May 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” Robert Kennedy
I’ve been watching documentaries for the last two weeks to get me through the wee hours of the night. This week, Ethel, a documentary about Robert Kennedy’s wife was one of them. It was inspiring, moving, challenging, & humbling all at one time. She mothered 11 extraordinary children, and she once had a seal that lived in their swimming pool! What a woman…
However, on this day that we stop and appreciate those who labor tirelessly on behalf of their children, it can be very, very difficult for those whom it does not fall so neatly within the lines.
At my stage of life, it is most easy to think about the women in my life that have lost children, or babies, or simply been unable to conceive them – whether it is their first child or their third. I think of the mother’s who have young children, and motherhood is not the Hallmark commercial we are often sold. This can happen for a number of reasons; Rett Syndrome, post-partum, strong-willed children, divorce, loss of a parent, depression…
I think of friends who have lost their mothers or mothers-in-law who were so very dear, one friend in particular who really grew up without her mother, and I wake up every Mother’s Day with her on my mind… I am thankful that she has a house full of children, and an incredible family – but that does not bring her mother back. I think of my friends Todd & Kelly who lost their mom more recently and how their families have grown since – they have much to celebrate, but their mother was a wonderful and dynamic woman, this day must be for them, not the same…
For many, many more this day comes with such dynamic emotion. Mother. This word doesn’t bring feelings of warmth and memory for me. It’s a perplexing word. It’s a word that is loaded with fuzzy memories, where if I dwell too long…
Sadly for my mother I think it is likely the same way. She wakes up thinking of what all the mothers are doing, getting, reading, hearing, and I am sure it is a day of great disappointment for her.
I will say this, my relationship with my mother is the best it’s probably ever been, as good as it will likely ever get, and that – in itself – makes me deeply empathetic.
There are 200,000 women incarcerated and over 1 million on probation - 85 to 90% of those women have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused (statistics from 2011 Department of Justice – Women in Prison report.) I think of the complicated relationship these women have with their children, and the fact that so many of them are motivated by the idea of coming home and being ‘better mothers.’ (This program in Harlem has some incredible stories on their website about it.) What must this day be like for them? For their children? And the cycles of abuse that exist. Complicated – when stated in the most simple terms. Mother’s Day is probable a difficult day for the mothers & children in this demographic.
Naturally it’s not all so profound. Some people are simply in relationships with their mothers where they don’t feel accepted or loved as they are, for whom they are, or there is some other estrangement or - even an impasse of the heart. On days like these, there is a resounding reinforcement of that relationship that is so much less that you hoped and dreamed.
There are simply women for whom life looked really different than they thought. They are single when they thought they would be married, they are gay and they thought they would be straight, they are divorced and they never imagined they would be, they woke up one day and they were 50 and they didn’t have children… On this day when the entire world communicates to you that life begins with parenthood, value comes in procreation alone, that selfishness disappears and fulfillment comes in the moment you become a parent – let me, a childless woman, say to you – you are of immeasurable value to this world and you have not failed, you are not “less than”, you are not letting anyone down, you are not innately more selfish because you are not a parent (though you certainly may be because you have chosen to be ), and there are many, many great and significant leaders who never had children. In most religious traditions those who are called to truly live lives of devotion and change are asked to forsake having children…
I often think that AM&UK may not have considered taking me if they had had children. I am so thankful that they did.
I have something brewing in my heart, about taking in ones that are not your own… Especially older ones. But I will save it so that I can study for finals.
To anyone whose heart is breaking today, I have spent many a Mother’s Day believing that it would always hurt ‘that’ much…
Yes, my relationship with AM has filled a deep, deep void in my life – but I am very aware that I have a relationship with my mother that is complicated beyond measure, and in that there is no peace – and yet, my heart is not full of pain today as it once was.
I feel deeply grateful for the incredible Mothers I have in the women from the Hole in the Wall Gang, and the women from Justin’s family that I was blessed with by marriage, for my precious niece who brings us all deep joy. It is not the way that I expected it would be, but it is not as painful as it once was, and for that I am deeply grateful.
For those of you who are simply not there yet, let yourself cry, don’t go to places where you have to watch Mother’s Day brunches of what you think are happy families… Or taunt yourself with pictures of a life that you think you want. Make a plan of action that is best for you, and know, tomorrow there will be sun.
