Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lent.2015 A petition. A plea. A prayer.

©jlee photography
Skies come here at twilight streaked in all sorts of colors.  Just beyond the Spanish moss heavy branches.  Just beyond the trees that milk out all sorts of ephemera into the air.  Bits and pieces that slow for my grown gaze as much as dandelion seeds spin fast out of a chubby child hand.  It is not difficult to witness God after all; the difficulty is calling it by name.

There have been sad things for you.  Happy things yes, but the sad is what makes you feel small and tired and old and filled with burning.  It never is enough, the happy, you never do allow it to be enough to cover the old paint underneath.

It is always easier to remain in the shadow of hurt and misunderstanding.  To hone down the edge of the puzzle piece to make it fit rather than seeing what’s been completed. Why it is that I look in the mirror and scrutinize the eye that stares at me, criticize the faint dips and valleys?  A relief map of life around the piece of me that has been given the gift of sight.  Yet, I always fail to see the terrain as a whole as vision of being present.  It is simpler to stay, sometimes, in sorrow.  The opportunities seem to be far and long and wide to change that stasis. 
But you can now.  Because it is Lent.  And in our common vernacular that means a time of repentance and sacrifice, of reflection and denial.  But maybe, it is dreaded and difficult because of what we’ve made it.  Not what it was ever intended.

No abstinence of social media, no denial of hunger, no refusal to engage in commerce will bring you closer to God.  It will be an inconvenience, but at the end, it will pass without so much as a mark on your soul. 

Yet, if it is with full minded intention to witness God in the absence of life’s ever pulling desire--that is where we find Lent.  When you see the friends laughing together or the door being held open, or the earnest question being answered.  There is the response of God.  In coffee shops and union halls, in recovery groups and in wide anonymous crowds, we can see it.  That reconciliation that is made thousands of times over in a day, in the relationships of people you know and those that you do not, ties being reformed.  This is hope. 

And I often think, as witness, is this not churchIs this not communion?

©Moriah Peters
"21 Martyrs"
Renewal is coming.  You can see signs of it everywhere.  Because as we agonize over what we see, the recklessness of hatred, the war in God’s name, the unholy disregard for life no matter what alter at which it worships, there is the temerity of hope, relentless, coming soon, chasing the carrion birds and replacing it with a lark’s song of praise.
"Muslims protecting Christians in Eqypt during Mass."

The world will keep turning, you will keep moving, it will be your choice whether or not this day, this season, this Lent will be yours of promises fulfilled, of a life saved.

Lent should be a time of reflection, but also of joyful expectation, of promise.  Of hope.  And in this time, as in many, many times of old, hope can be hard won. 

Why should we hope when everywhere we turn we are faced with neglect, a rush for entertainment rather than education, a commemoration of celebrity rather than courage, a conscious inward scrutiny of small scale life rather than foreign pictures of unfamiliar faces, of anguish that seems too terrible to share?  

That is what the enemy of all that is good and right and love would like you to believe.

Your petition.  Your plea.  Your prayer will be heard.
And when woven together with those others, the disparate threads combine to a mighty cord of truth and miracles and hope that will lift us collectively out of
"light up the world entire."

And that is why we have these 40 days set aside.  Because when you are at the end, all alone at the edge of the world, you will be caught by those cords woven and sewn tightly by people as faithful, as true and as beautiful as you are

The cries of many will bring about resurrection.

That is church.  That is communion.
I am no theologian.  I’ve never had any training.  I do not read Latin or Aramaic.  I cannot tell you what the latest debates are concerning the newest found gospel.  I don’t know.  I am at best a down in the dirt, figuring it out, armchair, 2am fretting Christian.  A practicing Roman Catholic.  A mother.  A wife.  A student.  A teacher.  A citizen.  A voice.

And here is something I have learned.  In the last few years, I’ve joined an online Bible study community from time to time called Love God Greatly.  Usually organized around a theme or a central idea, there are daily scriptural readings, a chance to observe it, offer your own application regarding it and then offer a prayer.  This December was a “Road to Christmas” study that focused on the genealogy of Christ.  Christmas Eve, was a reading from 2 Samuel and that passage for me brought me to a revelation about Christ and God and beauty and fragilityAll of which matters for Lent.  This is from my study notes:

2 Samuel 11:2-5, 26-27  “One evening David got up from his bed. He walked around on the roof of his palace. From the roof he saw a woman taking a bath. She was very beautiful.  David sent a messenger to find out who she was. The messenger returned and said, ‘She is Bathsheba. She’s the daughter of Eliam. She’s the wife of Uriah. He’s a Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him. And he slept with her. Then she went back home. All of that took place after she had already made herself ‘clean’ from her monthly period. Later, Bathsheba found out she was pregnant. She sent a message to David. She said, ‘I’m pregnant.’”  “Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead. She mourned over him.  When her time of sadness was over, David had her brought to his house. She became his wife. And she had a son by him. But the Lord wasn’t pleased with what David had done.” (NIRV)

