It's yet another grey and gloomy Monday here in Mascoutah. I have lots on my mind today, and I hope I can figure out a way to post it all...
First an update on life around here:
1. We are still unsure of the status of Patrick and Graduation on Friday as to whether he will walk with the class or not. He had a "major" English project due last week that turned out to not be weighted as heavily as he had hoped, and we haven't gotten any info from the school, pro or con, as to whether he will be graduating, doing finals and then getting his diploma, or going to summer school. Waiting patiently is not my strong suit (contrary to public opinion...)
2. We went out as a family (minus Patrick, who went to a friend's birthday party instead) to the Spagetti Factory over in St. Louis for Rei's birthday dinner. It was a wonderful night, capped by a carriage ride with 7 of us in attendance. Rei and Aurora sat in the box seat with the driver, and they were allowed to help drive the beautiful percheron horse (Rex), while Ryan, Brie, Dustin, Eric, and I enjoyed the ride around the night club area of the river front. Rei and Aurora have decided they are going to be carriage drivers for a summer job (we'll see if they get hired first!)
3. Brie's new boyfriend Dustin is gone for three weeks to California for advanced training with the National Guard unit. Brie was not allowed to go given her pregnant status. She did drill on Sunday, and will do some sort of "home training". The unit is getting ready for it's deployment in August overseas.
4. Reimond says thank you and sends lots of love to everyone who sent him birthday/confirmation cards and gifts. He combined them with what we provided and got a laptop (basic model, basic functions) and he couldn't be happier. It was a nice 16th birthday for him.
5. I have a friend who is struggling mightily with depression and hopelessness right now. My heart just hurts for her because she is so lost right now. There is nothing I can really say that will make a difference: platitudes and comfort won't change the statuses in her life right now, and I feel so helpless. I don't know how to help. I listen, but she knows the options as well (if not better) than I do, and she sees only bleakness in her future right now. I am praying so hard for her, and I hope something comes along that will illuminate a path for her, because I know this has to come from inside her. I cannot fix it for her.
6. We also heard last night that Eric's sister-in-law's daughter was in a bad motorcycle accident last night. Her daughter is in rough shape, between broken bones and road burn; the guy she was with is worse off, with head injuries. Brings me back to the days of working at a trauma hospital in Minneapolis, and all that I saw there. I am keeping them all in my prayers as well.
That all brings me to my "Monday Musings." I just finished reading Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, and prior to that, Anne Perry's The Sheen on the Silk. Both were completely different premises and genres (with the exception of both being in some way related to murder mysteries), but both had religion and belief systems at the heart of their stories. Add that with the fact that for the past three weeks I have been attending religious instruction with Reimond at the church, in preparation for his confirmation on Sunday, and I have had a myriad of thoughts circling my brain again. Dan Brown's book introduced some concepts I was unfamiliar with, including Noetic theory (which essentially looks at using and expanding the power of the mind), along with concepts of apotheosis (man becoming God or God-like); and Anne Perry's book looked at the schism between the Orthodox and Catholic churches (centered in Constantinople and Rome) and the conflicts between belief systems and politics. (Please understand, these are broad generalizations). Both books were very rich, very well-researched, and very detailed. What both, along with the instruction at the church served to do for me these past few weeks, is examine my own belief systems, what I truly believe and hold on to, and what I hold to be self-evident truths, as demonstrated by how I live my life. Phew... That is a lot of thinking!
The basis of the Lutheran church rests in the three solas: Grace alone, Faith alone, and The Word alone... That we cannot, by any works, words or deeds, save or redeem ourselves; that faith is what sustains, nourishes, and allows us atonement (by believing whole-heartedly in Jesus' sacrifice for us), and that Bible is the Word of God given to us for instruction, edification, and nourishment. What it boils down to for me is that if we live by faith, trusting in God's grace to sustain and provide for us, and we study the scripture, we will show our belief in our actions, in our decisions, in our relationships with others. Not that we will do it perfectly on any level (hence the need for Grace), but that we share by example who we are and what we believe rather than just mouthing the words. Brown's books (and I include here also his previous Robert Langdon stories) all focus on the "ancient mysteries" that are shared in all cultures, via their sacred writings and belief systems; and this latest work by Anne Perry suggests that no one belief system holds a monopoly on the faithful, or can fully describe (or proscribe) what it means to believe (have faith) and live life accordingly. That is again a broad generalization of what these stories said to me...
I guess ultimately, for me, it confirms that my faith in God, my acceptance and belief in the sacrifice Jesus made for me, and the comfort and knowledge I gain from reading the Bible and having my devotions, and peace of mind I have of KNOWING God's grace is sufficient is part and parcel of the bedrock of who I am as a person. As I watch my dear friend struggle with hopelessness I recognize that it has always been my faith that has illuminated the path for me so that I never fully gave in to despair. It wasn't that a magic wand got waved and life miraculously changed for me; rather, it allowed me to see the side roads, the options, or the path, I needed to follow, roadblocks, avalanches, and all, that brought me to the other side. Faith is a powerful thing! I don't hold to "preaching" or proselytizing, and I would never force my beliefs on anyone else (however, this is my blog, so I can share here what is in my thoughts). But I do know that faith in God sustained me when everything looked it's bleakest. I knew there was a reason for all that was happening, whether I could see that reason or not (and some things I will never understand!), but that good has come out of them. It has refined me, tempered me, made me stronger.
This economy sucks. I have a few friends who have been out of work for close to two years, with options for gainful employment in the near future looking bleak. I see the loneliness it imposes because money is tight and it is hard to get out and "do" things. Platitudes are cold comfort when you watch the house you designed and built being taken away from you because you can no longer afford to live there... When all that is left is Faith, and Grace, and the Word... If you don't have that, how truly lost one must feel... The biggest thing I am thinking though is that one doesn't have to be a Christian to have faith or grace. Spirituality of any sort can be life sustaining, a life rope to hold on to. Something that moves one outside of themselves and into the broader community of people. Volunteering, sharing one's gifts, one's strengths, one's talents... Stepping outside of yourself in the knowledge and belief that there remains something more. That attitude that when I have no control over anything else in my life I do have control over how I chose to interpret it... That to me is the difference between those who survive, and those who remain victimized. I think of the people of Haiti after the earthquake, where they were gathered together and still lifted their voices in prayer, praise, and unity. It made me shiver! The sense of HOPE remained.
Anyhow, if you have read any of these books I would love to talk about them with you. The concepts, the thoughts, the challenges inherent in them are worthy of a dialogue rather than just my meandering musings...
Thanks for listening to me!
P.S. Happy Birthday Grandpa Leonard! You would have been 98 today! I think of you often and treasure my memories of you.