It’s Mother’s Day, and for many people it’s incredibly happy – and that’s OK too.
April 24, 2013 § 2 Comments
When I was 19 I went on a trip to China, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. A group of people were going to drive 17 hours into the countryside and live off the land for a long amount of time – I was not chosen to be a part of them. I went to the director of my organization and explained that I’d really like to go and asked if he’d reconsider. He went to the head of the Mongolian arm, and that guy said, “Anyone who has that much passion will be valuable – so sure.” What in the world was I thinking? The zeal and the passion of our youth. I read a great piece about passion as a driving force today. When you are young you have the energy to let your passions rule you, but as you get older, you need a more balanced and holistic life, or you inevitably burn out.
After that stint countryside, we trekked on over to Tashkent where my group stayed in one part of town and I stayed with a friend I knew from growing up in another part of town. I had some incredible adventures over there. Outside of my morning alarm – which was the goat milk lady yelling, “MALAKWA” every morning at the crack of dawn, there was the time I was walking to the market and I caught the cab driver singing Man in the Mirror like he meant it, to himself in his side view mirror in a dirt alley… Awkward. The rest of my group returned to Texas and I stayed to work with my friend. It ended up being a really hard working environment for a number of reasons – I mean – outside of the fact that we were working in Uzbekistan. I left pretty mad at one of my dearest friends. I thought about this as I read Liz’s blog today.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely relate to what Liz wrote about being gripped by the fear of failure. I fight it every day – and through the night. It saturates the Columbia experience, and as a woman one gets a heightened sense of pressure. However, I have failed plenty, so I expect to get it wrong, and live in a steady tension of fear and expectation. What I mean is that people often fail us. Terribly. Because we are all imperfect. People lose their passions. They write blog posts in their humanity. They tweet in their weak moments. They speak from a place of insecurity or pride. And then I: get hurt, angry, judge them, withdraw, am disappointed, remove trust, betray them by exposing their failure to a friend – or worse someone who doesn’t know their character at all, hold on to unforgiveness, or just decide they aren’t worth my time all together – because I am clearly better than them.
So many of my friends have children. I have spent so much time looking at pictures of these ‘clean slates’, these brand new pure souls. I feel so vigilante to guard them from this world’s cruelty, its cynicism, the now normal mean girl snark and rhetoric. What do you wish for the next generation? Better, brighter, kinder, greener, and gentler. I wish they would not have awkward Jr High years. I wish they would not need a counseling fund. We’re not going to like everyone – believe me – I’m an acquired taste. If we’ve learned anything in the last week it is that we need less crazy passions and more balanced lives. We need less judgement and harbored resentment, and more communication and forgiveness. We need to spend less time pushing people to the edges and more time just being kind because WHAT DOES IT COST? Insincerity is not the goal – getting over ourselves and our own pettiness so that we can do less picking at the specks in other people’s eyes.
It’s easy to live in a world where everyone is like us. Looks like us. Dresses like us. Thinks like us. Views things from our perspective. Listens to our music. Prefers us. Speaks our language, in the tones of our choosing. Ideally they would communicate with us in a way that creates understanding. The most peaceful societies, the most generous societies, are the most homogeneous societies. People like people that are like them. This is actually empirically verifiable fact. It is easy to love those who love you… might be extended to it is easy to like those whom you choose, that are safe… aren’t annoying, have never hurt you, don’t confuse you, don’t elicit sarcastic responses in your head upon impact… (not that I’m speaking from experience.) I’ve made a list of some forgiving, some gentle-ing, some kind-ing, some loving that I can implement. Let’s unleash a little love on this world.
I have some solid work to do, but I think that aspiring to a more balanced, kinder world wouldn’t be the worst thing.
In the words of the great Patty Griffin, “It’s hard to give, it’s hard to get – but everybody needs a little forgiveness.”
