Whole-Making

You guys, I’m serious. I could not get through what’s going on right now without Richard Rohr, the lectionary and a splash (just a splash) of red wine. I get Richard Rohr’s daily email meditations and they are giving me life. They are timely, beautiful and hopeful.

Today’s was about how God is in the business of making whole. I remember hearing a Marist brother speak one time and saying that often we confuse curing and healing. People may not be cured of terrible diseases, but they always have the opportunity to move toward healing. In today’s reading, Rohr quotes a Franciscan sister called Ilia Delio. She says:

“Jesus is the love of God incarnate, the wholemaker who shows the way of evolution toward unity in love. In Jesus, God breaks through and points us in a new direction; not one of chance or blindness but one of ever-deepening wholeness in love. In Jesus, God comes to us from the future to be our future. Those who follow Jesus are to become wholemakers, uniting what is scattered, creating a deeper unity in love.”

The lectionary passages again deal with God creating something new.

Jeremiah 30:10

“‘So do not be afraid, Jacob my servant;
    do not be dismayed, Israel,’
declares the Lord.
‘I will surely save you out of a distant place,
    your descendants from the land of their exile.
Jacob will again have peace and security,
    and no one will make him afraid.

Revelation 21:5

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

The making of new things, the moving toward wholeness, those are things our country needs.* But I have to start with me. I have to move toward wholeness. I have to listen to my own pain, brokenness, and biases and extend kindness and compassion to myself first. I will be no good to the community otherwise. However, I’ll be doing this personal work and my community outreach simultaneously as there is, for me, a sense of urgency.

This is a song I’ve got on a loop right now. Hope you enjoy it and that today you move a little bit toward wholeness.

First, by Lauren Daigle

*you have no idea how hard it was not to say “bigly” at the end of that sentence.
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Even When The Doors Are Locked

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the Hope Sunday. Hope is something that’s been hard to come by for me lately, both on a personal level and as I look at the world. It’s hard to hope when girls are kidnapped and forced into marriage for going to school, cops shoot young black men and diseases seem to run roughshod over entire populations. Merry Christmas!

I just got back from a 2-week vacation to Australia, which was more necessary than you can imagine. I’d gotten to a place in my life where I felt stuck and I’d let my view of my life get very small. I felt like there wasn’t a light at the end of whatever tunnel I was stuck in and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I’m a person who needs to have a view of the bigger picture so I can function. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have a clear path to what’s next, as long as I know it’s there.

While I was in Australia, I attended a service at the Contemporary Church Music Mother Ship. I was in the neighborhood and as someone who’s done church music for a while, I had to go. As expected, the music was awesome and the sermon was not. I knew going in that their theology was on the health/wealth side but I wasn’t prepared for 50 minutes of it. Egads. Who preaches that long? Anyway… The marathon sermon was loosely based on John 20, specifically, Jesus appearing to the disciples while they were locked in a room. As I was trying to ignore the sermon by reading the passage, a phrase in verse 26 jumped out at me: “Though the doors were locked, Jesus came…”

There’s nothing smaller than a locked room, and there’s nothing more restrictive than a perspective of the world that is locked down by fear and darkness. I’ve had to stop watching most cable news because it messes with my ability to see beyond the bad things that are in the world. This is not to say that I ignore the existence of evil, but rather, that I choose not to make it the center of my view of the world. It’s not easy to do that. It’s much easier to hunker down, become as small as possible and try to make myself believe that I’m safe from it all.

Another thing that’s interesting about the John 20 passage is that when this phrase appears, the disciples are in a locked room for the second time. Jesus has already appeared to them once, wished them peace, and ensured them of his presence. Yet, here they are, for the second time, on lock down. In this story, Thomas is the one who gets a bad rap for lack of faith. But what about the other ones? They’ve seen Jesus and yet they still insist on the perceived safety of a locked room.

Hope is about being willing to see the world as big even though it’s often terrifying. It’s also about knowing that even though we may sometimes freak out and retreat to the safety of our locked rooms, Jesus will come and stand with us, which is all that we need.

