Archive Page 3

27
Feb
12

Mondays not Sundays

In the 1970s I was a member of an intentional Christian community north of Chicago. It was a mixed bag of positive and negative experiences in those days. Living in Community was a total immersion experience with shared purse and decision-making. The positives could reach beyond imagining and the negatives could inflict deep wounds that only confession and forgiveness and the passage of time could heal.

I met my life partner there. We left together at the end of a very dark time, re-entering a world that had changed in a myriad of ways. Time passed…30 years to be precise…with the best aspects of community living ingrained within us. Although we prospered in many ways, we could not even remotely re-assemble the best of those times. These were years of growing and learning the ways of the world. We did well.

In 2006 our world fell to pieces when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgekin lymphoma. I survived the attack of the cancer beast, fell in love with God again, and a year later found myself  returning to the church, which was and still is, in change-process. Change within the church, or any large organization for that matter, is slow and tedious with its own litany of hits, runs and errors. It has been both a painful and an enlightening experience, as many of my previous postings can clearly show. Writing this, remembering the events of the past half decade, I feel battle-scarred and tired. I am an artist, a seeker and a visionary. Moving forward within the church structure is a slow and burdensome process. I do not naturally travel slowly. Sometimes I wonder why I am still here…in church…any church at all for that matter? Good question.

Yesterday was another Sunday survived. Today is Monday, the day of healing—the day I get to dance in a spaciously beautiful room—with beautiful Jane, who is my teacher and friend. We come together in this place, with its strips of colored sunlight streaking across the old wood floor,  and a ceiling that dwarfs us by its height. We come with our body spirits as is—a come as you are party of two. Through the various InterPlay forms, and her years of expertise and training, we shake it out, sing it out, shout it out and dance it out. We dance for ourselves, for each other, and with each other in familiar forms. We even create new ones. We are clay on the potter’s wheel, laundry on the line, birds unfolding, flags unfurling. We are movement in time and place—each of us doing our best, reaching for our personal sense of wholeness within and without. And when we achieve it…when it happens…we are altogether amazed and elated. We are uplifted—a Lazarus moment in time that requires a bit of exclamation and a roll or two on the floor!

And that is why I find myself so looking forward to Mondays with Jane, when my body-spirit regains its equilibrium and I am One with all of Creation.

31
Jan
12

moving on

There are times in life when our wheels stop turning and we seem to be parked in neutral. This is one of those times for me. When I started this blog I had a mission, something to say personally about human rights, the church, social justice and a host of other timely issues. I’m not sure what happened, but I seem to be in some sort of transition state and that is why I have written so little for the past many months.

In our society, we over 65 are not expected to be transitioning to anything beyond retirement, traveling and grandparent-hood. This is a popular misconception that isolates and insulates this strata of society. It brings to mind the baby-boom mistrust of anyone over 30, popularized (I think) by that  iconic figure of the 60s and early 70s, Bob Dylan. Of course we all crossed that line of demarcation (including Bobby Dylan)  and are living to tell the tale. The slogan, popularized by John Lennon was: Make Love Not War. It was not an original concept, but certainly a controversial one, just as it was long ago in the messianic teachings of the preacher from Galilee. He (probably) wasn’t talking about sex  as we were, but the concept is still significantly similar. We had a dream of a just society. Some retain the  dream and work toward that goal—others internalized it in private ways and seek personal wholeness in a cracked and broken world.

I am both of those, but having shed about as much blood over  issues concerning LGBTQ inclusion in our churches as I can manage to lose, I feel like I need a transfusion. The past several months, since achieving my own legalized civil union, have been a time of painful waiting, watching and listening. I find myself walking the bridge that leads to what used to be termed, the golden years. I do not find them all that golden, except for the wisdom that experience brings. Dylan Thomas, in his poem, Do not go gentle into that good night, urges us to “…rage against the dying of the light.” I am raging about something, yet it eludes me. It is not about getting old or dying. It is about wisdom having its voice; it’s about aging as evolution, not devolution. The longer we live, the more we know—the more we can share. The more we share—the healthier, inter-generationally, our society can be…but this is not the world I live in.

