The Atheist’s Prayer

cattalespress:

Most people know the first part of the Serenity Prayer, “Give me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference,” but do you know the second part?
“Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.”

Originally posted on Malcolm's Corner:

The Atheist's Prayer

Many atheists, in their ignorance of history and philosophy and their often naïve and aggressive attacks on traditional religions, particularly Christianity, have thrown out the baby with the bath water, dismissing the value of religious traditions. Many of these predate Christianity, have their origin in Greek humanist philosophy, and do not require a belief in a supreme being. Prayer is one such tradition. The following Serenity Prayer is attributed to the greatest American theologian of the twentieth century, Ronald Niebuhr, but Niebuhr was steeped in both ancient philosophy as well as Christian theology and was therefore well aware that his Serenity Prayer contained the core tenets of Stoicism:

“Give me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

The discourses of the former Greek slave and Stoic philosopher, Epictetus begins by explaining the Stoic view that…

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Dance like nobody’s watching

Life is either a great adventure or nothing. ~Helen Keller

In the newly planted courtyard at Joel Barlow High School, about an hour before nightfall on a cool misty evening in May, some one hundred of us hovered together, sharing umbrellas. Since 2011 we had waited for the memorial sculpture to be dedicated to the memory of Robert Smuniewski. In front of us it was draped along with a newly tree in memory of a beloved teacher in the paraprofessional center Cindy Boas who had passed away in 2012 after a brave fight to breast cancer.

Underneath the cover, the sculpture was a good five feet tall; from the start, we knew the sculpture was a mobile, intended to capture his living spirit and “move,” a mobile.

He, like the cars, off-road vehicles and heavy equipment that he loved, was made to move. Perhaps that is why those of us who knew him still feel the aftershocks of his dead. That is why I have delayed this blog so long; the cost of sitting in the pain prompted my avoidance. Rob was so damn alive; but just because he ran and sprinted more than he walked through life, didn’t mean he didn’t soak up every iota of breath he took. Special he was, because everything to him was special; his life was not contingent upon external forces. He did not seek worldly recognition, because he had a Popeye attitude of “I Yam what I Yam!”

He lived creatively, spontaneously and was happy, independent of anyone or anything in his life. Impossible it was for anyone who came in his range to not soak up his radiance. Rob’s greatest legacy was for us to learn to dance like nobody’s watching, with or without a partner and especially dance if you feel you have two left feet.

sculpture1The wait was worth every bit of seeing the completed sculpture. How appropriate for it to stand tall in the courtyard of the high school, a place designed for mediation and reflection; a place that will hopefully serve as a solace for an overtaxed and “over-everything” kid—or adult— pressurized to excel above the genius mark, stressing, overextending, driven to seek approval from a hypercritical world, a place to let the mind run wild, find one’s self and remember that to breathe is to live.

Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

~ Corinthians 4:16-18

Strive to be happy

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 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hears be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27
There is a very special non-denominational chapel at High Watch Recovery Center in Kent Connecticut where I spent a good deal of my younger years. In that very place, a mishmash of everything religious and spiritual, for the very first time in my life, a life filled with pain, desperation and sadness, I felt true faith because it came from within. One of the things that influenced me so much was what was printed on the wall…”Desiderata….Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” desiderata_by_striveforpeace
I left High Watch on a venture; to sing my unique song fully as my heart cried in despair; to fail in the eye of defeat—get up, fail again; to love without reserve, on an uncertain, sometimes unsteady path, step up, trudge forward, head up, eyes fixated on a mustard seed of hope.thCAHUMSUY
Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!
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What a wonderful world

 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 

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A number of months ago, one of my dearest friends called my cell phone and left a message on the voicemail. The catch was, she forgot to hang up.

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin’ hands, sayin’ “How do you do?”
They’re really saying “I love you”
I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll 
learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Oh yeahanimatedRainbow

You would think my friend was an opera singer in her car, booming those words alongside Louis Armstrong. My tears were not only a response to her astonishing vocal abilities but to the fact that, she, a mother who lost her son at 18, only to become a widow shortly thereafter, was the epitome of what a wonderful world it truly is as long as we can find that tiny hint of sanctuary within ourselves that we can build when we make faith the cornerstone. Again and again, I listened to my friend on the voicemail, humbled.

In the face of injustice, who am I to question “why?”  Instead, I need to raise my eyes above the sins of the world, the Calvary of the journey, and fixate on God’s masterful creation of mountain tops, skis of blue, clouds of white, and all the things I may not be aware of, but are freely and generously the constant framework of my ever-changing world.

Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

Mind Confusion: Good for you?

dance_school-1280x1024 (2)Body confusion sounds bad but is good. As my yoga coach explained, when your exercise routine becomes routine, your muscles get bored and slack off. You can schedule the same exercise routine every week, but after awhile it becomes old hat, and your body does not benefit from the workout. In other words, you have to challenge—shuffle things around; in essence, confuse the body to keep it at its best. Challenges and new moves keep you in healthy grooves!

