It would seem that each of us has a choice to make in every moment of every given day. We choose constantly between the way of power and the way of Grace.
Power uses other people; sees the world as a series of pocketed resources; is hierarchical; and, quite often, denies the sanctity of an individual life.
The way of Grace values other people as potential contributors; views the world as a series of living systems to be supported, upheld and, if compromised, repaired; acknowledges the parity of a life in the grand scheme of things; and, respects the sanctity of an individual life.
“There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about what you said.” The woman on the phone takes a breath with her next pause and, then proceeds, “I suppose I wanted to tell you this in order to validate the work that you do.”
On the telephone with a peripheral acquaintance, I am talking with someone with whom I very rarely communicate. She has been battling breast cancer for more than two years.
Over ten years ago, as a gift to celebrate a personal, life transition, I facilitated an energetic rebalancing session, which included a “reading.” During the session, I related to her that a grey film in her energetic field appeared to be covering one breast and that her body might need additional selenium to help shift out or release this non-luminescent film. This is one of the potential gifts of second sight—preemptive self-care.
In truth, I had forgotten about both this session and its details. As I tried to recall the where and when of our session, she continues speaking, “I wanted you to know that selenium is used as a supplement to help support cancer patients.” Our conversation soon concludes.
For some time, feelings of gravity regarding our short exchange do not lift from my heart. I recall the many occasions I had hoped that an energetic session might cause a profound, positive series of changes in someone’s life, inspire an altered and more optimal life routine or open up a sense of reverence for the gift of any given day.
It is true, that on rare occasions, I might receive a short note of gratitude or some helpful feedback about the profundity of the work. Yet, what caused my heart so much heaviness in general was that, during most sessions, I never felt that the Grace extended was ever acknowledged in a way that made me feel sufficiently full or that the Light was properly acknowledged. (I am aware that these observations may say something more about some deficiency in me than anything else.)
Visiting a Light worker, who may employ almost any alternative-care modality, is a stretch for most people. Know that it takes a great deal of commitment, exceptional self-care and a lot of devotional work, on the part of a dedicated practitioner, to remain clear and connected to be able to facilitate such a session—on behalf of the Light residing in another. Listening, really listening, to bodies, personal rhythms, guardian Angels, as well as for topical and sacred feedback, requires clarity and effort.
Thus, if life circumstances ever cause you to cross the threshold of an alternative-care practitioner’s space, who is committed to working with the Light, go with a pure and open heart ready to turn. There is nothing idle about Grace.
The motivation to do good things must come from the deep well of purity within us; because, if we are relying upon external confirmation for our good deeds, the world is more often than not a barren and unrewarding place to live.
Leaving the house in search of some downtime, I take a chance on spending part of the late afternoon at a charitable thrift store.
Pulling into the parking lot of one of this area’s largest stores, I find only two spaces remaining. Balloons and special signs tell me today is a serious sale day. People are everywhere, arriving, leaving and milling about.
Over the years I have lived here, I have come to recognize a few of this community’s most serious secondhand shoppers-not by name but by appearance. And, when I begin to bump into any one of them frequently, it is a signal that I need a few months off from my own charitable-thrift-store “ministry.”
This afternoon’s trip is about getting out of the house to regroup, ground and center, rather than being about hunting for something in particular. Walking into the warehouse-sized store, oldies blare through the PA. My mood, which is upbeat, elevates even more. And, though the store is very busy, the racks are full enough for the methodical shifting of garments in front of my chasséing body. I will be able to regain center amid the chaos of people.
Moving through one section of the store, I notice a mother-daughter pair, whom I have not seen in a long while. The daughter is a mature woman, and her mother looks more frail than she did the last time I saw them bargain hunting. More frail or not, the mother maintains her general sparkle—a sparkliness of countenance which I love seeing.
Two sections later and with a one-half-hour between us, all three of us end up in the same area. To bypass the lines at the dressing rooms, I use a full-length mirror to try a dress on over my clothing.
Setting her frail body down on a steam trunk which is for sale, the mother glances my way. “It looks like a fit!” she announces. (Supportive, team shopping is not uncommon in this area.)