There are many things that separate me from others. I am not building my life. I am bringing it to a close. I didn’t say end…I said close, as in the final act of a play, which can go on for quite a while depending on the play-write. I am transitioning from survival mode to sacred. And I know this because when I dance I am all at once whole in body and soul. My spirit rejoices and God is alive within me…there are no barriers of creed or doctrine to stumble over. It is all elation. I am a bird flying the current, just knowing and being. I waited all my life for this. It is a gift from the great giver of life. I have no idea how to put this together with the artist and writer hats I wear and don’t know what comes next. I am waiting…in the best of times floating in the current…in the worst of times doing battle with the fear and anxiety of failure and loss.

This Richard Rohr meditation—Living a Whole Life—came today from the Center for Action and Contemplation, January 31, 2012:

Bill Plotkin speaks of the first half of life as doing our “survival dance.” The second half of life can then become our “sacred dance.” Most of us never get beyond our survival dance to ask the deep concerns of the soul (we are too busy “saving” our souls, whatever that means!) to do our sacred dance. Money, status symbols, group identity, and security are of limited value, but to the soul they are a distraction, and finally they become the very problem itself.

However, don’t misunderstand me—and I say this as strongly as I can—you’ve got to go through this first half of life and its concerns. Every level of growth builds on the previous ones. The principle is this: transcendence means including the previous stages. Then you can see the limited—but real—value of the early stages. But you will no longer put too much energy into just looking good, making money, feeling secure at all costs, and making sure you are right and others are wrong. That’s what it means to grow up, and Christians need to grow up just like everybody else.

Richard Rohr

Adapted from Loving the Two Halves of Life: The Further Journey

19
Dec
11

christmas letter – 2011

Christmas Greetings from me to you!

(Text:  Last year we celebrated our daughter’s marriage to JM, a widower with two little girls. We became instant grannies. This year, while learning the ins and outs of granny-hood, we took advantage of Illinois’ new civil union law, and after 34 years together, got civilly united, i.e., wed, in our own church, by our own pastor, Gentle Spirit. We wove the ceremony into the morning worship as a sign of relational commitment to the congregation that voted yes to moving forward in love. The service was historic in terms of the Mennonite Church in Illinois, and amazingly beautiful as well.  We are experiencing a newness to our relationship we could not have anticipated. Having legal status does make a positive difference.)

09
Dec
11

Dancing me back together

I said I would talk about aging, most specifically my own, but in fact have said pretty much nothing since my last entry, about 6 weeks ago. I am mortified, and plead the second amendment. I’ve been busier than I’d like. Today I am catching my breath and writing about something very important to me: dancing. I used to say that if there is re-incarnation, I want to come back as a dancer, but now in my later life, I find that I am a dancer, not a trained professional, but a dancer nonetheless, thanks to InterPlay. The flyer that the leader of my group sent out this week reads:

InterPlay offers a soulful place to discover practices that develop ease in movement, voice, stillness, contact and storytelling. InterPlay is a practice and philosophy rooted in the power of play. It’s an easy to learn, creative process that uses movement, storytelling, and voice—but does it in ways that don’t require particular skill or even nerve. It balances experiences of reflection and activity. Integrating body, mind, heart and spirit, InterPlay creates connection and community. Through this simple form of play, we learn more about ourselves and each other. It is incremental, affirming, and something that anybody can do! It opens paths of connection between people—between cultures and faiths.

