Sunday, December 25, 2011

grampa john

This morning at our church an old gentleman shuffled over to me with an air of great concern and put his arms slowly around me.

It was as if he had been cupping sunlight in his hands, saving it especially for me, to pour it gently over me so I could bathe in its warmth.  In that brief moment, faith sprung up, lush and green from some tiny seed within the crying caverns of my soul.  My heart knows when someone tremendously loves me.

The moment was too fleeting and I've already drifted back into melancholy again.  The old gentleman and his wife are going away to warmer climates and won't return until April.  I dream of going with them.  I like warmer climates.

Friday, December 23, 2011

dreams of belonging

flickr Creative Commons: Jakub Vacek
When does genuine, faithful community become possible?  I've tried for a long time to find significant relationships in which I feel comfortable and secure, having important commonalities, working towards similar aspirations.  If it's this connection that I so strongly desire, maybe the possibility of such a group starts with me rather than with trying to step into, or splinter off, something that's already established. 

Off-line and in the real world, my default setting is to believe that people don't really care what I think.  Therefore, they usually have to work vigorously or else be very specific, gentle types of communicators in order for me to open myself to them.  And also let's skip the small talk, thankyouverymuch.  I'm sure it has its purposes, and if you like that sort of chit chat then by all means jabber on, but I'm usually much more interested in your hurts and passions or the meaning of the universe.

I would like to say that my marriage has the intimacy I want, but it doesn't.  Our relationship has many positive aspects, but despite my efforts we never seem to get to that point of pouring our hearts out to each other.  You know what, though?  I think that's okay.  A marriage doesn't need to have everything in order to be a beneficial relationship.  In the meantime, however, I starve for creative intimacy, for the chance to be known by another.  It's why I come here.

What if I believed that people wanted to know all of me, even the ugly parts?  I'd probably talk a lot more.  And maybe my speaking would ease others into sharing some of their hidden parts, too.  Maybe in this way a small and intimate community could slowly grow around me, whether inside a church building or not.

My hunger for intimacy keeps me searching, so in a roundabout way perhaps it's my relational struggling that keeps me on, or near, the true path.  What if all this heartache leads me to the invisible, innovative Romancer?  I'm looking and waiting.  And while I wait, maybe I'll try my hand at writing another story.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

the stinking tradition god

I grew up going to church almost every Sunday.  Our church was a loving community, although it certainly had its faults (they all do).  Several years ago, I attended a different Christian church for a while.  As you might know, each church has its own little culture, and I had important reasons for learning about this one.  The people at this particular church were clearly not accustomed to having outsiders in their midst.  These were the messages I received:

- you wear the wrong clothes
- your church is bad
- you don't follow our tradition
- you'll be an inadequate mother
- you're not a true believer
- you act weird
- you're going to hell

Maybe it seems too cruel to be true, but it is what happened.  I had a hard time processing it (and I'm still trying to process it in some ways).  At the time, being as naive and optimistic as I was, I thought, Well, they'll like me once they get to know me.  Unfortunately, as it turned out, their attitudes were much more deeply ingrained than I thought.

What really confused me was that my church and theirs had very similar doctrines.  I thought, This doesn't make sense.  We both agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and our interpretations of Scripture are very similar.  What's the problem?

The problem had nothing to do with teachings and everything to do with tradition.  I don't think tradition in and of itself is bad, but if you turn it into your god I'm gonna get angry.  At this church they hold up their tradition almost as if to say, "This is the ultimate standard.  This is what saves."  There were a number of small differences in tradition between my church and theirs.  I thought, Who cares?  These are outward things that actually have very little importance.  They, on the other hand, were majorly uptight about it all.

I'm starting to understand that people who cling so tightly to rituals are ones who belittle the complexity of life by reducing everything to this or that, here or there.  They won't accept obscurity because they're afraid of not having answers.  They mentally filter contradictions so that they can have firm solutions.  I think it's natural for anyone to think this way once in a while, but these people seem to take it to the extreme.  It's a very small way to live and it's oppressive for someone like me because there's no room for dialogue.  And I love dialogue, especially the intelligent kind.  Accepting contradiction and ambiguity liberates us to be creative, to explore and experience the Divine.  There is truth within paradox.

There are some of these traditional people still in my life.  It's taken years for them to accept me as a fellow human being, for a lack of a better way to put it.  And, quite frankly, it's been extremely difficult for me to love them like I want to.  It's finally at the point where I receive eye contact and smiles from them, and even a little friendly conversation.  It's a start, and I am thankful.

I think the spiritual abuse has negatively affected my faith in ways far beyond my comprehension, but healing is taking place and I have hope.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

change is possible

I tried something new: "Newspaper Blackout."  It's a fun (and easy) way to make poems.

curiosity piqued
the young man had another question
he asked quietly in a gesture of respect

soundlessly slipping out the door
coincides with the tragedy
girls who live daily with the threat of violence
          all forms of violence

a small candle lit
a moment of silence
passionate about the meaning
          victims of violence

remember the lives who have disappeared
work for change
supporting transition
          change is possible

I want to be honest

I have a goal to be as honest as possible in my writing.

I've been feeling nauseated for the past few days.  I don't know what it means, except that it has something to do with this Truth-seeking process, this gigantic battle.

I'm scared.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

the crow

I walked, pushing my son in the stroller, onto the cold street and saw a black shape on the uneven ground to my left.  At first I thought it was a dark sweater, but as we approached I saw wings and feathers.  The crow, dead on its back, had no head.  I stared.  Part of me wanted to get closer to examine the details in its greasy feathers, to see each tiny etch on its twig-like feet, but mostly I was appalled.  I'd rather hold a spider.

When I lived in dorms my freshman year, one day we heard screams.  A dorm mate had a spider in her room.  A big one.  The squealing girls were waving their arms and hopping around.  I smirked.  Nobody wanted to deal with it so I walked over, picked it up, and threw it out the window.  I was proud of that.

But crows are different (especially dead ones) and being that I was on a Truth-seeking trip, I wondered what meaning I could glean from this ominous creature.  I couldn't put words to anything.

We continued on.  I was more alert than usual because I had the goal of loving the Truth out of anyone we came across.  In my little world, that just means smiling and admiring people.  By smiling, I mean the kind of smiles that start deep within and work their way out.  Certainly, love is more than only smiling.  Serving and empathizing come to mind.  But I don't think we should underestimate the power of a genuine smile.

I was blessed by every person we encountered.  Grace is everywhere.

Is there grace and truth in a dead headless crow?  Hesitantly and ineffably, yes.