Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Getting Home...the Long Way

   Sometimes, sitting and thinking is about all I can force myself to
do, especially on a day like today has turned out to be- sun-filled
and warming and bright and blue, the grass bright green from
three days of much-needed rain which nevertheless gave me the
blues. I want to be creative, want beautiful words to emerge from
my latent poet’s heart, want to put loveliness and hope and
wonder out there into a world which seems to need them all so
much. I want to feel useful, to have a sense of having
accomplished something with this April Wednesday. But, you see,
I am still in the doldrums…still lost in the wilderness…still
wandering in a spiritual desert- though I have been here before,
so there is a certain familiarity to it. Doesn’t make it any easier,
though, this sense of lostness…in spite of the déjà vu quality per-
vading it. Wandering in the wilderness is never, ever easy.
   Just ask my wandering Hebrew forebears, the ones who spent
forty years lost, without any roadmap or GPS or guidance other
than that offered by a wild-eyed prophet named Moses who was
convinced that his God, their God, was leading him and them to a
place of hope and home- if only they would follow the Divine
directions. It took them a long time- the afore-mentioned forty
years- and many wrong turns and detours and misadventures,
notably one centered around a certain golden calf, a god of their
own making, but finally, finally, these ancient sisters and brothers
stopped griping and complaining and kvetching long enough to
hear- and heed- the very voice of God rather than to rely on their
own self-centeredness and human certainty and hubris. And the
result? The Promised Land- God being as good as God’s own
word, offering on-going guidance and redemption and a home-
coming welcome.
    Perhaps there is a message for me in all this. After all, this is
where my creative impulse (God at work in me, after all) has led
me on this lovely afternoon, marked by the thwop-thwop of the
rescue helicopter landing at nearby High Point Regional Hospital…
by the throng of lovely young people running past my porch as
part of their track-team workout…by the noise of numerous lawn
mowers making the air redolent with the sound and scent of new-
mown grass. Perhaps this wilderness in which I have been finding
myself is part of the necessary journey to get to the Promised
Land of new writing and creativity and purpose. And perhaps I
have been lingering here because I have been creating my own
gods of sadness and discouragement and hopelessness and self-
pity in order to give me some justification for wallowing, for
kvetching, for more than a little bit of “oh, woe is me”, along with
those long-ago Hebrews kinspeople.
    All around me in my lovely old neighborhood are signs of life…
beautiful, glorious, springing-into-being life. Flowers blooming,
grass (and weeds) growing, birds nesting, squirrels scolding, kids
laughing, dogs barking. Cars go by, driven by other human beings
going about the business of living their lives. A breeze is ruffling
the leaves on the bushes beside my porch. And somehow,  it all
feels right and good and hopeful. I think my journey, my
wandering in the wilderness, may be over for now and I’m finding
myself at home, blessedly at home.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy Thursday Musings...

  

Spent a few hours at one of my favorite places this morning, writing. For some
reason, my creativity seems to find expression when I am away from home,
away from the familiar places I usually inhabit. And, with pen in hand- yes, I
actually put pen to paper, rather than using a computer for creative writing-
I put my feelings down, surprising myself, as usual, with the results, as I
bounced all over the place emotionally. And so, I'm daring to share them with
you, always a risk for a writer, a poet...(deep sigh, gulp, share...)

the wren singing at the top of its voice each morning
tiny wren
mighty voice
daring to sing
    its own sweet song
welcoming the day
daring to be freely,
    fully itself
no holding back
no second guessing
warbling an invitation
to this often-reluctant human-
be yourself!
lift your voice!
be daring!
make the most of it, no matter what


what baggage am I STILL carrying?
You would think, at age 75, that
there would be no more baggage

weighing me down. That the skin in
which I live would be wholly, fully

my own- comfortable, welcome,
fitting well, if a bit sagging and

droopy in places. But sometimes,
a heaviness descends, the dark,

shadowy burden of regret- words said
or unsaid, things done or left undone, a

whole plethora of should-haves, why-
didn't-I, why did I, I wish I had,

as if life offered a do-over and
each day lived were not a day fully gone,

never to return. But, at age 75,
I try to put the baggage down, at

least once in a while. Try to move
away from its overwhelming weight

and dance free in the sunlight of a
new and glorious day, content

to leave the past far behind me, for
the time being, so I can relish and

savor the NOW.


