Thursday, January 30, 2014

Let There Be Light...


Nearly month's end and here I sit, wondering just where this
first 1/12 of 2014 has gone. Not that it hasn't been full- and
bountiful in so many ways...but time does seem to pass by
far too quickly these days. Perhaps that is simply part of the
aging process, as I can recall- from my younger years- older
people always saying that time passed more quickly as you
age. But perhaps it is a consequence of this fast-moving world
of which we are all a part...technological advances occurring
so quickly that one can barely become accustomed to the
"latest" before it has become outdated and obsolete. And
perhaps it is also the to-be-expected sequela of the never-
ending news cycles which surround us continually.

Now, I have often written and preached about my deep belief
in our interconnectedness as human residents of this planet...
in our connectedness to the other species which share space
with us here, so I am assuredly not denying that. And I also
deeply believe in bearing witness to what is happening in our
world- the hard darknesses as well as the wonderful and
amazing places of light and hope and joy and meaning. But
I find that the perpetual bombardment of "news"- which is
quite often not at all news-worthy- can put my teeth on edge
and cause me to turn off the TV, the radio, the computer, the
phone, and retreat into a blessed and holy silence for a time.
And the older I get- or as more time passes- whichever it is,
I find I need this "information fast" more and more. Deep,
prayerful concern on my part seems to demand the silence...
the solitude...the freedom from distraction, so that I can
focus my heart, my mind, my intention, upon those who truly
need my prayers.

This weekend, we in the church celebrate Candlemas- a time
of lighting  lots of candles; a time to look with hope to the
return of the light as days get increasingly longer; a time to
hear of the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple
at Jerusalem as well as the appearance of two elderly people-
Anna and Simeon- who recognize the Light when they see it.
It is one of my favorite gospel stories, most probably because
it is one of the few places where the aged are both included
and celebrated in scripture...and because they have both been
waiting for, anticipating, the arrival of the Light of the World,
even as peoples throughout the ages waited for, anticipated,
the coming of the light into the dark dreariness of winter.

I love that they recognize Jesus...know him, even without
being introduced him. They acknowledge this infant as
containing, bearing, the Divine within his tiny person...which
is what I have always felt when I have had the privilege of
baptizing an infant...acting as the agent of acknowledgement
for the gathered community of faith that this little one was a
Child of God in whom the Living Spirit was pleased to dwell.

In another month, which- if January's passing is any indication-
will speed by quickly, we in the church will enter the season
of Lent, a time when we are traditionally called upon to fast,
to pray, and to especially care for the poor. Most often, our
"fast" is to refrain from eating chocolate or drinking coffee or
something we should probably be eschewing anyway. So I'm
thinking about a fast this year from the  evening news on TV...
the morning news on the radio...not because I don't care but
because I DO- and I want to give myself time and space to
focus on and pray- with deliberation- for the many people
and situations which present themselves to me in so many
ways every day- whether I am looking for them or not. My
morning and evening practice can be to light a candle, sit in
silence, and page through the Rol-e-dex my memory and
surround each person and situation there with the light of
hope and concern and compassion, asking God always that if
I can shine some light in their darkness, I will be shone the way.
It's about making myself available, I guess...some call it
"being a disciple"...I call it truly living.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Behold the Birds...


 
On Monday, a balmy January day, with lots of sunshine and
temperatures in the low 60s, I took advantage of what was
promising to be our last comfortable day for some time to
do a bit of yardwork. One important task was to refill all the
bird feeders, in anticipation of the cold which was to come
(and which is now firmly here). I confess that I had been
terribly remiss in caring for my fine feathered friends this
winter and so their visitations had been few and far between.
Imagine my delight today to see all 6 feeders crowded with
birds of many sorts...beautiful and unique and a delight to
watch.
 
My favorites, I must admit, are the cardinals, and there were
two pairs here today, the faithful males keeping watch as
their mates helped themselves to the nuts and grains in the
block feeders, which seem to be their favorites. And I  had to
laugh at a large bully of a bluejay who, for a time, managed to
chase away some of the smaller birds until they had enough
of his strong-arm tactics (can you strong-arm if you have no
arms? Hm-m-m.) and united in retaliation, at which time he
beat a hasty retreat.
 
But the visitors who really delighted me were the wood-
peckers...two varieties today, the downy and the one
whose name I always forget...not redheaded- though he
certainly has a red cap...not pilated, as his cap is not
peaked but rounded. But he was large and beautiful and
I reveled in the watching...content to set my life aside for a
little while to gaze at these wonderfully amazing creatures.
 
