Someone To Lean On

The last few weeks have held their share of joys and sorrows. Desperation and hope. Doubt and faith. This is life.

Our granddaughter had surgery to correct a bone disorder that she was born with but only discovered after a waterskiing accident this summer. This surgery will have to be repeated on her right arm after her left arm heals. The blessing is that this was discovered and can be corrected while she is still young. She’s a tough little girl who has a positive attitude but multiple surgeries and recovery is daunting for an active 13-year-old. And it is my prerogative to worry and pray. And pray and worry.

We hosted a dinner party for friends and it was so good to have a reunion of sorts after more than a year of social distancing and postponements. Much needed love and laughter and food and wine was shared. More prayers – those of thanksgiving!

My cousin Michelle passed away. Michelle was a gentle soul who managed to find the good in everyone and everything. She was a model of unconditional love. She loved humans, animals, nature, and me. I hope her mother and her siblings find comfort in knowing that we have another angel in heaven. And I hope that they are held up by the prayers being sent their way. Anne Lamott wrote, “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

Our dear friends celebrated a 40th wedding anniversary. Joy, joy, joy! What a wonderful celebration of their journey that has touched so many lives. I thank God for their friendship and for their example of a faith-filled marriage.

My 95-year-old father is struggling with dementia and age-related health issues. I had a tough visit with him recently. I failed him because instead of showing compassion, I was more concerned with his forgetfulness. Instead of meeting his needs I was focused on his appearance and his behavior. Fortunately I was able to lean on my brother and sister who shared my concerns and forgave my short-sightedness.

Faith in God is not easy. What is easy is to explain away all of our hardships and struggles and sadness as random acts in a world full of chaos. What is easy is to accept that some folks will always have better luck/money/position than me. What is hard is to find solace in times of sorrow and desperation in a God who at times feels very distant. Sometimes it’s challenging to find joy in others’ happiness when you are feeling overwhelmed with your own difficulties. But this is the essence of faith. I learned long time ago through trial and error to stop looking for God in the stars. To stop praying to the clouds. God is in my friends. God is in my family. And when I look deeply (this is the really hard part) I can find God in me.

A good friend shared this truth with me: “The road to the empty tomb is rocky.”

I’ll keep stumbling along my way, but I may need to lean on some of you once in a while.

Peace,

Denis

Love is the Answer (so what’s the question?)

Christmas 03My son Blake tells me that he’s pretty sure we are all one consciousness.  The universe experiencing itself; a pulse experienced through different hardware.  He believes that unconditional love is the answer but what is the question?

He and I sometimes have these existential kinds of conversations.  What is the meaning of life? Is there a God?  Or is it all some elaborate myth?  Were we “created” or do we exist because of some cosmic happenstance?  Do we need God?  Does God need us?

It makes me think.  And wonder.  And pray.  And sometimes I wonder as I pray.

People behave badly.  We murder.  We rape.  We abuse children.  We discriminate based on religion, race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.  We arm ourselves.  We build walls.  We exploit the most vulnerable amongst us.

Genesis tells us:  God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.  But if ‘God is love’ why is there so much un-Godlike behavior happening in our world.  If God made us in his (her) image why aren’t we loving one another?  Why aren’t we lifting one another up?  Why aren’t we caring for one another?

And then I crawl out of my hole and look around.  I see every little loving thing that my wife does each day for me and countless others.  I see my friends who have often lifted me up during times of heartache and self-doubt. I  realize that I am cared for not just by friends and family but by strangers who work for peace and justice in our world.

My grandson Noah asked me recently, “Pawpaw, do you know what zeal is?”  Before I could offer a definition he exclaimed, “It’s how God loves us and how God wants us to love others!”  And I realize then that we do!  We do love one another.  We do lift each other. We do care for one another.  Not always.  Not all of us.  Not often enough.  But we do!

And perhaps that’s the question – why not always; why not all of us; why not often enough?  Unconditional love is the answer.  God was once again revealed to me through my seven year-old grandson.  God is in the love we share; in the countless times that Noah has lifted me up from my gloominess and my self-pity; all the times that we have cared for one another.  Noah full of zeal!  Blake too has loved me and lifted me with his kindness; his sincerity; his goodwill.  These two (uncle and nephew) come from very different places – physically and spiritually but God is there – loving; lifting; caring.