April 21, 2013 § 6 Comments
I much too recently wrote that when I started at CU AM told me that I would have to miss many important life events, living far away and the demands of school simply wouldn’t afford us the trips home for life’s celebrations and goodbyes that we would wish. So we are deeply grateful to Instagram for keeping us posted on weddings, and the sweet children and special and even mundane occasions of our friends and families lives. This blog has had a much more personal tone over the last few posts than I would prefer, and it won’t likely stay that way, partially because finals start in 10 days so I am climbing into a hole and I am now a week behind…
But we are missing another goodbye this week. I have to admit that I haven’t quite mastered the art of goodbye from a distance. I think ceremonies of closure are a passage for the remaining, and so forgive me for using the space of my blog to help me do that. But there are a good portion of you that know my Uncle Phil, and I hope you will join me in celebrating him. Again, I know this is a relatively personal post, and I recognize that – but he was a public man and I think a public tribute isn’t altogether unfitting.
My Uncle Phil. The Reverend Monsignor Philip Johnson.
There are stories that his siblings could tell that might have brought about the reconsideration of his robing as a priest, I would be remiss not to mention that one of his first posts – if not his first post (?) was as the priest at St. Maria Goretti School, where his younger siblings attended… Isn’t there some sort of nepotism clause protecting younger siblings from that? Torturous.
He took vows of chastity, vows of poverty… But the thing that I know more than anything is that his life was not his own. Growing up I remember arriving to my Grandmothers and arranging our weekend meal plans around my Uncle Phil’s weekend mass schedule – whether it was 7 Christmas or Easter services, weddings, funerals, visitations, confessions, board meetings, or some other form of service or commitment.
I don’t remember ever being told that it was our pleasure to make our plans this way, but I remember always knowing that it was never an inconvenience and always a source of great joy for us. I also tried to recall today, as an adult if I ever heard my uncle speak about being tired, or overwhelmed. Perhaps he did, as I am sure that he was, and I would have been an unlikely confidante, but I don’t remember it. And I don’t remember anyone ever talking about it as such.
I know that today as I thought of all the funny stories my friends have to tell about my Uncle Phil teasing them at family events they spent with us, stories I have about his faithfulness to his nieces and nephews, or how I loved to text with him… His parishioners, traveling groups, Board members turned friends, and ‘people met along the way’ have as many stories to tell. Because his life was not ours – it was the church’s – and as I read the posts beginning to build up on Legacy’s website I am so moved by their words.
We loved the same things. He was our family’s gold standard also. There was no other parish priest that measured up, and that was hard, because we were unfairly biased. He was funny, down to earth, real, uncannily able to make the most difficult situation more bearable, he was fully who he was – unapologetically – and yet all were safe, he believed in a Gospel lived – not a bible beaten (and he raised his eyebrow to me more than once on this issue), he believed in civic duty, he was not afraid to stand up for what was right – even if it meant standing up to Rome, he said difficult things and expected you to understand that telling you what you wanted to hear would result in weak character and low values, he expected thick skin and a sense of humor from all he loved – it was required for survival in our family – and is required for survival in a difficult world, he had a beautiful singing voice, he loved to christen babies, and one was really often left with the sense that he up to something – more often than not, he was.
He would never answer me directly when I asked why he became a priest, but I can tell you this – he was good at it. He was a man of integrity and honor. While prophets, priests, and kings across the world have been called to question for a sundry of things, my Uncle Phil was not a perfect man, he was an incredible pastor. He had thriving churches, alive with community, passionate about the purposes of the Kingdom, and careful about each other.
He was named a Monsignor in 2008, an honor that had not been bestowed upon priests in the Diocese of Dallas for over 30 years. What is so funny about it, is that my Uncle celebrated these monumental things in his life with very little ‘pomp and circumstance.’ For example at the ceremony ordaining him Monsignor, after he was vested, whether due to the color of the vestment or – ahem – the way that it draped over his figure at the time – he compared himself to a Christmas tree.
The thing is, he was our Uncle, my Dad and Aunts & Uncle’s brother, AND our priest… My wedding was in an oak grove at an old beautiful home in Austin, and Reverend Monsignors cannot perform official duties outside of the four walls of the church. Rather than deny my request to participate in my wedding in some significant way – he read a Cherokee blessing… He didn’t condemn me for being married by an Episcopal priest in an oak grove, he met me where I was, as he was, without compromising who he was.
