Prayer

Mary Oliver

 

We have this idea of what prayer should be. Hands folded, knees bent, head down. The words are memorized words or prayers with SAT words. Words that would make our pastor proud.

That isn’t prayer. Prayer is a breath, raw feeling and hope that doesn’t know how to quit. It is a picture or a letter or a talk. It is whatever we want it to be because there is no one else there except you and God.

Tear out those fancy words.

Pray.

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The day after the day

Yesterday I mourned. I expected to wake up to a different world. A world that had changed. A world that no longer placed unreasonable standards for women to attain. A world who considered my brains more important than my body. A world that was ready for women to not just take care of families but lead them.

I woke up wondering if my daughters would also be considered dangerous for dreaming big.

That hurt. It hurt more than the election of a person who riles up fear and distrust and hatred in so many people.

I sat in grief. My heart hurt and I was angry at myself for the complacency I permitted myself to live in. Because I believe the world was about to change.

And it hadn’t.

I lamented. I cried. I held my daughters tight and told them they mattered because the world wants to tell them they don’t.

Today I woke up and I didn’t want to sit in that dark place. Maybe it was the sunshine, or the fact I could leave the house after an  sick quarantine for my youngest, perhaps it was the walk I took to clear my head.

Whatever it was, something changed.

I didn’t want to complain or bemoan or ridicule anymore. I wanted to act.

This election opened my eyes to so much other than the inequality women still experience.

How can I fight hate?

How do I combat fear?

How can I bring hope?

How am I going to change from this experience?

And the answer came easy.

Advocate for the disenfranchised. Advocate for the forgotten. Advocate for the ignored. Advocate for the invisible.

I am not going to assume our system will work out its kinks. We’ve done that for too long and it isn’t happening. It is my responsibility along with everyone else to be the change in the world we want to see.

gandhi

For me that means finding a voter advocacy group that makes sure every eligible voter knows how to vote and what  their rights are as a voters. It also means working with organizations that fight to get more minorities and women into our city and county and state and federal governments. I also believe I have to be a better informed citizen. I need to know more about the issues that impact me and my kids and my friends and my community and the country. I dropped the ball and I won’t do it again.

I have never felt fear during this entire process because I believe we have choices. In fact, we have lots and lots and lots of choices. If you are unhappy or sad or fearful from the election, don’t let those feelings keep you in a dark place. Take all of it and turn it into action.

What is the change you want to see?

How will you make it happen?

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The possibilities of Pentacost

Today is Pentecost. For you faithful churchgoers this is where your pastor or liturgist reads from Acts 2:4 and a sermon is preached on the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.

But Pentecost is so much more than that.

The Holy Spirit came to reside in our hearts on Pentecost. There was no more separation between us and God and Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit we joined in the divine dance (wish I came up with that one, it is all Richard Rohr)

At Pentecost we became the Temple. We became the place God resides. We became the church no matter where we are or who we are with.

Pentacost

 

If this is true, then how do we live?

I read this verse in Corinthians and it blew me away. For all my life I’ve been a churchgoer. Swallowing the church-as-building pill and wanting to invite people to a place. This place isn’t God’s plan at all because the church is within each of us. Each person who receives the Holy Spirit is the church and wherever we are gathered the Holy Spirit is that much bigger.

When we believers are gathered together do you imagine how we can change the world?

Do you want to keep that in a building?

Do you want to keep that behind rules?

Do you want to keep that out of the world?

Revelations, that big old confusing ball of prophecy, says

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

I always took that passage differently but in light of the Corinthians passage I see it as when all people on earth receive the Holy Spirit the world is God’s dwelling place because WE are all God’s dwelling place. The kingdom of God will be on earth because WE are on earth. We have his spirit. WE are all together in worship and in praise everywhere and the New Jerusalem is wherever we are because God is wherever we are. There are no boundaries because we won’t have buildings and codes and regulations between us and between us and God.

That is what will be-

So why do we hide behind the four walls of the church. Why does our church have walls at all. We are supposed to be in the world and changing it through love. On a Sunday morning we shouldn’t be dressed in our finest- listening. On a Sunday morning we should be anywhere- doing, being, loving.

