Archive for the 'Friendship' Category



23
Sep
09

blessings and prayer

Yesterday my partner and I marked our 33rd anniversary together. We have the pleasure of sharing this date with adopted daughter who turned 48. She has just begun her second cancer remission in three years and hopes to reach retirement at 50, and have a few extra years for fun. We had a lot to celebrate, but it was just a quiet dinner out. We have all learned that life is quite fragile, not to be taken for granted and lived as well as possible each and every day, whether in joy or sadness.

Just before AD’s birthday, she learned that a friend in her cancer support group had died despite the heroic efforts of oncology to save her and her own weakened, body’s desire to be saved. She was 52…a wife, a mother, an activist.  News of death among this group is near to shattering for them and for us as well. We are sobered by the fragility of life and the knowledge that time is as limited as it is infinite. Our evening was an affirmation rather than a jubilation. We breathed quiet prayers.

The night before I had one of those sleepless in the suburbs challenges and had written about it, posted it, then deleted it the next day. It was not entirely appropriate for public consumption. But I learned something about myself through it…about all that I want to do with the rest of my life despite the ebbing of energy as I age, and how anxious I still can get about interfaces with people I don’t yet know very well. The abusive experiences of the past year have left me feeling shyer than I’d like in my new congregation and reticent to make new connections. I have a little card that came home with me from the  Mennonite Conference in July. It says:

Become the leader you are called to be.

Well, what do you suppose that means? I haven’t figured it out yet, but there really was no reason for me to have seen this message. It just happened to be left at the table by someone who’d sat there before I’d come to the session. I don’t know if leadership is one of my gifts or not. I never thought it was, but if it is, I’ll have to grow into it. And if I grow into it, I hope to have far fewer sleepless in the suburbs nights. I gratefully accept prayers.

Hummingbird

04
Sep
09

hummingbird

I don’t see many hummingbirds…have not seen many and may not. They are not everywhere. One must have red flowers with nectar that calls to them: “Come here, little ones, come quench your thirst on this delicious wine…” One flower would not be enough unless there are hummingbirds in the area. I think I may have only seen 4 or 5 of them in my lifetime. I said, seen. That’s the difference—seeing them. They are always on the move, fly a million miles an hour and do not linger without cause. Flitting from flower to flower in total delight, they are energy and wonder, love and joy.

Legends concerning this tiny little bird are generally positive and hopeful. Native Americans associate hummingbirds with the Ghost Spirit, who teaches a dance intended to return the natural balance of the world. An Aztec legend says the god of music and poetry took the form of a hummingbird and descended into the underworld to make love with a goddess, who then gave birth to the first flower.

Last Sunday (hope and help, Sep. 2) I was sharing with friends and spoke about some of the more difficult challenges I’ve had in my 70+ years. Suddenly they spotted a hummingbird just outside the window adjacent to where I was sitting. It hovered next to me, looked in and dashed away quickly, realizing there was no portal through the window. Shy little birds, barely weighing an ounce, I suspect. Messengers of love and joy, some say.

I was startled and slow to respond.  My story had sadness in it…sadness I was used to, but sadness oneHummingbirdgenerally leaves in boxes and prefers not to open unless asked. It had been a tough half hour, and a tough week prior. My friends were ecstatic with joy at the site of the little bird. They thought it was a blessing from God and a good omen. I thought it was a blessing from God too, but not just for me…for all of us. Was it God-life answering my prayer the night before, for a pathway out of sadness and a way in to joy? Did the Holy Spirit appear to me as the angel appeared to Mary?

21
Aug
09

tending relationships with love and humility

My last blog post created a bit of a stir, mostly off site, I am pleased to say. I feel the need to state clearly that while there are many blogging styles and purposes, mine is 75% open journal sharing of my thoughts and experiences in the 7th decade of my curious life. The remaining 25% is whatever crosses my path that I think might be of interest to others. I am not out to create controversy,  show off to the world or hurt my friends, but sometimes it seems inevitable that someone will be offended by my views. Richard Rohr has occasionally used the term Receiving Stations, in reference to the way we receive information (whatever it’s origin or content) through the channels of our particular personal views and life experiences.  Important fact to remember for communicating with others: Receiving Stations are as important as Sending Stations. What is sent may not be received clearly. There could be static on the line, or perhaps some other type of interference.  So, as a blogger I must be clear that what I am publishing is the truth as I have experienced it; I must own past and present views as my own…and I do. When I write about  experiences that include others, I try to do so with anonymity for them. Even so, there is always the chance that someone will find offense that I do not intend. Sometimes it’s the receiving station on the blink…sometimes it’s me, the sending station. The thing is, you bloggers out there, if you are writing about your own views, reflections, and experiences with respect for others, then you are okay, until or unless someone shows you differently.

