Wise Words from Anne Lamotte

In an old journal, October 2005,  I reflected on the words of Anne Lamotte from her book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith:

Lamotte writes: “Maybe this is what grace is. The unseen sounds that make you look up. I think it’s why we are here, to see as many chips of blue sky as we can bear. To find the diamond hearts within one another’s meatballs. To notice flickers of the divine, like dust mote on sunbeams in the dusty  kitchen. Without all the shade and shadows, you’d miss the beauty of the veil. The shadow is always there, and if you don’t remember it, when it falls on you and your life again, you’re plunged into darkness. Shadows make light show. Without shadows, we’d see only what a friend of mine refers to as ‘all that goddamn light’.”

I think as I read this’ “Yea, easy for you to say, or me, but what about the mother in Iraq?” No sooner does one see the blue sky or the crimson flower than another blast takes a child away. When will grace come to her? It isn’t fair. Not fair at all and it makes me feel guilty for hoarding the grace, as though it is my fault. Do I want some of her pain? No, thank you very much. Thinking of her and feeling a little sad for her is enough.

Perhaps lifting the pain of someone near is one thing I can do (and) maybe the person whose pain I relieve today will help someone tomorrow and that person will reach out the next day and the day after that a blessed person will write a letter to a man serving in Iraq and he will open his eyes to the suffering of one mother and speak out about the horrors of war.

It is all I have, all I have. I don’t want to reject the patches of blue sky or the wiff of a dew damp field because someone else is in to see or smell. That wouldn’t be nice. Maybe seeing more is better. The connectedness – maybe the more I give in to grace, the more likely others thinly connected will see, even a  little.

 

Saints Among Us

I turned on the TV this morning only to catch the last five minutes of Justice Ginsburg’s memorial service. I decided I would catch it later on U-tube, which I finally did just a short time ago. I have watched many funerals and memorial services over the past few years. Only those of leaders or significant people are televised. George Floyd’s service was televised and I watched it as my way of supporting Black Lives Matter and listening to the inspirational speeches.

I want to focus in this blog on three because I am struck by something similar between them that people who loved and respected them made a point to highlight. The three are Senator John McCain, Representative John Lewis, and Justice Ginsburg. One thing that is striking is the numbers of people who showed up to expressed the loss of these great leaders. There are hundreds of people serving our country in Washington, some not even known to their own constituents. But these three were known for more than their jobs.

I could list the individual accomplishments of McCain, Lewis and Ginsburg but I don’t think that is what made people want to come forth in droves to honor them. I think what brought people out was love. At each of their memorial services, I heard about their ability to respect the humanity of each person they represented and those they worked with. Not only was McCain honored by President Bush of his own party, but by Obama and Clinton. He knew how to respect an individual who had opinions different than his own. The brief encounter he had with a supporter who spoke nasty words about his opponent Barrak Obama is classic. He corrected the woman. “Obama is a fine American who loves his country. He just has a different way of solving problems than I do.”*

At Lewis’ funeral I heard people talk about how he showed love and respect for each person he met. He was known as the Conscience of the Congress. It was said that when he would speak to you, you could feel the love.

Today, the same kind of thoughts were expressed about Ruth Bade Ginsburg. I heard over and over about the friendship she had with conservative Judge Scalia. She was known for her respect for all, no matter their differences in political opinion.

I would call these Heroes. They were of a higher kind of mind and soul than those who seek to tear down others who disagree with them. There are so few among us, especially those who are in leadership positions. I believe that power tends to corrupt. I don’t say that it always does, but it takes saints like these three  to gain  power and to use it only for good.

 

Thoughts About Jesus – 2003

Sunday, April 13, 2003. The Journal of Judy Jeub:

“I’m not interested in going to mass this morning. The longest gospel of the year – Palm Sunday. With “the group” coming, we’ll read it then. That’s enough. I hate the crucifixion story. It is like listening to the news and hearing about Saddam’s torture of a prisoner or about “collateral damage”. The crucifixion goes on and on and on. I love hearing about the resurrection, but not Jesus’ resurrection. (Rather,) the one I witnessed in Guatemala. The construction of a composting latrine. The education of children from the ravines. An alcoholic taking his or her first step to sobriety. I love hearing about Pentecost – not the one with fire on people’s heads, but the one with fire in people’s hearts. The one that drives people to carry a sign for peace. The fire that makes a person jump into a river to save a life. The fire in a written letter to an editor. The fire of a passionate song for justice.

