Category Archives: spiritual practice

What Time Is It?

     I haven’t posted in over three weeks and as I sit here before a blank page I keep cycling through outrage at the President’s continuing message of hate, hope in my sisters and brothers who RESIST every day in many ways, grief over what is happening in our nation as our light dims, and fear that we will not be able to turn back the tide of evil.

Then there are my duties as pastor, family member, writer, and therapist. Life hasn’t stopped. No matter how horrific Trump’s behavior I still need to earn a living, clean house, cook meals, pastor my flock, respond to the needs of the vulnerable in my community, listen deeply to the journey of my clients, and write.

Now you might think I haven’t been writing but the truth is, I finished the manuscript that was seven years in the making.(!) I am told it is normal for a first book to simmer that long. My story has found its final shape and I even like it. Now I am free to begin my next project.

Most of us live busy and fractured lives but that is not the full picture. Just being alive means at any given moment we may be dealing with loss, stress, joy, love, times of celebration, times to make love, and times of grief.

Many of us in the resistance are on care overload. We feel and are deeply responsible for our macro as well as micro existence. For the world, the nation, our families and friends, and ourselves.

We cannot, MUST NOT stop caring. To do so endangers real people, real values, real events, real history. Nor can we ignore the needs of those in our immediate purview. What good is it to work for a better world if we neglect those closest to us?

So this is not an either/or reflection. Nor is it a both/and one. Rather I am reminded of the deep wisdom of being in the moment. Maybe this should be our spiritual challenge: to recognize the moment we are in and the needs of that moment.

The writer of Ecclesiastes said it best:

3For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

May we be blessed in our discernment, our work, and our passion for there is much to be done. We must find our way one day, one moment, one act at a time.

Today I leave you with a question only you can answer for yourself: what time is it?

 

 

 

 

I Will Not Leave You Comfortless

I can imagine no pain greater than one’s child dying. It is out of the natural order of things. It is difficult enough to lose one’s parent’s but we know that death is the natural end to a long life. It isn’t the natural end to a young one.

I will not use names because I respect the family whose loss is so recent, so raw, so unexpected. But I will tell you about a young woman with a huge heart, kind and loving, who adored her fur-kids, and lived out loud. She loved her family and they adored her. Now you might not think that needs remarked upon, and it wouldn’t, except that she was a lesbian born and raised in the South.

Born and raised in the Baptist Church where her family still worships. Where the pastor refused to hold her memorial service.

Mister, you make me ashamed to be a Christian. Or more truthfully, you make me ashamed that you call yourself a Christian. Over the years I’ve been told I wasn’t really a Christian because: a. I am an activist. B. I’m a feminist. C. I am a lesbian. And D. my theology is heretical. My piety credentials don’t pass muster. And that’s alright by me. Lest we forget, Jesus’ piety credentials didn’t pass muster either. If yours do, then I want no part of what you call Christianity.

It breaks my imagination to conceive of a ‘pastor’ who would refuse comfort and grace to a grieving family. Show me where you can justify your actions by asking what Jesus would do. Or show me, even if you worship rules, how you can refuse to offer comfort. Is it because the skirts of your self-righteousness might touch the ground? Is it because rejecting a soul that has been in the care of your community from birth is what you think is the ‘faithful’ thing to do? Is it because you simply don’t want to challenge your own discomfort? The discomfort of others? Are you afraid that the offering plate might not be so full?  Whatever the reason, there is no justification for the ham-handed, soul-less way you treated a family, all of whom, living or dead, are children of God.

To my dear friend’s family: I hate that you had to deal with the grief of rejection in addition to the enormous grief of your loss. One of the sure times we rely on our faith community is at the death of a loved one. Please know that wherever you find comfort and love, acceptance and shared grief, God is with you. The community of Spirit may look unfamiliar but  whatever colors, beliefs, disbeliefs, genders, or sexualities, know  you encounter Jesus there. You were not left alone. Jesus sits with you, holds you, lends you comfort in every face that is turned toward you and not away, in everyone who shared in her life and shares in your sadness, in ever person who reaches out in small ways and large. God enfolds you with grace and care. And God embraces the one we have lost with a love we can hardly imagine.

                 John 14:18  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Meet Me in the Streets

Recently, my dear friend, Linda Bryant, posted a thoughtful blog ‘Meet Me In the Field’ https://charisgrandma.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/meet-me-in-the-field/

Take some time to read it. It is a challenge to those of us who live in a polarized society. It calls us to a kind of faithfulness, no matter our faith tradition, that requires compassion, authenticity, and the willingness to listen. What she has to say is important for us all to hear.

