Prayer Worrier

 

SONY DSCI’ve got this friend. She is really great and when I meet great people I like to get my dirty laundry aired right away. Can’t hide it forever, I figure, and she might as well know sooner about my warts and all.
“I worry a lot,” I told her early in the friendship.
She, being the kindly type, smiled beneficently and kept being my friend.
But I knew immediately she wasn’t a worrier * and had barely an inkling of what worry felt like. It was not a shared shortcoming.

Something else about this friend. She hasn’t had one of those pain-free lives that one would think might result in a non-worrier.
No, she has known loss and heartache.
But worry was not woven into her DNA.
It is in mine.

Worry has twisted itself so intricately in the fiber of my being that if you tried to remove it I would unravel.

I don’t know if my grandparents were worriers. My mom was the “I knew someone who did stupid thing (We’ll call it A) and this bad thing (B) happened, so by gum, you aren’t going to do A which ensures you won’t fall victim to B” type of worrier. Her fears were grounded in historical precedent.

Daddy, on the other hand, lived in a world of “If it could happen, if my mind has imagined it, it will probably happen.”
If there was a thunderstorm he would come upstairs in the middle of the night to get us downstairs. Lightning just might strike us in our beds. He worried we would be scalded in the shower if the hot water heater went bat-poo crazy. He worried that knives in the dish drainer would invert themselves, sharp end up, and his children, passing the sink, would trip and fall on said knife.

When I was pregnant with #2, and #1 wasn’t walking yet, Dad watched me walk down the steps from our second floor apartment carrying #1 on the bump containing #2. He was so relieved to see me feel for each riser with my heel. Why? Because he’d been envisioning (in the greatest of detail) me missing a step and hurtling all three of us into the oblivion of the first floor.

Dad. Ah, that lovely man had taken his natural-born worry and honed it with the dedication of a craftsman.

So I come by it honestly.

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t worry, especially about my loved ones.
But I also worried that the library would run out of books and our family would run out of money.
I worried that since my older sister bore 3 children, the world would be pushed to its population limits and I could only have one, to even the familial quota. I worried about wars and rumors of wars but also was concerned about how world finances would fare with no war-based economic boons. Facebook has given me new vistas of worry. Sometimes, in one day, I will have to decide whether I am more worried that the food in my fridge, the light bulbs in the sockets or the wicks in the candles will poison us the fastest. Don’t get me started on the anxiety about cryptic postings from friends like “I can’t go on” or ”So help me, he will never see another sunrise.” And the honey bees! You know about THAT potential tragedy, right?

Are you worried about me yet? Can you tell these aren’t the normal fears and concerns that are part of growing up and getting older?

I get all excited that cranes and herons and eagles have made a comeback. But then I worry. Is the food chain long enough to support all these big critters? I pat myself on the back when we have money saved up because I am shopping less. But then I worry. Who is supporting the economy? Who is buying stuff? And you know that people are living longer. Fabulous! Who is going to take care of them all?

Got a praise? I’ve got a worry for that.

I’m not certain many other people worry as frequently or with as much lunacy as I do.
That worries me.

By now are your biting your tongue, wanting to shout the verses at me that tell me to “be anxious in nothing?” Don’t you want to remind me that anxiety is a manifestation of doubt in God?

You’re probably right and if it makes you feel better, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about my lack of faith and trust.

But I can’t really change. Worry is my crack, my twist, a birth defect. Like all weaknesses, God’s strength can be made perfect in it. When a worry comes to mind, it can drive me to my knees. I can be in deep and constant prayer for my family, friends, church, nation, creation. Maybe this is how God chose to make me turn even more to Him. My worry leads me to the Lord. And I can be reminded, when guilt about my worry-prone sin nature threatens to overwhelm me, that Christ died for the sin of anxiety too.

 

*This friend’s husband is a pilot. She never worried about him. Until the September 11 attacks. On his first flight, after air traffic was allowed to resume, she felt an odd sensation. “And I had to wonder,” she told me, “if that was what worry felt like?”

The Right to Bear Opinions

 

SONY DSCAmericans are guaranteed the right to our opinions. We love this right. We wield it all the time.

If we set it to music it could be our alternate anthem:

I have a right to my opinion, it’s a part of me
Don’t question my op-in-i-on; we’ll agree to disagree.

Wars have been fought so we have the right to bear opinions.

But with such a great right comes equally great responsibility.
Sure, we may have the constitutional right to bear opinions. But opinions, misused, can be full of sound and fury, signifying the boorishness of the bearer. At best. Opinions become downright perilous when sprayed about indiscriminately, with little regard for the wounds they cause and the wreckage they leave behind.

