Archive for June 2011

Angels unawares

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“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)

Sunday morning is usually my favorite time of the week. I get to sleep in relatively late…until about six this morning…when the sun was actually on the rise. After taking the dogs out for their morning constitutional, I made some coffee, and then settled in for some reading before I had to get ready for church. I’m currently reading a book by Carl McColman, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism. McColman is a lay associate at the Cistercian Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. I was reading a chapter where he stressed the importance of being  part of a local faith community, and actually getting involved with other people who are followers of Jesus. I said a little prayer afterwards, that I might be put into the path of someone who needed help or assistance today…maybe someone in the little congregation where I go to church on Sundays.

Later in the early afternoon, home from church, I had some lunch, and decided to watch a movie named “The Adjustment Bureau”. It’s about a group of mysterious individuals (or adjusters) who fine tune the daily fates of ordinary mortals as they go about living their lives according to a master plan of sorts that has been written by an overseer, who is enigmatically referred to as The Chairman. The movie is ultimately about free will…a gift that most of us sadly take for granted, and choose not to exercise to the best of our abilities during the course of our everyday lives here on earth.

Towards the end of the movie, the protagonist (played by Matt Damon), asks one of the adjusters about the identity of The Chairman. Harry the adjuster, matter-of-factly, states that everyone has met The Chairman, in the guise of a man or a woman,  at some point in their lives. They just may not have been aware of who they were encountering.

When I watched this scene…my jaw dropped slightly as I remembered my little prayer this morning before church, and a brief encounter I had after church at the Murphy Express gas station in town, where I stopped to fill up for the week ahead. As I was waiting for the pump to shut off, a young woman in jeans and t-shirt peered at me from around the pump and said sheepishly, ” We’re trying to get back to Myrtle Beach…would you possibly have any change that you can spare?”

I rarely carry cash these days, usually relying on my debit card…but I remembered that I had some coins in the car ashtray. I dumped the pile of coins into my hand…an assortment of quarters, dimes, nickels, and many pennies. I placed them into her outstretched hands. Her eyes lit up and she thanked me profusely…as if I was handing over gifts of gold, frankincense, and possibly a little myrrh. As I left the station, and drove down the road, I realized what had just happened. My prayer had been answered…although, in retrospect, I should have bought her a full tank of gas. Be careful what you pray for…and then…as I learned today…be sure to act accordingly when it comes through.

Written by Jim

June 26, 2011 at 4:26 pm

On a quiet night

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Hasn’t been much to write about this week. It’s been five months and two days, and I still get misty-eyed sometimes as I drive home after work…thinking about what’s not waiting for me at home. I did have a very strange experience this morning. I usually have very vivid, colorful dreams during the night…I would always tell Sharon about the dreams I had, and she would try to interpret them for me.   Well…I was on the verge of waking up this morning…just before four. I was laying on my side, facing the edge of the bed…and distinctly heard someone quickly walk around the bed…and then felt  the touch of someone shaking my shoulder as if to awaken me. Well…it worked…I sat bolt upright and looked around the darkened room. It was that real. I then thought one of the dogs may have bumped up against me…but they were both soundly asleep and snoring away as usual. I wasn’t at all frightened…just very puzzled. I think we’ve all had experiences like this at one time or another…just makes one think…

On a quiet night,

the wind it can play tricks on your ear,

like some unsolved mystery,

we all guess at the ending…but nobody comes near. – P.F. Sloan

Written by Jim

June 24, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Sunday morning…

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This has been a rough day. I started cleaning out our closet this morning…putting some of Sharon’s things into a bag to take to the Goodwill. Only did a bit before I had to stop…it was just too much. I don’t know what’s harder… seeing her stuff every morning when I dress for work…or trying to clear it out…which I know has to be done sooner or later. Tying up the loose ends of someone’s life has been hard. The trip to the social security office…to the bank, to take her name off of our accounts. One of the hardest things for me was going down to the Verizon store to deactivate her cell phone…I was on the verge of a major meltdown as I left the store.  Then there’s her laptop computer, which has been sitting on the desk in the kitchen…unopened since January. I know she had written a journal of sorts during the last few months…and I was putting off reading it…although I knew I would have to eventually. Well…this morning I decided to tackle that too. All I can say is that reading it left me in tears…

This coming Wednesday, it will be five months. This isn’t getting any easier…

Written by Jim

June 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Grieving

The sound of rain

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There’s a cold front moving through the Carolinas this evening. It’s been so dry here the past week that the thunderstorms are breaking up as they slip down from the mountains. There’s an occasional rumble in the distance…a low moaning as the storms lose their strength. All that remains is the soft, gentle, steady rain. The sound of rain is so elemental…so pure…masking all the other night sounds. Even the tree frogs are silent. I can imagine them alert…and leaning into the wetness falling from above…being revitalized so they can endure the next dry spell that will surely come along.

