Monthly Archives: July 2018

Reflections ~ On what friendship means

Ahh, yes. My keyboard and me; working out the hurt, the loss, the discouragement of life, and sometimes the celebrations. Today I look closely at a treasured friendship which ended in tragedy Friday, July 19, 2018. It was the kind of friendship that had seen rather intense events in our lives, and yet had drifted a bit in the last year. I fully acknowledge that drifting was caused by my need for space from something we shared; at least until I could find my way forward. I wish, as we all do, that I could have one more chat, one more I love you, one more cyber hug. This is my tale, my take on friendship.

Stacey Haggard Brewer and I met in the early days of a small publishing company I was involved with. To be quite honest, I don’t recall the specific link that brought us together, but we were instantly comfortable with each other. Stacey contributed to PDMI as an editor as early as the fall of 2013, not long after we had formed the LLC.

As I grew to know her, we began to share the more personal bits of our lives. She was searching at the time, trying to understand several emotions she was experiencing. Within a year or two she lost her father to cancer. The experience unsettled her at levels she was not accustomed to and the two of us grew very close as she talked through her feelings. She was finding it difficult to complete projects, to be motivated, to make decisions. Her search for a satisfying spiritual experience seemed to grow deeper and broadened in its focus. We spent hours in chat talking about our faith, what windows we wished we could open, what it would take to return to the origins of the faith where concern for our fellow man was paramount, rather than how many rules were kept or broken.

Stacey and I also shared writing projects, thoughts, dreams, troubled moments, and bits of joy. We worked together on several projects, one of which was an article I wrote which was published in the Eastern Iowa Review. The piece was accepted without change or edit – a testament to Stacey’s skill and kind advice.

Through the years I listened as she dithered over life changing decisions. I was sometimes impatient, but still willing to listen. She was traveling paths I had already journeyed; and I was prepared to share my experience – however deeply I had buried those years in my mind and heart. She was one of a very small circle of friends who walked with me through the final months of my husband’s dementia. She surrounded me with love as I watched him deteriorate more rapidly each day.

As our publishing venture began to unwind, some of the hard business decisions made me feel isolated from those that I had worked with. Somehow, Stacey understood, and she gave me space. It was one of the hardest decisions I have faced, but it was also obvious that I needed to withdraw myself and my support. Again, Stacey understood my pain and had only recently begun to reach out and reignite the more frequent exchanges that we had so often depended on.

I received the news when I returned home from work on Friday. A private message written by a mutual friend who did not want me slammed with some announcement blasted through Facebook without warning. Just as she did, I checked for the story – it was just too unbelievable to accept without question. Once I knew for sure I contacted a few individuals and then created a chat group so I could grab those who I knew would suffer from the loss. Then a bit of Stacey-magic was recreated. People that don’t often share these days came together to express their pain, their love, their community. To express how tight the bond between us was, even if we had never physically met. Whatever our joint adventure into the publishing world created, the most critical piece is mutual respect and a choice to care. That was Stacey, an unrelenting optimist and believer in the humanity of mankind. She held firm to the belief that if we could just learn how much alike we were, we could and would learn to thrive together.

This blog of hers pretty much says it all. https://staceyhaggardbrewer.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/iamlove/

There are many in our author group that worked with her on so many projects, or that beta read her pieces. We will be gathering all those pieces together and see if we can compile some of the magic that was Stacey. It will take a while, but I think we could all use the process, a way to remember a very special lady. Stacey Haggard Brewer: a writer, a photographer, an artist, an editor, an explorer… a friend.

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“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“He thought about this for a second. “True. But if you never really make friends, you probably don’t have anyone to be your 2 a.m. Which would kind of suck.”
I just looked at him as he stirred his soup, carrots spinning in the liquid. “Your what?”
“Two a.m.” He swallowed, then said, “You know. The person you can call at two a.m. and, no matter what, you can count on them. Even if they’re asleep or it’s cold or you need to be bailed out of jail…they’ll come for you. It’s, like, the highest level of friendship.” — Sarah Dessen (What Happened to Goodbye)

“The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question “Do you see the same truth?” would be “I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a Friend,” no Friendship can arise – though Affection of course may. There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers.” — C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves)

We love you, Stacey. You were an incredible fellow traveler with much to share.