Struggling to release the hem of the garment from the grip of my blue jeans, I answer, “Well, almost. I need to drop the hem to make sure.”
We talk a little more—idle chit chat of the girl variety. I am reminded that this type of banter is a luxury, a gift representing a certain amount of leisure time. We are fortunate. Having finally dropped the hem, I zip the dress up. It fits in a lumpy manner over my clothing, but it is good enough to take home and retry. Unzipping the garment, I slip it over my head and fold it, placing it on the small stack of items I have.
Readying myself to leave, I stop briefly in front of the elderly mother, with whom I have been conversing.
“Where have you been?” I ask frankly. “I have not seen you or your daughter out for a long while.”
“Oh, I have had such adventures this year,” she replies. “First I had a mild heart attack, then, a mild stroke. After that, I was mending.”
Worn into her daughter’s face are the lines of an exceptional care-giver. Every new line has been translated.
“Oh, my. You have had quite a year,” I respond simply.
Then, reaching for my hand, she takes it into the smooth cradle of both of her soft-skinned arthritic hands, saying, “You look like a praying woman. Please pray for me. Pray for my health.”
She has granted me a blessing. The blessing of being seen.
As she releases my hand, I assure her that I will add her to my prayers.
Through the front windshield of the bus, I watch the painted white lines on the black pavement of the road passing alongside in mesmerizing, rhythmic order. Thwop, thwop, thwop, thwop, my mind lays down a soundtrack to accompany the hypnotic visuals of the center-line’s fragmented glow under the low beams of the bus’ headlights.
With almost everyone else asleep, I remain awake as we travel through one of the least populated and most desolately beautiful regions of the Four-Corners area of the American Southwest. The time is closing in on midnight, and the highway is relatively deserted. No moon is visible. And, although the interior of the bus is dimly lit, the world immediately around me is bright, filled with spiritual Light.
Sitting quietly, as I review events from the trip, I remain in a state of heightened gratitude for the Grace extended during this excursion of spiritual errand—the Light needed to be reaffirmed in myself and among those whom I visited. Travelling for such a purpose is always humbling. With the aid of Grace, the best and sometimes most unexpected doors open with simple ease.
Sitting in my own bubble of spiritual reverie, I hear the man next to me shift in his seat. The bus is almost full. Then, turning toward me, he leans over to ask a simple question—something about current events. It is an election year. Not wanting to disrupt the thread of connection that is part of the larger picture and my heightened sight, I politely change the subject. Then, after regrouping, he redirects his own conversational energy, asking a series of questions about my religious affiliation.
After a few minutes of polite exchange, where I try to ascertain the general purpose of his line of inquiry, I finally ask him outright, “Are you needing me to pray for you?”
“Yes,” he answers in a hesitant affirmative. Then, with more conviction, “I need you to pray for me.”
The man appears to be Native American. He may be Navajo, Hopi or from another First-Nation group native to this region. One of the things I learned while living in the Southwest is that most Native-American Peoples, who are still in a state of receptive connectivity, understand the Way. They know how Grace flows and moves and are respectful of the nature of sacred contracts.
“Do you know this song?” the man asks me, beginning to hum quietly—slowly—as he adds a few lyrics.
“Yes,” I answer. “I remember that song. It has been a long while since I have heard it.”
“Yes, it is an old song. I only need you to pray for me when you hear that song, that will be your cue that I need you to pray.”
We lean back again into our individual seats. I am amazed at how respectfully he has put forth his request. The parameters of our agreement are clear, tidy and not overly demanding. I find myself filling with gratitude again; this time it is for this man’s respectful politeness toward my own manifestation of the Light.
One table away, at the Indian restaurant where I am dining, a little boy is crying. He is not crying loudly, though he has come to the dry, hiccuping phase in his tears which indicates it has been a long road to arrive at this stage of his demonstrated upset or grief.
As I sit down to eat, I notice that he and his mother are part of a larger family gathering. Buffet days at this restaurant are consistently busy because the buffet offerings are of enough variety to satisfy even the most persnickety of eaters.
“If you can’t stop crying, we’ll have to leave the restaurant,” the boy’s mother leans over to inform him. “Do you want that?” she questions him in a threatening tone.
