Presence and Peace

Black Lives Still Matter

black lives matterI wanted to hug tight every one of my church siblings yesterday who have a skin color they did not choose. I almost knocked on my next-door neighbor’s door to say, “Hi, this may sound weird, but I really think you’re awesome and I’m glad we’re neighbors.”

Yes, the family next door to me is African American–beautifully black.

I am 56 years old and while there are many, many things I do not understand in this world, racism and bigotry tops the list of things I just can’t comprehend.

I am a white woman stunned by the horrific display of humanity in Charlottesville, VA, over the weekend. CNN reported that “men carrying Confederate flags stood side by side with the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and rifle-toting militia members in Charlottesville at a rally dubbed ‘Unite the Right.'”

These were white men–primarily from out of state–spewing hate as they chanted to the counter protestors, “you will not replace us!” You see, there’s a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in a park in Charlottesville that is slated for removal.

You will not replace us? I wonder what they’re afraid of losing?

I am angry. As I write this on a sultry Sunday afternoon in my suburban home in Texas–where there are no doubt factions of the white nationalist “movement”–I still feel stirred by yesterday morning’s rousing church service. My church–Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ–is vibrant, inclusive and progressive; absolutely everyone is welcome because Jesus was a welcomer in his time and we are Jesus people.

I never thought I’d be a Jesus person but here we are. I’m reminded that Jesus experienced anger too when he came across injustice, prejudice, or things that were just wrong. If he were here and heard “Unite the Right,” I believe he would say that uniting one group of people is not uniting; it is, in fact, excluding, and that true unity only comes from accepting everyone as no more, no less.

Rev. Neil was on fire for Jesus yesterday, which is to say, on fire for what IS right, not THE right. He said that the hatred displayed toward black people in Charlottesville and the hatred laid out every day in America on people who are not white and heterosexual is not about politics.

The flagrant and offensive prejudice is not about right or left, but about right or wrong, Rev. Neil said. Then he called on us to take the anger that we feel and turn it into a commitment to become more Christ-like and speak out about the injustices we see.

I’m so ready, ready to say enough is enough and to speak truth to power. Anger is a good thing when it’s channeled into transforming hearts and minds.

So today, I ask you to join with me. Pay attention for opportunities to transform. Watch your language and how you think and speak about people–black, brown, lesbian, gay, transgender, heck, anybody who is different from you. Carry love in your heart instead of hate. As trite as the question may be, “what would Jesus do?”

America can only be great again when Christianity is great again–but that’s a topic for a future post. For now, I’ll leave you with this and I don’t care who I agitate:

Black lives still matter.

Photo courtesy of bmartinseattle

As Within So Without

This past Tuesday was day three without air conditioning. I woke feeling like a good day lay ahead. I felt strong and resilient and capable of hanging out in my hot house all day while our heating and cooling system was replaced.

I’m working on seeing value and worth everywhere I turn. What’s the saying, “as within so without?” Or, as Debbie Ford wrote, “each of us is the microcosm of the microcosm.”

She also wrote, “what is actually inside me are the thousands of qualities and traits that make up every human being and that beneath the surface of every human is this blueprint of all mankind.”

As I grow in understanding of how we all are a part of one, grace fills me. Actually, its more of an awareness of grace, because grace is already present. The more I feel, the more I see and willingly spill out.

On the same day I was sweating at home, my sweetie was dealing with a difficult circumstance at work. Before she left that morning, we talked about how God’s grace is sufficient. And isn’t that the truth in all circumstances?

We pray to receive that which we already possess. I think that’s how Unity’s preference for positive affirmations instead of beseeching prayer came about. In fact, today’s Daily Word confirms that idea: “God is my strength and vitality. I am renewed.”

I do believe that much of prayer is recognizing the good within each of us, within myself and within you. These are the things I need in times of difficulty. Going within, BEING that which I already am. And that which I am, you are too.

It’s tough work sometimes.

But I’m grateful that now–during this week that brings both the anniversary of Mom’s death and the anniversary of stepping toward my life partner–I am open to seeing the real and true me.

