A Blessing For Independence Day

2 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Peter Roome

Photo via Flickr user Peter Roome

Our 4th of July blessing is the final two stanzas from the poem “One Today” by Richard Blanco, composed for President Obama’s second inauguration.  We are all together under one sky in this nation and in our church, with hope waiting for us to name it.  Thank you for being a blessing to all of us at Good Ground Press.

 

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes

tired from work: some days guessing at the weather

of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love

that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother

who knew how to give, or forgiving a father

who couldn’t give what you wanted.

 

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight

of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always — home,

always under one sky, our sky.  And always one moon

like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop

and every window, of one country — all of us —

facing the stars

hope — a new constellation

waiting for us to map it,

waiting for us to name it — together.

 

 

Grieving Rituals

1 Jul

Sunday morning, before it got too hot, I spent some time in our front garden weeding. Crouched between a large bush and the front of my house, I pulled a big bundle of weeds at the base to get at the roots deep below the ground. With the weeds cleared, I saw a squirrel skeleton, partially buried and partially exposed. The vertebrae of the spine seemed perfectly intact. I gasped, then pulled away, then got curious, noticing the strength of my visceral reaction to the animal bones. The unmistakable sign of death and decay amongst the thriving life of my garden forced me to think about the cycle of life and my own mortality. The skeleton felt out of place, and it felt oddly personal to see the bones of an animal in my own yard. I wondered about the squirrel, when and how it died. I wondered if I should leave it be or bury it completely to rest.

Two weeks before I found the squirrel skeleton, I got a call that a good friend of mine had died in her sleep. The family wanted me to share the news, so I spent much of the next few days making phone calls and sitting with people on the line as they wept and grieved. Every person eventually asked, “When is the funeral?” The family had decided to have the funeral for just family, so the following question was, over and over, “Well, what are we going to do?”

On the afternoon that I found the squirrel skeleton, I opened up my home to my friends. I laid out pastries and pictures. Former teammates brought scrapbooks and stories. We prayed, told stories, cried, hugged, laughed. It was so simple, and like it was not enough, but it also felt necessary to us. Two women drove six hours to sit with us. We wanted to remember, celebrate, and grieve as a community. We wanted to lay her to rest in our hearts. This is what humans do. We bury our dead. We want a tangible place to go to remind us that she is really gone from this place. We need ritual for our own growth, our own mourning. We need to remind each other that in baptism, God promised to love us and never leave us no matter what. We need to promise to each other, publicly, that we will carry our loved ones with us and never forget.

In lieu of a funeral, our ritual seemed small, but it was beautiful and holy. It was our small way of burying our friend in the hope that she now knows eternal peace, that she is now home.

Gospel Reflection for July 5, 2015, 14th Sunday Ordinary Time

30 Jun

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Sunday Readings: Ezekiel 2.2-5; 2 Corinthians 12.7-10; Mark 6.1-6

“Prophets are not without honor except in their hometown, among their own kin, and in their own house.”

(Mark 6.4)

Sunday’s gospel tells a terrible story about a town where Jesus can work no miracles. Jesus’ home folks can’t get beyond their certainty that they know who he is. His preaching astounds some, but certainty and cynicism quickly tame the amazement. The majority can’t accept Jesus as a wise and prophetic teacher. He is a tradesman who builds chairs, tables, walls, terraces with his hands. The people of Nazareth — hearers of the scriptures, sufferers under Roman rule and taxes, people yearning for the messiah — will not be carried away at the words of one of their own. They will not listen one another into new possibilities.

What is possible if we listen one another into vision?

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Practice Welcoming Sabbath!

29 Jun

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A Single Leaf or Everywhere

26 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Matt Newfield

Photo via Flickr user Matt Newfield

Look at the two extremes. Maybe you find truth in Samuel Beckett– that we’re very much alone and it’s scary and annoying and it smells like dirty feet and the most you can hope for is that periodically someone will offer a hand or a rag or a tiny word of encouragement just when you’re going under. The redemption in Beckett is so small: in the second act of Waiting for Godot, the barren dying twig of a tree has put out a leaf. Just one leaf. It’s not much…Or maybe truth as you understand it is 180 degrees away– that God is everywhere and we are all where we’re supposed to be and more will be revealed one day. –Anne Lamott

I imagine that for most of us truth is experienced both ways at different times in our life. Some days all we have to grasp onto is that one singular leaf on a dying tree branch. Other days it seems that the joy is almost too much to bear as it pulses all around us. One of my students wrote a gorgeous Villanelle about her grandmother that holds both truths in tension. Two of the repeating lines are “All this and heaven too, she said” and “She tries so hard to get out of bed.”

