Category: Healing & Wholeness

Peace Blows In

Sometimes the simplest moments are the most profound. On a quarantined breezy morning last week, as I watched the branches of our front-yard tree waving in the wind, these lines of verse came to me:

Spring Wind

On a bright blossomy breezy day

my fears and sorrows blew away;

And in their place gentle hopes

of fresh tomorrows came to stay.

~Catherine Lawton

Five weeks ago I wrote (in this post) that I had both caught a virus and a virus had caught me.

Now (as I have recovered), I’m thinking that sometimes it feels as if the peace of God is caught much like a virus is caught. Though perhaps I wouldn’t say God “catches” us the way a virus “catches” us, yet I will say that…

  • We are both found by God and we find God.
  • We are both taken hold of by God and we take hold of God.
  • We are both accepted by God and we accept God.
  • We are both embraced by God and we embrace God.

It is being said that anyone exposed to this new Corona Virus will “get” it, whether they show symptoms of Covid 19 or not, because we humans have no resistance to it yet. On the other hand, we humans are adept at resisting God’s pursuit.

A virus seems to pursue us, intent on invading. It can kill. On the other hand, God, out of love, pursues and woos every person he has created, desiring to rescue and save and give life.

As long as we resist God’s pursuit and wooing, we are filled with spiritual death, as if a virus has invaded and found receptors in our vital “spiritual organs.” But as we turn to God, he envelops us in his arms of love. I don’t want to say God invades us like a virus, but he freely enters our being, fills us with the spiritual life of his presence. Then Death is swallowed up in Victory.

O Breath of Life, breathe on us. Let your Wind blow through us and fill us anew with your healing Spirit, that we may resist both spiritual and physical disease. Give renewed life and vigor to our bodies’ very cells that we may resist and defeat viral attacks. Thank you that even the final death has been swallowed up in victory by the death and life of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Fear not, my soul.

Fear not, friends.

 

Does a virus catch us, or do we catch a virus?

The news, social media, and our attention has been occupied by the Corona Virus sweeping the world and Covid-19 case numbers increasing daily, Meanwhile, our publishing schedule is interrupted, author events canceled, and I haven’t posted here for a while. The following story (which I wrote and posted for my Facebook friends two days ago) explains part of the reason for my recent silence. Someone said, “Our stories matter. Everyone needs to share their stories.” Here’s mine at this time. This story is longer than most of my posts. Thanks for reading. And thanks for visiting. Feel free to share your response or a bit of your own story at the bottom of the page. ~Cathy on 3-31-20


Not long ago, we heard of a newly mutated virus discovered and starting to spread in a far away place called Wuhan. I didn’t give it a lot of thought. But numbers kept increasing. We heard briefly of a “whistle blower,” and it caught our interest more. Then we heard that that exotic virus somehow showed up on our shore. And soon it was spreading in Seattle, where I have friends (including Cladach authors). And it was more and more in the news. It seemed to show up in the area of every international airport (and one of those is an hour away from us). Before long this new virus was in our state of Colorado! Then someone in our state died of it. At that time we heard a lot about washing hands and not touching our faces.

About that time Larry and I attended a philharmonic orchestra concert at the Union Colony Civic Center in Greeley. Unlike most orchestra concerts, this one was packed! This time Greeley’s wonderful philharmonic invited a tribute singer and his small band of drums, bass, mandolin, and flute to join their orchestra onstage to perform John Denver music. The music was lovely. John Denver is popular in Colorado, and people happily crammed together, reminiscing about concerts at Red Rocks in the good ol’ days, and singing along. No doubt there were a few coughs, as there are in any crowd.

At intermission, the crowd–mostly senior citizens–flocked to the restrooms. We waited close together in line outside and inside the restroom. And because of all the advice about hand washing, we stood patiently in a crowded line to wash our hands, a long time as each person took a little longer (20 seconds?) to scrub.

Just a couple days after the concert, the public was told we needed to practice “social distancing” and stay 3 to 6 feet away from each other. When we took our neighborhood walk and approached other walkers, one neighbor would step off the sidewalk onto the grass or street and we’d greet each other from a few feet distance. We were somewhat careful but not worried.

