Category Archives: hope

The Lenten Writings: when they are not…

Whatever happens, says our model, happens to God also and not just to us. The body of God, shaped by the Christic paradigm, is also the cosmic Christ—the loving, compassionate God on the side of those who suffer, especially the vulnerable and excluded. All are included, not only in their liberation and healing, but also in their defeat and despair. Even as the life-giving breath extends to all bodies in the universe, so also does the liberating, healing, andsuffering love of God. The resurrected Christ is the cosmic Christ, the Christ freed from the body of Jesus of Nazareth, to be present in and to all bodies. The New Testament appearance stories attest to the continuing empowerment of the Christic paradigm in the world: the liberating, inclusive love of God for all is alive in and through the entire cosmos. We are not alone as we attempt to practice the ministry of inclusion, for the power of God is incarnate throughout the world, erupting now and then where the vulnerable are liberated and healed, as well as where they are not. (Theologian Sally McFague, quoted in Daily Meditation email from Richard Rohr 03/07/2019)

These words are radical, some would say they border on heresy. I would challenge you to not place that label too quickly; but rather, to dare to take the words into your place of knowing.

The very presence of God, of the Divine, is the essence of faith. It is what makes a person truly human. It is as I look into the eyes of another and DARE to see Another that I understand my own humanity.

It is in that bold gaze that I can see another as my brother. It is in that gaze that I can truly see myself. I see my gay brother as me, I see my bi friend as me, I see my trans friend as me. I see my hermana de Guatemala as me, I see my hermano de Mexico as me, I see the man on the corner with battered sign “I will not steal” as me.

It is not because I am holy that I can say this. (FYI- I am not). It is because I know deeply my own story. And in that story there is goodness and harm, courage and violence. As I do the hard work of entering my own narrative, I have the right to hold space to listen to a midnight recounting of childhood trauma. It is as I sit with suffering that does not end, I have the right to sit with a person in labor and say “Yes, you can do this.”

In this place, understanding that the very power of God is incarnate, there are no borders, no barriers. There is only the very essence of the Divine.

And it is present…

When there is healing and hope…

And

When

There

Is

Not.

The Advent Writings: home

I have arrived.

I am home.

I am watching a documentary called “Walk with me”about a Buddhist monastery in France. This phrase from the wise teacher catches my attention.

When we first arrived in Portland, we needed to use GPS to go anywhere, even the post office. Afterward, I would use voice commands to say “Siri, go home“. Instead of mapping to our nearby basement apartment, I would look up to see a map that said “1001 miles to Home“. Tears came often, the hot stingy kind that never leak.

Sometimes I would talk to a friend, and inevitably the well-meaning question came. “Is it starting to feel like home?!” What in the world, my dad’s phrase, was not the one that came to mind, although the first word was the same. Swallowing my retort, I would say simply, “I think that will take awhile yet.” Forty years in the desert, literally, does not easily make this magical rain forest feel like home.

And so, as summer melted into the rains of fall, I began to play with this in my mind. What is home? Often my memories are sensory in nature, tied to smells and tastes, flickers of light or the feel of the sun burning into me. What if I tricked my kids, or even myself, on purpose?

I began to create ritual. As the days shortened, and the light changed, I would rise and light candles downstairs. I would start the fire (with the flip of a switch). I put warming oils on my palms, and breathed in the smell of ginger, or nutmeg, or cedar, or black pepper. I started the diffuser. I put on water for tea. I baked, almost daily. I made soups and stews so the house would smell good.

And somehow, imperceptibly, there were fleeting moments when it began to feel like home. Or, at least, to feel cozy.

And so I choose, this Advent, to embrace this space, the space between. I will choose to breathe in the smells, to savor the tastes. I will allow the loneliness to crash over me like a wave; and like a wave, recede.

Advent is about the waiting.

Advent is the space between.

Advent is breathing in the longing.

Advent is waiting for home.

In the middle

Life in the middle….

How often do we talk about that with honesty? Facebook shows lovely photos and Instagram a pithy phrase.

I am in the middle. The middle of all the details that make up a move: proof of address and waiting for keys to a place and new tags and new grocery stores and schools.

Culture shock, we learned in college, is made up of a myriad of tiny jolts. Each one is insignificant by itself, but together they add up. Soon the person rips between loving everything about the new place and people to hating it all. Somewhere, on the other side of the turmoil and grief brought by change, is acceptance.

That is true for me here too. I look the same. I speak the language. I have maps. I blend in.

But I am feeling the strangeness all the same. I am not used to being in a sea of white. The sound of English all the time is jolting to my ears, used to the melodic rhythms of Spanish. I am experiencing symptoms of HDD (Hug Deficit Disorder).

