Thursday, August 27, 2015

Xander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Yesterday was a rotten day for my spirits. I was feeling down because—but for circumstances beyond my control—it should have been my 48th wedding anniversary. It also would have been my former husband’s 70th birthday. (Yes, we got married on his birthday.) He didn’t even live long enough to get out of his 50s so I suppose I should consider myself fortunate to be alive. But sometimes being alive doesn’t feel so fortunate.

Last night I called my mother, just to check in with her. She’s 89, on oxygen, barely ambulatory. She asked how I was doing.

I said: “Not that great.”

She said: “Well, I’ll cheer you up. I can always cheer you up. I’ve been awful sick all day today.” (She went on to recount her woes that I won’t share—suffice it to say she had digestive upset.) “And I’m awfully lonely. I was supposed to visit with Mae today but I was too sick. I just don’t have any friends here. Well, there was Shirley, but she died. My friend Ruth down the hall was very friendly, but she died. My neighbor Joan with the one leg died, poor thing. And Mr. Miller liked me, but did you know he died too? And I really don’t think I have much time left to live now. Oh, but I’m supposed to be cheering you up. How’s your cat?”

I replied: “Mom, my cat is dead. She died before Christmas.”

She said: “Oh, I didn’t remember that. What happened?

So I had to explain my cat’s illness and death. Again. That really helped to lift my mood. Then she started asking me why I don’t ever bring her to my house to stay. “All the stairs, Mom, you can’t do the stairs. I think I’m going to have to hang up now.”

She replied: “No, no, don’t hang up. I want to talk to you so I can cheer you up. Did you know Joe Donohue died?”

At that point we both laughed at the absurdity of the situation. All that death can be pretty funny after all.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The no clothes manifesto

Simplifying and paring down one’s possessions is not a novel idea. Books, workshops, and websites praise the value of living with less. I get it.

Just today I read an article on Apartment Therapy (photo credit to AT) about living with no closet at all. I’ve been cleaning out my bedroom closet for years. Things go out; more things come in. But in recent months I have become more ruthless. Items of clothing no longer have sentimental value to me. That cute sweater with the beaded design on the back, the one I bought in Austin when I was shopping with my daughter, the one I bought because my daughter thought I needed a change from my usual dowdy clothes? I wore it a few times when I was feeling frisky, but it is years old now and it began to lose its shape. (Hmm. . . perhaps I am the one who is losing my shape, but I prefer to blame it on the sweater.) Well, that sweater finally got purged. I’ll keep the happy memories. The sweater and lots of other things, with or without sentimental value, have gone. No longer do I own 100 pairs of shoes. Everything I own fits comfortably in one closet with room to spare.

For years I have believed that retail therapy was the cure for any ailment. Bored? Go see what Marshall’s might have. Depressed? Maybe they have some new jeans at Nordstrom Rack. I’m a sucker for a deal—give me a coupon, a secret code to get 40 percent off online, throw in free shipping and I’m all over it. I can just feel the serotonin flooding through my brain. And the thrift stores—wow! I have found fabulous clothes, beautiful silver jewelry, and unworn designer shoes. I even know when the thrift store is offering additional discounts. And now, those things that I bought at the thrift store because they were incredible deals? Many of them have been weeded out, purged from my closet. It doesn’t matter how great a deal I got if I don’t wear it. The same with the things I thought I should wear to improve my image or the cute things that I probably would have worn back in my hippy days in the ‘60s. My image is beyond repair and it has become foolish to dress like Stevie Nicks at my age.

All of this closet purging, this simplifying, got me thinking about my attachment to clothes. Yes, I’m easily distracted by shiny objects. But gradually it has dawned on me that this is incredibly foolish and wasteful. I think my many hunting and gathering excursions into thrift stores have actually over-loaded my clothing sensibility. It all looks like junk to me now. It all smells funny and the pure quantity of discarded clothes makes me a bit queasy. I noticed that much of the discarded clothing on the racks of the thrift stores comes from retail stores like Target and Kohl’s and Forever 21 that sell cheap clothes, often trendy clothes that are made to be worn briefly and discarded. Have you noticed the smell in one of these retailers that sell cheap clothes—they have a particular aroma that almost has the undertone of insecticide. That should be a sign.