A few days later, we were told the virus had spread within our city. What?! From Wuhan, China to Greeley, CO in such a short time?! Our church, which had prepared for Sunday by cleaning, putting away pew hymnals and Bibles, and offering plates, now, along with all faith groups in the state, was asked not to meet in groups larger than 10. Actually, that’s when it hit us more seriously. Online church was no longer just a convenient option. It was the only way to “go to church.”

Meanwhile we were going to stores, offices, small group meetings, a medical building. Larry played basketball at the gym several times during the week, as usual. Then the rec centers suddenly closed–indefinitely. It was time for spring break for students. Spring break was extended. Then schools were closed indefinitely.

We thought, well we can still take drives, maybe go to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. But then the park was closed! OK. This is getting real and immediate and a little unsettling.

It seems a virus caught us–somewhat unawares, unprepared, somewhat unbelieving.

And somewhere along the way, I caught a virus.

One day I was walking our dog, Jasper, on our regular route. About 1/4 of the way I began feeling seriously out of breath, strangely, and had to turn back. By the time I got home I was exhausted. But in the usual way I have of ignoring symptoms and determinedly pressing on, I didn’t give it too much thought. Nor did I give the occasional dry cough much thought.

But when I started waking up at night with an awful-feeling achy, burning, tightness in my chest, I wondered. But one day I’d feel better and over-do it. Only to feel worse, though, the next day. I don’t generally take naps, but I had to lie down in the middle of the day. I began taking my temperature. I was running a low-grade fever, which usually isn’t considered crucial.

A week and a half after these symptoms started sneaking up on me, I thought, I should go to the doctor. By then we’d been learning a lot more, and no way did I want to go to a hospital or ER. I called my doctor and was surprised that they said to come in. But they told me to call from my car when I arrived and they would check me in by phone, then they’d meet me inside the door with a mask for me to put on.

Well, my doctor, wearing a mask, examined me and said I had the symptoms of Covid 19. She prescribed one of the meds that doctors worldwide are finding has some effect in fighting Covid 19. She said, “We don’t have tests. We have to save them for patients in hospitals or we’d run out.” She added, “You’re sick. Stay away from people!” and “If you get worse, go to the ER.”

I texted our son and daughter, and you can be sure text messages began to fly back and forth across the country. Our son immediately contacted his close friend who is the head of Emergency medicine in an East Coast city. His advice was relayed to me. Then our son contacted his other good doctor friend, practicing in So Cal. He sent the advice to “Rest, rest, rest!”

Everything I tried to do exhausted me quickly, so I complied. My grown kids know I can’t easily be made to rest, so they keep reminding me. I know they love me, and it’s good to feel their love (and that in itself is probably the best medicine).

Meanwhile, I told my prayer group that I was sick and they have been so concerned and prayerful. I told my sister, and her church’s prayer chain got the word. Many of them are our friends, and some of them called and texted. In the past few days I’ve heard of several groups and prayer chains praying for me! Wow. No wonder I feel such peace. And I’m hopeful I’m turning a corner and coming out of this. It has been two weeks since I first felt symptoms. And I’ve got a ways to go. [But no “place to go” anyway, it seems. 🙂 ]

So, I think a virus catches us as well as we can “catch” it. And, even though the reported case numbers are rising so fast, I’m sure they don’t nearly represent all the actual cases.

Pay attention to cautions, to symptoms, to governor’s orders, etc. Express your love to your loved ones through texts, calls, emails, letters. Take care of yourself and those around you. And pray!

~Catherine Lawton, 3-29-2020

 

 

The Courage of Authenticity

It takes courage to be an author, to declare and publish to a busy, perhaps skeptical world what you have experienced privately … to tell in “bright lights” what you have seen and learned in dark places.

Long ago in Bethlehem, shepherds waiting and watching on a dark hillside experienced a wondrous awakening and illumination. Then, even as they stood there in awe of the heavenly hosts, the shepherds must have needed courage and bravery to leave their flocks in the care of their guard dogs and run into the dark, crowded city of Bethlehem to look for a newborn baby “in a manger” and then worship him as the promised king. Surely there were more qualified and famous individuals to use as messengers.