I told Justin that for 36 years my family has really been one very specific way. 6 siblings (their spouses), their children (my generation & their spouses & children) – and the people we bring with us that we call family… And I don’t know how to think about the world any differently. The truth is – it’s really quite selfish because just as my Uncle Phil had walked so many others through this process toward death – he prepared himself and those around him for what was coming. He told us on what terms he wanted to live, and on what terms he would like to move on, and it helped us – in theory – to let go.
And yet, I feel terribly sorry for myself, and for all of us. He was not just a wonderful Priest, or Monsignor or Pastor… He wasn’t just a terrific Uncle or great Uncle, brother, or friend… He was a wonderful man, a great person, and a compelling presence that truly made a significant difference in the lives of the people that he touched. I will miss his texts, I will miss his laugh, his voice singing kyrie eleison, I will miss his perspective, and his humor… I will miss him. We will all miss him terribly.
April 18, 2013 § 3 Comments
If you know me, you know that I am nothing if not one that JUMPS in to the boat with people. If sympathy is to have feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune and empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – I am sometimes so empathetic that I need an intervention.
I think I may have shared before that in my younger years I was so disassociated with my own emotion I would hijack other people’s trauma. As an (ahem) adult I remain deeply empathetic- in part because of who I am, in part because of my upbringing, and in part because I don’t want people to feel alone. I would rather someone have to say “back up” than “I felt alone.”
I also know that a heart cannot harden itself particularly. Your heart is soft or it is not- you can’t foster unkindness and foster love – one corrupts the other, hopefully love wins. Since Monday I just keep asking myself how do I respond to this pain? How do I help those I know in pain?
Some of you may remember that I ran the Boston Marathon last year with Team in Training in honor of Marla and over 100 Fighters, Survivors,& Taken. I’ve run a lot of marathons & 1/2 Marathons. Austin, San Antonio, Dallas,all over New England, Berlin, Lisbon, Marrakech, Madrid… You get the picture.
I’ve never run a race like Boston.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times – the Boston fans are the greatest fans in the world.
They know what you need before you do. They come early & stay late, cheering is a sport, they love the charity runners as much as the olympic runners, they LOVE that YOU love their marathon, Wellesley & BC & BU have marathon cheering traditions – it is a right of passage as a marathoner to experience them. You mark your progress in the marathon by these things.
In the final mile of the marathon you pass the Citgo sign, run under the Mass Ave bridge, and up the final and most brutal (smallest) hill of the marathon. You run onto Comm Ave. which leads you to Hereford, and as every Boston Marathoner knows, it’s “right on Hereford, left on Boylston” to the finish.
Fans line either side of Boylston – their cheers echoing back and forth off the Brownstones and high-rises – lifting you toward Copley Plaza and the FINISH painted permanently, but freshly, on the road.
To say that you NEED those cheers, those people, that energy is an understatement – to run that street with anything less than superbowl level enthusiasm would be next to impossible. 47% of Boston Marathon runners finish between 3:50 and 4:10 hour marathons. I am so hurt that 5000 people didn’t get to finish their race. I am so devastated that someone would injure the greatest fans in the world.
I was sitting in a discussion section for my American Politics class on Monday when I got the text that two explosions had occurred at the 4 hour mark of race. Sarad, my coach from last year and dear friend, called from Heartbreak Hill where he was coaching… I left class to take his call. He couldn’t get calls through to anyone on the team.
My cousin was at the Red Sox game with her girlfriend. Were they safe?
My ears were ringing. I thought I was going to throw up. I was shaking violently.
We know so many people that finish in those moments. My family and friends were sitting there at that moment last year.
I was not just empathizing, I had jumped in the boat and set sail.
In the end – some of the news was good and some hard, as we knew inevitably it would be. Boston is a small community, TNT is strong and tight knit.
People who ran last year and were there to cheer were injured – there is permanent damage.
People we know we know were finishing as or immediately behind each of the explosions – you can imagine the things they have seen.
Someone we know used to run for BU, some friends came to watch him, one did not make it.
It is very, very sad.
I dreamt for two nights that I was running through the finish – I could see Justin & my friends & family & coaches but I was protected by an invisible shield as they were bombed – and the marathon officials made me finish and pick up my medal.
