May there be dancing in your days. May there be smiles. May there be feasting.
May there be softness in the eyes of those who surround you. May there be warmth. May there be wisdom.
May you recall that the armor you’ve been wearing is not your true self, but only a shell of protection. May you have safety. May you be brave.
And may you breathe Belonging through the whole of your being until every cell of you celebrates your name: Beloved.
Gratitude List: 1. We did manage to carve some time and safe space with some of our beloved college friends. What a joy! Missing those who weren’t there, but feeling them present even in distance. 2. Learning from friends about the Friends (Quakers) makes me open myself to listening more attentively to the messages meant for me. 3. In the stillness is the dancing. Finding my way back to meditation and mindful breathing. 4. Learning and relearning, every year, every day, that it just takes one step. And then another. One by one. . . 5. Egg on English muffin for breakfast. May we walk in Wisdom!
“Brew me a cup for a winter’s night. For the wind howls loud and the furies fight; Spice it with love and stir it with care, And I’ll toast our bright eyes, my sweetheart fair.” —Minna Thomas Antrim
“How do we go on living, when every day our hearts break anew? Whether your beloved are red-legged frogs, coho salmon, black terns, Sumatran tigers, or fat Guam partulas, or entire forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, or oceans, or the entire planet, the story is the same, the story of the murder of one’s beloved, the murder of one’s beloved, the murder of one’s beloved.” —Derrick Jensen
“The Work. I am learning, slowly and in tiny little ways, to stop asking myself what I can get from each moment, but instead what my Work is here in the moment. And realizing, ever so dimly, that when I am really doing my Work (really doing my Work), I am also receiving what I need.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” —Peter Drucker
“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it will be a butterfly.” —Margaret Fuller
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” —T.S. Eliot
“So my mind keeps coming back to the question: what is wrong with us? What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe—and would benefit the vast majority—are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.” ― Naomi Klein
Gratitude List: 1. Hummingbird. I thought perhaps this might be a year without them, but a lovely little female has been visiting the petunias and stopping to hover outside my window and look in. 2. Golden: flowers, people, sunlight. 3. Hope 4. Work 5. Wise friends
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!
So. You don’t get to post # savethechildren posts and memes and then vote for the man who partied with Jeff Epstein, who said of Ghislaine Maxwell, “I wish her well.” You just can’t.
You can’t post # savethechildren and then support tearing children from their families to be kept in detention centers. You just can’t.
You can’t post # savethechildren and ignore the predations of priests and nuns and church leaders and powerful men. You just can’t.
You can’t post # savethechildren and vote to take away children’s health care, to remove their safety nets at every turn, to cut welfare, to reduce affordable housing. You just can’t.
You can’t post # savethechildren and cavalierly send them back to crowded schools during a pandemic without a thought or plan for how to keep them safe. You just can’t.
“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” —Deuteronomy 32:2
“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” —Thomas Merton (Oh, but I am going to try, Thomas Merton. I am going to try.)
“It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.” —Alvin Toffler
“What comes, will go. What is found, will be lost again. But what you are is beyond coming and going and beyond description. You are It.” —Rumi
“Though my soul may set in darkness it will rise in perfect light. I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” —Attributed to Galileo
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” —from The Talmud
“An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.” —George Santayana
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” ―James Baldwin
One of my most common school anxiety dreams is that the semester has begun, and I don’t get there until a few days or weeks or months in to the semester. Things have already begun without me. Other teachers are running the class. I basically have no idea what is going on.
One of my most common recurring dreams about doing my inner work involves discovering rooms or places filled with things that I have somehow inherited.
Last night’s dream includes both elements: I am a couple weeks late to begin a new teaching assignment in a middle school. When I get there, the substitute is a man, a college professor, who is teaching them as though they understand deep literary critique, referencing obscure writers and texts. There’s also an assistant in the classroom, and she is sitting in the desk at the front of the room while the professor teaches.
