Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

“Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am alive, if it is pulled out I shall die.” –Søren Kierkegaard

I received a phone call on my son’s birthday that a lady who had been helping my father during his illness arrived at his apartment and found his walker in the garage and his car gone. She knew this did not bode well because he was not supposed to drive with his poor eyesight, and he had been in terrible pain for a few months. She frantically drove out in her car, weeping and calling out his name as she searched up and down the highways and around the villages. In desperation, she drove to the police and reported him missing. They tracked his phone and found him dead in his car. He had driven to a secluded area and taken a handful of pills, and ended his suffering there alone.

I did not learn until later that various people had been aware that he planned to end his life, and that he had asked them not to tell me because I would try to talk him out of it. He said he did not want to hurt me anymore than I’d already been hurt. He had surgery only a few days before his death, and I am grieved to think his pain might have subsided if he had been encouraged to hold on awhile longer. I have heard that there may have been cancer or other issues that he didn’t reveal, but it doesn’t change the way that I feel.

I had missed my father every day of my entire life from the time I was a little girl. One of my earliest memories of him is when he visited me while a woman waited in a car in the driveway for him. My mother was inside the house and my heart broke for her and for me. That has been the story of my life. There was always a woman keeping me from my father, and I’ve always been jealous of anyone who got to enjoy his company, because I never did. I still love my father and I forgive him for his ways that he could not change.

Over the past few years, he told me he felt many regrets about the pain he inflicted on my mother and sister and me. Visiting Spain was painful, because it let me see the beautiful life that he never would include me in. Someone in Spain recently sent me a message which I had to translate from Spanish, saying that my father had horrific recurring nightmares in the months before he died: He dreamed that the two of you, you and your sister were still little and were crying, screaming, grabbing his pants legs … Begging him not to leave … That he would not abandon you ….He would wake up crying, sweaty, he would sit on the bed and put his hands on his face …. He was very aware of the pain he caused you. It hurts me that I did not know how to transmit it.

I have also learned a few things he said about me, which I had not known before he died. I asked a Spanish lady to place a purple flower in my name at his memorial service. I later saw the photograph of the lovely orchid she offered on my behalf, and saw a note attached which read, “With Love to My Poppy from your Delicate Flower.” The lady explained that my father called me his delicate flower and that he often said that I was amazingly strong and yet very delicate. He told her he respected and admired me. It means so much to know that he felt this way. I still talk with him in my mind and send him text messages, because I miss him terribly. I had hoped to visit him during the holidays, but now my dreams of time with him are shattered.

I will always remember the lady who searched for my father and tried to save him. I felt that I was driving with her and screaming through the car window that day, and I too was crushed with a terrible weight when they found his body.

Please pray for me and my family in this emotional time.

Peace and Grace,
~Olive~

 

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Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats o’er all the weary world.
-Edmund Hamilton Sears

I often think back upon the human angels in my life who took responsibility for me when they had no obligation to, and treated me with dignity and kindness when no one else did. I was just a confused wild street child, and I’m still just as crazy in many ways although I hide it better. But these people formed a human circle of kindness around me and tried to build me up. They simply loved me and accepted me, and patiently endured the madness that followed me wherever I went. I wouldn’t be comfortable today with someone like the youthful me around.

But they didn’t only minister to me. My angels tried to make the world a little bit better by sounding their trumpets against violence of any kind, watching for misuse of nature or its creatures, and whatever brand of injustice seemed to be sneaking into the lives of common people. Those hippie angels were the best kind, and they formed my view of the world in many ways, teaching me that it was impossible to love God and not love your neighbors, your planet, and all those beautiful creatures.

If there was an archangel among them all, it was surely Evelyn who introduced me to so many other angels during my journey. I remember Evelyn telling me that the root word of the word “violence” was akin to the root of the word “silence.” She said that if we remain silent in the face of evil, we are no different than the one who is committing the acts of violence.

I wonder why we Christians ignore so many things that ultimately will affect our children, knowing that they might not be able to enjoy the things that we have enjoyed. It’s disturbing to me that my sons might not be able to see the glaciers or have clean air or water, or even eat real corn or oats if we replace everything with genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). And it upsets me to see the economic inequity that is happening our society, knowing the misery that it could cause to ordinary people in future generations. Where is our Christian love towards our own children, and humanity at large?

