Friday, December 28, 2012

How many acts of kindness?

NBC reporter Ann Curry’s comments on the violence in Newtown, Connecticut touched a horror-stricken world grieving the loss of so many lives.  She asked, “What if we all committed to doing 26 acts of kindness?” in remembrance of the 20 children and six adults who were killed that day.

I ask, “What if we did 28 acts of kindness?” in remembrance of all who died that day in Newtown?  I believe that we are all connected, that the act of one is my own act, the joy and the sorrow is in my heart, too.   In these sad days as the world grieves with the families of those who have lost loved ones, my challenge is not only to stand at the door of compassion, but to walk through it. 

Call Me By My True Names

Don't say that I will depart tomorrow –
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone. 

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death 
of all that is alive. 

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.

And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his "debt of blood" to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.
Thich Nhat Hanh
(From Guest Blogger Ellen Swan)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Winter Wonderland

Wow, it seems like forever since we had cold weather and snow. Finally, this week winter opened upon us in great splendor. I was unsure what to write about on the eve of Christmas Eve and thought maybe just a note about our movement from the darkest day of the year (Dec. 21) to the lengthening of days. For me the darkness is comforting and in this space I experience joy. My guess is this grow out of my desire and appreciation for quiet. When there is snow on the ground and it is dark outside the world seems like a quieter place. That shift in energy affects me in a big way, and I love it (okay not going to prattle about this too long). I am sharing my favorite Christmas song with you tonight (Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth, Bing Crosby and David Bowie).

This past week I was stranded in Milwaukee for two nights and enjoyed having some down time with a friend. Just to hang-out with no pressure was delight in itself. Low key conversation and a couple of laughs. One thing I reflected on while driving away Friday morning was how enriched my life is because of good friends. It is difficult for me to believe there are people who do not experience deep connection with others. And, I also know that this season can be a time of great loneliness for people who feel isolated or disconnected. For those people I pray they find consolation. comes a tangent. Part of my distraction in life is that for every thought I have there is a counter thought. So, in enjoying my experience of good friends there is an instant awareness of those who lack (in the above concern for people who experience disconnection). Sometimes when I articulate these counter thoughts (whether in response to myself or others) I have a counter to the counter which just becomes a diluted, circular thought pattern that irritates me beyond belief--my guess is it could irritate other as well (part of my charm I'm sure). That being said tonight it is good to recognize the counter thinking pattern will likely be a constant in my life. End tangent.

I will be leaving for retreat December 27 until January 4, 2013. I will likely be taking off from the blog (unless I can get another guest blog for next week). Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Our Lady of Czestochowa, Pray For Us

Our Lady of Czestochowa
We enter the third week of Advent in the wake of the tragic shootings of this past week in Portland, OR and the massacre at a grade school in Newtown, CT. It seems like there is little else to focus on. I received a text from my Mom early Saturday morning that she could not sleep as she continued to reflect on the real tragedy of it all. These are heavy things we face as the conversation about gun control escalates and the trauma is reported on, while also being both exploited and politicized through our media sources. I recognize that there is also a focus on the heroes and heroines in these stories as we read the paper, watch the news or scroll through web articles. And, in it all I wonder if we are able to reflect on this reality through our own connection to the people who are affected by the realities of what was, and what is yet to come during these severe situations?

Over the years I have become more aware of my ability to tune out suffering, yours and mine, through distraction. I have also realized that when I disconnect it denies the reality that although I do not know the child whose life was taken (or the person holding the gun) it dishonors his or her place within the continuum of life. When I disconnect and cannot be present to the real suffering of the people of the world I also dishonor my own humanity in an attempt to not experience that which is natural to my condition. Of course, I know that my ability to take it all in is not that of God-who is present in particular ways to our suffering. My Mom's text alerted me to the fact that I need to be present to the suffering of the day (right now in this moment), whether it is on the news or not. With each breath I have the opportunity to respond to that suffering and hold a sacred space for healing. I pray for the healing of Portland and Newtown. I also ask for the ability to see and attend to suffering when this moment passes and the next need avails itself. Tonight I lean into reflection with the Black Madonna of Poland, Our Lady of Czestochowa, as an image of one who tends to the suffering of the world and ask that my heart be penetrated by our loss to the point of pouring out greater love. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Who Am I?

Hanukkah started yesterday, the day of the Immaculate Conception in the Roman Catholic tradition. My thoughts are taken up with Hanukkah currently as I reflect on the class I had the opportunity to co-teach this semester, "The Theology of Leadership." During these months I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian and pastor who stood against the Nazi regime and the Reich Church during World War II. He preached against the atrocities of anti-Semitism and tried to gather support for those being confused by the Nazi agenda and those who were suffering at the hands of a corrupt system. He was executed April 09, 1945 at the Flossenburg concentration camp (he was transported there after a long-term imprisonment at Tegel military prison).  Boenhoffer's life was informed by the message of the Beatitudes and I am moved by how this translated into his committed activism. Last Monday, as a class, we spent time journaling with the poem Who am I, written by Bonhoeffer prior to his execution on April 09, 1945. I share the poem with you today:

"Who Am I?"

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

March 4,1946