November 10, 2009
Carol and Dan had a good marriage. “As good as anyone else’s” they’d say. But theirs was a case of very different personalities bound together. Carol was a high energy, party girl spirit. Dan’s, not so much. He was perfectly happy sitting home watching sports on TV. It was a bit of a stretch for him to even invite friends over to watch the game with him.
This difference caused a lot of friction at various times in the marriage. Both of them felt the other didn’t respect their wishes or needs. Neither of them felt listened to or that the other one cared all that much about what made them happy.
Neither one of them was especially good (or motivated) to see the world through the eyes of their spouse. And as always happens, the less one feels they are being fed the less inclined they are to feed the other.
So it came to Carol’s 40th birthday. Dan’s question was what to get her? For whatever reason a new light when on inside his head (and heart.) Maybe it was because Carol wasn’t all that thrilled to pass the big 4-0 line. Dan knew his wife was feeling a little “over the hill.”
In that lovely new light he asked himself – not what he wanted to get her but what would she most like? What could I do for her that would most make her feel “good?” Then he even went further and asked himself what “good” meant? In this case he decided it meant appreciated, wanted – even simply SEEN.
What he got her, after getting out of himself and seeing the world through her eyes, was a dance lesson for both of them. Carol was thrilled. Dan was thrilled that she was thrilled. The “best gift ever” she told me. – The gift of course wasn’t the dance lesson. It was that she felt she was SEEN. Which is pretty much what all of us most want I guess.
September 26, 2009
Life is full of sad stories. None perhaps more so than this one: A woman I’d guess in her forties approached me after a seminar I’d given. She had a pleasant, eager face, thick glasses and straight brown hair. As we talked she told me that all her life she had a running battle with her weight, food and hurtful relationships. But the biggest struggle she had she said with a face that seemed to hold the weight of the world’s sadness, was with God. She had sought God her entire life but said she felt terribly estranged from God.
I thought her problem stemmed from confusing God with religion. Many people blame God for religion. I’ve found if a person substitutes the word “love” for their religion tainted notion of “God” a lovely door opens in their consciousness. So I asked her to call to mind someone she loved without reserve, someone she loved so much it gave her goose bumps just to think about them. The woman thought for a moment. Then she said, “No one. There is no one I love like that.”
That, I thought, is the saddest story I’ve ever heard.
Intimacy is all about love. It is a tragedy beyond all telling to have no one to love. Or no one to love us in return. I believe the most important task we have as human beings is, after taking care to have our own “love bucket” full, is to go find those who don’t – and say in whatever way is most effective, – “Here, take some of my love. Because the more I give you the more comes back to me.”
September 14, 2009
I like this quote. “An exceptional basketball player is said to play above the rim. Exceptional human beings plays at the deep-heart of life.
The area behind mask, pose, and the shield of protectiveness.
The realm where intimacy is both king and servant.” Professor Ronald White in “The Metaphysics of Life.”
To me it seems to speak the truth about intimacy. Intimacy has been written as, in-to-me-see. Intimacy does pass behind mask, pose and the shield of protectiveness. Life is lived in that area behind mask, pose and shields. It’s where our heart is. It’s where what matters lives and breathes.
Call to mind the last time your heart was touched. Right there is the face of and the meaning of intimacy.
August 31, 2009
Tomorrow Sam and Tony leave on the long drive two states over to a Bible College. Well, I guess not a college. More a camp or Bible R&R place. It’s where broken people go to heal and get back on their feet.
I just spoke with Sam about ten minutes ago. He’s the one going to the camp. He’s scared out of his mind even though he has been to this camp before and found it a place of total acceptance, love and forgiveness. But he really fell hard this time. Drugs and alcohol of course. He’s an addict and when he can’t cope he tries his best to kill himself with chemicals.
When he finally reached out for help this time he hadn’t eaten for four days and had a blood alcohol count of .46. Legally drunk is .08 so his reading would kill most people. He spent five days in the hospital just to get his feet under him. He’s still a very sick man but at least he has a safe place to go.
Sam said he didn’t think he could make it to the camp on a bus so he asked Tony to drive him. Tony looks like he is made out of a steel spring. He’s a watcher. He doesn’t say much but he is always aware, always keeping his eyes busy, always paying attention to who and what is around him.
His story isn’t too different than Sam’s except that Tony had one of those knock your socks off spiritual experiences that picked him up and turned him around. Of course he had to pay his dues to KEEP turned around but his 180 degree switch was amazing.
