Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Is It Christian to Take Care of Yourself before Others?

posted by mpratt

Maureen Pratt Author PicWe are fast approaching the most profoundly Christian time of the year, Holy Week and Easter, during which we will hear again about Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, death on the cross, which redeemed us, washing away our sin and opening up for us life everlasting. What an amazing love! What an amazingly selfless act. Thank you, Lord.

As Christians committed to practicing our faith, living our our lives as Jesus asks us to, we want to care for, to love, and to give to others. But living with a serious illness or ongoing, crushing pain can make this difficult, especially if our health needs are all-consuming of time, energy, and other resources such as money.  And, as we all know, doing too much, even if we want to, can run us into the ground and compromise the fragile lives we have in safekeeping, gifts from God.

Yes, we are called to be right there with able-bodied others, ready to help and sacrifice.

But how much is too much? Are we called to make a shambles of our own health, finances, or job situation so we can reach out to others?

Clearly, in Scripture there are examples of people with little (health, money, etc.) who gave of their scant resources. The widow who gave her precious coin, for example. But Jesus also showed us that it is important to take care of your own strength, resilience, health, and, where it is impossible for you to act, to find others who can step in.

Where does He do this?

First, there are several examples in Scripture of where Jesus retreated from his ministry walk and from the crowds that followed him. In Matthew 4:1-12, Jesus went to the desert to pray and fast, not into the city to preach. There, he was tempted, but resisted the temptation. And, after he was refreshed and ready, he began his ministry.

Jesus had been healing and preaching, drawing great numbers of people, when, in Luke 6:12-13, he “departed to the mountain to pray,” leaving behind his disciples. Again, in Matthew 14:23, after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus, “went up on the mountain by himself to pray.”

So important was prayer and renewal to Jesus that he left everyone around him so he could focus on just that.

What am amazing lesson this is for us! We need to be sure not to neglect the things so very important for our strength and ability to walk our Christian walks – we need to take care of ourselves, sometimes, before we are able to have the tools to take care of others.

Another very powerful aspect of what Our Lord shows us about caring for others is expressed when he is near death, hanging on the cross, no doubt in excruciating pain. There, beneath the cross, is his beloved Mother. Mary has been with him throughout his life, especially on his walk to Calvary. And now, she will be left alone.

Jesus could have come down off the cross and cared for her himself, or he could have given his Mother a palace and servants to see that she was taken care of. (In any situation, God can do anything.)  But, instead, Jesus turned to “the disciple whom he loved,” and said to Mary, “‘Woman, behold your son.’” He then turned to his disciple and said, “‘Behold your mother.’” In doing this, Jesus shows us another way of providing for others when it is impossible for us to do so ourselves. It, too, is a great act of love.

There are no easy answers as to how much we should give when we might suffer negative consequences ourselves. But that we pray over our decisions and seek God’s wisdom is vital to the integrity of the decisions we make.

God will, of course, take care of us, His beloved children. And besides His grace and strength, He gives us  practical tools and good hearts and minds to steady that precarious balance of our abilities and needs and those of others.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

 

The Jewel within You

posted by mpratt

 

Image Courtesy of Boykung/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of Boykung/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Those beautiful baubles don’t start out as faceted jewels. Wrenched or blasted out of the ground, gem material (as it’s called) usually has a crust of other mineral material on it, often unattractive ore or dirt. Material that is deemed “worthy” by experts then moves to the next phase, where it is cut, shaped, re-cut, and sometimes, heated, irradiated, and cut again. It is measured, calibrated, remeasured, and then waits for a setting to be chosen. Only after it is set (more work there), selected, purchased, and worn does it go out into the world and shine, lavished with “oohs and ahs.”

Difficult lives punctuated by illness and heavy with pain are like that gem material taken from the ground. We who have these health challenges are cut, shaped, heated, irradiated (metaphorically and sometimes truly!) as we go through our transformation from something unrecognizable to something more – something that sparkles.

God has already deemed you worthy. You are His beloved, His child. Through the faith that you have today and the courage that God gives you to face tomorrow, as you are shaped and faceted by the trials you live through, the jewel that is you is becoming more beautiful, more sparkling, and more of a life that will catch the light and illuminate even the darkest corner of the world.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Can You Be a Peacemaker When You’re at War with Yourself?

posted by mpratt
Image Courtesy of Janes Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of Janes Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

We all have heard the Beatitudes, and especially (no doubt) remember, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” In a world of trouble, violence, and anti-faith, this is a tall order!But there’s another thing that makes being a peacemaker in our world even harder: Being at war with ourselves.

