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November 11, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer.
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My friend and co-worker Marcus has been involved in an automobile accident and is currently in critical condition at OU Medical Center. He went into emergency surgery this morning and by this afternoon we were informed that he is in a coma and his head trauma is so severe he is not expected to make it.

Involved in the accident with him were 6 other co-workers at my call center. 3 have died, including Marcus’ boyfriend.

Another co-worker and friend named Jersey and I sit on either side of Marcus at work, and really, it’s a wonder we get any work done at all. Marcus is our personal cheerleader when we are blue about our personal lives or when we have just finished dealing with a difficult call and need some serious encouragement to press that “available” button again. He’s funny and snarky, and he’s supposed to leave for basic training for the Army National Guard early next year. He’s got youth and strength and spirit and the love of many, many people on his side, but head trauma is head trauma.

Pray. Pray hard. Please.

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meditation January 1, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer, reading, thoughtful.
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The world gives itself
up to incessant activity
merely because
it knows of nothing
better.
The inspired man
works among
its whirring wheels
also, but he knows
whither the wheels
are going.
For he has found
the centre
where all is
stillness…

-Paul Brunton

From Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community

spiritual exercises: Romans 8:26-34 October 13, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer, theology.
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I have a hard time with the word “predestined”, which shows up in this passage. In the last post, I touched a little on my love of language and my pride in my ability to use it well. So, I guess you could say I have a real relationship with words, and just like relationships with people, there are some that make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. “Predestined” has always been one of those words that has given me an icky feeling. I like my free will, thank you very much. I believe in personal responsibility, accountability for the choices you make and consequences, both good and bad. The word “predestined” seems to contradict everything I believe in. I want to believe that there is more to it, something that I’m not understanding about the word and the concept it represents, so once again, I turned to The Message, where I certainly got what I was looking for.

“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided
from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same
lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he
restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.
After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed
it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on
a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed
with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.”

“The original and intended shape of our lives”…more appealing words, certainly, beautiful ones, even. But it also sounds to me like the argument that some folks use to rail against all the wonderful, different ways in which we human children were made. In other words, “Don’t rock the boat – don’t be different – that’s not the ‘original and intended shape of our lives’.”

However, immediately preceding this passage are the words that have brought so much comfort to many: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” These are words that sanctify our struggles and encourage us to let go of SELF, along with our fear and self-loathing.

I guess I could say therefore that this passage causes me some distress, even disturbs me a little. There seems to be a direct contradiction between the idea of an existence rooted in mystery, and my appreciation of that which is concrete and well-defined and easily controlled. I like the ideas of holy mystery and profound truths and God’s desire for me, but I can’t quite get my mind around them, because that would involve my complete and unconditional surrender, and I really don’t see that happening anytime soon.

spiritual exercises: Job 1:21 and 38:1 – 40:5 October 12, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer, theology.
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“Naked I came from my mother’s womb…I must bow down before the creator’s wisdom.”

In the NRSV, chapter 38 of Job starts out with this:

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: who is this
that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your
loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.”

The Message says this:

“And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent
storm. He said: “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk
without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job!
Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want
some straight answers.”

Ah ha! I get it now. While the last several years have seen me make a career transition from hotel professional to social worker (a downward trajectory according to our society, not to mention my mother, so can anyone please tell me why I’m enjoying myself so damn much?), when I’m doing one-on-one with people, I always seem to slip into the vernacular seen in the latter translation. Doesn’t matter what your job is: I think I’ve met more than my fair share of people who just don’t seem to get it, whatever “it” happens to be. So when God says to Job, “Up on your feet!” THAT makes sense to me. It’s how I was spoken to as a child when I was in the wrong, and it’s how I speak to others now. I consider myself to have a good head on my shoulders. I also know that I am “beautifully and wonderfully made”, and yet, just like Job, I confuse the issue. I keep thinking that I’ve got it all figured that, that I know what needs to be done to accomplish the objective at hand, and I keep getting knocked off my feet. And it’s starting to occur to me that I need to take more time to just LISTEN. I think our latest change of residence may wind up being very conducive to that: the directions to my house include the words “turn left on the unmarked dirt road”, and the house has a neat back porch that looks out over a whole lot of nothing. It’s tough, though. To me, words are power. Having a good vocabulary, being able to explain myself clearly and concisely, having a knowledge of grammar and sentence structure – these all lead to the perception in others that I am intelligent and accomplished. The fact that I know how to use language is a big part of what I use to reassure myself that I am still the same person I’ve always been when everything else in my life is sliding around and it appears that I may not be so intelligent after all. And this attitude of mine towards language and intelligence is really a small symptom of the larger sickness of having to be in control of…well, just about everything else. This passage hits me where it hurts. It says, “It’s not about YOU. Once in awhile, you just might need to GIVE UP.”

