Sunday, January 14, 2018

Altaring Spaces

Evoking Sacred Space

Entrance to Ifa shrine and sacred grove of Osun, Nigeria, 
Have you ever paused to appreciate a tree? The ocean? Have you felt lucky to witness family welcoming a loved one home? Or has the pure joy of Fido reunited with his person amazed you? Have you ever wondered at the urge to build the cathedrals of Europe, or the time and effort children put into building and nurturing a fairy castle or fort? These are all ways of creating, evoking, and experiencing sacred space. These are all ways of connecting to the spiritual and the meaningful through our environment.

How do you evoke sacred space and focus ritual through mindful use of objects? Creating sacred space is an art and technique. Sacred space is created in Christianity, earth-based traditions, and modern architecture and practice. What is your plan for creating sacred space in your home, places of worship, and community?

Rituals

Some rituals create sacred space: a Chalice Lighting, a Sage or sweetgrass smudge, Ritual Words like "We are between the worlds, beyond the reach of space and time, joy and sorrow, birth and death" or " Our father, who art in heaven..." and House Blessings.

Dia de los Muertos altar, Wikimedia Commons
Sacred spaces can be created temporarily. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition of the sand-painting is one example of that. March 19th marks the Catholic celebration of St. Joseph’s Day where Catholic New Orleanians construct elaborate altars in honor of this saint. The tradition, commemorating the relief St. Joseph provided during a famine in Sicily, began in the late 1800’s when Sicilian immigrants settled in New Orleans. St. Joseph is the patron saint of social justice. Whole neighborhoods, italian, catholic, and none-of-the-above, participate. Since the altars thank St. Joseph for relieving hunger, offerings of food are essential.

Survey Your Environment

You've heard the phrase "your body is a temple"? How might your relationship to your body change if you understood it to be a sacred place, a temple, a shrine?

What sacred places exist in your home? Your workplace? Your neighborhood? In my home I have an altar with the ancestor photos on it, an eagle feather, a candle, my mother's ashes and a pine cone that looks like a rose that was given me by my son. My neighborhood has small shrines in it where people have built a whimsical or practical holders for free books.

Individual objects can carry sacred meaning. Pick an object that is in your eyesight right now. What story is in this object and what does that object need to do? What is its mission or purpose? For example I can see some clerical stoles that came to me from my grand uncle who was a minister. I have had them for years and never worn them because the symbols on the stoles are not my symbols. Today I decided that the stoles need to be used in worship. They were made for that. So I am mailing them to a colleague who can use them. Whatever object from your own life you have selected, take some time to tell its story, meaning, and purpose. Now ask yourself, "How will I be true to that purpose?"

Go Forth and Make the World Sacred

Photo: Flickr user R, Creative Commons
If you are a part of a worshiping community I invite you to consider the following:
        How do our worship and gathering spaces present visual cues? Can people who enter that space easily answer the questions “Where am I?” and “What’s expected of me?”
        How do our worship and gathering spaces offer respite from the outside world? Can people find a place of peace that is accessible and comfortable?
        How do our worshiping and gathering spaces connect to our history and traditions? What symbols or design elements evoke a sense of the sacred and tell the story of the divine at work in the world?
        How do our worshiping and gathering spaces integrate elements of nature? How can we bring the outside in and take the inside out?

Pagan Altar, Creative Commons
As you think about your personal sacred spaces and your community sacred places, I invite you to explore the following questions:
        What might you change about your home?
        What might you change about your work space?
        What might you change about your worship space(s)?
        What spaces and places might you seek out and why?
        How might you nurture and transform your self through sacred space?
        How might you nurture community and social justice through sacred space?
--------------------
Reverend Amy offers an "Altaring Spaces" retreat. Join her for the next one!

Monday, January 08, 2018

La Befana on Epiphany

Epiphany


In central Europe and Italy La Befana is known as an old woman, usually ugly, who wears an old, long, skirt with colourful patches, and a scarf over her shoulders. She flies around on her broom, during the night of Epiphany, delivering small toys and sweets to the children.In most Italian regions, even adults give little presents to each other, often stockings full of chocolate.So... You now have an excuse to go get some chocolate, to celebrate Epiphany!


