My Blog

The American Character

I woke up this morning thinking, “Racism is part of the American character.” It is our unique shadow that permeates all that we do. It holds back our progress, it messes with our belief systems corrupting even our religions. It directs how we spend our money. It is the reason people fight so for their right to bear arms. It is the corruption in our courts and in our election process. It is the driver behind American’s worst decisions: who to keep out of our country, where our troops are sent  to die, which heroes we celebrate. It drives families into poverty. It causes sickness, disease and pain…it kills. It makes the history we are taught basically useless if we are to face our truth and change.

How many times have I heard liberal leaders say after racist events, “This is not who we are.” They are wrong. It is.

Bishop Defies Governor’s Orders

My thoughts on the actions of the bishop to open churches in spite of the Governor Walz’s orders:

I myself questioned the arbitrary number of ten congregants at a church service at a time. It didn’t take into consideration the size of the space. Even ten is a risk without precautions like masking and distancing. But consider this:

  1. Spacing people in pews may be good but what about the coming and going? Controlling ten people is a lot different than a hundred plus. Will all attendees cooperate? This being a rebellious act is likely, in my opinion, is likely to invite rebellious congregants.
  2. This puts pastors in a terrible position of having to enforce the rules. I can envision the divisiveness we see now between citizens and political leaders and citizens to citizens occurring within congregations. The history of Christianity is already steeped in divisiveness. We don’t need more.We need Oneness more than ever.
  3. I have been amazed at the creativity of businesses as they open, finding ways to follow the guidelines while increasing their customer potential. Tables outside of restaurants spaced wisely is an example. In one Minnesota town, the city blocked off a section of street so tables could be spread and several restaurants could take advantage of the outdoor service. The bishops aren’t showing any imagination here.
  4. Modeling disobedience to government only fuels more and it is worse if done by religious leaders. We already see in the actions of the president how his own disregard for scientific guidelines fuels civic disobedience around the country. It is worse with religious leaders. For better or worse, people tend to think when their religious leaders approve of an action, God approves. Religious leaders should save civil disobedience for issues of injustice, like Gandhi and ML King modeled.

What About the End Times?

A woman asked me recently what my thoughts are on the End Times. I knew she was referring to the Christian belief based on the book of Revelations that the world will end and before it does there were will be a recognizable series of catastrophes. I told her that with the way we have treated the earth there will likely come a time when it can no longer sustain human beings. But not for a while, I added, and I am not going to worry about it.

I was able to fill her in on what scholars have said about prophecies of doom in the Bible, that these were actually grounded in specific moments in ancient history when the Israelites were dealing with evil monarchs an foreign invaders. I told her that I had learned in my studies that the book of Revelations was actually an underground secretly coded text used by an oppressed people. If found with it, they would not be arrested because their oppressors would not understand it.

I can appreciate why people prone to believe these types of fear-mongering scriptural interpretations during this crisis right now. But I think this flies in the face of Jesus’ message. This week we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection. The most important part of the story is not that he died a physical death. This we will all experience and the coronovirus is here to remind us all of that fact. The miracle was that he rose, death did not conquer him. I am not sure what that means to others, but to me it means that even in the face of death, he never stopped doing what the Father sent him to earth to do…to love. On the cross, he forgave his enemies. There was room yet in his heart for more love. The Romans and his religious enemies may have been able to destroy the flesh and bone, the composite of the man Jesus, but they were unable to destroy the Christ, that of God that dwelt in him throughout his time of incarnation.

Jesus told his disciples that where he goes, they would also go. That place, according to my theology, is the Kingdom of God which is here among us. You see it even in the midst of this awful scourge: in the courage of our health care workers, in the joy our artists bring to us in our isolation, in the ways people reach out to see that their neighbors are fed, in the love teachers are showing toward their students, in the unity expressed collectively by people thanking the many helpers among us.

I won’t concern myself about this idea of the End Times. My body will have an end time sooner or later. I never needed the Bible to tell me of this. But I believe in the redeeming message that, just like Jesus, the Creator asks only one thing of me to do while I wait for that end to come…that one thing is to love.

Regaining a Perspective

A couple of months ago I was in a really good place. I had been reading the work of a particular spiritual teacher, enjoying some quality time alone, and taking care of myself physically. After the coronovirus arrived and we were told to stay home and not interact even with loved ones, I fell into a hole. The thought of the separation lasting several months was difficult to bear. But I am in a much better place today and I believe there are reasons for the return to the light:

  • Having been depressed in the past, I learned that dark times always come to an end just as good times come to an end. Change is inevitable. The serenity I’d been experiencing was fresh in my mind so I knew it was within reach again. I prayed, i talked about it with friends, I read spiritual material that was pertinent to what I was going through.
  • I tried to regroup. I’ve always been a planner and list maker. Being home day after day, I need these skills more than ever. I begin each day with a plan. I may not be gathering with people. but I can make a couple of phone calls to those I would have been seeing.
  • I am taking care of my body – every morning I do my stretching exercises and every afternoon a good walk. I miss going to the health club, but not having to spend driving time means more time to work on other things.
  • I stopped the “poor me” thinking. I pay attention to those who are lonely and afraid and reach out to them if i can. I have two elderly friends that I call each week to check up on to see how they are doing. This situation is a minor inconvenience compared to what our medical people are going through.
  • I work on gratitude. While I am not seeing my kids and grandkids as much a couple of months ago, I am talking to them way more than we ever did, thanks to the phone, Facetime and zoom.
  • I am a member of a 12 step community as well as a spiritual community. These, as well as a group of good friends, are making use of group calls and Zoom so we can stay in touch.
  • I resist fearful thoughts. I may or my not get the virus. If I get it, how it goes one cannot know. My stay on the earth was temporary from the start. The experiences I have or share with others is part of this earthly journey. There is nothing to be afraid of. We all have only this moment in time.

