My tongue is in my hand…

Archive for October 2008

I’m a mediator.  I have been for as long as I remember. I don’t usually take sides wholeheartedly.  When I take a side or make a decision, it’s usually with conditions or adjustments.  I like to combine theories, techniques, theologies, stances, viewpoints, genres, subcultures.  I like to identify the similarities that run through them because they are the similarities that run through us, as people.  I don’t like to be pigeon holed, I like to create.  I like to decide for myself through examination, exploration, consideration, and of course, experience, allowing for trial and error, allowing myself to change my mind, or revisit an idea, adjust a belief.  I like seeing the different sides and communicating between.  I like finding common ground and problem solving, developing agreeable compromises, helping people see that lots of times it’s how something is being communicated or acted upon that is the problem (often the issue of an argument is not the root issue, but is just a product of the issue), and if both parties are willing to step out of their bubble, it’s satisfying to see some movement towards acceptance, if not agreement. It’s a believer thing, believing that’s possible.

I am, more often than not, a dissenter.  And I was thinking these traits were conflicting, but really, they go together well.

It definitely has an adolescent aspect to it though.  I’ll sometimes find myself choosing something just because the people choosing the opposite are annoying me by trashing their opponents. I will refuse to watch a tv show if it’s advertised too much.  I instantly doubt the likability of someone that everyone gushes about.  And the more I’m told to do (blank) the more I think I am not going to do (blank) because I don’t need you to tell me to do (blank), I will do (blank) if and when I want to do (blank). The more a large group of people likes something, the more I think I may not.  I think it usually has to do with the group that likes it though.  If it’s a group of people I respect, I’m more likely to feel positively towards it.  But that just makes sense.  So if you tell me something, and I do the opposite, that may be a sign to you that I don’t really respect (or didn’t ask for or desire) your opinion on said thing (but it may not, there are always variables).  That’s common sense too.

I think I mainly hate when people get so caught up in what they are told that they don’t take time to figure out what they think.  Like really think, like gather information and think.  When people are so far one way or the other, it comes off ignorant to me, and it really doesn’t matter what it is that they are so one way or the other about. I don’t think everyone should be ambivalent about everything, there should be passionate beliefs that drive us, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be acknowledgement and respect and willingness to examine and re-examine the belief systems we carry around in us.  I think, if we are honest with ourselves, we can see the other sides, and note the underlying connector, our humanity, and what that means and the options it opens for us.

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Sometimes I feel like every little act of “normal” life is a treason against my self.  And that the world moves too fast for me and demands too much.  That I am suffocated, drowning, completely incongruent.  That I am trying to distort myself to fit, to catch on and catch up.  But I just can’t.  I look at the sky or a book or a child and I become slower, more incongruent, more behind; but I am breathing again.  I am able to feel movement and life behind my eyes.

If my responsibilities were less, I would attempt less of a normal life.

In the mean time, as I said before, I want to be the girl in the sun.  Graceful, peaceful, free and grateful.  Not unharmed, but uncovered, recovered.  Appreciative of every morning, love filled each night.  Alive and sure, moving at a pace, perfect, not pressured. Mind’s eye resting on the long run, still able to function here. It took a lot for that girl to exist, free of fear, not because she hadn’t met fear or entertained fear, but because she had.  Because she clawed and prayed her way through the clenched throat terror, sure of the sun, wondering a million times “how long”? Reshaping her concepts and approaches along the way until she fit through the cavern and lay right there in the sun.

The world that moves too fast, that doesn’t fit, is fearful and in fear is so many other horrible things.

So the be the girl laying in the sunlight, I have to believe I can be.  I have to stop trying to fit to fear and start trying to fit my way through – to get to the sun.

Outwitted

    by Edwin Markham

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

Everyday, there’s this question in the air – what part of my life will get the shaft today?  Finances, housekeeping, motherhood, work – the paperwork, work – the people, school, husband, me (mind, body, spirit, etc), friends, extended family, my writing/creativity…?  Most often, it’s more than one thing, though it’s never everything and never nothing.

This world is at best, ridiculous to live in and at worst, unbearable.

I just want to be the girl in the sunshine, windows to the west and north, mirrored closet doors to the east, panther blue wall, dream catcher hanging, laying on my great-grandmother’s quilt; peaceful, grateful, joyful, confident and not because I hadn’t been fearful, angry, bitter, and anxious, but because I had and I made it through. I want to be that girl again. That was a prayer last week.

And I carry it over to this one.

What I heard was: Then be the girl in the sunshine.