“I hate to hear about Jesus coming again…some day. “I am with you”, he said. At the judgment, we’ll see that he was there all along in the least of the brethren. He’s been here all along – the spirit of God in the poor, the lowly, the sick and dying, the wounded and grieving, the imprisoned. He’s here calling forth love, begging for fire from those with the power of Pentecost. He begs us to recognize Him. When people thrust Him into the future up into the sky, they lift their eyes above the real Jesus, there in the people.”

I wonder who that woman was that wrote that?

Peace Pilgrim Speaks

The title of my blog is “My Thoughts on Peace”and Peace Pilgrim is one of my peace-making heroes. I want to share these words with you today which if found tucked in my journal in 2002:

On predictions about the futures, she wrote: “Dwell only on the good things you want to see happen…through thought you create your inner conditions and help to create the conditions around you. We are all helping to make a great decision…the darkest hour is just before the dawn…everything out of harmony is on the way out. The darkness we see is disintegration of out-of-harmony things…eventually God will prevail…it is only how soon that is up to us.”

“Leftists are those who want to push social change faster than can it can naturally go. Rightists are those who want to keep things as they are or turn back the hands of the clock. Both believe in the false philosophy that the end justifies the means…the war philosophy. I believe that the means you use will determine the end you receive. This is the peace philosophy.”

“There is a magic formula for resolving conflicts. It is this: Have as your objective the resolving of the conflict – not the gaining of advantage.”

“Be concerned that you do not offend – not that you are not offended.”

“If you fear nothing and expect good, good will come.”

The Words of Morgan Freeman

I saw a short piece of an interview with Morgan Freeman the other day in which he commented on our current situation around racial discrimination. He said he thinks we should just stop talking about it. I had to reset my brain a bit to see if I’d heard him right. I have a lot of respect for this man. The message I feel I am getting from White Fragility is that we should absolutely be talking about race right now. It is because of not talking, not listening, and not caring that racism has been allowed to go on all these years.

I think what Freeman is suggesting is that we need a higher consciousness, one in which we look into one another’s soul instead of at the superficial. We are not our bodies. We are not even our personalities. We are something much deeper. We are children of the one Creator God. We are expressions of that which is the Source of All. Freeman did wonderful series, The Story of God, which I had the joy to watch. He did another one which had the same depth and love, The Story of Us. My assessment of his words on racism fit with the philosophy behind these two pieces of art.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world of people who can see past the facades of race, sexuality, or bodily imperfections. Our actions are reactions to who we think people are, not who they are inside, in their true divine nature. In Freeman’s mind, if we could really see with our hearts, this whole conversation would be moot.

This task I have taken on is a difficult one, longer than I thought. I am determined to finish to the end of the book. I am learning a lot about myself and about my country and my fellow countrymen. In my life, facing the truth about yourself is the beginning of overcoming character flaws. The ultimate goal is to achieve what I believe Freeman has in his life. I don’t know if I will ever get there, but I believe I am moving in the right direction.

At Home In Yourself

In January 1994, I left my job in church work because my mother’s health had diminished to such a state that she required a great deal of care and I just was unable to handle a job plus attend to her. On February 7, she died. In hind sight I thought perhaps she had set it up just that way to get me to move into a different work and a different life-style.

During that time, I read several books on simplicity that fed my soul and imagination. This is my journal entry for June 20, 1998:

First day of summer. The longest light. I awaken early to hear the first bird. She probably held off as long as possible to let her out her morning chatter. Laying there in her nest like I in my bed, feeling the cool air on my face. Unlike her, I have to close my window in the winter and live with the stuffiness. She goes to warmer places…though some birds stay here where it is cold. I want to learn about birds, and trees and forest berries and small critters.

Janet Luhrs (in her book The Simple Living Guide) writes of inner simplicity that comes when outer clutter is reduced. She asks a woman who lives alone atop a mountain: “With all that stillness, what about your inner demons?” She explains: “The more still your outer environment becomes, the more aware of what is going on inside. No more staying busy and running away from yourself.. There you are.”