In the story, Befana hesitates to bring her gifts to the holy child. Perhaps she wonders if she has any gifts to give. Perhaps she wonders if her gift would really make a difference. Perhaps every time she’s tried to do something nice before it didn’t work out the way she expected. Maybe she’s grown tired of trying to make the world a better place and she has decided to focus just on her own little house. 

Sometimes it is much more satisfying to clean a house than it is to deal with the messiness of human beings. The house gets clean and stays clean. It doesn’t have a mind of its own, It isn’t ungrateful, and it doesn’t undo everything you worked for in one temper tantrum or one election.
But something happened that made her change her mind. Something made her scurry about doing the things she was good at. Bringing the gifts that only Befana could provide: Her baked goods, her huggable self, her broom.
Three Kings Parade sponsored by El Museo Del Barrio, NYC
Photo Credit: Walks of New York

Perhaps it was the invitation? Perhaps it was the hug? Perhaps it was the joy of the parade? Perhaps it was the hope for a child who would bring more love into the world.
What would it take to get you out of your house? Out of your routine? Out of your safe little cocoon? Out of your projects that seem so very pressing, important, and do-able?

From Birthday Party to Funeral


Things went as planned for the astronomer priests who showed up on their camels at the right time with their expensive gifts. On finding him, the wise men gave baby Jesus three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then they skedaddled. Herod resorted to killing all the young children in Judea, an act called the Massacre of the Innocents, Jesus and his family had, however, already escaped to Egypt.
Angelo Visconti
 


Here the biblical account ends. I imagine that this is the point in the story where Befanna shows up. After the wise men. After the holy family escapes. After Herod’s army destroys all the new born babies in Judea. I wonder what she thought as she looked at the gifts she had brought and then looked at the bereaved mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers.She thought she was coming to a birthday party and instead she arrived at a funeral. 


2017 Breaks the Mass Shooting Record



Slain in Sutherland Springs, TX church shooting
 26 dead, 20 injured, Nov. 2017
I suspect a lot of us felt that way last year. The year of mass shootings. The year of unprecedented political polarization. The year of rolled back environmental protections. The year of renewed fears of nuclear attack. The year of natural disasters. It was like getting ready for a party and discovering you were at a funeral.

These problems are systemic and connected but we have a tendency to put responsibility for this plague of violence, destruction and suffering at the feet of individuals. Just like la befana looking to the one saviour...If the problems were caused by individuals, if it was about one deranged person with a gun, then we could solve them by having disaster preparedness drills at school/work and learn what to do when there is a shooter in the building. Instead it is about domestic violence, toxic masculinity, us and them and rape culture. (And more)

If the problems were caused by individuals, if it was just that this one elected official is not to our liking we could make fun of that elected official. Instead it is us. We have lost faith in the electoral process. If we dont work very closely, and stick together we will lose access. What hurts some of us hurts us all.. gerrymandering, disenfranchisement, white supremacy, a strategy of divide-and -conquer and a deeply divided country of people who live in ideological bubbles. (And more)


We are All Connected


If only the individual is responsible it feels like it’s enough to recycle. Our frustration tempts us to turn on one another, like when we make fun of teenagers who take long showers during a drought. Instead the blame lies with poor laws and greed, racism and classism. The destruction of our earth stems from the doctrine of dominion over the earth and disconnection from the land, water, and air. 

Our dis-ease is disconnection from our tribes, our communities, our families, our family of humanity and our family of all life. This connection can be called religion, especially if you remember the root derivation of that word. Re-ligio. Ligio is the same word that avenue us ligament… connection. Re-connection.


Photo credit: Upliftconnect.com
If we blame the broken individual, then we are absolved from responsibility to be in community. However, if the problem is that we live in a damaged system, there’s nowhere to hide and so much work to do. We are all part of the system

There is no fast fix. What we need, What we really need is to find ways to connect with one another in kindness and bridge the isolation and disconnection. These men with guns are canaries in this poisoned coal mine. If we pay attention, we can take action to heal that which must be healed.