Keep Hope Alive

As I type this I’m watching America’s Team (and also God’s favorite team), the Dallas Cowboys, play the AZ Cardinals. I have been a Cowboys fan from birth, through the good years (the 70s and 90s) and the lean years (the last few). This season I’ve had more reason to hope than ever, because they’re at 6-2 and the next few games are against pretty easy opponents (I just knocked on wood, because, football). I’m not sold on the idea that they’ll go all the way, but I do think they’ll get further into the playoffs than they have in the last few seasons.

You know those stupid internet quizzes that are supposed to predict the future or buttonhole your personality? Yeah, I’m a sucker for those, too. Yesterday I took one entitled “What Emotion Guides Your Life?” Since I’m in INTJ, I found the idea that there’s an emotion guiding my life intriguing, so I took it. Apparently the emotion guiding my life is HOPE. I LOLed at that because that the thing I’ve felt like I’m lacking most over the last couple of months.

I’m tired and in a pre-vacation malaise, so everything I say right now should be taken with a grain of salt, but I’m feeling stuck in almost every are of my life. Coupled with my coping skill of choice being CHANGE, LOTS OF CHANGE, NEED CHANGE, you can imagine how easy it is for me to lose some hope. When I’m in this place, my circumstances tend to dominate my view and I lose sight of the bigger picture of life, God, everything. I know in my head that God is bigger than my circumstances, but sometimes I need my circumstances to improve so I can be reminded of that. That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request. I know. Shut up.

This weekend I started to get kind of sick of myself and my mopey-ness. Pretty sure that’s a word. I began to feel like God was telling me to go to church. I’ve been completely uninterested in finding a church for a long time because I feel like I’m still in the process of grieving the loss of my SF church and the idea of finding something similar seemed like trying to find a very cool needle in a very uncool haystack. But today I may have found that needle.

This morning I got my ass out of bed and visited a church downtown that I’d been intending to visit for almost the entire time I’ve lived here. God really wanted me to go, so I did. At first glance, it met most of my checklist. It’s progressive, yet biblically based, contemporary music, liturgical elements, extremely friendly, skews younger, but a mix of generations, casual, involved in the community and the preacher said “shit” during the sermon. I know! I thought the same thing. This exists? In Phoenix? I was amazed. It felt very good and home-like. I tend to rush into things, so I’m trying to measure my response, but this might be “the one.”

I always go into a new church service with a consultant hat on. Are the signs professional/helpful, does the physical environment reflect the personality and passion of the community, do they assume that I should already know what’s going on, or are they hospitable enough to explain things, etc. They met all of that. Everything I want a church to say to new people was said. I totally knew what to do at all times.

The great thing about this church is that they don’t need me at all. Not that there’s no opportunity for me to contribute, but rather, any contribution I would make would be a bonus. They’re not desperate. Desperate is so not cute. I don’t need to roll up my sleeves. I can ease in an contribute where necessary.

Today I have hope. Yeah, the Cowboys are behind the Cardinals, but they can still pull it out. I have some career stuff on the horizon. I’m about to take an amazing vacation. And I may have found a church. Everything will be alright in the end. And if it is not yet alright, it is not yet the end.

It’s Complicated…

Gender. Masculinity & Femininity. These are complicated topics. I know that a lot of folks would like to see gender as black and white. You’re a boy or a girl. Male or female. Straight. No other option there. But that’s not how it is. Between Kinsey and Masters & Johnson starting the conversation in the otherwise Puritanical 50s and 60s, and then the sexual revolution, gay rights and feminist movements, Gloria Steinam, Betty Friedan and others, we now have a lot more information about human sexuality and its complexities. We’re not there by any stretch, but I’m glad we’re collectively moving to a more open view of gender and sexuality.

This week I got the news that I need to have a hysterectomy. It’s probably going to happen around Christmas, so look for your invitation to my Holiday Hysterectomy event. The first thing I thought about when I was discussing this with the doctor was a story arc on the TV show thirtysomething, which was a cultural touchstone amongst my friends in high school. We lived and died by the Tuesday night lineup and were often chastised for talking during chapel on Wednesday mornings because we had to talk about Hope & Michael, et al. The story line that came into my head was when Patricia Wettig’s character, Nancy, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to have a hysterectomy. It was very emotionally traumatic for her and she talked about feeling like she’d been “castrated.”

