God Says Yes to Me

It’s been a while since I have blogged. It has been a meantime for me – a time of letting the field lie fallow for a season, a time of in-betweens. Somewhere in the muddied middle of the past, somewhere in between the now and the not yet. It has been a season of profound joy and some of the deepest sadness and loss I have ever known. But it has been a journey. We are all on a journey.

Over the past few days I have had the opportunity to think about conflict as a spiritual practice. That may seem like an oxymoron to some or anathema to others, but I am learning that it can be both and neither. Where two or three are gathered, Jesus said, my spirit will be in the midst of them; not only in their joys but in their conflicts.

Seeing conflict as spiritual practice, giving thanks for all the messiness that conflict brings – these can lead us out of the valley of despair into a land of hope. A land that flows with the creativity and possibility and potentialities of all that can be. A place of the ultimate yes, where God says yes to me.

Yes, I have called you to coach and to write and to provide spiritual direction to those who are seeking to know Me more deeply. Yes, you are the good and whole and grace-filled woman I created you to be. Yes, I will lead you on your journey with others along the way to support you. Yes, I will be with you always.

A dear colleague and friend, Deidre Combs taught me this eternal truth that comes out of the wisdom of all the major religious traditions. It says, “When conflict comes, be grateful.” I’ve had a tough time believing the truth of this. But conflict provides disruption to our otherwise peaceful lives. If we are willing to live through it and let it have it’s way with us, we can move from disruption through the messiness of chaos and hopelessness to a place of creativity and potential to a new cosmic “Yes!” from our creator.

What do you need God to affirm in you? What is God saying YES to in your life?

I share this poem because it says more eloquently than I can my experience of God’s cosmic YES.

God Says Yes To Me by Kaylin Haught

 I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic

and she said yes

I asked her if it was okay to be short

and she said it sure is

I asked her if I could wear nail polish

or not wear nail polish

and she said honey

she calls me that sometimes

she said you can do just exactly

what you want to

Thanks God I said

And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph

my letters

Sweetcakes God said

who knows where she picked that up

what I’m telling you is

Yes Yes Yes

“God Says Yes To Me” by Kaylin Haught, from The Palm of Your Hand. © Tilbury House Publishers, 1995.

Day 188: In the company of wise women

Today, I am going to be in the company of wise women. As I grow older, it is becoming more and more important that I make time for such activities.

About a year ago, a friend and I talked about our experiences as women clergy — both good and bad — but mostly about how isolating it can be. We work in solo pastorates, or in campus ministries, or in entrepreneurial ministries — and we rarely have colleagues. If we do have colleagues, they are rarely other women in ministry. We wanted to change that. We wanted to create a space to be together, to share, to love one another, to uphold each other, to be companions for each other on our respective journeys. We started by gathering monthly virtually on ‘GoToMeeting’, and are for the first time gathering together in person. I can’t wait to be in the company of wise women.photo

There is something very special about women’s wisdom that is often forged out of our experience of community. Women, I believe, are more communal creatures than men — we have a much more profound sense of ‘ubuntu’ (the Swahili word which means, “I am, because we are.’) Women have a sense of needing to be in the company of other women with whom we can share our joys and our struggles. We need to know that we are not alone, that the struggles we share are not new, that this too shall pass. When we come together in this way to share our hopes, our fears, our dreams and our struggles, something beautiful happens. We forge community. We are community.

If you need a community like this one, find one — or start the conversation. We need each other, and we need to remember that we are not in this life alone. We need to experience ‘ubuntu’ in the here and now. We need to be in the company of wise women.

 

Day 112: Celebrate Mother Earth.

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” – Diane Mariechild

I don’t think it’s an accident that nature is described as a mother.

Mother Nature, Mother Earth, the earth is defined as a woman — a woman with the power to create, procreate, give life, transform. The one which brings forth new life. The Earth portrayed as our mother.

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As women, I think, we often do not see ourselves in the starring role — we go through life very often as the best supporting actor — to our husbands, fathers, children, bosses. We’ve been told we have to “lean in,” work harder, be better, and too often that is incompatible with being a mom…and a spouse.

So we choose. We choose the mommy track, or not. We choose the career track or not. We choose the spouse track, or not. We have to choose. Or others will choose for us.

Regardless of whether the choice is ours, or not ours, we always get to choose how we respond. And more often than not, we choose life — we choose to care about our children and our spouse, we choose to care for the earth and our society. We choose to make less to live more, or make more to give more. We are the full circle. We choose, and we choose and we choose — over and over and over again — to be life-giving and life-affirming and life-preserving.

Not all women, of course. We celebrate those who make the difficult choice to leave children and husband to create life and career in all it’s forms. But those are hard choices for us, even when we tell ourselves that they are not.

So on this earth day, here is to Mother Earth, and all her sisters — those who create and transform and challenge us to be better and stronger and more compassionate and loving. To choose life and love and happiness despite the costs. To choose to breathe deeply and write passionately and love unconditionally.

 

Day 110: Hope lives.

“Love paid a price so hope could become a reality.”  ― Susan Gaddis

The One who came into the world to teach us to love God, one another and ourselves is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.

We rehearse the story every year and have for every year before and will continue to do so as long as hope survives. We know the end of the story before it begins, and yet we live as though we need to be reminded yet again. The fasting of the Lenten season is over; let the feasting begin!

But what does it mean to live as resurrected, hopeful people? Do we truly believe that the entire world can be redeemed because Christ triumphed over death?

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We have to allow the hope of this day seep into our pores. We need to feel it in our hearts. We need to trust that God’s love is greater than our failings and that God’s love is even greater than the world’s pain.

