Posts Tagged ‘Grace

24
Sep
13

Dancer Down: an unexpected seclusion

The morning of August 7 was unusually bright and sunny. A series of personally difficult life challenges had come to resolution and I was filled with immeasurable joy. Driving to my dance session that morning, I felt glad to be alive. Normally an experience like this would have made me eager to dance, but I had a vacation coming up in two days and things to do in preparation. I didn’t really want to go, but the body can get rather lazy. Like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, it can come to a rusty impasse. I didn’t want that, so I drove on and arrived—all smiles—without a hint of the disinclination I really felt.

Jane, my teacher/partner, was not her customary, cheerful, and optimistic self. Something was off. Normally we will match each other in body-spirit whether we start out that way or not, so I didn’t think to question, nor did I state the truth of my disinclination. Undaunted by the disparity, I was confident we would find each other eventually, and so we began as we often do, moving in our separate spheres, performing for each other. Midway through the hour Jane put on the album I’d brought with me: Picture, by Night Ark (a quartet of musicians known for their fusion of instrumental jazz with tradition Armenian tonalities). Little did I know: I was about to meet my Waterloo.

I felt this hypnotic, seductive rhythm as a call of connection to the culture of my ancestors, hidden deep within my DNA, and my joy quickly increased to excitement. Although far beyond my improvisational abilities, I threw myself into moving interpretively to this hauntingly beautiful music, without the willing consent of my aging hips, and in a manner I think may have looked something like my little diagram drawing.

Within minutes, there was an audible a POP sound, followed by white-hot, searing pain! I knew something had torn inside. Groaning, IThe fatal twist 2 crumpled to the floor, where I stayed motionless and incoherent for several minutes, as the shock of the experience overtook reason. Time lost dimension and I was swimming in painful slow motion—a curious 4th dimension of my customary reality.

Having spent much of her life as a professional dancer with a collection of her own dancer’s injuries, Jane sprang into action, as I laid there in stunned disbelief. Prone to responsible problem solving and somewhat stunned herself, she tried her hardest to get me to consent to an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital emergency room. There was no way I was going to see the inside of one of those buses, before my time was up! Absolutely not! I took ibuprofen and arnica and continued to try… unsuccessfully… to reach my partner, Judy, by phone as well as text message.

As an InterPlay leader of 20+ years, with a talent for cleverly overcoming roadblocks, she reassessed the situation and applied InterPlay’s signature principal of incrementality to moving things along. She would suggest a move and I would try it. Little by little, I was miraculously on my side, then sitting up, then standing on one leg, and then leaning on the back of a chair. Using the chair as a walker, with Jane cheerleading, I hobbled to the elevator, out the door and into the car. Within 10 minutes, Judy arrived on the scene and drove me to an immediate care facility, where we learned that no bones had broken, but the pop had indeed been a tear, requiring weeks of rest, ice, pain medication, and a walker, along with patient acceptance of the situation (a challenge for me).

A stunned state of shock persisted for the first week, deepening as Judy and I felt our way around and through the daily realities of a crippling injury—a disability of unknown durWalker after immediate careation—to a person of a certain age. This was something I couldn’t accommodate without anticipating a measure of public chastisement. Had I been a bit too pleased with myself for having a fairly agile, old body? Perhaps I’d pushed it beyond reason…colored too far outside the box? Won’t people think I fell and broke my hip, like many older persons before me? But I knew I hadn’t crash-fallen; Jane taught me a dancer’s fall and that’s the way I went down.  Still, the idea haunted me and I didn’t want the humiliation of being thought of as a silly old lady playing at dance in her old age. The truth is: if I could have been anything in my life beside a visual artist, it would have been a dancer. To dance now, even past reasonable age, has been life affirming. All things considered I was even pretty good at it…for an old lady. 🙂

It wasn’t until a follow-up orthopedic appointment 10 days later that I learned my pop had been an avulsion, i.e., a tearing of the Sartorius tendon where it attaches to the iliac spine area of the pelvis. (The Sartorius is the longest muscle in the body, resolving in a tendon attaching to the pelvis.) This accounted for both the bone and tendon pain I was experiencing. No bone chips, no fractures—just a painful separation between the tendon and its point of insertion. I was assured that it was a common athletic injury—particularly in football—one that occurs when the muscle is stretched beyond its capacity. Well, I clearly did that, without doubt…but football? That was worthy of a laugh out loud!