I did a little online research about the clothing manufacturing industry. I learned that 98 percent of the clothes sold in the United States are made outside of the U.S., mostly in China. Our clothes are relatively cheap because they often are made using child labor or people who work on sweat-shop subsistence wages, in horrible working conditions. Remember the factory that collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013? The factory produced clothes for retailers including Benetton and Walmart. Over 1,000 people died.

Suppose most of our clothes were made in the United States? It would create jobs but we would have to pay more to stuff our closets full of things we might never wear.

All of these things together pressed in on me—the rampant consumerism, the mindless retail therapy, the waste, the exploitation of people in 3rd world countries to produce clothes—as I cleaned out my closet. And I wanted it to stop.

So, here’s what I’m doing. This is my personal manifesto: I am not buying any clothes for one year. That includes accessories, shoes, and the cheap bauble jewelry that clutters my drawers. If there’s a small fire in my room and all of my underwear is destroyed, I’ll buy new underwear. If I get married (that would be the most incredible surprise of all!) I might buy a simple wedding dress. And shoes . . . maybe a few things for the honeymoon—no, stop! I can’t have too many loopholes in the manifesto. One year, starting today, right now. So that means I can’t go out tomorrow and stock up for the coming year. It includes buying clothes at estate sales, thrift stores, outlet centers, and street vendors. If I go to Paris . . . no, stop!

Lord, have mercy! What have I done? What am I going to do when I’m in desperate need of retail therapy? Guess I’ll find out. This is my first manifesto ever. I'm feeling quite the revolutionary. I wish I had a Che Guevera tee shirt.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

That point of light

A number of years ago I sat in silent meditation high in the mountains of West Virginia. It was one of those times that I was able to sink deeper and deeper. Time faded away. I could feel that invisible essence of my being shrinking smaller and smaller until it was nothing—it simply merged with the mountain air. I imagined that could be what it feels like to die, so peaceful, free of earthly attachments.

And today as I sat in silent contemplative prayer, the image of that meditation in the West Virginia mountains came back to me. I could see that my core essence is but a point of light, buried deep inside me, protected by organs and sinew and skin and bone. That light was God’s creation, a part of Him. He stretched out His hand and from His finger came the light around which I was formed. And that light is still within me. I carry in my inner being a part of God and that light will never be extinguished. When my mortal body dies, the light will return to Him—God in me and I in Him.

This creates a longing so profound. I know that my words do not describe it adequately and I also know that some people may think me crazy. So be it.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Chili provençale aka ratatouillaise

Do I need to be reminded that this blog is called Cooking + Praying? I’ve been much more focused on praying (and life in general) than on cooking. There’s a reason for that and I’ll confess if you promise not to tell anyone. I’m trying to lose weight. Again. I lost it and it found its way home. So I’m just eating protein and vegetables. No carbs, no sugar. Not even fruit . . . sigh . . . and she says that at the height of peach season. I have discovered that croissants and pizza and pasta and jelly doughnuts and beer are all on the NO list. No barbequed potato chips with sour cream. (I think I’m going to cry.) There is no joy in Mudville. Actually after a couple of weeks I feel like I have the jelly doughnut and beer monkeys off my back. But if they arrived at my door, begging me to let them in, I probably would not resist too hard.

So I’ve been hoping that some delicious recipe would come into my life—anything that does not include another hard-boiled egg, another hunk of roasted chicken, or another leaf of spinach. So in pursuit of this recipe today I went to the farmers market and then to the grocery store to get the ingredients. I cooked the recipe exactly as written but for a couple of deviations. I couldn’t find harissa so I used some Indonesian spicy salsa sort of thing I found at Trader Joe’s. Oh, and I doubled it—more about that later.
 
My comments on the recipe:
 
(1) I used fresh tomatoes but I refused to peel them. The produce alone cost me over $30. I think next time I’ll used good canned tomatoes. It’s not worth the effort and the expense to use fresh tomatoes unless you have a garden and an excess of tomatoes. In the early cooking it appears that the peels are beginning to separate from the tomato pulp and they are floating around in the mixture. Do you think I would actually stoop so low as to pick them out with my fingers?

(2) I doubled the recipe because I want to bring a batch to my sister tomorrow. It grew and grew as I added ingredients. There is a boatload of zucchini and eggplant in this recipe. It grew out of my largest Dutch oven so I had to put it in my big soup pot—at least it fit in the oven where it is now resting at 350 degrees for over 2 hours.
 
