Debra Recommends

This Shared DreamAfter the BeginningTo Say Nothing of the DogThe Girl With the Dragon TattooA New Beginning for Pastors and Congregations: Building an Excellent Match Upon Your Shared StrengthsThree Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission To Promote Peace...One School At A Time

More of Debra's books »
Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

9.13.2005

Seeing Eye to Eye is Not a Prerequisite for Love

Grandpa will be 91 years old in October. Several years ago, my dad gave my grandparents a computer. Dad thought it would be a good way for them to stay connected with family news. The family is scattered around the country - Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida - so this has proved beneficial. We all send one another weekly updates (o.k., some of us do this on a monthly basis), and digital photos are exchanged.

Grandpa really took to the internet. All of his stocks are on-line and he checks each one and discusses them with his stock-broker, Ralph, at least once a day. Grandpa enjoys playing Free Cell and Spider Solitaire - as did my Grandma while she was still alive. But Grandpa's unique gift to the family is an almost daily barrage of jokes he has received in his still-dial-up AOL account from friends. I admit, I don't read them all - just seeing that he has sent them is enough for me to smile. But I try to read a few of them each week. This is one I just got a few minutes ago:

A woman walked into the kitchen to find her husband stalking around with a fly swatter. "What are you doing?" She asked. "Hunting Flies" He responded. "Oh. Killing any?" She asked. "Yep, 3 males, 2 Females," he replied. Intrigued, she asked. "How can you tell?" He responded, "3 were on a beer can, 2 were on the phone."
Grandpa and I don't see eye to eye on a lot of things, but we love each other immensely. This realization - this reality - has caused me to think about other people with whom I do not see eye to eye: George W. Bush, for example. What stands in my way of loving him?

In the Book of Common Prayer there are several forms that can be used for the Prayers of the People:
  • Forms I, III, and V, for example, have us pray for those in authority "For our President, for the leaders of the nations, and for allin authority" (I); "for all who govern and hold authority in the nations of the world" (III); and "for those in positions of public trust [especially ], that they may serve justice, and promote the dignity and freedom of every person" - at Seabury it is common practice to insert "George, our President" into the bracked area (my personal preference, regardless of the addition of specifics, is to emphasis the word every at the end) (V) and
  • Forms II, IV, and VI, on the other hand, do not single out individual authority figures, but instead offer prayers which emphasize peace, justice, and the common good

When George W. Bush was first elected in 2000 and again in 2004, I confess that I wasn't always praying for nice things during the Form I/III/V prayer weeks. I figured that was o.k. - after all, in the Lord's Prayer which does typically occur after the Prayers of the People (yes, there are a few things that intervene), we clarify that we are praying only that God's "will be done on earth as in heaven." Today, I wonder what it might be like to hold a mental image of my grandpa and George W. together as I pray. I suspect that over time it will change me and, as it changes me, perhaps God will further and expand that change in the universe.

"God, I offer myself to Thee — to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!"
- Third-Step Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous from The Big Book, p. 64.

9.04.2005

Gifts of Desperation

My spiritual director lent me her copy of Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Today, I began to read and then I began to laugh (and laugh, and laugh) because I understood:

"In my experience, there is a lot to be said for desperation - not exactly a bright side, but something expressed in words for which 'God' could be considered an acronym: gifts of desperation. The main gift is a willingness to give up the conviction that you are right, and that God thinks so, too, and hates the people who are driving you crazy. . . .

I try to listen for God's voice inside me, but my sense of discernment tends to be ever so slightly muddled. When God wants to get my attention, She clears Her throat a number of times, trying to get me to look up, or inward - and then if I don't pay attention, She rolls Her eyes, makes a low growling sound, and starts kicking me under the table with Her foot" (pp. 20-21).


Before I was willing to believe my call to the priesthood:

  • in 1987, God introduced me to Rev. Taryn to show me that women could be ordained and, as importantly, be employed;
  • in 1992, God blessed me with a wonderful friend, Paige (now Rev. Paige), to show me that the wounded could be healed and that the wounded could help others heal;
  • in 1996, God had a complete stranger say, "you look like you should be a minister" (this was, in fact, a police officer who had pulled me over in Newton, Massachusetts for running a red light - apparently looking like a minister also relieved me of a ticket - "just a warning, ma'am"); and
  • in 2001, God brought Andrea into my life - that's a longer story, but trust me it was part of God's attempt to get my attention

This, of course, was all well and good and I (finally) returned to seminary in the spring of 2004. But I still had my doubts. So, in July, I finally received my kick under the table --- hard enough that the tears ran down my cheeks. I had hit bottom, a moment of desperation in my life, a moment when I had nothing to rely upon except God - and isn't that just the point?! G.O.D. - gifts of desperation. When all we can do is rely upon God, there God is. It is not that God wasn't there before, but that we just were too dense, too proud, too ego-driven, too [fill in the blank with your own personal character defects] to let go.

Tonight I was with a group of people who were trying to "make sense" of Katrina and the devastation caused by this hurricane in Louisiana and Mississippi. I was really struck by the conviction of two individuals' belief in a "pure, positive God" (as one of them put it); they knew, without a doubt, that God did not cause the hurricane and that God was not punishing the people of Louisiana and Mississippi. And they prayed that the victims of the devastation would reach out to God for what little solace they might receive amidst the wreckage. Hearing their testimony made me realize that unlike my angst about God after the tsunami, my experience this past week has been quite different. I've been angry at our government, I've been angry at my own weaknesses in the face of this disaster, but I have been very clear about God - God was not in the hurricane. God is in the desperation. G.O.D.

Tonight I am grateful that I have been kicked by God and I continue to lift my prayers to God for all the victims of Katrina - and yes, for the government of the United States, because I cannot presume that I am right nor can I presume that God "hates the people who are driving [me] crazy. . . . "

9.02.2005

Meditation in Support of Hurricane Victims

I received this message today and wanted to pass it along.


To Our Beloved Community,

We would like to encourage all, each in your own way, to send prayers and support to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We suggest you set aside a specific time each day to send your prayers and support, and that you do it for at least one week.

Below, we have included a suggested meditational prayer. It is but one way to focus your energy and send much needed love to those in need right now. Adapt the prayer any way you want, and include your own personal prayers.

For the People of Hurricane Katrina

May all the people affected by Hurricane Katrina find safety and shelter;
May all the people affected by Hurricane Katrina receive food and water;
May all the people affected by Hurricane Katrina be treated with dignity and compassion.

May they receive immediate medical care, and may they be healthy and free of disease;
May they experience peace in their hearts, and be free from sorrow.

May they all be held in Love and Compassion, now and forever.

Many Blessings to All,

Raz Ingrasci and the Staff of The Hoffman Institute