Laughing or crying, in 3 weeks I would begin a course of physical therapy that would help me regain 95% of my former function. My inquiring and restless mind finally had an understanding of what had happened and a course of action. Between the relief I felt with the diagnosis and prognosis—along with the homeopathic care I knew would hasten healing—I returned home ready to welcome this secluded time out as an unexpected gift.

The story continues…

01
Feb
13

hornet’s nest of good intentions

Imagine a situation that is simple enough if kept to the surface and dealt with as is, but it has legs, roots that go deep into the ground of your being. It could be work oriented, family oriented, school or church oriented…something that is private. You’ve inadvertently lost control of that privacy and now there are people trying to help who don’t know the whole story. You don’t want those roots made public, but with each attempt from loved ones to help, comfort, aid…the roots become more and more exposed, igniting fire-stories in your memory bank that cause more distress, not less. You try to keep it simple…to say more will be overwhelming for everyone…you try to graciously say just enough, but not so much that the exposed roots cause you, or anyone else pain. Finally the effort becomes muddled and confusing between yourself and those with loving intentions. You begin to think that maybe you are speaking a foreign language, but you know you aren’t, so what is the problem? Why are you causing pain in others? That is not your intent. You go over your letters and your conversations. They seem clear to you. What is going on?

Type Embellishments_H 36pt_white.

Maybe you identify with this scenario and have your own hornet’s nest of good intentions, maybe not. This is my story today. This is what is happening. My effort to draw personal boundaries has alienated some loving friends. I feel quite sad about this. I’ve done all I know to fix it and don’t blame anyone but myself. Time will lay it’s mossy blanket in a while.

The sun is shining cold on white today. It is a bright, crisp day that hurts my tired eyes. The gray of yesterday was a better fit. “Too bad, take what you get,” the Oracle of Life says to me. I don’t answer back. I just keep breathing.

I’m thinking about an island somewhere in the south pacific where this drama is not happening and my eyes are not burning from lack of sleep. “It will all work out,’ says the Oracle, ‘this is only one page in the Book of Life and it happens to lots of people. You are not unique.

“Good,’ I say, ‘that’s good to remember.”

17
May
11

the color of hope

Yesterday, I began thinking about hope—what it looks like—what makes it happen—what prevents it from being.  I am very familiar with anxiety, despair and hopelessness, as well as many additional states of human consciousness residing on the left side of the ‘miserable to ecstatically joyful’ spectrum. I know what these three feel and look like (to me).

Anxiety, that memory file of unrest and dis-ease, comes in neon variations of brilliant orange, disorienting magenta, brazen fuchsia, magnetic blue, electric purple—all colors except for green—the color of gardens and the earthily serene. Despair, a cousin by marriage to Anxiety, comes invited in by Emotional Pain, with its outer coat of sadness and discord. These haunting dragoons appear in coats of mossy earth tones, capable of generating into steely gray without much warning. Hopelessness, and its deeper shadow, Depression, are big wingless, flocking birds. They are hard to separate and harder to overlook. They come in hot and cold grunge fashion with overlapping shadows of midnight blue and lamp black…often with vivifying streams of hot pink or red flashing throughout.

Some people are hard-wired in ways that make them vulnerable to all of this. Others less so. I am one of the former. My glass tends to be half, to three-quarters empty (as the saying goes). And when it is full, I am overwhelmed by the fullness and feel joy—a state about as common as a four-leaf clover. Happy is a far more common state, but I do not know what it means. I hear this word everywhere. What is it and why is it so sought after? I have not found Happy to have much consequence. It seems ephemeral, like smiling and laughing. It is not fulfillment and it is not joy. I blow my birthday candles out, open my cards and feel happy. I hold my adorable kitties in my arms, hear them purr and feel happy. Far from being lifted or resolved, the concerns I carry are only set aside for a moment or a while.

