4 08 2016

This brief story arrived on my Facebook page yesterday:

WINNER: Man wearing bedazzled Trump shirt in Walmart yesterday asks if I’m aware that they provide services for unwed teen mothers like myself.

The woman posting it is one of my son’s friends.  She is in her late 20s and married.  There is obviously just a ton of fail in this episode, and we entertained ourselves for the next several hours with “what you should have said”.  I flushed my sinuses with coffee several times at what could have been hilarious comebacks, and a good time was had by all.

And then the comment that started with: “The Trump shirt is immaterial…”

And there you have it, again.

A woman tells her story, and someone is there to tell her she’s doing it wrong.  That she has noticed the wrong thing, that her story isn’t hers to tell so let’s tell her how to do it correctly.  So that only the correct and important things are shown.

It’s a man doing it? #notallmen.

Walmart? Lots of people go to Walmart.  Or even better: “That’s what you get for going to Walmart.”

Teen? “I’d be complimented if someone thought I was a teenager!”

And finally it comes down to questioning or whittling away at every facet of the story, with the ultimate verdict being: You told it wrong.  You saw it wrong.  You reacted wrong.  What’s the big deal? It was cute, come on, where’s your sense of humor?

Which are probably the same things that would be said about my reaction to those comments.


1 07 2014

My son is dating a lovely young woman, a woman I would be thrilled to call my daughter one day.  And this amazing woman is surrounded by the most delightful family that I could ever hope for.  I wrote of what it was like to land in their arms at a time when things are potentially quite dark for them.

Her father is still very ill, and right now is dealing with a series of infections that make it very difficult to move on to the next phase of treatment. He has been hospitalized several times since the first diagnosis, trying to get things stable enough to move forward.  He is in again as I type this.  I went to visit him today, and as I walked into the room, I saw his wife leaning over him to gently kiss him – not kissing him goodbye or hello, but just kissing him because that’s who they are.

It was beautiful and profound.  One of those moments when everything stops, for this moment of utter tenderness and connection between two people.  I was blessed beyond description to witness such a moment.

It is a hard thing, taking the journey they are.  It is likely that there will not be a good outcome to this, and all of us know it.  Thankfully, none of us are looking away.  And again: grateful for the embrace of family.

But also: furious at how unfair this is.  How unfair our loss was, nearly eight years ago… my husband shouldn’t have died the way he did.  He should still be here, and he should be part of this new family we’re forming because he would have loved it so much, and they would have loved him, and this is everything he ever worked and hoped for… and DAMN IT my new family shouldn’t have to be facing this kind of loss and uncertainty.  And oh, how this hurts.

You can’t die.

There is still so much to do.

We have so many stories to tell, we have children to enjoy together.

There is still so much and why can’t there be enough time?

Don’t leave.  Please.

Stay here.


25 04 2014

I ran into this on Facebook this morning:

Ok prayer warriors. I need some help. I’ve been on meds for 4 days, and am truly feeling a good deal better. However, the cough is just not getting better. I intend to call the doctor in the morning, but on the meantime, would you seek The Lord with me that he will heal. I am a very impatient sick person, but just really want back to the task of ministering ASAP.

On the one hand: it’s awesome to know you need help, and to be able to ask for it.  A lot of my own suffering is of the self-inflicted I-can-handle-this type.  Heaven knows how much easier my life would be if I would sometimes sit back and say, you know what, this IS too much for me to handle.

But here’s what I don’t get: the concept of the Prayer Warrior.  Let’s not even get into the weirdly violent imagery for something so deeply personal and internalized.   It seems predicated on the notion that God isn’t going to notice that you’re sick or in need unless you pray about it.  And that same God is going to notice more if lots of petitions come in for the same issue.  Does God have an administrative assistant keeping track of inbox messages?  Some sort of automated tally counter that decides what should be intervened with that day?

What kind of God is that?  What kind of creator doesn’t take care of a beloved creation unless asked to do so?  What parent would see that their child has a need, and then wait for that child to ask for that need to be met?  “I would have given you breakfast, but you didn’t ask for it…” Really?  Is that the kind of God people actually believe in?

It’s not that I dismiss the power of prayer.  I think it is quite powerful.  But I think it has absolutely zero impact on the Creator Mind.  The intelligence and awesome power of that mind is already abundantly aware of what’s happening in the universe.  Prayer, if it enters that consciousness at all, is merely a reminder of what the Creator already knows.

So what is the point of prayer?  There are different kinds – there are petitions like what the poster above is asking for, divine intervention in a situation that seemingly cannot be fixed by human means.  There are prayers for guidance.  Prayer of gratitude, of thanksgiving.  But what unifies all of them is not the Creator’s response to them.  What those prayers have in common, what they actually do, is to bring us into closer communion with the Creator.  Ideally, prayer brings our own frequency into harmony with the resonance of the universe itself.

Less than ideally, though… there is such a thing as bad prayer.  There are people out there sincerely praying for death, destruction, mayhem… think Westboro Baptist, but they are far from the only ones.  It is tempting to dismiss them as crackpots who don’t matter, to live happily with the illusion that if you ignore them, they’ll go away.  But their prayers and petitions are clashing disharmony.  They foul the universal music for everyone.  Returning their anger and evil with our own wrath does nothing to rebalance the harmony. It serves only to make the noise louder.  Only the steady and rising power of relentless love and true justice can finally resolve that dissonance.

They say prayer has the power to change the world.  They’re right.  But the power of prayer isn’t in the response from the Creator.  The power is in the response from us.


16 01 2014

My chorus has started working on the music for our next concert.  We tend to do our most dramatic pieces in the March concert, due in no small part to what this time of year signifies in the Christian liturgical calendar.  We’re doing MacMillan’s “Seven Last Words From the Cross” and Lauridsen’s  “Lux Aeterna”… first we crush you with the crucifixion, then we comfort with the promise of eternal light and rest.

