Welcome

Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning



Thursday, May 28, 2020

crisis is revelatory


When faced with a radical crisis, when the old way of being in the world, of interacting with each other and with the realm of nature doesn't work anymore, when survival is threatened by seemingly insurmountable problems, an individual life-form -- or a species -- will either die or become extinct or rise above the limitations of its condition through an evolutionary leap.”
                                         Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

“Crisis is what suppressed pain looks like; it always comes to the surface.
                                         Bryant McGill
___________________________________________

there is one thing we can insist on
always
always

a crisis is revelatory

there are many ways of thinking about crisis
John F Kennedy
Grabbing hold of somewhat a creative interpretation
of the Chinese word for crisis

an interpretation probably first found
in a journal for missionaries in China in the 1930s,

framed crisis as opportunity plus threat

the actual meaning of the word is
“danger at the point where things meet”

perhaps we could better say, danger at the point where things collide

we are at a moment where “things” are meeting
where they collide

the past and the future
old ways and new

but more profoundly
at the point where Covid 19 collides with our lives
we are finding other powerful collisions!
between individual rights and freedoms and the common good
between selfishness and selflessness
between compassionate concern for all and a focus on one’s own individual want and needs, with a disregard for others mixed in

and it is at this point that things get revealed

it seems to me that in a crisis, what is at a person’s core
what is in a person’s heart
the health of a person’s soul
the depth of a person’s spiritual
comes to the surface

for good or for ill

we are seeing people make amazing sacrifices for others
being amazingly generous
compassionate
caring

we see people putting their lives on the line for others
their businesses on the line

we see people accepting, finding peace
and living lives of compassion and calm

and we see people
in whom hate an anger have bubbled to the surface

we see the faces of hate screaming into the faces of the police
and into the faces of masked healthcare workers

we see people waving the flags of racism and hate
and carrying instruments of death
threatening
intimidating

it’s a hot mess

what makes the difference?

I think it is what is in the heart
Whatever is in the heart gets released
As crisis breaks the heart open

If a person has compassion and love at their core
If they have allowed the God who is love
Space

Then what comes for in this time
Is compassion and love
A concern for others

If not
If what is at the core is fear
Or hate
Or racism
Or anger

Then what comes to the surface
Is angry tweets
And destructive behaviors
and pain and violence
and intimidation

we important lessons in such times
about ourselves
and about God

One thing I have learned during this time is why Jesus so frequently
told people they had to die to the self
and become people willing to be radically
loving
generous
kind

I know, for myself,
that it is when I can let go of “me”
however imperfectly,
things change

it is when I let go of me
and cling to the Sacred
(as a child clings to a parent during a thunder storm)

That I find peace
That I find calm
Safety

and it is then that good things surface it my life
compassion
and kindness
and a willingness
to work for the common good

so my hope
in this time crisis
is simply this

that what will be revealed in me
is a little sacred presence
and a lot of love

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Liminal Times


5 y/o grandson:  I can’t wait for tomorrow!
Mom (my daughter):  What’s tomorrow?
5 y/o grandson:  Saturday! No School!
Mom: Do you have any idea what day it is?
5 y/o grandson:  Of course I don’t
                               #QuarantineLife 

“In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between them, there are doors.”
                                                   William Blake

When we find ourselves in liminal space, does it matter whether we are pushed or whether we jump? Either way, we are not where or what we were before, nor do we know how or where we will land in our new reality. We are, as the anthropologist Victor Turner (1920–1983) wrote, betwixt and between. In that space—which is mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual—we are destabilized, disoriented. The old touchstones, habits, and comforts are now past, the future unknown. We only wish such a time to be over. We may be impatient to pass through it quickly, with as little distress as possible, even though that is not likely. . . .
                                                   Sheryl Fullerton (quoted by Rohr, 4/29/20)
_________________________________________________________

Life is vague
Time is blurred

And we are in that liminal space
Between old normal and new normal

Waiting
For something to change
For resolution

We’d be happy if it felt like there were progress

Instead we are just in liminal space
Stuck in between

And it sucks
Really
It does

So we are angry
And scared
And impatient

We want to go to sleep until it’s all over
We want to push our way through
Rush our way through

