Gratitude

Pink castWith my broken ankle/leg, I’ve had an excess of time and space to obsess. That also means I’ve have time to reflect and focus on the graceful side of my life. It all began when I fell…

January 9, near Rainbow Falls, Hilo, Hawaii: When I tripped, slipped, missed my step, whatever happened and I felt myself crashing to the somewhat muddy ground, I distinctly remember my camera (a nice Canon 6D) swinging through the air, and I thought “Crap! I’m going to break my camera!”– when I landed I was pretty sure it was the left leg that had the break, but I wanted someone to check on the camera!

For once in my life, I didn’t say any really bad words as I lay on the ground, pretty much screaming/crying. Gratitude for discovering that what came out of my mouth was more of a prayer and a plea to make it stop hurting rather than cursing the situation. That peaceful spirit I prayed for some many years ago seems to be trying to manifest itself. And, gratitude that I was using my pancake lens and the camera and lens were unharmed in the incident. And, it’s stretching it a bit, but gratitude that when they inspected the scrape/gash across my leg just above the ankle, there was no bone showing. All bones, while broken, stayed in place and I’ve not had to have any surgery.

It’s good to reflect on these things to combat the frustration of being mobility challenged, unable to walk or run, stuck at home unless I have a driver or assistance to get me and my scooter loaded into the car and assistance at my destination to get unloaded. Just getting a shower is a major production number! (I can’t put the cast cover on or off by myself; we’ve installed a temporary grab bar in the shower, especially since you have to step up to get in and our; I have a nice plastic chair in the shower now; I’m terrified of falling.)

I find that I must focus on the gratitude side of the equation and not let the fear and anger side take control. It could be worse, it could be better, but I find that I am learning to rest in where I am. No doubt I’ll come through this with a much more concrete connection with the needs of those in wheelchairs, or on crutches or like me, using a knee scooter. I’m extremely aware of the availability, or lack thereof, of curb cuts and ramps… and of ramps that are too steep. Teaches me compassion.

And still — I am impatient. I want to have mended bones and be back to walking, and even running (I hope!). Learning patience and gratitude are the kind of traits that require lots of practice to master. Aaaarrrgghh!

 

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Wrath, anger…

A few weeks ago I was in a small group sharing, and one person began to share about recent a Bible study session where the subject got around to wrath. What is wrath? Is it okay to be angry? That sort of thing. Some folks of course thought it was ok to be angry and others thought is was sinful.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines wrath as extreme anger with the Full Definition of WRATH as:

  1. strong vengeful anger or indignation
  2. retributory punishment for an offense or a crime : divine chastisement

I found this whole pattern a bit unsettling. Anger is. And asking if it’s okay to be angry or is it sinful is just the wrong question.

Anger alerts me to the fact that I feel threatened, or hurt or disrespected. Or that I sense that someone or something I love is in danger or hurting or being disrespected. Anger can fire me up to take action. The classic example of that might be Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers in the Temple.

The first step, IMHO, is to step back when I am angry and look deeper. If I accept that I am God’s beloved child, then often the anger begins to subside — after all, what that other person did or said cannot actually kill or harm that part of me that is God’s child. Or, I can move beyond anger to sorrow that someone else is so broken that they would do some of the horrible things that are being done in this world. If I can move beyond anger I might just get to a place where I might actually be able help in righting a wrong, or healing a hurt.

Yes — anger is a big red flag. It is a sign that something is wrong. Might be something wrong inside me, or something wrong in the world around me. But asking if it is a sin? That’s just the wrong question.

 

 

 

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Touch

There are some things I find I must simply accept without understanding. People who are really touchy about being touched fall into this category. My own preferences and experiences require that I simply accept that some people I come into contact with simply don’t want to be touched. Therefore, “contact” means being in the same room, across a table perhaps, talking or maybe singing or learning something new without physical contact. Failing to accept this reality can be a source of distress.

My own experience of touch makes me inclined to “reach out and touch someone” simply because I have reaped such positive benefits.

How? I remember being in a weights/workout class at the gym. The instructor is giving instruction on proper form. “Shoulders back and down” she says. “When you do this exercise, squeeze your shoulder blades together.” I tried. I tried to do as she said. But, I only figured it out when, in mid-pull, she very lightly touched my back, right between my shoulder blades, and said something like “Here. This is where you squeeze.” The words were useful at this point, but not necessary. My muscles, my body and my brain suddenly understood how to be in the proper form. Touch.

In yoga class there are times when simple, light hands on instruction can make all the difference in the world in alignment or understanding how a pose might feel better. Touch.