She posted it right before I posted my last blog, ‘Put on Your Big Girl Panties’. It seems like we are polar opposites in our calls to address the same problem.

While she encourages us to face our fears and withhold judgment I said things like:

“It’s time to change the conversation. We don’t need to be in dialogue with those who would destroy our values and vision of a nation whose arc is ‘bent toward justice’.

 It’s time to stop compromising about the lives and deaths of our fellow citizens.

It’s time to get up, gird up, and put on our big girl panties.

We cannot afford to wait and see how things ‘play out’.

We are the majority and we need to assert our power. Even if it is for the first time.

Vote now. Get involved now. Be the change now.

This is not the time to make nice. It’s time to make policy.”

Is there any way both of us could be right? Could both of us good people? Is only one of us faithful? My answers are yes, yes, and no. As feminists, both Linda and I believe there are many ‘right’ answers. Our perceptions are not so contrary to one another as they are coexistent. How can that be so?

I used to be afraid that I was not spiritual enough because of my loud, radical, and often coarsely worded calls to justice. I choose words for impact, to move people, and to challenge systems of evil. Those calls and words are important. They are part of the long-standing tradition of prophetic speaking. Prophetic calls to justice are often harsh, uncomfortable, and urgent. They are never a call to destroy ‘the other’.

Linda’s pastoral call to faithfulness is equally important. We need to be challenged to live faithfully in ways that stretch us. Facing our fears, the willingness to listen and be vulnerable, to love those difficult to love are the challenges of a deepening faith. However,  it should never compromise our call  to stand for justice.

Both perspectives are necessary. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it the ‘cost of discipleship’. Carter Heyward coined the phrase ‘justice-love’. The nature of faith is dynamic. The expression of faith kaleidoscopic. Our many ‘right’ ways move together to form a pattern of the whole. The call is to live our faith . The gifts of sharing the journey is that it deepens our relationship with the Sacred and challenges us to live authentically.

 

 

Wisdom: Day Two

Some of you may have noticed a lag between this and my last Wisdom blog (Day One 5/22/17). I’ve had a lot to say  about  our recent elections and their fallout . We are at political DefCon Alpha. Current events get in the way of more general thoughts about life.  As a student of history, a world traveler, a user of the Oxford comma, and a person of faith I  have a whole lot to say about our Orwellian present.

    But today let’s veer off the political track for a moment and let me tell you about a practice I am new at and love: laughing at myself.

One of my character flaws is that I take myself seriously. Those who love me say  I take myself too seriously. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I do. Okay,  lots of times. That being said, when I laugh at myself something happens. My perspective shifts and I experience a sharp drop of stress. It’s a two for one special:  freedom from self-judgment and openness to self-acceptance.

So the entirety of my wisdom for today is this: learn to laugh at yourself – your foibles, your missteps, your idiocy – and don’t wait until you are my age to do it. Life will be so much easier to navigate.

Wisdom: Day One

I told you that one day I would reflect on the wisdom I may have acquired in my sixty-five years. Today is as good as any. Not because I sat down in front of my laptop feeling greatly wise or tremendously enlightened but because I sat down in from of my laptop today and felt just plain old.

Here’s the thing: I have learned a lot, Mostly I learned that there is a lot I do not know. I wake up every day wondering what I will learn. Partly because learning of all kinds, including emotional and spiritual learning, is an ongoing quest. I am a naturally curious person.  I want to know. And I love the mystery of existence. As it is reported that Michelangelo said when he neared death, “I am still learning.”

I know that I will never know it all. I won’t know it all theologically, scientifically, psychologically, spiritually or any other way. I may never even know the best recipe for a homemade strawberry cake. It never keeps me from looking but it does caution me against landing.

So the first and perhaps best bit of aged wisdom I can share is: don’t ever think you know it all. Some of you might laugh because I do know a lot of stuff and am willing to share the information whether it is about cooking, car maintenance, sheet rocking, children’s literature, gardening, decorating, history… the list goes on. In my defense I would argue that I share information not knowledge or wisdom. And in my continuing defense I admit I am wrong if my information I have is disproved.

Wisdom, on the other hand and in my experience, cannot be shared. It is discovered through the triumphs and tribulations and even the monotony of daily life. Information and good intentions don’t insulate us from tragedy or success, failure or fulfillment. We find meaning and wisdom by living our lives. The more full out you live the more opportunity to increase in wisdom.