Mostly we want to “get back” to normal

Which is really sad
Because normal was not all that great
Full of poverty
And racism
And injustice
And inequity

The reality is liminal space is sacred
for in this time
much can happen

this uncomfortable time can be
(with the help of the Spirit)

A time of creativity,
of construction
of deconstruction,
of transformation

so what will we do
with this unwanted gift?

perhaps all we can do
is what the people of Israel did
in that liminal space called the wilderness

follow the Sacred
one day
one step at a time

moving us away from what was
to what will be

to God’s new thing



Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Love is the constant


I am old enough to remember
Dragnet
And Detective Sargent Joe Friday

And his famous phrase
“Just the facts, ma’am”

Which factually he never said
Only getting as close as

“All we want are the facts, Ma’am”

And now we live in what many call a “post factual” world
Where those entrusted with the truth
Lie

Frequently

And with no apparent compunction

I ran across a poem the other day titled simply
“The Facts of Life”

It was penned by the Irish poet Paidraig O’ Tuama

The facts of life
“that you were born
and you will die

that you will sometimes love enough
and sometimes not

that you will lie
if only to yourself

that you will tire

that you will learn most from the situations
you did not choose…”

the truth is
life is confusing and inconvenient
and life is great

we are messes
and we are beautiful

and if we would embrace the full truth
and live truthfully

we have to be willing to live in a world
where almost everything is
both/and

rather than either/or

and we have to recognize that those
pulling us to extreme positions
the extremists
the ideological and moral terrorists

will usually blur the truth rather than expose it

because when it comes to politics
ideologies
and people

absolutes are usually false

Trump is not, as he insists, blameless and infallible
Neither is he, as some would insist
Always wrong

Right to lifer advocates with their blind extremism
are often false (life deniers)
but they are not totally wrong
we have to take seriously that part of what they believe
that we can embrace

truth is messy
it is contrary to our belief
not back and white

and thus it is challenging
uncomfortable
and really hard to find

The truth is I am not good or bad
I am good and bad

I am not right or wrong
I am right and wrong

I am not smart or stupid
I am smart and (at times) incredibly stupid

We have to learn to live in the ambiguity of most truth

There is only one thing that is always
In its own unique way
True

Only one thing that is unambiguous
And that is Sacred Love
That is God
That is God with us

The one thing we can embrace
Absolutely
Is love

It is the constant
That continues to be truth
In the midst of all the other messy truths

God is not love or hate
God is not love and hate
God is love

And that is a fact

Monday, May 25, 2020

the curse of the autonomous self


Your health is not more important than my liberties
                                         Seen on a car at an “open the country” rally

Unfortunately, for centuries the Christian vision of church was narrowed to what we have today—a preoccupation with very private salvation. Our “personal relationship with Christ” seems to be with a very small notion of Christ. We’ve modeled church after a service station where members attend weekly services to get their faith fix. We’ve commodified the very notion of salvation.

“Individualism has taken away the credibility of the Gospel in the western world because we think we can seek our private freedom - independently of others. But genuine evangelization must move forward on two rails. We must simultaneously evangelize individuals, calling them to freedom, and evangelize institutions, nations, and systems, calling them to conversion.

The West has made an art form of the individual person; it is one of our gifts to civilization, but we have paid a big price for this gift. Because of our over-identification with this autonomous self, we have overemphasized our separateness and uniqueness, leaving us trapped and alone. (Christians, who should know better, usually seek an entirely private notion of salvation instead of their communion with everybody else—which would be “heaven” here and now.)

                                         Richard Rohr (selected readings)
_______________________________________________________________

Moments of trial
Are often moments of change

Many of us struggle with change
Especially change that is profound

The kind of change that forces us to leave behind
things that we treasure

or leave behind our comfort

Especially the kind of change that takes us beyond ourselves

that is one of the things about this virus
it is forcing us to change
to rethink
what is important
to shift patterns of behavior
and ways of thinking

one of the things that is being assailed
is the essential selfishness that has become so much a part of America
these past few years

It is not that it is unimportant to care for the self
We need to do that
And some people are deficit in just this way
They have no boundaries, they are enablers….

