Tuesday, December 27, 2016

80s Girl

Being over 40 means having every commercial addressed at you, begging money-spending, hoarding of all kinds of material goods.  It’s both funny and depressing. The music is the touch point, I have noticed: artists which seemed avant-garde in the time past currently hawking some kind of ware.  The online, media version of selling wares, anyhow.  It’s unnerving in part because the target is my middle age, my time when supposedly I am in the flush, in the black, willing to spend. Except I am not all these things. Oh, I’ll buy this and that, to be sure—I’m no angel.  But I choose to live a life more simply, to be Franciscan in my outlook on things, on daily decisions, ordinary, everyday. These commercials do nothing for me, and for this I am grateful and, at worst, annoyed. No, I do not think that Lexus will make me happier, or the new iPhone (I only now just got one, and even so I am skeptical of all this power in my hands).  I equally take joy in knowing that what is possible now—that the bright yellow monstrosity of a Walkman, paired with the Nikon camera and its many rolls I developed, or the little notebooks and agendas I kept—that all these meld into this one slim little bit I slide into my pocket. Intoxicating indeed. The future is now, after all.

But the future doesn’t hinge—depend—upon this red wheelbarrow. In many ways, it’s not even as necessary, all this technology and access.  But it connects some things for me, makes possible some things, allows me this moment to pause and consider what I have already written down in life, and to recap it, reclaim it, rewrite it as it should be, not in the fits and starts, the puzzle pieces in which it now lays. To reconsider the me I am now based on the me of pages written past, alone and with friends at writing groups, in classrooms at high school and college, and in between, hot summers spent repressed at home. Stepping into a time pool I hear that soundtrack of my life played on a big headset connected to a giant stereo system: tapes ordered by mail, 12 for a penny, to get hooked on the monthly subscription. Sting and the Police, INXS, U2.  Something about the lyrics, about the soundscape of this music, spoke to me, sheltered as I was.  I would rewind over and over some of the most poignant moments depending on what inspired me in the moment, letting others’ renditions of the world of relationship and love define me some, imprint me, color my worldview. I knew about lots of other music—my friends were this melange of pop and alternative cacophony, and we fought over what was best, and because I loved them all, I loved all the music, or I tried, tried to understand all the music. Because somehow that was understanding them. I wasn’t the biggest fan of some of the pop, the metal, hair bands, rap, but I found something I could like or admire in each genre, and became aware if not a consumer.  And some of these became attached to those who listened, and this became their ears for me, a way to listen as they did, not just see or walk as they did.  It was a pretty pivotal thing, my freedom of choice in music.

So now that I’m in my 40s and watching these commercials with the soundtrack from another time, another version of me and my friends, I laugh. It doesn’t quite have the effect they’re going for—I won’t buy—but I am entertained. And brought back to a time I might not have picked out again from these inner files. Considering this year filled with real personal challenges for both myself and my family and friends, this refresher course on the old me helps me now, with my new sense of self. I’m in a place as the year ends of the cliche reflection, but there’s nothing cliche about it: I am reckoning with  the real and gritty. That’s going to be my new year in a nutshell.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Create Anew

What do I want to be new in my life?
What do I need to leave behind?

A meditation.

I think it might be necessary, as the New Year approaches, to leave quite a bit behind. This has been a miserable year for so many, and certainly a miserable year for our collective consciousness. There is indeed much to fear, much to fight for, much to revile.

Leaving behind and letting go does not mean ignoring. Don’t get me wrong on this matter: there’s much harder work yet to do because of the position we are in. It starts with changing minds and hearts on what matters most, and with meeting people where they are, with understanding while holding fast to belief. I have worked too long and too hard on social justice, on true connection with the God who made us, on openness to all as a way toward common good; I cannot and will not let that go simply because the new world order deems ignorance and cruelty and evil, or dismissiveness of others’ held beliefs and cherished rights, permissible. None of this is.

To look forward into the newness of life ahead, just beyond the parties and gatherings with family, sharing of food and gifts, leaving behind the bile and vitriol is necessary. Lightens the load toward something better, and makes us swift on our feet, ready to take on the charge we all know will be necessary when our new time begins, when we mark another passage in our human way.

