“Okay” Can Be a Comforting Prayer

BPyUYW1CIAA-IFqIn part of a passage I posted the other day by Anne Lamott she said that

“okay”

is one of the four great prayers.

o TN_handsigns_O

I wonder what the other three are?

I’d bet they are one worded – perhaps thanks. Amen would be kind of obvious. What about yes? or Hallelujah, or yipee or yahoo or agreed? That’s what amen means in terms of word roots I think. I’m fairly sure it just means “Yup, I think the same thing as you my old pal God the greatest.”

About a month ago my prayers were not close to being quite that amiable. “Greatest” is still not the first thing that pops in mind with how I am feeling about the heavenly host, but I’m starting to ease up on my internal sky rant which started out pretty much like this:

Are you *%@+&ing kidding me? What happened to that giant life plan that you and I mapped out and you were so generously CLEAR with your instructions about what you want me to do with my life? The hints you left were not random on this one. It wasn’t like the time I thought I could somehow make a career out of folding origami cranes and little paper frogs. That wasn’t very practical was it now? Did I try to figure out if that’s what you want. Well YES SIREE I did! I prayed, I journaled. I reflected. I went to mass and made the sons come along as well. I even started reading Anne Lamott books. I may not have gotten to my goal of making a thousand paper cranes, but I got good at that craft and hosted a couple of really fun workshops for kids and showed those little kidlets a good time. Did I whine and moan when I figured out that the want ads had nothing that said: “intensely reflective and fairly forgetful paper folder wanted to fold cute little animals out of beautiful asian paper squares” ? NO MA’AM! I kept on truckin’ and started out working on Masters degree #2 because the first one was not in big demand in the countryside where we were living. Was I bummed when it stopped working out for me to continue in that program. Well sure. It was really interesting and the career demand was going to be huge. And did I stop trying to figure out what you want? Hell’s bells no I didn’t. I dug up all of the Thomas Merton books that we own and got friendly with him again. And I found another hobby as instructed and spent hours and hours building that outdoor porch train track. Giving up that corner of our house that became my little prayer space was pretty damn hard to leave, but I did, DID I NOT? Our buddy Merton says keep reflecting not matter where and no matter what so when I discovered how ridiculously large the Mississippi river is compared to my serene corner on the great Ohio, THAT’S WHAT I DID DUDE! REFLECT, REFLECT, REFLECTED MY *#%…..

There’s more, but I’ll spare you the details. Consider that a prelude.handsigns_K

By the way, I know that I used both “he” and “she” words for God. I’m one of those people who feel like God is so big that gender kind of limits the whole point of divinity. And I get irked at continued references that imply that our collective imagination stopped at the image of a white guy with a big old beard being in charge of the universe. That’s kind of boring I think. And none of my grandfather’s look like that anyway. One was a motorcycle cop and the other a journalist with big thick eye glasses.

Anyway.

My dear friend sent me a beautiful gift after I called her to tell her what was upsetting me so greatly. Wait, no, She is the one that had called me first. I had sent a rapid fire set of text messages saying “ahhhhhhhhh” and “eeeeeeeeeeeeek” and “yowwwwwwwwww”! She knows me well and called and said “I’m calling to talk about the weather and want to know what you are making me for dinner.” So we had a great and funny conversation that was mostly a “not talking talk” about what I was upset about, but at the same time she got a basic run down on the scene.

Shortly after, a gift that she had promised came in the mail. I wasn’t expecting it quite so soon! The card that she sent with it had a cute front that talked about how God’s world is full of all that is good. On the inside though, the little bear was shaking her hands at the sky and saying “give me a *xyz#%ing break!”

So all of this to say is this….

yeah. I agree with Anne.

It took me a month or so, but the best prayer I can burp out at this point is “okay.”

And once I said okay, my load started to lighten. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry, but this particular situation is not one that I can afford to pout about for very long.

Some new realities have fallen into my lap that are complicating my plans to get through this Sign Language interpreting certification program, but thus far there is no reason to do anything other than continue to enjoy and get as far as I can in the courses.If some fine tuning needs to happen, then so be it – I’ll deal with it when that time comes.

I’ll say this though – and again, I won’t bore you with the details, but adjusting this quickly from a “BLEEP YOU” cosmic conversation to a kicking my shoe in the dirt and mumbling “okay” prayer stance is completely unheard of for me…pun intended. I hold grudges like a toddler who is unwilling to release a blanket during nap time.

And. I have fallen in love with my studies about a language and culture that surrounds and protects the lives of those who have less than perfect hearing. Somehow, some way though, I didn’t wait even a day this time before sounding the alarm bells to get help and comfort when I had a wrench thrown into my plans. I scattered out a few “hey friends, I’m freaking out” messages and predictably there were those that said “huh?” and those that said “got your back girl. Bring it on. You’ve got this thing. Don’t stop now.”

And the best part? Some of these people are new friends. I survived the three-year mark of relocation and am meeting and entrusting some really, really great people in my new world. I’m encountering people who are flies in my soup too…but I don’t care. This is not my first trip on the pumpkin wagon and I know to be careful to trust only those who gain my confidence. I hope that I have the sense to pay that back.