But we can only focus on self in the context of community

As I see it, this is the great failure of Christianity today

It has become about “Jesus and me”
and the place of community has been lost

Faith is about my being rescued from my sin
My being protected by God’s love
My finding my way to heaven
My joy
My peace

Me

When in fact Christianity, at its best is all about community
“You are the body of Christ”
Says Paul

A body where everyone is important
Where everyone has a role
Where everyone works together for “the common good”.

The fact is Jesus did not call people to individual salvation alone
He called people to the task of initiating
Of BEING the Kingdom of God

He called people to live together in such a way
That no one was excluded
Neglected
Shamed
Oppressed
Devalued
Minimized

But rather in a way that everyone
Was included
Cherished
Valued
Built up

This time of crisis is reminding us
That all are Children of God
No one is expendable

We cannot throw people away because they are ‘on their last legs”
We cannot behave in ways that endanger others for our own benefit

It’s a razors edge, to be sure
There are no easy answers
Damage lies in every direction

But as we make our choices, we must think of the other
And it is likely
In the divine equation
That another person’s health IS as important as my liberties

Of course it goes much deeper than this
Way past the issues of a virus and sheltering

And this may be one of the things we need to learn from this time
That we cannot continue to support systems
That marginalize people
And exclude people

We must, as followers of Jesus
Work to change those systems
Those institutions
Those priorities

That leave others behind
Health systems
Justice systems
Economic systems
Ethical systems

All must change
For Jesus came not just to save you, or me
But to save all creation


Sunday, May 24, 2020

like a child


A child’s mere pencil sketch, is every religion’s best description of God…
                                         Hafiz
__________________________________

What is God like?

It’s confusing you know

Everywhere we look we see adults
Pontificating about God

Today I ran across a guy one twitter
Whose self-description
Was, essentially
“Lover of guns, lover of God”

He was busy propounding that Covid-19
Is the fault of the LBGTQI community and abortion,

Richard Rohr was talking about how God is to be found in the darkness

And yet another was talking about how God is “only light”

Is suspect it is probably true
that, as they say, we create God in our own image

which is to say that the God we embrace
pretty much reflects our priorities and values

We “imprint” God with our stuff
Rather than allowing God to “imprint” us

For me, God and guns do NOT go together
For some, because they are about domination,
And see God as being about domination, they certainly do

So it raises the question about how we grab hold
of the true nature of God.

There is always Jesus, God with us.
If we want to know what God is like, we can look to him
How did Jesus live
How did Jesus love
How did Jesus treat people…..?

But of course, even that gets messy
Because we are pretty God at making Jesus into
Whom we want him to be
Just as we make God into our own creation

I find it interesting
That numerous times in the Bible
the image used for God is a parent

Father
Mother
Mother hen
Daddy

Which makes me think
That we should look at God
Like a child

Not an abused child
Betrayed child
Wounded child
Cowed child

But as a beloved child
Loved child
Perhaps even spoiled child

As a child who feels
Protected
Valued
Cared for
Nurtured
And loved
Above all else, loved

And whatever else we want to bring
Into our process of “defining” God

It must be subjugated to that image of God
As loving adult
Father/mother/grandmother/grandfather/aunt/uncle

That one who loves us
Without strings

That one who is always there
That one whose face lights up when they see us
That one who teaches and guides
That one who forgives
That one who comforts
That one who will do anything for us
Sacrifice anything for us
Give up his/her life for us

That one we can always run to
In joy
And in sorrow

Which is why I expect
That crayon drawing of God
I have
From my little buddy Ryan

Is probably as theologically astute
As those tomes by Pannenberg, Moltmann
Bultmann, Brunner, Barth, Niebhur

That sit gathering dust upon my shelves

That drawing
Of a very round
And jolly God
With a warm smile
And open arms

Saturday, May 23, 2020

original blessing


You want this eternal life then it starts with the truth– the naked truth of your original wound and your original beauty and every good and bad thing about you. You have heard it said that water finds it’s lowest point – living water finds your lowest point.

