Sitting with despair, again

I went to bed with a headache

I woke up with a headache

I awoke to heartbreak.

O dear God, I am tired; aren’t you?

Aren’t you sick and tired of seeing the morning news about death, destruction, and violence? About human indecency and cruelty and depravity? About inaction and apathy and resignation?

As a person of faith, I’m a bit beyond prayers, and scripture citings, but I think it’s good that churches are opening up their doors so people can sit in consolation, light a candle, say something or say nothing or cry or be numb.

Holy Christ.
Holy Christ.
Holy
Christ.

Every so often I go back and read the marvelous Earthsea series by Ursula LeGuin. In one of the books, spells have lost their power, and words have lost their meaning.  There is a hole between life and death that must be filled in order for the power and the meaning to come back.

We live with a gaping hole somewhere.  A tear in the fabric of kindness.  A split seam that held together differing opinions.  A rock was thrown through the evidently flimsy wall that kept us from acting on our basest instincts.

Holy Christ.
Holy Christ.
Holy Christ.

I have no hallelujahs left to give right now, no glories, no praise.  Just numbed tears.

What will tomorrow bring?

angelo_del_dolore

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Thinking small

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baby Jesus in a locket

I’ve been distracted from writing these past few months because I’ve taken up paper mosaics, which involves cutting up previously used paper and using it to create something else.

I blame the coloring books I had dallied with earlier in the year, and the move from there to some very amateur illustrations for early reader books my friends are making for children in Ethiopia.

And then – oh, and then!  I decided to make a mosaic out of all my old to-do lists, and behold – the Flower of Accomplishment!

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this is not the finished product, but you get the idea

Then our children’s ministry director was recycling all the old Sunday School lithographs – the ones with the white, Van Dyke-bearded Jesus, teaching the well-behaved and well-dresssed children, so I took a bunch of those and cut them up and made an icon of a saint I wish existed: Martha (as in Luke 10), Patron Saint of Clergywomen.

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Yes, she is holding a baby and a plunger and if you have ever been a clergywoman (or a director of Christian Education) you will understand why.

Then I thought that Martha looked a little formal and prim, and I remembered my dear mentor friends Lucy and Carol, and am finishing up the icon of another saint I wish existed: Sarah (as in Genesis), Patron Saint of the Old Broads of the Church.

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Sarah likes breaking the rules, ditching the collar and the dyed hair, without the sedate dark blue background but with a scandalous red one

She has eschewed the clerical collar, but is holding the ubiquitous cup of coffee and making a peace sign.  She also keeps Jesus close to her heart.  I’m not happy with her face yet, and I did some old school cutting and pasting to straighten her out, but she’s almost there.  I think I have one more Patron Saint icon in me, but I’m not sure yet who she is.  Jael, Patron Saint of the Mansplained?  Eve, Patron Saint of the Rule Breakers?

Another favorite Old Broad of the Church, Margaret, would ask then ask me, “What have you learned from this?”

I have learned that when you take something very big and make it very small, you have a new appreciation for its beauty and character.  Those old Sunday School lithographs were beautiful, and there are some beautiful pieces of quarter-inch squares in these pieces.  And I have learned that when you take something very big and make it very small and then combine all that smallness to make something big again, you make a brand new thing that still has characteristics of the old thing.  I think family systems theory would support that.

I have also learned that I am developing my patience muscles, which is a good thing, and that somehow these mosaics have to do with call and story telling.  Martha and Sarah, like all the saints, are shaped by the stories that are in their DNA.  Maybe we are too, shaped by the stories that get cut up and reorganized and glued down in different ways.

I got to hold a day-old baby yesterday.  He is a tiny thing, made up of cells and molecules and atoms and genetic pieces of his mom and dad.  His story has just begun, but he is already shaped the stories that surround his family and their friends.  What a miraculous thing this is, this life, these tiny things that turn out, in the end, to be enormous.

Perhaps it goes without saying 

Perhaps it goes without saying that I am horrified by the events in Charlottesville. 

Perhaps it goes without saying that I know I have not done enough to confront the racism in my heart or my community. 

Perhaps it goes without saying that I believe white supremacy is an evil lie. 

Perhaps it goes without saying that I think all of us – and I mean all – are created in the image of God. 

Perhaps it goes without saying that I find Facebook a great place to say things that aren’t followed up by action. 

Perhaps all those things and more go without saying. 

But the thing is, I haven’t said them, so there is no way anyone can really know what I think or feel or believe. 

So let me say this:

Hate is wrong. 

Racism is evil and has deep roots and long tentacles. 

White supremacy won’t make America great; in fact, it will be the death of us. 

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. 

Taking a break

Well, dear readers, I’m taking a break from this blog for a little while.

Everything is fine, I just haven’t felt inspired to write, and I haven’t felt the need to write anything.  I have a sneaking suspicion that perhaps the blog-o-sphere doesn’t need another blog by a middle-age white woman.  I’m also a little word-weary right now.

I’ll continue to post liturgy on occasion, and if I find I must write something, I will!

In the meantime, be well, have hope, and fight the good fight.

Rock on,
Beth

ps: I have been doing some art. Here is my paper mosaic of Martha, Patron Saint of Clergywomen 

Words that break our hearts, again

On Friday, May 26, a white supremacist began threatening two teenage girls -one African American, one Muslim, wearing a hijab – on the Max train in Northeast Portland.  Three men came to their defense, and were stabbed.  Two died, Rick John Best and Taliesen Namkai-Meche; the third, Micah Fletcher, was wounded but survived.

