Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016.12.25 Love Is The Gravity Of The Soul

"Love is the gravity of the soul."

This is wisdom from St. Bonaventure, Italian medieval Franciscan friar who died in 1221. To me it is perfectly attuned theology for a God who is ever-nearer and ever-greater at the same time and always.

If love is the gravity of the soul, then hope is its wings, and faith is its practice.

David Wilcox, 58, is a contemporary American folk singer and song writer captures this spirit. These lyrics are from his song “Show The Way.”

Show The Way

It is love who mixed the mortar

And its love who stacked these stones

And its love that made the stage here

Though it looks like we’re alone.

In this scene set in shadows

Like the night is here to stay

There is evil cast around us

But it’s love that wrote the play. 

In this darkness

Love can show the way.

As the psalmist prays, so we sing:  Shiru  l’Adonai, shir chadash.  Sing to the Lord a new song. It is time to sing many new songs, fresh songs, new words and new connections.

Merry Christmas to everyone. We hallow a tiny babe in a humble manger and call this God. What could more insane? What could more true? What could be more Eternal? What more holy?
May the Love of Christmas bless and keep you now and always.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016.12.18 Along the Way: Christ-Spotting

I'm really quite fond of the God of Jesus. Jesus was a remarkable spiritual guru in his day, one so gifted as to be deemed as divine as he was human. Jesus's God dares to be vulnerable and glorious at once. That's my kind of divinity. 

Along the way of life I practice christ-spotting. I watch for glimmers of divinity in humanity all the time. I call it the christ option. One does not have to be a Christian to be a christ.

Of late I've been sleuthing a persistent cough, consulting many doctors, getting some answers and unearthing more questions. My cough is temporarily better, thanks to steroidal medication, yet I'm still in Nancy Drew mode, following clues—driven by hope and my own sweet refusal to settle.

Along the way of christ-spotting I have had many experiences and learned many things. On occasion I meet this Christ by accident. One such occasion was in a doctor's office where I waited, and waited and waited some more. I waited in the waiting room, and I waited in the exam room. So much waiting was odd, because the normal pace at this medical center is swift and efficient. Finally, this old doctor ambled in and asked me what was wrong. He never touched the computer, never smiled, and never used the stethoscope. He was slow, very slow—old, very old (probably about my age:) I secretly thought he had the relational skills of a newt—some kind of fill-in doctor, worse than a substitute teacher, and old-fashioned like the stereotype of the country doc who made house calls.  His manner unsettled me so I talked very fast to articulate the case for my cough. Then he left. I waited. When he returned he told me he'd read my whole record. Really? Then he smiled—a smile deep and wide as the Jordan River of song. It drew me into his sphere and I listened— rapt— while he rambled on about bacterial spectra and other esoterica before he listened to my struggling lungs.

This old doc declared that we were going to do a preemptive strike. I envisioned war and bombs. He meant pneunomia. He gave me a diagnosis of bronchitis, a prescription—and something more. He gave me hope. I had gone back in time. I had stumbled into an experience so counter-cultural it lifted my soul and gave me hope enough to stay in pursuit of whatever might lie beyond preemptive strikes.

Along the way I learned how to wait impatiently, and that to be human is to be vulnerable—not sinful, just vulnerable like the god of Jesus. I found myself wishing that God had done a preemptive strike somehow to prevent the crucifixion—of Jesus, yes, but of anyone. 

After Jesus died it took a LONG time for his followers to discern resurrection, over fifty years before they wrote it into gospel form. Along the way they spent time in the waiting room—wondering, talking among themselves, grieving mightily, asking questions, and living on glimmerings—christ-spottings full of irrational, indefensible, and potent hope.

We do the same as we follow along the way. We are never quite sure, for certain sure. Strength and hope come in small doses. Some leave us wonderstruck; some leave us bewildered. An Advent hymn by Michael Hudson, Episcopal priest and rector of Christ Church, Cullowhee, North Carolina, says it best.

We wait for Christ, our Advent Light,
a brightness like the sun;
we find a rabbi with a lamp
and ask, "Is this the one?"