So, what do I most hope to get out of this retreat? I think it would have to be this:

“I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me. I should never have
opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m
ready to shut up and listen.”
-Job 40:3-5 (The Message)

spiritual exercises: Exodus 3:4-10 October 11, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer, theology.
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This passage made me think of my husband and a conversation that we had while dating. He has struggled with issues of faith much more than I ever have, and I remember him telling me that he would give anything – absolutely anything – to have a physical experience with God or His angels like Moses’ experience I read about in Exodus last night. I, on the other hand, have always been more able to see the holy ground in the everyday happenings of my life. As a child, my holy ground was the park that my mom took me to. It was the place where she told me that God is not an old man in the sky with a white beard, but rather that God is all around us, a lesson that I am now in the process of teaching my son. At this time in my life, my holy ground is the sanctuary of family, the family that is made up of myself, my husband and son, and sometimes, my daughter, when circumstances arrange themselves so that she can come for a visit. Last night, after reading the passage, I meditated on the meaning of holy ground. The physical structure that our family calls home has changed a little more often than I’d necessarily like in our 4 years together, and on one level, I’m quite peaceful in the knowledge that every move we make is leading us closer to where we are supposed to be, even when we don’t understand how or why. On the other hand, I feel insecure when I have to explain to people where we lived before and how we came to be where we are now and how moving seems to be a way of life for us. I feel judged, and I feel like people are looking at me and thinking that I must somehow be unstable.

I guess this is all a really long-winded way of saying that I try to take my holy ground where I can find it: my back porch, my drive to work, the birthing center where my niece came into the world this past Sunday night are a few places I’ve experienced recently. Last night as I prayed, I experienced a desire to begin searching for more holy places, and a vague admonishment from somewhere that I need to be aware that they won’t always be where I expect.

serenity prayer September 10, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer.
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God, grant me the serenity to accept
the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with Him forever
in the next. Amen.

simple as that July 30, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in death, prayer.
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Aunt Dee Dee gave up her fight last night around 7:00 PM. When I last visited the hospital on Friday evening, I spent some time with her granddaughter (who is very close to my husband) who had been camped out for most of the week. I kept her company and invited her to tell me more about Dee Dee, and the thing that sticks with me the most is this: “She was – is – an amazing woman. All you had to do was tell her you loved someone, and then she loved them, too. You loved them, she loved them. Simple as that.”

O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our sister Dee Dee. We thank you for giving her to us, her family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

When I met with my spiritual director… July 7, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer, theology.
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…this past weekend, she asked me if I was still interested in a class she will be conducting come October called “Retreat in Daily Life”. It had been several months since I had thought about it last, so I asked her to refresh my memory. She said it uses the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius to teach people how to open themselves to God. It will mean committing to driving to her home (about a one hour drive) once every week for seven months.

I felt bad that I hesitated. This class sounds like it has the amazing potential to open me up to something I’ve deeply desired for a long time – a more meaningful prayer life. But hesitate I did, and J saw it on my face. She asked what I was worried about, and I blurted out something to the effect of, “What if I can’t do it right?”

