Category Archives: human rights

Isolation Journal: Week Twelve – Black Lives DO Matter

Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.

– Jeremiah 31:15 (NRSV)

I don’t feel that I have much to offer in terms of perspective and wisdom this week. I know that tragedy and injustice have been done to George Floyd at the hands of one Minneapolis police officer and with the support of three others. I know that the world is in great turmoil and grief. Good people from all political persuasions have spoken out against this, and the president of the United States has not. I know that riots and destruction are not the answer (some rioting and violence was fueled by white people seeking to add fire to an already ugly situation, but much was pure rage and desperation) but I understand from my limited perspective where this fury comes from.

12742649_948627328565182_3877860098209780865_n
from Austin Channing Brown

Here are some of the clearest pieces that I’ve seen (most already shared on FB) this week – from voices much closer to the topic:

I am heartened and inspired by the many people in my world who have stepped up – some briefly and many more consistently – to voice their concern and support for those who are protesting (numerous out there lending their voice and their support in person). Lots of these beloved folks are in the Twin Cities and others scattered around the globe. Additional inspiration comes from those who have been plugging away throughout COVID-19, my healthcare and ministry friends who’ve had to keep putting one foot in front of the other through all of this (including a high school friend with whom I reconnected this week who runs a nursing home). They are weary, challenged, and still determined.

I shared a personal update Wednesday evening (FB post), “I’m dealing with my asthma for past couple of days, so no 100 degree walks for me today or yesterday…. Highlight of the week has been a nice long chat with [my daughter and her family], Minecraft sessions with [my granddaughter] and laughing with [loved ones]…. Despite the painful week on so many levels, there have been rays of sunshine.” There have been other moments of hope and cheer, but I don’t want to gloss over the mess this country is in with much “shine” from my isolated little corner. Things are in tatters.

The good news for me is that the Spirit is with all of us in the midst of all of this. Humans may blame and point fingers, justifying oppression, but Truth is being spoken. The Sacred breaks through in the smallest of gestures and in the courage of the broken and mistreated ones. Prayers, casting the net, meditation, meta practice, Tonglen, all send a ripple of love – a Sacred Breath, you might say – to the planet. Keep your candles burning, and as I often say to one of my besties, “roll those beads, sister.”

We all have homework to do on in order to become fully educated on the anti-racism work that is needed – and no one person will have the full solution. But I’ll start by attending some (virtual) education events in the coming week and see where that leads. I hope you will find your place in this work and share it widely.

Whoever among you sees evil, let him change it with his hand.
If he is unable to do so, then with his tongue.
If he is unable to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest level of faith.

– Saying of the Prophet Mohammed (shared by Jamal Rahman)

IMG-0894

Isolation Journal: Week Eleven – Grief

As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones.
Even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some anguish, without some pain at the difference that comes between them.
There are two things which [human beings] can do
about the pain of disunion with other [humans]. They can love or they can hate.

Hatred recoils from the sacrifice and the sorrow that are the price
of this resetting of bones. It refuses the pain of reunion.

But love, by its acceptance of the pain of reunion, begins to heal all wounds.
– Thomas Merton, “A Body of Broken Bones,” New Seeds of Contemplation

While people are dying in unimaginably large numbers, we are trying to go back to “normal” because it is our right and because we can’t afford to do otherwise. The racism in our country has jumped out at us while we are at our worst. Tragedy upon tragedy. Violence erupting. I don’t have many words today. Just feeling for the world’s pain.

A poem for the day:

06829de08fa5d9ce005e35242be8860fGrief
is the stuff
which drives us
to poetry
and short sentences.
Sorrow
for the world’s woes….
We barely find the will to speak.
O dear planet –
sisters,
brothers –
how we wish to hold you,
how we long
to cradle and rock
’til you are soothed.
“Love,” we sing.
We cast our life-preserving, life-restoring prayers.
O dear planet –
sisters, brothers –
words will not suffice.
Even prayers don’t do it –
only acts of love have the power of transformation.
Songs sung in unity come close.

How do I open my solitary, fearful heart
to your rage, your pain and despair?
How may I not drown in its torrents?
Grandmothers,
we call on your powerful love.
Great-grandmothers,
we call on your strength.
Ancestors,
we need your perspective and hard-won wisdom.

Holy One,
only you know how
to hold the cries
of rage, of anger,
hatred and retaliation.
100802115_1219493608412007_1974709581971980288_nOnly you
know how to
sing to us,
how to stitch us up
after we are torn to pieces.
Dear One,
the tearing is awful and ugly,
revealing all that we’d rather hide.
Teach us
how to see the wounds
and not cover them.
Teach us
how to heal the deep injuries,
without hiding our brokenness.
Vulnerable now,
don’t let us tidy up the mess.
Let it be seen
and felt.
Time to weep.
Time for honesty.
Only love –
the kind that knows and sees woundedness with honest eyes –
will do.
Then,
may the sacred thread of Spirit
begin the long process of
stitching up
our tattered souls.

