Wednesday, November 24, 2010


It’s Thanksgiving week. Mostly that’s a good thing. I enjoy the time away from the office spent with family. I really enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, dressing, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie and then, later, turkey sandwiches. What’s not to love about that?

It’s not all good feelings and good times, though. This week we noted the 2nd anniversary of a sad event in our lives. Two years ago, we lost our dog, Molly. Molly was a beautiful border collie/Labrador mix with deep, expressive brown eyes that gave you a glimpse of the wonderful heart inside. She was what our vet calls a "dumpster dog." That is, she was unwanted and abandoned as a small puppy. We met her, fell in love and adopted her into our family. Molly was 13 years old when she died and had suffered with Addison’s disease for about 10 years. She almost died at least three times before that day in 2008.

Over the years, we spent more money than I want to tally in veterinarian bills and medication. Life with Molly was sometimes difficult. There was the time that we had to force feed her with a syringe because she couldn’t eat. I remember having to give her special baths for a skin condition that cropped up a month or so after we adopted her.

Then there was the time she had to wear one of those lampshades for dogs that keep them from aggravating some injury. She didn’t know what to do with it. It was clear, so she couldn’t see it very well and continually bumped into walls and door frames, at which time she’d just stand there looking confused or look at us for an explanation. It was hard not to laugh. Then I made the mistake of giving her a piece of banana. It was done with the best of intentions. I felt sorry for her for having to wear the lampshade and look silly. And she really loved bananas. So I gave her a bite. Before she could swallow, Molly was suddenly seized with the need to sneeze. Violently. Bang! Banana lampshade!

For all the difficulties and occasional silliness, Molly was loving, intelligent and loyal. She was a friend. A best friend. She was always glad to see us. If a family member was absent, Molly always watched the door, knowing that things weren’t right unless we were all together. She loved walks until the Addison’s manifested. She loved to share your snacks and she loved her squeaky, spiky ball. She loved us. No matter how bad I felt about the day or about my life, Molly was there to tell me that things couldn’t be that bad if you have a dog that loves you.

She was right.

See you at the Rainbow Bridge, girl.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Introvert's Lament

I’ve been reading the blog of my dear friend, Micheal. He has the marvelous gift of telling stories about people and places that resonate with something inside each one of us. He’s also one of the most transparent people I know. That’s a gift that’s difficult to use. When we’re transparent, others are free to accept us, reject us or ignore us. It takes courage to be real.

I wish that I was able to be that way a lot more than I am. I have a difficult time allowing others to see what is going on inside my head and heart. That’s basically because I am, in Jungian terms, a true introvert. It’s what I am and, as Edie Brickell once sang, "What I am is what I am.” It’s not something that’s going to change, so I have to live with it. So do my friends and family and anyone else I encounter.

This introversion stuff causes frustration to some because, unless I know and trust you, I’m not likely to let you see all of who I am. Trust takes time and not everyone has time to give. Those who don’t have time for investment in folks like me just take what they see at face value and go on. That’s their right but I wonder what would happen if they gave me a little more time.

I’m not the only one with this particular personality gift. I say gift because I believe that we are each gifted to see the world and to relate to people in a certain way. What we and others choose to make of that gift is what makes the world what it is. Perhaps the world would be much better than it is if we actually encouraged people to be the best of who they really are instead of requiring them to be the best of what we think they should be.

I’ve seen good people become bitter or burned out because they weren’t allowed, either by their jobs or their families, to become fully the persons they were created to be. They lost faith in themselves, the world and God without ever having the chance to come to full faith in the first place. I hate that. I hate it for them and I hate it for the rest of us, who will never have the chance to know them as truly joyful people living their lives and gifts to the fullest.

Where are you and I in all this? What do we tend to do with the people who move into and out of lives?  I hope that we see the treasure they really are instead of projecting onto them the personality or set of values we think they should have. Unfortunately, that’s the state of American society these days. We’re the culture that says, “If you’re not like me, they you’re against me. You should want to do what I do, say what I say, look like I look and think what I think.” Today the norm is “Conform or be Cast Out.”