My goal is joy in exploding colors of the rainbow—the same experience as being in love—an experience of complete, indescribably harmonious fulfillment. I get that when I dance at my InterPlay sessions and am transported beyond my self…into my Self…together with God. My cup is not half full or all full, it runneth over. How this happens is pretty simple: I drive to the place where the InterPlayers gather, participate fully and receive not only happiness, but Joy. It is a type of prayer and worship. Each time I go, I make a down payment on more of it. I haven’t lost my concerns or troubles, I’ve turned my mourning into dancing for a while and the color of anxiety/despair/hopelessness lightens. It does not disappear.

I make this happen because I take steps to be where it can happen. But sometimes joy seems to materialize out of thin air. One minute you are heavy laden with perhaps weeks, months, even years of travail that never seems to lessen or resolve, and then in a flash you are filled with joy and feeling ten pounds lighter…light enough to think you may fly if you so allow…light enough to welcome hope. That is an altogether different sort of happening, one seemingly begotten, not made.

Since 2000 when the film, The Perfect Storm entered our theaters and homes, we have adopted the film’s title to refer to tragic situations composed of parts and pieces of unpredictable events in relation to the fallibility of human decision-making. We often find a modicum of comfort in saying: “It was a perfect storm just waiting to happen.”

Last Sunday, at the little church at the edge of the city, where I worship, I had occasion to experience what I can only describe as the opposite of the perfect storm. I call it The Perfect Rainbow. Days and weeks beforehand, parts and pieces of unpredictability were coming together on many fronts, along with loving, careful,  human decision-making and the result for my partner and me was a deeply fulfilling experience that turned the water in our glasses into bubbling  champagne. More than three years of struggle and emotional pain were met by joy so deep, words could not be found. Had I the room to dance it and witnesses to join in, I would have surely outdone myself. Even now as I write this, my body wants to dance. It was a perfect rainbow after the thundering, crashing storms we’d experienced since returning to the church after an absence of thirty years. The events that led to this perfect rainbow were beyond counting and beyond orchestrating by any one person. Surely the Grace of God’s Holy Spirit was creatively present all the while.

I can still see the rainbow. It’s full from one end of the sky to the other and it brings me hope. The color of hope (for me) is the rainbow, full and audaciously beautiful in even a leaden sky. Storms will surely continue to come and go, but I saw a rainbow on Sunday and I’ve tucked it inside where all my memories reside…the good, bad and the ugly. I’ve given this one a special place. If I should forget its whereabouts, I trust a reminder will come one way or another, even in a perfect storm.

04
Apr
11

afterward…on the way home

Last December I introduced peace and justice activists, Mark and Sara, and their friend, death row inmate, William Glenn Boyd. (See: Red Velvet Cake and the Spirit of Christmas; In the Bulb There is a Flower; State By State )

On March 31st, Glenn was executed on schedule at 6:00 pm. The following day I posted some details in Forgive As We Forgive, along with my thoughts and point of view. Today, I want to share Mark and Sara’s thoughts as they drove home from Holman Prison last Friday.

Hello to all,

The sun is shining and the morning breeze is turning warmer. Rev. Megan is driving, Mark is sitting next to our son, and Grandma is entertaining our grumpy little baby girl in the back seat. Before we head back to home, we thought we would take a quick detour to the beach and see the ocean.

Glenn’s spirit has been traveling around—making lots of stops and visits. He is now free to go see loved ones he hasn’t seen in years.