As I began to regain my focus yesterday, by sheer will, I saw that an explosion had occurred in West. Home of the spicy hot chubby with cheese.
West is north of Waco. It is where I bought my Saturn and sold my ’69 Bronco (a true sign of either adult responsibility or stupidity) – the most generous and forgiving boss I’ve ever had in my life lives there with her husband and daughter Paige. After some frantic texts I found out they are fine.
The devastation began to unfold and familiar triage stations were set up and ambulances lined up to carry away the injured as another city I formerly called home prepared to care for the people of West.
I felt all out of tears, as I watched the tiny town of 2000 burn.
Twitter raced to try to get news, and wrap their mind around the devastation. I was reminded of when I thought 12 had died in Boston… I gently assured them that only time can provide accurate information, despite our desperate desire to know it’s going to be O.K.
My friend Annie has three children and said that when Sandy Hook happened they turned off the TV had family game nights and explained to their children, as they attained information about the tragedy from the internet, that mommy and daddy were sad because something terrible had happened. On Monday they did the same thing, but she wondered how much more they would be able to absorb…
The impact of what happened in West to a community of 2000 will be felt by every member of that community many times over for years and years to come, it was a horrific accident, but it will not take long for people to begin to look for someone to blame… someone to sue… someone to hold responsible.
In Boston, there is a person who sought to injure, harm, and terrorize the most incredible people in the world – the fans of the Boston Marathon.
Immediately there were calls to ‘fry’ the person, and all sorts of other terribly horrific things.
When they get to the bottom of who is responsible for these explosions and we’re going to hold their feet to the fire and… and… and… And then?
I probably asked Justin why 20 times on Monday… Why charity runners? Why 4:10? Why? Why? Why?
As if knowing why would make what happened or the consequences any easier.
Nor will being angry.
So much irrational violence in this country starts with roots of anger. Anger at a government, anger at being marginalized, anger at perceived injustice or inaction on the part of some authority… Domestic terrorism rests in seeds of this kind of anger that was fostered through years and irrationality into rage.
I turned off my Facebook account as people began to argue about the marathon bombing and gun rights… it was not civil, it was angry, and my heart was too broken to bear the anger. I feel sad that we’ve lost our capacity for civil discourse. No wonder we’re stuck in political gridlock, we can’t even respond to tragedy without arguing and accusing in anger.
I often think of the Katherine Switzer (one of the first females to run the Boston Marathon) quote, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” Running marathons has always been the place I’ve gone to cleanse my lenses of the grit of of cynicism about humanity…
It’s the same reason I told people my motive for working in humanitarian aid was selfish, you really see the most giving- selfless part of community.
My friend Liz just texted me from the blast site in West where she and her son are sitting with survivors to comfort them as various painful, but minor, medical procedures are being performed – she told me, “People from towns I’ve never even heard of drove in last night and started helping.”
S0 the answer: how do I respond to this pain? How do I help those I know in pain?
We’re going to be angry. It’s a natural stage of grief.
I’m no person to tell anyone else how to grieve, how to cope – what’s the best way. I only know there’s no way around but through. Each person will have to travel their own journey.
As for helping those in pain I keep thinking that grief and trauma are a lot like a marathon and less like a sprint. Moreover, like the Red Cross while all donations are appreciated, there will be a continued need next week and next month – because a marathon is a long race .
Right now there are presidents, governors, and lasagna for 300. There are interviews, news coverage, front pages & tweets.
Next week there will be soreness, quietness, and a nation that has moved on to the next crisis and a gaping opportunity for sorrow to take hold and anger to root deep.
Physical and emotional wounds are not altogether different, if not tended to carefully they can cause longterm, irrevocable damage.
How can we help? As the world moves on, we can stay fast, like the fans on Boylston in 93 degree heat 5 hours into the marathon still yelling as if it were the Superbowl. When we need a little help comforting we can use handy tools like this one , or just send a little note reminding those who suffered that we’re still thinking of them. If words are not your thing, then serve. If you can’t serve then give, if you can’t give – make a sign . I assure you. We all have some love to offer.
I have been reminding myself that this is a crazy world, filled with evil, that can only be fought with Love & Truth. When anger rises, I remind myself that answers to the whys and vindication won’t heal the deep wounds… But Love. Love covers a multitude of wrongs.
