Archives for the month of: February, 2015

The following from Anne Lamotte- so honest, so true- made me laugh and feel the joy of living by grace:

I am reluctant to say I heard directly from God the other day, because somehow Bill Maher or one of the other fundamentalists might get word of it, and condemn me as being as stupid and dangerous as Mother Theresa or the Parisian terrorists.  But I did hear from God. So sue me.

I rarely do–almost never in fact, directly, which is one of my real problems with the Divine It. … But I did hear the other day, in the least likely of places–my church.  I had been nuts since the first of the year, …  There were reasons–the anxieties of December, a month which, if I were God’s West Coast Rep, I would cancel; the stress of the small victories book tour, 14 nights, 14 airports,42 fattening meals, all the losses in my family’s life this fall; a new relationship that fell apart. You know the drill. It’s called Real Life. It’s hard here. It just is.

And my solution had been my conviction that I needed a neck lift.

A lot of us grew up in the sun, in an era when the only skin advice was that the best tanning aids were tin foil reflectors, and baby oil.  Also, then I got a little tiny bit old.  But part of my work involves being on stage, under bright lights, which are not ideal to showing off one’s neck.  Listen, I have a good little neck, long and thin, which has successfully kept my head attached to my torso for 60 years now. It’s a huge head, like a bowling ball, filled with sandstorms of activity, 96% of it meaningless, scary, or outright destructive.  I really do appreciate it. It’s the little neck that could.

But I got fixated on it, like a helicopter mom, and had begun researching “mini neck lifts.” One reads about them everywhere–less invasive, less recovery time, local anaesthesia. Magic! Yay.  Yet I am a feminist, a passionate supporter of women’s rights, a follower of Jesus, especially His pleas that we take care of His poor.  So I thought I couldn’t actually do it. But I was ashamed after the first of the year that I thought of it so constantly and of my conviction that I wanted to do it, and ashamed of my shame about it.  Obviously, I needed to fix this situation, which–left to my own devices–is my battle cry.

But I’m NOT left to my own devices. I believe in two things, God and my friends. They are both Love, and they stay close to me no matter how awful I am being.  Both have very low standards, which is all I have going for myself.  So I tried to heal myself of my obsessed and ashamed mind with my obsessive and ashamed mind. You know how well that works. Then I found myself in church. It was a nightmare, as my large heavy head had insisted on accompanying me.

But they say that when all else fails to follow instructions, so, it being church and all, I did what they say. It was silent confession. My usual confession is, “Look–I think we both know what we have on our hands here.” But last Sunday, I said in silence that I was hating on myself for wanting a mini neck lift, and for being totally obsessed, in the face of my community’s and world’s profound suffering.  And in the silence, I heard a voice say, gently, “It’s okay.”  It was shocking. I opened my eyes to the sound, but all 25 congregants had their eyes closed. I gaped. It’s okay? Wait–what?

And that was it–that it is okay to want a necklift, and it is okay to be screwed up and human and sad and cuckoo.  I started laughing to myself. This literally had not occured to me.  Grace as spiritual WD-40, as bouyancy, as vitamins, 2nd winds. I got into serious affection with myself. I said to myself, “It’s okay. Get a neck lift, don’t get a neck lift. I’m right here, either way.”

I have been in a dangerously happy mood ever since. My friend Lori pointed out that you were chastised as a child for being too full of yourself. But I was full of myself, of amused love for my former trogydyte self. It was so Rumi, so Wavy Gravy. It was heaven.  The obsession and self-contempt were lifted. Well–ish. Mostly.  A few days later, I saw my county’s best plastic surgeon.

He said “Oh, yeah–the famous mini-neck lift. Fabulous! But then you’ll require the mini facelift, because the mini neck lift creates new creases in your face. So you will need general anaesthesia, and two weeks off. Also, these procedures will make the wrinkles and crowsfeet around your eyes look 50% deeper, so we’d need to fix that, too, while we’re at it. And then your eyes would not be nearly as expressive. So maybe we’ll do it somewhere down the road?”

I shook my head and laughed with something like joy. I said what my grandson says when he agrees to do what I say. I said, “Deal!” The surgeon replied, “Deal,” and we shook hands on it. I hate to say anything that might trigger Bill Maher or Richard Dawkins, but I felt like God had reached down again and touched me. God sometimes looks like someone finally, finally telling the truth.

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Steve Hayner died last Saturday.  I was privileged to work with him when he was President of Columbia Theological Seminary.  Steve and his wife Sharol had a ministry together that was wide and deep, not the least of which was the Caringbridge blog they wrote while he lived with cancer for these last nine months or so.  Steve signed all his correspondence “joyfully” – easy to say but often not so easy to experience in real life.  Steve and Sharol have showed us that living joyfully is possible when God is at the center of our lives- no matter what the circumstances.

In their own words:

From Sharol: ” I imagine that the disciples muttered when Jesus was crucified and buried “Why this waste?”  And yet, without this waste we would never know life as it was meant to be lived, life with eternal significance, death robbed of its sting and hopelessness.  Because of Jesus’ death, we can have life, abundant and eternal life.  In the past months I have muttered, “Why this waste?” and yet I am reminded that in God’s hands nothing is ever wasted.”

From Steve: “I woke up one day this week and realized that I couldn’t locate anything like a genuine ‘faith’ inside me which would provide enough strength to pray or reflect or to meditate.  But then it occurred to me that I didn’t need any.  God’s grace is not about me.  So whatever God has for me is going to come from outside anyway.  There are so many people who ask us how they can help – and that morning I realized they were helping by simply “being faith” for me.  They were welcoming God’s grace when I couldn’t even do that much.”

From Steve: “I wonder what new surprises and fears I will discover in the weeks ahead, or how God will guide these unexpected bits of my complex journey.  I want to come to the end with strength and courage.  But life isn’t always linear.  I realize that maintaining my balance depends on my willingness to face the unexpected with humility and transparency, as well as endurance and fortitude.”

Thanks, Steve and Sharol, for showing us how to live and die faithfully and joyfully.