Psalm of thanksgiving
I give thanks, O Grace-Filled One,
   for this new day,
   for flowering trees, for
   singing birds, for
   caring friends, for being here.
I give thanks, O Keeper of Lost Causes,
   for cancer healing,
   for helping hands reaching beyond our borders,
   for the kindness of strangers, for the
   abundant love of friends, for this moment.
I give thanks, O Light of Lights,
   for courageous ones shining light
   into dark places, for those who dare
   to speak hard truths, for all who stand
   and sing and march for justice, for peace.
I give thanks, O Mother of All Creation,
   for sisters and brothers in many places of
   many races, whose faces reflect your own,
   for those with whom I agree and those
   whose disagreement challenges me to listen,
   to open myself, to see and hear with integrity.
I give thanks, O Wisdom,
   for books and teachers, for libraries and
   librarians, for schools and universities, for wise
   and courageous elders, for compassionate leaders
   working for justice, for the gifts of intellect
   and discernment, for love.
I give thanks, O God Beyond My Understanding,
   for life- this life- this day- this hour- this moment. 


living well
"How, then, shall I live?"
A question for the Holy One,
whose name this day is God,
but tomorrow might be Light or Flame or Wisdom.
"How, then, shall I live for
these remaining years whose number I do not know?"

"O, child, why do you ask? The answer
lives inside your heart, your mind- within the deepest
place wherein dwells your fullest self,
         wherein my Spirit dwells. The answer is to live.
   Live fully, each day filled with meaning.
   Live gently, each day filled with compassion.
   Live kindly, each day filled with love.
   Live bravely, each day filled with daring.
   Live broadly, each day filled with laughter.
   Live reverently, each day filled with thanks.
And then, when you reach that day of days
which marks your earthly end,
you'll live yourself into my arms, my light, my heart
eternally.
But for now, dear child of mine,
                                  just live."


just wondering...
Who is God-
     and where and why?
How is God-
     the whys and wherefores
     of divinity the stuff of
     deep theology- or lightest whimsy...
                           or intriguing mystery.
Only one answer comes to me on this glorious, shining,
blue-skied day.
God/Life/Live is everywhere...in all...the
in, with, and under of existence...
the Holy Ground on which I stand.
     And for today, that is answer enough.


Enough?
A friend has shared with me her sorrow-
   another friend of hers is dying,
   is very near the end of this earthly trek-
   and my friend is bereft, torn apart by sadness,
   already feeling the emptiness this departing soul will leave
   within her heart and life.
And all I could do that day was
   give a hug- long and deep and warm and
   comforting, I hope...a sign of my shared love
   tinged by the awareness of our intermingled humanity.
              I hope it was enough.

A friend has shared with me her sorrow-
   at the death of a beloved friend,
   a brother of the heart and soul, with family left behind
   to grieve, to feel the very precious loss his absence
   will impart to their lives each day.
And all I could do that day was
   send an electronic message,
   the miles separating us rendering hugs impossible
   but I hope a sign to her of my love, my condolence and
   support, an awareness of our intermingled humanity.
             I hope it was enough.

My son has shared with me his sorrow-
   problems with his stepson which go far beyond
   the usual teen-age stuff, and my son is bereft,
   filled with sadness and a sense of powerlessness
   in the face of a situation far beyond his control.
And all I could do that day was
   listen to his dear voice on the phone, hear the pain
   and sorrow, the anger and frustration...share with him my
  comfort and support and never-ending love, so aware
  as I was of our intermingled humanity.
            I hope it was enough.

                                        Is is ever enough?
 
 
How long?
My heart cries out.
My heart cries out in pain.
My heart cries out in pain, O God,
        when I see the photos of the children of Syria
        when I read the stories of immigrants drowned
           in the Mediterranean
        when I hear the news of missiles fired or
           churches bombed.
How long, O Lord,
How long?