We had a wonderful visit with our brother Glenn yesterday. He was in good spirits. We talked, laughed, prayed, and had communion together around 10:00 am. We even had a last supper together, around 3:00 pm. Glenn had requested fried chicken, french fries, tomatoes, and apples for his last meal.  He knew he wanted to share the meal with all of us, so that’s why he ordered some vegetables—to appease the vegetarians amongst us. They brought it into the visiting yard. We bought a couple of sandwiches from the vending machine to supplement. There were eleven of us and not enough food, so each just had a little bit…symbolically sharing the meal together. We kept encouraging him to eat the chicken and he insisted that we all share it and eat together. so we split up all of the food, shared and communed together. It was absolutely beautiful.

Be still and know that I am God.

I want to give a shout-out to the corrections officers who were part of the ‘execution’ team. They were so kind and compassionate towards us and Glenn—so deeply respectful. I would never have expected to experience God through them, but I did.

Glenn was strong through to the end. We left the prison around 3:30 pm. Two of his spiritual advisors stayed with him in the death cell until 5:30 pm.  They then moved him to the death chamber. His pastor and another of his spiritual advisors were in the witness room. Glenn was able to focus on them until his last moments.

We were out in a pasture near the prison, praying and reading psalms 23 and 91. Shortly after 6:00 pm, a hawk flew towards us and circled over the pasture a few times and then flew on towards the creek. We stayed, prayed and sang Amazing Grace. Just as we were about to leave, his pastor, Don, came to the pasture and shared with us that Glenn was strong and at peace up until the very end. He did not have any last words, but that is normal—most guys don’t. He imagines that there are so many thoughts going through their heads.

Glenn had written a letter to the victim’s family. His plan was to read it as his last words, because nine members of the victims’ families came for the execution, but was not allowed to do that. Glenn’s lawyer now has the letter and we will be sending it to the victims’ families. It was a short, but beautifully written apology. At the prayer vigil, while sharing about what a great and wonderful person Glenn was, Mark started to say, “…and Glenn was…”

Glenn’s brother, Billy, piped in and just said one word: “Amazing.”

Glenn was amazing.

Love,
Sara and Mark

*****

This account puts a very human face on what has been reported in the news. No gorging of food, no cowardice, no lack of repentance…only compassion, generosity, truth, and God’s loving presence. Sara’s letter ended with this postscript to her church family and friends:

I had a moment where I nearly broke down before entering the prison on Thursday morning, but I felt your prayers. One of the corrections officers ministered to me, and I felt your prayers through her as well. Thanks to all of you who have sent us prayers. They were…and are felt.

*****

Yesterday, at church, I learned that a few days before the execution, a bereavement card addressed to Mark and Sara was waiting for them when they returned home. It was from Glenn, carefully sent a few days earlier. It was simple and sweet…consoling them for the loss of the friendship they had shared together over the years. As I remember the weeks and days leading up to the death of my adopted daughter Bettina, I know how important it was to Glenn to be able to make that last gesture. I remember saying tearfully to Bettina, that I would miss her. Her reply was: “I’ll miss you too, Mama.” We needed to tell each other…to assure ourselves connection over the great unknown. Death, however it comes, is a sacred mystery.

 

 

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still

Be…

 

If you would like to contact Mark or Sara concerning Christian Peacemaker Teams, the death penalty, or other peace and justice issues, here is the contact information:

Mark Frey, Administrative Coordinator
Christian Peacemaker Teams
PO Box 6508
Chicago, IL  60680-6508 USA

Phone: +1-773-376-0550
Fax:   +1-773-376-0549

01
Apr
11

forgive as we forgive…

Mark and Sara are on their way home from Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama. They and  pastor Megan, drove down to spend the few days of life their friend, William Glenn Boyd, would have before the state would exact payment by lethal injection,  for the lives he had taken 25 years ago.

“You have heard it said, `an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not set yourself in violent or revengeful resistance against an evildoer.”

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38)

Some statistics rank the United States as having an 85% Christian population. It is astonishing to me that out of an estimated 224,457,000 Christian persons there are simply not enough souls who understand Jesus’ teaching—further, that forgiveness by grace given through the Holy Spirit are the core of the Christian faith.

In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus gives us the mother of prayers, which we refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. Whether your Lord’s Prayer uses the word trespasses, debts or sins, the request for forgiveness is followed by a promise to forgive “…as we forgive…”

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

“Forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors.”

