So while I collect my thoughts and get ready write on some specific topics that have come up for me over the past couple of months, let me share some words of wisdom from others. I think if I had lots of money I would have a house with a huge library that would house not only lots of books, but collections of all the words that I have read over the years that have impacted me deeply or influenced me in some way. Here are a few more of those precious words.
“Everything that I think, feel,say, and do belongs to me, and everything that you think, feel, say, and do belongs to you.” (Paul Ferrini)
“I cannot think myself into a new way of living; I have to live myself into a new way of thinking.” (AnShin Thomas)
“Know that making a commitment to your happiness, to your health, to your fitness, to your family, to your abundance, to your career, to your mission in life, to your love, to your friends, to your community, to your creativity, to your spiritual life, is all the same thing. It is all a commitment to growth, to wholeness, to being your best, to living life fully and gratefully starting from where you are right now!” (Jinjee)
“Making amends without forgiveness leads to dishonesty and lies.” (Anon)
“Everyone who’s human deserves to be treated with some dignity – whether they’ve done good things or bad things, they have to be given hope.”
“When you stop resenting what anther person can’t give you, you begin to appreciate what they have to offer.” (Anon)
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” (Mark Twain)
“The fact that Christianity is a religion of love makes every evangelizer the teller of a love story, the singer of a love song. By example as well as by words evangelizers must be teachers of love.” (from John Paul II and the New Evangelization)
“The power of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special efforts, but by his ordinary doing.” (Blaise Pascal)
“When people envy me I think, Oh God, don’t envy me, I have my own pains.” (Barbra Streisand)
“He paints the lily of the field, perfumes each lily bell; if He so loves the little flowers, I know He loves me well.” (Maria Strauss)
“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts f people.” (Mother Teresa)
“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.” (Thomas Fuller)
He wore a bright apple green tee shirt. He was probably about 10 years old, slight in build with mid brown hair. His shoulders were hunched and he clung to his mother’s hand as they came into the church entrance hall. His eyes were red and he had obviously been crying quite a lot.
As his mother made her away across the narthex toward the tables full of photos and other small items, he held back a little – as though afraid. He cuffed His nose with his wrist and his mother put her arm around his shoulder. He leaned in, almost as if he wanted to disappear, perhaps hoping that if he did the whole circumstance would disappear too.
They approached the book where friends and family stopped to sign their names, a testimony of loving memory to Sophia and support to her parents. Yes, we were laying little Sophia to rest. Her parents had had to make that unthinkable decision to switch of life support. They had hung on for a few days so that out of town family could come to say their farewells, and perhaps hoping for a miracle that would bring their Sophia back to them.
The boy was destroyed by grief. His face was drawn and wretched with it. His mother signed and asked if he wanted her to sign for him. He shook his head and held out his hand for the pen. As he bravely added his signature to the growing list, he sniffed a couple of times and hung onto his stomach with his other hand.
I watched as he slowly walked passed the photos looking intently at each one. Tears rolled down his cheeks and my heart felt heavy at the sight of his young grief. And yet I did not wish that he shouldn’t suffer so. I realized he was learning a grand lesson in this grown up world. He was courageously grieving the loss of his little friend openly. He wasn’t trying to do the “manly” thing and cover up his feelings. His heart hurt at his loss and he was crying with the pain, not the least bit embarrassed .
They took seats inside the church along with his Dad and his sister. The funeral Mass started and I saw him lean into his Dad for a while, then once more against his Mom. He was feeling this every step of the way. Finally, it got to be too much, and he and his mother went back out into the narthex and sat on a bench under the window. His slight body was caved in and he clutched onto his stomach with both hands as if in letting go he might lose a part of himself.
So as I prayed for Sophia and her family, I also prayed for the little boy in the green tee shirt. I asked God to comfort him and to heal his broken heart.
After the Mass, my friend Debbie told me she had spoken to him out in the narthex and asked if he was Sophia’s friend. He had nodded yes. She then said that she imagined they had had some very happy times together and told him to think of just one time when they had enjoyed something really special. She then encouraged him that when he said his prayers that night, to tell God to tell Sophia that he was thinking about that one very special happy time they had had, and that he was happy to have that memory. And she told him in the following days to think of other happy times and do the same thing: tell God to tell Sophia about them. Debbie assured him that if he did this he would then always have happy memories when he thought of Sophia.
