Archive for April, 2016

file0001338534726We are all hurt as we travel through life. We often hold on to those hurts. The betrayal of a friend, the infidelity of a spouse, the abuse of a parent, and on and on–things that stay with us for years after they occurred.

Some of us go through life aching and sweating, beneath a heavy backpack of grievances that weigh us down. Oddly, we keep adding to the weight of that backpack with fistful after fistful of “what he/she did to me,” and thoughts like, “I’ll never forget it. In fact, I won’t let them get away with it. I will pay them back!”

When we’re hauling around a backpack like that, we’re usually grumpy, or at the very least, difficult to be around. We’re certainly not smiling, or happy, because grudges make us inherently anxious.

How can we get over our grudges? How can we empty our backpack of all that disturbs us, and re-fill it with things that are worthwhile, things that do make us happy.

Matthew 6:25-27 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Don’t Worry. Be Happy. Is that all it takes?

What Jesus is really talking about is Concentration on Him. Allegiance to Him. Love of Him.

We may not forget our hurts, but we can be sure that God will heal us of them by bringing good out of the evil they caused.

Backpacks of grievances harm us more than the person who is the object of our negative feelings. When we realize this, we can forgive that person. And isn’t forgiveness the key to our real happiness? Just think how it could lighten our load!

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“St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in instructing catechumens, wrote: The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon. No matter what form the dragon may take, it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country, not to turn away from the storyteller.” (Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose)

Our personal dragons never really leave us. They hover very close to the things we desire, waiting to turn us in harmful directions. So often, and in various ways–through people, or events– we are warned to beware of them, but just as often, we set the warnings aside.

Here is the beginning of “Dragon,” the second of ten stories in Birds of a Feather. Click the cover to order the book on Amazon.

DRAGON

I keep my head down when I sign for a Gulf front room, not wanting to face the night clerk. She directs me to the fifth floor: shell-shaped pillows on a king-sized bed, gauzy drapery mimicking crystal green water, and double-paned windows, framing a fire-breathing, dragon-like sunset.

At home, in Highlow, they’d quoted St. Cyril.
“Beware of the dragon,” they’d said about Richard.

I stretch out on the king-sized bed and turn on the massage. The pulsing reminds me of his fingers and the expensive bottle of sun block he bought, all of which he used on me. Richard liked manipulation, the slip-sliding feel of possession. Maybe he was born that way and couldn’t help it. Maybe I could have changed him. Then maybe he wouldn’t have died.

For months, I was Richard’s only nurse; the one he’d been having an affair with was afraid to touch him after she learned he had AIDS. He didn’t cheat anymore, and he didn’t lie, except in the bed he’d made for himself.

At home I was taught compassion, so I timed out medication every four hours, kept watch that the oxygen hose stayed in his nostrils, that the battery worked in case of a storm surge; but I resented the stench of his bed pan, the ooze of his lesions, the diapers wrapped around hips so thin that bones showed through tissue paper skin. The man betrayed me after all.

“Don’t trust him,” they’d said.

Before I left Mobile, I telephoned Anthony, Richard’s best friend, to say I was leaving. Again, Anthony said, “I love you.” He wanted to know if I loved him. I gave no answer.

An empty pause and then, “Richard’s death was an accident, Liz. You didn’t create the storm. I’ll call your cell tomorrow.”

 

Been Mean Lately??

Posted: April 8, 2016 in World On The Edge

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At some time or another, each of us will lose our focus and be mean to another person. And often it’s intentional. Why do we do this?

Are we mean to people because our own needs have not been met and so we lash out, “getting back at the world” for having treated us badly?

This is silly, because the world gives back to us the same as we put out. Meanness will always rebound on us.

I think one of the reasons we are sometimes mean is because we see something in the other person that reminds us of what we don’t like in ourselves. If we find ourselves bullying someone else, or insulting them, or plotting against them, we need to take a good look inside our own hearts. What is bothering us? And then, try to be honest enough with ourselves to change it.