One of my friends left a comment about tending relationships with love and humility. What about this? As Christ followers (or people of spiritual conviction), how is this done without occasionally stepping on a size-able twig and hearing it snap back? And what if the twig was never really there at all, but only there in the receiving station friend? What if what one has said, or written is true, but perceived by another not as intended, and that person (one’s friend), sustains offense? What next? Matthew 18:15-20 has always been the model for me, but the success of it seems to rely largely on each participant believing in its form and value.

I have tried on the humility of apology for love’s sake—Jesus sake. When the result has been reconciling, I’ve been glad to do it (maybe even a bit too proud?), but when the problem is so large that it becomes chasmic, I find I do not yet possess the quality of humility required to absorb in love rather than a more familiar ploy of escalating my effort to explain into a win/win ending. In short, I become defensive. This is much more likely to be the case for me  in relation to some Enneagram types than others. Nonetheless, it is a problem:  do I fall on my sword, continue explanations ad infinitum, or resort to the defensive posture I’ve known all my life?

Well, here’s the thing:  my defensive posture covers anger, which in turn covers hurt. Some will say that no one can make you feel hurt unless you give them that power. Of course I don’t buy that. Been there, done that, and have a few scars to show. I’m in my 7th decade. I was out there trying this, that and the other before some of my dear friends were even born. There is just enough truth in this paradigm to be dangerous to most of us common folk. What really happens when we sustain a sense of wounding/hurt—if true,  we have the option of being truthful about it and possibly receiving an apology. If untrue, we can respond as though it were true,  and avoid a falling out. Or we can yank out our trusty defense responses and gear up for battle…the first one to wobble loses… Then again…we can take whatever spiritual path is common to our belief system and work toward its promised conclusion. As a Christ follower, my professed choice is, of course the Matthew 18 pattern of resolution, that failing, my choice defaults to a descending order of  first setting aside the defense measures that cover my anger, then setting my mind to letting go of the anger (which so perfectly covers my hurt and/or humiliation), and sitting with that while God watches that the waters of mourning climb high enough to transform, but not overwhelm me.

Just so you don’t think I am whistling Dixie while the bullets fly…  This is very hard for me to do. Let me say this again in another way: allowing the painful place to lie uncovered…open to the wind and rain is extremely difficult to do. I think the only reason I can occasionally come anywhere near close to this is because I am old enough to know that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain in the end. By everything I mean Spiritual Transformation/Wholeness…Peace…Shalom.

So this is my summary answer to the self-help therapists responsible for the popular notion that by not acknowledging hurt received, the responsible party is not endowed with enough power to grow his/her power garden. If I follow your counsel I risk losing my ability to feel as well as think. And I so appreciate that right brain gift of the Magae: feeling, and especially the transformation thing. Now that is really something!

18
Aug
09

closure

Last weekend a number of friends from our former congregation came together to meet and greet and enjoy each others company. Nothing unusual about that, except that this is the congregation that now exists in painful division  after the effort to extend membership to my partner and me failed in the most miserable of ways—on Pentecost Sunday, the day the Christian Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the followers of Jesus.

Our friends came to see us and each other to affirm and enjoy. Each one had something to give to the evening and each one had something they mourned, but mourning was mostly absent, except for a few forced smiles and the sense of sadness that wafted through occasionally. Gatherings like this are all about closure and they are as bitter sweet as they are comforting. Closure is what we do in our society. We seek closure, as though anything can ever really be finalized, categorized,  shelved and forgotten—not even death. I don’t think anyone went home that evening feeling good or released from the issue that fills the space where we used to stand. I think we said goodbye in a dozen different ways—all of them leaving a stain in the heart.

