Category Archives: Prayer

Grieving Life’s Diverse Losses

Today I am realizing that when our children or couples we love divorce, there’s a mourning period involved. Particularly with friends that we only knew when they were married. We have to mourn and let go of those we have loved in relationship. It has nothing to do with thinking they should or shouldn’t divorce. It just involves coming to grips with the differences.

With a child we knew and loved long before they married or divorced, we at least have something to look back to, but not with the spouse that we only knew as a unit with our child. They simply aren’t the same person now that we have only known. There really is a necessary time of mourning, particularly if we truly came to love them as part of that unit. And mourning involves the stages of grief…..denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I think recognizing this can help us not bog down hopelessly at any point in the process. I am also beginning to reflect on the possibility that we have to go through a similar process when either people we love or we ourselves change because of aging or illness.
I realize now that I need to cut myself some slack and take time to reflect on the effects of this recent period in my life that includes my own losses of abilities and joys through age and illness, my husband experiencing losses from these also, one of our adult children and a spouse that I loved deeply as a couple for many years now being divorced, and friends that I have loved and only known as a couple divorcing.
The last year and a half have simply been overwhelming and I have been bogged down in emotional denial of some of these things and in anger over others.
Hopefully, recognizing this  and my need for grace will help me move through to the peace of acceptance.

Connecting with God in the Hard Times through Praise

For the fourth Sunday of each month, I prepare and give the welcoming and introduction part of our worship service. I study the Lectionary Scriptures for that Sunday and prepare a short reflection and prayers as the introduction to the service.
I always start preparing ahead of time and try to listen to the particular Lectionary scriptures for that Sunday as if God is speaking to my own heart and situation. My Sunday in May was a few days after my husband’s surgery for lung cancer.
The first reading was from Acts 1 after Jesus ascended into heaven leaving his disciples praying together as they wait anxiously for the coming of the promised power of the Holy Spirit.
These Scriptures describe Christianity being born. The disciples are trying to learn to trust God even when they can no longer see Jesus. But when things are going badly, they still become anxious. Jesus has asked God to protect not only them, but all of us that follow him. So we, just like our brothers and sisters from the very beginning, can bring our fears to God. The followers of Jesus, not just in church on Sundays, but even through our internet connections, gather through prayer.
The second reading, 1 Peter, tells us to rejoice when we are sharing Christ’s suffering for we are blessed by the Spirit of God, resting on us. And after we have suffered a little while, the God of all grace will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish us.
Letting go of fear of suffering is a challenge that I often don’t manage until I’m overwhelmed. But, when I do, I have found that I can let go of my fear by praising and thanking God for all He has done for me. It is much better when I don’t wait for times of obvious blessings to praise and thank God. When I actually praise God in the hard times, I realize that then suffering can bring me closer to him. That praise particularly connects me to God. God doesn’t need praise, we need to praise God. It changes our focus and gives us a new perspective that opens our eyes to the blessings all around us.
Here are some generic possibilities for praise and thanksgiving in hard times that I included in my reflection and prayers for Sunday worship.
God, our father, we praise your glory. You are perfect beauty far beyond what I have ever seen. You are truth that transforms my faith and fills me with your Spirit. You are the life changing power of grace that gives me inner strength. You are perfect love that can heal my heart, mind, body, and spirit.
Thank you for the reflections of your glory that I see in the beauty of nature. Thank you for your Spirit increasing my faith by opening my mind when I seek your truth in the Scriptures. Thank you for grace that strengthens me when I pray in times of suffering. And thank you most of all for your perfect love expressed in Jesus that heals and opens my heart to You.

Since I am a devout coward and a congenital worrier, I often miss God’s call to praise and thanksgiving and have to become almost bedridden with the pain of Fibromyalgia before I remember to cast my cares on the God who loves me tenderly and unconditionally. But when I not only praise in such general things, but move on to specific large and small blessings, such as our children who give us such wonderful support, the plethora of bright red cardinals outside my window, songs of praise coming from within that lift my heart and mind to God, even strangers in doctors’ waiting rooms and people who connect with me across the world through blogs, that pray for us and I for them, and  perhaps most of all, the powerful surges of the sometimes forgotten tenderness I feel for my husband, then the grace of joy bubbles up from deep inside me and my heart joins my mind in giving praise to God.

Surgery Update

Julian’s lung surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, May 23rd. He has to be there at 6 am, but not sure of the actual surgery time. Heart and lung doctors and consultants all say his heart is fine and his pulmonary fibrosis has not progressed in the last year and so far it looks like the cancer cells are limited to one spot in his right lung. All prayers for my husband, Julian, greatly appreciated.

