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Things are not pretty some days

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“Why this is hell, and nor am I out of it.” —Mephistopheles in “Faust"

One year ago today, my father left a message on my cell phone—a thing he’d never done before. About an hour later, he had a stroke.

One year ago yesterday, they found my niece in a motel room. She was dead of a heroin overdose.
One year ago tomorrow, my father died while I was on my way to Seattle.
Five years ago Tuesday, Jane had a biopsy on a mass in her liver. 
Five years ago Sunday, the doctor told us Jane had carcinoid cancer. 
Less than four months later she died in my arms.
This morning, someone told me they would pray more diligently for a cancer cure.
I've nothing against prayer. I know many people feel it is a powerful and concrete thing.
But prayer alone does not cure disease nor end immediate pain and suffering. The best Christian I know, Jimmy Carter, acts himself to make what he prays for real. To paraphrase a Moslem holy man, he trusts in God, but ties his camel.
Today, go hug the people you love; visit someone who is sick or alone or in prison; volunteer for a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. There are people in the world who need your real and concrete help.
Give it to them. 
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Harry, you are going through a lot of anniversary days all lumped together.  And each memory carries its own heartache, in its own way.  So today, although I can only send {{{HUGS}}} to you this way, I send those and this from my Great-Aunt's cross-stitch which was in the hallway—

"Miracles.  Pray hard and work harder."  I am not sure that prayer alone does not sometimes cure disease and end immediate pain and suffering, but that is not the point, is it?  I think it is that those acts we undertake with and for lovingkindness, and by which we manifest Love into the world, that open the way to greater miracles.  Quakers are called to visit prisoners, tend to the sick, care for the hungry and homeless.  Yet, we each have as well a special calling toward our own unique way to manifest lovingkindness, and you are certainly following your own calling beautifully.  

These are not easy days for you—so filled with remembered losses, so empty in places of the heart—all surrounding you with the memory of Love that has been made manifest in your life. 





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I believe in prayer.  I know miracles happen!  Yet the Bible says that faith without works is dead.  I try to take the whole of the Bible to get the real picture, and in so doing, the scriptures show me that it is a two fold thing...we are to pray, we are also to do our part.

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I'm truly sorry you are hurting.  You've suffered such deep sorrow.  I'm sure I don't know the half of it, but I care about what I do know.

I agree with Fae and Kay about prayer and miracles.  Jerry's Middle Eastern physician sat on his bed and told him that he was never to forget that God gave him a miracle.  She said that he was her second miracle patient.  His doctors still tell him, "You're not supposed to be here."  Medically speaking, they are right.  Jerry believes God gave him more time for the purpose of concretely helping those in need.  I know his story doesn't ease your pain.  I wish so much that I could say something that would do that.  Just know we care.

We are definitely told to help others.  Those who have suffered in particular ways know better how to help others who suffer similarly.  Because of your many and deep, deep hurts, you are capable of helping others.  You are helping some who only you can help.  You are doing what you need to do, and are doing it well.  You are living your purpose.  You are appreciated by many.  

No one knows all the reasons God allows suffering in this life, but we know a few.  Because I'm trying to understand better myself (I hurt also), I'm reading a book called, "Why Suffering? Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn't Make Sense" by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale.  I find the book helpful.  I recommend it for those of us who are searching for answers.  



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Dear friends,

Thank you all for your kind words. I was in a very difficult place last week, especially Wednesday and Thursday. I just started shaking Wednesday afternoon. I knew what was happening, understood it, but also knew there was nothing I could do to slow it down. So I curled up in a chair and just stopped doing anything. It was the worst I've felt in a long while. 

I am glad for those of you who find prayer useful. Meditation serves that purpose for me--though I think true prayer is a meditation. What bothers me is when prayer--or meditation--becomes the answer to everything. I had several encounters this weekend with people for whom that is the case: "if I just pray a little harder, God will save me from X." Do miracles happen? Sure--one time in a million. The other 999,999 times, people die. On the whole, it is unwise to rely on miracles. Our mere existence is the biggest miracle most of us experience--and that is miracle enough for me. Anything beyond that, I expect to have to work for--and that no amount of prayer or faith will be sufficient to the task absent real effort.

I've been reading the Harry Dresden novels over the last year. Harry has a friend who is a Knight of the Cross and is deeply religious. The knight spends several of the early books trying to get Harry to give up magic and become a good Christian. He eventually gives it up as a bad business. He realizes that Harry's magic enables him to do good in the world--and that his own family would be dead several times over were it not for Harry's refusal to give up magic.

Magic, he realizes, is not faith. It is something earned and learned and practiced. The price of that knowledge is steep and the responsibilities that go with it equally great. Michael always knows the right thing to do. Harry has to work it out--and live with the consequences unsupported by anything other than himself. Harry does not deny the existence of a higher power--he has seen too much evidence that argues otherwise. And part of him would love to have Michael's simple faith.

But he has seen too much and knows too much. He has walked and talked with angels and made a sincere effort to redeem one of the Fallen. He does not see the world in black and white but rather in every color in the rainbow and all the shades between. He knows he wears a mask--and that most people, be they gods, faeries or mortals, wear them as well--and that we all wear several. Santa Claus, for example, is a Knight of Winter who rides with the Wild Hunt. The mask matters less than the real person behind it. 

He understands evil because he has been evil; understands redemption because he has been redeemed--several times. He has lost the love of his life, experienced death and rebirth, betrayed and been betrayed and come to understand that not everything that looks evil on its face truly is--just as what looks good, isn't always. 

I don't pretend to understand God's purposes. I see people who need help and try to give it to them. I try not to judge others or their beliefs because I rarely understand their lives and circumstances well enough to form a valid opinion. And I'm not smart enough to see where even my path ends. Sometimes what looks evil isn't and sometimes what looks like good is anything but. 

So I try to cultivate patience, compassion and love. I do the work that comes my way the best I can. In the end, it is all I can do.



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Harry, you are so right...miracles don't happen for everyone.  For some people our path is suffering.  For some people the answer to their prayer is no, maybe, wait, patience, or I have something else in mind for you.  But then I don't believe God is in charge of this world at this time.  My personal Christian beliefs have taught me that He's taken a hands off approach and let Satan rule for a time...I say "let" because he could stop it if He so chose to.  He has a plan, but we aren't always privy to the "when" or "how", we know the limited amount we're given in the Bible.  Okay, enough with my beliefs.  I'm just saying, He's not willing bad things to happen, yet they are.  Sure, He's powerful enough to stop them and sometime (okay, a LOT of the time) chooses not to for some unknown reason.  

I HAVE learned there are good things come out of suffering, pain.  I've personally experienced it.  When my George died, I didn't see how my life could go on, I was devastated!  Yet I've learned so much from this journey, although it wasn't quick and it sure wasn't easy.  I've been through a lot of hard places in my life...overall, they have taught me so much!  Some people who've had sheltered lives that everything seems to have gone great for them have not had the privilege of being so blessed and are often shallow in their existence.  Honestly, I wouldn't trade places...and believe me, that sentence came with a cost.

I am SO glad you took the time to stop and do nothing!  Sometimes we need that!  You aren't super hero, much as you live like one and have results like one...you are a human being that sometimes needs to stop and nourish himself.  Sometimes needs to think about what HARRY needs.  I applaud you for doing that.  And I hope this week is going better for you

Maybe the TRUE miracle is not having our pain taken away through intervention, but having the grace to get through it.


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