Posted by: ritagone | March 14, 2018

What a Headache!!!

 

 The picture doesn’t look like me.  She’s far younger and more blonde than I.  But the posture reminds me of me.  Hand to forehead. Grimace on face.  Oh, right.  It must be headache time.

Lately I feel like my life revolves around the management of my migraines.  I can stop one in its tracks by taking a dose of Imitrex when it comes on, but you can’t do that forever, or at least I’m told by the medical community that you shouldn’t.  So there comes a time when I have to look at my calendar and pick a day when nothing is happening and then allow a full-blown headache to find me.  And it does.

It’s weird to tell people that I will be “out of commission” Saturday because I’m going to have a headache, as if I’m prescient.  And then it’s even weirder to have that headache start and blossom and unfold into something so painful and awful that I think hitting my head against the wall might be a relief.

So for a day, or sometimes two, I’m in bed, curled up in a fetal position, doing nothing but trying to sleep to avoid the pain, thankful for a husband who brings me a microwave-heated bean-bag thing that lays on my eyes and gives me relief for about 10 minutes, until it cools down.  That’s my shrunken world for a period of time.  Then the headache gradually goes away, and the only residual is a feeling like I’ve had the flu for a day or two.  Drained, tired, still needing lots of sleep, which is incredible, considering that I’ve spent a day or two doing nothing but sleeping and moaning and groaning.

By most standards it’s not terrible.  There are certainly people who suffer from much worse.  And, looking on the bright side of things, I always lose a few pounds because nothing edible sounds good.  And it’s so very temporary that I always know there’s an end in sight, which is more than many people can say about the pain they’re experiencing.

And more important than those two factors, I think I have learned a great deal about what it means to trust God through some pain.  Because up until the last few years, my life seems to have been relatively pain-free.  I’ve had migraines since my mid-twenties, but I don’t remember them being as disabling as they are now.  Or lasting as long.  So now I’ve had to pray and to ask God to give me strength.  To be there with me and for me.  To walk beside me and comfort me in a whole new way.

And I’ve learned the value of the promises that one day we will be in a place where there will be no pain.

It’s not a great consolation when I’m in the midst of a migraine, but it’s something to fall back on when my head is clear and pain-free.

How about you?  What is in your life that, while you’re experiencing it, seems like the worst thing in the world to go through, but which increases your reliance on God and your trust in Him?  So can you count it a good thing after all?  Or at least a thing with some purpose attached to it?  I certainly hope so, really I do.

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Posted by: ritagone | March 7, 2018

“Glory’s Garment”

I’m posting this today because I think the poem is so beautiful and touching.  It is from my dear friend Jonathan Steele’s blog; Jonathan serves with Communitas in Valencia, Spain with his wife Taryn and writes with his heart and soul.  Enjoy what God has put on his heart.

 

Jonathan L Steele

 

Where in the end…God is Everything, and All is Grace.

 

Glory’s Garment

Posted on March 3, 2018 by jonathanlsteele

 

 

If I had but one day left
I would remain quiet
and wait

To see God
through how
you see

Would you give
that to me?

If I had but one day left
I would give it
to you

For you to
find God
in who You
were made
to be

Would you receive that
from me?

All the cares
all the concerns
vanish
with this single turn

If you had but one day left
would you open
up to see

That inside you
awaits Infinite’s
Mystery

Clothed in flesh and blood
buried beneath lies and misery

Invite it in
let it have
you

You are the treasure
you have been seeking

Salvation is
homecoming
homecoming is
your inheritance

If you had but one day left
would you dare to trust
that your inclusion at the banquet is a must?

Kick your shoes off
Dance in the dust

Discover that
you
tattered and bruised
are enough

Because Grace
Always
Clothes
The Naked

If I had but one day left,
I would remain quiet
and wait

To see God
through how
you shine

Wearing
Glory’s garment

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | February 28, 2018

Possibilities

POSSIBILITIES by Wislawa Szymborska (July 2,1923-February 1, 2012)

I prefer movies.

I prefer cats.

I prefer the oaks along the Warta.

I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.

I prefer myself liking people

to myself loving mankind.

I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.

I prefer the color green.

I prefer not to maintain

that reason is to blame for everything.

I prefer exceptions.

I prefer to leave early.

I prefer talking to doctors about something else.

I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.

I prefer the absurdity of writing poems

to the absurdity of not writing poems.

I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries

that can be celebrated every day.

I prefer moralists

who promise me nothing.

I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.

