Category Archives: Necessary Losses

Sources of Grace for Scary Times

This is a break from my series, because so many of us are struggling right now with fear and depression:

So, I am being redundant – again. (That’s a lot of redundancy.)

My two hands-down favorite authors of a spirituality rooted in Jesus, but not religion, are Henri Nouwen and Anne Lamott.

Henri Nouwen writes incredibly healing and understandable theology saturated with the love of God. He chose to spend the latter years of his life living in a community for the mentally handicapped. For an introduction and short overview of his writing, I recommend,” A Spirituality of Living.” Also another short book: Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, which changed some of my deeply rooted prejudices. ¬†He was a Catholic priest, but wasn’t limited by it. ūüôā

For our nitty-gritty stuggle to live a grace filled life, I don’t think there’s a better author than Anne Lamott. Anne’s spiritual journey has been through alcoholism, abortion, single motherhood, great losses, and a terrible bitterness toward her mother on to the freedom of self- honesty, the grace of humor, and an¬†always growing acceptance of others. She finds this amazing grace from a personal relationship with a risen Jesus, who is still calling us, healing us, walking with us, forgiving us, and suffering for and with us. I think she belongs to a small Presbyterian church with a woman minister. Or it might be non-denominational or both. She’s definitely eclectic in her spirituality. She has written novels, but I much prefer her autobiographical books. She is the most personally honest writer I’ve ever read. Here are several of her books: Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, Grace (Eventually). She also has a marvelous face-book page that will share to your own page her day to day struggles with discouragement over our current political situation.

I realize that we are all very different and these authors might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I am by personality focused on relationship, but not everyone is. These authors’ writings are what help sustain me in my journey by always reminding me of my greatest (though not, only) source of grace, the Love of God expressed in Jesus.

Expensive Grace

Anything that annoys you is teaching you patience. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Anyone who abandons you is teaching you how to stand up on your own two feet. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Anything that angers you is teaching you forgiveness and compassion. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Anything that has power over you is teaching you how to take your power back. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Anything you hate is teaching you unconditional love. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Anything you fear is teaching you courage to overcome your fear. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Anything you can’t control is teaching you how to let go.
Jackson Kiddard Quotebook.in

Without Jesus, I’d Just Lie Down and Become a Speed Bump

I stay on the edge of just being totally overwhelmed with sadness about every level of life. Struggling to do the simple task I set myself of gathering information, mostly by computer, on local homelessness and what is being done to help has shown me just how inadequate I am at simple tasks. If there is any way to complicate simple tasks, I seem to find it. And my love/hate relationship with my computer brings me to my knees daily. Not being able to remember the name of the street where I live when I was asked yesterday, didn’t exactly help my sense of competence. Seeing how overwhelming the problems are for so many, who live on the precipice of homelessness even here in a small town, is heartbreaking and scary. Across America the waiting list for any sort of housing with government help ranges from one to ten years. The money is there, the housing is not. Watching America become controlled by fearful haters with no real perception of ¬†either the immediate consequences of their actions on innocent people or the long range global political and economic destabilization ¬†is devastating. Recognizing how un-Christ-like Christianity has become, or perhaps how blind I have been to the fact that most Christian groups have never been like Christ, makes me question who will bring Christ to the young now. Dealing with the ever increasing problems of aging, both mental and physical, and realizing they aren’t going to get better doesn’t help me wake up rejoicing. Insurance policies are our largest expense each month, but still having to pay over $400 dollars for just one heart medicine for a month, makes me wonder which will run out first, my husband’s heart or our money for the medicine. Realizing that our next line of defense, our children, some how got old while we have been busy worrying about ourselves, makes me both nervous and sad. They are already having many of the same problems we are.
But recently my teen-age granddaughter, Sophie, told me about a girl at her school who was having a screaming match with another girl and finally shouted, “If I didn’t know Jesus, I’d knock you on your ass!”
Well, friends, if I didn’t know Jesus, today I’d just lie down and become a speed bump.
But, God bless God, Jesus hangs in there even with wusses like me. Thanks be! ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†PS Sorry, I realize this was garbage dumping. But I do feel better. I promise I’ll write something more hope filled soon. ¬†Sometimes, I just have to defuse the inner boiling bubbles by letting them out and looking ¬†them straight in the eyes.

The Last Season

The last season of life
is not meant for pleasure
but for letting go of everything
of getting freed for joy
letting go of delusions
of importance
of great success
even perfect love
letting go of illusions
about life’s purpose
and rewards
letting go of dreams
of angels close at hand
of reaching
the promised land
until all that’s left
is the present moment
and no matter how hard
it may seem
to forget self                                                                                                                                                          and focus on others
not as an achievement
just a choice
accepting that love
is full of pain
no happy endings
promised
no jeweled crowns
or streets of gold
long awaited as
just rewards
for persevering
through suffering
all this lost for the bliss
of  finally seeing
The Glory of God.

The Winter of Age

Bare boned skeletons
no extras, not a bit of fluff
nothing hidden, just the basics
the black and white of it
simplified and stark
light and dark
beauty in contrast
truth in paradox
no more pretend
what is………is.