The Living water offered by Jesus Christ finds your lowest point.  It finds your original wound. The thing that you spend so much energy trying to heal through all the insufficient ways – relationships, religion, success, more graduate degrees, more therapy, working out, trying to get your parents to love you more, being a perfect parent because your parents sucked.
                                                   Nadia Bolz-Weber
________________________________________________________

when I was younger
we were taught to talk about Jesus

always
always

from the starting point of sin

There was (do your remember it?)
The Roman road
Which started
“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;” (Romans 3:10)
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)

And then moved to consequences
“For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a)

You are going to die and fry

And then, finally, got to the good news, the way out
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Of course you have to say the magic words!
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

No magic words
No good news

This is of course, classic Christianity
And I am not going to argue with it.  It is one way to approach faith
Its not “wrong”, exactly

But I wonder if it is really
Classic Jesus?

For the most part (except with the highly religious)
Jesus did not start his approach to people from the perspective that
They were “sinners”

He started instead
With the recognition that they were the wounded blessed

Which to me feels different
from the deficit cursed

It is not, “you are a hopeless, helpless, miserable sinner”
It is, “you are a wonderful amazing, beautiful mess
You are wounded
And I can bring you peace and healing”

Can you feel the difference in that?

One starts with original sin
The other starts with original blessing

Yes we must recognize that the original blessing
has been impacted by things that have caused it,
and that original divine image that we all bear, to become blurred
but one starts with blessing

I know, I know
It seems like a small point

But to me it is a huge point

That God comes not to rescued warped awful miserable souls
(If they say the right thing)
And give them a pass to heaven
(which they cash in when they die)

But God comes to restore in us our original blessing
God/Jesus/Holy Spirit (think Trinity)
Comes to remind us who we are
To restore to us our original blessing

our likeness to God
our Sacred nature

If you “think Genesis”
The story does not start with the fall
It starts with creation, where “it was good”
Original blessing!

The bible talks about this how the original blessing is restored
By using a lot of different images
But one of the most powerful, is that of water
Water in the wilderness
Rivers in the Desert

Living water, welling up like a spring

The amazing thing is that this water
Flows to our lowest point
To that place of wounding

But that is also the place of our creation

That is the starting point
Where we were wounded,
And where we started to forget who we are

But that is also the place where we can once again
Discover and be who we are created to be
A Child of God
A bearer of the divine image

A person of compassion
And generosity
And love

the water comes
the love comes
the grace comes

to us at that place where we are most thirsty
and as we gratefully guzzle
we are refreshed and renewed

and the water keeps coming
and coming, and coming
a spring welling up
a spring that never runs dry

Not “just” giving us a pathway
Back to God when we die
But giving us a pathway back to our original blessing

So that we become new
And do life a different way

now

Friday, May 22, 2020

change


“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape. ”
                      William S. Burroughs

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
                      Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
___________________________

we sit in our homes
some of us
sheltering in place
hoping it will all go away, and life can return to normal

we protest in the streets
some of us
howling at the injustice of it all
wanting simply to go back to the way things were

this is one of those times
when the world has been turned upside down
and there is that lingering fear for some
and lingering hope for others
that this is indeed “the end of the world as we know it”

this is not the first time humanity
has reached a moment of discontinuity
when an intrusion so powerful occurred

that life shifted

the Bible is full of such stories
The Garden of Eden
The tower of Babel
The Flood
The Exodus
The Exile
The Incarnation
Easter
Pentecost

and what is revealing about these moments
is how all of these moments of change
of transition
are times of both suffering and hope
are times of resistance and acceptance

it seems that change does not come easily
left to ourselves we often would simply
not change

in our comfort
even in our discontent
we often resist those transitions that would move us forward
toward newness

which is why change so often comes
through times of turmoil
and pain
and suffering

we have to be dragged
kicking and screaming
into that place where we want to change
where we accept the need to change

and even then
even we begin the trek to the new land
we waver
howling in the desert
like the people of Israel
newly freed

“we wanna go back!”

but we can’t go back
the land flowing with milk and honey lies ahead
through the wilderness
through the wasteland

the way forward
will take time
our “40 years”
it will take leaving behind terrible things
and leaving behind precious things

it will demand our acceptance
of new realities
new priorities
old and new values

and we will not like it
we might well hate it
but we must embrace it
and it will be

in the end
Good News
A magnificent defeat

I love the words of Sonya Renee Taylor
Who wrote on Instagram

“I feel like the bearer of news that sounds awful but actually is not.
We will not go back to normal.
Normal never was.
Our pre-corona existence was not normal
other than we normalized greed,
inequity,
exhaustion,
depletion,
extraction,
disconnection, confusion,
rage, hoarding, hate and lack.