It’s about not subscribing to the world; general practices and thoughts.  It’s really about belief, not being concerned with planning and bills and jobs and the future, not worrying about possible tragedies and prevention tools.  It’s about trust.  Choosing trust.  Trust isn’t earned, it’s chosen.  We choose to trust or believe. The question I heard the most during that time, the time before was – Do you trust me???

It’s really the same question now.

Maybe it’s the only question.

There’s this old graveyard I like to go to sometimes, off of a country road.  There are only a few epitaphs I can make out completely and this one is my favorite:

The strife is o’er, the battle done, the victory of life is won.  The song of triumph has begun!

It’s so focused on the good part of death.  I wonder what the woman’s life was like.  Her name was Julia Pinyan.  She was 28 at the time of her death.  Many of the gravestones have broken or sunk into the ground, many of them are just too weathered to be read.  There are a few old ones replaced by new ones.  One of these has a folded flag held in place by a rock sitting at the top.  Another has a bouquet of fake flowers.  There’s a small, old stone, what I would think to be a child’s with a small tree growing right by it, the only one in the whole graveyard.  Did someone plant it?  I wonder who else goes to that graveyard and why.  There was a water bottle used as a spit bottle for dip and a mikes hard lemonade by the little bench.  The graveyard is surrounded by a small stone wall (maybe up to my knees), flanked by fields on 3 sides and on the fourth side, the entryway, a wooden sign with the name, some large trees, room to park maybe 4 cars, strategically, a brief gravel drive, and then the two lane country road, with fields on the other side.  On the far back wall of the graveyard is a flagpole flying the American flag and a small plaque stating who dedicated the cemetery and when.  The flag is the only reason I ever saw the graveyard in the first place.  The oldest birth date I’ve seen there is 1769.  The most recent death date was in the 1950’s, I think.

It makes me want to visit my grandparent’s graves, and Leslie’s.  I visited Leslie a few times on the way to school, before the interstate was finished and I took the back roads.  I know I went before I got married, I thought about her a lot then, what part she would have been playing in my life at the time.  I told her I was tying a blue ribbon inside my bouquet, for her.  I visited my grandparents too.  My paternal grandmother and grandfather, and all those other relatives in the church cemetery.  I told Paw Paw I was passing out smarties, like he did, and getting married on his birthday.  I told Maw Maw I was setting one of her cameos in my bouquet.  I told them about the shadowbox I make of their wedding, the newspaper article, pictures, the garter.  And I visited my maternal grandmother, at her church graveyard.  She loved church, but of course, they all did.  I told her how I was using the cake topper from her wedding cake, and the shadowbox I did of her wedding with the newspaper article, pictures, and gloves.  I told her I loved her because she’s the one I most felt I didn’t show that enough.  She’s the one I understand the most, now that she is gone.  Of course, I have her journals.

I don’t think I have to sit at a gravestone to be connected with the deceased, I think I carry them with me everyday.  Besides the physical reminders; pictures, pottery, an apple juice bottle with a note in it, the Buick emblem  that I put on the Christmas tree, notes in yearbooks.  But sometimes, there’s something about a cemetery.   I think they’re peaceful.  And like Julia Pinyan’s epitaph states, the grave can be triumphant, as it has been triumphed over.  I don’t really think it matters, for the dead, how they are buried, where, or who they are buried with, what their gravestone looks like or any of that.  I think there is beauty in cremation or in green cemeteries, where there is no headstone and a pine box casket.  Even in those cases, I think people attach something to place they place the body.  I think having a tangible place to acknowledge can be helpful.  I like the history you get from graveyards though.  The names and dates and epitaphs.  The wives and children and ages.  It’s interesting.

I don’t really think people die.  I think this; bodies die, souls rest- waiting for a day to all be reunited and in resting have peace and understanding of God, silent communion, and then the rest of a person- their energy, their thoughts, their passion, their life, it moves in us and through us and around us, it is ceaseless.  Our lives are marked and moved by people when their bodies are gone as much as they are before.  Sometimes more.  The opportunity to touch or talk to someone is gone, but the opportunity to live with them is always present.  As long as you are willing to carry them with you, or leave open doors within you for them to enter, open eyes to see their essence in the things around you.  But grief, grief is still heavy and wrenching.  Grief is still an ocean; at times the calming rock of waves and at times a dark tidal pull.  Grief is still.  It is not eradicated by hope, because death is still loss, even if it is gain.

But back to cemeteries.  I think, outside of a sanctuary, they are one of the most holy places.  The prayers and mini sermons…The strife is o’er, the battle done, the victory of life is won.  The song of triumph has begun!

