Advent 2: What Will You Risk?

Today we make our turning into the second passage. Yesterday’s journey was quite pleasant, really, as I looked around and saw how many are taking this journey with us. That’s the paradox, isn’t it? It’s a solitary journey that we walk in community, a journey of silence that contains the whispers and singing of others, a joyful anticipation and a recognition of deep grief and pain. Can we hold both sides of the story, center ourselves within the paradox? Sure, we can. Labyrinths are funny that way. They’re disorienting and confusing, and you can never really know where you are, and yet—unlike the fragmented turnings of a maze—the pathway is a single twisting line. All we have to do is to follow the next twist ahead.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes reminds us that we were made for these times, echoing Mordecai, the loving uncle in the ancient story, telling his niece Esther the Queen: “Perhaps you were brought here for just such a time as this.” Esther risked her own life to save her people from a capricious and arrogant ruler. As we journey today, let’s ask ourselves: What are we willing to risk in these times? What will we put on the line?

Simply walking into this labyrinth is a risk. We do not know what is around the next bend, what monsters lurk deep and unrecognized within the shadows of our psyches. But walking together, holding our lights high, whispering to each, “I’m here; don’t be afraid,” we can find our way through.

Yesterday, we thought about those burdens in our packs. I have one that I don’t know how to carry, and it asks that question about what I am willing to risk. I’ll put my pack down a moment here and take it out. Open it up. See, all that rage and grief and uncertainty swirling around in there? I want to be one of the ones who stands in the gap here when my country still has not returned the children to their parents, when no one seems to know what to do to make that happen. I want to speak out, to speak truth. But I don’t know how, exactly. So it all just swirls around in there, taking up space and making my pack so heavy.

Take a moment to explore one of the burdens in your own pack, one that you don’t know quite what to do with. Write about it in your journal, or tell a friend about it. Write a song or poem, or paint a painting. I still don’t know exactly how I am going to resolve mine, but it feels lighter now. Maybe this December journey will shed some light for me. For you, too.


Envisioning Peace:
Yesterday in church, Michelle asked us to hold Isaiah’s vision of a world in which the response is peace and understanding rather than violence, ploughshares rather than swords. She asked us to consider situations in which people chose the peaceful path. During Advent, I’m going to look for stories and ideas that hold this vision.

For today’s story, I hold in my mind the vision of Queen Esther taking the risk onto herself, speaking her truth, and averting the genocide of her people. I think that one of the ways in which people step into the ploughshares vision is to choose a third path. Instead of simply capitulating to the injustice or taking up arms to fight it, this path does resist and stand up to the oppression, but with truth instead of weapons.

I think this is just what our times are calling for. How can we envision this third response?

Tactics for the Resistance

vulture
I choose the vulture today because vultures are watchers. And vultures are composters, taking what is dead and decaying and turning it into the energy that gives them flight. May we, too, take the old and decayed and rotten, and use it to create flight and vision. [This particular piece is an altered photo (I took the original from the internet that was labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification).  I love those long primaries.]

In the weeks leading up to the election, a local pastor wrote a regular blog on the theme, “Love is Our Resistance.” That phrase keeps coming back to me these days. I have a sense deep in my gut that these next years are going to demand serious resistance, like the prayerful peaceful protests at Standing Rock, like the life-on-the-line peaceful demonstrations led by Martin Luther King and John Lewis and so many others. Perhaps these are the days for the new revolution. I imagine the call to the movement:

And what shall be your resistance?
Love is our resistance!
And what shall be your revolution?
Our revolution will be Peace!
What will be your tactics?
Open hearts. Prayer. Standing in the gap. Believing in each other. Speaking truth against the barrage of lies.

Peaceful, heart-led revolution is not a new thing. On this weekend when we commemorate the life and ideas of Martin Luther King, it seems perfectly fitting that people around the country are considering what their methods of resistance will be for the coming years. Let us take Martin Luther King as one of our pillars as we walk into the uncertain future.

Yesterday, a thought that has been forming within me since November 9 finally broke through the veil into words. It is this: These times will demand something new of us, and will shape our characters in ways we could have not imagined. As we rise to this work, we will become our best selves in ways we might not have, had we not had to meet the challenges that are coming our way.

I had read Clarrissa Pinkola Estes’ essay “We Were Made for These Times” to my students on Friday, and her words helped me to think this through. It’s not that I am grateful for the way things have gone. I am deeply troubled. Still, we can meet this as an opportunity to grow into our best selves, to let our souls shine. In the end, we will have become stronger, more loving and thoughtful people than we might have if we did not have these difficult days to face.

Keep reaching out. Look for the others who are doing the work of Loving Resistance. When you feel despair creeping upon you, find some small act of resistance you can do to further the revolution. If you know me well, you will hear me talking to myself.
* Tell radical truth. Confront the lies with truth and beauty and art and loving action.
* Encourage someone who is doing the Work.
* Write a postcard, make a call, stand on a street corner with a sign.
* Smile at people. Assume the best of people. Be someone who makes people want to be their Best Selves.
* Pray, in whatever way you pray. Pray in church, in synagogue, at the mosque, in the woods, in your kitchen, on the banks of the rivers. Hold stones. Make magic spells. Cast webs of prayer between you and those who are most vulnerable: the poor, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQI people, women, the Earth.
* Listen more than speaking.
*Live your prayers into being.
* Don’t feel like you always have to take a side. Just do the work. Be present to the situation in the moment, and do the work that needs to be done, whether it be speaking against the lie, or taking hands, or praying, or standing between vulnerable people and hatred.

What are your tactics for resistance?

Gratitude List:
1. Resistance and revolution
2. All those who have gone before. We have such a multitude of people who have gone before us who have practiced this form of resistance, who show us the way. Today I think in particular about the words and actions of Martin Luther King.
3. Awakenings
4. The Best Selves we are all becoming
5. You. We’re in this together, and I know that everything will be fine in the end, because you are there, doing your work, too–loving, praying, helping, holding.

May we walk in Beauty!

Say Their Names

Sycamore

baby phoebes

I am a little obsessed with the panorama function on my camera lately.  Yesterday, I realized it just might help me to portray a little bit of the glory that is our friendly Sycamore, the way she shades the house, the way the light shines in, the way she seems to fill the hollow.

And three infant phoebes try to manage the heat.  Their parents are incredibly attentive, so I am not worried about their survival in this heat wave–they have plenty of insects and lots of water.  This is the second phoebe brood this summer in the barn.

We have such Work ahead of us in these days.
We cannot afford to sacrifice ourselves to the whirlpools of despair and rage.
How can I–today, in this moment–respond to my sadness and anger in ways that help to create healing?

I will say their names.  Alton Sterling.  Philando Castile.
And then I will say my own name, in response.  I will pledge to show up.  I will listen to the voices of those who have the most at stake in this story.  I will stand, at least in spirit, with those who stand.  I will listen more than I speak.  I will keep looking inside myself, to notice my own unacknowledged biases and stereotypes and fears. I will not make excuses for myself.  I will own my role.  I will use what power I have to amplify the voices that must be heard.  And I will not lose heart, not lose hope, not lose will.

If you are finding it hard to cope with the news, listen to Mr. Rogers talk about helpers, or read Clarissa Pinkola Estes on what we were made for (click on their names).

May we do what we can to be part of the solution rather than a continuing part of the problem.

Gratitude List:
1. Voices that lead with wisdom and compassion.  Listen.
2. Communities of people who seek a better way. Participate.
3. Webs that hold us together through prayer and concern.  Connect.
4. Shining moments of Beauty.  Observe.
5. The possibility of a more just future.  Envision.

May we walk in Beauty.