I guess we all conform to some extent, but we all have to decide where to draw the line. How far are we willing to go before we dig in and refuse to compromise who we are any further? Only you can decide where that is for you. Wherever it is, I wish you the courage to find that place and stand firm. You are who you are and that’s good enough.

Why am I using this blog to tell you all this? Because I’m am an introvert and having this type of conversation doesn’t always come easy. Conversely, it’s the conversation I need to have. Talk about being conflicted!

In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, “It ain’t easy being me.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thin Places and Holy Faces

I was talking with a friend the other day. She mentioned that it was time for her to seek some answers to some of the questions that life tends to throw at us and is planning to take a few days and go someplace where she’ll have the opportunity to think, to get in touch with herself and to see the world from a different perspective.

I get that. Whether or not we admit it to anyone, ourselves included, we all need to find some time and some space that will allow us to become reacquainted with ourselves all over again.  If we are fortunate, we become reacquainted with something more – something beyond ourselves. A few years ago (more or less) I was doing some reading on the spirituality of the Celtic people. It’s a fascinating study and I have so much more to learn. One wonderful concept that I encountered, though, is something called The Thin Place.
What in the world is The Thin Place? Sounds like a code name for Nutrisystem, but that’s not it. The Thin Place has been around for a very long time. Celtic Christians in the areas of Ireland, Scotland and Wales more than a thousand years ago expressed their faith in ways that are a bit unfamiliar to most of us. Unfamiliar they may be, still they call to a deep and abiding need inside many of us – the need for something more in our lives, something more than the kind of superficial spirituality and lukewarm commitment that often characterize what passes for faith today.

In the Celtic worldview, there were places where this world and the realm of the spiritual come close together. George McLeod said: “It is a thin place where only tissue paper separates the material from the spiritual.”  The Rev. Mel Schlacter of Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City does a good job of explaining the concept. He says this: “In Celtic thought, a so-called Thin Place was a transition zone: where earth meets sky on a mountaintop; where land meets ocean at the coast, or better yet on an island; where the wilderness meets domestic land as at the edge of a moor, or where things beneath the earth come to the surface at a holy well. Thin Places carried power. They were places of encounter with the Divine.” Sounds a lot like a Moses and the burning bush event!

I found a brief but beautiful account of a person’s seeking of a Thin Place by a woman named Mary Wolf. She says that “… it may be that there are some places, like some chords in music, that evoke something spiritual in people, as the smell of burning leaves can bring back childhood to many of us; and that some places have more of that power than others.”

Wolf goes on to say something particularly thought provoking. She says that maybe we can work on becoming ourselves the thinnest places we can manage to be. “Not in the sense of meagerness, as fashion models are thin…but thin in the sense of transparency; being as full as we can of the love of God and leaking it like crazy.” She likens it to having a highly permeable spiritual membrane.

The problem is that because of our own nature, we often take only a sip of the living water when we really want to gulp. We each have our areas of indifference or cruelty, being sometimes spiteful and self-serving. We don’t love the First Love nearly as often or as well as we should or as we would like.

Thin Places are places of calling. They offer us the gift of grace and become lodged deep in our inmost self. Being in the Thin Place, or being Thin Place People gives us a taste of what Love is supposed to be. After that, nothing is really the same ever again.
When is the last time we’ve been to a Thin Place? When is the last time we became one? Neither one just happens. We have to seek out the kind of thinness and transparency that allows us to encounter and then to exude the presence of God. When others look at us they see the presence of the Holy in our faces. That’s really what it’s all about when we put away all the bureaucratic structure and release our baggage of material constraints, emotional armor and self-centeredness.
One final quote from Schlacter: “Thin Places are the destinations of pilgrimage, and the journey can be just as well through the heart as over land and sea.”

After all is said and done, the Thin Place is where we need to go and who we need to be.