Sweet Surrender

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Joy in cherry commercial

Joy in cherry commercial

Why I can say “Thy will be done”
and mean it

Sister Alma Rose and I were sitting on Sister Alma Rose’s big grass-green wraparound porch with Joy Brown, who has known Sister Alma Rose all her life, just as I have, except that Joy Brown is almost 30 and I am not even half that old.

Joy Brown used to live in Hilltop, but she moved to Los Angeles to be in films, and she got the first job she auditioned for, which was a pantyhose commercial, and then she was in a commercial for cherries, but she has risen fast in the “industry,” and she has just been cast as a supporting lead in a Major Motion Picture, which is a secret, and she can’t tell me who the famous stars are who are going to be in the movie, because everything is hush-hush, so I probably shouldn’t be telling you about it, but, oh well, too late now.

One of Joy's "publicity stills"

One of Joy's "publicity stills"

When she lived in Hilltop as a kid, Joy was one of Sister Alma Rose’s “disciples,” as I am, which, all that means is that we buy into Sister Alma Rose’s wisdom. She is our spiritual mentor, and we want to learn as much from her as we can, and besides we meet the most interesting and unusual people, most of them right here in Hilltop,who are Sister Alma Rose’s friends, plus she is fun to be with and she makes me feel safe, like Mama and Daddy do, only even more, because when she tells me that everything will be all right, she really knows, she’s not just saying that to make me feel better.

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

So Joy has come all the way from Hollywood to Hilltop just to talk to Sister Alma Rose. I am not officially part of the conversation, I just politely went to sit on the steps when I realized that Joy wanted to talk to Sister Alma Rose about something personal, though I can hear every word they say, and, no, I am not above eavesdropping, especially when I know that Sister Alma Rose and Joy wouldn’t really mind, they didn’t even ask me to leave.

Joy’s spiritual crisis

Joy's next job? Photo by Bidgee on Wikipedia

Joy's next job? Photo by Bidgee on Wikipedia

Joy is telling Sister Alma Rose that she is having a spiritual crisis because she can no longer say to God “thy will be done” and mean it. She has worked hard to get where she has got to in Hollywood, and people are always telling her how wonderful she is, which, she says, she is vain and insecure enough to lap that stuff up like a dog, and she is afraid that God’s will for her might not have anything to do with being a Major Motion Picture star, maybe God wants her to be one of those people who climb to the top of transmission towers to replace light bulbs, or something.

Without a word, Sister Alma Rose went into the kitchen and came right back out with something I had written once when Sister Alma Rose cured me of thinking I knew more about what was good for me than God did. And I did feel a little surge of pride, knowing that I had written something wise that Sister Alma Rose wanted to share.

Why I can say, ‘Thy will be done,’ and mean it

  • Because the best things in my life have been surprises
  • Because I really suck at manipulating and plotting
  • Because I can’t see around the corners
  • Because God can see around the corners
  • Because I know a pinprick’s worth of all there is to be known in the universe, but God knows all of it
  • Because if you are going where God (the Universe, Source, whatever) is leading you, there are signs and wonders along the way
  • Because if you are going in the wrong direction, you must constantly struggle
  • Because sometimes when I am running too fast in the wrong direction, I go off the edge of a cliff, like Wile E. Coyote, but Something catches me, and I do not make a Wile E. Coyote–shaped hole (or a Fanny McElroy–shaped hole) in the desert at the bottom of the cliff
  • Because you might pretend to love, but real love is a gift from the Divine
  • Because if God wants you to do something, God will, in God’s grace, make you passionate about that something, and it will be the thing that you do best and most want to do
  • Because there is total freedom in surrendering
  • Because when I try to Control Outcomes, (a) I get a bad headache and have to go to my room and lie down, and (b) it never works
  • Because I can’t possibly love myself as much as God does
  • Because sometimes it is the only power you have left

cherry_public_domain

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  • Desperation Meditation

    An Airbus 340-600 on final approach

    An Airbus 340-600 on final approach

    Sister Alma Rose has received numerous requests to print “the Meditation of Not Being in a Plummeting Aircraft,” to which she refers, now and again, when y’all write to her with “problems” that are, in fact, no such thing, at least not when compared with one’s Impending Fiery Demise.

