Category Archives: biographical

Good Will Doing

Ephesians 6:7-8

With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

They say (whoever they are) that the good you do for another will be given back to you. Do this good thing now and you will be rewarded later in kind. And all of this rather fits in with the idea of Karma and what goes around comes around, whether good or bad. But… I don’t know that I see the proof of this in real life – do you? Too often, it seems that people get away with doing bad things – and even profit from those less than savory deeds. And too many kind, generous people, who do for others selflessly, get taken advantage of and walked all over. Where’s the cosmic justice?

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these Bible Bursts. Please forgive me if I’m a bit rusty. It has never been my habit to pick up the Bible and turn to a random page when something is troubling me or just as daily instruction. I only began doing so when I conceived this writing challenge, which was originally designed to get me back to the habit of writing. You see, I was mainly interested in my craft and not really my soul. However, over the years, I have not only returned to regular and productive writing, but I have also gained deeper appreciation for the words within the Bible – as well as the Bible itself. I have begun to see the Bible, truly, as Sacred Scripture, the inspired word of God. And that’s good thing.

I am a true believing and practicing Christian, a member of the Catholic Church, which I believe to be the Mystical Body of Christ. But, I still have my little hangups. There are still some parts of the religion (that is, what is practiced) and the Faith (meaning what is believed) with which I have real difficulty. And, every now and then, I’m still washed over by the ghosts of my non-Christian past, those doubts and disbeliefs that I had once embraced. What does any of this have to do with today’s randomly selected piece of Scripture? The verses speak of divine justice, of God rewarding those who do good. Soon after reading them, my thoughts turned to doubt, didn’t they? I asked: Where’s the cosmic justice?

And I know that one answer to that question is found in the belief of Heaven and Hell. Those who do good here on earth will be rewarded, after death, in the eternity of Heaven, while those who do evil here on earth will be rewarded, after death, in the eternity of Hell. Simple. And, yet… requiring SUCH a leap of faith. We have no indisputable proof that any of this is true. And we cannot even offer the promises written in the Bible as proof – because believing that the promises written in the Bible are true requires faith and, therefore, cannot be indisputably proven as fact. I might venture as far as to say that there is enough historical documentation outside of the Bible, reporting what eyewitnesses said and did, to declare that Jesus of Nazareth’s not being dead after his crucifixion is probable. But, his Ascension into Heaven? Continuing with our “probable” case, the fact that his followers and those who knew him may never have seen him again doesn’t prove that he “went to Heaven”. He could have disappeared into the mist and kept walking, going to live far away, in obscurity, while tales of his life and death got naturally exaggerated until they were eventually written down, thus exaggerated and embellished – in the Bible.

These are the doubts. These are the doubts that got the better of me in the past and still plague me now, from time to time. These are the doubts that many, many, many people have. We are not alone. There is, however, another thing that “they” say (whoever they are) and that is this: paralysis by analysis.

One can certainly overanalyze anything. And everything. Our God-given gift of reason can bring us to many wonderful and amazing lands of discovery in this beautiful existence that is reality. But, reason can only bring us so far. We can analyze the stories told in the Bible, as well as the historical evidence for figures in the Bible and their earliest followers, and we can even, reasonably, arrive at conclusions of possibility, or even probability. But, our God-given gift of reason is only designed to bring us so far – and no further. We are not meant to prove the Messianic power and Lordship of Jesus of Nazareth. We are not meant to prove that he is God Incarnate. God doesn’t want us to prove it.

God wants us to live it.

And in order to live the truth of Jesus, we need to love it – and in order to love it, we need to leap to it.

There is something about a human being taking a leap of faith that is more beautiful, powerful, awesome, and amazing than any other act from any other creature EVER. I even dare to say that a human being taking a leap of faith is something that even God Godself cannot do. God knows everything that exists. God knows each and every one of us intimately and infinitely. But, for us to come into a personal relationship with God, we must leap with faith.

Okay. I seem to be seriously digressing. I’m obviously more than a bit rusty! My basic point is that I don’t like to say out loud, or even to think, that acts of human kindness will be rewarded after death. Something inside of me fights against the idea that God is conditioning us to “good” behavior with the promise of yummy treats at the end of the day. Surely Heaven must be so much more – even so much other – than that. And I also resist the idea that God is conditioning our behavior here on earth with a stick and a carrot. Like, “Treat your cranky old neighbor kindly and generously and then you will see – a stranger will give you a check for 10,000 dollars!” Or, “Tisk, tisk, you better not knock your little brother to the ground or else you’ll find a hornet in your shirt and get stung!” Yeah, I don’t think so. I could be wrong – I could most definitely be wrong, God knows! – but I don’t think that God meets out cosmic justice with an elaborate system of punishments and rewards.