My partner, Big Dawg and I are making ourselves at home in another congregation, but we can’t help the sense of knowing that what went wrong went horribly wrong, and the price to be paid will come due for everyone. As an idealist, I struggle with this. As a Christ follower, I see everyone’s tears melting into God’s tears and then…

.

Do you think God goes for closure? I don’t.

05
Aug
09

green shoots

I have several dear friends. This was not always the case. I have become lucky in this way and I intend to hang on to them. One particular friend has gone through the whole same-gender-covenanted-couple-seeking-membership debacle of 2008/09 with me in a very deliberate way. We talked every day and walked together, whether here or there. Our friendship had always been centered around a sense of spirituality that we carried in common. We had many dreams and plans for doing things at the church we both attended. After the roof fell in there on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, and the dust settled (as slowly and alarmingly as it did after the World Trade Center collapsed), we tried to pick up and dust off whatever pieces remained. We hope to still be able to work together even though we are now at very different congregations, very different settings, and in very different places.

My compassionate friend is working on reconciliation in her congregation and I am working on starting over in my new congregation. I don’t know if reconciliation can happen without truth-telling and transparency. I had not seen very much of that when I worshiped there, but my friend cannot help but try. I will help, I will hope, and I will pray, but I don’t see the rainbow. That’s why I have left and gone on, quite tearfully, to a congregation where I do not have to walk Job’s road anymore. I did that for a long time in the congregation where my friend remains. I did that because I felt that God had assigned me the task of being front and center for this issue. Sometime in the week between May 31 and June 7, I distinctly felt released from that assignment, but it wasn’t an easy road to walk. There were so many people I’d come to love in one way or the other, and didn’t want to leave. The sense of loss for this and my visual art ministry to the people, was a constant companion in my heart and soul. Depression and tears took over my days, most especially at night when I was alone with God.

My friend talks about green shoots. I talk about phoenix rising from the ashes because fire is how it felt—burning to nothingness. It’s been two months since that decisive last  day in May. I shed many tears for the enormous losses I was experiencing. And I was angry—angry with the specific persons who failed to lead the congregational majority in the direction it wanted to go. My partner, Big Dawg and I were charred in the fire that burned in the church that day, and the following days. But we were not the only ones damaged. Everyone, except for those whose wishes remained intact was affected—collateral damage. The congregation is wandering in the desert, desperate for leadership. I don’t know where it will come from. So much damage all around. Green shoots. How does that happen without water and rain, sunshine, humility and truth?Green Shoots

I have been blessed. I am free to walk on…to follow on in the Way without hindrance. I am grateful. And I am no longer angry at anyone. The last bit of anger I had was finally toward God many days ago and, I gave that up too. No point in it, I realized because I can’t really hear God calling my name when my head is filled with the noise of hurt and anger. So now, my friend and I will pick up whatever pieces still glisten in the sun and we will see if between us, we can encourage green shoots in the corner where we are.

01
Aug
09

the gift of the magae

In my last post I told you all about Bennie and Bella and the joy they are to me and my family. As a child I loved cats, but my mother was frightened of all four-legged creatures. Despite that, my father brought one home once, when I was about 7 or 8. I had her for about a month, all the while knowing how much my mother actively hated her. One day, when I came home from school for lunch I couldn’t find her. My mother had given the kitty away, but claimed that she had run away. I was heart-sick about it—heart broken. I think it might have been my first such experience of loss. I knew my mother was not being truthful and the relationship between us suffered ever after because I could not trust her. I don’t think I could have responded any differently than I did as a child. The kitten had been my solace in a lonely world of blond, blue-eyed Americans. Once grown up, I filled my life with cats, to be sure, and even had a talk with my mother about the incident. She was sorry, I forgave her but we could not go backward in time. We both missed out on a trusting relationship between us.

When I learned that my friend’s family was going to welcome a cat into their home…an orange tabby no less…I was overjoyed for the children, especially the middle daughter who seems to yearn for her own place in the sun. (It’s hard to be a middle child.) I asked and received permission to post a drawing she had done of Jack the cat and he is below, at the very end of this post, watching over us all with grace and peace.