The challenge in the Corinthians passage is that since we have the Holy Spirit within us we are called to be in the world and bringing light and love and hope wherever we are.

The point of Pentecost isn’t a church building. The point of Pentecost is making the world and wherever we are the church. Without rules. Without boundaries. Without playing who-is-in and who-is-out.

We get Pentecost wrong when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in a church building. The call for this day is to go out into the world and be the church of our church ancestors.

Because they were never in a building. They were out in the world empowered and strengthened by the universal Kingdom of God in their hearts.

Our future isn’t a world where everyone goes to church; our future is a people, joined together by the Holy Spirit, sowing love wherever they go into the world.

Today- Take that temple into the world because it is in you.

It is what we believe.

It is how we love.

It is why we live.

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Her story…My Story

I volunteer once a week at a medical facility. I spend time with kids as they wait for appointments, reading, talking about the T.V. show on the screen, showing games on a tablet.

It is often the best two hours I spend during the week.

I don’t love it because of what I am doing but for the moments that I connect with whoever I am with. These interactions, conversations, visits aren’t about me telling another parent what I know about reading but listening. Listening to their stories, how they spend their time, their struggles, their dreams and providing a doorway for them and their child to get to where they are going.

When I keep it about the program I tend to be all-business-and-no-heart. Not intentionally missing the point but missing it all the same through my good intentions. Over the past two years of these weekly visits I no longer worry whether or not the parents walk away understanding how critical reading is; instead I want to make sure they walk away believing

I heard them. I listened to them. I saw them.

Today was one of those interactions. I worked with the daughter but I also talked with the mother. I met her in the space as a fellow mother. One who understands how hard it is to parent. I learned that the mother was working a full time job while going to school. What her dreams were, where she wanted her career to go.

What she wanted for her daughter.

If I had pushed what I could provide I never would have heard what she needed. And today- she needed reassurance. Reassurance she was a good mom, she was taking care of herself and her daughter, she was making a difference.

I just listened. Conversation naturally came around to why I was there- not as a social worker but as a reader. The conversation told me this mom already did all the things I would have told her. So I could help her enrich her daughters literacy life in other ways.

But I do believe I wasn’t there today to tell her how to do something; I was there in order to understand how to live a moment.

How to be present in a moment, with another person and hear, really hear, her story.

And that made a difference to me.

That is why our stories matter. That is why we tell our stories. That is why we ask other people for their story.

It teaches us how to interact and engage without agenda, without a point to make, without a purpose other than to just be.

Did you hear a story today? Did you tell your story today? Did you allow yourself to be present without agenda?

If not, start now. Be in this moment, with whomever is next you, ask the story of their day if they are familiar to you and if it is a stranger find some common experience to know them deeper.

(Buy the Mom Quilt today. My essay on motherhood included! Hear my story and hear the story of over 60 other writers and bloggers. I am an Amazon Affiliate member so when you purchase a copy using the link provided I receive a small percentage of sale.)

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We all have a story

I am a writer. It has taken a long time for me to say that. Of course I am writing so it’s a little easier. I often put a lot of buts in the statement: I am a writer.

I am a writer but … I haven’t published or

I am a writer but… my only published work is an essay or

I am a writer but. . . the IRS considers it a hobby.

There are a lot of buts in my writing.

It is easy to dismiss ourselves. Dismiss our calling. Dismiss our passion.

Especially as mothers, right?

This first book that I was published in was for an organization I hold close to my heart.  The money didn’t go to the writers and bloggers who participated but to Mercy House Kenya to help pregnant women in extreme poverty. Our ebook helped to raise the 40K needed to build a well so water didn’t have to be trucked in.

And now when you purchase a book, the money goes to support the programs and services that help these pregnant women, these mothers, some of whom are children themselves- Live. Thrive. Love.

I love that my first book, the book that allowed me to call myself a writer, went to this incredible organization. It is a book about mothers and the stories we all have that weave together into this beautiful-hard-experience we call motherhood.