I do think, however, and I do believe, that goodness is its own reward. And I don’t mean that feeling of satisfaction for having done something “good”. I mean what these Scripture passages from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians are hinting at. Doing “good” and being “good” isn’t about what we do or say to our fellow human beings. When God calls for acts of charity, God is calling for acts of love, and, as Saint Paul tells us in another letter to another group of people, we can perform many marvelous acts – but if we have not love, real love, then we are nothing. Doing good and being good is about being in intimate union with Goodness Itself. “Goodness Itself” is God. And yes, that can mean following God’s commandments and thereby doing God’s will – but it means so much more. Because we could follow all of the commandments – but if we do not do so with real love, then we’re missing the mark. It’s all about loving.

As the verse for today says, it’s not about the good service that we do to our fellow Men, it’s about the good service that we do for God, for the sake of God – and we can do nothing for the sake of God unless we are doing it because we love God. Not because we want to please God so that we will be rewarded and not punished. No. Because we really love God, we joyfully do the things of God, paying no mind to the consequences. This joyfully doing is real joy, true joy. Just pleasing other human beings, or doing things for the sake of avoiding punishment or getting reward, isn’t going to cut it. The most beautiful thing that we can do as human beings is to take a leap of faith – and the most joyful thing that we can do as human beings is to love God, to whom we leap freely and unselfishly.

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase

Cometh Out Of the Mouth

It’s not about giving up candy, it’s about freedom…

Matthew 15:11

Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

I can’t help but note the timing of the random receiving of this particular quote. It’s the first full week of Lent, a time when many Christians are “giving up” little pleasures. We do this in remembrance of Jesus’s 40 days in the desert, a time that he spent fasting and praying – and overcoming temptations. In ancient days, Christians were much more serious and involved in fasting for the observance of Lent. Now, we only fast at the beginning, on Ash Wednesday, and at the end, on Good Friday. But, in between, we try to make small sacrifices in solidarity with Christ and in repentance for our sins. Life is full of temptations, and we don’t always overcome them as he did, but, rather, succumb to them. Therefore, Lent is a penitential season, a time to reflect upon our own weaknesses and the sins that we have committed, sorrowfully penitent for going against God’s will.

So, many people give up candy or desserts, or sweets in general. Some people don’t drink coffee or soda during Lent, or maybe they give up going to restaurants or out to see movies. The modern thing to do seems to be giving up Facebook for the 40 day observance. I’ve given up daydreaming. That may sound funny, but, often when I need to lie down to rest, I don’t watch television. Rather, I make up my own stories in my own head. Sometimes the stories bleed out into the times when I am not needing to rest and there are days when my “head is in a cloud.” This is rather a difficult thing to give up because it is so easy to do. I don’t need to open a cupboard or refrigerator or click an icon on my computer screen in order to indulge. I merely think. And I’m always thinking.

Do I make this sacrifice for Lent because daydreaming is bad for me? No, although, I suppose it would depend on the daydream. Many things that I have written, however, things that are of substance and worth, have begun in daydreams, or what I like to call “imaginings”. I imagine a character with a certain background and personality, put that character into a particular situation and then imagine being that person. I imagine interactions with other people, many conversations, often including ethical or moral dilemmas, motivations for why people do the things that they do, moments that can speak deeply to different individuals at different times, and so on. I explore “mob mentality”, being a religious person in a secular workplace, the challenges of modern preachers, and the challenges of maintaining integrity in politics. Other people can do these things through reading, watching TV programs, movies, or listening to radio talk shows, but, when I do, I notice that I am mostly absorbing other people’s opinions. I will take facts and real life scenarios from various sources, but then I choose a deeply empathetic approach to understanding life – by actually imagining walking in someone else’s shoes.