I don’t really introduce myself when I come in, but I put on an audio story for them to listen to. It’s engrossing, very literary, and sort of mysterious. The kids and the other two teachers are immediately into it. Meanwhile, I start to clean up the two desks at the front of the room. The previous teacher left all her stuff, and the surface of the desks are covered with knick knacks. I actually want to look at each one and decide which ones I will keep. It’s kind of an exciting process. Underneath the desk are little hidden drawers and doors, and dozens of keys!
The story ends just as the children are to be dismissed for the day. I thank the other teachers, and tell the children we will have formal introductions tomorrow. I’m eager to meet them, and they seem ready to take me on as their teacher.
I am not nearly where I want to be in terms of fall planning. I’ve let my anxiety keep me whirling in a tornado of what-ifs, and I’ve found myself unable to focus on plans. This year demands stronger plans with more options, so I need to get myself together, and not show up to the party late. If I am to really connect with my students in this season, I need to leave the professor at home, and keep reeling them in with captivating narrative.
At the same time that I have not been getting a handle on the actual nuts and bolts preparation for the semester, I have been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, the teen version of Kendi’s longer work Stamped from the Beginning. I think there are all sorts of inner doors and drawers that I am finding access to in the wake of these texts, new ways to frame how I can teach in antiracist ways, not self-consciously layering discussions of racism into literary discussion, but letting a deeper knowledge of US history infuse the ways I lead discussions about texts.
I’m not sure what the tchotchkes on the surface of the desk represent, unless it is simply that in the midst of my anxiety about opening school, I am looking forward to exploring all the little shining things that represent the everyday school experience.
A couple days ago, during a video-call, a cousin of mine exhorted me to be aware of how my worry affects me, to consider ways that I might proactively deal with the anxiety I am experiencing. He suggested giving myself one day a week to worry, making a list of the things my brain wants to worry about, and then checking in with the list on one day a week. Chances are, some of those worries might have evaporated week to week. Of course, the worry about school just gets bigger and bigger, but I am really moved and inspired by the encouragement to lay it down a bit. And yesterday, my pastor’s sermon was in a similar vein.
I need rituals to mark the inner work that I am doing, physical representations of the energies I am trying to shift. So today, I am going to meditate a little about the school worries, and then I am going to choose some ribbons to represent the things that most frighten me, and hang those on my willow tree. She is strong, and also not rigid. She flows. She listens well.
I can’t change the decisions that my school and my son’s school are making. I can be vocal about the safety issues that I see, asking for accountability to strong safety measures. In the end, unless I choose to strike or quit (which I just can’t do because I love my school and my administrators and teaching), I need to simply buckle down, do what I can to keep myself and my students safe, and find joy in the experience of reconnecting, of opening those little drawers and doors, of finding the right keys, of discovering the shiny things that will be part of everyday life back at school.
If you pray, if you do magic, if you work with energy, work prayers and magic and energy for our safety, please. For all the teachers and the students, for our families.
Gratitude List: 1. Social media posts about people’s food preservation. I haven’t done any of that this year, and I don’t plan to, but I can look at the beautiful rows of my friends’ canned beans and pickles and relish. I can see the binsful of corn transformed into baggies of golden sunshine that will wait in their freezers for winter. This makes me happy. 2. Kittens 3. Learning to push my body past its initial inertia, to get on the bike, to pedal even when its hard going. 4. Beloveds who remind me to deal with my worry and not just leave it lying around where it can keep pouncing on me. 5. Messages from dreams.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!