Love, Reality, and Vulnerability,
Karen

Favorite thoughts of the week:

Pentecost, Prejudice, and Pandemic by Diana Butler Bass

If We Had a Real Leader by David Brooks

From Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“…it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

From Nina Jonson, Robbinsdale, MN (Facebook post):

“My heart is as heavy as the air this morning, as heavy as the clouds of smoke.

It is not enough, but here is a prayer I shared with the children, youth and families from our church yesterday.

Everything right now takes away breath. Fear sucks it from our lungs. Viruses drag it out of our reach. Smoke wraps around it poisonously. People forcefully eject it from our throats. I have no answers today, but for those who can breathe, let every breath be a prayer.
Breathe support to the family of George Floyd.
Breathe love into our community.
Breathe justice into our streets.
Breathe peace into our country.
Breathe calm into our children.
Breathe safety into our black, brown and indigenous siblings.
Breathe joy into the space around you.
Breathe strength into our elders.
Breathe patience into yourself.
Breathe compassion into each other.
Breathe dreams for a better future into reality.
May it be so.”

 

To be or not to be “Church”

“Human beings may separate things into as many piles as we wish—separating spirit from flesh, sacred from secular, church from world. But we should not be surprised when God does not recognize the distinctions we make between the two. Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.”
― Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

Barbara & Karen work on Solstice mandalaWhen I was frustrated with my own lack of spiritual “progress” or evidence of growth, a wise guide said to me, “The longing you have is very important – as important as anything. Longing is good.” I have pondered this statement on and off for a year somewhere in the back of my mind.

My version of spring fever – in a climate where we don’t really get lots of new growth until mid-May or June – is spring yearning. I want, I NEED green. I need water, rain, lightening, humidity. All of the stuff that is marketed at Eastertime. Somewhere deep in my soul, I need to see a green shoot pushing up through soft earth and raindrops or dewdrops adorning the leaves, the petals. I think of ocean, fog, daffodils, tulips, almond groves. I know this stuff is out there. This is the curse of growing up in California and relocating. The body knows, the visceral memory knows: Somewhere it is spring.

When I lived in California, though, I had the same condition all times of the year. The yearning, longing for what is not quite here. Often, in some vague form, I’d be wanting connection with others, with community. In my little Central Valley home, I eventually found my Tribes. I found a church that welcomed my quirkiness. I found my sisters and brothers of the Yoga Tribe who provided weekly, sometimes bi- and tri-weekly conversation and connection. In Berkeley, I met my spiritually-questing-Tribe. Such a time! Yearning for community fulfilled!

And then we moved.

I’ve been back in yearning mode much of the time since. But the guidance I received_ACT6304 about “longing being good” turns out to have contained an unexpected wisdom. Longing turns out to be a finely honed navigational system. It overrides the mind’s chatter.

I had begun to craft a spiritual home outside of my long-beloved church, after I left my last ministry position. The other tribes I joined fit me to a “T” for that moment and place. It was a time of expansion and reunion with an even wider spiritual circle.

But after my sister passed away, in the process of grieving, I found myself longing – and actively seeking a spiritual home. I tried everything. Then John and I went to a Railroad History presentation at a small local church. There was absolutely no spiritual content or setting to the event. The talk was to be held in a less-than-beautiful, humble Fellowship Hall in a rural church. But the church members (unbeknownst to us) were offering a soup dinner before the presentation to anyone who wanted it.

I walked through the door and felt as Lucy must have felt when she passed through that wardrobe full of coats into Narnia. It bowled me over. This earthy crowd, this less than mystical group, was family. My husband didn’t want food, but by all that’s holy, I was bound and determined to eat a bowl of that soup – and did so. Heavenly.

After all of that joy, I still didn’t settle on that particular congregation. But – it being a Saturday – as soon as I got home, I looked for a church in that same town. I found the funkiest, most humble little church you can imagine. Its webpage said, “All are welcome. No exceptions.” The next morning, I drove about 8 miles up the highway. Inside, I found a warm welcome – open hearts, open minds (as the saying goes). Home.

My brain has kicked in numerous times since then. “But these people don’t get me.” “I need an Interfaith Tribe of journeyers.” It goes on and on. They don’t use the right hymnal. They use a hymnal. They don’t use the right language about God. They don’t wipe the tables right after coffee hour. They’ve had a lot of problems. I don’t know if there is anything for me to do here. There is way too much to do here.

I’m not sure if this is a church for webcasts or live feed, but perhaps that is why it feels like home. It is cozy and real.

IMG_5680They know how to host an awesome potluck. They show up at Marches and celebrate Pride. With a ragtag group, they know how to make lovely music. They know how to hold each other in prayer and love when times get hard. They forget social niceties, but love children to a fault. As humans go, our fearless leader is as kind and compassionate as I’ve ever known.