You may be wondering, if it isn’t bad for me, then why am I giving it up? Well, if my imaginings were truly bad for me, then I shouldn’t be doing them any time of the year. It would be silly to give them up for 40 days in solidarity with Christ and then take up my bad habits and sins again at Easter. If people are overeating sweet things in their ordinary lives, suffering from gluttony, it may be a good idea for them to give up sweets for Lent – but also beyond Lent. The idea of Lenten sacrifice is to give up some little non-sinful pleasure for the 40 day observance. Some little thing that you enjoy but that is not bad for you, in and of itself. One of the best reasons for doing this is to open your eyes to how you live your everyday, ordinary life. We often become dependent upon little pleasures – thinking that we can’t start our day without a cup of coffee or that our days are not complete without checking Facebook. What would life be without desserts? Would the world stopped turning? Of course not. Lenten sacrifices can help us see that we are stronger and less dependent on “things” then we may have thought.

When I started giving up imaginings for 40 days, I discovered that I could think on those big things without the fictional characters and still enjoy myself, and still have ample inspiration for writing. In fact, I found that I prayed more often for other people in various situations instead of imagining being like them to see what it was like. In a way, this gave me greater sympathy and solidarity with my fellow human beings. You see, the imaginings are not bad in and of themselves. They will not defile me. But, perhaps the time that I am spending on them keeps me from doing something else, something else that could also be good for me, maybe even better for me.

If someone is very grumpy during this season of Lent and reasons that he or she is grumpy because he or she has given up coffee or chocolate, then that someone has missed the point. You cannot give up soda or social media for Lent and then let yourself be an unkind and self-centered person. For, you will be forgetting that third practice which is part of the Lenten observance: alms giving. Alms giving and prayer are connected to fasting. In other words, being generous and mindful of God’s intimate presence is easier when you let go of little things, mere things, that may have a hold on you in your everyday life. Know that you are free. Know that you are not enslaved to particular activities or certain foods. Do not let yourself become a blind slave to habit.

Be quiet and still and open yourself up in prayer to the transcendent reality of God. Remember that you are but dust and to dust you shall return – but also remember that you are likewise of spirit and to spirit you shall return. For, the dust from which you have been formed has become animated by the breath of God. Though you may be living your life in service only to the dust and ashes of life, those things that are self-centered and fleeting, you can return to the fullness of life in service to the eternal things of the One who has loved you into being. Christ lived and died and rose from the dead just so that you can do that. So, take the time to truly connect to this truth. Pray.

Be mindful of the things that you take into yourself every day, through your eyes, ears, and mouth. Remember that your body is sacred – although it is mortal, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, of God, and this means that your skin, your stomach, your words, your mind, are sacred to God. Refrain from indulging in the fleeting things of the earth as if they are what is most important in your life, as if the loss of them would be the end of your happiness, your joy. You are made for more than merely these things – leave room for the things of eternity, for courage, for honesty, for freedom from slavery, for love. The poor in spirit are blessed because they have nothing to lose. Know that if everything else falls away, you are still beloved in time and space and for all eternity. So, be in solidarity with Christ who emptied himself for love of God and love of you. Fast – sacrifice.

Be generous with the gifts and talents that you have been given. Remember that the person next to you – whether at home, at work, or on the street – is your other self. You are both, we are all, images of God, with the inherent dignity and sanctity of human beings, God’s beloved creations. And we suffer. Christ suffered. We are bound together by an eternal bond of sympathy that is the depth and fullness of being human – don’t neglect or ignore that. Do not be so caught up in your own suffering that you forget about the suffering of another. The smallest acts of kindness yield true love, love that heals and lifts up. You know that you don’t need all the things that you have in your life – so share some of your wealth with those who struggle with just the basic needs of survival. And be gentle, be patient. Try to be understanding. Be kind. Give alms.

It is not the food that you put in your mouth that keeps you from the fullness of life. But the words that come out of your mouth can – the words of meanness, the words of pettiness, the words of unlove. Do not let what you say and do become a barrier between you and your fellow human beings – and between you and your Maker. Learn the freedom of Christ and the joy of Christ this Lenten season. Free yourself from selfishness – free yourself for love.

If we try to do this, then we will be able to truly celebrate newness of life at the end of our 40 days.

© 2015 Christina Chase

Servant

I want to be of some use. But I don’t want to be used.

Matthew 20:27

And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

We don’t want to be anyone’s fool. We won’t let anyone put one over on us or walk all over us.  We are strong.  We are independent.  We can think for ourselves, thank you very much, and don’t need anyone telling us what to do — or what not to do.  If one of us is asked to do some menial task, we think that such a thing is beneath us and say to the person asking, “I’m not your servant!”

We will not be used.

But…

Are we of any use to anyone but ourselves? What happens when we are the ones using ourselves for fruitless pursuits, enslaving ourselves to our own whims and selfishness?  I’ll tell you what happens: we become the worst kind of fools — our own fools.

