Friday, December 18, 2009

shots of grace

It is 2 AM, and I am awake.

I could have said the same at 1 AM.

If my computer had not decided to be the central element in a Mr. Science project, I would be sitting at it. Drafting this post. Or talking to the type of close friends on the West Coast that would not mind having Martha Mitchell as a friend.

But the computer is toast. I will be stuck at internet cafes until I get back to Oregon for Christmas. At least, I now what my gift to myself is going to be this year.

I know why I cannot sleep tonight. I am in a place of junctions.

I received a letter from a long-time friend today informing me that he was making a major life change. It was almost as if the Pope had called to tell me that transubstantiation did not make sense to him, and he had decided to be a Quaker. My friend´s choice is his to make. It simply caught me off guard.

Another friend sent me an email that his well-planned life seems to be unraveling bit by bit. Work. Relationships. Nothing seems to be going as he thought it would at this stage of his life.

And Wednesday night was the last night of my Bible study on prayer. I enjoyed presenting the series, but there is something bittersweet when it is all over.

I suspect that a lot of this musing has its root with the loss of computer access. It provided me with immediate communication with friends, acquaintances, and total strangers. Using the internet cafe is a bit like relying on a third-rate Methadone program.

For the past eight months, I have been struggling to get through Anne Lamott´s Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. I picked it up again on Tuesday after I moved into the new place, and started from the beginning -- where every good story should start. And I finished it off on Thursday morning.

Anne can be a challenging read. She is neurotic. A bit depressing at times. Even mean. But she is authentic. Even when I disagree with her, I always learn something new.

When she is on point, her essays cut right to the heart -- of the matter, and yours.

I ran across one of those passages in the last essay of this collection.

The gist of the story is that faith and grace will not look as they do in Bible stories, will not involve angels, flames, or harps. Some pitiful thing appears or occurs, entirely inadequate to help shift this grim situation, and it can´t possibly be enough, but then it is.

Simple. But, from my experience, true.

So, I am going back to bed. To find that ¨pitiful thing¨ that will give me some space for rest.

Whatever is unsettling me will also find its place of rest.

Of that, I have faith -- and, I hope, the grace to accept it.


Anonymous said...

You might consider buying yourself two computers so you'd have a backup machine for times like this. I'd suggest that you consider a netbook as your auxiliary computer - both for the price as well as the ease of having a 1 kilo machine to tote around.

Jennifer Rose

Anonymous said...

On the subject of Grace. Often when my Prayers turn to complaint and whining, I generally get an answer back from Him saying "My Grace is enough for you." Very true. Kind of like when my kids where complaining about how tragic it is that they were not allowed to go to a sleepover and I point out that it would be more tragic if they had no bed of their own or parents who loved them.

Chrissy y Keith

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite passage from a sermon on grace

But Tillich was a passionate thinker, trying, in the tradition of Schleiermacher, to communicate to people who thought they had “outgrown” Christian faith. And while his sermons demanded careful attention from the listener, he did know a thing or two about preaching.

So I want us to begin by hearing an excerpt from what many regard as his most memorable sermon, based on Romans 5:20: “…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

Do we know what it means to be struck by grace? It does not mean that we suddenly believe that God exists, or that Jesus is the Savior, or that the Bible contains the truth … It would be better to refuse God and the Christ and the Bible than to accept Them without grace. For if we accept without grace, we do so in the state of separation, and can only succeed in deepening the separation. We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by that stroke of grace. It happens; or it does not happen. And certainly it does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.” If that happens to us, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed.


Anonymous said...

Anne is right of course. If there is going to be any grace in this life, it will have to come from this life. Hence, it will be merely lifelike, and a lot of this life is pathetic.

What amazes us, I think, is this pathetic material is able to transform even more pathetic material into something beautiful or meaningful.

Ultimately, it's not the material we have to work with that determines the outcome. It's how we work with the material (the discipline of faith, or one's ethics), the magical process of transformation or transubstantiation that begins with the simple elbow grease of getting up each morning believing we are never given more than we can handle, then meeting the day.

A. N. Moose

Steve Cotton said...

Good post. I don't think I have room for anymore books on this trip back to H, but I loved the quote in your post. Misery makes us better writers, I think. Maybe that's why I am having trouble blogging here in the Promised Land. I need my wilderness.


Steve Cotton said...

For some reason the computer dog ate my homework and dumped all of the comments. But I was able to replace them as anonymous posts.

Jennifer -- Good idea. A netbook may not be the best primary computer, but it would be a convenient backup.

Chrissy -- I think there may be a post embedded in your comment.

Ron -- Great quotation.

ANM -- Is it possible that we have hit agreement in our old age?

Laurie -- Well, trials certainly has improved my subject matter.