(3) I didn’t peel the red bell pepper either. I roasted them like the recipe says but I struggled to peel them. I know there’s a technique but I forget what it is and I was too up to my elbows in kitchen mayhem to look it up. The pepper peels are floating in the mixture along with the tomato peels. Now I know how to remove them.
 
(4) My kitchen is a mess and it’s hot so I left it all, hoping that some kind soul will come into my house and clean the kitchen. Just in case you want to attempt this yourself at home, the photo is of my kitchen at this very moment. I’m afraid to go back, even though the beeper is telling me it’s time to stir the pot.

(5) The good news is I tasted it, albeit prematurely before the flavors can really mingle, and it’s delicious.

Kristin Espinasse calls the recipe “ratatouillaise” but in my mind it’s kind of like Chili Provençale. The following is quoted from her site, link below:

The dish has two secret (and untraditional) ingredients — a generous drizzle of honey, which heightens the tomatoes — and a dash of something spicy — I used harissa. Herbs, sautéed onions and ground beef join the vegetables in the covered casserole before it’s placed in the oven for a slow simmer. In the photo above, you can see the “raw” state — the vegetables still bright and crunchy. After a couple of hours, they turned soft and creamy, rich with a deep, meaty savor. Paired with couscous, this made a superb Sunday dinner — with leftovers for another weeknight meal (over pasta or soft polenta). The best part? It leaves your house smelling like a summer kitchen in Provence.

Ratatouillaise

The word “ratatouillaise” is a hybrid of ratatouille and bolognaise (spelled the French way).

Olive oil
2 red bell peppers
3 onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
2 lbs tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 large zucchini, peeled in stripes, and cut into 1.5-inch chunks
3 small eggplant, peeled in stripes, and cut into 1.5-inch cubes
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon harissa
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Cut the red peppers in half and remove the seeds. Line a baking sheet with parchment pepper and arrange the peppers on it. Roast the peppers at 400ºF until their skins have blistered, about 20 minutes. Peel the peppers and slice them into thin strips.

In a large Dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of oil and sauté the onions and garlic until they’ve softened and start to turn golden. Add the ground beef, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon. When the meat has cooked, stir in the tomatoes. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a (separate) sauté pan, warm a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high flame, and then add the zucchini and a dash of pepper. Don’t overcrowd the pan — cook in batches, if necessary. Sauté the zucchini until gently softened and starting to turn brown, about five minutes. Add the zucchini to the meat mixture. Repeat with the rest of the zucchini, then the eggplant cubes. Add them to the meat mixture. Stir the red pepper strips into the meat mixture, along with the honey, harissa, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and 1.5 cups of water.

Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, then cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook the ratatouillaise in the oven, stirring every half an hour, until the vegetables have collapsed and everything is “bien confit” (well reduced) — about 2.5 hours. If too much liquid remains, uncover the pot for the last 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

I found the recipe on Kristin Espinasse’s site, A Day in a French Life at: http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/2015/08/carte-de-sejour.html.
 
Complete instructions with photos can be found on Ann Mah’s blog here: http://annmah.net/2015/08/10/ratatouillaise/.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Throw the dog a bone

Lord I believe; help me in my unbelief. Mark 9:24

 It’s inevitable; I should have expected to come crashing down from the mountain.

I’m confused about what God is—how do I even imagine something so vast, so incomprehensible as the existence of God? Who is He? Exactly what am I believing in, praying to, trusting? Trying to grasp this, I read about God’s nature, that our limited human brains can’t even begin to understand Him. And instead of being in awe of Him, instead of being comforted by His vastness and His power, my brain goes into overdrive trying to figure it out, trying to hold on to something tangible.

When I pray my mind wanders. I try sitting with Him in silent, contemplative prayer and I think that I really need to paint that wall in the living room where the paint is cracking but remember that was a slightly deeper shade than the color I used in the hallways and I not sure I even have any more of that living room color so should I go buy a gallon of the original paint color or would it work to use a different color, maybe darker or lighter, or should I just repaint the whole living room, but what a huge task that is because of all the windows and doorways and I’m just not up for a project that huge right now . . .  The inside of my brain is like Alvin and the Chipmunks on speed. Can you just turn it off, woman? Geesh.

Instead of resting quietly and comfortably in the existence of God and feeling my union with Him, I get distracted by the vastness of creation and what He is and the nature of infinity. “Be still and know that I am God.” Okay, work with me here, I’m trying.