My heart cries out.
My heart cries out in pain.
My heart cries out in pain, O God.
        when I learn of young black men shot by police
        when I read parts of this nation's history so long
           denigrated and denied
        when I hear of government plans to deny rights
           to deserving and needy groups of people, my
           own sisters and brothers.
How long, O Lord,
How long?

My heart cries out.
My heart cries out in pain.
My heart cries out in pain, O God.
        when I hear of hungry children in our local schools
        when I see homeless veterans on the streets of our cities
        when I watch my tax dollars being spent unjustly
           while helpful and positive and life-affirming programs
           go unfunded
How long, O Lord,
How long?

My heart cries out.
My heart cries out in pain.
My heart cries out in pain, O God.
                         How long?
       

Friday, March 24, 2017

New York Ramblings...

   I think NYC gets a bad rap- and I don't know 
why. So often when I hear folks in North Carolina- and elsewhere- talk about New York, they refer to it as unfriendly, the people as pushy and impatient- and perhaps some are. But those are not the folks I have been encountering on these 9 days so far in the Big Apple. On every subway ride, I have been offered a seat by someone younger than myself, that seat generously given with a smiling response to my expressed thanks. Doors are held open, with one young man even apologizing when he failed to notice me and hold the door. 
   When I smile- as I do often- people smile back. When I make a comment or ask a question, I receive a friendly response. Today, I had four lovely conversations- no, five- with a young woman at the bagel shop, caring for her 6-month-old nephew while her sister is in the hospital; with a tall, handsome young man at the table to my left, eating a beautiful salad, when what he really wanted, he said, was a great big hero sandwich, but "I just came from working out at the gym and, you know...", shrugging his shoulders, his smile tinged with more than a bit of regret; with the dad sharing a late breakfast with his toddler, gladly giving me directions to the library; with the young clerk at the Co-op grocery when I told him that I belong to a similar Co-op in my home city; and with a woman with a bit of a frown on her face, standing outside of an apartment building on the next block, who responded to my "good morning" with a big smile, sharing with me how much she was enjoying the sunshine and the warmer temperatures and the blue, blue sky. And I almost forgot the young couple with the beautiful baby, finishing their breakfast at the next table, the one on my right. After I commented on just how beautiful the baby was, they smiled- the dad broadly, the mom shyly, thanking me, and then wished me a good day as they went on their way.
   Perhaps this sense of community I feel is about walking everywhere- people being on foot so much of the time, and so encountering other human beings directly instead of being insulated and isolated by the imprisoning steel and plastic boxes we call cars. 
   Yes, the city is messy. Yes, I believe more could be done to encourage responsible disposal of trash. Yes, public transportation is crowded and somewhat noisy and resonant with the many and varied odors of human life. But there is an energy, a spirit, a sense of connectedness which I find lacking in other less-urban places. 
   As I sat on the Manhattan-bound subway one
day last week, I noted that on the seats across from me were two Caucasians, one a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke, two African-Americans (though I suspect one was actually an African immigrant), one Pakistani or Indian, one Asian, and two Latinos. Their ages ranged from teens to probably eighty or so. I seldom see such diversity displayed right before my eyes in the cluster of small NC cities I call home. This, to me, IS America. And this is what
makes life beautiful. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bigger than Life (a salute to Dr. Seuss)

"... the Grinch's small heart
grew three sizes that day." 
So sings Dr. Seuss, 
celebrating the truth 
of a life lived fully 
with arms open wide, 
of having a feeling 
deep down inside 
that something is coming. 
Something lovely and grand. 
Something just waiting to take hold 
   of my hand. 
Something to whisper into
   my listening ear, 
"This is It! So say yes. 
Say yes without fear. "
It's coming. I know it. 
I just don't know what, 
but I'll know when it gets here, 
right down in my gut
And I'll shout and I'll dance 
and I'll give all I've got, 
Because this is called LIVING,  
   Believe it or not. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Being "We, the People"...