We can step back and not look at this the human way, either—to consider God-view, God sense of time. If we ask ourselves what we want to be new in our lives, we can look forward to that newness, but it can also be right here, in the moments of sharing and gathering. It can be in each meeting, each moment we greet another, each time we feel accosted by injustice we’ve become ever-more aware of, but which has always been there. This renewal of self can come in the smallest of moments, and build in the biggest of ways, if we so choose.

I need to choose this; I don’t want to get caught in the wash of anger, but I do want to ride it beyond its simple chemistry.  I don’t want to ignore what’s becoming increasingly more important. I have decided to choose newness in my way of reacting and thinking, to be creative in every approach. To find a new way to face each challenge, and think outside the lines I or anyone else has drawn around the problems, and perhaps even to embrace the problems and allow them to change me in ways I have not yet imagined.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Direction from Within

How am I to write about these things I have stood for always, in some way; how am I to acknowledge and then help those suffering in fear?  Listen to them.  Listen without prejudice to the truly vulnerable. Place myself *near* the truly vulnerable. 

I can certainly take the lessons of direction I’ve received, think through ways to ask the right questions, just as my greatest teachers have for me, to allow others to see their own unique path. Theirs is not mine, after all.

Where I have to draw a line is in deliberate and hateful acts of racism, discrimination of any sort which cuts off or degrades human life.  I am appalled that there are people I know who don’t care about or even acknowledge this everyday reality. There can be love even if you don’t agree, even if you don’t share experiences or ways of life. Love is this at least.

I think of children and how loved they can be, and how easily they can accept others in that love.  There’s naiveness in this, of course—what we learn with experience is that we can’t simply accept everything.  It’s a tough line to tow—not to go over the edge of it by being jaded, wizened, unable to be flexible, and then hurt ourselves more than others, even, by holding in that anger or fear that comes from experience.  There’s a great deal of fear out there, and it’s wise to pause, step back, consider what you’re reacting to before jumping in.  There’s instances, though, to take a stand, to do something, to take action.  Certainly leaving room to assess, but not leaving enough time to damage someone’s body or soul.  And that requires a good deal of meditation and thought beforehand:  what *would* you do if you were confronted with a moral wrong, directly, and in the moment?  Would you step in?  Or would you think it “too complicated” and step away, convinced (or convincing yourself) that you’d just make it more complicated? And what would happen to the person slighted, maligned, even physically hurt?  Would that matter to you?  What would happen to your soul if you did not find time to care in the instance alive and present to you instead of the theoretical ones, the scenarios that run through your mind? Or the ones which so many stupidly accept on social media, or don’t bother to check through or see for logic in media at large? 

What about the system you buy into? How sure are you that you’re not simply contributing to the problem?  How willing are you to dismiss this writing as gloom and doom? If we look around us we see the signs of danger everywhere, and all that has changed is our exposure to these.  What everyone seems to have forgotten is that taking a step back and using the gift of logic we’ve been gifted as human beings creates change, and lifts the veils we lay over our eyes at the sight of suffering, death, injustice, the maligning of the human spirit.

What I’m suggesting is this: take time to think through were you really stand, whether you include an understanding of others in that stance, what your true self is from within—not from outside influence so flighty, so out-of-reality that it’s not in-the-moment. Don’t just stubbornly cling to your stand, but don’t simply fall for another’s either. Otherwise, take a moment to consider what kind of human you and those you influence could become, if you don’t take stock and fill in the gaps of your own soul.

I strongly recommend a spiritual practice to accomplish this—the one I’ve been doing lately that works for me is the Examen.  There’s some neat Apps for this now which offer variety of approaches to each day, each problem faced. The straight-forward way is good, too:

 Ask for God's help    
Offer gratitude for gifts    
Notice God's presence    
Notice God's absence    
Ask for graces

This or something like it would allow you to approach your goals in daily life and at least start on some path toward understanding, toward true peace, and not just for the self, but radiating toward all.  Starting with yourself is the most doable way to contribute and forge community again, create the wholeness we long for.  I’m not so naive to think this is a silver bullet—nothing is—but change has to start somewhere.  Why not within?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Given Freely

Every leaf falls at its own pace. Accidents happen, and turn our lives upside down.  We become aware more often in the sudden and unexpected, unless we take time to listen to our everydayness, take time with the pace, not get paced.