The Narrow Gate

My memories collide with one another,
congesting into
higgley-piggley log jams
in my mind.
Complexity clutters my understanding
and confusions of
cobwebs cling to my bold
broken dreams.
Creativity thickens and congeals,
dwindling into small,
fallow pools clotted with
frustration.
Idols of old truths and securities
crack from the weight of
my twin to Thomas doubt and
Judas fear.
Now, a voice within gently warns me,
“Narrow gate ahead!
You must not be afraid
to let go.”
So, in this present moment I must trust
my inner Spirit
to transform even this
suffering,
with her woman’s powerful compassion
that can turn empty deserts
into hearts fertile
from her tears.

EON 1991

Spirituality fulfills the Law: The Beatitudes

Spirituality is foreign to us, because it is paradoxical and few of us have had training in grasping paradox. We’re faced with the challenge of choosing to lose so we can win and die so we can live. And that takes grace rather than logic, morals, or ethics.
Opening to grace requires admitting we need it. And that’s the leap of faith that jump starts our spiritual journey.
The following are my paraphrases of the Beatitudes. I have translated the word “blessed” as meaning “open to grace.” ¬† ¬† The originals are in Matthew 5:3-11
The Beatitudes
Graced are the poor in spirit for they are not filled with self-righteousness, so they are able to be open to God.
Graced are those that accept the pain of loss for they will find the Comforter’s joy within instead of settling for ¬†pleasure to escape pain.
Graced are those who do not need to own or control anything, for they are free to enjoy the beauty of everything.
Graced are those who know and regret that they are imperfect, for they are free to accept Jesus as their righteousness.
Graced are those who recognize the log in their own eye, for they can accept the unconditional love of God and grow more and more able to love imperfect humans, including themselves.
Graced are those who are focused on God, for they will see God everywhere.
Graced are the peacemakers, because no cause or group owns them; they belong only to God.
Graced are those persecuted for Jesus’ sake, for they know Jesus.
Graced are the falsely accused and rejected, for they learn to need only God.

These are the truths Jesus taught that fulfill the law.

To Be or Not to Be a Curmudgeon? That is the Question of Age.

Sometimes the temptation to give up the struggle to not let old age torture us into a twisted version of ourselves is overwhelming. And while some of us may have been that way from birth or soured when old age put paid to our unrealistic expectations, I know from my own and my husband‚Äôs daily jousts with life, that for the naturally hopeful ‚Äď running out of physical strength, mental acuity, and the illusion of better future possibilities ‚Äď casts a funeral pall on hope. You really only have two choices to help you bear the reality and sadness of limits in old age: be angry about everything all the time or learn to focus on the beauty of God in the small things in each moment while reveling in the pure grace of laughing at ourselves.

Too Old to March, but Not Too Old to Be a Small Part of Solutions

I spent the day cleaning our three bedroom apartment in spurts of about five minutes with fifteen minute rests due to back and arm pain. At this rate, the day I finish the last room, the first will be furry again!
At seventy-nine, I’m not exactly spry. And if you want me to remember something, you better write it down. Neither am I affluent enough to donate a significant amount to any charity. But I am not dead yet.
My women’s group at my small church are mostly between their late sixties to late seventies with a sprinkling in their eighties and one ninety-four year old. None of us are very financially affluent, but we have been disturbed by hearing of more and more single mothers and even grandmothers raising grandchildren who are living hand to mouth in roach motels in constant danger of ending up homeless. We couldn’t figure out what we could do, Several other churches are serving free meals either monthly or even weekly. We were pretty sure we couldn’t take that on by ourselves. So, I started gathering information both on people needing help and what various groups are doing already. It turns out that there are a lot of people wanting to help, but almost no communication between groups or publicity on what’s being done. But there are ways to connect with most local groups on line, so I’m finding groups with facilities but no volunteers, and other groups with funds and food but no system of transportation. I’m beginning to reach more and more organizations and I plan to share the information in an email newsletter to both those with ministries and also those who might be able to help them, plus give it to the newspaper and radio stations. I got side tracked by the holidays, but now the project is picking up speed.
Whether this helps will depend on others’ responses, but at least I found a way to try to help that was within my physical and mental limits.
Also I can still drive, even at night, so I have started going to the NAACP meetings and will also be going to my local political party meetings. And if there seems to be a way for my LOL (little old lady) friends to help at those, I will be able to give them rides to the meetings.
I am not sharing this to brag and I am well aware that with my husband’s and my health problems, what little I am doing might come to an abrupt halt.
What I am trying to do is encourage people like me with limited resources, but free time, to be creative in exploring ways to make a difference in these challenging times. Most men and women under sixty -five and many over that age are working full time. Churches and other Charitable and Political organizations are desperate for volunteers. Our local Help Center needs people to just sit and check expiration dates on canned goods and use a sharpie to mark through the bar codes. If we can’t use a computer, we can do telephoning. If our memories are scatty, we can write down instructions. Our society’s needs may be great, but many joining together to help in small ways can make a difference. We can find a way, no matter what our limits are. Joining with others strengthens our commitment. ¬†And joining with God in prayer at every step of the way empowers us.

