Monday, April 30, 2012

Healing Hands... does one stand up
for what she believes while
at the same time keep from
sliding into
an us-them mentality?

How live as a person of
principle while still holding
those of different mind and heart
with compassion?

How speak from a place of
deep inner truth and conviction
without demeaning or denigrating
those whose truth is different?
How live as a person of
faith in the indwelling God in
every person while still recognizing
and acknowledging differences?

How do I- one small individual
in this little corner of the world-
affirm and celebrate my connctedness-
and heal my disconnectedness- with
the rest of humanity?

And can I- should I- be content
to leave the healing of the world's hurts
in the hands of God? or are those hands
quite simply my hands?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

It's High Time...

“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…” These opening words from the Declaration of Independence have been bouncing around in my mind for the past several weeks, as I have watched and listened to the many voices speaking about the proposed Amendment One here in North Carolina. On the ballot for the May 8th primary, and already being voted on by those taking advantage of early voting, this highly controversial issue is calling forth commentary by people of faith of every stripe.

And so, though I have been commenting on Facebook and encouraging folks to view some excellent videos produced by People of Faith Opposing Amendment One, the cacophony in my head demands that I speak out more forcefully. For you see, those in favor of this unnecessary amendment have been using tactics which are both unfair and untruthful. There- I said it. Calling this the “Defense of Marriage Act” is a misleading and downright dishonest misnomer. After all, there is already a law on the books in our fair state which defines marriage as between a man and a woman; no others need apply for a license to marry within the borders of North Carolina. And if a marriage is strong and viable, meaningful and mutually satisfying, why in the world does it need defending? From what? From whom?

No…the proposed Amendment One offers wording which has nothing to do with “protecting” marriage. Rather, it strikes at the heart of justice for all with its vague, unclear wording: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be recognized as valid or recognized in this state.” And note the words, only domestic legal union…no definition is offered as to what this means…legal in what way? What about people with children who have chosen not to marry? What about seniors who have a domestic partnership without benefit of marriage because to marry would halve their Social Security income? What about the thousands of “common law” marriages already in existence? All of which offer no threat whatsoever to existing marriages…

This amendment could be interpreted in such a way that it would prevent the courts from enforcing private agreements between unmarried couples; interfere with child custody and visitation rights seeking to protect the best interests of children; invalidate protections against domestic violence to members of unmarried couples regardless of gender; or interfere with end-of-life arrangements, such as wills. Is this really what the citizens of this beautiful but often oxymoronic state want? What about equal rights for ALL people, regardless…?

How can we Christians, as followers of the one who welcomed and included, loved and reached out to ALL people consider it right and proper and JUST to exclude anyone  from the protections of the law? In voting FOR Amendment One, that is exactly what we will be doing… telling some of our fellow citizens that their rights are not as important, as vital, as our own. And we will be saying to the rest of the country, of the world, that here in North Carolina you and your relationship count legally only if you are heterosexual and married. Is this really the message we want to send to one another? Is this really loving one another as God loves us? And where is the holy justice of God in all this?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Simply Sumptuous Sunday

After chilly days and bone-chilling nights, spring is returning to Carolina once again. In fact, I ate a late lunch on my backyard deck today, immersed in and reveling in the sunshine, the birdsong, and the delicate chorus of windchimes. The patterns made by the tree branches swaying in the breeze was almost hypnotic and I found myself soothed by their leafy rustle. How totally amazing just to sit and let myself be bathed in the healing balm of the natural world. As much as I love people- and I do, my friends, I do- there are just moments when the lack of people, of voices, of words, feeds my spirit in the way it most needs.