In this same vein, if the body slacks off, wouldn’t the mind do this also? Not to minimize the impact of a life crisis, but one thing it does do is shake you up and orbit you to unfamiliar places that may feel foreign and scary at the beginning, but later as the journey unfolds, recharges the imagination and ignites the creative problem-solving juices.

For instance, before our family’s personal crisis in 2010, I could have continued to hide under some fifty extra pounds of weight and allow myself to fade into the buttermilk color walls of my house, vaporizing behind my then husband’s emotional tailspins.

Instead, nearly four years later, “mind confusion” has kicked me into over drive. Tons of new challenges undertaken…daunting jobs, grubby courtrooms, and a longtime friend who threw me under the bus just when I was about to get my bearings! With the challenges, new joys have also unfolded…dating again since 1989, the last time I had a date; neighborhood kids who come to the door with shovels during a blizzard and a late-life love who surprises me with a kiss that transplanted me back to feel sixteen again when my high school’s gym class cheered me on as I did a tap dance atop the trampoline.

Thanks to the element of surprise, total mind confusion, I not only shed the pounds, okay, some of them, but I have also had a love affair—with my femininity, my individuality, my sometimes tragic, miserable, highly interesting, amazing life, and I learned that courage doesn’t come to me naturally, but that I have to have faith and work at it…not face danger and freak out and bolt, but face danger, freak out and stare it down—a little bit longer at each new perilous zone.

In the end, I still have “the bad” confusion in my life and I struggle as a single mom. It remains an everyday challenge to be stable and balanced, especially when the mortgage due date draws closer, every month, and my mind becomes a 24-hour melee in which I must battle it out with beasts that can and will flex their muscles to frightening proportions. Then there are those days when my body joints tell me I have been squeezed out of so much youth.

Through it all, I have learned to get my shine on and dance through life as if my experience on this earth has been a skip through a meadow of wildflowers and not a plunge into an abominable pit of hot coals, employing grace and dignity at all times when tears mar the vision, but faith carries me forward through the downpour.

“Goodnight, sweet prince”

famous quotes about death, (1)“Goodnight, sweet prince.”

At 4 a.m., the last night that our ailing cat Cliff spent in our house, the feeble, lethargic cat, rallied and howled beneath my son Marshall’s bed. In his 16-plus years, he never did this before. My son knew it was his finale. Gently he lifted Cliff up next to him in bed and before their final slumber together, Marshall bid him farewell, whispering, “Goodnight, sweet prince.”

Cliff died later that day, and peace and contentment shrouded Marshall. This was nothing short of a miracle. Over these past years, more times than not, my son, wounded from his best friend’s premature death and his father’s abandonment, would echo things like “I can never live without Cliff.” “I’d kill myself if anything ever happened to Cliff.”

In awe of God’s grace, I recognized the poignancy of my son’s suffering; how the ultimate design, jagged, unraveling, wildly unpredictable, is so beautifully  executed, detailed to a fault, in the Weaver’s hands.

Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

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Cliff Lytwyn Maxwell ~ July 4, 1997 ~ January 28, 2014

Stay tuned!…until next time….Faith forward!

Cliff: The Final Curtain

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“But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” ~Hebrews 11:6

Five weeks ago, when my daughter Alexandra and I took that dreaded trip to the vet, I, thinking it was “the end” of our beloved Cliffy, felt too fragile to euthanize the cat.  Without overanalyzing, I was working arduously not to lose my grip on my insides that felt like a flyaway kite. Fortunately, we found out that it wasn’t quite time for our tough Maine Coon Cat to make his final bow.

The strain of each passing day was unmistakable. My daughter reached a good level of acceptance with the situation, but my son Marshall held hope; held on. Though I was upset about the cat, my restless nights were spent on obsessing about my children’s wellbeing.

Tears shed, the most difficult part of detaching and letting go of him was that in our many years of what amounted to a domino effect of crises, Cliffy was our stronghold. Whether I was dealing with divorce, death or finances run amuck, his face expectedly gawked at me from the other side of the kitchen’s sliding door, waiting, above all else, to nosh. Unlike the whirlpool of the world, we all knew what to expect from our pudgy, frolicking showman, who looked so pomp and cool in his fur of black and white, promenading with his head tall.

Nearly at the end of that awful five week period, my son finally realized Cliff ‘s increased frailness. He blurted out, “Do it tomorrow! I can’t take it anymore.”

With few words exchanged between us, the game plan was, I was doing it alone, and I somehow had to muster the courage, which I found in my taking tiny steps instead of projecting the big picture of Cliff’s demise.

“God is in the details.” My BF Pat reminded me that I used to tell her that all the time. So I made a resolution. No worries, just do the motions. Move forward. And so I did, as it happened, God orchestrated every little thing and the appointment was set for 4:30 that afternoon.

At 4:00, Cliff, cradled calmly in my arms, had one last grand tour of the house where he once had run and frolicked, slept, and eaten, always filling the quarters with love. Paramount to the both of us was the sweeping view from our back porch and the acres of land that once filled him with a safe sense of belonging.

“Cliff…Cliff!” I called over the sprawling grounds below, in a voice that I had used thousands of times before for more than 13 years while we resided at the house.