I think the needed courage gripped the shepherds because the authenticity of their experience and their certainty of it overcame their trepidation. They obeyed, they went, they told. And their story was full of immediacy and hope.

Sometimes we authors feel that way.

Though angels didn’t exactly appear to us in the night sky and declare wonderful tidings of great joy for us to write,  Christian writers do sense a call from God and we experience wonder and the help of God (and perhaps even of angels) as we write. We certainly have good tidings to share.

Janyne McConnaughey is an example of one writer who has a life-changing story of hope and is compelled to write and tell her story to encourage others. I don’t know whether she has been “touched by an angel” but I know she has been touched by God with the courage to share her story. The title of her first book, BRAVE, tells that. And these comments from readers and reviewers on Amazon.com tell us of the authenticity and immediacy and hope in her story.

  • “There is hope!”
  • “A compelling journey”
  • “A very important book”
  • “A road less traveled … a path to healing”
  • “Kept me on the edge of my seat”
  • “Powerful story”
  • “Healing from complex trauma”
  • “A roadmap to freedom”
  • Brave is a fitting title for this true story.”
  • “A beautiful soul shows us the way to hope and healing.”
  • “A book every person who has struggled with trauma should read.”
  • “This book can be your path to healing from childhood trauma.”

Whatever your place of waiting ‘in the night’—or journey in the dark— be encouraged. A savior is born and he brings good news to the oppressed, including those suffering from complex trauma.

~Catherine Lawton


Photo: Hubble Space Telescope

The Sound of Silence

I took this photo of a sign erected at a viewpoint in Rocky Mountain National Park. I have visited the park during all seasons. In spring and summer the melodies of birds, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. rise and fall on the air. In late summer and early fall, elk calls bugle through the park. Then, on many winter days a soft, white, silent layer of snow breathlessly quiets the scene. Would you think of this “utter, complete silence” as a sound, as Andre Kostelantez did—even “one of the greatest sounds of them all”?

This brings questions to my mind:

Should we seek/embrace silence?

Where/how do we find silence?

Why is silence important/needed?

What can we learn in silence?

Do we tend to avoid—maybe even fear—silence?

My curiosity piqued, I looked up Andre Kostelantez and learned that he was a Jewish/Russian immigrant to America who became one of the most successful conductors and arrangers of music in history. Among many accomplishments, he conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

I personally knew an orchestra musician who spoke of silence as if it were a sound: my daughter’s violin teacher. She drilled into my daughter the concept that a “rest” in the music was an “important nothing.”

Music rests, seasons of silence, “important nothings”; these provide natural, satisfying rhythms to music and to our lives. This is a principle that God seems to have woven into creation. As physical, emotional, and spiritual beings, we need times of silence that can become “the greatest sound of all” to us.

 Nancy Swihart has learned to embrace this life-enhancing principle. In her memoir, On Kitten Creek, she describes the times of silence on Kitten Creek farm that have become to her, as Kostelantez expressed it, one of the greatest sounds of them all:

“On prayer walks I do most of the listening,” writes Nancy. “Up here in this sky-drenched pasture a comforting solitude is one of the greatest gifts the farm has provided—placing my body, soul, and spirit into the presence of God without distraction.”

Nancy has learned to seek and relish these important-nothing rest times that give meaning and lilt to the music of her life.

Have you found ways to incorporate regular seasons of silence into the flow of your days?

A Sinful Woman Who Loved Much

One night I was very ill and out of nowhere, it seemed, the vision of this poem came to me. I thought of the woman in Luke 7 who anointed Jesus’ feet. And it just came to me like never before that, in Jesus, God was physically present in our world and to people. I like this story because of the physicality of it. Christ is truly present to us.

A Sinful Woman Who Loved Much*

My tears made mud on his dusty feet.

   My hair caked with dirt paths he trod.

My sighs rode the wind of the air he breathed.

