Saturday, September 16, 2017

Playing Life on the Hard Setting


I just finished reading a lovely article on UU Worship Web. It's here: https://www.uua.org/worship/lab/what-youre-saying-when-you-say-i-dont-need-mic and I highly recommend it. It gets it mostly right, and that is rare.

I'm going to let you in on a secret. I have a disability or two.

That sentence, of course, is normally the point where I find out exactly how ableist the people around me are.

"You're not really; I mean, it's not like you're in a wheelchair."
"No one would ever know if you didn't tell them."
"Don't say anything and no one will find out."

Why would I care if someone knew that my body operated under a different owner's manual? I admit I am playing life on the hard setting, but my body is no less important and good than anyone else's (and no more important or good either).

I don't care if anyone knows the handicap I am playing under. I just want to play the game.

Of course, my life game is more challenging than others at times, because I live in a world optimized for an able-bodied experience.

I am hearing impaired. My husband is deaf. I have 40% of my hearing; he has about 15%.
I have Lupus Anticoagulant Syndrome. This means that sometimes I get tired. I have Hashimoto's encephalopathy, and no thyroid or parathyroids. This means that sometimes my legs don't work so well and sometimes neither does my heart. Sometimes I overheat, and sometimes I cannot get warm. My vocal chords have been damaged by the surgeries, so sometimes breathing can be tough, and sometimes sounds don't come out just right. Sometimes my medications make me very ill. Sometimes I have to go to the bathroom over and over again. Sometimes I can't go.

My husband has had a hip replacement, and he has scoliosis and asthma.

My medications fill a wheeled suitcase. The mobility scooter fills the back of the SUV. The nebulizer fits in there somewhere.

So.

What does it mean to be disabled in an ableist world? What does it mean to be starting the game with fewer lives and a lot more things ready to attack you?

It means people get it wrong, even when you are surrounded by people desperately trying to get it right.

It means eating at the same place for lunch every single day, while attending an anti-oppressive, anti-racist, multicultural seminary, because my disability does not allow me to reach anywhere else in the time allotted, and there is no reasonable way to order food delivered to the ultra-secure building.

It means not being able to hear opening worship at a conference, despite requesting adaptive equipment a month in advance, because it wasn't a priority and the organizers forgot it.

It means registering for Ministry Days at the General Assembly of my faith, and finding out that the hearing adaptive equipment we'd reserved was a quarter of a mile away, on another floor. Another year it meant getting to the Opening Reception and finding out that the registration we needed to do first was a quarter of a mile away. When we got there, it was up a staircase where the mobility scooter could not go. There were elevators, of course, but they were all the way back by the reception. You see, no one thought enough about people with hearing and mobility disabilities being included to make sure that this didn't happen.

Disability means having seminary welcoming rituals on a sandy beach, in "easy walking distance" from the parking lot and standing for over an hour and not feeling very welcome at all as you fight to keep from falling down or sitting down on wet cold ground with legs that don't stand so well. It means listening as new classmates offer soft sentences about their hopes, which you cannot hear because using a microphone would spoil the naturalness of the event.

Disability means fighting to hear the retreat speaker who refuses to use a microphone because the room isn't that big, and knowing that you have paid $375 to watch his mouth silently move.

It means having my expensive hearing aids become ear plugs in a huge echoing room with a booming sound system, because no one thought that not having a T-Coil loop was a dealbreaker.

Disability is trying to open a bathroom door from your mobility scooter, only to find out that the impressive potted plant beside the door blocks the only possible angle that would allow you easy maneuvering and so you have to wait and ask someone else to hold it for you please. It's finally getting inside and realizing that there is one handicapped stall and while you can fit inside, you can also either transfer to the toilet safely or choose to close the door. Disability is wetting your pants because the one handicapped stall is filled by three teenage girls trying on their new t shirts and giggling.