Listening to the rain on a quiet country evening. It’s a true meditation for me…clearing my mind of all the noisy thoughts that have accumulated during the day.

The sound of rain. It doesn’t have a meaning…no interpretation nor explanation. I like the quote of a Zen master (as related by Alan Watts)…“The sound of rain needs no translation.”


Written by Jim

June 15, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Musings, Nature

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Prayer from the dark side

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I’ve been revisiting some of the works of Thomas Merton, a contemplative Trappist monk whose writings greatly influenced me during my formative years. It was Merton who first introduced me to the dark side of Christianity. Up to that point, growing up in the Catholic Church, I had only been exposed to what’s known as the cataphatic tradition…or the via positiva…which believes that God can be known and described through positive affirmation of His qualities. The flip side of the coin, so to speak, is the apophatic tradition, or the via negativa…what I like to refer to as the dark side of Christianity (don’t worry, Star Wars fans…in this case, the dark side is good). It essentially views God as being unknowable. His ways are beyond our ways…His mind is beyond our understanding. Reading Merton led me to a 13th century mystic…Meister Eckhart. For me, Eckhart summed up the via negativa when he prayed something to the effect…”I pray to God to rid me of God”…at least, to get rid of our usually small-minded concepts of God…of Who and What we think He is. Teresa of Avila (The Interior Castle), and John of the Cross (whose description of the Dark Night of the Soul seems apropos at the moment) later followed in the same tradition.

This whole idea of God, and His methods and means, being unknowable has been troubling to one who has always sought to understand what’s going on…especially during a time of floundering such as the one I (as well as others)  find myself in at present. I guess that’s why Psalm 3:5 has become my personal mantra of late…”Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding”. 

I came across a prayer of Thomas Merton’s today that seems to convey the same sentiments. I would have loved to have met Father Louis, as he was called at the Abbey of Gethsemani, in Kentucky. He seems to have been a kindred soul…

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

– Thomas Merton,  Thoughts in Solitude

I hope this helps others who may be wandering the same path…

Written by Jim

June 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Posted in Grieving, Musings, Spiritual

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Learning to sing again

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He Himself has said, ’I will never leave you nor forsake you’ — Hebrews 13:5

“We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing— that He is preparing and equipping us for some extraordinary work in the future. But as we grow in His grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, at this very moment. If we have God’s assurance behind us, the most amazing strength becomes ours, and we learn to sing, glorifying Him even in the ordinary days and ways of life.” — Oswald Chambers

I thought this would get easier with every week that passes…but it’s getting harder. I seem to have hit a wall of some kind…a realization of sorts that things are completely changed…and will never be quite the same. It’s now just a matter of getting up every morning…putting one foot in front of the other…and doing what needs to be done. The future has receded into a hazy mist…with no immediate plans…only the here and now. I know that must sound depressing…but it’s the way I feel at the moment. The good thing…I guess…is that it’s forcing me to reconsider what is really important, and spurring me on to get rid of all the flotsam and jetsam that one collects during the course of one’s life. I suddenly have this urge to simplify my life and get down to the bare essentials of  ‘ordinary days and ways of life’...wherever that leads me. Hopefully…it will help me to learn to sing again…

Written by Jim

June 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Posted in Grieving

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The secret life of Pomeranians

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I’m not sure what I would do if it weren’t for the company of two Pomeranians. These two little girls keep me sane. They provide a continuity of sorts, and without them…I don’t know where I’d be at the moment. Their names are Belle and Tinker…and they’re both Southern Belles. Belle was born in Arkansas, and Tinker in Georgia. They came into our lives when we lived in Sarasota, Florida.

No…they weren’t named after TinkerBell the fairy. Shortly after we met, I took Sharon, along with her daughter Amber and son Beau, to see a stage play of Beauty and the Beast at the Chicago Theater in downtown Chicago, one cold and wintry night. It was our first venture out as a new family. Belle is named after the heroine of that story. Her full name is Belle Pumbaa. She’s beautiful…and she knows it…a Sable Wolf Pomeranian. She’s very moody, and protective…she barks in defiance at the sound of thunder…and she’s always on the lookout for the tiny green lizards that inhabit our front porch.


Tinker is the little Georgia peach..but she’s also alpha dog of the family. Her full name is Tinker Muad’Dib. Tinker…named after my favorite book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard.  Her middle name…Muad’Dib…comes from Frank Herbert’s book Dune. Muad’Dib was a desert mouse. Tinker is a simple soul whose main interests in life consist of sleeping under the bed, eating her cookies, and having her tummy patted. Tinker…she fixes things…mostly me…with her simplified view of living life to the fullest.  She comes from a long line of cream-colored Pomeranian whirling dervishes, who spin around in a counter-clockwise direction, with the simple joy of anticipating the next treat that will come their way.


Written by Jim

June 6, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Musings

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