Monday, December 15, 2014

Decision Time

The Mystery within...

My refrigerator suddenly sounded terminally ill. The frozen yogurt was turning to soup.  I was beginning to have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach until I realized I could decide how this new wrinkle was going to affect me.  I reviewed my knowledge and resources. 

I called my neighbor to get the name of a local merchant she recently dealt with who gave her a loaner refrigerator until she could get delivery on a new unit.  She then offered me some of her freezer space temporarily.  I called the dealer and also its service department and heard what I knew I would hear.  Ten years is the average life expectancy for refrigerators today.  I decided I didn’t want to put repair money into an eleven year old one. 

As I drove to the store I remembered how I shuffled some money around after I purchased my new car and held out an extra thousand dollars for emergencies, grateful now for that foresight, as well as my car that got me to the showroom.  There was only one salesman who was on his cell phone--for a very long time.  I hoped it was a really important call.  An office staff person showed me a few models but could not answer all my questions.  When the salesman finally came over he apologized for his call and said he may have to take a call back from his doctor.  He had an anguished look on his face and told me he is having sever back pain.  (I was pleased I decided not to jump to conclusions regarding his cell phone use and that I currently did not have sever back pain.)  My purchase options were limited to color only on one model that would fit in my existing space without moving a cupboard and kitchen counter.  That made my decision easy.  We closed the deal.  I told him I was sorry for his back trouble and he filled out a $50.00 dollar rebate form for me and thanked me for shopping locally. 

I most likely would have saved money if I shopped around but I also gained from my decision to shop locally.  I did not have to drive to a major shopping area, find parking and endure holiday crowds.  I did not get a loaner refrigerator but made due with my helpful neighbor’s freezer space, my forty-year old refrigerator in the basement, and a cool garage.  Instead of a “woe is me” attitude over my refrigerator’s demise I became grateful for the trove of food I have, and that I will be able to pay for a new refrigerator.  I am thankful for all my other appliances that are currently working, and for the large serving spoon I was really missing that turned up under my old refrigerator.  And this change also got me to clean under my stove and mop the kitchen floor—a long time needed accomplishment.  The delivery order was for Monday between 9:00 a.m. and noon, with a note to please be patient if they arrive later, since they may run into problems with earlier deliveries—a nice touch I thought to restrain my ego.  The truck pulled into my driveway at 3:00 p.m. with my acceptance in tack. 

I know all of life’s challenges come with hidden gifts.  Some take longer to realize.  My refrigerator’s demise taught me I can consciously decide to look for them.

What if I, and the rest of us, could approach all of life’s challenges looking for their hidden gifts?           

Monday, December 8, 2014

Key Found!

The Mystery within...

I was amazed at how thrilled I was to find one of my two car key’s that had gone missing about six weeks ago.  When I spotted it at the bottom of my glove/ mitten/hat drawer, my heart leapt for joy with a simultaneous smile and an audible “Thank you!” on my lips.  The intense joy of finding that key surprised me.  I had abandoned actively looking for it but I still harbored some hope it might show up.  And there it was.  And I wanted nothing else that day to detract from my happy find.  And that thought stayed with me as my evening unfolded.

Later I could have gotten perturbed with a friend, who was picking me up for dinner that night, and was an hour late without any definitive explanation.  But I told myself, I’m happy because I found my key and I’m not going to let this detract from the joy I was still feeling. When he picked me up I found out the delay was due to his brother, who was in the hospital for nine days needing a transfer to a psych ward, which the social worker had finally just secured in another hospital, and the move needed to be done that night.  So after we ate dinner, and made a quick stop at my friend’s daughter-in-law’s Christmas craft show, we went to pick up his brother who was supposed to be ready to go at 9:00 p.m., but wasn’t.  During the hour plus wait for him I realized I was on the hospital floor, and very wing, where I once served as a Clinical Pastoral Experience student.  In my mind's eye I saw myself walking those halls back then and realized how much I had discovered within myself and grown in the almost twenty intervening years. I also was able to witness again the awesome care and compassion of some nurses, grateful for that awareness.   Finding my key joy was still intact.

After the three of us got in the van and headed for the other distant hospital, it became apparent the GPS system was taking us in the opposite direction from where we needed to go.  But I just sat in the back seat enjoying the two brothers who interacted like Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man,” one of my favorite movies.  The GPS was reprogrammed.  We were turned around, and finally arrived at the next hospital’s darkened locked entrance with an outside phone that directed us to the adjacent Emergency door.  I was asked to wait in the car.  The motor was running and the hazard lights were on.  I turned off the motor but could not figure out how to turn off the blinking red lights.  So I sat there for another hour plus aware of a few lit rooms on floors above, where others were caring for the sick, remembering some of my family’s and my need in crisis and healing.  I took stock of how relatively well I still am physically and felt humbling gratitude.  Finding my key joy was still intact.

