Tag Archives: longing

epiphany: A trail of crumbs

Waiting

“I have fallen in love many a time in the fall of the year. I mean those times when body and soul are revived and, in the keen clear air of autumn after a hot exhausting summer, I feel new strength to see, to ‘know’ clearly, and to love, to look upon my neighbor and to love. Almost to be taken out of myself. I do not mean being in love with a particular person. I mean that quality of in-loveness that may brush like a sweet fragrance, a sound faintly heard, a sense of the beauty of one particular human being, or even one aspect of life. It may be an intuition of immortality, of the glory of God, of his presence in the world. But it is almost impossible to put into words. The point is that it is general rather than particular, though it may come as a reminder, this flash of understanding, of recognition, with the reading of a particular book, or hearing some strain of music.

“It is tied up in some way also with the sense of hope, and an understanding of hope. How can we live without it, as a supernatural virtue, ‘hoping against hope,’ during this dark period of violence and suffering through the world?

“I am bold in trying to express the inexpressible, to write of happiness, even of joy that comes, regardless of age, color, or condition of servitude, to us all. Regardless of failures, regardless even of the sufferings of others. If we did not have this hope, this joy, this love, how could we help others? How could we have the strength to hold on to them, to hold them up when they are drowning in sorrow, suffocating in blackness, almost letting go of life, life which we know with a sure knowledge is precious, which is something to hold to, be grateful for, to reverence.” The Reckless Way of Love, Notes on Following Jesus, by Dorothy Day.

I am in a season of waiting. Midwifery Grad school application out of my hands, last home midwifery birth logged in the national data base, phone off at night. I watch the world around me settle in for the long wait. The rains chase the last leaves down. The fog whispers of mysteries unknown. It is out of my hands.

My hands…these hands which doctor after doctor said would never catch a baby again. I told one specialist that my job is to hold the space, it is the mama’s to receive their babies. They gave me all they knew, these specialists. Words, so many words, statistics, prognosis, bathed in fear. Finally, I knew it was time. Time to settle into the work of healing. Healers are a rare breed. They speak in terms of listening, of knowing, of trusting. These are not the “faith” healers of my childhood, quick to lay on hands, with long and pious prayers. Those asked about private sins, insinuating that rheumatoid in a child must come from something more. They closed their eyes to the sin right in front of them, never daring to look into the eyes of that child, to wonder…

And so I sought out healers that listen for the old ways. They place needles and ask for wisdom. They extend their hands, for light and love to flow into tissues that have lost their message center. Three years now, nearly, since that driver ran a stop sign and sent us airborne; since the doctor said, “you will never practice midwifery again…”

Today, I wait again. The application packet out of my hands into liminal space, the space between. We are here in the old forest, and my senses awaken to memories, those of a child whose nights were full of terror, in the pacific northwest. The ancient trees hold their knowing, just as they did so many years ago.

There are others who wait tonight, in makeshift tents of plastic tarps. Their journey full of trauma, both in the leaving and the coming, and the in between. No country willing to receive them. Even a caravan could not magnify their voices enough to stir compassion. It is out of their hands.

Advent is a season of waiting. It is a season thick with silence. Four hundred years of it, broken only by one voice to one woman. And now she is waiting, enlarged by the secret. Eyes look, voices whisper, judgments pass from ear to ear. Even the government seems to be against her. Who wants to join a caravan on a long road, full of dust and bandits? Especially when a baby is coming.

Yes.

A baby is coming.

And in the middle of that dark night, hope stirred.

Perhaps it still stirs, even today.

Becoming an activist

I think I am becoming an activist. I think I already am one, changed bit by bit.

The voices I am listening for are the voices of dissent.

The faces I am searching out are the ones unseen.

The stories I am longing to hear are those unspoken.

We are new here.

New to this land of trees and green.

New to sweatshirts and handwarmers.

New to farmers markets that close by October.

How do I find these voices and faces and stories?

The first thing we unpacked was this “Ebenezer”. An ebenezer is not a name for Scrooge, or a song by a British group. Literally, it means “stone of help”, from the story where Samuel set up a stone to remind Israel of a battle victory over the Philistines.

This Ebenezer is heavy; full of stones of remembering. The full size one lives at neighborhood Neighborhoodministries.org. The stones there tell the anguish and violence, hopes and dreams of the children in one distressed neighborhood in Phoenix. It is a place to stand, to be still, to hold space. It is often surrounded by laughter and running feet.

The stones of our Ebenezer were held one by one. They contain the prayers and love and hope and grief of the community we came from. The words were spoken to us, with eyes locked, at our goodbye.

We were deeply embedded there, in that neighborhood.

Here, in this new neighborhood, I look the same but often feel so very different.