I just don’t feel that way. I am a slow emotional processor and so maybe I’ll have some negative reaction to this, but at this point, all I can think about is how much easier my life will be once I’ve gone through the recovery process. I’ve never associated the (theoretical) ability to reproduce with “femininity”. In fact, I’ve never seen motherhood as the ultimate expression of being a woman. It’s one of many. I have never wanted to have biological children, so not being able to has never been a big issue for me.

Gender fascinates me. What makes one “masculine” or “feminine”? Those are cultural constructs. They mean something different now than they did 50 years ago, and something different in India than Mexico. I took another one of those stupid internet quizzes and discovered that I’m “40% girly.” I have no idea what that means.

One of the more ridiculous arguments against marriage equality is that the purpose of marriage is procreation and since the gays can’t naturally reproduce then they shouldn’t get married. Ummm….I can’t naturally reproduce. Should I also not be allowed to to marry? Should anyone over the age of 50 not be allowed to marry? Gender, sex, and our bodies are complicated. It’s not just about whether or not one can reproduce, one “looks” like a certain gender or one “acts” in a way that conforms with the cultural gender norms at this point in history. People should be seen and received as individuals, with their own set of complicated identities and values.

In the next couple of months, I’m going to be slightly lighter on the lady parts but that’s got nothing to do with whether or not I’m a lady. Gender identity is complicated and fluid for many and it’s about time we recognize and respect our differences. I’m certain of my identity but I hope to offer compassionate support for those who aren’t.

Change of Scenery

Yesterday I got out of town for a bit. I’ve been experiencing some personal unpleasantness, and when I have to deal with unpleasant feels I typically want to change something. Right now. While change is something that most people run from, change is my coping skill of choice. A haircut, a new outfit, even looking for new (internal) job opportunities. I just want to change something. I know. I’m in therapy.

I’ve got a big vacation coming up in just 25 days but that wasn’t soon enough. My Friday plans were cancelled and I stayed home watching recorded TV and was bored out of my mind and didn’t want to sit with some of my discomfort at home, so I decided to take it on the road. Fortunately, I live about an hour-ish from some pretty decent scenery and cooler weather so I filled up Fiona’s tank and we headed first to Jerome, then to Sedona.

The day was all about seeing things differently and letting things go that don’t belong to me. I have a hard time letting go. I’m a control freak anyway, but when I want something, I cling to all hope like grim death before conceding defeat. I hate conceding. I had to concede something this week and it pissed me off. So I went into the woods because I wished to concede deliberately, and I feel like I did. Mostly. It’s a process.

When I arrived in Sedona, I passed a sign advertising a Taize service at 7pm that evening at a local Episcopal church. I felt like I needed to attend, but it wasn’t for a few hours so I kept driving down into Oak Creek Canyon and stopped off to sit outside and listen to the water and just be for a bit. The traffic heading back into Sedona was horrendous so I wasn’t sure I’d make it, but wouldn’t you know it – I rolled into the church parking lot at 6:59.

It was a really nice service. There was a small but diverse collection of parishioners there who genuinely seemed to care for each other. It’s a church I might attend if I lived there. (side note: why are all the churches – and men –  that seem to suit me located hundreds of miles away?). I didn’t have a life-altering experience, didn’t see a light, hear an audible voice, but was quietly reminded, both during the service and all day, of God’s bigger plan.

I don’t know what’s up for me, on most, if not all, fronts. I’ve never felt that my move to Phoenix was permanent, and I still don’t, but I’m here for now. I don’t know what career opportunities are going to come up for me, but I’m grateful to work for a global company so I could theoretically go anywhere. As I said, I don’t like conceding, especially when I feel like I have a positive vision of what the future could be, but that’s what I’m doing. So I left town. And it was a very good day.

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Resistance is Futile

A couple of weeks ago, one of the instructors at my yoga studio was in a very serious car accident. She was able to walk away from the wreck almost completely unharmed, except for some soreness, because she had had a seizure and was unconscious at the time of the crash. Obviously, that’s not a good thing and she’s getting treatment for that, but because she was unconscious, her body put up no resistance to the impact, which helped prevent injury.

I began to think about this in terms of how we respond to various events or “collisions” that life brings us – new relationships, broken relationships, career opportunities, loss, good fortune, opportunities, smackdowns, celebrations. It’s easy to relax and go with the good things but we tend to tense up and try to brace ourselves against the impact of things we don’t necessarily want to happen.