Another Hurdle! Another Miracle?

Wow. Sometimes I feel like one of those plastic blow up clowns with sand in the bottom….you can knock it down over and over, but it comes back up for more.
A year ago, shortly after I had a reverse shoulder replacement when I fell and broke my shoulder in three places, my husband was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. The idiopathic means they don’t know what causes it, so they don’t know how to cure it. It is progressive and the longest survival is usually five years from onset. We were pretty sure he had it for several years before diagnosis. Well, last year when he was hospitalized fighting to breathe for two weeks and growing extremely weak quickly, they sent him home worse than when he went in. He could hardly stand, couldn’t get out of a chair by himself and couldn’t walk any distance at all. All the muscle tone was gone from his legs. They were skeletal and weak. He started physical therapy and continues still. He can walk reasonable distances , stand, bend, and do the bicycle in therapy now. After his diagnosis last Spring, in the Fall he had another bout of a combination of allergies, sinus, asthma, with terrible coughing, but fast and aggressive treatment with antibiotics and steroids got him back on his feet and breathing in a few days. He works on a computer from home as an architect, often working six or even seven days a week. Our work comes in bunches, then stalls, but often deadlines come close together for a one man office.  Now a year after our disastrous Spring, I had to have spinal lumbar fusion surgery. I am still recovering from it. About three weeks ago, my husband once again started coughing and wheezing and fighting for breath, but the quick medical treatment again got him almost completely over it in a little over two weeks. Through all of these challenges, we have been supported in prayer by people of many faiths. The morning before he came down with the respiratory problems, he had his yearly lung check up with CT Scans and breathing tests. The doctor came back with miraculous good news: the idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis has not progressed any, since this time last year. But, then came the bad news: a spot on his lungs that was biopsied two years ago and declared benign has grown. So, he had another lung biopsy last Friday and it showed a tumor with some cancer cells. He gets PET Scans this week, hoping they will not show any cancer having spread, so they can just remove the tumor without radiation therapy.

I am convinced that gathering prayer from many praying people of diverse spiritualities has made a difference in the progress of the fibrosis. I don’t understand prayer, but I have witnessed miracles, and do believe that in some way we are partners with the power that created everything. My husband has become much more spiritual as he has gotten older and more aware of his own limits, and he has become much more involved in helping those in need.

Of course selfishly, I want him to live longer and have a good quality of life, but I also really believe that God isn’t finished helping him become the person he created him to be and is still wanting to use him for the good of others.

I also believe we are all connected….somehow we are one. So, whatever we do for or against anyone has an effect on all.  And when we join together in faith and caring, miracles can happen.
So, internet friends, if you are a person of prayer, please pray for my husband to become the person he was created to be and to be able to help others as he truly longs to do. And for me to be able to be a support for him in this.

And for all of us to realize that however small our faith is, when we join it together in caring for others, miracles can happen.

Thank you. Eileen

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. 🙂

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.

Christians Carry Two Passports

Christians carry two passports: one for the country in which we find ourselves, and another for that baptismal nation being made by God from all the nations.” Will Willimon applies Eberhard Arnold’s vision of the kingdom of God to the world we face in 2017:
Alien Citizens
The most revolutionary political statement we can make is that Jesus reigns; that God, not nations, rules the world: All political, all social, all educational, all human problems are solved in a concrete way by the rulership of Christ.
PLOUGH.COM|

MY TWO CENTS: Many of us have accepted Jesus as our Savior……that’s the easy part. Many of us have said we accept Him as our Lord (Ruler)…… that becoming a reality is the hard part. It takes at least a life time. We are often programmed by our parents and even more so by our culture to value many things that may not be evil, but in reality can become more important to us than the rule of God. Unlearning is harder than learning, because we don’t realize we need to do it.
Even “good” things can become idols. Sometimes we aren’t called to give up our values, but to turn them over to God and trust enough to hear Him just for the next step on our spiritual journey. This applies to Christians on both sides of any issue.

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’s 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’s adventurous spirits, grandsons Jordan and Jake’s 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’s – 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 “Julie moments”, eight year old Bella’s unfettered enthusiasm for life, memories of waking up to a snow covered world, grown granddaughter Carmen’s 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’s 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 “cesspool” of life. 

