A Prayer for the Lovelorn

Recently I was listening to a friend describe some challenges in their love life and I was filled with empathy and sadness for them. The person they are in love with is what I refer to in my own mind as a “transactional lover.” To them love is an exchange. They provide their idea of love to get something in return. Sometimes what they are seeking is affection, rescue, financial security, comfort, friendship, even company… it can be many things. In exchange for it, they will be your lover, your partner, they will try to give you what you ask for.

The problem with these relationships is that both partners end up feeling that they are trying to earn each others love. On the one hand, the transactional lover feels obliged to give in to the partner to appease them to earn what they need from the relationship all the while resenting it. In their minds, they are earning, buying and paying for that “love” and they want whatever they feel they’ve negotiated.

The less transaction based partner who is unaware of this may just love unconditionally, gives freely and doesn’t really understand the dynamics at play. It may seem to them that no matter how much they give, reassure and love, it never seems to truly satisfy the transactional lover. They aren’t reassured, they can’t seem to really just settle down and commit to the relationship. It might feel that they always have one foot out the door. It’s true, because for the transactional person, the earning and striving to transact IS the relationship. The need to maintain the ability to walk away is how you maintain the power to renegotiate terms as needed. With a transactor, power always resides with the one who is most willing to walk away.The concept of loving unconditionally is foreign and unbelievable and the idea of willingly giving up power and being vulnerable to a loved one to demonstrate commitment seems a special kind of insanity.

The mismatch between these two styles can be incredibly painful, primarily for the person who is capable of unconditional love. Because most transactional lovers will see someone who is strong enough to love this way as weak, will view them as easily manipulated and have little respect for them. Their indifference, power games, inability to recognize the gifts they are being offered are deeply offensive to the psyche of the more open and vulnerable unconditional lover who is laying their whole heart out in a display of remarkable courage.  Unconditional lovers see this relentless manipulation and game playing by the transactional lover and often choose to overlook it and give anyway, out of love. They hope that somehow security and repeated demonstrations of acceptance, reassurance and love will eventually soothe the soul of the person they love. Alas, in my experience it doesn’t happen.

If someone doesn’t believe in unconditional love, they are not only unable to return it, which is what my friend really deserves, they are unable to see it, believe it, even accept it from someone else.

The hardest part when you are in such a situation is acknowledging that there is nothing you can do to help them see the world the way you do. If you think about real love, true love…think of your mother, father,  your children, of course they don’t have to do anything to earn your love. They just are, and that’s enough. You’ll know someone is important to you when it’s not what they do for you or how they make you feel, so much as when you think of them you are just so happy and filled with warmth and joy that you know them. Their existence is enough for you. That’s real love.

It’s hard to let go of people. It’s hard to learn how to lose. Accepting loss is one of those things I’ve written about before. It’s just a part of life that has to be faced, embraced and lived. It will hurt. It will heal. It takes time. I personally work hard to stay in a place of acceptance every day. I choose to believe that those of us who love unconditionally are blessed. I know I found my way here through many struggles and losses. I finally believe I deserve to be loved the same way in return. God loves me this way. I have him if no one else. I love people this way and that’s OK. If someday, God wills it, perhaps someone will look into me and find me that lovable as well.

I pray this for my friend. I hope they come to believe that the ability they have to love deserves that kind of love in return. I hope they come to believe that happiness and joy can be their lot in life. There is no one I know that deserves it more. They have been through so much, learned how to make good decisions from making bad ones, drawn close to God and they have one of the most generous and giving spirits of anyone I’ve ever known. I hope that they can trust that God will see them through.

So I’m sending out a special poem/prayer for my friend. It always makes me feel better, find a little peace:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,

For you are my Father.

prayer of abandonment – charles de foucauld
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This May Get A Little Controversial

While I haven’t updated as frequently as I have wanted to that’s because there has been so much happening. I have been polishing up my online presence, giving my old consulting site a facelift, a Facebook page and reactivating it’s Twitter feed. I’ve been sorting through the way too many websites and blogs I’ve left littered all over the place in the last few years to try and determine what to leave up and what to take down in preparation for launching my book. I’ve also been working on the integrated social  media strategy for it, because of course, online is interwoven into the plot. How could it not be when I swear I think part of my brain is somehow wirelessly connected to the Internet already? That reminds me, I need to open a savings account to start putting away some dollar bills for Google’s Project Glass. Talk about tech lust. That has my name written all over it.

