Wednesday Prayers: Crisis

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once (in)famously said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

It pissed off lots of people. Not me. And not just because I think he's dead sexy admire his work. I agree with his point. Every crisis can be a catalyst. A crisis is something we didn't want, something painful, something overwhelming-- but it's also a potential turning point. Where we (I) get stuck is in wanting to go back to pre-crisis. Not possible. Never possible. Crisis changes us. Even if our actions don't change, our insides do. Crisis gives us a choice between changing, and living a lie.

But we didn't want the change.

We might not have wanted the tide to come in, either, but clearly there's a lot that's beyond our control.

Family members die, marriages come unraveled, jobs end, sickness comes. We cannot go back to where we were before. The best we can hope for is to grow in ways that we wouldn't have if we could have stayed in that comfortable place.

I am in the midst of a couple quiet crises. I can't control the outcomes, but I can grow in my responses. This week, I'd like your prayers-- not that the crises be taken away, but that I choose to become more fully who God created me to be in the midst of them. That I choose (and learn) integrity and truth. That I seek God above easy familiarity. That I work with as God to create something new.
I yearn to be held
in the great hands of your heart--
oh let them take me now.
Into them I place these fragments, my life,
and you, God-- spend them however you want.
--Rainer Maria Rilke
How about you? Would you like me to offer prayer through your own crisis?


The Mirror of the Sea

We didn't make it to the beach this summer (what a pampered thing to be disappointed about!). I took some fun trips, but as usual, visiting people won out over visiting places.

I miss the beach-- having spent several (non-consecutive) years growing up in Oceanside, CA, it's one of the things that holds a sense of home for me. I like the beach best alone-- time to contemplate the vastness, the power of the crashing waves, the ambivalent steely color of the water. I like the ocean on gray days, and on stormy days best, strong and fearless and intense-- not children-with-little-red-buckets days. I don't like it passive.
maggie and millie and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

millie befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles :and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

for whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea.
-e. e. cummings



I switched things around in blogger so that I sign off as Di, instead of Mrs. M. When I started this blog (a million years ago), I needed it to be anonymous. Since that's no longer the case, it's nicer to be called by my name. If I drop in at your place to comment, don't be alarmed-- I'm still me!

Running with Van

This morning, I loaded my iPod up with today's pray-as-you-go, and the first dozen songs of Van Morrison's Greatest Hits, Vol. 3. That man speaks to my soul-- gravelly lover and awe-struck prophet, all in one package.

As I got to my halfway point, Too Long in Exile started. Just exactly what I needed.
Too long in exile
Too long not singing my song
(And how can you keep from adoring a man who references Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde?)

Not-Quite-Wednesday Prayers: Failure

Margaret Mead once responded to a reporter's question about her divorces by saying, "I don't consider my marriages as failures. It's idiotic to assume that because a marriage ends, it's failed."

Bishop Laura gave a reminder recently that the humane view is to recognize that mistakes are learning opportunities.

These two are not identical ideas, but both add up to the same thing: we're mislabeling a lot of things as failures. Perhaps, as I think about it, the only real failure is to keep making the same mistake, the same foolish choice.

I think there's a mental habit to assume that the end of anything is a failure. If we leave a job or a career anywhere but on the top of it (even the WRONG career for us)... failure. If we leave a relationship (despite our being responsible for only half of it)... failure.

No one would say to an alcoholic, "You just haven't tried hard enough to be a moderate, responsible drinker! Don't give up!" But we do that all the time with other decisions that are damaging to people's physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Part of our discernment as people of faith is deciding not just what to take up, but what to release.
God of all wisdom, help me to let go of the things I cannot keep, the things that keep me from being the daughter you call me to be. Show me how to recognize those obstacles that may not be readily apparent, to separate the wheat from the chaff in my own life. Keep me concerned with your views of failure and success, and no one else's; equip me with the quiet strength to keep my eyes on You.
Do you need to let go of a fear of failure, or celebrate a disguised success? Let me know, and I'll gladly wrap your prayers into mine.