Also posted here is a little story called The Gift of the Magae, that my daughter wrote for me about 10 years ago.  She changed my childhood story to one with a happy ending. Although it is not quite biographical, it is a sweet little story and a sweet thing to do.

The Gift of the Magae, by Darling Daughter

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Merry, who grew up in Chicago during World War II. She lived in an old house with her parents, her two older sisters and a brother. During the summer, Merry and her family went to Lake Michigan to swim.  They took vacations in St. Joe Michigan and went to Armenian picnics in the park. Merry and her friends had lemonade stands and held scrap metal drives to raise money for the war effort. (Merry’s family were not Mennonites!) In the winter, she and her sisters listened to radio shows after school and went to the Saturday cinemas. But Christmas was the most magical time of all; Merry and her family would take the trolley downtown to see the decorations in the big department store windows, shop and have lunch in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field’s. She always looked forward to getting a new doll for Christmas. Sometimes, Merry and her sisters got to decorate the Armenian Christmas tree at the Museum of Science and Industry, or even see the toy train set in the there.

Merry was happy except for one thing: she dearly wanted a pet, a warm, furry creature all her own to love and hug. Many times Merry had asked her mother for a cat, but she had said no each time. “Oh, Merry, what do you want that for? It’s dirty, it will scratch the furniture and scratch you too.”

“Please Ma I really want a kitty,” she said.

But the answer was always no. Merry tried her father, who looked at her as if she had lost her mind: “A WHAT! A cat, are you crazy? An animal in the house, no! Go do your homework,” he said.

“But Maureen Finley has a cat,” Merry begged her father. He gave her an annoyed look and sent her off to do her homework.

One day in the late fall, Merry’s sister came home with a small bundle for Merry. “Look what I found, Merry. It begged me to bring it home to you.”

“What is it…a kitten? Oh, thank you, thank you Faith,” Merry cried. “Ma, please can I keep it, please?” begged Merry, as the small bundle of brown tabby stripes nestled into her arms.

Merry’s parents grudgingly allowed her to keep the kitten. Merry was overjoyed with her kitty, which she named Mittens. She fed it every morning before school and in the afternoons when she came home. She brushed Mittens and played with her, and at night, the cat slept on her bed in a tight curl of fur. Merry and her kitty were very happy.

A few weeks later, Merry came home from school to find her tabby cat was gone. She called and called for it, she  looked in every nook and cranny but still could not find the cat. “Ma.,” she asked, “where’s my kitty? Have you seen her?”

“Oh, she ran away,” replied her mother casually.

“What, that’s not possible! You took her, you got rid of her, you know where  she is, you never wanted me to have it,” Merry wailed in helpless fury at her mother. She was inconsolable over the loss of  her furry friend and cried for days, but there was nothing she could do.

Christmas Eve came and the family prepared to decorate the tree and bake the paklava and lamb for the night’s dinner. Merry was helping her sister cut out paper chains for the tree garland when she heard a faint scratching noise at the  back door. She ignored it and bent her head back over the red paper, but…”scritch, scratch” there it was again. “I wonder what that is,” she thought and got up to look outside. At first, she saw nothing in the fading afternoon light and was  about to close the door again when she heard a tiny mew from behind the door. Merry stooped down and saw a cat. “No it couldn’t be,” she though… her kitty cat? She held out her hand and the kitten came close and rubbed against her hand. It was…it was her tabby cat! She had miraculously found her old home and came back from where ever she had been.

Merry picked up Mittens and brought her inside. She showed the cat to Faith who promised she would talk to their mom. Merry gave Mittens some food and she was soon purring happily in Merry’s arms again.

Faith was true to her word and convinced her parents to let Merry keep the cat. Her mother kept her promise and made Merry’s favorite desert to make up for the loss of her cat. Mittens lived with Merry and her family for many years, bringing warmth and fun into the old house. Merry grew up and had more cats in her life but she nevver forgot the wonderful Christmas and the cat who came to stay. The End.

This is Jack the cat, a lovely drawing by my dear friend’s middle daughter.  I think he is quite grand and will soon come out to play.