“Lord, I’m hurting. I believe, I believe. But I can’t recapture the feeling that I had before, that absolute certainty, that blissful union with you. Can you please just throw this dog a bone and let me be with you for a while without all of this static?” I cry out in desperation.

One thing I know to be true: faith is strengthened by doubt—so consider this a strength-building phase. If I never doubted then this faith of mine would be unexamined and less deep. I have felt the depth of a relationship with Him. I’m in a fallow phase now and I know from experience that if I just trust Him and not give up, that feeling of relationship will reemerge from this swamp. I will not run away. I will dig deeper. I will remind myself again and again that God is a mystery, an unsolvable puzzle, and again and again I will pray for trust, for help in my unbelief.

And I go back to Scripture to find assurance that the Lord will not let me get lost, that He sent the Holy Spirit to help me understand.
 
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26

Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

In feint praise of kale

Want to know what I’m wearing? I just put on a simple denim skirt (slightly above the knee, Ann Taylor, bought at the thrift store), a tank top, two necklaces (because one won’t do), and a copper bracelet. Shoes will be added before I leave the house. I’m going to Whole Foods to buy 10 pounds of kale. Just trying to make an event of it. Woohoo.
 
What’s with the kale thing? I grew up eating kale, one of the vegetables in regular rotation at dinner at my mama’s table. Like spinach, kale was always eaten sprinkled with vinegar, never Blue Bonnet on the kale. Kale came in a box, already chopped and frozen like a brick in a block of ice. I presumed that was kale in its natural state. Little did I know at the time it grew from the earth in leaves.

Like everyone else who eats food, I have become increasing aware of the kale epidemic. There are now kale chips and kale smoothies and kale gelato. I hold no grudge against kale, but I don’t get the excitement, like suddenly someone discovered that it’s a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the fountain of youth, and a path to nuclear disarmament. It’s just there, dull green leaves, ever so slightly bitter, but boring.
 
So last night I did a little online research, curious about clean food diets versus paleo versus anything else that touted a new, improved healthy life. Kale is the common thread—everything I read included kale. But here’s the thing—there is controversy about everything else. Some say don’t eat fruit because fruit is just basically sugar and sugar is the enemy. Grains, legume, carbohydrates, and fats can kill you. Nothing GMO, non-organic, or animal based. And here’s the newest wrinkle, courtesy of the clean food regime—don’t cook anything. Also don’t process it in any way (for example, don’t mash apples to make applesauce). So I kept crossing things off my shopping list. And why bother with recipes? All I need to eat is raw, unadorned kale.
 
I’m figuratively girding my loins, heading out to Whole Foods with resolve. I will pass by the bakery with that fabulous croissant bread pudding. I won’t even go down the potato chip aisle. Even the salad bar will be off limits, because those wretched red peppers marinated in olive oil could kill me. I will bravely buy a large quantity of organic, non-GMO kale and head home, triumphant.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

In love with a priest



This probably happens to most Catholic girls at least once in their life. I just held off for many, many years, waiting for the right one. I am in love with a priest. Not just any priest, of course—heaven forbid (use of that specific phrase is not lost on me) it should be an ordinary priest, some average Father Joe at the local parish who leads the youth group. Nope, I’m in love with a priest who is a Trappist monk who would have had his 100th birthday this year, had he lived. He died in 1968 from an accidental electrocution. His priestly name was Father Louis, but his given name was Thomas Merton.

I read Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which he wrote when he was in his early 30s. It is the account of his boyhood in France, his education in England and the United States, his eventual conversion to Roman Catholicism, and his growing longing to become a priest and live a monastic life.

I loved him as a boy who didn’t feel that he fit in with other French students, who mourned the death of his mother, and missed his artist father who was frequently away. I loved his intellectual brashness when he was a young man studying at Cambridge and Columbia. He smoked cigarettes, drank too much alcohol, haunted bookstores, and had long existential conversations with his friends. For a while he thought he was a communist. Over time he became more entranced with the mystical elements of faith, which led him to a deep exploration of the ancient Christian writers. Although I find his deep intellectual discussion of Catholicism a bit tedious, nonetheless I appreciate his dedication. In the end, his connection with God seems to be much more mystical than intellectual, and I love that aspect of him as well.