It seems to be the wrong passage to address at Christmas.  Another pregnancy out of wedlock, with one of the God’s dearest and an ancestor to Jesus, David.  LGG emphasizes the need for repentance and the love of Jesus in these stories, but the parallels for me are very different.  David and Bathsheba acted out of lust and immorality.  They tried to hide their sin with devastating consequences. Maybe there is hope in this that even with such a legacy of lies, inequity of sin in his very blood, Jesus could redeem the world.  And maybe that wouldn’t have been possible without the worst acts of humanity: murder, adultery, violence, rage in his actual makeup.  By having Jesus come out of a physical legacy like this, God is truly saying, all of you have ears, hear.  You can be redeemed.  You can have a chance at everlasting life.   

So if this is true, and scriptural genealogy seems clear on this point, then Christ’s physical makeup was of the lowliest of common desire: of baseness, of greed, of addiction and immorality, of compulsion, of power, of discord, of anger and of rage.  At his core, at least half of the Son of Man was predisposed to be immoral and troubled.  He was uniquely and divinely human.  And yet.

He overcame.  It didn’t matter about the sins of his collective past.  A genetic predisposition towards the kinds of lives that could break and bind in darkness and inequity were cast aside. 

It was not a road he chose to travel.  But in recognizing it, the darkness and the sadness, the vulnerability and the loss, he invited all those hiding there along with him, a narrower path, but one in the light.

If this is true.  And there is no reason to doubt it. Then rejoice. 

Because then, truly, all are welcome to this table.  Everyone.  There’s not a thing done or undone, thought or action that hasn’t already been bound up and broken and sacrificed and redeemed.  Not a thing.  It’s already made it into the skin, bones, blood and spirit of Christ. 

Nothing you can do can shake this overwhelming amount of love for the good of your future and the forgiveness of your past.  Not a thing.  The only person I seem to fight, truth be told, is my own human instinct that carries the weight of personal judgment, anger, silence, pride, jealousy.  These are the sticky webs that stray into the path of my own making and make me sit awhile in their dark depths.  Escape is possible though, if I’m brave enough and honest enough and humble enough to see it. 

And that escape is formed from a release to the heavens in prayer.  But even that, even prayer has become something of a test of devotion.  It has to be prescriptive for it to be right.  And that’s when Lent becomes a burden.  But the beauty of prayer is that it comes in many forms, you can see it everywhere, that tie that binds us together.

I believe that the courtship of a friend, a sincere conversation of good, a fervent kiss, a last hug, a checked response, a truth from the heart, a warm welcome are all forms of prayer.  I believe that we can make it through with help and lack of regret.  I believe that there is more good that can overcome
enmity and the disorganization of rage.  I believe that we are on the same side.  Ideology can divide us only if we let it.  God pursues you every day of your life, Lent is a chance to turn and stand still enough to
be caught.

My petition is that you not close your ears to the
sounds of God around you.  My plea is that you take action to put words to whatever music it is that you hear, to whatever harmony is consonance to you.  My prayer is that for you a remarkable, affirming Lent shines its peace upon you no matter where you are in your faith journey and whatever practice you have

Come together.  Celebrate this Lent.  Lift your eyes beyond what binds you here and pray for what is in your heart.  Allow it to catch on the wind and attach to other seekers, to create a cord of harmony.  To give hope for peace.  Lent.2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

What is so amazing about this frail human journey is that we’ve been given so many types of love to contemplate and cherish: the romantic love of our spouse, the all consuming love of our children, the faithful love of cherished pets, the familiar and forgiving love of our family, the passionate love of our God, but there is a necessary and perilous love that completes it all, I think, especially for women, and that is the love of our friends. 
the spontaneous chick

Intimacy is what flavors all relationships, and when we have intimacy we keep confidence with one another, we want to know, we want to see what is hurting and we want to know the details of life that makes it celebratory or irritating.  Sharing our hopes and our fears, our dreams and sometimes the darkness that accompanies them.
Bridesmaids (2011) Universal

If we're lucky, we have all kinds and types of friends, from all different parts of life and the world.  Some are the ones that cheer you as soon as you see them, others invoke a hidden moment because they are like a fortune cookie that won't break, still others linger on your mind like a fine wine that inspires you to live just a bit differently, another that just plain irritates you but there's something about her that rubs you the right way enough that you stay the course because of that spark you don't have that she does.  Still others, a select few, you know in your marrow were born in your heart and when you find them, you know that you could be yourself with them in a way you could with no one else.
©Desperate Housewives ABC
 "Would you bury a body for me?" you ask.  "Wellllll, okay.  But you'd have to pay for my lifelong therapy because of it." 