Consider picking up a copy for yourself, for your own mother, for the women in your life. Hearing another woman’s story will help you tell your own.

We are all writers really. We all have stories. We all have plot twists, high stakes, critical moments, and endings.

Some happy.

Some okay.

Some hard.

Some endings are really really hard. The story we tell about our lives, isn’t just for ourselves but for anyone we touch, come in contact with, love. It doesn’t matter if you have all the words or the right words or any words.

Tell your story. In a smile. In a touch. In an embrace.

Read the stories of these mothers and then have the courage to tell your own.

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Life in between

life is hard

It has been 10 years this month since I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. I saw my doctor today and it was almost comical how non important this anniversary was to him. Not because he didn’t know it was a big deal but because it’s cancer and cancer can return. So while I as the patient mark each year as an important victory he remains ever vigilant in his treatment of a disease that could come back at any time.

In my head, I’d reach ten years and I’d have  party with my endo. We’d shake hands, laugh at the good run we’ve had, maybe have a beer and part our ways. Because this chronic illness stuff is tiring.

But it’s cancer and it could come back. I wish I had a search team that could shake the cancer cells out for good. Are they hiding in my lungs? Somewhere in my thigh bone? What about my lymph nodes? Are they hiding along with the cold my kids gave me?

Living with cancer feels like I have one foot firmly on the ground and my other foot is hovering over a cliff I know is there but can’t see. And I know I probably won’t fall but I could. So I do the only thing I can. I walk forward. I breathe in and I breathe out. I pay attention to what matters.

There are good days when I can do this. And there are days that I talk to cancer like it’s an ex-boyfriend I don’t want to see again but appreciate the life experience he gave me. Like, “Hey, cancer, you were here. You left your mark. Nice smiley faced scar you gave me. Are we cool?”

I sat in the exam room today and the endo and I went through lab results. He handed me orders for blood tests and chest x-rays. We went through the chart to see when my last bone density scan was and the date of my last full body scan trying to figure out when we should schedule them again.  10 years passed and another 10 will pass and I will still be getting chest x rays, body scans, bone scans and blood tests.

It’s life with cancer. Life lived between 6 month check-ups and 5 year body scans.

Cancer changed my life in good ways. I don’t think I was fully present in my life until the diagnosis. I’ve changed. I don’t want to waste my precious days on things that don’t matter. I’ve written a book. I’m writing more.

I wish I had come about all of these changes in a different way.

A post it note.

A good book.

Friendly advice from a friend.

I wish it hadn’t come in the form of a disease that doesn’t know when to leave the party. But, this is my life. It is the life I walk every day and I cannot live it in fear always wondering when my foot along the cliff edge will slip.

Because that isn’t life.

I know the cliff is there. I don’t get to choose a different path but I can get to keep walking. It’s been 10 years of incredible life giving change. If I’ve grown this much in 10 years. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next ten.

And that’s what I will focus on. That is where my hope is. That is how I persevere.

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What I listen to

I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts while I run. It helps the time pass even if it makes me a little slower and I always learn something.

What podcasts I dig right now and you should listen to:

 

The Liturgists. I love this podcast. They talk about relevant faith topics in depth. They are funny, thought provoking and mix the secular with the sacred. Any podcast that has Pete Holmes and Rachel Held Evans as guests is worth listening to.

Rob Cast. Rob Bell is formative in my spiritual growth. He doesn’t believe in the archaic 1950’s church that so many Christians today cling to. He talks about hard topics with grace, truth and love. Most of what he says I want to write down or tattoo it somewhere.

Everyday Prayer Podcast. I just stumbled upon this one. You might recognize the host Lori Neff from Midday Connection. She now focuses on spiritual direction and this podcast on prayer is creative and relaxing.

Faith Conversations. This is a podcast by Anita Lustrea the former host of Midday Connection. She continues a similar format in this podcast and hits on relevant faith topics with different authors and leaders in the faith community. This is a podcast that I listen to with my library app open so I can order the books I hear about.

What podcasts do you listen to as you go about life?

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