“We should ask ourselves: Do we know what enough is inside of our lives? Once I know that, it’s much harder for capitalism to catch me, right? Because I’m not susceptible to this constant sale of myself or my soul to any other force.” —adrienne maree brown
“I hold the line, the line of strength that pulls me through the fear.” —Peter Gabriel
“Children grow into the intellectual life of those around them.” —Lev Vygotsky
“It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” —James Baldwin
“Three things cannot be hidden: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth.” —Gautama Buddha
“Those doing soul work, who want the searing truth more than solace or applause, know each other right away. Those who want something else turn and take a seat in another room. Soul-makers find each other’s company.” —Rumi
“Going within is the only way out.” —Toko-pa Turner
“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.” —Thomas Merton
“Let me fall, if I must. The one I will become will catch me.” —Baal Shem Tov
“The sky itself Reels with love.” —Rumi
“That’s a tough spirituality. That’s not any kind of sweet-by-and-by spirituality. That’s a spirituality that takes on the world as it is and says, ‘I’m gonna figure this out one way or another.’ The mystic and the Moses.” —Vincent Harding (On Being interview)
“May you know the fearlessness of an open heart. May you never meet anyone you consider a stranger, and know that no matter what, you are not alone. May you have compassion for others’ suffering and joy in their delights. May you be free to give and receive love.” —Sharon Salzberg
“In our culture, we use the word ‘dreamy’ derogatively to describe someone who is unrealistic or without ambition. But what thrills and amazes me about dreamwork is how truly grounding it is. One of the reasons this is true, is because dreams are expressions of that larger ecosystem in which we are embedded, and which has a design for our lives within that greater context! So rather than taking our cues from consensus culture, instead we are listening to the mystery which combines us. As Jungian analyst Ann Bedford Ulanov puts it, “the Self is that within us that knows about God.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
Last week, a friend of mine asked me to write a poem for her and her friends who are having a bonfire circle, a healing time and a safe space to express their fears and anxieties and anger and hope in a time when their lives and identities are in danger–it’s a racially diverse group with many gay and trans folks. I love how she has taken on this healing work, and I am so proud to be her friend, and so honored to write a poem to bless them.
You Are Elemental by Beth Weaver-Kreider for Faith and her Friends and in memory of Rem’mie Fells and Riah Milton
Someone once told me we are made of starstuff. Enough of the dust of the cosmos breathes through us that we can believe we belong, made as we are of the essence of that which forms all that is. Whatever you believe about yourself, know this: you belong in the web of it all. You are an elemental miracle of a living, breathing being, and you are the very expression of Desire Itself, manifested.
Whatever you experience of masculinity or femininity, what you experience as androgyny, all of that is emblematic of your Divinity, your connection to the Source from which we all are born. Don’t let them tell you, no matter how unsettled you may feel in the body you were born in, that you are not made in sacred grace, each atom, each particle, each space within you, formed as you are of earth and water, wind and flame–every name you choose that means your soul and spirit, that means your own transforming body, is sacred, holy, breath and birth.
You, whose journey is all about transforming who you are into who you feel yourself to be, are built into the likeness of the One who made the world, created in the shape of the Universe Itself, whose very name is Change, which set the rules in motion, to cause the caterpillar to feel her unsettled urge to break away from caterpillar life, to take his time in his quiet cocoon, to emerge as their own beautiful butterfly. You make yourself, you match yourself to yourself, you rhyme, you move to the subtle rhythms driven by the itch for mutability placed within you by the Holy One Themself.
May you breathe deeply in the skin you’re in. May you feel your holy fires awaken. May the blood that pulses in the rivers of your veins remind you of the waters of the Earth which bring you, again and again, to birth, as you shape and form and create yourself to be the you you know yourself to be. May the very Earth you walk on hold you up and remind you every day that you Belong. Blessed Be.
Gratitude List: 1. Webs 2. Spinning strands together 3. The tender human connections the Fab 5 model 4. FINALLY starting a project that has been hanging over my head, literally. Yesterday, I spent several hours scraping the ceiling of the balcony porch to get it ready to re-paint. It is going to take days, and I don’t have the stamina for more than two or three hours of it at a time. But it is started! 5. Yesterday, we caught glimpses of one of the young raccoons searching the hillside for grubs and bugs. Jon got a good photo of it from the treehouse where he was nailing up walls. Last week, we discovered the body of one of the others, and it’s been hurting my heart so that I can hardly even type the truth of it. It was good to see life continuing on with such focus and curiosity in its sibling.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly–in Beauty!
“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.
The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip. . .
