a world transformed

Happy Easter Monday!

One of my theology professors used to refer to Christians as “Easter People”. Which we are, of course, since the death and resurrection of Christ are the founding events of our faith. But what does it mean, really…what are the implications for our everyday lives?

It means that we are never without hope. It means that all creation is redeemed and sanctified. It means that the final goodbye of death is, in reality, not forever, that Christ by his rising from the dead has forever conquered death, that although we may be parted from our loved ones for a time, someday we will be together again. It means that we have faith that our final destiny is to live forever with God, that our death is, in fact,  a homecoming. And it means that we are loved, infinitely, amazingly, wonderfully loved by God, in manner far beyond our limited human comprehension.

So the question remains: How do we live our lives in response to the Easter event? I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that the serious business of Christianity is joy. Joy because our world is forever transformed, that no matter how ugly the news is, no matter how awful the presidential race becomes, we know that ultimately we are redeemed, that God calls us each by name. It doesn’t mean that it’s wrong somehow to feel sadness, grief, anger, discouragement…all normal human emotions. It certainly doesn’t mean it’s some kind of sin to suffer from mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. It simply means that we understand that loss and grief, trauma, physical pain and illness,even evil, don’t have the last word; the God who loves us each beyond our wildest imaginings and who never leaves us does. So how can we possibly, if we really believe what we say we do, live our lives in any other way but in joyful, hopeful gratitude?

Easter

Break the box and shed the nard;
Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw it all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.

Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine–
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not ’tis Easter morn?

Gather gladness from skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do open their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.

Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow:
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.

Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth, let your souls always
Make each morn an Easter Day.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins)*

*Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was a Jesuit priest and English poet

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heartache

Until my father died suddenly, on a snowy, cold January day 23 years ago yesterday, I always assumed the word “heartache” was simply a metaphor.

Now I know better. I don’t feel it every day anymore, thank goodness, but I still do, a lot more often than I’d like, as though a cold, clammy hand is squeezing my heart until it hurts. Sometimes, when I’m alone, I double over from the pain, and wail, keen, at the top of my voice. I remind myself, repeatedly, that “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

I’m not trying to be maudlin, or melodramatic. Just honest about the intensity of the grief, partly because I know I am not the only one who lives with this deep aching void, even though our society doesn’t encourage us to talk about it.

And it’s good to talk about our losses, our grief. To share our stories. The pain never goes away completely, but together, we can help each other heal. Heal to the point where our memories bring us joy, not pain, and our hearts, although cracked, are even more able to love compassionately than before.

The absence of you
Carved a hole in my chest,
still aching
despite the passing of time.
If I could talk to you now,
fix my gaze upon your face,
or rest in your unwavering embrace
I wouldn’t let go,
I’d say I couldn’t get through.
Nothing could have prepared me
for the absence of you.
–Sarah Elle Emm

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pray for paris, but remember

PRAY FOR PARIS

yes, pray for Paris
but remember
before They attacked Paris
They bombed Beirut
They brought down a Russian airliner
They killed one hundred in Egypt
They have slaughtered thousands in Syria and Iraq
and they are not done yet
so pray not just for Paris
pray for Our entire broken, bleeding, world
for We are all in this
Together

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Why Poetry Matters

Okay, I wasn’t going to reblog anymore, but when I stumbled across this post written by my favorite dinosaur, I just couldn’t resist. I just discovered a new poet today–David Whyte–and thoughts of Mary Oliver, Marie Howe, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Carolyn Forche all suddenly began dancing in my brain. I don’t think i could live without poetry. Once, in a book by Mary Stewart (Nine Coaches Waiting) the narrator mentioned that “daddy was right, poetry is awfully good material to think with.” I think my dinosaur (Rara) is spot on here. (Love you for this, Rara!)

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Sometimes people like to horrify me by saying they don’t like poetry.  When I respond, I try to school my facial expression into the accepting smile of Oprah on a good day.

Mostly, though, I’m baffled.