Chronic illness and pain are not welcome inhabitants of anyone’s life. It’s so easy to go through the painful days and flares thinking, “My life would be so much better without [fill-in-the-blank-diagnosis].” Or, to repeat over and over, “I hate [diagnosis]! I hate [diagnosis]!” Easy, yes, and very human, of course. But, as I frequently say, illness and pain “just are.” That is, as much as we’d like to live without them, at present, we can’t. And the more we deny the situation, or battle ourselves internally, the more “at war” with ourselves we’ll be – and the less able to bring peace within or outside our corners of the world.

Too simplistic? Too childish? Too naive?

Sometimes, what is most “simplistic” is, actually, spot on. Sometimes, we adults can make things way too complicated. Sometimes, the fruits of stark, “adult” regard for suffering (that is, attitudes of “life is hard and then you die”) are just the opposite of what we, children of Our Lord , need to be able to live our our faith and truly shine.

Accepting pain is difficult, but if it is our lot, our journey, then bountiful peace will make it easier. Loving ourselves, as we love others, will enable us to have clarity when we go into a situation where peace is required.

In writing a play, there are lines, the words actors say. Bubbling underneath is a whole other way of communicating called “subtext.” It can be as simple as a character saying, “No,” and behaving, “Yes,” or more complex as scene after scene unfolds with action occurring one way, when underneath it, other things are in motion to counter the overt.

Life is like this, too. We might say, “I want to be a peacemaker.” But if, inside, we’re at war with ourselves, that is, if we’re battling the lives God has given us, we’ll be sending out mixed signals, at best. A “subtext” that runs counter to bringing true peace.

We probably cannot accept our lives with pain and illness all at once. And, we’ll have days when we would rather these burdens weren’t part of our lives at all. But the more we pray to the Lord for acceptance and peace, embracing all that we are and all that these wondrous lives – gifts from God – entail, the more we’ll be able to go forth and carry an amazing example of peace to others.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Peace in the Storm

posted by mpratt
Cover design: Amy C. King; Cover photographs: flower (c) Charles Nesbit/Photonica; clouds (c) Charles Gullung/Photonica

Cover design: Amy C. King; Cover photographs: flower (c) Charles Nesbit/Photonica; clouds (c) Charles Gullung/Photonica

Nine years has gone by in a flash!

April 19, 2005, my book, “Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain & Illness,” first appeared in bookstores. I remember holding my first copy, looking at the cover, and wondering, “What will become of this? Who will find it? Will it be of help?”

Truly, my impetus for writing the book was to help others living daily with chronic illness and pain to walk closely with God. A few years before, I had been diagnosed with lupus, and was in contact with many more people who had the disease or other serious health challenges. One of the things I heard from my fellow patients was, “Why me?” And the next thing I heard was usually, “What will my life become?”

Each person’s journey from diagnosis onward takes a distinct, individual path. Ups, downs, curves, detours, straight-lines – yes, it’s different for each of us. But, even if I couldn’t discern what someone’s life would be, I did know one thing: Without faith, we cannot possibly get through it all.

It was with this beginning that I took meditations and prayers that I’d been writing in a journal and began “Peace in the Storm.” All along my writing the book, which was exhilarating and exhausting, I kept in mind my fellow patients and their loved ones and asked, “Where is God in the moments? Where is God in each individual’s life? Where is faith in the questions that have no answers?”  I focused on specific examples, practical questions – no “just have a positive attitude and you’ll be fine” – because it is in these things that we truly live out our faith and find God’s comfort and guidance. Yes, even when there is a fog around us so thick that we can’t see anything but blur.

Blessedly – and I praise God every day for this – “Peace in the Storm” finds its way into the hands of those who need it. Church support groups, patient groups, individuals, and even medical professionals and caregivers – I am so grateful to be able to help others, even when I cannot physically be present to do so!

As the book’s journey continues, I can’t quite give definitive answers to the first two questions that I asked when I held the first copy of “Peace in the Storm.” “What will become of this?” and “Who will find it?” are open-ended, ongoing. But the answer to my question, “Will it be of help?” is clearer: Yes.

Not only has, praise God!, the book been helpful to others, it has continued to bless my life. There is nothing more uplifting in a life of pain and illness than to know that you can be helpful to others.

So, I encourage you – find your “Peace in the Storm.” Find a way that you can reach out and bring light to other people, no matter how tired, isolated, or pained you are. This is our ministry-in-illness, our portion-in-pain. And this is our very special way to take what we’ve learned and believe and help others to hope and heal.

Thank you to all who have and will find “Peace in the Storm!”

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

 

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