My last post, yesterday, was filled with grief and anger and
pathos, with questions and doubts, but today, I have been
reminded that there is indeed a world beyond my own concerns...
a world of beauty and wonder and hope...a world filled with
signs of the Divine. And for that, I breathe a sigh of thanks
and praise. I will not stop caring or wondering or even
agonizing over this world of humanity of which I am a part,
but praise God from whom all blessings flow...with a special
thanks for the birds and the blessing they have bestowed on
this wayfaring, wandering, questing traveler.

 
 




Today's visitors

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Inhumanity of Us All...

I try very hard to refrain from being judgmental, particularly when
it comes to cultural differences. I am well aware that people from
different backgrounds and cultures view life differently. But aren't
there, I have to wonder- and often do- just some norms and values
which are simply part of human decency, no matter the culture
from which one comes.

This is all rattling around in my brain tonight because of a news
story which I read on-line last evening about a young woman,
age 20, who was gang-raped in India...raped by 13 men...at the
instructions of the village elders where she lives because she had
fallen in love with a young man from another village and this
was deemed unacceptable. "The crime committed is falling
in love with the wrong person," was the pronouncement of the
head elder, as he encouraged the 13 men to "have their fun"
with her, and she is presently in hospital, in critical condition.

WHY??? Why in the world- anywhere in the world- should it
be considered culturally acceptable for such an unbelievably
cruel and heartless and, yes, barbaric act to take place? Why,
in this twenty-first century, as we humans reckon time, is
such incredibly wicked behavior against one person not only
condoned but supported by other human beings?

I have never been to India, but I have some friends who
have been and who love the country and its people. But
this little news item- and it was little...carried by Bing on their
news web-site but not apparently picked up by any of the
other news media I follow regularly...this has stayed with me
all day and, I confess, has both saddened and angered me.
Perhaps this is because I am a woman- though I would hope
that caring and compassion are not gender-specific.  And
I wonder...puzzle over...am confused and confounded by...
any culture which would condone such behavior toward
one of its members.

But lest I get too carried away in my judgments, lest I can
only see the speck in another culture's eye, and miss
the log in our own, I have to remind myself that here in the
United States, a man was put to death yesterday in a Texas
prison...a man found guilty of a terrible crime, to be sure,
but a man who had also not been given due process as we in
America have deemed it should be given. His attorneys and
family claim he had had a head injury some years before the
crime and so was dealing with some mental and emotional
issues. And, as a Mexican citizen, he had not been informed
that he had the right to advice from the Mexican consulate.
All of these things- had they been considered at trial- might
have mitigated his sentence to something less than the death
penalty, which has now had the final say.

I guess what I am struggling with on this cold, wintry evening
in January, as I sit in front of the fireplace with my notebook
on my lap, typing, is this question: how can we- any of us-
look at another person and fail to see them as someone of
value? How can we continue to deny the interconnectedness
that exists between all of life on this planet? John Donne said
it well so long ago- "Each man's death diminishes me."-
or something to that effect. Well, so does the rape of each 
woman...so does the death of each starving child...so does
the death of the Mexican man on Texas' death row.

My perspective is admittedly a Christian one, so I believe
that each one of us...each and every human being on this
planet...is a beloved child of God. No exceptions. EACH
and EVERY one. I know I don't always live up to that belief,
but I keep it ever in front of me. The homeless man on
the corner, the tired woman behind the register at
Walgreen's, the laughing child riding his bike down my street,
the man who gives me the finger at a traffic light because
I'm too slow on the uptake, the smiling woman checking out
my books at the library- each and all, children of God. So how
can I possibly treat them with anything less than the utmost
respect and, yes, even reverence, since I believe that the
Living God dwells within each one, as it does in me.

Having said all this, I am left with the perplexity of how
such barbaric inhumanity can continue. And I am forced
to ask myself if I participate in it...and how. For the face
in the mirror is not blameless, even if my sin is one of
omission...of failing to speak out. My heart remains
heavy tonight and my bedtime prayer will surely be a
whispered, "Lord, have mercy,"...for what else can I
say?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Being Brutally Honest...

The words came into my semi-aware consciousness from the radio 
on my bedside table..."Christian militias" the reporter on NPR was 
saying, reporting about the on-going conflict in the Central African 
Republic between Muslims and Christians. The seeming incongruity 
of the words stayed with me as I showered, preparing for the day, 
and I could not shake their oxymoronic quality. Christianity, after 
all, is to be a religion of peace, isn't it? a religion which calls for 
love of BOTH neighbor and enemy...a belief system which calls for 
turning the other cheek and caring for the last and least. So how 
has it become a source of and justification for war? When and how 
did we humans come to the conclusion that the only way for me 
to be right is for you to be wrong?And why has that become so 
important? How did we reach this place in human history where 
wielding the biggest stick and having the most toys means you 
win? And win what, exactly?

