Listening When Everything Turns to Dust
In this issue of Thema, the articles, poems, and sermon give voice to struggle, loss, depression, and the absence of God. But as Muriel Rukeyser proclaims in her poem, “Elegy in Joy,” not all are blest, but the blessing is in the seed.
The Bible often reveals new beginnings after much struggle. In the Book of Ruth, Naomi had lost her husband and her sons: yet her daughter-in-law, Ruth, traveled with her to a new beginning that ultimately became part of the ancestry of Jesus. After Jesus, innocent of all wrongdoing, was cruelly crucified, he was resurrected into a new life. The disciples despite their grief and fear were empowered by the Holy Spirit who gave them strength and purpose.
Ellen Koneck, in her article, “Almost Absent,” mourns the loss of her bother to suicide. Her prayer life and belief in God were challenged but she eventually found God’s presence, “in the dark room with (her).”
In a wrenching reflection about the days and nights of an internal medicine medical resident, Calvin Gross, MD wonders, “How can I possibly hear God’s voice in the middle of the cacophony?” With an impossible schedule consisting of a “jenga-tower” of tasks and responsibilities, the young doctor who feels deeply called to care for others strains to hear the whispers of God. Finaally a stressed and emotionally exhausted, Gross hears the words of the Prodigal Son’s Father, “My son, you are always with me, and all I have is yours.”
Gracy Olmstead, a journalist, observes how little we learn from matter-of-fact obituaries. She offers a deeply moving reflection from Jeremy B. Jones about his recently deceased grandfather whose life, though seemingly ordinary, was full of remarkable times: church dinners; life as a millworker: advocating for a union.
Dr. Jean L. Kreiling’s poem “Clair de Lune” recalls her childhood piano practice but could not experience the joy her mother always felt for this piece of music. But after her mother’s death, while grieving, she found herself repeatedly playing Clair de Lune, much like a meditative practice, and she experienced joy and felt connected to her mother.
Sister Chris Koellhoffer’s article, “What We Swallow,” mentions that during her long drive to a retreat house she noticed a scrawled message on a windshield: I need a new kidney. Elizabeth. Koellhoffer wonders how often we miss the heartache of those close to us as well as the pain of suffering in the world around us. Koellhoffer suggested a prayer practice to heal oneself, those around us, and the world.
Reverend Matt Gaventa, in his sermon “I’m Through with Love,” shares his story, “When I was 15 years old, my father disappeared without leaving the house.” He reflects upon severe depression, the need for chemical help, and speaks theologically about Paul’s statement in I Corinthians: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, Rev. Gaventa tells us love is not about doing or curing anything so much as about God’s love-giving strength to endure and stand with those suffering.
Reverend Dr. Rindy Trouteaud, in “A Pastoral Reflection on Children’s Grief, and Two Movie Reviews,” shared a child’s questions, Why does God need my baby brother? and Why does God need another angel in heaven? Rev. Trouteaud had no answer but turned to art, suggested by spiritual director, Eileen Chwalibog, and helped the little girl use collage to help open her heart and cope with grief.
“A Hymn for Children That Need Rescuing,” by Reverend Carolyn Winfrey Gillette reminds us that we are all loved by God and need to know it is our mission today to welcome the children—not turn them away. She offers a hymn about the pain of immigrant children that churches may freely use.
In reflecting on the ability to transcend suffering, Dr. Sharon Hart-Green penned a novel, “Come Back for Me: A Novel” that explores the redemptive power of love. Her novel is recommended reading for spiritual directors and those trying to understand the after-effects of historical trauma, especially trauma experienced by Jewish believers struggling with questions of faithful living in contemporary society.
“Bandwidth and Boundaries,” by Alexandra Macey Davis, explores how therapy speak used in the vernacular can undermine relationships. She recalls how a friend was notably absent during a difficult time of grieving and told Davis that she was protecting her bandwidth. Davis tells us that we need a greater willingness to accept discomfort in the service of something greater than ourselves.
Thema Editor, the Reverend Christina St Clair, was born and raised in London, England. She came to the United States when she was eighteen and is a U.S. citizen. Her passionate interest in spirituality led her from Eastern meditation to become a follower of Christ. She earned degrees in philosophy and pastoral ministry. She eventually pastored two Protestant churches (United Methodist and Presbyterian). She is a certified spiritual director from West Virginia Institute for Spirituality and practices Reiki distant healing which is like intercessory prayer.
Her latest historically accurate novel, Naomi and Ruth; Loyalty Among Women, is intended for women of all religious persuasions or none. www.loyaltyamongwomen.com.