I’ve heard Christians say that this is all just part of Biblical prophecy, and the world is going to be destroyed whenever God is ready. So many believers sit in comfort and pray and preach while the future of our children is being thrown out like trash. There is nothing spiritual about apathy. How can anyone expect to please God while displaying this kind of attitude? A Jewish friend of mine once told me that he thinks there might be more Marxists in heaven because Christians only think of themselves and their own souls. That is quite an indictment against the Western version of faith, and very troubling to me personally. Christ said that all the law and the prophets hang upon two commandments: to love God and our neighbor.

Sometimes I really miss those hippie angels who taught me to be an active part of the redemptive process in the world. One of them told me that it was our job to try to make the world as much like Eden as possible, even if all of our efforts fail. The way we serve people is equivalent to serving God, according to Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats.  Without human angels who strive to restrain evil, this world will only hasten to become more dark and terrible.

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English: hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com Good_ki...

Some of my happiest Christmas memories are of times spent Christmas caroling with the Quakers.  I remember one chilly December night when a group of Friends gathered at the meetinghouse in San Jose, California before getting bundled up  in coats and scarves and mittens, then we all stepped out  to sing carols to people in several neighborhoods.

We walked merrily down the sidewalk house-to-house and stopped in front of each doorstep to sing, and many people opened their doors gratefully to listen and smile. I remember the blinking Christmas lights in the windows and the cold breeze on my cheeks and the glowing lamp posts along our path. It was invigorating and peaceful as we went a-wassailing.  In our group of carolers, we took turns letting people pick out their favorite songs.  I always loved “Good King Wenceslas” and “Here We Come A-Wassailing” and “I Saw Three Ships.”

After we had caroled outside for some time, we drove to a nearby care home for the elderly and walked through the hallways. We joined up in a social hall full of residents and continued to sing happily.

One elderly gentleman wearing his pajamas and sitting in a wheelchair seemed especially moved by the music and soon wheeled over to a kind Quaker man named Larry Wolfe, who without hesitation invited the man to join us for a Christmas party at the home of another Quaker fellow.  The resident asked Larry to approach a nurse, who helped sign him out for the evening, and Larry brought him to our post-caroling celebration.  The old man was teary-eyed with joy for the entire evening eating holiday food and sipping spiced cider while someone played the piano and friends laughed and talked.  Because I was familiar with the compassion of Larry, I’m sure it was not the last time he and the old man spent together.

I wonder if caroling is illegal by now, like so many of our former religious freedoms. I have tried for several years now to find a church that still practices the tradition of Christmas caroling in public, and have even tried unsuccessfully to coordinate a group of carolers. People make all kinds of excuses such as they can’t sing in tune or they’re too busy with their family or whatever. But the truth is that we are so self-absorbed these days, trapped in our computers and technology and our own individual versions of the American dream, that we have no time for such things anymore.

Whenever I cut on the TV and see carolers on a Christmas special, I long for those days when real people did things together face-to-face and not through digital devices such as the one I am communicating through right now.

I wish we could all coordinate non-digital days to encourage more real human socialization, so that everything meaningful in our culture is not sacrificed upon the altar of technology.

Peace and Grace,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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Jesus, the Strong Man

I was moved by this post today, especially the image of Christ as the strong man who carried us all on His shoulders…It makes me imagine Him flexing His muscles under the burden of our sins.

Shalom,

Sister Olive

~♥~

Writing Sisters

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And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . John 1:14

We love these words from C.S. Lewis:

The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.  They say that God became Man.  Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. . . .

In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created.

But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches…

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One of my all-time favorite albums is Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne, and this song really “speaks to my condition” as the Quakers used to say.

Here are a few lines from it:

I’m just one or two years and a couple of changes behind you
In my lessons at love’s pain and heartache school
Where if you feel too free and you need something to remind you
There’s this loneliness springing up from your life
Like a fountain from a pool…

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You’ve had to struggle, you’ve had to fight
To keep understanding and compassion in sight
You could be laughing at me, you’ve got the right
But you go on smiling so clear and so bright

-Jackson Browne

 

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So, daughter, inasmuch as it concerns you so closely to set forth on this devout journey under good guidance, do you pray most earnestly to God to supply you with a guide after His Own Heart, and never doubt but that He will grant you one who is wise and faithful, even should He send you an angel from Heaven…

The simple style of this bishop (Saint Francis de Sales) really speaks to me… This book on the devout life is a series of his letters to a married woman who earnestly desires to grow closer to God…

Ponder Jacob’s ladder:–it is a true picture of the devout life…Consider, too, who they are who trod this ladder; men with angels’ hearts, or angels with human forms. They are not youthful, but they seem to be so by reason of their vigour and spiritual activity. They have wings wherewith to fly, and attain to God in holy prayer, but they have likewise feet wherewith to tread in human paths…