I haven't been writing very much lately. Well, actually, I haven't been
writing at all. Words which make sense just won't come. In fact,
words and ideas tumble over one another in my brain like those little
balls in a bingo cage. Unlike in that handy little mechanism, however,
one ball doesn't drop, but several, sometimes many. Ideas which
conflict; emotions which confuse: for all of which I seem to find no
adequate expression in words.

There are days when I cannot, absolutely cannot, watch the news,
listen to the talking heads. There are other days when I immerse
myself in it all, trying to watch and listen to conflicting sides, to be as
fair as I can be in personal news-gathering. But I remain in the dark,
stuck in a quagmire of muck and mud and misinformation, uncertain
if what I'm hearing is really what I'm hearing, unsure if I have taken
leave of my already-battered senses and have truly fallen down the
rabbit hole into a kind of whacky Wonderland in which I am not Alice
but the Mad Hatter trying to determine just who is the March Hare or
the Cheshire Cat, the Red Queen or Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

Am I alone in feeling this way? Please tell me I'm not. You see, I
have always tried to see and hear and understand both sides of any
conflict...to grant each speaker the courtesy of believing that s/he is
speaking from a place of integrity and deep truth. I have tried to find
middle ground, a "Third Way", which honored the beliefs and opinions
of both sides and led to a way of peace and reconciliation. But- and,
oh my, it's a huge BUT- I am struggling mightily with this right now.
Have been the entire election season, but now that the day of the
inauguration draws near, I am deeply and sincerely conflicted. I love
my country- though I see it as both my right and duty as a citizen to
criticize its government and hold it to a high standard, to hold our
elected officials to a high standard, and to demand that the Consti-
tution be upheld. BUT- right now, I am weeping- not because my
candidate lost, but because the person who will be taking the oath of
office this Friday is someone who demeans women and immigrants
and Muslims and the disabled...someone who still has not measured
up to the generally-accepted standards for previous presidents-
presenting his tax returns, divesting of his business interests to
prevent conflicts of interest, to name just two.

I watched some of the news shows from yesterday on my TV this
morning and heard a spokesperson for the President-elect demeaning
those who are calling this an illegitimate presidency- yet isn't that
exactly the language which was used over and over again for the
presidency of Barack Obama by the so-called "birthers"- led and
urged on by our now-President-elect? I have heard him and his
spokespersons demean those who offer any criticism of this man, as
if criticism of the Commander-in-Chief has no place in our American
democracy, and was not the meat-and-potatoes of the opposition
throughout President Obama's entire eight-year term of office. And
I have watched as thoughtful journalists have been criticized and
chastised for asking honest questions, though I see this as a way
of deflecting and diverting attention away from the fact that answers
are not forthcoming.

So, how do I, as a person of faith, as a person who believes deeply in
honoring the personhood of every other human being, even those
with whom I disagree- how do I deal with the name- calling and cat-
calling and Twittering, with the refusal of those whose point of view is
different from my own to even begin to consider honest questions, to
engage in honest and open discussion? How do I welcome and
embrace as President of this country I love so deeply a man who
seems to embrace so many of the values which are antithetical to my
own deeply-held beliefs? How do I, as a person of faith, look my
sisters and brothers in the pew in the eye and continue to love them,
respect them, honor their personhood, when they hold views which
seem to me to go against the teachings of the very One we all claim
to love and serve and follow?

Well, as part of my response, for the last nearly-six weeks, I have
been involved in organizing the Triad NC Women's March in
Greensboro for this coming Saturday morning, January 21st, in
conjunction with the Women's March on Washington on that same
day. To date, well over two hundred Sister Marches have been
organized all over the United States, with nearly 80 more taking
place in cities all over the world. These will be women (and men and
even children) marching to show our support for so many causes
which the rhetoric of this election season have threatened: women's
rights, including reproductive freedom; voting rights; immigrant
rights and reform; LGBTQI rights; religious freedom rights; equal
protections under the law; rights for those who are differently abled;
reform of the criminal justice system; raising the minimum wage; environmental protections; excellence and equality in public
education; universal health care; Black Lives Matter; affordable
housing; equality and justice for all. These will be women (and men
and children) marching to demonstrate our deep love for and belief
in this system of democracy, and our call for it to work for the good
of all people.