And now I've moved to the front screened porch, serenaded by yet other windchimes and by the enticing, enchanting whisper of the breeze which murmurs continuously this afternoon, speaking of love and hope and promise...speaking of the wonder and goodness of life...offering the gift of another holy day to this often-weary pilgrim.
Oh, and doesn't my lunch look lovely? A springtime repast of a ham  (left over from Easter) and asparagus frittata, accompanied by tomato wedges and apple slices. Who could possibly ask for anything more? On this sumptuous Sunday, my heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

blue Tuesday

Sometimes blue is lovely and joyful and filled with sunlight. At other times, however, it is sad and shedding tears of loneliness and sorrow. Today is one of those "blue" days...but it will be better tomorrow...I think.

blue tuesday
I am so tired of trying
Weary of seeking and searching
     and welcoming the inner jagged
     landscape of my heart
So tired of bearing
Heavy burdens of my own
     and others who assume my collar
     invites their confession
I long for rest
For respite from the care and toil
     of going it alone for
     nearly twenty years
How did I get to this place
Which I do not recognize
     and reconcile its strangeness
     with the fact it is my life

Monday, April 9, 2012

Go Gray!!!!

There it was...right in front of me in the Sunday Associated Press article entitled "Gray hair's in fashion, but what about at work?" A lovely photo of Helen Mirren with her beautiful gray hair topped the article, with the first few paragraphs talking about more women becoming "gray panthers" by going back to their original gray rather than continue to dye- pardon me, color their locks.

Now, for me, this is a no-brainer. One look at my photo on this blog tells my story. Oh, I went through some "coloring" of my own back in my lates thirties, as more and more of my hair was graying (I began getting gray in my twenties, a family thing). But by forty, I decided that the gray was who I was...and I have been gray (or silver or white- you choose) ever since. Lots of my friends are, too... beautifully, proudly so, I might add.

But this newspaper article went further than the opening paragraphs extolling the number of celebs going gray to talk about the up-coming federal lawsuit by a Houston woman, 52, who is accusing her boss at Capital Title of Texas of ordering her to dye her gray hair in 2009, when her office moved to a swankier part of town. In the suit, Sandra Rawline also accuses her boss of instructing her to wear "younger, fancier suits" and lots of jewelry, according to the Houston Chronicle. The newspaper reported that her superior is calling the lawsuit "preposterous."

Then there is Dana King, 53, a news anchor for San Francisco's KPIX. She began dying her hair when she was in her 20s and when, in January 2010 she approached her general manager about "going gray", he asked her not to do it. It was only because she possessed a no-cut contract good until May 2013 that she did it anyway. She boldly shared her story on-air and the deluge of emails from viewers was overwhelmingly positive, as women confided that it was a relief to have someone make it okay to be gray. Hear that again, please: to make it okay to be if permission is somehow needed to be what we already are.

And so, once again, our cultural enslavement to looking young (whatever that actually means) rears its head, taking the form of discrimination against those of us who DARE to be the person our genetics have destined us to be- as if this were something for which to apologize rather than to celebrate.

Now, lest you misunderstand me, I am not criticizing those of you, my sisters, who feel better with your hair colored. But the fact is, I hear this all the time: "If my hair were the lovely color of yours, I would let it go gray." Well, when and who has decided/determined which hair colors are beautiful and which are not? Isn't this the same kind of justice issue which surrounds skin color? Especially if it is going to be a matter of who is hired and who is not...who keeps their job and who loses it.

And so, women of the U.S., unite! DARE TO GO GRAY! BE the person who you truly, naturally are. After all, in many cultures, gray hair is seen as a sign of wisdom, and those of us who are white-topped are treated with respect and honor. That has been my experience on three trips to Africa, with younger people listening to my words with a depth of interest I rarely encounter in this country. This past summer, my best friend and I traveled in East Africa and were met only with acceptance and delight by the much younger people we met, as we learned that being called "grandmother" is a gift of honor offered by Africans to older women.

Oprah, are you listening? Women on "The View", are you paying attention? "Housewives of Various Cities", get over yourselves. Instead of holding up as role models those women who have succumbed to worship at the altar of Perpetual Youth, why not celebrate those women who have the wisdom to embrace their age, who dress and look and act appropriately, and who celebrate the wonder and beauty of whatever age they happen to be- and who make no apologies for it! Why not look to Dame Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave as "role models" for aging well? (Is it any accident, I wonder, that these actors are all British?)

