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God said itToday, this nation experienced the worst mass shooting in our history, and the whole world is in mourning. A man with an assault rifle entered a gay bar in Florida and began shooting. According to the FBI, he may have had leanings toward extreme Islamic ideologies.

There’s so much to say about this event. I started this post, hoping to remain calm and keep a reverential tone in order to pay my respects those souls lost, but as I listen to details on the news, I feel myself simmering.

There are so many reasons to be outraged.

I’d say, “don’t get me started,” but don’t look now. It’s too late!

A semi-automatic rifle? Why in the world are such weapons available commercially in the state of Florida?

Attacking people because they’re gay? What does that have to do with anyone else’s life? How does one lose anything because someone else found love?

Doing this in the name of religion? There’s no way in the world that God would sanction this crime against humanity.

Trying to instill fear in the name of a terrorist group? I hate to break this newsflash, but it’s actually having the opposite effect all across the country.

At the Tony Awards ceremony tonight, actor Frank Langella said this in his acceptance speech: “When something bad happens, we can use that moment to define us, to destroy us, or to strengthen us.”

We join hands with the world in prayer today, for the souls to rest, for the families to heal, and for those seeking peace to find consolation.

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healingI know.  This probably seems like an odd choice to represent healing as far as some of your are concerned.  But the reality is that we need some serious healing in this country and one of the biggest wounds relates to race.  As I work on my second book with Duchess Harris, I’m still getting flack for the first, Black Lives Matter.  Just last week it was carefully explained to me that by not allowing black children to ignore the realities of their lives in the caring environment of school, I am giving them toxic stress.  We need to heal but to heal we need to open our eyes.

–SueBE

Six long weeks: That’s how long I’ve been dealing with a one-two knockout combo of pneumonia and acute bronchitis. I am 90% healed now, by the grace of God, but still dealing with two minor complaints — mild pain in my chest and the loss of my upper register. My voice, my singing voice anyway, is gone.

This (mostly) has not caused me much woe. I do enjoy singing, around the house and in church. It is disconcerting to reach for a note and have nothing come out of one’s mouth. I miss how pretty my voice could sound. But I have faith that it will return eventually.

More disconcerting, by far, was the loss of my other voice — my writing voice. I’ve been absent from this blog for three weeks, mostly out of exhaustion and a need to heal. But those are not the only reasons. My illness made me lose my voice, the one I use to reach out to others, the one I need to delve into my own soul. It is difficult to feel creative when one’s life has been reduced to a preoccupation with drawing breath. Just inflating my lungs without pain was enough of a project to sustain me.

Or was it? Yes, when a person is sick, her world becomes smaller, more focused on her physical being. But it doesn’t mean her inner life stops altogether. It gets put on hold, perhaps. It gets stifled, maybe.

A good friend told me that in Eastern medicine, diseases of the lung are often associated with grief, especially unresolved grief. I have that in spades. And it made me think: Maybe that last 10%, that last push to the finish line of wellness that my body has yet to travel…maybe I need to heal my soul before my body can follow.

So here it is: Please, God, help to express what is unexpressed in me. Bring back my voice, loud and clear, so that my vocal cords might follow.

This may take some time. In the meantime, I’ll practice. I hope you won’t mind — it might not sound so good at first. Please be patient with me.

Not gonna lie; I’m kind of falling apart right now. I’m beset with a host of physical complaints — too small to dignify by naming, but taken together, quite wearying. And I’m mourning four deaths in seven months, with another looming. I’m tired and sore in spirit and flesh. The up side? I’m ripe for a resurrection, just in time for Easter.

In her book A Tree Full of Angels: Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary, Marcrina Wiederkehr writes about the voids in our beings, and how they provide God space to work within us. In other words, I may be at my shabbiest now, full of holes, but those very holes give God space to fill me, heal me, work God’s grace within me.

Sure, it would be nice to be wholly holy. But that doesn’t give God any room to maneuver, to effect change. God not only accepts us as ragged and full of holes, God loves us this way. As long as we are open to God’s presence in us, filling and patching and making us new, we have the opportunity for real greatness. And real grace.

So as holey as I feel right now, I know I’m in a good place. In fact, I couldn’t be in a better one. I’m ready for God to enter the voids and to make me whole. There couldn’t be a better time for it. Happy Easter, everyone!

