Birthdays make me reflective and as I get older the more
reflection I seem to need. I just had my birthday and I have been contemplating
memories of the last 72 years. I find it
hard to believe that I’m in my 70th decade and it is even harder to
believe I survived all those years.
Have you noticed memories are kind of weird? We never really
remember them as they were but as we want them to be. I also don’t remember
them in order and one memory seems to trigger another that may have happened
years before or years after. But, the
act of remembering is a re-membering of me.
It is a process to remind me from where I came and how each memory
created me. It is a little like a yearly
‘Examen.’ It isn’t just remembering but an accounting of my life. It is an opportunity to remember the good
times and the bad, to forgive others, and to be forgiven, and to offer myself
I find God’s grace in memories, grace I hadn’t noticed when
I was living them. I sometimes discover angels who have been my guides or
protectors that I didn’t recognize when they entered and left my life. Each
grace and angel helped form me into the person I have become. Unfortunately, I
have also recognized a few individuals who lead me from my path, and I had to
struggle to return, often with the help of one of those angels. It is one of
God’s enduring graces that angels come when we need them and it’s usually when
we have gotten everything all wrong.
I have been rescued so many times that my guardian angel carries
an extra-large emergency kit. I am sure
she is grateful I haven’t needed to be rescued for a while. I started very
early with getting my self into trouble. I was 6 when I pulled a deep-fat fryer
down on top of me, resulting in 2nd and 3rd degree burns
over 75% of my body. My memory of the incident is I wasn’t alone, I was being
told I would be alright, and I was. An
angel in the shape of a plastic surgeon came and volunteered to perform all the
skin grafts, paying for the hospital himself, and not charging my parents. Without the skill of Dr. Meany, I would have
been severely crippled. I would have been unable to live a normal life. My
gratitude for the Doctors and nurses who worked so hard to save and heal me has
no bounds. To give back the gift given
to me I have tried to be present to those who have been burnt, giving them
comfort, and sitting and listening to their fears.
Passing on the gifts of grace has become part of who I am. I
have been on the verge of homelessness a couple of times in my life and each
time one of those angels was sent in to help. To pass on that gift I have
helped others who have been on that edge, never expecting I will be repaid but
always expecting that they will pass on their gift of grace. If everyone did that no one would ever be
Those are nice memories, but I also have memories I am not
proud of. In my early 20’s I worked with
a woman who could be abrasive and, quite honestly, we didn’t just not get
along, we disliked each other intensely. I am ashamed to say that I started a
not so nice rumor about her. There was a small, very small, bit of truth to it but
essentially it was an exaggeration of the facts. I never apologized to her, in fact it wasn’t
long after it happened that I left for college. I regret that. I will never see
her again, I don’t even know if she is still alive. A few years ago, during a
ritual of forgiveness, I asked God to let her know, wherever she is, that I am truly
sorry. I also offered a prayer to forgive myself in order to let go of the feelings
of guilt, and, anger I had felt towards her. It took a while to feel within the
forgiveness I sought but eventually I did.
Memories are funny things, I don’t remember the same ones
every year but the ones I do seem to be the ones God wants me to remember. As I am 72 I have a lot of memories, I sincerely
hope I have enough time in the life left to me to ask for forgiveness, and to
express gratitude for those I haven’t remembered yet. Only time will tell.
Birthdays are not something I celebrate, but I find them useful. They offer a time to recognize grace, ask for forgiveness, and find peace in a life that has seen some rocky roads. I have no idea what memories I will form in the next years and I hope they will be good ones. I also hope they won’t be too embarrassing, but if they are, I know God and the angels will be nearby. After all my guardian angel has that huge emergency kit just waiting for me to mess up.
A recent meditation had the following journal question “If you knew you were dying what would you write or say to your children or grandchildren?” That question stopped me cold. What would I say to grandson and granddaughter, Liam and Amelia? How would I describe my love, and fears, for them? How would I tell them of my life lived with my own loves, fears, and regrets? What would I say, what would you say?
During this Easter season I have been writing about the ways we express our feelings of the resurrection, and the many ways we witness to others our faith in the resurrection. Sharing ourselves with the next generation is also a witness to our beliefs in the resurrection. The question above is an important one, challenging us to inspect our past and present lives and how that information could impact the lives that follow us. I thought long and hard about what I would, will, say to my grandchildren and all of it wasn’t bright flowers and sunshine.
What might say, well I would of course tell them I love them very much, how grateful I am for having them in my life, and I will miss them. I would ask for their forgiveness in my part for leaving them a world that is wounded and in pain, and a political system that doesn’t function. I would tell them that no matter what they do in life their parents and I would always love them from wherever we are. While their future is impacted by the world I leave behind it is still their future to make into what ever dream they reach for. Following those dreams may not be easy, or always fun, but are worth the effort if they truly believe in them. I would also tell them it is OK that they don’t believe in the Divine as I do, but, discovering their own pathway to something greater than themselves is important in finding their moral, loving, compassionate lives. I would want them to stand up against injustice even when it is hard to do so, to see the good in people and all creation even when the night is darkest. I want them to climb their most difficult mountains and to not be afraid of the challenges because I will be right there beside them cheering them on. I want my grandchildren to be fearless in the face adversity, to be strong when everyone else is weak, and to be gentle when touched by beauty.