Disability is realizing that the only door in a huge Convention Center which allows a mobility scooter to exit without assistance is at one end of a mile long building. Disability is thinking about fire over and over again.

Disability is spending months and hundreds of hours helping to organize a conference as a volunteer and finding out at the last minute that they will not pay for a private room, even though you have to bring thousands of dollars worth of drugs, some with needles and some difficult to obtain, and some with catastrophic side effects and all of them essential which means that if a roommate is careless, if a roommate spills or steals or leaves a door open accidentally, you could die in the space between the insurance company and the time it takes to replace what you had. Disability is being told that it isn't fair that you need such a thing and that you will have to pay for the other half of the room you need because the group isn't going to treat you specially. Disability is being told that everyone gets half a room and why should you be any different. Disability is being asked to pay $372 for the privilege of volunteering.

Disability is an ongoing part of my life.

Years ago, Kurt Vonnegut wrote a short story called Harrison Bergeron. Find it and read it if you haven't already.

It's about a dystopian world where everyone is equal, and no one can do something better than the person who does that thing the worst.

Graceful people are weighted down. Brilliant people have their thinking disrupted. Clear sighted people are fitted with distorting lenses.

You get the idea.

The world of Harrison Bergeron is a nightmare.

It's not any world I would want to live in.

Fighting ableism isn't about stopping people from doing everything their bodies can do. It isn't about holding people back so that they aren't doing more than me.

You can say deaf. You can ask me if I heard something.

You can't use the phrase "fell on deaf ears" without sounding like you think not hearing is a choice, or that deaf people just aren't paying attention.

You can walk and run and kickbox, and you can talk about these things.

You can't can't use the inability to do them as a metaphor for not WANTING to move, or not choosing to see, or any other thing which implies that the conditions some bodies have can stand in as short hand for "like us normal people only worse"

I am playing life on the hard setting because life is optimized for the able-bodied. I'm not asking for the able-bodied to be given a handicap. I'm demanding to be given a game controller that allows me to play with everyone else.





Friday, May 5, 2017


Micah 6:7-9 (21st Century King James Version )(KJ21)
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He hath shown thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
9 The Lord’S voice crieth unto the city (and the man of wisdom shall see Thy name): “Hear ye the rod and who hath appointed it!


Micah 6:8 gets tossed around a lot. What a reading- everything neatly packaged like a big Christmas gift. Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.

Whammo. Got it.

Neat. No loose ends.

Now let's talk about the rest of it. Let's talk about the not so neat parts.
The parts that talk about trying to buy off God.

Let's talk about Micah 6:7.

The question is simple. If I make a lot of money, or manage to scrape together a large amount of property, and I give it all to the church, or I use it all for charity work, is that enough for God? I mean, I don't really have to think about why I'm doing this, right?

If I give away or give up precious metals, and fancy cars, expensive perfume, and designer clothes, won't God be happy then?

What if I make my kids go to church? You know- make them live by the Word and read all the important stuff and generally let everyone know that they are right up tight with the whole idea of doing the right thing and living the right way?

Isn't that enough? I mean, it sure as hell seems like a lot and anyway people would see me doing it and know...

No?

No.

It isn't enough. It isn't even relevant.

You have been told what you need to do, and God ain't about that life. God doesn't care if you give away a million, if you do it to feed your ego and buy a place in some angel-winged after world.

Do justly. Do justice. Do what is right. Maybe what is right is giving away that million, but only if you are expressly, specifically, giving it away because and only because it IS right.

Not for the Board seat.
Not for the adulation or the attention.

Not to impress the wife or the friends.

Not begrudgingly or angrily or with a sense of "what's in it for me?"

Do justice. Period full stop. God doesn't want a sacrifice. God doesn't have a price tag you can pick up and fulfill. God isn't for sale.
And what about "love mercy"?

No be merciful, or try not to hurt people unless they really deserve it, but "LOVE MERCY."

