Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Everyday Advent. Day 22

I was cleaning my office/prayer room today and found a tiny journal that I filled in 2007 throughout the spring. The whole journal is not more than 3 x 4 inches, maybe not that. A tiny book of 80 sheets filled during a BIG time in my life. I decided I am going to blog everyday-ish of advent from this journal.

"After a lot of inner turmoil I decided to stay as close to my own heart as possible." Henri Noewen from "In the Name of Jesus."

It strikes me as a strange thing that knowing and staying with one's own heart is a significant human struggle. You would think, basically, it should be a no-brainer. But it is a pretty big brainer. The journey into one's own heart is pretty much a life-time project.

In my journal I penned these questions: How close am I to my own heart now? Why did I crash (in l99l)? What have I recovered? What have I lost and not recovered?

The journey into one's heart is a sacred pilgrimage, and God is our fellow pilgrim. I am confident of this. Trying to find God, to find our journey outside of ourself, well, it just doesn't work. The closer we are to our own heart the more our life has the potential to be a source of life for others.

Today staying close to my own heart means risking and making choices that might not align with the conventions of my community, let alone the wider culture. But staying as close to my heart as possible is going to be my commitment in this decade.

Blogging again

For a couple years I have been working on other people's projects. But today I revisited my Amma talk and it is a rich journal of my thoughts.  If I hadn't blogged them I would have lost them.  I am starting today to blog again and out into light the musings if my soul. If you want, interact with them. Steal them. Use them. Make fun of me. We need to be alive together.

I love where life has taken me. I am an idea person but not a collector of ideas. I burst into life with each good idea and I plant it in my garden of life into which I invite all my friends. Pick what you like. My garden is not landscaping. It is a lumpy overgrown garden of Eden.

The community I live in is a community of ideas. Some are great and beautiful and some are not. Some open life into joy and some are like control top panty hose. ( I realize you men have no experience to draw on to understand that analogy. Precisely my point. What self-aware person would do that to themselves?)

Last night I dreamed we were moving into a new house the houses I dream of now are big and unfinished and have rooms I can't even find. Houses in my dreams have always represented my life. I am in a time of transition. It is going to be a slow and deep change. Blogging the journey will help me understand and enter what is coming.

In May I cross into a new decade - sixty. I am getting on my camel and seeking a star. A good season.

would do that to them

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Working in the Dark

It is surely men who design hotel rooms. Or young women. One thing a hotel room, even a five star, does not often have is a magnifying makeup mirror. Now some of you might think this to be trivial, but I find it quite essential.

This past weekend in Washington DC I was in just such a difficulty.  The best I could do was to put makeup on blind and then put my glasses on and check it out. The first attempt and my right eyebrow was raised in a look of surprise.  The second attempt and I looked like I had been crying.  The third attempt I poked the mascara brush into my eyeball and I was crying!

Thinking about this on the plane home I realized how much of life is working in the dark. We say things that are misinterpreted, we give advice when we don't have all the facts, we have to love before we know we will be loved back.

The only way this interferes with happiness is if we have a sick need for everything to be perfect. If we can deal with the inevitable raggedness of our humanity and learn to laugh at ourselves a bit more we will be ok.

Friday, August 9, 2013

This is marriage

In our culture marriage is a fantasy of romance and bliss.  In the Christian subculture we make it even more unreachable ... Soul mates, perfect union of agape love and all. I think the mark of the BEST possible marriage is kindness. That is the summary of almost 40 years of monogamy.

I once sat through a two hour ceremony with a pastor and two "prophets" who spoke all kinds of words over the couple, including that their marriage would be a sign to the nations, would touch the whole world etc.  I knew the couple. I sat there thinking, just tell them to be kind to one another.  Please! Within two months the couple were at war, calling down curses on each other, phoning the police and reporting alternate abuses, etc. So much for being a sign to the nations.