    Sister Alma Rose has no fear of flying. In a speeding passenger jet, she feels as safe as a baby in a cradle — as long as the jet is not speeding in a vertical downward direction, something that Sister Alma Rose has not experienced, and she does not anticipate ever doing so.
    Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner (copyright Warner Brothers)

    Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner (copyright Warner Brothers)

     

    The Meditation of Not Being in a Plummeting Aircraft…

    …originated with the following bit of verse, by Anon E. Mouse.

    crisis-144x1351I am ashen-faced, my pulse is racing
    like a rabbit, as the sleek airliner
    in which I’m a passenger is streaking
    through the bright, blue sky. The flight attendants
    serve my choice of beverage, obscenely
    alcoholic; all the other passengers,
    insouciant, are chatting, reading, dozing;
    yet I know I am about to die. I
    know, moreover, planes can’t really fly — the
    one I’m in will any moment realize the
    speciousness of all aerodynamic
    principles, and plummet, just like
    Wile
    E. Coyote
    , to the seething desert
    floor. So I implore the God Whom, up to
    now, I mostly have ignored, and ask to
    be delivered safely to my desti-
    nation; and I vow to never take for
    granted anything henceforth. I promise
    I will always be contented once this
    mortal peril I am in no longer
    threatens.

    I think of my small discontents, the day-to-
    day annoyances disturbing my
    serenity, and see them as not merely
    trivial but absolutely radiant, the
    jigsaw-puzzle pieces of my life, which,
    now that I’m about to lose it, gleams with
    incandescent loveliness. How fine a
    thing it was to take a breath and know that
    I could take another and another,
    practically forever.
    Apparently you have to be about to
    die to see your life as burnished, jeweled,
    precious; to be grateful thoroughly for
    all things great and small — for people, family and
    friends, but also chicken-noodle soup, and
    watermelon; bookends, blankets, tennis
    shoes, a vintage flick; the symphony, to
    which you never go, but will — oh, yes, at
    least four times a year if you survive; and
    every single dance recital, soccer
    game, and Christmas program featuring
    your grandchildren you shall attend.

    watermelon_steve_evans2Then the engine noises change; the plane
    descends; you send your promises to God on
    angel wings, express delivery; you
    shiver. Are we meant to fall so fast? Is
    this the End? Or will you live to see
    tomorrow? Fear gives way to sorrow, that you
    didn’t say “I love you” oftener. How
    softened are the grievances that made you
    bitter and unkind. God willing, you shall
    overlook the little things and leave your
    pettiness behind, white contrails in an
    azure sky, forevermore.

    For surely leeds_bradford_international_airport_david-benbennick1God is gracious; you arrive, and
    do so — can it be? Yes — quite on time!

    I write this
    to remind myself to practice grati-
    tude, and grant the world more latitude to
    fall amiss of my exacting expec-
    tations. There are only to be cele-
    brations, for entitlement is left in
    outer space. God’s grace is mani-
    fest. And with a few forgivable o-
    missions, once I knelt and kissed the
    tarmac, I have (so far) honored all I
    pledged at twenty thousand feet, and dwelt up-
    on my blessings, praising God un-
    ceasingly since he delivered me, with
    generosity divinely tendered,
    not as toast, nor as a smoking cinder,
    yesterday.  

    The Earth at night, a composite of DMSP-OLS ground illumination data on simulated nighttime image of the world (NASA)
    The Earth at night, a composite of DMSP-OLS ground illumination data on simulated nighttime image of the world (NASA)

    Sweet, ripe watermelon at roadside stand in India, photo by Steve Evans
    Leeds-Bradford International Airport, photo by David Benbennick

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