Saturday, September 27, 2008

Grace Rarely Makes Sense....

Just this past weekend, I started to read The Shack. (yes, I'm probably one of the few remaining people on the planet who hasn't already read the Shack) In the introduction, a quote jumped out at me.

I suppose since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside.

That quote has come to mind more than once lately; and with it the pondering of how it applies to my life and the relationships. For starters, exactly what is it? Ninja Words...(A really fast dictionary... fast like a ninja) defines grace as:

free and undeserved favour, especially of God. Unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification.

I have also heard grace defined as "unmerited favor." For this post, that is the definition we'll go with....

I found a few quotes on grace that fit this definition.

Grace is free sovereign favor to the ill-deserving.
Benjamin B Warfield

“God is no faultfinder, always looking for things to condemn in us. He estimates us at our best, not our worst.”

So is that how grace works? By looking beyond what we see smack dab in front of us and envisioning the person as they could they will be...when our Father is finished with them we can somehow...sometimes..bring out those very qualities. Once a person is caught in that downward spiral, sometimes grace...unmerited the way to stop the descent. In a recent email, my dear friend annie said

every masterpiece looks like crap when it's still in progress :)

During certain periods in everyone's life, because the masterpiece is in progress, everything looks like crap.

"Just keep telling her who she is." was a bit of advice given to me about my wayward daughter. I wish I could say that my faith never wavered, and that I always built her up instead of tearing her down...but that would not be the truth. I guess I am just a masterpiece in the works as well...

I came upon a poem called St. Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnell. Below is an excerpt that seems to fit

....though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Voice of Truth...

In a post on EU, my friend annie said:

"Truth sets us free. if we can't deceive ourselves, it's harder to go back to the old behaviors."

One of the things I like about Eckhart's teachings is that they are clear cut and precise...which makes it more difficult to deceive ourselves.

When he speaks of truth and freedom in A New Earth he says:

The underlying emotion that drives all the activity of the ego is fear. The fear of being nobody, the fear of nonexistence, the fear of death. All of its activities are ultimately designed to eliminate this fear, but the most the ego can ever do is to cover it up temporarily with an intimate relationship, a new possession, or winning at this or that. Illusion will never satisfy you. Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.

Once you realize and accept that all structures (forms) are unstable, even the seemingly solid material ones, peace arises within you. This is because the recognition of the impermanence of all forms awakens you to the dimension of the formless within yourself, that which is beyond death. Jesus called it eternal life.

Time and time again, I find that Eckhart's teachings simply mirror the words of Jesus. About eternal life Jesus said:

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

About truth Jesus said:

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

"So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

I am the way, the truth, and the life.
Jesus Christ

The Voice of Truth...Casting Crowns expresses it this way:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Compassion - Loving Detachment? Part 2

So...can loving detachment really be a component of compassion? That doesn't seem quite right but at the same time, might detachment allow for a clearer head and more decisive actions? On the message board I mentioned in my last post, they sometimes urge an overly distraught parent to detach. Try to think of your GFG as someone else's child. Let go of the "oh my god" fear that they will end up in prison or dead from an overdose. Try to let go of the outrage, the "how dare you behave this way after all I've done for you/given up for you/how much I've loved you" attitude. Treat them with respect, kindness, patience, understanding, empathy...the way you might treat a foster child entrusted to your care. Detach. Try not to let your happiness, your well being, your reason for living revolve only around your child. Detach. Nearly impossible when you love them enough to literally die in their place. Nearly impossible when they are in pain and nothing seems to help.

Jesus was able to detach. I was thinking of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus for the key to eternal life. Jesus told him:

Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your father and mother."

To which he replied...I have done these things!! Since my youth!

Jesus' reaction, as translated in The Message Bible:

Jesus looked him hard in the eye--and loved him! He said, "There's one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.

The rich young ruler was not too keen on this stipulation and he went away with a heavy heart. And Jesus, loving him, let him go. Loving detachment.

And what about the Prodigal Son. The father let his son go off to a faraway land to spend his inheritance. Now there was some serious loving detachment going on there. But in the long run, it was the most loving thing to do.

On an out of the way website, I found the following definition for compassion:

Compassion - Understanding without judgment.

"Without judgment" is the hard part. And sometimes, the compassion Jesus displays is far from detached. He weeps. A wonderful article called Suffering and the Silence of God on The Rebel God web site describes the scene at the tomb of Lazarus:

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

The Greek word translated in the English as "deeply moved" means to make the snorting noise of a horse. In other words he was so overwhelmed with the sorrow that it literally knocked the wind out of him. It was the kind of pain where you can't catch your breath.