What I want most for my beloved Liam and Amelia is to live a life that is not self-centered but other-centered. I want them to live a life that sees the best in the worst, the beauty in the ugly, and love in what is hatred. I can’t leave them with much but when I make my final passage from this world to the next I want them to know I cared about them, and want them to be the best at whatever they want to be.
So that is some of what I would tell my grandchildren, what would be in your letter to your children? We live in and uncertain world and we never know when our last day in this world will arrive. We all too often leave too much unsaid to those we love the most. So my journal question to you this week is: “If you knew you were dying what would you write or say to your children or grandchildren?”
May you find the words in your heart for those you leave behind.
Thirty years ago I was just coming home from a class when I heard of the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle on takeoff. Like so many others I was devastated by the loss of life and never knew how to respond to it. When the Columbia Shuttle exploded in 2003 I finally had a way to express my grief for all of the women and men in both shuttle disasters. So I offer this poem in memory of 14 brave astronauts.
There are fourteen new stars in the sky tonight
Fourteen new stars whose hopes shown so bright
Fourteen new stars to give us great light
Fourteen new stars to guide us this night
Fourteen new stars in Gods heart … held tight
Genesis 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
Matthew 2:13a Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you;
The winter stretches across bare trees.
And in our book we close the chapter on creation
And turn to the Exodus, to the leaving,
To our new becoming.
The Mystery reveals itself in a different guise
Out of a burning
It says “I will be that I will be, this is my name,
I am everywhere, in all things, and I call you forward.
Now take off your shoes,
The ground you are standing on is holy.”
It is hard to hear and difficult to imagine
Something with us in the pain,
In the exposed rawness,
Something with us in the brokenness of life.
But the voice is persistent, it whispers, it shouts,
“I am all that is. Everywhere you are, there I am.
I am the oneness, the unity of all being
And we are in relationship.
And I call you forward.”
The very ground we stand upon is holy.
There is nothing outside the realm of God.
We live in relationship with everything.
This is our covenant—our agreement with the continual becoming:
To know that every moment is sacred.
To act with reverence for all.
And to listen for the whispered silence
That holds us and calls us forward
To be of use
Within the fragility of all life.*
*Picture and meditation by Rabbi Yael Levy, founder of “A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Program,” January 22, 2016, Face Book Page
It seems since the beginning of time we are called to make journeys. Adam and Eve journeyed from The Garden, Abram and Sarai leave for a place known only to God, and Joseph takes his small family of Mary and Jesus on the dangerous roads to Egypt. We too make journeys. In my life time I have journeyed across this country moving from Ohio, to Texas, to Washington, to California, and back to Washington. I have hopes that I won’t have to move again but I never know when God will call me to a new place.
There is one journey I have yet to make. My father and mother have made it, I have had friends make it and my time will come I have no doubt in that. At some point in the future God will call me to make the last voyage in this life and cross to the next life. Now that is a BIG journey. No one has ever returned to tell us that it is safe journey without dangerous places. In a way we will be making a journey similar to Abram’s and Sarai’s in that only God knows our destination. And, we have no choice but to trust that God will find us a safe route.
Every living thing and creature in this universe will make the journey; fish or plant, dog or human, all of us will cross to a new life somewhere that only God can lead us. Like the Hebrews in the desert we will have to look for the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night in order to find the right path.
Last week my beloved Chihuahua, Suzie, passed away. She let go of this life and followed a new caretaker. As I held her in my arms and felt her leave, I knew she was now in good hands. I miss her but like family, friends, and other companions I know someday we will meet and cross the bridge together. Until I too am called, I will hold the memory of Suzie, family, friends, and companions in my heart, which grows to accommodate all the memories of those I love.
While I miss those who have gone ahead I am comforted by the peace that comes from knowing that I will join them someday and what a party we will have.
Peace and blessings to you all. May your memories fill you with joy and give you comfort.
Exodus 14:10-11, 13-14, 21: 10As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. 11They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?
13But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. 14The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
21Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided.
I have begun a yearlong meditation discipline with the book A Year with God by Richard J. Foster and Julia L Roller, which I am very excited about. Yesterday the above Scripture from Exodus was my morning reading. As I read it I thought about what it means to trust in God. In Speaking Christian Marcus Borg says trust and faith mean essentially the same thing. So Moses was asking the Israelites to have faith that God would provide help. What Moses wanted the Israelites to understand was they needed to let go of their idea of planning ahead and of knowing what will happen next. God may have a plan but we don’t know what that is and God is not going to tells us what the plan is, until the moment it happens. In this case God’s plan was to divide the waters of the Red Sea, which allowed the Israelites to escape the Egyptians. Fundamentally to have faith/trust in God means we must let go of the control of our own lives and let God provide, for most people that is a scary thing to do. Usually we only let go when we are at a point when nothing else has worked. All our plans have fallen through, and we are at a dead end with no place to go except call on God. For most people God is the safety net we rely on and I for one am grateful of that net.