Months ago, a local pastor and an assistant came door to door in the neighborhood doing a survey regarding the local church.  The last thing he asked was “If you could say anything you wanted to the local church, what would it be?” Woah.  Loaded question to ask someone like me.  I said nothing, because I couldn’t even think of how to articulate everything I wanted to say to the local church while standing on my front stoop on a Saturday morning, daughter on my hip.  But as soon as they left, I started typing.

Letter to the Local Church:

Things I would say to the local church:

*Don’t let tradition get in the way of development; don’t let development get rid of tradition.

*Hold one another accountable, particularly those in leadership positions but do it with kindness, respect, discretion, humility.

*Start teaching and using prayer for what it is: time of communion with God and one another, not a wishlist for what you want or as a way to feel you have control over life. When bad things happen it doesn’t mean you could have warded it off with prayer or you can make it disappear with prayer. Prayer is more for your insides than your outsides. This is a shock and disappointment when you don’t know this. Also, living the best way you can is not a guarantee that something horrible will not happen to you: people may say they realize this, but EMPHASIS IT because deep down a lot of “good people” feel shocked and betrayed by God when tragedy strikes. Instead, teach something like this of prayer: when we pray, we should be seeking communion with God. We should be thinking more towards changing the internal aspects of ourselves instead of the external aspects of our lives. If we are honest, authentic, and present in prayer and actively seeking the things we lift up, we are communing with God. If we can calm our spirits, change our perspectives, develop our faith in a way that makes us capable to face the battles and demons of our lives, then we are getting somewhere. If through prayer, we understand our selves, our God, our world more, if through prayer we unlock the powers in our depths, and begin to see the purpose in our existence, then prayer is active, it is relative, it is transformative. If through prayer, we become a person more capable of being the best version our ourselves, then through prayer, we become the changing forces of our lives. We underestimate prayer and we underestimate God when we relegate them to the little boxes we were taught somewhere along the way that they fit it to. How ridiculous, how inane, how wasteful.

*Be open for discussion, for questioning of practices and beliefs. Encourage critical thinking and discussing personal interpretations. It will help you develop real substance and foundations for your beliefs and give you new perspectives.

*Don’t let the same people do the same things over and over, don’t let a family or group monopolize the church. Figure out how to not force people and not just let them off the hook when it comes to being active in the church. Instead, be active in helping people find their “fruits of the spirit”, their ways to be active members of the church and the Body of Christ to utilize their abilities and grow. Be creative, inventive, open to the new things this could bring.

*DO SOMETHING REAL in the community, local and global, something that impacts something, changes something, improves something, attempts something, not just simple “good works” things, but hands-dirty kinds of things.

*Nurture all age groups children through seniors.

*Don’t let the size of your church limit you.

*Don’t make visitors feel ignored, but don’t make too big a deal about them either.

*Call and visit each other.

*Use technology to your advantage; web sites, email, texting, online photo galleries, social networks, etc.

*Be honest about yourself.  Your faith is only valuable if it is authentic; what importance is your light without your darkness? What value is your faith without your fear?  Don’t operate on pretense, it squanders your potential.

*Don’t focus too much on people’s outsides; how they dress, what they do on the weekends, but more what’s going on inside. We all have vices, preferences, interpretations; don’t let that get in the way of learning from one another.

Accept differences of opinion and even differences on implementation of faith, we are more alike than we are different if we can get past our judgments of people and lifestyles.

*Church should be a safe place to be yourself, whoever that is, not a place to conform, but to grow together with acceptance and mutual love and appreciation. God loves us and gifted us this love knowing every aspect of us, shouldn’t we do the same for one another?

*At the same time, we shouldn’t get too comfortable…we should push ourselves and one another to develop and move forward.

*Churches should have fun together.

*Churches should love one another.

*Churches should work together with other churches, co-op events regardless of theology. Aren’t we all about the same thing? Love of Christ and Love for Christ? Isn’t that the bottom line? Don’t let doctrines separate us too much. A house divided against itself can not stand. That house is the Church. Work together. It’s not a competition.

*Give each other room for error, give each other grace.

*Have real knowledge about other religions, don’t be afraid to integrate similar practices ( i.e. meditation and prayer)

*Have real knowledge about your own faith; life-lived knowledge, critically thought, challenged and processed knowledge, not regurgitated facts and ideals, this will give you solid ground to stand on and help others build solid footing.

*Don’t make it seem like faith is easy or a cure all.

*Don’t use too much jargon when talking about faith.  There are ideas, concepts, and terms that just don’t make sense if you didn’t grow up in Sunday School.

*Take a Sunday off, you’re not a “bad person” if you do and you need to step out of your world sometimes to gain perspective.

*Stop feeding the ideas that people who don’t fit into your personal or group ideals are bad or wrong. This only breeds division and walls and often creates a false sense of superiority that people pick up on and turn from.