Here’s what THAT is:

I read a little bit of the Bible (NRSV) every night. I just open a random page and see what’s there ya’ know? Last night I opened it and it fell to a page that started about midway through the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew 5:14 which began with “You are the light of the world” and continued through the admonition to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” One of my all time favorite verses is in the middle of the page, I wish everyone would take it to heart which is Matthew 5:42 “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Notice it says nothing about checking to see if they deserve it or what they are going to spend it on.

Anyway I bring this up simply because that Rep. Akin who talked about “legitimate” rape made a lot of women feel persecuted with his careless words. I am guessing there are already some people who think women are making too big of a deal over it. Actually I am sure of it. While I think this man shouldn’t be in any position to make laws or policy, I don’t want to be angry at him. I just want to forgive. Oddly enough, after reading an earlier post by Eve Ensler that moved me more than I can say because it captured the pain his words engendered, The Onion posted an article that made me laugh my ass off. After reading it, I was able to let go of my anger and forgive. I still think he should quit, but you know, I can pray for him. Pray for him to find understanding. Pray for him to retire. Even if you aren’t looking to forgive, I think you will still really enjoy this article.

I’ve mentioned that I’d been researching the Marines because of a character in my forthcoming book. I also met someone who even though I’ve only known them a short while is one of those people that nudges you into a new way of looking at the world. I wish I knew them better than I do, but even the small amount of time I have spent with them was enough to open my eyes and engage my deeply passionate heart about the issues facing active duty military and veterans who’ve returned from combat. My own almost painful sensitivity to people who are suffering already makes me naturally empathetic to issues facing warriors who are wounded both physically and mentally. In fact I would say that the hidden wounds call to me even more.

God has blessed me with many gifts and some challenges as well. One of the gifts has been an eidetic visual memory and the ability to hold and process  seeming incredible amounts of information in my head. I also periodically come across a problem, issue, or subject area that calls to me and nothing will do but for me to quite literally digest every bit of usable information I can find on the topic and and anything that relates to it. I consume it voraciously with an appetite that does not end until a kind of information map is created in my mind and connections and solutions start appearing. They are usually connections and solutions that are new because no one has aggregated the kinds of sources I do before.

Because of the almost visceral way I am plugged into the Internet and my instinctive understanding of how information is added, circulated, archived and indexed, it makes it easier for me to find unique as well as standardized sources of information. Once I start to identify causal relationships, dependent conditions, redundancies, all the little islands of duplicate efforts and all the places where there is no communication…things really start to cook. That’s where I am right now. So that is something that is happening in the back of my mind while I am also consulting on documenting peanut butter manufacturing processes and trying to finish my book.

The friend who started all of this isn’t much in my life though I pray every day that that could be different. When we do get to check in, they offer much needed feedback and input to help me direct my energy and most recently steered me into working to develop a concrete plan that we could perhaps work to execute together to make a real difference in the lives of many who are suffering. It would mean a lot to me to help even one sufferer. The recent soldier suicide report was extremely upsetting and left me very shaken. Especially if you consider it only took into account the month of July for one branch of the service, the Army, which isn’t even the force that is serving most heavily in Afghanistan… that would be the Marines. It also doesn’t take into account the number of suicides by Veterans who’ve recently returned or in the other branches of US Military service. Bottom line: No one in our military should feel alone or unsupported.

I don’t give a rat’s ass if you don’t support the war, the administration or whatever. YOU ALWAYS SUPPORT OUR TROOPS! Why? I can’t believe I have to explain this to anyone. They are attempting to live a life of service to this country. In many countries a year of service is mandatory. Service to others, your community, your neighbors, your fellow brothers and sisters in uniform and your country is something to admire and be proud of.

