Cindy Gregorson on faith and life

Archive for March, 2013

A Crowd of Sorrows

It is hard to linger in suffering. This is Holy Week in the Christian church. We like to go from the parades of Palm Sunday to the resurrection celebration of Easter and skirt by the agony and suffering of the Garden of Gethsemane and the journey to the crucifixion.

In our American culture, we have the reputation of seeking to medicate away our pain. Have a problem, take a pill. We don’t like to dwell in sadness and grief. We don’t tolerate pain well.

Then this writing from Rumi:
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes from an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them in the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

I have always been a serious person…even as a child, and a little prone to melancholy. I have always seen that as something to overcome. I have longed to have a more light hearted spirit, to be a more joyful person. I have lots of reminders in my life to choose joy, to laugh…trying to counteract my basic nature. But this writing from Rumi gives me pause. Perhaps the melancholy is gift and it teaches me something as well as creates a more empathetic spirit in me.

I would never advocate suffering for the sake of suffering. And clinical depression does require medication. But sometimes, we are just plain sad, and life is bringing us pain. And perhaps the way through, is really to go through it. To feel it, to see what it is teaching us, and instead of trying to fix it, to see it as God is working in and through it….and indeed clearing us out for some new delight.

So this is Holy Week. Let’s not rush through it. Can there really be resurrection if there is not death? And does embracing death, gives us a new perspective and attitude about life?

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We Are All In This Together

Trust does not come easily to me. Having been single most of my adult life. I have had to rely on myself. Because of that I do not easily hand off tasks or responsibilities. I have this is little voice in my head that says if it is to be, it is up to me. I expect competence from myself. I need to manage my life.

And yet, this article in our Soul Leader’s materials from Warren Christopher where he talks about how dependent we are on each other causes me to think. He talks about driving down the road and how much he is counting on the driver in the other car coming at him not to fall asleep or be distracted by his cellphone or crossing over the yellow line.

My well-being is premised on a basic social contract we have made as a society about how we will live. The social contract is as mundane as you stop at red lights and go on green lights, to as complex as you pay taxes for civic and social services so that all of our quality of lives can be better. It is as simple as clean up after your pet when you walk them in public places to as complicated as the conversation we are having as a society about gun control and the right to bear arms. My well-being depends on your living within and keeping this basic social contract. We trust one another to do the right thing day in and day out because when we don’t, we all lose.

So the question I am pondering today is if each day when I go out in the world, even though we all know times where things can and do go wrong, I have to trust that I will make it to work safely, that I will not be harmed in my daily activities, otherwise I would paralyzed, how can I apply that principle to that little voice in my head? Is it really all up to me? Have I left God out of that equation? Are there not people in my life who I can trust to share the load, to help me in a pinch? I am not looking to suddenly become incompetent and needy…that would be my worse nightmare!! i don’t want to swing in the opposite direction of not trusting myself and my own abilities to accomplish things and make my way in the world. But as Warren Christopher says, how can I rely more on the good faith and judgment of others. Sharing the load, the responsibilities, the decision making…that sounds like a whole lot more fun.

Dealing When Your World Gets Rocked

There is so much of our lives that we can’t control. I could not control the snow that made my morning commute over an hour this morning. I had to deal with it. I cannot control the forces in the world that is making working in a mainline denomination so challenging these days. So what am I going to do? One approach is to hope that the circumstances are not what they really are. I have seen that one a lot. We have had 40 years of decline as a denomination, and there is this sense we can keep going on as we have been without anything fundamentally changing. The economic crisis of 2008 revealed how critical the situation really is. So now what? How do we deal?

So when life throws stuff at us, those are simply the facts. They are not good or bad, they just are. What gives those events power, is the story we tell about what is happening. Sometimes it is a victim story:why does it always snow during commuting hours. Or we tell a villain story. The weather gods are out to get me. Or the most common one I see, a learned helpless story: I can’t drive in snow so I have to stay home.

Ok, maybe those are silly examples…but you get the idea. Each of those stories don’t help us deal effectively with our circumstances. They keep us stuck. So what is a better way to deal?

I am a big believer in responsibility. We each have an ability to respond to the stuff life throws at it. We can’t stop it. We can’t always change it. But we can choose how we will respond to it, and what I find time after time, is if I am willing to face the truth of my circumstances, there are things that are within my control and I can influence. I am not as helpless as I think I am. Taking responsibility actually gives me strength to do more than I think I can.

So what is coming at you right now? What story are you telling about it? Is it a helpful story that is giving you courage to stand in the face of challenging circumstances and even more the strength to respond so that the circumstances don’t completely dictate your reality.