Hmmmmm. Not my Tribe? The tribe members call this place home because they love God and Jesus, love their neighbors, they love the mountains, the trees, the earth and they’re fiercely independent. They seek to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Sometimes, I think, my many requirements for personhood – and “how to be a good human being” or an authentic spiritual explorer get in the way of connecting. My husband never talks about it, but I know he observes me out there on my perfectionistic quest to find a truly holy Sangha. I don’t think he understands the importance of the high bar I set. (Ha!)

The day I walked into this place, I knew he’d like it. No façade. No airs.

There is this other thing, too. The “spiritual but not religious” voice in me. The part that sees that Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, loving Muslims, Sikhs, Wiccans, Native People, other New Agers – they are generally not the ones out there shouting hateful, racist, woman-hating, immigrant-hating, abusive stuff in our country these days. No, those screaming, fearful ones are my peeps. Those are the voices of Christians. Even though I love Church in a big, deep way, and love Jesus in a bigger, deeper way, there is a longing to be clearly Other than my fellow Christians who don’t have a clue what Jesus was up to (or so it seems from my totally non-judgmental vantage point). It’s easier to feel good about being part of a tribe versus part of a church.

Unfortunately, for those who do have a clue what Jesus was doing, we oh-so-enlightened  (and self proclaimed) ones don’t get to draw that line. We don’t get to be Other. We have to stay in the same boat and figure out how to get along and love folks. Even those who sound so very hateful and who support a guy who…well…it doesn’t really matter. We’ve got to get back to the drawing board and figure out how in the world to love that guy, too. We have to get ourselves ready for understanding to break through between us – for compassion and wisdom to light the way to embracing each other again. (I’m not sure we ever did get there in the past, but it was easier to imagine it – to get glimpses of it anyway.)

We do have to keep longing for Truth and putting ourselves on the line for the well-being of the vulnerable. We have to insist, with love, that all of God’s children are welcome and treated justly.  Luckily, we have little homes, tribes, covens, congregations and sanghas to yearn with us and support us in this effort.

After all of my wandering – and my highly creative Bay Area and south Minneapolis leanings – I thought my Home or my Tribe was going to be way cooler. It was gonna be frickin’ awesome. I thought it would be fancier, more polished, or at least more Feng Shui. For sure, I assumed there would be organic and vegan options. But I guess that’s not what I was really longing for. Here I am: A happy wanderer, home at last.

There is a labyrinth out there behind the weeds, after all. And we do have free-range chicken and duck eggs, and gluten-free options.

Y’all come visit. You’ll be most welcome.

Wichita 2017

Back to Basics: Who do we stand with?

“Speak for those who cannot speak;
seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction.”
– Proverbs 31:8 (ISV)

interfaith-symbols

Everybody has their point of reference – a family, a community from which they discover their perspective. Sometimes we stay the same as our original family or group; other times, our perspectives are reactions against the way we’ve been raised; and sometimes we take what our families have given us and put our own spin on it. For the most part, I’m in the latter category. (Image source: http://www.peacemonger.org)

Lately, the world has been dividing itself into categories. So, who do you identify with? What categories do you fall in? Mine are:

+ Progressive Christian
+ Interfaith spirituality/eclectic Universalist beliefs
+ According to a conservative definition, I think I fall into the “hippie” category (which is somewhat hilarious – a truly boring hippie)
+ Feminist (prayerfully, peacefully, lovingly)
+ Nature lover/environmentalist (with some realism, some idealism)
+ Celebrate diverse humanity – I believe we are better humans when we embrace lots of differences – racial diversity, age diversity, ethnic diversity, diverse expressions of gender and sexual preferences, diversity of body size/shape, religious diversity and so on and so forth….

I could go on, but you get the picture. So, when certain groups are targeted and under fire, who do you stand up with and for?  What kind of oppression and persecution gets you so riled up that you get off your couch and march/make a phone call/write a letter/join a group?

As a long-time person of faith, a progressive Christian minister, the go-to phrases that come to mind during times of crisis are well known: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Judeo-Christian tradition is filled with reminders to never oppress, always to welcome “foreigners” or strangers, because we were once strangers ourselves. And there is that lovely passage from the old King James bible, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) I believe this is reminding us that there is God-light in every person and we dare not turn away people based on our own fear of differences – we have no idea how precious that person is to the Divine (or how sacred to others).

So, I guess I arrive at a place where my job is to stand up to oppressors for any human being who is being unjustly treated. Of all the values taught in each world religion and for anyone claiming to be Christian, the highest value is Love. To use the words of Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed or any of our great spiritual leaders to do harm or to persecute is the greatest perversion of the Truth. So, we must revive an old saying and, “Speak the Truth to Power with Love.” Say it, sing it, paint it, dance it, mail it, phone it, sculpt it, shout it. But do it for love (not anger or hate). Stand up.

we-all-belong-here-poster

Note: Downloadable poster or coloring book may be found here.