I began playing last February, after several difficult and painful years of loss and personal trial, culminating in a time of deep despair. A dear old friend of mine had been involved in InterPlay almost from its beginning on the West Coast, but I never gave it much thought. Seemed silly to me, but I’d become desperate and willing to try just about anything. So I looked it up online and found, behold: a group within a half hour’s drive from my suburban home! I emailed the person who was listed as group leader and made plans to try it. On February 4th, 2011, I began what has become a life-line for me. Within 2 visits, I was convinced. After 3 visits, I shed tears of relief and jumped in, lock, stock and barrel. Since that time I have gotten younger inside, where Spirit meets flesh. Outside, I am still qualifying on senior citizen discount days.

By November, I chose to deepen my involvement and added weekly, one-on-one sessions with the leader (now, teacher), which we loosely think of as Dancing Spiritual Direction, using the principles of InterPlay. I love Mondays. I am immensely happy on Mondays because I am neither old nor young, thin nor fat, tall nor short. I am just me, the same me that entered the world so long ago. And I am dancing! What a miracle!

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18:3)

I think this is about living out the truth of ourselves…at the center…without ego and artifice…just like children. This truth is with us from the time we are born to the time we die, oftentimes blanketed by the demands of the world, but there just the same. When I dance I am all together—one person, freely in tune with Spirit. I do not think, I dance and am.

Kimerer LaMothe, Ph.D., author of the book, What a Body Knows, sees the practice of dancing as vital to our survival as humans on earth. Her blog on the Psychology Today website begins:

To dance is a radical act. To think about dance, to study dance, or to practice dance in this 21st century is a radical act. Because if dancing matters—if dancing makes a difference to how we humans think and feel and act—then dancing challenges the values that fund modern western cultures.

She goes on to flesh out this radical statement about a radical act, and what she says wraps words around my own experience of dancing. I am so happy to be finally living in my body instead of alongside it. This is how it should be. Whether he danced or not—and presumably he did at weddings—I think Jesus knew all about this and spoke from his Divine Center, as I do when I dance.

31
Oct
11

aging, not old

I hear people, mostly women in their 50s, say they are old. I am astounded by this. We live in a youth culture. I want to tell them about the stages of life…that they are not old, but merely transitioning from the first half of life to the second, which if done mind fully is so much richer than the first. Ages 40-60 are sociologically classified as mid-life; 60 and beyond as elder life. I certainly don’t want to denigrate anyone’s experience, but the truth is that aging is a process we are engaged in from birth onward. It is not the same as old. Further, the term old has been replaced with elder, which can have a nice ring to it. (So much nicer than senior citizen!)

We grow older, not old—older. I am pleased to say that very often the process includes a bit of wisdom—the older we get the more experience we have. If applied thoughtfully, experience can produce at least a modicum of wisdom. Each decade has its own hallmarks—highs and lows—but the trajectory for all living things is conception, birth, bloom, fade, demise. I propose that the latter 50s and 60s of a person’s life is a fading, not into demise, but into new bloom—or second bloom, if you will. (Sociologically, we may have the baby-boomers to thank for this.)

Now in my early 70’s and feeling more rather than less, I propose the 70s may very well be the doorstep of maturity or the beginning of insight. Whether it is or isn’t, my experience is an awakening to the precariousness of time. I see endings now rather than distance and time becomes precious. I think back to my mother at this age…her joys, sorrows and pervading loneliness. I did not understand any of it. I was 40…building my life and blithely ministering to my own needs. I could not understand her because I was not developmentally able to do so, yet I could have tried. I could have listened. I did not. I regret, and am shamed by this egocentrism.

I could babble on, but I’d be late for my InterPlay session, so here’s what an elder in training has to say to all the 50 year olds out there who fear 60: Each decade will be a bridge to the next station of life; and every now and then you will be really glad to have experience and wisdom in your back pocket. Practice a healthy life-style. Wrinkles are not important. Only babies are wrinkle-free.

26
Oct
11

what’s age got to do with it?

It’s been a long time since I’ve written…haven’t had anything audience-worthy to say. Our civil union in August was a culmination of several years of personal struggle. What could possibly follow it? Write about what you know, is a famous creative writing 101 admonition. But everything I come up with seems trivial and of little interest to the general reader. Among the themes considered and discarded is one—apparently shaped like a boomerang because it keeps coming back, sometimes hitting me in the backside when I least expect it. I’m talking about aging…not aging in America…I leave that to journalists and documentarians. I want to write about aging as I am experiencing it in this world, here and now.

