October is here, and a new month of Daily Soul Vitamins begins! One of the most popular blog posts on www.reneemiller.org is on the topic of fear. We all find that fear creeps into our lives in all sorts of guises, and leaves us feeling inadequate, anxious, and uncertain. Scripture reminds us that God does not give us fear, but power, love, and a sound mind. Fearlessness is the topic of this month’s Daily Soul Vitamins. May this be a month to identify your fears and name them with boldness. May each day’s vitamin bring you from fear, through faith, to fearlessness!
Today I share with you a poem I wrote in 2000, titled Grief's Passing. When you first read it, you might assume that I had gone through a relationship break-up or suffered the death of someone close to me. Strangely, the grief that occasioned the poem had to do with my work. It was a 'Jonah' time for me. I was happy in my desert home, after having left a job that was no longer tenable for me, and I was enjoying the much needed healing that the desert always offers me. But, God called me to do a task I had no desire to do. Like Jonah, I wanted to flee from God. I didn't want God 'meddling' in my healing process! I tried to ignore, avoid, and deny what God was asking me to do. Yet, again, like Jonah, I was unsuccessful at telling God "No." I finally agreed to go where God was sending me, but I wept and wept when I had to leave the desert. This poem is the culmination of my grief, and my grief's passing...perhaps, it may help you if you are grieving...
The spiral downward
Into the well
Of blackest grief
Until breath shortens,
Until heart empties,
Until life weakens.
The fall into the
Threatening to rip
The soul's fibers
Shred by shred,
By suffering shred.
In half-whispered tones
The propelling motion
Cells compressed, relax.
Air seeps silently
Into the fractured
Grief left behind.
A deeper breath begins.
The heart fills.
Life is glimpsed again
With gossamer threads
© 2000 Renee Miller
All of America has been entranced with the visit of Pope Francis to our shores. The news stations have covered his reflections with mostly gracious and sensitive commentary. Thousands and thousands of people have been moved and touched by his presence and his words.
Like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the words of Pope Francis are simple and direct, lacking political rhetoric or intentional manipulative verbiage. Yet these very simple and direct words have deeply touched those with faith, and perhaps, even those without it. It is a reminder that it is not the quantity or quality of words that are important, but the truth of the message behind the words.
What is most striking about his words, his presence, the tone he sets is not his beliefs on particular issues. What is most palpable is that he is reminding us all that holiness lives and matters. In the midst of politicians, diverse American Catholics, families, believers and unbelievers, Republicans and Democrats, he is captivating the culture with the fact that holiness is more compelling than getting people to agree on controversial issues, or being sure that everyone can lobby for their specific points of interest, or manipulating situations to fulfill certain objectives. He just authentically brings us all into the conversation of godly life.
For that, perhaps, we might all just "Look Well Within" with a little more intention. We might find that we are changed as a result and because we are changed, the world is changed. That is no small feat, but one which is at the core of Jesus' message.
As a poet, I often like to create lyrics to hymns. The music of hymns can be so beautiful as to take your breath away, but the words often seem outdated, irrelevant to today's culture, too paternalistic or written in language that is not inclusive of all people. So, I frequently write fresh words to go with ancient tunes. Because these words are fresh and relevant to my contemporary experience, I find that they lodge in my soul with ease, and I find myself singing them when I least expect to, but probably when they are most needed! I'm sharing two with you in this post. If you are interested in more, or would like something specific written for you or your church, let me know. I would rather we find new words for old hymns, than cast out beautiful music in favor of what does not lift us to heaven's gate!
To the tune of "Be Thou My Vision"
Fear not to discover the truth in your soul,
Live from that truth, let your soul be made whole.
Let ego be dispersed, let heaven reveal,
Who you were made to be, what is truth, what is real.
© 2013 Renee Miller
To the tune of "When Jesus left the Father’s throne"
When you take the risk to search for God
Limit not how God will come,
Stretch your soul to what’s unknown to you
Even if it costs you some.
When the grace descends, from sources strange
Leaving your soul breathless with awe,
You will feel the filling of the Lord
To the throne of God you will draw.
© 2012 Renee Miller
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Many women will agree with me that hot flashes are not only uncomfortable – they are miserable annoyances that seem to overtake us without warning.
Hot flashes are about heat. I know about heat. I’m a desert rat. In fact, I’m in the desert right now and it was over 115 degrees today! Imagine adding hot flashes to that! Having had a hysterectomy when I was in my late 20’s, I have taken estrogen for years. Every time I have made the decision to stop taking estrogen, those annoying companions push their way in again and I am driven back to my little bottle of blue pills. In July, however, I decided that I really didn’t want to take them anymore. It is now September and while I am free of my blue pills, those little irritating flashes continue to make me crazy! The body needs to maintain a steady temperature. When our temperature changes, the body adapts to bring it back into balance. Unfortunately, balance is not what comes to mind when those annoying hot flashes swirl through my body from head to toe.
My younger sister recently asked me what she could do about the occasional hot flash she was experiencing in her pre-menopausal state. I thought, “Wow – how great would that be, if my hot flashes were occasional rather than an every thirty-minute phenomenon?” In any case, I gave her some suggestions about how to live through them. Maybe these 10 tips will help you too!
We are incredible creatures of God, and our bodies are amazing miracles. While hot flashes may be uncomfortable, even miserable at times, they remind us that we are fully alive – full of energy, passion, and possibility. We are able to feel and experience hot and cold. We are able to find hope in the midst of discomfort. We can laugh and love and age with dignity. Let your hot flashes remind you of life – full, embodied life – and keep the ice water nearby!
Gracious God, there are times when I am disappointed in myself, times when I fail to measure up to my own or others' expectations of me. What begins as disappointment can easily turn to shame, guilt, and deep regret. Help me waken to your promise of mercy that will keep me from focusing on my failure. Let that mercy soften the harshness I place on my soul until I am able to rejoice in my humanity and find in that humanity the courage to begin again. I ask this for the sake of your love.
(first appeared on www.explorefaith.org)
Life is rich with texture and beauty. Even the parts that seem unwanted hold within them seeds of grace.