William Glenn Boyd served 25 years on death row. In that time he reckoned with his sin, asked for forgiveness, received it and led a transformed life. For many he was the salt of the earth and a light to the world  (Matthew 5:13-16). Yet, to the political system in Alabama, he could not be forgiven without just payment. Not much different from the Roman order of the day in Jesus’ time. Then, Caesar was god. I don’t think any of Alabama’s Christian citizens would say that Governor Bentley was God; nevertheless, if he is a Christian, the governor’s decision not to honor the appeals of this redeemed man was not in accord with God being God.

You can Google William Glenn Boyd and find quite a bit of coverage of the execution that took place at 6:00 P.M., Thursday, March 31, 2011. It will vary from sensational to respectful and include blogging sites. I choose the report by Bob Johnson of the Associated Press published in the Gadsden Times to include here. As soon as I hear from Mark, I will post a follow-up.

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)


25
Feb
11

In the Bulb there is a Flower

In December you read about the Christian Peacemakers Teams, my friend Mark Frey and his friend Glenn who has been on death row for 25 years. The post was titled,  Red Velvet Cake and the Spirit of Christmas.

Today Mark writes to say:

Glenn called this morning, saying “It’s a bad day, brother. They gave me a date: March 31.”  That’s when Alabama (but really it’s our society) will kill him at 6:00 pm.

He was task-focused, trying to figure out what he needed, and wanted, to do before the end of his life. He was filled with regrets about all the things he’d wanted to do and letters he’d wanted to write before the end, but just wont have time to do.

He asked me to call his “soul-mate” in England, so that she’d find out about his date from a friend rather than through the internet. She took the news well: “We knew this was coming.”

“Yes, but it’s real now,” I said.

She and Glenn are devout Christians. She responded, “He’ll be with the Father, in a much better place.”

“Yes, I know that……” I said. Her voice full of emotion, she emphasized for me and herself, “He’ll be having a party, talking to old and new friends….He’ll be in GLORY!”   Amen!

Later in the day Sara and I shared with Glenn the hymn text from, “In the Bulb there is a Flower.” (The composer Natalie Sleeth dedicated it to her husband who was diagnosed with cancer soon after she wrote it.  And a few years ago Sara and I participated in a memorial service choir for a close friend’s father who was taken very suddenly by an aggressive cancer.)

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

We’re still trying to wrap our heads and hearts around this news that we knew was coming.

We are trying to arrange things so that we’ll drive as a family to visit Glenn the days before his execution, and hold a prayer vigil while the execution takes place.

Please pray for an end to the death penalty.

If you would like to contact Mark…write a letter of inquiry, or one of kindness to Glenn, here is Mark’s contact information:

Mark Frey, Administrative Coordinator
Christian Peacemaker Teams
PO Box 6508
Chicago, IL  60680-6508 USA

Phone: +1-773-376-0550
Fax:   +1-773-376-0549

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

20
Dec
10

red velvet cake and the spirit of christmas

I have a lovely Christmas story to share and a fine storyteller to introduce, but first I must give some background.

In the mid-1980s, members of the historic peace churches began seeking new ways to express their faith. Out of this desire came the Christian Peacemakers Teams, an organization, which seeks to embody an inclusive, ecumenical and diverse community of God’s love in partnership with local peacemakers worldwide. Denominations and organizations supporting active CPT chapters are—Church of the Brethren, Friends United Meeting, Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Congregation of St. Basil, Every Church a Peace Church and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

My friends Mark and Sara—peace and justice (CPT) activists from my church—entered a letter writing program to prisoners through a Church of the Brethren friend of theirs. Through this program they met Glenn, an inmate at Alabama’s Holman Prison, where he has been on death row for the past 25 years. Mark and Sara have visited him 3 times since 2002 when their correspondence began. Each time, they found that they were the only visitors Glenn had that year.