Recently returning to the Examen, I've found myself far more in touch with something internal and less disconnected from my family, far less likely to jump ahead in time, make assumptions, and let my emotions lead me. Instead, I am slowly relearning how to read myself, my daily situations, and others, pausing long enough to do this, and become more aware. I find so many think their own realities are the real ones, and others fake or wrong, but that’s our human problem—that we cannot see and won’t acknowledge the many facets of truth in reality, and have chosen to live for so long in surreality that it’s too hard to step out of it.

That is, until you do step out, and then spend some time being in that space, not counting on the cues and tools that set you firmly in surreality to begin with.

I’m fascinated by the way this practice of Examen lines up with other spiritual practices which hold as valuable the acknowledgment of something outside ourselves.  The pause and consideration of the conscience, of the inner self, of the way in which sharing the self can impact others’ lives. The way these connect, the metaphysical. I have gone in and out of practice in prayer and meditation for years, and I know from experience that a practice is the gold mine, is where I can draw the most awareness of intention, positive action, and lessening of reaction, of simply knee-gut reactive, be this defense or offense.

In doing this, in surrendering to awareness, I find myself most receptive—most vulnerable—and therefore most capable of a fullness of love.

When I look around and see the level of hatred which does exist, I have to hold myself away from it some, to be able to discern what is my necessary journey, and marveling at what will be another’s, however difficult that path will be. What part will I play in the mix, and what will leave me shaking my head, wishing I could do more?  I know lately that’s been a thing.

But humans want to win; something inside us is torn between just being and taking control. If we’re conscious human beings, though, we realize to what extent control is a joke.  Our every moment is a precious gift, given freely. Why shouldn’t we want to then take it into our trembling hands and live it carefully, fully, whole-heartedly?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Crooked Things Straight

Getting lost within yourself is an unsettling feeling. What matters is counting on faith that things will happen, and people will get through. That there will be spirit enough to conquer the bad within and without, to cut through chaotic sound and fury, and lead in good ways.  What’s maybe most disheartening is when those around you give up on you.  Then it’s about really counting on the one who created you, trying to know, to grasp at not being alone in the struggle.  Words for me have always been my sanity point—writing itself as a way to make sense of the chaos and reach toward God.

When I write, I find a way to draw out of me the many mixed emotions and ideas I have, all tangled together.  It’s extreme mess, this tangle, and all that I love and is important to me is in this mess, so I must, feel compelled, to disentangle. To look at the mess and see it for what it is.  It’s unsettling to see this mess, and feel helpless as to what to do with it.  I feel sometimes as though this chaos is unmitigated, unruly, and other times I find the most unusual help along the way that I suddenly feel as though somehow the getting lost is a part of the fray.  And fray is the right word here—this constant rubbing, wearing away, the way feeling lost and dealing with daily internal struggle. It’s messy.

The other day I felt Tom’s presence—there was no other explanation: I’d been talking out loud to him, imploring his help in the middle of an argument, and all of a sudden there was clarity on my part as well as that of my other half.  He was so close to us in life that I believe he could, in an act of love from beyond, reach us this way.  I have a whole other view of faith, having had this experience a few times now. It hasn’t been a singular thing, or coincidental.  It has been a thoughtful set of moments, and crucial moments, during which I have learned something important about myself or those around me.  I think there must be something to this, even though I grasp at its effluence, its ethereal presence. There’s something there, then there’s nothing.  And then, most notably, there is in fact a solid change left behind, a grace, some kind of reconciling that makes the soul feel as though something right has happened, that the crooked thing has been set straighter, perhaps, or at least set upright, accepted, warmly, into a new space.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Perfectly Broken

“The way you come to fully appreciate the infusion of the Spirit is to more and more come fully into the moment, where this moment is enough.”

