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Monday is the Day the Lord Hath Made for Whining

I once had a small group of old lady friends who were attempting to learn Tai Chi in my playroom.  I had forgotten that my college age son was asleep in his bedroom off the playroom. He came out sleepily to what was not a pretty sight.

He nicknamed us the “Geriatric Ninja Turtles.”

We decided we’d be less likely to hurt ourselves or traumatize adult children, if we tried meditation instead. I had a Buddhist friend who had taught classes in meditation, so we asked him to instruct us. After a few weeks of sitting around with unzen like giggling by old ladies who needed help getting up from the lotus position, he obviously got discouraged or bored, so he decided to teach us how to fight by slamming our fists into someone’s temples, supposedly killing them. Since the tallest of us was 5 ft 2 in , we felt the odds were against our using this successfully unless we were attacked by a mob of homicidal “little people” or at least small-er people. (Besides this did seem a bit less than the spirituality we were seeking.)

So, we moved our meeting to the Episcopal Church Parish Hall and used the Book of Common Prayer along with the Bible for reflection and prayer. We had a new younger member, who one morning after praying, felt led to dance, so we all joined in. At that moment the rather staid Episcopalian Priest walked in. He was not led to join the holy dance.

Since it was Spring time,  we began meeting in a grove of trees with a picnic table and benches on one of our member’s land. We all felt God’s presence in nature and as the breeze blew dogwood blossoms down around us, it was tempting to dance once again in joy. But rather than traumatize the unwary and to avoid the slippery slope into a naked Wicca experience in the woods (which would definitely not be a pretty sight), our youngest member played her guitar and we just sang.

We chose to rename ourselves ” The Group that Meets on Monday or Sometimes on Wednesday with an Option to meet instead on Friday.” For some reason this never caught on, so we remained the “Geriatric Ninja Turtles.”

Our three core members now began to have some health and fitness problems. One of us had lost a leg, I had to use a wheel chair for walking any distance longer than about a block, and our eldest member had had a heart attack.

So we expanded our search for mystical experience into both art and pottery classes at a nearby center for the arts. We found both of these to be a right brain, stay focused in the moment activity, which is actually very zen like. I was too klutzy to use the pottery wheel, but went to help my friend who had some difficulty because of her prosthetic leg. In the moments she didn’t need me, I molded a naked plump old man sitting modestly with his legs crossed, but with a delightfully mischievous smile on his face. I was really proud of my accomplishment. I even felt a great tenderness toward my creation. But when I showed it to my son, he was horrified, because it looked so much like my husband.

Young people are so easily horrified.

One day after class, while following the wisdom saying for old ladies, “Never pass by a bathroom without stopping,” my friend said that her prosthetic leg was causing her some pain, so could she use the wheelchair and would I be able to carry her leg to the car for her. I said that I could manage it and I marched behind her with her leg held over my shoulder like a rifle.

We had learned long ago that if you don’t learn to laugh at yourself and at trouble when you are young, you won’t have anything to laugh at when you are old.

Our group felt that we should minister somehow to those worse off than we were, so we began to visit people in the nursing home and take treats for them. Unfortunately, it turned out the people we were taking delicious cakes and cookies were diabetic and then one day while chatting with a woman on oxygen, she began to look distraught and I realized that I was standing on her oxygen line. We decided perhaps we should find a ministry less hazardous to others. So, we started a Clothes Closet for the poor at the church.

Any group of women of a certain age tend to talk about their various ailments. In another of my groups, we gave a prize for the one with the most new parts. The woman who won had two new hips, two new knees, and a new heart valve.

In spite of the validity of our complaints, when visiting those in the nursing home and hearing them wonder why their family didn’t visit them more often, the GNT’s (Geriatric Ninja Turtles) realized that it was probably because this kind of whining constituted most of the elderly’s conversation.

So, we made up a Scripture to help us avoid falling into this trap. (I know. You’re not supposed to make up Scriptures…….but the Holy Spirit is still alive and well ……… and we were old, it was dark, and we didn’t know what we were doing.)

Our Scripture is: “Monday is the day the Lord hath made for whining.”

We felt this would be allowable because, after all, the Israelites whined their way across a desert for forty years. Obviously, God got tired of listening to their whining, but one out of seven days seemed fair to us. So, we had an addendum that said if you didn’t whine on Monday, it was a movable feast. You could whine on one other day that week – but only one. We have found that this definitely affects the amount of time younger people are willing to spend around us.

Old age definitely has its challenges, but the gold and the grace in it are friendships and laughter.

And when you think about it, what beats those?

Mother Teresa’s Dark Night of the Soul

The Book, Mother Teresa * Come Be My Light is a collection of her letters and her journals, which she had wanted burned when she died. Through them we see her terrible interior struggle with despair and feelings of abandonment by God.
She had mystical experiences and years of a sense of God’s presence when she was struggling to get permission and the means for the ministry she knew God was asking of her. But once she actually begins working with the poorest of the poor, she loses those, and not only feels abandoned, but sometimes even doubts the reality of God.
In her uphill battle to get permission from Church Authorities all the way up to the Pope, she harasses them incredibly, all the while saying, “I accept your authority and your decision. But could you hurry, because this is God’s call and people are being lost.”  I love that.
She says that she has no ego left, just her desire to love God more than anyone ever has. Hmm. I’m not sure that’s not a form of ego, but it beats heck out of most forms.She is honest with her Spiritual Directors about her spiritual darkness, but fakes it with her community for fear she will damage their faith.
At eighty years of age, she never slows down in her exhausting physical ministry and even after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, she still humbly does dishes and cleans along with the other sisters in her community.
All the time she is without faith, joy, or even meaningful prayer, she is having tremendous success in her ministry and accolades from the world. But she is only able to go through the motions, heart-broken, doing her duty by fulfilling her promises to a God that seems to be gone.
That seems to me to be more awesome, than her mystical experiences or winning the Nobel Prize.
And it confirms what my minister answered one day when I asked him, “What’s it all about?”
He replied quickly with great assurance, “Perseverance.”