This all culminates in what Jesus does next: two powerful words:

Jesus wept.

I visited the message board this morning before I posted this. Unbelievable circumstances and degrees of mental illness these parents, mostly moms, are living with....dealing with. Compassion abounds on the board. Sometimes loving detachment. More often, though, the gut wrenching "can't catch your breath" pain only a parent of a GFG can fathom.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Compassion - Loving Detachment? Part 1

Things with Beth have improved somewhat. There are still setbacks. There are still mistakes. There are still errors in judgement. Overall, though, I have seen improvement. For one thing, there was a diagnosis. The testing we had done recently definitely indicates that she has ADHD-inattentive. No one teacher, no parent, not even the counselor she went to for 9 months last winter. Not even Beth.

The first mention of it was from the crazy psychiatrist we took her to this winter to assess whether or not she was depressed enough to warrant medication. I looked it up, read about it...pondered it but nobody seemed particularly convinced. Not the counselor, not her dad, nor her step mom. Her dad's comment was something along the lines of "oh so is that what they call lazy these days." I think Keith was also quite skeptical. Then one day, in the midst of the past few months from the depths of hell, she and I had a tearful conversation on the way back to the shelter care. Shelter care is sort of juvie light....a detention center for troubled teens. She spent 2 two week stints in shelter care this summer.

After that conversation, I was pretty sure she had ADHD. I did some more reading. I scheduled an evaluation with a neuro psychologist. It took a while to get the insurance to approve the testing, then to schedule the testing...then to get the results of the testing. But finally, I have a 16 page report in my possession with a diagnosis of ADHD-inattentive. And ODD. Oppositional defiant disorder. No big surprise there. I guess ODD is a distinct disorder and can stand alone, but usually doesn't. It usually co-exists with something else. I've read that up to 67% of kids with ADHD also have ODD.

We are pursuing treatment, which is usually drug therapy and behavioral therapy. She started a low dose of Concerta (extended release Ritalin) last week. Except for a few minutes of rapid heartbeat last night, so far, so good.

I have been frequenting a message board for families with kids like Beth. Actually, kids much, much worse than Beth, with all kinds of mental health issues. There are families that are living in a nightmare. Some of the families have more than one GFG. That is the board acronym for "gift from God"...meaning that these kids are sent to us from God for reasons known only to him. Either he entrusts us with them because not everybody can endure the gift and only a certain type of person can face the challenges....or, through the challenges, he wants to make us into that "certain type of person." Perhaps he wants to cultivate qualities in us that might never be formed otherwise. Perseverance and patience come to mind. Hope, in the face of hopeless situations. Courage, trust...and compassion.

Actually, compassion was the point of this post. In a blog I happened upon the other day, a spiritual, Eckhart Tolle type blog, compassion was referred to as loving detachment. Hmmm. Do those two words belong next to each other in a definition? Doesn't compassion involve gut wrenching empathy and total involvement? I'm not so sure. More in my next post.....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Strange Bedfellows...

WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT! That is a quote from Ray Prinzing. It used to rankle me to no end. Ray was a believer in...and teacher sovereignty, predetermination, predestination...what will be will be. Period, that's it, get used to it and stop whining about it. It's all for a good reason....

God is putting every individual through a process that will merge us into one with Himself. We will become joined to the Lord as one spirit.

Roger Tutt's site, Hope 4 You, has gleanings from about a hundred or so taped messages of Prinzing's (which are no longer available). Roger credits Ray's ministry with not only saving his sanity, but also saving his life.

I've always had a big problem with the total sovereignty view. Every thing in your life from major to trivial has been planned by God before the foundation of the world. In fact, for a few years it tormented me. John Gavazzoni coined a word that fit my struggle. Contrarianism. Simply put, a contrarianism is something that can be argued from two equally valid viewpoints. Thus the tension..thus the torment. I can read Preston Eby's teachings and they make sense...(although they often tick me off, but not as much as they used to) I can also read Gregory Boyd of open theism fame and they make sense too (and I actually like them better)

Once, at a conference, when I heard him preach, John G also said that oftentimes God will at least give us peace from a contrarianism that haunts us, even without providing the answers. I guess that is the phase I am in right now. It has ceased to piss me off.