God’s light and love ground me into right now where I can appreciate every detail, yes, even on miserably hot, 95-degrees-inside-my-house days. One gift from Mom–she did teach me how to make the most of any given situation or circumstance! So thanks for that, Mom!

And now I smile remembering her goodness. I got to see a lot of it during the last year of her life. I saw because I found unconditional love in Becky. It’s probably not a coincidence that our love began on the very day that, one year later, Mom’s place on earth vanished.

I’m a little bummed that I’m not taking a sojourn to Missouri this week. But I will travel to my heart several times over the course of this week and find her eternal spirit there, maybe even in the meditation garden I’m creating within. See you soon, Mama.

Photo courtesy of Scott & Mary Freeth

Be Present to Your Spiritual Connection

Be Present

This from The Shack: Reflections for Every Day of the Year:

“The present is raw, real, alive, and scary, commanding my attention. I see how you have been with me, but only in the present can I actually be with you.”

God is talking here, responding to a question God asked of Mack about how Mack spent his time: present, past, or future.

Mack answered, “I suppose I would have to say that I spend very little time in the present. For me, I spend a big piece in the past, but most of the rest of the time, I am trying to figure out the future.”

God is

Today I find comfort in knowing that God–or whatever you choose to call your spiritual connection–is as close to me as my breath. God is.

Try an experiment. Go outside and just stand or sit still for a few moments. Whenever your attention lights somewhere as you look around, think, God is.

When I let Jaxson out this morning, the first thing I noticed was the cooler temperature. God is. (Actually, I said, Thank you, God!)

A soft breeze kissed my cheek. God is.

A cardinal chirped while flying overhead. God is.

Sun rays peeked through the early morning clouds. God is.

The point is, God is really there–everywhere–waiting for your acknowledgement and your welcoming.

God is, even in tragedy

Our church family at Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ received some terrible news over the weekend. Our senior pastor’s executive assistant, Lee Covington, died last Friday, the victim of a vicious homicide. I’ve been reading everyone’s thoughts and tributes to him on Facebook, and watching the news coverage. There were several camera crews at our service yesterday, where many of us wore bow ties in Lee’s memory.

I didn’t know Lee, only met him once, but from everyone’s accounts, he was a pretty incredible man. One of his good friends posted that in addition to being impeccable in every sense of the word, Lee was present. He said that Lee had the ability to give the person with whom he was in conversation his complete attention, making it seem as if nothing and no one else mattered in that moment.

We should all aspire to Lee’s habit.

The present commands our attention, as Wm. Paul Young writes in his reflection. God yearns to spend the present with us and to celebrate whatever we’re doing in this speck of time.

Really, how difficult is it to turn a thought or a word to God? We can pray at times other than before meals or when we feel especially connected like during a meditation practice or church service.

I learned years ago and think often of Unity’s wise counsel that our thoughts are prayers.

Each time we think that very line, we acknowledge God in the present.

When someone passes from this human life, we’re gently admonished to live, to grasp every moment and cherish it as if it were our last. Let’s also remind ourselves to live fully every single day. That message was loud and clear in church this morning.

Live fully as if your life depends on it.

Nearly eight years ago I made a life-changing decision to move from Missouri to Texas. The decision was a giant leap of faith because I was moving into a completely unknown, albeit exciting, situation.

I HAD to make that move because my spirit craved a life of deep connection to every one of the 1,440 minutes in each day. In the life I was living, I was merely getting along, doing the same things as if I were a drone on remote control.

Back then, I couldn’t express the reasons why I had to leave, other than to say, I must go. Others speculated, I’m sure even gossiped. What I know now is I had to figure out a way to acknowledge, then honor every moment that God and I spend together.

It’s the trip of a lifetime–raw, real AND alive. I definitely recommend the journey.

Photo by Benjamin Davies

Sheros: Olivia Newton-John, My Friend Helshi

The June 19 edition of People was on top of the stack of magazines in the waiting room where I “relaxed” before my recent mammogram.

I had time to read the entire article that caught my eye and was probably the disconcerting reason that the magazine was on top of the pile: “Olivia Newton-John’s cancer returns–how she’s staying strong.” The copy read, “25 years after first facing breast cancer, the star, 68, learns it has spread.”