I prefer the earth in civvies.

I prefer conquered to conquering countries.

I prefer having some reservations.

I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.

I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.

I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.

I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.

I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.

I prefer desk drawers.

I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here

to many things I’ve also left unsaid.

I prefer zeroes on the loose

to those lined up behind a cipher.

I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.

I prefer to knock on wood.

I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility

that existence has its own reason for being.

 

In 1996, Szymborska was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.” Upon announcing the prize, the Nobel commission noted her reputation as “the Mozart of poetry” but aptly added that there is also “something of the fury of Beethoven in her creative work.”

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | February 21, 2018

Mary and Martha and Me

 

 

Everyone who has read the New Testament at least a few times is familiar with the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42, where Jesus and His disciples were traveling along by foot and came to the village of Bethany, where Martha welcomed Him into her home.  And her sister Mary, the text says, immediately sank to His feet and was listening to what He had to say.  Martha, on the other hand, was the domestic goddess, preparing the meal for however many people had “dropped by” that day.  After all, someone had to do it!  And the preparation left her distracted and disturbed.  She went up to Jesus when she had had enough, obviously out of sorts, and said to Him (and not to Mary, notice): “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?  Then tell her to help me.”

 

Oh, I can so relate to Martha!  At first glance, and especially if you tend to be a “Martha” type, you feel this is obviously fair.  Why should Martha be left doing all the work while Mary gets to sit at the Teacher’s feet and absorb His teaching?  It’s just not fair!  And doesn’t He see that it’s just not fair?  What’s wrong with Him?  He needs to straighten this mess out and rescue me, shame Mary, put things back on the right path where they belong…where I say they belong!

Instead, “the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’”

Christ is telling Martha, and us, that we need to simplify our lives, focusing on the one thing that matters so that our passion for Him can have an opportunity to grow.

He is telling us that we can get distracted from Him even in the midst of serving Him.  Like Martha, we can take our eyes off of the One we’re serving and onto all of our preparations, whether that’s meal preparations or sermon preparations.  Like Martha, we can get angry, even in our volunteer work, that someone has left us to do all the serving alone.  Like Martha, we can stomp out of the kitchen, into some committee meeting, and start telling people off.

The vacation Anne Morrow Lindbergh once took on an East Coast beach, which she chronicled in her book Gift from the Sea, offers an excellent model for reflective living.  It is full of wit and wisdom and rich reflections about life.  In this reflection she raises the same question the Mary and Martha passage raises, showing how universal the struggle is.

“I begin to understand,” she writes, “why the saints were rarely married women.  I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children.  It has to do primarily with distractions.  The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls – woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life.  The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence.  It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life…”

How do we remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life? It’s a question we all wrestle with.  But for Christians the question goes deeper.  In the midst of the distractions of life, how do we remain wholly devoted to Christ?

We do what Mary did.

We make a choice to sit at Christ’s feet. That is where the “many things” we are involved in are brought into submission to the “one thing that is necessary.”

This is a constant battle, one I unfortunately too often lose.  But I fight on, because it’s worth it.  To win it is to win the small skirmish that allows me to be still and listen to what Jesus wants to say to me in a whisper that I might miss altogether.

Posted by: ritagone | February 14, 2018

“The Myth of Scarcity”

Today I’d like to quote from Walter Brueggemann, American-born Old Testament scholar who has influenced so many scholars we know, read and trust today for our theology, as well as Brueggemann’s, as I’ve been studying some of his ideas and writings to use in my Ecclesiastes class.  This one, taken from his work “The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity,” is a theme that runs throughout Ecclesiastes, but is also so pertinent and applicable today that it struck me as something we should all be pondering and praying about.  This piece was written in 1999 but is still timely in so many ways.

“The majority of the world’s resources pour into the United States.  And as we Americans grow more and more wealthy, money is becoming a kind of narcotic for us.  We hardly notice our own prosperity or the poverty of so many others.  The great contradiction is that we have more and more money and less and less generosity – less and less public money for the needy, less charity for the neighbor.

 

Robert Wuthnow, sociologist of religion at Princeton University, has studied stewardship in the church and discovered that preachers do a good job of promoting stewardship.  They study it, think about it, explain it well.  But folks don’t get it.  Though many of us are well intentioned, we have invested our lives in consumerism.  We have a love affair with “more” – and we will never have enough.  Consumerism is not simply a marketing strategy.  It has become a demonic spiritual force among us, and the theological question facing us is whether the gospel has the power to help us withstand it.