I was once self-centered.

When I was an atheist, I spoke like an atheist, I thought like an atheist, I reasoned like an atheist. When I became a believer, I put away with atheistic things.

I was not a mean and nasty atheist, angry at the world, disgusted with people. I was one of those secular humanist kind of atheists, appreciating beauty and kindness, concerned with the plight of others, and wanting to make the world a better place.  You would not have known by my interactions with people, by my words or by my actions that I was a “godless heathen”.  But, well… I was.  I did what I wanted and what I wanted was what made me feel good about myself.  That very sentence can describe many people — including those who claim belief in, and love for, God.

The thing is, even when I might have said or done something that was of service to another, I cannot say that I did it purely for that other.  My act of kindness was not a selfless act, it was not true charity, because I was doing it to bring myself pleasure.  You know that pleasure that you get when you do something good for another person?  It gives you a kind of lift and can lead you to think very lovely things about yourself, and you are happy for that moment.  In this way, I can see how some people could actually get addicted to do-gooding.  But, what kind of good does it really do?  The other person who was helped is benefited.  But am I who did it?  I don’t think so.

You see, there were always people, who I helped out in some way, who did not experience the same pleasure as I did from my action. Sometimes, they received my kindness with ingratitude.  Sometimes giving meanness in return.  And, believe me, I snapped back at those people in a hurry.  “You don’t want me to help you?  Fine, then.  Suffer.  See if I care.”  Because, well, I really didn’t.  I centered all of my goodness, my talents and gifts, my beauties and strengths, in myself.  I did these things, I deserved full credit, I, I, I….  I hoarded any good quality of mine like a treasure.  I might pay out some of it somewhere if I thought it was a good investment and would give me a pleasurable return.  But, if it didn’t, then I would withdraw very quickly.  I was self-centered.

And then I became God-centered.

What does it mean to be God-centered? Well, it could be explained in many ways, but to explain the difference between being self-centered and God-centered, I’ll continue along the same lines that I wrote above.  As an atheist, I gave full credit to myself (including my genetics and experiences) for any of my gifts and talents, and anything that I thought, said, and did that was good, true, or beautiful (I was the determining judge of what was good, true, or beautiful, anyway).  But, as a believer, I give full credit to God (the true judge of truth, being Truth Itself) for all of my gifts and talents, and everything good, true, and beautiful in my thoughts, words, and actions.  God is the treasure and the treasure house.  God is the center.  And, by the love and mercy of God, God chooses to dwell within me.  Not because I deserve this.  But because God loves.

It’s like this. God created human beings in His own image and likeness and saves us from our sins, from our waywardness (a kind of drunk-on-self stumbling stagger, which is life that ends in death) by becoming one of us.  Christ sanctifies all of humanity through his Incarnation, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension: the Paschal Mystery.  And when we choose to enter into the life of Christ, we first enter into the death of Christ — and then we are reborn.  And we are not reborn in order that we may serve ourselves, our own whims and pleasures.  We are born again from above in order that we may truly become ourselves by serving others.  It is that entering into the death of Christ that allows us to truly be of use — without being used.  We Christians sometimes say that we “die to self”.  And that can sound kind of scary and weird to non-Christians — even to Christians who have not come to a fuller understanding of Christ’s sacrifice, yet.  But, you see, it is by emulating Christ, in giving ourselves away, that we are able to fully recognize God as the center and then able to give tirelessly and selflessly from the Divine treasure house within each of us.  No need to hoard.  And no need to be thanked or even recognized for the good service given to the other.  All glory to God.  For we are doing what we simply must do as true believers.  In much the same way, a rose must breathe sweetly and a flooded stream flow quickly.  It is the true nature of who we are and we cannot weary of it as long as we remain who we are.

And, so, as a believer, I know that I can be of use to others without ever being used. If someone wants half of my desert, then I should offer them the whole thing.  If someone needs help with a computer problem, I should patiently give it and not begrudge one moment extra spent doing more than might be “necessary”.  Yes, this is the God-centered life.  (God, help me live it!)  And it can be tiring, and thankless, and even lonely, sometimes.  But, the greatest human that ever lived, and ever will live, was humiliated, abandoned, tortured, and killed cruelly.  And, yet… He was willing to go through it all for the sake of the very ones who hurt Him… and so He is is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  To be like Him is more than a good idea, a pleasure, or something that might be rewarded — it is simply and profoundly who I am as a human being, first, foremost, and always.