The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.” —Tom Robbins
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” ―Victor Hugo
“Everybody’s In, Baby.” ―The Love Warriors
“And when she wanted to see the face of God, she didn’t look up and away; she looked into the eyes of the person next to her. Which is Harder. Better.” ―Glennon Doyle
“When we ask for help, we are building community. We are doing away with this notion that we should be practicing at detachment. We are rapturously attaching! We become responsible for tending to one another’s pieces. Not only is the giver allowed to express their bestowing heart, the receiver is taken into a greater tenderness of their own giving nature. As we grow our capacity for gratitude, which is another way of saying completeness or belonging, we are healing our tinygiant part of the world’s devastating wound of scarcity.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“Forever is composed of nows.” ―Emily Dickinson
Rob Brezsny: ‘So it turns out that the “blemish” is actually essential to the beauty. The “deviation” is at the core of the strength. The “wrong turn” was crucial to you getting you back on the path with heart.’
“If not for reverence, if not for wonder, if not for love, why have we come here?” ―Raffi
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ―Anne Frank
Today’s prompts were Galaxy (or galaxy-type things) and love/anti-love:
Sometimes by Beth Weaver-Kreider
Sometimes when I say I am seeking the Beloved, it is your wise eyes I see, your expectant face, your eloquent and tender hands.
Sometimes when I listen for the humming of the stars, it’s your voice my ears remember, your quiet murmur, your trilling whistle, clear and bright.
Sometimes when I pause in the middle of the trail and catch the aroma of lilac or hyacinth sifting into the clearing, it’s your scent I’m sensing, and I am held in your arms as surely as if you were here.
In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, I have recorded Jane Yolen’s “Earth Day.”
The prompts today are Trap, and Blue. Instead of doing a mash-up, I did two.
In the Arms of the Beloved by Beth Weaver-Kreider
You can’t escape the blue, the windy robe of the Beloved draped like a veil over the rim of your living, over the bowl of your holiest spaces,
and scattered deep within the indigo arms of the tree-shadows, indigo bluer than soul, pathways striping the afternoon green, leading you home to the arms of your most desired Mystery.
Trapped in the Anagrams by Beth Weaver-Kreider
I am rapt. I start prattling, debating. I stay apart: No parties. No pasta. No prattling patter. I’m caught in the strata. No matter, I rap and I mutter. This pome can’t escape the trap and the stutter, lodged under a tarp of ratatat blather, of anagram chatter.
Josiah was really quiet in the other room just now, and then he said, “I count eight bluebirds.” I joined him, and he pointed out not only eight, but more than a dozen, in the branches of the sycamore and the walnut, on the ground beside the shop, in a patch of yellow aconite. And all the while someone else–house finch, perhaps–was singing a spring song. Spring is on its way. Listen for the things the morning birds are telling you, feel it in the breezes, even on a chilly day. It’s coming.
Gratitude List: 1. The great cloudowl, one morning last week, that flew above us in the morning sunrise, grey feathers spread above the coming sun, magenta belly borne by the sun rays rising. 2. Pretzels with creamy pub-style horseradish 3. My incredible students. Students Council sells singing serenades for Valentines Day, and all day Friday, my classes were briefly and beautifully interrupted by wandering minstrels singing love songs. 4. The Emergency Women’s Shelter. Volunteers staff a 40-person shelter in St. Mary’s church social hall all through the coldest months of the year. This is a web, a safety net, a community basket. 5. Bluebirds waking into spring.
May we walk in Beauty!
My friend Sue asked me to weave some poems and bloggy bits together for a talk at her church this morning. The concept is Longing and Belonging: Creating a Culture of Care in Community. Here’s what I put together.
Culture of Care: Longing and Belonging
Good morning–I’ll start with a poem: Take a breath Sit down in the silence of the room of this moment in time
watch how the moments flow over you when you release your grasp on the one ahead watch how the space of this room takes shape around you watch how your breath blooms into the air
Feel the vast spaces within you, knowable, unexplored, waiting for you to enter and experience who you are in your deepest self. Listen for the whisper of your own voice in the echoes of your dreams. Stretch your hands up and out. Draw in deep breaths. Stretch and stretch. You are larger on the inside.