Internally I sigh and, while taking a deeper breath, wonder why she has not asked him about the source of his tears, reminding myself that I am coming into the situation late. Sometimes the intellectual-emotional exercise of asking children about why they are crying is enough to stop the deluge, if only for a moment.
Finally, out of sheer exasperation, I overhear the mother tell the boy to stuff it, using the old maxim, “Big boys don’t cry.”
I cringe. I contemplate the antiquated maxim, “Big boys don’t cry.” And, ofttimes big boys—that is grown men—can neither identify their own feelings as adults nor can they draw up plausible cause-effect relationships between their personal experiences and those of their internal, emotional world. In this last scenario, grief, fear, abandonment, being slighted or otherwise hurt by life circumstances may end up being channeled into anger or rage—two of the more culturally “acceptable” emotions for men to exhibit.
Returning my attentions to the beautiful plate of food in front of me, I say a short prayer for the gift of my food, as well as a short prayer for this mother and child, while recalling—with profound regret—the less-than-optimal parenting skills I exhibited in my own youthful, child-rearing days. We are a work, are we not? And all of us are “in progress.”
Dear God, please let this small boy come to know that it is okay to cry.
With no advance notice, one day the uncle of a young boy was asked to look after his nephew for a few hours.
While thoughtfully considering a quiet activity to keep his nephew busy during the afternoon, the uncle paged through a magazine featuring a photograph of the earth from space. The image was taken from a new perspective, as it was a recent NASA photograph captured during one of the space missions.
Removing the page from the magazine with the earth’s image, the uncle decided to make an impromptu puzzle of the photograph by carefully tearing the page into manageable puzzle-size pieces. Then, placing the pieces in a random order on a table with a roll of clear tape, he thought to himself, “That should keep him busy.”
When the man’s nephew arrived, the boy was given the impromptu puzzle to work. Retreating to another room to attend to yet another project, the uncle was surprised to see his nephew appear about a quarter-hour later. The boy showed him the fully restored photo of the earth from space.
“How did you put that together so quickly?” the uncle asked.
Turning the puzzle over, the boy revealed another image—that of a person. The nephew explained, “I turned the pieces over and found the picture of a person. I knew that if I could get the person together, I could get the world together.”
And so it is. Blessed be.
*Thank you, Martin Hill, for passing this story along.
Moving into the city, where we currently reside, my husband and I were initially amazed by the generosity and open kindness of the local people. Whether we needed directions or help finding a phone number, complete strangers were more than willing to assist us, proving to be extremely patient and generous with their time. While walking our dogs, strangers have not been afraid to slow or stop their vehicles to shower compliments on our canine companions—for good behavior, glossy coats or general demeanor. And, among our closest neighbors, we were and are often treated to shared produce, jams, jellies and helpful local information.
Thus, when I first started my regular and extra-long walks in order to spend the afternoon writing in some of our community’s best coffeehouses, I was not overly surprised by the occasional vehicle that would pause, with the driver turning to address me directly and ask politely, “Do you need a ride?”
As a writer, I always decline these polite offers because I do not know these individuals and my long walks are designed to balance out the time I spend seated. Still, when this first started happening, I would think to myself, “Wow, the people here are so considerate.”
Then, one hot afternoon in mid-July or mid-August, after we had lived here for a few years, I am walking through a neighborhood between our own and the one where that day’s coffeehouse is situated. Across the street from me, two or three small groups of men are sitting outside of a not-so-large manufacturing complex, taking their mid-afternoon breaks in the outdoor heat. The temperatures inside of the buildings must be sweltering.
Suddenly, someone from among these men wolf whistles. Loudly. The whistle is jarring enough that I stop thinking about the book issues I have been mulling over in my mind and shift my focus back to the present moment and into the context of my body. Glancing about, I look for, perhaps, a new car, a custom truck or another situation or person who might warrant such vocal attention. There is nothing and no one else around.
Then, gazing down at my summer garb, I notice the jumper I am wearing. The linen or light cotton jumper is a practical, fashion nod to the day’s incredibly high heat index. In that moment, I also realize that with my being across the street, the man who has whistled probably cannot see my face and most certainly does not realize that I—in terms of age—could have easily be his mother.