Hope is Like the Sun


Without the ability to dream, human beings quickly become psychotic. Without hope, we cannot function. Not having a “life dream” is debilitating. Without a dream, living is only going through the motions. Without love, real, personal, connection, human beings shrivel up and die. Like a baby monkey hugging a wire frame, seeking a mother’s love, we all become broken.

In the recent star wars movie, vice-admiral Amilyn Holdo reminded the pilot Poe of a lesson Princess Leia taught her: “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you'll never make it through the night.”



Epiphany is like the sun rising in your own soul. As long as it shines there, we can keep hope alive.

When, like Frodo–the-ringbearer, we despair of our task, we must take Gandalf’s advice.

When we feel that the task before us is too dificult, Gandalf says - "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."


Redemption


Is there any Redemption to be had from the tragedies of 2017? Perhaps the redemption is our epiphany that something must be done. Perhaps the redemption is that new dawn, where we wake up and take action…

I see redemption in the #Indivisible movement, the #metoo movement, the #blacklivesmatter movement #resist and Oceti Sakowin Camp as the water protectors keep on working for the land they love.

What is your gift? What do you have to share? What kindness? Is it gold? That’s good. Is it cookies? That’s good too. I checked my pockets, I don’t have any frankincense or myrrh… I can do hugs. Hugs are very good, so is a listening ear, and most of all, you can stay out of your denial, away from the routine, and pay attention to the people around you. Know the people around you. Be involved. You have no idea what one small act of kindness may do. Kindness connects us to each other.


Save What We Love


We are all connected. We are all responsible, individually and collectively. Let us us reach into the mystic truths, the roots of love and relationship. I'm a big fan of the star wars movies and love the idea of the force -the flow of life between, among and around us, but the most recent movie gave me my favorite quote ever. Rose is a mechanic, not a princess, not a jedi, not a hotshot pilot. She knocks Finn's flyer off course to stop Finn from sacrificing himself in battle and when he asks why she says:

“This is how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”


by Isabella Centofanti Alexander
from the book "The Night of La Befana"

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Toll for the Old Year, Ring in the New

When is New Years?

Free to use, by Funnyexpo
It is an accident of history that we mark the change of the year on January 1 instead of in the Fall as most earth-relating cultures do. I resonated deeply with the many observances that fall in the Halloween season, but it is nice to make something meaningful of the New Year observances going on all around us.

Bells!

For the New Years Eve service at the UU congregation in Amado AZ I was asked to create a bell ceremony. So off I went, down the rabbit hole of bell meaning and lore. Bells are sounded to signal the beginning or end of class, an emergency, a wake-up call. In medieval days the town crier rang a bell for attention before reciting the news. Most congregations I visit use a bell to signal the beginning of the service and often a bell at the end of the service or after every period of silence. Some congregations use a Tibetan singing bowl. Some use a chime. Some a classic carillon-shaped bell.

Courtesy https://bevinbells.com/
About that classic bell shape: One writer suggests that in Christian tradition (or possibly pre-christian traditions) the empty dome of the bell represents the vault of heaven, its lip represents the horizon of the earth, and the clapper represents the power of word and voice while the emptiness within the dome represents all that is contained between the heaven and the earth. With this respect, the ringing of the bell represents a Divine message being created in the heaven and delivered to the earth in order to eliminate all evils.

Courtesy http://www.verdin.com
If you've ever lived near a Catholic church you know that the bells are ringing all the time. Every bell has a purpose and meaning. Every bell is ringing out a message about church teachings. The incarnation is celebrated by the Angelus bell which is rung at 6 pm. The bell is rung in a specific pattern. Traditionally a Hail Mary is said with the ringing of the bell. The form of the Angelus prayer was standardized by the 17th century — the triple stroke repeated three times, with a pause between each set of three (a total of nine strokes), sometimes followed by a longer peal.