I’ve also been humming one of my favorite Rich Mullins songs, “I know that this thirst will not last long, that it will soon drown in this song not sung in vain. I hear the thunder in the sky, I see the sky about to rain, and with the prairies I am calling out your name…”
April 15, 2013 § 3 Comments
So much of life is perspective.
I perhaps didn’t fully understand this until marriage (or Instagram.)
My husband and I could not come from two more different backgrounds.
He was raised in Arkansas, by married parents, the oldest of three, both sets of his grandparents lived up the street. He has two little sisters. His parents went to Arkansas, he went to Arkansas, everyone’s an engineer and lives in the (relative) area. He is not an engineer and he moved to the Northeast never to return. This is as complicated as his life gets.
I am an only child, raised by divorced parents who could not be more different. I went to 12 schools before I graduated from high school. I lived in 5 different cities ( not counting summers with family members in two additional cities.) I was 35 when I started at Columbia – it might be my 8th school. My life has been nothing if not complicated.
As Justin and I approach things in life our lenses are so different that we often see two very different things. When we first met we believed that our individual perspective was correct – 20/20. It was only in living with each other that we saw the radically different ways that we saw the exact same thing. Something clear to Justin was invisible to me, something that was square to me was round to Justin, something painful to Justin was irrelevant to me – or the reverse.
There was not a correct perspective, just a different one – often adding a depth or richness to what we were observing. Brennan Manning, the former Catholic priest – turned Christian mystic, tells the often heard story of St. Francis of Assisi, who practiced the discipline of standing on his head to see the world from a different perspective. My marriage to Justin is a bit like standing on my head and looking at the world.
I first read Brennan Manning when I was 11. It was 1991 and my mom had married an Episcopalian and I was loving being an Episcopal youth. I don’t remember how I got the book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. I know that the musician Rich Mullins and the author Brennan Manning went hand in hand for me. I know that I would lay on the floor of my mom’s apartment on Penny Lane and listen to Rich Mullins sing, The Creed – and read my already beat up copy of The Ragamuffin Gospel. Brennan Manning wrote A Word Before in TRG:
The Ragamuffin Gospel was written with a specific reading audience in mind.
This book is not for the superspiritual.
It is not for muscular Christians who have made John
Wayne, and not Jesus, their hero.
It is not for academics who would imprison Jesus in the
ivory tower of exegesis.
It is not for noisy, feel-good folks who manipulate
Christianity into a naked appeal to emotion.
It is not for hooded mystics who want magic in their
It is not for Alleluia Christians who live only on the mountaintop and have never visited the valley of desolation.
It is not for the fearless and tearless.
It is not for red-hot zealots who boast with the rich young
ruler of the Gospels, “All these commandments I have kept
from my youth.”
It is not for the complacent who hoist over their shoulders
a tote bag of honors, diplomas, and good works, actually believing they have it made.
It is not for legalists who would rather surrender control of
their souls to rules than run the risk of living in union with Jesus.
If anyone is still reading along, The Ragamuffin Gospel was
written for the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out.
It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy
suitcase from one hand to the other.
It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t
have it all together and are too proud to accept the handout of
It is for inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is
falling off their cracker.
It is for poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary
faults and limited talents.
It is for earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.
It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are
a grave disappointment to God.
It is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest
disciples who admit they are scalawags.
The Ragamuffin Gospel is a book I wrote for myself and anyone who has grown weary and discouraged along the Way.
In the void where adults should have been Brennan Manning and Rich Mullins taught me I was loved, and they taught me how to love. It would not be an overstep to credit my entire theology and philosophy on grace and love to these two men.
Their perspective spoke to me. I lived more in the first 15 years of my life than I have in the 20 years since, Manning and Mullins cut to the quick of that kind of hard living – and remain two mystics who continue to do so for me.
I saw Brennan Manning speak twice – twenty years apart. Once right before his relapse into alcoholism was revealed. His message was the same, deeper, richer, sharper, more exigent. Perhaps his lens was different. Perspective, as we are discussing it here is the most clear in the forward to his last book – All is Grace, his memoir – a clear reflection to TRG.
All is Grace was written in a certain frame of mind – that of a ragamuffin.
