Memory And Hope by Peggy Drew

Godric of Finchale was a twelfth century English saint who lived the last sixty of his one hundred five years as an extremely ascetic hermit.  Several accounts of his life exist in typical hagiographic style portraying a person of great holiness and miraculous powers. In 1980 Frederick Buechner published a fictionalized account of the saint’s life in his novel Godric. Buechner’s Godric is that completely human mix of sin and grace, a person whose story, like our own, is filled with kindness and goodness, but also peacock pride and flagrant wrong-doing. Buechner, speaking through Godric, says, “nothing human’s not a broth of false and true, it was the two at once.”

In the novel the aging Godric is telling his life story to a young monk Reginald who will write it to preserve the life of this now well-known holy man. Godric goes into the caves of his hidden memories and tells it all, laying bare the “broth” that has been his life. Even though Reginald will censure it in his final book, we hear it all from Godric’s point of view.

And this is key to the spirituality of Buchner, an American writer and ordained Presbyterian minister – all our story is significant, even the pain and degraded moments, and that God had given us the gift of memory for a reason.  Buechner writes in one of his non-fiction works Telling Secrets,

“The sad things that happened long ago will always remain part of who we are just as the glad and gracious things will too, but instead of being a burden of guilt, recrimination, and regret that make us constantly stumble as we go, even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead. It is through memory that we are able to reclaim much of our lives that we have long since written off by finding that in everything that has happened to us over the years God was offering us possibilities of new life and healing which, though we may have missed them at the time, we can still choose and be brought to life by and healed by all these years later.” (Telling Secrets, 1991, pp. 32-33)

And Godric, seeing by the light of the candle of God, uncovers and tells us everything – the pain from a father who was too busy working to show love to his son, his own twice causing the death of someone by his careless behavior, partnering with a ship captain to take pilgrims to the holy land and defrauding them, and even after his conversion to Christianity and life as an ascetic being cantankerous, prideful, and falling prey on one occasion to a long mutual hidden lust between him and his sister.

But he also remembers his time in the Holy Land and walking into the Jordan River and feeling cleansed of sin, of daily submerging himself into the cold river near his English hermitage to battle lust and pride, of heartfelt prayers and writing poetry for God.

And he remembers God offering him possibilities of new life and healing all along the way. Once was amidst the gull cries and sea salt mist of the isle of Farne as a young man where a vision of Saint Cuthbert assured him of God’s forgiveness. Another time still as a young man when an angel named Gillian warned him that he had been living on Christ’s grace and charity for years and turning it to dung with his “lust and lies and thievery” and told him he needed to repent and mend his ways “lest all be lost.” And as a middle-aged man in his hermitage laying in the grass, lacking even the energy to loathe his latest sins, God gave him of a vision of Christ’s face in the tree leaves above. “When I deserved it least, God gave me most.”

Through memory Godric chooses all the healing God offered throughout his life though he missed it at the time. The last thoughts of Godric as he dies are “All is lost. All is found.”

Isaiah 46:9

Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me

 

Peggy Drew is a graduate student of Spiritual Formation at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. Her particular research interest is the role of beauty in spiritual development. In addition to her studies, Peggy is a team leader and coach for software development teams in a financial services company. When not studying or working, Peggy enjoys writing about literature for her family and friends at peggy.drew.com. She has two grown daughters and four grandchildren and lives in rural northern Massachusetts with her husband, dog, and two cats.

ART: Illuminated manuscript, illustration of St Godric kneeling in prayer with rosary (undisplayed upper portion shows Virgin and Child, teaching Godric her song) circa 1400, British Library, MS Cotton Faustina B, VI part ii, folio 16v (see entry for Godric in the Oxford Dictionary of Saints).

Single Voices by Gina Dalfonzo

“I feel like I don’t fit at all.”

“I wish there was greater understanding that we are not ‘strange.’”

“What about us—are we valuable?”

“I sometimes feel isolated, scrutinized, and ignored.”


Gina Dalfonzo

I heard statements like this over and over again as I interviewed people for my new book. The really dispiriting thing is, these people were talking about their experiences at church.

Part of the purpose of my book, One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church, is to hold up a mirror, lovingly but unflinchingly, to today’s evangelical church. I wanted to call to its attention something that many members participate in, yet are barely aware of: a heavily family-centered culture that often pushes single people aside. The problem isn’t that the church supports families; on the contrary, that’s a good thing. Families need all the support they can get. But single people do too, and too often, our needs are being ignored. The problem is that, in always putting families first, the church creates a hierarchy that makes single people feel, as one woman put it, “second best.”

The results, while not everyone can see them, are tangible and real. Single people left out of ministries and social activities. Single people not allowed to serve as leaders or pastors. Single people told they can’t join certain small groups, even those ostensibly meant for “mixed life stages,” but must stay with their own kind (even if that means spending their whole lives in a young adult group). Single people who show up faithfully to every wedding or baby shower, gift in hand and ready to help out, but whose own milestones and special occasions are ignored. Single people who strive to live faithful lives before God but whose struggles are given little recognition or support.

Talking to these people, and reflecting on my own experiences as a single Christian woman, I felt afresh the frustration, pain, and loneliness inherent in our stories. Yet there was more than that. I said before that bringing all this to light was part of my purpose in writing the book—but it was only a part. Another part, equally significant, was to hold out hope—hope that the church might be willing to recognize and change its approach to this growing population in its midst, hope that the single experience in church can get better.

