What Lives Under the Porch

Blogging is a difficult task for me right now. Any excuses I used over the years for not get around to  writing, whether my blog, a story for publication, or a book, have fallen by the wayside. I look upon toward day that is almost empty of duties. I take that back: there are the usual routine things one does plus a project or two. What is different is that the interruptions (meetings, gym class, doctor’s appointments, planned visits with friends, ordinary shopping) have all fallen away, leaving hours unaccounted for. At times in my life, I dreamed of days like this. It is what vacations look like except now we are in our homes instead of some exotic place in another location.

The difficult thing is that deep things are going on inside me but I struggle to find words to share these things. If I click “spirituality” in my list of blog categories I would guess over a thousand postings would come up. I would also guess that I felt pretty secure when I wrote them or I wouldn’t have posted them for public viewing. As deeply as I am feeling now, my security level is under the back porch somewhere with the awakening critters.

Some days in the past couple of weeks I have simply chosen to go light, reporting what I am doing as I stay in. It may have to remain that way for a while until I feel safe to come out of the darkness. With that in mind, I will share a couple of not-so-deep things I am noticing:

  • It seems I am communicating with others more than I did when I was mobile…and so is everyone else with me.
  • I am surprised by who are those I tend to miss now that we can’t actually see each other in the flesh.
  • I rather like simplicity. Planning meals and deciding what part of laundry I will do today isn’t nearly as heavy as duties I once had when I could roam about the world.
  • I can expect to get some things done in a timely manner, like making a gift for the birth of a new baby or a wedding.
  • I love that those things I most love can stretch out over more time such as my morning practice.
  • If I open my eyes and ears, I realize how exotic this little corner of the world is where I am vacationing right now.

Whenever I discover this thing, this understating, that is so illusive to me, I will most certainly share it. But for now, it still hides in the dark.

A Post the Day After Yesterday’s Post

One day after writing a post on how unconcerned I am about the Coronovirus, I am starting to feel different. The governor of New York, talking about the first death there, said we need to put things in perspective. The 85 year old woman with compromised lungs would have probably died from the regular flu, he said. I hear his level-headed words, but I can’t deny that I am more anxious today. An event I’d planned to attend today was cancelled and my daughter and I together decided against shopping this afternoon to avoid the crowds at Cosco. Bernie and I can go during the week when crowds are low if we need to. I have another event tomorrow that I am starting to question. The numbers at this gathering usually low, 30 to 40, but it occurs in a fairly small space where distancing is difficult. Another event, later in the week, will involve more people but spans a longer day as people come and go and there is plenty of room for distancing.

My thoughts are shifting from how to avoid getting the virus to how to keep up social contacts so that I, and relatives and friends, keep from getting lonely. I have started a list of people I know who are likely to be shut in so that I can touch base with them. After my knee surgery a couple years back, I got depressed from the isolation.

My husband and I are already talking about how to fill our time at home. There are so many projects to attend to, but with so much time anticipated, for some reason nothing sounds interesting to me. Under other circumstances, I would be thrilled to have a free day. There isn’t much you can do to please this gal, it seems.

I saw on Facebook that the president declared the 15th (tomorrow) to be a National Day of Prayer. I think we already have one but we can always use another. I would suggest every day be a day of prayer, with the world in mind, not just our little American selves. That is something worthwhile to do when stuck at home. It benefits those being prayed for as well as the pray-ers. I like it. I will put it on my list.

 

The Attitude of Hope

As I read my old journals, I see quotes from books I was reading on a particular day as I sat in the quiet of my morning. This quote comes from a student of Henry Nouwen. I was reading Matthew Fox’s “Original Blessing” at the time and it is likely there is where I read it.

“Hope is an attitude where everything stays open before me. Not that I don’t think of my future in those moments, but I think of it in an entirely different way. Daring to stay green to whatever today will offer me, a tomorrow, two months from now or a year from now, that is hope. To go fearlessly into things without knowing how they’ll turn out, to keep on going even when something doesn’t work the first time, to have trust in whatever you are doing.”