I’m living in a season of abundance. Day by day I am struck by the overwhelming beauty of my child, the flowers, the sunshine. I am in love with my partner and my work. I am present in the moment, and I see God all around me. My heart is at peace. All this and heaven too, she said.

I imagine there are many people, though, in Charleston right now who can barely fathom the existence of the singular leaf. There is real, overwhelming grief, loss, pain, anger, confusion, and distrust crowding the view. Where is God? Why were they seemingly in the wrong place at the wrong time? Why? She tries so hard to get out of bed.

The singular leaf and swimming in God’s abundant goodness are both truth. Both views of the world are real. Many of us will live with both at different points in life. They both carry with them the hope of God. Anne Lamott also offers that both views help us

stay in the present moment. And that moment is home.

Gospel Reflection for June 28, 2015, 13th Sunday Ordinary Time

24 Jun

Sunday Readings: Wisdom 1.13-15, 2.23-24; 2 Corinthians 8.7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5.21-43

Jesus took the girl by the hand, saying, “Talitha cum, Little girl, arise.”

The Gospel has two daughters of faith. A girl of 12 near death whose dad begs Jesus for help. A woman whose hemorrhaging has lasted 12 years. If she lived today, she’d be filing for bankruptcy because of her medical bills.

The Gospel calls her bleeding a scourge, the same word used to describe Jesus’ bloody beating at the hands of Roman soldiers. The word identifies her suffering with Jesus’ suffering. When the woman risks everything to touch Jesus’ life-giving power and she’s healed, she tells the whole truth of what happened to her in the midst of the crowd. She preaches and gives witness. This is when Jesus calls her, “Daughter,” and affirms “your faith has healed you.”

This Gospel is a death and resurrection story. Jesus raises the girl to life when to all appearances she’s dead. Jesus’ command to the girl, “Arise,” is the same word Mark’s gospel uses to announce, “Jesus is risen.” Peter, James, and John witness the this healing. In Mark’s gospel they don’t witness Jesus’ death and resurrection but they do witness this life-giving miracle.

These two daughters of faith challenge us to identify the sufferings in our lives with Jesus’ suffering and to live Jesus’ call to arise and live the gospel.

To what new life do you hear you should arise?

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Social Action Has Two Feet!

17 Jun

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Gospel Reflection for June 21, 2015, 12th Sunday Ordinary Time

16 Jun

!SBS-41-Gospel-boatSunday Readings: Job 38.1, 8-11; 2 Corinthians 5.14-17; Mark 4.35-41

“Leaving the crowd behind, his disciples took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. Other boats were with him. A terrible windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat so that it was being swamped.”

“Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” That is what his disciples say after they wake Jesus up from a nap in the stern. Their question puts the crisis on Jesus. He is the one to save them. Jesus puts the crisis back on his disciples. “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Faith is not what we believe; it is the way we set our hearts, the way we choose to live, the way we name the mystery in which we live.

So many have become non-affiliated Catholics and for clear reasons. Services rock somewhere else. Preaching against same sex marriage has alienated them. There’s too little room for women’s gifts. Sexual abuse and slow response to it has scandalized them.

How have you set your heart?

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What’s In a Face?

11 Jun

I find it so important to contemplate both the humanity and divinity of Jesus. To lose the beauty of the tension in the middle is to lose what is at the heart of Christ. Because Jesus was really human, we can desire to follow him by walking in his footsteps. For so many people, Jesus as human is a possible point of contact because for so many of us, we fall in love with a face, with a person, in a way that we don’t fall in love with an idea.

On the day before class starts, I love the idea of teaching and the subject matter I’m able to teach. Yet it is when the desks are filled with new faces that I get really excited. I love the particularity of learning students and a class over the span of the course. When I was pregnant, I loved the little person growing inside me. I loved the idea of being a mom and of bearing a life inside my body. Then, when there was a particular face to fall in love with, the love morphed into something more intense, more personal, and more transformative for me. I adore this one person with this one unique face. Before I met my spouse, I liked the idea of living a partnered life. Then I met him, and fell in love with his particular face and way of being in the world, and that love of partnership became more intense and personal in its particularity. My specific love for my child and my spouse changed me, transformed my heart. Their love for me transforms me, too. When I see adoration on their faces directed at me, my heart grows.

God took on a particular human face in Jesus. It is a face his mother and his friends could fall in love with in a more personal and intimate way. God came near. We can contemplate the particular face of Jesus and see that face adoring us. Richard Rohr reminds us:

In Jesus, God took the human form, human face, human eyes, human endearment; God is finally someone we could fall in love with.

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