“Hmmm. Odd,” I think to myself. My mind clicks and whirs. That wolf whistle grants me something of a non-spiritual epiphany regarding the probable nature of those previously “kind” offers for “a ride” which may have been code for something else entirely different.
Our postal carrier likes to refer to our small section of his route as “The Ritz.” In order to walk to the many coffeehouses I frequent to complete my book projects, I often pass through three, four or five distinct micro-neighborhoods, each with its own flavor, challenges and/or expectations. Interestingly enough, the offers for “rides” which I have received do not come in the evenings, as might be expected, but usually during the early afternoon—somewhere between one and four. So, it is not as though I am inviting this potentially questionable contact into my life by walking at “inappropriate” hours of the day.
After the wolf-whistle event, I return home to sort through my clothing, donating any potentially “questionable” skirts, jumpers and dresses to a local charitable organization for resale. I do not want to experience further future miscommunications due to wardrobe content. A tall stack of stylish, fun clothing in neutral to light colors is traded in for a stack of somber-colored capris, slacks and practical short—all in an effort to prevent confusion.
I wonder about clothing signals specific to this region. Still, even after the change in wardrobe, a few vehicles do pause, on occasion, stopping long enough to ask me whether or not I need “a ride.”
Over the years I have lived here, I have looked in the faces of men ages twenty-five to seventy-five, searching to fill the void of loneliness inside of themselves with the specter of love which commercialized, sexually intimate touch attempts to provide. Yet, Grace is the only thing capable of filling that chasm of emptiness which forms when we experience long periods of unwanted soul solitude. And, so, for now—I continue to pray that the hearts of these passersby become filled with God’s unremitting Light.
Honky-tonk oldies play over a battery-operated radio strapped to a neighborhood man’s indoor/outdoor scooter. The twang of the tunes announce and accompany him on one of his daily “walks.” While steering his scooter deftly around me and my two dogs, he thumbs his well-loved VFW baseball cap to gesture, “Hello.” He does this whenever he sees us approaching.
Because the tires on his scooter are wide, getting out into the weather is not much of an issue. We both pass one another without talking almost daily—wanting to feel the fresh air on our faces, the thrust of the sun when it is out, or otherwise enjoy the spitting moisture of an early morning—a gift from the sun-obliterating clouds above.
Once past us, I watch the long plastic stick with the small fluorescent-orange flag attached to it sway and flutter in the violent wind. Today, the man in the scooter is bent in his seat leaning into the chill of this morning’s headwind with the flaps down on his billed, winter hat. Yet, the weather does not keep him from dancing in his seat. I wonder what steps and with whom, in his mind, he is taking the polished floor.
The music playing in my head is audible only to me. Sometimes, I wonder whether or not I would ever have the gumption to share the music I play as liberally as he shares his. Maybe. Maybe not. What his free-wheeling passing teaches me is that whether we are running, walking or rolling, we all need to carry music inside (or outside) of ourselves which causes us to sway with joy in all manner of weather.
“But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” –Genesis 19: 26
Prior to the destruction of the city of Sodom, Lot, his wife and his two daughters are led out of the city by two insistent, visiting angels.
As Sodom is being destroyed behind Lot and his escaping family, Lot’s wife turns to look back. Perhaps the noise or the heat from the destruction proved too seductive, pulling her attention away from the present and future Grace was so graciously paving for the family as they fled.
Whatever the reason or reasons for Lot’s wife’s backward glance, the narrative shows us the need to remain focused on the ever-present, loving and guiding hand of Grace because, when we divert our attention away from Grace by looking back, we turn away from the immediacy and warmth of God’s clasp in the present moment. And we also, potentially, lose sight of the future places Grace is inviting us to go, grow into and otherwise BE, while Grace accompanies us.
The very act of looking back toward “what was” causes us to lose forward momentum in relationship to what might be during that moment when God first takes us by the hand. And, in turning to salt, we may dissappear with the very next rain storm, dissolving into the sands of our own, private desert.