   My hands touched the face of God.**

His eyes entered mine to unlock my grave.

   His feet didn’t shrink from my touch.

He smiled like a child,*** held the love I gave.

   How did he forgive so much?!

~Catherine Lawton 

(This poem is extracted with permission from the GLIMPSING GLORY : Poems of Living & Dying, Praying & Playing, Belonging & Longing ©2020)

*Based on the story in Luke 7:36-50.

**Jesus was the “face of God” given to humankind, making God personal, approachable, and knowable for each of us.

***As the Child (or Son) of God, Jesus was innocent, pure, trusting


This post appeared at GodSpace on February 13, 2020, slightly revised.

Season of Anticipation

Welcome, November! A season of change and anticipation.

Here in Colorado we can see “every season in every season.” A sudden chill may hit and bring snow in October or November. Then back to 60 and 70 degree sunny days. But no matter where you live, change is in the air.

As we anticipate upcoming holy days and holidays, we at Cladach are preparing good things to share with our readers—some for this season and some for all seasons

1. Janyne McConnaughey has written a companion volume to her psychological memoir, BRAVE, entitled Jeannie’s BRAVE Childhood : Behavior and Healing through the Lens of Attachment and Trauma with a release planned for January/February. We hope to have the book available by Christmas. What a great gift for anyone who has children or works with children, and anyone who experienced trauma in their own childhood. If you enjoyed BRAVE (and many have) then you will love this companion volume.

2.    Yes, I (Catherine Lawton) am the publisher at Cladach, But I am also an author and poet. I am passionate about some things, such as my grandchildren, good books, and experiencing God in nature. I have combined these interests in a Christmas picture book, Something Is Coming To Our World : How a Backyard Bird Sees Christmas. Available late November on Amazon and elsewhere. This little, colorful book will be an experience for families to share.

3. Watch for new interviews, videos, giveaways, and sales on the many seasonal and gift-worthy books we publish. Stay tuned! Let joy-filled anticipation of good things rise in your heart throughout the month of November.

Look for and you will find God in this season.
“Praise the Lord from the heavens… Praise the Lord from the earth … Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 148:1,7,14)
Art by Isabelle Lawton © 2016. See more of her art/illustrations in my book of poetry, Remembering Softly : A Life In Poems.
 

 

After the Storm: Creation Heals

 

Our corner bee garden before the hail storm

It seems God created this world with the capacity for healing built into it.

I remember Kiki, my pediatrician friend, saying that she almost enjoyed it when she got a cut or other minor injury on a finger, because watching it heal was such a wonder. I took this statement from Kiki with a grain of salt. She, of course, doesn’t desire the hurts that come from random accidents and afflictions of this life.

When the hail storm hit in July, I did not enjoy seeing the near-golf ball size hail bombard our home and trees and gardens. In late July, when our gardens were at their lushest—when trees throughout town, flowers in front yards, fruits and vegetables in gardens, crops in the fields were flourishing—came a hard-hitting, hurling from the sky, storm of hail that broke, battered, tore, ripped. It only lasted a few minutes. But it left roofs with holes, windows cracked, siding pocked, bee hives panicked, birds injured, crops destroyed, gardens sad-looking.

Our gardens give us (my husband and me) pleasure. We love to share their beauty and bounty with others. So, in my disappointment over the storm’s devastation, for a few days emotional storm clouds threatened to descend into my soul.

Why, God? What’s the use of planting and tending and making beauty, if destruction can hit any time?

I know people who have weathered many storms—both storms of nature and stormy relationships. Some have given up or have chosen to play it safe in one way or another. Cut down the trees in their yard. Take out gardens and put in rocks. Choose to distance themselves from family and friends. And I’m sometimes tempted to react this way to life’s troubles and conflicts.

But I have been learning more and more to know God as Love. He doesn’t cause evil or bad things. He is not up there somewhere, angry and vindictive, choosing to send hail on some people and gentle showers on others, then watching to see our reactions.