I, myself, get wiser when I make mistakes. That’s the kind of learner I am. I may push back, kicking and screaming, but eventually, in making sense of my mistakes, I learn. Maybe you will become wise in other ways. But if you are like me then here is some information I can pass along: try not to hate yourself when you screw up. It’s your best shot at getting wise.

More later…

The Mystery of Hope

Words can make things that are truly unknowable seem like concrete certainties. Words get in our way of experience when we feel a need to compress and distort our experience to fit  into some preconceived, doctrinal box.

But what if we took away the words or the definitions? What if we spoke to one another about experience? Is our need for absolute certainty so great that we are willing to quash the uncertain truth that resides in us and replace it with doctrine?

We talk about resurrection as if it is something that happened once and will happen again instead of something that is always happening. We talk about it in future terms rather than very present reality. We talk about it as if it definable and measurable and dependent on our actions.

Writer Barbara Ehrenreich calls herself a ‘hardcore atheist’ but she also talks about a mystical experience she had as a teenager when she:                                                                     “saw the world—the mountains, the sky, the low scattered  buildings— suddenly flame into life.” There was no fire, but she saw “blazing everywhere.” She describes it as “a furious encounter with a living   substance that was coming through all things at once, too vast and violent   to hold on to, too heart-breakingly beautiful to let go of.”

She goes on to say she felt both shattered and completed. I love that. She describes my deepest experiences of Godde when I feel shattered and all that implies: frightened, unmoored, outside my ego as well as grounded, connected, and full.

That is how I experience resurrection. It is not a lack of certainty but a fullness of experience. I no longer have a deep need to explain or define resurrection. I only want to stand before the Mystery that gives hope and speaks the final word of love. I want to enter the Mystery that both shatters and completes me.  Join me there. We need the experience of resurrection for the facing of these times.


The Power of our Stories

Yesterday we said these words in our Seder meal:  “Laughter and tears life and death, good and evil – these are bound  irrevocably together. We bless them together for we know that with without death we would not fully value life. Without tears we would not fully value laughter. As we learn to maximize the good and valuable, let us  remember the evil we would reject, lest it creep, unrecognized, back into our presence.”

Has Pharaoh crept back into power? In our day ‘pharaohs’ are the ones who live in luxury while families struggle to make ends meet. ‘Pharaohs’ are those who get tax cuts while the most vulnerable lose benefits like meals-on-wheels, childcare assistance, reproductive healthcare, social security, and disability benefits. ‘Pharaohs’ are the ones who wrangle power from the people and centralize it among friends and family.

Today I wonder how we can celebrate the journey to freedom when Pharaoh skulks around every corner working hard to corrode our freedoms. Pharaoh lives in the White House, in the Senate and House. Pharaoh now resides on the Supreme Court.

So how do we become free? We remember our history and tell those stores along with new stories as we begin again our journey to freedom. For those of us in the United States our stories are of our constitution and bill of rights, and stories of our march toward the liberation of all: the abolition movement, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the movement for LGBTQ rights, for immigrant rights. These are the stories we need to remember

How do we become free? We wake up for the hundredth morning and grope for words to describe what is wrong. We engage in small heroic acts of disobedience until our disparate voices come together into the cry of the people. We continue to move forward even though the way looks impossible and pharaoh nips at our heels.

We open our doors and make ourselves see the crimes of rape, violence, hatred, intolerance, prejudice, and the dehumanization of those called ‘other’ who are really our sisters and brothers and friends. And we care enough to act.

We have begun. We are marching and speaking and writing and calling and voting. We are wading into a sea and we are in it up to our necks. But our stories give up hope and tell us we will make a way through to the other side. So let’s keep telling our stories and singing our stories as we travel on the road to liberation. Let the children of today represented by the Children’s Choir of Boston sing a story for us and inspire us not to let anyone turn us ’round on this journey.

 

 

 

Am I Spiritual Enough?

This week I had the honor of having my blog  shared in an online group of fellow women clergy. I was excited until I reread what I had posted. Argh! Another political post where I talked about our nation’s need to repeat the part of our history that expresses the ideals upon which we are founded. It wasn’t bad. But was it spiritual? Did I share anything worthy of my clergy-sisters’ time and attention?

I wrestled with this a while. Some of my concerns were clearly ego. My online connection with other clergywomen is vitally important to me. What would they think? Even more important, am I spiritual enough for my cohorts in ministry?