Follow-Up to "No"

My friend Anne reminds me that this clarity about boundaries and respect comes from reading Gavin de Becker's excellent books, The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift. Both books talk a lot about trusting your instincts, and being watchful of controlling people. I HIGHLY recommend them. The second book is specifically about keeping kids safe, and I think all parents should read it.

My friend Lillian reminds me that I am A BIG BOOB, and should have pointed out that if you think I'm talking about you here, I'm not. (Well, she didn't say that, because she's not the tactless ass I am, but she did bring my attention to it.) I was clear with this woman at the time that things weren't right. Keeping my feelings bottled up is (sadly) not one of my character flaws. The only new part is figuring out that friends don't try to control friends.

Wednesday Prayers: Affection

My prayer this week is one of gratitude. Over the last couple of weeks, I've gotten to spend time with people who make me smile, and that's one of my very favorite things to do. (You may not have guessed that, as I sometimes sound like a total misanthrope.) It's been good to see people I love, and to get to know others better.

AND I'm getting less wimpy about the phone. With practice, patience, and prayer (yours, maybe?), I might become sweet and friendly again, after all.

On the other hand, maybe not.

How's your people-stuff? Going swimmingly, or needing a lifeguard? Let me know, and I'll pray for your relationships, too.


No Means No

I have an old acquaintance, a friend from long ago, with whom I've felt uncomfortable for years. I knew the incidents that caused my discomfort, but I didn't know why they mattered. I held the relationship in a weird limbo where I dreaded being around her, but I felt unreasonable about that, so I continued to spend time with her.

Once she asked for a difficult favor, another time for details of my personal life. Both times I said no but eventually gave in, afraid I wasn't being a "good friend." I wish I'd realized then that "if you were really my friend" is an awful lot like "if you really loved me." I never would have bought that kind of line from a date. But from a friend? I didn't recognize it. If a man had ignored my limits the way she did, I would have known immediately that something was Very Wrong. Instead, two male friends withing the past year were both instantly respectful when I indicated that a topic was off-limits. It's easy to see the difference between being disrespectful and leaving a door open-- even when the latter is done clumsily, it's simple to distinguish. One says, "I need you to change your mind," and the other says, "I'll be here if you ever change your mind." When someone ignores "No," it means that what they want from you is more important than what you want for you. Period. Their want trumps you.

I've always thought that I am "less nice" because she is soft-spoken, introverted, and non-confrontational, and I am extroverted and .... direct. (That may be a euphemism. I don't always think Dr. House is too blunt). But I still had a nagging gut feeling that I didn't want to be around her. (Full disclosure: there are plenty of times when I really am not nice; I am blunt, impatient, irritable.) Saying no to someone who appears weaker is particularly difficult to me. Holding my own line begins to feel like battery. For years, I felt guilty. Now, I'm beginning to recognize manipulation. (Maybe this is why I've had Sondheim's Red Riding Hood on the brain lately, as she learned from the Wolf that "Nice is different than Good.")

This is a particularly hard, slow lesson for people who were abused as children. There's no frame of reference for our "No" having any meaning-- not consistently, at any rate. And since objecting often leads to more abuse ("no" being somehow heard as "more"), its meaning becomes confused. Since the people we love are the people we aren't allowed to resist, it seems normal when our limits are ignored. It can take years to unlearn this-- for the lucky people who unlearn it at all.

"Loving our neighbor" is not the same as "our neighbor has to be our friend." I want the best for this woman. I want her to be as healthy, happy, and whole as possible. But that does not mean she is my friend.

I am so, so grateful to be learning that my "No" means no as much as anyone else's. It might be basic to a lot of people, but it's a miracle for me.