Therefore, This book is by the one who thought he’d be farther along by now, but he’s not. It is by the inmate who promised the parole board he’d be good, but he wasn’t. It is by the dim-eyed who showed the path to others but kept losing his way. It is by the wet-brained who believed if a little wine is good for the stomach, then a lot is great. It is by the liar, tramp, and thief; otherwise known as the priest, speaker and author. It is by the disciple whose cheese slid off his cracker so many times he said “to hell with cheese ‘n’ crackers.” It is by the young at heart but old of bone who is led these days in a way he’d rather not go. But, this book is also for the gentle ones who’ve lived among wolves. It is for those who’ve broken free of a collar to romp in fields of love and marriage and divorce. It is for those who mourn, who’ve been mourning most of their lives, yet they hang on to shall be comforted. It is for those who’ve dreamed of entertaining angels but found instead a few friends of great price. It is for the younger and elder prodigals who’ve come to their senses again, and again, and again, and again. It is for those who strain at pious piffle because they’ve been swallowed by Mercy itself. This book is for myself and those who have been around the block enough times that we dare to whisper the ragamuffin’s rumor – all is grace.
thought he’d be farther along by now, but he’s not
he’d be good, but he wasn’t
showed the path to others but kept losing his way
the liar, tramp, and thief; otherwise known as the priest, speaker and author
”to hell with cheese ‘n’ crackers.”
lived among wolves
a few friends of great price
again, and again, and again, and again
all is grace
These are the lines where I choke back tears. Where I relate, empathize, sympathize, well with pride, and think of the perspective this sage wrote these words with. He knew he was headed ‘home’, he knew where he’d been, how he’d failed, what his accusers said, what his own inner disappointment and sense of shame screamed – and his message was this same – pick up your hat, shake the dust off your feet . all is grace
If you don’t often fail, fall, get it wrong, misstep, feel mediocre, or question. If you resolve, and keep your resolutions. If you are a goal maker and attainer. If you make lists and check marks and have many, many gold stars next to your name… If you are uncomfortable with grace – extending it or receiving it – because it is not something you have needed… This post, these words, this perpective is probably not very meaningful to you. But as one who finds herself in oft and desperate need of grace and new beginnings – these precious words from Brennan Manning ring deep and powerful – they “shake me [us] forward and shake me [us] free.” all is grace
The loss of Rich Mullins was tragic – I remember being in Uzbekistan and feeling such utter sadness at our great loss. all is grace
Brennan Manning poured out his life in words and love. all is grace
He gave what he had the best way that he could. His epic battle with utter depravity is over and he has met Love. all is grace
He is growing young as he rests in the arms of Abba. I am sure that he would charge us (from his perspective) that if we are to weep let us weep as ones who are longing for their Home… all is grace
Thank you Brennan Manning for sharing your potholes and pitfalls with us, so that we would not feel so isolated and alone in our own journey. Thank you for reminding us of the reckless, raging, fury that is called the Love of God. all is grace
Thank you for reinforcing to us that it is not to be contained within the four walls of steepled buildings, it is not according to the rules the way we think, but it is radical love, generous grace, and extreme empathy that transform people and communities. You expressed this perfectly on so many levels in the story of Fiorella LaGuardia who once took the bench of the poorest court in the city and heard a case of a woman who stole a loaf of bread during the depression to feed her kids. She was accused by a shopkeeper who indignantly decried, (essentially) “I should feed your kids, and starve mine? ” and “Should I feed every hungry mouth?” LaGuardia said, “the law is clear, you must be punished.” then promptly fined everyone in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a city where a woman has to steal a loaf of bread to feed her kids – he took off his hat – remitted her fine with a $20 bill from his own pocket, collecting $43, 50 cents of which was given by the shopkeeper from which she had stolen the loaf of bread. all is grace
Thank you Brennan for teaching my that Love Does long before it was a thing. Thank you for preparing me adequately that when Love Does, not everyone approves. Thank you for giving me the courage to believe that even when Love doesn’t seem in order among the places that it should be – family, church, community, friendships – there is one place that is always in order. Thank you for teaching me the prayer, “Abba, I belong to you.” Thank you for teaching me (long before the FB post) that to disagree with someone’s beliefs (even if it’s the church) doesn’t mean that you don’t love them – that love trumps all – but that all should be done in love – and if it is not, then it is not Love – this invaluable lesson helped me realize not everything is as it is labeled. Thank you for the countless other things far too private to type here, but that I am grateful for. Thank you most of all for my perspective, which I attribute in large part to the reading of your books. all is grace
Welcome home Brennan. Truly, all is grace.
