Category Archives: Spiritual
My letter to Senator Alexander and his reply. What do you hear?
Dear Senator Alexander,
Tennessee’s exemplary Medicaid-funded Employment and Community First Choices program is enabling high school graduates with autism to work, pay taxes and contribute to the economy. Because Tennessee cared about individuals with disabilities, many are now living productive and active lives in our communities.
But, per capita caps, block grant funding, and Medicaid cuts, will seriously curtail this model program aimed at helping people help themselves instead of just being in custodial care.
Please find a way to keep helping the least of our citizens fulfill their potential and lead productive lives.
Eileen Norman (Grandmother of a 19 year old graduate with autism.)
Thanks very much for getting in touch with me and letting me know what’s on your mind regarding President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018.
Fiscal responsibility is about setting priorities and keeping spending in check while supporting and maintaining our country’s economic competitiveness and national security.
The president has suggested a budget, but, under the Constitution, Congress passes appropriations bills. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee my priorities are national defense, national laboratories, the National Institutes of Health and national parks.
We will not balance the budget by cutting discretionary spending, which is only 31 percent of spending and is already under control because of earlier budget acts. Runaway entitlement spending – more than 60 percent of spending – is the real cause of the $20 trillion federal debt. With Medicaid reforms in the health care bill, Congress is taking an important step in addressing entitlement spending. If we don’t make tough decisions now, we’ll have let America slip from the hands of the ‘greatest generation’ to the ‘debt-paying generation’ with nothing to show for it but the bill.
I’m glad you took the time to let me know where you stand. I’ll be sure to keep your comments in mind as budget and spending proposals are debated in Washington and in Tennessee.
Medicaid entitlement of the handicapped? Entitled handicapped? A new concept for me!
The mind is a mystery. My mother had Alzheimer’s before we knew what it was. Three things seem to out last memory and logic: humor, music, and faith.
When mom was living with us, one day when I was stressed out doing bookkeeping at the kitchen counter, she insisted on starting dinner. So, finally I put a large pot of water on for corn on the cob and a small pot of water for one package of frozen broccoli and told her to just put them in when the water came to a boil. She called me over later saying, “Something’s wrong, this doesn’t look right.” She had put the corn in the small pot where it was now dry and burning and the broccoli was in free float in the huge pot of water. My response was not kind or spiritual. I shook my head in despair and exclaimed, “Oh, my God!” Quick as a flash, she responded, “Call on someone you know!”
Some years after her death, I was leading devotionals at a nursing home. I kept wondering as I spoke, whether I should call a nurse to check pulses, since most of my “listeners” seemed comatose. But when we started singing the old hymns, they all came to life and knew every word of every hymn.
It may be music or it could be faith. Because one of my favorite nursing home stories is about an elderly woman whose memory was failing. A caregiver was helping her get into her nightgown, when the woman asked her, “What is my name? I seem to have forgotten who I am.” Before the caregiver could reply, the woman smiled and pointed to a picture of Jesus on the wall, and said, “Never mind, he knows who I am and that’s all that matters.”
Let’s pretend Jesus knocked on your door Christmas day to join you for his birthday celebration.
Can you picture him standing there when you open the door? Can you feel your dawning recognition and surprise. Can you sense your moment of doubt, then feel it washed away by sheer joy? Do his eyes have laughter lines as he smiles with just a hint of fun at surprising you. Does his simple kindness surround you like a comforter?
Picture you inviting him in, stammering as you start to reach out to shake his hand, only to be embraced in a warm hug that brings tears of happiness and wonder to your eyes.
Let’s imagine how he might like to celebrate his birthday with you. Do you think he’d be happy if you asked him to sit down, then hurried to get the best lotion in the house to gently rub his worn and callused feet? Would he want to do the same for you? Would you protest because you feel unworthy? Or would you let him help you feel so very tenderly loved?
Maybe he’d accept a cup of coffee and then want to tell you the stories his mom used to tell over and over about giving birth in a dirty drafty barn and about the terror of fleeing to Egypt in the middle of the night with only a few clothes and little food.
Do you think Jesus might just try to fit in by eating second helpings and then nodding off now and then in front of the TV set? Would he accept a glass of wine and grin and ask if you’d like an upgrade?
Or would he possibly suggest, “Why don’t we pack up some of this turkey and dressing and yes, definitely some pie, to take to the people living in those shabby back rooms at the Highland Motel?” Or even ask, “Would you drive me up and down the interstate to check the bridges for homeless people who may need food?”
Or perhaps he’d gently make a more discomforting suggestion that some presents could be returned and the money sent to help refugees from the war in Syria.
Or perhaps he would just look into your eyes all the way to what’s hidden in your heart and quietly say, “If there is someone you have hurt or anyone who has wounded you, will you make me happy by using your phone now to reconcile with them?”
And then you’d remember what he said at that last dinner with his closest friends, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Then you’d feel not guilt, but regret, that you hadn’t thought of celebrating his birthday by doing more for others, even strangers, as he did his whole life.
So, you’d get your coat and gather food, even your favorite fudge pie, to take to others. And you’d see that he was smiling at you as he waved goodbye.
You didn’t feel any condemnation, only his love and a stronger desire to love others as he loves you. Because you know that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn us, but in order that we might be saved by him.
And as you start out, you’d whisper, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” And you would know he heard.
The Transforming Joy of Christmas is the perfect Love for all of us, that came as a vulnerable human baby. A life that not only offers us the unconditional love that can set us free to grow from needing to loving, but also gives us illustrated instructions on how to do it.
Joy to the world for Love has come. Let us rejoice and open our hearts to receive it. Come, Lord Jesus, fill our hearts with your love so that we can pass it on.