We would have had such interesting conversations. We could have dug in the garden and talked about how serenity brings us closer to God. We could have walked down the country lanes, saying nothing, just smiling knowing we were together in God’s presence. We could have sat on the porch, drinking coffee while the sun rose over the mountain.

Did I mention that I think he is incredibly cute in his monk’s clothes and his denim jacket? I love the joy that radiates in his photos. Yes, he’s the perfect man. Except he’s dead and he was a priest who consecrated his life to God and lived in a monastery. Just figures, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Si comprehenderis, non est Deus


Last week I was in Montana and Wyoming. Unencumbered by man-made structures and multi-lane concrete highways, cars and trucks, crowds of intense people rushing to do seemingly important things, and tsunamis of words from every direction, I felt the grandeur of God’s creation. The endless blue sky. The mountains and the meadows strewn with wildflowers. Rivers, lakes, waterfalls, little bubbling streams. Buffalos, bears, antelope, hummingbirds and eagles. And especially the night sky—vast, sprinkled with a million stars.
 
I try to sit at God’s feet, feeling His presence. An aging woman in Northern Virginia, the United States of America, North America, planet Earth, the solar system in the Milky Way galaxy . . . and on and on into the limitless cosmos. How can He—this God I cling to—know me? I, a mere speck in God’s creation, can’t even begin to understand what God is. So I believe without understanding. Even the concept of referring to God as “He” must be inaccurate, our feeble way of anthropomorphizing something beyond our comprehension.

“Si comprehenderis, non est Deus”—the words of St. Augustine. If you understand, it is not God. No human being can figure out God with our limited, rational minds. What a relief to know this, to know that one of the greatest minds of human history didn’t understand either.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Confiteor

Confiteor Deo omnipotenti,  . . .  quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

This keeps running through my head, both in English and in Latin: “. . . I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed. My fault, my fault, my most grievous fault.”
 
When it comes into my head in Latin, you know it’s deeply rooted and deadly serious. Lord, have mercy—please not the Latin version.
 
I have sinned in thought. The self-centeredness, the continual struggle with compassion, the failure to keep my mind focused on the things of God instead of getting distracted with the acquisition and maintenance of my petty possessions. The struggle with forgiveness.

I have sinned in word. The mouth from which springs the most idiotic things at the wrong place and time. The sad story that runs on a continuous loop. The drama queen. The it’s-all-about-me sickening syndrome. The gossiping, both thinking and saying unkind things. Lord, I wish I could blame this on an evil force but I am sorry to say it’s my own stupidity, my bottomless pit of weakness.

I have sinned in deed. Indeed I have. The unkind things I have thought and spoken also can be counted among the deeds. I have wasted money, I have had too much to eat and drink. I have not bothered to tell the clerk that she gave me change for $20 instead of $10 or that I didn’t pay for the cat litter that was in the bottom of my grocery cart. When I was too sensitive and thought people were mistreating me, I took it personally instead of cutting them some slack—no, it was all about me again.

Of course, there’s a viscous loop in operation here—I get hurt, I feel like a failure, I withdraw from polite society because I don’t want to impose myself on anyone else for fear of more rejection. This is more self-centered depressed behavior. I think I’m a jerk, everyone else thinks I’m a jerk, so I’m sure God must think I’m a jerk too.

The only way out of this is grace, grace, and more grace. I’m standing in the need of grace, Lord. Bring it on!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Forgiveness revisited


Yesterday Ben Freeth, a farmer from Zimbabwe, spoke at church. He and his family were farmers in Zimbabwe until the government brutally ousted all white property owners from their land. He told a compelling story of how he and other family members were abducted by thugs and taken to a remote area where they were bound and beaten. (Freeth’s skull was fractured and he had many broken bones. His father-in-law later died of his injuries.)

The most compelling part of his story is his account of how he forgave his captors in what he describes as a supernatural experience, something that only could have come from God. His hands and feet were bound and he was lying face-down in the dirt. He recounts his experience in his book Mugabe and the White African:

I saw a leg right in front of my face and I knew what I had to do. I managed to reach out and touch it and said, “May the Lord Jesus bless you.” I saw another and I reached out again, saying, “May the Lord Jesus bless you,” and another, and another.