I’ve got an iron-clad faith in God, to be sure, but my friends know that I’ve also got a lot of new-agey ideas and curious quirks.  I tend to see signs from God in almost everything.  I also believe that I’m supposed to learn from hardship, so I analyze everything that happens like a CSI investigator.

My theory is that I was scheduled to develop MS at 63, but due to the stresses of an awful job, it came on early, at age 36.  I had put the memory of that terrible workplace behind me, until a few months ago, when the cab brought me to the door of the Infusion Center where I’d be receiving treatment every month.

This can’t be right.  Can it?  I didn’t realize I had said this aloud.

The cab driver said, “Yes ma’am.  This is the address you gave me.”

I didn’t speak for a moment.

“Ma’am?  Are you all right?”

I nodded, but I wasn’t sure.

Even though I’m generally somewhat shy, I actually felt the need to pray out loud.

“Is this where you want me to go, Lord?”

The cab driver was unfazed.  He felt comfortable answering for the Maker of All Things, apparently.

“Do you need what they give you here, Miss?” he asked quietly.

The answer was obvious to me.

“Yes.  I really do.”

“Then that is your answer.” 

New Jersey may be the world center for Wise Cab Drivers.  He got a very nice tip, and I thanked him.  I felt comfortable saying “God bless you,” which I’m very cagey about saying to anyone.  It has, on occasion, offended a person or two, so I don’t offer it freely.

You see, this was the place where I had worked for fourteen years, and for the last few, it had been a nightmare.  It was where I first started to notice that the headaches never went away, and that my fingers were starting to go numb.  It was where a deep depression set in, and a constant state of anxiety took hold. It’s where everything in my life seemed to start to unravel.

But it was no longer the same place.  I tossed a coin in my mind and decided to see it differently now.  It was a place of healing.  It had been totally revamped and reconfigured, and the place that had been my office was now a large room where patients sat with their IVs, being tended to by the caring nurses.  There were pillows and reclining chairs, relaxing music and fresh coffee.  If you didn’t know better, you might even mistake it for a day-spa.

“I used to work here, kind of…” I said to the receptionist after she signed me in.  “Really?” she asked.  I said, “It used to be a different company, and I sat right over there by that window.”

“Weird!” she said, and looked over at the window.  “Does it look the same?”

It didn’t.  And I decided it would no longer feel the same.  I realized that God moved in mysterious ways, and maybe He was allowing me to achieve some kind of closure on that era of my life.  That place doesn’t even exist anymore, my child.  Those days are over, and all I have for you here is healing.

I sat back in my chair, feeling the cold liquid coursing through my veins, grateful for so many things: Cab Drivers with an Inordinate Amount of Life Experience; the medicine that would bring back the feeling in my feet and hands; open doors and second chances.  I thanked God that hearts and minds can be revamped and reconfigured, and that even after a deep, dark night, joy still comes in the morning.

Here in central Jersey, everyone’s talking about the Rutgers webcam trial.

Two young people, adult in name only, were living for the first time outside of their natural habitats in a college dorm.

Each of them had always kept to their own kind, as most of us do.  When they finally got into the real world, all they knew of each other was based on racial profiling and schoolyard stereotypes.

Darhun Ravi texted to a friend that he wanted to “Keep the gays away.”

Tyler Clementi texted to a friend that his new roommate’s family “Probably owned a Dunkin Donuts.”

Distance is measured in degrees, and this space between them eventually became a wall. Ravi turned his webcam on while Clementi was on a date with a man, “tweeting” to friends about it. This violation of privacy led Clementi to end his own life.

Early on, Ravi was offered a plea bargain that would have kept him from being sentenced to serious jail time, but his family refused it.  His father spoke to the press just prior to the verdict being announced.

“My son was not raised to have hate in his heart. We are not hateful people. My wife and I are not like that. We have not raised our family to be like that. I know my son, and he is not a hateful person. Whatever he did to Tyler was not out of bias toward him,” Pazhani Ravi said.

The part of this quote that stood out to me was “My wife and I are not like that.”  As if, we could never have produced a child who would do hateful things since we are not hateful people. But our teenagers are more influenced by their peers and YouTube than our values, no matter what we might believe.  Character is no longer a family heirloom.

Ravi was found guilty and will be sentenced to jail time and possibly deported. The trial may be over, but the pain lingers on.  If only there was a way to get to know each other before we form an opinion. It doesn’t feel like the healing has even started yet.

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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