First, I want to point out that I am a poet, not a preacher; not a theologian, but a dreamer. As an English teacher, I teach students to create a strong and arguable thesis, to develop careful supporting details and evidence, and to conclude their argument with a discussion of the implications and applications. When I approach questions that deal with inner landscapes and spiritual ideas, however, I am less likely to work in the realms of supportable arguments and more in the world of metaphor and image, spinning ideas of different colors and textures together to make a whole web. It’s less linear, and more circular–like a web. Some of what I am going to share today is prosey bits I’ve pulled off my blog, some is poetry–mine and others’–and some is connective tissue, more lines drawn to hold the web together. So, let’s speak of longing and belonging.
One of the phrases that Sue offered me for this morning was to consider how communities create cultures of care. Let’s draw a bright asterisk of shining strands with that one, the foundation strands of the web, anchored in human relationships of listening well, of speaking truth, of the deep desire for connection, of belongingness, and of knowing that we are beloved children of the Creator of the One Who Made Us.
Since we have just come through Valentine’s Day, here’s a little Valentine poem about the web of community:
To all my Valentines, you and you and someone else: we draw these webs between us, made of chocolate and sunlight and tentative smiles and the toothy grins of our children and the hope of helping out a little bit and seeking our roots and our sources together and following traditions and breaking traditions and going a little bit wilder and dancing until the chickens come home to roost. When your heart goes skipping through windows, you’ll know one of us is thinking of you.
One of the books I am reading at the moment is Matthew Fox’s Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God. While he finds whimsical and imaginative images as well as historically and theologically-based ones, I am pretty sure that he does not include Spider in his list. I hope no one here is too arachnophobic. But if we’re to spin out this metaphor into a strong web on this asterisk of community care which we have placed into the room, we have to place The Holy One at the center of the web, spiralling outward, still making the world, watching her strands, feeling the way the energy of the web shifts as breezes blow past and events occur along its lengths. And we, too, are spiders, spinning our own smaller webs among the spaces between us, emulating the one who Spun it all into being.
We live in a woodsy area, and we just can’t keep all the critters out of our old house. One morning, I walked in morning darkness into the kitchen, and right into a spider’s web. I wrote a little poem about it. I don’t think I knew at the time that I was writing about God.
All night the spider spins her careful message, stringing the gossamer web across the kitchen: You are not alone. Fine strands connect you to the Universe. Remember, you belong in the net of all that is.
Perhaps the spider had other ideas about the meaning of that event.
Before belonging is longing. The writer Starhawk says that the glue at the center of the universe is love, is desire, is the longing for connection. The Creator gives us a clue in the very structure of the atom, of particles whirling around a central core, continually seeking their source, longing toward center, drawn outward in the spin, but longing always inward. And in the center of our own human atoms, our individual webs, is that very craving for connection.
And sometimes that feels like a design flaw, doesn’t it? This deep longing we carry within us, that seems to be imprinted into the very strands of our DNA, when unfulfilled, leaves us feeling awkward at best, and cut off and isolated at worst.
The 12th century Persian Sufi poet Hafez writes of this longing in this poem. (This is a Daniel Ladinsky translation.) He also offers a way to respond to the sometimes overwhelming desire to be loved and noticed and accepted:
Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.” Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise Someone would call the cops. Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect. Why not become the one who lives with a Full moon in each eye that is always saying, With that sweet moon language, what every other eye in This world is dying to hear?
So there, at the end of the poem, is the beginning of the answer to how to deal with the pain of the longing for belonging: To offer the words that everyone else is longing to hear. Build our own connections.
Contemporary US poet Martha Collins writes similarly in her poem “Lines”: Draw a line. Write a line. There. Stay in line, hold the line, a glance between the lines is fine but don’t turn corners, cross, cut in, go over or out, between two points of no return’s a line of flight, between two points of view’s a line of vision. But a line of thought is rarely straight, an open line’s no party line, however fine your point. A line of fire communicates, but drop your weapons and drop your line, consider the shortest distance from x to y, let x be me, let y be you.