I recently read the book, Does God Always Get What God Wants? by Tim Reddish. He writes: “The whole Godhead suffers to bring shalom to all of creation… To love our suffering sinful world is to suffer…. The one who does not see God’s suffering does not see his love. God is suffering love…. [However,] God doesn’t let suffering have the last word. Instead, God responds to every situation in ways that promote growth and healing.”

God is, always and everywhere, with us, rejoicing with us and suffering with us.

With that truth on my mind, I took advantage of a quiet morning to spend time in contemplative prayer. And there I regained a sense of help and hope.

I have found that contemplation often clears the way to action.

I put on my sun hat and garden gloves, took clippers and went out into my corner flower garden. I began cleaning up, clipping away broken, spent, bent branches and knocked-down leaves, twigs, and flowers. And as I did, with each clip, I said, “I choose hope.” “I choose love.” “I choose beauty.” “I choose to suffer with.” I choose to enter into even the suffering of nature. (We are in this life together, after all.) I choose to cooperate with God to bring order and beauty out of brokenness and chaos, to encourage hope, light, and healing. To expect renewal and new possibilities. I decided to try rooting some of the broken plant parts. I deadheaded to encourage new blooms. I noticed the bees were making the best of things, too, extracting juice from hail-broken rhubarb stalks. Perhaps they would process it into honey.

I will join nature in its response to our God’s ever-creating and re-creating presence. I will stay engaged, by God’s grace, open to His constant working to bring beauty and goodness and newness out of pain and loss and scars…to increase Shalom.

I grieve the losses, the hurts, the scars; but like my friend Kiki, amazed at watching her finger heal, I choose to embrace hopeful wonder.

May God’s kingdom come.


 

Grace to Mothers and Fathers Grieving Aborted Babies

Sunset sky

Mother’s Day is painful for many people, for the bereaved, the childless, and those who suffer from post-abortion grief.

Not long so, my husband and I visited a friend in his home. Though he’s been married more than once, he has no children. Speaking of that fact, he got a little misty-eyed. Then he pointed to a memento sitting atop his TV: a ceramic baby booty. He said it represents a baby he fathered that the mother didn’t allow to come to birth.

I saw the tear in our friend’s eye. And I heard the wistfulness in his voice when he told me he believed this child of his would meet in Heaven.

I was touched by the emotions of this man, over something that happened decades ago.

If you believe, as many Christians do, that babies and young children who die before the age of accountability go to Heaven; and if you believe that unborn babies are persons with eternal souls; then you believe as I do that all those aborted babies will be in Heaven. Perhaps they’ve been growing and developing in the nurture of Jesus and loving saints. Then, what a host of beloved children are waiting there.

Our friend obviously believes and hopes to meet his one child someday in the heavenly realms.

One of the contributors to Journeys to Mother Love, Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton, has written movingly about her post-abortion experiences and healing. To our friend and to Kyleen, and to the many women and men who chose abortion when they felt trapped, hopeless, and helpless … the Lord of mercy and grace has healing, hope, and restoration for you. And He is taking care of your child. May that thought give you comfort this Mother’s Day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The emotions that can lead to—and result from—the choice of an abortion, are expressed in this video trailer for the novel Katie’s Choice, by Tracy Langford:

Healing and Resilience after Trauma

A radio interview yesterday with Janyne McConnaughey proved to be a lively and profound conversation worth the listening time. The show is posted online.

Janyne McConnaughey, author of BRAVE, and Patti Shene, host of Blog Talk Radio’s “Step Into the Light”, discussed topics especially helpful for anyone who has experienced childhood trauma, anyone who has children in their life, or anyone who works with children.

I jotted down these two quotes from Janyne as Patti interviewed her:

“We not only pass down our genetics, but we also pass down our pain to our children.”

“For a child to be resilient, it takes one person to be there for that child. We need to be that person.”

You can listen to the radio show interview HERE.


*Janyne McConnaughey, PhD is the author of BRAVE:A Personal Story of Healing Childhood Trauma.