I don’t know that I need to read up on what the other three prayers are that Anne Lamott mentions. Saying “okay God” is comfort enough for now….gotta start somewhere.

(The top photo is mine and is morning sun on the Mississippi River which is now a favorite water way, second only to the Ohio.)

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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: Son Joe’s Movie Review was “I Can’t Believe It!”

*note: I’m looking forward to company, camps and work this week. Usually this is something that I’d publish on a Friday, but before I get confused, I’m sticking it up a bit early. thanks!

I’m having a fun discussion about mustard seeds with a blogger who is a botanist, theologian and pastor. We had a chat by way of blog comments about a “lectionary spark” article she posted about the classic mustard seed reference from Jesus. I guess that there is a big debate that I’ve missed all these 20 years. I’m remembering why I used to love theology.

Is, or is not,

Was, or was not

Jesus referring to a mustard tree, or was it a mustard plant?

Was, or was not,

Jesus teasing with many of his parables?

In any case, I really like what Pastor Warren wrote about how, when all comparisons and studies are done, the point is that Jesus encourages faith in the form of willingness to take another road home. Warren says,

Basically—to explain away the funny—Jesus is saying the Kingdom of God doesn’t show up the way we expect it to. Jesus is saying the kingdom of God is weedy and dismiss-able. Jesus is saying the Kingdom of God surprises us about where and when it comes about. Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God makes waste-places, abandoned places, unimportant places (where weeds grow) into places of new life and if we are determined to only see the Kingdom of God in the big, glorious, obvious places of the past, we’re probably going to miss out on the sprouting taking place by our feet and the fields of gold blooming in front of us.

(From Lena Warren, in her blog: Jabbok Dawn http://jabbokdawn.wordpress.com/)

This is exactly how I feel about our move to Iowa. Who would think, a year or even two ago, that last night I would have celebrated Father’s day by being wrapped up in a blanket with our youngest and a puppy as he was enthralled with his first viewing of the movie Field of Dreams. It made the rest of us watch it again, but through his little kid eyes.

He kept asking why the music was scary and if there was going to be death and gloom. “Watch!” we kept saying. And as baseball hero (he’s a sports history buff) after baseball hero came to the field he would fist pump the air and say something like: “I can’t believe it!”

Pure joy and forgiveness. (Forgiveness because I’d yelled, LOUDLY, a few minutes before that I was not willing to watch another minute of a Rocky Movie. For good measure I then guilted them all that we didn’t watch a girl movie on Mother’s day, so I should have a solid voice in our movie selection).

I’m hoping that this busy summer allows time for me to finish marking up a book called Between Heaven and Mirth that I got for my husband self for Christmas. Fr. James Martin tells us that St. Paul’s First letter to early Christians in Thessalonica is not a scolding letter, like some of his other spit fire letters. Much of what Paul preaches includes harsh demands of faith and warnings of doom if fragile Christians don’t comply. Martin suggests that 1 Thessalonians in the bible is a gentle invitation to joy.

This idea works for me, since when I was trying to woo my husband away from becoming a Marianist Catholic priest, and he was trying to woo me away from my sullen ways, we closed or began our love letters with St. Paul’s phrase, “holy kisses.” St. Paul’s harsh side never has tripped me up, because I stumbled into a dating fog while at the same time studying for my masters and writing a thesis on St. Paul’s dreamy side.

“Greet all brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.”

St. Paul, 1Thesallonians:5

Like several of my friends, with and without partners or kids of their own, we have had some very sad and tragic hills to climb at this middle point in life. At a minimum, we’ve all at least been asked to struggle up a crazy climb with someone else. Cancer, divorce, death, job loss, disease, bankruptcy, failed dreams…you get what I’m saying. The works of life.

For me, the past three or four years have been quite the haul. The best of these friends though, the ones who I’ve trusted the most with the blow by blow details of my particular climb, have the very, very best sense of humor. The list is short, not because I don’t have great friends and family, but because I am very guarded and private with things in my life that feel like a boxed up Tasmanian devil. This handful of friends, when I tell them the truth of how I am, greet me with some form of “it’s okay, I know who you are,” and most often they send me off with some form of laughter. Either I’ve cracked them up, or them me about the most tragic of situations.

This approach to handling life works with what I just read in Martin’s book. He says in a chapter titled  A Study in Joy,

“Even in the midst of great tragedy,knowing that God accompanies us can lead us to a deep-down joy that can carry us through difficult, and sometimes unbearable,times.” ~ Fr. James Martin, S.J.

Two of my small fist full of friends that I just mentioned are experiencing great tragedy this weekend. I heard from both yesterday, they are having an unbearable couple of weeks, and both situations seem to be at a seemingly endless place of pain. They even bear the same first name. What can I do? What can I say? I’m at a loss. I’m too summer fuzzed tired to cry, and I can’t imagine finding a way to make them laugh. Yet.

So, I’m banking on the good advice I’ve read this morning, and will try to trust that praying for a light heart for them will be good enough work for today.