Where do you see the world’s deepest pain? Is it in the trafficking of young girls, the use of young boys as soldiers, or the use of civilians as shields? Is it seen in the hungry eyes of crying infants, the millions dying of preventable diseases, or the frail spending their last days and hours alone?

We can change the world. That is the message of Easter. We can be different, do things differently, make a significant difference to others. We can love, and through that love bring hope and healing to a broken world — a world that needs the gifts we have to offer.

So as we enter these 50 days of Easter, let us live as if we believe that resurrection is real, that love and not death has the final say, and that hope is a muscle to be exercised, not a fairy that eludes us. Let us live in the newness of life giving thanks for all the blessings that we have — knowing that we must share those blessings with others.

Day 109: On trust and waiting.

“On Holy Saturday I do my best to live in that place, that wax-crayon place of trust and waiting. Of accepting what I cannot know. Of mourning what needs to be mourned. Of accepting what needs to be accepted. Of hoping for what seems impossible.” 
― Jerusalem Jackson GreerA Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together

Today is the ultimate “meantime.” It’s the time between the grief of the past hours and days, and the soon-to-be celebration of the not-yet. It’s a time for waiting and hoping and praying.

We trust that tomorrow we will be reminded yet again that death does not have the last word, that love is stronger than evil, and that new life awaits us in the here and now. We know the end of the story. The dead rise to new life and we are given life in all it’s fullness.

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But for today, we wait. We trust. We hope and against hope and we fear nothing because the worst has happened and we are still here. Tomorrow is another day.

What are you looking for? We are asked. Why do you seek the living among the dead? The one you are looking for is not here.

Do we believe it? We wait and we hope and tomorrow songs and alleluias will rise from our lips and our hearts will be moved but do we choose to live in the hope of the resurrection? What will we do differently knowing that the One who saves us delivers us even from the death of our own making?

Day 108: Good news on Good Friday.

Papal meditations remember abused women and children

15 April 2014 12:33 by Abigail Frymann

Pope Francis’ Good Friday meditations will reflect on women and children who have been abused, desperate migrants and those who have lost their jobs because of the economic crisis.

The texts of the meditations for the Way of the Cross, which Francis will lead at Rome’s ancient Colosseum on Friday, have been written by Mgr Giancarlo Bregantini, Archbishop of Campobasso-Boiano in southern Italy, who has fiercely opposed the mafia in his writings. They were published today by the Vatican publishing house Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

In his meditations for the 14 stations, Archbishop Bregantini reflects on the social consequences of the economic crisis such as “job insecurity, unemployment, dismissals, an economy that rules rather than serves, financial speculation, suicide among business owners, corruption and usury, the loss of local industry … This is the cross which weighs upon the world of labour, the injustice shouldered by workers.”

Reflecting on hope, he notes: “Let us leave behind our unhealthy nostalgia for the past, our complacency and our refusal to change.”

In a reference to harm done to “little ones” that is wrongly concealed, he wrote: “In Jesus, innocent, stripped and tortured, we see the outraged dignity of all the innocent, especially the little ones. God did not prevent his naked body from being exposed on the Cross. He did this in order to redeem every abuse wrongly concealed, and to show that he, God, is irrevocably and unreservedly on the side of victims.”

Archbishop Bregantini also mentions “those who knock and ask us for asylum, dignity and a homeland”, those “who die of loneliness”, women who are physically abused by men, abused children, and mothers who have lost their children to war, or to drugs or alcohol abuse.

Christ’s own suffering, he writes, resembles that of prisoners in overcrowded prisons bogged down by a slow justice system and the stigmatisation of being known thereafter as an “ex-convict”.

Just as Jesus fell three times on the way to Golgotha, only through helping each other can we hope to bear the weight of the cross, the archbishop writes.

(This article first appeared in the online version of The Tablet, The International Catholic News Weekly.)

Day 107: Lenten song.

Phillis Levin is the author of four poetry collections, including “May Day” (Penguin, 2008), and editor of the “Penguin Book of the Sonnet” (Penguin, 2001). She teaches at Hofstra University.

“Lenten Song”

By Phillis Levin

That the dead are real to us
Cannot be denied,
That the living are more real

When they are dead
Terrifies, that the dead can rise
As the living do is possible

Is possible to surmise,
But all the stars cannot come near
All we meet in an eye.

Flee from me, fear, as soot
Flies in a breeze, do not burn
Or settle in my sight,

I’ve tasted you long enough,
Let me savor
Something otherwise.

Who wakes beside me now
Suits my soul, so I turn to words
Only to say he changes

Into his robe, rustles a page,
He raises the lid of the piano
To release what’s born in its cage.

If   words come back
To say they compromise
Or swear again they have died,

There’s no news in that, I reply,
But a music without notes
These notes comprise, still

As spring beneath us lies,
Already something otherwise.


“Lenten Song” appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Poetry. This came from the March 27th New York Times.

Day 106: How resilient are you?

“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.” (Elizabeth Edwards)

I’m not sure I’m all that resilient.

Sure, I can make the best of a bad situation, I can put on a good face. But I get mad about it. I don’t want to have to be resilient. I’d prefer to whine, or feel righteous anger. And I acknowledge the privilege in being able to do that.

Many folks don’t have the choice to be resilient. They have to be resilient. Or they die. Or their children die. Or their hope dies. They don’t have time to whine. They only have time to move forward, work their plan B, and keep their noses to the grindstone. They have to choose to live.

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If you are living one meal or one month away from hunger or homelessness, or are already there, you have no time to whine, cry or bemoan your situation. You better start figuring out how to make things better if you can. If you are living with a terminal illness, you don’t have time. You have to live full out in every minute that you have for every day that you have. What most of us forget is that tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.

Life is terminal.

How resilient might we choose to be if we remembered that simple fact? How resilient are you?