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, Personal Journeys

Lessons from Job

As I scroll through my newsfeed in social media, I am often struck by this pervasive attitude that people that are poor, hungry, unemployed, homeless, or running for their lives from some violent situation here or abroad, somehow deserve what is happening to them. Headlines that imply a woman should have expected her boyfriend and her children to be murdered; because she left “him.” (A quick Google search results in a sickening number of domestic violence cases in the US). People seeking safety criminalized without consideration for what they felt was horrible enough they had to leave. (Immigration and asylum is easily one of the hottest topics in the country just now). People who don’t have jobs, or homes, are somehow beyond help. (Several posts I’ve made about work programs and tiny housing projects have received feedback that these folks can’t be helped). People who are sick, well, we just can’t afford it. People fighting for health coverage for their sick children. As I’ve mentioned a number of times, it seems that the heat in our country over protecting the unborn cools rather quickly once that embryo breeches the womb. After that, mum and child are apparently on their own. Why do we act this way toward fellow human beings? What ever side of the fence we are on, why do we continue to kick the wounded?

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In John 9:1-3 there is a short story. It goes like this: “Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him.’”

One of the things that drew me to the Book of Job is the battle of wits between Job and his visitors. With increasing volume and verbosity, his visitors try to get him to admit that all the destruction that had been piled upon him was due to some sin he had committed, or some important task he had left undone. At one point, his visitors try to get him to admit that all his do-gooding was merely an effort to glean the favor of El Shaddai, and he was being punished for his insincerity. “What sin have you committed?”

I began to realize, as I studied this unique book, that part of the fervor expressed by Job’s visitors was very egocentric in nature and not due to a deep concern for Job’s soul. They knew Job to be an upright and devote man. If such horrible things could happen to him, what fate might await them? As the censure escalates you can almost envision the mental tally each man is building regarding his own actions and how each might be interpreted. Should they expect judgement from heaven suddenly and without warning?

Humanity does not fare well in arbitrary circumstances. Many of us demand form of the universe, predictability, reliance on things learned and experienced; we expect to be safe if we follow the rules. As long as we are safe and secure, we can hold fast to the delusion that the problems of others are a direct result of some breach of conduct – and not of our concern. Or worse, whatever calamity we face must be due to someone else’s failure – certainly not our own.

This is the attitude that causes me the most pain. This unrelenting push to blame the troubles of life on someone or something else. Everything from refusing food, shelter, and healthcare to poor, working poor, and homeless, to decrying from a pulpit that we are all going to die in a hurricane because we allow people of the same sex to love and commit to one another. Are we really that insecure? It certainly appears that way. We even apply it to women who, after years of keeping abuse to themselves are finally stepping forward and telling the world that they will no longer act like property. How difficult can it be to understand that we need to reach a point in evolution where a man does not see it as his right to perpetrate his blood line with any likely female within reach. Especially when he has no intention of hanging out to help care for that offspring.

My beloved country has exploded into a feeding frenzy of finger-pointing and blame letting. We expend vast oceans of energy trying to prove which side is the less informed, which side is the most violent, which side is responsible for problems in our country, perceived or otherwise. Most of all, we have become quite adept and the ancient skill of victim blaming. In Luke 6:41, Jesus responds to questioning with this, “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?” (NET) Why indeed. Job would feel very much at home.

The good thing about Job is that he does not remain on his ash heap, pushing back and arguing with folk that are proving with every stanza they have no intention of listening to him. Job turns to God and demands to be taught, to understand, to learn what it is he must do to move forward. I believe he gets his answer and that answer is every bit as actionable today as it was centuries ago. Within that answer is an expression of God’s displeasure with Job’s visitors. Apparently, He is not into blame gaming or into folks who believe they must defend the actions of the universe by finding nonexistent sins.

Redefining Job and the Conundrum of Suffering is now in its final editorial stages. The book was written with the understanding that the message within the book is useful to anyone, whether a believer, a non-believer, the curious, or the academic. I hope you will join me in my exploration of the tale of Job and the message the author shared.

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Filed under My Journey with Job