What would our webs look like, were they all made visible? Connecting point to connecting point–what lines are drawn between ourselves and those who have gone before, between ourselves and others in the world today? Between ourselves and the planet? And God?
As we circle the lines of our webs outward, line to line, we move from the deep longing to offering belonging to others. The principal of the public elementary school where my fifth grader attends (he happens to be a Messiah College grad) taught his students the South African Zulu greeting, “Sawabona,” which means, “I see you.” The response is “Sawabona shikhona,” which seems to mean: “Because you see me, I am here.” Our ability to look at each other, to catch and hold eyes, is one of the possible keys to belongingness. What a powerful tool to offer to elementary students, a script for belonging and connection in each spoken greeting.
My good friend Gloria, a professor in EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, often signs off from our typed online conversations, “I See you,” capital S. It is neither a flip nor a throwaway greeting, but a deeply honoring gift, acknowledging our belonging to each other. What is this longing for belonging that we have encoded within us but a desire to be truly seen and cherished? I See you. How simple. Like Moana, we can look into the burning rubble of each other’s pain and say, “I know your name. I know who you truly are.”
Here’s a poem I wrote after a wonderful evening with a group of my college friends, a group of people who have offered each other an unconditional and unwavering belonging, love, tenderness:
Sit with your beloveds in a circle, and feel the truth of how your hearts are woven together every bit as real as that basket under the hall table where a fine cat is purring.
You will hear the echoes of the ego towers that have fallen, see the memory of rubble in the eyes. Say out loud, “I see you.” Say, “I witness.” Weave the new strands together. See how your stories are one singular tale.
Feel the starlight making a net around you, a silver basket reflecting your own.
When we build conscious webs of connection between ourselves, in churches, in classrooms, in families, in friendship groups, among strangers, we participate with the Creator in a mystical act of creation. We mirror the invisible webs of energy and force that surround us, that are built into the very structure of the created order. One of our greatest scientists–Albert Einstein–said that in the end, of all the natural forces present in the world, the greatest is love.
A year or two ago, I wrote a piece on my blog about how my church’s celebration of World Communion Sunday brought me into connection and community on a day when I was feeling a deep disconnect with US Christians. I feel a strong bond with the people of my church, but it had been a week of US Christians doing and supporting some pretty terrible and unjust things, and I was angry. While I have no problem taking communion with my church, I had a memory in my head of taking communion at Ephrata Mennonite Church, when we would file through the little room behind the pulpit, sit with the pastors and bishops, and answer the question, “Are you at peace with God and man?” I wasn’t feeling at all at peace with many men, and quite a few women, too. I wanted nothing to do with a wider communion that included people who could glibly support an administration that tore children from their parents and locked them up in detention centers. Even within my own beloved community, I wasn’t sure I could see through my rage to participate in a symbol of unity with Christians everywhere.
I’m pretty sure it was the bread that made me weep. The cup was on the table, but there was no bread. (Truth be told, I was already in tears by that time, from the moment of the offertory song: “She’s got the whole word in her hands.”)
“Today’s bread comes from all around the world,” they said. But where was the bread? It was not the lack of bread that made me weep, but the bringing of it. As they spoke of pita, and the Syrian people who have been caught between warring fronts for seven years, a mother brought her children and pita to the tables, children who have relatives in Lebanon, Syria’s neighbor and a country healing from its own civil war.
Then while a mother and her child brought tortillas, the bread of her homeland Honduras, to place upon the tables, they reverently recalled to us those from Central America who have suffered, whose children have been torn from parents’ arms when they come to our borders seeking safety.
And then while a father from Indonesia brought his son with steamed Indonesian bread for the tables, they spoke of the tsunami and devastation.
They reminded us of Puerto Rico and of hurricanes and of how it feels not to be believed when you tell your terrible stories, and a grandmother and her small one came forward with a baked loaf like we eat in the United States.
I thought perhaps I couldn’t take Communion today, I who want nothing to do with so many who call themselves followers of Jesus. I thought perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps the anger would keep me away from the table. Until the table was filled with bread and tears. Until grief stepped in to the place of anger, and I, too, felt like I could belong at the table.