As I live simply, and I think I have begun this journey, I am becoming aware of the demons of others. One symptom is talking too much, over-explaining, over-load of opinions. Somehow, as I find peace, I have less need to explain myself. Being happy with my life is becoming enough. I don’t need to convince others or pull them along. As I find inner peace, I feel less need to change. I am happy to be here if others drop in now and then. If I spend time alone, that’s fine, too.

Bernie has said to me recently, “You are quiet today.” It is true. I am getting more quiet. It is good. I have less to say because I am listening – with my ears, my eyes, my touch, my nose…all of me in and out. Jack Kornfield writes: “Stop and listen to the heart, the wind outside, to one another, to the changing patterns of the mysterious life. It comes moment after moment, out of nothing, and disappears into nothing. Live life with less grasping and more appreciation and caring.”

Luhr’s reflection on Jon Kabat Zinn’s book Where You Go,There You Are…”Once you learn to find fulfillment on the inside, you will not have to look outside. You always have ‘you’ with you, and you can  always be ‘at home’ right  inside yourself no matter where you are. This does not mean you shun the world. It simply means that you build a strong foundation within yourself first; then the pleasures of the world are simply adornments, not sustenance. It also means you live with more intimacy in the world. You are fully present and intimate with the things and people around you, rather than passing them by on your way to somewhere  else.”

Changing my view of Jesus – 1997

After a conference that I attended, August 19, 1997, “Who do you say that I am?” I wrote the following in my journal:

The rest of the conference fell flat for me yesterday. I don’t know why the speaker was so likable, but his talks seemed unfocused. Or was I unfocused? Or he wasn’t offering me any challenges. I wanted to come away with a grand new thought, a new directive, an inner banner to carry. As a result I felt a loss, a loss of a good day’s work, a loss of energy. I felt vague – what is it that I am supposed to be communicating to those I serve? Where is Jesus in all this?

I realize, I think, that I have a different relationship with Jesus than all the options the speaker proposed the first night. Jesus said, “I am the way to the Father”. I know this is true for me. For twenty plus years I prayed to Jesus, studied Jesus, worshiped Jesus, walked with Jesus, held him in my heart. Then something changed – like I was in a bubble and it suddenly broke and I was left seeing too  much. My world opened up. Then I seemed to wander for a while. The reality of God lost its concreteness – Jesus is concrete. He has a form, a character, a personality revealed in scripture. Now the God image was no image. Hardly even a feeling. Any time I tried to give image to God, my efforts fizzled. I’d wear out trying. Praying words became strange – like talking to myself. God is so within me; he knows every nook and cranny of me, even my thoughts. Why word it?

Yet I still do, especially to pray for those persons and circumstances outside my family. But I do that for me. When I give word to it, I convince me that I care and can tell those folks out there “I am praying for you.” But I have this sense that God is already there loving them so what is it I am praying about? I am praying for God to be God – as though He forgets sometimes, as though He gets distracted and my prayers get him back on track. How strange that seems. “Lord, look at Laura…don’t forget her, she needs your healing.” But God loves her a million times more than I do and I need to remind him? Rather, God needs to remind me to love Laura.

So there I go – here I am. Prayer has become a reverse conversation. I no longer  – or rarely – feel I have anything to say to God. Rather, I feel a need to stop long enough for God to speak to me. Who is it he wants to pull into my attention? Who should I be loving more?

So where did Jesus go? He carried me to the Father. The Father, the Creator, tender keeper of the world. And here I am. Do I still need Jesus? I don’t pray to him any more. But sometimes he reminds me of the expectations of the Father revealed in Jesus’ life: “Remember the poor.” “Stop and listen to the spiritually hungry.” “Give generously.” “Tend the soil to receive the seed.” “Take time to pray.” “Take time for relationships.” The messages keep coming through the Word. But I don’t feel Jesus as I once did. Rather, the kingdom dream is what I feel his life stories show me how the kingdom comes.

As for the Holy Spirit – the wind – every time someone says to me, “You are so enthusiastic,” I think, “must be the Holy Spirit.” That God in  me that moves and acts that I hardly am aware. God giving me the courage to do things I don’t want to do. Keeping one moving forward. Driving me, like a windmill. Pulling energy from somewhere.

I don’t know the Holy Spirit. I just look at what I am doing and think, “How did I get myself here?” What I think and what I do often seems at odds with one another. I don’t want to go to work – I’d rather refinish furniture. But I go and when good things happen there, I wonder, “How did this happen? With an attitude like mine, it must be the Holy Spirit.”