What Lies Beyond…

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There are times in our day to day travels, times in our lived experiences, and times of the Spirit where we can see clearly. These times remind me of a song released by The Who in 1967, the refrain says “I can see for miles and miles, I can see for miles and miles, I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles.” Those times, when we can see for miles are lovely. In my experience the times when we can clearly survey our emotional and spiritual landscapes, are not nearly as frequent as the times when we are blessed with the view of waterfall or sunset with crisp clarity.

The picture accompanying this post is a view I had today. I was looking over a deck into this dense fog with one tree branch standing in stark silhouette. As I looked out, I realized that anything could lie beyond the fog; a meadow, a snowy wood, a river, or a mountain range. I was in a familiar, oft visited place so I know what was there, but the fact that I could imagine anything beyond the fog was extremely powerful. One rather humorous aspect of this is, that I used to be a person for whom ambiguity did not work – at all! Now I find it kind of freeing – one unfolding possibility, after another.

I’ve reflected on this image all day, and found myself reflecting as much on another kind of fog, metaphorical fog, as I was the image itself. The image guided me in that reflective work. I am a very visual person, so images, and imagery are constant tools and portals in my life. Sometimes a helpful image can be a picture snapped with my iPhone as this was, or it might be an image I create with pencils, pastels, or paint. Sometimes I take my DSLR into the woods, or into a snowy field to visually study that context looking for patterns of light and shadow, lines and textures that lead the eye in unexpected ways. In general, visually, I try to pay attention.

I find myself thinking about so many uncertainties that exist right now. What will the future hold for me and the people and communities I care about as a new regime comes into power at the highest levels?

The question of what lies beyond calls many questions. Will healthful, nutrient-dense, GMO-free food be available, or will the structures, organizations and legislations needed to support that vision be dismantled or blocked? Will the incoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enable or prevent Monsanto and the rest of the pesticide peddlers to continue to devastate public and planetary health? Will the health of the planet in general be a priority?

Is what lies beyond, an investment in renewable energy, a dedicated effort to address the reality of global warming, and a commitment to putting water protection as a top priority making the ancient truth of Mni Wiconi – Water is Life – a reality?

Will animals be protected? Will all people be valued? And by that, I mean all people; black people, white people, indigenous people, people of all races, queer people, people of all faith traditions, people of poverty, people with and without resources, and people who are strangers to us.

Is what lies beyond an era when power, money, resource grabbing, and total disregard for the universal personhood of humanity run rampant, or will the work of people committed to living into the future with positivity and hope be what carries our society forward?

My spiritual grounding equips me to stand in the mess of the here and now, and walk into uncertainty knowing that the communities and coalitions of people boldly stepping into the fog are as numerous as they are diverse. Why do we do it? Because there is no hope, no chance, if we wait for the future to happen to us, then fall into despair, point fingers, and tear our garments if it turns out to be a disastrous mess. We must boldly walk out to meet it, and pour all our love, our caring, our passion, and our fierceness into making the future manifest in ways that are kind, merciful, responsible, and just.

To have the courage to stand as a person of peace willing to walk into the fogbank to help bring about an age of increased lovingkindness, equality for all people, justice, mercy, and planetary responsibility, I lean on my faith traditions. This is not some wispy ethereal thing that may inform what happens when my earthly embodiment is over, not at all. My spiritual grounding informs the ways that I live, breathe, walk, and interact in this world on a daily basis. A definition of faith that I love, articulates very eloquently what I know to be true about the nature of having faith. Having faith can be understood as “being determined to live in right relationship in the midst of structures that encourage wrong relating” (Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality & Gender: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Certain possible futures frighten and enrage me, however, I am unwilling to hand over the future to whatever is out there in the fog. Where there is not clarity of detail, I have clarity of purpose. Amid uncertainty, in the unknowingness of what lies beyond, I stand in my determination to remain in right relationship, with humanity, with the sacredness of all creation, with the Divine, and with myself – because my teachings demand it of me, but even more essentially – it is how I am made, I know no other way to stand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Broke-Wide-Open Heart

20503754 - black grunge broken heart with thorns and red blood splatters

The world is all pointy and hurty in these dark days.

I try to call forth and apply as balm to my spirit the words of Dr. King

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I believe this is the way out of this mess…

But right now…

My heart is broke-wide-open.

By the repeated hammerblows of this death culture, this culture of murder.

People with hopes, dreams, and visions for change – just murdered.

People with families, friends, and communities – just murdered.

Murdered for going out to dance and celebrate with friends…

Murdered for gathering in faith communities…

For following instructions and reaching into their pocket for credentials…

Murdered for being black or brown or red

Murdered for being queer or trans

Murdered for being police officers

Murdered for being “other.”

I believe that we can be the people we have been called to be.

I believe that we can be the helpers, and the peacemakers the world desperately needs.

How… how… how… do we respond to this culture of murder?

This impulse to stomp out and obliterate people we fear / hate / do not understand?

How do we go about it?

Do we stock our arsenals, and put on thicker armor – separating our hearts further from the hearts of others?

OR

Do we engage in the very hard work of visioning, planting, and nurturing, spaces…

into which we can step alongside one another` – in all our vulnerability – and set aside our armor?

Do we have it in us – to look into in the face of a child of the Divine, whose face is NOT like our face – and see the face of the Holy Love who created us all??

Can we unfold to expose the rawness of our broke-wide-open hearts?

Can we embrace one another?

Not if we are standing in full armor…

weapons in hand…

waiting for the other – to walk into our crosshairs.

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Mourning in, Mourning as… Community

Losses come in so many forms, losses of those known to us over a lifetime, losses of those whose names and faces we learn only after their passing as they are memorialized, passings of those whose legacy lives in a community in which you are immersed, but whom you have never met in person. The past month has been like that. The mass murder in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub shook me deeply, to my knowledge not a single of those dear souls who were killed or injured were people I know personally, but they are of my community, it could have – been a group of myself and my friends just as easily. The hate which fueled this mass murder could have as easily been unleashed on my circle of friends and family. The fact that is was not does not really matter though in the long view. I mourn as a member of, and in community with the queer community.

This week a man I never met, whose legacy lives on in the seminary I attend, died along with his wife. There are many who knew Dr. Robert L. Moore who are writing beautiful, heart-wrenching pieces about his impact on their lives, and the horror of his death.

What I have experienced is that the whole Chicago Theological Seminary community mourns; alumni, faculty, staff, and current students are mourning in community, and as community at this time.

This has really driven home for me the truth that we never know the number of lives we touch or how that happens – but that threads of connection are woven throughout a community and when the string of a single person vibrates, in celebration or in deep loss, the entire web of the community is affected.

It also reminds me that we all mourn in our own way. As I experience the grief and heartbreak of loss, I lean on my Indigenous teachings. I know down to my very core that at times of devastation such as this, we cannot try to avoid the pain we are feeling, but instead we all must – all NEED – to sit with the pain, to name it, and rock it in our arms – in our own way. When soul-crushing grief washes over me, and I allow myself to truly feel it, I keep company with my pain, while my ancestors keep company with me. I do this as I must and move gently forward when I am able, at my pace, in MY time. When I approach pain and loss from this place of mindfulness, a space is created in my spirit where my deep grief, and the grief I experience in community is honoured, and my spirit sings mourning songs as long as it needs to.

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