Everyday Spirituality

Archive for January, 2012

Flashes of the Past

I have been known to enjoy some science fiction movies from time to time. I really like The Abyss it is the most beautiful love story. Keeping that in mind I wish there were a way to virtually project into real-time past memories as you called them to mind or as they come forward. I know it sounds silly and that is why we have movie cameras…to capture those moments we want to preserve.

I have had a couple experiences recently not of déjà vu exactly but similar. My friend and I took our ministry to several other parishes beside our own. A few years ago we gave a women’s retreat based on the powerful story of the Woman Caught in Adultery at another parish.

When I had the occasion to visit the parish again I was not really thinking about the possibility of being in the very same room, but as it turned out we were. It felt surreal walking into this room again. So much of what we had done together in that space came flooding back into my body. I almost had to stop and take a deep breath before crossing the threshold. We had also presented an Advent series about the Blessed Mother in that very same room.

As I sat in the space I wanted to close my eyes and relive every detail of our time together in that exact room. I could picture us standing in the front of the room together walking the women into the scripture story that cold winter Saturday morning. I could hear us talking about Jesus writing in the sand. Then I could see the women coming forward with their sand during the closing ritual.

It was an emotionally charged day and now those emotions are mixed inside me with the emotions of her absence. We can never do that presentations together again and it was my favorite. It had been the very first day of prayer we did for our own parish. Even my mother and sister were present.

Memories are malleable to me you can take them in your hand. They can bring you comfort in times of sadness. Sometimes a memory will materialize when you least expect and surprise you. Sometimes memories have a way to make you appreciate even more something you once had.

The last time we presented together was for the team of women’s retreat for our parish. I am already beginning to emotionally prepare for my return visit to this person’s home as I have been asked to present to another retreat group in this person’s beautiful home.

I guess I am just being sentimental. I know sooner or later I will not be having these déjà vu experiences any longer. As more time passes there is less and less of a connection. Not that the person is any less missed or less loved it’s just that other memories get stored on top.

The most recent research on the brain and memory indicates that our memories are stored in several places throughout our brain. When we recall an event our incredible brain reconstructs the bits and pieces of information into one unified memory. But it makes sense then that occasionally we have missed some of the details or ‘remembered’ something incorrectly. Our memories are not fool-proof, but recording details in a journal is a great tool to help reconstruct an event. Of course pictures are another excellent way to preserve memories. Movies are probably the most accurate way to preserve something you want to remember many years later. I know many people scrapbook which becomes a wonderful keepsake for generations to come.

We have an amazing brain that is why just walking into a room can trigger the details of something that occurred in that location. I am sure you have all had the experience of heading to another room to get something only to reach the room with no memory of why you were going there. The easiest way to remember is to return to the place where you had the thought of what you wanted from the other room.

I wonder what our life would be like if we could not ever remember anything. I think they have made a movie about something like that, maybe 100 First Dates. I am not sure.

I do cherish my memories they conjure up all sorts of emotions within my soul. It makes me happy to remember the presentations my friend and I did together. And it makes me sad to think we will never be presenting together again.

The most vivid memories we can recall are often colored by a strong emotion…love…fear…joy…sadness. Strong emotions embed the memory into our psyche giving it a much longer retention rate.

 

I pray for those whose loved ones suffer from memory loss. Dementia is a devastating disease especially when the person is the picture of health. It is hard to experience the apparent ‘death’ of the person you once loved because of Alzheimer’s, a most devastating disease for family members.

We actually rely a great deal on our memory. Take a moment and express gratitude for your memory. You might want to recall one of your most precious memories to date.

Close your eyes and try to recall as many of the details as possible. Who is there…where you were…what it looked like…what could you hear…what were your feelings at the time?

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Where are Your Tears Stored?

Psalm 56: 9

…my tears are stored in your flask;

are they not recorded in your book?

It is suggested that since tears are precious to God they are saved. The whole idea of saving tears has been floating around in my mind this week. It does seem precious and tender to save ones tears. They hold such intimate moments of our life.