Hunger and thirst for a chance to be kind. In Hebrew, "Love mercy" is hesed, which translates literally as "loyal love" or "loving kindness". It isn't about what is fair or deserved; this conversation was a reminder to Israel that what mattered most was a change of heart. What mattered was allowing other people to matter.

Be kind because it nourishes you. Be kind not for a return, but because you can be no other way.

And the last piece. The hard one.

Walk humbly with your God.

Open up your heart and realize that no amount of things you can give could ever be enough to buy off God. God is there with you, walking with you, because you are enough. Don't get big headed about it. You are what you were created to be.

You want to get it right?

Look in three places.

Do justice in the world. Love mercy in your heart. Look upward to God in humility.

You'll be ok. You got this.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wings of Angels, Tears of Saints


1st Corinthians 13 is old news.

I’ve heard it called trite.

Done to death.

It gets quoted at weddings, used for vow renewals, read out haltingly in a variety of translations…

It’s passé. So very 1970s Hallmark feel-good pap, deprived of all or any strength it once had to move the heart.

Deprived of any power.

So, let’s try it again, from another point of view.


13
You can say all of the right things, but if you don’t believe what you are saying, if you don’t live it with all the strength of your being, you are just making noise.

You can be brilliant, able to make intuitive jumps that dazzle the imagination and lead millions. You can be learned, with enough knowledge to plan for any eventuality. You can even believe you are completely committed to serving the Word of the God of your heart, but if you don’t care about people, all people, it isn’t worth anything. Humanity is the reflection of God, made in the Divine image- how can you claim to Love the Divine if you turn away from its Mirror in disgust and anger?

You can give to charity and work for social justice and brag about how much you have sacrificed for the cause, but if you didn’t do it because you love the people with all of your heart and soul, if you didn’t do it because you needed them to be free so that you could breathe, then there is no point at all.

Love doesn’t work for your schedule. It doesn’t care that you had an important meeting. Sometimes it needs you now. Sometimes it makes you late or get you dirty. Sometimes it says that you must start again. Love isn’t about keeping score and getting ahead. It isn’t about being seen with the cool kids or the power brokers. Love doesn’t care if you succeed in business without really trying. Love isn’t about getting even and getting over and being glad when someone gets theirs- love says we all cross the finish line together or it isn’t a finish line at all. Love says we are all one family, and we can never quit until everyone is seated at the table.

Love turns over tables. Love pushes open doors.

New fads die away. Brilliant speakers stop speaking. People forget things and new facts come to light. The fact that we are all part of a human family remains no matter how we look at it or what ideologies come and go. If you are still holding onto ideas of “better than”, “more worthy than”, “more deserving than”, then you can’t see the whole picture, and you can’t speak to the whole truth.

If you want to be all that you were created to be, if you want to claim all that is yours to claim, you must claim it for everyone. Recognize the immense good, the immense Love, of which you are a part, and in doing so see clearly all the other parts of that Love. You can see the beauty, and the power, and the immensity, only when you can see the whole.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Amen



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Poverty and the Pantry


I just made squash soup.

It took about 15 minutes to prepare. It will cook for 10 minutes, and then I will puree it. My chef's knives and cleaver make the chopping go fast.

Easy as hell, right? A healthy dinner with almost no effort. 8 meals for under $1 a serving. I am a kitchen god.

Why don't poor people make such easy food- instead of wasting their money at McDonalds?
Why don't they just do it RIGHT?

Whoa there, Nelly. I didn't ever make squash soup until last year.

Not because I didn't like squash, but because I couldn't afford it for much of my adult life, and then I never thought about it again.

Because when you're poor you try not to think about all the things you can never have, and it gets to be a habit.

Healthy food is an honest to God luxury, right up there with not knowing how much money you have in your account, and having a tooth filled the actual week it starts hurting.


Now before you start handing me phone numbers for your local organic butternut squash dealer, and explaining how cheap it is, let me break it down for you.