we should not long to return my friends.
we are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment.
One that fits all of humanity and nature”

This is a time of anguish
This is a time of discontent
This is a time of desperation

This is a time to let go
This is a time to embrace
This is a time of hope

This is a time for “God’s New Thing”

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Get angry


What do you do with the mad you feel (when you feel so mad you can bite?)
                                         Fred Rogers (Song title)

Anger is good and very necessary to protect the appropriate boundaries of self and others. I would much sooner live with a person who is free to get fully angry, and also free to move beyond that same anger, than with a negative person who is hard-wired with resentments and preexisting judgements. Their anger is so well hidden and denied—even from themselves—that it never comes up for the fresh air of love, conversation, and needed forgiveness
                                         Richard Rohr
_____________________________________________

what do we do with anger?
more specifically, I guess, what do I do with my anger

for there is no question that there are things which anger me

what do I do with that simmering cauldron of crap
roiling around in my soul
raising my blood pressure
causing me to walk a “second mile” on my walks
(to calm down)
making me judgmental
and harsh

I’ve noticed an interesting thing about my anger
I usually put a face to it
It usually focuses on a person

On Mr. Trump (often)
On foolish people with banners and flags, spreading a virus during a pandemic
On the greedy wealthy, who never have enough

But the reality is, I am angry at a behavior
the real issue is
the lie
the endangerment of others
the oppression of the poor
the suppression of justice

I am angry at the product of those behaviors
People being mislead
Poverty
Inequity
Hungry
Homelessness
Injustice

And I should be!!!

But this reminds me that the first thing I have to do with my anger
Is separate the behavior from the person

This is not easy
Because some people seem to be evil incarnate
The behavior seems to be innate, and woven into the fabric of their being

But still, I think this was part of the genius of Jesus
he could always separate the person from the behavior
and he could separate the person from all those other adjectives we use
to define others

including black
brown
female
male
gay
lesbian
cis
alcoholic
addicted
mentally ill

Jesus saw people
he saw through all the crap
to the heart

and although, I think at times he wept
at what he saw
I think he also saw that vague hint of sacred
that by design
cannot be totally eradicated, in anyone

I find I cannot, sometimes, find that spark
but I think I am called to try, called to try and see
the “created to be” person, hidden in
that person in whom the divine image is so blurred

I also think I am called to try and translate my anger into
Something other than anger

It is OK to be angry
Something are “anger worthy”

But I can’t hold the anger
It will eat me up
I can’t nurture it in my soul
For it will crowd out the Sacred

But I can express it in ways that are
Hopefully
transformational

I can translate my anger over the greed of the 1%
Into generosity, and give to worthy causes

I can translate my anger over those protesting in the streets
those manipulated (frankly) by others and their own fear,
into encouragement (not shaming) of others,
helping them to stay safe

I can translate my concern over the agenda of this President
into acts of compassion and kindness
and I can find candidates whose priorities are Godly,
and vote

What I can’t do
is allow my anger
to pull me into the kind of behaviors
that make me angry

This day,
Get angry
Feel it
Own it

And then express it
Not as pure anger
But as transformed anger
As activism
As love



Monday, May 18, 2020

let your soul birth light


It is not possible to complete yourself without sorrow
Sorrow is a vital ingredient that shapes the heart and enriches it
So endure the sadness the best you can, when its season comes.
The fain that can fall from your eye brings life to a field
and on other days when you laugh, a sun takes birth
in a sky you will someday know.
See how all the elements are inside of you.