© 2014 Christina Chase

To Confound the Things Which Are Mighty

Nothing but a cripple.

1 Corinthians 1:25-27

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a cripple. (I can use that word, because my body is crippled, too.)  The world was kept from knowing the extent of Roosevelt’s disability by the compensation tricks he developed to give the appearance of his walking — and also by the willingness of journalists to keep secret his difficulties in getting out of automobiles.  Why did he have to hide the fact of his weak legs from others?  Because Roosevelt wanted to lead the people as President of the United States, and he believed, as they believed — that a true leader cannot be perceived as weak in any way.

What is physical strength?

Because Ken Burns documentary film on the Roosevelts is on my mind, let’s continue for a moment with Franklin Roosevelt — a physically disabled man who used a wheelchair, and who not only became President, but also became the strongest and most influential president of the 20th century. He was a great world leader, a man of confidence, vitality, strength, and action.  He was not a weakling.  No one knew him to be a pushover — even though he could have easily been pushed over by the slightest jostle when he was ambulating on his braces and crutches.  The fact is that the paralyzing effects of polio did not diminish Franklin Roosevelt’s inner vitality and confident action.  In fact, because his paralysis made him physically weak and dependent on others for daily acts of survival, he developed a strong, intimate compassion for others who felt helpless.  Enduring his own sufferings made his heart and his resolve stronger.  Being fatigued more easily in the body, he grew more tireless in his mind.  Some experts believe that he might never have become president at all, if not for the timing delay that the polio caused for his candidacy.  Most experts agree that his muscle wasting illness made him, instead of just president, a great president.

So, again, I ask: what is physical strength?

I have often been told that I am an inspiration. And I have often wondered why.  Most of the people who have told me this have done so after knowing me for only a few minutes.  Usually, I don’t have to say much of anything at all except the usual casual pleasantries.  I know it’s because of the wheelchair.  They see me all crippled up and crumpled up and they, if they are normally functioning humans, feel a kind of pity, or sorrow, or even scared, nervous repulsion.  Exactly the kind of reactions that Franklin Roosevelt did not want to elicit.  But, then they see my smile.  They look into the intelligence of my eyes and witness my genuine joy, smiling across my whole expressive face, they hear the normalcy of my voice — and they are surprised.  No one expects joyful strength from someone who is physically weak.  Those who personally witnessed Franklin Roosevelt’s physical struggles, and knew something of the suffering and the fatigue that his disability caused him, admired him with a deeper intensity than those who only received the illusion of physical mobility.  They got to experience, as we do now, the fullness of who he was as a person and exactly how brave he was — how strong.

That’s something people have also told me: that I’m brave. But… I don’t really know what they expect me to do.  Should I dampen my natural tendency to joy because of the underlying sorrow of my disease?  I mean, I don’t like not being able to walk.  And I am frustrated, disappointed, and annoyed that other people have to take care me.  Hate is a strong word and I rarely use it — I will say that I hate to exaggerate — but, the way that I feel about my utter physical dependency on others… we could say that I hate it.  Do I let that take over my life and who I am?  No.  Mainly, because I am loved.  And being loved, being truly loved and knowing it, is a kind of freedom.  I, who I am as a person, body, mind, heart, and soul, does not need to be chained by my chains.  We all have limitations, all unique, some more obvious than others, some more minute-by-minute limiting than others.  But, there is no limit to love. Real love.

It may very well be impossible for you to do some particular thing. It was impossible for Franklin Roosevelt to walk unaided.  It’s impossible for me to walk at all — it’s also impossible for me to scratch my head, wipe my bottom, feed myself, etc..  However — and this is very big and important, way beyond wishful thinking, justifications, or petty comforts — I am not limited in becoming who I am created to be.  I may not get my way.  But, if I am willing and cooperative, then all of who I am (especially including my limitations) will result in the accomplishment of Divine Will.  God’s way is above my way.

No matter what your limitations, there are no limitations placed upon your ability to be fulfilled in who you are. A hero, a martyr, a warrior, a mystic, a sage, a saint — all are within the possibilities of every human person.  Should somebody not even be able to utter a word or express any kind of personal communication, he or she still has the ability to teach.  God, who created each and every one of us, has given each and every one of us the particular abilities needed to reach our full potentials and to become great in God’s sight.  We will not all become President of the United States or any other kind of a world recognized leader — but everybody has the ability to lead.  By following God’s love, we can not only become who we are destined to be, but we can also lead others to their destinies.  The very fact that we are simple, that we are small, the very fact that we are seen as foolish to many, the very fact that we are pitifully weak — that is how we become able.  It is how Jesus saved the world — just look at a crucifix.

