Archive | June 2012

Kindness

“Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in the world.  [Kindness] can change the lives of people.”

Aung San Suu Kyi in her speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on June 16, 2012

The prize had been awarded to her 21 years ago, but she has been under house arrest and was not allowed  to leave her country, Myanmar.  Recently she was freed, and she is now a member of Parliament in Myanmar.

Life That Really Is Life

“…take hold of the life that really is life.”  This phrase leapt from the page this morning as I was reading in I Timothy.  The writer is actually admonishing those who are wealthy not to be absorbed by their riches, but to “do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share,”  so that they may “take hold of the life that really is life.”

Good advice, but what, I wondered, what does this pithy phrase mean for someone who is not only not wealthy, but who is also not healthy?  What does it mean for someone with a chronic illness to live “life that is really life”?  What does it mean for me to live fully in the midst of numerous health constraints.

Well, for starters, I think it means to live without constantly comparing my life to the lives of those who have no health issues and then feeling small and inconsequential because I’m not able to do what others are able to do.  Sounds easy enough, but, believe me, it is not, and it’s all too easy for me to over-do simply to “prove” I am really alive and living!  That over-doing, of course, only leads to greater fatigue and then to a greater sense of unworthiness.

I think this little phrase means something, too, about acceptance of what is rather than experiencing a constant undertow of longing for what isn’t.  I learn so much from watching the trees outside my window.  Today they are lushly green and dappled with sunshine as they lift and fall on gentle breezes.  But not so long ago, they stood gray and bare in frigid winter winds.  Always, always, they simply are, staunch and solid and accepting, no matter what winds blow through their branches.   I am so grateful for “my” trees.

And this gratitude, I’m convinced, is also such an important part of living a “life that really is life.”  Gratitude, for my trees, and for so many gentle and good and beautiful things around me, opens my eyes, my physical eyes and my soul eyes, to an awareness of life in all its richness, all its beauty, all its holiness.  Gratitude leads me to a quiet place where I am able, with greater ease, to say an accepting “yes” to my life-with-limitations.

No, those of us with chronic illness cannot be as active as we’d like to be, we cannot do all we’d like to do.  But, yes, we can live “life that really is life”—knowing our worth without measuring ourselves against others, accepting what is with tree-like grace, and opening our hearts to a thankfulness that always renews and refreshes our souls.

Courtesy

Courtesy.  A rare commodity in these days of me-first-in-the-fastlanedness of our 21st century.  Sometimes it seems as though courtesy has virtually disappeared from our planet!  Smiles are rare in the crowded stores and airports where we shop and travel in anonymity.  And courtesy on our streets and highways?  Forget about it!

In this feverishly impatient and discourteous world in which we live, Julian of Norwich is a refreshing voice.  She calls to us from the 14th century to remind us that courtesy has certainly not disappeared for God! Over and over again, in her Showings, Julian writes of “our courteous Lord.”  “For our Lord God is so good,” she sings, “so gentle and so courteous that [God] can never assign final failure to those in whom [God] will always be blessed and praised.”  God is ever “endlessly surpassing all that we desire in [God’s] marvelous courtesy.”  She even claims courtesy has swallowed up any wrath God might experience as God looks upon the careless destruction we’ve strewn across the globe and across so many lives.

I have to confess that I don’t usually think of God as “courteous.”  But I really appreciate Julian here.  Thinking this way brings God a little closer, draws God down a bit from those ethereal heights of omniscience and omnipotence (important as they are to remember as well!).

Julian also reminds me/us of the reality that God (and God-in-Christ) is as much a mother as God is a father.  Julian pictures God holding us to God’s breast.  She writes of God nurturing and consoling us with all God’s infinite maternal capacity to make spacious room in God’s life for our over-stretched egos and our wayward willfulness.

Julian’s imagery inspired Jean Janzen to write the words to this lovely hymn:

Mothering God, you gave me birth
in the bright morning of this world.
Creator, Source of every breath,
you are my rain, my wind, my sun.

Mothering Christ, you took my form,
offering me your food of light,
grain of life, and grape of love,
your very body for my peace.

Mothering Spirit, nurturing one,
in arms of patience hold me close,
so that in faith I root and grow
until I flower, until I know.

Will experiencing God’s courteousness and God’s mother-love help me/us to be more courteous in this impatient world of ours?  I hope so, but I don’t know.  I do know that I love resting in these thoughts and images; love being held in the arms and in the womb of my gentle, courteous God.

“Liviousness”

“Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me”

“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me”

“Wonderful are your works; that I know very well”

(from Psalm 139)

Much of the time I live my life in obliviousness.  I focus on my “to do” list or worry about some petty concern, and I can be almost totally unaware of the beauty all around me, unaware of quiet places deep within me, oblivious to the rhythms and cadences of God’s persistent presence in my life.  In our busy, high-tech world, I suspect this obliviousness is true of many of us.  Who has time to be more aware of the depth and richness of life, when all our gadgets are chirping at us with the latest info or enticing us to play yet one more game on our laptops or iPhones?

So my prayer for myself  these days and for those of you who will pause to read some of the posts on this blog from time to time is that we may become more “livious.”  That we will be able to delete that little “ob” (“un” or “against”) from the obliviousness of our lives and cultivate a “liviousness,” an ever-expanding awareness.  An awareness of the mystery of our inner lives.  An awareness of the splendor that surrounds us in the natural world.  An awareness of the reality of God’s steadfast presence pulsing quietly in all the corners and crevices of our lives.

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 139 was so keenly aware of himself, so keenly aware of the majesty of the creation around him.  And he was also so very aware of God’s intimate closeness to him.  As we become more “livious,” I hope we, too, will sense the hum of God’s hovering presence in our lives and, with the psalmist, will be able to say: “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me”—in our darkest nights and in our brightest days.

So thanks for stopping by.  Because of the toll of  CFS/ME (chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis as it is also called), I won’t be on any regular schedule for posting on this blog, but I hope you’ll visit from time to time, and I hope what you find will help you to move to a greater awareness, a greater “liviousness” of life in all its richness.  I invite you to share your thoughts and responses.