Today is someone's birthday. Chances are you know someone born today. Famous or not so much. Parents make a big deal of their children's birthdays and consequently so do the children as we grow up. Until it gets to the time when we notice that no one notices. Or perhaps we don't like the march of time being acknowledged with cake. Or it dawns on us that we are being feted for an event that we cannot remember and we had no say in. Of all the people who were born on this day, I suspect - and I am only guessing - that most of them are grumpy about their birthday or worse, unloved. Perhaps a surprising number do not even know it is their birthday. I am glad the someone that I know whose birthday is today was born. Glad this person came into being. Glad this person learned to engineer mechanics, to fly, to go very fast without killing anyone, to fit miraculously into another person's life, to rage again injustice, to love cats and to be kind to me. This person shares a birthday with a bazillion other people on the planet. Each of them worthwhile. Each of them a gift. Imagine what it would be like if we celebrated birthdays every day with reverence and joy and loved each other well. I don't think we would miss the cake.
I have a magnetic reaction to this ....word? concept? monster? child?
Drawn to it and repulsed by it.
We watched Notre Dame Cathedral burn this week.
The timbers were beautiful. Strong. And vulnerable.
No sprinkler systems. No firewalls. That was an intentional choice.
Driven yes, a bit by cost but more by holding open a vulnerable space
as its creators designed it.
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
I have been a pastor standing in the destruction of a sanctuary
Vulnerable to flooding.
Was it worth the risk? Could we do better in this season with
our buildings, our arts and science to mark this time in history?
Even so that the future generations won't call us fools.
No one wants to engage in conversation.
We attend to walls. We loathe vulnerability. We attend to the beauty of the past.
We don't open ourselves to present glory.
I have stood on the footprints of ancient cathedrals where only the walls stand
Holding up nothing. Holding in nothing. Exposed to rain and bird droppings.
The stonewalls serving only to declare sacred,
It still holds something holy
Even in the droppings and the ashes.
It holds the most vulnerable creation of all.
A human being. Able to perceive life, to dream.
Unable to protect itself from
Being hurt or fearful or dying.
Vulnerable to life and death.
Capable of being the sanctuary and the vessel of love.
Notre Dame. Our Lady.
The last place where Christ curled in fetal position in as much safety
as any human can offer another human.
We are all born vulnerable.
We spend our lives building shelters or walls or cathedrals or corporations.
We can't go back to the womb and so we thicken the walls around us with
whatever we have in hand. We allow for an artist's glimpse of glory.
We haul in the timbers or stone or weapons or cruelty.
All that we build is vulnerable.
We are vulnerable sanctuaries and vessels for love.
That is how every generation is judged by another.
The choices we make with the love from which we were made.
Did we hide? Or did we live?
I wish I knew what my dog thought about me.
I wish I could live my days with the confidence of my bird.
I wish that there was a more responsible way to deal with the world than shut the news off.
I wish I would stop thinking that I am a sum total of everything and everyone I have encountered and not delightfully unique.
I wish Easter would happen more often.
I wish that alot.
I wish it we were not hitting "play again" on the ancient story like being caught in a "Groundhog Day" movie living the same day over and over again.
I wish we were not looking for a savior AGAIN.
I wish we were living our Easter life with passion, compassion, justice, and joy.
I wish we were not standing on the road looking for someone else to do the heavy lifting of love.
I wish we were not so insecure about our place in the world that we make fools of ourselves trying.
I wish this holy week was a call to arms...the kind of arms that stretch out and live before they die before they rise again.
I wish Easter was a way of life.
I wish the women who went to the tomb in the early morning heard laughter.
I wish the laughter that can be heard is mine, and my dog's and my bird's....even if the laughter is at me.