It's expensive to live poor.

I could make that soup today because I work at a calling with decent hours and realistic expectations. I have a writing day today, so I can go to the store and make dinner at home.

I have a reliable car which lets me go to the store where the squash is good, and reasonably priced. I have a reliable car which lets me carry home all of the things I need for soup, all at once.

I have an Instant Pot, and an Immersion blender. If the blender breaks I have a huge food processor.

I have space to store my supplies until I need them. I have space to store my kitchen tools, and electricity to run them. I have hot water to wash them when I'm done. I have knives and a chopping block and a reliable fridge to store the leftovers. I even have matching Tupperware and most of the lids, hallelujah, world with out end.

Twenty years ago it wouldn't have been so easy. Making the same soup would have gone from being a 30 minute trip to the store and a 30 minute total prep to table experience to something much, much more serious.

It wold have become a luxury.

I worked 16 hour shifts- 3pm to 7 am, 4 days a week. For a long time I had a decent car, but no insurance.

So making that cheap soup would have looked like this:

Get off work at 7am. Walk up to the local Kroger. Realize I could afford either the spices or the squash. Buy the spices (in the plastic half-size jars, exactly enough for this recipe. I can't afford to keep large amounts of something that I might never use again).

Wait 2 weeks for the next payday. The store has no squash. Buy broth. The store with squash is 6 miles away. Risk the drive. Buy squash that is 10% more expensive because I am now shopping in an upscale neighborhood.

Go home and go to sleep. No time to cook. Go to work at 3 pm the next day.

Next off day, haul out the 20 year old crockpot. Attempt to cut the squash with a dollar store knife.
Break knife.
Attempt to peel squash with a dollar store peeler.
Break peeler.
Walk to dollar store for new knife, but now I can no longer afford a can of coffee so I'll be drinking water for the next two weeks.

90 minutes to carefully peel and section squash. Saute onions and garlic, and spices in pan- use extra oil because pan is peeling and sticks.

Toss all ingredients in crock pot. Set alarm to wake up every 2 hours because both house wiring and pot are old, and a surge could cause a fire. There are no smoke alarms.

Allow soup to cook for 8 hours, using lots of electricity. When soup is done, use potato masher to puree. Puree process takes 40 minutes, and there are still some lumps. Taste the soup and realize it needs more onion, but there isn't any more because Sav-a-lot doesn't sell onions in a bag, it sells them one yellow onion at a time and I only bought exactly what I was supposed to need.

Add more salt instead.

Use spread containers to freeze left overs. The containers are thin, and will potentially leach chemicals into the hot soup. They will allow freezer burn in a week.

Lose all food in the fridge and freezer three days later, when the old fridge door comes open while I'm at work. Or lose it a day later, when the electric gets disrupted for a downed power line, because it is two days to payday, and I have no money to buy bags of ice, and no cooler to put it in anyway.

The one bowl of soup I actually got to eat cost me $8 in materials, 11 hours of time, and $1.23 in electricity. It cost me another $1 in gas, and I had to wake up 4 times

Same soup.
Same me.
Different worlds.

When we talk about how easy it should be for people living in poverty to just do it the way we do, we need to stop an look around.

At our houses and our dishes and our stoves and our knives.
At our car and our spice rack and our matching Tupperware.

Change the lenses and understand why maybe, just maybe, spending $3.00 at McDonalds is not so bad.

Change the lenses again, and ask ourselves what real change would mean.

Beginning with "everyone deserves to be able to make nutritious and safe food" and asking "How do we achieve that?" looks a lot different than "They shouldn't be eating that- how do we stop them?"

Beginning with love makes it a different world, and everyone deserves a chance to be a kitchen god.



.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Love, Sex, and Pie



“I Love you.”
“I just love pizza.”
“I love those shoes.”
“Love your neighbor.”