I was raised as a Christian.  And even though I have recently veered more in the direction of Unitarian Universalism, all those years of living through the repeating church seasons left a lasting mark on me.  As a child, Christmas is of course the big one. Singing angels!  Rich kings bringing presents!   Everyone bringing presents!

It’s only as you get older that you come to understand the significance of Easter; for me, the importance of Lent was even slower in coming.  I remember vividly the first time I fully participated in Holy Week activities at our church in St. Louis – from the jubilation of Palm Sunday, to the intimate contemplation of Maundy Thursday, to the darkness and despair of Good Friday.  The tenebrae service in that church was unflinching – as the pieces of scripture were read, telling the story, lights were turned out one by one through the church.  The service ended in darkness and we went home in silence; it was the first time I had ever experienced real grief over the crucifixion, and it lingered into the next day.  Easter Sunday, then, was an explosion of joy and thanksgiving that I had never felt before.

That experience has never left me.  So the music we sing during the season of Lent and Easter still moves me in profound ways, and I love singing this music with my chorus.  Rehearsing the MacMillan last night was deeply moving, and I could see it doing the same thing to those that I know don’t have the same religious background I do.  And I found myself wondering – could I find myself similarly moved singing something like this about a religious figure I hadn’t been raised with?  The Christian narrative is familiar to nearly everyone in the United States… but how many other narratives are out there that I don’t know about, that I won’t ever get to sing about?

The answer is that of course I could find a way to connect with another narrative, because as much as this piece is framed by Christian belief, it is also the story of a good man who spent his life loving and encouraging others, only to see the wheels come completely off in the space of a week.  My connection to this wrenching story isn’t based on Jesus as Messiah.  Whether or not you accept the idea that Christ knew who and what he was, and what was expected of him, the story of that last week is brutal and terrifying.  If you really believe that Jesus was fully human, you have to also believe that he was afraid of what he knew was coming.  His night in Gethsemane showed his anguish in not wanting to go through with it, in actually praying that it wouldn’t happen.

The story told during Holy Week – or Passion Week, if you prefer – is tragic and awful.  It’s literally sickening if I spend too much time thinking about it.  I think we have to, though.  Most churches (and really, most Christians) focus very strongly on the yay-we-win of Easter, and not so much on the actual meaning of Christ’s excruciating and humiliating final hours.

I’ve mentioned in other postings that I no longer subscribe to the idea of substitutionary atonement.  I don’t believe that Jesus was created just so God could beat the crap out of him to prove how just God is – because really, what kind of justice would that even be?  But there are things that I do believe about the crucifixion and the resurrection:

I believe that God has reached out to God’s creation again and again.  Countless times that have been recorded in the scriptures of the world, and probably many more times through people who never had books written about them.

I believe that God sent Jesus to the world, reaching out to reconcile the world to God.

I believe that Jesus resisted this idea for a while.  Other biblical heroes have stories of telling God “You’ve picked the wrong person!”  I believe that Jesus had a similar story that didn’t fit the early church’s framing of what Jesus was for and about, and so it never got included in the scriptures.  But I think there’s a reason we don’t hear about what Jesus did for over fifteen years.

I believe that when Jesus did embark on his ministry, he gave himself completely.  Whatever life he had in those intervening years, he walked away from, in favor of pouring his life out in those he loved and wanted to help.  He offered freedom from the law.  He told them that God was already in them, that the Kingdom of God was at hand.  Not in the sense of “God is coming… straighten up!” but in the sense of “God is here already, in you, and you have the power to change the world”.  The law wouldn’t save them, but they could save themselves and each other.

I believe that Jesus entered Jerusalem in that last week pretty sure that it would end badly, even as he hoped for a different outcome.

I believe that his capture and eventual death showed his willingness to love through the worst that Roman justice could throw at him.  Even in the extremity of pain, exhaustion, and thirst, he reached out to those who were being crucified with him.  He showed complete and sacrificial love to those that had followed him; in doing so he changed them forever.

I believe that his resurrection was a triumph over common-sense expectation and authority.  People who die aren’t supposed to rise again. People who have been punished by (in this case) Roman authority were supposed to stay punished.  And yet, Jesus rose.  Enough has been written about the significance of the resurrection that I can’t add much more… but to put it simply, love wins.



18 09 2013

So, it’s September 18.

I have been hyper-aware of the approach of September 19 this year.  I’ve been aware of it for several weeks.  And as a consequence, it has seemed especially slow.  And yet, I’m unwilling to take my eye off it.  It’s like my own Weeping Angel – doesn’t seem to move as long as I keep watching it, but blink or look away?  I’m done for.

Tomorrow it will have been seven years.  In the bible, there is the tradition of Jubilee – at the end of seven years you wipe the slate clean.  Debts are cancelled, slaves are liberated.  I wonder if I could do that on a personal level – wash myself clean of the years of grief and loss.  Wipe it away, start fresh and clean in a liberated world.

In my case it feels like a faulty metaphor.  Losing my husband is always with me, but not like some kind of sticky film; it’s more like the sheerest silk enveloping me.  I can see through it, and I’m so used to it that any weight is imperceptible.  I only notice it if it gets caught on something.

And there’s the thing.  Never knowing what it might get caught on.  Rarely the big things.  I can see those.  It’s the little stuff, the unfinished edges and rough surfaces, with their snags and catches.  Little comments that are completely innocent in intent, but somehow detonate, all spines and sharp edges, in my heart.  A song with more meaning today than it had yesterday.  A combination of light and wind making today like a day long past.  A scent, a sound.

Always I hear the slightest echo of my life, in the space where he should be.  No bigger than seven years ago.  No smaller, either.