(Day After)Wednesday Prayers: Teachability

The reading on Tuesday's Pray-as-You-Go meditation was from 1 Corinthians-- the bit about how awful it was that they were suing each other, and wouldn't or couldn't resolve their problems within the community of believers. How might we settle our differences? One way is for each of us to be willing to consider the possibility that we're wrong. The same humility that allows us to be wrong also keeps us kind to others when we're right. My initial thoughts brought about this week's prayer.
God, show me how to be teachable. Help me to be secure enough in Your love to let go of the shame of imperfection. Remind me to see mistakes as invitations to let You show me a better way. Keep my tone with others gentle, so that it's easier for them to be open, too. Heal me from the fear and hurt of those who punished rather than taught. Grant me this freedom that I may share it with others.
What's your prayer this week? Are you wrestling with a dispute, or enjoying a time of peace? Let me know, and I'll hold you in God's light.


A New System + a WONDERFUL Artist I've discovered

I have fun new system, and I'm so pleased with myself that I thought I'd share it with you.

I think a lot of you know about the pray-as-you-go podcasts, put out by Jesuit Media Initiatives (you also know I'm falling for the Jesuits). For those of you who don't, they're short daily meditations that manage the rare feat of being brief but not superficial. Just in the last week or two I discovered YogaJournal's video podcasts (I've used their audio classes, but that can be tricky for me).

And THEN I thought... wait! I could make a mini-playlist that combined the two, and use pray-as-you-go for my meditation during corpse pose (the relaxation at the end of a yoga session)!

I'm disproportionately pleased with myself.

Also, in a fit of playlist fervor, I also made playlists for each of my runs this week, starting each of them off with that day's pray-as-you-go.

AND the rest of my playlist is Sara Groves. I keep meaning to tell you guys about her. I stumbled onto her on Pandora (and thank you, Ms. Kresge, for reminding me that yes, Virigina, Pandora does Christian rock, too). I bought the "Tell Me What You Know" album a couple of weeks ago, and I LOVE IT.

This song was the one that grabbed me first:


The Honour of Your Presense is Requested

Growing up in (mostly) evangelical churches (also Catholic ones-- have we talked about what a mutt I am?), I was taught that there was nothing too big or small to pray for, nothing God might not do. Anything could happen when you prayed. I prayed over all kinds of things. Later, I was taught by an Episcopal priest that either God loves us, or God is omnipotent, but there's too much suffering in the world for both to be true. I tried to receive and share God's love, but I stopped asking for help in tough situations.

I've gone back to praying about everything. First of all: WOW, does that feel better.

But I've wondered-- what can God really do? I believe in free will, I don't think that God overrides our decisions and turns us into little robots. What I've landed on, instead, is that God is continually offering invitations. God doesn't control, but God invites, and those invitations are powerful. I've thought in terms of God's invitations to me for years now (what else is spiritual direction about?!), but somehow I hadn't taken that next logical step of finding hope in God's invitations to everyone.

A loved one has suffered from mental illness for many years. She will not, or cannot, see how her behavior, her rage and her recklessness, affects her family. I don't believe that God will magically cure the illness overnight, but when I believe that God is offering invitations to her (and will not stop offering them), I finally have hope that there might be healing.

A couple does not know how to love their son, and in fact might not know what love is at all. The invitations keep coming, though.

I believe God works like a loving parent who stands across the room, arms open wide, waiting for a child's first steps. I don't believe God forces us, shoves us, holds puppet strings. Our job, then, is to listen for the invitations, accept them as they come, and rest in the confidence that others are being invited, too.


Wednesday Prayers: Using the Scraps

Last weekend, I spent a wonderful day with a handful of people whom I enjoy very much... and realized how crabby I've become. As an antidote to that, I decided to return to an old practice-- using a rosary by letting each bead be a person I'm holding in prayer. I noticed early on that I was praying for healing for a lot of them. There is so much to be released from, to let go of, so many discarded scraps that could pile up. But lest we believe that we have wasted years, lives even, I prayed that God use the scraps in ways that we can see. I know I need that-- when I think of struggles in marriage, struggles in family, struggles in vocation, I need to believe that God can make something good out of my messes. I need it badly.

So, if you're so inclined, you can pray for me to let go of my scraps and let God do something with them. How can I pray for you, when your bead comes around during my prayer time?

(This photo is from Film in the Fridge, which is my very, very favorite quilt eye candy.
She makes beautiful stuff.)