I’ve noticed the word love gets thrown around a lot these days, and maybe it always has. But I’ve also noticed that it’s very hard for many of us to articulate exactly what we mean when we say the word.

Is it the deep meaning of agape, or selfless love, that we are called to for all other humans? Well, not generally. Most of us couldn’t really explain that one on a bet.

Is it interpersonal attachment? The emotion we experience for our parent or our child, or our adored pet? Perhaps.

Is it the twining of erotic attraction and personality match that we call romantic love, or being “in love”? Sometimes. But our Judeo-Christian heritage has convinced us that, somehow, we can only be said to be authentically “in love” with one other person at one time and then only if a certain exact particular level of depth of feeling is present. If we claim to be in love with more than one person, we are told that we are indecisive; that only one is long-lasting and “real” and that for any other the red of love waters down to the pinks and roses of like, or enjoy, or that it flames to the crimson of desire, which is transient and will fade. We are told that sex has to come into the equation somewhere, or else we are talking about friendship once again.

Our love for food or shoes or the wallpaper we saw at a store we can never afford is a misnomer; we are quite fond of these things, or we are attracted to them like ravens with a shiny stone, but there is, in the majority of cases, no true depth to our statement. We are saying “I like this thing more than other similar things” but there is no personal connection. I do not care about this piece of pizza more than another piece of the same pizza, and I love my shoes but when they fade I will buy another identical or similar pair and be instantly comforted.

Most of the time Americans navigate these muddy linguistic waters without serious thought. We know what we mean, and convention and habit give others a good idea of our intent.

But what about the other times?

Love can be a tricky thing.

We have been sold a bill of goods here in the United States, and it is half rotten. We’ve been told that love fits neatly into one of those categories, and that any deviation is awkward.

Dangerous.

Unacceptable.

We don’t even have words to explain the places where categories of love diverge and overlap and sometimes just explode.

By the time we reach 18, we have been exposed to society, and books, and movies, to friends, and to family, and to all of the boxes we are expected to put things in. We have learned the rules of love.

Straight men love women. Straight women love men. Gay men love men. Lesbian women love women.

Trans people and people of fluid gender orientation are just supposed to be very, very, quiet. We get to go stand next to the bisexual folk somewhere in a dark and soundproofed room. From time to time other people debate the possibility of nailing up the door behind us, and maybe covering the airholes.

If you are female, with a female friend, depending on depth of emotion and closeness, she is your friend, or your BFF, or your bestie. You are allowed to say you love her, but if you say you are in love with her you are assumed to be declaring a sexual orientation.

Men can have a male wingman, or friend, or best friend, or bud. In moments of deep emotion, he can admit to loving him, but only if everyone around understands that the words “but not, like, love love, no homo” are implied.

We pick a partner, based on a host of factors from physical compatibility to intellectual stimulation, financial status or lack of, hormonal response, and personality.

We learn to fit neatly in a box.

Only, sometimes, we don’t.

And then our lack of words becomes painful.

I have a friend, a long-term part of my life. We have no sexual relationship. I love her deeply. I am in love with her and always will be, and as far as I know the feeling is shared. She is as deep and real a part of my life as my husband. I introduce her as my beloved friend.

And when she dies, if it is before me, I will grieve as completely as if I had lost a wife, but there are no words for what she is to me.

There are other families like my own. Other combinations and expansions, other alternate normals and unique relationship structures.

We as a society have become convinced that love is like pie, and that if I give you a piece I am taking away something which rightfully belongs to someone else, and worse, is going to make us run out quicker. We’ve learned that we can only love so much, and that we can only like one flavor. We’ve learned that taking too much will make you ill, and that eating more exotic flavors is poisonous. We’ve learned that we can only eat from one piedish, and that sharing forks is absolutely forbidden.

You know what?

Everything you’ve learned is wrong.

Love isn’t the problem, but honesty is.

