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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.
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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Early in life I became a member of the Church of Devout Cowardice. Physical pain and I were not friends. This devotion was reinforced in my late twenties when a friend, who tried unsuccessfully to shame me into joining her group on a ski trip, actually broke her leg getting off the lift on her first trip up the mountain. This definitely confirmed for me that “Avoid all risks” should be the first commandment of all true believers of the Church of Devout Cowardice.
In my late fifties, a painful problem with my feet put me in a wheelchair. In spite of this challenge, I could not resist taking advantage of free air transportation to travel with my husband and the son working for an airline that flew to Europe.
Even though I could walk short distances, castles and palaces and forts were generally not handicapped accessible. My son suggested checking out catapults, but I demurred.
While we were on an innocuous Sound of Music day tour in Austria, the bus stopped to allow the foolhardy to ride down the side of a mountain on a sled with wheels in a long shallow metal track. My son, obviously having inherited none of my antipathy to pain genes, decided to try it out. I sat in my wheel chair on the loading dock as he got into a sled built for two.
Suddenly, a wild thought occurred to me. “I’m already in pain and a wheelchair, what have I got to lose?”
Before my Wus self could talk me out of it, I stood up and said, “Wait! I’m coming with you.” And clambered on as the worker started the sled down the metal track.
I was in front where the hand brake was and as we began to hurtle down the mountain, my instinct for survival kicked in and I tugged desperately on the brake handle causing it to slow. But, at this point, a nine or ten-year-old boy coming behind us began to tailgate and my son took charge of the brake. I scrunched my eyes tightly shut as we seemed to become airborne. As much as I wanted to scream in terror, I couldn’t risk it, since either my heart or my lunch was in my throat.
I offered God my first-born son (not the one with airline privileges), if He would save me from certain excruciating pain. When we came around the last curve and began slowing down, I peeked out with one eye. There was my husband looking as terror stricken as I felt. As he helped me out and into my wheelchair, he asked anxiously, “Are you all right? How was it?”
“Piece of cake,” I replied through gritted teeth. I never told him that I meant my dessert from lunch
Today I checked out a blogger that started following me without comment. She is twenty-five and the first post I found seemed to be on masturbating. Actually, it turned out to be about the Love of God that doesn’t shame us no matter where we are in our journey to become the people God created us to be. She also admitted that she kept sorrow away by physical sports and running and that it had become an addiction to avoid her feelings. She proceeded in a just a few blog posts to share wisdom that it has taken me fifty years of my journey with Jesus to learn. I have been frustrated that I haven’t been able to communicate my hard earned wisdom to younger members of my family. Maybe I should have been listening.
Here are some jewels: 1. Jesus is about PROCESS and compassion. Well, yeah, but the problem is that for most of us it’s a very long process to become truly compassionate. Compassion includes everyone. We can disagree, but there’s no room in compassion for judging.
And process is simply another word for change. Ah, there’s the rub! It’s easy to see how others need to change and judge them when they don’t recognize it. I only lack compassion for people who lack compassion. Which is my first clue that I also need to change.
She writes about forgiveness of those who have wounded us and says, “We have all left scars on the people we love the most.” My response was, “Well, ain’t that the truth Ruth!” I’ve been writing a memoir of sorts in order to share some of what I’ve learned, but in writing the memoir, I’m recognizing some ways I’ve hurt others that I was oblivious about. I’ve admitted to enough already that this isn’t a surprise or particularly devastating, just a reminder that I can’t throw stones.
Here’s three things she says God asked her to do:
1. To give my heart a voice.
2.To walk with him alone for a time.
3. To let go of everything I’ve “known” Him to be.
These are three things I too have slowly recognized, but still find challenging. 1. I’m pretty good at recognizing problems, but not so good at letting my self experience the emotional pain. Unfortunately, that’s the narrow gate I don’t want to go through, but it’s the only way to healing.
2. To walk with him alone would seem to be easy while in quarantine, but I find it almost impossible to quiet my mind. Plus, I can escape the challenge by doing what I’m doing now, connecting with the outside world through face book.
3. I thought I did this when I recognized how Jesus realized that he had to change in his understanding of his saving mission as only to save the Jews. He was challenged to change by a woman who was “unclean,” by a heretic uncouth Samaritan, and finally by a soldier of the hated enemy power. Who is “unclean” or unacceptable in Christianity today? Who is a heretic in our mind today? And who is someone with power we hate?
I realize that there is still much I have to unlearn because each generation has new eyes to see what I have not questioned.
Alexis Williams says, “I have to become fully alive in who I am, so I can be who God created me to be.”
I might express it as, “I have to become fully aware of who I am and that I am known and tenderly loved as I am, so I can with the grace of that Love become the unique person God created me to be.”
Her blog is named “Do I Stay or Do I Go?”
In sorting and organizing old writings I came across this one that seems to speak to our current situation.
I’ve always struggled with unrealistic expectations and the depression that follows when I’m forced to face the realities of our human imperfections (including mine) and a seemingly hopelessly imperfect world.
One of my many disillusionments has been how imperceptible are the differences even the greatest of us makes. For every plague we cure, another one is born. From every war we win, the seeds of the next are sown. For every race or nation emancipated, we project our inner evil on another one. For every answer we discover, a new question arises.
I cling to the hope, that in the overall picture of eons of evolution, that there is progress imperceptible to us in humanity’s short history, but recognizable to God.
Sometimes in the crucible of my own struggle to become the person God created me to be, no matter how humiliatingly limited that potential may be, I get a…
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