It is through the human wounds that we can see the Divine.

Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase

In the Midst of Wolves

The world can be scary.

Matthew 10:16

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

 

Someone who is healthy, fit and strong can take care of herself. She is self-sufficient, working a job to earn money for food, clothing, shelter – and fun, too. She can get herself to and from work and wherever else she might like to go, she can feed herself, dress herself, and keep her body maintained, as well as her housing. She does not need to depend on anyone particular, as she is a fully functioning part of society.

But, someone who is not healthy, fit or strong cannot take care of herself. She is completely and directly dependent upon others for food, clothing, shelter – for survival. She has no money with which to buy the things that she needs and, even if she did, she cannot physically put the food in her mouth, put the clothes on her body, or even move from one point to another. If she were to be alone without another human being for more than two days, she would die. I know because this is a description of me.

And it’s scary.

The only reason that I am not scared every day is that the little world of my family is a loving and gentle place. My loved ones are not wolves. They do not prey upon me in my vulnerability, but, rather, pray for me. They are not heartless and careless, but, rather, thoughtful and attentive. They are not selfish and stingy, but, rather, kind and generous. My parents are living examples of sacrificial love – willing to give up their own time, energy, resources, and even physical comfort for my sake, so that I may survive and even thrive. I am grateful every moment of every day for them, without end.

But…. They are getting older.

After 30 years of taking care of my physical needs all by themselves, we began getting assistance from home health aides a few hours a day, 2 to 5 days a week. Right now, it’s four days a week for a total of 11 hours – assuming no one calls out. I won’t say that it’s easy having strangers come and give me personal care. It’s a lot like, “Hi, I’m Christina. Would you like to see my bum?” But, although the women who come start off as complete unknowns, after getting to know each other we usually like each other and get along very well. In fact, although I have had many aides for only one day, those that last longer have been good people, genuine caregivers, no wolves among them. Although, sometimes one might be a little rough or another a little sloppy, they generally give adequate care and sometimes even more than adequate.

The problem is that they are not my loved ones. I cannot completely depend upon them because they have their own lives. If my parents suddenly can’t take care of me because of their own health issues, none of them will jump into the 24/7 care. Right now, my mother is unable to take care of me because of her severely injured back. It’s all upon my dad… who woke up from back pain himself this morning. And with one of my home health aides unavailable for much of the summer, the other one has had to fill in – even though she herself has back problems and I know that I am breaking her, too.

And that’s when I think about the world in which I live, my own helplessness, and how scary it all is.

I don’t want to go into a nursing home. What fully cognitive person of 40 would? Yet I know that this is my ultimate fallback. And, truly, I am grateful to live in a society where someone like me will always be taken care of physically, one way or another. We are not such a cruel and heartless people that we will allow the most vulnerable citizens of our country to perish because of disability. Well, so far we aren’t. So far, so good. I know that I might very well end up in a nursing home one day, and I know that it will scare me. Yes, physically, I would be in fatal trouble if I were without another human being for more than a day (dehydration is very serious for such a small, fragile body as mine) but, mentally, I would not make it more than an hour without another human being within earshot. I have a terrible, paralyzing phobia of not being able to be heard. Even a few minutes without someone responding to me makes me realize how utterly and completely helpless I am and I just freak out. The wolfish fears of my mind have the power to devour me.

You know how believers always profess to love and trust in God? I do that. I profess to love God and to want to give my whole self to God, and to let Divine Will, not my will, be done. But do I really mean it? My test is this: if something horrible happened to my parents and sister and I had to live in a nursing home with nurses and aides who begrudgingly looked after my survival needs but who were not kind, who were mean – if this was my life, would I still love God? Would I still thank God every day that I am alive? Would I still be the accepting, joyful and loving person that I am? Sometimes, I let the full terror of this scenario fall upon me, the dark misery of it, and my deep, deep answer is: Yes. That’s what commitment is. That’s what faith is. I will love and serve God no matter what, no matter how painful, no matter how horrifyingly difficult it may be to live up to my beliefs. I will not betray my love!

But I pray that I will not be put to the test!

