Thursday, September 29, 2011

Opening the Heart...Becoming One...

Even as some sisters & brothers in Alabama are rejoicing over the passage of the "most comprehensive immigration law" in these United states, I have been immersed in a thought-provoking book entitled Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer, a Quaker educator, writer, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal.
Even as my heart is breaking open over the zenophobia which seems to be sweeping over parts of our nation, I find myself taking heart from what Palmer calls Five Habits of the Heart which he feels we American citizens need in response to twenty-first-century conditions...five interlocking habits which he feels will be crucial to sustaining our democracy.
  • We must understand that we are all in this together. This means embracing the simple fact that we are dependent on and accountable to one another.
  • We must develop an appreciation of the value of "otherness", welcoming and including the "other" with an awareness that the stranger has much to teach us.
  • We must cultivate the abiity to hold tension in life-giving ways, holding the contradictions of our collective lives without rushing to easy answers.
  • We must generate a sense of personal voice and agency, to have confidence in our own voices and in our power to make a difference.
  • We must strengthen our capacity to create community, without which nothing of real significance can happen.
Caring deeply about the future of our democracy, about the path we seem to be following as a people, about the ways in which we treat one another, about the ever-increasingly vitriol which has been rising to the surface of public debate, by the ways in which debate is shut down by accusations of anti-Americanism, by the rise of fringe groups who seem determined to shut doors rather than open them to welcome the ever-increasing diversity of life, I share these throughts from my book, Life Lines, written several years ago but as true for me now as they were when I first put pen to paper. May your heart be opened this day...may welcome and hospitality be the watchwords which guide your speech and your actions.

my message to the world…
Let go of fear!
Why should we fear
each other? Inside,
beneath the skin, we are
all the same…
yet we are individually
unique. It is a mystery,
a glorious mystery! So why
not spend our time & effort
in contemplating & unraveling
the wondrous mystery of
our simultaneous oneness &
uniqueness rather than
fighting over it? Why not
celebrate the wonder of
similarity & diversity as
two sides of the human coin?

If we can accept the gift
of our own  uniqueness,
then we can honor the
uniqueness of every other
being- and his gifts, her
glory will not threaten
us but will create a
more beautiful, colorful
world…a world where
love & acceptance prevail…
a world transformed from
fear to love.
                Let it be so.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ordinary Time

For many in churches in the liturgical tradition, this time after Pentecost is known as "Ordinary Time"...paraments remain firmly green, the season unbroken by high holy days, and a certain sameness pervades the readings from scripture, as week after week we seem to focus on the same topics. Someone remarked to me last Sunday that it is getting kind of most of life, I think, where a sameness pervades daily existence and we have trouble seeing beyond it, often struggling to find some meaning in the daily chores and commitments, the trials and tasks which mark the sun's rising and setting. And yet...isn't that what a great deal of the spiritual journey is about? Relishing, reveling in the ordinary, the everyday? It is, after all, where we lives our lives- most of the time... and how much we let slip through our fingers if we can only enjoy and appreciate the highs, the mountaintop experiences. Life is lived mostly in the valleys and on the plains...and even with that awareness, I often struggle with appreciating the ordinariness of my life. Perhaps you do, too. And so I write...

How tightly we clench our fists
around moments of bliss,
moments of clarity! How
we long to stay on the mountaintop,
reveling in the tantalizing transfiguration
of the ordinary into the extraordinary.
But the reality is that most of life is ordinary-
if that can truly & fully describe
      a scarlet cardinal at the bird feeder
          or the shining light of the full moon,
      the taste of the first morning coffee
          or the feel of a comfortable bed at day’s end,
      the smile of a child swinging high at the playground
          or the cozy presence of a beloved pet,
      the savory, cinnamon-tinged flavor of homemade
           or the house-filling aroma of soup cooking on the

And even when we find ourselves
longing for those earth-shattering moments
of startling illumination and beauty,
eventually we will realize- if we are honest
with ourselves- that the place we want to be
is where we already are-
                          and it is home.

an ordinary life
I have had an ordinary life
in so many ways…ordinary to me,
al least. Yet I was always fed & clothed &
housed & loved and never neglected or abused-
...except for when I was three, by a man of
importance and integrity, or so my
family believed...
…except for the years I spent trying to
live up to what I felt were the expectations
of two wonderful but perfectionistic parents,
believing I had to measure up in order to count-
yet unsure if I ever could or would.
…except for my need to have boys “love” me,
though my need was never truly satisfied,
for love had long ago become confused in my
mind with physical touch.
…except for the heavy and heartless hand
of death which fell on my life over and over
and over again, driving me to my knees,
whipped and whimpering.

But always I arose, always found
some inner strength (the presence of God,
I suspect). Always I traveled on, step by step,
my face pointed into the wind-
     my ordinary face,
     my ordinary steps,
     my ordinary life,
…except for giving birth to three amazing
children and adopting another.
…except for the presence of nine uniquely
lovely grandchildren who bring love and
laughter to my days.
…except for the beautiful gathering of
friends populating my life throughout
the years.
…except for the life-changing travel to
the Dominican Republic and Ghana and
Chaco Canyon and Iona and East Africa.
…except for the mid-life choice to go
to seminary and become a pastor.
…except for daring to write and
publish three books after my retirement.

