A Rock And A Hard Place? Or…

Life’s sweet spots sometimes come towards the end of big struggles. I admit I create many of my own struggles, wrestling with how to be kind to a perpetually irksome person, or with the plight of the nearly-extinct white-bellied spider monkey. Oh, and how my country, the whole world even, can be a place where humans can actually live.

In the midst of these inner writhings, I haven’t remembered yet that I’d asked God and His/Her Universe to please get me to a higher level of understanding,  whatever it takes.  So, if I’m to be truly honest, what I’m really asking for is to feel better. I want to be more peaceful, less in turmoil, more comfortable in my own skin. To cross this or that particular demon off  the list.

At the beginning, when I’m miserable and churning, I see my need for divine intervention. I know I need to do the simple-sounding work of letting go. Simple, but not easy. I begin to feel alone in the struggle. Where are you, God? I’m showing up to this mess, which you apparently led me to do. Now what?

Feels like I’m between a rock and a hard place. A very gray area. I sit like a cartoon character with that wisp of smoke sketched above his head. No words. Unhappy. Feeling sorry for myself.

I could just keep griping to the heavens, but, although I do have lots to be concerned about, I’m not very happy being habitually miserable. I decide to go into town early in the morning for a quiet coffee.

I don’t feel like going to my usual haunt where people know me, so I walk up the street to another one. There’s a giant peace symbol painted on the side of a building. Never noticed it before. On close inspection, one can see that the paint is old. Guess I hadn’t walked in this direction on this street in this spot for a while. The peace symbol mocks me. I smirk.

In the coffee shop, I hesitate for a moment when I see a familiar face–dang! The homeless guy. He’s usually in the other coffee shop. Not in the mood, but I nod to him. Sigh. I ask him if he’d like some breakfast today. He says yes. I’m glad when he retreats to eat his breakfast on his own. I’m not very good company.

Later that day I go to see my mother. To keep my thoughts from going all gloomy as I drive, I hit play on my podcast list. On Beingthis time with Glenn Beck formerly of Fox News as guest. (You can read the transcript with a click on the link above.) Here’s the gist: host Krista Tippett spoke with Mr. Beck about how he had been an extremely anti-Obama Fox News personality, then converted to Mormonism, and now sees that no matter where we are politically, we can find the things we have in common with our political opposites. I am (was?) Glenn Beck’s political and religious opposite, but there he was, addressing one of my own concerns, an echo of what I’ve been thinking. His about-face challenged and humbled me. I cried, there in the car. The interview took me out of my own head and gave me a little bit of hope for the future of my country and the world. This has been one of my biggest struggles lately.

Almost at my mother’s house, I notice for the first time ever the skyline of the city beyond her town. Never noticed it before, even though I’ve driven down that same street a million times. I used to live on that street, for crying out loud! Never, ever noticed that skyline. Didn’t realize the city was that high up on a hill, or how beautiful it is on a cloudy day. I was astounded at how I could have had such limited perspective. Again, tears, and a strange relief.

I went on that day to cross off to-do’s, both pleasurable and mundane. I may have smiled a little. There are still life’s very big questions. That’s OK, I think. Between the rocks and hard places, there’s the universe, powered by Love, which I call God, always with me in the struggle.

 (Oh, and what book has my attention lately? Accidental Saints–Finding God In All The Wrong People, by Nadia Bolz-Weber. More on that later, perhaps.)

Still Need A Little Christmas? I do.

It’s my usual post-Christmas funk, so I decide the decorations won’t come down till “Little Christmas,” or Epiphany, as Christians call it. It’s when, as the story goes, the wise men visited the baby Jesus. In my church’s tradition, the event that led to widespread knowledge of the Christ’s appearance in the human world. What I like to think of as Love being revealed in a whole new way. But, I’m still in a bit of a funk; I have been for a while. It started in November. I wrote about it and then didn’t post it. I thought it sounded too cranky. But, now, here it is. 

November 24, 2016
It’s the day before Thanksgiving, here in the US of A, but it’s hard to tell. I’m at the mall, sitting next to a tree loaded with red bows and white lights, behind the candy-themed fantasyland where Santa’s been offering photo opps for a month already. Looks and sounds more like Christmas time than the time to ponder what I’m grateful for. Definitely doesn’t feel like Christmas in my heart.

Are you there, heart?

This heart of mine feels weary lately. Staying positive and serene has taken extra concentration.  Feelings and thoughts take extra time to process. I mean, a wacko has been elected ringmaster of my country and now is filling the circus with a frightening array of clowns. The stress is getting to me. On second thought, maybe this year I need the Christmas season to start extra early. 