Jack by JillHe hopes middle daughter will understand his shyness and wait for him to get used to his new house and his new people.

27
Jul
09

what’s in a name?

Are names important? If so, why? This morning when I received an email from my dear friend, Crazy Horse (who is neither crazy, nor a horse, but is at times strange) concerning the naming of a soon to be adopted pet. The name mentioned was very disturbing to me, so I responded with an epistle about how not to name your pet and why good names are important. This advice was unsolicited and somewhat balllsy on my part, but lately I can’t seem to stop speaking out as though my opinion really matters all that much in our world—currently spinning backward. So I lowered my weapon and let ‘im have it. Both barrels on why we need to name out pets lovingly so that we are inspired to treat them lovingly and respectfully. As a fine topper, I threw in the Golden Rule as the standard by which we should care for our animal friends. Nothing like a little guilt when needed…like seasoning a stew.

Well, I think my views are right-on, BUT…they were not requested. In fact, I think CH might have been pulling one of my short legs. Clearly, I didn’t think of that at the time since I was knee-deep (not a long way down in my case) in serious personal thought. As the day wore on and my heart and soul accumulated many more thoughts accompanied by numerous emotions, I came to realize that I may have offended dear friend CH, so I wrote an apology, expecting a course correction, and went upstairs to eat dinner.

One and a half hours later, I sheepishly crank up my computer…sheepishly because some in the household think I have a computer addiction…and lo, and behold CH has sent a reply. I am told that no offense was taken and that my spouting off is a beloved quality (today anyway)! Do I believe this? Might as well, for today anyway. Tomorrow is another day and that’s all folks.

SY00013_

08
Jul
09

nothing lasts forever

Today is another gloomy day in the weird summer of 2009. It has been rainy and cold, more like October except that the sun is not in it’s comfy  October spot and doesn’t give that nice October sheen. I’ve decided to just take as it comes, since I can’t do much about it. We had a few days of authentic summer about two weeks ago…nothing lasts forever. On the positive side, we are greenly saving by not needing air conditioning….can’t think of anything else all that positive. There are a bunch of negatives…too much rain brings too many mosquitos…too few picnics…I could go on. There is probably a lesson in there somewhere.

In the midst of this gloomy summer/fall weather, I’ve been on the receiving end of a number of lessons lately—life lessons. These are not a lot of fun. Generally speaking they tend to be painful and only add value in retrospect. It’s like going through a long tunnel from here to there. It’s dark in there, damp and discomfiting. It can be scary and even painful. You cannot see ahead, only feel. Upon emerging, there’s light and warmth, and maybe a brass band! Looking back to that tunnel, it’s all in a day’s work, unavoidable and definitely past. As a rule, most of us don’t linger remembering  point by point how hard, or how cold, or how painful the journey through the tunnel may have been. We are happy to be here and now—relieved actually.  This is what is said about childbirth: only the joy is remembered, even though for some women the pain  and complications can be unendurable. The newborn is held and cherished. The pain forgotten. This is the beauty of Retrospect: one of God’s great gifts to us.

The tunnel  I find most difficult to travel is called loss. Loss in any form is painful to me, but loss of persons and friendships are at the top of the list. I have lost many in this category through no real fault of my own, rather…time, place and circumstance were the major players. I never chose to be a forerunner in the LGBT effort for a seat at the Vicar’s table. It just happened. One does one’s best before the Lord and either it works or it doesn’t. It didn’t work for my partner and me and I grieve all the losses, all so unnecessary and pointless.

This afternoon a good friend will come by and we will have what we call a “tea party.” This is  a lot of talking, sharing, brain storming, laughing, crying, and of course…tea and sweets. This friend, I still have along with some others, but the many that I had are not with me and I miss them and the church we all worshiped in together.

Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  I Cor 13:12

Bird 3x1.361

26
Jun
09

Addendum for today

I forgot to say that faith is when you are not in control !! Isn’t that most of the time, when you really stop to think about it? Learning to walk in faith is like being a tightrope walker or trapeze artist or mountain climber. It’s living in the now…this day, this minute, this second. Spontaneous and combustible.

This was a very good day, indeed. Thank you O(M) for watching my blogging back. Whadda mentsch!




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