PAIN: My Father’s Back

July 2, 2017

In the chaotic swirl that has been my last few weeks, I planned to categorize this essay with something a bit less direct.  Something more acceptable. But I always came back to PAIN.  I didn’t want to be so stark in identifying what this was about, but, in the end, there was no way around it. It’s about pain. The conflict with being in pain and being a person of God is that as we turn our lives over to God, we want the pain in our lives to be explained away somehow.  In that great promise that we call God’s love.  God’s love for us.  Individually. God loves us.  My pain is somehow part of that love. Somehow. So as I work on the tapestry that is the picture of my conception – the tangle in the bathtub between [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Bald Places by Hob Osterlund

March 14, 2016

From Portland Magazine Rooms 652 and 653 couldn’t be more different, except they’re both bald. Room 652 is a woman with a glioblastoma.  It’s the kind of brain tumor that often kills fast, usually within six months of diagnosis.  She’s fifty-seven.  Her name is Teea.  The doctor says I’m history, says Teea softly, without apparent fear.  Her humor is deceptive.  I bet she’d bribe, threaten, or supplicate all creatures, medical or otherwise, two-legged or four, who promised they could buy her even one extra week.  She wants to live so bad she could scream it to the Heavenly rafters, but she doesn’t, at least not in the hospital.  She behaves calmly here. Each of her three daughters is as [...]

PAIN: A Time To Heal, by Joan Chittister

March 4, 2016

From For Everything a Season I remember the rush of insight that seeped through me the day I realized the situation.  It had suddenly occurred to me that none of us can really be sure that we understand the Book of Ecclesiastes.  What’s more, I realized that maybe no one is supposed to be able to grasp its meanings completely, in one burst of consciousness, in one gift of light.  Maybe it is supposed to come over us slowly, in layers, one bright moment at a time when life becomes new with pain, fresh with joy, different from its beginnings.  Maybe it is the very obscurity of the book of Ecclesiastes that is its meaning. The problem with the book lies in the fact that it is very deceptive.  It reads with such simplicity that, at [...]

LOVE: Failing To Give Jesus My Pain

December 19, 2013

I remember as a girl hearing about the three tests a man would give his potential bride in Russia.  One of them was to untangle a ball of yarn. And I remember thinking, What a wonderful test. I couldn’t imagine a nicer thing to do on a rainy afternoon, listening to some wonderful music after my eyes grew tired of reading (it was before I knew that I was far-sighted and needed glasses to read with less eye strain). Perhaps even better than embroidery. But here I am, faced with untangling the threads of my past.  And I don’t find delight in it.  Instead of relaxing into patience, I tighten with impatience. Instead of tolerating the task of carefully untying the knots and following the lead thread on its twisted and confused [...]

HEALING: Heaven and Pain, by C. S. Lewis

April 9, 2013

From The Problem of Pain Scripture and tradition habitually put the joys of Heaven into the scale against the sufferings of Earth, and no solution of the problem of pain which does not do so can be called a Christian one.  We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning Heaven.  We are afraid of the jeer about “pie in the sky,” and of being told that we are trying to “escape” from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere.   But either there is “pie in the sky” or there is not.  If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric.  If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at [...]

HEALING: Letting Go by Scott Cairns

July 26, 2012

from The End of Suffering More than a hundred years ago, a chronically afflicted Emily Dickinson observed something of pain’s curious effects and aftermath.  “After great pain,” she wrote, ” a formal feeling comes.”  Her poem continues: The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs— The still Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’ And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’? The Feet, mechanical, go round— Of Ground, or Air, or Ought— A Wooden way Regardless grown, A Quartz contentment, like a stone— This is the Hour of Lead— Remembered, if outlived, As freezing persons, recollect the Snow— First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go— In Dickinson’s poem, the human [...]

HEALING: The Confusion That Is Pain

January 19, 2012

Hebrews 5:7-8: Christ, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared, though he were a son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered. Seemingly, from the very beginning of the Bible to its shattering end, pain and suffering is  very much the bulk of the matters being discussed. And so it is with our own lives.  We come into the world with a scream, and before we leave it, we have become intimate with the pain that, at times or for longer, sluice our minds, bodies, and souls. It’s all about sensation, is it not? As simple a thing as a nerve ending. And yet, in terms of our [...]