The meditation questions provided with the lesson brought back uncomfortable memories in my life when I had reached my own dead ends and didn’t know where to turn next. I remember feeling lost, frightened, terrified really, at the prospects I imagined lay before me. In the dark night of my soul I called out to God and said “I give up, I can’t do this anymore, help me.” I wanted God to be there, I needed God to be there, because I felt alone. For me giving up and trusting in God and letting God plan the next move was scary but not as scary as the alternatives. Letting go of the reins of my life released something inside of me and eventually things improved. I can’t say what I experienced will happen for everyone but I can say giving to God what stresses us and beats us down improves the way we see the world. Faith and trust are hard spiritual practices but are the foundation of all spiritual practices. It doesn’t matter how you envision God, or what name you call the Divine letting the All Encompassing Presence be your safety net when you are troubled will give you hope in life. The process may be slow; God works in God’s own time, but slow is better than not moving at all.
Spiritual Practice: this week reflect on when in your life you have been able to trust God wholly when things fall apart. If you haven’t had one of those moments do you think you could stand back and let God take over provide the solution?
As you journey on your path this week, may Christ be there to give you courage, may the Holy Spirit smooth your road, and when you are weary may God hold you in the palm of God’s hand.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to thee forever.
— Psalm 30:12b
It used to be that every year I would make out a list of New Year’s resolutions just like everyone else. The reality of those resolutions was I put the list in safe place and promptly forgot all about them, just like everyone else I know. A couple of years back I changed practice for New Year’s, instead of resolutions I started listing what I was grateful for from the Old Year.
I no longer feel guilty about not keeping promises to myself and speaking gratitude helps me to see the past year in a positive perspective. So here are my top 10 gratitude’s for New Years day 2016:
First of all I am grateful for John my beloved husband, best friend, and all around good company.
I am grateful for the presence of my furry and feathered friends. They have helped me to laugh when I least wanted to and they are a calming presence each day of the year.
I am grateful for my family; John’s 3 sons; our beautiful grandchildren Shannon and Amelia, Alex and Liam; my cousins who have made me laugh and so grateful that we have reconnected. Each and every one of you has brought joy into my life in so many ways.
I am also grateful for the Skype calls from Mark, Laura, Liam, and Amelia, who live in Boston. Amelia and Liam I love all of your antics and learning what you are up as you are growing up. Liam practice hard on those drums so that when we come the next time you can show us your progress. Amelia send me some of your dress designs, I would love to see what you are thinking of. Each of you are talented and amazing.
I am especially grateful for the Laura’s presence in my life. You my dear daughter-in-law are a treasure.
I am grateful for the kindness of strangers from all over the world. Their help when I needed it on our South Pacific adventure last year made the trip just that much more enjoyable.
I am grateful for caring and skillful medical professionals: Dr. Alberts who operated on my back, the Nursing staff at Stevens Hospital who made a difficult time easier, Physical therapists who encouraged me to work harder so that I would successfully recover from surgery.
I am grateful for the Faith community at Queen Anne Christian Church who have show me and John so much love and friendship
I am grateful for my In-Care-Committee who encouraged me to search deep within myself and who helped me to see myself as I am instead of how everyone see me.
I am grateful for the friendship of so many people that if I were to name them I would certainly forget someone, so from the bottom of my heart I love you all.
So those are my top 10 gratitude, of course I have many more. The listing of them will take all day on New Year’s Day but these are the most important ones. If you were to list your gratitude’s for 2015 what would they be? How would remembering them change your how you view the past year and how you anticipate the next?
My prayer for each of you is a year full of grace so that next New Year’s day it takes you 2 days to recite them. Have a Happy, Grace Filled New Year!
On Face Book I follow the Anam Cara Ministries page, which posts daily meditations. I often find one that makes me stop and think and last week the following post drew my attention:
Artistic Afternoons: Look up. (Right now.) What do you see? Write about it. Anam Cara Ministries, November 4, 2015.
I stopped and just looked around me. Looking up I saw the wind chime I made from small bells given to me by a friend and origami peace doves made by another friend, when the window is open and a breeze comes through it rings as I work at my desk. There are books, all of which I’ve read, on a shelf above the window. There is a decorative bird cage which I occasionally use to put in small special items, often my grandchildren. And, hanging on the side of the cage are 2 scarves I was given at an InterPlay session. As I looked at these I realized all of them are part of me, and they connect me to family and friends, present and past, which are part of my life. In each there is the memory of love shared. I am grateful to Anam Cara for giving me a priceless gift of memories.
I was grateful for the being reminded of loving memories I had been too busy to notice. From time to time we all need to be reminded to remember events and people in our past; to remember old hurt and forgive them, or linger on the memories of old friends. Today I offer Anam Cara’s gift to remember, to forgive, and linger over fond memories of gifts past. It is a simple practice of observation and being in the moment. So today “Look up. Maybe look around you. What do you see? Write about it.”