Here is one of my favorite passages from Chapter 3 where the writer explains that where God is concerned, no one “falls through the cracks” if the heart is sincere and humble…

A different exercise of devotion is required of each–the noble, the artisan, the servant, the prince, the maiden and the wife; and furthermore such practice must be modified according to the strength, the calling, and the duties of each individual…

No indeed, my child, the devotion which is true hinders nothing, but on the contrary it perfects everything; and that which runs counter to the rightful vocation of any one is, you may be sure, a spurious devotion. Aristotle says that the bee sucks honey from flowers without damaging them, leaving them as whole and fresh as it found them;–but true devotion does better still, for it not only hinders no manner of vocation or duty, but, contrariwise, it adorns and beautifies all.

~♥~

St. Francis de Sales, the gentleman saint and ...

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“And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.”  Genesis 32:25

An angel simply touched Jacob’s thigh and dislocated it. Perhaps some angel touched our brows and dislocated our memory of why we had to come here and what we have to do.  Thomas Merton implied that this earth is Purgatory in his book Seven Storey Mountain. I sometimes think that we are fallen angels sent to Earth to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

The scriptures say a lot about what becomes of us after death, and what we are to do while in our bodies, but very little is said about why we came to this planet in the first place.  God told Jeremiah “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (1:5)  The birth of the Messiah was predicted in the TaNaKh.  But I am pretty sure that most of us were not appointed to any sort of greatness.

I remember the seventies when my friends and I would smoke pot and drop LSD and sit around for hours asking questions like, “Why are we here?” and “Where did we come from?”

I don’t believe that all of us are simply the result of a big bang between two people.  Our flesh came about that way, but our mind and our spirit were designed for something higher. We are spiritual beings living in mortal bodies. No two of us are the same, and we all have this amazing potential to commune with the Divine.

Even Christ said very little about why each of us was born in the first place. He said we have to be born again of the Spirit.  He said “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:26).  He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  He talked about the rich man and Lazarus going to separate places after death.  But He never told us why we came here, to a certain country and a certain time period and certain parents.  He never said it was all an illusion or a dream.  I find it somewhat surprising that none of His disciples asked Him about this.  They addressed so many subjects, but not that one.

I read somewhere that the rich are here to help the poor, and poor are here to save the rich. I also have read that good and evil angels are constantly involved in the affairs of men, and often wear disguises.  For me, one of the most terrifying stories in the Bible is of Nebuchadnezzar being spied upon by watcher angels because of his arrogance and his judgment finally being pronounced. For the whole story, read Daniel chapter 4, but here are a few verses:

I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus…Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men…The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.

I wonder why this doesn’t happen more often…we certainly have enough evil dictators. It is interesting to me that in the Bible many of the military and political figures are fallen angels. Ezekiel writes about the King of Tyrus “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God (28:13).”  Daniel reports about the Prince of Persia who battled with a messenger angel for twenty-one days before being defeated by the archangel Michael. (10:13)

People laugh at me sometimes for believing “this stuff” but I find it much more imaginative to be an atheist. I felt terribly sorry for Hunter S. Thompson, even though he was a fantastic writer.  Take this statement of his:

“I have never seen much point in getting heavy with stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don’t bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I.”

How would he know about my inheritance, anyway?  Only the child knows what the father has prepared for him or her.  It’s a personal affair.  That’s why the scriptures say:

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.  (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Should I believe the promises of Jesus or or the ramblings of Hunter S. Thompson?  That’s a tough one. Let me ponder that. Everyone who met or knew Jesus found Him to be faultless. He loved everybody, even the people that no one else understood or liked. (He would have loved Hunter S. Thompson.)

Jesus walked on water. He fed five thousand men (and their families) with five loaves of bread and seven fish. He ordered a storm on the ocean to calm down and it did. He healed people of all kinds of diseases. He raised Lazarus and others from the dead. After His crucifixion, He raised His own body from the tomb, and met His disciples down by the sea. He cooked fish for them after His resurrection! He wasn’t a ghost! His whole body went into heaven.

I think I’ll believe Jesus. I can’t see what there is to dislike about Him. I understand if people don’t approve of His so-called followers, but that’s a whole different matter.

There are lots of things I don’t know, but I know I am in good hands with Jesus, and I will understand it all someday.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (I Timothy 3:16)

~♥~

Work Cited:

Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time

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