A few weeks ago while out shopping I came across this petite clear glass bottle, like an old fashioned perfume bottle. It had a lovely glass stopper that just rested in the outer lip. Nothing was actually keeping the stopper in place. The bottom of the stopper reached deep down inside the tiny bottle. Of course if the bottle had been filled with ones favorite perfume the stopper would have been touching the fragrant liquid.

I think a beautiful crystal perfume bottle would be most appropriate for storing tears. Tears curiously stream forth from our eyes for many different reasons. We cry when we are happy, we cry when we are sad, we even cry when watching a television show knowing it is not reality. We cry when we witness the tears of others. So many different circumstances cause tears to well up in our eyes.

I have written about tears here before, but I have decided that even if the tears do not fall from my eyes or trickle down my face the emotion is present. If the emotion that generates moist tears is real then the emotion too must be considered precious.

The psalmist is trusting that God is truly concerned about his life…his trials and tribulations so much so that he would collect the tears and actually take time to journal their meaning. I really like that image, however trivial it may seem…God caring enough to record my most intense emotional reactions.

I know God does not need to keep a journal of what happens in my life. For a minute though just imagine if he were to keep such a book; it would be astounding for him to record something as small as tears. I am reminded of 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast your cares on him, for he cares for you.” I know he truly does care for me.

I am going to get this little perfume bottle and put it where I can see it often; maybe on my bedside table. I want to be able to glance at this fragile symbol. I want to be able to visualize collecting my tears, either real or those in my heart, into this little bottle. I want to cherish my tears of sorrow and my tears of joy.

No one can say why we as humans have this ability to cry. We even cry when chopping up onions, but you know those are not the tears I am speaking of today.

Perhaps I should also record in a special book those times when I cry or feel like crying. Tears are so personal. Some people try to hide the fact that they are crying, others allow the tears to flow freely oblivious to where they are. I would have to say I am more private with my crying. I keep them to myself.

Since the death of my friend I have given much thought to tears. I think when you accompany a loved one on their journey with a terminal illness you learn special coping skills. So many times when you want to cry you do not, but rather you put on the cloak of hope. This cloak of hope gives you the strength to support your loved one. Somehow part of this hope for me was not to cry or at least not to let her see me cry.

We never talked about crying even in the most intimate conversations we had together. As her illness became more devastating I did not want to cry I just wanted to spend as much time as I could by her side.

When her death did finally come it was almost anti-climactic for me to cry. How could I cry? I had been praying for God to take her to be with him. Tears would not change the fact that I had to release her earthly presence. Now she knows how my heart was flooded with tears no tissue could absorb.

To truly love someone means

there may come a time when you must let them go.

Take Up Your Mat

Seven years ago my friend and I were part of a group of 5 women who developed a women’s retreat for our church. This retreat has been well attended each year since the first weekend.

The theme for that weekend was from the Gospel of Mark 2: 1-12. Specifically verse 11 when Jesus says to the paralytic, “…pick up your mat and go home.”

We met many times to discuss this theme in depth. We wanted to literally climb into the Bible and become part of the crowded room. We wanted to be the friends who carried the paralytic to be healed. We empathized with the paralytic on the mat. We totally immersed ourselves in this beautiful story.

We discussed what it meant to have friends that would carry your mat. What it meant to have friends that would go to great means for a friend. We visualized how they broke open the roof and lowered the paralytic down before Jesus.

Each time we met allowed us to become closer as friends ourselves. We sometimes met at a restaurant and enjoyed a glass of wine or a margarita together. We were bonding as we embraced the depth of this gospel. Little did we know then how much that story would touch us in the near future.

One of us would indeed need to be carried on the mat.

Shortly after this first retreat one of the five of us would be diagnosed with a terminal illness…pancreatic cancer. My best friend allowed us to place her on the mat and carry her. Friendship has many faces and it takes on many shapes. I think true friendship must be able to morph into whatever is needed. True friendship cannot be rigid and structure. True friendship must be fluid by its very nature.