Our armed forces don’t “die for nothing.” If I ever see that posted in a comment on a website again I think I will lose it… I swear. What an utterly insensitive, cruel, judgmental and wrongheaded thing to say. I understand feeling helpless, angry and sad when young people die in service, especially in a war you may not support. But you need to respect that sacrifice and understand that they didn’t die for some political reason…they died to protect their brothers and sisters, their unit, the ideals we stand for as a country which in many cases is about being the representative of justice, compassion and protection for civilians who have no one to stand between them and death. That’s what America has always tried to stand for, the side of good, the side of justice. Sometimes I read posts where people say, why us? Why should we be out there helping those people? I don’t know…maybe because we are a tiny fragment of the Earth’s population but we use the majority of its resources. Don’t we have a responsibility to give something back in return? Shouldn’t we honor agreements we’ve made with allies? Don’t we have a duty to keep commitments to people who risked everything to help us find and reduce the threats to our nation?

I’ve recently heard from veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts that people have looked at them with disgust when finding out they served in combat. That they’ve been treated shamefully by Americans who feel distaste at reasons we were in Iraq. They had no control over that. I am such a peaceful, compassionate person but I wept silently and was filled with a kind of fierce protectiveness to hear the break in such strong men’s voices, to hear shame for something they had nothing to be ashamed of. To hear stories of young men overcome by it and killing themselves rather than facing that kind of hostility the rest of their lives. Did we learn nothing from Vietnam? I was born after that war but my family raised me to understand that the way veterans were treated during that time was one of America’s greatest shames. How can it possibly be happening again?

All I ask if you are reading this is to please check any knee jerk reaction you might have to the military and the “war.” The people fighting it are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands. Their spouses, children, mothers and fathers are living here in agony waiting for news, dealing with news or trying to adjust to the changed person who has returned.

These folks who enlisted are mostly kids who went in for lots of different reasons, unsurprisingly a lot of them come from poorer families and they were looking for a steady paycheck to provide for a family or a chance to go to college or learn a trade. They dedicated themselves. They worked so hard to make it and then they serve in dangerous and unforgiving places around the world to meet the needs of our country. Honor them. Check this stuff out. Listen to your heart and see where it’s calling you. The media is barely covering this stuff and I can’t tell you how isolating it is to the families to know that America seems to have virtually forgotten them. I know people better than that. They are just like I was, they hadn’t crossed paths with someone who gave them a nudge and changed the way they saw the world forever. I now wish it for everyone.

Tonight I am praying a special prayer. It goes out to my friend and to all those who are suffering.

Father please be with those who are alone with their fretful thoughts tonight. Quiet the images, the noise, the restlessness and the fear. Soothe them, nurture them, give them peace and balm so that they find deep slumber and rest. Stay with them through the night, comfort them, those they love and those who love them. Be with them as they wake, at their rising and as they go about their work…whatever comes. Guard them and protect them, waking or sleeping, always surrounding them with your love. All this I pray in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thanks and Prayer

If you can believe it, the Devil Dog in Charge of Ask-A-Marine has already gotten back to me in answer to my many questions! I can’t thank him enough. If you have any questions related to the Marines, they are definitely the place to start. With the information he gave me I could see my character come completely into focus.

I kicked off my consulting work today. I am looking forward to knowing everything there is to know about making organic peanut butter, but more importantly getting to interview each person and learn it from them. My first interview was extra fun because I had actually met this employee before. The change of scene also flipped that switch I mentioned creatively and I’ve had a killer idea related to my book. It was the best part of my day and it gave me goosebumps. I’ve learned to recognize those moments as almost divine inspiration. Super psyched.

However in the bad news department I have had a friend fall off the radar and I am taking it very hard. I don’t have any verification that it has to do with me, but I am afraid it does. I think I am most upset because I fear that I did something to damage our friendship. I don’t make friends easily and I value them so highly when I do. At this point there is nothing I can do, it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation. I have to wait and see if they ever want to reach out and if not just accept it. It is almost the worst thing I can imagine to think of someone having to avoid me on purpose. The shame and embarrassment quite literally makes me sick to my stomach. So, yeah, a little queasy today. I have mentioned so often that you should not act from fear, yet here I am doing just that. I suppose it’s in fear that I am inadvertently hurting someone I care about, which is a good reason. I just won’t risk that. The Lord knows I am completely here for my friend in every way if I am mistaken, I just don’t want to impose on them at all.

I wish, wish, wish I had a better sense of boundaries. I think one of the residual effects of my near death experience has always been that people seem to have blurry lines. I see into them more than I should, which is probably why I think people are so amazing and beautiful. But it makes it crazy hard to know when I’ve crossed a line when I don’t see lines well. Sometimes that can be an incredible gift when I instinctively reach out to people to comfort, help, heal, other times it can make me an awkward fool. Like now I suspect.