The first inkling that something had happened showed up on Facebook, as friends wondered why there were so many sirens, why so many police were racing down Broadway.  Then a post that there may have been a stabbing at the Max station.  Then the news.  Then the disbelief.  Then the tears.

What do you even say?  That the violence was so sudden and vicious?  That hate is ever present, and love is too?  The words of my sermon on Sunday felt flimsy; I’m not sure there are even the right words to say.

Except when I read that Taliesen’s last words were about love, his love for everyone on that train.  Except when I read that Micah is a poet, and he has spoken since the attack, words that I find encouraging and courageous and challenging.  Maybe words do matter.

Later that same evening I learned that one of my favorite crafter of words, author, prose-poet, essayist Brian Doyle, died, having succumbed to the ravages of a brain tumor.  I wish I could have read what he might have written about the Max train and the girls and the men.

I went to bed that night with my heart broken in new places.  I woke up Saturday and worked on setting aside all the feeling and thinking about all of it.  Oregon has a terrible history when it comes to welcoming people who aren’t white.  Portland does too, from red-lining to KKK presence to new threats.  While researching how to pronounce Taliesen’s name, I ended up on a white supremacist blog, which I quickly exited but not before reading part of a ghastly post.

The president, by his thrown-off, impetuous words, has opened the door to freedom of hate speech, which took the form of harassing two young women who were sitting on a train, doing nothing more than that.  Haters are emboldened.  Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will terrify us.

Words led to actions.  Words of hate led to a knife being brandished.  Words of love led to quick courage.  Words led to death.  Words led to fear.

And now words are bringing our community together and tearing at it too.  The mayor tried to limit a free speech rally.  The ACLU said he couldn’t.  Words of sympathy are pouring out, as are donations for the families of the victims.  Words of blame, words of being afraid are heard and printed.

What would happen if there was silence?  What would happen if all the words written in chalk at the Max station were erased?  What if there were only our tears, and the flowers, and quiet?  Would our silence be understood as cowardice or defeat or acquiescence?  Would silence be healing or hiding?

Are words hollow, or all they full?

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος

A dalliance of daffodils

A dalliance of daffodils –
they would, of course, dally, with that ruffled collar all set out
like some Elizabethan earl
happy to be out of the cold dark of the earth
happy to have burst the bonds of the bulb

Then there’s the intoxication of the daphne –
Thymelaeaceae her proper name
A rose by any other name could never smell this sweet, this heady,
this alluring, this…
She is joy touched with poignant lemon
sad perhaps that she cannot flower for very long
But she’ll be back next year

The trees are all budded
Like middle schoolers waiting for their first dance
A little embarrassed to be there at all, at the ends of the limb
But when they burst open the fun begins

Spring is not my favorite season, but maybe it should be
there’s so much LIFE everywhere
And relief that soon enough the rains will end
And the bees will come pay a visit to the raspberry blossoms
And the crows will start moving acorns to the car’s path, instant dinner
And whatever attention span the kids once had is now so very gone

No matter what,
No matter the plagues, the politicians, the ploys,
Spring arrives, like your favorite cousin visiting again
Keeping you up late in the moonlight
Inviting you to her own world
Promising so much
Never growing old
The season that never dies
Immortal yet fleeting, she is

And worth every minutenarcissus-pseudonarcissus-324110_960_720

When the women told the story

Stories in the Bible that feature women do show up now and then, not as often as many of us would like, and when they do show up, the women aren’t seen in as good a light as often as many of us would like. This week we get one of those stories: the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus.

I’ve been at a conference these past couple of days and the guiding story for our gathering has also been this story. It’s one I know well. I’ve studied it, written papers on it, created a retreat around it, and I’ve preached on it more than once. In some ways I feel as though I know it inside and out.

The first day of the conference we began with worship, fittingly enough since it was a church people conference. It was time to hear the scripture lesson. I settled back, waiting for someone to open a Bible, turn the page to John 4, and begin.

Instead, six women took the stage. Some I knew, some I knew of. They were different ages, different sizes and shapes, different colors; they are all powerful and faithful. And they started to tell the story of another woman, a different woman, a woman who was also powerful and faithful.

It’s hard to describe exactly what went through my head. It may have been something late like, “Oh my God – these women are going to tell the woman’s story.”  It may have been, “At last, women are going to tell this woman’s story.”  I’m really not sure what went through my mind because my heart was pierced as these six women were telling the testimony of one of their sisters.

I’ve never, ever, ever heard this story told in this way. It was riveting. They did not speak in one voice – you could tell as they told their part of the story that they had different takes on it. But through these women’s voices the story was reclaimed from thousands of years of interpretation by men who have seen this woman as a hussy, a prostitute or a slut, a woman who couldn’t keep a man satisfied or well fed, a woman who talked too much, a woman who had been shamed by her entire village.  Over the millennia she has been twisted into one more fallen woman who must be saved by a man.

But last Monday, this woman was reclaimed by her sisters (and by the two men and one woman who preached this text.) In their posture and their voice, in their inflection and pauses, they came around this woman and gathered with her at the well.

I so wish my daughter had been there to see it, to hear it, to witness it. I wish she had seen that group of women do what women have done between the lines of scripture for so many years: claim their own space in the sacred story.

 

Since originally posting this, the link to the video of the service has been posted.  If you’re interested, click on this link; go to Opening Worship.  The scripture begins around 19:15.