"According to the GREAT theologian (fill in the blank)." It was the name-dropping phrase of some seminary colleagues. I cannot recall the phrase ever used by a female colleague. It was an example of male-puffery of the species. Take, for example, fiddler crabs. The male fiddler has one small claw and one large claw for fighting with other males and waving at the girls for attention. The females have two small claws. For eating, they say. I would like to think they also use them for gesturing to the boys with the accompanying "Blah, blah, blah." in whatever language crabs speak. But back to the "Great Theologians." What came after the phrase was the name of some male theologian. Great was debatable. The phrase was used more often than not by a seminarian to show how much he knew to classmates and professors like waving the bigger claw. I got used to it. Then I started to make fun of it. I would use the phrase "According to the GREAT theologian...." and insert a quote from a Dolly Parton song. The fact of the matter is there were few female voices, theologians, thinkers, poets whose work was lifted up and quoted during my seminal years as a student and a pastor. I used my claws for eating, for nurturing myself as best I could and offered the holy food I found to the folks to whom I served. Now I am listening more to my own female voice and I am listening more intentionally for others. I am finding treasures like this one according to the GREAT THEOLOGIAN, Anna Kamienska. (Well, just because my claw is small doesn't mean I can't wave it. )
Anna Kamienska (1920–1986)
Those Who Carry
Those who carry pianos
to the tenth floor wardrobes and coffins
an old man with a bundle of wood limps beyond the horizon
a woman with a hump of nettles
a madwoman pushing a pram
full of vodka bottles
they will all be lifted
like a gull's feather like a dry leaf
like an eggshell a scrap of newspaper
Blessed are those who carry
for they shall be lifted.
I am learning. I am learning that I am both light and dark. I knew that. I believed that. I wasn't living into that. I was still the girl saying, "BUT if I tried really hard, I could be light all the time." I kept trying. It didn't work. I worked at keeping the light from being extinguished and believed the darkness was the whole truth. But I did not let them talk to each other. I read a bit of advice this morning. Sometimes it takes just nudging the door open. The light and the dark have a space for conversation. Sometimes what the darkness needs especially is what the light claims constantly: attention. The darkness is messy at asking for attention. It blurts. It pouts. It sulks. It judges and critiques. Critique is too polite a word for what it does. It hammers. It plots against the light. Sometimes it takes just nudging the door open and inviting a conversation in the space between for light and dark to learn from one another. It won't solve all the problems. It gives the day more possibilities. We are complex and mysterious beings even and especially to ourselves. Sometimes when I nudge the door open, I discover holy space.
Metaphors...metaphors....everywhere a metaphor.....though retired from the Sunday pulpit, my head still sees my world in terms of metaphors. I see something and the little preacher still lurking in the folds of my brain goes "That could be a sermon illustration!" But perhaps, this ever-present vision of metaphors is not the leftovers of my occupation after all. Perhaps it is a way that the Spirit who loves and guides us communicates. The Spirit is not limited by ink on a page, or digital print on a screen, or dreams or visions. The Spirit uses everything to open a window of conversation with us when we are ready and willing. I have been having a push-pull battle with a couple of squirrels at my bird-feeder. Yes, I know there are squirrel-thwarting devices available. I have come to terms with the fact that my bird feeder is there for me. I want the birds to come to me. I like to watch them. Squirrels eat too much of my seed. The operative word is MY seed. I have chosen to like birds and NOT like squirrels because of their behavior. Both creatures are created equally, purposefully, beautifully and yet, I have determined that I want the birds close because their behavior is more civilized. Less piggish. I am caught up in a metaphor that breathes the truth. It is teaching me that I am easily capable of making decisions about a group of creatures based on what I choose to value and their importance to me. Damn. I hate it when creation teaches me something about myself. Did it have to be a squirrel?
This parable has moved around in different forms and attributed to Native Americans...difficult to confirm or deny...their legends and stories were passed spoken out loud more often than documented. Wisdom and stories that are wrapped in human flesh and voice and propelled by love for ourselves and others resonate for generations and find their way into our souls this day:
An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life...
"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
"One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.
"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
"This same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
"Which wolf will win?"
The old chief simply replied,
"The one you feed."