When my friend returned I told him I could not figure out how to turn off the hazard lights.  He showed me.  He turned the key and there was no response from the engine.  He told me I could have left the engine running.  I just let that comment pass.  I told him there seemed to be security personnel patrolling the area and maybe we could get them to charge the battery.  A short while later we were on our way.  When he dropped me off at my house it was after midnight.  I heated up my leftover spinach stuffed portabella mushroom from the restaurant and finally got in bed in the small hours of the morning.  Finding my key joy was still intact. 

The intense Joy I knew must live deep inside me.  Accepting what is, humbling gratitude, and letting some things pass helps me hold onto it.  What if we all found our lost Key? 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mashed Potato Parable

The Mystery within...

The Biblical parable of Mary and Martha tells the story of Jesus showing up at their house with the usual crowd that followed him.  Martha is in the kitchen working to put food together for them while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to the Teacher. Martha complains to Jesus that Mary should get in the kitchen and help her.  When Jesus says Martha, you are distracted by many things—Mary has chosen the better part, it will not be taken away…  I identify with Martha.  Thanksgiving was made for us Marthas.  Even so, I was grateful not to be this past holiday’s chief cook and instead was invited to my son and daughter-in-law’s for dinner.  I was assigned to bring the mashed potatoes, which I did, and for good measure also brought a sweet-sour red cabbage dish, because that’s what Marthas do.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, Author of “Pastrix, the Cranky Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint” (which I am currently enjoying) has a little deeper take on what this story means.  She says it's “…not that we are distracted by work itself, but that we are distracted from the better part when we judge the actions of others through the lens of our own personality.     And the more we live our lives in these kinds of judgments about the actions of others, the more distracted we are from the better part…  She also says the main thing we forget is our own sacred story.  I know how easy it is to forget how uniquely different we all are from one another.  Mary, Martha and the Main Thing,” according to Nadia Bolz-Weber, can be found at Sojourner magazine’s blog, “God’s Politics,” where some of her refreshing and poignant 10-minute sermons can also be heard.   

I am happy to be more accepting of the personality who brought the mash potatoes and red cabbage.  I understand, in a new way, how I differ from the preparer of the green bean casserole, and am distinct from the one who brought the cranberry relish, and different too from the fresh green salad provider, and the many bearers of desserts, as well as the preparers of the turkey and dressing.  But all together we created and shared a uniquely tasty, nourishing feast, from our diversity.

What if we all accepted the uniqueness of our own and others’ personalities? 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Immigration Thoughts

The Mystery within...

Garrison Keillor’s November 22, 2014 Prairie Home Companion featured a few thoughts on immigration in a plaintiff song titled, “Tired Old World.”  His voice, the guitar, the melody, the words, all captured the melancholy sadness of the current standoff between some and our president.  I felt encouraged when Keillor’s New York City audience’s heartfelt applause came during and after Keillor’s singing the following words:

“If my heart fails to break at the sight of incredible pain,
Then this tired old world, this crazy time, is having its way.
If my mind understands every ruthless and poisonous act,
Then this tired old world, this crazy time, is having its way.

There’s some people fighting their way through this world all alone.
To care for their families they made our country their own.
If I punish the farm hand, the maid who cleans the hotel,
I’ve lost my compassion and mercy as well as myself.

If my eyes turn away just because I’ve got mine so okay,
Then this tired old world, this crazy time, is having its way.
If my life, on from here, is a life lived and driven by fear,
Then this tired old world, this crazy time, is having its way.

If I ever get to a time when it don’t bother me
to see innocent people degraded like dogs in the street,
who pick our vegetables, now our policemen expel.
Then I’ve lost my compassion and mercy as well as myself.

Men sit in Washington, adamant blocking the way,
while people are suffering, families with nothing to say.
Good people, good workers who want the good things we’ve got.
Have we lost our compassion and mercy?  I trust we have not.

If my heart fails to break at the sight of incredible pain,
Then this tired old world, this crazy time, is having its way.
Tired old world, crazy time, is having its way.

Be moved and encouraged.  Listen to Keillor sing and hear the audience applaud on November 22, 2014.  Click on Listen to the show in individual segments,” and then select “Tired Old World.”

What if we show compassion and mercy and let our voice be heard? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dying to Live Better

The Mystery within...

The theme of this past Sunday’s service was dying teaches us how to live.  I felt a somber, yet hopeful energy, in the living room of our small gathering of mostly older adults who have lost loved ones and have grown.  But the focus was on our own inevitable end that imparts clarity for what is important in living a more meaningful life.  And while driving to this ecumenical service I had National Public Radio’s, “A Way with Words,” on in my car.  The radio show host commented how using less words are often more powerful.  When the pastor’s wife came and sat beside me after she helped her ailing husband deliver the sermon, I whispered, “Wow!”  She understood, in that one word, a genuine compliment for a job well done, and I understood in my core how less could let me live better.

