Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving for Artists and the Arts...

Went to our public library today to return some books on CD and
to pick up a few more, when what to my wondering eyes should
appear but a beautiful Christmas tree and an amazing garland, both
created from recovered recyclables by a wonderful environmental
artist, Bryant Holsenbeck, another truly creative  artist who is using
His work not only to beautify a local space but to raise our awareness
about caring for the environment. This Thanksgiving 2014 I am
especially thankful for all artists, regardless of their medium-
paints, music, dance, theater, recyclables, etc.- and for the
incredible gift the arts are in our lives. What would we ever do
without them and the beauty they create, the stories they tell?


Monday, November 24, 2014

Life in Bloom...

"To everything there is a season..." so says the writer of Ecclesiastes
in a well-known, oft-quoted passage. And I usually trust that to be
true. But then there is my Christmas cactus...which for the nine or so
years I have had it has faithfully and stubbornly bloomed about four
weeks before the aforementioned time...bursting forth in all its
glory at Thanksgiving. Every year. Without fail.

As I looked at it today, counting the many blooms and the many
more buds- in a few more days it will be covered with blossoms- I
found myself thinking about this whole "season" thing. We use that
saying to comfort ourselves, I think, with the notion, the belief,
that things unfold as they should, when they should, in the overall
scheme of things. And in the world of nature, at least, that is most
often true. Summer follows spring follows winter follows fall, and
so it goes, year after year...a promise of sorts to which we tightly
hold and in which we find great comfort. It gives a sense of rightness
to this often not-so-right world we inhabit, the lives we struggle
through day after day.

Only, not always... because sometimes the word from the doctor is
not what we want to hear, leaving us with a sense of "not yet... too
soon", as we are forced to contemplate our own mortality. Or the
spouse we had trusted and depended upon has told us that s/he no
longer loves us and the lovely, colorful autumn of a marriage, filled
with so much promise, suddenly becomes instead a cold, lonely
winter. Or the job which was supposed to take you comfortably
to retirement in a few years no longer has room in it for you and
you are displaced, replaced... and all you can think is, "Too soon...
it wasn't supposed to happen yet."

And so, perhaps, my lovely, out-of-sync Christmas cactus is simply
Reality in living color...a blooming reminder that life often does not
unfold in the organized, predictable way we would like, I would
prefer. Life instead continually surprises us- sometimes gloriously,
Other times with a blow to the solar plexus which takes our breath
Away and leaves us sagging on the ropes, wondering just what hit
us. But when I think about it...really think about it... I realize that
I would not want it any other way. Security is a myth at best... and
the glory of unpredictability is what can take my breath away with
both joy and sorrow, with both overwhelming happiness and
unmitigated pain. It is being here matter what. And it
made me think of a poem I had written several years ago...

today's prayer
To live without a why...
to be simply because I am...
to open my heart to give and receive
     simply out of giving and receiving's joy...
to step from the barren anteroom of life
     Into the beautiful, crowded, overflowing
     event itself...
to bloom, prodigally flourishing,
     whether or not anyone else notices or
     approves, scattering petals and fragrance
     with delighted abandon...
to taste and savor the fullness of who
     I am, recognizing and welcoming
     the divine dwelling within...
to refrain from the diligent effort of
     seeking and searching, wandering and
     wondering, long enough to realize
     that I am already fully "home"...

"Ah, Spirit," I breathe-
     and I am filled.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Response...of Sorts

Nearly a month since I last wrote here...a month marked with so
many internal debates...with much soul-searching regarding the
ways in which my state...this place which I have called home for
the last nearly-30 years continues to respond to what was good
news on October 11 for so many. I speak, of course, of the
judgment handed down in the U.S District Court by Justice Max
Coburn that Amendment One, passed last spring, banning same-
sex marriages, was unconstitutional. 

The soul-searching has come, not because I disagree. Quite the
contrary. I was among those overjoyed by this step... quite a giant
step...toward justice and equality for all people in North Carolina.
The soul-searching has come as I have wrestled with how to respond
in a loving, caring, Christian way to those who clearly do not agree...
to those who find the possibility of same-sex couples marrying a
threat of sorts, be it to their biblical understanding or their moral
principles or- I'm not sure what.

And I confess to being more than a little bit confused by it all,
by the furor and recriminations and the brouhaha. You see, I have
a number of good and dear gay and lesbian friends, most of whom
are in committed, long-term relationships which feed and enrich
the lives of those of us who know and love them. The question of how
these loving, caring, beautiful relationships could pose a threat to
anyone- especially to those in healthy heterosexual marriages- is
a total mystery to me. For me- as for so many of my friends- the
entire issue is one of justice, not morality. Indeed, the thought
that some consider it okay, even commendable, to deny equal
rights to anyone is morally reprehensible to me.

There have been so many battles over rights in this nation of ours,
struggles against inequality: struggles to overcome the widely-held
notion that blacks could be enslaved by whites because of their
"inferiority", because they weren't really "human"...and then, once
free, to overcome the belief by some that black men lacked the
mental capacity to vote; the struggle by women to overcome the
idea- actually expressed in repressive and restrictive laws- that
they were the property of men and did not have the intelligence
or emotional stability to be able to vote- the right to which they
obtained only after long struggle in 1920. Our national history is
marked by the blood, sweat, and tears of so many who have held
the belief that "ALL people are created equal"... which seems to
have a familiar ring...

And today, I am struggling still, to come to terms with how I
respond- as a pastor, as a woman, as a human being- to those who
are, at this very moment, attempting to have Judge Coburn's
ruling overturned...those who express horror and disgust at the
thought that their gay neighbor, their lesbian co-worker, might
desire the love and support of another human being, might want
the same rights and privileges granted to those of us who
happen to be heterosexual.

I guess this is my best response at this moment in time:
People, fellow citizens, fellow travelers on this road of life,
the journey is a difficult one at the best of times, which means,
I think, that we all need each other. We ALL NEED EACH OTHER,
regardless of- well, anything. If you believe- as I surely and fully
do- that we are ALL children of the same loving, creator God,
why in the world would you want to deny the rights of any other
human being? What about equal rights harms you? And why in
the world do you suppose that some people should be more
"equal" than others?

Oh, and just one more thing which keeps rattling around in the
personal brainpan: Have you ever considered that, by keeping us
focused on matters which rouse lots and lots of emotions, like
same-sex marriage and abortion, the powers-that-be can turn
our attention away from the numbers of homeless children in
this country or the amount of money being spent on the military
or the lack of any constructive legislation being passed by this
most dreadful do-nothing Congress or the overwhelming amount
of student debt or the truly shocking amount of money being
spent on elections?

Brothers, sisters, we're all in this together, like it or not. You
can disagree with me about many things- after all, I tend toward
the liberal side of things, both politically and religiously. But I
have long considered myself a follower of the exceedingly-
liberal one who called us to feed the poor and clothe the naked,
to welcome the stranger and visit the lonely and sick and those
imprisoned, to love our neighbor- AND our enemy. He was the
one who insisted that those of us with two coats should give
one away, that we should turn the other cheek, that we should
treat others as we want to be treated. He was the one who
touched the untouchables and treated women with respect and
gloried in the value of children in a culture which did none of
these. And I just don't know how to do it any differently...
my life.