And actually...I am finding this belief from other very different teachers. Not too long ago, I was watching a short You Tube video of Eckhart and he pretty much parroted (in different terminology) his belief in a pre-ordained plan. He said when evil and suffering occur, our minds cannot understand it. That is because we don't see the whole picture. Then he went on and actually likened it to plucking a teeny section, not much more than a few pigments, from a large painting. It would be incomprehensible in terms of "the big picture." What's this?? We could look it over, turn it over, consider it from every angle and it still would not make sense. That is how he sees evil and suffering. They don't make sense to our egoic minds but they are part of the big picture.

And Byron Katie has coined the phrase, "Loving What Is." In an excerpt from the book of the same name (available online) she says the following:

The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, what is is what we want. If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say, “Meow.” Wanting reality to be different than it is is hopeless.

The Work reveals that what you think shouldn't have happened should have happened. It should have happened because it did, and no thinking in the world can change it. This doesn't mean that you condone it or approve of it. It just means that you can see things without resistance and without the confusion of your inner struggle. No one wants their children to get sick, no one wants to be in a car accident; but when these things happen, how can it be helpful to mentally argue with them? We know better than to do that, yet we do it, because we don't know how to stop.

Perhaps her view would be better described as "totally accepting what is."

I am hearing this particular slant from a lot of different sources. Perhaps in my next post I will take a look at the other side of the contrarianism.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Blessing Called Work Part 3

In Part 2 of this series, I posted several paragraphs from Michael Tummillo's book, 8 Things I Hate About Jesus. The following snippet made me stop and think that perhaps I am missing the point....

In the workplace, the homeplace or the schoolplace, the very people that we quite often see as an interruption, an imposition,and an inconvenience are actually our PURPOSE for getting up that day with a pulse.

So, as of now, I am planning on getting up tomorrow morning--Monday morning--in the wee hours. I plan on getting up with a pulse (although it may be a bit faint until my first cup of coffee) So that qualifies me for the "missionary work" God had in mind when he decided on the "who, what, when, where, why and how" of my life. Reminds me of the verse in Ephesians:

2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. NIV

or in the Amplified's usual wordy way of saying things:

For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. AMP

In other words, I have an opportunity to minister, to spread the love and peace of Christ to the participants at the Safety Committee Meeting scheduled at 8:00, and to the housekeeper who calls to report a leaky faucet, or to the testy office manager whose work area is too hot, or to the echo tech who calls to have a patient transported. Hmmm. I can shoot for "being salt and light to the world in which I participate" but at the very least, given the number of people I interact with in the course of the day, I could surely brighten someone's day. Think I'll give it a try tomorrow.

In A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles Marianne Williamson says:

Every situation we find ourselves in is an opportunity, perfectly planned by the Holy Spirit, to teach love instead of fear.

Two other articles of Michael Tummillo's you might want to check out.... Your Job/Your Ministry and Are You a Workplace Apostle?

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Blessing Called Work Part 2

On Emerging Universalist, Dena posted about her experience at the recent House2House simple church conference she recently attended. In the post, she mentioned Michael Tummillo. The name sounded familiar so, curiosity piqued, I googled him. His website is called "Your Town 4 Jesus". A brief biography and 184 or so of his nearly 900 articles can be found on Ezine Articles. His ministry is described as a "workplace" ministry.

Pastor Michael is a licensed/ordained non-denominational minister and a certified Workplace Chaplain. He has served in ministry since 1993, always while working a secular job, according to the example of Jesus and Paul. Says Michael, "A person with problems at home still has those problems at work. We need to be there for them at the one place where they spend the majority of their time...the workplace."

One of the first things I came across was a link to an e-book he's written called 8 Things I Hate About Jesus. Interesting book, quick read. Reminded me a bit of Phillip Yancey's Book, The Jesus I Never Knew. One particular portion jumped out at me...

Consider this: there you are, a real-life Spirit-being, all decked out in your birthday suit…an earth suit actually, divinely crafted as to allow you to blend in. You don your "camo" just as any American soldier will at the start of every day. Thing is,your camo may be a nurse’s scrubs or a fancy Italian business suit. You might put on a hard hat or the uniform of a civil servant. Truth is, however we camouflage our-selves, wherever God may have assigned us, our mission is the same: share the Fatherhood of God to the brotherhood of man.

We are here to advance God’s Kingdom by embracing and sharing the Cause of Christ. Prayerfully, as we press on into enemy territory, we must seek out Divine Appointments, always keenly watching out for that “person of peace" with whom we can either share the mission or work together to share the Word, ever on the lookout for those weary souls to whom we can speak a word of encouragement in due season.

When you think of missionaries, I know what you think of: Those determined souls who drop everything and head into the bush to live in grass huts as they attempt to plant churches among the indigenous peoples.