(I've included the script, below, for the "toll out the old, ring in the new" ritual used at the Amado congregation Dec. 31, 2017.)

The Incarnation

The incarnation. The incarnation is the way that the divine manifests on earth. In Catholic tradition the focus is on Jesus the Christ and how God came to earth, in the person of Jesus, through the gift of Mary. Christian doctrine is that the church itself is the body of Christ. If Christ is god on earth, and the church is made up of those who are part of the congregations, then the people are the body of Christ… Not a big leap to the teaching of Unitarian Universalism – WE are the hands and feet of God. We are the heart and lungs, we are the eyeballs, throat, ears and even the Achilles’ tendon of god, all the parts, even the ones that are often overlooked, are parts of the divine body. The queer, disabled, rich, unhoused, immigrant, elder, type A, messy, imperfect folks are part of this body. We are how God acts on earth. Unitarian Universalism looks for the ways that we are manifesting divine love in our own living.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the bells tolling for the past and ringing in the future. We are the result of all that has gone before. Others have been building the body of divine love on earth. Others have been doing the work of justice. Others have been creating beauty and joy. Others have cared for the children cooked the meals and held back the forces of despair and destruction. As they pass out of this life, they pass on a legacy. Sacred compost. The cycle of life that gives nourishment.

Honoring the Ancestors

Miguel and his great grandmother in the Pixar movie “Coco”
I invite you to meditate on honoring the gifts of your ancestors. I invite you to identify an ancestor of blood, an ancestor of spirit from history, or an ancestor from fiction who you want to claim inspiration from. I struggled with one of my ancestors… Grandmother Warren - hard to love but gave determination.

I have created an ancestor altar at my home on the hearth. It has photos of my mom and grandparents, it has a hawk feather from the location where my ministers chapter usually meets, to remind me of past colleagues. It has a monk/spirit person candle holder to remind me of the Earth-relating, justice-seeking, spiritual torchbearers of the past. It has a small fuzzy cheetah figure in remembrance of my best friend.

What might you do to help you remember the gifts that have been passed down to you. The legacy that you carry on? Some people write a note and keep it in their wallet or hang some photos on their wall, some people play certain pieces of music or enjoy certain foods, some take up a craft, like knitting. What will you do?

Honoring the future

WE are the hands and feet of God. We are how God acts on earth. Look now for the ways that we are manifesting divine love in our own living.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the bells tolling for the past and ringing in the future. How have we been building the body of divine love on earth? How do we do the work of justice? How shall we create beauty and joy? How have we cared for the children cooked the meals and held back the forces of despair and destruction? What is your legacy already? Sacred compost.

This is your invitation to imagine what one action you will take - to honor and give gifts to your descendants. How will we use the gifts we have been given? What do you want this year’s enlivening compost to be? What will we offer in thanksgiving, that does honor to our ancestors and commitment to descendants. What action will you take. What is the thing that only you can do to make a difference, no matter how small? Pick one. You need to be able to come back to this one small thing tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow for all of 2018.

Ritual: Tolling out 2017

(Credit to Dana Topping of UUCGV, Amado who co-created this ritual.) On this last day of the year 2017 we wish to commemorate those who have passed away, to remember how their lives have touched ours, to feel compassion for how deep, yet how fragile our human bonds. Our ritual this morning will be to name those for remembrance followed by the tolling of a bell to carry our thoughts out to wherever souls congregate.

Women praying in front of the sacred bell.
Botatoung Paya. Yangon. Myanmar
Contributor: Pep Roig / Alamy Stock Photo
(1) The first remembrance is for prominent people. There are so many gone this year - I have chosen a few.

(names)

BLESSED BE THESE WE HOLD IN OUR HEART MEMORY. 3 BELLS

(2) Our second remembrance is for those in our congregation who have passed away this year:

(Names)

BLESSED BE THESE WE HOLD IN OUR HEART MEMORY. 3 BELLS

(3) Our third remembrance is for your friends and family and people important to you. Please call out these names that we all might hear and know them.