 

The Bible starts out with a liturgy of abundance.  Genesis 1 is a song of praise for God’s generosity.  It tells how well the world is ordered.  It keeps saying, “It is good, it is good, it is good, it is very good.”  It declares that God blesses – that is, endows with vitality – the plants and the animals and the fish and the birds and humankind…

 

We who are now the richest nation are today’s main coveters.  We never feel that we have enough; we have to have more and more, and this insatiable desire destroys us.  Whether we are liberal or conservative Christians, we must confess that the central problem of our lives is that we are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction to the good news of God’s abundance and the power of the belief in scarcity – a belief that makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly.  We spend our lives trying to sort out that ambiguity.

 

The feeding of the multitudes, recorded in Mark’s Gospel, is an example of the new world coming into being through God.  When the disciples, charged with feeding the hungry crowd, found a child with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus took, blessed, broke and gave the bread.  These are the four decisive verbs of our sacramental existence.  Jesus conducted a Eucharist, a gratitude.  He demonstrated that the world is filled with abundance and freighted with generosity.  If bread is broken and shared, there is enough for all.”

 

Reading this short essay made me ponder where I fit in: am I greedy or generous?  Do I turn my back on God’s generosity or embrace it?  What about you?  Think about this, I urge you.  Pray over it.  It may well be one of the most important things you think or pray about in the weeks or months to come.

Posted by: ritagone | February 7, 2018

To Journal OR Not to Journal

 

I’ve been thinking and reading about journaling lately; it seems like everywhere I turn, someone is either writing about it or doing it.  I don’t have a problem with that.  Everyone should feel free to write down his or her private thoughts about what’s going on around them so that in years to come, they will have a record of what their history was.

My only objection is when they start to feel that what they’re saying is of such importance that the rest of the world can’t live without those words.  It’s then that I wish that people who journal would realize that not everyone’s words are worth publishing to the world.  Privately they are significant, important, tender and valuable.  Publicly, not always.

I’m reminded of something I read recently in my morning devotional book by Ken Gires, “The Reflective Life.”  He says, “We see a lot of things we haven’t seen in people when we’re given a peek into their journal.  There we see them with their make-up off and their mat of morning hair.  And seeing them like that helps us not only to understand them better but to love them better.  But the journals of most people are mostly private.  Every once in a while, though, someone’s journal is published and we see them in ways we maybe never imagined.

You get to know people more through their journal, I think, than through anything else they have written.  In a book someone has written, for example, everything is rewritten and edited and proofread.  I remember reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and admiring not only the craftsmanship of his prose but his insights into the human condition.  Steinbeck was a Nobel Prize-winning author so he should be insightful, he should be confident in his craft.

What he should be, though, was so different from what he was.  I saw beneath the polish of his prose one day when I was browsing the shelves of a used bookstore.  It was his familiar name on the spine of an unfamiliar book that caught my eye.  The book was titled, Working Days, and it was the journal he kept during the writing of The Grapes of Wrath.  Reading it, I learned that the title of the novel came from his wife, who thought the line from the Civil War hymn captured the story’s essence.  The research, I learned, was not mostly from firsthand observation but secondhand, from a man who had studied migrant workers, following them from camp to camp, listening to what they talked about, how they expressed themselves, what figures of speech they used.  And Steinbeck, I learned, was anything but confident in his abilities.  He was full of self-doubt, worried at how slow the writing was going, wondering if he would be able to meet his deadline, and if what he had written was any good.  And he was crabby about all the distracting noise his neighbor’s remodeling project was making.  All this to say, the more accurate picture of Steinbeck was captured in the journal, not the novel.”

Now, THAT was worthwhile journaling!!  It made me realize that most of us should keep our journaling to ourselves, where it belongs.  It’s not that it’s because John Steinbeck was a famous, well-thought-of, well honored author and other journaling people are not.  It’s that there is such a surfeit of self-advancing material today that the world doesn’t need more, it needs less.

 

This is my opinion, and I know it might be a bit hypocritical coming in the form of a written blog, but so be it.

I’ve said my piece.  I won’t be upset if you disagree with me.  I just may not read your journal entries should you choose to publish them online.  But I still love you.  And I would love to know what you think, because this is an interesting discussion topic.  So let me hear from you.

Posted by: ritagone | January 31, 2018

“God’s Mission Statement For Our Life”

 

This is taken from one of my morning devotional books, Ken Gire’s “The Reflective Life,” which is really causing me to consider how I live out my relationship to Jesus Christ.  I hope you enjoy it and are challenged by it as much as I have been.