My favorite Christmas Picture with permission of the artist, Morgan Weistling
Licensed by the Greenwich Workshop, Inc.
What kind of God are you, dying like that?
I want a real God, a “fix it “ God,
not one that gets himself crucified.
You’re just as helpless as the rest of us.
Here we are dying together.
What a weird way to save a world!
Such sorrow pierced your mother.
Yet, she didn’t run away.
She stayed there suffering too.
Was she filled with a mother’s self doubt?
“Could she have done anything?
Would it have made a difference?”
I watched my mother die by inches.
Her dignity destroyed
by fourteen years of Alzheimer’s.
I’ve seen my children make choices
that would cost them for years.
I could only ask, “Am I to blame?”
I listened to my friend whose mind
had become her enemy.
I heard her pain, yet could not help.
I hate being helpless, not good enough
or smart enough to help
even the ones I love the most.
Not long ago, you did miracles
even in my own small life.
Now I just see our brokenness.
You are a Good Friday God.
I think about the expectations
you gave your Apostles.
Only Judas got the picture.
How disillusioned he became.
He must have felt that you
were betraying them all.
Sometimes I’m just like Judas,
recognizing that we
are all sheep being shorne.
I’m even as cowardly
as Peter in asking
more or less, “Jesus who?”
But I know as well as John did
that your love is perfect.
That we need nothing more.
Even though like doubting Thomas
I fear a hard ending,
you are my Lord and my God,
my only God.
So I ask for grace to follow
though through the cross you call,
my Good Friday God.
Because one of our grandchildren was diagnosed at two years of age as suffering from Autism, I’ve attended many classes and conferences on the subject.
The documentary Looking for Me of dance therapist Janet Adler working with two pretty little girls, who were severely autistic, seems to me to illustrate beautifully what God has done for us by becoming fully human in Jesus.
One of the girls was close to three years old and the other was almost four, when they began therapy. Neither of the girls had ever wanted anyone, even their parents, to hug or hold them or even touch them. They made no eye contact. In fact, they didn’t respond to anyone’s presence except to try to keep their distance.
One little girl walked on her toes while waving or shaking her hands. She was in constant motion. Even when she tired, she would sit on the floor rocking back and forth. The other little girl made strange little movements with her fingers, curling them in and out and shaking her head a lot and sometimes standing, licking the wall. Neither child paid any attention to her own reflection in the mirrors in the large dance room or to the therapist.
The therapist worked with them separately. She put music on and just stood to the side. Slowly she began to copy their movements, watching them carefully, so she could get it right. She skipped around the room on her tip toes along with the one child, but giving her plenty of space. When the child sat down and held herself, rocking back and forth, the therapist sat in front of her, but at a ‘safe’ distance, and did the same thing, until the child did something else. She copied the hand movements of the other little girl and even licked the wall.
This went on for months.
Very gradually, the children let the distance close between her and them, but never touching. Slowly, you see them watching her intently and changing behaviors to see if she would. They began to look less tense and even began to seem to be enjoying the ‘interaction,’ such as it was. Finally, in a breath taking moment, when the therapist and the child are skipping side by side all around the room, we see the child reach out and take the therapist’s hand as they are skipping.
Soon, the other little girl, when she and the therapist were sitting facing each other almost in touching distance, suddenly got on her knees and reached over to put her arms around the therapist’s neck and even snuggled her head on her shoulder.
Both children progressed slowly to sitting on her lap, establishing eye contact, and even feeling her face and body over and over, like a baby learning the shape of her mother. Then and only then, they began to notice themselves in the mirror and to spend time looking at themselves, turning away and coming back over and over. They would touch their reflection, lick their reflection, see their movements copied, touch their own face and body, connecting the feeling with the reflection and finally smile at their reflection. Then, they would move back to relating to the therapist.
In the last video the children would hug and snuggle and smile and laugh and play and dance with the therapist.
The video didn’t say when or whether they began to talk, but it did say that they began to relate to other people also.
Can you imagine the joy of their parents?
Do you think perhaps God’s (and the universe’s) joy is like that, when we finally accept unconditional love and begin to respond?
It seemed to me, that the therapist in reflecting the children, took on their limits. She communicated not only acceptance, but even a valuing of who they were. She spoke their language and walked in their skin with them, freeing them to grow in the safety of that relationship. Finally they were able to generalize from that relationship and risk the vulnerability of relating to others.
It seems to me that God, through fleshing out His love in Jesus, has shown us that he not only accepts us, He understands our humanity from the inside out, that He knows first-hand what a rough gig life is. He says to us, like the therapist to the children, “You are not alone.” Then He loves us gently and patiently into wholeness, or holiness, freeing us to love ourselves in our imperfection, and thus, to then risk the vulnerability of loving one another.
Well, they’ve ruined my physical therapy now. All us old and lame had bonded and developed a sense of community as fellow sufferers who all now come in generous sizes and slightly lumpy shapes. Yesterday they started testing young male job applicants’ physical fitness for a local industry. So, here we old folks are gasping and sweating (and farting), while struggling to bend over two inches below waist level and these young hunks are flat handing the floor. I think I was two the last time I could flat hand the floor. If I was able to be invisible, I might actually enjoy watching them. (Dirty little old ladies should get to have fun too.) But realizing that I might be the cause of someone never marrying, because they were prematurely exposed to what a prospective wife might look and “sound” like at seventy-nine, is too much guilt to bear. So I deny myself the pleasure of the debate between pecs and buns and do my exercises with my eyes closed, pretending if I can’t see them, they can’t see me.
(I apologize to the readers who follow me for my “spiritual” posts. But I personally think being a slightly raunchy great-grandmother and being spiritual are not mutually exclusive.)