I am  practicing yoga these days. Say what you like, it is a practice that helps my body and also engages my mind and life intention and fits very well with what deep spirituality I may have. The problem I have with it is that I have poor balance. It will get better.

The other day I was standing in the kitchen with my right foot against my left calf and my hands above my head, working on concentrated balance. Big Steve came into the kitchen carrying a large pair of scissors. I laughed, fell out of balance and said to him, " You missed your moment! You could have stabbed me! "

He did not smile or joke with me. This is what he said.  " Marilyn, the very last thing I could or would ever do, after I had done the absolutely most impossible thing I could think of - ( pause) like kissing satan! - would be to hurt you." Then he turned and put the scissors in the drawer and walked out of the room.

That, my friends, is the best marriage vow or declaration of love I have ever heard. Maybe we need to change our marriage ceremonies and say things like that instead of grand declarations of love. Just saying.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What the Pope said about women

From the Washington Post, "on Religion"

While everyone was freaking out yesterday about the pope’s actually un-novel and uninteresting re-assertion of longstanding church teaching that homosexuals should not be marginalized, they missed what he said about women, which was in fact, totally fresh.
Specifically, he said:
 A church without women would be like the apostolic college without Mary. The Madonna is more important than the apostles, and the church herself is feminine, the spouse of Christ and a mother. The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework …we don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas, but we don’t have a deep theology of women in the Church. On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed.
A lot of Catholic women yesterday read these words, looked out the window, and mouthed the words, THANK YOU.
Don’t get me wrong – the media wouldn’t let you believe it–but the church is teeming with women who love their faith, love their church, love priests like brothers, love their bishops, and especially love the pope. We don’t sit around and wring our hands about “female ordination” or wish we could use birth control or wonder why the church tells us not to sleep around.

That being said, this is a difficult and confusing time to be a woman living against the cultural grain. Many of us feel authentically torn between professional goals and vocational aspirations to be loving and present wives and mothers reigning over stable and happy homes. And many of us want to play a role in the church but just aren’t quite sure how. We can find a smattering of contradicting perspectives on these topics, but when we look to the church herself, we can feel a bit lost.


It is not only Catholic women, but good, loving Christian women who find the church's view of women confusing and discouraging. Is it possible that the protestant church could join with the Catholic body to develop a deep theology of women and God, one based not just on what we may or may not do.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hints of Me

Ever wonder where the kid inside you has gone? Ever feel like "you" are missing?

The other night Steve reheated a few bits of steak that had been kept, left over. They came off the grill hot and peppery and I picked one up in my fingers and savored its soft texture and delicious taste. I did the same to the second piece. Standing there by the BBQ I had a flashback.

Growing up was a solid but humble experience for me. My mother fed her large family with plain, wholesome food, few spices and a cookie now and then. Meals were planned around the piece of meat, with a starch and vegetable. We counted out meatballs to make sure they were delivered evenly, passed the large bowl of mashed potatos around and ate lots of peas and corn.

When I started dating Steve at the tender age of 15 he gave me many of my 'firsts.' First submarine sandwhich, corned beef with onions and mustard, heated. That was the first. And my first piece of pizza. We went out every Friday night after he got paid at the grocery store and found fun.

Sometime into this love story Steve took me to the Shakespeare Steak House. I don't know what to compare it to, but it was a schnitzy, expensive restaurant. We both had a glass of wine. I think I probably ate a few buns, some appetizers, pickles, salad, whatever. I have always loved to eat. And then came the steak.

I think that steak was the first and most exquisite piece of food I had ever put into my mouth. I sucked and savored the bites, the unbelievable texture, the flavor. MY! But I was silly from the glass of wine, and full from buns, so I found the steak a bit too big, and I wrapped it in the linen napkin on the table and slid it into my purse. Giggling all the way out of the restaurant, I took my half finished steak with me. (I had no idea there was such a thing as a doggy bag.)

Well... we went to the Rock Pile dance club and listened to the band and danced off the buns, and when I got hungry I took the steak out of my purse and ate it, using the napkin to wipe up the drips. You know, that steak was still a magnificent experience, even room temp and unadorned.