What an incredibly beautiful and love-filled gift she gave that boy. I know that it was God speaking through her. He has a way of using her in that way – to uplift others with her words. And once again I was grateful; grateful for community and the gift of love that we share with each other.
Among all the wonderful cartoons that Charles Schultz created with his beloved character Charlie Brown, there is one about searching for the meaning of life. Charlie goes to Lucy and asks how he can discover the meaning of life. After some thought Lucy responds – “Charlie life is like a cruise ship on which some people think that if they reflect on their past they may discover the meaning of life and so they put their deck chairs facing the back of the ship. Others think that if they look forward to their future they will find meaning for their lives, so they place their chairs facing the front of the ship. “
She then posits this question to Charlie: “So Charlie, on this great cruise ship of life which way do you want to place your deck chair?” After a few moments of thought Charlie replies – “Lucy, I can’t even get my deck chair unfolded.” Can you relate? I know that even though I have been on a dedicated spiritual and personal growth path for about 25 years now, there are still days when I struggle to get my deck chair unfolded.
Growing up I had a desperate desire to fit in, to be accepted, to be part of the in crowd, and yet I also found myself longing to be alone, not wanting to be bothered by others. I oscillated between behaviors that either attracted people to me or caused them to leave me in isolation. The relationships in my life were very dysfunctional: either I was very co-dependent or I tried to be the dominant partner. I put a lot of energy into trying to please others or being an absolute obnoxious rebel.
But whichever the way the wind was blowing in that particular department, the base line or predominant desire in my life became a quest for pleasure. And when I found it, in whatever fashion that was, then my main goal was to get more, more, more. And Western culture in general was on a path in the same direction – of more, more, more.
At this time in my life, age fifteen through thirty five, I was not consistently practicing my faith. I had been “force fed” religion from cradle through College. So when I was free from parental guidelines I moved as far away from my faith as I could. I became totally caught up in a way of life that was founded on me, me, me-ism, and neither church, nor religion, nor things spiritual touched me. And yet, every once in a while, when moments of pure bleakness came over me (as they are wont to do in that kind of lifestyle!), I would creep into the back of a church and “fox-hole” pray (you know: God if you get me out of this, I promise I’ll do that), to some God of whom I had no real concept.
I had absolutely no idea at that time that my soul was thirsting for wholeness. I was just aware, barely, that the more I tried to fill the gaping hole inside of me with material things, bad relationships, and other false gods, the more empty and abandoned I felt. By age thirty five I was on the edge of a deep, black hole of despair. Somehow, I had a rare moment of sanity, a God-incidence, and I was able to seek and get help.
I clung on, like a drowning man clings to a life raft, to a group of people who seemed to care unconditionally for me. They encouraged me to find a God of my understanding and in the mean time “loaned me their God”. I was able to clear the wreckage of my past, make some amends, then begin building a firm foundation for my future. Now let me go back to Charlie Brown and Lucy for a moment.
Lucy talks about looking backward or looking forward to find the meaning of life, and to a certain extent I did need to look back. This was so I could learn some lessons from the past and also see to whom I needed to make amends. But having achieved those two objectives I do not dwell too much in the past. Nor do I look too far down the road or allow myself to get worried about “what if”. Personally I’ve learned to put my deck chair mid ship and focus on what I have right In front of me. But that’s just my particular slant on that cartoon story.
Today the state of me, me, me-ism is no longer a part of my life, and I am able to to reach out to others and try to be of help. I focus on taking care of myself and living an honest, God-centered life. With the help of many amazing mentors who have enriched my life immensely, I have created a deep and personal relationship with my God which in turn leads me to desire more relationship with Him. And funny, the more I am in relationship with Him the better my life is.
As some icing on the cake, I have learned to turn to scriptures, to read books written by spiritual authors (Max Lucado is my personal favorite). I give myself the gift of attending retreats and spiritual workshops; sometimes I facilitate them!! I have created a faith based community for myself and I enjoy healthy relationships today. In another posting I mentioned my husband – a wonderful man who brings many blessings to our marriage and who is also my spiritual partner. And despite today’s frenetic and sometimes unbearably sad and cruel world, the empty and falsely satisfying life that I used to live has become a life full of meaning.