*Acknowledge various aspects of pop culture and indulge in what you honestly enjoy and find acceptable, but don’t go out of your way to emulate it. People want acceptance, appreciation, and authenticity – not cheesy imitations and false connectivity based something that’s been manufactured.  Instead, allow for differences; then seek, build, and accentuate common ground.

*Experience God in the day to day and work with people in your congregation to do this and not act like the only way to be with God is in church.

*Be real and realistic with the youth. Don’t feed adolescents fairy tales about love and sex; sometimes true love doesn’t wait and sometimes waiting doesn’t get you true love. Love and life are bigger than a slogan. Don’t box these kids in with umbrella statements and movements that end up segregating the kids who fit and the kids who don’t, only creating cliques (that you can lose membership of), not actually empowering or engaging them. It may actually feed destructive guilt and lack of self worth for not living up to these umbrella standards, and does not emulate the relationship with Christ that is loving, merciful,  passionate, and individualized. Teach kids how to connect with God on their own, to develop an internal compass based on this personal relationship, not slogans. You would serve them well if you taught them respect and appreciation for themselves and each other and ways to build true intimacy in the world that they live, not your special “Christian” world where teenagers grow up in supportive homes (don’t be duped because their parents go to your church or are your family friends) and will only hold hands with the oppostie sex and go on group dates with a chaperone, and never drink, party, lie, skip school, gossip, or smoke cigarettes. This may be the case for some, but not for all, so evaluate your audience and give relevant advice and guidance. And ask some questions, what are these kids really looking for and how can you help them get there? Every story is different and the more you are a (loving and accepting) part of the lives of the youth in your church, the more you can help them manuever their way through the landmines of life…

*Give less lists of shoulds and shouldn’ts and work more on helping people develop their own internal compass, that is individual, because faith looks and works differently with different people- acknowledge that.

*Don’t use guilt or scare tactics.Guilt and fear are destructive thought patterns and emotions. A guilty, scared “Christian” doesn’t understand the beauty and forgiveness of the love that you are basing your church on and will not be an effective member of your body.

I grew up in the church.  In my family’s church, rooted by generations, I was raised.  I had a great experience overall. Youth group, camp, choir, leadership groups, teaching positions, trips, missions, dinners, plays, BBQ’s, lock-ins, bible studies, altar calls, baby dedications, weddings, and funerals. I love the church.  I love my church; my denomination, my friends, my family, my ancestry, my experiences that all roll into one under the umbrella of church.  And just as much as someone can feel called into service in the church, I was called out.  And have been, for all practical purposes, not part of the church in recent years.  I say this to explain the lense from which I view church and the changes I think need to happen in the church.

There are discrepancies in the kind of belief you have before you see the world and after you see the world.  Before you see so many perceived bad things happen to perceived good people.  Before you realize that no matter how much someone plays by the rules they can still lose it all or get burned.  Before you see suffering and sickness and death strike with no order, not passing over the faithful.  There are few guarantees.  It comes out all the time in tragedy, but it is true for everyone, all the time: all we have is whatever’s within us and each other.  That’s it.  No matter what you think you have, you aren’t guaranteed to keep it, no matter how many precautions you take or prayers you lift, no matter how prepared you believe yourself to be, no matter how much you have.  That’s why we have to build up storehouses within ourselves and each other of the intangible- things that will nourish us and protect us and push us. That’s what we need to do in church, that’s what people need from church.

And we have to build in one another, invest in one another.  We are it.  We are all there is. We are all we have.  We are all we need.  Us and belief.  The things we carry in us (God, love, faith, hope, belief).  These basic, basic things. That’s it.  People and belief.

That’s church all stripped down, people and belief.  People who need to be invested in one another, people who need storehouses of the intangible, people who need the transformative power of prayer and communion with God, people who need unconditional love and acceptance, people who need connectivity, people who need friendship, people who need safe places, people who need reprieve, people who need substance, people who need hope, peace, and love that transcends understanding and logic, people who need purpose.

I’d love to see some little revolutions in the Christian church, some envelopes pushed, some traditions reinstated, some new ones created. What the local church has been is not near as important as what it can be, and what it can be is not near as important as what it is now, in every moving moment of now. But it takes people, people aware and willing to move in the moving moments.

I don’t know if it matters, what angle you’re coming from, something about pictures like that, pictures that say “We’re a family” with traditions and shared life experiences, holidays, trips…life…

no one tells you (how could they) when you ache for those things as a little child that those things can warm you up and move you forward, but those things, for people like you, aren’t enough.

And I have 1/2 a vial of velvet tuberose that keeps reminding me that my spirit and my body are two separate entities.