Human beings are intelligent, territorial, phone using, latte-sipping, upright apes. Biologically we are pushed by a host of drives- pheromones, the need for reproduction, safety, hormones, pleasure, pain… We are not, however, hardwired for only monogamous pair-bonding.

We are capable of so much more.

We can put down the pie dish; love is not an exhaustible resource. We can’t continue to exclude any relationship or set of relationships for which we do not have an easy label. We can’t continue to turn our backs on any relationship we don’t understand.

We don’t have to understand. It isn’t our relationship. It exists, they exist, whether we get it or not.

When in doubt, create more words.

Or simply learn to call it all family. Radical welcome, radical love, means that just because I don’t know what to call you I cannot make you invisible.

I cannot wipe you away.

I want us to learn to honor and welcome the beloved friends and the additional thirds, or fourths. To respect the alternate relationships, and the compound hyphenate loves. To realize that it is none of our business who is sleeping with who as long as everyone is adult, and honest about who is loved and how within their own relationships.

I want us to recognize that mine does not have to look like yours, or theirs, or theirs over there. You can eat pie and I can eat cake with pizza, and they can have a smorgasbord.

Love is real, even when the definitions change from person to person and house to house, and no human being deserves to have their loving relationship ignored because it doesn’t fit in a box.

Boxes are for those shoes.

You know, the ones you love.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

I have an education. I've been to graduate school. I've worked in the corporate world.
I don't want to brag, but I seem to be of average intelligence, maybe a little more.

I have an ego. I have pride.
I am not a conservative, or a Fundamentalist of any kind.

I have never seen a burning bush.





No voice has ever called my name from somewhere behind a cloud.
I have not sat down with my God and calmly discussed building an ark, moving to another place and calling myself a prophet, being swallowed by a whale or even ordering a pizza.

But I believe in prayer.

Let me be more specific.

I believe in the awesome, world changing, sometimes earth shattering power of falling to my knees and sharing my joy and my pain with the God of my heart. I believe in the utter sweetness of humbly coming to something greater than I could imagine, knowing that no matter what I have done, I am still loved and welcome there.

I believe in pausing to recognize the miraculous in the mundane. I believe in self-analysis.

I believe in the call to pray without ceasing, to let your life be a conversation with the Divine, spoken so clearly that anyone who meets you can follow along.

I believe that the world is too much with us and there must be moments where there is a sacred stillness.

I believe that sometimes you have to take a minute to feel your connection with all that is and was and will be. Sometimes you have to reach out to the bones of your ancestors and the bedrock of our planet. Sometimes you have to let go of all of the dreams and schemes and hopes and plans and feel the sunlight on your face and the wind in your hair.

I believe in quiet.

I believe in saying thanks.

I believe in recognizing that while I may be Divine, I am not God

I believe in the strength that comes from taking a moment to focus my thoughts beyond the confines of my own head, to share what is happening even if the only words I can form are those Anne Lamott chose.

Wow. Help. Thanks. (* see footnote)

Simple words.
And sometimes we need simple words, because prayer language is a foreign language for many of us.

Prayer, for many Unitarian Universalists, is something they either never learned much about, or it is that foreign language they learned as a child in another place and another faith, which has faded away over time.

For some Jews prayer is something that comes from words in a siddur, or prayer book. Observant Jews pray three or more times a day, usually ritual words written for them thousands of years ago. Every prayer must involve both the intent to speak to the Divine, and ritual speech or action.

For mystic or Kabbalistic Jews prayer affects the very fabric of the universe. It is action through speech, precisely calculated to have an impact on the natural and supernatural worlds.

For Rationalist and humanist Jews prayer is discourse, a form of self-analysis through asking questions and making statements to a theoretical Divine listener, and working through potential answers or replies. Other Jews view prayer as a tool to create a mind-set or attitude in the one who prays, with no connection to any other outside being or presence.

Muslim prayers are both written and spontaneous. Prayer is shared together 5 times a day, and after the shared prayers any personal prayers may be spoken.

