Monday, December 30, 2013

MOMENTS OF GRACE


 
The process of defining and naming New Year’s resolutions may perhaps be more important than follow through. We examine our girth, our temperament, our relationships, and identify wonts and ways we could change, consideration being the beginning of truth.

Anne Porter asks for authentication in “A Short Testament” from her book Living Things. I keep a copy hanging by the study door so I can be reminded as I go out to meet my world. Like everything that has a place, the paper has mostly become an unseen part of the wall. But it is there and, when I slow down, I see it and am reminded of its creed.


A Short Testament

Whatever harm I may have done
In all my life in all your wide creation
If I cannot repair it
I beg you to repair it,


And then there are all the wounded
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed
As if I were not one of them,

Where I have wronged them by it
And cannot make amends
I ask you
To comfort them to overflowing,

And where there are lives I may have withered around me,
Or lives of strangers far or near
That I’ve destroyed in blind complicity,
And if I cannot find them
Or have no way to serve them,

Remember them, I beg you to remember them

When winter is over
And all your unimaginable promises
Burst into song on death’s bare branches.


 

Monday, December 23, 2013


During the joy of Christmas music, lights, good food, we also experience grief. This year we have lost friends. I doubt we are alone. Our transition through time can weigh like a heavy coat and we resent the cold that forces its fabric on our shoulders. We don’t want to mark the days that are gone and the loved ones who have passed beyond our reach, some who have died and some whose memory of us mists like a Pacific Northwest fog.


In the most recent monthly newsletter of the WA Grief Support Services (http://griefsupportservices.org) Rex Allen wrote three resolutions that perhaps will ease the burden of grief.  Allow me to offer them to you as moments of grace.

 
In the days to come, take the time to find a few moments and consider these three little resolutions. 

Each day I will nurture the gratitude that memories of my loved one create in my heart.

Recent health studies have shown that when we incorporate gratitude into our lives on a daily basis, we actually improve our overall health. No matter how challenging your relationship with your loved one may have been, look for those memories that help you be grateful on a daily basis.


Each day I will look for moments of peace in every breath that I take.

As best you can, live in the present and allow your life to unfold moment by moment. You cannot change the past, nor can you live an unknown future — look for peace in the moment at hand.


Each day I will open myself to the possibilities of hope.

While it may seem all but impossible now, hope will grow in your life again. Look for the possibilities of hope — hope for a gentler year; hope for more understanding. 


By whatever calendar you mark the beginning of a new year, remember: each day is simply that — another day. And it only carries with it the meaning which you choose to give to it. If in your grief, you can approach each day with the intention of honoring memory, breathing through the opportunity of the moment, and honoring the hope that these little resolutions might provide, then your loved one will never be forgotten or left behind, for their heartbeat will be contained within your own. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

MOMENTS OF GRACE


The dissension swirling around a green fir tree, Christmas or Holiday greetings, lights beginning at winter solstice as done years ago, the reason for the season and much more are mere quibbles. And much of the folderol we attach to our religious exercises depends more on our self concept than fact. The music we entertain at Christmas illustrates the rational theology we will tolerate or consider politically incorrect. The need for a divine child is accepted with humility or rejected with pride.

Anne Porter, one of my favorite poets, pens her view of our situation preceding Christmas.

Adam’s Fall

None of the animals feared me, I’d given them all their names,

At night I fell asleep with my head on the lion’s flank,

All day I did nothing but sing, there was an abundance of fruit,

I had only to hold out my hand,

and the Lord would fill it with bread.

 

But when I woke up this morning there was no garden around me,

I was lying alone with Eve on the hard ground

And we were hungry, but there was nothing to eat.

The animals wouldn’t come to us anymore,

And where the door to the garden had been, there was nothing

but fire.

 

Anne Porter. Living Things: Collected Poems. Steerforth Press, LC.

 

 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

MOMENTS OF GRACE


This week of family celebrations is also a time to remind each other that many different life styles and traditions are enjoyed around the world, traditions that are being disrupted by war and hatred. The destruction of Coptic Christian churches stirred me to re-read Night by Eli Wiesel.

He was born Eliezer Wiesel in Sighet, Romania (1928). He grew up in a Hasidic community and learned to love reading by studying the Pentateuch and other sacred texts. When he was 15, he and his family were rounded up and deported by cattle car to the concentration camps at Auschwitz, Poland. Wiesel lied about his age and was sent to a labor camp with his father, while his mother and a sister went directly to the gas chambers. Wiesel survived eight months at Auschwitz, then Buna and Buchenwald. Between camps, his father died from dysentery and exhaustion. Near the war's end, the guards stopped feeding the prisoners and started killing thousands a day. On the morning of April 11, 1945, an uprising took place within the camp, and it was liberated later that day.

While hospitalized upon his release, Wiesel sketched an outline for a book on his experiences but found it unbearable to face and he put it aside, telling himself he'd return to it someday. He was sent with other orphans to live in France, and a chance photo of him in the newspaper reunited him with his two surviving sisters. He stayed in France and began to study literature and psychology at the Sorbonne. He struggled mostly and was at times suicidal until coming across a militant Jewish organization in Palestine that needed writers for their paper. He began reporting for them and soon found a niche for himself as a foreign correspondent for various French papers.

Finally, a mentor, Fran├žois Mauriac, persuaded Wiesel to write about the war, and over the course of a year, he wrote in Yiddish an almost 900-page memoir, called And the World Was Silent. He found a publisher in Argentina who trimmed the book down to around 300 pages, retitling it Night (1958). Wiesel said: "There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred that is a result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don't see them." Though it initially sold just a few thousand copies, Night has since been translated into 30 languages and has sold roughly 10 million copies worldwide.

For the next decade, Wiesel put out almost a book a year, including Dawn (1961), The Town Beyond the Wall (1962), and A Beggar in Jerusalem (1968), all dealing with the Jewish experience before and after the Holocaust. In 1986, Wiesel received the Nobel Prize in literature for his writing and teaching. He was instrumental in establishing the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and he has campaigned against violence and racism in Darfur, Bosnia, and South Africa.

He said: "Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds."

 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

REMEMBERING


Nelson Mandela died today at age 95 having made a difference in this world. His was a miserable life under the insanity of apartheid, then 27 years in prison. He changed us so that we now pause and wonder how he survived each of those years. We wonder if our life is making a difference for those we love and those we hate, and which matters more.

Wendell Berry wrote Enemies:


If you are not to become a monster,
you must care what they think.
If you care what they think,

how will you not hate them,
and so become a monster
of the opposite kind? From where then

is love to come—love for your enemy
that is the way of liberty?
From forgiveness. Forgiven, they go

free of you, and you of them;
they are to you as sunlight
on a green branch. You must not

think of them again, except
as monsters like yourself,
pitiable because unforgiving.