Possibly those bearing opinions should pass some basic requirements before they can be counted as registered opinion bearers, to wit:

-Opinion bearer will have at least 70% accurate knowledge regarding the subject of each opinion, or refrain from voicing the opinion until knowledge is attained.

-A “cooling off” period will be required before the discharge of an explosive opinion.

-Opinion bearer will take responsibility for misuse of those opinions.

-A previous record of misusing opinions to the detriment of others or to the process of logical reasoning will result in delay of permit to bear a new and potentially more powerful opinion.

-Opinions will be aired for pleasure, recreation, debate, discussion or in self defense, and never intentionally, with malice of forethought, to cause harm to others and to the process of logical reasoning.

-Bearers of opinions agree that, although the right is guaranteed, an opinion is not required on every issue, matter, dogma, or bit of gossip.

-Assault weapon opinions will not be employed when BB gun opinions will suffice.

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Fellow Americans, we should bear our opinions with respect and caution and dignity.

But of course, that is just my opinion.

The Non-Elastic Clause

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Here’s how it works:
We are, at birth, issued heart sections to fill with emotions.
Most sections are fairly elastic—the Puppy Love area, for example.
At age 13 it expands so far that it actually moves beyond the heart wall and into areas such as the voice box, (rendering it speechless when speaking to the Object of Affection), and the stomach, (startling dormant butterflies into violent action at the sight of the same Object of Affection).

But the Object of Affection eventually loses his/her luster and the Puppy Love section shrinks down to almost nothing till inflated by True Love.
The same is true of the ‘Need for Speed’ area predominant in teen boys-—it oozes past the heart and squeezes shut Common Sense and Self-Preservation areas of the brain, but by daddyhood has assumed manageable proportions.

Unfortunately the elastic clause isn’t binding on the Emotions for Parents Area (EPA).
A certain amount of heart space is delegated and we’re required to keep it filled at all times.
It has a non-elastic clause.
When we were infants, every nook and cranny of the Emotions for Parent Area is filled with Need. A bit older and we don’t Need parents for minute-to-minute survival, so some Need is replaced with Love.
Love ebbs and flows as Resentment, Desire for Approval, and Utter Humiliation jockey for position in the space allotted.
But the EPA retains its original volume requirements.

For many sad reasons, Hate, Blame, or Regret sometimes wriggle in. These make it difficult for Love to survive in the Emotions for Parents Area. (A sobering note: Whatever fills this area will  seep into and affect  Friend Love, True Love, Offspring Love, etc.)

In the normal course of events, by adulthood most of us find our EPA filled almost completely with Love, Respect and Concern, and as our parents age, Compassion and Anxiety find space.
What happens to those of us who had to say goodbye to parents? We think “If only I could have had them for a few more years, I’d be able to handle the loss better.”

Not true. The Emotions for Parents Area of your heart has a non-elastic clause, remember?
Parents could live to be 100 and there would be exactly the same amount of emotion to be lavished on them.
Those who have lost parents have a big heart part filled at first with Ache.
Then Affectionate Memories begin to replace some (but never all) of Ache, allowing room for Gratitude and Honor, all of which are highlighted by Love.
And the non-elastic clause means you will carry those emotions in full measure all of your days.

The Enchanted Granny

 

DSC06066.jpgIt was a bad idea. My husband said, “This is a bad idea.” But I suffer from an enchanted condition called ‘Grandmother.’ The spell works differently in different grandmas, but I’ve been told that, when fully under its power, I am blinded to any defects in my grandchildren. Past disasters are blotted from my memory and possible future chaoses are bedazzled by blind optimism.

My two oldest grandsons, ages 2 and 3, both wanted to sit with my husband (Grampy) my youngest son (Uncle K) and myself (Granny) in church.
I said yes and led the two small boys to our customary seat.
Families with small children usually sit in back.
Our customary seat is middling-front.
In the area frequented by people who came that day foolishly assuming they were going to hear an entire worship service.

My husband slipped in to my left. “This is a bad idea.”

“No. It will be fine! Three adults and only two little ones? We can separate them. Besides, they are playing with their church toys.”

I folded my hands as the pastor began to pray, ready to offer a silent postscript of gratitude for these wonderful little blessings.
We didn’t even make it through “Dear Father in Heaven.”

Did you know that church toys, contrary to all that is right and good and expected, are cursed with a dreadful spell?
EACH TOY is under enchantment to make it alluring and desirable ONLY WHEN ONE’S COUSIN IS PLAYING WITH IT.
As soon as the magical toy is wrest from the grip of the other, its enchantment dissipates.

Did you know that small children are shape-shifters? They change into eels that slither around and between adult legs to reach each other. Their 30-pound frames transmute to several tons of bonelessness when an adult attempts a leverage-and-lift.