For Christians, prayers have many forms, and sometimes different targets. Some pray to God, others to Jesus, some ask Mary, the mother of Jesus, to speak to God for them. Some add in the saints and the martyrs and all the departed faithful. Some pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

There are prayers organized into prayer books, and there are spontaneous prayers, and in some churches there is praying in tongues- praying in words not recognized as part of any language, which they consider to be a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Some of us were told there is a right way and a wrong way to pray. Some of us were forced to pray, and some have never spoken a prayer in their lives.

Some have only heard prayers like the morbid “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

Or maybe grace-
Bless us,
O Lord,
and these your gifts,
which we are about to receive
from your bounty.
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen
-which I have never heard said with either grace or deep meaning.

And somewhere in there many of us came to believe that if we were doing prayer differently, if we were atheist, or humanist, or Wiccan, that we were essentially writing a letter and sending it to the dead letter office.

We got told that if we didn’t believe in a supernatural god, well, we could pick up the sacred phone but there would be no one home.

And that, my beloved people, is wrong.

You get to pray. And it is a real prayer, whether you believe in a God or Goddess or a great cosmic muffin or nothing much at all.

Prayer can be a form of religious or spiritual practice. It can be whatever you need it to be. Prayer does not have to be defined.

It may happen in public or in private, by yourself or in a group or with a clergy person. It may involve the use of words, song or complete silence. It is yours.

Spoken prayer can be a song, an incantation designed to make something happen, a formal statement of belief, or an unplanned stream of words. Prayer can be a dance. It can throw you to the ground, it can make you shake to your bones. It can break you to tears.

Prayers can ask, or beg. Prayers can thank or praise.

Prayers can be a conversation with your God or your Goddess, your spirit guide or your ancestors. Prayers can be to the planet or the universe, or to anyone who happens to be listening. You get to pick up the phone. You get to decide if you are talking to someone or something or simply engaging in rational self-assessment.

Prayers can be a conversation with the darkness about where to find the light.

Some prayers are planned. Some just happen, but you have to make and hold the space for them to happen in.

Take a walk. Go sit quietly. Take a breath. Think silently or speak loudly.

Pray. Tell the truth as you know it. Ask the questions. Ask for answers.


Help me. Lead me. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to do. I’m so alone. Hear me. See me. Tell me where to go.

Shine on me. Wrap me in your grace. Love me. Heal me. Heal them. Help them.

Make me a better person.

Help me change the world.

Wow. Thanks. Help.


Prayer is the moment between the now and the not yet. The moment when you strip away all that stands between you and the universe, when you show yourself without the masks.

It’s the moment where you stand with your naked heart in your hands, bleeding. Raw. Open.
It’s the moment where you stand naked before the Life that enwraps you.
It’s the moment when you hear the heart beat matching yours, once again.

Prayer is the breath you take when you see your child born. Prayer is when you stare mouth open and eyes wide at the most beautiful sunset you have ever known.

Prayer is the moment when it hurts so badly, when you are so frightened, that all you can say is “please.”

Prayer is the heartbeat when the bad passes you by without harm.Prayer is when you cannot understand how you are still standing.

Prayer is when you find your center, and dwell in it, if only for a few minutes.

Prayer is when you hold out your raw heart, and welcome grace.



Wow. Help. Thanks.


Amen. 



(* "Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers" by Anne Lamott https://www.amazon.com/Help-Thanks-Wow-Essential-Prayers/dp/1594631298)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

House Building


Politics.
Violence.
Black people dying in the streets.
Police officers in riot gear.

The Klan passing out recruiting materials in Indiana.

Refugees. Bombings.

10 civilians dead in Cincinnati today. 9 in Munich.
1,271 in Syria this month.

1,063 people shot and killed by the police in the US last year, more than British police have killed in the last 95 years.