Thanksgiving Lallapalooza

We tried, but we couldn’t do it. The first holiday with their parents divorced was not going to be wonderfully happy for four young granddaughters, no matter what their grandparents tried to do. And Uncle Steve, our family’s designated-cheerer-upper, spent five hours in the Atlanta airport on stand-by trying to join us in Nashville. He gave up about one in the afternoon.
The day did have both fun and kind moments. A fun one happened while Julian and Tommy and the two younger girls were taking the boat tour around the main floor of the incredible Opryland Hotel. The two teens and I were waiting near the stream. While I was looking around at the extravaganza of Christmas decorations, I noticed a middle-aged looking man about to come down some steep steps across from us on the other side of the stream. He stopped at the top and looked around. No one was on the steps or nearby and I don’t think he saw us. So suddenly, he just sat on the middle banister and happily slid all the way down. Hadley and I spontaneously applauded, but he had hurried off. I’m thankful for that magical moment.
All four girls and Tommy had their picture taken with Santa. Hadley told Santa all she wanted for Christmas was a job. Bella said that she told Santa she wanted a particular game, but didn’t tell him it cost $75. While the girls were picking out a photo, Santa came all the way over to where I was sitting in a wheelchair to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas. I’m thankful for that sweet kindness.
The boaters, old and young, enjoyed the guide’s mix of funny and interesting information and the variety of sights on the boat ride. Bella spotted a pretend alligator in a nook. But by then, they all were hungry. The eating places in the Hotel are pretty expensive and crowded, so the girls used Google to find a Waffle House just across the road. I attempted a veto, but got over ruled. I am not a healthy eater and I love butter, but Waffle House must just pour extra grease over everything right before they serve it. Nobody ate much of their food. But seventeen year old Sophie and twelve year old Emma both had stomach aches, so Tommy took them home. Tommy is an amazing father in his balance of caring, discipline, and having fun with the girls. But I think it was stomach aches from sadness, more than Waffle House food, that sent them home.
Julian and I took nineteen year old Hadley and eight year old Bella back to Opryland. In an inside playground area, Bella rode a train around and around and around in a seriously boring circle, but she got to enthusiastically ring a bell very loudly all the way around the six loops, so she was happy. (The woman running the train, not so much.) We re-named her Bella, Bella, Bell Banger.
We then shopped in a Christmas Crafts and Gifts room. Bella tried on some fun jewelry and liked several bracelets that were just a little too big. I told her she had a twelve dollar budget, but she decided to wait until she had gone all around the rest of the Bazaar to decide. Which is to me an amazing choice of delayed gratification for an eight year old. She said finally that all she wanted was a dollar rock candy lollypop. Hadley didn’t see anything she wanted either. They are both surprisingly careful shoppers. Of course, I spent some money on small, but irresistible, handmade Christmas decorations for two homebound friends. They now mysteriously seem to have found their perfect place in our apartment.
About three o’clock Bella got tired and weepy, so we started back to where we had come in. I began pushing her on the walker I had been using now instead of a wheelchair. Before we got all the way back, my hip and knee began to hurt, so I ousted Bella and Julian took over pushing me along the pebbled concrete walk.
Unfortunately, we hit an unseen bump and the walker and I went over backwards. I did a two point landing, head first, then on my right hip. My head hitting the concrete made a horrible noise. Julian bent over reaching down to me and I thought he was going to try to pick me up and it scared me into screaming “No!” at him.. Poor baby, he was actually just trying to comfort me. People started gathering and the ones who had been close by were telling them what an awful sound my head had made when it hit the concrete. I was in serious pain, very dizzy, and nauseated. I didn’t think I could sit up without falling over. Luckily, a kind male nurse came to our rescue, checking the bruise and bump on the back of my head, asking me my name and other questions to see if I had a serious head injury. When I started to raise my head, he stopped me until we were sure my neck didn’t hurt. Finally, we all agreed for him, his friend, and Julian to lift me to my feet. The nurse apologized and promised he wasn’t trying to grope me, as he struggled to get a firm grip on me. I wanted to assure him that at my age groping wasn’t much of a hazard, but I needed to focus on getting my legs under me. Once on my feet, I was shaky, but able to stand. As Julian helped me make it slowly to the door, I realized that my glasses were missing, but Hadley had already retrieved them from where they had flown off. She is wonderful in an emergency. She went ahead of us opening doors. And while Julian went to get the car, she put her arm around me to keep me steady and then she helped get the walker into the car. Bella was upset for me, so I assured her I was going to be okay and I was just grateful that she hadn’t still been riding on the walker. Once we got into the car, I sat on one of the two ice packs I had brought in my small drink carrier and held the other to the bump on my head. Those ice packs were wonderful serendipities. I took two Tylenol and prayed all the way home for an exhausted and shaken Julian driving in surprisingly heavy traffic. By the time we got home, he was sorer than I was from so much walking and trying to pull me and the walker back up when we were going over. Between Tylenol and ice packs, I never really hurt unbearably and the sizeable bump on my head went down quickly. Next time, I’ll stick with the wheel chair instead of switching to my walker. It’s safer and I receive a lot of kindness, even from Santa, when I’m in it.
I am Thankful for the happy moments today. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful that Bella wasn’t the one hurt. I am thankful that I don’t seem to have any permanent or serious damage, because I hit the hardest part of me, the back of my head, and the most padded part, my backside. Since I have put on weight this year and most of it settled on my backside, I think I was spared a broken hip or damage to the already herniated disc and bone spur in my lower back. Amazing how many unlikely saving graces there are in the hard and scary times.
Day after the Lallapalooza, I am Thankful for: Julian was fully recovered by morning. He slept eleven hours and got up early to clear the living room for setting up the village. Our son Chris came and helped him all day.
I was able to sleep in spite of my bruises. I managed to get the turkey breast and gravy cooked and I had the vegetables already fixed.
I made absolutely no ‘to do’ lists.
I happily started playing Christmas music. I got to enjoy photos on face book of the girls decorating their dad’s apartment for Christmas. My head and backside and bad knee are only slightly sore.
Nausea has been my only strong after effect from my head bashing.
That the nausea helped me stick to my diet all day. It seems to be letting up. I should be able to lead worship service Sunday, even nauseated. Though that conjures up some scary mental pictures, if I don’t eat, all should be well.. And thanks be, no one sits in the front rows anyway. 🙂