 

“The reflective life is a way of living that heightens our spiritual senses to all that is sacred.  The Scriptures are one of those sacred things.  For the Jew, the most sacred passage in all the Scriptures is the Shema (pronounced Shemmah, with the accent on the last syllable).  It is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning “hear,” the first word in that most sacred passage.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

The Shema was the mission statement for believing Jews.  It regulated every area of their lives, from work to worship.  It was placed in the phylacteries they wore on their foreheads and within the Mezuzah they fastened to their doorposts.  It was recited every morning and evening, and at the close of the most holy day, which is the Day of Atonement.  It was also the last word breathed from the lips of the dying.

The command is the heart of the Old Testament.  Somehow, though, the beat of that heart got drowned out by the incessant strum of lesser commands.  Something like the simplicity of the Constitution getting lost in the library of legal cases that were meant to clarify it.

A lawyer looking for clarification asked Jesus, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ Jesus answered by quoting the Shema. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment,’ Jesus explained.  ‘And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40, see also Romans 13:8-10).

This vertical as well as horizontal orientation of our faith can be seen as far back as the giving of the Ten Commandments.  The first four commandments, which were probably inscribed on the first tablet, deal exclusively with our relationship to God.  The last six, which were probably inscribed on the second tablet, deal exclusively with our relationship to our neighbor.  The two tablets stand in a cause-and-effect relationship to each other.  If we love God, that love will naturally spill over into our relationships with people.

This same cause-and-effect relationship is the basis of John’s argument in 1 John 4:20. “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

Before we can love our neighbor, we must see our neighbor and hear our neighbor. Observing the way a gardener observes plants.  Watching their buds when they’re blooming.  Watering their roots when they’re wilting.  But we cannot weep with those who weep or rejoice with those who rejoice unless we first see something of their tears or hear something of their laughter.  If we can learn to see and hear our neighbor, maybe, just maybe, we can learn to see and hear God.  And seeing Him and hearing Him, to love Him.

To passionately love God and other people.

This is what matters.

This is all that matters.

And all that God requires.

 

But it requires our all to fulfill.

That is the mission statement, so to speak, of the reflective life.  Not to see better or to hear better but to love better.  To better love all that is sacred.  And of all that is sacred, nothing is more sacred than God and the people He created as the object of His affection.

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | January 24, 2018

The Eyes of Wisdom

 

Great piece of advice as I’m reading Timothy and Kathy Keller’s book “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life” this year in my early morning devotions:

 

         “Wisdom is to see things through as many other eyes as possible, through the Word of God and through the eyes of your friends, of people from other races, classes, and political viewpoints, and of your critics.  Wise women and men crate a company of counselors around them – mentors and advisers and friends and people from whom they can get a ‘second opinion.’ The gospel is the greatest resource for creating teachability. It shows us that we are sinners, yet its deep assurance of God’s unconditional love for us in Christ makes it possible to face our flaws without denial.

         Is there a person or kind of person you should be listening to but have not made the effort to do so?”

 

 

As I study the book of Ecclesiastes, I’m more and more aware of just how unwise I am.  Or, to put it another way, I’m more and more aware of just how wise I thought I was.  But I’m not.  I have so much to learn.  So far to go.

Another step today in the right direction.

Baby steps.

One foot after another.  Eyes forward, not backward.  No regrets.  Well, as few as possible.  Asking the hard questions of myself.  Hoping for the answers that will move me along the right path.

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | January 17, 2018

Things Well Done

 

I’m always impressed by things well done, whether it be a performance on television or in the movies, a vocal concert, a sermon, a piece of writing of any length (some of the best pieces of writing are short and sweet).  A work of art, of any kind.

Things well done are often subtle, not blatant or obvious.

Things well done don’t need to brag or call attention to themselves.  In fact, if someone is calling attention to himself or herself,

usually it’s a sign that the thing isn’t enough to stand alone on its own merits.  (It’s why in my mind the Kardashians have never produced a thing well done; they are constantly, it seems to me, calling attention to what they’re doing, as if if they don’t, no one else will notice.)