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa

I am having a particularly hard time being in this moment, so filled with hatred and violence and insanity—the audacity and hypocrisy of the politics in the world at this moment. It feels all like a joke, a bad one at that, and I want to take the world by the shoulders and shake it, and say, what they hell is wrong with you?  I am 43 years old, know what my parents went through immigrating here, know what the past several decades mean to so many who have worked hard to bring good into the world, and to make their way. But these quotes remind me there is more to life than soundbites, stupid people, and the insidiousness of ignorance, and that my work is yet cut out for me—that I must strive even harder for justice now.

It’s exhausting to think these many years have gone by without having made a dent in justice—or perhaps the truth is that the strife has always been there and we have been holding it back. Still, there is hope.  Various times while I have been out and about recently, former students have specifically stopped and told me how they loved my class. That somehow I reached them. They’ve matured and grown families and gone on, and hopefully do good things. My current students seem like mature young people, striving to understand in a genuine way the world they’ve inherited.

And I come back to me, going inside and examining and caring for what I have cultivated these decades as a human who is a moderate, and happens to care too much sometimes, so much that I actually hurt myself. I have to stop from inundation, from over-saturation,drowning out my real self, pushing up my defenses. That is my journey.  Yours may be the opposite, or perhaps more similar than you might care to admit, but it is your journey.  You must take on your own, what you have been given, and practice giving it, somehow: back to God, shared with others, cultivated for later use.  You are your best gift, flaws and all, and the only gift others might see and benefit from, knowing that being broken can sometimes be enough, but can always be cherished. The imperfect need not be made whole, but need love and acceptance to flourish and enter whole and perfectly broken into this moment.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Authentic Data

We know things, seek information daily, value facts and data (we even pay for it!). Some refuse to see the actual cost of all this information. We don’t know each other: in some cases we’re trying, but in truth, we’re overwhelmed by the chasm between differences, and all the info in the world can’t help that. If we reach for each other and share willingly, at least, there’s hope for connection, for authenticity, but we have to see ourselves and others as fully human: bad breath, bad habits, sparks of goodness, all of it. Making room for each others’ failings— while striving to make better our everyday situation—is the humble beginning.

The challenge comes in doing this for those deemed unworthy (whatever that might mean to you—we each have our prejudices).  Striving to eliminate those prejudices and replace them with real experiences—not fantasies or imagined doom, fueled by all that’s wrong with modern communication—is where the real work of connection begins, and where some of the suffering can start to abate. The kind of racist, misogynistic, thoughtless grandstanding that’s happening lately exists because those who spout it have not had a real experience of difference, and find themselves only able to talk a streak about “they” and “them,” missing others’ realities. In addition I’m convinced that those who spout hate have themselves deep wounds that might be too hard to heal.

The radical shift of mindset I’m naming here (and I have for nearly two decades suggested to my students, and myself explored) can change the world as we know it. Once this change is underway, we can make room for the more authentic human self, engender acceptance on all levels, and live real mercy and compassion which heals even the deepest cuts into the soul.  Unless we take seriously the replacement of prejudice with this level of engagement, life will continue to show us a stream of vitriol which has no basis and fuels a nothing movement of anger founded on dust. Unless we listen to the voices of those with whom we disagree or distrust and have a real exchange (not grandstanding for the sake of being right), we’ll simply continue to follow a pattern of chaos. Finally, once we have tried our best with mercy, if we do not take a stand against moral wrong, which causes human nature to break down, then we are part of the problem. Cultivating goodness and shunning malevolence has to be a daily discipline from within and without, each contributing a small part to the whole. The explosion of hate leaves no room for anything to flourish. We are not free to do that, because we cannot afford it.

All of it begins with the willing act of kindness, acceptance, seeking understanding, not just information.  I am not willing to stand by—will you jump in with me?