The truth is that everyone everywhere is vulnerable. We, as human beings, are all dependent in some way. First of all, of course, we are dependent upon God for existence itself. Then, we are dependent upon the created order, upon the earth and the resources of earth, for our survival. And let’s not forget our absolute dependency in the womb, as well as our dependency upon adults in our infancy and early childhood. Our dependency continues – even if we are physically healthy, fit and strong, for it is rare to find a hermit who does not receive something from someone or a self-sufficient survivalist who has not hoarded up a collection derived from others’ work. And we know that the world can be a rough place. Getting employment and housing can be difficult, living in a safe neighborhood is never a guarantee. There are thieves and liars and murderers everywhere that humans live. And even the kindest, gentlest people can be victims of horrendous crimes. We are often sheep among wolves.

So, what are we to do? We are to remain gentle. We are to be loving and kind, selfless and generous. But, we don’t want to be mindless. To be thoughtful is to think of others as they are – beloved children of God who do not always live up to the divine image in which they are created. Sometimes, people turn away from their humanity and become ravenous in their self-centeredness, using up others and tossing them away. We must be mindful of that. But we must not harden our hearts against them. We must never seek to give them a taste of their own medicine – for then we would become vicious ourselves. No, rather, we must be smart and use reason to work around people’s tendencies toward evil acts. If I end up in a nursing home, I will know to use my sweetness, my patience and understanding in a very obvious and outward way, so as to disarm people in their brisk harshness and unthinking. I will use my wits to discover their vulnerabilities – and I will have true sympathy. I will do my best to become a friend to them – and then they will be more willing to be a friend to me. And if this doesn’t work? I will never turn mean myself. I will try my best not to be vicious toward them. Rather, I will accept the fullness of my vulnerability. I will be as harmless as a dove. And perhaps, someday, in some way, this will be for someone a sign of the Holy Spirit.

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

 

 

Tell the Stars

Do I believe?

Genesis 15:3-6

  1. And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.

  2. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.

  3. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

  4. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… You who fear him, trust in the Lord… God’s ways are above man’s ways… The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?… Fear not, for I am with you always….

Great stuff. As one who holds the Bible as Sacred Scripture, what do I do with these words? Do I hold them as sacred, as the most powerful and significant meaning of and for my life? If so, then I surely would not be suffering from a paralyzing phobia. But, I do have a phobia – a very serious one.

My particular “persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it”[1] is a fear of not being heard. I realize that this may seem to have some cosmic, mystic overtones, but I don’t mean it that way. I am literally afraid that nobody will hear me when I call out for assistance. Being completely physically disabled by a motor neuron disease, and, therefore, utterly dependent on others for every physical need – I cannot even scratch my own cheek – I have been told that my fear is reasonable. But, it isn’t. The phobic panic begins when my mother is simply vacuuming in the next room. Every time I hear an outside door open, my insides jump and I call out to make sure that someone is staying in the house with me. My parents know my phobia very well and they would never intentionally leave me alone to suffer. But, mistakes can happen, I know and I tell them – but I very much would like to trust them more. And, even if they are human and fallible – at least, I should trust God that nothing bad would happen to me even if no other human could hear me for 10 minutes or even an hour. God’s grace can surely even calm a panic attack. Right?

Is this a matter of a lack of faith? A priest, whom I greatly respect and admire, has told me that it is not. This is, obviously, a psychological problem. Maybe I need to go see a therapist. But, it does raise serious questions about human fears and how the faithful trust in the Lord.

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me…”[2].

Abram believed God when he was told that God would change his lot. Abram believed in the power of God to work miracles and to make the impossible possible. And Abram put all of his trust, all of this faith – all of his heart – in the LORD. “I believe” or “credo” means to give one’s heart. Abram followed God with utter trust, even though it meant leaving everything that he knew behind him. His leap of faith was a life-changing experience – it was even a name changing experience. This man did not merely believe, in an intellectual kind of way, that the words spoken to him by God were true. He believed in God. He was willing to give over everything to the One in whom he believed, the one to whom he had given his heart. Even when he didn’t understand. Even when he sorrowed over it. And God counted it as righteousness in him – Abraham was exactly who he was supposed to be.

But, we humans crave certainty. We want to know for sure. We want proof. But… Where there is proof, where is trust? Because there is no dead certainty in the life of faith (no, there is nothing dead in God) people are often uncomfortable in it. They turn to concrete matters and science for answers and guidance. If something cannot be methodically tested and, therefore, scientifically verified, then it is dismissed. But, by doing this, we miss out on the fullness of life. For there is something beyond certainty that is precious and powerful. There is something more beautiful and profound in the leap of faith than there ever can be in sure knowledge.