My pre-Christmas season has always been about hope. Hope, and the bigger picture–two perspectives that sure are taking their time sinking in today. I’m trying to be gentle with myself as I sort it out. Instead of taking in everyone’s opinions, I’m tuning in to bigger-picture messages, starting with a recent Sunday message.

The story (in the Bible, Genesis 25) was about an ambitious man (Jacob) taking advantage of his brother’s (Esau) hunger. Esau, really, really hungry, craved the fragrant stew his brother had made. He said he’d do anything to eat some stew. Jacob saw his advantage and asked for his brother’s birthright in exchange for the meal, and Esau agreed! So much we could talk about here, but what I’m feeling today in that story is how I crave warm “soul food,” and how I sell myself out in my search for that “food.”  For sure, I could use that comfort right now. 

We read a Psalm together on Sunday, too, from the Bible, number 46: The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us.

I’m taking that on faith today, the day before Thanksgiving. God in my life always has a wild, unexpected plan for good. 

Sitting amongst pre-Thanksgiving shoppers, I think about using my heart and voice to connect more deeply with the preschool kids I sing with; I think about the connections that I so often am blessed to make with neighbors and strangers. I clearly see the hunger in us all, made so very obvious by the recent election. I see how that hunger drives us to sell our birthrights: love. We want to feel better, go about our daily business, hope that the powers that be work it out somehow. Not enough. I’ve got to BE love in all kinds of ways. I now can see the need for lights on the bushes, around the windows, wound around trees–ASAP! 

 Lucille Ball is in my head:

Haul out the holly;
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking,
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry;
So climb down the chimney;
Put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen.
Slice up the fruitcake;
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.
For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.
(Songwriter: Jerry Herman)

Give a little listen, if you’d like:

Be light in the world. 

I Need A Sick Day

I woke up early, after watching the election coverage for way too long.  Not enough sleep. Time to make the coffee and light a candle, a nod to love and light, which frankly seem absent on this gray day. My candidate didn’t win. The country didn’t, either, I’m afraid. But then again, no candidate would have been really OK, if I’m to be honest.

So many big feelings. I need a sick day.

Fear. That’s my gut reaction, and I want to run and find a place to live that feels saner.  I probably won’t, though. Because becoming a citizen elsewhere is a lot of work. And because the whole world is crazy anyway. And we’re probably gonna have a war to end all wars sooner or later. I think sooner.

I’m also afraid for children. I grew up feeling secure about basic, decent, commonly-accepted values, not the now-popular Jerry Springer mentality. I’m so thankful that my daughter cares about people and has good manners; we struggle as a family with lessons on how to act sometimes, but she’s grown up seeing my husband and I working things out,  and reaching out to others, and she’s been working in groups who go and do for people in need. Still, our culture has a strong pull, and she’s a teenager…

I’m worried, too. About so many things. The planet. Inequality. Greed  in so many of our leaders, not just politicians. Steadily disappearing farmland, not enough concern for the pollution of our earth and our food. Most of all, our treacherous concern only for our own little existences in our own little worlds. And there’s so much more, too much to list.  I’m too tired, and ill.

I’m also embarrassed, for all the above reasons. I don’t blame any one leader for this. We all carry some blame. But, now we’re about to have a leader who outright shouts his disdain for the things I value. I’m ashamed.

My instinct is to berate those who voted for this clownish, outrageous, dangerous man, Yes, I see the dangers of the other candidates. I wasn’t happy with any of them. I see  problems with our current leader.  It’s just that…him? Trump?!?  We could do better.

So, I’ll have to find a way to accept the result of those who were so hungry for change that they were OK with any means and form of it. Change in what? Financial status? Government? Race of the president? Growing support of women, immigrants and gay people? I don’t get it. But, I know. You’re allowed your opinions and your votes. Right now, I wish you weren’t. Not a noble attitude, I know. Just how I’m feeling right now.

I have only one place to go for comfort. I go to God. Not the Republican God, or the Green Party, or any party. I go to the God who likes to party. With me, personally, and with all of us, despite our outrageous actions and opinions. See, we’re invited to put on our crowns, turn our faces to the light, and dance.  Dance, dance dance!  Dance in the face of all that’s unholy. I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about what we are born to do. This is the God who expects us to dance into the world and be light. To tell people there is light.

I’m not feeling it today. I need a sick day. The problem is, I’ve got to get myself together. Later today, I’ll be singing with pre-schoolers. Facing their expectant faces, their tendency to dance and sing. I’ll show up for them today. Then maybe later, I’ll be better able to show up to today’s other realities–the good, the bad, and the ugly–with a little song in my heart.

I wish you all very well.