Monthly Archives: June 2013

Hope, Again

In my last post I dissed Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is a thing with feathers.” I contrasted fluffy feathery (I called it “wimpy”) hope with hope that has muscles and a plan. A dear friend took the time to point out the ways in which Emily’s hope lines up with what I termed “holy hope” — hope that is willing to get its hands dirty and make actual things happen.

I see her point. And I still see that damned bird, singing and singing and not getting anywhere.

And then I ask, what else is a bird supposed to do? After all, a bird’s job is to simply be a bird — eat enough calories to survive, reproduce, avoid predators, and generally fill its ecosystem niche.

So my issue must be with the metaphor itself. Metaphors are powerful and I think we should choose our metaphors carefully. And hope as a bird doesn’t satisfy me. 

If a bird’s job is to simply be a bird, then what is human hope’s job? To just BE?  I don’t think so.

I think our hopes and desires and yearnings have a purpose beyond simply existing.  I believe our deepest desires and yearnings and hopes are holy. They are given to us by God (Source, Oneness, Whatever). They are our marching orders in the world. Our hopes tell us who we are. They lead us forward and light our way.

So here’s an alternative metaphor. Hope is a seed.

Hope as a seed can simply lie there in parched ground being a seed, and that’s okay. It still has value. A seed has immensely more value, though, when it cracks open and becomes the mature version of what it wants to be — a sunflower, a sheaf of wheat, a redwood. (I stole this metaphor from Jesus.)

We know how to cultivate growth in seeds — sun, water, and soil, with a little weeding and protecting and waiting. But what that seed wants to be is totally up to the seed. It’s a mystery, a gift, a grace. And absolutely completely out of my control. And Monsanto’s.

My hopes are like seeds. I can align myself and flow with the hope that wants to grow in my soul, or I can choose not to.

If I nurture my hopes, they will more likely grow and mature and be of use in the world. (And bring me joy, no small thing.)

If I choose to let my hopes lie dormant, those hopes will lie there like seeds waiting to germinate, fine in and of themselves, good for bird food or animal fodder.

But they’re just not what they could have been and wanted to be. And that’s a loss, for me and for you and for the world.

Sunflower

Wow! All those seeds from one seed!

 

 

 

 

Hope Is Not a Methodology.

Emily Dickinson says “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers / that perches in the soul… .” I don’t know about you, but that sweet sweet sentiment sticks in my craw. I think that Emily’s feathery hope is just a wish. And although wishes are fun and entertaining and while away the days, they aren’t really much use to me. Weak hope is worse than useless. I believe that weak wimpy hope is dangerous, because it gives me the illusion of doing something when all I’m really doing is sitting there.

I am writing today in favor of robust, muscular hope.

Hope is not a methodology.

Hope no. 1

What are some characteristics of robust hope?

  • I am clear on what I yearn for.
  • I am willing and able to let the old me die in order for something new to be born.
  • I have a plan.
  • I actually implement my plan, and I’m willing to change it as needed.

(Each of these characteristics deserves its own post. Or book.)

So why do I stick with wimpy hope all too often?

Because I feel afraid. Afraid of the unknown, afraid of attracting attention, afraid of criticism, afraid of feeling incompetent and making mistakes… Because I don’t trust my yearnings.

Here’s the thing, though. My deepest yearnings are planted in me by God; they have their roots in my soul where God lives in me, and it’s my job to manifest them in the world. When I take my time and use my tradition to discern what I yearn for, that’s prayer. That’s contemplation. And nothing that I truly yearn for ultimately be destructive. Ever. Yearnings aren’t selfish. Yearnings are HOLY.

How do I turn wispy wishes into holy hope? How do I take those yearnings I say are holy and make them amount to something? Here’s where coaching meets contemplation, for me.

  • I recognize old patterns and griefs and resentments and limiting beliefs that no longer serve me or the world.
  • I grieve what needs to be grieved, release what needs to be released, and replace dead thoughts with life-giving beliefs.
  • I make a plan, recognizing that in all probability I will fail numerous times, and that failure is part of the process. Then I break the plan down into manageable steps.
  • I gather tools– information, knowledge, resources, people to cheer me on and hold me accountable. While I’m ultimately responsible for my own journey, I know that I can’t and shouldn’t go it alone.
  • Then I go forth and do. I implement, even though I feel scared, because finally not-doing is worse than feeling the fear. I celebrate my progress every turtle step of the way.
  • I pray a lot (when I remember), then do it all over again. Thank God tomorrow is another day, because I need lots of fresh starts!

W.H. Murray says about planning the Scottish Himalayan Expedition:

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

May we trust our yearnings. May we stop clinging to our dead places and rise up. May we turn our wispy wishes and feathery hopes into reality, and give a hungry world what it needs.

Hope is not a methodology.

A plan and some tools.

Thanks to Margie Farber for “Hope is not a methodology.” The drawing is original and is under construction.

