26 July 2010

Finding God's Mercy

Those of you who may have been reading this intermittent blog for some time--or are willing to page back through to see what the heck this is all about--may have noticed that one recurring refrain in my spiritual walk is this: "Is this year OVER YET??" At my age especially, one hates to wish away one's days, weeks, months, and years. So I have decided that my focus for the rest of 2010 is to try and alter that refrain to something more positive, by attempting to find in each day something good, uplifting, or even just of shorter duration than it might have been otherwise.

Of course, the Universe being what it is, the very moment I make such a decision there arises a challenge.... *wry smile*

Well, I've been doing it again. Wondering if 2010 is over yet, foolishly believing 2011 will somehow not have its own challenges. This time I believe the universe is not letting me get away with it.

Last Sunday I was awakened by pain. I'm not good with pain, but I'm pretty good at hiding it; not always for the best of reasons, but hey, if you're good at something and there's even the tiniest bit of positive spin to it, go with it. :) Nevertheless, the point of the comment is this: I don't usually let pain get the better of me. But this pain fit all the hallmarks of a heart attack, and for once I decided to listen.

Here's the end of the story first: it wasn't a heart attack. Thank you, Lord, for that! What it was, however, brings its own interesting challenges: it was a return of the stress-related attacks I had a few years ago when my life decided to take WAY too many new directions all at the same time, like puppies pulling toward every quarter of the compass at once. Shortly thereafter--a matter of days--I was gardening and got nowhere NEAR poison ivy, but somehow got it all over myself again. Just like the last two Julys.

Oh yay.... :)

All right, yes, to be honest, fair and just, the crisis was way overdue. I've been living on air and about 4 hours of sleep a night for far too long, and losing important bits of myself in the bargain. Had I been my own counseling client, I'd have known precisely what to say and in exactly what tone of voice--but how often do we give our own selves that interesting grace?

Oh my yes... Ἰατρέ, θεράπευσον σεαυτόν, physician, heal thyself.... a proverb known in Jesus's day, as he quotes it to the crowd in Nazareth in exactly those terms: "And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country." (Luke 4:22-23, KJV) We know, as did they, that Jesus meant we should look to our own problems prior to judging those of others--a proverb he would gently push home in another way when suggesting we remove the log from our own eyes before worrying over the speck of dust in the eye of our brother or sister. Oh counselor, look thyself in the face in thy morning mirror and take a dose of thine own medication... :)

Hence the whole idea of trying to do just that, wrapped up in the concept of joy no matter what. So I have to crawl out of bed somewhere between 03:30 and 04:00, hit the road as soon as possible, and drive safely/mindfully to my tentmaker-job? So what! I get to see the lovely full moon riding the skies amid the cloud-ships, where others miss it because they are asleep. And I get to leave before rush-hour traffic becomes horribly bad, which is also a plus. I get to learn afresh that my body's immune system really DOES work, oh boy does it ever, and that all the signals point to upcoming challenges. Joy!

But I also need to heal myself by getting to bed earlier... eating more healthfully and at less odd hours... reclaiming time here and there to do the things that feed my own soul.... And I need to believe and claim that I have as much right to health, rest and joy as anyone else. Not to mention... *gulp* making myself realize that the mercy of God is something that pertains to me just as much as anyone else.

There, I said it. Yes, sports fans, I have come to the understanding that I fell victim to one of the biggest traps that beset people in ministry: a delight and longing and joy in sharing with others the loving mercy of God, and a serious difficulty in applying it to my own self. The reasons don't matter, because they are so different and so people-specific.

Maybe you were told as a child that you were of little worth, took it in and believed it, spent your life so far helping other people because it fed some of the ache in the centre of your own being. Maybe you were abused, belittled, bereft; maybe you grew up in a normal household where helping others was a joyous way of life, and you got so caught up in the process that you forgot to look in the mirror from time to time and thus missed the need in your eyes. Whatever it is/was/continues to be, it doesn't have to have been a bad thing (though it all too often is/was)--it was just a distraction at some level. You went along, kept going, one foot in front of the other, whatever was needful to feed your desire to help, be loved, whatever.

I know I did it, for my own reasons. Some of those reasons I knew about, others I didn't, I just... did it. Gave space to it in my heart. Some of it is there and remains joyful, though I will be working on balance with it from now on. Some of it is there and is clothed in anger, sorrow, loss, grief--and I will be working on balance there, too.