This kind of forgiveness is beyond amazing. After Freeth spoke, our pastor prayed and challenged each of us to forgive someone we have not been able to forgive. He guided us through prayer and called on us to insert the name of a person we have been unable to forgive. So I did it—I prayed and called the unforgiven one by name. This was at the end of the service and I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I went through the motions but left the church in tears and spent the rest of the day in a funk because this issue, this unforgiveness that keeps rearing its ugly head. I think I’m over it and then it overcomes me again. I know all the pop-psych adages about by not forgiving you only hurt yourself, and so on. I’ve pounded my fist and prayed and said I was done with it. But I wasn’t done with it. Why can't I forgive like Ben Freeth?

So last night I sat and prayed some more. I told God it wasn’t fair. (Like He hasn’t heard that one before.) I said I needed Jesus beside me, needed the intercession of the Holy Spirit, pleaded for this to be resolved for good. I could not connect with God, didn’t feel His presence, not a word. I felt the frustration of knowing that I had been unable to resolve this forgiveness thing and I felt that God was absent. I acknowledged that He must be there, just like He’s always there, so the disconnect must have been my fault. I asked Him, “Is there some reason I’m hanging on to this? Am I getting something out of this victim role? I don’t need it, Lord—do something!” No response.

He wasn’t responding and I wasn’t going to sit there any longer talking to the walls. So I turned on my computer and typed in “Why can’t I forgive” into the search box. The very first entry that came up was an interview with a contemplative Franciscan priest named Richard Rohr. I knew of Richard Rohr and had read other work of his. The mere fact that this was the first thing that came up on my computer blew me away. Okay, Lord, forget what I said earlier—obviously He heard me and responded with a message, exactly what He wanted me to hear. These are some of the things that Father Rohr said in the interview:
 
  •  "Forgiveness is a decision, but making that decision doesn't override the emotional residue that often takes much longer to release. That feeling of wanting revenge or wanting to assert your rightness or your victimhood—depending on the depth of your wounding—can take days, weeks, months and even years to dissipate. On certain days, when you're in a down mood, your psyche will want to grab onto that hurt. You have to go through that necessary period of feeling half dead, half angry, half in denial—this is the liminal [transitional] space in which we grow for some reason.
  • "I don't know why God made an imperfect world. . . But recognizing that there's an essentially tragic nature to life, one that you have to forgive and accept in a foundational way, allows you to forgive the smaller daily dramas with much greater ease. As much as we want to see the person who hurt us as an evil person—as if they were a major exception to the rule, since we have falsely imagined a perfect world—we need to realize that we're all an exception to the rule of perfection and expectation. Humans are inherently imperfect. That is what differentiates us from the Divine level.
  • “Surely people have hurt you and you wish you could punish them, but whether you recognize it or not, you yourself were forgiven when you also were broken and mistaken. All, without exception, live under the waterfall of divine mercy. There is, of course, an essential and direct connection between our receptivity to undeserved love and forgiveness and our ability to forgive other imperfect people. There is not much point in weighing which fault was the greater; that is merely the ego protecting itself. When you understand your own limited but lovely place within this universally imperfect world, you will find it almost natural to become more patient and forgiving with other people too."
  • “If we can find a way to live inside of a deep gratitude for our own undeserved grace and mercy, past hurts have very little power to cause us pain in any lasting way. They are not worth our time or energy. They are mere sludge and dredge in the great school and journey of life. The gratuitous surrendering of hurts ("forgiveness"), the refusal to make them our identity, is almost the heart of the matter. If you do not transform your pain, you will with 100 percent certainty transmit it to others. And, I am afraid, you will have pain! Both the Buddha and Jesus seem to say that pain is part of the deal, and its overcoming is the very shape of enlightenment."

So, God led me to some guidance on this issue of forgiveness in the form of words from Richard Rohr found on the Internet. (1) Forgiveness is a decision, but I should not be surprised if I see it rear its ugly head from time to time. So I guess I shouldn’t beat myself over the head about this. (2) The world is broken, imperfect and it’s full of broken, imperfect people. That surely includes me. I do not deserve the love and forgiveness—the grace—that God has given me. Is it my ego that makes me think I deserve special consideration? Wrong again. (3) Focus on God. Keep my eyes on His overwhelming blessings. Move out the hurt and the pain (the "mere sludge and dredge") and fill that space with gratitude.
 
Once again I am incredibly moved by our awesome, awesome God.


Interview with Richard Rohr accessed on June 7, 2015. Online at http://www.oprah.com/spirit/The-Truth-About-the-People-You-Cant-Forgive#ixzz3cUUiYWM7