I wrote this a year or two ago, not realizing how extremely similar the title was to Jan Richardson’s World Communion Sunday poem. Clearly, her phrase sank deeply into my psyche. So I added a little dedication to the title to recognize her original.
May your table be wide,
may your arms be laden
with the bounty of harvest,
may your heart be willing.
May your feast be filling,
may your beloved’s eyes
be filled with laughter,
may your table be wide.
May your doors be open,
may strangers be welcome
to sit at your table,
may your feast be filling.
May your heart be willing, may stories flow like wine poured into glasses, may your doors be open. May your table be wide.
Gratitude List: 1. Poets and poetry, especially Jan Richardson’s blessings 2. Anticipating time with my parents and my siblings and my niblings 3. Wind: scouring, releasing, revealing, energizing 4. Pie 5. Open hearts, open arms, open tables
Today I am home from school with a sick child. It’s a nice chance for some slow, quiet time in between checking his temperature and beating him mercilessly at a game of Monopoly.
It’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of that 40-day journey before Easter, a moon-bound season between the season of Brigid and the season of Ostara. As spokes on the eight-pointed solar wheel, Brigid and Ostara occur on the same days every solar year: Groundhog’s Day and Spring Equinox, ancient celebrations of the quickening of life in the earth, and the time of hatching and birth that is spring. But Lent is fluid, floating along the surface of the solar year, woven into the cycles of the moon and its dance with that Equinox sun. On Brigid’s February morning, we look to our shadows and consider whether the light we have within us will serve us until the spring. We take stock of our inner reserves and resources. In Lent, we take that question further, considering the question of enough.
During Lent, we look inward and wonder at the holes and spaces within. We see our lack, and instead of shrinking away in fear and despair, we say, “Yes,” and “Yes” again. Here is who I am. I know that I can be one who betrays the Holy One, one with the potential to deny my beloved. I know how I can cringe in fear, hide in shadow, whimper and whine in dread and shame. And I know, too, that I can walk toward those shadows within myself, because only in walking through those shadows will I encounter the shining lights that sparkle on the other side–also within me.
Last night, I gathered with a group of colleagues and students from my school to participate in the first of five Racial Justice Trainings (workshops? seminars? mentoring sessions?) that will happen throughout the spring. During the evening, our facilitator, Dr. Amanda Kemp, challenged us to keep a journal during these weeks of trainings, to ground and center ourselves so that we can hold space for transformation, to walk toward our fear, to challenge our assumptions and implicit biases. It feels to me like just the discipline to take up on this moon-clad journey toward Easter, to consider this time of training as my Lenten Work.
So often we get Lent wrong. We think we have to do penance for our evil ways, to enshroud ourselves in shame, to bewail our miserable selves. But when we simply throw it all off as just an exercise in self-flagellation, I think we get it wrong, too. This is a time to look realistically at who we are inside, what our strengths and our failings are. Lent is a time of discipline–not beatings and beratings, but careful training and thoughtful self-education. Amanda inspires me to take hold of this coming season as a time to consider my accountability, to look at the ways in which I participate in the unjust systems of today, just as the religious elite at the turn of the millennium participated in the destructive systems of their day. In this season, I commit myself to assess my inner world, to take stock of my role in the breaches and breaks, to walk toward my fears, to become a mender and repairer of the web.
Yes. It’s the same photo as yesterday, melded with a different filter. I like this one, because it emphasizes the interplay of light and darkness.
In his blog post of last Thursday, Robert Reich lists The 4 Dangerous Signs of Passivity in the Face of Trump Tyranny: Normalizer Syndrome, Outrage Numbness Syndrome, Cynical Syndrome, and Helpless Syndrome. I’ve been thinking about what the antidotes might be, because other than the Normalizer one, I have fallen victim to the others, and to their sister, Outright Despair Syndrome.
Here are some Antidotes to the Four Dangerous Signs of Passivity:
1. Practice Deliberate Kindness: You don’t have to look far to see the acts and words of meanness that have erupted in the wake of the election. In such a climate, deliberate and pointed acts of kindness are revolutionary, a way to say, “We will not be party to this.”
2. Be an ally: To everyone. When you witness meanness, stand in the gap. Be the one who asks if you can help. Be canny. When you think someone is being bullied, become Present in the situation. Make sure the bullies know they are being watched and held accountable for their behavior. Make it clear that bullying will not be tolerated.
3. Speak Up. Tell the stories of kindness that you witness. Share the stories of meanness, too, and strategize how to better respond the next time.
4. Laugh. A lot. And not just at the cynical things. Find good healthy things that make you laugh. Try to make other people laugh. Share delight.
5. Believe in the Goodness. The last few weeks have made it harder than ever to believe in the basic goodness in people. How could so many people not let the racism and xenophobia and misogyny NOT be a deal-breaker? It’s tempting to make the next sentence be something about how people really are selfish and racist and xenphobic and misogynistic. Maybe some of them are, but most people also have a lot of goodness in them. Even Anne Frank, in hiding from the Nazis, said, “Despite everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” If she can see it, maybe I can at least try.
6. Gratitude. It’s been really hard for me lately to do this particular spiritual job. Everything seems the same. I feel as though I have run out of gratitude lately. Still, it’s a muscle I want to keep flexing, especially when it’s hard. And I think it’s a powerful antidote to despair and her passive sisters.
What other Antidotes do you suggest?
Gratitude List: 1. People who help to talk things through.
2. Joyful is the Dark--I think this is my favorite song in church, especially the second verse, about the Raven. Every year we sing it at Advent, and it always comes just I have begun to lose hope that the light will return. The Dark is important. As Jan Richardson says, “Darkness is where Incarnation begins.”
4. Visualizing the best things
5. Loving and Being Loved. Belovedness. Remember, always, that you are Beloved.