BLESSED BE THESE WE HOLD IN OUR HEART MEMORY. 3 BELLS

(4) Our fourth remembrance is for the multitude of people unknown by us, but known in their human circumstance of dying in natural disasters, political upheavals, wars, individual acts of violence, and self harm.

BLESSED BE THESE WE HOLD IN OUR HEART MEMORY. SUSTAINED BELL.

Prayer

ORIGINALLY FROM SANIOSAN-DEACTIVATED20160202
Please join me in the spirit of prayer, of heartfelt connection, and reflection. As the ancient sumerian myth goes, the goddess Erishkagel, queen of the underworld cried out in pain because she received all those who passed into the underworld. Oh my insides, she cried, Oh my outsides. Even Goddesses need empathy. Even the queen of the dead needs to know that we care. Our empathy can save the world. The losses are huge, the people and the planet cry out in pain. We can cry with them and our tears help to heal. Showing up to mourn, to remember, is still showing up. Let us show up for our beloved community.

Oh beloved of the world, who comes to us as compassion,

Community,

Hope

We honor you, we honor you, we honor you

We call on your name.

Amen

Blessed be

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Self-Compassion Body Prayer

I'm a big fan of body prayers. I have several. This is one for self-compassion that I discovered from the musical group Libana. 
I will be gentle with myself, I will love myself
I am a child of the universe
Being born each moment.

by Libana


The ASL that I use to interpret this song is:
Gentle, Love, Baby, Universe, Tree, Day

(Errata: I should have spread my fingers more for tree, and used one forfinger instead of the whole hand for day.)


Sunday, December 03, 2017

Me Too, Truth, Reconciliation, and Survival

Me Too

Elissar / Creative Commons
I started seeing the #MeToo hashtag in social media in October. November contained revelation after revelation about abuse, harassment, and inappropriate behavior.

I kept remembering getting free of an abusive relationship (MANY years ago.) How hard it is! So much sympathy for those who are struggling. So much hope for you finding the person who is just as perfect for you... and who doesn't hurt you!

October was domestic violence awareness month. The #MeToo campaign swept through FaceBook and Twitter, with the complex dynamics about who wanted to and who should participate.

#MeToo invited people who move through the world perceived as feminine to indicate that they had been sexually harassed, attacked, molested, or otherwise subjected to the power-ploys of people turned bullies and our pervasive rape-culture.

As Dana Milbank put it succinctly in a recent Washington Post opinion piece: "sexual harassment and sexual predation are, at core, about the abuse of power. Not all bullies are sexual predators or sexual harassers. But most sexual harassers and predators are bullies."

Consent Culture

A nice cup of tea. By Laurel F from Seattle, WA (Tea)
 [
CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We all have much work to do to transform our culture into a consent culture. Let's say it again: What is consent culture? "Consent culture is a culture in which asking for consent is normalized and condoned in popular culture. It is respecting the person's response even if it isn't the response you had hoped for..." (onlywithconsent.org/blog/consent-culture)

As a British video puts it... Consent culture is listening for the answer when you offer someone tea. If they say, "no" you don't serve it anyway. If they say "Maybe later" you don't insist. If they fall asleep you don't pour tea down their throat.

Transforming from rape-culture to consent-culture is happening in big ways as perpetrators are being exposed and called to account. It also needs to happen in small ways, in the daily interactions we have. Those of us indoctrinated as "nice women" need to undo that training, and stop passing it down! 

Fine, Just Fine

creative commons
How did I get into an abusive relationship? How did it happen that I thought it was OK to have my movements controlled and my friendships monitored? My mother is a strong woman and my father is a respectful man. I grew up surrounded by academics and small-business-people in a small college town in Oregon.

I do know it crept up on me as I made excuses, but I still can't completely answer those questions. I think the answer lies in the culture, not my particular story. We in the US of A have all been complicit with bullying or had moments of being bullies and we are all survivors of bullying, in varying degrees and ways.