Many times before her death the image of carrying her mat became more and more evident. She was no longer to do all that she wanted to do. Others came and carried a part of her mat.

It was something she certainly never anticipated. Her whole life she was the more likely person to carry the mat of another. But when she got sick all of that changed. All that we had discussed about the paralytic being carried by his friends was too real…painfully real. At times we did not even want to admit that she was on the ‘mat’.

But unlike in the Gospel we could not physically lower her mat through the roof and bring her to Jesus. While we loved the gospel image, for me it began to become a painful image. She wanted God to heal her so much and we all wanted her to be healed. God had other plans.

In the scripture after Jesus heals the paralytic it says, “They were all astounded and glorified God…” I have written more about the word astounded on my other blog, here is the link www.scripture4you.blogspot.com    Astounded…Wonder and Awe

 

This verse also tells us they ‘glorified God’. I know without a doubt that my friend is healed and is in heaven glorifying God. She is now clothed with the eternal light of his love. He has indeed shown his brilliant face upon her. She joyfully rejoices at all he has done for her. She is now experiencing things unlike she could have ever imagined. And she had a vivid imagination.

The mat will always be an important image of friendship to me. We all need friends from time to time in our lives to carry our mat. We all need friends to carry us to the Lord…if not physically through their kindness and their love.

 

I desire to live my life so that someday I will be able to join those in the crowded room with Jesus and say, “I have never seen anything like this.”

 

I have faith that one day I will see my friend again and no words will be needed for us to communicate. Together we will glorify God for what else would there be to do in heaven? When we enter into the presence of pure love how wondrous will be that day.

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

“Rise, pick up you mat and walk.”

As I am writing this I am listening to beautiful symphonic music by Julie Larson. The sound of the instruments blending together lifts up my soul and inspires me.

“It was not you who chose me, says the Lord, but I who chose you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” John 15:16

Soon we will have our annual women’s retreat and she will be with us…her joyful spirit with be with us. This year the theme is, “… whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31 She loved this retreat so very much.

She continues to be missed and always…loved.

 

The Party

Well today is The Party. For several years now my friend and her husband have hosted a party to celebrate family, love, and friendship. This party is much like a wedding reception except there will be no new bride and groom. But in many ways we are celebrating their wedding because it brought forth a beautiful family. We are celebrating all that is good about love and family. This party contains all the elements one could hope for in life…food, family, friends, fun, and music.

They loved to dance together and they loved to see their guests having fun together. Every other year has been marked with this celebration. I have to accept my deep regret this time. Two years ago at their last party my husband and I were in San Diego, consequently we were not able to attend.

Had I known two years ago that she would not be here for her next party I would have made different vacation plans. But we are not privileged to see the future so, I was not there. It was my decision. We all have to live with the results of the decisions we make in life.

She was disappointed that we were going to miss the party, but she never made me feel guilty. That is true friendship.

That year during the party she gave away some of her precious possessions to her children. She also had small pieces of crystal decorating each table, which one person at each table received to take home.

Later many people asked me if she knew she was dying. I cannot now nor could I then answer that question completely. But I believe when you have pancreatic cancer diagnosis you cannot “not” think about your own mortality.

It seems fitting that the gospel reading today is the Wedding Feast at Cana. Jesus performed his first public miracle changing water into the best wine. I rejoice at the beautiful marriage my friend and her husband shared for 42 years. On more than one occasion I witnessed their response to, “Do whatever he tells you.” On more than one occasion they took empty jars a filled them with their unconditional love. Who could ask for anything more from a friend than unconditional love?

It will be a difficult night as I mingle with family and friends who loved her and miss her presence in their lives. I suppose I will never truly get over missing her. Yes, I know things get better with time, but a part of me left this earth with her. A part that can never be replaced…a part I gladly let her take into eternity…my love for her.

We used to do a day of prayer together called “The Heart Connection”. We used a little story about an old man and a young man each boasting about who had the most beautiful heart. The young man thought he did until he listened to the old man describe how his heart came to look so tattered and torn. How through the years the old man had given parts of his heart away. How sometimes people would ignore his gift; and sometimes they would give him a piece of their heart in return. His heart looked more like a well loved and worn patch work quilt to be treasured.