The fact is that we are all aging- every day, one day older than the day before. We are accumulating experience and, one would hope, wisdom. Instead of being held hostage by some nebulous cultural definition of what it means to be a certain age- any age- why not show the rest of the world around you just what the beauty of your age actually is? THIS is fifty...sixty...seventy...without apology, with pride and joy and celebration.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are.  - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

we are...
No longer young;
No longer even middle-aged, if truth be told,
But not yet old - not really-
For enthusiasm for life's gifts and mysteries remains
Strong as ever, even stronger,
Enriched so deeply by the experiences
And wisdom only age supplies.
So what do we call ourselves,
We sixty-somethings, seventy-somethings
Who relish and savor life,
Who seek to live it to the full,
Our less-than-perfect bodies,
Lined faces, and graying heads
Housing- as they do- eager hearts,
Daring dreams, expectant spirits,
Living out the glorious, golden autumn
Of our lives, knowing winter is
Not far behind when, stripped to
The bone, we will welcome our time of rest,
Reflection, and respite with
Open, loving, thankful arms.                                                                                          

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Words for Easter Sunday...

Once upon a time, one early Sunday morning,
  three women were making their way
    along the winding path through a beautiful garden.
      Flowers bloomed everywhere, the grass was fragrant with dew,
        and birdsong heralded the rising sun.

But the three friends heard nothing,
  saw none of the beauty around them.
    Their downcast eyes were clouded with tears
as they moved 
      silently on their mission of love- to anoint and properly prepare
        for burial the body of their dear friend, their teacher,
          their Master.
He had been crucified on Friday, the day of the Passover-  had died this hideous, brutal Roman death reserved
    for criminals and slaves.
      And because the eve of the Sabbath had been upon them,
        they had been unable to perform the ritual preparations

          for burial proscribed by their Jewish religion.
            And so they had risen early on this first day of the week
              in order to visit the tomb andperform their sad task
                before life resumed its busy after-Sabbath pace.
Mary Magdalene carried spices- nard and myrrh-
  while Mary and Salome held fresh white linen to re-wrap
    the bruised and wounded body. There was no conversation;
      each woman was deep in her own thoughts, each picturing
        with dread the sight which would soon confront them,
          each trying desperately to remember Jesus as he had been…
            his sparkling dark eyes, his ruddy cheeks,

              his swinging stride, his hearty, infectious laugh,
                his strong, loving hands.
                  They had followed him faithfully, at first timidly

                    and at a distance like proper Jewish women…
                      But he had included them, had taught them,
                        had treated them with a dignity and respect
                          unlike anything they had ever known.
Oh, how they had loved him! 
   And how much they would miss him.
     Their eyes again filled with tears.

       Suddenly, a terrible realization dawned on the three and
         they broke their mournful silence in consternation:
“We forgot about the stone. Who will roll it away?” Salome asked.
“Oh, now- we should have brought some of the men along!”      

   Mary added.
“Hah!” Mary Magdalene was scornful. “Which ones?
Those who care are hidden away in fear of the Romans and the Sanhedrin. Who would have risked coming? We’ll just have to try it ourselves.”
But her bravado slipped away as she recognized the enormity  of the task ahead.

The path turned sharply and as the three women rounded the curve,
  they were startled to see that the tomb was open!
    The huge stone had been rolled back.
      Dear God, what had happened? What was going on here?
        They entered the tomb- they could do nothing else.
          Fearful as they were, still their love and loyalty

            and concern for their dear friend drove them.
              And there- in front of them- there on the very spot
                where the body had been placed, sat a youth-
                  clad in white
“Who…w-w-what are you doing here?” Mary stammered.“The stone,” Mary Magdalene gestured, “How? Who?”
  All three women were shaking in fear and amazement and awe,
    for this young man looked like no one they had ever seen before.
      Who was he? And where, oh WHERE was Jesus?