We wait for Christ, the Lord of Hosts,
a thousand battles won;
we find a stubborn man of peace
and ask, "Is this the One?"

We wait for Christ, our Advocate,
for justice swiftly done;
we find a friend of the oppressed
and ask, "Is this the One?"

We wait for Christ, the King of kings,
a nations' favored son;
we find instead a servant-sage
and ask, "Is this the One?"

And so he comes, again he comes,
and faith is yet begun
as open hearts are drawn to Christ,
the Unexpected One. 

     from Songs for the Cycle. Fresh Hymn Texts. © 2004, Church Publishing

Sunday, December 11, 2016

2016.12.11 Make America Great Again, According To Whom? That Is the Question.

Not so “great” for me, thanks.

I assume that “great”means back to what we thought we had before Democrats messed it up. And I assume “great” has mostly to do with the economy and money.

Well, I did not experience America as that “great” and I do not want to regress. I don’t want to go back to a “greatness” in which…………
    -my shyness was not as natural as it was defensive— to keep me safe
    -I felt inferior or second best when compared to men
    -I felt fearful much of the time for the privacy of my “private parts”
    -I could be raped by someone else’s pain
    -I felt compelled to flirt, in order to assert my presence among men—as Mom did
    -I rarely felt respected for my voice, my authority, and my ideas, a circumstance leading me to opt for a private practice in which I felt professionally honored, safe, and in charge
    -I saw no place for me at the table, including the altar table
    -womb politics in the Church was the only way to feel accepted as a woman, because Mary, as traditionally interpreted in sermon and song, gave her womb to the desire of a large male angel and his heavenly omnipotent master, and then was proclaimed near-divine for her willing assent
    -I feared being overpowered by men and also by God, who was apparently a man
    - professional benefits which I had earned and paid for were suddenly called entitlement, a nasty word in the behavioral sciences
    -I would have to go back under the table of my childhood to discover in secret that I mattered
    -the divine Word Incarnate rejected my flesh
    -many of my friends suffered alone in “closets” not of their own making because of their sexual orientations, their skin color, their politics, or their religion
    -moneyed politics and moneyed sports were gradually taking over the nation

I was the teen and young woman, and I am now the old woman, who felt, feels, queasy just looking at the famous 1945 photo of the homecoming WWII sailor grabbing a nurse, holding her close, and sweeping her off her feet for a meltdown kiss. It’s a famous photo. It ended up going viral in Life Magazine. The image is still embraced as a symbolic expression of pure joy at the war’s being over. Yes, yet I felt uneasy and kept silent. Once in midlife I argued with a woman friend who thought me a fool. Something just did not look or feel right to me.

Everyone adulated the photo, which in fact was a darn good snapshot of a moment in time. It is called iconic. An icon is a strong visual image, often with spiritual implications. One is meant to look through it to see something greater or deeper. What do you see when you look at, and beyond, the kissing sailor photo?
The true story behind the photo, its artist and its subjects is this: The photographer was Alfred Eisenstaedt a WWI German soldier. He was prompted to take the photo on August 14, 1945, because the light was perfect, in part because of the sudden brightness reflecting off the white on the nurse’s uniform. The photo ended up on the cover of Life Magazine. Snap. Flash. Fame. The sailor, George Mendonsa, twenty-two, was inebriated and running wild at the news of the war’s end. He was celebrating with his date, a young woman named Rita whom he subsequently married. Rita was not, and is not, bothered by the famous photo. The location was Times Square in New York City on what was called V-J (Victory over Japan) day. The putative nurse was not a nurse but a dental assistant named Greta Zimmer. She was walking into the square from work to see what all the commotion was about. Zimmer was one of the last escapees from Germany. She later learned that her parents died in the camps. Greta Zimmer Friedman now lives in Maryland. She is not as nonplussed by the photo as the sailor’s wife, Rita. To read more check out The Kissing Sailor originally published in 2012,  co-authored by Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi.