Friday, July 1, 2016

Not Quite the Final Destination

What a strange thing to wake up thinking you’re in another place.  How travel can, with time, engrain in you a sense of home, a permanence about space that stays in your mind, becomes a part of your senses in such a way that even if the place is not your final destination, it feels like it is, or was.  Having two homes to me means this: to feel a pull like tide between these two places.  I come to my Georgia-home-I’ve-created and, especially at night when I dream, suddenly think I hear my father rummaging downstairs, or my mother turning open the blinds, and if I’m really straining, smell that brine from the sea on the breeze. My senses are really into it this year, drawing me into a deeper contemplation about the reality of home as much as its feeling.  There’s meaning to it—  something so life-defining it’s difficult to overlook or ignore—and it causes in me a desire to meditate on how home-space, in its flexibility as I get older and modernity digs deeper, is central to my soul-survival.

I’ve bucked this before—there should only be one true home, right?—but the more I travel back and forth to the place I was born and then to the place I have birthed, the more I see the beauty of a shared set of memories, which draw from within a kind of contemplative, mystical seeing of everyday faith, everyday living, the truly ordinary becoming extraordinary.  My interactions with those inside this home-space shift and change even though on surface they *seem* the same.  They seem to have been the same for years, but they’re not—don’t be fooled. Relationship is constant flux, and there’s a good reason for that: we’re in constant, small changes, daily, and we have to pay attention to this and allow that feeling to overcome us but somehow control ourselves in it, like sustaining yourself in choppy waves to keep from drowning. We should surround ourselves with lifeguards and not dunking bullies, and aim to think buoyantly, if only soberly. Joy and sorrow can meet on the way.

It’s coming up on a year since I lost the single most important guide in this endeavor—Fr. Tom woke up in another place, another space, and I wonder what he must have felt then, and feels now.  He’s in another home, another space that, for all we know, feels like this one we’re in. For those of us who have suffered loss in recent times perhaps this thought remains heartening: that there is a final destination, but that it’s all around us, too.  That we can feel their beating hearts in our lives, hear their voices calling to us to do right and well, to be not afraid, but to know it’s all interconnected, a living, breathing thing, this life we’re given.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Supernatural Strength

Grief is such a difficult thing to overcome: it wraps around us like some constricting creature, causing us to do crazy things, to reduce to our basic instinct.  It’s impossible without the movement of the Spirit to make sense of anything this world throws at us. The violence and hatred, senseless death (as if any would make sense, but especially the ones we could prevent). So much sorrow. I pray for an understanding which would allow peace to settle on every heart and soul in the world—a peace that comes from a right place, from THE right place. That hatred would disappear as a result.

That’s a pretty big dream, though. Hate won’t disappear altogether until humans take the brave step to look—and enter— deep down inside and confront where hate comes from: stop it in its tracks from within and without. Stop making rash judgements, and look and act with the love of the Creator, who gives us grace and free will in equal measure. Until we use these gifts in a way which opens up relationship and causes good to spread in the world, what is to become of us?These gifts, these tools we’re given, would help us to stop fear from burning through us like wildfire. Stop ignorance from feeding that fire.. The Spirit which moves us in a better direction is a different kind of fire, in the same way controlled burns are counterbalance.

Our hands become an extension of God’s love if we let them. We can choose hate and fear and let it rule our thoughts and considerations, and make a ruin of our world if we let them. Or we can choose a path and not get in our own way. We can believe there is a spark of good left in each individual, and we can each do our part to bring any good into this world filled with injustice. Where can change of heart—in the metanoia sense—begin if not with each of us? (To echo the Jewish sentiment, from Hillel, “If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I'? And if not now, when?”). We are in the world, not of it, and need reminding that there’s something supernatural about each of us, and we can catch glimpses of it if we’re not busy obsessing over the inconsequential.  When the consequential becomes the distraction, this is mightily hard, but still a must: being in this world, but not of it, we must hold fast and do right and bear each other up.  We must push away the collective violence and create such a change in so doing that heaven and earth could collide more clearly for us. We must push away the multitude of false selves and deception to see, to envision the real, beyond our ego and desire and shadows.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bless My Soul

Listening to Alabama Shakes every dang day for weeks now, I come back to some of the same lyrics:

I feel so homesick
Where's my home
Where I belong
Where I was born
I was told to go
Where the wind would blow
And it blows away, away…

I feel far from home, and while some of that is being away from my parents’ home, and they from their ancestral homeland—I write about this, for goodness’ sake—it’s also about forming home, being at home with myself and my little family, and seeing the afterlife as  a home, though it feels severed for me right now.