A couple of days ago Mark sent this remarkable story….Red Velvet Cake and the Spirit of Christmas…to the congregation through our listserve :

Glenn called today and left a voice mail saying, “Brother, I have something important to share with you.”  I called him back.

He said, “You know what my favorite dessert is?” He’d told me some time ago, but I couldn’t remember. “Red velvet cake. Everyone (the inmates) around here knows that. Today, a ministry (program) was here distributing food packages.’

(Aside: there are a few ministries that distribute such food packages throughout the year. The inmates look forward to these. On death row, I’ve learned, food is a BIG deal. The daily prison food is awful, so anything normal is a major event.)

“Sister Antonia gave me my package and I told her my date was around the corner. I looked through the package and saw that there were a lot of good items. It was a pretty good collection.  And the dessert was…red velvet cake…home made!  Of all the desserts to be in there….I told her it was my favorite.”

“A little while later, she came back, and pushed another piece into my cell.”

“A little while later, another piece came, passed on down the line by the guys, from cell to cell.”

“And a little while later, another, and another, and another, until every guy on the tier had passed their red velvet cake.”

Glenn was choked up at this point in the phone call. He said jokingly, “I must have male menopause.” I told him it was a very touching thing and he was just being human and that the guys were just giving back in a small way what they’d received from Glenn over the years.  Glenn said, “Whatever they’ve received, it has been from God, not from me.”  Glenn is deeply faithful and very humble and attributes whatever positive influence he’s had on others as God’s working through him. And I believe it.

Mark goes on to share some about his friend Glenn:

Here is a story of part of Glenn’s transformation—one that happened in spite of the brutality of the so-called correctional system, and because Glenn opened himself and listened to God.

“When my sister was young, she was put into a mental hospital where she was raped repeatedly by one of the workers. As a young man, I was so angry. I pictured the man in hell, and I wanted to torture him to the verge of death so he’s feel pain like my sister.

“While in prison I asked Jesus into my heart. God said, ‘You shall know the truth and it shall set you free.’ I had to tell the truth before I could be free, and the truth was that I wanted to kill the man. The truth was not that I wanted to try to love the man. I wanted to mutilate him.

“Once I confessed to god this truth the way opened up. In a dream I heard the voice of God say:

“Glenn, there are people in your life that you hurt, not in the same way, but pain is pain, and they want you to hurt. But I don’t want you to hurt because I love you. And guess what, I love that man too, and I don’t want you to hurt him.”

“I Woke up and cried like a baby. I said to God, ‘I can’t do it, but I’m willing to let you, God, do it through me.’ I got to a place where I could envision being in the same room with the man, and telling him that I forgive him and that I love him.

“People who knew me when I was 19 (when I entered prison) will not recognize the person I’ve become; God’s love allowed me to forgive.”

In the 25 years Glenn has been on death row, the courts have denied his appeals and he will be executed in early 2011. Mark and Sara are his friends. They see a deeply wise, intelligent, compassionate and religious person in Glenn…a very different person today than who he was when he committed his crime. I believe this is true and do not understand the twists and turns that keep a redeemed person  pinned to the past. Many people say we are a Christian nation…if so, where is the repentance and compassion that Jesus taught us? He asked  the woman caught in adultery where her accusers had gone and if any condemnation remained. She tells Jesus that no one remains to condemn her. Jesus responds with compassion, and tells her that he does not condemn her either and exhorts her to go and sin no more. (John 8:1-11)

Our penal system practices an ancient code of an eye for an eye. It does not redeem, but God breaks through walls. I believe people can, and do change. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught: “You have heard it said, `an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not set yourself in violent or revengeful resistance against an evildoer.” (Matthew 5:38)

As Christian Peacemakers, Mark and Sara speak for me.  If you would like to contact Mark…write a letter of inquiry, or one of kindness to Glenn, here is Mark’s contact information:

Mark Frey, Administrative Coordinator
Christian Peacemaker Teams
PO Box 6508
Chicago, IL  60680-6508 USA

Phone: +1-773-376-0550
Fax:   +1-773-376-0549

And a little child shall lead them….




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