The thing is, they do. They’re still going to happen. Life is still going to throw things at us that we don’t want. And we keep trying to brace ourselves against them, creating emotional, spiritual and psychological tension that ultimately causes injury. We are engaging in the same behaviors over and over but expecting a different result. What if we just let stuff happen? Because, as we’ve said, it’s going to anyway. What if we just allowed ourselves to be held by God through difficult times/feelings/situations and let them come to us and see what happens? Obviously, this would exclude anything that is abusive, dehumanizing, or any other criminal situations. I’m referring to everyday, garden variety life.

Living this way requires a tremendous amount of faith, openness and humility. Asian cultures take a number of lessons from the bamboo tree. The bamboo is not the biggest tree, but it’s one of the strongest. It bends with the changing winds, but is often the sole survivor after a major storm. It has a complex root system that allows for its tremendous flexibility. The fact that it can bend means that it is less likely to break. Additionally, the Japanese character for “smile” or “laugh” includes the symbol for the bamboo because the sound that the bamboo leaves make when the wind blows sounds like laughter. Difficulty both forms and reveals our character. As much as it sucks, avoiding it only prevents us from becoming who God intends us to be.

I am currently spending a lot of time examining the places where I’m holding on to resistance and I’m doing it with the help of a very good therapist. As much as I like to think of myself as someone who easily bends, I still have places where I want to hold onto things that feel safe to me. Doing yoga has been a big help for me mentally and physically because it both strengthens and increases flexibility and forces me to trust the support systems that are in place. I highly recommend.

“If you are not trained in a trust of mystery and some degree of tolerance for ambiguity, frankly you will not proceed very far on the spiritual journey. Immature religion creates a high degree of “cognitively rigid” people.” – Richard Rohr

We Are Unicorns

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been having some conversations with friends about where we fit into culture. We’ve started to call ourselves Unicorns, because we are beautiful, powerful and very rare 😉

We are single, employed, in our 30s/40s/50s and beyond, independent, well-traveled, intelligent, and, to the consternation of many, quite happy.

You see, this is the first time in history we have existed. We don’t need to get married for economic security or social standing. This isn’t to say we’re opposed to marriage at all. Rather, we think of it as something that would be great with the right person, but we’re not desperate to find that person. And God forbid we say we don’t want children. I recently read an article about a woman who had decided not to have children and it took 6 years to find a doctor to perform a sterilization operation because they were all sure she’d change her mind. No one ever says that to someone who wants children. We’re SUPPOSED to want to have children and if we don’t now, we will eventually. At this point, I’m too old and even if I weren’t it would require some significant medical gymnastics that I’m not interested in pursuing. I’m not opposed to parenting, but I have no interest in having children and pretty much no one believes me when I say that.

Our culture doesn’t quite know what to with us. Right now, our culture is content to make us pay more for our taxes, travel and dry cleaning. And please don’t get me started on paying for other people’s life events. We pay significant amounts of money for other peoples engagements/weddings/showers/babies, and we don’t get jack. Birthdays don’t count because everyone has a birthday. I swear the next time I get a promotion I’m throwing myself a shower and you people are buying me some damned gifts, because my life choices haven’t cost you a dime. My other thought is to start a kickstarter campaign to pay for my vacations. I would only do it if I could see the look on the faces of the people who get the invitation. That would be awesome.

Our churches DEFINITELY don’t know what to do with us. Churches like to put people in boxes so they can tailor their programs. There’s Singles, but really they mean pre-married or divorced. There’s children, youth, married adults, senior adults. That’s pretty much it. Except for doing age-appropriate things with children, I’m opposed to this kind of segmenting of our communities, anyway. People are people. My brother’s church is doing a whole sermon series on parenting. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m sure there’s some applicable things to most people, but that’s not appealing to someone who isn’t and may never be a parent.

We are a trail-blazing minority. And trail-blazing is a lonely business. We don’t have a built in social system of the other moms at school, wives of our other couple friends. Our closest friends are friends from long ago, and making new friends is not as easy as it once was.

I’m not asking for a whole revamping of how we do things, but I am asking for sensitivity and inclusion. When I’ve spoken to married friends about this they’re shocked at some of my struggles. None of my friends are mean or heartless, just a bit clueless because they live in a different reality. Pay attention to the unicorns in your life. We are rare and beautiful, but don’t forget powerful…