Seeing their confusion, their fear, their anxiety, the youth smiled
  and spoke quietly but with authority.
     “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.”
     “Yes,” they breathed, “Yes…”
     “He is risen- he is NOT HERE! Look- here is where they laid him.”
        His hand touched the hollowed-out stone bier where,

          on Friday, the body of their dear one had been laid.
            Their eyes followed. Could it be? Could it really be???
“GO!” His command startled them. “Tell his disciples- and Peter-
  he is going ahead of all of you to Galilee- your home and his.
    You will SEE HIM THERE, just as he said you would.”

The three women backed from the tomb…and then, staring at one
  another with wide eyes, trembling from head to toe, they RAN.
     Where, they didn’t know or care. Something had happened

       which they didn’t understand and they were overcome by fear,
         by awe, by the seeming impossibility of it all. And as they ran
           the same words echoed again and again in their ears-
             “He is not here! He is not here! He is risen!

                HE IS NOT HERE!”
        *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *    

On that first day of the week, the women went to visit the tomb.
  For indeed, where else should they go? When that great stone

    had been rolled before the entrance of the tomb, more had been 
      buried there than the lifeless body of Jesus, their friend,
        their teacher. Lifeless and buried were the hopes and dreams
          shared by all of Jesus’ followers. And buried, too, were the
            uncertain faith, the shabby quarrels about greatness in the
              kingdom, the impatience for results,
                the betrayal and denial all buried with him,
                  buried so they could be forgotten in the darkness
                    and despair of the tomb.
And we join those early disciples in their shame and despair.
  “Don’t roll the stone away,” we cry. For we fear that the light will

     expose the corpse of our sinful, shameful acts…of broken vows…
       of old hates and grudges…of ungrieved sorrows…of pain and
         brokenness and disbelief…“So let the darkness stay,” we say,
           out of fear that our hopes and dreams will come to nothing.
             “Don’t roll the stone away!”
But the mysterious wisdom of God enters the scene,
  and in a huge cosmic joke turns death upside down,
    rolls the stone away. The resurrection, you see,
      is God’s way of getting our attention…
       it is God’s way of making us “listen up”…God’s way of getting us
         to look, to listen, to LIVE!
           For, if you think about it, there is really nothing subtle

              about Easter…nothing vague or ambiguous or vain
                or clever or cute about it at all.
                  Easter is not a morning for subtlety…not a bit!
                     Easter is confrontational! You’re hit in the face by it!

And so we writhe in pain as the light…
  the brilliant, dazzling Easter light, the light from the empty tomb,
    exposes all we had thought was safely hidden,
      showing who we really are. But in that light is also forgiveness,
        for it is the light of the Risen and Living Christ.
             And he goes before us, calling, “Follow! Follow me,”
           over his shoulder as he moves out into the world,
             broadcasting his Holy Spirit, blending into the crowd of
               humanity so well that if we DO choose to go after him,
                 we may have to search every face we meet
                   on the chance that it might be him.

And that, too, is the mystery of God, the mystery revealed
  both in pain and death, in resurrection and life!

    For where this mystery is, there is great pain- the pain of the  
      darkness of the tomb, of the shadow of death.
        But there is also great joy, hope, & laughter…and LIFE!
          Life begins, you see, really begins,

            when God gets our attention…
              and for many of us, it takes an unexpected holy presence

                or an empty tomb…life begins when we can hear
                  what God has to say-in spite of our doubts and fears-
                    and begin to act upon it, to live it.
Our surprising and unexpected God gets our attention through
  tragedy and terror, through sickness & sadness.
    In and through such times, we ask questions…
      we become more responsive to revelations of truth…
        from our teetering place on the edge of life,

          we often see more clearly the needs of others…
            our hearts reach out to those in need, in pain, 
              because we know what pain and sorrow and fear are like…
                God does not send the terror or the tragedy-