The US is now 17th out of the 40 worldwide nations ranked for education.

We are 85th out of 172 countries in terms of violent death rates, in the same band as nations like Iraq, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Chad, Liberia, Ghana, and India.

Nations like Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and Japan are ranked far away, in the peaceful 160s and 170s.

In 2010 the Citizens United ruling meant that corporations and labor unions could now use money as a form of protected political speech, removing much of the security against election buying and allowing wealthy individuals, businesses, and other groups to use money to influence elections with more freedom than anyone had seen since the days of Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall machine.

Our military is over 1,000 times stronger than any other country's armed forces. Our homeless veterans sleep on the streets while the Veterans Hospitals are woefully underfunded.

Fast food is cheaper than buying vegetables, and obesity is endemic. Heroin and methamphetamine are found in every county of every state.

In 1969, when I was born, the minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $10.30 or so in today's dollars.

In 2016 the minimum wage is $7.25. Taking buying power into consideration we've gone backwards. If you don't take buying power into consideration, the minimum wage has gone up $5.65- in 47 years.

That's 450%

College tuition has gone up over 1,120% since 1978 alone. Medical expenses have climbed over 601%, and food over 244%.

If you put a frog in a pot of cool water, the story goes, and turn up the stove burner slowly, it will swim about happily as it is cooked alive.

Beloved friends, the water is boiling.

People working two full time jobs cannot feed their families.

Young people take on college debt, for jobs that are not waiting. A 27 year old with a Master's degree may amass $120,000 in debt, and be asked to repay $987 a month. Deferments mean they will pay until they are middle-aged or later.

Dental and eye care are still not covered well by medical insurance, and oral surgery is often not covered at all. Major work can cost $7,000-$30,000, payable in advance.

Those who cannot pay use emergency rooms as clinics, costing everyone.

It is possible to be driven to bankruptcy by medical bills.
It is possible to die because you cannot afford prescriptions or co-pays at the doctor's office.

We are tired.
We are scared.

And we live in a multi-story house, with a crumbling foundation and cracks in the walls.

Now, please, understand me. I know what some of you will say.

Not me.

Not my walls.

My walls are still painted in beautiful red, white, and blue. My roof is whole, and my windows let in the sunshine. I have guns for defense and I've stocked the shelves with food.

And maybe, just maybe, your walls are whole. And your roof. And maybe you have a lovely stained glass window, letting in the light in glorious jewel-tone colors.

But you only live in a few rooms of this aging mansion we call America. Maybe you live in the penthouse, or maybe on an upper floor.

Maybe it is amazing, up where you are.

But your room is built on top of that same crumbling stone. Your uncracked walls will not stand if the floors below you give way.

It is all one house.

And it must be rebuilt.

Someone once said a house built on shifting sand will not stand. I say that you cannot build a marble penthouse on top of a double wide trailer.

We have to begin again.

We are a young country, and it's time to grow up. It's time to demolish this starter home, time to gather our supplies and hire our crew and to start again on solid ground

Time to build strong foundations of workers and industry. Time to create supportive walls of healthcare and education, and to decorate with the bright lights of human rights and equal justice. It's time to stop saying that the blue wall on the left and the pink wall on the right are worth more than the brown wall in front, or the tan wall in back. They all hold the house up, just the same.

It's time to add pathways, large and paved in stone, so that visitors can come. It's time to add bigger doors, and to widen the windows on the first and second floors, and to remove the bars from those windows while we are at it.

It's time to remove the fence, and to add flowers and trees instead.

And we can do it.

We can be the country we have always claimed to be.

Land of the free. Home of the brave. Land where the flag is still flying because we have managed to turn aside destruction before it is too late.

We can make it true, true for all, not just a few. We can build a house that will shelter our children, and our children's children. A house of many stories, all built level, and firm.

All sharing the load in the sun and the wind and the rain.

Together.

I don't know about you, but it sounds awfully good to me.