How? I generally give lots of hugs. It’s sort of my charism, as it were. There are so many situations where words fail or are just wrong, but a hug seems to be exactly the answer. Many years ago I ran into a former coworker who had retired and was spending her days (and nights) caring for an aging parent. Words could never give her the peace and rest she needed. Even with others to help with the care, she was being worn down. I found myself cautiously reaching out to give her a hug. It was right. She needed to receive the care as a break from giving the care. Touch.

There are times when I have needed to relax and let someone hug me, or let me rest in contact with them. That last part, where I let myself rest in someone else’s arms (hug) is the closest I come to understanding “don’t touch me!” There was a time when I was struggling mightily with a situation and a friend asked “Do you want me to take over and do this?” My “Yes” led to leaning against her, with my head in her lap. All the while fighting with myself because I wanted to get up and run. It was just too intimate, just to much letting go of my walls to not only let her step in and shoulder my burden, but to let myself be touched and healed and loved. At the same time it was wonderful to be able to rest and know that someone cared enough to step in and take on the burden. There was so much healing of my soul in that touch.

Maybe I do understand a little about “don’t touch me.” Probably not.

 

 

We walk together alone

I have a friend currently on Camino. The same Via Frances that I walked 2 years ago. Okay — so Chris is walking over mostly the same terrain that I walked, but in a different time, a different pace, a slightly different season. I follow his blog over at shookwalkstheway.wordpress.com  while looking back through my own journal. I comment on the blog and I use FB Messenger to communicate at times. In my own way I walk with him. But, this is his Camino, not mine, just as my Camino was mine. True, mine was shared heavily with my walking companion, Susan. Even so, we each walked it with different interactions, different experiences and differing memories.

I find myself torn between offering information and suggestions and simply watching Chris’s progress. I want to encourage him on his journey, but I also long to hear the stories from the road which bring in to sharp focus so many stories of my own. How much to say or not say? How to listen and just be?

I’ll continue to follow my friend on his journey/Camino as I reflect once more on my own.

 

Who touched me?

Sunday’s readings included the story from the Gospel of Mark of the woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. She fights her way through the crowd surrounding Jesus, believing that if she can just touch the hem of his clothes, she will be healed. This story is stuck in the middle of the story of Jairus, the temple official who’s daughter will be raised from the dead at the end of the story.

But I digress — I’ve head both of these stories multiple times and this time, the woman’s story jumped out at me in a different way. She manages to touch Jesus’ hem and she knows in her body that she is healed. She’s going to slip away and be happy. But, Jesus stops and recognizes that he has been touched. He demands to know who touched him. I can see his buddies rolling their eyes as they say “What? Of course somebody touched you. You’re in the middle of crowd with all sorts of folks touching you.” But he knows and she knows. And she realizes that she must come forward and acknowledge her healing.

I think what caught me short was that she knew she was healed, even before Jesus stopped, asked who touched him and then proclaimed to the crowd that her faith had healed her. She knew. She didn’t have to have Jesus tell the world that she was healed.

At the same time, she also realized that she had to own the fact that she was healed. She had to acknowledge that touching his hem did it. She had to acknowledge that she believed.

There have been times when I knew that something changed — that a hurt or problem had been healed — long before the public acknowledgement. Sometimes the healing is the easy part. Owning it is more difficult. Folks my laugh or think I’m a bit odd because I believe that somehow Jesus or God has healed me. But I must admit it, to myself and to others.

Share the word.

Unzipping the Fat Suit

So, a couple of mornings ago I had one of those strange, just before waking dreams. I can’t remember anything about it except that in the dream I reached up near my face and proceeded to unzip all the way down (like a baby’s footed sleeper) and stepped out of what seemed to be a “fat suit” — yup, out stepped a smaller, less padded me. A me that could move more easily. A me that could run without wheezing. Not a scrawny, skinny kind of me, but a slimmer, unpadded, healthy me.

So many ways to go with this: is it just a physical need? or is it that and a need to step out of emotional padding? To step out of my protective shell and walk free.

I’ll be chewing on this for a while. And in the meantime, when I look at brownies and ice cream and hot fudge, I’ll just remind myself that eating that is not helping me to unzip the fat suit.

 

Everything is Holy Now

Sometimes I find a song that I just don’t want to lose track of. Susan included this in her Creo en Dios post this morning. It very much speaks to where I am on this journey. And the best way to keep something for real is to share it:

Bloody Sunday

Yesterday marked 50 years since “Bloody Sunday” — the first attempt by non-violent protesters to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama as a part of the march to Montgomery. The behavior of the State Troopers and other local law enforcement is a black mark on the soul of Alabama. It left scars that may never completely heal, both on those who were working for voting rights and those who sought to maintain the status quo.