I wondered if I am spiritual enough for myself. Here is what I rediscovered:

– spirituality has a million expressions

– whether I mention Godde or not, Godde is my ground of being (thanks, Tillich) When I act consciously I reflect my understanding of and relationship with the Divine.

– if I am not fighting injustice, concerned about ‘the least of these’ then I am not expressing my understanding, relationship, and experience of Godde.

– I would not be so passionately engaged in current politics if I didn’t name the evils of oppression, racism, classism, ableism, heterosexism, ageism, and the rape of the earth and sea and sky.

Because I am a Christian I will continue to speak and act out against the policies and actions of the current administration. I may not name Godde or Christ in each post, but I have reminded myself that I am following in a Way of peace and justice for humankind.

So I may not mention Godde. I may not thump on a Bible, defend a theological precept or church doctrine (actually I don’t do those things, anyway) but I will continue to live in such a way works for a world in which the hungry are fed, the homeless housed, the naked clothed, the oppressed set free, the prisoner liberated, and the earth protected.

It is good to trust that my clergy sisters know this. I am grateful my post was shared and I am even more grateful for the opportunity  to remind myself that I am spiritual enough.

Finding Your Rhythm

images-14Last week I, my sister, and my beloved Harry-the-dog went to the beach. Harry and I took some alone time on an isolated beach near Santa Rosa, Florida. When we reached the shore I let him off the leash and he pounded along the white sands before turning and leaping into the crystal green ocean. He swam out a few feet to catch a small wave that would push him gently back to shore. And then he would do it again. Over and over and over with unremitting joy. We spent the entire afternoon like this, the only exception when he chased shore birds keening overhead with his full-throated bark, tail lashing in delight. The beauty of the sand, the crystal ocean, the keening of birds, the hiss of waves, the warmth of the sun, the joy of my dog friend. It doesn’t get better than this.

But it could be gone too soon. The ocean polluted by plastic and toxic waste. The beaches overtaken by big-money developers paving paradise, the endangered species protected near the shore could become extinct, and only the wealthy could have access to our nation’s natural treasures – if they choose to leave them untouched, if oil rigs don’t malfunction and turn the pristine waters of the Gulf into yet another deadly slick.

These are but a few reasons I will take in all the goodness  of my down time to energize  my commitment to work for a better America and against the self-serving, irrational policies of the current administration.

If I should get tired of marching, I’ll remember Harry romping on the beach.

If I should get tired of making phone calls, writing letters, emails, and postcards, I will recall the public lands that are a part of our legacy as a nation.

If I should get tired of showing up at my representative’s offices to demand representation, I’ll plug into the energy of knowing who we can be, who we have tried to be, and refuse to let go.

I posted on facebook last week that I was a little tired and overwhelmed (already!!) and reminded myself and others of the importance of self-care. I am here to testify today that self-care renews us for the fight. It gives us a rhythm, like the ceaseless rhythm of the waves. The rhythm we need so that we can keep on keeping on for as long as it takes. This is not an either/or proposition. This is how we sustain our actions until we turn the tide. This is how we reset the buttons of our public discourse not only during this challenge to our very institutions of freedom, but for all the years to come. As citizens, we must be vigilant and involved on levels our generation has not seen.

So find your rhythm. Connect with your source. Prepare for the long-haul. We cannot afford to burn out.

 

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Here’s What We Can’t Do

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Do you, like me, wake up every morning wondering what fresh new hell has occurred while you were asleep? Silencing women. Confirming the unqualified and the racist to two important positions in government. Nudging us to the brink of nuclear war. Climbing in bed with Putin. Refuting the supremacy of law. The catalogue is longer than I have either the time or interest to list. Suffice it to say that in a short three weeks we have been subjected to seemingly unending ‘series of unfortunate events’.

Many of us are calling our senators and representatives. Keep it up.

Many of us are writing letters, postcards, and emails. Don’t stop.

Many of us are going to town hall meetings. Show up. Speak up.

Many of us keep marching. Rest those pups and keep on walking.

Many of us are meeting together, making connections, and multiplying our energy. Keep on keeping on.

There are times when we may become overwhelmed, fearful, or exhausted but we can’t lose hope or give up.

We can’t give up because:

we believe that our beauty and power are expressed in many ways

we believe in sharing power and in each one having a voice

we stand with those who cannot stand for themselves

we speak for those with no voice

we care about the powerless, the homeless, the ill, the impoverished, the marginalized

we care about our planet and its future

all those things are worth standing for whether or not we prevail

 

There is no failure when we live into what we believe.