Category Archives: lent

Hope: A Limited Commodity?

Yesterday I did not work out, do my laundry or wash the dishes. I ate something I shouldn’t have eaten and used Uber instead of taking the bus. As a result, I felt like crap at the end of the day. There are several life changes I want to make and I’m good for about a week, then…fail. This pattern makes me feel sort of hopeless. Which made me wonder, “Is hope a limited commodity?”

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It also made me wonder about the ways that we chip away at our own capacity for hope. WE do this ourselves. Or maybe only some of us do. I know there are folks who are able to say, “I had a crappy day. I’ll do better tomorrow.” However, this only works when you actually DO BETTER tomorrow. It doesn’t work when you keep making the same dumb mistakes over and over. And over.

In recovery, there is a lot of self-esteem work that needs to happen, and the most useful way to build self-esteem is by doing “esteemable,” or rather, estimable acts. Does the same hold true for hope?

If so, how do we go about performing hopeful acts? How do we build our stores of hope?

What chips away at YOUR stores of hope, and how do you build them up? Please share!

William Stafford’s quietly encouraging poem below goes a long way to helping us think about this question.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

By William Stafford, from The Way It Is, 1998

marianne_stokes_st_elizabeth_of_hungary_spinning_for_the_poor

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Filed under confusion, hope, lent

“Piss on a bunch of hope:” The Day Before the Beginning: The Confusion of Hope (Lenten Explorations 2017)

I have this friend who always says, “Piss on a bunch of hope.” I think this is because he suspects that hope is a delusion, masking, somehow, the deeper and more interesting and useful reality of any given situation.

Hope, as it is defined, is not a given. It is to live in the expectation or wish that something we desire will occur. Now, to be honest, that does sound a little delusional, does it not?

Or IS hope a given, meaning is it intrinsic to us, that we always have it, that we are we born with it? Do we have it until something takes it away? Do we strengthen it when we are tested?

Or do we choose hope, at some point so early in our lives that we don’t remember doing so?

And do we give up on hope, for whatever reasons? Or does hope simply drain away from us, as we watch its disappearance in utter despair?

WHAT IS HOPE? 

That is what we will be exploring here during the next 40 days. I invite you to join me and to share your thoughts, because this is a really important question. Your replies will allow others to learn from you, so please don’t be shy.

How glorious it will be to reach Easter Sunday with a true, heart-felt answer to this question, and how amazing you will all be for your willingness to fight your way to such an important declaration: “I know what hope is!”

A poem for today from the utterly fabulous Naomi Shihab Nye, about fretting, and worry, and in the end, simple reassurance.

300 Goats

In icy fields.
Is water flowing in the tank?
Will they huddle together, warm bodies pressing?
(Is it the year of the goat or the sheep?
Scholars debating Chinese zodiac,
follower or leader.)
O lead them to a warm corner,
little ones toward bulkier bodies.
Lead them to the brush, which cuts the icy wind.
Another frigid night swooping down —
Aren’t you worried about them? I ask my friend,
who lives by herself on the ranch of goats,
far from here near the town of Ozona.
She shrugs, “Not really,
they know what to do. They’re goats.”
Image result for goats

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Filed under confusion, hope, lent

Time to Come Back

Hello and a joyful spring to any and all who still have even a thread of interest in this blog. I’ve been gone for a long, long time, but think of you often. I hope you will forgive the absence.

http://www.forestwander.comIs it spring where you are? Maple trees are budding here, crocuses and daffodils are blooming and I saw my first real dogwood yesterday, making a sparse but valiant showing.

If you listen to pop radio, you may be hearing Kelly Clarkson’s, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” and even if you don’t listen to pop radio, you know the expression “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” This is a good song to work out to; it is not, on any level, a good belief to live by.

Something that can kill you but doesn’t actually makes you weaker. A broken bone is weaker even after the regrowth; past injuries leave scar tissue and must be treated tenderly so as not to reopen or reaggravate wounds. Catastrophic illness makes you more susceptible to infection. Deep psychological pain, even though it can be and is survivable, does not ever truly leave your psyche. You are not made stronger.

This is good news.

Weakness terrifies all of us, but it is, without question what makes us most human, more tender, more vulnerable. My friend Ann says (I’m paraphrasing), “You’ve joined the club. It’s a weird club.”

My friend Mary tells me, after visiting a dying friend, “There is so much pain in the world. The most we have is leaning on each other.”

Mary’s heart is so open that when I am with her sometimes I feel like I am standing in it. Her tolerance for other people’s pain is a tangible, living thing.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey flanked by illiterate fisherman. He was not stronger than thepalms army of soldiers who greeted him. I’m struck again and again at how the language of the Gospels is filled with words like “passion,” “desire,” and “longing.” When do we lose this connection (if in fact we do lose it?) When do we forget that the ache, the suffering, the longing for respite in the face of tremendous suffering…the blood and body passion for life is everything that brings us closer to others, to God?