Poetry defines a vast stretch of the written word.  Sometimes it’s meant to rhyme, sometimes it’s meant to be spoken, sometimes it tackles serious issues, and sometimes it delves into nothing more important than the lack of passes at girls who wear glasses.

Poetry is everywhere.  It’s the heart of the song that you say is the heart of you.  It’s the lyrical meanderings of a hobbit named Bilbo, and the stark call to arms of a soap maker named Tyler.  It is the title of a painting that moves you to tears and the inscription on your wedding ring.  It is folded gently into our holiest of books and our most precious of…

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fibro fog, etc.

Schematic Examples of CNS Structural Changes i...
Schematic Examples of CNS Structural Changes in chronic pain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So now I’ve reblogged two times in a row. Bad girl, I am. But talk about writer’s block…I’ve got it. So much that it’s painful, almost, to look at my blank computer screen, with the cursor blinking at me anxiously. Why did I ever think I could be a writer? Writers play with words, and at the moment I’m completely out of words. Interesting words, that is.

Which brings me to fibro fog. If anyone reading this has fibromyalgia, you’ll grasp what I’m talking about immediately. I think someone has stolen my brain, or flicked an “off” switch that has shut everything down. Whoever you are, I’d like my brain back, please.

I sit here in a stupor trying to figure out what letter on the keyboard to punch next. I keep remembering that foggy day when my mom decided it would be good idea to introduce me to modern poetry. I’m about, maybe, ten or thereabouts. We go out on the front stoop and stand, blanketed by fog, while my mom recites Carl Sandburg’s poem Fog to me.

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

And of course, I can’t figure out how to get the darn text to single-space the poem, so it will just have to stay there. Sometimes, learning to accept a little imperfection is a good thing, I guess. But anyway, when this foggy haze envelops me, I remember my mother and my introduction to modern poetry. Sandburg captures, in his spare modern verse, exactly how fibro fog feels inside.

The funniest medical advice I’ve ever seen about fibro fog was on a medical site, a good one, like the Mayo Clinic or Web MD, and it said that the best way to cure fibro fog was to lower one’s pain levels and decrease fatigue. In other words, stop having your fibromyalgia flare and the fogginess will go away. Um, yes, thanks, not terribly helpful.

Actually I suspect that the cause this time is the result of really bad hay fever (my throat is so sore I’ve lost my voice), a fibromyalgia flare brought on by not being able to do my walking routine thanks to sky-high levels of ragweed pollen, and a muscle relaxer I’m taking because the flare is aggravating my neck pain from of  last summer’s car accident.Especially the muscle relaxer. I see my pain specialist tomorrow, and we will have lots to discuss! (Actually, he has recommended a course of acupuncture, but I can’t start until late October.)

So at least I know what’s causing it. But I can’t help feeling that the fog came in on little cat feet, stole my summer, and then moved on. Evidence is accumulating that fibro is a disease related to the central nervous system, so it makes sense that it would cause my fuzziness. But really, enough is enough. If I could just go for my walks, I’d be able to fight the fog. The first frost, a nice, ragweed-killing one, is all I need. That and a spell of decent weather afterward, although that has been quite rare this year. Or maybe a membership at Snap Fitness or Amazing Fitness, one of those places that have the treadmills, the bikes, and the elliptical machine. I refuse to let my fibromyalgia define my life.

English: Common signs and symptoms of fibromya...
English: Common signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia. (See Wikipedia:Fibromyalgia#Signs and symptoms). To discuss image, please see Template talk:Adult female diagrams References fibromyalgia-symptoms.org Retrieved on April 19, 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

What If You Loved Like That?

I love this post! These are questions I often ask myself, but I think my biggest question is this: Why is it so hard to love ourselves unconditionally, the way God does?

 

The MORE LOVE Club

What would the world look like if you loved yourself unconditionally? What if you loved yourself no matter what? Regardless if you failed, succeeded, finished, stopped, chose, chose not to? What if you loved yourself despite what anyone had to say about you, especially what you had to say about you? What if you loved yourself without conditions? What would the world feel like, be like? What if you expanded the allowing, as to embrace everything you ever did or didn’t do, and accepted it all? What if you loved like that?

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