See, that’s how I’ve always been. I want to be an expert the first time I do something. It was apparent when I was a child and quit every activity that my parents put me in, from baton-twirling to gymnastics to piano lessons and Irish-language lessons. It continued as an adolescent and young adult when I began running away from home after fights with my parents, and later on when I would periodically take a semester off college when I ran into troubles in my personal life and relationships. The first two years of our marriage scared me to death because I was constantly conflicted – I had an inner voice telling me, “This is HARD. Maybe you two should just admit you made a mistake and get out while you can.” and it battled with the other voice that said, “Who ever said marriage was easy? You’re old enough now to know that in marriage, you made a commitment to see it through the rough times. So get that “divorce” word out of your head and go apologize.” Our culture is completely wrapped up in the idea of instant gratification. I want my food fast, my photos in one hour, and a perfect body within a week of beginning to exercise when I’ve never done it before.

The same has been true of my prayer life. The first time I made a decision that it was worthy of improving, I tried to do Morning Prayer, Noon Prayer, and Evening Prayer, and I said I would do it every day forever and ever, and that was that. That lasted for about the three days that I was on the Walk to Emmaus retreat. J told me to pick up a “Forward Day by Day” booklet at church, and to read the daily commentary as well as the Gospel reading for the day, to find five minutes every day for solitude and silence, and that we would go from there, working up to one hour a day by the time class starts in October. I’m afraid…afraid I won’t have the time, or that when I’m trying to pray I’ll feel other things trying to call my attention away, or that I won’t get anything out of the experience – I’m afraid I won’t hear God if I try too hard.

I’m grumpy this morning… May 18, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer.
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…or as my mom would say, I’m being a “crabapple sourpuss”.

Dear Lord, I really, really want to make sure that this day starts out on the right foot. I know I need to have an attitude adjustment pronto if that’s going to happen. Please help. Just…help. I don’t know what else to say. As I sit here eating my yogurt and feeling grumpy about the day ahead, watch over me. Help me with the realization that the people I serve today are probably experiencing all kinds of grief and fear and sorrow and uncertainty that I know nothing about. Work through me and allow the small service I perform for them to be a moment in time in which they may experience you through me. That’s all I ask. Oh, that and a large dose of patience with equally cranky co-workers. Thanks.

I met with my spiritual director last night… May 13, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in Boy-o, prayer, theology, worship.
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…since it’s the last time I’ll be able to do so until after the wedding madness and our subsequent vacation to Sea World in June. It’s only the third time I’ve met with her, so I’m still at the stage of not really knowing what to expect out of the relationship, if relationship is indeed the right word for it. Due to some scheduling conflicts, I had to take Boy-o with me, and I was so happy that she didn’t mind, but I was out of my head if I thought for one minute that she and I were going to be able to have any type of normal conversation with a rambunctious 2 year old in the room!

He was playing with the sunglasses he had gotten for his birthday. I had shared with her some of the events of my past and some of what happened this past week, and we were talking about the idea of being in bondage to the past and I was relating it to something I’ve been reading about God freeing us from bondage being a repetitive theme through Scripture – hey, these concepts may be old hat to some of you RevGals, but they’re new to me, ok? 🙂 – when we heard a *crack* – Boy-o had sat on the sunglasses and broken an earpiece, and he was now angry they wouldn’t fit on his face anymore. He started to cry and throw a fit, and I was embarrassed. I tried to hug him, but he was too mad for that. I tried to give him the broken sunglasses back, but that made him angry, too. I tried to hide the glasses from him, but that made him scream louder. I was getting progressively more embarrassed at my inability to control my child’s temper in front of my spiritual director, and I finally just told her that I didn’t know how to handle the situation correctly. She said that I had to let him grieve the loss of the sunglasses, and that being only 2, he didn’t have the words to say so – he was expressing his frustration the only way he knows how, and I had to honor that experience. So, I sat back for a minute and let him scream. Then I took his face in my hands and said, “I know you’re mad, but you have lots of other toys over there to play with…your puzzle, your cars, and your Elmo.” With that, the screams subsided into sobs, and he said, “Elmo?” and that was the end of that. It was all over with much more quickly than when I have spanked him and said, “You do NOT throw fits!” The broken sunglasses went into my pocket, and he played the rest of the time while I laid on her floor and we continued talking about control and being freed from that need through the understanding that God loves me with as much (and more) desperation as I love Boy-o…and to relate it to the bondage theme, that while I may think I’m in control of a given situation and that is in fact what makes it feel freeing to me, it is really just a different way of being in bondage.