April 1, 2013 § 5 Comments
It’s been a hell of a week for the people in our lives. Heartbreak. Difficulties. Cancer. Surgeries. ICU. Lost babies. Death. Late nights. International trials. Bad grades… And I haven’t gotten much sleep.
I’ve written three posts that I haven’t published.
There is not much in this life that is certain.
Mother Teresa has another quote that I really love that says, “I have found the truth that if you love until it hurts, that there is no more hurt, only more love.”
That’s really the point though isn’t it?
Loving people IS easy – it’s a bit of an obligation – “hate the sin, love the sinner”, my grandmother used to say that all the time.
I think I am more in the game of I love you and I like you.
Yeah – you do some really shitty stuff – it’s offensive… It’s likely that you’ll find some of what I do offensive as well, I hope that you’ll be a big enough person to like me anyway.
On the absolute certain occasion that I screw up, fail, hurt you, step out of line – or any number of other equally terrible offenses – please choose to love me despite me. I will do the same.
None of us deserve it, but my stars, aren’t we all desperate for a little reprieve from the unfailing difficulty of this life? Let’s find it in our most precious relationships! If we don’t, perhaps it’s a sign that it’s time to move on.
Recently I’ve been returning to some of my old favorite music.
I think mostly because so many people around me are suffering, and I feel so inadequate to comfort them.
Rather than words, I send music.
Perhaps I think if it comforted me, it will comfort them.
This Patty Song has been in my heart a lot lately:
For some reason I think about what this line means a lot, “your best intentions may not be enough.”
I can only type it with a deep sigh. As one with the best of intentions – that often fall far short of the original vision – the line offers voice to what my emotion finds ineffable.
Patty sings, “Someone will say what’s been said before, it’s only love that we’re looking for…”
This week as the emails, texts, and phone calls have come – As my own sense of inadequacy has come in waves… I am reminded that “it’s only love that we’re looking for.” It’s only love that I can even offer. (thank goodness – Lord knows I don’t have time or energy.)
In our most unreasonable moments – it is not reason or calm that we need – but love.
When our motive or intent is questioned – or when we are faced with one whom we are not sure of we can trust; there is one right answer – risk love.
When we are jealous of other’s happiness or they of ours – we should lean back hard into the truth that happiness is not a point of arrival, but a state of being – and decide for ourselves.
When we feel forgotten, our good deeds unseen, or as if there is an injustice we must defend – we must breathe deeply – it is the good done in secret that is our greatest treasure. May we seek to love and do good in ever increasing measure, and to decreasing accolade. I am no believer of altruism, but that we are able to discipline our motive and love is best given freely.
We do not live to answer to the fickle opinion of man, whose mood and opinion changes as quickly as our very own – whose intention is as fallible and weak as ours. When it feels as if the world has failed us, we might take refuge in the reality that it is simply composed of people like us, and when we feel that we have failed the world, we can rest assured – they will (or seemingly should) understand… And if not – (in the words of a great book) shake the dust off your feet and move along to the next house.
For me, when I lay my head down at night I answer to One. I am not always proud of that account, but I am thankful for the safe place, the abundant grace, and the new day.
I can tell you this, after this week of day after day of hearing difficult news and heart ache from the ones that I love (and the consistent struggle of my academic life) – I have never been more sure that if there is any love in my heart to give it is exigent that it be given.
Love is a risk.
There is no risk-free love, people are often even more difficult to like – but this life is hard and we need each other.
Any little thing we have to give – A kind word, help along the way, a shoulder to cry on, a cheerful visit, a loaf of bread, a shared meal, prayer, smiles, gentleness, forgiveness, believing the best… It means the most “when it don’t come easy.”
Patty and Mother Teresa – An unlikely pair, but this Easter Sunday they have been water to my soul. There’s nothing like beautiful music and the inspired word.