**Patti Shene’s program, called “Step Into the Light” has an “INTERVIEW FORMAT SHOW WHERE GUESTS SHARE THE WAYS IN WHICH GOD’S LOVE AND GRACE HAS TOUCHED THEIR LIVES. WE ALL EXPERIENCE DARK TIMES AT SOME POINT, AND THESE TESTIMONIES WILL HELP LISTENERS STRENGTHEN THEIR FAITH AND REACH OUT TOWARD THE LIGHT THAT RADIATES FROM A GOD WHO CARES, WHO HEALS, AND WHO LOVES US UNCONDITIONALLY.”

Photo by Thomas Jay Oord

Love, Risk, and Rescue

I was editing a novel about mountain rescue about the time of Hurricane Harvey. Reading the fictional story set in Colorado’s mountains and watching videos of flood victims rescued from the rising waters in Houston, got me thinking about the rescues I’ve experienced or witnessed.

I lived most of my life near the mountains and rivers of Northern California and near rivers flowing down from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. In both places I have witnessed major floods where many people had to be rescued from rooftops, bridges, and floating logs.

Random tragedies happen. And they have victims—people, livestock, pets, wildlife.

I have been on the victim end of tragedy waiting for someone to rescue me. When I was four years old our house burned down in the night. I woke in a back bedroom to smoke filling the room and the sound of crackling fire quickly moving through the house. My mother came in her nightgown, took my hand, and led me through the burning house and out the front door in the nick of time. I tell some of that story in Journeys to Mother Love.

My mother herself was rescued at the age of 21 months. Her mother had died of TB and her father had abandoned the children to go find work. The county took the children into custody and declared them neglected and sent them to a state orphanage until age 21. But my mother, the youngest child, was rescued by the doctor who did a medical exam of the children for the court. He knew a childless couple who wanted a child and overnight arranged an adoption. So my mother was rescued from an institutional childhood and brought into a loving, nurturing home.

These types of tragic experiences can cause emotional trauma from which God’s love and grace is seeking to rescue us. Janyne McConnaughey‘s memoir, Brave, describes the process of healing from childhood trauma. Physa Chanmany‘s experience of extreme trauma as a child in the killing fields of Cambodia is described in his memoir, No More Fear. It’s hard to imagine anything more tragic than the genocide perpetrated by Pol Pot’s regime. But God’s physical and spiritual rescue of Physa is a story you won’t soon forget.

Speaking of God’s gracious love, the greatest rescue of all happened on the cross where Jesus revealed the extent of God’s love for us, making a way for us to have fellowship with the Father and to be set free from sin and death. I grew up as a preacher’s kid, spending a lot of time on a church pew and singing gospel songs such as, “There’s a sweet and blessed story of the Christ who came from glory just to rescue me from sin and misery. He in loving kindness sought me, and from sin and shame hath brought me…”

Rescue costs. It involves risk and compassion. Theologian Thomas Jay Oord teaches that God’s nature is essentially “self-giving, others-empowering” love that doesn’t seek to control the creatures whom he has created with free will. That means we can resist rescue—or we can choose to cooperate with God’s rescue work and ministry.

For a person buried in an avalanche in the mountains, one can hardly imagine they would resist help when a rescue team finds their location and digs through the snow to reach them. The risk involved in such a rescue is displayed by teams in our mountains here in Colorado—mountain rescue teams who answer the call to go into avalanche, blizzard, and sheer-cliff conditions to rescue and save mountain adventurers from deadly situations—often at risk of their own lives.

The latest Cladach fiction release—a debut novel by Jeanie Flierl—To Conquer A Mountain—brings together light romance and suspenseful adventure with high-mountain rescue set in the Rocky Mountains. Reviewers have commented that the descriptions of the rescues were their favorite parts of the story. I know Jeanie did a lot of research to make those scenes realistic.

At the beginning of the novel, the main character, Tatum, avoids risk and stays away from heights and situations she can’t in some way control. But after she experiences a series of unexpected, tragic events and relationships, later in the story we see her high on a 14,000-foot mountain peak, both rescuing and being rescued.

If you’d like some easy reading for long winter evenings, get To Conquer A Mountain. It might also get you thinking about love, risk, and rescue.

 


Photo credit: jamehand on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA