SPIRITUAL HELP

Editor’s Note: Following is a page from my spiritual journal.

Outside the window, sunshine spread dark leaf patterns across cars in the church parking lot. Inside, thirty women had gathered in the small room, prayed together and were now listening to a volunteer read from the shared study book.

Following the words in my own volume, I hovered over one paragraph’s line. “…What happens when we wallow in depression, self-pity oozing from every pore, and inflict that upon those about us? …”

Over my adult life, I have experienced many gray shades of that sadness. Like the reading suggested some were cries of “Why me?”

Others were “blahs” from lack of sunshine. Still others were biochemical, like months of altered reality after I gave birth to Brian and later, David.

As the reader continued, my attention wandered from the text. I have been in a “funk” since my knee injury.

“Funk” is yet another gray of depression. When that malady strikes, I start two practices. First, I get out in the sunshine for ten minutes a day. I don’t lie in the sun like I did as a teen. Instead, I sit out in the early morning, exposing my forearms.

Sunshine has a positive effect on my dark moods. Maybe from the Vitamin D!

Rehab Penny is a jovial moment.

Rehab Penny is a jovial moment.

Second, I take a daily walk –outdoors, if possible. Exercise raises my feeling of well-being and happiness. Showing the top of my head to the sky also gives me a spiritual boost that sitting around the house lacks.

Alas! Last month when my knee was swollen and aching, I was not able to absorb sunshine. Late December and January produced many overcast and even cold days.

Also, before I left each rehab session, Penny (See photo, page 1), my therapist, raised a finger to me cautioning, “Use a cane if you have to. Don’t limp!”

I could not walk more than a few steps without my weak knee giving in. I exercised though. Every afternoon, I watched episodes of the TV series “Homeland,” I had borrowed from the library. During a story, I worked through about 45 minutes of Penny’s prescribed home exercises.

The rest of the day, I did little chores then sat and propped up my sore knee.

Thus, I slogged through six weeks.

During those weeks, every day I wrote to my friend and Twelve Step Sponsor, June. She responded to my complaints without rebuke, “I am praying for your knee’s healing.”

June (left) and me, January 2009

June (left) and me, January 2009

I confess: I did not connect with her prayers. Worse, I was unable to pray.

Sometimes I began an informal “Dear God, ….” Others I attempted a learned prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven ….” Each time my jumpy mind, aching knee or pain distracted me. This isn’t who I want to be! What’s wrong with me?

I didn’t know.

Years ago, James Carse, a professor of history of religion and literature at Harvard told of a similar prayer problem. I first heard him interviewed by Michael Toms on New Dimensions Radio back in the 1990s.

One Friday evening, Carse mentioned his book, The Silence of God. I sent for that book on tape the next day. In it, ordained minister Carse, told of a period in his life when his wife was dying of cancer. Suffering during her unfolding struggle, he had gone to his own pastor and confessed: “I can’t pray for her!”

His female minister had laid a gentle hand on his sleeve and assured him, “It’s alright.

In times like these, we (the congregation and I) pray for you.”

Looking back, I see healing my funk was similar. I had seen doctors, was diligently going to rehab and doing home exercises. However, those helped only my physical body. My spiritual self was hurting, too.

Like the returning tide floats a beached boat, your prayers and June’s lifted me. Not only was I blessed by her intentional words, but I was also helped by friends who sent “arrow prayers.”

Back in the 1990s when I studied with my first spiritual director, Sister Beverly, she spoke of arrow prayers. No longer wearing a black and white habit, she nodded her brown-haired head with conviction. “They are little prayers that fly fast.”

Sister continued, “Thinking of someone with good intentions is one kind. Another is saying words like ‘I hope you are feeling better.’”

Arrow prayers also touched me.

Like James Carse and his church community, Ninepatch’s community helped me with intentional and arrow prayers.

Picturing how it all happened, the old hymn about God’s love comes to mind. “… Love lifted me. Love lifted me, when nothing else would do, love lifted me.”

I am indeed blessed.

frances fritzie

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