This is not original thinking; none of this is. But today I am having lunch with two dear friends, one who has survived colon cancer, and is now celebrating her last round of chemo for pancreatic cancer, and another who is living with the constant sorrow of losing her brother. And we will be laughing, joyful. Whatever pain each of us is carrying will be shared, even for a moment, even if we don’t talk about any of it. We don’t have to. We’re in the club.

Carrie Newcomer sings about living a “permeable life.”  Go and listen to her remind you that “there is room at the table for everyone.” Or perhaps read some Parker Palmer, especially the poignant and lovely, “Let Your Life Speak.”

Or maybe, best of all, go and find yourself one of those people in your life who’s part of your tribe. One of the weirdos who makes you feel less alone on the planet. Preferably someone who really makes you laugh. I’ve been making myself walk as often as I can lately (venturing outdoors, especially to do physical activity is an effort at the best of times, but it is a sacrilege to admit that because it is spring and one is supposed to love venturing outdoors.) But because we here in the Midwest haven’t seen the sun for about 6 months, and because I know I will feel hugely better if I walk, I do it.

And many people are coming out of their homes, blinking at the sunlight as if released from cave dwellings. I enjoy seeing this. As I was walking last week, an elderly woman on an enormous elderly person’s bike with huge tires rode past me, very slowly. She was smiling. She gave me a little first pump as she drifted by. “Good weather!” she shouted, in her elderly lady voice.

It made me happy that our paths crossed, so to speak, at that moment. But earlier in the day, something made me laugh, really hard. I’d recently been visiting my parents in Naples, FL, and they took my 8-year old son and me to the Everglades. I hate the Everglades. I hate strong sun and humidity. I hate tourists. I hate snakes, especially 20-foot pythons, and no, I do not wish to feel the python skin on display during the python naturalist talk. I hate alligators and alligators are everywhere in the Everglades, as bold and ugly as can be. People talk to them like they are cute little pets. They are not.

As I was recounting being in the Everglades to an acquaintance (by recounting I mean to say telling him that he should never, ever go to the Everglades because it is ugly and dangerous), he said, “Well, to me the whole point of becoming educated was so that I wouldn’t have to go outside.”

In that moment, I had met a member of my tribe. I laughed all day. It was breath. It was life. It was spring.

With much love and gratitude,

LC

To a Snake (by Jeffrey Harrison)

I knew you were not poisonous
when I saw you in the side garden;
even your name—milk snake—
sounds harmless, and yet your pattern
of copper splotches outlined in black
frightened me, and the way you were
curled in loops; and it offended me
that you were so close to the house
and clearly living underneath it
if not inside, in the cellar, where I
have found your torn shed skins.

You must have been frightened too
when I caught you in the webbing
of the lacrosse stick and flung you
into the woods, where you landed
dangling from a vine-covered branch,
shamelessly twisted. Now I
am the one who is ashamed, unable
to untangle my feelings,
braided into my DNA or buried
deep in the part of my brain
that is most like yours.

“To a Snake” by Jeffrey Harrison, from Into Daylight. © Tupelo Press, 2014

 alligators

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Filed under belonging, hope, lent, spirituality

A Very Small Parcel

When I reread my last post, I got the sinking feeling that I’d allowed myself to commit the one blogging sin that I vowed never to commit: writing primarily about myself.  Way too many “I’s.”  Feeling slightly redeemed by having invited you to write in, I felt even more grateful that you shared such lovely anticipations.  When I started this blog, I made a promise to myself to try to write only what is worth reading, and for me that is all about what connects with others.  Because honestly, the details of a single person’s life are just not that interesting.  Too many bloggers forget this, and I semi-forgot it myself because I was feeling a little lazy.  And when we are lazy in life, it shows up in writing.  In fact, when we are lazy or distracted or just a tad too self-involved, it shows up everywhere.  As John Ruskin wrote, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small parcel.”  But then something wonderful came along and inspired me… Continue reading

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Filed under lent, therapeutic writing

Antilamentations. Or Why You Should Make Lots of Mistakes.

My apologies for not beginning this year’s Lenten blog on the first of Lent, but I have a good reason.  I was the victim of the ferocious digestive virus that has been circling our city like a plague of locusts.  First Gabe got it.  He puked all over himself while sitting in his car seat on the way to daycare.  Oh, the crying.  The stench.  The longing for a new car seat.  And he had been totally okay ten minutes before.  Then last Monday, I was at work, fine one minute, and doubled over in pain the next.  And seriously, the only thing I could think of to do was to call my mother who lives 800 miles away.  I didn’t, but still. 

So, I spent Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras cursing every morsel of food I had eaten in the last week, and Ash Wednesday piously fasting, but only because if I ate anything I’d see it again in some form in about 30 minutes.  Anyway.  Welcome to Lent 2011.  For some background on both Lent and why I am writing this Lenten blog, please click here.   At least if you read that, it will lift the tone of this post out of the toilet.  Literally.

Continue reading

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Filed under courage, creativity, lent