to have humane values. Becoming able to see the beauty in those different from ourselves. Seeing with Jesus eyes.
What Will We Remember
what matters in the long run
of fading strength and memory
no longer clear or bright
do we know what counts
out of all the years of effort
and forgotten hopes let go-
what in our confusion lasts
perhaps a smile or tender kiss
the sweet sound of applause-
or windblown waves beneath
the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc
reminding us of heroes lost-
buildings designed and built
sermons preached on love
what we’ve written being read
songs relighting darkened hearts
lessons taught to children
actually changing lives-
matters it if loved by many
or one long love, now gone-
a special gift received or given
small kindnesses of others
a letter written to console
flowers when it’s least expected
laughter experienced as grace-
care-giving for the one you love
the letting go when it’s time
what will be remembered
when we’re on the other side?
This poet speaks to my condition!
We always bet
the world on Hope
although it has always been
a sort of Icarus-being
with its reclaimed wings
and hot-glue foundation.
We lay ourselves at its feet
and stare up into its eyes with love
although we know from its past
that it is likely to leave us
and soar until it crashes.
We spend too many days after that
staring at the ocean imagining we see it
struggling still and calling to us for rescue
even though each of us points
at a different spot and say we were certain,
this time, that we have it right.
Somehow in spite of all the times
we have found Hope’s soggy feathers on the shore,
all the time we have gone out in boats
to where we sure Hope was still afloat
and found nothing, we go back to the sea
and stare at the horizon, pointing first here,
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A very special memory of a grandchild opening his heart to Jesus.
Many years ago, I began on the first of the four Advent Sundays to pray “Come, Lord Jesus.” Then I watch expectantly for Him to become present in small, but recognizable ways in my heart and life. And most years my heart and mind are actually attentive enough to recognize His coming.
One Christmas Eve, our children and grandchildren were all at our home, surrounded by the friendly reds and greens of Christmas and delicious smells teasing from the kitchen. In one bedroom, a grand-baby snuggled into sleep, while in others whispering parents wrapped and ribbonned Santa secrets. Only Granddad was missing, out doing his traditional Christmas Eve shopping.
As excited older grandchildren were setting out to explore the woods and creek, I was making a clean up sweep through the holiday chaos. And one preschooler, too young for exploring and too old for a nap, went from room to…
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This is in response to the Making Sense pod cast by Sam Harris. In “The Key to Trump’s Appeal” Sam says it is his unabashed acceptance of his own human wants and weaknesses without worrying about the fall out for others. He frees people from shame and guilt. Where the Democrat intellectuals come on strong in moral judgement and an obvious sense of superiority.
I do think the obvious superiority complex of intellectuals has always alienated large parts of the population and this explains Trump’s appeal to a segment of the population. I remember the intellectual Democrat presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. I thought this description funny, but fitting: “Adlai looks at people like they are side dishes he didn’t order.” A lot of times even the use of erudite language intimidates and frustrates the average person.
But not sure Harris’ explanation fits the educated mid-to upper middleclass Trump supporters. For them, it seems to me to be about who gets their hard-earned tax money and the abortion issue gives their fight religious credibility.
I’ve been arguing for many years that both the Republicans and the Democrats are slowly, but surely eliminating the middle class.
And for many hardworking blue collar, lower middle class, who used to have some power through unions, physical violence has always been their last resort in desperation.