You know how beavers have that extra eyelid that closes in water?
The magical human variety have a mudflap that descends over the eardrum in public.
It flips down  at the first sound of “SHHHHH! We’re praying!” or “It’s not your turn” or “Do you want a timeout?”
The mudflap rolls back up at the smallest vibration of a fruit snack package crinkled anywhere in the building, which triggers the vocal chords which immediately demand, in a roar also heard to the limits of the building, “I want a snack, Granny!”

I have a magic bag of tricks. I call it my purse and it contains everything that could address any conceivable physical emergency. It contained fruit snacks. The magical children made them disappear in 3.7 ( blessedly silent) seconds. Then these amazing creatures turned the purse upside down and— ABRACADABRA! 28 sq. liters of stuff came out of my 8”x10” handbag.

For their next trick, they levitated my artfully-tied fashion scarf from around my neck. A lively discussion between the cousins ensued. #1 thought he should wear the scarf around his head. Pirate style. #2 disagreed. It should be around #1’s neck. Hangman’s noose style.
For a brief moment my Enchanted Grandmother brain cleared and I remembered how dangerous anything around the neck of a child can potentially be.
I reclaimed the scarf, hissed words of warning,
and all billy h-e-double hockey sticks broke out.
#1 transformed into a shrieking hydra, squirting tears in a three-foot swath. Then he saw Cousin looking smug and his resulting howls registered on sonar equipment.

Grampy hustled #1 down the aisle and into the back.
Uncle K busied himself comforting a sobbing #2 who, now that he’d gotten exactly what he wanted, no longer wanted it.
I smiled assurance at the tense people around us. Things will settle down now. Only one little boy. You may even catch the last few lines of the sermon.

Grampy, who’d forgotten he needed to collect offering, hustled back up the aisle and deposited #1 next to me in the pew.
Only a few minutes to go. I could do this.
Did you know that time, under enchantment, expands?
The few minutes lasted well into the next century.

Ignoring the urgent cries of the little Faeries of Common Sense fluttering around my head, I handed each boy a quarter to put in the collection plate.
Once the quarters hit the warm hands of the magical children they fell under the spell. They multiplied. For the next seven minutes quarters hit the floor 220 times.

The pastor pronounced the benediction and dismissed us with the Lord’s blessing. Our grandchildren’s parents came to reclaim their offspring. The little boys hugged our legs, looked up with sweetly trusting eyes, and lisped, “Love you Granny. We sit with you again.”

Anyone have a good counter-spell for ‘Enchanted Grandmother?’

The stumble after the fall

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Decades of experience have proven that a blessing can, conversely, work as a curse.

Take the old Irish benediction ‘May the road rise up to meet you.’
Think about it. One is walking, in a carefree, guileless manner along a road/path/sidewalk/carpeted hallway, and it rears up to meet one in the form of a bump/stone/protuberance/wrinkle.
What happens then? Anything from a face plant to a gyrating series of stumbles, bobs, weaves and windmilling arms. It’s never pretty. If you ever see me do any of the above—please be kind and pretend you didn’t. Don’t offer me a hand up or ask if I am all right.

Because pride hurts worse than the fall.

What is worse than the physical pain of bruised shins, bloodied knees or chipped teeth?
Metaphorical falls.
They occur, with irritating regularity, on the twisting, booby-trapped, buckling road of daily life. We are tripped up by bumps of:
-forgetting stuff
-mispronouncing stuff
-acting out of ignorance
-making faulty judgements based on incomplete facts
-speaking loudly and publicly and foolishly using those faulty judgments
-social blunders
-at a baby shower, during a game,  announcing ‘Myrtle’ as a name to  never name a baby, forgetting the hostess’s name is Myrtle.*

Unless you are a hermit, perfect, or have the gift of flight, you can no doubt remember one or two figurative stumbles of your own.
When we fall—spraining hubris, skinning egos, and banging up pride, we hope no one noticed.

Just in case though, we take ridiculous measures to maintain some semblance of dignity. Instead of rising to our feet, smiling ruefully and taking note of what precipitated the fall so we don’t repeat it, we might:
-make excuses for our forgetfulness so we don’t appear at fault
-stubbornly cover slips of tongue or mangling of words so we don’t appear less than clever
-huffily defend ignorant behavior so we don’t have to appear humble
-bluster through wrong assumptions so we don’t appear ignorant
-blather on with foolish pronouncements so we don’t appear…foolish
-grumble past our social blunders as if society where at fault instead of ourselves
-refuse to apologize profusely for an unintentional personal insult because we might appear vulnerable—i.e.—mortal

A fall is embarrassing and it can hurt. But it happens, and it isn’t irremediable.
Unless.
Unless we pretend we meant to fall.
Unless we sacrifice others to save face.
Unless we blame the road instead of our own inattention.
Unless we never look at what caused the fall to avoid it in the future.

