Archive for the 'Courage' Category



05
Nov
10

what sense does it make?

I am an Anabaptist/Mennonite, not by birth as many are, but by God’s leading and my choice. The Anabaptists were so named in the 16th century for their preference for believer’s baptism over infant baptism, but that is only one of the stances taken by these brave souls. Central to the faith are the teachings of Jesus and discipleship. Jesus spoke in love and taught peace and reconciliation. This is one of the core values of the Anabaptist belief. It is not a core value of the social system in which you and I live. The tension is obvious. Search the gospels. You will not find a word from his lips that support violence or retribution of any kind, nor do we.

This morning when I opened my email I found this letter from one of the members of my little church at the edge of the city. He is one of several in the church who are members of our denomination’s Christian Peacemakers Teams. He and his wife believe people can change. So do I. So did Jesus. So does God. That is what Grace is all about. If it were not so, how do we find ourselves still here, chugging along trying to be better people despite our many continued failings? I am not talking about leaving the toothpaste cap off the tube or grumbling about things. I am talking about attitudes, behaviors and actions that wound the spirit in other persons—abuse in all it’s many forms. I have done this many, many times.  I once was blind, but now I see….

Here is the letter that came by email to my congregation this morning:

Alabama killed Phil tonight, November 4, 2010, to my church…

Tonight the state of Alabama killed Phil who was on death row at the prison where our friend Glenn is also awaiting execution.

Earlier this year Glenn was originally scheduled to receive a ruling mid-October which would have set his execution date, possibly as early as mid-November.   And then in August, Phil was assigned a death-date of November 4, and Glenn knew he would live to see another Christmas and New Year, because Alabama only kills one inmate each month (Phil in November) and they don’t kill people in December (too close to Christmas — after all, it would be un-Christian to kill someone so close to Jesus’ birth.  Best to have a little distance…..).   And then, in addition, Glenn’s court ruling was postponed until later this month (at which time he will get an execution date).   But if things had fallen differently, Phil’s execution could have been Glenn’s.

I Googled Phil, and this is what I found.  Phil has been on death row for over two decades.  The information focuses on what he did many years ago; who knows who he is today.  I have learned from my conversations with Glenn that people can change in amazing ways while on death row.   The death penalty is wrong because it denies the possibility of God’s transforming love for victim and perpetrator.   More on that in a later email or other sharing in church.

I talked to Glenn tonight, he was somber, as were the rest of those on death row.

After I hung up with Glenn, I went to sing Eli songs as part of his good-night routine, and Eli asked to sing “Alleluia, the Great Storm is over.”

The thunder and lightning gave voice to the night;
the little lame child cried aloud in her fright. .
“Hush, little baby, a story I’ll tell,
of a love that has vanquished the powers of hell.

Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!

“Sweetness in the air, and justice on the wind,
laughter in the house where the mourners had been.
The deaf shall have music, the blind have new eyes,
the standards of death taken down by surprise.

Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!

“Release for the captives, an end to the wars,
new streams in the desert, new hope for the poor.
The little lame children will dance as they sing,
and play with the bears and the lions in spring.

Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!

29
May
10

beyond pentecost

A great deal has happened since I last wrote. A dear friend of mine advised me to speak to my community…to tell them what I need to feel at home with them. I took his advice, and although painful to be so vulnerable, I believe doing so has released the bird in me from the wire that held me fast, and has provided freedom to move…eventually to fly once again. This time I must learn a new flight pattern—a slow and easy circling pattern that allows for the inevitable waiting that is often the life of faith. I am a bird flying carefully and quietly so that I hear God’s voice and feel the leading of the Spirit. I have a lot to learn at the same time that I have so very much to give. Holding the Both and the And together, while walking forward with a basket of life balanced on my head.

Tonight I went to bed early but couldn’t get to sleep. Night can be a very difficult time for those of us who are loss-prone. All the needles and threads of daytime busyness fade into the deep, velvety-blue, darkness of night and there is no covering. I deeply miss adopted daughter, Bettina, whose let’s get it done energy melded so well with mine, allowing me to venture forth in foreign lands with bravery. There are birds who fly on the loft others create in flight formation. I am learning to fly solo and grateful for the several friends whom God has provided as air traffic controllers during this time of transition and initiation. They are my angels. I think they know who they are…

At night I turn on my Taize music, take my meds, turn off the light and wait for Bella, my little orange cat, to come join me. I talk to God. I say everything and nothing. I pour out wordless thoughts and painful experiences. It is my most intimate God time. I ask why and I ask how. I mostly ask for help. There are always tears. After a while Bella comes and with her comes Bettina to say, Goodnight Mamma. I like that.

My soul aches…not for any one thing or any one person. My soul aches for something it needs…God.

I am a bird circling high overhead, hoping it does not rain…preferring the clear blue of a sunny sky.