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.

Hunkering Down in Minnesota

Minnesotans know we will be staying in place starting tonight at midnight. I went to town today to run errands. It took me two and a half hours and I have to say it was so fun. I went to Walmart to get material for a baby blanket and got some fresh and frozen vegetables while I was there. As I browsed the fabrics, there was another woman who honored the distance rule but that didn’t stop us from chatting about what we are up to sewing-wise. I love that kind of schmoozing. Two grandma’s making stuff. We talked about colors and what we do with our leftover fabric. I went to Aldie’s to get my favorite yogurt which I eat like ice cream these days. More chatting at the check out. Gas and check-out and the store owner was friendly as heck telling me how he washes his hands like he has never done before. I thanked him for his service.

It may seem strange but even though I have been staying in, except for today, I have felt busy. I get to the end of the day with three more things to  do on my list. Bernie likes to cook and making meals is a big part of his keeping busy. I have gained 5 pounds in the last two weeks. I am not joking and I need to do something about that. Our kids are keeping touch with us, more than the usually did before this fiasco.

I feel pretty safe with a governor who is a science teacher…not a bad deal for Minnesota at a time like this. Have to go…we have friends who have decided on a regular Friday “cocktail hour” on Zoom and that is coming up soon. I hope you and those with whom you are hunkering down have found creative things to do. We are just beginning. We need to watch out for one another.

Moving in Grace

I woke at three this morning. On my mind were the support groups that I belong to and how to maintain communication with folks I dearly love and will miss as this isolation may drag into weeks or even months. Over the past two weeks, friends have organized phone or Zoom meetings. My husband signed up for Zoom and we hope to use it for contacts with friends and family. I myself have started to get engaged in using my phone for group meetings. I was feeling the anxiety I often experience when it comes to managing media. I still struggle with instructions and fear doing the wrong thing. Yet, thinking about the need, I was putting a responsibility on myself as I lay in the darkness.

I got up, plugged in the coffee pot, and sat to read, always my first activity after crawling out of bed. This morning I started a book a friend loaned me, The Power of Grace by David Richo. Grace, for me, is God or my Higher Power working in my life in a way that either gives me an insight much needed in a particular moment.It can nudge me to move in a certain direction by opening or closing doors. Grace can  also come in the form of courage to act on an impulse, to take a risk. Synchronicity and coincidences are often forms of grace.

Drawing on classic hero stories, Richo says that there are three specific arrivals of grace: grace that comes at the beginning, the middle, or the end of a journey. I believe I experience beginning grace when I have inspirational ideas. Years ago when I was in ministry, ideas about how to design my programs came into my head almost in a steady stream. I identified this as creative thinking. Practically, I was able to carry out only a small number of these great ideas. The rest of the great ideas, I decided, were for others to act on and simply evaporate back into the universe. Richo would add to my thoughts that beginning inspiration includes the inspiration plus the move toward action or beginning steps.

The second arrival of grace is what sustains us in the journey, the ongoing support until the task is completed. I think of my marriage. Falling in love and planning and going through a wedding is one thing. Being a married person is quite another. There have been many difficult challenges over the years that at the time seemed insurmountable. Had it not been for this sustaining grace, I suspect my marriage would not have lasted.

The third arrival of grace comes at the end of a journey. Richo says that this grace is always a surprise, something more than the outcome intended when one first set out. Rosa Parks, for example, asserted her right to sit anywhere on the bus. The outcome was the opportunity to inspire others to initiate the civil rights movement. Dorothy of Oz sought to return to her home in Kansas but in the end she discovered her own inner power, finding out that home is within herself. I would add that with time, there are many outcomes to particular events as we draw the lessons from experiences years later. An example from my husband’s life: over the years, he struggled with executive leadership in various jobs he had. As a result, he had a deep sense of what leadership of others should look like. In retirement, he became involved in starting a Boys & Girls Club in our area. All of these experiences came flooding in for him as he seemed to know how to call people forth and encourage them to take responsibility.

Right now I am thinking about our situation dealing with corona-virus. While I leave it to national and state leaders to take care of the bigger issues, thinking about issues in my own circle of relations is what woke me at three this morning. I am flooded with ideas, as I was when I did church work, but for some of these, I lack the talent and energy to carry out. But where I am lacking in some areas, I am gifted in others. This insight saved me today. I am a writer. This blog is an important format for me to share my ideas and insights.

Just as others are finding ways to inspire and encourage through music and art, I hope I can do the same as a writer. None of us can do everything but all of us can do something and our natural talents are a clue to what is our calling. Grace can move us, and grace can sustain us. We have yet to know the grace yet to come.