As the Pagans say: As above, so below. The macrocosm is reflected in the microcosm. And as the feminists say: the personal is political. Our national identity and history is reflected in our family and community culture. As long as our economic system is capitalism... As long as our political system is rule of the rich and privileged disguised as Democracy, As long as our foreign policy is based on colonialism and exploitation, and our domestic history is founded on un-atoned for genocide and enslavement, we will be complicit in rape culture. (This is not to say that the USA is uniquely this way, just that I can only speak for my own context.)

The night I came to my senses and fled the relationship, began as a nice night together with friends. Later in the evening, when my partner was a little tipsy, it turned violent. I was bitten, scratched, thrown, and punched. I remember thinking to myself, in a dazed sort of way "Wow, that's why cartoonists draw stars and birds spinning around someone's head after they are hit in the head." A kind neighbor allowed me, barefoot and pajama-clad, to make a phone call. My partner sipped another vodka and orange crush and spat, "I'm fine, just fine" bitterly at the police officer and me while I packed a bag and left for a safe place. The hospital patched up my bites and bruises. The DA declined to prosecute because my injuries were not "gory enough." The Order of Protection was not terribly effective as I was stalked at bus stops, at work, and through the mail.

A mutual friend (Let's call them "Sam") cluelessly offered to "mediate our lover's spat." That failure to believe me is the moment that pains me the most to this day. Yes, my partner was damaged by a history of family violence, sexual abuse, and alcoholism - and participated in the rape culture we were enmeshed in. Yes, my partner was weak and wrong and trespassed against me in a heinous way. Yes, I needed to get away and keep myself safe. Yes, I had to work with a therapist who told me many times that I could have a relationship with all the joy and connection and WITHOUT the abuse. And, yes, I now have that relationship. But not to be believed, to have my experience minimized, for Sam to imagine that they had an ability, and a right, to try to bring an abused woman back to her abuser - that horrifies me to this day. Let us not enable!  (Here's a link to an interesting post about premature forgiveness, the blogger is an evangelical Christian who is working to stop domestic abuse and violence in the church - fascinating!

Truth, and Reconciliation

Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons
As revelation piled on revelation in the past months, my spouse and I kept saying to each other. 'DUH! of course!' Franken and Rose and nearly EVERY man socialized as an American (and probably almost every) man has had a moment when he lived out the demands of our dominant culture. Maybe it was only when drunk or high. Maybe it was only once. Maybe it was comparatively less egregious, (and if so, thank goodness for small favors) but are we surprised?

It takes ACTIVE WORK to NOT participate in the culture you are enmeshed in and trained to. Same goes for every one who lives within our racist, capitalist, sexist, able-ist (etc.) culture. There is no shame in occasionally being tired, or inattentive, or clueless. There's a difference between being a jerk and being a predator. Though both are something to be grieved and changed. There IS shame in not believing those who are harmed/oppressed, and not taking responsibility, apologizing, making amends, and working to make it not happen again. We are human, not monsters, nor angels. We FAIL. We must call each other to do better. We must individually and collectively commit to FAIL FORWARD.

We cannot create consent culture by simply punishing people we have identified as devils or bad people. Universalist theology, faith in the future, requires that we find new ways to move forward together. In that way we earn forgiveness and create our future. We need justice. We need compassionate justice. We need to know the truth and we need Restorative Justice.

Or Not

This detail scene, from the Papyrus of Hunefer
(c. 1275 BCE), shows the scribe Hunefer's heart being
weighed on the scale of 
Maat against the feather of truth,
 by the jackal-headed 
Anubis. The ibis-headed Thoth,
scribe of the gods, records the result. If his heart
equals exactly the weight of the feather, Hunefer
is allowed to pass into the afterlife. If not, he is eaten
by the waiting chimeric devouring creature 
Ammit
composed of the deadly crocodile, lion, and hippopotamus.
Vignettes such as these were a common illustration
 in Egyptian books of the dead.
 
Sometimes we can separate those who cluelessly slip up now and then, and those who intentionally abuse, hurt and humiliate women (and men) as an expression of their power. I think the litmus for making that separation has to do with how they respond when faced with the harm they have caused. Are they able to take responsibility? To make amends? To take steps to make the world, and their behavior different?