This lifts my soul today…as it did thirty years ago.

Approaching the Bible

It seems appropriate today to write about interpreting the words in the bible since one of my readers responded to yesterday’s blog with an interpretation of a biblical text. I welcome people’s opinions and don’t mean to single this person out but I learned many years ago about the ins and outs of how to read and understand the scriptures.

Years ago I was part of a community that interpreted the words in the bible quite literally. One day a priest, designated by the bishop, came to visit our group. He prayed with us and we did some reading together. Then he gave a teaching in which he held up the bible and said, “This is not a Ouija Board.” He told us that we need to be careful about applying the words too literally, especially if we hope to find guidance in how to live our lives.

Sarah Hurwitz, in her book Here All Along, has the same concern. Writing to a Jewish audience, she says, “…rife with ambiguity, the Torah* lends itself to multiple – often contradictory – interpretations. One traditional Jewish teaching claims that there are ‘seventy faces to the Torah,’ meaning many different ways to understand it. Another declares: ‘Turn it (the Torah) over and turn it over, for everything is in it.’ ”

Her experience was that reading the ancient texts “was like an ancient Rorschach test: What did I see? How did I fill the gaps? What did that say about me? How have Jews understood the Torah over the years? What does it say about us as a people?” (Italics is mine)

Lest you dismiss Hurwitz’ ideas as not applicable to Christians, remember that Jesus was a Jew and the Torah was his scripture. Judaism is our “parent religion” and we aught to pay attention to the wisdom coming from Jewish experience with the Word.

Once I let go of buying into only one, literal, meaning of a biblical text, I discovered a plethora of other meanings. In order to do this, I needed to set aside those voices that insisted they knew the true meaning, even for me, and have the humility to say, “I don’t know.” That is when the scriptures really began to open up for me as the living Word that began to change my life.

*The Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament and the most sacred text for the Jewish people.

Super Glue It

Caucus night was slim pickin’s. There were more township tables empty than ever before. At my table there were three of us. At another table, there were two, the mayor of that town and a former legislator. This was very discouraging to me. For one thing, there were fewer to pick from to go on the the county convention. I signed up along with the other two to fill three positions.

After writing what I did yesterday, I went to the caucus with a different set of eyes and ears. I was not for looking people who support me in my beliefs. I was looking for divisive and unifying language. I found both. I heard words of divisive anger and unifying compassion coming out of the same mouths. I felt discouragement and hope at the same time.

When Jesus woke up to the the Divine within him, I think he also woke up to the fact that the wholeness he’d found was not evident among his own people. He said to a woman seeking healing that he’d come to reach out to his own people, the children of Israel. In the end he healed the woman (who challenged him for being so rigidly attached to his agenda) but the point is, he realized that healing the brokenness among his own people was a first step to healing the brokenness in the world.

I got home last night in time to see the last half of the Democratic debates. What a mess! People yelling at each other or yelling just to be able to finish their own sentence. I heard hurtful accusations. One mistake and you are out, it seems. Only perfect people allowed here. I had trouble sleeping and ended up moving to the couch where I played games on my phone until I finally dozed off. I couldn’t handle the divisiveness.

This morning, the noise and tension in me has subsided.  I can see more clearly. I prayed as the sun rose for unity. I made a decision to look for a spirit of discord and division in those who lead our country. These I will not support and may work against them. I will look for a spirit of respect and oneness to support and may work for them. I will try to be a voice for unity as I go forward in my writing, my political involvement or simply as I go about my life.

Truly, I don’t know what else to do. Our country is so deeply divided. I think right now of my daughter-in-law, Wendy, who showed me how to pull torn flesh together, apply super-glue and hold it in place until the glue dries. The image makes me smile. It gives me hope.

 

Caucus Night, 2020

Caucus Night. It is fun, I love it and have gone for several years now. I like seeing my neighbors. Most of those I meet I never see any other time of year. That is because I have only lived here for 20 years and neighbors out in my township know each other for all of their lives. I am still a newby.

This is a difficult time in our country. People are so deeply divided it is frightening. I don’t hear disagreement. I hear hatred. I don’t hear compromise. I hear fear.