Am I sure?…

I am a messy, mixed up human being. And I am in love… and I am believing…

 

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/phobia

[2] Jeremiah 29:11-14

Giveth of His Bread

Pureness of heart…

Proverbs 22:9, 11

He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.

He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.

After 40 years of living, I finally feel like I’m starting to come into my own. What does that mean? It means that I have discovered my own particular passion, my own particular talent, and my own particular voice. Not my own because I have created it for myself or given it to myself, and not my own because I possess it as a kind of thing – but, rather, my own because this passion, talent, and voice has been given uniquely to me and I, recognizing the gift, am finally allowing myself to receive it. Perhaps, I have learned to be more humble and to accept the goodness of the gift – even if it doesn’t meet the height of my expectations.

For, of course, I want to be on fire, masterful, and highly desirable to others. I am burning – but with a deeper heat, like a coal glowing more intensely, slowly. I am honing my craft – though my blade be but flint, I am working its edge. And I am inspiring – perhaps this is the most difficult fact of my life to accept. Every writer wants, naturally, to have an influence on others with his or her words. I have already done that on a very small, individual scale, inspiring one person to one particular thought. This is not how I dreamed of changing the world… but, perhaps, this is exactly how the world does get changed. And what I need to remember, and am beginning to accept fully, is that my own heart is as inspirational as the way I use words. In fact… it is my heart that does the inspiring – my words merely express my heart.

And when my words truly express my heart, the deepest core of my being, then they are my true voice, the product of my true talent, the reason for my true passion. Excelling at this doesn’t mean that I will become a best-selling author. It’s great to aim high and shoot for the moon, but not at the expense of the pureness of my heart. Of course… I can see this as a way of copping out, my little exit clause that gets me out of serious and hard work. I could just say, “Oh, the world won’t understand my authenticity because I am too pure and too deep for it – but that’s okay, for it’s better to be a saint in obscurity than a sinner on the public stage, so I will remain unedited in the shadows” and blah blah blah, all la-ti-da like that. This is exactly the understanding that I am coming to: I need to seriously work on my craft, put in the hours, make hard decisions, and then brave the world’s opinions – and my focus needs to be, not only on the style of my words, but also, most essentially, on the truth of my words. If I am not clean of heart, then I will not glimpse the divine. And what, then, is my life? For “… the life of man is the vision of God.”[1]

My Maker, the Creator and Master of the universe, has envisioned my life in a particular and brilliant way and has given me the passion, talent, and voice to fulfill that vision. Will I? Or will I waste the time given to me looking for something else?

Most of the time, I feel like I have already wasted 25 years. In high school, I knew that I wanted to be a writer – I knew that I am supposed to be a writer – and I was offered tools to help me toward that end. But I did not use them as I should have. Was it laziness that held me back or sheer procrastination? I know that I have a tendency toward both. Or was it perfectionism (a grave type of pride from which I suffer) and subsequent fear that made me dither and drag my feet, afraid that I would not be as good as I wanted to be?

My hope is that I simply wasn’t ready back then. I wasn’t ready back then because my heart was unclean and I didn’t know the truth of who I am. Back then, my passion was to use beautiful words to share profitable stories and to create my own immortality that way. I wanted my voice to be famous and to receive the crowd’s praise as they valued my work as important. Now, I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t want that anymore. But, what I desire now is a singleness of purpose – a single-heartedness – an exquisitely deep gleaning of myself, to bring forth what is good and true and beautiful in me, God-given, and share it with my fellow human beings. I wish that I had used the time up until this point to, at least, fine-tune my vocabulary, grammar, and ability to hold an audience. That would’ve been helpful to me right now. But, I am here and I’m serious about getting all of it right – not perfect, not award-winning – but right, in that the person who my Maker envisioned is fulfilled.

Although I had always thought that I have a high self-esteem, I’m beginning to see my past self evaluation as vanity. Truly in vain. Now… now that I have opened up myself, my life, to see the fullness of who I am, the fullness of reality, and am devoted to being fully human, fully alive, now I understand how I am beautiful and why I am talented. Only the pureness of my heart yields forth a bountiful eye and grace of voice.

 

© Christina Chase 2014

All Rights Reserved

 

[1] St. Irenaeus