“Cliff!”

“Crouton!” Still outside, I found myself calling as if our beloved deceased poodle was frolicking in the springtime next to his Maine Coon cohort.

“Cliff! Crouton! It’s time to come home!”

A bit late, 4:40, and frazzled over the area’s traffic; God is in the details. The vet’s waiting room was empty. The staff, caring, accommodating, ultra sensitive to our privacy, guided us into the examining room.

“Cliff! Crouton!” I called quietly into Cliff’s ear.

Even before the anesthetic, Cliffy in his customary lounging-like manner, reclined on the doctor’s table; his characteristic lazy self, so peaceful. He briefly stirred prior to the sedative administered as I made the sign of the cross on him numerous times with holy oil from Greece. His ears felt so silky. His eyes open but dimmed now to the physical world. He lay still; placid without the slightest quiver and within seconds after the second injection, so content and serene.

I thanked him for the privilege of his company for more than 16 years; I thanked him for always being on the sidelines when our family was void of cheering sections. I thanked him for commanding the center stage when I thought for sure the show would not go on.

“Cliff! Crouton!” my voice rang in a final whisper as I applauded him, our perfect cat who always looked so dashingly handsome in what appeared to be a tuxedo. I rose and turned away. Upon my exit, I felt humbled and honored to take part in one last standing ovation of God’s signature showman as the final curtain descended.$_57

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Cliff Lytwyn Maxwell ~ July 4, 1997 ~ January 28, 2014

Until next time….Faith forward!

Farewell, sweet prince

In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind ~ JOB 12:10

silverliningPutting our cat “down”; euthanizing; whatever the word used, it’s an excruciatingly painful time for me and my kids today. Cliff, the brave cat who once saved me from a pack of angry raccoons, has only a few more hours of life before I have to, in essence, take what is left of his life and make that dreaded trip to our vet.

For most of my earlier life, avoiding pain at all costs, I never had to do this to any of my pets. Someone else always did the dirty work. Crouton, our beloved poodle, spared us the anguish by passing peacefully just a few months prior in October.

Now I sit here writing, looking at Cliff take his final breaths. I am nothing less than grateful for this long good-bye. My daughter who made the trip to the vet with me about five weeks ago during a false alarm when Cliff first took a turn for the worst is lucky in a way—being away at school.

My son, a true hero during Crouton’s passing, is working at the moment, and unless things change, I’m taking this on alone; sparing my son. Since 2010, loss has been a constant state of affairs at our house, and the main reason I started this blog. Both my children were abandoned by their father, largely due to his mental breakdown in 2010. Months later, in January of 2011, Rob, my son’s best friend and a good friend of my daughter’s, was tragically killed. Last year we lost Maureen, my dear friend’s sister and a special person in our lives. In the interim, Cliff has been a great comfort to us all, like a large, floppy pillow to sink our sobbing selves into. Now, he has melted down to an emaciated skeleton. A breathing ghost who has not eaten or gone to the bathroom in over a week.

“You’re my father now!”

I remember my son cooing those words repeatedly in a soothing manner as he spoke to Cliff in those awful months when the wound from his father’s act of abandonment was raw.

“You and Rob were my best friends!”

These are my son’s words to Cliff recently, echoing down the hallway as we have journeyed through these painful, tearful times that remind our family yet again that nothing lasts forever.

Last week, after I shared Cliff’s story, a colleague blurted, “Move on!” Her words were forceful. When she said them, I thought about a life drawn on a chalkboard and suddenly—erased—fast, clean, efficient until the next messy job I suppose. Sure, death is “messy” when it creeps into a life. It’s unplanned. Downright rude, really. Exhausting and way too emotional. Of course, as relatively sane people that we hope we are, we must move on. However, when death rears its messy head, the manner in which we move on is different.

In the ocean of life, death is like a surfboard of pain and grief that we receive at any given moment. We grip it while trying to steer gallantly forward through the tide of the days that loop our lives. Sure, we lose our balance. We fall off the board. But always somehow climb back on and try to maneuver the damn thing, because, come on, it is ours. We alone take claim to the surfboards of pain that we are dealt, and the ocean’s arms are gentlest when we do not resist her mightiness and, yes, go with the flow—forward, the best we can, as hard as it may be.stairway_heaven

I close my eyes, and imagine a vibrant, young Cliff running and bouncing through a springtime meadow. Underneath me, I anchor myself in the ocean of life; balance on my surfboard as I drift farther from him, and he disappears in the fresh grasses.

Faith is my strength, my solace, the wings beneath my surfboard, flying me forward, onward, in the direction of that great meadow where I will one day reunite with Cliff, Crouton and all those fellow surfers that have imprinted my heart, and we will ride heaven’s waves in an everlasting celebration.

Rest in peace, our most very perfect cat.

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Cliff Lytwyn Maxwell ~ July 4, 1997 ~ January 28, 2014

Crouton Lytwyn Maxwell ~ November 12, 2001 ~ October 17, 2013

Friends in paradise forever

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Until next time….Faith forward!