Finding God in the Irish Countryside

Recently I was asked how my trip to Ireland impacted my faith and spirituality. I loved this question because it wasn’t in the Irish people or even in the Irish Churches that I felt God’s hand. It was in the land itself, three places in particular.

The first was in the Burren, an otherworldly expanse of limestone rock landscape that stretches for 150 square miles through Counties Clare and Galway, and in some places, is a half mile thick. The area gets even more rain than the rest of Ireland, and the climate is oddly temperate, so the rock is dotted with an unusual variety of plants and animals tucked into its crevices.

In the midst of this desolate appearing region is a structure called the Poulnabrone Dolmen, an ancient portal tomb dating back to sometime around 3500 BC. This tomb wasn’t the original resting place of its inhabitants– their bodies were kept somewhere safe until only the bones remained, then the bones and special personal objects were placed into the tomb. It is atop a small hill, so it can be seen as an eerie focal point from surrounding areas.

As I climbed up that small hill, the heavy rain let up. Gusts of wind swirled around me and Irish mist kissed my face. Although not allowed past the rope that loosely surrounds the structure, I was close enough to be awestruck by beauty of those ancient stones.

My daughter wandered a few feet away on her own, and I thought about the families who once lived here. Their lives were so different from mine -different worries, different fears, different struggles, different joys. And yet, here was a sacred place where they felt a lot like I have, a place where they honored and mourned their dead, sending them on their eternal journey with personal objects to comfort them. Over five thousand years ago they cared for their dead and grieved just like we do. Throughout the whole world and throughout time, human beings all share this common experience of sorrow and loss, a fact that should make us all a bit more compassionate and charitable to each other. Continue reading →

Sometimes The Best Prayers Are The Unexpected Ones

I didn’t start out to pray. I just wanted some exercise to help settle the thoughts that swirled in my head. I decided to walk the old train track trail behind my house, where it follows the river along the cliffs. I was not in a hurry, and took my time. Gradually my breathing slowed to match the easy rhythm of my pace. And then something wonderful happened.

I saw God on my walk that day. Continue reading →

When God Doesn’t Answer our Prayers

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My last post was about answered prayer. But what about the times when God doesn’t answer my prayers? There are lots of those, and I’m often jealous when I hear other’s miracle stories. “The cancer just disappeared!” or “I am so blessed; God gave me just what I hoped for!”

The Gospels often mention God’s desire to answer our prayers. Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). In Matthew 7:7, he says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and the door will be opened to you.” In Luke, we read about the widow who nagged the judge so much he finally found in her favor so she would leave him alone. Jesus tells us God will not be slow to answer those who cry out to him.

So what am I missing here? Why are some people miraculously cured and others not? Is it because they are somehow more worthy or because God loves them more than others? Did I not pray hard enough for Neil to be cured? Was I not persistent in my prayer? Those questions lead me to feel guilty, believing that if I said one more prayer or did one more good deed Neil would have survived. Continue reading →

A Tale of a Morning Miracle

clockThis is a true story about a miracle. I think miracles happen every day, but we’re too busy and distracted to notice. Every now and then, though, something marvelous catches our attention. It may not even be dramatic, but it breaks through our usual deafness.

I usually start my day with a cup of coffee. When Neil was alive, he often delivered a steaming hot mug to me in bed. Sometimes we went outside to the patio, but frequently he sat in bed with me and we chatted about the day ahead. After he died, I missed those morning moments more than anything else. Gradually, I learned to fill that time with prayer, and began to chat with God instead. (I’d love to say the miracle was that God brought me coffee in bed, but no, that’s not it.) Continue reading →

Please, Let Me Be Invisible!

empty rockerHave you ever wanted to be invisible? Maybe so you could eavesdrop on a conversation you weren’t part of? Or maybe because you’re like me — so introverted that being surrounded by a crowd of people you don’t know is exhausting?

Last weekend I attended my first writer’s conference. Remember the very old TV commercial for Vick’s Cough Medicine where the actor announced, “I’m not a doctor; I just play one on TV”?  I felt similarly: “I’m not a writer; I just play one on my blog.”

I was surrounded by accomplished Christian women writers I respect and admire. There were bloggers whose posts I loved and authors whose books I read. The conference center was filled with energy and enthusiasm as women met with publishers and agents, sharing book proposals and blog ideas. I vacillated between “Wow, look at all these extraordinary women!” to “God, please make me invisible!” I didn’t know anyone there, and I was missing Neil. It was our anniversary. Continue reading →

I Can Do It All BY Myself!

The box was heavy and I dragged it awkwardly as my mother offered to help. Determined and stubborn I answered, “No, I can do it all by myself!”

Do you think this childish scene happened when I was a whiney 5 year-old? Or maybe when I was a petulant teenager? No, this incident happened just two weeks ago! A grown woman with an immature need to be independent and self-reliant, this is not a new story for me.

For example, a year or two before Neil died we had an argument and refused to speak to each other for several days. During that time I bought a new treadmill, and after the three delivery men plopped the monstrous box in the middle of the living room, I set out to unpack it and put it together. Continue reading →

Holding Holy Hands

I sat at my desk toward the end of the day, looking at the beautiful row of flowering pear blossoms outside my office window. As I watched, a couple came out of the hotel next door, heading to the restaurant across the parking lot. She was pleasantly dressed, and wore her gray streaked hair pulled back from her face. He wore jeans and a button- down shirt, strolling comfortably in well -worn boots. They were just an ordinary couple on a trip together, talking easily, on their way to dinner. I was fine with that, not sad or jealous at all. I almost looked away in time, almost got my attention back to my desk, but then I saw it.

They were holding hands. Continue reading →

You’re not the Boss of Me!

blog stethescopeMany years of being an emergency physician taught me how to quickly assess a patient and determine what needed to be done. Looking at the patient and the monitors, I could call out orders – meds, IVs, breathing treatments- and my great staff  jumped in and did them.

Many years of being a restaurant manager taught Neil how to quickly assess the dining room and determine what needed to be done. He could read his customers instantly and know who was getting impatient, who didn’t like their meal, who needed something at their table; and he too, could direct his staff to do what was required.

We were two adults used to “bossing” people around and were both very good at what we did. That was great for our jobs, but it was terrible for our marriage. Continue reading →

Giving My Worries to God

I used to worry myself sick about my children. All those years working in the emergency room left me acutely aware of all the dangers in the world: broken bones, lacerations, concussions, car accidents and all sorts of other harms.

Neil was almost the opposite. He didn’t want our daughters to grow up afraid of anything. He taught them swimming and rock climbing and caving and surfing, and whenever they got hurt he called their wounds a “fun badge.” They came home and told me all about their adventures, proudly showing off their fun badges to prove what they had done. Continue reading →