I’m sitting now at my computer smiling (actually laughing out loud) at the picture of the ride these two marvelous men will have tomorrow on their ride to the camp. I wish I had a recording devise hidden in the car. Who would have guessed, EVER, that these two men would be bound by grace, supporting and caring for each other, leaning on each other, celebrating the power of the God of their Understanding on their long ride to the camp? No one would have. No one in a million years. Not if you saw their track record up to this point. But there they are- showing anyone with eyes to see the beautiful face of amazing grace.
August 24, 2009
In the previous blog I wrote about Sandy and the card from her mother. But there was another powerful grace moment I noticed with her Sunday.
Sandy is a kid magnet. She attracts them like the bell of an ice cream truck going around the neighborhood. Even if she doesn’t know them, children seem automatically to know they are wanted and safe with her.
A young father and his maybe 6 or 7 year old son were sitting in the row behind the one Sandy and I was in Sunday. There was an empty chair next to Sandy. (Accident? Make enough entries in your God File and you will come to clearly see there are no such accidents.) I had never seen the young father or son before so I doubt if they had been to our church before. (Our church is small enough that you notice if someone is new or not.)
In no time at all the little boy was sitting next to Sandy. They were carrying on a magical conversation that I’d guess only they understood. Not surprisingly, at least not with Sandy, part of the conversation was touch. As they whispered to each other Sandy was stroking the little boys head. He was purring like the most satisfied cat in the world.
Grace makes a way out of no way. Grace builds a foundation from solid blocks that never were. Grace speaks a language that was never heard before.
No one ever stroked Sandy’s head when she was a little girl. No one ever made her feel safe or wanted. No one protected her. Sandy was an “exotic dancer” and mother before she was 16 years old. So where did the knowledge about how to make children purr like a cat come from? What magic well did she dip in to even know there was a gift to be given the little boy let alone know what it was? What is it in Sandy that automatically draws lonely, scared children to her with such unerring knowledge?
What else but grace? What else but the power at the heart of the power that turns the sunflower of humanity, no matter how bruised and battered, up toward the sun of Love? Again, what else but grace, “leads us home.”
August 18, 2009
The problem of writing blogs about grace is that there are too many events to write about. Grace abounds for those who keep their spiritual eyes open.
I noticed a young lady a few chairs down from me at Church Sunday. Let’s say her name is Sandy. I know Sandy well enough to know she is two plus years clean and sober. I know her mother was a meth addict while pregnant with Sandy – and still is actively using. Sandy has no idea who her father is. She says her mother doesn’t know either.
Due to amazing grace and a lot of love in Sandy’s life (which I guess IS amazing grace) she has never lost contact with her mother. She doesn’t always know where she is or in what condition she’ll find her but Sandy has never let go of her mom. She always finds her on Mother’s Day no matter what condition she is in and spends time with her. More than once Sandy has come back from those outings with a heart full of thorns but she says, “She’s my mom. I love her no matter what condition she is in.”
After services Sunday Sandy came running up to me to show me a card she had gotten from her mother. It was the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen. It was one of those Hallmark cards from a mother to her “beloved daughter.” At the bottom of the card she said, “I’ll always love you.”
Amazing grace pure and simple. I think, “I’ll always love you” is just another way to spell grace.
July 26, 2009
Living in the moment is almost always associated with joy. It’s about being “in the moment” because there are blessings to be found there. Who wants to be “in the moment” if all that’s waiting there is a punch in the nose.
But sometimes it takes that punch in the nose to slow us down and make us aware that there even are “moments’ in our lives. In fact that’s all life can ever be – a long series of moments all strung together like pearls on a string. Sometimes those punches in the nose are the start, maybe even a necessary part, of finding the joy in the here and now.
Ellen was telling me not long ago about just how this works. She didn’t know she was of course, but that is what her story taught me – and her.
Ellen has three teenage sons. Teenage people aren’t famous for thinking of others. Ellen said she was “running late” which was pretty much her M.O. The power had gone out at their house just as she was starting to blow dry her hair. She had a funeral to get to and the best she could think of was to hop in the car and drive to one of those fancy gas stations that does everything but shine your shoes. Her oldest son had the car the previous night. Just as she pulled out of the drive way she heard a sharp dinging. It was her gas gauge telling her she was running on fumes.
“So there I was” she said. “Wet hair hanging down, blow dryer in the seat next to me, late for getting to the funeral – and my car screaming at me that I was out of gas.”
She said she could have strangled her son for bringing the car back empty. But it turned out well, she told me. She said her situation was so bizarre all she could do was laugh. As it turned out she made it to the gas station, got her hair dried and made it to the funeral on time.