                  in spite of what some say-
                    but rather uses these events,

                      as God can use ALL the events of our lives,
                        to reach out to us, to help us grow…to become
                          the people we have been created to be.
From the rising of the sun each day to the waning of the moon
  the next morning, God surrounds us with a myriad of subtle-
    and not-so-subtle- attention-getters…

          and we can HEAR and SEE and EXPERIENCE what God has
            to say to us. And that’s what the Easter Gospel means-
              life begins when fear and joy, that “odd couple” of

                human existence, enable us- in spite of the one and
                  because of the other- to get on with the serious
                    glorious business of life and loving.

So it was for the men and women of that first Easter…
  Life began for them when they stopped being afraid…
    both of what they knew and of what they did not know…
      Life began for them when they could dare to believe that 

        the risen Christ, the living, walking, talking Christ,
         made a different in their lives…
           life began for them when they believed this to be true

             even if they could neither explain it nor understand it!
Life begins for Easter Christians when we realize that we do not have
  to die to fully LIVE! We can begin right now, right here!
    Life begins when God gets your attention and

      you choose to believ the amazing, incredible,
        breath-taking story of New Life
          coming out of the death of the old.
“Christ is risen!” means he is present with ushere, now & always…
   it means that he is present in the meal we share,

     in the prayers we offer, in the scripture we hear,
       in the fellowship we experience…living bread, life-giving breath,
         living word…It means Christ is on the loose in our world,
           calling you to hope, to let go of fear…
             and Easter is not about “getting it” or explaining it…
               it is about EXPERIENCING it…the disbelief
                                                          the joy
                                               the doubt
                                                          the darkness
                                                          the light.
                 Resurrection, you see, is about a God who

                   creates a way when there is no way…

Dear Easter Christians, on this day of days, we have gathered

  to hear again the old- and fully NEW- words of hope and promise:
       words which tell us that Jesus has redeemed life

         so that you and I can live it FULLY in the here and now…
           Because Jesus lives, we too may live, with as much time
             as God gives us, free from the fear of the past,
               free from the fear of the future…
In the resurrection of Jesus the Christ,
  God gets our attention…and tells us that in Christ,
    full & abundant life is ours…
      because Christ lives, so too may we!
        Amen & amen

Holy Saturday

Brilliant sunlight
floods my room
bursting through the shutters
limning strips of light
across the rainbow stripes
of my quilt

At my elbow
the radio emits strains
of a Mahler quartet
as I savor the last
delectable drops of my
morning cocoa

Breath flows
blessedly through
a throat made raw by harsh coughing
though now less frequent
less chest-wracking
more free

Holy Saturday-
but isn't every Saturday
every day of life holy?
filled as it is with momets
of light and music
cocoa and blessed breath?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Morning Offerings...

i give lie to loneliness...
i give lie to loneliness
for there is a longing still
for a heart's companion
to hold my tender heart
with compassionate love
as gently as cradling a robin's egg
to cherish both my
beautiful and ugly selves
to have and hold my
aging, aching body at the end
of a long, difficult day
to bear a share of life's
burdensome sorrows
and when i deny this
ephemeral yet deeply real dream
i give lie to loneliness...

inner healing...
i confess i shy away from those
i perceive as too needy...those who seem
to flatter and adore only to reach out

grasping claws to snatch and tear my
flesh seeking answers i cannot give,
do not have, in their vain attempt to

escape seeking answers deep within
themselves- which would mean rending
their own flesh, permitting their own hearts

to break open so healing could happen
from within.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Pot Pourri...

other beatitudes...
Blessed are the elderly,
     for they shall know the satisfaction of a life well-lived.
Blessed are the young at heart,
     for they will live always in expectation and surprise.
Blessed are the heavy of heart,
     for they will be givn the comfort of sharing their burden with others.
Blessed are the sightless,
     for they will be gifted with inner vision to see life honestly and completely.