I go to this party ready to join her family in sharing her love with everyone attending.

I wonder, though not recorded in the Bible, how many people regretted not answering the call to follow Jesus. Did they have other things to do at the time of the call? Did they not believe what he was saying and doing? Were they not ready? Was it just not the right time in for them?

We all have regrets in our life. A regret can be as simple as not being able to accept an invitation or as serious as not mending a relationship with a loved one. Many people express their regrets on their deathbed.

“Regrets are the tears of choices not made, and of good deeds left undone.” Jonathan Lockwood Huie

I really do not think my friend had any real regrets to express, because she lived her life always trying to do what was placed on her heart.

Perhaps it is better to make a fool of yourself rather than to build a storage shed to hold all of your life regrets.

“…Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” Eph. 4:1b

Well everyone at the party had a good time and joy filled the room through lively music, exhausting dance, tasty food, personal conversations, and warm embraces.

My friend was dancing in heaven with us…not sure what the chicken dance looks like with angel wings! But I have a really vivid imagination!

“All who believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts. 2:44

 

Another Year Ends -The Last 12 Months

Here we are the end of another year, but not just any year for me. The end of a year is often marked with celebrations at the stroke of midnight. But what are those celebrations really? Are we happy that we have survived another year? Are we excited that the passing year is finally over? Are we hopeful for a better year to come?

I guess for some it is a combination of all of the above. You know like the multiple choice test question answers where answer D is often all of the above or none of the above. I never did like those answers because you really had to know the material well. It was much easier when you could look at the answer choices and choose the ‘one’ that you believed to be the right answer.

Life is so not like a standardized test. It is more like a Kaleidoscope where all the tiny pieces of your daily life are collected. Each year a new kaleidoscope collection is created.

At the end of the year we look at the events of our life slowly as we make slight turns of the kaleidoscope carefully examining the last twelve months. Maybe they settle into pleasing patterns or perhaps they are a total mixture of dissonance. I wish I could remember all of the wondrous moments that occur in a year, but I cannot. It seems that I can only remember those times encased in intense emotion.

Think about your past year. What stands out the most?

I would say times of great joy, intense sorrow, sour disappointment, painful hurts both physical, emotional, and joyful surprises. We tend to overlook the insignificant …the passing smile from a stranger…

…the Blue Jay in the front yard…

…the blue sky on a clear day…

…the fleeting hug of a child…

…the smell of morning coffee brewing…

…the beauty of a rose bud…

we could go on and on creating an endless list.

Can you name your personal top 10 blessings for 2011?

Here are mine, not in any particular order:

  1. Total hip replacement
  2. Death of my best friend
  3. 28 day cruise with my husband
  4. Tenants in our rental house
  5. Both sons home for Christmas
  6. Visiting the Sargrada Familia in Barcelona
  7. Donating two cars to charity
  8. Writing each day
  9. Bringing Eucharist to my friends
  10. Love and support from friends

I invite you to spend some time today; make your own list. Maybe you will want to make two different lists. First list whatever easily comes to mind then go back and take some time to really reflect on the last twelve months.

Part of me is reluctant to see this year slip away and become the past. There are things I want to hold on to and never forget, but I know with time things fade and the colors are less intense. I have found writing a way to preserve some of life that I do not want to lose.

I hope you have honored through writing some of your most significant moments from 2011.

The beginning of a new year holds more than we could ever imagine. I hope to be more aware in 2012…to be more grateful…more loving…more compassionate…more joyful…more optimistic…remembering ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. Phil. 4:13

God has abundantly blessed me in 2011 in more ways than I could have ever imagined. We are embraced by a God who consistently showers us with surprises. I am ready to enter into this New Year…2012, believing God has more in store for me and for you.

Finally, (beloved), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Preserve all these things in the kaleidoscope of 2012…the days of your life.