Well, doesn’t that describe YOU, too? After all, as one in whom the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead has made His abode, you are, quite literally, the Second Coming of Christ every time you come on the scene, anywhere in the world. In the workplace, the homeplace or the schoolplace, the very people that we quite often see as an interruption, and imposition,and an inconvenience are actually our PURPOSE for getting up that day with a pulse.

Do you believe that? Certainly God didn’t have in mind for you to simply get a job – any ol’ job – so that you can pay a mortgage or buy new hub caps, y’think? That message won’t play in…let’s say, Pakistan, where Christians are free from the burden of buying stuff.

So, here’s your mission, if you choose to accept it: go and be salt and light to the world in which you participate. Love the next person that God places in front of you…at work, at school, in the dorm, even at home. You are to be Christ Jesus with skin on, as it were. Every one of us is a minister in a Kingdom of Priests and Kings.

Wow...More in my next post....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Blessing Called Work...Part 1

I don't hate my job.  At least most days, anyway.  I am the poster girl for the cliche, "jack of all trades, master of none." My job duties encompass providing most of the secretarial support for the Maintenance Department, all the secretarial support for the Biomed Department--assorted secretarial support for many other departments under the "integrated service" umbrella.  In addition to that, I am a CSR; an internal customer service rep. 

That is my main job and it entails answering the helpline phone, routing calls and dispatching the appropriate personnel for quite a few services within the 3 hospital health system.  Need a toilet unclogged, call the helpline.  Need a patient moved?  Call the helpline.  Need a package/specimen/piece of equipment taken to another location?  Call the helpline and I will dispatch the appropriate courier.  Need a vital piece of medical equipment repaired NOW?  Call the helpline.  Need one of the automated, computerized robots called TUG to pick up the trash or linen?  Call the helpline.  Have a question, concern, complaint?  Call the helpline.  Need to book a meeting room?  Call the helpline.  Need to talk to a manager?  Well, the helpline.  (Aren't you getting it yet?) 

My phone rings constantly.  I stare into a computer screen all day, utilizing a myriad number of programs needed to log and track and send and organize all this activity.  There are 4 other CSR's that I have to stay in touch with--all in different physical locations--via phone, nextel direct connect and especially via email.  I answer to about 5 bosses.  My "real" boss (the one who does my evaluations, determines my schedule--the one who has the most say so and to whom I officially report) is not the boss I spend the most time with.  That boss is the head of the Biomedical Engineering Department.  His office adjoins mine.  I interact with him every day, all day.  I attend meetings with him (because a big part of my job is to take minutes for assorted long, wordy meetings and write reports to summarize.)  We have become friends.  He has been a source of great inspiration and encouragement during this (ongoing) Beth ordeal.  He shares with me some of the concerns he has in his life as well...and the issues that come up with two 13 and the other one about 10 or so.  I would like to publicly thank him (even though he does not read my blog...nor do I want him to) for his support and for being a great boss.  I want to thank God for depositing me in the office next to him.  It has been a blessing. 

And you know, this post has really gotten too long to write about what I started out to write about!!!  So another series is birthed!!!  More in my next post.....

Monday, September 1, 2008

Surprise Visit....

Matt decided to come home for the Labor Day Weekend. His plans were to stay at school...but 3 days off and the fact that all of his Williamsport friends who are going to IUP were coming home changed his mind. His "secondary" plans were to surprise me by showing up at my house and telling me he could not cut school and that he had dropped out. Plans foiled...his dad had already clued me in. His dad had plans to be out of town for the weekend so I had Matt all to myself. Well, I should say I got what was left over after he hung out with his friends. I was fine with that.

It was SO good to see him!!

annie warned me that it might be hard to let him go again...sort of like last week all over again...but it really wasn't too bad...unless I listen to the following Ray Boltz song. I said the obligatory, "Drive know it's Labor Day and there are all kinds of idiots out and about...blah, blah, blah" He hugged me and off he went. So grown up....but still my baby. If I just don't listen to the Ray Boltz song, I'll be okay :) I don't know Caitlyn Rae...but it is a heartwarming video. It is also the only video featuring this song on both God Tube and You Tube.


I've been listening to Casting Crowns a lot lately. When I heard the praise band at church sing LifeSong a few years ago, it became one of my favorite songs....

"I want to sign your name to the end of this day...knowing that my heart was true. Let my lifesong sing to you" Something to aspire to.