If you’re looking for things well done, you see them everywhere.  While watching the Christmas Special of “Call the Midwife,” for example, which I referred to in my December 27 blog of late last year, there is a relatively small part of a character named Mabel Tillerson played by long-time British actress Anita Dobson.  We first meet her when Sister Julienne has come to her flat to inform her of her husband’s death in the worst snowstorm in London in decades.  Sister Julienne finds her almost dead because the flat is so cold, and when she is revived, there is this amazing scene in which we discover that Percy Tillerson was the worst kind of husband, abusive, terror-producing, overpowering, and his wife has lived a victim and a prisoner of his abuse for decades.  When told of his death, she is relieved.

 

But what is the “thing well done” in my mind that I noticed immediately is the play of emotions across Anita Dobson’s face as she works out, first of all, that her husband is dead, then, that she no longer has to be under his thumb and rule, and thirdly, that she is glad.  With very little dialogue (a wise move on the part of the writers and producers), these two actresses pack more into this brief scene with their eyes and faces than most can do with pages of words.

Things well done.

But it was quick, and if you were talking or not paying attention when the show was running, you would have missed it.

And, like so much in life, if you’re not watching, if you’re not walking or sitting with your eyes wide open and your ears alert, it would have escaped you.

 

Things well done, as I said, are often subtle, quick, elusive.

But they are so very worth watching and looking and waiting for.

One of my challenges for and to myself in 2018 is to be alert to things well done, to track them, to comment on them, to the people who do them, to someone who perhaps desperately needs to hear about them or see them, to bring them out, to make much of them.  Our world has too little of things well done and too much of things done badly.

Let’s look for things well done, you and I, this year; let’s call them to one another’s attention and let’s use them to make a positive instead of a negative statement in life.

I’m in; are you?

 

Posted by: ritagone | January 10, 2018

Read this in a recent book: “If there is a problem somewhere, this is what happens.  Three people will try to do something concrete

to settle the issue.  Ten people will give a lecture analyzing what the three are doing.  One hundred people will commend

or condemn the ten for their lecture.  One thousand people will argue about the problem.  And one person – only one – will involve himself so deeply in the true solution that he is too busy to listen to any of it.”

Thinking about “#Me too!” and “#Time’sup” and their impact at the Golden Globes award program this past Sunday night, I’m trying to relate it to this insightful quote (which of course makes me one of the minority who’s not doing much about solving the problem, just commenting on it, but that’s going to have to do for now).

First, let me say that I am not for sexual harassment.

That’s a pretty easy, simple statement to make.

After all, I’m a woman who grew up and worked in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, when it was presumed that men ruled, when women definitely were the minority, and when you kept your mouth shut, for the most part.  Not that I recall it feeling like a hostile environment; that’s just the way things were, and you lived and worked within those structures and those rules.

But I got married and left the workplace to raise children and wound up finding my meaning elsewhere, in serving at my church teaching and eventually being a board member on a non-profit (thanks to the gender stabilizing beliefs of the founder of the ministry, although bringing me on the board was not without its explosive repercussions).

 

All that to say, I can sympathize with the #MeToo! plight, because I think too many women in too many industries (not just the entertainment industry) have been harassed and harmed and beleaguered in ways that are shameful and even downright criminal.

So yes, let’s wear the pins and badges and say our pieces on national television when and where and if we can, when the platform presents itself.

But can we please put our breasts back inside our dresses while we do so?

I for one am so tired of hearing women talk about the fears and traumas of sexual harassment while I’m worrying about whether or not their breasts are going to stay put behind the fabric or instead make a sudden appearance in public.  While I’m not advocating for turtlenecks, I do think – given the topic on everyone’s lips – something approaching a bit of modesty where both cleavage and breasts are concerned is in order.  It seems to me to be rather hypocritical to be asking men to be aware of their boundaries while breasts are bursting out of theirs.

I may be wrong.

According to the paragraph I quoted at the beginning of this piece, I’m definitely not the one person who’s so involved that she isn’t listening to what is going on all around her.  I’m far too observant of the dress code at, say, The Golden Globes (no pun intended here) to be able to ignore everything and just get on with solving problems.  I guess I’m more of the one in a thousand trying to solve the problem.

 

This is just the beginning of the #MeToo movement, and at the beginning of movements, mistakes and errors in judgment are always made.  It’s allowed. But this is so very correctable, wouldn’t it be smart to correct it now, while it’s relatively easy, than before it becomes a bigger issue?

Am I way off base here, making a mountain out of a molehill? (again, no puns intended) Is this just my puritanical old age showing up to haunt and taunt me?  Are the rest of you saying, “What’s her problem?”

Come on, Oprah, help me out here.  Say something witty and pithy and tell us all what to do.  We’re listening.

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