Anne Lamott on Praying for Spiritual Signs

fallRecently I’ve been enjoying this song by Colbie Callait.

And, this morning I stumbled on an interesting Facebook Post from Anne Lamott. I think it fits with the month of remembrances and thanksgiving.

She wrote it on August 9, Just last summer.

I love the idea of God’s grace being available in an ATM.

Every morning these days, you have to ask yourself, What the hell IS it all about, Alfie? Or you pray for a sign that you absolutely cannot miss or misinterpret, the tiniest hint of direction and assurance.

Well? I got one.

It has been one of the worst week in years, and that’s saying something. You know exactly what I’m talking about, no matter how much you love your life and your pit crew; no matter how hard you strive to present a good face. It is so hard here. It’s like Old Yeller meets the Hunger Games; plus the parking is terrible.

Under the best circumstances, we are a nutty and sometimes violent species, on an extremely dangerous piece of land.

But one of the saddest things happened. We had to put my darling old dog Lily down. She died peacefully at home in my son Sam’s arms on Wednesday.

I think she was the closest I’ll come, on this side of eternity, to experiencing the direct love of the divine. You may know the feeling.

Through this love, Sam and I came through. We cried a lot, but agreed to let our hearts stay broken for a while, because that is how light, grace and healing can get in, through the armor.

The next morning, I took Lily’s beloved ne’er-do-well husband Bodhi for a walk. I adore him, but he has tiny mental issues, such as aggression, and having eaten entire chickens, and 24 muffins once. Then, too sad to stay at home without Lily, we went out for a bite.

After eating sandwiches in the car, we headed home. I was disoriented, and so far behind on my daily life, after a month of Lily in decline, that Sam frequently consults A Place for Mom online. But a block from home, I got that Holy Spirit nudge, a tug on my sleeve, which urged me, as it often does, “Stop.” It’s given up on nuance.

They say that when all else fails, follow instructions. The nudge on my heart said, “Go to your friend’s kid’s school.” So I said, “Okay,” the fourth great prayer.

My closest friend’s child, who has been through the ringer, the On Beyond Zebra ringer, starts kindergarten soon, but the friend has been on Total Fucking Overwhelm (TF0). She has not entirely gotten him enrolled, and the school’s website had conflicting info on how to do this. And, of course, no one is in the office, because it is August, which was one of the two biggest mistakes God made–August, and snakes. So we drove to the school.

There was one car in the parking lot and a woman climbing into it. Then some janitors ran into view and called to her–had she locked their lunches in the office? She had–Oops, to quote Rick Perry. So she got out, to unlock the office. I asked if I cd run along beside her, like a little dog, and ask a quick question. “Fire away!” she said. I told her about this boy, and asked all our main questions. She was so helpful. I thanked her, and asked if she worked in the office.

“Yes,” she said. “I’m the new principal.”

Of course she was the new principal, because God is such a show-off. Call this energy the Divine It, or Ed. Whatever works.

“Wow,” I said, bowing my head.

“Look,” she continued, “the easiest thing is probably for me to just give your friend my cell phone number.”

I said, “Okay,” on the verge of laughter and tears. “Thank you.”

Bodhi and I went home and called our friend. “You better sit down,” I told the mom. “I think we got some kind of Inbreaking.”

I told the mom my story, about how we’d somehow ended up at the Grace ATM, and how holy spirit had saved the day.

“Yeah,” she agreed. “Or Lily.”

I gave her the new principal’s cell phone number. Then Bodhi and I went to read the new People, and took a nice morning nap, feeling a little bit better, which is a miracle.
from FB page Suspended Coffees

Litany: Billy Collins

Litany by Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,

The crystal goblet and the wine…

~Jacues Crickillon

 

You are the bread and the knife,

the crystal goblet and the wine,

You are the dew on the morning grass

and the burning wheel of the sun.

You are the white apron of the baker,

and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

 

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,

the plums on the counter,

or the houses of cards.

And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.

 

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,

maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,

but you are not even close

to being a field of cornflowers at dusk.

 

And a quick look in the mirror will show

that you are neither the boots in the corner

nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

 

It might interest you to know,

speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,

that I am the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

 

I am also the moon in the trees

and the blind woman’s tea cup.

But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.

You are still the bread and the knife,

not to mention the crystal goblet and – somehow – the wine.

Mary Oliver: Wild Geese

 

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver

Defining Grace One: Kind and Generous

Okay class, let’s define the theological meaning of grace…

 

Excellent answers! Yes, all of the scholars agree that grace is 1) an amazing experience because it is undeserved and overwhelming.

 

and 2) meant to be fun and joy filled.

My Goodness. Quite an October we are having. You as well?

Last week, I became overwhelmed while working on getting an anniversary gift at Sam’s Club and had to call and text my friend in Pittsburgh multiple times. She and I both struggle with insomnia more than the average bear.