 

 

 

 

 

Always We Begin Again

Taking the plungeThese days, my prayer is steeped in Franciscan Richard Rohr’s teachings about True Self and False Self. According to Fr. Richard, our True Self is the part of us that is connected with Oneness, with God, with Source, and is where we find our true home. Our True Self is Love. Fr. Richard contrasts our Love-based True Self with the False Self, our usual ego-centric, Fear-based mode of operating. This teaching makes sense to me because I am experiencing living in Love more and more often. I know what Love feels like. And I know all too well what Fear feels like.

This morning, my prayer went something like this:

Thank you for this new day. The sun is rising, and I am risen, to begin again. This sunrise is a resurrection, a chance for new life, metamorphosis, beginning again. Always we begin again.

God is Love. The Universe is Love. All created things are Love.

I choose today to be rooted in Love, to grow in Love, to flow with Love, to be Love.

This Love is already in me. All I have to do to reach it is let go of illusions — that I am bad, that I have to work for Love, that I have to keep myself safe, that I am down here and God is up there and I am essentially separate from God and from everyone and everything else — and let myself sink into my body’s center. And sit there. Then get up. And participate in Love.

And then I think: Who am I if I’m not cranky and critical and opinionated and grasping and WORRIED? And I realize that I’m afraid I’ll be poor if I’m not worried and cranky and critical and opinionated and grasping.

And then I remember how Love feels in my body, and how Fear feels, and I know that these fears are False Self talking. So I sink into my body’s center. And sit there. Then get up, and participate in Love. I begin again.

Good Christian or Bad Christian?

Westboro Baptist Church by yksin flickr

Westboro Baptist Church children protesting gay rights at a military funeral. (Thanks to yksin on flickr for the image.)

These days, whenever I identify myself as a Christian I find myself adding “the good kind” to differentiate myself from people like the members of Westboro Baptist Church, who also call themselves “Christian.”  (They’re the ones who picket funerals of soldiers and celebrities to draw attention to their virulently anti-gay agenda. Westboro Baptist may identify itself as Christian, but it’s classified as a hate group.)

I wonder whether it’s smart to use the “C-word” so prominently on my website and blog, because I might be turning off the very people I want to reach — people like me who are uncomfortable with that word because of what it’s come to mean to many.

Especially for younger Americans, the word Christian brings to mind judgmental, rigid, exclusive, hate-filled, rule-mongering defenders of purity. With Christians like Westboro Baptist running around, who can blame them? Boy Scouts, some of whose church sponsors pulled their support after the Scouts admitted gay kids, have reason to be suspicious of Christianity, also. And that’s just a start.

The lig part of “religion” is from the same root as our English word ligament. Just as ligaments connect bones and support organs, good religion re-connects, bolsters, coheres and unifies. Good religion connects us to God, to each other, and to ourselves. Jesus was ALL OVER healing and including and bolstering and making people whole.

I’m going to go all in here and say that Christianity that severs and excludes is “bad.” Period.

An Episcopal church in San Francisco opens its sanctuary weekly to provide food for anyone who comes — more than 1,000 families at last count. St. Gregory of Nyssa’s food pantry inspired the feeding programs of many churches, including St. Mark’s Episcopal Church here in Medford, Oregon.  The Episcopal Church voted last year to sanction and support what many clergy were already doing — blessing same sex unions (aka marrying gay people). The relief and development arms of many Christian denominations are doing powerful work throughout the world.

Jesus’ healing and whole-making work continues, out of the spotlight and on the ground. That’s good Christianity — the kind I hope I am and intend to be.

St. Gregory of Nyssa Food Pantry. Thanks to monicajensen for the flickr image.

St. Gregory of Nyssa Food Pantry. Thanks to monicajensen for the flickr image.

 

 

 

The Resurrection of Wendell Berry

Eckhart Tolle quote

Don’t believe everything you think!

I found out yesterday that Wendell Berry is alive!

For at least a couple of years I’ve thought he had died, and I was missing him. Yesterday, thanks to my husband’s kind and patient insistence, and verified by Wikipedia , I came to believe that he was alive!

Hallelujah! I experienced resurrection. Small-scale resurrection, resurrection-lite, but still resurrection, because something (or someone) I thought was dead was living and breathing.

Friends, all it took to experience this resurrection was letting go of a false belief. Whenever I can recognize, and then release, something I believe that simply isn’t true, new life emerges.

In honor of the poet who encourages us to “practice resurrection,” here’s a poem by Wendell Berry.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

 

God Says Yes to Me

 

This is how God feels about us!

This is how God feels about us!

God Says Yes To Me

–Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

When I know that God is always saying “yes” to me, I can rest in that knowledge. I can breathe, relax, and pay attention to what wants to die in me, and to what wants to be born.
God holds me and loves me like the parent in the photo — cherishing, affirming, and always asking me to grow into myself.