Music has been a kind of saving grace for me these past months as I slogged through working and being a mother at once—and these things both pushing me away from centering and being at peace, and pulling me toward a better practice of time. It’s been an unbelievable challenge, and I find myself still dealing with the ramifications of so much of the year: the tear in my body healing; the tear in my heart from all the losses, also healing, sometimes still gaping; the push and pull on my brain between ideas, teaching, writing. It’s all too much sometimes, but music has brought these things somehow into balance.

Part of what music has brought back to the fore for me has been a reckoning  with my age, something the losses have marked as well. When Kayla Canedo died in that fateful car crash a couple of weeks ago, I had been lamenting my state as an old mother of a five year old and an eight month old:  I looked and felt like their grandmother. My hair is starting to seriously turn gray—rapidly has been since Charlotte was born.  Thinking of my sweet student meeting her death in the way she did brought me back to the mirror, recognizing each gray hair was there, earned.  Kayla would never see gray hair. She was not given that opportunity. I felt for her mother, and all the things she’d hoped for her child, and then looked at my own and felt a sudden urge to be something for them, to become the best mother I could be.

Another lyric, from the Robert Glasper Experience, Meshell Ndegeocello: “I’m not perfect but my aim is true….”  Listening to this line and its urgency shook me to the present moment as well. This now we live does not have to be perfect as our imaginations wish it to be—it simply has to be.  And we must be in love with this moment, for in a a moment it will be gone, sifted out of our hands into the wind that blows away, away.  I’m that person who watches it blow away, until the last little bit of it is gone, and I reach down and pick up some more, and start over, and over, in this moment that is forever, in the sandbox of never-ending play.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Electric Word, Life

The rooms of my house, should they be visited by strangers and aliens, would act as  a time capsule of my life. Regularly I sit and meditate on how far I have come, on how much I have traveled in time, just looking at pictures and tchotchkes.  It’s encouragement, these reminders that though suffering is imminent, omni-present, getting through is possible.  That I’ll learn something along the way I may never have had I not had my experience.

This kind of idea though, wrapped up in the notion of free will and borne on the downslide of experience, of a breaking of innocence, is cold comfort to those who suffer intensely.  Those I know who have lost children to tragic circumstance got through, are still getting through. How do they do this?  To live with grief so close, it sits on the skin; it remains in the breath; it lives in the heart. Both a weight and a lifting.  How else are we to think of the loss of someone young, relative to his or her experience of the world, except to allow their memory to lift us up closer to them? To the splash her soul made, or what his heart contributed, or the connections, the influence, of the single human, the single representation of God’s love. Manifest in a  myriad of wonderful ways in the little effects of the beloved’s touch and sound and being.

Really trying to find a way to talk about this, because it’s wrapped up in how I see myself.  It’s wrapped up in knowing and feeling my bodily demise, inevitable. Looking to the afterlife positively, to be sure, but trying to reckon my place and contribution in this world.

We’re put here to be something for each other: encouragement, compassion, support.  Recently at an IHN volunteer week, I sat with a mom and her children who were trying to simply get a start again in a new state, the third in a short time; as the adult, this mom was trying to get her bearings so she could get back to where she was before moving across country.  Her eyes were tired, and I know there was so much more story behind them, but there was no reason for me to know—it was enough for me to listen.

And that is all.  Simply listen to one another.  We can become so much more through such a simple act. Listen to others. Listen to your self—your true self. Not the way you think you should be or you once were, but who you really are in this moment.  And who God is to you in this moment.  There is no label or distinction that can matter in this world because they do not matter in the afterworld. Treating each other with real love is the connection between them.