So, if you are feeling as I am, why not come and join us on
Saturday at Government Plaza on the corner of Washington and
Greene Streets in Greensboro at 10a.m.? Or find a march in your
own little corner of the world and be there. Let your voice be heard.
This is the way we can be "We, the People". And right now, it's the
best way, the most honest way, I know.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Many Faces of Christmas...

Confession: in this different and difficult holiday season, I have been
unable to get into the "Christmas Spirit". Part of it is due to the fact
that I have been coping with a particularly nasty upper respiratory
bug since December 7th- only now beginning to feel like myself...to
have any energy at all. During those weeks, I found myself unable
to read- eyes burning, no powers of concentration- instead binge-
watching "Madame Secretary" and coughing- and coughing and
coughing. Finally saw the PA last Friday, was diagnosed with a sinus
infection (which I had already self-diagnosed) and have been taking
an antibiotic ever since, plus having my sleep aided and abetted by
a powerful cough medicine, thanks be. I had not slept through the
night for nine consecutive nights due to the coughing and I NEED
MY SLEEP!

And so, today, feeling like ME for the first time in two weeks, I
began doing things to help me get into the spirit of the season,
only to find that Christmas this year (perhaps every year, but
especially in this year of our Lord 2016) has many and varied
faces, not all of them expected or joyful. As I went through my
day, they began revealing themselves in ways both surprising
and heart-rending...and humbling. Perhaps you've seen some
of them, too.

*the joy I can imagine on the face of my Rwandan "son" when
he receives the birthday/graduation gift I sent via Western
Union this morning, the combined gift of a number of amazing
and supportive and caring women.

*the beautiful baby-face of the newborn daughter of a precious
Rwandan friend in Kigali.

*the deeply-grieving face of a friend who told me, after our chance
meeting at Harris Teeter, that her daughter had lost her baby after
only two month of pregnancy, a baby much desired and longed-for.
There will be empty arms for this family this Christmas, even as the
rest of us celebrate another birth. And this dear woman is also facing
the first Christmas since the death of her husband earlier this year.

*the can't-look-at-without-weeping faces of the children of Aleppo,
Syria, as they are experiencing what no child should ever have to
endure.

*The smiling, beautiful, healthy faces of my grandchildren gazing
back at me from my refrigerator door.

*the faces of the dear departed in my family, ever-present for me
on the small credenza in the upstairs hallway, this year's addition
my sister, Kathy.

 *The incredible smile on my own face as I gazed at the beautiful,
special Christmas gift commissioned for me by my eldest grand,
Lindsay.


And even as I baked the first of my Christmas cookies, listening to
favorite holiday albums on the CD player (yes, I am hopelessly
old school), my mind and heart were filled with all of these faces of
Christmas, and I find I cannot look away, cannot stop the tears from
falling, cannot stop my heart from breaking again and again as joy
and sorrow mix as surely as the snickerdoodle ingredients in my glass
mixing bowl. Even as my house is redolent with the odor of fresh-
baked cookies; even as the mantle and windows are alight, offering
a welcome; even as the fireplace is aglow with a comforting, warm
fire, I am aware of the melancholy which is creeping over me,
stealing away the joy I am supposed to be feeling, these five days
before Christmas- but don't.

And so, tomorrow evening, I will go, with bowed head and heart, to
the Longest Night Service at our church, a service of prayer and
comfort designed especially for those of us who are struggling with
Christmas this year. There, I will join with others to be the Body of
Christ in this place, fully aware that the precious Baby in the Manger
we so delight in welcoming also became the Man of Sorrows, the one
who enters into and understands our pain. And in that truth, I can
rest and find peace. Perhaps you can, too. A blessed and peace-
filled Christmas.

Monday, December 5, 2016

This and That...