The stumble after the fall is worse than the accident itself.
It compounds the topple, hurts the onlookers, and ensures we’ll continue, in spite of bobbing and weaving and windmilling, to fall flat on our faces.

Let’s stop deluding ourselves. Clumsy, prideful, defensive methods to make certain no one noticed serve to only prolong the stumble.
Let’s turn that curse back to a blessing.
When the road rises to meet us, grin, and thank it for pointing out that the clumsiest of humans can rise after the fall, a better person.

*An all-too humbling real-life experience that occurred in the distant past of the Tuesday Prude.

Man’s Work

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Daddy (who would have been 100 this Friday) had a wealth of old sayings, aphorisms and proverbs.

One he quoted often while looking fondly at Mom:

“Man’s work goes from sun to sun, woman’s work is never done.”

We never quite made sense of that, since Mom, for most of her adult life, worked outside the home, while Dad made dinner, did dishes and laundry, yard work and handyman stuff.

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But despite all evidence to the contrary, old sayings are old sayings. And Dad believed every pithy word.Scan 150770001

Sibling Rivalry

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A Christian (let’s call him Christian) walks into a coffee bar.
He sees a woman, head bent over her Bible, reading and taking notes. His heart leaps. Like calls to like as he realizes that, although he has never seen her before, she is his sister. His sister in Christ.

He hesitates at her table. When she looks up with an open and welcoming smile, he says, “I see you are reading the book of Matthew. Are you a believer?”

She responds with a happy affirmative, introduces herself as Christiana, and asks him to join her.

The conversation starts slowly:
“How long have you been saved?”
“What’s your favorite book/verse/passage?”

They dance around “Where do you go to church?” knowing the answer could lead to one of those family arguments about which sibling’s doctrine is better than the other. Or worse. What if the other is a heretic? A black sheep of the family?

After tiptoeing around the edges of the theological crevasse they realize that, in spite of some differences in non-essentials, what unites them is greater than what divides.

The conversation continues with gusto. They compare favorite sermon topics, debate merits of hymns or contemporary praise-n-worship songs, free-form services or liturgical, sprinkling or dunking, heads bowed or hands held high.

Family business taken care of, they get personal. Christiana describes how she was raised by atheists and just last year had a Damascus Road sort of conversion after seeing a billboard that read “Amazing Grace: Not just for bagpipes.”
Christian reveals that he is the son of believers, raised by believers, who were umpteenth-generation believers.
They again compare notes. Enthusiasm of the fresh convert or quiet, deep conviction of one raised in the faith.

They’ve reached the part of the conversation where they begin speaking of how great their mutual Father is. All the awesome stuff He does for them. Caramel macchiato and spiced chai latte grow lukewarm, then cold as brother and sister in Christ move from generals — Grace! Forgiveness! Eternity! — to specifics.

Christiana reveals at least a dozen times in the past year, when she thought she was out of money, envelopes with cash showed up in her mailbox.

Christian, whose hours at work have been slashed so drastically that he’s taken a second job flipping burgers, forces sincerity into his smile.

But then he remembers how, when his grandfather died, when his wife miscarried, he’d been filled with a supernatural peace that passed understanding. They had, he knows, died in Christ. He shares this with Christiana, whose unsaved parents died within a year of each other and she’s still coming to grips with the fact that she will never see them on either side of eternity.

But! She’d suffered from chronic back pain since a freak accident involving a teeter totter, an outsized friend and an irritable hummingbird. Her pastor led a group in prayer and laying on of hands and she was immediately free from the torment.

Christian feels his smile freeze into position. He’s been dealing with IBS and eczema since he was young, and no amount of sincere and faith-filled prayer had taken them away.
Conversation lags. They both make attempts to restore the fraternization they’d enjoyed at the beginning. Christiana tells of more miraculous interventions. Christian counters by affirming trust that grows in spite of thorns in one’s side.

Christiana bundles her Bible and notebook into her knapsack. She gives Christian a philadelphia sort of hug and says she’ll be praying for his eczema. (He’d chosen not to bring up his IBS.) Her Father had said that ‘all His promises have their yes in Christ!’ she adds brightly.

With a stiff upper lip Christian promises to pray too, that her faith will mature and she’ll soon be enjoying spiritual meat in addition to her milk diet.

As he hands her a pencil that rolled on the floor he thinks “The babies of the family get spoiled. Makes ‘em soft”

She thanks him and volunteers to clear their cups and napkins from the table, reflecting that the oldest kids in the family always seem overbearing.

They wave goodbye and go their separate ways, each one wondering, “Who does Father love best?”