I do see exuberance and pure joy, and for good innocent reason: being free of the pain and cost of war. I also see that a man overpowered by drink can take unfair sexual advantage of a woman without her consent. This may seem prudish, and it is. It is also my unwillingness to squelch my original and ongoing discomfort—or at least ambiguity— about the photo. I grew up in the "Mad Men" era in NYC and had just turned seven when this photo came out. Even then I, the curious child, wondered about the photo, and when I turned eight this kind of overpowering happened to me, too.

This supposed “icon" is part of the “great” America to which I do not now want to return or desire to reinstate. It stands as a reminder but not an icon.

It wasn't that "great" for women back then.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

2016.12.04 What About LIttle Girls?

Children take their political and religious cues from their parents, at least in the beginning. Whatever we do as adults affects our children. It forms them for good or ill. And there is hope whenever children remember. A couple of tender stories to remember.

In a class of four and five year olds

Cathy and her friend Susie had a conversation in school about the election of Donald Trump to serve as our next president. Another friend, Mimi, joined the conversation. Mimi informed her friends that Donald Trump thinks it’s okay to touch “women’s private parts". Cathy said her feelings would be hurt if that happened to her or her friends and is glad she lives in Massachusetts, since he will live in Washington,which is far away. The teacher handled it well, reassuringly, and also reported it to the parents of these girls.

In a parish church, Episcopal, in northeast Massachusetts

The parish rector, a woman, told me this story: A new family, parents with their young daughter, attended church the Sunday after the election. The rector went over to greet the newcomers, thinking they looked a little red-necked. She welcomed them then asked them how they found the parish. To the rector’s astonishment, the woman burst into tears, through which she said: “I looked online to find an Episcopal church that had a woman minister and found you. I wanted my daughter to have a female role model.” The rector was ashamed of her own assumptions, astounded at the woman’s candor, and honored to be a role model for the little girl.

In the woods in Chappaqua, New York

Here is a widely circulated image on Facebook by Margot Gurster. The text quoted below the photo is from an article in The Guardian by Tina Brown, former editor of The New Yorker.

“The  snap on Facebook was taken on the hiking trails surrounding Chappaqua by Margot Gerster, a grieving Hillary supporter who was out walking with her little girls. Suddenly, she wrote, there was the sound of rustling. Then, appearing like a mirage in the clearing, was Hillary herself with Bill and their dogs, doing ‘exactly the same thing’ as Gerster. The former president obliged Gerster by taking the photograph after she and Hillary had exchanged “a few sweet pleasantries” and hugged.

Nothing I have seen in the last 15 months of the campaign has resonated with me as much as the image that Gerster posted. It shows Hillary wearing what looks like no make-up, her hair uncoiffed, dressed in a baggy black parka, brown leggings and boots, and holding the dog leash twisted in her hand as her poodle mix snuffles among the carpet of leaves at her feet.”

No glamor, no glitz, no campaign—simple beauty.

Little girls will notice and remember. Little boys will notice too, yet what they notice will be different in a patriarchal culture.

Thank you, Hillary Clinton, for giving little girls a memory that will shape their consciences forever. Some will take it into political service, but wherever they take it, it will shape our future as a nation.

Thank you for risking so much to give us females yourself as a role model by which to remember that we too have voices and gifts for leadership as we desire. It has seemed to me that many white women of my generation have been so beaten down by patriarchy that they simply can not envision a woman—someone like themselves— in the White House.

My husband Dick and I have what we would call the honor of being the only grandparents, save one, of our shared twelve grandchildren, including step grandparents, ex-spouses, and in-law grandparents, to have voted for Hillary Clinton. In this we joined the majority of American voters. Still, some days I feel as if Dick and I went out on a limb and fell off our own generation.

Nevertheless, this latest new generation will remember. What it will mean to them precisely, we don’t know. But this election will mean something very significant, something way beyond who won the high office, to the future of patriarchy in our nation. Despite the pain of backlash and particular governmental policies that threaten to demolish progress our nation has made towards social wholeness and the constitutional equality we proclaim, I believe, when I look at the bigger picture, that, in this election, patriarchy has suffered a blow from which its -ism-dependent system of social organization will never recover.

This gives me hope, indefensible perhaps, but hope. For this I thank God.