25
Mar
10

birds would walk

I heard an ornithologist say in a documentary program, that birds would walk if they could. That’s how he explained the ostrich and the penguins and the 40 some species of other flightless birds. He said that most of them have evolved in the absence of predators. Hmm, I wonder about this. Why would a bird give up that incredible gift of flying? Why not keep flying on the back burner as a fun thing to do every now and again, just for the heck of it? Evolution, he said.

Well, I envy the birds who fly and fly and fly. I am a bird—clearly evolved past flying—yet something I feel/imagine. My bones, though small, are way too heavy to fly, and yet I think that I should be able to do so. I fly in spirit. Right now, my wings are wet and heavy with grief, so I only make circles low to the ground.

I have entered a time of life when losses seem to be piling up all around me. But still I fly…maybe not so high, maybe not so joyfully, maybe not so vigorously…probably more mournfully than not. But God has provided some angels to walk with me. Each one strokes and dries a different feather. I need all these angels and am grateful for them, even if I don’t seem to sound that way. One of these angels gave me a book that I often read at night. Last night I found this poem. Listen:

THE HYMNS OF THE EARTH

I wanted to be a hermit and only hear the hymns
of the earth, and the laughter of the sky,

and the sweet gossip of the creatures on my limbs,
the forests.

I wanted to be a hermit and not see another face
look upon mine and tell me I was not
all the beauty in this
world.

For so many faces do that–
cage us.

The wings we have are so fragile
they can break from just
one word, or

a glance void
of love.

I wanted to live in that cloister of
light’s silence

because, is it not true, the heart
is so fragile and shy.

St. Catherine of Siena (translated by Daniel Ladinsky from his book, Love Poems from God.

21
Jan
10

dreams

My heart is heavy and I cannot get to sleep. Adopted Daughter has begun her descent. The cancer has metastasized to her lungs. It will be all over in a matter of months…4…6? We don’t know, but I’ve been here before and I know what awaits. I feel as though something is being ripped right out of my body. I am not afraid of death and neither is she. We’ve been cancer buddies since 2006. I am in remission. She is host to her 4th and final recurrence. Her body is unable to accommodate the toxicity of additional treatment. We are reluctant sufferers—she of physical pain, I of the emotional pain of loss. Grief is what my work will be about now…letting go, a very fitting task for the Lenten season ahead. Timing is everything, they say.

AD is dying just a bit more quickly than we’d hoped, but it’s all relative you know. The physical body doesn’t give up as easily as the spirit. That’s why the descent is so arduous. Suffering Servant. At our last, if we are mindful and understand the meaning of life, we get to live our own Pasch and on to that final trip home. I was there once and I know how comforting that homecoming can feel. Medical science kept me from going home, but it can’t do the same for AD. We ask for healing, but there are many aspects to healing. It isn’t always on the physical plane. I wanted just a couple more years for her…for our adopted family. There were things we wanted to do. We wanted to play. I will have to learn how to walk back and forth through the veil the way she will soon be doing. Walking with one who is dying is a great privilege, one I want to have and feel blessed to have…but I hoped it would be just a bit later…after we lived our dreams, played our games and turned down the lamp.

We had prayed for 2-1/2 more years…to her retirement. We all were going to take time off, get ourselves a big RV, paint it beautiful and roam the country for a couple of months. We had plans to drop in on some of those churches that are having a little problem with understanding that Jesus included everyone in the kingdom, most especially the lowliest ones. We had dreams. I’m not sure I can manage dreams without Ms. AD hanging around with her effervescent optimism. Who will say, “Come on, we’re the wild ones!”

My heart is heavy and I cannot stay asleep. Jesus help me live in peace…

04
Dec
09

plowing through obstacle paths

Today, I am blown about like a dry leaf by the hospital system that hosts the cancer clinic where I am a patient. I like my oncologist, Dr. G very much. He is kind and compassionate, and a specialist in the varieties of lymphoma, a blood cancer with some 30+ varieties. I like his immediate staff. But there is one person, Ms. X, who does not like me and she has today caused a confusion that has my household, Dr. G’s staff and the Nuclear Medicine department in an unnecessary flurry of activity to straighten things out. I don’t know why this person takes a dislike to me, but I am told I am not the only patient on her dis-list. Disconcerting…even more so if I were really sick now, as I was 3 years ago, when everyone’s compassion was a cup of cool water for me.

Why Ms. X continues to hold her job is a mystery to me, but Ms. L from Nuclear Medicine has taken on the case and saved the day. Yeah for the stalwart ones! Thank you Ms. L. I didn’t want to have to postpone this scan and go through the anticipation all over again. Blessings on your day Ms. L.