Evil exists.  Bad things happen.  But that’s not the end of the story.  God has given us power over evil.  We just need to share the gift of Love.  Perhaps then others will ask the question – why not always?  why not all of us?  why not often enough?

Peace,

Denis

 

Full of Grace

Anna9Nine years ago the most wonderful thing happened. My granddaughter Anna entered this world and captured my heart. Nothing has ever been the same since.

Anna has an old soul. She has the gift (shared by few) of being able to walk into any room and sense whatever is needed by those around her. She gives herself completely. When she is with you nothing else matters to her except being in that moment. Whether she’s playing with friends or helping her little brother or just “hanging out” with her grandparents, she takes the time to listen and truly engage in the game or the activity or the conversation at hand. She is thoughtful, polite and loving.

Anna has a mighty spirit wrapped up in one tiny nine year-old body. She laughs big. She plays hard. She prays deeply. And she loves unconditionally. I am humbled by her kindness, amazed by her generosity and honored to be her grandfather.

I see my daughter in her love of laughter, her desire to excel in school and her need to be the family peacemaker. I see my son-in-law in her inquisitiveness and in her joy of learning new things. I see my wife in her deliberate approach to life; always stopping to “smell the roses” and never wanting to be hurried along. She shares her other grandmother’s artistic ability and love of nature. And me? Well she may have inherited some stubbornness and perhaps a talent for writing.

I believe that Anna will do great things in her life. Truth is, she already has. On more than one occasion she has afforded me a glimpse of heaven. And it’s a beautiful thing. You know, the name Anna means “full of grace”. I suppose nothing else really needs to be said.

Except happy birthday and I love you!

Pawpaw (Denis)

“Children’s children are the crown of the elderly” ~ Proverbs 17:6

 

Conditional Lover (but trying…)

Conditional love is love that is ‘earned’ on the basis of conscious or unconscious conditions. In other words, if you do what I want or behave in a manner that is pleasing to me, I will love you. If not, then my love will be withheld. Sadly this is true for many of us; both those loving and those being loved. I’m not talking so much about romantic love here, although I suppose it works that way sometimes, too. I’m referring to our relationships with friends and colleagues. I’m thinking of work associates, neighbors, classmates, fellow parishioners, and friends.

Capture I often find myself questioning whether or not to spend time with someone because of something that was said or done that “rubbed me the wrong way”. There have been times that I judged someone simply because of who their friends are.  Worse yet, how about those people I avoid just because of their affiliations with certain political or religious groups? Not to mention the folks that I distance myself from simply because of age, race, ethnicity or income level. My justification – “I don’t hate them; I just don’t really like them.” or “I don’t have anything in common with these people.” or “I already have enough friends.”

In truth: My love is conditional. My conditions are simply not being met. And I own this. And it’s a shame.

So I’m   T  R  Y  I  N  G   to love unconditionally. But it’s not easy. Not for me anyway. Unconditional love – such an easy thing to say and such a hard thing to do. Loving without expecting to be loved in return. Kindness given without any expectation of kindness returned. I struggle with this every day.

And yet, I have been given countless examples of unconditional love in my life. Strangers who welcomed me; teachers who guided me; friends and family who have loved me during some pretty un-lovable times.

I think about the year that we lived in England. We were truly foreigners. We tentatively entered our little St. Peter Church in Cirencester for the first time not knowing what to expect. No proof of worthiness or commitment to financial support was required (or ever requested for that matter). Even with our funny American accents, we were loved by our priest “as we were” and embraced by our faith community “just because”.

I have a wife that loves me unconditionally. And I have friends and family that love me unconditionally, too. They’re not looking for anything from me (not that I can offer much anyway). My grandkids love me unconditionally. They just accept me as I am (and they like me this way). Which makes me want to be a better person because of their love.

So I’m going to keep trying to love unconditionally. So don’t be startled if I smile at you for no apparent reason. Don’t be surprised if I am kinder and gentler. And don’t be weirded-out if I give you a hug. And of course sometimes I’ll revert to being a jerk and then if you still love me I’ll know that your love is unconditional.

Loving unconditionally doesn’t guarantee that love will be returned. But it’s all the sweeter if it is.

Peace,

Denis

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31