And so this object went up first, on unpacking day, by the fireplace. (Another new thing to discover)! First, because I need to remember who I am and where I came from…

And tonight, as I listen to the wind rustle the leaves and feel the August coolness wafting through the open window, I remember…

I am held. I am loved. I am known….

in my listening, in my searching, in my longing.

And it is from this place my passion flows.

(this poem stirred me tonight, its heart cry quoted from memory by Rev. Dr. Paula Williams, a national trans advocate who shared her journey at Christ Church Portland). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q36x3x7jUSc&app=desktop

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

(By Mary Oliver)

The Lenten Writings: Jesus and the disinherited

The disinherited will know for themselves

that there is a Spirit at work in life and in the hearts of men

which is committed to overcoming the world.

It is universal, knowing no age, no race, no culture and no condition of men.

For the privileged and the under privileged alike,

if the individual puts at the disposal of the Spirit the needful dedication and discipline,

he can live effectively in the chaos of the present the high destiny of a son of God.

High Destiny, by Howard Thurman. From the Lenten Poetry companion, neighborhood ministries.

I was first introduced to Howard Thurman in the Mystic Activists. His book, Jesus and the Disinherited, was our focus this fall for a month. It was not enough time to do it justice. But I am learning that theology must come from the bottom up.

We are in a focused time of prayer for our Dreamers. Tomorrow is the deadline for a permanent solution for these children, now grown, who were brought to the states before age 5. They are woven into the very fabric of our culture and society. They are our teachers, they are in nursing classes and serving in our Armed Forces. Dreamers work in every service profession. And they live in a constant state of uncertainty. They never know when their permission could be suddenly gone. And so, quite literally, would they.

The challenge of Scripture must also be read from the bottom up. This is who Jesus hung out with, which often earned harsh criticism from the powers that were in place. The validity and application of Scripture is only as significant as its application to the lowest among us. In fact, when we understand Scripture in this manner, we also see ourselves in that same way. We are the they, living in the most need and desperation.

It is only from this reading of Scripture that we can form a compassionate response to any issues of justice. Literally, the word for compassion with passion or with feeling. Compassion comes when I am moved in my innermost self by the pain of another. I must choose to enter the story. And today, the story is that of our dreamers.

I would ask you today to stand in prayer for the dreamers.

#PrayForDreamers

The Lenten Writings: not yet…

Beginners

Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla

“From too much love of living,

Hope and desire set free,

Even the weariest river

Winds somewhere to the sea—“

But we have only begun

To love the earth.

We have only begun

To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?

— so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?

— we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,

only begun to envision

how it might be

to live as siblings with beast and flower,

not as oppressors.

Surely our river

cannot already be hastening

into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot

drag, in the silt,

all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet—

there is too much broken

that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other

that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know

the power that is in us if we would join

our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must

complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

~ Denise Levertov ~

(Candles in Babylon)

So much is unfolding that must complete it’s gesture…

I am in a place of unfolding. The unfolding of things that are new, much of which is unseen at this time.

The unfolding also means a closing.

Why is it that grief enjoy so often go hand-in-hand?

This poem is haunting.

We have only begun to imagine justice and mercy…

At Neighborhood, we swim in rivers where we talk about justice. And sometimes, in the river, The current threatens to pull us under. The fight for justice is real. It has faces. It has stories. It is salty with tears.

And then in the invitation to step into new arenas, the questions remain, hanging in the air.

Not yet, not yet–there is too much Broken that must be mended.

Source: Levertov, Denise. “Beginners” from Candles in Babylon. New York: New Directions, 1982.

From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries.

Advent writings: the longing

Being a midwife brings joy and sorrow, some days in equal measure.

My son said my face looked severe while I was driving home today.  I was feeling grief for someone.  Faces radiating  joy and and others etched with sorrow; held gently in my heart.  I told him it is because I get to live life full on as a midwife with the women I walk with…

This is Advent.  

The “yes” that resonates through the ages, and the long wait of longings that ache to be fulfilled.

Three Hanukkah candles burned tonight alongside two advent lights, for hope and peace.  Rich symbols, handed down through the centuries; but new to my table.  I need the symbols this year.

I burn the candles for mamas who ache to hold their babies.  Candles for babies who grow in homes where violence is an everyday reality.  For sisters who find the color of their skin or style of clothing slams doors shut, or worse, before they can open even a crack.  Candles for churches that should be safe spaces, where abuse happens. Candles for the ancient cry of a people afraid to name their heritage lest they be annihilated.  Candles for peace, where there is no peace.  Candles for hope when the very word echoes as a bold cry against evil.  Candles for those who dare to speak when everything screams to silence their voice. 

As we lit the candle of peace the children talked about a bumper sticker they saw today:  “when the power of love is stronger than the love of power there will be peace on earth.”

May there be peace.  And let it begin with me.