“What about your son?” I asked. She said she still could have strangled him and would have some words with him about responsibility and respect for others in the house. But she said all in all, “He is a good kid. He does a lot more right than he does wrong. I’m blessed to have him in my life for as long as he is home.”
The funeral Ellen was going to was a friend of her’s who is also a mother and whose son had been killed in a car crash some years before..
Sometimes it takes a punch in the nose.
July 2, 2009
Living in the moment is closely tied to an attitude of gratitude. The more a person focuses on what they do have as opposed to what they don’t have (and are often convinced they need) the more blessings they see. Drawing close to those blessings of course are what make living in the moment beneficial.
Sometimes our blessings shine brightest when we see what others don’t have. Like the woman at the book signing.
It had rained hard that day and was still pouring down by the time the evening book signing was scheduled to start. Maybe that’s why I mostly sat at the author’s table by myself. (Or maybe no one especially liked the book?) At any rate I was glad when it was time to leave.
Just as I was getting up to go a woman in her 40’s I’d say slowly came up to me. She looked shy. It looked like she was having a tough time asking what she wanted to ask. Finally she told me she no longer believed in God and felt bad about it.
My experience is that often when people say they no longer believe in God they are talking about no longer believing in religion, or at least their particular religion or church. (I saw a sign on a church lawn not long ago that said, DON’T BLAME GOD FOR RELIGION. I thought that was pretty good.)
My response to this woman was along the line of don’t confuse God with your religious experiences. I asked her to think of someone she loved with all her heart. Then transfer that sense to herself as being loved by God. If God is love then love is God. My suggestion was that she would get as close to the nature of God as any of us are likely to get by going to the deepest love she had for another.
She looked scared or sad as she thought about it. I asked her, “So when you think of someone you love all the way down who comes to your mind?” A moment later she said, “No one. I guess there is no one I really love.”
I prayed for that woman that night. Then I thought of all the people I love and who have gifted me by loving me. It was a good moment to be living in.
June 28, 2009
I’m giving a talk at our local Vet’s Center this evening. All of these men are homeless and all are recovering addicts. Most all of them came home from a foreign war wounded in their souls even more so than in their bodies.
I asked their head counselor what a good topic might be? I asked him what he was working on with them? What of his courses could I re-enforce?
He told me to say something about “staying in recovery.” He said all of them had been through the V.A. recovery program, most more than once. “But” he said, “They don’t keep doing what they need to do to say clean and sober. They start but they don’t finish.”
What would you tell them? What point would you try to make? What hope would you give them? No question these brave men have the deck stacked against them at this point. Some suffer with sever mental illness. Others have given up hope. Most, I suspect, have very little confidence that they could ever live differently than what they are now.
I don’t know what to say. But I know everyone needs non-judgmental love.
Everyone needs to know someone cares and that they belong somewhere. They need to know they are worth the effort of someone reaching out to them.
So that’s what I’ll do. Someone is waiting for that message tonight. Someone is always waiting for that message.
June 21, 2009
I’d like to share a card a friend sent me the other day. My friend’s name is Sue. She attended one of our Life Management sessions a few months ago. I remember Sue. She pulls an oxygen tank around behind her when she walks. She lives alone after a messy, soul-jarring divorce and has lost her career to a host of health problems. She was hurting a lot.
But she was determined to improve her life. She came to Life Management with real motivation and willingness. She was willing to do the work.
On the outside of the card she sent was a row of brightly painted front doors. Beside each door was either a flower box or a pot full of flowers. Colorful flowers also hung over many of the doors on the card. Here is what Sue wrote on the inside of the card,
“I love this picture of many colorful and interesting doorways. I’m sharing it with you because it personifies my new feelings about my life that I didn’t recognize before Life Management.
“As a result of the course I am learning to love myself. New doors are opening to me via all the new friends and renewed self-esteem and self-respect I have gained. I can now ask for help and actually receive the gift of knowing others care about me.”
Sue’s journey might just be one person but it symbolizes where the whole family of man is moving toward. With a lot of face-pant fall downs and two steps forward and one backward kind of moving. But it is moving nonetheless.
I guess a lot of people would say of Sue’s card and her journey, so what? It’s a nice story but so what?
The “so what,” at least for me, is that it is a model of what we are all capable of. No matter where we start from or how hard our path, IF we are willing to commit ourselves and do the work anyone can arrive at that blessed place of, “New doors are opening to me” and a “renewed self-esteem and self-respect” is within everyone’s reach.
We all can look like the flower enhanced, colorful doors on the front of Sue’s joyful card.