Now as a “little old lady” without either sex appeal, the security of accumulated money or the ability to still earn it, and having outlived all my “connections” with power, I am beginning to experience being considered not only invisible, irrelevant, a waste of time and money, but a nuisance. And it is bringing out the Trump in me! Seriously. I am having to battle my own hatred. I have to struggle when in public to suppress my own tendency to violence. I drag myself to the grocery at six in the morning for safety. Recently, when three, twenty something of age, over six feet tall men, not wearing masks came laughing and walking three abreast toward me in the grocery aisle, something snapped. And I lowered my head and picking up speed ran my grocery cart straight at them. They looked astonished as they scattered abruptly when I was inches away. I was on a high for days from it. I felt powerful and thrilled by the shock on their faces. I finally recognized that I had joined the ranks of the violent. But haven’t had much luck regretting it. And after months of dealing with the greed and intimidation techniques of insurance conglomerates after Julian died, I now dig in and do my best to be a thorn in their side without hurting the innocent, powerless workers who have to deal with the public. I really think that other than the bizarrely rich and those at the bottom living off the government, every other economic level is feeling oppressed and basically like they are being screwed by the other economic groups. Trump has legitimized the violence of our anger. And sadly, made the smallest marginalized groups easy targets as outlets for it. And though I reject this intellectually and morally, I understand it, and have to constantly struggle against it myself.
My husband and I were as different as both and when he died we had been married a month short of sixty years. For about twenty years we gave marriage preparation talks about differences in spirituality, values, interests, focus, family influences, and problem solving techniques. One of the first things he always said was, “I don’t understand Eileen at all, but I accept her as she is.” But he also valued my mind and gradually I helped him outgrow his Southern prejudices. He helped me to understand the need to temper ideals with realism. In this life, we can only inch toward the perfect. And we learned to work together well enough to raise five both intelligent and kind kids who are totally different from each other and also from one or both of us. And they are all awesome.
If we do not accept our differences as gifts and learn to understand each other and use our differences for the good of all, America will not ever be GREAT or KIND, never-the-less both. We, BOTH SIDES, are destroying America because we will not let go of our need to win in order to struggle to learn to work together. And the first thing we have to learn is how to dialogue (express and listen) without demonizing each other.
Several decades ago, Julian and I were given the task by our Diocese of creating materials for a six weeks class on Capital Punishment. He was 100 % for capital punishment and I was 100 % against. As we both read through all the materials with statistics and stories of people being executed and later through DNA found to be innocent and the large majority of them being black, Julian began to change his mind.
At the same time a friend of mine’s sister was murdered and decapitated and buried without her head, which was never found. The white man accused of the murder (with plenty of evidence) had already served time for rape and torture once, been released, and attempted the rape/murder of another woman a second time, and again served time, but was paroled. He was obviously mentally defective. He had chains connected to the metal floor of the cabin of his truck. Some years before this, my son and his wife had been giving this man rides to work, not knowing his history. When my son changed jobs, his wife had driven the man to work alone. This issue was now up close and personal for me.
I decided our justice system was defective and I wanted people like this man to be kept on death row. And that DNA and all the groups protesting Capital Punishment would manage to deter the death sentence for innocent people. But the insane wouldn’t be allowed to rape, torture, and kill again.
Most issues just aren’t simple or clear cut. And there are no perfect people, so no perfect systems or solutions. We aren’t God and this isn’t heaven. But our best bet for improving things is recognizing that there are two legitimate sides to issues and to work together to come up with a still imperfect, but better way to handle them at least for our times.
The Martha and Mary story with Martha doing the work to feed everyone, while Mary sat with the men and listened to Jesus has always bothered me. Even though I definitely identify with Mary and see this as a clear indication that Jesus saw women as equal to men, it seemed rather unfair.
Going through some of my old journals, I found somethings that have helped remind me of what I have let myself forget.
There is a big difference in “natural” gifts and “spiritual” gifts. Recognizing our need to listen to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit and developing the habit of doing that is how we become able to seek the kingdom of God first and trust that our physical needs will be provided. This is so counter intuitive, that when I don’t daily seek God, I lose perspective and fall back into fear and trying to fix things myself even after all the miracles I’ve experienced. I seem to have Spiritual Alzheimer’s.
In my early days after a conversion from agnosticism to a personal relationship with Jesus as the human expression of the Love of God, I stayed immersed in the Scriptures and prayer for hours each day and my first response to challenges was prayer and then scriptures came to mind that related to what I was facing.
I’m going to begin sharing some small experiences as appetizers before I share some of the struggles at the beginning of my search for meaning and finding God in Jesus.