This Life: Appetizers Only

During a Jungian inner journey in my late fifties, I had a very vivid dream. My husband and I were in a dining room on a boat on a river cruise. They brought us a series of small appetizers one at a time, which my husband ate with great pleasure, but I ignored while waiting for the main course. At some point, I realized there would be no main course. I was furious and went searching the boat for another dining room. When I found one, they only brought me an apple, which I threw against the wall in frustration. I went out on the front deck of the boat to see where we were going just as it began to go through a dark tunnel which became so small that I had to hunch down as we went through it. I felt total despair at first, but became hopeful when I saw some light at the end of the tunnel. Since then I have learned to delight in and treasure the small joys of life, while accepting the pain of failures and disappointments that are part and parcel of being an imperfect human being in an imperfect world. I used to live focused on the future with its possibilities, missing both the joys and the grace available in the difficulties of the present. At seventy-nine, I am pretty much running out of future! But since that dream, I have had many experiences, both joyful and heartbreaking that have become grace for me. Life is about spiritual growth from living in awareness and finding meaning in the whole reality of the journey, not ego or worldly gains or idealized scenarios.

Heartbreaks that have brought grace:

The pain of loss filling me with hate, but persistence in prayer freeing me to let go and accept not only loss, but mine and others’ flawed humanity.

Letting go of past ways of experiencing tenderness and intimacy and becoming open to new ways of feeling deeply cherished even in my helplessness and physical pain.

Accepting that one of age’s delights, sharing laughter with the one I love the most, has an expiration date, because it brings on debilitating coughing spasms due to his progressive lung disease, then finding peace instead in quiet moments of just holding one another.

Letting go of the need for understanding, so I can begin to love instead of need.

Sadly recognizing my own vulnerabilities in the generations following me and knowing the pain these will bring them, but beginning to see that God can bring them through to joy as he has me time and time again.

Knowing that life will not get easier, but believing that grace will continue to bring the fruit of love from both heartbreak and joy.

Appetizers on the journey this Christmas season:

The tree full of cardinals outside our windows, children’s laughter, babies’ smiles, hugs from my husband Julian, people being kind and friendly in a crowded grocery store right before Christmas, Americans’ amazing kindness to the handicapped, Christmas decorations, Julian sitting quietly in the dark enjoying his Christmas village, both Leonard Cohen’s Halleluja and Handel’s Messiah, getting to do the sermon from the molehill at our worship service on Christmas day, our son Mike’s photos and delightful descriptions of his students at the Cambodian orphanage for children born HIV positive, our son Chris getting an interesting new job and so many people in Dickson telling me how wonderful he is, my suicidal friend now ministering to others, seeing friends find new hope in the person of Jesus without having to buy into the hang ups of any denomination, Tylenol taking away all my pain for a while, my loyal friend Margie being a constant in my life, my sister-in-law‚Äôs mouth-watering fudge cake, my first cup of coffee in the morning, Christmas memories on face book, our son Steve’s humor and willingness to take care of us Aged Parents in bizarre experiences in foreign airports, all of our grandchildren and great grandchildren, grandson Josh and wife Paula and seven year old Eisley‚Äôs adventurous spirits, grandsons Jordan and Jake‚Äôs caring hearts and courage, Nativity scenes, granddaughter Hadley so happy wearing her Unicorn Onesie at Norman Family Christmas, granddaughter Emma and her BFF talking and laughing non-stop in the back seat while I drove them to the mall, getting freed from my temporary insanity of hating someone by saying a prayer for love and peace each time while writing it on over a hundred Christmas cards, our teen-aged granddaughter Sophie hugging Julian whenever she sees him and laughing and discussing great books with nephew David, the HO HO HO‚Äôs ‚Äď my friends who are not afraid to color outside the lines, my very own fun super drummer boy great-grandson Aaron, our daughter-in-law Molly’s incredible ability to continue to love even those that bring her heartbreak, our daughter Julie’s infectious laughing attacks that we call ‚ÄúJulie moments‚ÄĚ, eight year old Bella’s unfettered enthusiasm for life, memories of waking up to a snow covered world, grown granddaughter Carmen‚Äôs resilience and lightning quick sense of humor, the delight of making vegetable soup to share with sick friends and the poor, becoming friends with our fascinating and loving cousin Mary Eleanor, my ninety-four year old friend, Barbara‚Äôs children coming to see her in shifts from all over America this Christmas season, grown up great grandson Ryan still having good memories of going downtown with me before the stores opened to earn nickels by sounding out words on signs, some people actually responding to my blogs, being able to keep up with my best friend from High School and College on line, getting to know interesting and friendly people in Canada, England, Nigeria, France, New Zealand and other countries across the globe through the internet, my Study Club women friends, who have miraculously bonded across huge differences in religion, politics, age, background, economics and interests.

These are just a few parts of the wonderful collage of my life that bring me seasons of joy in what sometimes momentarily seems like the ‚Äúcesspool‚ÄĚ of life. ÔĀä