Definitely not the grabbing (no pun intended) coverline a gal should see before heading in for the annual smash job but I’m glad I read the article. In fact, I brought the magazine home (with permission!).

Her cancer returned

Two months ago, Newton-John announced that she is facing breast cancer again. This time, the disease has metastasized into her sacrum, a bone in the lower back. According to her doctors, taking 25 years to reappear is good news. The bad news is that metastatic breast cancer is incurable and in this case, because of the location, causes an extreme amount of pain.

My takeaway from the entire article is not the details about the cancer, however. It’s this quote from her husband: “We both have the same unshakable belief that she’s going to have a wonderful success story,” said John Easterling. “We’re not trying to be positive. We have an absolute knowing that we can turn this around.”

Here are the things that Newton-John has working for her, I believe. 1) Her husband is a natural health entrepreneur, according to People, 2) Her sister Rona called her Pollyanna because she always sees the good in everything and focuses on the positive and, 3) She gets treatment on two continents–the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre is in Melbourne, Australia.

I love that her husband (they’ve been married nine years) says, “We share a complete world. We can appreciate the joy in nature and the little things. We wake up and start each day with gratitude and we are able to maintain a sense of humor.” Their closeness is apparent in the photo that accompanies this post (First printed in People, the pic carries both the sweetness and the fierceness of their love.).

Speaking of a sense of humor . . .

Helshi in the middle flanked by Becky and me

My friend Helshi Lockwood was also recently diagnosed with breast cancer. To say we were all relieved to hear that it is stage 1A with clean margins and lymph nodes is a tremendous understatement. But then, we also know that Helshi–I call her one of the original Amazon women–is as tough as they come and probably flat-out told God that she would only do cancer if it was manageable.

That’s the way my 6-foot-plus friend rolls. She, like Newton-John, has a faith that is completely convicted and totally grounded. She knows what she knows and that’s all there is to it.

Helshi has the sharpest wit and will not hesitate to state what needs to be said. And, she will tell you that she doesn’t give a shit who needs to hear the truth.

I have to assume that Newton-John has an incredible life force. I know for a fact that Helshi’s force is strong like Luke Skywalker; I don’t know many other 76-year-olds who can get a cancer diagnosis, take a pill for it (so very grateful for no chemo or radiation!) and then take her Golden Retriever on a two-mile walk.

While I have huge admiration for Olivia Newton-John and wish her the very best, I love me some Helshi Lockwood and want her around forever!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my mammo results are all good!

Photo courtesy of Robert Lynden

And Still I Rise

“And still I rise,” Maya Angelou nearly cries out the refrain in her achingly beautiful poem that feels wholly comforting to souls that wake weary these mornings.

I wrote Angelou’s words in my journal on January 16th, the day we celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. On that day, so many gave pause to honor the man whose eloquent voice rang out, “I have a dream,” in what seems a lifetime ago when considering today’s tumultuous times.

On August 28, 1963, when King called for an end to racism and for civil and economic rights, I’m sure many dared to hope as they hadn’t for a very long time.

And now, here we are, perched hesitantly on thin branches as the new president threatens hopelessness again. Oh God, I pray it isn’t so.

Maybe this 10-day-old period of rushed presidential edicts will turn into an eventual time of quieter order and understanding–miracles do still occur. In the meantime, we cannot ignore the real civil uprising that is occurring in cities and towns across our still-great nation.

The people need to speak. They need to be seen. They need to raise their voices against what seems at the moment like abuse of power.

Now is a time for care and caution. As a person in long-term recovery, I am not immune from rapidly accelerating thoughts that can lead to wrong action. I urge all my brothers and sisters in recovery to stay vigilant on their respective recovery paths and to stay “prayed up.”

Remember too that no one can take your joy or change you without your permission. Hear the rest of Angelou’s words:

“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

In the Daily Word  on January 16, the passage about the word Dream, read, “I must act, pursue, and above all else, live in faith-filled awareness.”

I must remember that my life is about action now, not passivity laced with complaint. The latter was a part of my old life.

Today, I have a dream. I have a purpose. I will rise.

From James 1:25: “But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing.”