Information and Advice Needed

We live in a small rural Southern town near a major East/West Interstate that connects with a North-South one. So, we have a growing homeless population, particularly as cold weather hits North of us.
We have a wonderful Help Center literally in the center of our downtown. But it is far away from the Interstate. Some of our churches, even small ones, are attempting to address the needs of the homeless. One larger one is considering starting a Room at the Inn program to give shelter as we too begin to have colder nights. This hasn’t come to fruition yet. Meanwhile they take a van around town with sandwiches and bottled water. Several other smaller churches have chosen different days to have free lunch programs each week. And another church had a coat/hat/ gloves/shoes and blanket give away just last weekend.
The problem right now is that the homeless living in wooded areas near the interstates are chased off pretty regularly, so it is a transient population without actual transportation.  1: They don’t know about what help is being offered. 2: They have no way to get to the help. None of the groups now offering help is actually reaching most of the homeless near our area.
One woman has begun an organization called House of Hope for New Beginnings which has attempted to purchase several different buildings to house, feed, clothe, enroll children in school and train the adults of homeless families for jobs. Their plan includes checking backgrounds and testing for drugs. But so far, they have been defeated by code conflicts and the city council. As they persevere in their search for an appropriate building, they are taking food and toiletry items to people living in a cheap motel on the edge of town that takes pretty much all their social security or disability money just for rent. Some of the younger people living there walk miles to work in fast food restaurants. Volunteers also take the people to medical care, enroll children in school, get mothers needing it into rehab, find foster parents for their children, and look for better cheap housing for families of as many as six living in one room.
A couple of our smaller churches of different denominations are considering the possibility of pooling our resources to buy a food trailer capable of cooking soups and stews for cold months and just fixing cold sandwiches in the warm weather for lunches. We wouldn’t try anything complicated or requiring deep frying. But we would need refrigeration and some sort of large electric cooking pots, and of course, a clean water tank, waste water tank, sinks, counter space and a generator.  We may be able to get extras like french bread, chips, some fruit, disposable dishes and silverware donated here.
I think most of the other churches currently attempting to feed the homeless would probably join in this effort. If we post flyers near the Interstate access roads, it shouldn’t take long to get the word out about the times and places the food trailer would be near more easily accessible areas.
What we need is advice and information from anyone with experience in this area of food trailers, permits needed, liability insurance, cooking equipment, size of generators needed for this size operation. And what we need to ask when searching for a used trailer online.  We know that air conditioning and heating would be needed normally, but the short hours of operation for probably just two sites near two Highway/Interstate intersections and tailoring our food to the temperatures hopefully will make this a luxury, rather than a necessity. Plus, having heat and air, while the homeless have neither, seems inappropriate.
If you know anything helpful for this project or can pass on sources of information, we would be very grateful. And all prayers greatly appreciated.
Eileen

I Pray for Grace

to get it right now that I am old.
to give love and joy, never heartbreak.
to hold all lightly, free to let go.
to seek God’s hand when I suffer.
to forgive others and be forgiven.
to have faith there is some great purpose,
an after- life better than this one.
to while still in dark, believe in light.
and to go with hope into the night.