Monday, October 28, 2013

Who's Driving?

God is...

Most American women are driving.  But news broadcasts this past week reminded us that not all women in the world have permission to drive an automobile.  There are some who are now defying that prohibition (see CNN Saudi women driving).  It made me recall that my late mother-in-law and sister-in-law never drove a car, and that I was in my mid twenties and about to have my second child before I first got my driver’s license.  Oh my how I have evolved!

I am remembering too, a couple of weeks ago, a church official was on the news denouncing the recent ordination of a woman as a Catholic priest. He conceded that it would be hard for American women, living in a democracy, to understand why women cannot be priests.  We sure must know different Gods, because mine is totally democratic.  But wait, that’s right, they still wanted to keep nuns in the habit.

Public radio recently featured David Sloan Wilson and his book, “The Neighborhood Project – Using Evolution to Improve My City One Block at a Time.”  He was on Krista Tippett’s program “On Being.”  I just picked up his book and am anxious to get into it.  Wilson is a distinguished evolutionary biologist and anthropologist.  He focused his biology and anthropology skills on improving the quality of human life in his hometown of Binghamton, New York using Darwin’s theories.  I suspect his practical implications for improving interactions between humans and their environment could be applied beyond the scope of a city, like maybe to how killing female babies in some cultures will later result in a lack of women to become wives and procreate, or how prohibiting progeny in a hierarchy could weaken it or cause its extinction, or how inhibiting the growth of others ultimately affects the health of us all.  Will see.  Stay tuned.  I just started reading his book. 

What if we all became excellent drivers?  What if we all focused on ways to apply the laws of nature to improving our lives?  I know Teilhard de Chardin would approve.                

Monday, October 21, 2013

God's Other Half

God is...

The following is from one of Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation daily meditations: “The soul does not need answers, it just wants meaning, and then it can live.  Surprisingly, suffering itself often brings deep meaning to the surface...”

A desire to share the deep meaning brought to the surface as I struggled with my aging parents’ care needs is why I wrote “God Never Hurries,” in addition to wanting always to remember the many unique gifts I experienced during that painful time.  Soulful treks to the beach, with my buddy Bear (dog is god spelled backwards), showed me that in my churches mystical body, I really had no voice.  Then one night at choir practice, while listening to the men’s voices contrast with us women, and seeing each of us as unique, totally loved by God, and sharing our voices, let me know the importance of everyone having a voice.  And all this was helping me understand my complicity through silence in my father’s abuse.  I became keenly aware of my struggle with assertiveness and my need for voice.  I had no answers, but my soul was coming alive with meaning.

As my soul found meaning I saw how I needed to change.  Slowly, painfully, I learned to find my voice, refuse the victim role, and saw that I could no longer be “the good girl” who does what everyone else expects.  It was tough, scary work but so worth the eventual growth, freedom and understanding of what it means to be true to one’s self.  Encountering the word obdurate (hardhearted, unyielding, stubborn, obstinate) while reading Clarissa Pinkola Estes book, “Women Who Run with the Wolves,” was my first hint that I could change no one but myself.  Estes wrote:  “In ‘being good,’ a woman closes her eyes to everything obdurate, distorted, or damaging around her, and just tries to ‘live with it.’  Her attempts to accept this abnormal state further injured her wild instincts to react, point out, change, make impact on what is not right, what is not just.”

Fast forward to today.  Death eventually ended my struggle with my aging parents’ care needs. I left the church of my birth, now over ten years ago, because the struggle with my father paralleled my struggle with my church.  My hand would no longer let me write another check to an organization so discriminatory.  (I now gratefully pursue an ecumenical path.)  And although I know it is true I can change no one but myself, there is a part of me that wonders, is that enough?  I caught a few words from a speaker on public radio last week who said anyone has the right to believe anything they want to believe, but no one has the right to act upon those beliefs if they hurt others.  Oppression of women (or anyone) in the name of religion is so systemic that I think many are unaware of it.  It leaves half of God out of the blending of male and female voices and that hurts everyone.

What if we all thought about that for a while? 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Nature is...

God is...

I attended a Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Spiritual World of Nature program this past week where we were invited to briefly share what nature means to us.  I said, “Nature is where God talks and I listen.”  After speaking those words I began to appreciate again the gifts accompanying the suffering that led me into the natural world where I found a unique solace and answers to many of life’s toughest questions. I am grateful for having recorded the comfort and insights I experienced in my memoir “God Never Hurries.”  Now I can remember and relive them, and share with others.

Nature is—where the morning sun beamed through the trees and whispered, “Be not afraid;” where I came to know a caring Presence to whom I belong; it is celebrating freedom at dusk that was like a trip to the moon on gossamer wings; it is a magnificent, warm, soul soaking rain; it is a huge oak tree where I sometimes took my troubles and always parted with a sense of communion and strength; it is a blue moonlit snow drift where I played with my late son Joe and dog Lydia; it is a bright, fall, moonlit night that called me outside to write one night; it is the smell of wood smoke in my sweatshirt and the rustle of dry leaves in dark trees above that gave me respite from my troubles; it is a curious deer that encouraged my curiosity and later another deer that showed me all is Eucharist; it is tall gray herons wading in a thick gray blanket of fog that let me sense the seamlessness of the world’s soul; it is a sunlit fog that showed the church of my birth in a rusting old car buried upside down on the beach; it is water running under a milky cascade of ice on the bluff that sounded like a happy, vibrant church where everyone has a voice; and peddling my bike past a swamp, where I heard frogs talking, I was reminded to talk more and share myself with others.  I could go on and on but I think you can understand why I listen when God talks.    

A common theme from others who shared what nature meant for them at last week’s program was a sense of balance and centering.  And then our competent instructor led us to see how the interdependency of diverse natural communities is the source of their strength and order. 

We too are a part of the natural world.  Could valuing the interdependency of our diverse human communities lead us to strength and order?  What if we all prayed toward that end?         

Monday, October 7, 2013

Recycling Pain

God is...

This past week I have been pondering on how this mysterious God of ours, who somehow lives within each one of us, can grow us through suffering.  It brought me to see God as the Ultimate Recycler taking heartbreak, shame, guilt, rejection, abuse, fear, anger, abandonment, or whatever, you can fill in the blank, and use it for our transformation.  This, however, is not an automatic, quick, one-sided process.  It does require our full participation, awareness, patience, trust, and work.  

It seems the very first step in the recycling process is learning to sit with the discomfort, letting pain be pain and mystery be mystery, and trust good will come from it.  And while sitting with my pain, I have found breathing and praying eventually reveals the next step needed toward growth. 

I would have never volunteered to be widowed at age 33, with three young children, but it did bring me to know a capable woman who could provide for her children, could learn to balance a check book, maintain a house, yard and car, and lead me to develop talents I didn’t know I was capable of performing in the world of work.  I would have never opted to lose my youngest son at age 21 to mental illness but it did make me more aware, compassionate, and less judgmental of others.  I would have never chosen abuse and Alzheimer’s disease in my parents but it taught me to see God in all things, to know I was worthy of good self-care, to look for my complicity in any trouble, find my voice, and lead me to know true forgiveness and reconciliation.

Teilhard de Chardin wrote: “…it is the law of all progress that is made by passing through some stages of instability and that may take a very long time.”  What if we could all trust the Divine recycling process?