There's also the dimension of how the IMPACT of an 'innocent wolf whistle' will be WAY out of proportion to the INTENT for a woman who has been terrorized, harassed, etc. Which is why our justice system, that depends on a jury of peers, instead of the victim themselves, to determine justice, is better than the alternative. I would not want, nor would I expect a survivor to emulate blind, compassionate justice.

When I found myself face-to-face with my abuser, 10 years later, I realized I personally was not ready to reconcile. I may never be. I hope that she has done her work. I hope that the relationships she has include consent and respect. It has been ten more years now. I hope that she has been held accountable and gone through the most important actions as a result of being an abuser: that she has found the ways she can make consent culture a reality in her sphere of influence. I am clear that my job was to do my work, not hers. I needed to begin learning how NOT to participate in rape culture. Sometimes I have been a bully. Sometimes I have participated as the victim. Often I am a survivor. Usually I am healing and growing. Always, I am failing forward in my own way.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thankful for the Infinite that Holds Us

Small in the face of large things

So... It is a lot to hold... the hydrogen bomb in N. Korea that could maybe fit on a missile that would reach the US. The devastation of Harvey and the unrelenting hurricane season of 2017. The fires that ravaged Oregon, Montana, California. Earthquakes killing people and angry, frightened men with guns killing and traumatizing people. Worry about my aging dad who lives in Chile, so far away from me.

Earth, Air, Fire, Water... and broken Spirits. Elemental destruction and brokenness. We are small and the brokenness is immense.

None of these things are something I can do anything about. So I need to just hold them.


Taking Action

Composite: Alice Popkorn, Flickr CC
My allergies and the highly unpleasant reaction I had to the new allergy meds... They are things I can take action to address. But there are things somewhere in between... the daily damage of white supremacy culture and rape culture, writ large and small. The continued destruction of our earth... our lifeboat on this starry sea. These are things I can do my one small part about. (At the same time as I'm handling my own physical, mental, spiritual health and the well being of my near and dear.) It is a lot to hold.

I remember the family ritual... Thanksgiving day, Mom and we two daughters preparing a large meal. Dad's grad students, from countries I couldn't pronounce, bringing gifts of food and bright curious spirits. Dad, telling the American Thanksgiving Myth, with no nuance about colonization or white supremacy. And the lesson that I took from it: that Thanksgiving is for sharing harvest bounty with everyone and that Thanksgiving is a time to bring people who are different from you closer, to learn about one another and share family, food, and home. The myth wasn't what was important, the living out of gratitude and welcome was.

These days our religious movement provides us boxes, similar to the "March of Dimes" boxes of my childhood. These little cardboard boxes go home with members of the congregation and sit on our Thanksgiving tables where we are reminded of people who could use a little help. Neighbors close by and in other countries. We can't invite all these people to have Thanksgiving dinner with use, so we put money in these "Guest at Your Table" boxes and send it to the Social Justice office for our movement.

Guest at Your Table 2017
These acts of neighborliness are good, and not enough. We also need to go "upriver" to change the laws that that cause inequities, to change the social structures that allow angry, broken men to escalate from domestic violence and rape to mass shootings without intervention and help. We need to break down the insulation between those enjoying an opulent meal together and those who don't have enough to eat because the were thrown out of the house after they came out. We need to show up for the family that is caring for their neighbors even in the shadow of violence that has devastated them, and their ancestors, violence and inequity in the streets, from the authorities or the white supremacists.


Drawing on strength

It is hard to imagine doing all of these things: Mourning together, celebrating together, working together, getting out of our comfortable protected homes (or protective emotional shells), creating change, sharing our gifts, holding the weight of our shared heritage... Yet, we can do this, together.

So much gratitude that we have each other.

So much gratitude I can draw on the strength of divine love that will cherish me deeply while I cherish this life that is all around me.

May you breath in peace. May you breath out love. May we all be grateful for all that is our lives.