The responses to my book have strengthened this hope. People are listening to stories they’ve never listened to before. They’re telling me that they’re waking up and starting to understand that changes need to be made, and that they need to be willing to make them. They want to reach out to the single people among them, and they want to help their church leadership to reach out, too.

All of this has been enormously encouraging. But it can’t happen unless the church is willing to listen, and to continue listening, to the voices of its single people. As a group, we’re used to being treated as people whose problems and stress just don’t count as much as other people’s: “You think you’re tired, you should try having a family and see what being tired is really like!” Or as projects that need to be fixed: “Let me find you a nice man (or woman) and you’ll be all set!”

That’s not what we need. What we need, instead, is just what everyone else in the church wants and needs: relationships among the community, in which our voices can be heard and valued—where instead of being shouted down or fixed, we get to do our part to help make things better for everyone. Our voices may tell of very different kinds of lives than the church is used to hearing about, but they are an essential part of the God-created symphony that comes together to worship and honor Him.

 

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

 

 

Gina Dalfonzo is author of One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church. She is also editor of BreakPoint.org and Dickensblog, and a columnist at Christ and Pop Culture. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Christianity Today, First Things, The Weekly Standard, National Review, and elsewhere.

 

Lucy Looking For Loveliness Along The Beam by Peggy Drew

Peggy Drew

This is the story of a woman who knew the truth, but instead turned to worshipping idols, and the story of her God who held his peace for a very long time and did not forsake her. Eventually, though, he disrupted her life of ease and took her where she had never been, turning darkness to light before her. He had created her and designed her for a specific purpose in his kingdom and now he reclaimed her. This is her story of discovery of that design and how she let it be marred, but how God began to restore her and set her back on track to fulfill the unique calling and design which he had given her. And this woman is sixty-four.

One year ago I took a detailed walk through my life story to discover who I was and what that meant. I studied moments of intersection in my life where I had done something excellently and loved doing it. I found the theme and discovered that I existed to glorify God by discovering and sharing beauty. My name became Lucy Looking for Loveliness Along the Beam (taken from C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader and his “Meditations in a Toolshed”). I understood what Lewis meant because I could see green leaves shimmering on a branch in the sun when I looked along the beam that stretched through the crack in the shed roof when others might have seen only the specks of dust floating in the beam. I heard the albatross’ sweet voice and smelled his delicious breath and knew what he said when others might not have understood. I know that beauty and loveliness are everywhere, and I long for it. I long to show it to others as a witness to God, the loving author of all beauty.

But I also analyzed the opposition that has come against me and contrived to prevent me from fulfilling my design – things of my own choosing such as worshipping money and things my enemy threw at me such as making me believe the core lie that the things I was good at were of no real value. I have also fallen prey to the downsides of my design as a seeker and sharer of beauty – to seek beauty for its own sake, to experience melancholy when faced with ugliness or people who do not appreciate beauty, and to get lost in my own idealism and create seclusion from others.

At the end of my life story interpretation I faced the truth that Lucy Looking for Loveliness along the Beam almost died. She lost her way. She forgot what her name was. In her wandering in the darkness she asked others what her name was and where she was going. Lucy Looking for Loveliness listened to their lies.

And the ink writing down her story got blotched and smeared and ran off the page till Lucy Looking decided her name must really be Peggy Perpetrator of Disgrace and Regret, and she sat down and cried in the cold and the dark not knowing what else to do.

But a beam of light shone into the dark shed. And an albatross flew by in the stormy clouds. And the voice of truth spoke to her.

“You will not be named by your shame. You are Lucy Looking for Loveliness along the Beam. You will see beauty everywhere. Speak of it. Point to it. Tell others it came from me. And I will heal you and restore the ink to flow in gracious lines on the pages of your story till its very end.”

“What is your name,” asked Lucy.

“The name that is above every other name.”

He took Lucy by the right hand, pulled her up, and wiped her eyes. She followed him out of the dark, and then, restored into the light, she did indeed see loveliness.

Calling matters even as we grow older. If you take time to carefully walk through your life story you will certainly find a constancy of design revealed, a theme in the things you’ve suffered, and probably a connection between your suffering and your design. You will see an Author (and an Enemy) at work. And God will show you the signposts he has placed on your path through life and teach you how to resist the temptations and core lies that will prevent you from fulfilling the design in which he made you from your mother’s womb. I wish I had done this so many years ago when I had much of my life ahead of me, but I’m still here. The last chapters will be exciting as I live out my God-given design more fully than ever in his will and for the sake of his Kingdom.

Aging holds a promise of being an extraordinarily fruitful season of life!

Psalm 139:13-16

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my
mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and
wonderfully made.
Wonderful are you works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of
of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

 

Peggy Drew is a graduate student of Spiritual Formation at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. Her particular research interest is the role of beauty in spiritual development. In addition to her studies, Peggy is a team leader and coach for software development teams in a financial services company. When not studying or working, Peggy enjoys writing about literature for her family and friends at peggy.drew.com. She has two grown daughters and four grandchildren and lives in rural northern Massachusetts with her husband, dog, and two cats.