As I stood at the BBQ tasting my steak I realized that I am the same girl I was. I still do unconventional things, and love to eat. I remain able to savor a moment and delight in humble and ordinary blessings.

And I also realized what a big thing it must have been for Steve to take me to the Shakespeare Steak House. He made a pittance, and took me to the most expensive dinner in town. He did not chide me when the little girl in me giggled and stole a napkin to carry my best taste ever. He enjoyed the newness I was experiencing and always fed my laughing heart.

He still does all this for me. He lets me be unconventional, delights when I am free enough to suck the juices of life, fully enjoys every new humble treasure I discover, like the flavor of a tomato ripe from the vine which carries hints of every summer of my life. And because he loves me like he always did, I have been able to stay who I am.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I know what you tell me to know.

There is a category of women that is labeled 'received knowers.' Received knowers is an academic term for people who only know what they've been told to know. They receive what they know by listening to others.There are PLENTY of 'experts' - well intentioned leaders and fool-hearty loudmouths, both - who are happy to declare what other people's thoughts should be. Women who are received knowers are present at every level in our society. And a lot of them are found in the church.

To be a received knower is to submit your life to others in such a way that you can't really acknowledge your own thoughts or find your own opinions (or you discount your own opinions as being stupid or invalid.) Bright capable women, surprisingly, are sometimes received knowers. I have a friend who was busting out of a lifetime of pleasing - her dad, her church, her husband, her authorities - and at 40-ish she said to me, "I don't even know what colors I like."

To be a received knower is to carefully scan the room and detect the opinion that is acceptable, and then take on that opinion. A woman who has had her tender ventures at self expression crushed like a fly under a swatter may have learned that opinions are not safe. And she is not safe when she has them.

To be a received knower is to feel unsafe and unsure. It is a posture of living that is careful and small. To protect oneself the voice is silenced and the heart is shut down. And in the process of thinking only what is allowed, the skills of appraisal, evaluation and reflection remain undeveloped. There comes a day when a woman desperately needs to be wise in appraisal skills to detect physical danger, seduction (of many kinds) or the cunning of evil minds. What will her defense be then? What has been used to make her feel safe renders her susceptible to social assault and inclined toward inner defenselessness.

We must think - even if we sometimes think wrong. There is risk in becoming a learner on one's own terms. Becoming a learner involves "trying on" ideas like we try on a new dress, and seeing if the thing fits our unique self. Sometimes a mistake will be made, and people might move their chair away from our table and toward a safer group. Don't worry, the space they create will be filled by someone who sees you risking and identifies with you.

Here is my advice if you find yourself in this description of received knowing. Read something new. Read "The Gift of Being Yourself" or "Surrender to Love", two little books by David Benner.  If you are daring, read Anne Lamont or Kathleen Norris, both solid women who speak from their own journey with honesty. Then talk about what you are reading. (I was friends with a woman in her sixties who wanted to start to express ideas of her own. She would make notes and tuck them in her sweater pocket and then pull them out and peek at them and make her comment. Eventually she didn't need the notes.)

Buy a pretty book with empty spaces and make a journal by writing. Even if you have to hide it in the bushes behind your house. Somewhere, somehow, let your ideas get out of your head and onto paper. ( If you are a little stuck in received learning you already are thinking, "I have nothing to write. I have nothing to say that is worth saying." Lies, all of it.)

If you are asked a question, and you start the process of thinking your idea, then worrying if it is smart enough or right, go back to your idea and actually say it. Say it in a whisper if you need to. If opinions are being tossed around don't blank out your mind and go into an inner hum of disengagement, but listen and then if you don't agree, simply say, "uh, I don't actually agree... " If you have never said that before, everyone in the room might look at you dumbfounded. Even if you can't say why you don't agree... just acknowledge that you have thoughts.

Risk it. You are going to love the vitality that comes from being fully awake and alive.