morning prayer...
Be with me today, O Holy One.
Be with me and help me to slow
    my steps, my heart, my monkey mind.
Remind me that life is lived
    one moment at a time,
    one breath at a time,
    one encounter at a time.
And when I begin to get frantic
    over all that remains to be done,
    fill me with the certain remembrance
         of your ever-presence,
         as near as my breath,
             your loving, compassionate voice
             whispering in my ear,
                   "It doesn't all depand on you."
To which I can only respond, "Thanks be to God!"
     takes my breath away
How wondrous is poetry...
how amazing this weaving together
     of words, tailored in such a way
that they lay bare heart and mind,
     yet clothe the spirit in a suit
               of finest, dearest gossamer.

Poet, Czeslaw Milosz, on why he writes poetry:
" find my home in one sentence, concise, as if hammered in metal. Not to enchant anybody. Not to earn a lasting name in posterity. An unnamed need for order, for rhythm, for form, which three words are opposed to chaos and nothingness."

a different way of seeing...
From Japanese Buddhism comes the term,
wabi-sabi, which is essentially the beauty found in imperfection and impermanence and incompleteness.
It is based on certain truths about the nature of things:
            all things are impermanent.
            all things are imperfect.
            all things are incomplete.
It reminds us that life is about both waxing and waning...reminds us to embrace the decline as much as we embrace the rise of things. It is about remembering our earthiness, our humility.
WABI is a connection to the world in its imperfection, a way of seeing imperfection as embodying beauty.
SABI is a quality of stillness and solitude, a sort of melancholy as a response to and source of beauty.
And so, wabi-sabi is the beauty of the withered, weathered, tarnished, scarred, coarse, earthy, tentative, impermanent, ephemeral...those things which we usually do not find beautiful. And it holds within it the ability, the willingness to see beauty in that which you must release.

Wabi-sabi is not found in nature at moments of bloom or freshness, but at moments of inception or subsiding. Wabi-sabi is not about gorgeous flowers, majestic trees, or bold landscapes. Wabi-sabi is about the minor and hidden, the tentative and ephemeral...The beauty of wabi-sabi is, in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly. -Leonard Koren

some reflections on death...                    
Death is an event,
a threshold we pass
through. We go
on and on and
into light forever. -Marie Howe in "The Promise"

The Well of Grief by David Whyte
Those who will not slip beneath
     the still surface on the well of grief

turning downward through its black water
     to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink,
     the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering
     the small round coins
         thrown by those who wished for something else.

in celebration of life...
                               the marvelous
                 did happen in our lives, our stories
                 are not drab with its absence: but don't
       expect not to return for more. Whatever more
       there will be will be
       unique as those were unique.   -Denise Levertov in "Only Once"

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.
                                -Billy Collins in "This Much Do I Remember"

Nothing can destroy it, this road
of doors, opening, one after another,
always toward reality:
              Life without calculation!  -Juan Ramon Jimenez in "Life"

But our gusty emotions say to me that we have
Tasted heaven many times: these delicacies
Are left over from some larger party. -Robert Bly in "Tasting Heaven"

And here I sit at three o'clock a.m., kept awake by my pollen cough, the "gift" I am receiving along with the incredibly gorgeous blooms of springtime. After four hours of rest, I have now been awake for nearly two hours, and could think of nothing better to do with my time than work on this blog...though what I need most is more sleep.
But in the spirit of wabi-sabi, I am attempting to see the beauty of insomnia, of being awake when all around me the world of people is at rest. Even the nightbirds are silent...though I can almost hear the voice of Lady Moon singing as she peers through the trees and shines in my hall windows. My thoughts are incredibly mixed, as evidenced by my meandering writings...but such is the gift of the late-night.

May your tomorrow- or today, actually- be filled with the joys of living...and may you be blessed with the vision of wabi-sabi...a different way of looking and seeing and being. Happy April!