I found myself going around and around in circles...chewing on 
it...mulling it over throughout the day. Religious wars- another 
seeming oxymoron- are not really about religion at all, it seems 
to me. Rather they- like most, if not all, human disputes- are 
about power...control...property...who is in charge. Religion is 
merely the smokescreen for the inhumanity of humanity...for the 
failure of human nature to live up to its fullest potential...which 
thought led me to thinking about the internecine disputes in our 
Congress which- in spite of the smokescreen of party politics and 
loyalties- can likely be laid at the feet of the skin color of our 
President rather than his politics...but I digress.

Returning to the religious conflict in the C.A.R. between Muslims 
and Christians, I was forced off the pedestal of judgment into an 
honest, critical look at my own values and beliefs. After all, it's 
easy to stand in a place of judgment, to take the high ground 
when at a far remove, but what about when reality comes 
close...into my own life?

I consider myself to be a pacifist; I believe in nonviolence. I also
claim the label of "Christian". Yet if someone were threatening 
the lives of my children, my , I know there is a part of me- a 
deep, dark part, to be sure, well-hidden most of the time- which 
would be capable of very violent acts against him or her, even 
to the point of killing them. So where does that place me on the 
continuum of belief? of being my brother/sister's keeper? of 
turning the other cheek? of offering forgiveness?

All of which is but one reminder to me that the spiritual journey 
is an on-going, continual process...often one step forward and 
two steps back...a struggle with allowing what I really believe 
to be lived out in my relationships with the Divine and with 
those fleshed-out beings who populate my world...a wrestling 
with the difficult questions of justice and compassion and 
inclusion and acceptance and truth and forgiveness...and, 
ultimately, coming once again to the realization that life is and 
will continue to be composed of far more questions than 
answers, and being okay with that. Oh, and knowing I am not 
in it alone. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thoughts on Resurrection and Such...


A New Year, a new day, a new birth, a new beginning...even though
it is the ninth day of this new year, it is, in reality, a new beginning,
a reminder of the on-going, mysterious cycle which is life. For, in
reality, each day is the beginning of a new year...a beginning afresh...
a reminder of the ways in which life upon this planet is ever being
renewed, resurrected...the fallow, dark stillness of winter giving way
to the riotous life of springtime- year upon year, without our
intervention or assistance. Life born anew...life resurrected from the
seeming death of hibernation and germination. Is it any wonder,
then, that Christianity has made resurrection its frontispiece? For
resurrection speaks the truth, manifests the truth, lives the truth
that death and dying are not the last word but are simply phases
of what we call Life.

Unfortunately, the "Christian" point of view has too often placed
the focus on a life BEYOND this one...on resurrection which
happens only when one leaves this earthly life behind.

But what about the here-and-now? What about the reality that in
THIS life, resurrection/new life/re-birth is being made manifest
every day? With each waking, life begins anew- and isn't that the
definition of resurrection? If I believe that I am a creation of a
Loving Divine Force which also dwells within me- and I do- and
that I am a unique combination of DNA and quarks and leptons
and stardust- which I am- how can I not cherish and celebrate
each day, each moment of this existence- here-and-now, in this
place on this planet, on this plane of existence?

I do not know what will come when I breathe my last earthly breath...
NO ONE KNOWS. I repeat, NO ONE KNOWS. But I have seen and
experienced enough winters and springs, had sufficient morning
awakenings, to know resurrection when I see it and to know I am
fully and wholly part of it, however it happens.
           And that, that is ENOUGH...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ring Out the Old...Welcome the New...

This was written on December 31, 2013, at a poetry workshop at
Healing Ground...words I needed to get out...to write...to share...
in preparation for beginning a new year.

retrospective 2013
Birthed in heartbreak, this yew year...
Awash with tears, the way ahead unclear.
Choices and decisions ride upon
     the waves of uncertainty,
     Yet choose I must and choose I did...
As far away, the distant shore seemed
     out of reach...
          but stroke by stroke it nearer came
          'til loving arms reached out to take
          my trembling hand and lead me home.
The journey long,
the path uneven bramble-torn...
     yet on I walked...stumbled...fell...
     began again...despite the bruises and the scrapes...
     the blood-stained cloth around my head...
Until- bent, battered, and bedraggled, I emerged
into a clearing filled with so much light
my squinting, tear-filled eyes could scarcely
     take it in.
For Hope was there...and Courage, too...
buoyed up by Resilience, those spirits three
to fill me with their loving gifts...to heal my hurts,
     and send me on my way- renewed, revived...
          into the days and weeks to come.

And now, a wish for your new year...Happy 2014...may it be a
daring, fulfilling, satisfying, challenging, painful, wonderful slice
of your life...and may each day be FULL to overflowing with all
that makes living worthwhile.

Have
A
Positive
Passionately present
Year

Never
Ever
Wait to become

Your best self
Every
Action counts
Remember who you are & why you're here!