See how your soul births light.
                                         Hafiz
__________________________________________

it is a necessary sorrow
that sorrow that comes into our souls

we need to learn to grieve
we need to learn to sit with the grief
to let it sink into our bones
and become woven into our being

if we do not learn to grieve
if we cannot sit with sorrow

then were are incomplete
and must always be fighting
denying

not just the sorrow
and its cause
but our very self

how true is it
that we are always sorrow denying
and in our intense protests
also denying joy

for our protests are fermented
in anger
and the places we travel

as we scurry away
like the nocturnal beasts we sometimes are
are dark and often fetid

and we do not hide
merely from the sorrow, but also the joy
not merely from the darkness but the light

this is a time to embrace the sorrow
of lives disrupted
of dreams thwarted
of businesses closed

this is a time to embrace, above all
the sorrow of distancing
and the pain of death

let the tears flow
let us enter into this sorrow fully
watering our souls

growing empathy and compassion
patience and selflessness

so that when the tears stop
and the joy comes,

when the season of joy once again arrives,
we dance in the sunlight
lighter, brighter

we emerge kinder
more aware
more open
more generous

better

birthing light

Saturday, May 16, 2020

It's Raining! Yup!


Today I am thinking about acceptance

Sometimes it is hard to explain acceptance
For me acceptance means, simply,
holding space for the things that come along
But not holding on to the things that come along

It means noticing thoughts and feelings
And even, perhaps, certain realities

But not fusing with those things

Not being trapped by them
Driven by them
Controlled by them
Defined by them

The alternative to acceptance is pain
Not just pain, but what some call “sticky pain”

We have the thought
We have the feeling
We experience the event

And instead of noticing that thought, or feeling
We grab hold of it
We gnaw on it, masticate it
Swallow it
Digest and absorb it
We participate in kind of a dark “reverse” communion
That instead of filling, empties

And this causes pain
Because now we have the thought and the feeling
Plus
All the stuff that has come up
Plus
All the patterned avoidance behaviors that make things worse

Pain has created pain has created pain

Covid-19 comes along, with all of its ramifications
And as we think about this virus
Stuff comes up
Fear perhaps
Or anger

And so many thoughts
I wonder if I am going to die?
I can’t survive without my job!
I am going to lose everything!
People are going to forget me, and I’ll be all alone!

and so the bad times roll and
we go from feeling to feeling
from thought to thought

nobody misses me
nobody care about me
I am expendable
I am worthless
I am not enough

Stick pain

The original pain of the virus, and our current situation
Plus
All the things we have now added to that pain

Acceptance takes us down a different path
We notice all that stuff that comes up
But we don’t fuse with it

We label it, yes
“I am feeling afraid”
“I am feeling worthless”

And we accept it for what it is
A normal human feeling that comes up in times like these

“Hey, I am having a human experience”

And then we let go

Not an easy task

I remember reading a quote for Ann Landers who said
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”

We let go, not in the sense of trying to drive the feeling away
Because that just leads us to patterned avoidance behaviors
That often don’t work

Behaviors like isolation
Or drinking
Or even behaviors like joining a foolish
And semi-violent protest over “sheltering”

But we let go in the sense of noticing the feeling
The thought
Accepting that it is there
Offering ourselves some self-compassion for the presence
Of the pain

Then putting it aside and moving on

If we have allowed the stick pain to drive our lives
We notice that it has taken over the driver’s seat,
And he kick it out!

We may not be able to kick it off the bus (so to speak)
But we can send it to the rear!

And then we do what we care about
We go toward who and what is important to us.

Oh, it’s another Covid19 day
I notice, I am feeling anxious, and sad
I notice that I am worried about my finances
About my health

I notice that what I want to do is obsess
And check the “numbers” every five minutes
I notice that I want to take out my anger on those around me
I notice that I want to “use”
I notice that I want to isolate

I notice my thoughts
I accept my feelings

And then I do what I care about
I move toward what I value

I value people
So I will make some phone calls to friends

I value creativity, so I will practice the piano, or guitar
Or bagpipes! (be careful with that one)

I value peace, so I will spend some time doing deep breathing
And I will go to an open place (where I am allowed to be)
And I will do a walking meditation
Noticing the “gifts” and “treasures” along the way

The baby calf
The hawk hovering on the wind
The sunrise, burning golden red

The fact is we cannot avoid the pain of illness
Or pandemics
Or lost jobs
Or threatened businesses

But we can keep that pain from being sticky
We can move to acceptance

“IT’S RAINING!!!!!!”  “Yup”


Friday, May 15, 2020

Hope comes from within


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
                                         Emily Dickinson

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.
                                         J.R.R. Tolkien

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see
                                         Hebrews 11:1
____________________________________________

they came in herds
their cars blocking city streets
cutting people off from care

they came waving flags of hate
flags illustrating cult-like allegiance
they came carrying guns

they came screaming
faces angry

why did they come?

was it really about “freedoms” or the “economy”

or was the driving force really
hopelessness?

and these acts
a rebellion
against an insidious and invisible power,
that holds them fast in a painful and deadly grip?