So tonight I am praying for my friend, though they are far away and may be well shot of me or may be in some sort of difficulty or trouble: Father I ask that you watch over them, at their waking and their sleeping, hide them under the shadow of your wing, be with them faithfully to guide their steps, comfort them, heal them and protect them in this life and in the life to come. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Prayer for Thanksgiving

I asked God to take away my pain.
God said, No. It is not for me to take away,
but for you to give it up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, No. Her spirit was whole, her body was only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience.
God said No. Patience is a by-product of tribulations;
it isn’t granted, it is earned.
I asked God to give me happiness.
God said No. I give you blessings.
Happiness is up to you.
I asked God to spare me pain.
God said No. Suffering draws you apart from
worldly cares and brings you closer to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, No. You must grow on your own,
but I will prune you to make you more fruitful.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, No. I will give you life so that you
can enjoy all things.
I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as
He loves me. God said…..Ahhhhh, finally you have the idea.

—Author Unknown

 

 

My first sermon!!

Before I post my sermon I have to mention that it was unlike anything I’ve ever done. I will confess that it felt amazing, right, golden. I was so worried about giving it I didn’t even think about people responding to it afterward! After it was over, so many people came up to me to say in their words “how much I liked it and how honest it was, vulnerable in all the right places”. One woman even came up to me and said her kids, notorious squirmers, “hung on every word.” I was about to die from embarrassed pleasure.Tonight one of her kids even came up to me to tell me she liked it. I’ve never had so much affirmation. My visiting family were so wonderful too. My mom recorded it on her cellphone and just looked smug and proud. Not smug in a bad way but more like…it was proof that this journey we are on is the right one. I kept finding myself blushing and feeling a little overwhelmed at the response. I was so anxious about giving it. I think I was using it as a litmus test, a referendum on whether I am doing the right thing. I feel pretty darn certain, but I still am a little disbelieving that I might actually get to do this for the rest of my life. It is the custom in the Episcopal church to say a short prayer before getting to the sermon and that will be included at the start of it. Considering how much I worried about it, it just seemed to flow right out when I needed it to. Thank God for that.

Matthew 13:1-23

Come Holy Spirit and kindle in us, the fire of your love.

Take our minds and think through them,

Take our lips and speak through them,

Take our souls and set them on fire.

Amen

Like many Episcopalians, I have spent much of my life having the Bible read to me every Sunday. I used to think of reading it myself, but every time I cracked it open, the format, the language, even some of the content made it difficult for me to follow. So a few years ago I decided that I just had to do something about that. I went to a Christian bookstore to pick out a new Bible, and stumbled upon The Message. I don’t know how many of you have read it, but it is a paraphrase and not an actual translation and it can be comical in its choice of language in some parts. It made the Bible seem friendlier, more approachable somehow. For the first time I was able to read the Bible cover to cover.

There are lots of problems with the Message; the liberties taken with language can be surprising and shocking. Here’s an example: in the New International Version, Matthew verse 22 reads: All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s Message through his prophet. In the Message it says: This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term.

This had the effect of making me wonder what it said in the familiar King James Version or better yet, the original Greek. Soon I had amassed quite a collection of Bibles and my reading usually involved many of them.

Today’s Gospel reading recounts Jesus telling his disciples a story in the form of a Parable. The interesting and wonderful thing about parables is that you can read them over and over again and take something new away every time. In Reverend Thompson’s class on Parables he noted that the Sower is profligate in his spreading of the seed. That God is always spreading the word and His love, and that it falls on all kinds of soil: shallow, rocky, weedy… yet he is unstinting in his sowing. A peasant at the time wouldn’t waste seed like this. He’d carefully plant and husband it.

I thought about that and the idea of God raining his love down upon us always, generously, patiently waiting for a good harvest. That is comforting, exciting and also a little bit scary. Because it made me wonder, what kind of soil am I?

Honestly… I think I have been more than one.

For many years in my childhood and youth, the word of God was something that punctuated the moments in the service between hymns. I really loved singing as a child and that’s what I liked about church.

I would say the seed was a little wasted on me at that point. Fallen on the footpaths of my inattention.