Sometimes friendships end.  Their course is run, or so I’ve been told.  But this has never sit well with me.  Unless a friend has somehow hurt you deeply, why would it “run its course?”  Friendships, lasting ones, take effort and energy that are in short supply around women who are working and mothering and being a visible and active presence in many spheres.  But it’s important to try—even if the effort seems like an air bubble before it pops the surface of a pot of still rumbling water.  So maybe it’s time to ask that
friend to be your valentine this year.  Remind 
her how important she is to your worldview and how it would abruptly and sadly alter without her in it. 

Dear Friend,

I miss you.  I haven’t been good about keeping in touch.  I know you are there.  I do.  I know you want the best for me, I do.  I hope you know that I want that for you too.  Even if we don’t talk daily, especially if we don’t talk daily.  I rarely talk to anyone daily, and probably would go for days without talking if the kids and John didn’t have that annoying need for a response.  But you must know that I think of you, and have conversations in my head with you often.  When I go shopping, or see an interesting article, am on a mission for a specific
cereal that will stop an Armageddon-like meltdown, or that funny scarf that I haven’t worn for a long time.  I see you in my mind’s eye and hold you close to my heart so maybe through time and space you will feel warm and happy briefly and know that I am thinking of you. 

I remember so many moments that I knew you would hold a place in my heart for a long time:

+When you talked to me first in the lunchroom, even when it wasn’t cool for you to do it.
“Good friends are like stars. . .
You don't always see them, but you know they are always there.
--taken from

+When we laughed with relief at the same guy, at the same moment, when we ate at the dining hall.

+When you said you liked anchovies too.

+When we realized in a brief moment of discussion that we loved the same, hated the same, liked the same and were living parallel lives in tandem and sighed with relief to find "our people" at long last.

+When you came to my mother’s funeral and called me every day afterwards to make sure I was still breathing.

+When you wouldn’t take “no” to coffee for an answer.

+When you picked up my son, fed him, entertained him and brought him back home to me when I was sick and couldn’t fend for myself.

+When you fed me.

+When you invited me to your house and didn’t clean up one thing because you knew I couldn’t care less.  And then, told me not to even “wipe up that syrup” on the counter, allowing it to congeal in messy happiness as we talked and talked and talked when you returned that favor.

+When you told me, with tears, as you held out a sweater I’d admired and couldn’t afford, that “you just wanted me to be happy.”

+When you gently pushed my headscarf back in place upon first greeting as I was trying to scramble after my son.  That touch, from a stranger’s hand, translated to a lifeline of softness that I didn’t know I needed.

+When you lent me your nursing bras.  
(Sharing undergarments brings a whole new level of close.)

+When you got me the coffee and did.not.ask.a.thing.

+When you forgave me my silence and invited me back in anyway.

+When you forgave me period

+When you became my spine after I lost my baby and allowed me to stand up straight and tall, even as the whole world outside crumbled into ruins. 

+When you reminded me that I couldn’t be selfish and showed me exactly why I was.

+When you call me, despite the distance  just to tell me you love me, and that for you, I’m home.
© Thelma and Louise 1991

+When we both tooted at the same time in that class!

+When we decided to get ice cream shakes that would negate any calories burned into the negative, and a minute became a fun and lengthy three hours instead.

+When you said you were sorry, and when I looked behind you for the unsolicited advice that was sure to come, you said, “I’ve got nothing else to say, but” and grabbed my hand firmly and looked at me, “I’m really sorry.”

+When we laughed at that rest stop mechanic who said I needed new tires, as if my dad would let me drive all that way to Vermont with bad ones?!

                        When you stood up for me.  
                                          And told the truth. +

Friendships like these are not at all common; they’re fantastical.  They are the epitome of grace.   Because of you, I don’t feel alone as a parent.  I feel stronger
as a mother.  I feel understood as a wife.  Because of you, I don’t feel alone.  I don’t have to try.  I can feel secure, and that feeling just knowing that you’re out there ready, whenever I may need you, allows me the courage to keep moving past it, whatever the "it" may be.

I look forward to growing old with you.  To compare cataracts and support hose, and complain about that crazy music those young folk are listening to.  I can’t wait to attend the weddings of your children, to hold your wrinkled hand in mine as we finally take that trip together to go sun gazing and wine drinking and talking about fast times.

So…will you be my valentine?  I’m so glad you’re in my life, and I just want you to remember, you are so loved.