Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Psalm 31:21-24

Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege.

22I had said in my alarm, “I am driven far from your sight.” But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help.

23Love the Lord, all you his saints. The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.

24Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. _____________________________________________________________

                   "Well, you can't.  As for you, my fine
friend -- you're a victim of disorganized
thinking. You are under the unfortunate
delusion that simply because you run away
from danger, you have no courage. You're
confusing courage with wisdom. Back where
I come from, we have men who are called
heroes. Once a year, they take their
fortitude out of mothballs and parade it
down the main street of the city. And they
have no more courage than you have. But!
They have one thing that you haven't got!
A medal!"--The Wizard of Oz to the Cowardly Lion

I have been thinking a lot today about all the acts of courage that people do every day, that they don't even realize are courageous acts--they might even feel they were acts of cowardice. Every day, someone--well, lots of someones, actually--do things that we don't necessarily think of as "courageous."

Maybe they change jobs where the new job may pay less money but lead to a more satisfying life. Perhaps they extracted themselves and possibly their children from an abusive relationship. They might have realized they have a problem with substance abuse and have agreed they have entered rehab. They might have answered God's call about something they have been trying to discern, or maybe even they simply have finally come face to face with something that we loosely define as "sin" that has driven a wedge between them and God.

If they had "run" from any of these things, they might feel they are not courageous at all, but cowardly. Some of the most courageous acts in our lives don't feel very courageous in that "epic" sort of way. We feel fearful and uncertain at the time we are doing them. We have no idea what lies ahead.

But the one thing that often happens that leads to that moment where we re-orient a part of our lives that feel out of kilter, is "indifference" in that Ignatian sort of way. Not that we don't care, per se, but that we no longer care if the outcome of this change is good or bad--we simply know it has to change from the familiar and uncomfortable way it has been. We only know it can't be like THIS anymore.

It's not that these changes don't have difficult consequences. Some of these consequences lead to "loss" in our lives. Grieving occurs. Some of it is the stuff PTSD is made of. We may even have moments where we look back and second guess ourselves all over again, long after we made the change.

Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn't handle it better, if we simply could be like the Cowardly Lion, and have the Wizard hand us a medal. We could look at it and be reminded that we DID, in fact, commit an act of courage.

Did you ever notice the shape of the Cowardly Lion's medal? it's a cross.

The cross is very likely the second most common shape of a medal, with only the medallion being more ubiquitous. Lots of very famous military decorations are crosses--the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Croix de Guerre, the Victoria Cross, just to name a few.

You know, a lot of us already wear crosses or crucifixes. Maybe you're not the jewelry type. That cross they made on your head at baptism is also certainly a cross you have worn every day of your life. This is better than a medal. To win a medal you have to "do" something. The Croix de Christ is something we received simply for "being." The courage that emanates from it is already ours. But to occasionally think on those crosses, or look at them hanging from our necks, can be a powerful reminder that there is no feeling of fear or cowardice that can trump it.

What's interesting is that sometimes, simply having that cross traced on our skin can help us find the courage that already resides within us.

I'm kind of funny about Ash Wednesday. I actually LIKE getting that ashen cross smeared on my head. It's not about death and sin for me. It's about resurrection. In order to be resurrected we must be heated, like the logs in a fire, to the most essential parts of it. When that happens, the ashes are all that are left. It is the part that is not consumed. It's the purest, most rendered down part of us.

Then, what do we do afterward? We share the Eucharistic meal. We accept death down to ashes in order to be resurrected through the Body and Blood of Christ.

(Well, there's also the part where I like to go to Wal-Mart afterwards, just to see if someone goes, "Hey, you have a smudge on your head," but that's another story.)

Another time we can feel the tracing of that cross and the courage that resides within it, is when we ask to be anointed by a priest. I've thought about the last time I was anointed. I was going through a very difficult and uncertain problem in my life. I was afraid of losing so many things I consider "essential" in my life. The anointing was actually suggested, I didn't ask for it. I agreed simply to "go along for the ride." But as it occured, there was something really connecting for me that this oil, blessed by my Bishop as a symbol of his prayers for me, prayers uttered in the Prayers of the people for all of us in every Episcopal and Anglican church in the world, all representing the power of the resurrection of Christ, traced on my skin by the hand of a priest, made me feel a courage beyond me. It is odd how simple tactile sensations can become profound and mystic moments.

Sometimes, even praying with prayer beads or a rosary can connect us, simply feeling the outline of that crucifix-shaped dent in our palm.

When we are feeling a little like the Cowardly Lion, it's probably a good idea to get back in touch with what that cross that already is embedded in us feels like.


I'm really glad you focused on courage in this post and in this way. I was helped to think about this by a couple of different therapists who labeled what I was doing courageous. That affirmation meant SOOO much to me. Since then, I have tried to pass on that same encouragement (ooh, I just noticed that courage is part of that word) to others when it is appropriate.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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