In a short time I will be 73 years of age. For the first time in my life I find I am clinging to my current age for as long as I can. What’s up with that, I wonder from time to time? Of the many possible answers that cross my mind, loneliness seems to be the most enduring. I am a survivor, but surviving for what? I have lived a reasonably long time and have an impressive list of experiences, both lovely and painful, but except for my spouse, there is no tribe…no community…no familia to hear my stories. Worse, I know precious few persons of comparable age with whom I can share my interests, experiences and outlook. I am approximately 10-12 years older in body than I am in mind and spirit.  I will not be boarding a tour bus of 20 senior citizens out for a day in the city. I will not be moving to a senior citizens’ condominium paradise any time soon. I will frequently be in conversation with people 10, 20 or even 30 years younger than I (not surprisingly, my spouse is 9 years younger). Conversation can be interesting, fun, rewarding, but when it gets to the nitty-gritty, they do not understand the thoughts and concerns of those growing closer to the end of life than the middle. They do not—cannot—resonate with what they yet do not know. Eventually the space between reappears by default. I am the late blooming elder in the crowd.

The brain ages and produces annoying senior moments of forgetfulness—even momentary confusion—but that same brain is packed with layers of experience and knowledge that cannot be obtained by reading or study. It is learned through doing and being. The result can be, and often is, a dimensional deepening into an authenticity of character.  I have never been one to sentimentalize the lines and grooves of the aged countenance. I rarely look at my own, but because of my current cataract surgery I am in a position to heartily consider how things look, including myself. I shall be doing that in the next several postings.

30
Aug
11

streams in the desert

On August 21, 2011…33 years, 10 months and 47 days from when we first met…Judy and I were legally wed in the presence of our congregation, friends and family…in the little church at the edge of the city. We are pretty sure this marriage will last…

Last spring, knowing that civil unions would become law in our state on June 1, our little church voted unanimously to support and officiate at same gender weddings and unions. Despite denominational hedging, this decision was a natural progression for us—a long-standing, open and affirming church body. Nevertheless, Judy and I, along with several others, were catapulted into a level of happiness we hadn’t known was missing. Initially we were only planning on applying for legal status, but upon learning that the license required a ceremony for completion, we knew a church setting was what we wanted. (See previous posting, getting from here to there for an account of this.) We began talking with our pastor. Slowly, ideas dreamed themselves into plans and the plans shaped themselves into a celebration of life, bigger than anything we’d known previously.  We walked, talked, skipped, ran, stumbled and sometimes flew through the weeks leading up to the ceremony and day of celebration.

The ceremony, lovingly performed by our pastor, Graceful Spirit, was woven seamlessly into the morning worship hour. It was an incredible time…a very thin space indeed…full of music, dance, *spoken word, prayer, Communion and friends…lots of friends from near and far. It was a celebration for everyone, but especially for our congregation, without whose vision and courage, it could not have happened. We welcomed them into our lives in a way that is different and distinct from baptism or church membership. We are asked if we feel different now. Yes, we do! We are accepted and acceptable, no longer just individually, but together, as the journeying twosome we have always been. Affirmation, Acceptance, Appreciation. These are the A’s that all of us need to live healthy and productive lives as members of the human family.

The promises God made to us way back at the beginning have been kept…streams did indeed flow in the desert…we are thankful. With the blessing of visionary and courageous leadership, we are moving forward. Praise God!

*You can read the pastor, Megan Ramer’s Homily and the antiphonal Reading from the ceremony on the church website – Chicago Community Mennonite Church • Recent Sermons: Homily (21 August 2011).

  Naomi is smiling. Judy was in shock, but she got over it. And now we are living happily ever after.  🙂




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