So- an ordinary life?
       How extraordinary!

With a tip of the hat to John Lennon whose song, Imagine, always makes me cry.
living in a world
where you are bathed in
where no matter what is
happening your heart
is at peace

living free of dissatisfaction
of making comparisons
full of simply
being yourself
living in openness
and acceptance- of yourself
as you are
of others as they are
with no victimizing or

living in gratitude
for the incredible gift
which is this life-
for breath and blood and thought
for emotion and for touch
for hearing, sight, and speech

living in the place
of needing nothing more
to make life complete
of dwelling in the sense
of enough
just imagine!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wholly Holy Sabbath

And so another Sabbath dawns... the earth around me blessed by the rains of the past two days... greens once again green and the patina of dust washed away for the time being. A morning of giving thanks...a morning of opening myself to the presence of the Holy...a morning of being exactly where I am at this moment and feeling gratitude for this time and place, even as I prepare to lead worship at the lovely little church south of Lexington, NC.

Faith and the spiritual journey has long been the subject of reflection for me, aware that my own journey has taken and continues on a long and ciruitous path, a path which has moved from the Sunday school understandings of my youth to the wide-open embrace of the value of traditions not my own, to what they can teach me, to the light they bring to my own enlightenment. And so, I share with you, dear ones, some of my writings about faith from the past year, hoping they will perhaps shed some light upon your own path, since in reality we are walking together in this journey of life. May your day be blessed; may your heart be filled with hope; and may you know, above all, that you are loved. love, linda

Everything has something to teach us. The only question is, Do we allow it, or do we resist it with all our might? –Joan Chittister

God is many faces to many people- but all the same God. –Joan Chittister

Infinite goodness has such wide arms. –Dante

faith’s road
Having faith does not mean
having answers…though it is indeed
far more comfortable to live with
certainty than to dwell in
But life’s road is paved with questions
and mystery lurks just off each
beaten path, and though it is said that
the road to hell may be paved with
good intentions, I doubt if the stairway
to heaven is built on narrow-minded
The supreme religious challenge is to see God's image in the one who is not in our image.  -Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

 in whose image?
Imagine...the Hebrew Bible commands us-
in more than thirty places- to love and
welcome the stranger, for each and all of us
have been a stranger...somewhere, at some time...
and in the stranger, we can see the face of God,
welcome angels unaware.

 But far too often- if honesty prevails-
the only god we can see is the one made
in our image...the one who looks like us
and acts the way we think God should...
and if God is indeed only the way I see
divinity, the way you see holiness, then we
can- with smug & self-righteous justification-
deny the image of God in those unlike us,
in our enemies.

 Easier by far to "worship" God than
to love our neighbor (let alone our enemy!)...
to see the person right in front us as
the unique, beautiful Child of God
she stand in awe of the unsolved
mystery of his see them not
just as characters in my own story
but as people in their own
holy places wherein dwells the Spirit of God.

Simpler, far, to hallow the Wholly Holy
than to recognize...admit...acknowledge
that every encounter with every person
is holy...that every encounter with every
person takes place on holy ground- and
in deep humility, take off our shoes in wonder & awe.

Re-ligare, that early Latin word
from which “religion” and “religious”
come, meant- in those early Latin days-
     to re-connect, to re-member
              what has been dis-membered…
     to return to our deepest, truest selves,
          remembering what we already know.
How, then, has religion become
something which divides,
                           which dis-members
                        the family of humanity,
                        pitting sister against sister,
                        brother against brother,
                        tribe against tribe, until even
                                   heaven has its teeth set on edge by the
                        cacophony of warring certainties,
                            each striving for the hearts & souls
                            of humankind…           
                            each certain that its answers
                                        are THE answers…
                        while angels weep and
                        all creation bears the battle scars
                        of humans run amok,
                        as the loving, reconciling voice
                                   of the Divine One
                         goes unheard.

Why do we so often assume
that people of faith never experience
Why do we so often assume,
even in this modern age,
     that illness & misfortune are
     signs of lack of faith?
Why do we so often assume
that we know who has God's
     favor and who does not?
Why do we so often assume
that there are simple, straightforward
     answers to life' complex questions?
Why do we so often assume
that a great divide exists between
     what is sacred and what is secular?
Why do we so often assume
that we, we alone, know the
     mind and will of God for
I mean, isn't it dangerous
                to ASS/U/ME?

Spirituality is what takes us beyond religious practice to the
purpose of religion: the awareness of the sacred in the mundane.
-Joan Chittister
reading the bible
It is not in the book
but in the being
that we find spiritual truth…
and yet the scriptures are
elevated to a holy place,
words cherry-picked and
used as weapons and as warnings,
not as wisdom or as welcome…
words quoted, cited, spoken with a towering authority-
           and all the while,
           the very ones who claim the words
           promote fear and hate, exclusion, war…
           while words of love, acceptance and forgiveness
               get lost somewhere…
and the One called God,
       the One called Love,
       the One Creator of us all
              gets pushed aside and
              the Book takes center stage…
as we forget to LIVE the message
                      to BE the truth
                               to co-create a world of love
                      to worship with our daily lives…