August 20

DIVORCE, DEPRESSION AND DANCE

For the last two days, I have been frustrated.  I have tried and tried without success to sell people on the idea of poetry therapy.  However, I think that Christian women have been doing this ever since the first woman came into her own papyrus and quill.  There was even (oh, the thrill of it) the rumor going around in the first century that Priscilla wrote The Letter to the Hebrews!  Oh, my, that rumor was squelched quickly.  But never mind, the women kept on writing.  (You can do the history for yourself.)

As I walked out of divorce court in 1992 I had a stone in my heart. My son and I walked down the street together, saw a book store and ambled in. Down close to the floor a title stood out to me:  May I Have This Dance?   It was written by a nun, Joyce Rupp.  She begins with a poem:   “But just when the old heap of bones seems most dry and deserted, a strong Breath of Life stirs among my dead.   Someone named God comes to my fragments and asks, with twinkling eye:  ‘May I have this dance?’” I bought the book and wrote for the next decade all over the front page reminding God of His question.

I write two or three pages every morning as part of a dual commitment—to read the Psalms recommended in a Bible study I’ve joined and write my prayer, but also to write as part of an artist’s challenge.   This morning I came to the journal with my frustration at the back of my mind and began to write.  Then I looked at Psalm 5 and 6 and slowly began to realize that God has already heard my heart’s desire.  For some time, I have longed to have a reunion with my best friend from childhood and my cousin who live in the same state.  Just a few weeks ago, my sweet sister called to say she wanted to visit our cousin and after a few conversations, realized that she had enough airline travel to fly us both to see our friends.  We’re going! This is a wonderful blessing.  So the lesson for me is–let God be God.  Trust God not only to open doors and close them, but do it with perfect timing. God is still inviting me to the dance.  (And that is poetry therapy.)

August 16

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

Everybody loves a good story!  The teaching team at my church (The Fellowship at Two Rivers) is teaching the next series through the New Testament by telling the stories of the people.  We will very likely remember the stories and make the connection to our own lives.

So I’ll tell you a story of my latest trip to McKay’s Used Book Store.  I traded in some books and came back with some treasures.  One in the free bin caught my eye.  It was written by a psychiatrist/psychotherapist who contrasted the medical model of treating people with mental illness with what the author believes is the more accurate means—psychotherapy.  And why?  Because, he says, we are more than our brain—we are souls, souls in need of healing.  (E-mail me if you want the author’s name; I’m at poetryforthejourney@gmail.com.)

What do people need?  We need as infants to be nurtured and loved (I personally saw one precious little child in Haiti now receiving lots of love, but who cannot speak possibly because of just such a lack in infancy).  But we don’t stop needing love.  When we don’t get what we need, when we are hurt or neglected, we might survive physically but we carry around the wound.

Medicine can anesthetize a symptom but this author says to pay attention to our symptoms, they are trying to tell us something.  We are not physicians, but we as Christians are in the business of offering spiritual (or soul) healing.  How do we do this?  Well, one way I believe is simply to tell our stories.  I am starting to look at the senior members of my fellowship as treasuries of a lifetime of stories of God’s faithfulness.  Do you have a story?

July 29

Why Should Retirees Blog?

Here are 10 reasons why you should think about blogging if you are retired:

1.  You have a desire to serve and you have time to give.

2.  You like to write.

3.  You have a passion, whether it be cooking, gardening, golfing, New Testament studies, learning a new language, model railroads, baseball–you name it.

4.  You think a few people — or a lot of people — would like or benefit from what you have to teach or share.

5.  You are bored and need a new hobby.

6.  You’ve always been curious about social media.

7.  You like to give advice.

8.  You are a born teacher.

9.  You want to share some wisdom.

10.  You are a Christian and you’re looking for ways to share your faith with more people.

February 16

To a Young Person Contemplating Suicide

A twelve-year old girl was being remembered in the morning news.  She committed suicide last year because some mean girls bullied her.  She killed herself and broke her family’s heart.  Since that day, I have learned in the news of several more suicides of young people.  It distresses me.  We wonder what we could say.  Well, I know what I want to say.  It is one word:  wait!  Waiting is not an absence of thought or activity.  It’s about making a choice to suspend negative thought or action.  There is hope in this kind of waiting.  True, at the present time we can’t see how things will get any better, but waiting says “Maybe there’s something I don’t know; maybe it’s okay to have hope.”  Where there’s hope, there is a chance that something will happen to change either the situation or to change me.  Of course, there comes a time when the waiting is over and we step into a new phase of our life.  We get the job; we fall in love; we get pregnant; the kids graduate; we enter graduate school; we find a friend; we get an idea—the list of ways our circumstances change is endless.  But there’s another way:  the way of the inward change.  We believe.  We believe in God; we believe in our worth; we learn to speak our minds; we cherish solitude; we make friends through books; we become strong.  So wait!   Wait to let this hard time pass.  Wait to see if God is real and if He cares.  (He is and He does.)  Wait!  You can’t see the joys around the corner, but they are there. Please, wait.

October 7

I Let Go

People sometimes ask me, “What do you expect to accomplish with this poetry thing?”  It’s a fair question, but in truth the best answer is the one a person finds herself.  All I do is provide a safe place, a good poem, and an invitation to talk and then write. The challenge for some is to sit quietly and allow the memories to come to consciousness.  Many times they have been locked in the basement where we thought they belonged.  Little by little, people realize they do in fact have a story and moreover, the telling of it brings healing.  People can write a poem or an essay; it doesn’t matter.  They don’t need to share it with anyone.  Even though we’re sitting in a room, writing with other people, there is no teacher and there is no audience.  We write for ourselves.  Satisfaction usually results.   We are often surprised at what we write.

I have a story to illustrate how this works, a very personal story.  Life occasionally blindsides us with emotional pain we never saw coming.  I’ve had that kind of season.  I had forgotten how that crushing pain feels.  Tears flow easily.  I found myself in need of healing.  For me, finally, I sensed some loving guidance from a Benedictine sister, Joan Chittister, OSB, in her book, Wisdom Distilled From The Daily. I had actually underlined this chapter before, and I want to quote a few lines (from page 65).  Life may be unclear, life may be difficult, but we are free of false hopes and false faces and false needs that once held us down.  We can fly now.  The chapter was on humility. I needed to let go of some immature thinking.  So how does one celebrate letting go?  I wrote a poem, and I sensed a lightness and a joy.  This is why I do what I do.

I LET GO

I let go of children.

I let go of needing to please them.

I let go of expecting them to please me.

I let go of expecting them to take care of me.

I let go of needing to prove myself good, or smart, or right, or successful.

I let go of feeling guilty for not being good enough or smart enough or right or successful.

I let go of trying.

Trying to defend myself

Trying to protect others or help when I haven’t been asked

Trying to inspire or give advice or persuade.

In return, I receive all the wisdom I can glean,

all the joy and all the love in God’s heart, and therefore, in mine.

Finally, I let go of myself.

I let go.