There are members of my family on both sides of the political divide but, thankfully, we have as yet not allowed our differences to divide us. We love one another too much. Rather than condemn one another for our individual allegiances, we shake our heads at the inability of the other to see what we see. I know this goes both ways.

Allow me to go deep for a moment, deeper than our differences, deeper than black and white or even right and wrong. This is about my own spirituality which I have have written about in past blogs. I believe that we each have “that of God” in us. I call this our True Selves, the person God created us to be and nudges us to become more fully in this particular lifetime. This True Self, while unique, is also divine because it is God’s Spirit breathed into the body at creation (see Genesis) but at the creation of ourselves today as well.

This True Self is different than the other earthly self that we take on at birth. This is the Ego, a self that is useful to us in order to survive in this earthly world. I know it as the little self or false self, not really me, yet I can’t really do without it. The problem with the false/ego self is that its message is different from the True Self. This is where politics comes in.

My True Self, because it is one with God, is also one with you, my family members, friends, and neighbors, one with everyone in the world, for everyone has this Spirit of God in them. My ego self is always in self-preservation mode, is divisive. It looks to ways we as humans are different from one another, better than or worse than others. It notices behaviors in others and assumes the worst in them. It has character traits like anger, judgment, irritability, paranoia, and fear. The Spirit within has character traits, too. These are patience, kindness, and selflessness. It is forgiving, does not enjoy evil or harm done to others, happy with the truth, faithful, and hopeful. It does not judge or assume the worst in others. Some of these may sound familiar to those who read the Scriptures.

I cringe as I watch the debates in preparation for the election. I don’t hear oneness. You can argue the necessity of this in order to distinguish the candidates, but I would find it much more hopeful to listen to their plans and decide which one’s I think would be better for the country. This will only get worse when the debates are between the incumbent and his opponent. It will be ugly because we will be witnessing two egos going at each other, not two Spiritual beings.

I suspect when I go to the caucuses tonight I will hear a bit of ego’s judgment, fear, hatred, etc. I will do my best to keep my Spirit in tact. Spirit is needed everywhere. I suspect that when my friends and relatives go to Trump rallies they hear a lot of ego stuff, too. I hope that when they go, they don’t get sucked into believing in the judgment, fear and hatred.

We need to hang onto love. We need to reject the voices of hate no matter where we hear them. Perhaps dropping out of political involvement might make one feel better, but I am not sure what would happen if all places of darkness were bereft of any light at all. Jesus told us to not hide the Light. So I will go wherever I go. As one of my heroes, St. Francis, said, where there is hatred, I will try to sow love.

 

The Selfless Self

Following is a piece I wrote in my journal in 1990. It is a quote from Laurence Freeman’s book The Selfless Self.

“To be truly interior is complete opposite of being introverted. In the awareness of the indwelling presence our consciousness is turned around, converted, so that we no are longer, as we have habitually been doing, looking at ourselves, anticipating or remembering feelings, reactions, desires, ideas or day-dreamings…(the) challenge is to become other-centered. Becoming other-centered requires discipline (and) later becomes habit (and) authentic.

“Discipline (is) needed to turn our attention off ourselves. We tend to equate growth, fulfillment and development with self-analysis and conscious up-building of a positive self-image. But…we must leave ourselves behind to be whole. Then we find ourselves in everything around us, in every person, every situation, each successive moment.”

I recorded the above in my journal in 1990. I think the turn from self- consciousness to other-consciousness is as difficult as reversing of a large cruise ship to head in the opposite direction. We ford ahead in our habit of swirling around inside our head, looking at all that goes on as it impacts us. Freeman is suggesting a total reversal. I don’t know if I have ever met anyone who is so selfless.

I say “is selfless” as though it is a state of being, but I really know better. One is always becoming something, never arriving. I myself have been becoming more selfless each year of my life. I’d say that my family has required it of me. This may be what the Creator had in mind when he created families: to move us from focus on ourselves to focus on others. In doing so, we become his servants in the world.