I've been going through some of my journals and notebooks
lately and have come upon poems which were written at a
variety of times in a variety of places. So, dear reader, I
thought I would share them with you, as a gift for your
Advent pilgrimage.

hope springs
Re-member
re-covery
re-storation
   so many re- words...
   so many beginnings again
re-newal
re-surrection
   speaking in tones both soft and sweet
   both truthful and terrible
re-minding me
   that life moves ever onward
   with many stops and starts
   and new beginnings which are not new
   at all but simply are placing one foot in front
       of another yet again-
              in re-signation
                   and in hope.

taste and see
the soul can only
be spoken of in
a whisper...in
picture-language and
metaphor...
it cannot be grasped
but flows like sand
through your fingers,
like a stream of living
water through your heart,

speaking of a Source
beyond all your knowing,
your small rivulet joined
to the roaring universal
river pressing relentlessly
and joyously onward to
the waiting, receptive Sea.

taste and see...
drink deeply...
be refreshed and renewed-
   she whispers her invitation
   in the dream-world between
   sleeping and waking
now, arise...
begin a new day
bathed in the holiness
of this moment.

how, then, shall we pray?
if all of life is linked, the atoms of each living thing
entangled with the other and the other and the other
in one holy enmeshing of existence, then
instead of asking God to intervene, to alter things
to our desires, to change the ways in which the
very nature of the world unfolds, perhaps we need to be
aware that in the linking lies the medium through which
our prayers may more- my hope and love and caring moving
through the essence of creation to reach your mind and heart and life.
the connections are already there, forming the very fabric of our lives,
the gift of the wisdom of the Infinite Mind, the Ground
of Being, the Creator of Life & Love-
      my prayer is my way of being linked-
                                      of giving love-
                                      of wishing peace & blessing
                                      even as I myself am
                                                      being changed and blessed.

the adoration of the magi
"The human creature does not
live by bread alone..." so the
wisdom of the ages tells us.
Our souls long to be fed by
what will never fade away-
though in this time of want and
deprivation, so many stomachs
cry for food and heads for shelter
and hearts for safety. Yet, in the
midst of want and need, a
yearning rises...for beauty,
for the gifts of music, poetry,
and art of every sort...for the
impractical necessities
without which our spirits starve.

The voices of the wise of every
age and culture, rising in
collective resonance, tell us that
to value only practicality is to
deprive ourselves of that which
truly feeds our humanity,
which makes life a worthwhile
pursuit- a taste of chocolate
on the tongue, roses in winter,
a good book, a child's painting,
kindness, respect, reverence,
laughter, joy...reflection of the
beautifully impractical gifts of
the Magi as they knelt in
adoration before a child,
recognizing in him the presence
of the Divine, acknowledging
in him the holiness of the Human.

taking time
Once upon a time,
in old Anglo-Saxon days,
"haste" meant "violence"...
and as the days are hastening
by toward the holy festival of
Christmas, we are hastening
to complete just one more task,
buy just one more gift, send just
one more care, attend just one
more party, the days marked by
the all-too-familiar litany of
"hurry-hurry-hurry"...
doing violence to ourselves- to our
hearts & minds & bodies- as meals
are eaten on the run, or not at all...
and tempers fray when lines are long
and courtesy gives way to curtness...
as multi-tasking becomes the order
of the day, a struggle to keep a multiplicity
of plates in the air...as time becomes
the task-master driving us, with every clock
the accusing enemy chanting
"hurry-hurry-hurry"...

Where, oh, where, is the slow,
awe-filled anticipation of Advent?
Where is the silent, solitary moment
to sit before the fire and think of those
beloved ones no longer here? Where
is the mealtime shared, by candlelight,
with one we love, satiating body & soul
with food & laughter? Where is the quiet,
early-morning walk to feel the frigid air
and hear the hymns of the birds? Where
is the pause to listen, really listen, to the
oft-told stories of the elderly as they
recite the rosary of their cherished memories?
Where is the moment of just breathing in,
breathing out, pausing in gratitude for all of life?

Dear friend, there is still time...
time to go slowly-slowly-slowly...
to walk in awe-filled peace to
the manger...to the cusp of the
awaiting new year.
Will you make time?
             take time?
or only make haste?

Blessings. Advent blessings. And peace.