This brings me to considerations of Kingdom vs. kingdoms. Nothing like this would happen if egos didn’t run the world…yes, even in the church!  So I’ll share with you my Advent reading this morning. It comes from a little book by Richard Rohr called, Preparing for Christmas—Daily meditation for Advent. Today’s reading is based on  Isaiah 29:17-24; Matthew 9:27-31

And those who err in spirit will come to understanding, and those who grumble will accept instruction. Isa.29:24

Easy to see where my alliance for proper health care in this country lies: let’s put the CARE back in Health care! Some younger folk might be surprised to know that there was a time when hospitals were not completely bottom-line-profit oriented, when insurance and pharmaceutical companies were not bed-fellows, and when doctors actually came to a sick person’s home and got to know the family and the circumstances. Not every new thing that comes out of the can  is progress.

17
Nov
09

flying around corners

Since I last posted I have flown to many places in circular patterns as well as straight lines and U-curves. Last weekend I flew (actually) to New York for a meeting of the MennoNeighbors, a group of Mennonites currently putting our heads together to work toward securing the next step our denomination must take in social justice: inclusivity and the embrace of diversity. It was a fine weekend, met very interesting and wonderful people. Didn’t have time to see much of Manhattan, but we got a lot done (I think). Then flew home and attended a lovely party with new friends. Yesterday, I crashed under the weight of water logged wings.

Today I literally turn the corner on safety and turn 71. Those who are yet healthy and under the age of 60 may not understand what I am about to share concerning corner-turning, but hang in there with me and time-travel a bit.

My 70th birthday was bittersweet. We thought we were going to be received into membership at the church we were attending. It was to be a prodigal son  sort of thing. Dear old friends were invited to attend and were just waiting for the date to be declared. My  singer/songwriter  friend was going to play and sing for us. Significant persons in my encounter with faith were looking forward to being there with us. After 3 decades in the desert, this was an important event of covenant renewal for us. Of course, as we know, it never happened. Instead, we had some people come and celebrate my 70th birthday, including one dear old friend who flew in from Albuquerque. It was an amazing evening. On the other side of this movie screen, I was recovering from a Rituxan infusion  (lymphoma maintenance treatment), feeling ill and heart-broken. That was 70 for me…a little formidable but a cornerstone of age that I managed to slip through with more or less dignity.

This year, I turn the corner and face the east, the road to 80. There is no stopping it. The years go so quickly and cancer patients all know that time becomes a different entity in the remission stage(s). For me, it is not a loss of youth, it is an anxiety about time itself…time to do as much as I can to make a difference everywhere I go…to leave a legacy that is positive and helpful, especially to my daughter, partner and all those whom I have loved, love and maybe love me too. But even more than that—to leave the spot of the world that I stand in better off than when I arrived—better off because I chose to struggle toward wholeness without holding back. Sometimes that looked foolish to me as well as to others, but I never had a real choice. It wasn’t heroic. It was just an energy seemingly written into my DNA, completely outside voluntary action. Completely intuitive. I take no credit. It just was what it was. Chemotherapy changes DNA. Mine did in some respects, but not in this one. Praise God!

This is a sad time of year, and it is nearly Advent. I am mourning losses of my own and that of persons who have touched my life and now are gone. This includes all persons I’ve known who have died of terminal illness as well as those gone through an accident of timing. They all live in my heart. The first is my sister, who died last year of lymphoma at almost 81, 2 days before Christmas. She was like a mother to me. I talk to her often and think she is waiting for me somewhere in time and sacred space. This is a comforting thought. I am young and old at the same time because I got such a late start at 40. My young friends don’t understand my old heart and some of my old friends do not understand my young heart, but if I walk along with Jesus—the premier young/old, male/female one, I just feel like me and that is the best place to be…walking along the Sea of Galilee with all the others.

So I gather myself together, dry my wings off and prepare to circle the sky with wings of prayer. I am the Sacred Bird of the North, made in God’s image and preparing to join the great procession of Sacred Birds when called…but for now, I have so much more to do…so much more of Galilee to walk. May God grant me time enough to die with no regrets at all.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow….

I want to walk as a child of the light. I want to follow with Jesus…

09
Nov
09

preparing to take off

Last post, I was a new bird on a new wire. Today, I am 3 % less new, but getting plenty weary of wire sitting. I am preparing to fly once again. Beware: bird leaving wire and heading out. Remaining birds wave good bye and promise to keep me in their prayers. That’s how it goes, isn’t it? Much easier to pray for someone than actually touch them. I don’t believe God intended us to sit on wires. I believe God makes circles and invites us to make them too. I like circles…always have. They are so lovely…big ones, small ones and everything in between.

Soon I will trip the 70th wire and turn 71. Time to fly. Like my friend, bigvoice, I’ll be looking for the blue above the cloudy sky. Sometimes it takes a leap to find you still have wings. Spread them wide and fly great big circles in that great blue sky…at least once in a while….

Sacred Bird of the North




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