What do I need less and more of in my life?  Less work, food, and hanging onto things; more play, exercise, listening, patience, acceptance, and letting go.  Learning to say “Yes” and “No” gracefully to others and myself would do the trick.
Parker Palmer’s October 15, 2014 On-Being reflection, “The Modern Violence of Over-Work,” tells how he learned to ask: “What do I want to let go of and what do I want to give myself to?”  Since we all have differing challenges, interests and talents, his words seem to be a good query for us all. 

What if we all learned to ask ourselves the right questions for a more balanced life?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mourning Politics

The Mystery within . . .
I wished a Native American friend a “Happy Thanksgiving” last week.  She smiled kindly and said, “Thanksgiving is a day of mourning for us.  We give thanks the following Friday.”  And then she invited me to come and join their feast.  My heart, mind and body received her words with grateful clarity and my voice responded, “Oh, I understand.”  The brutal politics of how the United States of America came to be is encapsulated in Native peoples day of mourning.

After the mid-term election results were announced on November 4, I was unable to turn on my television for two days.  I was in mourning and quietly fearful on where our country is heading.  Does not the past brutal formation of this country, and then the decimation of another culture through enslavement, now require remedies?  I am afraid that a powerful political majority will disregard the overwhelming evidence that early childhood programs and quality education for everyone forms the basis for a civil society.  Will the incarcerated know compassion and a chance to start over?  Will the right to vote become more cumbersome, and will more arbitrary lines be drawn to favor one ideology?  Can we justify the ever-growing gap between the wealthiest Americans and the rest of us under the veil of hard work?  Can collective bargaining ever be restored, and will the minimum wage ever be fair?  Will every human being eventually know the right to good medical care?  Is the environment, and the food we eat, in greater jeopardy of more contamination?  And will women, who hold up half the sky, be treated more fairly?  These are some of the things that make me quietly fearful.

The interviewed guest On-Being this week, Joanna Macy – A Wild Love for the World spoke to my distress.  She suggested we be present and fearless with our pain for it eventually reveals our connectedness and love for the world.  I felt common ground with Macy when she told of her growth through the tyranny of her father and subsequently leaving the dogmatic, patriarchal church in which she was raised.  My journey and healing from tyranny is similar to hers and really began in earnest when I was told to “Be not afraid.”  Through Presence, I encountered the grace of multiple Synchronicities on my everyday path.  I gradually learned how to be true to myself and began to understand how profoundly interconnected we are to everyone and all things. 

A Path Appears:  Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunities” is a new book by the same authors of “Half the Sky:  Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” (Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn).  They suggest if we become truly aware of the pain and dysfunction in our world, a path will appear showing how we can be a part of the healing.  I recently listened with keen interest to the audio version of their latest book and their telling of the effectiveness of corporations who take on a humanitarian need as a part of their overall mission.  Corporations have highly skilled people, including effective marketing staff, and can be very successful in promoting and producing needed change in the lives of many.  What would it take to get all of corporate America to take on a humanitarian need as a part of their mission?

What if we all took on a humanitarian need as part of our mission?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Slow Healing

The Mystery within...

Just like slow food cooking is better for you than fast food, I am coming to appreciate the same is true with the slow healing of my knee that I sprained a week ago.  Each day brings a little more mobility, and lessening of pain.  My slower pace allows for more keen observation and reflection.  Even though I really miss being more active, especially outdoors, I have noticed I am less anxious about what isn’t getting done.  I’ve also gotten some help with yard work from my daughter for which I am grateful.  Some ingredients for hanging on to my calm appear to be acceptance for what is, a lowering of expectations for what needs to get done, and becoming more comfortable with needing help. 
The On-Being guest Krista Tippett interviewed this past week was timely for me.  He was Dr. Bessel van der Kolk – Restoring the Body:  Yoga, EMDR, and Treating Trauma.  He is also author of “The Body Keeps the Score.”  He spoke of the importance of the social context in how trauma occurs as being very important because the body holds the memory of those sensate experiences.  My initial knee injury and subsequent surgery was the result of a cross-country skiing accident during a January thaw when I went out to work off some significant frustration.  My left ski caught a patch of mud and I did a 180-degree turn on that knee well over twenty-five years ago.  Could my knee need a talking to about its time to forget?  Or is this just a continuing learning benefit from an initial trauma?  This needs further thought and investigation.

My memoir, “God Never Hurries,” is like a cookbook on slow healing from abuse and the significant challenges in caring for parents.  My troubles have been my greatest teachers because they caused me to search for my truth, which I then found in everyday experiences and the natural world.  I learned it’s a lot easier to stay miserable than to make changes in my life.  I came to see everything as a both/and thing, got a grip on my complicity in my troubles, was infused with courage, and came to know true freedom from forgiveness.  And I am now becoming aware of a growing compassion for the other that knows no bounds.  There may be no end to trauma benefits.  Just going deeper. 

What if we saw our traumas as potentially rich training opportunities?