I sat in a synagogue last night among people of a variety of different faiths who had come to hear The Rev. William Barber speak. The rabbi of the synagogue greeted us. Thanked us for coming. He stood between two walls with the huge words of two Old Testament passages. The ones that say...live justly, do mercy, walk humbly with thy God and be a light to all nations." Both the rabbi and The Rev. Barber spoke of a need for our sense of individual relationship with what is true and our responsibility to be a light. He spoke of a need for new language or, at least, a way that we frame the language of our toxic discourse. He challenged us to move away from speaking of left vs. right, white vs color, women vs men, straight vs gay, Christian vs Jew vs Muslim. He challenged us all to move closer to what informs our moral core, to ask ourselves and then one another, "Does this action honor the love of God?" Arguing left vs. right will only increase our divide. He challenged us to return to the language of right vs. wrong. We will still argue, especially in this climate, of the interpretation of right and wrong. But it was a clarion call for people of all faiths to reclaim the public arena. To stop being silent. To speak what we believe is right and wrong. I have been a member of the clergy for over 37 years and I confess I have lacked the courage in the public arena and even in private conversations to speak the truth. I have leaned on walking humbly and interpreted that as silence. I have not spoken out with courage in order to keep the peace. There is time for weeping in silence over the injustice we experience and witness. There is a time for shouting out loud for justice. We called to cry like Rachel over her children who are no more and we are called not to betray one another and our God with silence. We are risking the integrity of our souls by keeping silent.
If our earth were a car, we would never put our children in it no matter how safely we strapped them in. It is a fragile chunk of molten matter and primordial ooze and mysterious creation hurtling through space, whatever space is, at a trajectory that is blistering. At any moment a sun flare could fart lethal clouds in our direction blowing up our power grid for decades and leaving us dying in the dark. And how we are using this vehicle is hastening its demise. I am weary of those people who claim to care about a child's right to be born only later to watch those fragile ones become victims of our thoughtlessness, this planet's dangers and the cruelty of its inhabitants. Was it all so that they could smugly say, "Hey, Kid, don't blame me for your suffering. You should thank me for strapping you into this vehicle that is 'unsafe at any speed.' Your suffering is not my problem." When did we become each other's problems and not fellow planet occupants? Was it the moment we declared what is good and not good? A creation story tells us that the creator gave us the privilege of giving everything a name. But each creation already had a name. It is good. We are killing butterflies because we declare mosquitos "Not good." A fly got trapped inside my house yesterday and died later, I imagine exhausted, at the bottom of a window. It is good. My dog ate the carcass. It is good. My dog will likely puke it up later this afternoon. It is good. I will clean up the puke. It is good. I believe in a being that listens and loves. There is a being who does not say to me or the butterflies or the dog or the fly, "Hey, Kid, don't blame me." There is one who cleans up after my puke and keeps creating, strapping us in for the bumpy right, hoping for the best. It is good. And so am I. And so are you.
ELOGOS is written by Deb Grant, Houston, Texas. Replies to ELOGOS are read only by Deb. ELOGOS can be read on TWITTER(@ELOGOSbyPDeb), FACEBOOK(Deb Grant), WEBSITE BLOG(elogosdailydevotions.com).Grant's websites: www.jazzwater.com and www.elogosdailydevotions.com and her Etsy shop: Jazzwater
I did not intend to be absent from ELOGOS for these last days. It was a hickup in technology. My attempt to de-clutter and re-order and tidy apparently disturbed the techie gods from high atop the thingy. It all comes down to money though. One company wanted to keep their revenue flow from my little pockets and did their level best to make me give up my quest of cleaning up my internet house and having the audacity to shop for the same service at a better price. This was probably more information than you wanted or were interested in hearing. You should have seen the details I threw into whatever landfill in the internet universe collects my trash box when I click it politely. I should be grateful for having trash I can empty without thinking about whether or not my scruffy morning appearance hauling my trash can outside will scare the neighbors. The different species of birds are fighting at my feeder now. Life goes on. We deal with our hickups. Take out the trash. We fight over what we declare as ours alone including the truth. We reach, when we are wise, for something greater than ourselves to hold on to, especially when everything is so uncertain. In the words of the great "theologian" Tennessee Williams, "Sometimes there is God, so quickly." May it be so with you today.
I opened an Etsy shop to sell my woodcrafts and art to raise some funds for the ongoing rebuilding effort from Hurricane Harvey, yes we are still rebuilding and your help is appreciated. The Etsy shop is named Jazzwater. Thank you for checking it out and sharing it with those you know.
Peace & Joy,