While browsing through the CD's at the library the other day, I found two by Casting Crowns. I've been listening to those two CD's for the past few weeks at work. Here at home, I've been watching their videos on You Tube and God Tube. There are a lot of them. Very inspiring stuff. Very moving.

The lead singer, Mark Hall, seems like just a regular guy...a sincere guy...a nice guy. From a short biography I found via google, it seems that he never aspired to be a star...or in a band...and thought he would always be a youth pastor. That is where his heart is. Mark Miller, the lead singer of Sawyer Brown, and Steven Curtis Chapman played a pivotal role in bringing Casting Crowns into the public eye. An excerpt from the above biography:

....Miller knew it was time to go out and recruit what would become the imprint's flagship artist. "I called Mark back," Miller says, "and his response was exactly what you'd want to hear. Rather than saying 'When do we leave?' or 'How much money am I going to get?" it was 'Am I still going to be able to be a youth minister?" "My response was something like, 'Sure, Mark, but your congregation may be a whole lot larger than you would have ever imagined.'"

And indeed it is! And the lyrics and message they spread far and wide does not just touch the hearts of youth...but spans the gaps between people of all ages.

On one of the videos I saw on You Tube...can't remember which one....Mark said this:

You can say what you think...but you will live what you believe....Casting Crowns

Isn't that the truth. It reminds me of another quote from a bygone era that I ran across the other day in my internet meanderings.

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

It seems "Lifesongs" involve more than just "lip service" and correct theology. It is a "put your money where your mouth is, practice what you preach" way of living. It does not come about by sheer effort....but with a humble heart, guided by the christ within...and a sincere desire to be His hands and feet to a world in need.

My friend Martha posted this on Emerging Universalist last night.

To us - worship isn't going to church, singing good choruses, raising hands, holy dancing... it's what you do when you're flying down Rt 80 and you get cut off - it's what you do when some joker butts into line then argues with the cashier - what you do when your spouse acts like a jerk - what you do when your child puts herself in harms way again and again and again. You're sacrificing your will, your need to punch someone's lights out, the desire to say every bad word you know - the desire to run away and isolate yourself - and that's worship.

In ways both large and small...that is the lifesong we are called to sing.....

There's Something In My Eye.....

I was reading from A New Earth chapter 2 where Eckhart is talking about "The Ego's Need To Feel Superior" (pg 81-82) He said:

There are many subtle but easily overlooked forms of ego that you may observe in other people and, more important, in yourself.

Ah, yes....observing ego in other people...easier than identifying ego in ourselves, don't you think? Didn't Jesus address that when he cautioned:

And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?

Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

On a side note....when Emily was younger she would often forget to take a towel and washcloth into the bathroom when she took a shower. (she still does occasionally) Without fail, she would get shampoo in her eyes...and begin to shriek ...a sound that must be akin to a wounded animal caught in a trap or something. "MY EYES!!!!! MY EYES." I would always go running....grabbing a washcloth on my way...sympathy pains from the memory of times I had inadvertently gotten shampoo in my own eyes speeding my quest to get to her. No doubt, shampoo in an eyeball really stings!!!

That little trip down memory lane reminds me of another "MY EYES!!! MY EYES!!!" story. It was after a middle school dance. I picked several of them up...dropped several of them off and was waiting outside the home of Emily's friend Samantha. We stopped there so she could pick up her stuff to spend the night at our house. Emily was in the second seat in the van....messing around with the "glow bracelet" she purchased at the dance. Twirling it, bending it. (Anybody know where I am going with this story?) All of a sudden she started screaming and I turned around and saw her face and shirt covered with the glow stuff from inside the bracelet. Most of it was in/on her eyes She was shrieking, "It's in my eyes, it's in my eyes!!!!! It was much worse than the shampoo in the eyes scream.

I left the van still the middle of the street....drug her (still screaming) into Samantha's house....through the living room, into the kitchen and started to flush her eyes with the sprayer. She was still screaming and crying and squirming. Finally we got most of it out. Her eyes were still burning, watery and red an hour or so later. On the advice of her doctor.....we went to the ER. We spent the next several hours there getting her eye checked out, flushed out etc. She is no wimp when it comes to that stuff so I did not have to console her much. There was also no damage done to her eyes and they finally found out from the poison control hotline that the stuff in glow sticks is very similar to the dye used in certain medical procedures on the eye.

So anyway...back to the plank in the eye point of this post. Although the plank doesn't glow....and oftentimes doesn't sting...we are still called to identify those planks BEFORE we start nitpicking and trying to dig out those specks in the eyes of others. It is just that it is so much easier to see their splinters and specks.