Another reason for meanness is jealously of another person. We may feel the world has treated them better than us, given them more friends, or provided them with a better lifestyle.

To get over it, we should first think about exactly what it is that they have that we want. Secondly, will that thing make us happy? If we believe that it will, then we can actually learn from the person we are jealous of. We can compliment them to their face on an accomplishment, rather than spitefully tearing them down behind their backs. And then in the nicest way we can, simply ask them how they developed in themselves the thing that we want.

Meanness can also come from fear–maybe even the fear of abandonment by someone we love. To guard against it we put that person down as often as we can. We denigrate them in an attempt to devalue them in the off-balanced thinking that this will keep them dependent on us…i.e. “Who else would have you anyway?”

When meanness gets this out of hand, we need spiritual help, because we’re destroying our selves as well as the one we pretend to love.

We should remember that meanness cannot make us happy, only more unhappy.

Malice drinks one half of its own poison.
—-Seneca

 

Better Hurry!!

Posted: April 7, 2016 in World On The Edge

file1191278213082Everyone likes to have a second chance. And most of the time a second chance is there to be had. Except in the case of death. If we have things we know we should say to someone, yet we haven’t said them—because of pride, because we’re just so busy, or because there’s friction in the relationship—we need to wake up. We need to act. No one knows the day of death.

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,] but My Father only. –Matthew 24:36

We may never get a second chance to tell someone we’re sorry, or that we love them and always have. We may never get a second chance to say thank you to someone who changed our lives.

We have only today. The past is over, and tomorrow may never come. Let’s not waste time with unimportant things. Let’s run to those we love. And let’s do it today.

When Great Trees Fall

by Maya Angelou

When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder, lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants lumber after safety.

When great trees fall in forests, small things recoil into silence, their senses eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile. We breathe, briefly. Our eyes, briefly, see with a hurtful clarity. Our memory, suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid, promised walks never taken.

Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us. Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened. Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away. We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of dark, cold caves.

And when great souls die,

after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.

Experienced a Miracle??

Posted: April 6, 2016 in World On The Edge

file1891283659092Young children have no problem believing in miracles. They are new, innocent, and without the constraints living in this world can produce. But despite our age, many of us are still open to miracles.

A miracle is a happening that no natural power can bring to pass in any manner or form whatsoever. Have you experienced one?

Of course you have:

If you have seen a baby growing in the body of a woman.

If you have held in your hand the seed of a flower, planted it, and watched it take root and bloom.

If you have seen the light and felt the burn of a sun you could never touch.

If you have forgiven an enemy when you never thought you would.

If you have risked your life for another’s. Or another has risked his for yours.

If you have lived another day in suffering, yet also lived that day with hope.

If you have heard the voice of God through another person, or media outlet, or in the frustrations of a difficult personal situation.

If you have experienced any of these things, you have experienced the miracle of Grace in the world–right here where you are. And there are many more opportunities than these.

But caution. Though it is always being offered, Grace must be noticed affirmatively to be taken advantage of.

If we don’t take the time to notice and affirm them, the miracles of Grace will not affect us–not even if they are all around us.

God’s Grace is as much a part of our earthly lives as our own breathing. But just as with our own breath, we must take it in and make it part of us.

For a Catholic, the greatest of miracles is the grace of the Eucharist. The Bread of Life. For a greater explanation of this, the greatest of miracles, go to: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/christ-in-the-eucharist

Let’s be alert, so we can be open to the miracles that the grace of God shows to the world.

Giving Up on Life???

Posted: April 5, 2016 in World On The Edge

Joy_and_Sorrow_by_SusamieHow do you react when relationships are broken?

First–if it’s a relationship you’ve invested in– you probably try to fix it.

But if that doesn’t work, do you wallow in its fall-out debris?

Do you hold grudges? Do you go for payback?