Perhaps they were driven by a need to do something
anything
to fight back against their grief and fear

it maybe they are not all that different after all
from those who huddle in their homes
and scurry to the store, masked and cautious

perhaps they are us
all of us
our souls screaming against this violation of
health, and joy, and hope

how can we have hope against this grim reaper
who stalks our nursing home
and plucks off the old and vulnerable?

how do we survive this?

I have been thinking about hope a lot lately
as I see our world, our country
struggle with malevolent forces

with not just this virus
but all those viruses of the soul
greed
a lust for power
dishonesty
hate

it is a ugly time
a cringe worthy time
that drives us into hopeless

as evil prospers

but still, in spite of it all, there is hope
that thing that perches in the soul and sings

that mystical reality that rises in our souls
as persistently as the sun rises above the horizon each
morning, and scatters the darkness

the thing about hope
I am coming to understand
(alas I am a slow learner)

is that it is not tied to external things
it is not even about a good outcome, at least not in the “here and now”

it is mystical
and lives a life of its own

and it has to do with presence
that presence deep within us
at the center of who we are
at our course

of something, someone
good, loving, kind, generous

the presence of one who holds us
gently

hope comes from within
from that inner Sacred presence
that means that no matter what happens around us
we are never alone
never unloved

and hope gives us a different place to live from
when we hope, we live hope
we live love
we live peace
we live kindness

and when we live hope
we give hope

and hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

seeking hope, in a different place


“Accomplish but do not boast, accomplish without show, accomplish without arrogance, accomplish without grabbing, accomplish without forcing.”
                                         Lao Tzu

By loving them for more than their abilities we show our children that they are much more than the sum of their accomplishments.”
                                         Eileen Kennedy-Moore,

Because we are so quickly led to despair, most of us cannot endure suffering for long without some sliver of hope or meaning. However, it is worth asking ourselves about where our hope lies.
                                         Richard Rohr
___________________________________________

I was raised to be a good, functional, human doing
No one did that on purpose
It was just the way it was back in those days, those golden 50’s
And rebellious 60’s

We were expected to accomplish
Expected to excel
Expected to do our best

And thus, taught inadvertently
that we are the sum of our accomplishments

It might not have been that way in every family
But it was certainly true in mine

Not just my immediate family
But in that larger network of “family” of Kliewers
Steeped in the American work ethic and good Mennonite values

I was surrounded by aunts and uncle (and a few older cousins too)
All of whom were ministers, and doctors, nurses, missionaries and teachers

Serve your community, serve other people
Was a family commandment

And so my life has been filled with doing

My days filled with meetings led
Classes taught
Counseling sessions conducted
Events planned (and excecuted)

And has been mostly good
There has been a sense of accomplishment

One could count the numbers
The hours worked
The number of events on the calendar
The number of people in the pew

One could see the faces
Grab hold of the reactions

And now we have “this”

Everything has slowed
In some ways everything is more work
Setting up classes and counseling sessions takes more time
In this world of Zoom and Google Hangouts

But in some ways everything is “unreal”
Dare I use the term “mystical”?

The world slowed to the speed of my rural Oregon bandwidth
The world narrowed down to the small monitor on my XPS13

30mps
13 inches

And accomplishments are harder to count
For those of us used to counting

So here I sit, looking out the window at early spring snow
And at the rays of brilliance as an early sun shine through the trees
Learning

Learning to do things a different way
Learning to measure things a different way
Learning to slow down, and go deeper
Learning to focus in an unfocused world

It’s all a bit vague
And yes, mystical
There is something so common and gross about these times
And yet, something so spiritual as well

As if we are working on a different plane
Coming from a different place within ourselves

Seeking hope in a different place
in the midst of suffering