And in the moments between there are flashes of goodness. Walking into a Birth in the middle of the night I feel utterly at home. I know this space, this language without words.

Slowing down my raving thoughts, I notice. I notice a red breasted bird, a squirrel, a pine cone, a butterfly. The “detestable to do list”, it’s actual name, stops ticking off in my head.

And for a Moment all is well. A cup of tea, a space shared with a new friend, blackberries from backyard bushes… the limbo chatter in my head is stilled.

Liminal space stands still

Liminal space….the spaces between.

We are living in this land of the in between right now. It requires courage, and curiosity. Where will we be a week from now, a month from now, a year from now? Both literally, and figuratively…

And so, the questions come thick and fast, out loud from the children, and unspoken in the hearts of the adults. We are newly arrived in Oregon after 40 literal years in the desert (for me)….

And so in the middle, in the spaces between, there are moments of grace when time stands still.

Today I was sharpening pencils. The colors rolled off the ends, whittling blunt into sharp. All that we have accessible to us was brought in our two Prius vehicles, complete with matching car top carriers. Of course, that duffel included my Prismacolor pencils. But I forgot a sharpener, so a 50 cent one was found in Portland.

I took a walk today, and I picked up maple keys for my journal. They crunched under my feet as I guided the pug the long way around, behind the trees. He burrowed into a thorn bush, wanting to leave his mark on the territory. Surprised by the sharpness that came through even the pug blubber, he backed up, then tried again.

We stopped for vegan ice cream today at Dairy Hill, a local icon which (contrary to the name) has four dairy free coconut options and two sorbets. The dark chocolate melted on my tongue, and the dazed feeling of studying for math equivalency exams melted away.

The sun sets late here, and it masked the lateness of the dinner hour. We had done a marathon of rental applications, racing each other through seemingly endless “pages” of questions on our iPads. The smell of the pork and lamb mingled together, smoke swirling in the sun, as it slipped below the line of spruce and pine trees.

And so the moments come. In the middle. Memories, in years to come, will be anchored in taste and smell, the angle of the light and the feel of fresh pencil shavings.

And so we trust, the answers will come, to questions voiced and those unspoken.

In the land of the in between…

Wikipedia states: In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”[1]) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rites, when participants no longer hold their preritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the rite is complete. During a rite’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold”[2] between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the rite establishes.

The road north

One week ago we left our home. The car was packed with all our belongings, enough for a month. The kids were excited, scared, angry, sad. They were leaving behind everything they had known.

We headed west a bit, then pointed straight north. “El Norte”, the land flowing with milk and honey. Well maybe not, but we saw a lot of cows.

What was waiting for us there? I was pursuing a dream of education. But so much remained unknown. Where would we live? What would we eat? Where would the kids go to school? Would they make friends, or would they be too “different”.

Three and a half days ago we arrived.

…and here the story diverges.

There were no borders to cross, no barriers. No fear of my children being separated from me. No skin to flag me for scrutiny.

All the possibilities are still unknown. But I woke up today and read this verse, in a meditation by Richard Rohr:

Go down to the palace of the king and declare, “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” —Jeremiah 22:1, 3

And so today we went. Not to the palace, but to a correctional facility in Sheridan, OR. The flag flew over the scene, encased by barbed wire and tall fences. We sat under an Apple tree, overlooking a fishing pond, and sang songs of solidarity. We sang for brothers and fathers and sons, 121 from 16 countries recently brought here from the border. They are missing wives and mothers and children, forcibly separated from them.

And so this seemed right and good to do, our first weekend in Oregon. Standing with Sikh and Catholic and Lutheran and Presbyterian and Quakers, praying as we held the chain links in our fingers. Hannah and I felt a strange sense of belonging, even in this strange cool green world populated with so many white folks.

There is hope for this family, my family, in this move north. We ache for our community in the desert. But, we stand together, with eyes open in curiosity and wonder. What will open before us in the days to come?

And for our brothers and sisters who no longer have the dream, we stand. And we will continue to pray, to protest, to write, to call. We choose to speak for those who have no voice.

My Ebenezer…

In Hebrew the meaning of the name Ebenezer is: Rock or stone of help. Famous bearer: the Old Testament Samuel gave the name Ebenezer to a stone set up in recognition of God’s assistance in defeating the Philistines.

Today we were given this Ebenezer, a very heavy exact replica of a huge look alike on the property of Neighborhood Ministries. The Ebeneezer on the property holds the prayers of children. Kids like those who will converge on the property tomorrow for Kid’s Club, 500 plus a hundred leaders. The stones there are the prayers, hopes, dreams, and unnamed pain and violence of their stories. It is a beginning for them, a naming. Even this small private act gives courage to name these raw things to a person. And we know that the words written on those rocks have been heard by “El Shama“, the God who hears.