We know that one day, all things–including us– must end. And as we grow older, we see that ‘new and shiny’ doesn’t last. We also know that people aren’t perfect, and some are bad for us. We may have to give up on some relationships.

But I think it’s important that we don’t give up on the miracle of life itself.

To let go of life is counterproductive. Because when one door closes, another will open—if I don’t get bogged down in my own needs, and if I allow myself to notice it is opening.

Most broken relationships are thought of as negatives. But maybe some of them aren’t. There are some relationships that honestly can’t be fixed, and really shouldn’t be pursued any longer. In the long run, the breaking may be a positive thing for us.

Yes, we may need to grieve for awhile, but we ought to be careful that grieving isn’t what we spend the rest of our lives doing. Taking our own eyes off ourselves and shifting them elsewhere—to the need another may have– is what helps us grow in character.

And we should never let go of what will make us a better person, in the eyes of those who love us, and especially in the eyes of God.

girl with netIf we’re honest, we’ll admit that we’re always looking for something more than what we have, even if we seem to have a lot. It may be something we can’t quite put a finger on, but we feel its lack and a certain craving for it inside us. Could that thing we’re looking for be God? The Good News is, God is looking for us.

God is truly seeking you. He has made Himself flesh for you because He is madly in love with you. And if you’re longing for Him in return, you will find Him right here on Earth. You will find him in the person sitting, sleeping, or working next to you, and in the myriad of other people you meet in life.

The Hound of Heaven is a 182-line poem written by English poet Francis Thompson (1859-1907). In the poem, the speaker is running from God, as do many of us who get caught up in the world. But God pursues him. The speaker is aware of God’s love for him, but he continues to run, thinking that if he turns to God, he will have to give up the worldly pleasures he holds to.

The name is strange. It startles one at first. It is so bold, so new, so fearless. It does not attract, rather the reverse. But when one reads the poem this strangeness disappears. The meaning is understood. As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and imperturbed pace, so does God follow the fleeing soul by His Divine grace. And though in sin or in human love, away from God it seeks to hide itself, Divine grace follows after, unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to turn to Him alone in that never ending pursuit.– The Neumann Press Book of Verse, 1988

God loves us and so He seeks us. If we run from Him, it’s because we don’t really know Him. We cannot love someone we don’t know. Neither can we love someone we know little about. Trying to get to know God is on our shoulders. He is there, always, loving us. He is waiting.

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There are multitudes of Christians on Earth who know the need for God—especially in today’s  superficial world. But many  Christians suffer greatly because of their Faith.

What is the cost of your personal Christian belief? Many of us say we’re Christian, that we believe in God. We hold to that belief, even when some trash Christianity, personally maligning those who believe.

But think about this: To be different is a difficult state of affairs for many. Maybe those so opposed to Christianity are really not opposed at all, but only hold back because they’re afraid of rejection by their peers.

Of those who malign Christians, could it be that a belief in Jesus Christ sets them apart from others where they don’t want to be? Or that belief in God puts them in a category they’d rather not be in, because it isn’t seen as optimum for their career purposes. Or might they be afraid of being labeled because of the way Christians are portrayed in the media?

To say we’re Christians in today’s secular world is not for those who lack courage. To say we’re Christians, means we’re willing to suffer in the face of those who oppose Christianity enough to make fun of it, and us.

Here are some wise words by one of America, and the South’s, greatest writers: “I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do.”   

“This notion that grace is healing omits the fact that before it heals, it cuts with the sword Christ said He came to bring.”

“What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.” ———Flannery O’Connor

Faith comes from within each individual, as a grace. Faith is a part of who we are. It is not a fairytale reliance on things unseen. It is real. It is action. It is love. And–if we’re sincere about it–Our Faith is worth standing up for in a crowd, even if we’re standing up alone.

I know personally that standing up for one’s Faith actually deepens it. Because even if we must stand alone in some situation, we understand that God will give us the strength. All we have to do is seek His courage and we will find it in ourselves.