I have to stop doing what I think I am supposed to do, to please others.  I must follow through on what I know I need to do, from within. If life is just this short time we’re given, and every white hair is a sign of the times, then to live in any other way than what you want is absolute madness.  Why would I spend any moment of any given day not feeling the light breath of my littlest on my cheek as I hold her, or the sure squeeze of my oldest’s hand as we volunteer together, or the rough brush of my husband’s mustache when he kisses me? Why not sit and write like this, to spend extravagant time.  Why not take a moment with you, dear reader, to breathe, to listen, to just be.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Tired, but not Beaten

I am infuriated at the way in which politics, media, and general fear and hatred cycles have made life in this country a difficult one to live.  However—I have known this was around me all along.  In these past weeks, I have seen Trump signs overtake lawns within a mile of my house; in these past years, not one, or two, but THREE armories have thrived within three miles of my house (you read that right:  three within three, in which you can get an AK with relative ease and pointlessness); this past couple of weeks, the Georgia legislature decided to railroad all sense by pushing the “open carry” law in MY classroom (that’s right: come this Fall, I and my colleagues have to worry about whether students will read the syllabus and where the kids with guns will sit in the classroom so that someone sitting less than a foot from them won’t be tempted to pull the gun out of the holster in front of them—as I feel this a legit concern).

I. Am. Tired. Of. This.

This is NOT the Christian way of living, though many who support these acts propose they are quite Christian.  There is a violence set loose on this country that cannot remain, and most of us feel powerless except in the power of prayer.  Still, my faith tradition calls for not only prayer, but ACTION.  There seems little action we could take aside from voting and being active in our process—and taking heart in the fact we have  a process, which I pray God will protect us from war-mongering, racism, violence, and the lesser parts of the human experience.

I do know that I am a lucky person to have friends and family in my life working for good, delivering truth or comforting those who sorrow over the hatred which seems to run rampant.  I am privileged to know people who use their vocations to  help others achieve positive goals—whether that’s my brother dedicating his life to helping others achieve connection with God, or my academic friends writing books and sharing knowledge as truth to power, or my friends who know how the body works and aim to make others aware and unashamed of what they’re capable of doing. And certainly those Mamas and Papas I know raising little ones to be salt of the earth.  Positive stuff. Actually showing compassion toward others, communal sharing of faith, joy, as well as sorrow and concern, with no judgement, just gentle guidance.

I am writing this to say how grateful I am to those of who do these positive things, who act in this world to dispel this damnable darkness which may creep in but cannot overtake the light—have faith, my friends. Let’s shore each other up with the talents God has given us, with respect and humility for the tenuousness of life, with an eye for love.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Reboot Repentance

Don’t fast. Not from love, not sharing a memorable time with your beloved, not opening your heart to each other, talking about losses kicking at your heart, or the difficulties of your days; not from those parts of everyday existence which bring joy, which reconnect. 

I will admit somewhat ashamedly that I did not fast from meat last night, a Friday during Lent.  For the first time in over half a year my husband and I put down our concerns of the moment by moment care of littles; of money issues, our car reaching 205,000 miles (and that pesky check engine light); of my students driving me up a wall and his clients’ craziness—and we sat, at a table, just the two of us, threw caution to the wind, and talked about all things we hadn’t been able to with joy. We considered the big changes in our lives—the birth of our second little bit, the blending of our new little family, the loss of our beloved Fr. Tom (who we miss now with a keener sting, during Lent).  Slightly buzzed from the smooth drink and food more delicious than we’d had in awhile, we let our inhibitions down and made room for each other.  Everything in the moment led to our rebooting, to making us more ready to take in, with open arms, the love God has given us in the form of friends and family and the ability, the choices, to be well.

Made me think, this morning, of memes I’ve seen popping about, of bits from Pope Francis about the kinds of fasting that engender authentic inner work, real relationship. The kind of thing Tom always, always encouraged in us.  He always said that the Bible was filled with the makings of relationship, all of it leading to the ultimate: ours with God.

So I say, do fast from those things which steal time away from little kisses on warm cheeks, and reading to yourself and to the little one; fast from the junk preservative food which makes life faster; fast from speediness which would keep you from listening to conversation amongst those who seek a better way, who seek not to caustically take down those who would simply not agree, those different, those who desperately want acceptance, love, and understanding. And so many more dos than don’ts. So many more, so much in our creative humanity to tap into—and so much to reject from our lesser sides. I’ll fast indeed—but make it a true inner prayer, and clean out the maladies of worry and anxiety. These have no place in my practice of presence anymore.