Sunday, April 27, 2014

2014.04.27 Serious Daring

Eudora Welty, b. 1909, offered this wisdom to all writers: “I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.”

This is absolutely delicious to the ears of a seriously daring introvert who grew up under the tutelage of a seriously extroverted mother. 

Welty’s wisdom is gospel for any writer, and it may be so for any woman striving to be heard in patriarchal societies, churches, and cultures.  Emily Dickinson gave birth to some of the best poetry in the world—from within her rooms and from within her own soul. She wrote of love: “That love is all there is, is all we know of love.”  Few could top that for serious daring from within!

Now, speaking of topping anything, I am currently wondering if I am an utter fool to keep on believing in my writing gifts and feminist slants. I’m riding on god knows what wave of feminist spirituality, probably fourth wave, which is more spiritually inclined.

Religious women are getting sick of feeling excluded from conversations in a secularist culture. Not long ago I attended a reading by Gail Collins from her fine book, When Everything Changed. The Story of American Women from the Sixties to The Present. Collins’ book is revelatory of the ongoing subordinate status of women in a patriarchal culture. It’s very thorough, often humorous, and also makes you wince. At the Q and A time I asked: “I don’t know if this omission was purposeful or not, but I noticed that there is nothing at all (I’d checked carefully) in your fine book about what was, and is, going on for women in religion during this time period—and there’s a lot.”  A hush fell over the small group of maybe 40 people, during which I thought to myself: Either I hit a nerve or I’m about to be run out of town.  (But I saw a few heads nod.)

Collins finally spoke, “You’re right and I’m sorry.” Then she explained all the instructions she had given to her researchers and how they used only secular journalistic sources, blah blah. Then she said, “I should have interviewed you for my book.”  I thought: You should have, and said, “Thank you. Maybe another book.” Maybe mine? People laughed and the tension was over. Collins was honest and gracious, yet it saddened me how isolated religion is from our culture, and how we women all have the same concerns about being treated with equality and dignity.

I won’t write a book like Collins’s. I don’t have the time or the energy, but what I do write does matter, so I persevere anyway, after a recuperative break to breathe, finishing my memoir and researching publishers—small ones.

I’ve questioned my desire to get published by a publishing house. I don’t aspire to any of the big houses. Well, I once did. Growing up and into one's gifts is a steady process of right-sizing for humility. But do I seriously dare to think I have something to say? Well, yes, in fact.

Is the case that my story illustrates relevant?— the need to establish full dignity and inclusion of women in all areas of ministry AND the need to liberate divinity from oppression by masculine pronouns? Yes, I believe so. Christian feminists continue to insist that words matter and language shapes how we feel about ourselves as well as how our relations are structured. Many people think that God is just as God is described in the Bible. Really? Every description? Count ’em. What we think is God is a portrait of God—not the same, Dorian! Scripture is full of portraits of God. Our work is to discern with integrity and not to make any one an idol. Perhaps the Church has sold its soul to market just one portrait: He-Man deity inflated with transcendence? It still sells.

It’s hard on our spirituality to live in a consumerist and market-driven culture. Nowadays for example, an author needs a sizable platform, a dazzling provocative brand, a perfect pitch, and an irresistibly alluring hook just to get in over the transom. Good Gawd, what an insane world. Anne Lamotte was right when she labeled America “the U.S. of advertising.”  Even my beloved late dad, the 1940s “mad man,”would agree.

I think we writers ought to rebel completely and make our own markets. Most of us, after all, have had some assertiveness training along the way! Between market demands and economics, our part feels almost negligible. Look how fast celebrities turn out memoirs! Really, I think it’s baloney-on-the-run—celebrity writing for either fame or fortune, or both.

Writers, it is time for some serious daring. Write your very best; make every word accountable; don’t sell your soul, or your words, to the market; let your soul speak. Publish yourself. It’s one way to protest and be prophetic—a prophet being one who sees the world for what it is and acts accordingly.

Thank you, Ms. Welty.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

2014.04.20 Eastering, 2014

How many “easters” does it take to make a resurrection? 

Answer....... depends on your own faith so it’s up for grabs. It could be none, or it could be only one, or it could be many. I say it takes daily attentiveness to the ways in which the Spirit of divinity makes things rise and arise, seeking new life always, over and over.  Will you notice?

What eastering means to me is that life’s spiritual purpose is to go around fostering as many resurrections as possible. For me that means imitating God in my own far-from-divine-but-terribly- sincere ways—and failing lots. And I wouldn't want to leave Jesus out because he lived resrrrection much better than I ever could, and in a way that his followers realized that they had seen God in action.

Most of us want to make everything happy, but sometimes things that need to rise up in you or someone else, are not so immediately joyful, certainly not worthy of multiple alleluias. Take, for example an old wound that still needs healing, or a resentment or grudge you’ve kept in hibernation in the wintry soil of your soul because you are afraid of its power to mess up your life. Let it be resurrected; let it come into the light.

I swear that God Creator resurrected Jesus, not because he was so perfect and good, but because God wanted to see Jesus’ face, alive and bright—always. And perhaps to say thank you.

Eastering is dynamic, energetic, and often demanding. You and God somehow together have to consent to it, as near-death stories tell us.  But that’s true even if you don’t biologically die. Death is not a necessary condition for resurrection. Also, there are many ways to “die” or be “dead.” 

For years I’d harbored a resentment against the bishop who had rejected me for ordination. It was buried so deep I didn’t even know it was there until, in a different diocese, I saw him and freaked. He should have been dead by now, I thought. I didn’t resurrect him, but after lots of prayer, conversation, and reflection, I did invite him to lunch and told him how I felt. He listened and said, more than once, that he was “so glad” I did this. He paid for lunch.

Still and all, capital-R Resurrection remains a mystery and a hope. It’s a divine action we don’t control. None of our business anyway. Metaphorically, however, easter always looks the same—coming out of darkness into light. 

Here’s an eastering image I love in the marvelous book length parable by Kenneth Grahame called The Wind in the Willows.

“The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First the brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said ‘Bother!’ and ‘O blow!’ and also ‘Hang spring-cleaning!’ and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gavelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, ‘Up we go! Up we go!’ till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.”


What needs eastering in your life? What ought to die? What be resurrected?—with God’s help, of course because such things need assists, which begin from within or without or both.

May the one holy and living God adorn you with all loveliness, garland each daffodil with a golden halo, infuse each weeny sound with eternality, radiate the cosmos with glory, plant love in all things, make you wise in your bones, and deal out grace all round like a profligate gambler. AMEN.