The season change (ahh-choo), changing sun patterns, and worry about national leadership to get our youngest into adulthood had been keeping me up for several days in a row.

A couple of weeks prior, she had been having some tricky waters and after 25 years of both of us not caring a hoot to talk politics, we are suddenly planning odd campaign tactics that involve kittens with press passes and gummy bears by the pound.

I honestly can’t remember what we were going to do with the gummies.

Thankfully,

the wonder of text slowed me down and I asked her while pushing a trolly down aisle 23:

12 or 6 lbs of gummies?

she said:

Six. Fer Sure.

copyright free, care of FotoSearch

The calm of having her friendship and an additionally silly text conversation with my niece who is in baking school, I traded six lbs of Gourmet Gummy Candy and a case of something for a big white board. My hope is to manage some of this “ain’t got no time to even jot blog outlines” tap dance I was doing with debit card in hand, while the sticky notes of household needs were long lost.

A few days later I carved out an hour to do some white boarding of some of these definitions of grace packed in my noggin, and I have about five of them to start. There are five songs that go with each definition as well.

The first definition is the imaginary classroom chat above:

The experience of grace is not something we earn, it is overwhelming, and almost always fun. ~

K. Cooper, M.A.

The song “Kind and Generous”as sung by Natalie Merchant is my go

Natalie Merchant, photo source unknown

to song that guts out this particular feeling that something huge

(in a good way,

like being snagged by a handsome young graduate student twenty years ago this fall,

or seeing your child wake up in a recovery room,

or hearing from two seperate friends that an organ donation had finally arrived,

or…you tell me! I’d love to hear an example from your life as well).

You Tube the song if you like – Ms. Merchant is a lovely dancer and funky dresser as well.

Happy Autumn ~ Kate.

Forgiveness Friday: Feeling Safe as a Parent

My brother on his first day of school.

Those of us who are parents of children old enough to be involved in group performance can relate, I hope, to the feeling of comfort I had yesterday at a school event.

I’ve had the feeling of overwhelming pride wash over me at sport events, science fairs, plays and during other big events. I also have had this experience during low keyed, but just as important interactions like on the playground or while overhearing a cute conversation with friends.

But, churchy kind of gal that I am, not much knocks me out emotionally more than seeing them wrapped up in something religious.

I’ve done some serious pondering about this today, and here is what I’ve come up with:

Pardon my French, but parenting is scary shit.

A friend said it well in an email exchange among four of us who are gritting our teeth with our beloved teens,

Rooted in fear for me is the NEED to control him

so he’ll be ok and then

I’ll be ok.

For me, the opposite is love and trust.

How many award ceremonies, playground scuffles, sports games, sideline kerfuffles, and painful kid scenarios that I want to snuffle have I been through?

A lot!

And how many more are ahead of me?

More than that.

So, when yet another friend responded to a crazed mom email I sent, she had this as one of her suggestions to survive the rough patches:

This suggestion is really hard because it does involve ceding some of that control – is to

make sure that each kid has at least one other trusted adult in their life that they can talk to and be real with other than the parents.

An aunt, uncle, mentor, pastor, coach – someone safe, responsible and with good values but someone that the kid also likes and connects with. Then, really trust that said person will carry some of the water during the times when your kid doesn’t want to confide in

or even be civil to you.

I wonder if there is a way to mix those words into my lavender hand cream and just spread it around, oh, pretty much my whole body.

We

don’t

have

to

do

“this”

alone!

This takes me back to the massive lump in my throat during a big school mass yesterday. For me, it was because having help with keeping my sons safe has a different level of meaning at a sports banquet than at mass. Both are important, but again, churchy girl that I am, I had a sense of relief yesterday when I could see from a distance that my ten year old was singing away. When this one sings, he does it with heart and soul.

So, seeing him experience that kind of joy made me feel safe.

Only a few years ago my two oldest sons served Easter Mass together for the first time in what had been a divisive couple of years for their relationship. So, while seeing them together on the alter as servers, competing like usual to out do each other,

I felt safe.

And you know what?

Pardon my French again, but without the occasional fifteen seconds of feeling overwhelmed with trust that my children are safe, will be safe, and they are being safe, parenting would only be scary shit.

All shall be well,

and all shall be well,

and all manner of things shall be well.

~ Julian of Norwich

Xmas Eve Note to the Man

December 24, 2011

Dear Jesus,

Hey. Just a shout out to say thanks for being born. 

Since you’ re God, I know, that u know, about that little miracle I heard about yesterday. 

Did it sort of shock u too?

“…guys, the thing is that I think they all seem to like me…and…”

Guessing it made you smile too.

Okay. 

Long day of getting ready for the next even longer day. 

Happy day before. 

Yours,

K.