As I grew older, while actually listening to sermons I would start to feel an inkling of God’s presence, and the reality of the good news. When I was in church this would fill me with energy, I would sign up for lots of things and then inevitably lose interest.

I was willing to do a little for God, but not much. Kind of like a friend you don’t see too often. You might give them a call or meet now and then, but you aren’t really committed to being a part of their daily life, or having them as part of yours. My soil was rocky and shallow.

In my early 30’s I really began to understand some of the messages that God has sent us. The truly revolutionary nature of Jesus’ call to follow Him… no doubt a natural consequence of actually reading the Bible.

I was becoming more committed in my relationship to God, but He was still a sidebar, an afterthought. After all, I was raising a daughter all by myself, excelling at a high powered career and trying to be a good citizen too. I had so many people and constituencies to please that I failed to please any of them. Bills, job stress, and the process of day to day life choked out my passion for God. My soil was littered with weeds.

But something stuck with me. In the back of my mind, whirring away, I continued to puzzle and piece together the meanings of what I was reading and hearing every Sunday. I didn’t really want to believe it. I mean what would happen if I had the kind of relationship with God that he was asking for?

I could only imagine.

Quit my job? Devote my life to charity? Make my whole life about Him? My heart lurched in fear. I looked around at the people I knew, and none of them seemed to be troubled by this element of the Bible.

I remember sitting in the National Cathedral one Sunday and thinking, if I could do this every day, worship and think about God I would be very content. Something I wasn’t used to feeling.

So I submitted, I gave in. I prayed that God would use my life as He willed. And something amazing happened. I went to my rector and talked to him, telling him all about my feelings. He encouraged me to listen to that small, still voice. He helped me understand that I was starting to feel what God can do when you invite him into your life wholeheartedly.

I left my career, went back to college and made God the center of my life. I started to get to say Yes a lot. Could I teach Sunday School? Yes! Could I serve at the altar? Yes! Could I give a sermon? Well, I can try!

I only worried about pleasing a constituency of one. Not me…God.

It’s too soon to tell whether I will be the good harvest!

But it really might not matter. Because the Good News is that there are always some favorable responses, some growth. It doesn’t matter how many, it will be enough. God provides the increase.

The story of the sower is not a scary message, it is an optimistic one. It says that God is calling us always into relationship, into PARTNERSHIP with Him. We can use our free will and choose to work with God to make the future better than the past.

God purposely limits Himself in order to create this partnership. To let us choose Him. Otherwise we would be automatons, going through the motions and blindly obeying in absolute certainty.

There is an old story that illustrates this: A minister and a parishioner were talking about her garden. The minister complimented her, saying “What a beautiful garden you and God have made.” Response? “You should have seen it when God was doing it alone.”

Jesus makes it clear in the story that God wants Him and all His followers to sow the seed. To work at growing. Even in a difficult and indifferent world. God will provide the soil, the sun and the rain to carry out His share of the partnership. That’s why he sows so generously.

Jesus understood the tension between self-centeredness and God-centeredness. After all, it took Him 40 days in the wilderness to put aside his desire for popularity and power. It might take us a little longer, but the seed will keep falling, and eventually our world will be transformed.

AMEN

The Vigil

After we did the Maundy Thursday service, mom and I went and had dinner. We had committed to a prayer shift at church from 12:00 midnight to 1 a.m. The church hired security and at least 2 members of the congregation at a time spent the whole night praying for Jesus. The lights were off except for one that lit the altar. After praying, I took out my Oxford annotated bible and read each Gospel’s account of the Passion and then a couple of Psalms. Barkley was in a pew ahead of us for about a half an hour.

The time went so much faster than I expected and it immersed me in the spirit of the holiday.
It’s very moving to imagine what Christ did. The idea that he would willingly lay down his life to create a new covenant is courageous and faithful. Even if was only a prophet, how much more amazing is it that his complete faith in God inspired so many. That’s not the lesson of the Passion, but I can’t help but imagine knowing him, or putting myself in his place. Based on my own experience of the intermittent nature of revelation, despite your conviction, there is plenty of time for doubt to build. The praying in the garden illustrates that for me. That up until the end he wasn’t positive that this was what he was supposed to do.

I’ve often felt that way. I only hope I can in some small way live up to the example set by Jesus.