Today at mass, after communion we heard a lovely, soulful piano rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It is a good thing that my mascara is waterproof. Images filled my head — the juxtaposition of the attitudes and beliefs of various family members clashed with each other and with society.

I grew up in Alabama in the 50’s and 60’s. I am of an age to remember asking about White and Colored water fountains, restrooms and movie theater entrances. I have memories of seeing the news on TV when Bull Connor turned the dogs loose; I remember George Wallace in the door at the University of Alabama. JFL’s assassination and Martin Luther King’s assassination are real life events for me. It was very confusing. Why were the asian and other international families more or less accepted and the black families not? (yes, those families that were sort of accepted were generally scientists employed at TVA);   Why would someone shoot a US president or a black Baptist preacher?

In my world, we still stood for Dixie with even more pride that the Star Spangled Banner. The only version of that other song (Battle Hymn of the Republic) that we sang generally had words that were making fun of school or striking out at  other things that children like to rail about.I could sing them now and type them out, but they seem so petty and mean at this point in my life. My father held a deep distrust, and maybe even hatred of Catholics.  And yet, this morning I was moved to tears as I sat in a Catholic Church listening to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

One song brings memories of another. Past life plays a role in shaping current life. Injuries, like the injustice, fear  and just plain meanness at the Edmund Pettus Bridge leave scars.  Even when the injuries heal, the scars are often left behind. I’m thinking that is not a bad thing to have to see and accept the scars along with the beauty. It is difficult to accept and forgive my home. Today, as in the past, Alabama shows off her wounds and her meanness and her stupidity (and seems to want to brag about them!). Some days I want to take this state, its people and its government, and just shake it and holler “You are better than this! You know better! Stop it!” But then, I must love her, scars, fear, hatred, love, smiles, Auburn football and all.

 

 

Learning a New Song

Golden Music-(SHOLT)Since I retired from my position as parish musician (for the English language masses), no one has been called to fill the spot. Perhaps no one has answered the call. Who knows? The result is the same: a cappella  music led by the priest, or possibly at communion by me from the pew. Of late, we have been learning/singing a new Gloria at mass. This learning is done by having the Gloria played for us during mass, while we join in as we learn it.

The congregation as done really well with the refrain. But, the “verses” are a problem. As I try to learn to sing this way, I am struggling. I look at the notes on the page. I attempt to hear them sung. I try to follow. Fail. There are sections that I just can’t get. This is due, in part to the fact that I am surrounded by others struggling the same way. Some notes come easily while others, well, we are usually in the chord, but have no sense of the actually melody. And, I can’t pick out the melody from the speaker because I can’t actually hear it and I don’t trust the person next to me, with his strong baritone that follows the person next to him (me) for accuracy. I’m sure I will eventually get it, but not without a struggle.

Learning a new song might be a perfect metaphor for learning to live a life centered in God/Christ. First I must hear the melody… maybe hear it many times. Then, I begin to try to sing along. It’s not going to stick if I don’t jump in and try it out with my own voice. That might work for others, but it doesn’t work for me. When I have trouble getting it right, I have to listen once again and try once again to match what I hear. I can’t possibly lead others, and expect them to even approximate the right notes until I have made them my own. Only then, can I pass on the melody and share the song.

It seems that process has a parallel in other areas of my life. I must listen to the song of creation, the song of the Trinity, the melody of being loved without bounds by God. Once I have heard that song, then I must try it out in my own voice. I must sing of creation, and practice the melody of love. I miss notes. I go back to listen to the song. I try it out again. Whether I get it completely right or not, then I can pass it on to others. I can only share it the way I have learned it, so I behooves me to listen and attempt to sing the right notes. And, only when the melody is solid, is it safe to harmonize. (And I do love harmony, especially in music).

In my Cursillo friendship group, we review our week together by looking at the last week through 3 lenses:

Piety/Holiness: Opening up to hear the new song through prayer, sacraments, listening
Study/Formation: Learning the notes; practicing the notes; studying the music to make it a part of my life
Action/Evangelization: Singing the song so that others can learn it.

Music: the song of my life.

Truth and Understanding

Truth is eternal. Our knowledge of it is changeable. It is disastrous when you confuse the two.

– Madeleine L’Engle

So very true. And the disaster happens all too often.

And how very freeing to begin to understand this: As I grow — up, out, deeper — and I accept that my understanding of truth is changeable, how much that frees me to change. If I truly accept this, then it is no problem to “change my mind.” Not defeat. Just a new understanding.

Wouldn’t that be nice.

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