Some of it... Lord help me, some of it is badness done to me or by me that I have forgiven but not released, hurt and dark things I have acknowledged and released but then not completely let go of. Those things will be worked on immediately. With lots of prayer and mercy-searching. With as much honesty as I can muster. Ἰατρέ, θεράπευσον σεαυτόν.

New Year is not the only time to make choices, declare intentions, slip your hand into God's on one side and Destiny on the other. But then again, the calendar New Year is not the only new year season we receive, either. Our ancestors believed the new year came at the dark of the season, when autumn's leaves were burning and that veil was thinnest that separates us from Spirit. So even though Summer has a high hand in charge where I live, I am very aware this week that autumn is coming. The days are already getting shorter; the heat's back will be broken, and the Lord will have many a message for me.

This time... O Lord, this time let me not only listen--but let me hear. Bring on the Mercy and help me to say yes this time.

19 July 2010

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

Good morning friends,

I have set my comments permissions to moderated status because of an interesting spammage influx of late. For those of you leaving kind, relevant commentary, thank you... for those leaving comments that are inappropriate, and that link me to porn sites, pleasse know I am a priest and don't "do" porn. ;)

Please leave comments IF they are relevant. Please stop with the porn spammage. You have been reported, and you know who you are. :)

In all things love... but love with Moderation. *snicker*

BTW, thanks for all the good thoughts. The Cardiac Incident this past weekend turned out to not be a heart attack, but we still don't know exactly what it was. Continued prayers are very much appreciated!

14 July 2010

Ends of Eras

What stunning timing.

On the very morning of the annual All-Star Game for baseball's best and brightest, a life came to an end--a bare two days after that of another baseball giant--and both of them affiliated with the same team. The universe has an odd sense of existence, I swear...

Those of you who read this blog are probably reasonably aware that I am not a fan of the New York Yankees. Rather, it is in my blood to consider them The Ultimate Opponent: in my home they are referred to as Those People (much as Robert E. Lee used to call the Federal troops, and for much the same reason: he knew they were human beings, people he was once part of, deserving of the love of God as much as anyone else--but just "not us"... a non-nasty way to refer to persons with a different mission from oneself, if you will!) when they are not being referred to by other far less compassionate names. *wry smile* No doubt my team suffers the same name-calling in homes across the land as well, for few things polarize baseball fans like the Auncient and Especiall Rivalrie Betwixt the Red Sox and the Yankees....

But right now is not the time for partisanship. Death has hit the Bronx in a hard way, so now is the time for compassion and caring.

On July 11, Bob Sheppard--The Voice of Yankee Stadium--passed away at the age of 99. Had he made it to October 20, he would have attained the great old age of 100. His life is a remarkable one for many reasons: his service to his country, his love of his family, his work as a broadcaster and what he considered his most important work: that of Professor of Speech at his alma mater, St. John's University, NYC. But to those of us who love baseball, a team's "voice"--the person who announces the games in their home park, knows the players, the stats, the game--is a special and sacred vocation. When we lose one, especially a classic, courtly one like Bob Sheppard, we lose something much, much more than can be easily described.

Bad enough; a hit to the heart, of that there is no doubt. But then two days later on July 13, early in the morning of All-Star Game Day, death visited the Yankees once more. This time it took "The Boss," George Steinbrenner, who has been the owner of the team since 1973. It was a quick death: a massive heart attack, occurring at his summer home in Tampa, FL just as the day was dawning.

Many will eulogize him in the weeks to come. A man who was both loved and despised is being spoken of in hushed tones, granted (as we all are at such times) graces he may or may not have possessed in life. His positive traits are magnified into super-virtues; his faults kicked under the rug, and realistically speaking, there's nothing wrong with that. He lived a long, controversial, powerful life, and made an undeniable mark on his generation. Like the passing of Tom Yawkey of the Red Sox in July of 1976, Steinbrenner's passing marks one of those occasions where one can truly say we will never see his like again.

Time enough later to tell his story, turn the spade of history through the garden of his life. Right now and for some time to come, I would like to suggest that we simply do this: Say a prayer for the souls of Sheppard and Steinbrenner, pray for God's peace and presence for their families, friends, team and fans as they deal with a monumental double loss, and find it in our hearts to have charity in all things.

At the time of death, we are all equal. All else is details.

Requiescat in pace, Mr. Sheppard, Mr. Steinbrenner. For even at the grave we make our song:

"Good evening... ladies and gentlemen... and welcome... to Yankee Stadium!"