But these rocks today were placed one by one by hands dear to us. This was our goodbye. Written on the rocks were words representing a prayer for us. Courage. Risk. Adventure. As each person passed by, they placed a stone. Before it was placed, there were long hugs, many tears, eyes locked in raw seeing.

Here in the desert, in this often overlooked part of Phoenix, we have shared life together. Overlapping three generations now, these thirty years. Neighborhood started as a simple act, really. What if one group of people committed to one distressed neighborhood in Phoenix, for the long haul? We were assigned to this fledgling ragtag group to “grow up” a little. True story.

Today looks a lot like family. Bio family was there, surrounding our boys with tears. Today is Father’s Day, often a day of pain for me. Family can be messy, and this group of people is raw and real. None of the in-the-box church here.

And so I am grateful. Grateful for words spoken, and for those left unsaid. Grateful for rocks held in hands full of love. Grateful that we can carry them with us on the road to Oregon.

I talked with my kids later about why Kit used the word Ebenezer. We had heard that word sung in an old song Come Thou Fount today, a change from the vibrant Spanish melodies.

Here I raise my Ebenezer

Hither by Thy help I’ve come

And I hope, by Thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home

My daughter recognized it, and sang thT verse. Then she sang another line and it sounded a bit different than the one I heard in my growing up years.

And my heart says yes. Yes, to the God who Hears. Yes, to the God who Heals. Yes, to the God who goes before and behind. Yes. May it be so.

Here’s my heart, oh, take and heal it

Heal it for Thy Home above.

I am not alone

Sitting at neighborhood this morning, I felt waves of emotion. The reality is hitting me. I am leaving this community where I have woven into the lives of now the third generation of this Neighborhood.

How do you begin to form a community in a new place? I know that it starts by being willing to open my heart. And then, the risk is, I don’t know where the journey will lead.

But that is the only way. The reality is, that’s community. I have to be willing to enter with my story, to listen to the stories of others. And it is in this sacred space of story that the bonds began to form.

I am in the midst of the grief, of goodbyes yet to come in the move and now the long goodbye to my dad.

And so this morning the song washed over me.

I am not alone. I am not alone. You will go before me. You will never leave me.

And my heart says yes. This is truth.

It stands in stark contrast to the cry of evil that resonated through my childhood; you are alone.

Truth says, I am.

I will go before you.

You are not alone.

Listen to the song Here

The Lenten Writings: floating on my back

The Avowal

by Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them,

as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them,

so would I learn to attain freefall, and float

into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace, knowing no effort earns

that all-surrounding grace.

Source:   “The Avowal” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by Denise Levertov. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997.

I remember…

Trying to learn to do the back float.

Arch your back, they said. Look up at the sky. Don’t look down. Don’t tuck your chin. That was hard. Invariably, I would try to see where I was, tilting my head down. And I would sink.

I do that in my journey too. I stop floating. I want to see if I am making progress. Where is everyone else?

And I sink.

Recovery is hard work. The road back into my story has lots of twists and turns. If it were a river, there would definitely be whitewater and a waterfall.

I want to pause, to look around the bend ahead.

And I sink.

Today’s Lenten poem is about just that.

Just float.

The Lenten Writings: footprints

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,

Life is but an empty dream! —

For the soul is dead that slumbers,

And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,

is our destined end or way;

But to act, that each tomorrow

Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our heats, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead

Act,- act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead.

Footprints, that perhaps another,

Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,

a forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,

with a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.

The story beneath, the relentless pull to life. The hint that perhaps there a footprints of another.

These are the echoes that whisper in the dark corridors of my journey. And the voice speaks to my core lie and says “you are not alone.”

And that is enough. O to be accompanied.

Source: “A Psalm of Life” from The Complete Poetical Works of Longfellow

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1893.

The Lenten Writings: remember

God of peace,

God of justice,

God of freedom,

We give you thanks for your cadences of peace, justice, and freedom,

Cadences that have surged through the lives

Of Martin,

And Ralph

And Rosa,

And John,

And Fred,

And Hosea,

And Jesse,

And Andy,

And all that nameless mass of risk-takers who have been

Obedient to your promises

And susceptible to your dreams.

Deliver us from amnesia

Concerning their courage in the face of violence,

Their peace-making against hate,

And their hunger for you in a devouring economy

Deliver us from amnesia:

Turn our memory into hope,

Turn our gratitude into energy,

Turn our well-being into impatience.

That these same cadences of your will may pulse even among us.

Amen

Source: “Deliver us from amnesia”, from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, Walter Brueggemann, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2003.