When they are babies or small children, each child at my church is held and blessed by one of our pastors, and told: “You are known and loved by God.” You are known and loved by God. You are known. You are beloved. Whatever your word for that great and unknowable–but personal and tender–Mystery, know this today and always: The One who is the Source and Cause of all being, all Beauty, all Knowing, all Making, loves you. Knows you. As intimately as a painter who cherishes the tiny green dot of color in a painting, which she knows is there, which she placed there with purpose. You are deeply and singularly beloved. You are Seen, capital S.
There is a moment, in the baptism story of Jesus, when the Spirit of the Holy One appears in the form of a dove and speaks to those gathered, saying, “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” My prayer for you, for me, for all of us in this coming year, is that our significant dawnings and discoveries may be accompanied by the absolute shining certainty that we are the Beloved Children of the Universe. That the One who watches us, who wings above us, who blows through us, who shines light into our confusion and grief and fear, the spider at the center of the web of all that is, is well pleased with us. It is one of my most deeply held beliefs that this is true, although it is sometimes hard to hold onto. You are Beloved. I am Beloved.
I’m going to end with a poem I wrote one Thanksgiving as I was pondering the building of tables instead of walls. We are all the travellers and pilgrims. Like Moana and her people, we wander. And like Moana, we carry within us and upon us the maps which will bring us home to each other. And we are all of us the home, holding within us webs that reach outward to draw each other in.
Blessing for the Visitor
May you who wander, who sojourn, who travel, may you who make your way to our door find rest for your tired feet and weary heart, food to fill your bellies and to nourish your minds, and company to bring you cheer and inspiration. May you find comfort for your sorrows, belonging to ease your loneliness, and laughter to bring you alive. And when your feet find themselves again upon the road, may they remember the way back to our door.
When they are babies or small children, each child at my church is held and blessed by one of our pastors, and told: “You are known and loved by God.” Whatever your word for that great and unknowable–but personal and tender–Mystery, know this today and always: The One who is the Source and Cause of all being, all Beauty, all Knowing, all Making, loves you. Knows you. As intimately as a painter who cherishes the tiny green dot of color in a painting, which she knows is there, which she placed there with purpose. You are deeply and singularly beloved.
Gratitude List: 1. Contemplating Longing and Belonging, and the Web upon which we all live and move. 2. Deep sleep. Somehow, at this point of middle age, sleep has become a regular visitor to this list–perhaps because it’s not so regular in real life 3. How dreams teach me about myself 4. Artistic processes–whether it be collage or poetry or doodles, or simply seeing and listening 5. All my Beloveds. You’re in my heart, on my web. I cast a line from me to you today. Take hold.
Gratitude List: 1. Red berries and autumn leaves and morning mist. And afternoon walks through the fields and orchards. 2. A day off. It’s a working day, but one I can take at my own pace. (Last night was really rough with gastro-intestinal issues, so I am especially grateful that I don’t have to go anywhere today. And I feel much better this morning.) 3. Maddy Prior and Steeleye Span and their fierce and folksy ilk–my soundtrack for today. 4. Reflected light. 5. You, my beautiful beloveds. How the right word always seems to come at the right moment. Sometimes I need to stew and fret and grumble for a while within the maze of my own troubles, but when it gets hard to breathe there always seems to be a thread in this amazing tapestry that I can grasp onto. May our webs and weavings grow ever outward to hold all within our reach.
Things That Made Me Happy Today (Another way to say Gratitude): 1. The chenille bedspread. It’s so comforting to snuggle up under it. 2. My Best Bird, the Oriole, flitting in and out of the honeysuckle vines all morning. 3. The holler is filled with the scent of honeysuckle. 4. Reading Bud, Not Buddy with the kid before he headed off to school this morning. 5. Completing the grading for four of my six classes. Only two more to go! 6. Talking on the phone with Sarah this morning. 7. The way the sun dapples the pathway the deer have made in the bosque across the stream. 8. How Ellis hums to himself wherever he is, like his dad.