Archive for the 'Legacy' Category

23
Jun
10

dancing in the aisles

I became a Christian in a Mennonite/Brethren, Christian (communal) community, called Reba Place Fellowship. When I got there it was beginning to develop various gifts of the spirit and soon became a charismatic church. Because of this, my Christian formation was tinged with an openness to the mystical. The year was 1972. Communes were popping up all over the place and many people—young and old—were searching for spiritual dimension. It was the time of hippies with long dresses, long hair and ripped up jeans, Jews for Jesus, Jesus Freaks…and communes, both secular and non-secular.

In the 8 years I was there, the church fellowship grew from 28 to approximately 250. We lived in extended households of anywhere from 8 to 20 people. We lived a Jesus-centered, discipleship life, practiced the giving and receiving of counsel, and the reconciliation procedure outlined in Matthew 18:15-20. We were far from perfect, in fact, we weren’t even hitting the mark 50% of the time, and bad things happened as well as good.

I left there in 1979 after some very painful experiences. During the decades that followed I received confessions from those that hurt me and I granted forgiveness—the 2 requirements for reconciliation. We are now reconciled and I choose to separate the good from the bad. I don’t forget the dark side, I just set it aside because, 40 years later, I see that the light side was good…very good and not something I have found since. It was real communal living—maybe something like Israel’s kibbutzim—and it was 24/7. I like to refer to this affectionately as, the Reba Boot Camp. (Whoops, I think my tongue just got caught in my cheek 🙂 )

What I want to say about this time is that it was a living, breathing experience. One could say that I learned Discipleship Christianity by the immersion method. I don’t mean language, although there is a language to be learned and understood, but more like being rough stones in a rock tumbler. I don’t know how I could have understood the concept of discipleship if I hadn’t lived this way. And I don’t think I could have managed the dark elements without the charismatic experience that taught my heart to swell, my feet to dance and my voice to praise. I don’t think I could have managed without those very high times of God in me.

The Charismatic Movement of the time certainly had its pitfalls, but for me it was a path to the sense of knowing (gnosis) that I enjoy today.  I have not found a Mennonite congregation that will walk this path with me. Mennonites sing, but they don’t dance and they don’t sway to the music and they don’t say “Praise God” and they certainly don’t shout, “Hallelujah”! But when we sing, we do it well…4-part harmony. So when my congregation sings a really uplifting or soulful song, I am swinging and swaying, praising and happy. No one joins me, but so far none have made comments, for which I am grateful. One of these days when the mood is just right I’m going to grab someone and hop up to the front of the sanctuary and just do it! (Might have to be running a fever to do this, but you never know.) It’s something I think about doing and wish I would do, so maybe one day the holy spirit will just hop into my shoes and move me on up there fearlessly…maybe when I’m too old to think straight.

Mennonites are Anabaptists. Many in the denomination today came to it because of its peace and justice values (reconciliation), but that is just part of the faith. In community I lived the 3 core values of Mennonite Anabaptism—Discipleship, Community and Reconciliation. In the newly revised booklet by Palmer Becker, What is an Anabaptist,  these values are summarized in the following statements:

1) Jesus is the center of our faith.

2) Community is the center of our lives.

3) Reconciliation is the center of our work

I don’t know if it’s all that easy to live the first 2 values outside of some form of community. Life can be very tough. Anyway…I’m glad I learned what I did and am what I am…and don’t have to do it all over again!! 🙂

31
Dec
09

dying and caring

Yesterday, Adopted Daughter talked about her illness, her thoughts about the immediate future and the way in which she wants to ease into her dying days. It was a sobering talk…not long and not short…just about right for managing to mostly stay in-the-now. We are walking together toward an end that will receive her breath, and for a time will encapsulate mine. I have just commemorated my sister’s passing. I am ready, but for the longing to say: “No…not now, not yet!” But we know it is coming…we cancer people know the signs before others do. We know and quickly learn to savor each day. I hope I am not making it sound easy, because it is not.

Last night I also learned how deeply my Darling Daughter suffers from wounds inflicted so early in her life that she doesn’t have recall. But I do…I was there and I have been waiting for decades for confession and forgiveness. Now that perhaps it may happen in the coming year, I am breathless with hope and fear—fear of overload. Although the river has risen high enough to enter my throat at times, I have not swallowed nor drowned.

Learning Trust: I am becoming a receptacle…a wine skin, if you will, and there’s a strange sense of peace in that. In my best moments, I am a receiver of the Spirit through Christ, and through many others who have gone before. Because of this, I can also be a channel for the Spirit: Legacy – Inheritance.

AD and I are reading Henri Nouwen’s, Our Greatest Gift, A Meditation on Dying and Caring for a class our church will host in a few weeks. She and I will go together and learn how best to walk this walk in the company of Sisters and Brothers. We are both student’s in God’s classroom. Nevertheless, I confess to feeling best when she is here in the house with me, whether sleeping, waking, working, reading—whatever. I have two daughters, one biological and one “adopted.”  One is slowly dying and the other slowly living. The wheel turns and we with it.

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…

04
Sep
09

hummingbird

I don’t see many hummingbirds…have not seen many and may not. They are not everywhere. One must have red flowers with nectar that calls to them: “Come here, little ones, come quench your thirst on this delicious wine…” One flower would not be enough unless there are hummingbirds in the area. I think I may have only seen 4 or 5 of them in my lifetime. I said, seen. That’s the difference—seeing them. They are always on the move, fly a million miles an hour and do not linger without cause. Flitting from flower to flower in total delight, they are energy and wonder, love and joy.

Legends concerning this tiny little bird are generally positive and hopeful. Native Americans associate hummingbirds with the Ghost Spirit, who teaches a dance intended to return the natural balance of the world. An Aztec legend says the god of music and poetry took the form of a hummingbird and descended into the underworld to make love with a goddess, who then gave birth to the first flower.

Last Sunday (hope and help, Sep. 2) I was sharing with friends and spoke about some of the more difficult challenges I’ve had in my 70+ years. Suddenly they spotted a hummingbird just outside the window adjacent to where I was sitting. It hovered next to me, looked in and dashed away quickly, realizing there was no portal through the window. Shy little birds, barely weighing an ounce, I suspect. Messengers of love and joy, some say.

I was startled and slow to respond.  My story had sadness in it…sadness I was used to, but sadness oneHummingbirdgenerally leaves in boxes and prefers not to open unless asked. It had been a tough half hour, and a tough week prior. My friends were ecstatic with joy at the site of the little bird. They thought it was a blessing from God and a good omen. I thought it was a blessing from God too, but not just for me…for all of us. Was it God-life answering my prayer the night before, for a pathway out of sadness and a way in to joy? Did the Holy Spirit appear to me as the angel appeared to Mary?




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